Archive for February, 2018

Starbucks introduces 5p latte levy

February 27, 2018

The introduction of a 5p levy by Starbucks on takeaway coffee in a handful of outlets in London is a meaningless gesture.

The variation in the price of coffee from one coffee shop to another exceeds 5p, thus a 5p levy on takeaway coffee is going to make not a jot of difference.

It is quite amusing to see the reaction of Starbucks clientele bleating at having to pay 5p extra for takeaway coffee when they are more than happy to pay for overpriced undrinkable coffee. How they will howl when the proposed 25p latte levy is introduced. Maybe they should take the opportunity to discover the many excellent indie coffee shops that London has to offer. Maybe treat themselves to London Coffee or 111 Coffee Shops in London That You Must Not Miss to open their closed minds that there is another world out there, a world of quality coffee.

A latte levy has to be at least 25p as proposed by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and introduced across all Starbucks stores, not 35 stores in London.

To be effective, it has to be coupled with other measures, reusable cups on sale, for example KeepCup, a substantial discount if bring a reusable cup for a refill.

Pret a Manger, to preempt the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee proposal on latte levy, introduced at the beginning of the year coffee at 49p, a 50p discount if bring your own cup for a refill.  No reusable cups on sale, no information in store. A refusal to provide any statistics. A clever PR stunt, little more.

Starbucks introduced a 50p discount if brought in a refillable cup. Then a few months later, after grabbing the headlines, quietly dropped the discount to 25p.

The big chains are lobbying hard behind the scenes to block the 25p latte levy.  The reason why, their business model is built upon grab it and go, takeaway, consumerist culture.

In the UK we are throwing away an estimated 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups every year. These cups cannot be recycled, these are are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem.

Can introduce a reusable cup for example KeepCup, but expensive, bulky, a pain to carry around. The target demographics is office workers popping out for a coffee.  And there is only noticeable take up if coupled with a substantial discount when used.

I have yet to see a KeepCup purchased, let alone used, but that was before the report by House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee proposing a latte levy.

Speaking to indie coffee shops, the proposed latte levy may have focused minds. Where they have recently introduced sale of KeepCup, these are selling.

Compostable cups are better then plastic-lined paper cups, but depend on access to a compost heap on which to deposit.

Plastic is killing the planet, marine life is dying. We have to eliminate plastic. We have to move to sit down and relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass.

Starbucks is a socially irresponsible company, they dodge tax.

To illustrate how much Starbucks cares about the environment, last week they opened a Drive-Thru outside Lincoln serving undrinkable coffee.

Starbucks claim they are the first to introduce a charge on disposable coffee cups. Is this true? I would love to hear from any indie coffee shops who have introduced such a charge.

I am aware of indie coffee shops considering hiking the cost of takeaway coffee by the amount it costs them to buy the cups, then discounting by the same amount if bring in a reusable coffee cup, thus cost neutral.

The media regurgitates a Starbucks press release and calls it news. No critical analysis.

The introduction of a 5p latte levy by Starbucks in a handful of London outlets should be seen for what it is, a PR gimmick, nothing more.

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Insidious collection of personal data

February 24, 2018

Drip, drip, drip, insidious collection of personal data on an industrial scale. It has become so pervasive we no longer notice, even worse we become innocent unwitting carriers of this disease.

Drip, drip, drip, on-line surveys, telephone surveys, crude collection of personal data masquerading as a draw or competition, store loyalty cards, store questionnaires, instagram, facebook, collection of personal data on an industrial scale.

Caffeine and so-called Frank Green smart cups, a crude trawl for personal data, a fake competition dressed up as care for the planet.

Another example from Caffeine and so-called Frank Green smart cups, this time driving traffic from twitter to Instagram.  Again dressed up as care for the planet. Through a tedious serious of links, taken back to the same crude trawl for information dressed up as a competition.

Why?

