Coffee talk—and a great biscotti recipe

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“God cries and an angel loses its wings” is not some Bizarro version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Rather it’s what Frank Lanzkron-Tamarazo says will happen if you drink his coffee with cream (or anything white) and sugar.

Frank is an unabashed coffee snob, but he’s entitled. His suburban Detroit coffee roasterie and café, Chazzano Coffee Roasters, regularly wins “Best Coffee Shop” awards in local media contests, even though he doesn’t serve cakes, cookies or bagels. Chazzano offers nothing but fine coffees and teas.

Coffee has at least 1,500 different flavors, says Frank, depending on the type of beans, where they come from and how they’re roasted. (Pay attention, wine snobs: wine has only 750 flavors.) What, you can’t taste the notes of blueberry, cherry, pipe tobacco with a red wine finish in that cup of joe? Neither can I, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

To taste coffee properly, you have to drink it black, without sugar. If you have to add anything, says Frank, it means you just don’t like the flavor of the coffee (along with a gentle insinuation that it can’t possibly be his coffee, and is therefore inferior).

There are some notable exceptions to Frank’s requirement—I had the best cappucino I’ve ever had at Chazzano!

How to build businesses and congregations

God Cries and an Angel Loses Its Wings is also the title of Frank’s 72-page monograph, which shows how the customer service techniques Frank learned in his coffee business can help other businesses and religious congregations.

Frank was in music school in New York training to be an operatic tenor when he changed career paths. He moved to St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, for an undergraduate degree and then enrolled in cantorial school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, earning a master’s in sacred music.

After working as a cantor leading religious services at several synagogues for 15 years, Frank made another about-face. Finding himself jobless thanks to congregational politics, he turned to his avocation, coffee roasting, which he had started doing in his garage. The hobby became a full-time business with the establishment of Chazzano Coffee Roasters in 2006. The name is a play on chazzan, the Hebrew word for cantor, and the logo features a dancing cantor. (The “ch” is guttural, like in the German “ach.”) The company’s motto: “Good coffee makes you sing.”

Give customers ownership

When Frank tells a new customer to taste the coffee before adding cream and sugar, he says, the customer gains some sense of ownership in the business. Now when his stalwarts bring friends to the cafe for the first time, they’re the ones who announce the rule. They’ll tell how they always used cream and sugar until they started coming to Chazzano. They feel like part of a family. By educating his customers, Frank builds loyalty.

One of Frank’s fans has even developed a video game based on his rules. It’s called Coffee Defenders, and the villains are cream and sugar. (The game is in the final stages of development.)

Here are a few other tips from Frank’s book that can help houses of worship as well as businesses to build community:

First impressions are crucially important when meeting a new customer or prospective congregant. But so is the last impression. If you promise something and don’t deliver, you’ll kill the relationship you’ve just established.

Interview customers (or congregants). It’s all about networking! Find out what they do and what they like. Once you know something about them, you can make connections by introducing them to others. Through Frank’s shop, homeowners have found a good plumber and a family law attorney has reached prospective clients. Frank makes the same kinds of connections at the suburban Detroit synagogue where he now works part-time as a cantor. “Talk to everyone. Learn from everyone,” he says.

Encourage educated customers (or congregants) to recruit others. Frank was thrilled to hear that a customer who was dissatisfied with the coffee at a restaurant told the manager he should be buying from Chazzano instead.

Be kind to everyone. Put some love into your voice when you talk to people. It’s an extension of the Golden Rule: when you are kind to others, it will lead them to find ways to help you.

Do some introspection to see what’s lacking in your business or house of worship. Common lacks, all interrelated, are enthusiasm, new visitors, follow through and integrity, says Frank. Take care of what’s missing, and you’ll bring people into your community, whether it’s a business or a church, synagogue, mosque or temple.

The wisdom of Hillel

Frank likes to quote the great Jewish sage, Hillel, who famously said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” In other words, look out for yourself, he says, but don’t think of yourself alone. And start now! A good first step is to try smiling more.

Here are Frank’s instructions for making a great cup of coffee using a French press. But that’s not really a recipe, so I’m also offering directions for making tasty biscotti to go with that great cup of coffee.

1. Use a burr grinder to grind your coffee at a coarse grind.

2. Using a standard scoop, scoop your freshly ground Chazzano Coffee (two scooops for a 2-cup press, four scoops for a 4-cup press).

3. Pour water that is between 195° and 205° F into the press pot. Cover the pot with the plunger, but do not press down. If you boil the water, wait about 30 seconds for the boiling water to drop a few degrees.

4. After 90 seconds, press down the plunger slowly and serve the freshest and most fragrant coffee that you have ever had.

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