Archive for coffee
Alibaba reports that people are spending less at the cafes. We touched on this earlier this year talking about the closure of 600 Starbucks. Add to it the credit crunch and global economic crisis, and it all makes a lot of sense. There is an increase in the sales of coffee brewers and associated gadgets. I’ve seen espresso machines, frothers, ibricks and other equipment showing up in friends’ homes. No worries because they still know where to buy great coffee, just one that’s brewed at home.
I recently read a blurb about a University of Michigan study that focuses on how shade grown coffee will help alleviate stress of weather extremes potentially resulting from the changing climate. The results of the study seem rather common sensical once you understand basics of systems thinking. I am not one to question to judgment of funding such a project, because it plays an important role in academia and, as a result, in influencing policy. I will take the opportunity, however, to spout a bit about systems thinking and coffee. Read the rest of this entry »
From time to time, people come in to the Roastery to purchase some coffee beans and who are concerned with the acidity in the beans and the effect on their stomachs. They ask for a low acid coffee. Easy enough, until you start thinking about the acids and what the individuals really may be looking for.
After a month hiatus, we are back on the blog. Thank you for the patience. We have been pulling together a few things here at the roastery, including hiring a new roaster, Stacy Cowan, to help with our increasing demand. We have also launched our Coffees for a Cause program, and helped coordinate two additional philanthropic activities. The Coffees for a Cause program donates 10% of the purchase price to one of six causes, each associated with their own blend/coffee. The two other activities we are aligned with are first, 10 Mountains – 10 Years, finding a cure to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and second, Exhibit Darfur, bringing awareness to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Please help us support these efforts.
I am happy to say that I have been selected to serve on the SCAA Sustainability Committee for the next couple of years. A group of us from the coffee industry will work to progress efforts of sustainability – working with producers, suppliers, certifiers, roasters, retailers, etc. I am unsure who else is recently appointed to the committee, but know the previous and current members were a respected and thoughtful group. It will be an interesting experience and a great opportunity to help fashion or influence policy for the industry.
Buena Vista has been seeing some much welcome rain. The rain is increasing our humidity to 40% or so in the mornings, which then drops again to 24% by noon. Much different than the Midwest. The first cutting of alfalfa has happened, the river rose again last night via runoff, the blue gramma grass is putting up seed heads, and fire danger, while high, is tempered.
An article on the Bloomberg report talks about the recent rain in India and the effect on coffee yield. Our current Indian coffee is the Indian Monsooned Malabar. The Indian Monsooned Malabar, named for the process it undergoes that simulates its historic journey around Cape Hope and on to England, is a dark, buttery and earthy coffee that is very underappreciated. We expect samples for some new crop next week, which, once we select the best, we will optimize flavor and richness and soon feature.
Here’s some promising news for our industry, noting that coffee is rejuvenating and has overtaken soft drinks for the first time. It looks like home brewing is en vogue as opposed to a double dry cappuccino from the local cafe. An additional promising blurb states,
“The specialty coffee industry is at the forefront of offering ethical, eco-friendly products. Although this is a niche market, it is rapidly touching mainstream,” notes Tatjana Meerman, Publisher of Packaged Facts. “For example, in April 2008, Wal-Mart launched a line of six premium packaged ground coffees that are either Fair Trade Certified, USDA Certified Organic, or Rainforest Alliance Certified.”
There is a demand by the consumer for these products. There are a host of producers who may not be able to afford certification, such as the Rancho San Francisco in Mexico, but still follow the organic practices and whose coffee cups very well. I send a tribute out to Bongo Billy’s Founder Bill Mehaffey, who was one of the first organic and fair trade roasters in Colorado.
A blurb in Fortune talks about Starbuck’s closing hundreds of stores, Starbuck’s has a Bitter Plan. It’s interesting to watch a transition away from the huge conglomerate into something less huge, both in terms of the drinks offered and the taste of an espresso.
We’ve found a great Ethiopian. It’s smooth with a medium acidity, medium body and an apricot finish. It’s very complex, from the mesmerizing aroma through the final drop. It’s also certified organic.
Of interest in particular is the country’s new approach to coffee: Ethiopia has developed it’s own national label, as noted in the November 9, 2007 CS Monitor article,
Ethiopia recently shook up the industry with a new tactic: trademarking its specialty coffees. Overcoming resistance to the idea from distributors – notably Starbucks – the country is hoping to empower its coffee industry to earn an estimated $88 million more per year, according to Oxfam America. The move could inspire producers of other commodities throughout Africa to harness branding and capture more value from the goods they sell to consumers in rich countries.
There are times when I fancy a lungo and times when I favor the bitterness of a ristretto. Using our own machine, I’ll experiment with our High Country Espresso to explore the nuances of the long pull and the short pull. Of course I prefer the smooth character that we get with proper tamp and a proper grind – 25 seconds and one heck of a crema.
But why is it that I go into some coffee shops nearby, order an espresso, and am given only a ristretto or a lungo? There is no option. The barista has not played with the grinder settings, adjusted their tamp, nor allowed more or less water to pass through depending on the shot length. In most cases the barista doesn’t even know what a lungo or ristretto are, or so it seems. In one coffee shop that I have frequented, I have been given a nine second shot in the morning and a two minute shot in the afternoon. This happens regularly in this shop. I know the barista is aware of the length of pull, for I have seen them reject a ten second shot only to replace it with a 12 second shot.
The issues, as I see them:
- improper grind
- improper tamp
- improper barista training and follow up/accountability
- a non-discerning public who have grown accustomed to the Starbucks machiatto culture
The solution: Don’t order straight espresso, or move to Europe.