Archive for the ‘books’ Category

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss

December 3, 2018

Why 111 coffee shops, why not 100, why not 120?

That is what I hate about these series of books, an artificial list, someone hired to fill the list, rather than someone writes and publishes a guide to London coffee shops.

Having said that, 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss exceeds expectations, excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Each coffee shop occupies two pages, a page of text, a picture.  What to expect, the coffee, roaster used.

At the back, a couple of pages of maps. The largest concentration of coffee shops Soho, north of Oxford Street second. Strange therefore Bar Italia, located in Soho, one of the oldest, if not the oldest coffee shop in London, a Soho icon, Soho as once was, does not merit a mention.  Nor Monmouth Coffee in nearby Covent Garden, one of the first artisan coffee shops in London, well before they became trendy places to be.

A couple of coffee shops I am familiar with, if not visited. Pufrock I am told I should visit, but have not, Taylor Street Baristas I have not visited in London, I have the one in Brighton, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, the excellent Curio Cabal the only coffee shop listed that I have visited.

I would have liked to see as with The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, telephone number, web address, twitter and facebook.

I like the hot tips. A place of interest nearby worth a visit.

How to get there, nearest station.

Coffee roasteries are not included, and no guide is complete without. All the more surprising when often mentioned in the description of the coffee shops.

Noticeable by their absence, Bar Italia, Ethiopian Coffee Roasters on the South Bank street food market, little coffee kiosk at foot of Hungerford Bridge on London South Bank, Monmouth Coffee.

At the back, a useful glossary of coffee terms. One term that was new to me, espresso flight, a single-shot espresso,  a single shot cappuccino, served side by side. Only one coffee shop have I been served this though not given a name and not side by side, in a line, was Coffee Aroma, an espresso, a cappuccino and a glass of water, served in a line on a hollowed out wooden board.

A QR code to pull up an interactive map. At least I assume it was, but is not. At least can see where the coffee shops are. It would though have been better if each pin had pulled up information on Google Maps. There is a menu, which takes through to a list of all 111 coffee shops. Click on any entry, and that does take through to Google Maps. A somewhat indirect route.

The problem with any guide, even on-line, is dated as soon as writ, if not before.

Taylor St Baristas no longer use Union-Hand Roasted, they roast their own beans at Taylor St Roasted and their excellent Brighton coffee shop has closed.

An indication of how things date, as I wrote this review, I learnt Taylor St Baristas were returning to Brighton. I miss the one that closed, I will look forward to their new coffee shop.  Or at least that was what I initially thought. Actually they will be supplying the coffee. Maybe one day.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss puts to shame the utterly useless Where to Drink Coffee.

An excellent well researched guide, a must if visiting London and appreciate good coffee.

I prefer to wander and discover, if not, reservations aside 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss is an excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Although I prefer to wander and take me where my feet take me, I have to admit, several of the coffee shops intrigue me and I am tempted to visit next time I am in London.

Also check out London Coffee, an account of London coffee culture rather than a guide to coffee shops.

Book in hand, I did attempt to visit one cold misty day in London at least a couple of the listed coffee shops. I managed all of one, Algerian Coffee Stores, and that only because my lovely Russian friend Tatyana told me it was a must to visit if I ever found myself in London.

I was not that I did not visit any other coffee shops, it is that I tend to go where my feet take me.

I found Four Corners a kiosk outside Waterloo Station. They told me they have a coffee shop in Lower Marsh. Beany a kiosk at the foot of Hungerford Bridge, excellent coffee but no time to stop. Grind in Covent Garden I looked in did not like and walked out. The Espresso Room, a tiny coffee shop in Covent Garden serving excellent coffee. I looked in Bar Italia in Soho, excellent coffee, but no time to stop. Jacob the Angel an English Coffee House, a new coffee shop in Neal’s Yard, serving Square Mile which is a good sign, but about to close. Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden I stopped for a cappuccino.

