The secret recipe - what is the point?

November 14, 2011

I recently was on a trip and went to a coffee shop where I got a shot of coffee that I quite liked.  It had come highly recommended and so I was not shocked (recommended by someone who has good taste or else perhaps I might have bene surprised anyway.)  It, however, was highly annoyingly when I asked the barista about their blend she acted as if I had asked her “who are you cheating on your husband with?”  The question was apparently mortifying and seemingly addressed something that was top secret.  This is odd to me for many reasons, one of which is the fact that this is a single coffee shop in a small college town, so it is not like they have people dying to know their secret to their success and trying to rip off their business model.


Another thing I find odd about it is the offence that was taken.  Shouldn’t they be perfectly happy to have people interested in their coffee and not just the atmosphere and the music of the shop.  You would think a shop that had good coffee would like that.  Equally importantly telling me the country of origin of the beans in the blend is a far cry from telling me trade secrets.  It is a bit like a restaurant being afraid to let out the secret that their sausage lasagna has noodles, sauce, and sausage in it.  That is not enough to recreate the lasagna and it would not be enough to recreate the espresso either.  


This is probably the closest I have ever come to the bad barista attitudes you hear about and see mocked so often.  Usually people in the coffee industry seem amazingly cool to me – and cool in the down to earth and likable sense, not the cool in the cutting edge I’m too hip for those around me sense.  


What I am left wondering is if this is a good business model or not?  It probably will make me come back less often, but won’t stop me from going since it is good coffee and good coffee is rare, but I wonder if they are trying to go for an image of elite coffee and if it helps with that?  If not I cannot figure out why they would have that attitude.

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