Posts Tagged ‘espresso business’

Really Good Coffee in Seattle Was Torrefazione in 1990

In 1990, Torrefazione was synonymous with really good coffee in Seattle.

In particular, it was the old Perugia blend that was the biggie. I used to love that coffee. Smooth and sweet on the front end, a snap on the back end with a great finish and after taste.

Perugia was not only really good coffee, it was excellent.

When I first moved to Seattle in 1990, I had not yet acquired a taste for a good doppio. That development was still a couple of years out and when I opened my espresso bar, I chose to use Torrefazione Italia, Perugia blend as my house espresso blend. Although I had not learned the palate nuances in espresso at that point in time, I loved Perugia every time I drank it.

Only there was a problem…

Torrefazione Italia was the ultimate coffee snob as far as wholesale coffee went. At least that was what it seemed like from my perspective and in my personal experience as a retail operator in the espresso business.Torrefazione had become the only game in town and they knew it – in terms of quality – and the company itself had developed an attitude towards newcomers in the business.

The specialty coffee business in 1990 was a very political WHO KNOWS WHO “micro-niche” that was hugely profitable and successful. And in retrospect, Seattle itself was that way when it came to outsiders. Second and third generation money was acceptable – not broke newbie entrepreneurs with lots of drive and creativity and no contacts.

When I took over an existing shop that had been run into the ground by an incompetent operator, it was hard to get a return call from Torrefazione – much less a visit from a sales rep. So after numerous attempts to place an order and speak with a rep, I finally gave up and called SBC.

As I have matured and live in a completely different business environment than the one that existed in Seattle, I have often wondered if I would have developed a personal friendship with Umberto Bizzari – the founder and original roaster of Torrefazione Italia – given the opportunity.

I think so because of my passion for coffee and ultimately a very defined and developed palate. It occurs to me occasionally (when I ponder the past) that Umberto would have appreciated my understanding and love of coffee and would have mentored me because of it – in some capacity. He also would have grown to know how much I admired his expertise as a coffee man and roaster.

The specialty coffee world in Seattle subsequently shrank, contorted, shifted, expanded and was in an overall state of flux for a number of years while I played coffee there. Starbucks emerged as a marketing powerhouse who tipped the odds in the coffee card game.

After Umberto quit roasting for Torrefazione, the coffee was never the same. It must have been difficult for him – on some level – to watch his brand and quality deteriorate. It certainly was for me.

In the mid 80’s Umberto Bizzari and Jim Stewart (the founder of SBC – formerly Stewart Bros coffee) formed a mini Puget Sound coffee conglomerate and later made a bunch of money and spun off various labels to P and G for the retail grocery distribution business and ultimately sold the Torrefazione label to Starbucks.

In the chain of events that followed, Unberto’s son Emanuele Bizarri started his own espresso business Cafe Umbria – with the anchor store in the very same location as his father’s original Torrefazione location.

Fondly and with respect, I will always remember and savor (in my mind) the wonderful flavors of the original Perugia and Torrfazione Italia.

I AM Michael Barrett and I Love Really Good Coffee

Really Good Coffee in Seattle Was Torrefazione in 1990

In 1990, Torrefazione was synonymous with really good coffee in Seattle.

In particular, it was the old Perugia blend that was the biggie. I used to love that coffee. Smooth and sweet on the front end, a snap on the back end with a great finish and after taste.

Perugia was not only really good coffee, it was excellent.

When I first moved to Seattle in 1990, I had not yet acquired a taste for a good doppio. That development was still a couple of years out and when I opened my espresso bar, I chose to use Torrefazione Italia, Perugia blend as my house espresso blend. Although I had not learned the palate nuances in espresso at that point in time, I loved Perugia every time I drank it.

Only there was a problem…

Torrefazione Italia was the ultimate coffee snob as far as wholesale coffee went. At least that was what it seemed like from my perspective and in my personal experience as a retail operator in the espresso business.Torrefazione had become the only game in town and they knew it – in terms of quality – and the company itself had developed an attitude towards newcomers in the business.

The specialty coffee business in 1990 was a very political WHO KNOWS WHO “micro-niche” that was hugely profitable and successful. And in retrospect, Seattle itself was that way when it came to outsiders. Second and third generation money was acceptable – not broke newbie entrepreneurs with lots of drive and creativity and no contacts.