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Caffeine is free, only not really free, it is a vehicle to deliver advertising to its readers. You may pick it up free, the coffee shop where you found it, has to pay the shipping costs.

The latest issue of Caffeine, issue 31 with the meaningless cover, has a full page advert for Frank Green.

Standart and Drift are not free, do not carry adverts, though Standart does have partners and supporters, for which they are very open and honest and up front about.  What neither do is engage in this crude abuse of their readers, it would cause irreputable damage to their reputation if they did.

The same issue of Caffeine had an ill-informed article on the proposed latte levy, even worse urging readers to oppose the latte levy.  The article just happens to mention in passing, KeepCup and Frank Green, both of which just happen to have full page adverts, KeepCup on the back cover, Frank Green the facing page to the appalling article Could the latte levy kill your local?

Plastic pollution is killing the planet. One of the causes is takeaway disposable coffee cups, something we can all do something about by refusing takeaway coffee, instead, relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served out of glass or ceramic.  Meanwhile Caffeine opposes the proposed latte levy.

Marianna Chrzanowska-Hunt wrote an excellent article on Society Café for Licorne Magazine. Without realising the implications she gave a link to Instagram, it would have been better to have given a link to twitter.

This is not a criticism of Marianna Chrzanowska-Hunt, far from it she is well worth following on twitter if interested in coffee, more so than Caffeine, her excellent tweets on Bath indie coffee shops form the basis of The Bath Coffee Trail, rather she has been cited to illustrate how we can unwittingly aid the collection of personal data.

Instagram is not visible on twitter, it claims rights to your pictures, it is owned by Facebook.

Facebook is disruptive of the Internet, it acts as a walled garden where users exist as bait to entice in other users.

Facebook is not a social network. Facebook exists to collect and abuse personal data. Facebook is currently facing legal action and massive fines across multiple jurisdictions for gathering and abuse of personal data.

We have got into bad habits, where Instagram our photo album, Facebook our diary, documenting all aspects of our personal life with absolutely no idea where this information is going.

For the fraudster, Facebook has become a gold mine.

The call from the bank, from internet service provider is not, it is a phishing scam, terminate the call. Same applies to the helpful caller offering to fix the problem with your computer, a problem you never knew you had.

Suspicious e-mail, do not open, delete, better still mark as junk or phishing scam.

When ordering, only provide the bare minimum of information to service the order, leave the rest blank, or if forced to complete, fill out with false information. Question why this information is required or order from elsewhere.

Do not fall for the fake competition, fill out surveys.

Why the quest for followers? You have no idea who they are, even less what they do with the personal information they glean on you, and not only on you, on your friends too.

All personal information on Facebook, overwrite with fake information, then a few days later delete.

AeroPress

February 22, 2018

Wouldn’t it be fun to see who could brew the best cup of AeroPress coffee? — Tim Varney and Tim Wendelboe

The history of the Aeropress is unusual.

It was not developed as would expect by a company like Hario, a Japanese company renowned for its innovation in coffee brewing.

The design was by Alan Adler, an expert in aerodynamics, not coffee. He wished for a quick and easy way to make a cup of coffee

He invented the Aerobie, in essence a ring frisbee.

What he noticed was the body of the frisbee introduces drag. He therefore developed a ring, where the ring functions in the same manner as an aircraft wing, it provides lift.

He then turned his attention to coffee making.

The cafetiere or French press does not provide even distribution of the flow of water through the coffee, poor quality of extraction, lack of consistency.

The same problem can be experienced with an espresso machine. Watch very carefully next time a barista at work. They carefully level the ground coffee, they press down to compact the coffee. There is skill involved. If the coffee is not level, or if cracks appear in the compacted coffee, do not get even extraction of the coffee, which can result in weak and insipid coffee.

There is no one way or correct way to brew using an AeroPress.

Variables include grind size of the coffee, water temperature and brew time.

AeroPress competitions have proved to be highly popular.

