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    Entries in business (29)


    2013 Seoul Recap, Part 1

    The trip to Korea was great fun, and highly exhausting. A week after returning to the States, my body still wondered what time zone it was in. Regardless, traveling to Seoul to judge in the Angel-in-us Barista World Grand Prix (ABWG) was worth every minute of the battle against fatigue. —WH

    With around 26 million residents, the Seoul-Incheon metropolitan area has one of the largest agglomerations of people on the planet. Accordingly, the energy level you encounter when you visit the area is as lofty as the high-rise apartments lining the Han River running through downtown. Seoul has the air of a city racing toward the future, and if you visit, prepare yourself for being on the move the entire time.

    Seoul’s residents are known for their long work hours and late nights, and fueling that work ethic are large quantities of coffee. Coffee is everywhere in Seoul. It might sound like an exaggeration, but in many parts of the city, every block has at least one café. Most have more. Sometimes, different cafés are stacked on top of each other in the same building! You can find cafés surrounding the busiest intersections, tucked into quiet corners on a hidden streets, inside designer clothing stores. Everywhere you turn, someone in Seoul is serving coffee at all hours, every day.

    The Café Show

    Since coffee is such a large (and quickly growing) part of Korean culture, it should have been no surprise that the Seoul Café Show was huge event. That said, the Café Show seemed enormous—much larger than the SCAA Event that came to Portland in 2012. Over four days, approximately 100,000 people came through the doors to try various coffees, conduct business, see the latest in coffee roasting, grinding, and brewing technology, and to look at anything you could possibly imagine related to running a coffee company.

    Click to read more ...


    Christopher David Experience Design – the Next Generation of the Multi-Use Space

    On hot summer days, now a distant memory, the Pearl District’s Jamison Square teems with activity. From miles around, the park’s wading pool attracts parents who bring their kids to cool their toes and survive the heat. Joyful shrieks of children splashing and frolicking in the water echo off the walls of nearby condos and fill the open space.

    When autumn arrives, the pace of activity slows. Pedestrians saunter through the square, holding on to the season’s waning moments of sun and warmth. Leaves turn golden, bathing the plaza with amber in the afternoon light. Streetcars rumble past on schedule, the metal of the steel rails screeching under the weight of the wheels. Sharply-dressed women strut by in heels, slowly, to make sure they are seen. Fit, toned joggers in short shorts and tight tees bounce along the boardwalk. Curious kids clamber up the park’s granite bear, testing their bravery as they climb to the top of the statue before leaping off, like chicks taking their first plunge from the nest. Toddlers wobble along the top of the tan stone wall that splits the square, their mothers leisurely following behind, pushing high-dollar strollers with one hand, and holding smartphones to their ear with the other. Benches surrounding the park fill up with friends, neighbors, and nappers.

    Amidst this activity, a new café sits on the northwest corner of the square, waiting to be discovered. The name on the door says Christopher David, Interiors | Floral | Café (CDExD). The shop is a unique concept, a multi-use space that combines the diverse interests and talents of its three owners: Chris Giovarelli (whose first and middle names adorn the door), an interior designer, Cosmin Bisorca, a flower and finance specialist, and Kevin Nichols, a former barista at Nuvrei and Water Avenue Coffee, who oversees the coffee side of the business. I stopped in and was able to chat with Nichols, who shared the story behind the company.

    First and foremost, CDExD is dedicated to beauty. The company started out as strictly a design firm, founded by Giovarelli in 2012. Looking to grow the business, Giovarelli knew he needed to get his work in front of the public. “Chris wanted a storefront to showcase his design and have it be a place to show the actual work that he does in people’s homes and businesses,” Nichols told me. “In doing that, we saw the opportunity to have a revenue stream from a small café inside the store, as well as the floral area. We decided to put all three of those together to have it work.”

    The three-in-one concept adds an interactive vitality to a space that would otherwise be limited to shoppers quietly perusing furniture and other fixtures. “It’s kind of a collision of worlds—the designer meets the barista meets the floral designer. We all came in under one roof to create a beautiful experience.” said Nichols, adding, “There’s not many places you can go where you can buy a bouquet, a latte, and a sofa.”