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Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery

November 22, 2018

Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery, a trek out to south east London, a nightmare to find.

Before setting off, I ask of the Baldwin Gallery, a fee, need to book, how to find?

Sadly clueless on the use of social media. No reply, by the time I do eventually receive a reply, too late, but they did have the courtesy to apologise.

  • broadcast —> one to many
  • social —> interaction
  • network – many to many

Social media is not broadcast, the clue is in the name, social network.

Train from Charing Cross to Dartford, alight at Lee.

Can I find Baldwin Gallery, no.

When in the vicinity and unable to find, I ask a passing local. No he has never heard of.

I pass by and find myself in Greenwich. I retrace my steps.

I find the venue, Baldwin Gallery, eventually.

I expect to find no one there, I am surprised to find quite a few have turned up, maybe twenty or more.

The original concept of Dark Mountain, thought provoking essays and short stories, art and poetry, was excellent. I was happy to support. But the reality, incomprehensible writing badly written, very little worth reading, the art badly reproduced. And then to be insulted with a poor quality paperback when had subscribed to what Dark Mountain describe as ‘Each issue takes the form of a beautifully-produced hardback.’

The evening was reading from Terra.

Nothing more boring than reading what has been written, I can do that myself. Public reading of poetry a different matter, it is meant to be read out loud. Far more interesting is for the contributors to talk about the subject they have written about.

Reading of a short story, a postman posted to back of beyond, I must have missed something, as the end was back at the beginning.

Reading of two essays, a native Indian massacre, the struggle of Palestinians, deserved deeper exploration, which would have been been possible had the contributors discussed their contribution not read from it. Worse still, it was a waste of there being present.

One of the criticisms of Dark Mountain, apart from too much pretentious badly written incomprehensible drivel, is the typeface, too small, not easy to read.

What was Terra?

I thought next volume, but when I saw a tiny slim volume, I thought no, must be a supplementary book, especially when I learnt this was the second book launch.

The topic was travel, a sense of place, how we interact with the landscape, how the landscape interacts with us.

Terra is the next volume, the typeface microscopic, needing a magnifying glass to read.

Copies of Terra were on sale. I did not see any sold. Nor did I see early volumes of Dark Mountain on sale.

At £20 for a slim volume, too pricey, especially when paid for by subscription, unlike most publications which go from publication to remainder to pulp.

It was only later when I checked the Dark Mountain website I learnt why no other volumes on sale, all sold out. Only available as a pdf file. I would recommend upload to leanpub and have in an e-format that flows as is more suited to reading on a tablet or e-reader or smartphone than pdf, though pdf would still be a format to select from.

Interesting exhibits at the Baldwin Gallery, strong Mexican influence, or at least Cenrtral America.

Failure of British bookstore chains to display or stock Hippie

November 2, 2018

Hippie, a major international best seller by Paulo Coelho, yet noticeable by its absence in WHSmith or Waterstone’ s, two British bookstore chains.

I checked in Guildford High Street, a few weeks after publication.

WHSmith. No Hippie. Not on display, not in stock. Talking to a helpful guy he said he cannot recall ever seeing in the store let alone on display.

Waterstone’s across the street no better. Hippie not on display. I did eventually find, spine only, on the bottom shelf next to the floor with new books. A little direct action. When I left,  on display on table by the entrance.

I inquired the week published. No one knew what I was talking about. WHSmith not only not in stock, not even shown on their system.

I had hoped to find at Gatwick Airport. Not there either.

Contrast with Athens, Hippie in window display of all major bookstores, one even had a display poster on the door.

Lunch and at Little Tree

October 19, 2018

Little Tree is a lovely little bookshop cum coffee shop.

Having been wandering around The Acropolis late morning and early afternoon, I decided I needed something to eat.

Little Tree  is behind Acropolis Museum. As nearby, I thought have something to eat, then a coffee at The Underdog, then visit the Ancient Agora.

