Q&A with Bartosz Ciepaj, master roaster at Harrods
What is the ultimate coffee experience for consumers?
I believe that the ultimate coffee experience varies from person-to-person. It’s all up to the customer’s preferences. Everything from customer service, music, décor and, of course, the taste of the coffee influences the experience.
When I imagine the ultimate coffee experience for consumers I see four different coffees to be served as espresso: a blend of Arabica and Robusta, a great standard milky blend of Arabica, a seasonal single origin for purists and a Swiss water decaf for those who do not cope well with caffeine. It is also essential to have at least two filter offerings, such as a seasonal Rwanda or Burundi, and a rare Kopi Luwak or Geisha from Hacienda La Esmeralda. I like to offer customers a variety of choice to be able to help them find exactly what they desire.
I love when a barista understands the customer’s needs, coffee extraction and can discuss the particular flavours and origins of beans. At Harrods, we put every effort to focus on each variable of coffee to be able to recognize and go beyond each individual customer expectations. We provide an exceptionally tailored service that, as a result, sees us welcoming returning customers.
Currently, in our two flagship coffee residencies, The Coffee Bar and The Roast and Bake Café, we serve the Knightsbridge Roast, which is a blend of four unique coffee beans that when combined create a chocolate flavour with hints of spice and nuts. The blend is primarily created for milky drinks but it can also be enjoyed as an espresso.
As a master roaster, how does roasting onsite influence add to the coffee offering?
It’s amazing that we are roasting in the centre of such a historic and iconic hall. We are taking our customer on the entire journey from bean to cup, allowing them to see how the coffee is roasted and how the quality is controlled. We are very happy to assist our customers with any questions they may have from the origin to the brewing methods of each of our coffees on offer.
Roasting onsite gives us amazing flexibility in terms of what we are roasting and when, ensuring freshness at all times. We also have 100% control of our roast profiles thus guaranteeing quality and consistency.
I think what is happening within Harrods is a true coffee revolution (alongside the taste revolution!), bringing excellent coffee to the public.
How important is staff training – especially on staff turnover and retention?
Thorough training on coffee and customer service is essential for working at The Coffee Bar or The Roast and Bake Café. We have started the Harrods Barista Training Academy which equips all of our baristas with the required knowledge and skill set to be able to create this ultimate coffee experience for our customers.
In the next few months we will be running the Harrods Barista Championship to further enhance our team’s passion and knowledge for coffee and everyone really enjoys it. I think the best way to avoid turnover and retention is by investing in employees and supporting them in their craft. We are very fortunate to have support from Harrods in all of our ambitions which is why the company has several employees who have been with them for over 50 years!
What will be the biggest challenges this year?
We have several projects that are running simultaneously and I believe the biggest challenge this year will be to control them and ensure they are delivered smoothly and on time. The Knightsbridge Roast will soon be served in all of our coffee outlets within Harrods. We are also upgrading all of our coffee machines, adding more sessions for the Harrods Barista Training Academy and introducing the Harrods Barista Championship—so it’s a super exciting time and a lot of work, but the challenge will be to make sure everything is executed perfectly.
For the industry, this year faces challenges with global sustainability. There is a lot of discussion around using biodegradable products to reduce landfill as at the moment the vast majority of coffee cups are only recyclable when processed with specialist equipment resulting in the majority of products being wasted.
What trends will affect sales most this year?
During last few years we have observed a rapid growth in speciality coffee. With the development of new equipment and new coffee drinks like cold brew and nitro cold brew, as well as new coffee varieties, the trend for drinking exceptional coffee will continue to drive sales.
Where do the best innovations come from?
For the last few years the biggest innovation in coffee has come from speciality coffee and customers choosing to pay more for exceptional beans. There is already a big, growing trend of people educating themselves on the difference between good and excellent and willing to pay more for excellent beans. This trend not only gives further incentives for farmers to produce better coffee beans but also encourages cafe owners to serve better coffee and designers to develop more advanced equipment. Furthermore, the Specialty Coffee Association has created a broad coffee diploma system inspiring the best from all sectors of the industry.
- Bartosz Ciepaj is a member of the industry steering panel for European Coffee Expo. www.EuropeanCoffeeExpo.com