Walk into your nearest coffee chain, and you will likely see a wall of machines blocking your view. Instead of a clear view to the product you hope to enjoy, you are overwhelmed by a menu with 30 items alongside a multitude of bakery items, sandwiches, shirts, tumblers, gift baskets, and various other things that are NOT coffee. After a few minutes of sensory overload, you are handed a cup with no idea of what really went into it.
At Wake Up Marco in Marco Island Florida, you will encounter a completely different philosophy resulting in a completely different experience. Instead of the machines being faced away from the customer, Wake Up Marco positions all of the equipment in a way that allows a full view of the drink creation. Order a Sweet Caramel Latte and Oscar will prepare a bit of syrup in a small glass bowl, grind the beans, load your glass with ice, brew the espresso into the bowl, pour over ice, and add milk before giving it a quick swirl all right before your eyes. This transparency offers the customer the chance to watch their drink from birth to completion with the anticipation building along the way.
As Oscar, the proprietor of the establishment (and as far as I can tell, the only person that works at Wake Up Marco) tells me, the shop uses the Italian/ European-style set up rather than the American set-up. It is clear immediately, this man knows coffee. He knows beans, equipment, drinks, and preparation and does well to disseminate this information in a kind and approachable way as shown by my second trip through the door.
I wanted to experiment with the shop on a hot Valentine’s Day in southwest Florida. We discussed my enjoyment of my previous latte and that I wanted to try something new. I suggested an iced Americano as my local coffee shop makes. Instead of whipping up the drink, Oscar told me that he does not make iced Americanos and educated me on his rationale. His explanation of was clear and practical, but he did not stop there. He made an iced Americano, and lined it up with an espresso shot, and a cold brew coffee allowing me to taste each noting how the dilution in the iced Americano drastically changes the flavor of the drink.
I can’t say how the experience would change if the shop were busier that day, but for me, I learned more about coffee in 15 minutes than in the last two years of coffee drinking.
I thanked Oscar and left with my Salty Caramel Latte (the Sweet Caramel was my preference), but not before he handed me a rose to give to my wife waiting patiently in the car during my taste test.
If you find yourself in southwest Florida, do yourself a favor and check out Wake Up Marco. I can’t imagine that you will find a shop that is as inviting or an owner that is as knowledgeable or engaging as Oscar. And if you do go, fill up a thermos and send it to me.
Consume.Review.Repeat gives Wake Up Marco 9.8 beans out of 10.