Tom Vincent of Texas Coffee School Delivers the Most Fantastic Cup of Coffee
Do you find that a lot of restaurants serve good coffee?
I think there's a great disconnect between great chefs and great coffee. I ate Joel Robuchon's restaurant L'Atelier in Las Vegas and had one of the greatest meals of my life followed by one of the worst cups of coffee I've ever had. We were just blown away by the tasting menu, then thought, "How can someone with such a palate have such awful coffee?"
Maybe it's because they've spent so much time drinking bad coffee working 16-hour shifts in a kitchen.
That's what I was thinking too.
Why's it so hard to make a great cup?
There's so much science that goes into making a great cup of coffee. People don't realize how much thought has to go into a great cup of coffee. A lot of people look at it as a caffeine source, whereas those that really appreciate coffee look at it as the most affordable luxury in the world.
(My cup of coffee is now ready).
And for the hardest question of the day. Got milk? Is that a no-no?
You can do whatever you want. The variable is do I have any? The answers is, no, I don't have any.
Was that a bad question?
It's not that it's a bad question. The thing is I realize people enjoy their coffee a certain way, but since there is so much bad coffee out there, a lot of people have never had great coffee and they just do it automatically because they don't know better. It's not their fault.
[I sip.] That's amazing. That's an amazing cup of coffee. You're right. Milk would ruin it. This doesn't even taste like coffee.
What's it taste like?
I don't know.
Because the reality is, it taste like real coffee. What do you normally drink?
Well... Starbucks. I grind it at the house though.
You sound like you're embarrassed.
You shouldn't be. I'm just happy you drink coffee. There's nothing wrong with Starbucks. They're the reason people are willing to come take classes with us. Starbucks is widely responsible for paving the way. They're the reason people are willing to pay three or four bucks for a cup of coffee. So, I don't have any weird animosity towards them.
Do you like their coffee?
Personally, it's not my thing. They're kind of a victim of their own success. One of my friends in the industry is a buyer for Starbucks and is basically a quality grader. His job is taste the coffee on the container ship when they arrive at port. He's told me they get some really amazing coffee, but the variable is there may only be 30 bags of that coffee and that's not enough to supply all their stores.
Also, sometimes I just go and sit in a Starbucks and observe. I'll be an anthropologist and try to figure out what they're doing that's different. Why are they a billion dollar company versus any other coffee shop?
Have you figured that out yet?
Yeah. They're a people company. Not a coffee company. Coffee is the conduit. For them, it's about the people. They spend an extensive amount of time training their baristas on great customer service. For them, it's really about, 'How can I give you the best possible experience in the least amount of time?' Which is a great lesson to learn.
What about that fancy machine down at Ascension?
I don't personally know enough about that one because I haven't worked on that particular machine, but from what I understand, it's a great machine. But the reality is that an espresso machine is only as good as the barista using it. That's just like saying you'll cook better if you have great knives.