    The Coffee Business

    Naturally, I was curious about the coffee side of the business, so I asked Nichols to share his story too. Originally, from the D.C./Northern Virginia area, Nichols came to Portland in 2007. With a degree in geology from the University of South Carolina, Kevin worked in an environmental testing lab, but he found his job unfulfilling (being holed up in a lab all day did not lead to much human interaction). Outside the lab, he discovered for the first time that coffee could taste good. “Coming here, I first noticed all the latte art, and I was just fascinated by it,” he said. Nichols spent a year abroad in London, during which he decided to switch career paths and get into the coffee business. To get a head start on his new life, Nichols took an intensive course at the London School of Coffee that covered a gamut of topics, from roasting to pulling shots to latte art.

    Back in the Rose City, Kevin found a barista job at Nuvrei, where was trained by Matt Higgins, Coava Coffee’s owner (at that time, Nuvrei was a Coava wholesale account). From Nuvrei, Nichols moved to Water Avenue Coffee. When he interviewed for the Water Avenue position, Kevin was clear about his ultimate intentions. “I was honest with them,” he said. “I said my dream is to open up my own place. That’s what I want to do in the next couple years.” That was fine with Milletto and Smyth, who look to hire employees with enthusiasm for coffee, even if it causes them to lose them when they leave to do their own thing.

    Less than a year later—much sooner than originally planned—Nichols became a partner in the new business. “I was a little daunted about starting my own place, completely on my own,” Nichols said. “Then this came up—not only the opportunity to work with other people, but to work with friends.” When Nichols told Milletto and Smyth he was leaving to start the new business, they encouraged him to go for it and offered their support.

    Click here to see a few more photos of the shop.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the café serves Water Avenue Coffee. Nichols says his choice of coffee was an easy one. “I love the company and the coffee” he explained. “I spent close to a year working there and I just fell in love with the product and the people who work there. I wanted to bring their coffee to the Pearl and I wanted to put their coffee in a beautiful place.”

    CDExD is the fourth café to have inhabited the Jamison Square location during the five years I have been in Portland, so I asked Nichols how the new business would be successful where others were not. He said the mix of talents and the experience of the owners gave CDExD an advantage. In addition to selling goods and services, the puts on several classes each month, in home decoration, floral arranging, and coffee (Nichols will be teaching a class on how to brew a pourover at home the next one will be Wednesday, October 23, at 7:00pm. Details about the classes can be found on the company website). CDExD does design and flowers for events as well. The diverse offerings are intended to complement each other.

    Time will tell how the three-in-one model works as a business, but Christopher David makes a pleasant stop in the north end of the Pearl. Between the furniture, the flowers, and the coffee, the shop is like a little bit of Paris in the heart of the Pearl. It combines the elegance of the Champs-Élysées with elements of third wave coffee, such as the low counter and the open coffee bar, where baristas make drinks in full view of the customers. I might never have a living room as nice as the showroom floor, but I will happily sit at a table and enjoy the setting for the price of un café.

    Address: 910 NW 10th, Portland, OR 97209 (map)
    Hours: Monday-Saturday 7am-6pm
                Sunday 8am-5pm
    Phone: 503-206-8226
    Coffee: Water Avenue
    Recommendations? Take your drink and sit outside on a sunny afternoon
    Wi-Fi? Yes


    MistoBox – An easier way to find your favorite coffee

    Each year, when the rains return to the Northwest, Portlanders hunker down, mug in hand, trying to stay dry while dreaming longingly about next year’s sunshine. To lessen the impact of the grayness, we medicate (er, indulge) ourselves with large quantities of coffee. Some people make their coffee at home, while others frequent their favorite café(s).

    Fortunately, Portland’s variety of roasters and cafés is unsurpassed, meaning we never have to get bored drinking the same coffee over and over. In fact, we could probably drink a different coffee every day of the year without repeating ourselves.

    That said, some people still want to try coffees from other cities or regions. For these coffee adventurers, the question is, where do you start looking? One place to begin your search would be the website of a new company called MistoBox. MistoBox is making it a little easier for you to sample coffees from around the country without ever leaving your city.

    If you sign up with Misto Box, a “delightful” box arrives at your door at the beginning of every month, carrying four different samples of whole bean coffees from roasters around the country, from the Pacific Northwest (Portland’s Water Avenue Coffee is one) to as far away as Tennessee (for now—the company is continually adding more roasters to its lineup). The samples are small—1.5oz.-2oz., so you don’t have to worry about getting too much of a coffee that is not your favorite. If you especially enjoy one (or more) of the coffees inside the box, you can order a full-size bag of the beans from the MistoBox website. Customers earn points that can be redeemed for free coffee and other merchandise.

