During the years that I was domiciled in the Turks and Caicos Islands, I developed the liking for a good cup of java in the mornings. I was passionate about it. It had to be freshly brewed, and I would seek out the perfect environment where I could sit and enjoy it.
My personal preference is to have it flavored with hazelnut or vanilla, but this is not absolutely necessary. I could have it black or with cream, with or without sugar, as long as the hot water had to pass through the tightly packed grains of the coffee.
Since returning to Guyana, the thought of opening my own coffee shop crossed my mind many times, but I never acted upon those thoughts.
One morning after completing my 5-mile run, I decided to visit a deli just around the corner from home for a cup of java. It was my first visit to this establishment, and I was happy to be supporting a neighborhood business. I am told that keeping the money within your community does wonders for it.
After placing my order, I was mortified to see the server dipping a spoon into a bottle of Nescafe to prepare my coffee. I have nothing against Nescafe. They probably make the best instant coffee in the world. But who leaves the comfort of their home to go buy a cup of instant coffee?
It should go without saying that that was my last visit there. No establishment should be legally allowed to sell a cup of coffee made from crystals that have been sitting in a bottle for God knows how long.
In fact, there should be a summarily execution of the establishment's owner for such a travesty. No trial, no defense, no last words, just swift action to end the injustice. I know that I am being dramatic, but coffee aficionados carry around their own sense of what is right or wrong. Thank God that they are not lawmakers.
Finally, I found a place where I could enjoy the black liquid to my heart's content. After bragging to friends that I have had the best coffee ever in Guyana, I learned that it was from the Pomeroon. I now had reason to be a repeat customer, and a proud supporter of the Guyanese product.
According to a statement on the Pomeroon Coffee website, it is the rarest, sweetest and most aromatic coffee known, occupying less than 1% of the World market. I must agree 100 percent with their assertion.
While we do not have any Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or other famous coffee franchisees in Guyana, I found a few other cafés that satisfy my desires.
Who would have imagined that the I will come face to face with Mr. Nescafe again? After having the finest cup of java repeatedly at the Switcher Restaurant (not the real name), I was unceremoniously presented with the instant stuff one Saturday morning. This kind of blasphemy requires a call to 911.
Why in the world would a renowned restaurant switch from freshly brewed to instant coffee? Was there a coffee beans shortage? Did the percolator get stolen overnight during a citywide riot? Was the barista abducted by aliens? What kind of explanation can they give that would be acceptable to customers?
I am not in the name and shame business, but this is the stuff that should be making headlines in the daily newspapers, assuming that people still read these.
According to Jackie Chan, "coffee is a language in itself," so it is either you are fully emersed in it or not. There ought to be no half-stepping.
I am still reeling from the episode, but I will leave a few questions that business managers or budding entrepreneurs should ask themselves:
- Who are your customers (target market)?
- How important is it to be consistent with your goods or services (building trust)?
- What separates your business from the competition (differentiation)?
If any one of these questions give you trouble to answer, find another pastime.
Any business establishment that is prepared to give up a premium product must also be prepared to give up the dedicated customers who came for it in the first instance.
Nothing else can be substituted for freshly brewed ground coffee. Instant coffee is like that distant cousin that you wished you never met. He is so far removed from the family gene pool, and shouldn't be allowed to carry the family name.
In the meanwhile, I will be drawing up plans for my own coffee shop. Do not expect this to be instant.