Expresso (sic, and sick) Beans

I am flabbergasted by a sign that I saw at an airport cafe in Detroit: “How many expresso (sic) beans is required for one shot of espresso?” There are so many errors that could have been avoided with just a little bit of training and education from management. For example, “beans” should be followed by “are” instead of “is” because “beans” is, of course, a plural word. I can forgive that error because English grammar is a challenge for native speakers as well as new immigrants. However, if I worked in a Spanish speaking country, I would expect my manager to supervise my work, including my writing samples.

Now let’s step away from the grammar and instead concentrate on the egregious spelling error. “Expresso” is not the correct spelling of the Italian word for “quickly,” “espresso.” Again, a demonstration of poor employee training.

The next painful mistake, (for a coffee roaster), is when I see “espresso beans.” This reflects a poor education about coffee. There is no such thing as espresso beans because any single origin coffee or coffee blend that is expertly roasted, used within one week of roasting, and extracted well, is perfect for espresso.

Why is proper education of your employees and customers important? Employees who are educated well about your product will sell more and upsell more. Customers who are educated by you about your product will see value in your product, will strive to frequent your business and won’t be alarmed when you raise your prices.

The question asked on the sign should be stated in this way: “How many coffee beans are used (approximately) to extract one shot of espresso?” Even that question is ridiculous because it doesn’t educate the customer. In addition, there are many possible answers to this question because what if the bean is very large like the Maragogype varietal or very small like “Peaberry” coffee? Better questions would be, “What does Supremo mean in Colombia Supremo?”

When you own a business and are committed to educating your customers, search for complicated questions that draw out your customers’ curiosity. “How many pounds does each coffee tree produce each year?” The answer is 1-2 pounds each year. At my cafe, we’ll show our customers 2000 pounds of coffee and tell them that it takes 1000-2000 coffee trees to produce this amount of coffee. Imagine how many coffee trees are needed to produce the 50000 pounds that we roast each year. You’ve now forced them to imagine a huge number of coffee trees. Your questions should edify your customers and force them to think in a micro and macro level. In my question about coffee trees, my customers begin imagining just one coffee tree and then I exploded that vision to 50000 trees.  When I share that each coffee bean is picked by hand and that there is a long process of sorting, tasting, removing defects, and drying involved, every cup that I serve them will be filled with a new appreciation for the process of getting from farm to cup.

For your business, what kind of questions should you ask customers that will grow their understanding of your product and help them imagine the big picture?