The very first World AeroPress competition was co-organised by Tim Varney and Tim Wendelboe and held at a coffee shop in Oslo.

And taking their cue from these humble beginnings of the first World AeroPress competition, an AeroPress competition organised by the Lincoln Coffee Collective is the pre-launch event for the Lincoln Coffee Festival. And yes, it is being held in a small coffee shop.

Phishing scam

February 22, 2018

A few days ago I received an e-mail purporting to come from HMRC.

I did not open it. To open it risks malware. Nor did I delete. I mark such e-mail as a phishing scam.

The call that comes through purporting to be from your bank.

There has been an attempted fraud on your account.

Oh.

Yes, but do not worry, our fraud team caught it in time.

Can you  before we discuss it any further confirm who you are? We will need to ask you a few questions.

Full name, date of birth, address ….

This is another example of a phishing scam.

Never discuss anything on the phone, and that includes carrying out a survey.

There has been two of these in the last couple of weeks.

One claiming to be a survey by a hospital, another a random survey.

Yet more examples of phishing scams.

For fraudsters a very useful app for their smart phone. Can set the number of where calling from that will appear on the victim’s phone, can set background noise to create the illusion of where calling from.

As I am writing, a call from a fraudster.

Hello, I am from BT Open Reach, I would like to discuss Internet.

Do not have BT Open Reach.

I would like to discuss Internet.

Don’t have Internet, middle of nowhere.

You do not know why I am calling?

Yes, you are a fraudster, I am recording the call. I have a police officer here.

You have a police officer there?

Yes. I have a police officer here, I am recording the call, the police officer would like to talk to you.

The line goes dead.

Facebook is a goldmine for fraudsters. Facebook is not a social network, facebook exists to steal and abuse personal information.

No matter how many times people are advised not to, they post on facebook where they live, schools, work, name of dog, name of partner, date of birth. All of which is valuable information to the fraudster.  And to help the opportunist burglar, we are on holiday.

Once the phishing scam has access to bank account details, the account will be emptied, possibly even before the call ended.

Easy money for a conversation lasting little more than a minute.  Scams that are netting the fraudsters millions of pounds.

The fraudsters recruit students, who recruit more students. Their accounts are used to launder the money.

Phishing scam is not the only fraud, there are many many more.

Vital Nature and associated companies dodgy pills and potions scam. Pills and potions of dubious provenance, laced with lead, several hundred times recommended dosage, billed for stuff not ordered, stuff ordered does not arrived, harassment phone calls, credit card fraud with card details. Scam mail delivered by Royal Mail.  Operates out of France and that may only be a postal address, a front for somewhere else.  By operating from France, outside jurisdiction of Police in the UK.

Commemorative coin scam. Mints offering worthless commemorative coins. That being only the first part of the scam. Second part, unsolicited coins arrive, if not returned at your expense will be billed.

Dodgy builder scam.  Work that did not need doing. Details of house security passed to opportunist burglars.

Australian Lottery scam. You have won but need to pay administrative fee to release your winnings.

Long lost relative scam. Would love to visit, if could only could  afford air fare from Australia.

Bar Unico

February 20, 2018

A bar serving coffee, a coffee shop?

Actually neither, Italian concept, there is not the distinction between a bar and a coffee shop, a bar will serve coffee and food.

I had been recommended try.

Low expectations, Italian coffee is dark, over roasted, and even Italians are beginning to recognise they have  a problem when a cup of coffee is served at one euro.

There are exceptions, Bar Italia in Soho for example.

I tried a cappuccino. Not as I expected, dark and over roasted. Served too hot and somewhat weak and insipid

I noticed bags of beans on sale. Roast date listed, where beans sourced from but nothing on where or who roasted by. Accountability, transparency, traceability is important. Every bean has a story to tell.

The aroma from one of the bags of beans pleasant.

Occasional live music.