Nothing though eve goes to plan. The Acropolis was crowded, a cruise ship or maybe more than one. The streets clogged, named word with tour guides.

I thought a short stay at Little Tree. Rather than a short stop, I was thee until evening.

Service appalling, though not true of food or drink.

Water brought to my table and a simple menu.

A long wait until me order taken. Maybe not table service,, maybe I have to go and order.

Eventually I am asked but does not understanding what I am asking. Anther long wait. An even longer wait before food is served.

It was good, toasted bread used for a sandwich.

By now, my afternoon ruined or at least what I had planned.

Craft beer? I am brought back the menu. But my question not answered. Eventually I learn, microbreweries on the Greek islands.

I order red beer. Red beer. It was not red, and had no added ingredients to make red.

I order another.

Then I decide on yogurt and a cappuccino. I double check, the coffee is Taf.

Yogurt with fruit and nuts excellent, with added Greek honey. In a ceramic pot. Far alrger portion than I except. On leaving, I ask be put in a takeaway cup.

I have yet to see anyone actually buy a book.

little girl say in a  corner reading a book.

Little Tree a coop. Whether an open coop I do not know. I suggest they use faircoin, but maybe start with a few leaflets, host a talk.

Sunday I will visit a market in … where they use faircoin. The information centre I visited will not be open util after Sunday.

In Greece, it is a very Greek thing to sit and chat, and that is what I we were doing all afternoon and evening.

EU destruction of Greece, the damaging impact of AirnBnB on Athens. Dirty money laundered  to buy whole neighborhoods, areas being turned into tourist ghettos, bad tourists.

On leaving, walking along the street below The Acropolis, a  lovely little food shop.

Green olive oil? I am shown , a beautiful green colour, first of the new crop, only just a arrived in store.  I mention faircoin.

— to be continued —-

Business for Punks

October 7, 2018

If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do much what as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. — John Locke

At Brew Dog our business is built on the punk mentality. At its core punk is about learning the skills to do things on your own terms. At Brew Dog we reject the status quo, we are passionate, we don’t give a damn and we always do something which is true to ourselves. Our approach has been anti-authoritarian and non-conformist from the word go. — James Watt, Business for Punks

Brew Dog have been fundamental to the development of the craft beer scene in the UK. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Brew Dog have changed the shape of British Beer. — Peter Brown

Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence. — Buddha

The odds are stacked against, heavily stacked against, the success of a new business. 80% have failed after 18 months, even then it is not plain sailing, the chance of becoming a sustainable business is only 1 in 20.

I have recently been witness to one of these failures, a bread shop serving light meals, tea and coffee and cakes. They did so many things wrong it was a car crash in slow motion. The food was served on the first floor up narrow stairs, but with no idea what was up there or on the menu, how many are going to climb the stairs? With the businesses on its last legs a few months before they closed they did stick a few tables and chairs downstairs by the window, but too little too late, still no menu, still no specials listed outside. The tea served was teapigs, rubbish tea, poor quality catering supply coffee sourced locally, no skilled baristas. To display in the shop front serving teapigs may as well run up a flag saying we serve bad tea. I never tried the bread but I was told by those who tried, it was expensive and of poor quality.

Five years ago may have got away with serving poor quality coffee, not today, and especially not when open opposite one of the top coffee shops in town with two more nearby. They were told their tea and coffee was rubbish but refused to listen they knew best.

And not the only failing tea and coffee shop in Lincoln or up for sale.

Brew Dog in 2003 was two men and a dog in shed, £30,000 and ambitions to brew quality craft beer as an alternative to the disgusting beer from corporate chemical factories served in failing pubs. The rest is history. Year on year growth, profitable growth. As I write the company employing over 1500 people, three breweries, the beer found across the world, the company valued at over a billion pounds.

Business for Punks is how they did it, advice for would be punks.

