Copenhagen 2008

•June 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

My brain is fitted with a safety mechanism to forget things i really don’t want to remember, which is why the latter half of Saturday night remains a mystery to me. I therefore must apologise to those i was with, or met in the evening, for getting so wasted. It was certainly not intended – some drinks must have just crept up on me in one hit. Very poor form and most unprofessional.

Back to things more relevant – a big well done to Stephen Morrissey in winning the WBC, keeping it within the tour de force that is Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Peter and i didn’t actually catch the final, as we flew back Sunday morning, but it was good to see his name at the top when we returned. It was also really good to catch up with some of the guys from the recent C.A. trip together with the usual suspects in the world of coffee.

There were, of course, lots of very cool toys on display including:

Mahlkonig Vario – a ceramic-burred home grinder. Just a prototype on demo, so no photos, but it looks promising.

Malykke Coffee Grinder – cafetiere and espresso grind-on-demand! Very nicely designed grinder with an optional kit to switch between cafetire and espresso. When setup for cafetiere, you hang the cafetiere on the sensor, the grinder detects the size of cafetiere and grinds the correct amount of coffee. it can be wall mounted of free standing. Conical burrs too, really nice dispersion of grinds. Very cool.

Joper Coffee Roasters – A Portugeese roaster manufacturer which seem to address many of the issues the average roaster design encounters. As if it were designed for roasters, with no corners cut at any point during the design and manufacture stages and built totally in cast iron. You want it made a little shorter? You got it. You want the podium controls fixed to the machine, wait, you want them free standing? On castors? With some nice bells and whistles? And lights and alarms? Easy to clean? Guess what? You got it! All at a very reasonable price. They put some of the big, European manufacturers to shame.

On the Friday night, and much to our delight, we were taken out for dinner to The Paul by our good friend and excellenty host, Maria Oerskov of Marista Kaffe. Sitting in the fairytale grounds of Tivoli, we were treated to the tasting menu, eight or nine courses ranging from many things swimming, that had only just ceased to be, through to a main of poussin & foie, followed by a host of adventurous desserts, all accompanied by some fantastic wine. We were even joined for a short while by head chef Paul Cunningham, a good old Essex lad who seems to be always up for a laugh. A meal i will certainly not forget.

Operation Cherry Red

•June 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Well, in the time since i last posted cupping notes, we have cupped a great many coffees, including many great coffees, some good coffees (including the new crop Panama Hacienda La Esmerelda, which is good, but not even worth considering at those silly prices) and some downright pants ones too. But standing out by a mile and a half were these.

I don’t have a great deal of information on the premise behind Operation Cherry Red, though i’m assured its all good. Higher prices for premium products, farmers actually getting the money and the community benefiting. When i get some more info, i’ll update this post. Promise.

Update from press release: Operation Cherry Red is a selection of special micro lots, of about 50 bags each, both washed and unwashed Ethiopian coffees. In the normal sorting of the coffees, green unripe cherries are removed, however under this premise, only the ripest red cherries are removed and processed as Operation Cherry Red. These lots are then reassessed in order to determine the best possible coffees from all entrants. Washed coffees are packed and shipped in 2×12.5kg vac packed cartons whereas the naturals are in 60kg special grainpro bags inside quality jute, avoiding risk of ferment due to moisture content, etc.

The samples themselves arrived in an unassuming brown box, including a selection from Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil and Kenya to name a few, though it was the handful of Ethiopians that meant serious business, the best of which all shared the same title and processing – Operation Cherry Red and all naturals.

So good was this cupping, it had to be repeated the following week, just to make sure we weren’t getting this wrong!

Organic Unwashed Yirgacheffe 3 – Operation Cherry Red 2007/8 crop

When opening the sample bag of greens, that sweet, sickly smell of a great green coffee, kinda like a liqour/cocktail cabinet smell, hits you. The beans themselves looked very similar to the Biloya Special Natural that we so enjoy, I was getting an idea of what we might be in for the following day! We were not let down – ripe, almost Harrar-ish gameyness, but with a wonderful, delicate sweetness. The benchmark had been met!