The Bath Coffee Trail

February 19, 2018

One way to explore a city is through its coffee shops, indie coffee shops, not chains.

Find one coffee shop serving excellent coffee, ask, and they will direct you to others.

That is what I did in Athens, in Just Made 33 I asked of other coffee shops. Wending my way from one coffee shop to the next, I explored parts of Athens I had not explored before, away from my well trod path through Plaka and Monastiraki via archaeological sites.

This is what Marianna Chrzanowska-Hunt has done with Bath.  First stop Society Cafe, then through a series of tweets, she has explored the city one tweet at a time.

Where next, Bristol is not far away.

A plastic sea

February 18, 2018

We live on a blue planet, a planet of water not land.

We are destroying the oceans. We all depend on the sea. If there is no life in the sea, there will be no life on land.

The oceans do not exist to transport more cheap consumer crap from China. The sea does not exist to sit by on the beach in the Mediterranean.

Plastic is a modern day curse.  It ends up incineration, in landfill, or in the sea.

Plastic, contrary to industry claims, plastic is not recycled. It is not recycled as is steel, glass and aluminium. At best some plastic is down-cycled.

In the sea it breaks down into microscopic particles. It is concentrated by wind and ocean currents into feeding grounds.

Near Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, currents define the Sargasso Sea—the only sea that is not defined by land boundaries. Known by some as a floating rain forest, the Sargasso Sea is named for the free-floating Sargassum which provides food and shelter for a vast variety of wildlife. However, those same currents carry a huge amount of plastics that eventually break down in the water and are eaten by small fish and other species that are then eaten by larger fish. The toxic chemicals intensify as they move up the food chain through these animals—right onto our plates.

Fish and other marine life mistake the microscopic plastic for plankton. Big fish eat the little fish, bigger fish eat the big fish.  We  eat the fish.

The mass of this microscopic plastic exceeds that of the plankton.

Toxic chemicals washed off the land adhere to the plastic.

The Sargasso Sea is a major carbon sink.

By 2050, the mass of plastic in the seas will exceed the mass of fish.

We are all to blame.

The supermarkets with their obsession on plastic.   Why not as local markets, fruit and vegetables loose, pop in a brown paper bag and later drop on the compost heap or on the paper recycling bin?

Challenge the supermarkets for their obscene use of plastics.

Support local markets, farmers markets, where the produce is fresh. And if the are using plastic, speak with the organiser and question their low environmental standards.

Plastic straws, used for only a few minutes at best.

Plastic-lined disposable paper coffee cups loved by the coffee chains churning out disgusting coffee, grab it and go, takeaway, throwaway, consumerist culture.

Cyprus an island surrounded by the sea. The island boasts some of the worst examples of plastic abuse. The worst examples are seen with coffee chains Coffee Island and Costa. A freddo cappuccino, served in plastic with plastic straw, not even for takeaway, for their sit down customers. A drink that could and should be served in glass.

Speciality coffee shops are leading the way, moving towards compostable cups, refillable KeepCups and similar, discount if used.

But this is tinkering with the symptoms, we have to address the underlying grab it and go, consumerist culture, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with a  cup of speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Ask your local coffee shop, what are they doing to discourage grab it and go takeaway coffee?

Government has to do more.

Support the introduction of the 25p latte levy.

Are compostable coffee cups compostable?

February 14, 2018

The proposed 25p latte levy appears to have focused minds.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year. These cups cannot be recycled due to a plastic liner in what at first glance appears to be a simple paper cup. 

An environmental disaster, deadly for for marine life.

Something has to be done. Hence the proposed latte levy.

Indie coffee shops as always are taking the lead, are starting to offer on sale compostable paper cups, reusable KeepCups, discounts if bring back cups for a refill.

If I am on my way home, have picked up fruit and vegetables, I can pop my compostable cup in with my fruit and vegetables, then when home, deposit my compostable coffee cup on the compost heap.