Find a niche in the market. No. Create a new pond and be the biggest fish in the pond, then grow the pond.

Touch phones did not exist until Steve Jobs launched the iPhone.

If opening a coffee shop, be passionate about coffee, buy in only the best specialty coffee not cheap catering supply coffee because it is cheap, have quality tea, loose leave tea. Find someone who can bake mouth watering cakes. And to state the blindingly obvious, employ skilled baristas.

Do what you believe in, be true to yourself, follow your dreams, could be straight from The Alchemist, maybe it is.

What you are doing is what you are passionate about, what you love, you want to share that passion with others. Martin and I did not just start a brewery — we set out on a mission to make other people as passionate about great beer as we are.

Go on a course for would-be entrepreneurs and you will be instructed to draw up a bullshit business plan. Why? To bullshit someone in a bullshit job in a bank or other financial institution to hand you some money.

If you have an awesome product why do you need a sales team, even less a marketing department? The money spent on a sales team is money that should have been spent on your awesome product.

That awesome product is what people will want, they will tell others.

When a specialty coffee shop opens, the owner and baristas are passionate about what they do. Customer who love their coffee will tell their friends, bring their friends, bring ideas from other coffee shops, maybe if very lucky bring in guest coffee to try.

Do not produce cheap widgets with low margins and low cost as the selling point. Someone somewhere will undercut with a lower price. Then in a race to the bottom. Produce a quality product with a high margin, then have the money to reinvest. If attempts are made to lower your price, do not give in.

Two suppliers of catering supply coffee competing on price are in a race to the bottom. There are no winners, only losers. Coffee shops that buy their cheap coffee do not care what they serve their customers, they cannot compete with the corporate chains and eventually go out of business.

High Street chains compete with on-line by cutting service. We know how this ends, they go into liquidation.

A specialty coffee shop does not attempt to compete with corporate chains. They focus on what they are good at, serving high quality coffee. Word of mouth.

Roast quality coffee. Specialty coffee shops will curate as guest coffee. Customers will recommend to other coffee shops. These are your fans, they are advocates for your awesome product.

If you are successful at what you do, trolls will crawl out and attack you. These are pathetic people never successful at anything, who hate the success of others. Ignore them.

Dogged determination, a belief in what you are doing is essential. For the first six months Brew Dog was losing money. They needed to sell 70 cases of beer to break even, they were not even selling ten

Cash is king, without cash flow you are finished.

Jamie Oliver in the middle of an interview, the interview was curtailed, he had two hours to inject cash into Jamie’s Italian before the chain collapsed.

Profit is good, but cash is king. Without cash, no money to pay staff or creditors.

Banks lend to those who have money. Have more than one bank.

Look to alternative financing, crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding gives some goodies, an album, signed album, tickets to a concert. Brew Dog take this a step further with Equity for Punks, yes, get the goodies, but also get a stake in Brew Dog. Those who had faith at the beginning, have seen their shares increase in value by 500% within the first five years.

Brew Dog also have a share trading platform.

The people who have invested, share the same passion for craft beer, spread the word.

As I write, Equity for Punks V.

Look to suppliers for a soft loan. If you are a growing business, it is in their interest you grow as both grow together.

Be aware of opportunity costs. Invest 50,000 in a bottling line may appear a good deal, helps the business to grow, to satisfy demand, but what are not investing in?

That great sale may not be so great if do not get paid, even worse if they go bust.

Demand payment up front, demand payment on time. Late payment eats into cash. Cash is king.

Do everything yourself, you have no money to spend on frivolous activities.

Consultants will bleed you dry.

Focus groups are for losers. If you do not know your businesses, your customers, why are you in businesses.

Ladder pricing is an interesting concept. The product you wish to sell, give it a mid-price, not the highest, not the lowest. If the highest, it looks too expensive. If mid-price, lower price for people who want something cheaper and looking for a bargain, higher price for those who wish to pay a little extra, and the mid-price gives the impression getting a good deal. The actual price has not changed, only the relative pricing structure.

