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The Mutual Exclusivity of Good Coffee and Baked Goods


Chris Amirault
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So why is nearly impossible to find good coffee and good baked goods in 1 store?

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Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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So true. In my small neighborhood there are several places within walking distance, each with their own strengths & weaknesses

Place A: Good coffee (I'm no connoisseur, but they are a local chain, sell their own beans, offer French press service, etc). Good bagels, mediocre baked goods and a loud, busy, kind of cold atmosphere.

Place B: Mediocre coffee, average, but more encompassing menu (can get full breakfast or breakfast sandwiches), Quieter, more cozy atmosphere.

Place C: Was the closest to my old apartment. Now there is no reason to go there.

I really want the coffee from place A and the atmosphere from place B with a menu closer to place B, but done better...

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I suspect because the better independent bakeries and coffee shops are just formed by people with stronger interest/ability in one side than the other, which to them is a secondary concern. Within a short walk from my office, there are a couple of good bakeries with ordinary coffee, and a good cafe with excellent cappuccino but a limited selection of mediocre baked goods. In an old-school Italian-style cafe you might be able to get both a good cap and a good traditional Italian dessert, but even those places are getting scarcer.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I suspect because the better independent bakeries and coffee shops are just formed by people with stronger interest/ability in one side than the other, which to them is a secondary concern.

Agreed, this is exactly the problem. What I can't grasp is why none of the coffee shops have realized that they can buy top-quality baked goods from places that do them right! (It's a lot harder to go the other way, since the best coffee is made on demand...)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I feel your pain.

But right across the street from my apartment, I have a coffee shop (Dora) selling freshly roasted Stumptown coffee (espresso, drip and beans) and Balthazar bakery baked goods. So I can't complain (much to my chagrin, I might add).

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Perhaps only in places like Vienna where the tradition is strong. Amazing pastry, coffee, and atmosphere.

Well, let's go!

Even here, it's not as if there are no such places, but they are a distinct minority.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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As a home roaster, it's hard for me to get a truly good cup of coffee anywhere....much less good coffee AND pastry. We have a relatively new Viennese restaurant here in KC, and I will say that their Meinl espresso may be the best I've had in a restaurant or coffeehouse. I have a pastry/donut shop right up the street from me, and a nice little French restaurant not too much farther away....I'm trying my darndest to convince both places that since they aren't moving a TON of coffee on a weekly basis that it would be easy enough to start roasting their own beans. They both use decent coffee from a local roaster, but the freshness just isn't close to the same thing. I'd roast it for them myself, but I have no idea if there is any legal-ish stuff they'd have to consider as far as buying something that comes from some dude's garage.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

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It could be worse: The default here is 'so-so to grim coffee, and appalling baked goods'. I have a hunch this is a location-contingent thing, since in NYC, I don't have much trouble finding places with both good coffee and good baked goods (although some of the places are not consistent). Same for Berlin, and every single Italian city I've ever been in.

Perhaps the tendency is to target what is perceived as a client base that cares more about coffee or baked goods, and cut costs on the other?

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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It happened all over Chicago and Portland, and it happens here in Providence too.

So here's a theory. Imagine that I'm a small business person, tough, gritty, trying to make my baked goods/coffee dream work. Down the street I have competition: the dumbass who's selling mediocre baked goods/coffee -- an affront to my sensibilities, of course -- but, yeah, I'll begrudgingly admit it, they sell pretty great coffee/baked goods.

I call them "the competition." Working with them would be insane to me.

I mean, really: to the business owner it's two different skill sets, two different business models, two different up-front equipment investments.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I bet that quality is driven by demand. We live in a country that likes Starbucks and Dunkin coffee. A pop-tart eating, cinnabon munching place that perhaps has never seen good pastry/baked goods. You can't sell people what they don't want.

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But that doesn't hold water when you're waiting 10 minutes for them to brew your remarkable coffee at Intelligensia in Chicago while munching on a dry scone, or sipping a weak cup of joe to cut through one of the creamy, delicious tarts at St. Honoré Boulangerie in Portland. High quality stuff in both places, but on the other side of the fence only.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think it simply comes down to focus. Most people have a single focus, either pastry or coffee, and they work hard enough to get that right. As you note, there are some places that get both right, but those are far fewer simply because there are far fewer owners who can do justice to both by having 2 foci. There is also little-to-no transferrable skills between baker/barista, so that makes it more mutually exclusive.