But what if not on my way home, what if not a convenient compost heap, what then with my compostable coffee cup? And therein lies the dilemma, what to do with the compostable coffee cup? It will find its way into the general waste stream.

The underlying assumption, is that my compostable cup will do what it says, actually compost.

Only one way to find out, drop a couple of cups on the compost heap, sit back and wait. That was a few weeks ago. Nothing has happened. They are siting there. Though to be fair, it is winter.

If I am at Infinity Foods in Brighton or at the farmers market in Guildford, I will often pick up a biodegradable plastic bag, these are made of plant-based cellulose.

I will fill with kitchen waste, throw on the compost heap, or at least I used to.

What I found was, everything rotted down, the bag still there, even after several cycles through the compost heap.

For comparison, yogurt pots, those made of waxed paper, do rot down, leaving behind the plastic liner.

The plastic bag is very thin compared with the compostable paper coffee cup.

We need more people to do as I have done, deposit these compostable paper cups on their compost heaps and monitor what happens.

KeepCup and clones thereof are refillable, but from observation the take up and usage is low.  Easy to see why, expensive, bulky, often heavy, a pain to carry around.

This may though change, with 25p latte levy helping to focus minds and indie coffee shops reporting an increase in interest.

In Australia, or least Melbourne, Abigail Forsyth co-founder of KeepCup reports reuse rate has risen from 1% to 30%. Still low, but 30% a lot better than 1%.

The demographics to aim KeepCup at office workers popping out for a coffee, coupled with substantial discount when used.

Compostable coffee cups, KeepCup, are addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture, typified by the chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Do we not value good coffee? Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served from glass or ceramic, the only way to appreciate a good coffee.

We need dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Could the latte levy kill your local?

February 13, 2018

The latest issue of Caffeine, has a lead article Could the latte levy kill your local?  It is nonsense and shows a lack of understanding of either the proposed latte levy, its impact or why it is necessary.

The simple answer to the question posed is no.

We have a simple principle, the polluter shall pay.

It is not acceptable that coffee shops externalise their costs onto the rest of society, which is what they are doing with plastic-lined coffee cups.

The 25p latte levy is not to penalise coffee shops, it is to make them pay their externalised costs, but more importantly, to change behaviour.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. These coffee cups cannot be recycled. Although they appear to be paper, they are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem, these plastic lined coffee cups cannot be recycled and are adding to the growing problem of waste.

The planet is being smothered in plastic, sea life is being destroyed by plastic.

Compostable paper cups are a step in the right direction, but they are not the answer. If I have a coffee in a compostable cup, I am on my way home, I can drop on the compost heap. But if not what then? Therein lies the dilemma. It will join the general waste stream.

How long to decompose? I dropped a couple on the compost heap a few weeks ago. Not a lot a happening. It is though winter.

I would like to see a few people carry out this experiment. After use, drop compostable cups on a compost heap, monitor what happens.

Reusable coffee cups are not the answer either. Bulky, expensive and a pain to carry around.

I have yet to see anyone buy a KeepCup or clones thereof, let alone see anyone walk in a coffee shop and use one.

Conversations in coffee shops bear this out. Even when substantial discounts are on offer, take up is low.  Though this may be about to change.

I was in a coffee shop, where Frank Green cups were on sale. Ugly,  inelegant and made of plastic. I asked how much did they cost, what discount if any if used? No one knew. They did not know because no one could ever recall one being sold let alone used. They could not even find it on the till.

Where reusable coffee cups come into their own, is if targeting office workers popping out for a coffee, and only then if coupled with a substantial discount.

Compostable cups, reusable cups, are addressing the symptoms not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture.

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass, make takeaway coffee socially unacceptable.

Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

Those who will lose out will be the chains, not the indie coffee shops. Their businesses model is built on grab it and go undrinkable coffee.

