Some years ago, Stumptown Coffee Roasters here in Portland, Ore. (heard of them?) launched a series of events called “Meet the Producers.” The events brought coffee famers up to Portland to meet consumers at Stumptown’s cafés. It was a chance for people to really get to know and put a face to the coffee they were drinking. And the events proved so popular that they quickly expanded to locations outside of Portland, and spin-offs of them continue with numerous other coffee roasters now using similar events to educate, inform and connect their customers with their coffee farmers.
Last night at the new Stumptown HQ, we got a different twist on the idea. Instead of the coffee farmers coming to visit, it was the people who create coffee machinery, specifically the team from La Marzocco. It was actually the second stop on a three-part tour, as the La Marzocco team first presented the night before in Seattle, and they’ll follow up their Portland presentation with one in New York this evening.
With people from the Seattle office and the factory in Florence, Italy, the La Marzocco team showed videos of the assembly line, had slides of previous machines and gave a brief history lesson on the eight decades plus of the business. The packed house then had a chance to ask questions, many of which focused on what would be next from the company. (Mostly we got hints, but two things stood out: One a new Linea would be unveiled next year with a new Volcano grinder released about the same time.)
Ultimately, it was successful event, based on the number of people who turned out, but it was also a new way, I believe, to engage with customers. For many customers, the espresso machine is a mysterious and imposing device, one that they have a very limited experience with, except for enjoying the end result, and opportunities to learn more about it are very limited. So much like the Meet the Producers brought a new perspective on coffee production to many consumers, the Meet the Maker-style events are another avenue to explain what goes on behind making their coffees.
UPDATE: I should point out too that many of the people in the audience in addition to consumers were baristas who spend every day working with La Marzocco’s machines, so the event was also an opportunity for them to meet the people who designed, tested and built the very machines they spend so much time working with. The baristas, in fact, provided most of the questions in the Q&A portion of the night and seemed delighted to meet face-to-face with the La Marzocco team.