I was somewhat surprised but not really when I went to Volunteer Park Café some months ago and found out that they no longer carried the Café Vita coffee beans but instead had switched to Stumptown coffee beans. I thought that was really interesting and at that time, the barista on duty could not tell me why they had done the switch. Though I have been there a few times since, I finally chatted with one of baristas who knew and told me the story.
It turns out that the reason they switched was not because Café Vita coffee beans was bad or anything like that. The reason was pretty simple actually. On the one hand, and in their own words, Stumptown has excellent customer service and are a great supplier to work with and they have great coffee so switching for those reasons alone was not a problem. But the even bigger deal was the fact that the owner of VPC&M just so happens to be one of the co-owners of ‘Oddfellows’ up on Capital hill. Now Oddfellows was already serving Stumptown coffee and so for the owner, it actually made sense for her to switch and deal with just one supplier for both premises rather than have to deal with two different suppliers. Of course if they actually thought that Stumptown coffee was not that great, then I doubt that VPC&M would have switched.
Now for those of you not from the Pacific Northwest region, Stumptown Coffee is actually pretty famous in the Seattle and Portland area and even up in Vancouver and Victoria. I remember at least two summers ago when rumor had it that they were going to be opening up their first shop in Seattle up on Capital Hill (now they have two) everyone was excited that this Portland based Coffee roaster was expanding to Seattle. At that time, the summer of 07, I went to the Stumptown located at the Ace (boutique) hotel and licked their coffee… and there super cool espresso machine even better. And so it seems, I meet a lot of espressonatos who think that Stumptown Coffee is just something really awesome. But I’ve also met a few who are not too impressed with Stumptown and think there are other, much better options, available for those who love their espresso.
So was the switch worth it? Does it make sense to switch because you get great customer service and it’s also more convenient? Yes, I think so, but only if the coffee is at least comparable if not better than what you are currently serving. I certainly think that it does make sense from the ‘dealing with only one supplier’ perspective since having to work with multiple suppliers across multiple locations simply adds overhead and complexity.
Now you don’t very often get a chance to actually compare how well one particular coffee house does if they have serve coffee beans from different roasters. In this case, it would have been interesting to try and reflect back on the Café Vita that VPC&M used to serve and the Stumptown they now do. But alas, it was quite a while back since I drank Café Vita at VPC&M and to be honest, I don’t remember too well how it was compared to the Stumptown they serve now.
However, for some reason I am really leaning towards saying that in my dim memory, the Café Vita might actually have been better than the Stumptown. And I can tell you for sure, I recently ordered a double 8 oz latte at VPC&M and I didn’t think the double shot in an 8 oz cup was a good as it should have been. I do know that I have had a few good double 12 oz Stumptown lattes at VPC&M though and so this makes me wonder if in general I should simply stick to 12 oz cups when I’m ordering Stumptown lattes.