Over the last 4 years the number of independent quality driven cafes has grown from less than a handful to over 20 to choose from, with multiple locations opening for some companies. We have seen a greater dedication to sourcing exceptional coffee, hiring and retaining baristas that are passionate about coffee and educating the public.
One of the key distinguishing qualities in a great coffee house, is the sense of community between the customer and the employees. Baristas working in great coffee shops see their role as a sort of guide for the customer to what coffee has to offer; and by extension the customer becomes excited and engaged with the experience. Independent cafes and progressive chains are opening up to their customers and inviting them to learn about the whole seed to cup journey of coffee.
The approach does not reduce the Barista to a “button pusher” but someone who takes care in the preparation of each beverage and takes the time to let customers know about the latest coffee offerings from their chosen roaster. Increasingly these coffee selections in coffee houses include Direct Trade coffee where the roaster themselves is traveling to coffee origin and foraging relationships on the ground with the artisan producers. To highlight the best of these coffees and insure that each distinct coffees unique flavor profile shines through, many independent and quality focused chain coffee houses are starting to use “by the cup” brewing methods that prepare a single cup of coffee to order. This means the coffee is ground fresh right before brewing and the customer has a greater choice over what coffee they would like to discover.
At Fratello we have been excited to be a part of this shift in Calgary towards coffee as a truly culinary product and not just a commodity. Along with this dedication from independent cafes, Fratello is proud to continue our ongoing partnership with Good Earth Coffee House. Good Earth is an ever growing Calgary Alberta based Franchise that serves coffee with pride and dedication to quality, roasted locally by Fratello Coffee. In the past few years Good Earth has undergone a further review of their coffee program and taken some impressive steps to show their loyal customers just how passionate they are about coffee.
I wanted to talk to Gerry Docherty of Good Earth to discuss what Good Earth have done to further their coffee quality in the last few years and what drives their passion as a company to continue to pass along great coffee to their customers:
In January you joined Russ Prefontaine on a coffee buying trip. When in Nicaragua you visited one of our Direct Trade partners Erwin Merisch and his coffee estates. How did the experience of traveling to the coffee origin and seeing first hand the dedication to quality and the connection to the coffee Good Earth serves affect you and your team?
"It would be impossible to make a trip like that and not be affected by it. Anyone who is passionate about serving a great cup of coffee must make a trip to see for themselves where their product originated. To see firsthand the degree of care and dedication that goes into producing and processing an outstanding product, you come to the realization that it would be a sin for that quality product to be produced, processed, and roasted with such care only to be mishandled at the point of sale with the customer. So, after meeting with such a passionate and proud farmer such as Erwin, you leave there with an unspoken promise to finish off the supply chain to the consumer with the care and respect his beans deserve."
When a customer goes into a Good Earth location now, they can really get to know the coffee being served. Good Earth has a lot of info on each label about the countries and farms the coffee comes from. What has Good Earth done as a company to help educate themselves and their franchise partners on each of the coffees being served and the countries they are from?
"With respect to direct trade, the biggest adjustment in the area we focus on with our Partners is to educate on why Good Earth has chosen this particular farmer and his product. Part of our big shift was that our product offering is no longer simply about the quality of the coffee, but in addition it is also about the farmer and his business practices. Of course we will only sell exceptional tasting coffees and our Partners are quite comfortable in understanding and describing quality. However now the coffee also has to have a story, which we refer to as “A World of Good”. We want to understand how that farmer treats his employees, how he treats his waste water, or what positive effects does his business have on the community in which he operates. Basically we are looking for like-minded business partners. We share this information with our Operating Partners who in turn share it with their customers to bring the end user a little closer to the origins of the cup of coffee they are enjoying."
Your feature coffee rotates now very often and showcases some of the finest Direct Trade single estate farms that Fratello works with. How have customers embraced an always changing feature coffee and what have the franchise partners done to promote this seasonal approach?
"In addition to our unique blends that our customers have come to love and expect from every Good Earth, we decided to begin rotating in a feature coffee that would change every few months based on quantities available, to enable us to provide our customers with very unique estate coffee flavours that they might not otherwise ever have the opportunity to enjoy. Some customers are creatures of habit and stick to their “usual” but many of our more adventurous customers have come to love trying a new and unique coffee on a regular basis. Our Partners tell customers the story behind the Feature coffee and they will hold tastings and cuppings within the café to help promote these fantastic coffees."
Good Earth is one of the few coffee house chains to still be working with semi automatic espresso machines and grinders to grind espresso fresh on demand. I have seen some impressive latte’s being made, even with latte art on the top showcasing the care your baristas are taking. What sort of training and steps do your baristas take in preparing customers drinks?
"We take barista training very seriously. We have several levels of training available to our Partners to assist with the training. Baristas start out with the basics which we call coffee 101 and they then progress through various modules and practical hands-on training until they achieve their barista certification. We are also fortunate to have great partners in Fratello who support with roasting tours, cupping sessions, and specialized latte art training support. All of this must take place prior to our baristas serving a single customer."
With over 27 locations and expanding fast, how does Good Earth insure as a company it “serves exceptional coffee and wholesome food, with a down-to-earth attitude? What is next for Good Earth to keep this vision strong and to keep growing in quality?
"The secret to our success as we expand is our Operating Partners. As an organization, Good Earth made the decision over 4 years ago to adopt a franchise model to ensure that we have like-minded individuals who own their cafes, and who can put the care and attention into ensuring that all of the values that have driven the success of this company for the past 19 years, will remain intact. On the door of every Good Earth café no matter where it is found, is the statement “Locally Owned and Operated” and this is true. Every Partner comes into this business with a clear understanding, and is fully invested into the Good Earth way of running a coffeehouse. As we grow, it will be imperative to also ensure that the support and expertise that our Partners need from their Franchisor is there, and that we are aligned with supplier Partners such as Fratello to provide us with the specialized expertise we need as continue to succeed in a competitive industry."
It is rewarding to know as a roaster that Good Earth is honoring the long journey that coffee takes from seed to cup. We are immensely proud of our Direct Trade partners and the care and attention needed for the whole process right up to our master roaster Mike bringing his years of experience to the final roasted coffee. It is great to have a business partner like Good Earth who carries out that final step so well to their customer. Look for the latest coffee discoveries to arrive at Good Earth soon!