    Samantha Meis and Connor Riley founded the company in January 2012 while they were finishing up their education at the University of Arizona. They created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the company and once they reached their funding goal, took off like a caffeinated wildcat (pun-metaphor intended). I caught up with Samantha and asked her a few questions about the new venture (some answers have been edited for clarity).

    Caffeinated PDX: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in coffee. 

    Samantha Meis: I’m originally from a small city in Iowa where, as you could have guessed it, we didn’t have many options for drinking fresh roasted coffee. Actually, we didn’t have any options. My interest in coffee didn’t really start until I left for college in Tucson, Arizona. As it goes, coffee started out as a necessity for me, pulling me through some long all-nighters. Soon, I was visiting a local roasters’ shops daily, experimenting with different brewing techniques, and learning about coffee quality and evaluation. It was then I started my never-ending hunt for the perfect cup and a true addiction ensued.

    Click to read more ...


    Coffee with a kick(start) - Nossa Familia's new campaign

    Kickstarter is a relatively new company that allows small startups to harness the reach of the internet and connect with potential customers. Using Kickstarter, individuals or companies create proposals and seek pledges to support a specific project. In exchange for their “donations,” Kickstarter pledgers receive some sort of product or service from the campaigner. Each campaign has a specific goal and time period to reach that goal. If the funding goal is not met within the time period, the donors are not responsible for their pledge.

    Kickstarter is not charity, nor is it an investment website. Kickstarter is a way for people to support a business project through pre-sales, similar to the way a CSA (community supported agriculture) works. You pay up front, then when the product is ready, you get what you paid for.

    Why am I telling you about Kickstarter? Because I always advocate for improving the quality of coffee in this city. A local Portaland roaster, Nossa Familia, is currently running a campaign to raise money to put in an espresso bar at its new Pearl District headquarters. The company is looking to raise $15,000 to help purchase the equipment it needs to provide Portlandians with a Brazilian espresso experience.

    The Nossa Familia campaign has several levels of support, ranging from the $5 level (an espresso + pão de queijo) to the $5,500 level (a guided trip for two to the Brazilian farms that produce the coffee Nossa Familia sells, not including airfare, a $600 discount from what the trip would normally cost).  

    Augusto Carvalho Dias, Nossa Familia’s founder, can tell you more about it (video from Kickstarter website):

    Best of luck to Nossa Familia in reaching its funding goal. Boa sorte!


    Creating a better way to go: FoamAroma

    When you think of coffee technology, you might think of the sleek, shiny espresso machines sitting on the bar, the mysterious glass orbs of the vacuum pot, or the lengthy, spiral curves of a Japanese ice-brewer. These are the complex technologies on display in a specialty coffee shop—the “stars of the show,” if you will.

    One technology you might overlook, because it is much less flashy, is the cup. Despite its relative simplicity, the cup you drink from has a large impact on your coffee experience.

    The best way to enjoy hot coffee is to drink it from a ceramic mug. Mugs feel solid in the hand and smooth on the lips. A mug’s open top allows the full aroma of the coffee to reach your nose. As long as they have been washed properly, ceramic mugs do not impart any flavors into the coffee.

    Drinking from a paper cup is a much different experience. Paper feels cheap and can add a dull off-flavor to your coffee. When you put a plastic lid on top of the paper cup, you trap most of the aroma inside the cup, further reducing the taste experience. If you drink a cappuccino from a to-go cup, you distort the balance between the textured milk and the coffee (the foam gets trapped under the lid when you tip the cup). On top of its taste deficiencies, using paper cups creates a large stream of waste destined for the landfill.  

    Nevertheless, many people drink their coffee from a paper cup. From my own observations, I would estimate that at least 50% of the coffee sold in cafés is ordered to go. For some cafés, the percentage is higher. At the Starbucks I worked at in Boston, the rate was closer to 95% (it was a commuter store). Whatever the exact number, a lot of people order their coffee to go, and a high percentage of them do not get the coffee experience they deserve.

    Enter a new lid

    Entrepreneur Craig Bailey wants to change this. Bailey, a former engineer in the paper industry, has developed a new version of the to-go cup lid he calls FoamAroma. The new lid allows coffee drinkers to taste more of a cappuccino’s foam and smell more of the coffee aroma. Bailey’s idea came to him one day when he stopped in at Lava Java, former USBC champ Phuong Tran’s café in Ridgefield, WA.

