Barista documentaries

The last two years have seen a boom in the number of coffee documentaries, specifically targeting the third wave part of the industry. I love documentaries, I love coffee, here’s a break down just in case you haven’t been able to keep up. I thoroughly encourage you to watch all of them.

fc95a755-7676-4e8b-b028-e5b0e87e1830Barista

Directed by: Rock Baijnauth
Run time: 1h 43min
Release date: 6th November 2015

Barista official trailer
Website

Easily top of my list is Barista. The film follows a handful of competitive baristas as they gear up to compete in the United States Barista Championship. We learn about what the competition involves, what it takes to be a competitive barista, and who some of the big names in the US coffee scene are.

A great documentary even if you didn’t know that barista championships were a thing that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still very informative and entertaining.

You’ll find yourself rooting for individuals you’ve only just heard of as their passion oozes out from the screen. Seriously, it’s emotional. I’ve watched it 5 times.

I’ve also just learnt that there’s another Barista documentary coming in December 2017 so keep an eye out for that.

7021a48a-a427-4910-8236-089b3e1fd515The Coffee Man

Directed by: Jeff Hann
Run time: 1h 25min
Release date: 18th May 2016

The Coffee Man official trailer
Website

Following on with the competitive theme, The Coffee Man follows World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic to find his perfect cup of coffee in Ethiopia. We learn about his journey from growing up in Yugoslavia, his move to Australia, and his entering into the World Barista Championships in Seattle, Washington.

At first, I thought this film was just going to be about stroking Sasa’s ego, but his story is genuinely interesting, entertaining, and inspiring. All competition segments are nail-biting even if we already know the outcome.

hqdefaultCoffees: Italians Do It Better (?)

Directed by: Federica BalestrieriFederico Lucas Pezzetta
Run time: 43mins
Release date: 3rd June 2017

Italians do it better official trailer
Website

This one is, as you’ve probably guessed from the title, about the Italians and the coffee culture found in Italy. The ideas behind the classic Italian roasting style, and why they won’t budge from them, the glory of the espresso machine, and what can the Italians learn from the rest of the specialty coffee industry?

But there’s also the elephant in the room; Starbucks is opening a store in the heart of Milan. What do the Italians think about it, and how will it change minds?

Warning: This film features 95% Italian speakers with English subtitles.

fa956960-42e5-41ba-ac30-75d7706ac7a5A Film About Coffee

Directed by: Brandon Loper
Run time: 1h 7mins
Release date: 26th April 2014

A Film About Coffee official trailer
Website

A Film About Coffee looks at what it takes for coffee to be defined as specialty. The film takes us on a tour of farms in Africa and Central/South America and coffee shops all around the world for conversations with farmers, roasters, and baristas offering their insight into the process of the perfect cup as well as how they work together.

For baristas, and anybody else interested, this film is a great introduction into the coffee farming process, and there are plenty of beautiful shots of the scenery that will immediately inspire you to take a trip.

d60641c5-876e-491d-b458-4a2026c72a4cCaffeinated

Directed by: Hanh NguyenVishal Solanki
Run time: 1h 20mins
Release date: 2nd July 2015

Caffeinated official trailer
Website

Similar to A Film About Coffee, Caffeinated follows professionals at every stage of the coffee process from farming, to roasting, to serving in major coffee consuming and producing locations.

Caffeinated also features a really cool segment on the Cup of Excellence, a competition in which the tables have turned so that now the farmers are the ones competing to see who can produce the most amazing crop.

All of these films are available online, either through their own website or on YouTube for a small fee.

Brighton Coffee

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Wednesday saw me being driven 52 miles as the crow flies to our beloved English coast and the city of Brighton. We had a couple of days to kill, Brighton is my girlfriend’s favourite city, and I’d heard of the buzzing coffee scene so we figured why not?

We all know by now that I love a bit of coffee tourism so, after a quick Google, I took note of a couple of cafes and made an effort to visit a nice handful between doing some sight seeing and being dragged around shops.

Cafe Coho

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Cafe Coho was first up, mainly because it was the closest to our hotel and 11am is a horrible check out time for people that both love their beds and were up late drinking cocktails. Coho has 3 locations, two of which are actual cafes, but the one we visited was more of a kiosk with a handful of seats. Cafe Coho are running Union’s ‘Revelation’ as their espresso, a four bean blend from Costa Rica, Sumatra, Guatemala, and Rwanda roasted dark to focus on that caramel finish.