You can also expand this out to restaurants in general. I rarely find a restaurant that knows espresso/coffee. There's a great northern Italian place in my neck of the woods -- lots of awards including James Beards -- but they serve the most god-awful espresso. I mean, the double shot we ordered didn't even resemble espresso by volume, let alone taste...

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I call them "the competition." Working with them would be insane to me.

Except that it does happen. Here in Boston, in the North End, I know that there is at least one cafe on Hanover Street that gets at least some of its baked goods from a bakery down the street, which also has its own cafe seating and coffee service. And one dessert place I frequented in Brooklyn was getting its coffee (the beans, at least) from the cafe/roaster right across the street.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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In Chicago there is Lutz. If you go there order Cafe mit Schlag and any pastry. How about Burdick in Cambridge. If it is as good as the one in Walpole NH, it is very good.

In our little city in the Blue Ridge we have two coffee stores using a local coffee roaster and local bakers; the result is good. There are some out there.

Edited by Baylee Chocolate Lady (log)
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Oi - don't get me started!

I live in a town (very near the Texas border) where most people drink folgers and think you're a sissy or 'swinging for the other team' if you order a latte or cappuccino. Not a SINGLE sit down cafe, two drive through coffee shops (the people buying 'nice' coffee are embarrassed), and none of it is good.

Sometimes you just want to go have a coffee out with the missus or the guys...

...heck, it's so bleak here I'd settle for a st*rbucks as an upgrade.

/rant

Sorry to hijack the thread, I feel better now...

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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I'm dealing with this issue right now. I am a baker. I used to have a business, baking pastries for several local cafes and restaurants. I had to turn prospective clients away because I was so in demand, yet didn't (at the time) have staff nor kitchen space to keep up with the demand.

And then I lost my rental space (building was sold). That was seven years ago. Recently an old client came to me saying he'd do anything to get my pastries back. He serves the best coffees in town. In addition, I recently served some goodies to another cafe owner (unbeknownst to me) who is now courting me to provide his cafe as well. The NEW guy, however, told me that having a baker on site is out of the question due to costs (which the 1st guy is learning as well).

So, even though I would be contributing mixers and sheeters and smallwares, etc. and despite the fact that some of these great coffee houses WANT to have the smells of really great freshly baked goods to offer their customers, bottom line is, understandably, the bottom line. And for me to get back in the wholesale biz, well, I'm not getting any younger and my costs won't be getting any lower and I'm not willing (nor able!) to work as hard as I used to for the little bit of profit I'd be pulling in. I WANT to be a small business and provide the best pastries in this 'hood, but, if you're selling wholesale, you just can't make it being 'small'.

kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

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Agreed, this is exactly the problem. What I can't grasp is why none of the coffee shops have realized that they can buy top-quality baked goods from places that do them right! (It's a lot harder to go the other way, since the best coffee is made on demand...)

Have you tried Planet Bean here in guelph?

I love their espresso and they bring in their baked goods from Let's Get Baked . the dark rum date squares are killer good.

Edited by Ashen (log)

"Why is the rum always gone?"

Captain Jack Sparrow

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Agreed, this is exactly the problem. What I can't grasp is why none of the coffee shops have realized that they can buy top-quality baked goods from places that do them right! (It's a lot harder to go the other way, since the best coffee is made on demand...)

Have you tried Planet Bean here in guelph?

I love their espresso and they bring in their baked goods from Let's Get Baked . the dark rum date squares are killer good.

Wow, there's another Guelph resident here on eG!? I thought I was the only one! :wink:

I buy all my coffee at Planet Bean; despite their tendency toward roasting a bit dark for my tastes, I'd prefer to support a local roaster than not. That said, I usually just buy beans for consumption at home, so I don't think I've ever tried any of their baked goods. They do look good, though. I guess I'll have to change that.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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How about Burdick in Cambridge.

Meh. The couple of times I've been there the cakes were stale. Which is a little surprising given how busy the place is; you'd think there'd be better turnover. The hot chocolate is pretty good but the rest of I didn't think was worth the hassle of going there.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was just thinking of this this morning after I grabbed a coffee at my local place and headed to McDonalds for something edible (which the stuff at the coffee shop is not). I feel sort of guilty doing it, but a man has to eat!

The stuff at McDonalds is more edible than the local coffee shop? Wow. The stuff there must be really terrible! :blink:

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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