From Mocha to Latte – Review of the first weekend

From the beginning of planning process for this exhibit we wanted to be able to give people coffee. We don’t have a museum cafe, nor regular volunteers to man the coffee machine, so this was a major logistics problem.

What we did have was a Green Room connected to the Auditorium stage and the Lower Level Gallery that was usually off-limits to the public. Almost five years ago it was kitted out with a nice couch, small dining table, refrigerator, sink and cabinets. We decided this is what we could work with to build our mini-cafe for this exhibit. We would rearrange some furniture, clean out the fridge, add coffee related wall decor, and SOMEHOW dispense coffee. That “somehow” vexed us for a long time.

We didn’t want to leave a pot of filter coffee on a burner all day (yucky burnt old coffee? no thank you!) We couldn’t really afford a coffee vending machine (would have needed to rearrange some plumbing! Yikes!) And like I said, we don’t get regular volunteers or docents to staff the room. It had to be something that visitors could do on their own, with as little mess as possible.

Finally, we discovered the Pod Brewer! Pod Brewing coffee machines come in a variety of styles, price points and functionality. We got a supplier (Paramount Coffee Co) for both the machine and the pods. We wanted to be as “green” as possible and went with the filter pods (which will be composted) instead of the plastic cup pods which are quite wasteful (and expensive!).

The exhibit opened on Thursday, January 28, 2010. It was very well received by all but due to the Global Thursdays event happening the same night, the cafe was closed for the first two opening days. Saturday would be its public debut! When less staff was around to watch over it! What would it look like on Monday morning?!

Countering my biggest fear, the Green Room-come-Qawah Cafe was not torn to bits! There was apparently an explosive packet of hot cocoa mix, but that was minor and cleaned up this morning.

We love to get feedback and find that sometimes simple works wonders. So on the table we added index cards, pencils and prompted with “How do you take your coffee?” Guests could fill out a card and stick it to the fridge with magnets provided. I was thrilled to see we already have some fun responses!

I am really proud of our team and how this exhibit has come together. I think it is one of the most fun things we’ve done here. It’s not a super serious or political topic, it’s not art on a wall, it’s not too look-but-don’t-touch (well, the artifacts are encased in plexi). I hope we can continue to emphasize the “fun” element in other things we do. I think it will really resonate with visitors and keep them coming back.

Have you been to From Mocha to Latte? What did you think? How do you take your coffee?

-Elizabeth B

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