The quality of a cup of coffee—where the beans are sourced, the style of roast, and how and where it’s brewed—matters to discriminating patrons more than ever.
Consumers became more aware of specialty coffee with the advent of Starbucks, which paved the way for the many artisanal coffee companies that have made roastmasters the winemakers of the new millennium.
“Many years ago, you had to be a wine geek to understand wine, then it became you had to be a coffee geek to understand coffee,” says Richard Coraine, president of new business for Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City. “Now, there’s a public understanding of a good cup of coffee.”
For this reason, it’s important for hotel food and beverage operations to stay on top of the latest coffee trends. “The public wants that—people want quality products and it’s not just the industry, the world is thinking that way,” Coraine says. “People really care about what they eat and drink and surround themselves with that. If the industry is evolving and you’re myopic and not keeping with industry trends, you’re out of step with the way the world is behaving and, to me, that’s not smart business.”
One coffee trend that has quickly gained popularity in recent months is the “pour over.” Typically made one cup at a time, pour-over coffee is brewed by placing a filter inside a drip cone, adding fresh ground coffee to the filter, and pouring a steady stream of hot water into the cone to saturate the grounds evenly. Once the coffee steeps into the cup, the result is a clean, sweet tasting beverage that lends itself to learning about and appreciating the origin of the beans and how they are produced.
At Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan, Union Square Hospitality Group’s Roman-style trattoria Maialino has a morning coffee bar that includes the pour-over setup. Although Maialino is open for full-service breakfast, many patrons use the front portion of the restaurant as a quick morning stop where they can drink a hot beverage while reading the newspaper or going online before heading on their way.
“Rome is a coffee lover’s paradise. They take coffee very seriously,” Coraine says. “Although we take it very seriously in all of our businesses, especially for Maialino, in order to really embody the Roman viewpoint, coffee had to make the list as one of the top elements that people connect with.”
To make its pour-over coffee, Maialino uses Four Barrel coffee beans shipped from San Francisco, ceramic cones, and unbleached organic paper filters. “A good pour over takes, I find, between two and five minutes, depending on the people pouring it and your interaction with them,” Coraine says. “For me, part of what makes coffee good is interacting with the person making it.”
The restaurant, which opened in November of 2009, also serves made-to-order espresso drinks, press pots, and chilled coffee in warmer months. “We love coffee, we’re passionate about it,” Coraine says. “We’re always looking for better ways to present that to guests and raise our own bar.”
A TASTEFUL TREND
Oregon-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters operates cafés at two Ace Hotel locations, one in downtown Portland and the other in Midtown Manhattan. Flanking the hotel lobbies, the cafés ensure that guests don’t have to venture far for a quality cup of coffee. Stumptown also provides coffee for room service orders. “To me it’s more like, ‘Wow, every hotel should have something like this,’” says Matt Lounsbury, director of operations for Stumptown. “It’s amazing how many hotels have the opposite.”
The independent coffee company started offering pour-over coffee six years ago when it opened the Annex in Portland, two doors down from its Belmont café. The Annex hosts free public tastings daily, which support the notion that gourmet coffee has achieved a fine wine-like status.
“They don’t add offerings to their menu based on crazes, but because they believe in them,” Alex Calderwood, an owner of the Ace Hotel group, says of Stumptown. “It’s honest, and that’s why we like them.”
As many hotels are becoming more mindful of having a greener footprint and offering locally sourced food in their restaurants, Lounsbury says coffee should be a part of their thought process as well.
In fact, Stumptown’s commitment to sustainability and fair trade played a part in the Ace Hotel’s decision to house the two cafés. “Partnering with them gives our guests a holistic experience of fine coffee that’s been responsibly roasted and procured, and served in an inspiring environment,” Calderwood says. “It seems to really complete the Ace experience, and has added to the draw of the hotels as a daily destination point for Manhattanites and Portlanders.”
At the Ace Hotel, Stumptown serves Chemex (a type of drip device used for pour overs) by the cup, as well as espresso and French press.
For his own personal taste, Lounsbury says French press coffee is still enjoyable but the Beehouse dripper, a device Stumptown uses at the Annex and its brewbars, has changed his life. “I haven’t had French press in I don’t know how long,” he says. “[Pour over] is a clean, great way to drink coffee. A trend as it may be, I think it’s a trend that’s here to stay.”
So drink it all in, one cup at a time.