Well…yes!!! The secret’s out.
It was time for a good old cold shower.
My name is Simone and yes…… I offered you a 10£ discount to review Terra Nera, the tea and coffee house I set up 2 years ago.
Dear Eltigreblanco you have kindly taken part in our “MYSTERY BLOGGER PROJECT"
You see, our loyal customers express every day their satisfaction to our baristas and on Qype. Their affection is the essence that enhances our will to offer them a better experience. We’ve had some fabulous feedback, but I felt that an outsider view would be more constructive and critical to the business progression.
As a business owner I spotted fields of improvement to be explored, and I needed to focus my attention on the customer experience. The priority was to stimulate constructive criticism, improve staff customer’s focus, open and improve new communication channels, generate debate and awareness. I had to create the platform for criticism… and QYPE gave me exactly what I looked for. Nobody can ignore a public comment and it wouldn’t be sensible to not take action after a negative imput.
That’s why I designed and developed the “MYSTERY BLOGGER PROJECT” and built the chance for Self-criticism.
As one of the most prolific reviewers on Qype, we considered that you are, as experienced as most of professional food critics. The 10£ voucher that has been offered to you (and 150 more like you) was created to enable you to access some of the most expensive products we sell (as some espressos can cost up to 11 pounds) and fully experience the different brews and flavours we can develop.
Your review is by far the worst we have ever had!!! You heaped criticism on us. BUT!! It is exactly what I was looking for. It is what we needed, to implement relevant changes that will bring us to the next step. And for that Sir Eltigreblanco, I thank you.
The day of your visit you identified some key aspects and fields of improvement…
“the coffee vaporizer alarming ‘on fire’ fumes"
“the Last slice of yesterday’s cake”
“the individual filter ‘thing’’s prep time and tepid result”
“Value for money"
Let me explain…
…the “coffee vaporizer” is actually a sample coffee roaster, it enable us to roast small batches of 300g raw coffee. I’m regularly offered different beans to taste and evaluate to introduce in our ever changing range of coffees. Because of our estate and specialty sourcing process it often happens that we can only source small one-off amounts of certain coffee. Every new coffee is roasted medium and high, then after two days we put the beans through espresso machine, Italian stove top, French press and in cupping cups. All the staff takes part in the tasting and all notes are then shared and discussed. If the general feedback is positive we then proceed to purchase the raw product and we roast the beans to our favourite roast profile. The roasting process involve a fair amount of fumes release, some like the smell (and certainly adds a theatrical element), but some don’t, As from today I implemented a new schedule for all our roasting (both sample and distribution roasting) after 6pm to minimize the impact on the walk-in customers.
…we don’t really offer food as we are a tea and coffee merchants rather than a coffee shop. Selma (our baker) only bakes one cake a day and delivers to us between 9 and 10…before then we offer the previous day’s cake as still fresh and flavoursome. In addition I refused to introduce branded or pre made products as it lead us away from our own principle of being fully involved with the production process.
…the individual filter ‘thing’ is actually a “Colombian sock” a small cotton sachet that act as a slow coffee filtering system. Used mainly in South America it sits mostly in popular houses as it is the most affordable way to brew your coffee without buying into an expensive machine. It comes from the habit of actually using a sock (clean) to filter a small amount of coffee dust. The liquor is then served in small “tinto” cups of about 6/7 oz. When I introduced the “sock” it solved two main purposes, extract all the necessary flavour from my light roasted coffees as well as having a serving temperature of about 60celsius. The belief is that rare and gourmet coffees should be treated like a fillet of beef, served lightly roasted so that one could taste all the subtle compound of the seeds without masking it with the excessive caramelization of a higher roast. The flavours developed by a lightly roasted beans would be considerably more delicate and fruity against an arsher and full bodied higher roast. In addition, in standard cupping session the coffee beans are brewed at 90celsius and the infusion of the beans lasts until the termomether reaches the 60celsius mark. The time needed for the temperature drop also allows the right extraction before the tasting and the “tepid” result allows the taste-buds to process the bouquet of flavours without burning. You see, the Jamaica Blue Mountain is meant to be served tepid. I wanted the customer to experience the same coffee I tasted in different cupping rooms around London. We’ll not change the way we serve some of our coffees, but we have made a fundamental mistake…a lack of communication that has led to your disappointment. We should have warned you in advance and possibly advised against your initial choice as it couldn’t match your original request of a dark and hot coffee and drive your attention on something more like an Americano or an Italian stovetop (moka) brew. On the back of this though, I have decided to also introduce, alongside the arrival of the new batch of Jamaican coffee, a small portion of espresso roast. I’m confident I’ll be able to do so by the end of July.
…as for the Value of your coffee…the prices are more often driven by an assessment of the quality of the beans, but in some cases such as the JBM, prices are driven by the market availability and demand. Only very recently I was approached by Joseph Salmon, a coffee broker, to help him building a case against another coffee brokerage firm (will not make names this time) that tried to stop our Joseph from importing JBM beans in England as it would disrupt the other firm monopolistic approach. After constant correspondence and more visit to the Jamaican Coffee Board, Joseph was finally successful in his application and as from September I’m confident we’ll be able to offer the same product to a lower and more reasonable price. More will be written about this on different channels as this is just one example of the many difficulties we encounter in our journey of sourcing the rarest produce from around the world.
Dear Eltigreblanco, I have printed and emailed your comment around to all our staff, you gave me the chance to review our ways and culture, and in the past week I have implemented changes needed to come towards our customers following your note. I hope you’d be willing to give us another chance in the weeks to come and hopefully sense the changes you have triggered. As for the discount, it’s still valid…and I wish you could see it with my own eyes, just an incentive to explore more options and test us. As we speak the Mystery Blogger Project has driven over 15 bloggers through our doors and many of them have also written to me in private their comments and opinions. To all of them ant to you I say thank you for your time and honesty. I also hope this reply would help all of you to approach this project with new eyes as it truly contributes to our development.
PS: I’m not really a Nescafe fun, and I still believe our coffee tastes sooooo much better than that!!! :)