Casey Chartier-Vignapiano • October 18, 2023
Tea Light: Messenger Coffee of Kansas City, MO
Continuing our 'Tea Light' series, we have Messenger Coffee of Kansas City, MO.
Messenger is a long-time partner with a respected reputation in the specialty coffee industry. They are dedicated creating to tea menus as robust and interesting as their rotating coffee offerings. Jordan Scherer *virtually* sat with Messenger to speak more on their approach to coffee, tea, and business.
Jordan: What is your approach to tea menu selections at Messenger? I noticed when I was there a lot of seasonal offerings. Can you speak more to that?
Messenger: "When choosing which teas to serve in the café I focus on some main points: the current season and balancing challenging customers while also offering selections that are comfortable. Naturally, I love trying new teas, every week I will check to see if there have been new released teas to sample. This allows me to stay up to date with the current selections and to make decisions on what should be next to come into the café. I rotate the menu seasonally for the most part. I offer two herbal tonics for the fall/winter and spring/summer months, as herbal tonics are where customers tend to feel the most comfortable, I keep them the most consistent, however, being as they are Spirit Tea’s Herbal Tonics, I am still able to push the customers to try something more unique than simply peppermint or chamomile.
I always keep four teas, and this is where I can challenge baristas and customers to explore and discover. Altogether we keep six teas on hand, with two herbal tonics and four teas. This allows for an easy flow of inventory that encourages new teas to come and go with ease."
J: What is your approach to tea service standards at Messenger? Does serving it in this way help build volume?
M: "Messenger has been an interesting space to combine quality with quantity. On a weekday we average 400-550 transactions (about 800+ customers) and on weekends we average 600-750 transactions (1000+ customers). Being a space that represents quality and dedication we have streamlined our service to be able to continue serving excellent products amidst the high volume. We do not use tea bags at any point. We believe that tea should be given the same time frame as our espresso drinks. Each tea is steeped to order, regardless of in-house or take-away."
J: How do you manage operationally high volume for your tea service? Are there dedicated tea brewers / matcha preparers? Is there pre-dosing?
M: "Tea behind bar has been structured around steeping to order. We used to have six large canisters of each tea and would measure out designated grams of each, add water, start the timer, and serve. Recently we were able to streamline even further and now have pre-dosing containers with six smaller canisters for excess tea when pre-dosing containers run out. A major addition to the efficiency of our system is the use of our tri-water tower. Our water tower has three separate temperatures of water that allow access of the correct temperature water for each tea immediately.
Alongside our steeping of teas, we put significant effort into the matcha in our café. Matcha takes a delicate and unique method of preparation. The most important part of serving quality matcha in the café is thoroughly training those serving it. It is vital that the baristas understand the importance of equipment care, the process of how matcha is created, and the difference between infusion of teas and suspension of matcha. To streamline the making of matcha while also maintaining the quality of product, we sift matcha into a matcha canister that can be found on Amazon with a built-in sifter. With this, we are able to take matcha directly from the canister and do not have to sift matcha for each order.
The whisk is always rinsed before and after use, this maintains cleanliness as well as malleability. With the water tower we have the temperature of water needed and from there the barista is trained in proper whisking technique. Iced Matchas are whisked as normal and then put into cocktail shakers with milk and ice, shaken, and served. This creates an even suspension throughout the drink that affects taste and texture."
J: How does your community enjoy tea in your space?
M: "Kansas City is a prominent space for the coffee industry, only within the last couple of years has tea been making its way into the KC scene. It has been my mission to take tea from being another beverage in the cafes that has interest and conversation behind I it. Our cafe can be overwhelmingly big and loud, the way our tea is presented is meant to highlight the beauty of the tea, encourage the customer to slow down, enjoy their selection, and enjoy the space around them."
J: How does the cafe interact with tea individually and as a component of a beverage, recipe, etc?
M: "Interaction with tea must first begin with those serving it before it can reach those consuming it. I am a firm believer that ability comes from knowledge. It is important for our baristas to have a firm knowledge and training in the background of tea and to have tried each tea that comes through the café so that they may answer questions and have a genuine conversation around them."
J: Do you find ways in which Spirit aligns with the heart of Messenger?
M: "Messenger seeks to bring the “good news” so to speak, aka “be a messenger to the people”, the good news being a delicious and unique cup of coffee with an exemplary story behind it, to their community.
Spirit explores what it means to bring more than simply physical substance to the consumer. Spirit wants their product to be experienced on a deeper level. They seek to connect the body, mind, and spirit. They also work to bring together the community drinking their tea to the community of the farmers who grow and create said tea.
Both Spirit and Messenger do not look to simply make a beverage and serve it. They pursue an experience, to dwell on the processes and effort put into each cup, to honor those who hone their craft, and to teach those they serve." ❃