Organic & Rain Forest Alliance Unwashed Sidamo 3 – Operation Cherry Red 2007/8 crop

A Juicier, yet more refined coffee than the previous cup. There were two roasts, a light and a slightly darker one (still very much light though). My notes for the light simply read “LUSH – LIKE GRAPEFRUIT JUICE – ACIDITY – SWEETNESS“, whereas the darker roast tames the bright acid/sweet cat and mouse game. Interestingly, after a long time, when others were obviously over-extracted, this was still holding its head high. Stone cold, but high up there.
Unwashed Sidamo 3 – Operation Cherry Red 2007/8 crop

Following in the footsteps of the last cup, both figuratively and sensually. Very fragrant with those fruity notes and great acidity. Peter dubbed this “strawberry jam“. On the second time around all i could think was Fruit Salad (the Black Jack’s partner in crime, might be a British thing. I dunno). Fruit juices in cooling. Simply outstanding!

We can’t wait to get some of these coffees in the roastery. They will, In my humble opinion, beat anything out there. But then again, I do love Ethiopian coffee.

Off to Copenhagen at the end of the week to see Maria at Marista Kaffee and check out the SCAE meet. Good luck to all those competing in their events, especially Lily de Bolaños of Viva Espresso in San Salvador.

Central America – April/May 2008

•June 12, 2008 • 3 Comments

Only a month late! I may get a bit Gonzo here, so for detailed and certainly more accurate specifics, please read Grant Rattray’s report on the CoffeeHunter site. This is just my take on trip. Bear with me…

Friday 25th April – The Journey

When I was growing up, my family very much like everyone else’s at the time, and still I suppose, were holidaying on the Spanish isles, Minorca and Majorca, and during these trips I was fascinated with the journey itself – air travel and all its wonders. One of which to me at the time was the food. Hundreds of meals produced simultaneously, identical in size, shape, contents and taste, produced without, as far as I could tell then, a kitchen – just wheeled out and distributed politely among the passengers. Black magic, I thought. And as naive six-year-old boy, I really enjoyed the meals, even pocketing some of the cutlery as mementos, to continue the experience back at home. Yes. Very sad indeed.

I was clearly blinded by the romance of adventure and places new. A lesson that i am recalling at this moment. As I write this, i’m flying across the Atlantic. Like the filling of your lunchtime baguette, i have been stuffed in and forgotten by the moody cabin crew. This is my first trip to origin, and I’m very aware of my surroundings.

Saturday 26th April – Arrival

I am on my way to El Salvador, having spent last night in New York, milling around Times Square, with time to kill and looking for something to do. Due to the previous days flight mishaps, I’ve been bumped up to the front of the plane, First Class i think, though absolutely freezing – I haven’t seen my luggage for 24 hours as the initial flight was delayed, missing the connection. The cold air is blasting out from the vent above my massive chair. I could turn it off, but then I might get too warm, and risk sweating out. All my stuff – clothes, towels, wash bag (and deodorant!) are hopefully stowed away and have been since yesterday, when I left them in the trusted hands of Continental staff. So, on waking this morning and cleaning up, I headed of to duty free to freshen up, F.O.C. in Newark Liberty. No deodorant though, hence the forced-freeze I’m enduring. No one likes a smelly traveller, and I swear that won’t be me.

On arrival in San Salvador, the thick, moist air hits me and for a moment i seriously think someone has left the Country’s heating on. I find my bag sitting on the floor, waiting for me. It evidently made it on the flight I couldn’t, and had sat in San Salvador overnight. Once through customs I make a dash for the hotel shuttle and it’s a/c system.

After another tidy up and clean in the hotel, we meet and head off to the Consejo Salvadoreño del Café, cupping the top nine Cup of Excellence coffees, with some sweet and fruity pacamaras in the top places, though I was preferring some of the brighter ones on the table – #6 Finca La Laínez and #9 Finca El Jocotillo.

