The first blog in our Farmer’s Market series will revolve around the questions we are asked by customers.
Let’s be very clear. We love farmer’s markets. We love going to them and being a part of them and almost all of the customers at them. While we will be including frustrations that we experience, this is NOT intended to be a rant in any way, but sharing what we experience and what we can learn from it. That being said, let’s dig right into the questions, what we learn from them, and how we have learned to respond.
Where does the coffee come from?
When someone asks this question, they want to know one of three things:
1. Where was the coffee roasted
2. How did the roaster procure the coffee
3. They actually want to know where the coffee labeled “Colombia” came from.
One can never tell which question is being asked. No form of profiling or stereotyping can accurately predict the desired information the questioner is seeking.
Savannah and surrounding cities are big tourist destinations. Often consumers want to bring back something with them that was made in the city. Quite often a shopper will pick up a bag and study very seriously before brightening up and saying with a sigh of relief, “Oh, it’s from Savannah.” A purchase usually follows. People want local. They may not want local for the same reasons, but they want local. We think this is a good thing. And while our coffee is not locally grown in Savannah (yes we get asked that question too) it is roasted locally and that hits a warm and fuzzy spot for local shoppers and people shopping for local. Local.
The more savvy coffee buyer wants to know more about how coffee makes its way to the roaster. They want to know if importers, brokers or other third parties were utilized. Basically, they want to know how the coffee was sourced. Sometimes they want to know this out of curiosity, being interested in how coffee makes it all the way to the farmer’s market. Sometimes they want to know because of a recent NPR piece they heard.
When we inform a customer that yes, the Brazil Peaberry actually came from the country of Brazil and they are surprised, we are a little happy and a little sad. Happy that we were able to impart a new fact to someone, open the door to sharing what we love. Sad because . . . how did they not know where coffee comes from? Is this our fault? Perhaps.
Is this coffee strong?
It goes like this: customer buys a cup of coffee, drinks it, “Wow, this coffee is so smooth! It’s fantastic! I don’t even need to add milk, it’s perfect just as it is.”
The very next customer, “Whoa, this is some strong coffee! I’ll need extra milk and 7 sugars. Wow, you brew it so strong!”
The very next customer, “Is this coffee smooth, or strong?”
This is not an exaggeration, but nearly a word for word experience of what has happened. More than once.
How do you answer this? We have found that everyone’s taste preferences are so different, that use of the terms “strong”, “mild” “smooth” can all be misleading depending on the person drinking the coffee. We have bypassed this answer by saying, “Here, take a sip, see what you think and if you like it buy a cup.”
What does this coffee taste like?
This is similar to the previous question, but usually relates to people interested in buying a bag of coffee to take home. The most commonly ambiguous question is, “What is your strongest coffee?” We have found that asking the question, “When you say strong, do you mean dark or very flavorful?” to be so far the most effective response. Though, again the phrase, “very flavorful” is filled with ambiguity. It’s about 50/50 that the answer will be, “Dark, I like it very dark.” or, “Oh not dark, I just mean tastes really good.”
If we are at a market where we are selling cups, we say, “Here, taste this and tell us what you think. That will help us guide you in picking out what you’d like.” This has been generally effective. Outside of that it requires a detailed description of each coffee with the customer picking coffee from a country they have heard of before, just to be safe.
We find the human taste bud fascinating. The same coffee can have such a wide variety of emotions attached to it depending on the individual customer.
The most effective results come from return customers, trying new coffees to take home, asking the best way to brew coffee at home, trying their coffee without milk this time. Getting customers excited about what we are excited about is … exciting! But it takes time. We find it helps to love what you do and share that love in a way that causes the customer to say, “wow, I never thought of it that way before.”
That’s all for this post, more questions to come in the next one! Peace.