Posted on - 24/07/12
Yes it is still tough out there but is it desperate? I think not. So why then are our marketeers behaving as if it is? Probably because they have run out of ideas and the last desperate move is to associate their products with calendar events. Of course we have always had the usual Christmas themed cappuccino stencils and Easter egg symbols on menu boards but the enthusiasm that the marketers showed for linking their products to the Jubilee celebrations was beyond comprehension. Does it make you want to buy a brand of kitchen paper towel because it has a crown and sceptre and the dates of Queen Liz’s reign printed on it? I’m sure sales soared as people rushed to but the “royal” towel to mop up their spilled baked beans. As I walked the supermarket aisles I thought I was in one of the corridors of Buck House with so much royal regalia, on sausages to dishwasher tablets. Half expected Prince Philip to be propped behind a sampling table. “Would you like to try this new Feta cheese?” Now we have the Olympics for them to hang their hat on, although they will have to be more careful as the Olympics Rights committee are a much tougher act than the Royals’ comparable set up.
Come on marketeers leave the calendar events behind…. lets be inventive. Why not take a lead from this cafe in East London? AIR CONDITIONED COFFEE wow! People have been saying that it is really happening in East London for a while now. Not only are they ahead of the game with this innovative product but they have created much curiosity. You can hear the conversation outside. “I wonder how they do it.” “It must be served in a big cup then?” “I don’t normally like cold coffee but I’ll give it try”
Point is that the East London cafe has just messed up their signage but in doing so they have created interest and interest, not banality, is what we want.
Posted on - 21/06/12
HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED
Thinking about the influx of foreign visitors for the Olympics I’m wondering how they will view our coffee culture. Lots of people think that London coffee scene is diverse, creative and vibrant at the moment. There are some that think it’s not all about London and there’s some top stuff going on elsewhere in the UK but not getting the recognition it deserves. I tend to agree with both views.
But what of our forthcoming guests’ views.
9 years ago, 2003 to be precise, I was at the European Cup Final between AC Milan and Juventus. So picture the scene, over 60,000 Italians in the stadium. However the stadium happened to be in Manchester, Old Trafford to be precise. Now did this make a difference to the fans? Not at all, they were up for the game. It was a typically dull, defensive, goal less, first half. They felt at home and were surrounded by their compatriarts. That was until it came to half time. We all trooped to the food and beverage areas I was behind two Italians as they discussed the match and casually broke from their conversation to ask the barman for two espressos. In fine Mancunian he barked back “D’ya what? Tea or Bovril?” One Italian turned to the other and said “ Che Cosa e’ Bovril?” (Translated What is Bovril). His friend looked at him blankly and then turned to me. I wasn’t going to go down the road to try and explain that one so ordered two teas and left sharpish.
That was a long time ago and I’m sure that you can get an espresso at Old Trafford today. Most of the Olympic visitors will be in and around London and the many of them from countries where they have strong coffee heritage and culture. Would be good to know what they thought. Perhaps Jeffrey from Allegra could organise a poll. I know two things for sure.
1) They will be shocked at the price of a cup of coffee
2) They won’t be ordering Bovril
Posted on - 15/06/12
World champions James Hoffman, Gwilym Davies, current UK champion Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood and all other barista champions, I’ve looked up to you all and respected you over the years. I was in awe of your talents and bewildered by the drinks that you produced. But now my illusions are shattered. I now know that it was all smoke and mirrors. I now know that it was all a sham.
And how do I know? Well the truth came like a lightning bolt. I was watching television and the adverts came on. Here was a guy lying in bed with his girlfriend on a wet weekend morning. She turns to him and says “You know what I want? Bewilderingly he thinks “a cup of coffee.” A strange conclusion in my book but I digress. He gets up goes down to the kitchen, peers out of the rain stained windows to a coffee bar, miraculously just yards across the road, where he sees the barista at work on his steaming machine. As it’s raining heavily he thinks “No I’m not going to get wet”, turns to the cupboard, smiles and grabs a tin of Azera Barista style coffee. Well there you go. That was the moment when my dreams came crashing down.
To end the story he makes the coffee and brings it to his girlfriend who is still in bed. She is ecstatic as she believes that the coffee was made by the barista over the road.
Two conclusions: a) the day of the barista is over. We can all do it. b) The boyfriend was right and I was wrong because he knew what really satisfied her. Strange relationship!