Sunday 27th April – Finca La Siberia & Finca La Fany

It’s the end of the dry season, and all the farms are hoping for rain in the next couple of weeks. The journey up to (and down from) La Siberia makes it clear why it was named so. A mission to get to. Very steep, hot and dusty, made easier with a ride in the pick-ups and 4x4s. It must be a nightmare when wet.

This is my first trip to a coffee producing country, and La Siberia is my first farm, so I’m a little unsure of what to expect. With hardly a flat piece of ground on the whole farm, working these bourbon and pacamara clad slopes must be hard work too. You can look at all the photos you like, but nothing can give you a feel of what is really going on until you see it for real. The passion our hosts, Rafael and Carmen, have for their product shows, in spades.

After a lovely lunch, we head off to La Fany and the difference between the two hits you straight away. Everything is so neat, tidy and well organised. This is, I guess, how you’d expect a farm to look. As we walk around, fog (or cloud) blows across the farm and up the rows of nurseries and plantation, divided by protective screens to shelter the plants from wind. There is a large area devoted to the production of lombricompost, where after the processing stage, the pulp from the coffee cherries is used to feed earthworms, which gorge themselves on the rotting fruit. The result is a wonderfully rich compost that is used across the whole farm. It seems that both the farmers, and worms can’t get enough of this stuff!

That evening, we ate and stayed at the Hotel Alicante, which is a series of log cabins in the hills. Good food and drinks…

Monday 28th April – Borbollon, El Cero & La Reforma

The mill at which La Siberia and La Fany’s coffee, together with many other speciality lots, are processed is El Borbollon, owned by Eduardo Alvarez. He and his son showed us around their mill before we headed indoors for a cupping. The two standout coffees here were the Bourbollon AAA and La Siberia Pacamara, which was very good, though I fear it may be a while before I get to try that again – if I remember correctly, only about 20% of La Siberia’s crop is pacamara, and all of this years is sold. Shortly after, we head off to the farms, El Cero and La Reforma.

On our way through the farm, we are shown the traditional Salvadoran approach to plant maintenance and pruning. As opposed to the hard cutting back of branches seen in neighbouring coffee producing countries, here the largest stems are bent horizontally and pinned down with steaks and twine. Naturally, the plant grows toward light, so new growth shoot vertically from the now horizontal branch. This process is repeated the following year, and the next, eventually exhausting the plants’ limb, when it is then removed and the process is begun with a new branch. To avoid overcrowding and excessive cultivation, every third row of coffee plants are completely removed every few years, despite the fact the volcanic earth of Santa Ana is incredibly fertile.

A short stop for lunch in the National Park on the slopes of the Santa Ana volcano (I’m stealing from Grant’s notes here) was much welcomed, as were the local speciality baguettes – turkey, salad and spicy gravy, a reduction of the turkey’s cooking liquor. Very tasty.

It was then back into the cars, Eduardo leading the way up to an abandoned hotel, nestled high on the edge of Cerro Verde, the premise of which was to provide unsurpassed views over the volcanic eruption Izalco. Ironically, the near clockwork eruptions of Izalco ceased the day the hotel was completed. The hotel itself now just sits there, time having taken something of a toll on this 1950’s design masterpiece – It almost feels like the set of an old Bond movie.

Dense cloud or fog, together with the swarms of mosquitoes and huge flies made viewing impossible, so we head down to Eduardo’s beautiful home on the shores of Lake Coatepeque. I don’t think I can really underestimate the beauty here. Absolutely stunning. Breathtaking in fact.

We return to San Salvador and a couple of us sneak round to Viva Espresso before dinner for a chat with the owner Federico and his wife Lily de Bolaños. Lily is the current El Salvador barista champ, and was keen to get some sage WBC advice from Gunnhild of Den Gyldne Bonne, Norway. As a previous WBC competitor, she is something of a celebrity and draws a crowd wherever there is an espresso machine!