Not my favourite coffee but definitely good enough to get me started on the rest of the day.

Marwood Bar & Coffeehouse

Marwood is the definition of quirky. With eccentricities lining all walls including tap water coming out of a mannequin’s junk, and a secret garden to the rear, it makes perfect sense that this cafe won the ‘Most Brighton Venue’ award. Luckily for me, it was also top 3 in ‘Best Coffee’ and top 10 in ‘Dog-Friendly Venue’.

Downstairs is the place to be if you’re with friends and don’t mind a bit of hustle and bustle. Upstairs, however, is a designated quiet space with plenty of power sockets for laptop owners, predominantly students, who want to get a bit of work done.

Marwood are running The Party by The Roasting Party as their espresso known for dark cocoa and dark berry notes which resulted in a delicious piccolo.

My girlfriend opted for a beverage which wasn’t comprised of coffee, a concoction I had never heard of before and so one I must assume was invented by Marwood which they had named ‘Marzipan’. It was made of almond milk, chai, and rooibos tea. Surprisingly tasty.

Bond St Coffee

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Up Bond Street, you’ll find an aptly named specialty coffee shop, and my personal favourite from the trip, Bond St Coffee.

Bond St Coffee serve two espressos and two filter coffees which all change periodically and all coffee is provided by Horsham Coffee Roaster, information on which can be found on the menu. The cafe has a great interior which looks tiny as you step through the door but stretches down a long way but we opted to sit on the benches out front which made for a great people watching spot and our filters, both delicious Kenyan peaberries, were brought out to us served in milk steaming jugs.

Kenyan Peaberry (community lot)
Tasting notes: – Filter: Grapefruit, rhubarb, blackcurrant. Espresso: Treacle, intense blackcurrant
Varietal – SL28, SL34 and small amounts of Ruiru and Batian
Processed – Washed
Location – Nyeri District
Altitude – Small hold farms ranging from 1600-1900m
Now, that’s a lot of information to take in and all of it I was able to find out just by sitting down and drinking. Tasting notes were on the menu, everything else was on the retail bags of coffee surrounding me. You can see that these guys are on a whole other level, to the extent that they only provide sugar if you ask for it, will never steam milk ‘extra hot’ if asked, and won’t grind your beans for you if you buy it online or in store (they do sell grinders if you want to fork out £150 for a baratza encore).
Yes, this was my favourite cafe. I’m a barista, I understand the information and I loved their coffee. But, to the average customer, this is all a bit much. The average consumer doesn’t know what an SL28 is, they don’t know what a washed coffee is, and they definitely won’t know why their drink can’t be made extra hot.
If we want to achieve one thing as baristas/cafe owners/roasters, it’s simply to share. Share experiences, share knowledge, share great tasting coffee. We want to make specialty coffee the most accessible thing in the world so why on Earth would you not grind somebody’s beans for them if they want to take home a piece of greatness? I mean, I know why – it’s so you keep that flavour locked in, but let’s take it one step at a time and assume not all our customers just getting into specialty have a grinder.
The added level of pretentiousness left a bad taste in my mouth.

Small Batch

We couldn’t leave without a trip to Brighton’s Titans, Small Batch Coffee. Small Batch started as micro roasters (hence the name) for the local area and eventually set up their own cafe. They now have 9 locations around the Brighton area including the two main train stations but we ended up at their flagship store on the ground floor of the MyHotel on Jubilee Street.

I have to say, the store was beautiful. Very spacious, loads of seating, and a bar all along the windows, perfect for people watching.

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I was excited as soon as I walked through the door as being greeted by a packed brew bar is a well-known fetish of mine.

So, imagine my surprise, when I ordered a filter coffee and was given batch brew!

Heathens.

Here are some thoughts and questions. You have a brew bar. 4 syphons and a couple of V60s. So why are you wasting your time with batch brew? Why would you assume I’d want batch brew if you have a packed brew bar? Why wouldn’t you want to show off how beautifully your equipment makes coffee?

Don’t tell me it’s for efficiency. How efficient can it be to make batch brew and throw away the coffee you don’t end up using? Compared to weighing out exactly how much coffee you need for a V60, not very.

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Anyway, I was served an Ethiopian which was pretty nice, there were notes of caramel and citrus, but could’ve been better if it was brewed manually.

My girlfriend had a latte which was tasty and she was proud of being able to pick out those citrus flavours.

