As good as it gets!

April 07, 2011


That is just the right expression for local consumption in Guatemala. A boom of coffee, not only because Starbucks’s opened  in El Salvador, November 2010, and now in Guatemala since  March 19th., but becasue coffee houses started to adjust their strategies to offer a better poduct. Why they waited so long? Does not matter, the thing is chages are for good.



Café Barista, a coffee chain founded in 2004 with a total of 17 coffee houses in malls, Antigua, in Guatemala and 1 in El Salvador already, was bought by Corporación Multi Inversiones, operators of brands such as Pollo Campero, a popular restaurant that sells fried chicken in Central America and some cities of United States. The main objective is to enter the coffee segment and to become the biggest operator of multi brands in the region.



The concept of Café Barista is pretty much the same of Starbucks’ with some differences. Consistency is still a challenge for Barista to achieve in every single beverage they serve. Another difference is in the service Barista’s personnel offer to the consumer. But this would be more a social analysis that I would not get into, since most coffee chains have the same situation, with the exception of &Café, who by the way, has done an enormous job in training their personnel with successful baristas in USA. So far, their consistency is better (they also tried to ask for your name in the cup as well)



I personally had never tried Barista´s whole bean until I was given one as a present. I brewed it in an Aeropress®, americano, and I was surprised by the way it tasted. Normally, Barista´s offer samplers of their blends, but they taste so watery, that you can hardly tell what is in it. But brewed in a proper way, it taste sweet, with nice lingering body, balanced.
Nothing else had changed, until Starbucks’ opened its doors right a cross the street of Café Barista’s spot in Pradera Concepción. Barista launched its darker roast. I would like to think that they have studied their costumer’s preferences in order to offer this new option, because otherwise, it is just as saying: if you like Starbucks’ we also have one.



The beginning of March, Gitane, a coffee shop that started in 1992 and that runs 25 shops in malls, universities and call centers, changed of their espresso blend. They are now buying coffee from one of the most famous farms in Guatemala. Plus, they invested in training their personnel.
Out of 67 comments in their Facebook page from March 1 to 20, 62 have welcomed the change of coffee. Before, it used to be super dark roast and none of the techniques for making an espresso was being followed. Only two of them complained because their coffee were thin, two because of their service and one because one of their cold beverages was not good.



Pizza Hut has added to its menus a variety of coffee beverages. This
chain, I should say, started long ago with the idea of having café in
their menus. McCafé has also launched a publicity campaign recalling they serve 100% Guatemalan coffee. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think consumers don’t think of the nationality of their products, all they care is that it is good, it has a reasonable price and the service they receive is worth it. But they should know why they are using that as their main message.



All of the coffee shops shoule concentrate in issues like maintenance of the equipment, quality of the water, proper brewing, correlation of coffee and water, proper method of brewing because they are still big challenges to face. Not to mention those specific of the business, such as customer service.



But, the good news is that local consumption will be better. More options, more coffee brands, better quality and more education to the consumer, which is vital to ensure a proper increase to better quality. The Guatemalan Coffee Growers Association, Anacafé, has also launched a
national campaig that shows "we all are coffee or belong to coffee",
showing the different people and types of beverages that one could
drink.



 More segmentation will occur. Guatemalan population, over 13 million, has less purchasing capacity in rural and margin areas of the city. Starbucks’ niche market, as well as Barista’s will be more restricted to an elite and that is an opportunity others could take advantage of.



My feeling is that just as in the United States, when Starbucks (here other local brands have done it) grew enough to make specialty coffee a fast-food kind of product, consumers will be ready for something better. Guatemala´s best quality coffees are just waiting to be discovered. They will be ready to conquer those expecting and demanding palates.



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