You’ve just had your 11 course surprise menu with paired wines in that hypothetical restaurant awarded with three Michelin stars. It’s located hundreds of kilometres from the (hypothetical) nearest city but it’s still full booked for every single service. The food was great if not amazing, wines were well-paired and the company was even better. Now, after platter full of mind-blowing petit-four, it’s time for the espresso.
Despite my lousy story-telling you probably guessed what’s going to happen next. That’s right – your coffee is not Square Mile nor Intelligentsia (and even if it was it most likely wouldn’t be drinkable). Not even Illy. It’s something you avoid like plague outside that restaurant.Having left your Aeropress & Skerton combo at the hotel you really don’t have any option now. ”This is a three-star place with amazing food, the coffee can’t be that bad…”
How wrong can you be after those 11 glasses of wine.
The whole restaurants & coffee -situation is quite unbelievable. Some of the world’s best restaurants, for example El Bulli that’s chosen as the number one establishment in the world several years in a row, use Italian bulk coffee roasted some six months ago. They keep talking about supporting local producers and using organic products while buying coffee from a gigantic roaster far away. I mean, isn’t that a little bizarre? Why couldn’t they really support the community and buy their coffee from a local (or nearest) micro-roastery? Establishments like El Bulli would have resources to hire a full-time barista to create something new, just like they do with the food or ”food”((1)) .
El Bulli’s chef Ferran Adrià wearing Lavazza’s jacket… (photo courtesy of Tim Varney)
Even if the restaurants used good-quality freshly roasted coffee, the preparation of it is the next stumbling block. My friend studies in the most recognized cooking school in Finland and his stories about how the waiters are taught to make espresso are quite horrifying, something I wouldn’t expect from such an institution. In my opinion that just tells us that restaurants don’t really expect any kind of coffee making skills from the graduating waiters and cooks. The situation is utterly inexplicable. So much attention is given to small details such as discarding the tiny veins from whole foie gras (not my favourite task) but why is the coffee, finishing touch for the dinner, left out of this list?
While most restaurants really don’t want to put resources in making good espresso (empirically tested) then why not to brew good filtered coffee? Good brew coffee would be great instead of astringent and watery espresso but a bit boring. Chemex or syphon, on the other hand, would besides making great coffee also make a nice show. In restaurants environment it is very difficult to brew espresso of consistent quality during the whole service but filtered coffee would be less sensitive and tricky and thus more consistent. It would also be easier to train a waiter / sommelier to brew filter than espresso.
Though this post turned out to be bit of a bitter rant my hopes are high when it comes to future of restaurant coffee. My prediction is that within the next couple of years we’ll see revolution in the restaurant world. I hope that chefs and owners would realize the importance and potential of quality coffee and put some effort in it. I believe that it won’t take long before some restaurant hires a full-time barista who would brew all the coffee and make something innovative with it, such as cocktails or desserts. I am really looking forward to finishing a nice dinner with something new, imaginative and delicious made out of coffee.
- I’ve also had a few good espressos at certain restaurants but certainly just few! [↩]