I was very happy to see my friends from Karma Cola being served. I say friends, I admire them from a distance. You may have seen them at the London Coffee Festival. They make very tasty drinks like cola, lemonade, and ginger beer, all with organic ingredients under the ‘Drink no evil’ motto.

A motto I can certainly get behind.

All in all, I wasn’t disappointed with my coffee selection in Brighton. I know there are definitely some other great places that I didn’t get to see so perhaps a second trip is on the cards soon enough.

I’d definitely recommending Bond St Coffee, the choice they had would have changed by the time you’re reading this. Have a look in Marwood as well if you want something quirky, and Small Batch if you’re in the area. Maybe I ordered wrong and you won’t get batch brew.

 

Barrel Aged Coffee

What is it? Why is it? Stop doing it.

London Coffee Festival 2016, a beautiful place where people come together to celebrate the joy of coffee. To socialise with their peers, to experience great things. But also, to innovate.

I walked up to the stall occupied by The Gentleman Baristas on one of those fateful days because something caught my eye. The lads there were brewing their revolutionary Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee, something I had never heard of before, and, in the spirit of trying everything once, I had a go.

Now, whiskey and coffee are often paired together, sometimes after a meal, choosing a coffee which will compliment the notes of the whiskey to offer a unique experience.

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But barrel aged coffee goes that one step further, ageing green coffee beans in used whiskey barrels for around two weeks, letting the beans absorb all of the flavours of the whiskey but without the alcohol before it is then roasted and brewed.
In America, by law when whiskey or bourbon is made, it must be aged in brand new oak barrels. As each barrel is only used once, the used barrels are often shipped to other parts of the world for use in whiskey production there.

This makes it relatively easy to get a hold of them. They must have been pricey for The Gentleman Baristas, but there is clearly a vision and the stall was generating quite a bit of buzz.

There were two forms of the barrel aged coffee to try, one being as a filter (I think chemex but possibly V60, I don’t quite remember) and espresso. I tried the filter, and you know what, I was quite surprised. The taste of the coffee was there with a really nice aftertaste of the whiskey. Exactly what they were going for.

A little while later I was searching online for some of this coffee to brew myself but wasn’t having any luck. The Gentleman Barista website didn’t and still doesn’t have an online store so I did a bit of searching and managed to find some from Edson Taylor.

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It was around 8 pounds for 200 grams, single origin Nicaraguan Pacamara which is fairly pricey. I wouldn’t normally pay that much for that quantity but considering there’s an added cost there, I was happy to give it a go.

I figured I would start brewing as I normally would any coffee. 20 grams in a V60 is my go to. I wasn’t very impressed, the entire coffee flavour was lost behind an artificial whiskey taste. It certainly didn’t taste like what I had at the festival which was much more delicate, granted it was roasted by different people.

I took a bag to work to get some of my colleagues to try. Over there, we brew with 24 grams of coffee in a beehouse type pour-over and we were overwhelmed by the perfumey-ness the coffee gave out. The room was full of the smell which, again, was more artificial than a pleasant whiskey aroma, almost stale. There were no fans.

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So, I figured as I had a bad experience with an increased dose, I would reduce it and see the results. I had to take the dose down to around 10 grams to even get close to that subtlety I originally experienced, by which time the coffee was, expectedly over extracted.

Now, recently clear coffee became a thing. The method of making it is a guarded secret (not that anybody is trying to copy it) but, essentially, you evaporate brewed coffee and collect the condensation. It very quickly proved to be a gimmick without much in the way of quality. Really, whiskey barrel aged coffee is the same. What I believe is a really cool idea in theory mostly falls down when it comes to actually experiencing it. Why distort delicious coffees that have complex tasting notes?

Yes, innovation is important but we have to remember what’s most important of all and that’s simply the coffee. The best coffee we can find, brewed in the best way possible without the gimmicks.

After all, that is what the public trust us to do.

Moleskine coffee journal

Do you love stationary as much as the next millennial? Do you have a shelf full of half-finished journals? Do you love coffee as much as me?

If your answer to any of those questions is on the yes or no spectrum, you may have heard about the Moleskine coffee journal.

Moleskine is an Italian manufacturer that creates some of the most beautiful but simple looking notebooks you’ve ever seen. Different shapes, sizes, colours, ruled, squared, or blank, Moleskine do them all.

