Drink it like a customer!


We’ve recently revamped a number of beverages on our menu. The re-think was prompted by the realization that we need to systematically try each beverage on our menu the way our customers typically drink it. This seems so obvious in hindsight, and I’m sure that plenty of others have said this (and done this!)

One of the dangers in this business (and perhaps life in general) is assuming other people share your priorities and preferences. I’m a coffee roaster and thus very focused on our filter/batch (hot and iced coffee) and espresso as these drinks are the most transparent to the quality of our coffee and roasts. But of course I also follow the sales numbers and thus pay a lot of attention to the core milk drinks: Lattes, Caps, Cortados etc. If we aren’t super careful with the biggest sellers, we’ll alienate our core customers. And similarly, lots of customers take their coffee with milk and sugar, so we’re careful that our batch hot and iced coffees go well with these too.

But with the attention on the core drinks (and the ones that staff tend to order,) several drinks on the menu didn’t get the attention they deserved. Iced black tea and iced chai for instance. We use a phenomenal Golden Needle oolong from Song Tea as our house black tea; it has remarkably low astringency for a black tea. We made the mistake of assuming that because it is great hot, it’ll be great cold, and confirmed this only by tasting it straight. And of course we already have this tea in-house, so using the same was the path of least resistance. However, loaded with melting ice cubes and milk, the tea was unmemorable. Similarly, our chai spices were lovely and delicate and worked reasonably well as a hot chai. But chilled, when our ability to taste spice and sweetness is lower (try room temperature melted ice cream,) the chai was outright weak and watery. And so on. So we’ve completely redone some of our recipes and approaches, covered up our bare spots so to speak. If it’s on the menu, it should be great – the way customers want to enjoy it.