Marketing is for losers.

Marketing jobsworth know nothing about social media.

Word of your awesome product spreads by word of social media, that is word of mouth in a digital age.

Brew Dog at the beginning was selling more to Tokyo than Abderdeen.

Brew Dog did not court overseas distributors, they came to Brew Dog.

People hate advertising. Turn down the sound of the TV, go for a break, freebie magazines with zilch worthwhile content go straight in the bin.

Social media is personal space, when advertising intrudes, people hit back. Vodafone have you paid your tax, Nespresso we like coffee we would not drink your crap.

And yet they do not learn.

Do not grow the fish, grow the pond.

90% of the beer market is, or was, crap beer from the corporate conglomerates.

The same sadly could be said of coffee not only the chains serving crap undrinkable coffee, indie coffee shops serving rubbish corporate brand catering supply coffee.

In a coffee shop, baristas talk to interested customers, why direct trade better than fair trade, low roast better than dark roast, cappuccino not served scalding hot else bitter nor in oversize cups, and no do not dunk on top chocolate or add syrup, it is done to hide the bad taste of cheap coffee. Once the taste of good coffee has been acquired, the customer will ask of other specialty coffee shops in the locality. When visiting a new town, will seek out specialty coffee shops.

The pool is growing, making room for more fish.

Culture matters, everyone knows what they are doing, this is then reflected to the outside world.

Contrast with companies that keep employees in the dark, in soul destroying jobs, on minimum wage, zero hours.

Those that perform well in a job interview, may not be best suited, all they have demonstrated is they will perform well in a job that requires to perform well at interviews, for which job applicants are trained like monkeys jumping through hoops.

Be creative, do not look to the industry as will be a follower not a leader.

If Apple had looked to Nokia, they would have designed a better Nokia, instead they designed something different. Where is Nokia today? Nokia?

Ideas can come from anywhere.

All board members may only spend fifty percent of their time on current issue, the rest of their time on how to grow the business.

Layers of middle management, not wanted. People who have been on businesses courses not wanted, who have learnt how to draw up bullshit business plans, to devise structures for the company, to then distort the company to fit these structures.

Networking is for fools and posers and wannabes.

Take risks. Only by taking risks can move forward. Mistakes will be made. Learn from mistakes. The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never takes risks.

Brew Dog shipped beer overseas in kegs. The kegs failed to be returned. They leant there was a demand for Brew Dog overseas. How to solve the keg problem? How to meet the growing demand? They used KeyKegs, kegs that could be recycled. Except it has introduced a far bigger problem, KeyKegs are plastic, one way trip disposable plastic kegs. A disaster for the environment.

Be proactive not reactive. When problems arise, and they will, deal with them, knock them on the head, else will grow into larger problems.

Coffee Shop North

April 29, 2018

I want Coffee Shop North to be a platform not for me but for everyone involved in the north to discuss, explore and share their insights into the culture of coffee and its rising independent scene. — Dan Saul Pilgrim

Coffee Shop North was crowdfunded, a photo-essay of twenty-three indie coffee shops, seven cities and one town, across the North of England.

Inserted a booklet with portraits of coffee people.

Tamper in Sheffield, Spring in York, two of two dozen coffee shops featured.

Coupled with a collection of a dozen essays on coffee related themes.

Too many cafes, it would be stretching the point to call them coffee shops, are locked into the coffee scam, free machine, forced to buy poor quality overpriced coffee beans.

The norm for a speciality coffee shop, a house blend that does not change, a guest blend and maybe a few single origin speciality coffees for pour over. The only way to experience different coffees is to visit different coffee shops. Nothing of course wrong with that, part of the fun, different barista, different coffee, different techniques.