But they also have the passions collection which includes notebooks for jotting down thoughts and notes for different specific themes. There’s a book for wine, beer, films, gardening, recipes, even a notebook for books themselves. But, most importantly, there’s one for coffee.

In fact, I’m using it right now to judge this cortado (good) from C.U.P in Reading.

The front of the book is full of useful information such as a glossary, a map of coffee growing areas, different ways coffee can be processed, some measures and conversions, and a short description of different brewing techniques. This clearly isn’t just some guys at Moleskine getting a blank notebook and stamping ‘for coffee’ on it, they’ve obviously done their research.

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Good for coffee lovers and space nerds

For me, my favourite section of the book is the tab for shops and bars. Here, you can note down a few things about the cafe that you’re in such as the address, opening hours, what the cafe does best, the wifi password, and general notes. If you’re someone like me that enjoys coffee tourism, this is a great tool to help remember what certain cafes do best, and whether or not you should return.

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Another great thing about this book comes in the form of the ‘tastings’ tab. In this section, similar to the shops and bars tab, users are able to write notes on specific coffees such as where they’re from, how they were brewed, and tasting notes the drinker might find. You can mark coffees on their nutty notes, florals, fruitiness, etc on a spider-web graph to visually highlight the main characteristics of a coffee and see how others compare. You don’t need to be a tasting aficionado to do this, just jot down your first thoughts and you’ll be well on your way which actually makes this a surprisingly good learning tool.

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All Moleskines come with a pocket in the back cover. This one is full of stickers which you can put over the blank tabs towards the back to write about a particular subject and there are page templates on the Moleskine website you can print off which allows for a surprising amount of customisation.

The Moleskine Coffee Journal is going to set you back between 10 and 20 of your Great British Pound Sterling. Fairly expensive but great as a gift for coffee lovers or for yourself if you’ve had a tough week and you deserve it.

Not that you need to justify every purchase you make.

Treat yo’ self.

Latte Art Throwdown, Artigiano’s

Tuesday marked my very first attempt at competing in a latte art throwdown.

For those of you that aren’t aware, latte art throwdowns are casual competitions where baristas come together to meet, greet, have a laugh with, and show off in front of other coffee professionals for an evening.  The rigidity of official competition is thrown out of the window in exchange for some good old fashioned fun and tomfoolery.

Baristas from all around the South of England and beyond travelled to be a part of the spectacle of coffee. We had some beers, pizza, and blew off some steam, so to speak, in the name of friendly competition and camaraderie.

I was absolutely bricking it.

Round 1 consisted of two names being pulled at random. The two baristas would then head behind the bar and take it in turns to steam their milk and pour their design while a member of staff pulled shots for them. The two behind the bar weren’t necessarily against each other as the first round was judged on a points system. So each design would be judged on skill, symmetry, contrast etc. The top 8 would be counted up and then would go through to the next round. My name was called last because of course it would be. Although I did have the pleasure of being behind the bar with an old friend of mine, Lucy White, who used to work at Costa with me.

Round 2 put baristas against each other as a latte art dice was thrown and they had to match the design as best they could. Two baristas put their drinks down at the same time and 3 judges pointed to the one they thought was best, knocking out the design with the least votes. Round 3 used the intermediate latte art dice, and then the advanced dice until a final winner was called.

I didn’t even make it through to round 2 but I did have a blast. I’m really not happy with my pour at all as I know I can do better but it was my first time competing and the mixture of nerves, pressure, and the crowd didn’t do me any favours.  The calibre of skill was so high and, honestly, it was an honour to have even been invited.

The winner of the evening was Heidi Philip-Smith from Coffee Lab who came second in the UK latte art championship behind Dhan Tamang a couple of months ago and who represented the UK in the World Latte Art Championship.

 

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Heidi representing the UK in the World Latte Art Championship

 

Anybody thinking about going to an event like this but isn’t sure, I would definitely say do it. If you’re worried about not being good enough, I thought that too, and I was easily in the bottom two pours of the evening, but coffee is all about community and throwdowns bring people together in a beautiful way. It was very much a sausage fest but we can talk about what a male dominated industry the coffee scene is another time.

If you think you want to host a throwdown but aren’t sure, just make sure you are well organised so the night runs smoothly. Reach out to baristas on social media like Artigiano’s did, and don’t be scared to ask for a couple of pounds to cover your costs. We were happy to pay for all you can eat pizza and beer (although I didn’t eat anything as I didn’t think I’d keep it down).