When I took over an existing shop that had been run into the ground by an incompetent operator, it was hard to get a return call from Torrefazione – much less a visit from a sales rep. So after numerous attempts to place an order and speak with a rep, I finally gave up and called SBC.

As I have matured and live in a completely different business environment than the one that existed in Seattle, I have often wondered if I would have developed a personal friendship with Umberto Bizzari – the founder and original roaster of Torrefazione Italia – given the opportunity.

I think so because of my passion for coffee and ultimately a very defined and developed palate. It occurs to me occasionally (when I ponder the past) that Umberto would have appreciated my understanding and love of coffee and would have mentored me because of it – in some capacity. He also would have grown to know how much I admired his expertise as a coffee man and roaster.

The specialty coffee world in Seattle subsequently shrank, contorted, shifted, expanded and was in an overall state of flux for a number of years while I played coffee there. Starbucks emerged as a marketing powerhouse who tipped the odds in the coffee card game.

After Umberto quit roasting for Torrefazione, the coffee was never the same. It must have been difficult for him – on some level – to watch his brand and quality deteriorate. It certainly was for me.

In the mid 80’s Umberto Bizzari and Jim Stewart (the founder of SBC – formerly Stewart Bros coffee) formed a mini Puget Sound coffee conglomerate and later made a bunch of money and spun off various labels to P and G for the retail grocery distribution business and ultimately sold the Torrefazione label to Starbucks.

In the chain of events that followed, Unberto’s son Emanuele Bizarri started his own espresso business Cafe Umbria – with the anchor store in the very same location as his father’s original Torrefazione location.

Fondly and with respect, I will always remember and savor (in my mind) the wonderful flavors of the original Perugia and Torrfazione Italia.

I AM Michael Barrett and I Love Really Good Coffee

Where Did Really Good Coffee Come From?

Who is Really Good Coffee dot Com?

Maybe you’re asking yourself:

Who are these guys?

What do they know about coffee anyway?

Maybe they’re just coffee snobs who think they know what’s going on.

Actually, this website is one of those warm and fuzzy projects I’ve had in mind for years because I love really good coffee and have since 1966.

In the 90’s, I was co-owner of a little espresso shop called The Morning Shot for 3.5 years in Seattle. That experience taught me a lot about the specialty coffee business and espresso. We also had an espresso cart at two different locations.

After the sale of the shop, I pioneered Oscar’s syrups and the Cappucine line in the Seattle market as a broker – calling on espresso operators to drive distributor business.

Peets Was a Very Good Business Model

Prior to that, my interest in the specialty coffee business was prompted by a 1988 article in Fortune or Forbes (can’t remember which). As I sat in front of the Peets Coffee (across the street from the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, California), drinking a cup of Joe from Peets, I read that in 1987 Peets had been the most profitable retail operation in the United States – on a

[ $ / square foot ]  basis. That really got my attention.

In 1990, I began researching the espresso business in earnest and creating a business plan. And believe me, I did my homework. In addition, as a retail owner in the business (and later a broker) I got to know a lot of other operators and vendors in the business – primarily Micro Roasters and independents.

Over the course of thousands of hours on the espresso bar – with diligence as well as trial and error – I figured out how to make really good coffee. But not before chasing a lot of good customers away with bad coffee – first.

There’s a lot that goes into producing a good cup.

Of course the blend and the roaster is where it all starts.

But it’s amazing how many "espresso operators" can take a perfectly good bean and ruin it. This isn’t really a reflection on the people personally – and most of them really want to do a good job – like I did. But the difference is that I stuck with it until I figured it out. Lots of operators just don’t have a clue and the simplest way to verify that statement is to taste their coffee.

Today, I can tell what’s going on in an espresso shop about 2 minutes after I walk in the place.

Trial by Fire

As an espresso bar owner – on the commuter flight path into downtown Seattle during rush hour – I learned how to survive first and then thrive in a highly competitive market. The pinnacle accomplishment of The Morning Shot was being written up with a full page in the Sunday Seattle Times Pacific Magazine by the food critic, John Hinterberger.

BTW, a lot of the accolades go to my co-owner, a classically trained French chef, an incredibly hard worker, an all around fantastic lady and my best friend for 15 years, Lori Taylor. Her culinary expertise, hard work and exceptional customer service skills made the place what is was – day after day.

But I was the coffee guy…

The espresso business, by the way, is a blast. I’ve often said it has all of the best elements of owning a bar without the drunks.