The 25p latte levy will not be absorbed any more than the 5p plastic bag charge is absorbed. To believe otherwise is to entirely miss the point of the levy. It is there as a deterrent to change behaviour, not to penalise coffee shops or coffee drinkers.

All the indie coffee shops I have spoken to welcome the 25p latte levy, they see it to their benefit, plus they see the environmental damage caused by disposable coffee cups.

Since the policy has been proposed, it appears to have focused minds.

One coffee shop I spoke to had had KeepCups on sale for a couple of weeks, more to see how they sold, than anything else. They sold like hot cakes. The day I was there, three had been sold that day.

Another coffee shop has already changed to compostable coffee cups and will have KeepCups on sale soon.

Other coffee shops have told me they are looking into both compostable cups and KeepCups.

Four Boroughs offer a substantial discount which is a good idea, more should follow their excellent example, though I prefer the elegance of KeepCup.

Or is it simply a clever PR gimmick rather like Pret a Manger offering organic filter coffee at 49p a cup, with no reusable  cups on sale? Four Boroughs are not offering a discount if you bring in a reusable cup for a refill.

Research has shown, need to both offer KeepCup or clone thereof and a substantial discount to make any impact on reducing use of disposable cups. Either one on its own has little impact.

I recommended to a coffee shop about to open, buy in KeepCup, sell at cost as a promotion during first week, offer a discount for a refill. They are an integral part of a new bus station. Bus passengers would have been tempted and intrigued by their fellow passengers. Sadly my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Even worse they stuck up a poster telling bus passengers the coffee shop was not a waiting room, in other words bus passengers not welcome.

No one will be paying a latte levy, not if they use a compostable cup, not if they bring a cup for a refill, not if they sit and relax with a coffee served in ceramic or glass.

What we need is dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Rather than writing nonsense and showing lack of understanding of the issues, even worse asking readers to lobby Members of Parliament to oppose the latte levy, Caffeine should be urging its readers to lobby hard for the latte levy to be brought in at the next Budget.

By calling for no latte levy, Caffeine is not helping either indie coffee shops or the planet, they are working hand in glove with the chains who behind the scenes are lobbying hard to block the latte levy.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

Cappuccino at International Bomber Command Centre

February 11, 2018

Last visits to the International Bomber Command Centre were a couple of weeks ago when not yet open to the public, press day and a preview for veterans, I was curious what it was like now open to the public, what better way to find out than to drop in for a cappuccino.

Sunday roast dinner at the Butcher and Beast at Heighington, then on to the International Bomber Command Centre for a cappuccino.

I was pleasantly surprised on arrival to find how many cars parked in the car park, almost full.

Shocked to find have to pay £3 to park. This was a planning condition imposed by the local council. The money will go to the centre, but only I assume after covering the cost of the parking machines.

How to access by public transport I do not know.

There needs to be access from South Common, otherwise quite a trek if on foot.

Speaking with the Director, previous weekend, the first weekend open to the public,  was even busier, I think she said 1100 visitors.

Excellent news, as they need visitor numbers to make the centre viable and provide cash flow.

On entering the open plan reception area, I noticed cabinets arranged corralling a central area, books on sale, souvenirs, including bags of coffee and tea.

The range of books quite limited. I assume not long open, hopefully a wider selection in the near future.

My cappuccino, too hot, weak and insipid. Classic mistake to serve piping hot.

The coffee served, Bomber Command blend, is a blend from Brazil, supplied by Stokes, exclusive to IBCC.

The Bomber Command beans are on sale, but already ground. For freshness, beans have to be whole, ground on demand. Also essential when supply beans, the roast date, best by or use by is meaningless.

Information on the bag about a Bomber Command pilot from Brazil, but nothing about the beans, where sourced from in Brazil, Q grade, not even if Arabica or heaven forbid Robusta.

Also on sale Bomber Command tea, again exclusive to IBCC supplied by Stokes. Disappointingly, in tea bags, not loose leaf tea.