Peaberries: A brief introduction

You may have heard the term ‘peaberry’ before but do you know what a peaberry is or what it does to the cup of coffee you’re drinking?

Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant which grow inside of its cherry. Normally, two beans develop with flattened facing sides. However a peaberry is a bean that hasn’t split into two like usual, but instead, they are one whole.

This happens for one of two reasons. Either only one bean is fertilised or it is a result of a drastic change in the environment. For instance, there might be a very sudden spike in temperature or a dry/wet spell. When this happens the bean recognises this sudden change and essentially panics so instead of splitting its beans in two, it will keep them together in order to save energy and increase survival.

Roughly 5% of all coffee harvested will be a peaberry and, regardless of why a peaberry forms, as a result, they will be fed all of the nutrients that would normally be spread over two beans and therefore this will result in a very juicy cup of coffee which is why the peaberry is so sought after.

 

Edgcumbes Coffee Roasters and Tea Blenders

On Sunday I had the pleasure of driving two and a half hours to get to a town I’ve never heard of before in temperatures reaching thirty degrees.

The town in question, which had a name straight out of a Tolkien novel, was called Arundel. Arundel is home to some beautiful scenery including a castle built in 1068 which overlooks the town, many nature walks including Lake Swanbourne, and pubs which overlook the river Arun.

But, most important of all, it had coffee. Much needed coffee after that car journey, I can tell you.

Edgcumbes, established in 1981, is a secluded little cafe and roastery. The cafe area itself is tiny, with only three or four seats inside and a handful outside but if you did want to drink on the premises there is a rare opportunity to see the roasting process in action. The cafe may be tiny, but on one wall is a window which looks directly on to the Geison 15kg roaster. I know of only one or two cafes where the space is used in this way so although I didn’t get to see it in action it was still special.

The rest of the space is taken up by rows and rows of bags of different roasted coffees and blends of teas, all individually labelled with information and descriptions.

I would have liked to of tried a filter coffee but, as it was nearing 4PM, I couldn’t as the barista hadn’t made any up that close to closing. I honestly don’t know what that means. I figured the coffee would be individually brewed. If it is, maybe he just didn’t want to grind some up for me especially? Regardless, I had a flat white.

They’re running their signature blend on the espresso machine. You can tell they’re proud of this coffee, and so they should be, it won the Great Taste Award 2016 for ‘outstanding taste and quality’. I won’t lie to you, though. I wasn’t overly impressed with it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice cup of coffee. But that was it, it was just a nice cup of coffee. Nothing really stood out which is surprising from something which has won an award for being outstanding. At this point when we were in the car driving back, my girlfriend was shouting “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?!”

Maybe she’s right.

I did, however, buy some coffee to take home with me. This is the first time I’ve done this since it became readily available from my work so take from that what you will.

I decided to go with the Ethiopia and the Colombia as they both had some really lovely sounding tasting notes.

20170618_221241Ethiopia

Region – Yirgacheffe
Process – Washed
Varietal – Bourbon
Q grade – 90.04
Tasting notes – Red berries, cherry, vanilla

Colombia

Region – Antioquia (Sabanitas Estate micro lot)
Process – Washed
Varietal – Caturra and Castillo
Q grade – 88
Tasting notes – Red fruit, blueberry, caramel

From the Ethiopia, I definitely got vanilla as an aroma straight away. The red berries were there and the cherry came through much more as it cooled.

From the Colombia, I didn’t so much get the blueberry, however, again, the red fruits were present and it did have a nice caramel finish which became much sweeter as it cooled. You’ll also be pleased to know that this coffee comes from a gentleman named Jesus.

Coffees at Edgcumbes start at £5.50 for 250g which isn’t unreasonable for specialty and I’ll certainly be drinking them throughout the next week or two.

If you’re deciding out of the two which one to try, I definitely preferred the Ethiopian but it wasn’t grown by Jesus.

Farnham Coffee

Had the pleasure of visiting the quaint town of Farnham recently with my partner. She had an interview to attend so after the stressful morning and brief bout with existentialism, we went for lunch.

My favourite thing to do when visiting a new town is to look up local independent coffee shops to have a try of. There wasn’t a huge variety in Farnham but there were two that caught my eye in the town centre that were fairly close together.

Spoilers: One was good and one was bad.

