How Crema Coffee Co. is finding success in a Starbucks-dominated city and industryby Karen Brochu
There are so many smells, sights and sounds that are associated with coffee. The robust aroma of ground beans, the high-pitched gurgle of steamed milk, and the sight of long lost friends huddled in the corner catching up over a warm mug of their favourite brew. These are the simple pleasures that make up Geoff Polci’s everyday, and they spill into the street with the cool winter air.
After opening his first location of Crema Coffee Co. in the Junction in April 2008, the company has bloomed into four locations around the city of Toronto. Geoff has worked hard to separate his independent cafés from the large chain coffee houses found on every corner.
“We have a strong focus on the coffee, so we only buy premiere specialty grade coffee from reputable roasters,” Geoff says proudly. Though they do make organic and environmental efforts, such as using recyclable cups and fair trade organic cane sugar in their stores, the focus remains on quality. While Geoff supports organic coffee, he will only bring it into his stores if it makes the grade.
This unwavering commitment to high quality coffee may come from the fact that Geoff and his wife previously owned a restaurant in Costa Rica. There, premium coffee and roasters surrounded him. After selling that business, Geoff wasn’t sure exactly what he was going to do, but he knew it would have something to do with coffee.
Eventually Geoff moved to Toronto and launched Crema Coffee Co. The third location of Crema is found on the Danforth. Several aspects drew Geoff to this particular area of the city. Primarily, he found the area to be lacking of any quality coffee establishments between Broadview Avenue and Pape Avenue. Robyn Urback agrees in the review written for BlogTO, “[Crema] is filling the void of independent espresso bars on this stretch of the Danforth.” The area is also overflowing with young people, families, and people with a genuine interest in food and drink that, according to Geoff, have a “more developed palate for coffee… and want something different from Starbucks.”
Being scrupulous about which coffees are available in his cafés is not the only way Geoff separates himself from “brand name” cafés such as Starbucks and Second Cup. Crema features a smaller menu of options as compared to some of his competitors. He emphasizes his preference to do a few things very well, rather than to do a lot of things so-so. Even their baristas undergo rigorous training in order to assure total customer satisfaction. A trainee may spend three to six months behind the register before they are ready to make drinks. All this speaks to Geoff’s commitment to the customer: to provide the best experience, best coffee, and best service to customers each time they enter his café.
So what does Geoff, one of Toronto’s coffee elite, drink?
“Once you start drinking really good espresso, it’s hard to drink much of anything else.”