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Drinking coffee in Florida is like drinking wine in Nevada, necessary but, not the best. The funny part is, a lot of people are drinking coffee and in large quantities. The only problem is the palate preference is light and bitter or sweetened up cafe con leche.
I recently took a trip to the Southwestern part of Florida, specifically Fort Meyers, Sanibel and Naples. These are beautiful towns with a lot of activity and wealth. Starbucks is the dominant presence, though there are a few local roasters with their own cafes. Unfortunately, no one is nailing it. These roasters are rising to the level of what they perceive their audience to be, mediocre.
My first stop was at The Perfect Cup in Matlache which is a very cute town the length of a main street. It is home to many artists and crafts people and reminds me of a Southern, beach version of Woodstock. Naming a shop The Perfect Cup is a bold proclamation for a coffee house serving silos of flavored coffee from under a thatched roof constructed inside the building. Uncomfortable seating and lack of design sense aside, the coffee house also housed their roaster but it was not visible and none of the employees could communicate a lick about it. The espresso lacked creama and the milk was burnt. This company has no website or real way of finding them unless you are a tourist shopping on the strip.
Next Origins coffee in Fort Meyers which shares a name with one of the cooler roasters in Cornwall, England. Origins has decided to market themselves as the lowest price point joint with standard handmade signs cluttering their windows that come off as desperate cries to please come in. Again, no web presence, no proactive outreach and no service past 3pm.
Finally, there was a modicum of hope with Grind Coffee House and Roaster. Though, hard to find amongst a variety of strip malls on rout 45 on your drive to Naples, Grind is a well made and pleasant cafe. They roast in the back (and should capitalize more or fully communicate they are roasting fresh on premises) and have good retail bag packaging. The espresso was the best I had on this trip but still could use improvement in preparation with additional barista training. The Grind has a website though it appears to have been abandoned as you cannot even shop coffees or learn about the company.
It is hard to own and operate a coffee business. There are so many aspects to consider it can become overwhelming and cause certain elements to be ignored. I respect each of these businesses for having lasted as long as they have and working as hard as they do. However, eventually, you have to either enlist outside help or increase the effort to stay relevant in an evolving market.
People in Florida do like coffee, people in Florida do know the difference between good and bad coffee they just are not being offered very good coffee. To the right entrepreneur that enjoys tropical weather, the gentle tide of the Gulf, and year round outdoor living, this could be a tremendous opportunity to dominate both retail and wholesale coffee. There is a need for a roaster willing to put in the energy to educate and introduce high quality Specialty coffee, demand a standard of drink preparation and be brave enough to at least limit the number of flavor syrups offered if not eliminate them completely.
The people of Fort Meyers demand it. Perhaps a little competition would give rise to the roasters already settled in.
For more pics and tips for running your cafe, check out F+B on FB