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A Revolutionary Approach to Serving Coffee in Restaurants!

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Matching Coffees to Desserts.....It's Jay Weston's Coffee 'Initiative'!

Coffee service is the weak link in almost every restaurant experience that I have; for years I have been railing against the perfunctory way in which coffee is served in even the finest of our city's dining spots. So when friend Thomas Kazas told me was thinking of expanding his very successful Pittsburgh coffee empire, Hometown Coffee, to California...I offered to come up with a radical new approach to this market. "With so many coffees on the market, why do you think we can come into California and have a major impact?" Thomas asked. I replied: "We will take a completely different approach to how diners should enjoy coffee at fine white-tablecloth restaurants and hotel dining rooms. Once a restaurateur hears this idea and incorporates it, he will realize it is something he can't do without. And for the customer, it will flow naturally into their coffee-drinking habits at home."

I have a passion for good, rich, aromatic and delicious coffee... and am utterly dissatisfied with the way it is currently being offered almost everywhere. Voila, I decided that Tom could join with me to initiate a coffee renaissance in L.A. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately for him, his business is booming both on the East coast and abroad, so he regretfully had to bow out of participating in the Jay Weston Coffee Initiative. But I am proceeding on my own and you are reading about it here first.

In my recent review of the excellent seafood restaurant, Providence, I noted that when the eight of us were departing our tasting dinner, what we raved about as we hit the sidewalk waiting for our cars was not only the food but also the delicious coffee! It had been provided by an excellent small coffee company in Alhambra, LA Mill Coffee. And they had only initiated the first step of my comprehensive picture of how to serve coffee the Weston way!

So what is so innovative about the Jay Weston approach? It's relatively simple. First, we search the world's 50 coffee-growing countries for the best, rarest beans....Guatemalan, Antiguan, Jamaican, Kenyan AA, Kona, Sumatran Mandheling, Mexican.....

Secondly - and this is truly unique - through the restaurant's waiter, we offer each diner the opportunity to match their coffee to the dessert they have chosen!

And thirdly, the waiter brews the coffee at the table in front of the guest in individual French Press pots.

Sounds simple, but actually it's not. It took me years to refine this new approach, thinking about and drinking coffee of all strengths and blends throughout the universe. There really are substantial flavor differences among coffees...some 800 flavor characteristics are detectable by the human taste bud; by comparison, wine has only about 400. In my plan, we would roast the green beans manually in small batches under the careful watch of an experienced master coffee roaster to the perfect finish. 100% Arabica whole bean specialty coffees are available in 37 different varieties (as well as 30+ decaffinated and 25+ flavored versions). Incidentally, I would have all of our coffees packaged, warm from the roaster, in valve-locked or gas-flushed bags, and shipped to client restaurants the day they are roasted...with each coffee package bearing the individual name of the restaurant to further personalize it.

What coffee goes perfectly with chocolate? Which blend matches a fruity dessert? For example, we learned that coffee beans from the Indonesian island of Sumatra taste best with a dark chocolate pastry. A Columbian or Panamanian bean best suits a light fruit dessert. We have even refined it further so that a citrus dessert matches one blend and a berry dessert matches another. To keep it simple, for the purpose of this plan we refine it down to three specific coffee blends to be offered each evening, either regular or decaffeinated.

Ideally, the waiter wheels out a small coffee cart, with the six different bags of freshly-ground coffee and the makings for it on the cart. If the diner has not chosen to have dessert, we recommend an aromatic medium-roast coffee for their enjoyment. Incidentally, 40% of all coffee lovers drink their coffee black. We would also offer several exotic, delicious blends of teas from around the world.

The cart carries a little burner supporting a glass pot of water simmering just under the boil, at between 195 and 205 degrees. After the diner has selected his dessert and coffee, the waiter measures two level spoonfuls of the coffee into the French press, adds six ounces of hot water, mixes it once and then lets it sit for exactly two minutes. To add to the drama and excitement, we display a tiny hour glass which measures two minutes exactly; the guest turns it over to start the count. Everyone watches hypnotically as the granules of sand drop down. Once the two minutes are up, the waiter places his hand on the top of the pot and very slowly - dramatically - presses the plunger down into the pot. Coffee is served...and the result is a fabulous, memorable experience! You know that every guest will depart talking about the unique experience.

I suspect that coffee sales and dessert sales will skyrocket in every restaurant which offers the Jay Weston Coffee Experience. People won't mind paying a small premium for this coffee presentation. I even suggest we end the evening by giving each diner a small packet of the restaurant's coffee to take home as a gift.

Every restaurateur and chef I've told of this unique coffee service concept has replied with one voice, "When can we get it?" The answer is...as soon as I can join with a boutique coffee company to achieve a support structure in Los Angeles. But there's nothing proprietary about this idea...so I throw it out there and hope you will remember by advertising here where it originated.

Stay tuned for further developments, and we welcome your comments and suggestions... Drink up!

To subscribe to Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter, email him at jayweston@sbcglobal.net.