Dinner that evening was at the Tucson, a grill/steak house very close to our hotel, the Marriot where we were joined by many of the wonderful people we’d met in the previous days’ visits.

Tuesday 29th April – The drive through Honduras

Starting the day feeling great, my wellbeing rapidly diminished once the gravity of our situation hit home: our minibus driver only knew three of the five gears the vehicle was equipped with. The following hours were painfully noisy, bumpy, dusty and hot.

From what I saw, Honduras is somewhat bleak and desolate. Baron dusty plains, reaching to the feet of the equally dehydrated hills. Thirsty cattle keeling over at the side of the road, each weak move monitored, by what I assume, are vultures circling overhead.

We arrive quite late in the day greeted by Erwin Mierisch, unfortunately missing the opportunity to visit Finca Linda Vista, though we are taken to Las Segovias mill and given a tour while there is still light. We are taken up to a fabulously equipped cupping lab and presented with a serious number of coffees to cup. Despite the Pepto Bismol, I’m still feeling ropey, and although I can handle meaty coffee aromas in the room, each time I try a cup, the sensation (if you can call it that) in my mouth is far from pleasant. My body doesn’t recognise this dark liquid. I feel a little upset with myself for being ill.

We return to the hotel, La Frontera where, with better hopes for tomorrow, I crash out.

Wednesday 30th April – La Pita & Limoncillo

An early start ensured most from the day, starting off at the Mierisch family mill La Pita, where the coffee was being sorted on the long conveyor belts. In the room above, a cupping session had been organised, and fortunatley I was feeling much better.

From the seven coffees on the table, two really leapt out as ones to look out for – topping it for me was the Limoncillo Java Lavado. I was got orange and citrus peel, coriander and spices from this fantastic cup. Second to this was Mama Mina Estate, which I felt had some of the elements from the previous cup, but just a more delicate/subtle balance. I remember Erwin saying that this coffee was actually called La Minita Estate, though he was prevented from using it due to the Costa Rican of the same name. As it turned out, buyers actually preferred Mama Mina and the story behind it (Mina is his Grandmother’s name).

Following the cupping, we head off to Erwin’s beautiful family home and stables for lunch and a quick drink, and were we also have the pleasure of meeting Erwin’s Father. We sit in the shade beside the pool, biting the tops from perfectly ripe mangoes and squeezing the soft, sweet flesh around the stone and out the top, as if we were kids on the beach in summer, slurping an ice-lolly. To the left of were we are sitting there is a small horse training circuit. When the chance to ride one of the wonderful animals is offered, few decline. Unsure of weather the trainer is giving instructions (in Spanish, of course) to the horse or me, I just nod in agreement, occasionally giving it the “Woh there boy” like you do, I guess? Ridden a horse – that’s another one crossed off the list!

We saddle up, and skin out. Sorry, getting carried away with the whole cowboy thing there. We load into the vans and head up to Limoncillo, passing newly planted, low altitude farms. I think I remember Erwin saying that the lower farms had been sold off to illycaffè, though I may have misheard, or have been mistaken. When the ground gets worse, we all jump into a huge military style Mercedes transporter, which it would seem, can cope with anything. Limoncillo is yet another beautiful place, the name meaning little lemons, which are what you notice growing all over the place. Originally, the farm had been heavily planted with the lemon trees to rid the ground of fire ants (I guess they prefer a slice of lime in their tonic?).

Throughout the farm, a serious effort is made to make use of all possible sources of energy and fuel – Erwin is currently looking at ways of creating a lighting system powered from the methane, a by-product of the sewage processing system. Water is used several times in the processing stages and a development of a hydroelectric power system is underway.

