Going for Great Joe

We all like to commune with others over a hot beverage, right?

For Ben Yu Schott, his love of coffee is so great, he decided to make it a business.

In the spring of this year, he became a retailer for mid- to high-range espresso machines and grinders for home use. His approach to business is modelled on the idea that it takes a village to raise a good cup of coffee.

While researching espresso machines for his own use, it occurred to Yu Schott that others could benefit from the extensive research he had been doing, not only on the products available, but also on the science and techniques that go into coffee.

“I was looking to upgrade my own machine and nobody in town sold this kind of thing. So I started talking to the coffee experts at both roasteries and the idea came to open my own business.”

For Yu Schott, the machines and grinders are the product, but they’re not the main focus of his business. They’re merely the jumping off point for offering knowledgeable, ongoing service and sharing his newfound knowledge with others.

“I’d like to offer an experience, have demo models, and be available to go into people’s homes and show them how to use their machines. I can be available as a resource if there are problems, and even have demo models on hand to swap out a customer’s machine if something goes wrong.”

In part, what he offers is local expertise of a global product.

“A big part of this business is to offer something that you can’t get online. For myself, I would rather buy a big ticket item from someone who’s knowledgeable, rather than from some anonymous source.”

Yu Schott has spent the past several months educating himself about the science and techniques of coffee-making. He’s taken barista training and cupping classes, and has talked to as many experts as possible.

One aspect of coffee-making he feels is little understood is the importance of a proper grind. Thanks to the two local roasters, he says, Whitehorse consumers now have access to excellent, freshly roasted beans.

Yu Schott explained that although grinding right before brewing is important, it is equally important that beans be ground uniformly, which is best done by a high-quality grinder.

“It’s all about consistency. With a high-quality grinder, each particle of coffee is the same size and shape,” he says.

“This means that when the water flows through and around the coffee, it extracts the same flavour profile from each particle. If the particles aren’t consistent, you might get a bitter extract or an unintended flavour.”

Yu Schott feels that many people can benefit from a high-quality grinder, and that the proof is in the cup.

“One of my customers bought a machine, but did not buy a grinder at the time. One night, I brought over a grinder and we did a taste test using the same beans and the same machine, but with a different grinder,” he says.

“The difference was so evident that they bought a grinder.”

But does all this really matter to the average coffee drinker? That’s partly what Yu Schott wants to change.

“We’re shifting away from coffee as simply a beverage that you start the day with to something that’s an experience. We’re really lucky to have two roasteries that are dedicated to good coffee and now people can see that they can do justice to those beans.

“I like the phrase ‘honouring your coffee.’ When you think about the journey the bean takes, from the farmer growing a good bean, then travelling around the world to the roaster – after that journey, you can honour the process by taking a couple of extra steps to make it that much better.”

As for the future of his business, Yu Schott says these are still early days, but feels that Whitehorse is an ideal environment for this sort of pursuit.

“I’ve sold several machines and grinders, as well as accessories. Everyone has been blown away by how much better their coffee can be,” he notes.

“In the time before I go back to my real job [after being on parental leave], I’ll be setting aside some time to focus on marketing. I’ll be happy if I can maintain this pace because I don’t want to get too busy.”

There have been only a few challenges so far. He found sources that were willing to deal with a small business, and his investment has been modest.

However, for Yu Schott, the satisfaction is payment enough.

“It’s as much about the enjoyment of learning and sharing knowledge and information as about making money.”

Contact Espresso Schott at 335-0441, [email protected], and www.espressoschott.ca.

As a writer, Glenda Koh enjoys a good jolt of java

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