Krema Coffee

Krema coffee is a tiny but beautiful space down the main high street which boasts all of the exposed brickwork and rustic wooden tables that you would expect from a modern independent coffee shop looking to be as instagrammable as possible. It’s cosy in the sense that the space is warm and inviting but also in the sense that during busy periods you can hardly move. I spent a lot of time apologising to the ladies around me as I bumped into them repeatedly.

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I’ll always try a pour over if they are available as this is something my shop specialises in so I like to see what the offering is elsewhere. Luckily, Krema offers individual V60 pour overs with three or four choices that, I assume, change every now and then. The choices weren’t clear at first, but upon ordering I was proffered the different bags by a barista who gave me a short but sweet description of all of them.

 

I opted for the Kenyan, a well-known coffee growing country which can very easily taste terribly sour if the delicate fruity notes aren’t looked after. Luckily, these guys knew their way around a kettle and cone as I was thoroughly impressed with the results in my cup. They seemed to opt for the safe ~16g of coffee which is an amount I stay away from these days as it can, and did, make the filter quite thin.

My girlfriend went with the strawberry lemonade tea. I wouldn’t normally go for a tea over a coffee myself but, to be fair, I tried hers and it was delicious.

The Barista Lounge

If you were to walk a few doors down from Krema (though I recommend that you didn’t) you’ll find The Barista Lounge. I had high hopes of this place as the name would suggest its a lounge for baristas and, therefore, right up my street but walking through the door here is a stark comparison to the former as the atmosphere seems to drop by about 20 degrees.

Unfortunately, there is no filter coffee here so I opted for a macchiato. I’ve never been asked to clarify if I want an espresso macchiato or a latte macchiato before. I would guess because the latter is a drink that was invented by Starbucks and doesn’t exist in the third wave. But I went with it and took my drink to the table.

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Me contemplating the coffee I just had taken by my better half

They only seemed to have one coffee on offer but I overheard a barista telling another customer that the coffee was ‘a blend and therefore much better than a single origin, and roasted very darkly’.

He wasn’t wrong on the second point, the roast was very dark, so dark it had a gritty mouthfeel and charcoal taste. Perhaps it would’ve been better in a more milkier drink like a latte, maybe the grinder was off, who knows?

I don’t have an issue with the fact the barista said blends are better than single origins, although that is an opinion and not an actual fact. However, I do have an issue with whoever trained him to say that. Single origins and blends do different jobs. A single origin will often have one particular characteristic that you’d want to show off, usually as filter coffee, whereas a blend would offer more of a balance of flavours so as not to overwhelm as an espresso. So, for the most part, I find it pretty impossible to say one is ultimately better than the other.

The upsides to this cafe are that there was, as you can see in the picture above, plenty of room to stretch my rather long and gangly legs with more seating upstairs and in the garden.

The barista lounge also offered a wine and cheese selection which I didn’t indulge in this time but would have if I was forced to go back.

Kopi Luwak

What is it, why is it one of the most expensive coffees in the world, and why isn’t it all that?

You may have heard of Kopi Luwak although under a different name.

Civet coffee, cat coffee, shit coffee, its real name is Kopi Luwak and it’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world, but what is it exactly?

Kopi Luwak is a coffee produced from the beans that are collected from the dung of the Asian Palm Civet. That’s right, the ferret-like mammal includes coffee cherries in its natural diet and, once digested and excreted, the beans are processed, roasted, and brewed.

The origin of this peculiar production method comes from the history of coffee in Indonesia. The Dutch established coffee plantations there in the 18th century but prohibited native farmers from picking coffee for their own use. The farmers, like everybody else, needed their morning pick me up and noticed that the Asian Palm Civet local to the area would leave the cherries in its droppings. The farmers would pick out the cherries, clean them up, roast, grind, and brew them for themselves.

This pricey coffee goes for an average of $700 per kilogram, £250 for 125g at Harrods, but why is it so expensive?

Firstly, the idea is that because the civet specifically chooses certain cherries, they must be more favourable than the standard. Secondly, it’s said that the digestion of the cherries will enhance flavour through fermentation in the digestive tract. And thirdly, you actually have to pay human beings to sift through civet poo.

However, within the industry, Kopi Luwak is seen as more of a novelty and that’s really where the price comes in. All you’re paying for is the idea rather than the actual product. A representative from the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) stated:

“There is a general consensus within the industry … it just tastes bad.”