A member of the farm’s security leads us through the plantation and up the hills, coffee trees brushing across our faces as we negotiate the incredibly wet and steep ground. In places, it is almost bog-like, really not what you’d expect. At Limoncillo, you get the impression that water shortage is never an issue. In fact, I suspect its profusion may be more of a hindrance.

On our return from our exploration of the rainforest-esque hills, we once again load into the vans and head back, this time to Erwin’s cousin, Roberto Bendana’s place in the heart of his El Quetzal and Los Altos farms. The setup for the next couple of nights are four rooms, each equipped with two generous bunks, crafted from the farm’s coffee wood. The accommodation has only just been completed, so we all feel very privileged to be the first guests to crash out here.

Thursday 1st May – El Quetzal, Los Altos & El Paraiso

I was sleeping badly, so rose early, intending to do a bit of reading, to find Roberto and a handful of the other guys getting ready for an early look around the farms. Cool! Always up for adventure, I grab a fleece and head off, expecting a brisk early morning walk, so I was surprised, and excited to see we would be taking the mini 4x4s. Very cool!

The chances of seeing any of the dawn fauna was, I’m sure, significantly reduced due to the noise of these buggies zipping around the forest floor, but it was great to get to see the farms at this time in the day, fog clinging to the hillside. Throughout the farms, they preserve certain areas as natural forest, securing habitats for many species of birds, insects and howler monkeys, which we could now hear, calling in the distance. Roberto shows us a newly planted, and disease resistant maracatu hybrid, in an area previously cultivated with catimor. If I remember correctly, the catimor was resistant to chicken eye rust up to a specific altitude (<1200m I think), however, these slopes exceeded that limit and were subsequently affected.

We are also shown how one of the many natural springs on the estate has been used to power the hydroelectric system at the bottom of the hill. From what is just a steady little trickle emerging from the rock, the water builds in a network of sluices and reservoirs, creating a greater water pressure, before running 100m down the hill to the hydroelectric station, which generates electricity for the community.

We head back to meet the rest of the group and have breakfast. Then, back out to see more of the estate and further projects aimed at improving the workers’ community, including a much improved sanitation and waste management system. There is also a school and care centre, allowing children education and activities whilst their parents and families are out working on the farms.

A cupping session was laid on at the Café Don Paco mill, featuring some of the coffees Mercanta had bought, plus a selection of others, including the easy to identify maracatu hybrid. That evening, we ate, drank, and were merry.

Friday 2nd May – Lake Nicaragua & Cafe Don Paco HQ

With the schedule thoroughly exhausted, we head for Managua and drop our bags off at the hotel. A little trip to Lake Nicaragua seemed just the ticket. With Roberto as our combination chauffeur and tour guide, we drive through Granada and out toward the lake. Yet another example of the beauty this country has to offer – the emerald green waters of the lake are calm and still, broken only by the surfacing of small fish. That is of course, until we climb aboard a boat and start speeding across its surface. We moor up on a small island, which is actually a restaurant with a couple of salt-water pools cut into the rock. We sit to dine on the local fish, which is presented to us in three varying sizes, and described as like bass. Despite their large size, their meat is somewhat thin, and well cooked, though very tasty.

Back on the shores of the lake, we load back into the minibus and head back, stopping for a walk around Granada as we pass through, entertained by the street performers and their cheeky dances.

En route back to the Managua Intercontinental, we call in at Roberto’s offices, Café Don Paco HQ. If ever there was such a thing, then this surely is the coffee lounge of the gods. If you fancy a cup, there is a choice of Clover, Marzocco FB/80 or GS/3. If you choose to sit, it will be on one of the many Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chairs, available for your comfort whilst you gaze out of the window, across the City’s skyline. Later that evening we meet for a final farewell dinner, where thanks and goodbyes are exchanged. I’m keeping an eye on the time as I’ve an early, stupid-o’clock flight in the morning.

Saturday 3rd May – Departure

Not wanting to risk a repeat of the journey out here, I’m dashing through each lot of customs and bag collections/check-ins to get to the gate. Fortunately the previous weeks delays haven’t gone unnoticed, as on each of the flights I have the row to myself, or a couple of seats at the least. Sleep.

I’d like to take this chance to say thanks, once again, to all the people and places we visited, Carmen Elena & Rafael Silva, Eduardo Alvarez, everyone at the Consejo Salvadoreño del Café, Erwin Mierisch & Ernesto and especially Roberto Bendana. Huge thanks for their amazing hospitality and seemingly limitless knowledge of coffee and its production. It has been a privilege and an honour to see all of the places above, and many more wonderful things I’ve failed to mention. Thanks also to Christian Schaps and Grant Rattray from Mercanta CA and UK, respectively, for organising this trip, translations, general problem solving and of course, being all round good guys. Finally, a shout to the whole group, without which travelling wouldn’t have been such fun, and a special than you to Anni and Peter for sending me on this trip.

I’m back!

•May 8, 2008 • 1 Comment

Yes, back from the Central American trip. Just getting back into the swing of things here in Ross, and in the roastery. Had a great time in the short trip away. Expect a full posting with pics as soon as i find all the scraps of paper and the notes i’d made throughout the trip. If all else fails i’ll have to pull some stuff from memory, aided with photos (that i’ve still yet to sort through!).


•April 9, 2008 • 1 Comment

In the last few weeks, i’ve been taking it easy and feeling a little off after hurting my feet. Sounds lame, but they support my stick-like frame, and a “relentless, dull pain” (as one fellow hobbler i met put it), just takes the fun out of anything.

Things are thankfully getting better in time for a Mercanta-organised trip over to El Salvador, visiting Finca La Fany and La Siberia (very excited!), followed by El Cero and La Reforma (?) and a look at El Borbollón milling facility. From there we travel through Honduras to Nicaragua to see a couple of other mills and Don Esteban farm. Finishing off with a visit to El Limoncillo and Siares. Yes!

On another topic, at the roastery, we’ve been cupping some new coffees and trying to get the bottom of an issue, which i’ll cover in a bit. But first:

Brazil Daterra Reserve
It seems to have lost the “special” tag somewhere on the way, but its good to see the Barista’s favorite is still what it should be: floral and a little grassy (in a good way) with a hints of Brazil’s classic chocolate and nuts. Lighter roasts are what we’re going with, just to get those high notes, but the darker roasts of this coffee gave us even more chocolate and a thicker mouthfeel. Great whichever way you brew, and always a pleasure.

Brazil Samambaia Estate Pulped Natural
This cupped like last years pulped natural bourbon. So, so, so nutty with a bit of choc in there. We’ve been wondering about this season’s crop of Pulped Natural, it hasn’t quite hit the spot that last years did, which is a shame, but this Estate lot (as opposed to the Yellow Bourbon) seems to do the trick. A few weeks ago, Peter opened a sack of Pulped Natural Yellow Bourbon to find a disturbing number of mouldy beans (see pic). It seems to be just that one sack, but it isn’t really a good sign. I guess this brings us back to the whole Pests and Diseases topic. I’ve done a little looking around and found a few pay-per-view articles from scientific journals which seem to use Fazenda Samambaia as a case study, though what, if any, problems they discuss shall for the moment remain a mystery to me. Anyone?

Bolivia Paraiso

The lighter roasts of this coffee had a subtle plummy/date-ish thing going on, though more emphasis on the bitter, molasses-like fruit side of things, as opposes to sweet and sugary. A bit like tamarind i suppose. With the darker roasts, these unusual elements disappeared, leaving quite a dryness on the palate. The espresso machine was much kinder to this coffee, making a great, if slightly curious espresso full of chocolate and nuts.

Costa Rica La Candelilla

What a coffee! This one really stood out from the crowd when we cupped a sample last week. Really sweet, with a fermented fruit acidity (sounds bad, but is good. Trust me) reminicent of fine champagne, or perhaps a really good cider or perry. Certainly not musky ferment. A very classy number and we look forward to getting our hands on more of this great coffee. Until then keep thinking of apples and pears.