In ‘The Coffee Curators’ Lee Newell of Foundry in Sheffield questions why? Why not constantly change what is served, a challenge for the barista who then becomes a coffee curator, a challenge for the discerning clientele.

Two coffee shops that do just that, though not featured in Coffee Shop North, The Speciality Coffee Shop in Nottingham and Madame Waffle in Lincoln.

Too many of our towns have been destroyed by bad planning, corporate greed, and chains everywhere, an appalling sameness, then when a cursory glance at a remote spreadsheet does not show sufficient return, store closures leaving gaping holes in our town centres never to be filled.

Coffee shops offer something different, often a sensitive restoration of an old building, money is recycled within the local economy, a sense of place, something different, of character.

Coffee Shop North provides a sense of this sense of place.

Of limited edition, only on sale in indie coffee shops or indie bookshops. My copy was from Ideas on Paper, hidden in Cobden Chambers in Nottingham.

A few days later after picking up a copy of Coffee Shop North I was in York.  A few days after that flipping through Coffee Shop North I recognised the Synesso espresso machine, it was what I had spotted in Spring Espresso Lendal in York, the only one in the country.

I had thought, would it not be a clever idea to have Coffee Shop North signed in each coffee shop visited, or at least try and visit.

So far, only  Spring Espresso Lendal, though I did not have the book for signing.

Comparison would be Coffee Style, a hardback of stunning coffee related photos.  Or maybe Drift, coffee culture city by city.

If a guide to coffee shops in the North, then maybe The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, not that Coffee Shop North claims to be a guide or even attempts to be comprehensive, it is a snapshot of time and place. But a word of caution,  The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide is not as it appears, it is not a guide or at least not as claimed, a guide loses all credibility when coffee shops are being charged £500 for an entry, write their own entry, coffee shops that should be featured are not, several that are should not.

The inspiration for Coffee Shop North was living and working coffee in the North.

My first experience with coffee goes hand in hand with my first experience away from home. I moved to Leeds in September 2010 to study graphic design. A thirty minute commute along the River Aire took me past a little espresso bar known as La Bottega Milanese. Opened not long before my arrival to the city, Alex the owner is Milan born and bred and had worked in coffee to support his graphic design studies not dissimilar to myself. La Bottega was a first of its kind — the first Milanese style espresso bar in Leeds. Given my inherent affection for Italian culture and the stylishly designed exterior, I was drawn to the shop and every day I would supplement my walk into university with a flat white. My dad had passed down his appreciation for coffee and also Italian food and wine due to family. (Yes, it’s more Kiwi than Italian but at the time I was none the wiser!).

The choice between a bus fare of the same price or a beautifully poured drink every morning was a no-brainer: the flat white became synchronous with my independence.

I respected Alex and his perseverance to establish this coffee culture in a northern English city. A year later I worked for him for a few months at the opening of his second shop (more a late night concept espresso bar) to aid my own studies and during that time met quite a few of the baristas intended to feature within the very pages of the book. My appreciation of the drink, the place and people grew and so to did my knowledge.

Four years later, I have spent countless hours in coffee shops in five cities particularly in the north of England. I’ve witnessed and been lucky enough to be part of a scene that has grown quickly in such a short space of time. Within the four (or more) walls of each shop there are stories to be told through image and word. I am but one person with an intimate story and appreciation that has stemmed from one drinkplace and person.

I want Coffee Shop: North to be a platform not for me but for everyone involved in the north to discuss, explore and share their insights into the culture of coffee and its rising independent scene.

A few minor criticisms of Coffee Shop North, the very large typeface at the beginning and irritating to be told what people are wearing as that only serves to regurgitate the myth coffee shops are for hipsters only ordinary folk not welcome, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It would have been useful to know where each coffee shop was, at the very least the town or city, and ideally, web address and twitter.

Dan Saul Pilgrim author of Coffee Shop North lived in the North, discovered specailty coffee and coffee shops, and for a while worked in a coffee shop.

