Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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.


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


It was by chance that I’ve found Little Tree last January.  After a walk around the Acropolis, we were looking for a comfortable place to seat. As soon as we got in, I was struck by the fact that this place was not only warm but also calm. Of course you could hear the music playing at the background but people seemed to be so relaxed reading their books or having a chat without having to make so much noise. I thought that maybe we shouldn’t be making noise after all, as this seemed to be- and should remain-a little quiet sacred place: something like a study room in a library.

In the following months, I learnt more about it and I fell under its charm: not only because of its unique setting -under a little tree, behind the acropolis museum-, but also because of its special offerings sweets and…

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Coffee Style

December 4, 2017

A wonderful book to browse, a collection of coffee related photographs.

Stunning photography.

Very little text, and what text there is, informative on coffee.

A book ideal for browsing in a coffee shop.

Ideal for the table in the undercroft at the rear of Makushi.

Afternoon in Reading

December 4, 2017

I had intended to visit Reading last week, but too cold. Today cold and damp, but lacking the cold north wind. In Reading it was fresher, not so damp.

Train on the way to Reading, display not working, wifi not connecting to Internet.

As walk from Station to town centre, what appears to be a Victorian Arcade, though the building not Victorian, or at least does not appear to be. I cut through Harris Arcade.

My initial impression correct, Harris Arcade built in the 1930s by John Harris.

A coffee in Workhouse.

Very annoyed chocolate dumped on my cappuccino. They should know better.

18 different coffee beans to buy.  Espresso machine, the pumps are in a rack on the wall.

I would have stayed to eat, but not tempted by what is on offer.

I wish Waterstone’s would not insult readers and coffee lovers with their very poor choice of coffee books.

Coffee Art and Coffee Style excellent, but not Where to Drink Coffee, one of the most useless guides written.

Lunch and a coffee at Artigiano, my reason for revisiting Reading. I had looked in on my last visit, but no time for a coffee.

I was not impressed on my last visit, and not impressed today by their poor choice of food, poor choice, and expensive. Nor that upstairs was out of bounds due to a private party.

I can though see why upstairs hired out. Not busy.

I would have had bacon and brie, but not available. Beetroot yuk, chutney yuk, mustard less yuk. I settled for the ham, salami and mustard.

Not good. Poor quality bread, sent down from London, and ruined by the vile tasting mustard.

It is better to let the customer add mustard, add chutney, if they wish. Also better to make fresh food periodically throughout the day, not early in the day, then remove at three o’clock.

The problem, Artigiano have no kitchen staff. Whether this is cannot find, or directive from head office to cut staff, the same problem Harris + Hoole has now owned by tax-dodging Caffe Nero, loss of good staff, never see same staff twice, death by a thousand cuts, I do not know.

Not a place to eat. Though that is true of all the good coffee shops in Reading.

By contrast, excellent cappuccino, a blend from Origin. far superior to Origin coffee I have been served in Canopy Coffee.

No single origin or pour over coffee.

2.5 billion takeaway cups a year are thrown away in the UK. Anything we can do to reduce this trash mountain is to be welcomed.

In Artigiano, takeaway cups are paper, paper that can be composted. The lids are plant-based plastic, thus biodegradable.

So far so good, except too simplistic.

If I am on my way home, if I have bought fruit and vegetables from the shop in the nearby alley, I can pop in my bag with my fresh produce, then throw on my compost heap when I arrive home.

What though if not on my way home? What then do I do with the cup? Throw in the bushes, throw in the river, throw in the nearest litter bin? And that is the dilemma, and why compostable paper cups are not the answer. Yes, if have a captive audience, with a bin for the cups that can then be collected and composted, but if that be the case, why use disposable cups?

Artigiano sell KeepCup. Plastic is light, relatively cheap, but made of plastic. Glass is heavy, expensive, and shatters if dropped. Plus have to cart around the KeepCup.

If buy a KeepCup, first drink free, 15p discount thereafter. If buy a coffee every working day, then will take five months to break even if buy a glass KeepCup, two and a half months if buy a plastic KeepCup.

KeepCup only comes into its own if popping out from the office for a coffee.

The only real solution to the problem of disposable coffee cups is to discourage their use, if not an outright ban.

Interesting conversation with the barista.

Cappuccino in CUP.

Interesting art on the walls. Ink line drawings.

One was an avenue of coppiced trees. I recognised, unless several such avenues, as used by Gary Nicholls for The Imaginarium.

I caught the same train as two weeks ago, 1732 to Gatwick. Possibly the worst train to catch, as everyone leaving work. As two weeks ago, packed in like sardines, standing room only. Two weeks ago, the train emptied at the first stop. Not today, more people got on than the few that got off.

The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide

September 18, 2017

I had popped into Madame Waffle and noticed that not only Standart on sale, they also had The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide on sale.

Now in it third edition, what was the The Northern Independent Coffee Guide  now includes Wales, hence the change in  tittle.

Inclusion of Wales  a huge mistake. North Wales is not the North of England. Why not a guide for Wales?

A new editor, and I guess to justify her existence the format has changed.

Moot point whether for the better or not.

The maps are now associated  with their relevant entries, which is an improvement.

Gone the information about coffee, which is a great loss.  Instead, a brief sketch of key coffee people.

Noticeable by his absence, Bruce Whetton at Madame Waffle,  like Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, a pioneer of speciality coffee before it became trendy. Hopefully an omission to be corrected in the fourth edition.

A noticeable increase in the thickness. Whether due to an increase in the speciality coffee scene or being padded out with North Wales, I do not know.