Over the course of 3+ years, 6 days a week, 10-14 hours a day working on the espresso bar, I learned a lot about:

  • people
  • how to make really good coffee
  • how people think about coffee
  • perceived value

My intention is to create a really interesting blog and to inform people in a manner that appeals to the intellect. There are a thousand and one stories that I can tell as I dust off the mental archives and tell my espresso story.

And we’ll be reporting live from around the country (in our travels) about:

  • neat little places we find and
  • things we learn about coffee along the way

We’d love to get your feedback and we’d love to be know it if we make a mistake. My other half, Alexandra – the love of my life – is my co-author. She has risen rapidly from the ranks of a Dunkin Donuts coffee fan to a quasi-virtual coffee snob, in a mere two years (under my tutelage).

Besides that, she can write.

Together, with your feedback and participation, we are going to create a great blog and resource.

Look forward to hearing from you.

And we hope you enjoy your really good coffee today.

Where Did Really Good Coffee Come From?

Who is Really Good Coffee dot Com?

Maybe you’re asking yourself:

Who are these guys?

What do they know about coffee anyway?

Maybe they’re just coffee snobs who think they know what’s going on.

Actually, this website is one of those warm and fuzzy projects I’ve had in mind for years because I love really good coffee and have since 1966.

In the 90’s, I was co-owner of a little espresso shop called The Morning Shot for 3.5 years in Seattle. That experience taught me a lot about the specialty coffee business and espresso. We also had an espresso cart at two different locations.

After the sale of the shop, I pioneered Oscar’s syrups and the Cappucine line in the Seattle market as a broker – calling on espresso operators to drive distributor business.

Peets Was a Very Good Business Model

Prior to that, my interest in the specialty coffee business was prompted by a 1988 article in Fortune or Forbes (can’t remember which). As I sat in front of the Peets Coffee (across the street from the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, California), drinking a cup of Joe from Peets, I read that in 1987 Peets had been the most profitable retail operation in the United States – on a

[ $ / square foot ]  basis. That really got my attention.

In 1990, I began researching the espresso business in earnest and creating a business plan. And believe me, I did my homework. In addition, as a retail owner in the business (and later a broker) I got to know a lot of other operators and vendors in the business – primarily Micro Roasters and independents.

Over the course of thousands of hours on the espresso bar – with diligence as well as trial and error – I figured out how to make really good coffee. But not before chasing a lot of good customers away with bad coffee – first.

There’s a lot that goes into producing a good cup.

Of course the blend and the roaster is where it all starts.

But it’s amazing how many "espresso operators" can take a perfectly good bean and ruin it. This isn’t really a reflection on the people personally – and most of them really want to do a good job – like I did. But the difference is that I stuck with it until I figured it out. Lots of operators just don’t have a clue and the simplest way to verify that statement is to taste their coffee.

Today, I can tell what’s going on in an espresso shop about 2 minutes after I walk in the place.

Trial by Fire

As an espresso bar owner – on the commuter flight path into downtown Seattle during rush hour – I learned how to survive first and then thrive in a highly competitive market. The pinnacle accomplishment of The Morning Shot was being written up with a full page in the Sunday Seattle Times Pacific Magazine by the food critic, John Hinterberger.

BTW, a lot of the accolades go to my co-owner, a classically trained French chef, an incredibly hard worker, an all around fantastic lady and my best friend for 15 years, Lori Taylor. Her culinary expertise, hard work and exceptional customer service skills made the place what is was – day after day.

But I was the coffee guy…

The espresso business, by the way, is a blast. I’ve often said it has all of the best elements of owning a bar without the drunks.

Over the course of 3+ years, 6 days a week, 10-14 hours a day working on the espresso bar, I learned a lot about:

  • people
  • how to make really good coffee
  • how people think about coffee
  • perceived value

My intention is to create a really interesting blog and to inform people in a manner that appeals to the intellect. There are a thousand and one stories that I can tell as I dust off the mental archives and tell my espresso story.

And we’ll be reporting live from around the country (in our travels) about:

  • neat little places we find and
  • things we learn about coffee along the way

We’d love to get your feedback and we’d love to be know it if we make a mistake. My other half, Alexandra – the love of my life – is my co-author. She has risen rapidly from the ranks of a Dunkin Donuts coffee fan to a quasi-virtual coffee snob, in a mere two years (under my tutelage).

Besides that, she can write.

Together, with your feedback and participation, we are going to create a great blog and resource.

Look forward to hearing from you.

And we hope you enjoy your really good coffee today.

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