    Craig Bailey, inventor/entrepreneur

    “Before October 2007, I was drinking coffee for the caffeine,” said Bailey, a former engineer in the pulp and paper industry. “I had this project up in Longview and I happened to stop in at Lava Java. I don’t know why, but I changed to a traditional five and a half ounce cappuccino. I have no idea why. I just had to try it, and it changed my life. It actually blew me away.”

    His eyes opened to how good coffee could be, Bailey went back for more.

    “I got the same drink to go in the car the next day,” he said, “but it wasn’t the same experience.”

    Trapped under the plastic lid of a to-go cup, the cappuccino failed to impress him.  Disappointed, Bailey began to look for ways to fix the problem.

    “I took the Solo lid and started poking holes and cutting slots and tearing tabs,” he said. “I got some hard clay in the house—I was going to form molds and fix the problem. FoamAroma is the product of that epiphany.”

    Bailey wanted to produce a drinking experience that would mirror that which a mug offered.

    “The velvety, textured foam is such a big part of the experience, as is the aroma,” he said.

    For two years, Bailey’s interest in creating a better lid was just a hobby, but things changed in the spring of 2009, when a large earthquake struck Chile and damaged that country’s main port. Chile is a large pulp exporter, and as a result of the port shutdown, the world price for pulp shot up. The mill where Bailey was working at the time could not afford to purchase pulp, so it cancelled the project he was working on. Bailey took the cancellation as a sign it was time to turn his hobby into a business. That summer, he found a plastic manufacturer in Florida and a patent attorney, and he has been working on FoamAroma full time since then.

    The new lid has a round hole in the center and a large, triangle-shaped hole for drinking from. The triangle mouth hole sits on a surface that is inclined toward the center of the cup. This directs any splashes back toward the center of the cup, unlike a traditional Solo lid, where coffee splashes straight up when the cup is bumped.

    The larger holes in the FoamAroma lid also allow coffee drinkers to slurp the coffee, so customers can drink their coffee right away instead of waiting for it to cool.  

    “It turns out that if you can slurp air through as you sip, it cools the fluid off and you don’t burn your mouth,” said Bailey.

    FoamAroma is currently available in black or white for standard 12-24oz. cup sizes. A version for an 8-oz. cup has been designed and prototyped, and should be in production soon.

    These days, Bailey spends much of his time visiting cafés and other places where coffee drinkers and café owners gather, spreading the message that a better to-go coffee experience is possible.

    “I’ve learned that most baristas don’t drink from paper cups, so they don’t know how bad [the old lids are] until you get them to do a side-by-side comparison,” he said.

    Besides coffee, Baily is also targeting the tea industry. FoamAroma’s first major order was for a container load to England, where tea is the most popular hot beverage. At the London Tea Festival, one tea shop owner called the FoamAroma the ‘holy grail’ because it allows tea drinkers to smell the teas’ aromas. 

    Whether or not FoamAroma becomes the new standard for the hot beverage industry, Bailey says there is no turning back now.

    “I cashed it all in,” he said. “I’m in this 100%. I’m not going back to spending days with chemical engineers behind a computer. I like talking to coffee people. It’s a lot more fun.”


    Tales from Bostonia

    We spent a few days in Boston last week, and the trip reinforced my belief that Portlanders are very spoiled by the amount of high-quality coffee available to us.

    The first thing you notice when you drive around Boston (rather, the first thing I notice) is the presence of Dunkin’ Donuts shops everywhere. There are even more Dunkin’ Donuts than Starbucks. Apparently, Massachusettsans (or their less-polite fellow citizens) like bad coffee. Dunkin’ tried to establish itself in Portland a few years back, but the city’s coffee connoisseurs ignored the company, so it left town.

    But Boston is not Portland, and Dunkin’ Donuts has a special place in the hearts of New Englanders. The chain was founded in 1950 in Quincy (pronounced quin-zee), Massachusetts, a few miles south of Boston. From the original shop, the business has grown to approximately 7,000 stores in the US alone (10,000+ around the world). Earlier this year, Dunkin’ announced it wants to double the number of US stores in the next two decades (a sign of the impending apocalypse?). The success of the business is unquestionable. The quality of the coffee, on the other hand…..

