Thursday, March 14, 2013

Customers' Rights to a Good Quality of Coffee

Some times ago, I went to my regular place to buy my regular order of espresso and there, I met the owner, whom I have known as long as I have known his coffee shop. After I got my order, he came to my table to have a little conversation about coffee. He is quite an expert in the industry, which he has been working for more than ten years, so he is one of the few persons I always look up to when it comes to coffee. The conversation started with his question about the espresso that I immediately finished (after my routine of having a solemn moment of looking and smelling the exotic aroma of coffee). "So what do you think about today's espresso?", he asked and I answered that it was good as usual, but soon I asked back while giving a curious look, "Well, why wouldn't it be?". He responded it with an indifferent answer, "Nothing actually. I just wanna make sure that the quality of our products is maintained at its best. Besides, I believe you pay for that, don't you? Not for getting a cup of bad coffee, so you must inform me or one of my crew here at once when you notice anything different on our products, okay?". "Will do!", I smiled and my reply was out exactly when one of his baristas called upon him to ask about something (that I didn't know of... or maybe was not really pay attention to it. Typical me. Hahaha).

a cup of caramel latte and a single-origin Java coffee
photo by Riska Hasan

Later that time, when I was sipping my third or fourth cup of coffee (Yes, I didn't remember it either!) whilst watching a barista working with the espresso machine like a sort of graceful dancer with the hands, I got to think about the owner's statement earlier. I surely believe he said that for the good of his business, but that is a kind of assurance for me as a customer as well. That I am certain I pay a quite amount of money in exchange of a good quality of product, not just some products which exist for the sake of market's demand or worse, for the benefit of some parties.

However, what if we are not given the certainty that is actually part of our rights as customers? What if the saying "you get what you pay for" does not apply on the product we purchase?. Furthermore, honestly speaking, what I find in many cases, that some of us tend to be passive or ignorant (if I may say) regarding to the whole package of a product, especially when it comes to coffee, a product that has become a commodity for it is world-widely consumed more than 1.6 billion cups daily (source: Koran Republika, a national newspaper dated on March 4, 2013). In order to fulfill the industry's demand, coffee producers simplify all the delicate, yet essential process of creating a good coffee*. Hence, we, customers, permissively accept what is served to us without acknowledging that there is supposedly a long process behind it. What we appreciate only the end product and unfortunately, the brand that tags along with it. Well, I am not saying that you should stop buying branded coffee altogether, but I think a customer should buy smartly and a well-known brand does not always guarantee the quality of its product. So whichever coffee you prefer, I think it is no harmful to be curious once in a while and ask for more information about the coffee you are served with. Informations, like the origin of the coffee, when it is roasted, or perhaps, the kind of milk they use if you order a latte or a cappuccino. Also, being a little less permissive when you think you are served with a bad coffee (you know, the kind that is all mixed up between Arabica and Robusta with insane bitterness and too much acidity, that would cause you stomachache at a certain point). If you don't order it, why can't you complain about it?

For that reason, I am sure that the owner meant his statement not only for the quality maintenance of his products, but also for educating his customers, like me, to be more critical about the purchased product, to realize that customers have rights to get all those information and more importantly, to be served with a good, tasteful cup of coffee. Consecutively, when we make an effort to be smart customers, we educate more coffee producers and sellers to acknowledge the customers' rights to a good coffee and they are obliged to appreciate them, just like we are obliged to pay for what we order.

One small step today, a giant step for tomorrow. So, let's start one step a time. To be a smart customer, but don't forget to enjoy your coffee, yes? :)

* for more information about the whole process of making a good coffee, kindly click this following link: by Alex A. Richards

** This entry is also inspired by this article :