Culture Snapshots

Evolution of the Northwest Espresso Bar, Part 3

Serving Size

Welcome back to a look at the evolution of the Northwest Espresso Bar! Last time our topic was the changes in the marketing of coffee beans in the espresso bar, from “Columbia” to “Colombia Supremo” to “Colombia Rafael Lot 1681”. Today, I would like to talk about changes in serving sizes in our Espresso Bars.

In 1990, the Northwest was just beginning to explore the neighborhood espresso bar. Starbucks had expanded to Portland and was defining the “Third Place”, (meeting place), concept along with American definitions of espresso drinks. There were also a few independently-owned espresso bars that had contrary definitions of espresso drinks.

Our American interpretation of espresso twenty-five years ago was based on milk and, oftentimes, sweet flavorings. While Italy was serving espresso in small ceramic cups of 2 to 6 oz., we started out serving in 8 to 12 oz. paper cups. Wanting to keep it simple in my own shop, I served everything in a 10 oz paper cup my first year–however, there was a lot of variation in sizes in different espresso bars for the same drink during this era.

As our espresso bars matured in the 1990’s, many followed Starbucks, the market leader for the masses.  They introduced nomenclature for their drinks: “short” (8 oz.), “tall” (12 oz.).  Then came “grande” (16 oz.). In our American tradition of “bigger is better”, soon the “Venti”, a 20 oz. monster, arrived.  So in the mid-1990’s, there evolved consistency in sizes regardless of where you purchased your espresso. The new standard was and is to some degree today: 12, 16, and 20 oz., with one lid fits all.

With the “Third Wave” of speciality coffee arriving, the progressive shops are shrinking drink size and focusing on a more authentic Italian presentation of espresso. In other words, less milk and syrup. So the cup sizes have gone to 8, 12, and 16 oz. for a latte, and many have ditched paper for smaller sizes to serve a traditional 6 oz cappuccino cup and saucer along with a 1-2 oz. espresso in a demitasse.

Today when my Barista sees me coming, I’m glad to see my 2 shot Flat White in a 5 oz cappuccino cup!


Pete Miller started in the coffee business 24 years ago. In a personal quest for community and an interest in the emerging coffee house scene, Pete opened a thriving espresso bar in Newberg, Oregon. When he stumbled upon an old cape cod house for sale on Highway 99W near George Fox College (now University), he moved his family of four into the house and opened the coffee shop in the one car garage.

 

 

 

 

 

The post Evolution of the Northwest Espresso Bar, Part 3 appeared first on Caravan Coffee.

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