    Give it a shot

    Trying to keep an open mind, I stopped in at a Dunkin’ Donuts one morning and ordered a small coffee. The server asked if I wanted it “regular,” which, in Massachusetts, really means “with milk and sugar.” I said yes.

    The coffee, unfortunately, met my expectations. It tasted like lightly-sweetened water. Bleh. It puzzles me that Dunkin’s coffee is so popular, but there is more behind the company’s success than just coffee.

    In Boston, drinking DD coffee is almost a badge of honor, a symbol of loyalty toward the place New Englanders call home. People drink Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee, not because it is high quality, but because it communicates something about their values. They identify with Dunkin’s working class, egalitarian American ideals (“America runs on Dunkin’”). In other words, Dunkin’ serves the common coffee drinker.

    When I worked for Starbucks in Boston, customers would occasionally come into the store and grumble about the cup sizes, saying something like, “I just want a large. I don’t speak Italian, or whatever that is,” implying that Starbucks’ use of a foreign language was elite West Coast snobbery (I wonder what the customer would think of this post). In the least snarky voice I could summon, I would reply, “That’s okay, we speak English here too.” (Hopefully, they detected some sarcasm, but not too much.)

    The marketing/branding lesson in the story is that it takes more than just a quality product to be successful. You have to have something that resonates with your customers’ values.  

    Hope for future coffee snobs

    Given Dunkin’s history in the Northeast, it would be a challenge to separate New Englanders from their DD coffee, but people are building a better coffee scene in the “Hub of the Universe.”

    Thanks to some enterprising Bostonians, it is possible these days to find good coffee with a little effort. One shop providing better beverages is Thinking Cup, a café across from Boston Common that serves Stumptown coffee. The shot of Hair Bender they served me was not quite what you would get from Albina Press (where I’m sitting as I write this), but it was tasty.

    Other quality cafés are popping up around the Boston metro area too. Unlike five years ago, when DD or Starbucks was about all you could find (in addition to the Italian coffees in the North End), these days you can find Stumptown, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and George Howell coffee if you know where to look. That’s a significant improvement, and I expect to see the trend continue in the future. Boston will be hosting the 2013 Specialty Coffee Association of America Event, which means that the pressure will be on for Boston cafés to show off their best stuff. Boston might not be ready to take the title of America’s Best Coffee City from Portland, but it is heading in the right direction.


    Mid-May Links

    A smattering of news from around the coffee world:

    Oregon Public Broadcasting has a nice video about the USBC in Portland. In the article, the producer did forget to mention two other PDX baristas who competed, Laila Ghambari (Stumptown) and Tom Pikaart (Water Avenue), so we’ll make sure they get a mention here. If we're being picky, it's Brett Felchner, not Brett Fletcher (edits!).

    Leave it to Philly – From a city that boos Santa Claus and throws batteries at its underachieving NFL team, this might not come as a surprise. A man who apparently did not want to pay for his sandwich threw his coffee at the cashier in a Philadelphia doughnut store.

    At least he didn’t steal cash and cigarettes too.

    It’s up, it’s down, it’s up, it’s way down. Investors holding Green Mountain Coffee Roasters stock have been on a quite a ride over the last year. The company’s stock price went from below $40 to $115 to back down to about $45 at the end of the year. This year has been more of the same. So far, the first five months of the year have brought changes of +19%, +22%, -28%, +4% and -50%, respectively. With K-Cup patents running out this fall, traders aren’t sure what to do. Then again, judging from the last two weeks, maybe they are.

    Do you find it hard to carry your coffee around without spilling it? If so, you should probably slow down and keep your eye on the cup. You will be less likely to match the “sloshing frequency” of the coffee with your gait.

    One of Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi’s world records is eating 69 hotdogs in ten minutes, so he probably didn’t find his latest stunt too difficult. Kobayashi drinks 42 cups of coffee in about three minutes in a promotional video for Eight O’Clock Coffee.

    Fresh-roasted (really fresh) coffee is coming to Detroit. Roasting Plant, the New York coffee company that roasts, grinds and brews coffee on demand is expanding out of the Big Apple and into the Motor City. I question the assertion that it is the “best coffee in Manhattan” but it would be interesting to see how the whole operation works. link

    Tension is growing between people who work/study in cafés and those who go there to drink coffee or meet friends.