The Experience…

Currently Listening to: “Gulag Orkestar”- Beirut

I have rewritten this blog over a dozen times.

After leaving Trabant Coffee, I found myself running around in circles for 3 months itching to get back on a bar. I was worried I was slowly gathering dust. I started thinking, “what if that was it?” I spent most of my time researching and wondering. After returning from my first time judging at USBC in Portland, I jumped into as many coffee projects as possible. I took the job at Mokas Cafe & Coffee Bar in S. Lake Union. The cafe was a decent size cafe with huge potential in a very unique developing area. Just half a block from the new Amazon buildings being built, I could only imagine what could be done. I’ll save you from the paragraphs of mindless banter and tell you that, for various reasons, we couldn’t deliver the possibilities.

I now find myself, again, wondering if I missed something and where the hell I’m going next.

I can’t believe I get to type this next sentence.

I have decided to start exploring the exploration of opening a specialty coffee company co-0p.


For those of you who know me, I often refer to my first specialty coffee company. It was all the right ideas, at all the right times, just in the wrong place. After 7 months of being open, it went out of business. This was the beginning of the economic recession for me. I couldn’t believe such an amazing place had to close. To this day, I have only happy memories and only wish there was a place in Seattle like it. I have to credit the creators of the cafe that I remember so fondly, Dalynn Schnepp, Rob Schnepp, Stephanie Ensign-Solano, Jack Ensign, and Tony Serrano.

I can’t help but refuse to think that was the last of the company. So, naturally, I’m planning on resurrecting the name, Wanderlust Coffee Company, Seattle, Washington.

If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely in the coffee industry. Sustainability. Quality. Consistency. Community. The Farmer. These are all things we stand by in this progressive area of the coffee industry. I want to offer quality, no matter what. Quality in the cup shouldn’t and can’t have any attachment to the who’s who and the what’s what. It needs to be about the coffee. How can one roaster offer 100% quality all the time. They can’t. How can 2? 4? How many roasters does one have to work with to offer  quality across the board? Billy Wilson’s BARISTA is a shining example of this. (Sidenote: Big congrats goes out to Billy for his NWRBC title and the announcement of his 2nd BARISTA location!)

I was recently on just skimming through old blogs I had read and stumbled across one with a TED Talk on it. If you don’t know what TED Talks are, get to know them. They will change your life? I started watching a talk by a guy named Joseph Pine. Watch it and you will understand where I’m going more (it’s posted below). He points out how commodities became goods. Goods, in turn, became commoditized through consumers only caring about price. Then with the development of customization, we provided a service. But now service is expected to where there’s a struggle in that market. Obiviously there’s a huge parallel here to coffee. Coffee was a commodity. It was then harvested, shipped, and roasted. Now it’s a good. But coffee (roasted) is now a commodity. So, we’re back to square one. Consumers want customization. In doing so we, baristas, provide a service. Duh, service industry. Service and excellence, in this case, is where Third Wave is. We all can feel this shift into something new and we feel the oncoming of the “Fourth Wave.” What’s the Fourth Wave? I think it’s going to be focused on the experience. I hate to say it, but Beloyagasm. The beautiful thing about the Beloya coffees, as Mark Prince of points out on James Hoffman’s blog, is how it’s an “epiphany coffee.” In a nutshell, you could throw this down in front of almost any consumer and they’d get it. It’s a coffee that helped open the minds through it’s sensory experience. That’s what I’m talking about! The experience. So who’s providing the most vivid experiences I can think of? There’s something to be said about Intelligentsia Coffee’s Venice Beach location. It’s not just coffee, it’s not just your coffee or their coffee, it’s a coffee experience.

I don’t want to disclose too much about where I’m going with my ideas and how I’m going to make it all happen. I will say that I’m not going to settle for anything sub-par. There are no shortcuts to be had. I’m going to do this and do it right.

Pardon the shameless plug, but just stay tuned.


Watch this video.


Categories: Grind, Obsessive Quest


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

5 Comments on “The Experience…”

  1. 10/07/2009 at 9:41 pm #

    This is pretty sweet. I’m excited to hear it — and I’ll pass along word to good Mr. Serrano ;-).

    Are you looking to set up shop in Seattle?

    Steves — the guy who operates the Barefoot feed, and more.

  2. Nicholas Brewer
    10/08/2009 at 10:18 am #

    I dig your passion, enthusiasm, and clarity of purpose! I can’t wait to see what happens!

  3. 10/20/2009 at 12:31 pm #

    I’m sad to read of the demise of Moka’s, and intrigued to read – on Twitter – that you’re back at Trabant.

    I’ve been experiencing – and blogging about – losses and transformations myself lately. I can relate to the importance of having the right idea at the right time and the right place … and would add the right people (or team) to that list.

    I read “The experience economy” years ago, but hadn’t seen the 2004 TED video. Interesting reference to _rendering_ authenticity, and a fun distinction between “fake vs. faux”. I wonder if Joseph Pine would still hold up Starbucks as a model of purveying experiences (or rendering authenticity). I recently started reading “Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks”, whose author, Bryant Simon, offers a very different perspective … but of course, that (Pine’s video) was then, and this (Simon’s book) is now. Although I’m only on chapter 2, it’s clear that Simon has a much broader agenda than critiquing Starbucks … perhaps we’ll see him on a future TED video.

    I’m glad to read that you are being true to yourself, and maintaining your commitment to quality coffee [experiences], and will look forward to learning more details as you move forward with your new plans!

  4. 10/28/2009 at 9:57 am #

    Congratulations and good luck on this new coffee journey!! I too, admire your passion, and enjoy your blog updates, and tweets. I look forward to hearing more about what’s to come…

  5. 01/17/2010 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m so glad to hear and read that the experience at Wanderlust was a positive one, but do not confuse or misread the creation of the concept and name as cooperative or group founded by the “creators” you credited. Rob Schnepp, Dalynn Schnepp, Jack Ensign and Stephanie Ensign were meant to be Capitol Investors in 2006 on a concept created solely by me in 2003. Wanderlust Coffee is something I worked on for a long time before those 4 people decided to “help” (in their words) my dreams reach fruition. They were, also, responsible for the demise of the same dream.

    I wish you every opportunity in your venture, Alex. I wish you would use a different name, since Wanderlust Coffee is so profoundly tied to me and my experience. Originality is the true sign of an entrepeneur. If anyone has the right to use the concept and name you have chosen it would be me.
    You are a creative, compassionate and trusting soul… So was I before the true nature of business landed it’s most heavy handed blow in the form of the four people whom I trusted to help me construct a coffee dream into a short lived reality. Be Careful!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: