About three years ago, Boxwood first opened its doors to the streets of downtown Summit. Since then, a lot of things have changed and all for the better. Originally a simple cafe, the business has become a full roastery, specialty tea house and even our kitchen offerings have skyrocketed in quantity and quality. We're opening a new store soon with more bells and whistles and opportunities to experiment, collaborate, and to better understand the beverages we create for our loving customers. Everyone on staff has been part of this learning experience as we adapt and accelerate forward down the coffee rabbit hole, and thankfully we have also led much of our community and customers down to this wonderfully caffeinated land with us. Learning and sharing all about coffee is what makes us happy, and each day we become better equipped to do so.
One things we've been trying to focus on is calibration. This is a term used greatly in the coffee industry. We calibrate our grinders, brewers, espresso machines and pretty much anything that has moving parts. This is an important step in creating good coffee, it ensures everything is operating properly and consistently so we can always count on everything tasting the way it should every single time.
We also calibrate people.
Not like we're robots or something weird and creepy like that, but sometimes our senses and thought processes need a little maintenance. When two people drink the same coffee, there is nothing different about the what they taste. What is different, however, is how each person tastes it. For most scenarios this is fine and fair, but in certain cases it can be a very powerful tool for everyone to not only be on the same page, but to be reading it in the same language. It can unify a staff serving the same products, and it can help us all inform and educate customers as one team on a mission to spread and serve delicious coffee.
Calibration is a very real term when it comes to coffee cupping, or coffee tasting in an objective setting. It refers to the act of a group of people cupping a coffee and discussing what it is they taste, how they describe it and how they score it. This discussion is critical, as it calibrates the group of people to the same scale and helps each person objectively taste a coffee similarly to a partner without having to discuss it in length. They all taste the same thing, but they need to align themselves to taste it with the same type of objectivity. As the Boxwood crew delves further and further into the realm of specialty coffee in an effort to provide quality products with top notch educated service, it became clear that staff calibration was to become a necessity.
So if you happen to stop in the shop during shift change some days throughout the work week, you may find a bunch of baristas standing around the sharing table, loudly slurping coffee as a frantic roaster wildly flails his hands and shouts at them about how cool coffee is. My goal with this is to make sure that every member of staff knows the product they're serving frontwards in back, that they know all the sensory analysis that goes into deciding what constitutes a coffee we deem able to serve in our shop, and that they get excited about the product their serving and show that excitement to our customers.
When a customer asks a question about the coffee served to them, they will get an educated and thorough answer about tasting notes and techniques from anyone working behind the bar. What is important is that each answer is backed by firsthand experience, not just a script they have been told to recite when a specific question pops up. This experience contributes to a larger discussion, it makes us ask each other questions and excited to find the answers. Not only are we calibrating a shop to taste coffee the same way, we are calibrating a shop to educate and be educated about coffee in a wonderful journey of discovery.
Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.
17 Beechwood Rd, Summit, NJ 07901
MON - SUN 8am - 4pm