Monday, September 25, 2006

Attending to the entire experience

A couple of months ago during a special tasting in San Francisco to mark the introduction of the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Mocha Freddo to the menu of Peet's Coffee & Tea stores, Jim Reynolds, Roaster Emeritus of Peet's, and John Scharffenberger, co-founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, described the importance of removing everything from one's mind that could impact the experience of tasting. But to what extent can one really do so? To what extent is that even desirable?

The special tasting featured multiple pairings of different types of chocolate and different types of coffee. For one pairing, the taste of the coffee washed out the taste of cherry in the chocolate. For other pairings, the taste of one enhanced the taste of the other. Clearly, it was not possible to negate the impact of the taste of one on the taste of the other. Nor was it assumed that you could do so.

The special tasting also featured Jim's and John's descriptions of the origins, history, and benefits of chocolate and coffee and of their chocolate and coffee making process. These guys really know their stuff and made the experience of the evening event a delight.

I was already a big fan of Peet's coffee and of Scharffen Berger chocolate. Many of their offerings simply taste great to me.

However, my experience of Peet's coffee in their cafes has almost always been enhanced by my experience of their staff, the look and feel of the cafe environment, and the community of Peet's devotees. Somewhat similarly though perhaps less extensively, my experience of Scharffen Berger chocolate has been enhanced by my tour of the Scharffen Berger factory a few years ago.

And whenever I taste the products of either company -- separately or now sometimes in combination, I am probably not able to remove from my mind the effects of all of those experiences, including my impressions of Jim and John and other aspects of the delightful experience of that special tasting event. Nor do I expect Jim or John would really want me to do so.

Of relevance to this blog entry are the three very different definitions of "user experience" that are presented in a previous blog entry entitled, "Where should 'User Experience' be positioned in your company?" Which of those three definitions is the most appropriate definition for your company?