Coffee cupping on St Joseph’s Day

March 19, 2018

For the last few years together with friends from across the world we have celebrated St Joseph’s Day at a party hosted by Paulo Coelho and his wife Christina.

This year celebrated St Joseph’s Day with an evening of coffee cupping at Coffee Aroma.

Last week, an afternoon of conversation and book signing with Stephen Leighton, author of Coffeeography. He left behind samples of coffee beans from the producers featured in Coffeeography.  As I write, wonderful aroma from the coffee samples.

Coffee cupping is to coffee what wine tasting is to wine.

What better way the celebrate the hard work of the producers than a coffee cupping on St Joseph’s Day, St Joseph the patron saint of workers.

The beans were ground, placed in a cupping bowl, hot water poured on, left for four minutes.

A group of half a dozen people, roughly half staff, half  customers took it in turn to sample the coffees.

Four coffees, two sessions.

Blind tasting. The origin to be revealed later.

I would have changed how this was carried out.

Grind the coffee, each sample the aroma of the ground beans, pour in the hot water, wait four minutes, one person for each cup, remove the crust, sample the aroma that erupts when the crust removed, then with a sampling spoon, sample each coffee.

Whilst noticing a difference, I did not notice a big difference. I noticed a far bigger difference cupping beans from Los Nogales Project, twelve different samples from the same estate.

Curious. I offer an explanation.

When Stephen Leighton chooses the beans he has in mind what he is looking for, which will select beans of similar profile.

Real Fresh Coffee has a section on coffee cupping, Standart issue 6 a useful guide.

Standart is on sale in Madame Waffle or from Has Bean.

Coffee cupping is a sensory experience, sight, smell, taste.

Where the Wild Coffee Grows has a wonderful description of coffee drinking in Ethiopia as a sensory experience that engages all the senses.

In conversation with Stephen Leighton

March 14, 2018

An afternoon of conversation and book signing with Stephen Leighton, head of Hasbean and author of Coffeeography.

Launch event for Lincoln Coffee Festival took place in the first floor lounge of Coffee Aroma.

A very interesting afternoon of conversation with one of the lead players in coffee.

Stephen Leighton talked about the people and farms he obtains his coffee from. Long term relationships, friends of the family.

From a very humble beginning, Stephen fell in love with coffee as a child passing by a coffee shop with coffee roasting, he started with green beans, roasting on a pan at home, selling his roasted coffee off a market stall.

It was then trips to origin, where has formed long term relationships with the growers.

One family will recommend another farm, often in a different country.

Oxfam were invited to the event, they may have actually learnt something.

Stephen Leighton engages in direct trade, the farms are paid a higher price for quality.

Contrast with FairTrade. Farms are paid a tiny premium over and above commodity price. Fine if low altitude, low quality commodity coffee, they get a tiny margin above what they would otherwise get for low quality coffee destined for instant coffee or the coffee chains.

Instant coffee. Beans are boiled to remove any resemblance to coffee, then chemically adulterated to provide a coffee flavour.

FairTrade there is no incentive to the growers to improve the quality of the coffee, coffee is coffee is coffee, a commodity, price determined by international coffee markets in London and New York, a price determined by speculators.

To improve the quality requires more care in all the stages. Only the red coffee cherries, this may require several passes to pick the best ripe cherries, it requires careful sorting. All of which adds to the cost to the grower. Only worth it if these extra costs are recuperated if can command a higher price for the coffee. This will happen with speciality coffee, where everyone in the chain wants higher quality and is willing to pay for it, the coffee roaster, the indie coffee shop, the discerning coffee drinker, it will not happen with commodity coffee.

Therefore when buying a bag of Hasbean coffee from Coffee Aroma, or a bag of Square Mile coffee from Madame Waffle, or a bag of coffee direct from Union Hand-Roasted, you will pay a higher price, in return, higher quality coffee, a better price to the grower.