•February 28, 2008 • 3 Comments

When i first really got serious with the world of coffee, i, along with many others i suspect, adopted Mark Prince’s cup obsession, together with his fascination with Illy cups. With hindsight, this was rather foolish of me, as i have grown to hate the Mateo Thun designed vessel: overpriced, of often poor manufacture, inability to keep your drink warm (when compared to other manufacturers’ designs), and most annoying of all, those silly little round handles that are both impossible to grip properly and just look really naff. My hastiness is now kicking me in the backside, as i have a box of immaculate cups that i’m too scared to use, for fear of damaging them – proper clumsy, me. Oh well, i guess that is what eBay is for.

Recently however, i’ve had the great pleasure of crossing paths with what i believe are some rather exciting cups.

First off are the 6oz vintage Duralex cappuccino cups. Somewhat kitsch and perhaps a little tacky, they hark back to an era in the 1950’s where ice cream parlours and cappuccino bars, like Morelli’s and Chiappini’s in Broadstairs, where i grew up, were king. Its a shame that each time i return there, the prices seem to have substantially increased. The bowled shape of these toughened glass cups allow for really pretty milk pours each time.

Next up are what i would consider the ultimate cappuccino cup, the 5oz black on white ACF cups by FAC Porcelain. Really thick and heavy porcelain which feels amazing both in the hand and pursed against your lips, filled with great coffee, and the size dictating better milk to coffee proportions. Mmm. A nice bowl shape again, allowing for pretty pictures in the foam. I am totally in love with these! Matching 2.75oz espresso cups are pictured too, cute little things don’t you think?

Finally, quite possibly the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing cups out there, the wide rimmed 6oz cappa cups from ACF, once again. These super wide bowls allow for really intricate and detailed milk art, but i find that such a wide rim proves problematic when trying to transport the drink. When full, they spill easily, but this is where the saucers come in. They have a lovely pronounced rim with a gripping finger rail around the outside, helping you stabilise your liquid work of art. There must be something in the porcelain coming out of the ACF factory, because these too just feel really nice to drink from, enhancing the experience of your coffee.

Anyone else got nice cups they want to shout about? What vessel hold your brown gold? Speaking of which, Black Gold had its British airing the other night on the More4 channel. Thankfully it wasn’t as Fair Trade Organisation/brand based as i had feared, though to the general consumer, there maybe some confusion between the concept of fairly traded/directly traded coffees of which Tadesse Meskela speaks, and the actual Fair Trade brand itself. I guess now everyone wants to buy Ethiopian Fair Trade coffee? Hmmm.

Did anyone else find the Barista competition sequence of the film particularly painful?


•February 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

Well, with the UKBC well and truly out of the way, stress levels are now returning to normal and i’m getting the chance to chill out a little bit. Posting here has been sparse of late as i have become a little disillusioned with the whole concept of blogging, over the last few months.

I rarely read much online, as i struggle to find enough time in the day to do the essential day-in, day-out stuff like shopping, cooking and cleaning. Though on those few moments that i have, i’ve become so wound up and angry with a great deal of what is out there.

There are so many pages that should be renamed “get me dot com” where blogging is just a hideous form of narcissistic self promotion. Wayne Kerrs talking sheet about themselves and hyping up coffees that are far from what should be included under the “Speciality Coffee” banner. I find the whole thing totally abhorrent, and just don’t want to be associated with that. It is for that reason my mouse cursor has hovered over the “Delete Blog” option in my WordPress Admin pages too many times for me to recollect in these past months.

Of course, there are a few gems of true wisdom out there, and they know who they are. Lets just hope they don’t suffer the bout of annoyance that i do.

Bored of your vac pot?

•January 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Talking about Cona vac pots earlier today reminded me of this post .

5 minute bouillabaisse. Nice. Don’t fancy coffee after though.

