Sunday, March 13, 2011

Museo Slips a Notch

I was biking by the Mendel yesterday and I decided to stop at Museo Coffee. Recently I've been hearing about Jimmy (the owner) roasting his own coffee and Collective Coffee using his beans.

Normally I'd order a latte or an americano, but I thought I'd check out their other coffee. I asked what kind(s) they had. Neither of the staff knew what kind of coffee they were serving!? This is a place that claims to have the best coffee in Saskatoon and they don't even know what kind they're serving? Eventually they found the bag of beans and told me it was "Kenyan" - not very specific. But I saw the bag and it was the Nyeri Ichamara that Museo had just blogged about. I was interested to try it so I ordered a cup.

I was a little surprised (and disappointed) when they poured a cup out of a big thermal dispenser. Museo's web site says "drip coffee is made fresh by the cup". Not any more I guess. The coffee wasn't hot, a sign it had probably been sitting for a while. It was still good, but I can't help think it would be better if it was fresh.

It was a little ironic because one of the reasons I order a latte or an americano is to ensure that it's made fresh. But I (mistakenly) thought I didn't have to worry about that here. Maybe they still offer individual brewing as an option, but they didn't ask.

As a business owner myself, I know that there is always a gap between the owner's ideals and the practical running of the business. All you can do is try to pass on your values. And the staff turnover in a coffee shop must make it tough to do that. That might explain the staff not even knowing what coffee they were serving. (Although at least one of the ones who didn't know has been working there quite a while.) But switching from brewing by the cup to brewing big batches was presumably a management decision. And no matter how much you think you'll keep the batches fresh, staff that doesn't even care what kind it is, isn't going to be motivated to throw it out and brew fresh as often as they should.

Probably the staff complained that it was too much work and too slow to brew by the cup. But it can't be any more work than a latte, and they still serve those. Maybe some non-aficionado customers complained about the wait. But you can't try to be the "best" AND be quick and cheap.

Maybe part of the problem is that Jimmy is now focusing on the roasting and not so much on Museo.

Note: Coffee Collective isn't brewing individually but at least in very small batches (in home sized french presses). Hopefully they won't devolve into brewing by the bucket.

Don't get me wrong, Museo is still a great place and the coffee is still really good. I'll continue to go there. It's just too bad that their initial ideals are fading a bit.


  1. Half of what you've written is a work of fiction, and the rest pure speculation. Had you read the menu, you'd realize we still offer pourover coffee (the pourover stand is on the counter plain to see), but we do all of our brewing via french press (the superior method). If you'd looked a little further you'd also see we don't bulk brew. And as far as my staff not knowing what coffee we brew, we switch among origins several times per day. As far as my ideals go, well, it's 2:30am and I just finished roasting coffee after putting in 12 hours at museo.... so I will let you speculate further about that. I might indulge in speculation a little myself and venture your blog post is doing some bidding on behalf of someone else...

  2. Speculation - certainly, but it is my personal blog and I speculate about all kinds of things, many of which I'm probably just as ignorant and uninformed about.

    Fiction - no, at least not in the sense of deliberate fabrication. Apart from the speculation, I thought I just described my experience.

    As far as your speculation, I didn't write the blog post on behalf of anyone else. I don't know anyone in the coffee scene and I don't know (or want to know) what politics or conflicts there might be. I didn't discuss the blog post with anyone. The sole reason for the post was that I was excited about the new coffee you were roasting, went to Museo to try it, had a disappointing experience, and wrote about it, end of story.

    You can blame the ignorant customer (me) - for not reading the menu, not studying the equipment, etc. But it might (speculation) be more productive to think about how to better inform customers. Have a sign for what kind(s) of coffee is currently being serving. Have the staff ask what form of preparation is desired and explain the options. Have a menu board listing the choices. I have to think that if you had been behind the counter you would have given me a better, more informative response to "what kinds of coffee do you have" than "I don't know".

    I'm sorry if my blog post offended you. I wasn't trying to be malicious - I didn't post a bad review on Yelp or Urbanspoon. As I said, I continue to visit and like Museo - it's probably the coffee shop I go to most frequently. I recommend Museo and your coffee to my friends.

    I think your passion for coffee is wonderful. I think it's awesome that you're staying up half the night roasting. I buy your coffee beans and I love them. It's great that you're at the farmer's market so people can sample and buy your coffee beans. I wasn't questioning your ideals. I just think it's a shame that, in my (limited) experience, that passion and quality is not always coming across as well as it might at Museo.

    PS. Thanks for not just venting at me. I think I'd probably have been less restrained if I was responding to what I felt was mistaken criticism of me at 2:30 in the morning.

  3. Anonymous7:14 PM

    Jimmy - you sound like a real chump attacking the blogger (Andrew) personally. I thought the blog was reasonable and fair...