Comparing the same beans both with and without the Kopi Luwak process he concluded:

“It was apparent that Luwak coffee sold for the story, not superior quality. Using the SCA cupping scale, the Luwak scored two points below the lowest of the other three coffees. It would appear that the Luwak processing diminishes good acidity and flavor and adds smoothness to the body, which is what many people seem to note as a positive to the coffee.”

You have to be careful with Kopi Luwak too, the price has caused people to go crazy with greed and so in some cases, civets are being kept in terrible conditions and force-fed cherries. The conservation programme TRAFFIC found that conditions for civets on some farms were much like battery chickens, taken from the wild and having to endure a poor diet and cramped conditions.

In other cases, the coffee won’t even be touched by civets at all. The amount of Kopi Luwak consumed is actually double the amount that is produced, meaning half of it is fake and there is little enforcement regarding the name ‘Kopi Luwak’.

Pressure from PETA has caused outlets such as Harrods and Selfridges to either pull the product from their shelves altogether until a cruelty-free version can be guaranteed or source only ‘cage-free’ coffee.

The very first importer of Kopi Luwak into the West, Tony Wild from Taylors of Harrogate, has himself stated in an article for The Guardian that he regrets ever doing it

“When I introduced civet coffee to the UK it was a quirky novelty. Now it’s overpriced, industrialised, cruel – and frequently inauthentic. That’s really hard to stomach.”

You can read the rest of Tony’s article here

As discussed in my previous post, those in the third wave really care where their coffee comes from so it’s unlikely that Kopi Luwak is really for them. It’s more something you can boast about when you buy it for a friend.

“Look how much I spent on you, are you going to sleep with me yet?”.

Getting wavey with coffee

What do we mean exactly when we talk about the ‘third wave’?

What happened in the two waves beforehand?

Let me break them down for you. When we refer to the first, second, and third wave of coffee, what we’re referring to are the three major waves of coffee culture that have shaped the industry.

It’s no secret that coffee has been around for some time. The earliest evidence of drinking coffee comes from around the 15th century in Yemen. From there, it spread and first became available in Oxford, England in 1650. But it’s not until the late 19th century when things start to change.

First wave

The first wave of coffee refers to the period in the late 19th/early 20th century when coffee first started becoming readily available in the home. Revolutionary air-tight packaging made it easy to deliver to the consumer and so suddenly you didn’t need to head to the cafe for your caffeine fix, you could simply reach into your cupboard and pull out a tin of pre-ground coffee. With tasting notes of rubber, smoke, and twigs, it was companies like Folger’s and Nescafé that led the way and was soon the name for coffee on everybody’s underdeveloped tongues.

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Second wave

The second wave of coffee starts in the 1960s in Seattle, America where companies such as Peet’s Coffee and Tea were buying and selling roasted beans and coffee equipment. These businesses quickly evolved into the Starbucks and Costa we know today, perfecting the fast food style of coffee service, and lining every street with green aprons and grande-skinny-triple-shot-write-your-name-on-the-cup-pumpkin-spice-lattes. Coffee became the second largest commodity in the world and, thanks to sheer numbers, coffee ingestion on average is about a third of that of tap water in North America and Europe.

Third wave

The third wave of coffee starts as recently as 2002 and this is where people like me get really excited, for this is where we decided to do better. This is when we decided that coffee could be more than just a commodity but something that is artisanal like wine. Suddenly, every part of the coffee process from crop to cup improved as people started asking where their coffee was coming from, how it was being grown, processed, roasted, and brewed.

Those in the third wave often trade directly with farmers ensuring they are paid a fair wage for the important work they do, and their product is treated with the utmost respect as it is roasted to perfectly bring out the flavour, and then brewed so that you can taste milk chocolate, peanuts, or strawberries.

But the scale for specialty coffee is so much smaller. The big three of specialty coffee (US) are:

  1. Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Oregon (10 locations)
  2. Counter Culture Coffee of Durham, North Carolina (8 locations)
  3. Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea of Chicago, Illinois (7 locations)

In comparison, Starbucks has over 24,000 locations worldwide.

At the forefront of the third wave movement are the baristas, people like me, striving for perfection, making sure you only taste exactly what we want you to. It’s the technically trained baristas and the overwhelming quality of the product that has people coming back for more as they try and educate themselves on this relatively new subject. Suddenly, the public are starting to shun the big corporate chains in favour of a tiny local independent. Even better, they are buying their own equipment to grind and brew at home!

Personally, I am very excited to see where the third wave of coffee is heading.