Photo: John Sconzo

UKBC – Bristol Heat

•January 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

At last, a little post on how things went.

None of my worst fears came true – i didn’t freeze up, fall over or forget what i was doing, despite my tamper disappearing mid-set. Being the last entrant for the day probably didn’t help either. The coffee i used was quite a light roast from Finca La Siberia, in El Salvador, a farm run by Rafael Enrique Silva Hoff, brother of Finca La Fany’s Luis Silva. Interestingly, the coffee is grown on the opposite side of the mountain to La Fany, where the weather conditions are somewhat hectic, hence the name Siberia. Unless things were spot on, temperature-wise and dose-wise, then the coffee may not have shined as it should. Unfortunately this was probably the case, together with my nerves, this risky coffee choice was always going to be difficult.

When we first got the coffee in the roastery, profiled and cupped it, we noticed that one of its main attributes was a dry, red fruit/cranberry note which also held up in the espresso, and was nicely muted with milk to make a tasty, chocolaty/sweet cappa.

Sig drink was again based on the cranberry element, where the idea was to augmented that note by topping the espresso with a cool cranberry foam (think macchiato proportions). By adding 0.5% of hy-foamer, a casein based dairy protein, it allows you to whip pretty much any liquid as if it were egg white, and have the result remain pretty heat stable. This is something i really like, but i guess if your not liking the idea of cranberry, then the whole presentation maybe lost on you. Finishing the drink, and to further play on that dry fruit element, a tiny amount of freeze dried cranberries are powdered on the top. As these are freeze dried, the first thing they want to do is suck up moisture from every and anywhere, so by the time the drink is served, the powder in top is more like macerated cranberry fruit, impregnated with the coffee flavour.

I still maintain the drink is really tasty and quite an interesting combination. I particularly like the contrast between the cool, sweet cranberry foam and the hot espresso, plus the bits of intense cranberry fruit which you lick from your lips after each sip. At the end of the drink, there should be a nice little “blob” of the cool, sweet foam at the bottom of the glass, which i think is a really nice finish to the drink, acting as a palette cleanser.

I know the judges didn’t feel my love for this combination, with some score sheets reading “sour”, and even one judge pulling a face (a little unprofessional, no?), so i think something a bit more safe and sensible next time. It was good to have a chat with a few other competitors, though it a shame i didn’t get the chance to see others sets, that would have been really nice. I did however, enjoy the whole experience and though it was brilliant fun, though it is nice to get back to the roasters at work, and I’m looking forward to trying some new samples roasted Friday.

A big thank you to Anni, Peter and the whole team at James Gourmet Coffee (not to mention many visitors – Geoff, Neil, et al.) for being my guinea pigs for the last two weeks ,and getting me confident enough to do my thing. Pictures to follow.


•January 14, 2008 • 2 Comments

So, just a day or two until the UKBC heat and the last weeks/months nerves have settled a bit. I’ve had a few people in to be an audience and also done my set in front of a camera, which should be somewhat cringe-worthy viewing for me, but many thanks to those people who’ve helped me out so far. Things are feeling more fun, rather than challenging, which is the whole idea, isn’t it? I’ve pretty much got all my equipment for the presentation, which puts to rest other worries. Still embarrassingly last-minute, but i guess thats the way we roll!

On a more on-topic note, I’m still loving those Ethiopian coffees: had a great cafetiere of the Helen Negus this morning; like candied lemon peel; brown sugar and lemon – an awesome winter drink and really pleasant cup.

I’ve been meaning to post about some new cups we’ve got (may be of some interest to James, as he is currently posting about his porcelain fetish), but i haven’t found the time to take the pics and write up, whilst in the meantime, more and more have been added to the pile on top of the machines here in the showroom.

I have some interesting notes to write up for the food page of this blog, though trying to find the time is tricky, plus I’m not sure if its really the right place for it. Perhaps the peeps at eGullet should hear my voice (or not!!!)