FairTrade has degenerated into marketing hype for low quality coffee, a brand.

It is difficult to know, has the latte levy had an impact, or at least the proposed latte levy, which the government has refused to implement?

It may have made people think, and the clientele in specialty coffee shops tend to care more.

Do we discourage takeaway coffee, encourage sit and relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic? If takeaway, encourage use of compostable cups or offer a discount if a customer brings in a clean KeepCup for a refill?

What are the life cycle costs?

What we do know, plastic is destroying the planet. At the very least we need a discussion between barista and customer, to explore the options.

Business as usual, plastic-lined disposable paper coffee cups, is not an option.

A 5p levy on flimsy plastic carrier bags has reduced their use by in excess of 80%. It has though had an unintended side effect.

People buy a cotton tote bag. Next time out shopping buy another, then another. There is now a world shortage of cotton and the price of cotton has soured.

Cotton is one of the worst environmentally damaging commercial crops grown. Big demand for water, toxic cocktail of chemicals sprayed on the plants, toxic chemicals used to process the cotton.

Apples in a supermarket are graded to give a uniform size. There is no rationale for this other than convenience for the supermarket. Those rejected as non-standard, perfectly good apples, go to waste.

The same happens with coffee. Kenyan AA, is no measure of quality, it is a measure of size.

The same bad habits in coffee, rejection of smaller beans. When cupped for flavour, found to be quality beans, beans that were being sold as commodity coffee, and thus commanding a low price.

Every bean has a story to tell. Coffeeography attempts to tell that story. Do we know that story when we drink our coffee? Coffee mats cf beer mats, postcards, information leaflets, a story on the bag of beans, a QR code to scan?

What is insufficient information, what is too much?

At the very least, farm where sourced from, Q rating, roast date.

What is a coffee shop, or at least an indie coffee shop?

Traditionally, from when coffee shops were first established as coffee spread from Yemen, across Arabia, through the Ottoman Empire and into Europe, places of discussion, discussion whilst drinking coffee.

A discussion with Stephen Leighton, over a coffee carefully brewed by Sarah hard at work downstairs, was to recreate if only for an afternoon those early days.

Coffee shops were also places where merchants met to discuss trade. And yes, trade was discussed.

Book signing for those who bought a book. For those who could not make it who wished to come, a few signed books have been kept back. Very limited numbers, first come first served. Please ask.

A couple of us were very lucky and given a presentation box of coffee samples.

As I write, a beautiful aroma is wafting across from the coffee samples.

The afternoon was the launch event for the Lincoln Coffee Festival. Check with Lincoln Coffee Collective for details of further events. Watch out for a coffee cupping session.

Special thanks to Stephen Leighton and those who paricipated for an interesting discussion, and to Coffee Aroma for hosting.

Last year Dale Harris Director of wholesale at Hasbean won the World Barista Championships.

Hasbean will be opening a pop up coffee shop in Brick Lane for the duration of the London Coffee Festival (12-15 April 2018).

Café W

January 31, 2018

What used to be Ottaker’s in the High Street got taken over by Waterstone’s. It had a Costa, which has been replaced by Café W.

Ambience ok nearly always empty apart from a few working on laptops or reading books scavenged from the book shelves.

Girl serving pleasant enough though not a clue on coffee. I have never ever seen anyone pour out of the side of a pouring jug. She did at least ask did I want chocolate.

My cappuccino undrinkable. Served piping hot and a very unpleasant bitter taste indicating rubbish coffee.

The coffee Mathew Algie catering supply. A skilled barista would be pushed to do anything with this rubbish.

Yes, excellent Waterstone’s have kicked out Costa, but if running as your own coffee shop, at least buy in quality coffee, employ skilled baristas and buy a decent espresso machine and grinder. Otherwise why bother?

For excellent coffee in Lincoln try Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle and Makushi.

Little Tree; a film of their own

December 14, 2017