A Look Inside Common Desk’s Dedicated Coffee Program
Coffee. What on earth would we do without it? This drink does so much more than just caffeinate. It brings people together. It makes us feel at home. It connects us with humans and places around the world. It helps us do better work. It brings comfort, warmth, and flavor to our daily lives. And when the right people and programs are put around it, coffee can help us feel noticed, welcomed, and invigorated.
Did you know that Common Desk is the only coworking operator who has a designated and robust coffee program for its members? Most coworking spaces (if not all) offer coffee as a core amenity, but not all operators actually care about the quality of the coffee they’re serving. Let’s be real– if coffee isn’t a part of coworking, is it really even coworking?! Common Desk actually formed its first group of members before our first Deep Ellum space ever opened from the old Pearl Cup Coffee on Henderson; so our roots with coffee and coffee shop culture go way back. And for the first four years of Common Desk’s coworking operation, we prided ourselves in offering bottomless coffee for our members; but the program behind our coffee didn’t go much further than having local coffee on hand (which we obviously love) and teaching our members how to roast a bigger pot of coffee than they’re used to. What we realized by doing this, though, is two-part: 1) the coffee wasn’t nearly as good as we knew it was supposed to be, because every space was brewing their coffee differently and none of our staff were educated on coffee equipment upkeep and 2) there wasn’t a true experience behind coffee pods sitting on an empty coffee bar. And we’re all about experience here, so we ventured to change it.
Incorporating Coffee Into The Future Of Common Desk
When it comes down to it, quality and consistency go hand in hand. In order to scale, you have to expand, and in order to expand, you have to achieve quality and find a way to replicate it in systematic execution. Before we acquired Fiction Coffee and brought in Counter Culture and our Head of Coffee, Spencer Fox, to help us fine-tune our coffee programs, each Common Desk location had its own brewing process for their coffee. Because all of our spaces were using different techniques, roasters, and machinery, we discovered we had a big problem finding consistency. When we learned more about Counter Culture, we realized that they would be the factor that helped us achieve the quality and consistency we were looking for.
Counter Culture is based in North Carolina, but they’re consistently growing and expanding–just like Common Desk!– all while keeping true to their core values of quality and sustainability (which we’re all about and really admire). Further than having a good cup of coffee, Counter Culture is looking at the future of coffee. Counter Culture is a company that builds up their employees and works fervently to source the best beans and scale each one in a way that stays true to the beans’ flavor and its origins.
You might be wondering– why don’t we go with a local roaster anymore? The simple answer: consistency. We love that Counter Culture can help us streamline our coffee program with consistency on every level. A few other things we love about CC: they also offer great hands-on services (like stellar coffee cuppings), they’re growing and expanding at the same level we are and understand how to counteract growth with quality, they deploy hands-on people at no cost to coffee shops in order to help individual coffee shops grow their programs, and they know coffee than anyone we’ve ever personally seen. Without Counter Culture’s Dallas team, we absolutely couldn’t have achieved the level of excellence and quality that we’ve since found (and are constantly working to continuously attain).
Common Desk’s Coffee Program:
Each Common Desk location is outfitted with top of the line specialty coffee brewers that are used in top-tiered third wave coffee shops. These guys are NOT your average workspace coffee machines. Because we’ve decided to bring craft coffee to the space, we use a high quality machine to brew it properly (which most coworking spaces miss). On top of that, each Common Desk location offers a variety of blends and sometimes single origins depending on the day or week, which are individually dialed-in to taste for every location, so that each cup of coffee has a personal touch to it.
Our big differentiator: most coworking spaces hardly know how to clean their coffee pots, much less dial them into specific beans. This is where having a dedicated staff member solely focused on coffee (Spencer) really comes in handy! Spencer makes regular visits to every space to make sure that each cup of coffee is perfectly calibrated. We also have specific cleaning schedules for keeping all of our equipment and serving pots fresh so that you never run into stale coffee lingering from pot to pot or coffee oils going rancid (another common pitfall of coffee within coworking spaces). And when a member complains about a bad brew, Spencer’s hotline blings, and bim bam boom– the problem is fixed. Needless to say, you’d be hard pressed to find a truly bad cup of coffee at Common Desk!
The Direction The Dallas Coffee Scene Is Going
With more and more specialty coffee shops being opened in Dallas, we’re nearing a point of saturation. The aspect that’s lacking among all of these third wave coffee shops is differentiation in-shop offerings. Multiple shops offer quality coffee, but in many locations, that service is becoming stale because the inventive aspect of specialty coffee has stopped. Some shops are trying to be like Starbucks, and others are trying to scale but can’t.
“What we’re working on is to create fully experiential moments at our coffee shop. We’re obsessed with our patrons coming into the shop, trying something new, and enjoying it. If you don’t enjoy it in the end, we’ll replace it for free and work until we find you something you do like. But no matter what, we pride ourselves on providing meaningful and welcoming conversation in the meantime.”
Spencer Fox, Head of Coffee at Common Desk / GM of Fiction Coffee
Our Process Of Re-Imagining Coffee
Just like a craft cocktail bar approaches creating new cocktails, we’re using a similar approach to go back to basic ingredients and use them to compliment our drinks rather than masking or overtaking them with too much sugar or syrup-y flavor. We want to represent every coffee bean properly. So with that, we never add any synthetics to our coffees. We experiment with minimally-used or forgotten ingredients (botanic, holistic) like juniper, trying out catnip, playing with fresh tamarind, and learning about fresh herbs. We try to incorporate holistic and unique ingredients to pair perfectly with every coffee to create a drink that’s unlike anything you’ve ever had. Also not to mention is that we make all of our syrups in house. We start by making a reduction of every ingredient– like juniper berries– then we effectively turn the ingredient into a lighter simple syrup of that flavor. We don’t use as much sugar as we would with typical syrups in order to keep them flavorful and more natural.
One thing Fiction is known for is its Fictional menu items. We create these by trying and experimenting A LOT of ingredients, flavors, processes, and taste combinations. If we have a thought or went to a bar and found an ingredient we liked, we try to recreate that experience by making something from scratch. We look for starting points rather than searching for recipes online. Fiction’s team has easily tried more terrible-tasting drinks than amazing-tasting drinks, but that’s a part of the process! Our crew tries and tests everything vigorously so that we never have something on the menu that we don’t believe in or that’s simply following trends.
Common Desk’s Vision For Coffee
When it comes down to it, we are truly focusing on coffee and how to use it to enhance the workday of every member of our coworking spaces and every patron who walks through our shop’s doors. Our goal is to strip away the pretentiousness behind coffee and workspace, while offering an above-market product that’s welcoming, top notch, consistent, and memorable in everything we do. Long story short, we’re putting coffee first. It’s not a buzzword on a promotional piece of paper for Common Desk– it’s an actual part of our main offerings, our heartbeat, and our passion.
To all our fellow coffee lovers out there, we hope you have a blissful day of caffeination today!