Several entries, light text on a  dark background, not a good idea, as nigh unreadable.

A noticeable absence from the first edition, was Stokes, included in the second edition, now relegated to the footnotes, and deservedly so.

From Christmas to New Year, a noticeable loss of quality. Several months later their house blend undrinkable.

Stokes need to decide what they are.

Are they a supplier of catering supply coffee to greasy spoon cafes, bars and hotels, in a race to the bottom with local supplier Lincoln Tea and Coffee, that bag from bulk roasters low quality commodity coffee, over-roasted, defective beans with an unpleasant aroma? Or are they a supplier of speciality coffee? At the very least, form a separate and distinct division, Stokes Speciality Coffee, with its own distinct packaging, and show case at The Lawn.

A shame to see a fourth generation family coffee business fall by the wayside.

Stokes have recently relocated their roastery and offices to The Lawn, and opened Stokes Lawn Cafe at The Lawn, though Stokes at The Lawn would have been a better name. At The Lawn they have three excellent baristas, have invested in top quality equipment, the ambience is pleasant, as are the staff,  then let themselves down with poor quality beans.

I am pleased to see Madame Waffle has now been included, a noticeable omission from previous editions.

But why no inclusion of Makushi, a coffee shop and roastery half way up Steep Hill?

Another addition I would recommend The Little Tractor Coffee Shop, hidden within Bird’s Yard, a junk shop at the bottom of Steep Hill.

Coffee trails are new for this edition.

My suggestion for a Lincoln Coffee Trail (starting in the High Street where the River Witham flows through the town centre): Stokes on High Bridge,  Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle,  Stokes at The Collection, The Little Tractor Coffee Shop, Makushi, Stokes Lawn Cafe. [see Coffee culture in Lincoln]

Personally I would not use a guide, I prefer to see where my feet take me, wander around, discover for myself. I did though find interesting, the various coffee shops and if I was in one of these towns, then yes, I may be tempted to pop in.

The downside  of taking me where my feet take, may have the advantage of discovery, but too many bad coffee shops, too much bad coffee.

I have never understood why anyone opens a coffee shop to serve bad coffee, though too many do. If I wanted bad coffee I would frequent the chains.

There can though be no excuse for drinking that undrinkable yuk in Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks or Caffè Nero, when armed with a copy of The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide it is easy to find somewhere that serves coffee worthy of the name, and once tried, you will never go back.


July 1, 2017

I often find interesting books in Cafe Mila, not the rubbished hyped by marketing.

It was in Cafe Mila, I picked up and had a browse of Coffee.

A glossy picture, with facing page text printed on glossy paper making difficult to read. The two contributors not experts  on coffee.

Not a book I would recommend.

For a brief introduction, cannot go far wrong with How to Brew the Perfect Cup from Union Hand-Roasted Coffee.

For something can easily read in afternoon, or browse in a coffee shop, Coffee and Cold Brew Coffee.

For something more substantial, the definitive guides to coffee, but still can be browsed whilst sitting in a coffee shop, The World Atlas of Coffee, The Best of JimSeven and Real Fresh Coffee.

To curl up and read, God in a Cup.

Yanis Varoufakis discussing Adults in the Room

May 1, 2017

Yanis Varoufakis and Paul Mason in conversation at Union Chapel to discuss Adults in the Room, an account of the European Deep State.

Larry Summers asked Yanis Varoufakis, are you in the inside or the outside?

In other words, are you one of us?

Christine Lagarde, after hours of fighting with Yanis Varoufakis, relaxing afterwards, admitted, he was right, and what was was being done to Greece was wrong, but it had to be done to satisfy the political establishment.

In discussion with US Treasury, they admitted, what was being done by the EU to destroy Greece, they were not happy with, but Greece was Germany’s sphere of influence, and they could not interfere.

Yanis Varoufakis was then  warned, be aware, in a week, a smear campaign will be launched against you by the EU.

One week later, that was what happened, a smear campaign was run. Lazy journalists, with ties to the Deep State, were briefed, they print their lies, and the rest  of the media regurgitates. Lies become facts.

If Yanis Varoufakis attempts to correct the lies, it is then reported as Yanis Varoufakis denies he said. That was never said, not reported.

Until that is he was interviewed by the New York Times, and said it was all a  pack of lies. Who should we believe, it is your word against theirs? Ah, yes, I recorded the meetings.

Not all journalists are of the calibre or integrity of Paul Mason.

Greece was neither here nor there. Greece had to be destroyed to serve as a warning to others.

We are seeing the same with Brexit. UK cannot be seen as being better off outside the EU. It must be punished to serve as a warning to others. That this will destroy Europe is seen as irrelevant.

Yanis Varoufakis set up the Untouchables, a secret task force to deal with Oligarchs and tax dodgers. They obtained records from the banks to show where the money was flowing, then compared with tax receipts. They then offered an amnesty, declare and we will tax you at 15%, we are letting you off lightly, fail to declare and we will bring criminal prosecutions, and by the way, we know who you are.

This programme, which would have brought in billions of euros, was scrapped by the Troika.

The Troika was supported by the Oligarchs, the Troika in turn supported the Oligarchs.

When Greece held its referendum, the media campaigned against No to the Troika. The media owned by the Oligarchs. The Greeks showed courage, they voted No, even though they knew there would be a price to pay. They were betrayed by Greek politicians.

A condition of the next bailout, was to scrap the programme to claw back the tax that had been dodged.

Know who is your enemy, the enemy within. In Labour, those who sabotage the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

In Brighton, it is insanity for Labour to oppose Caroline Lucas.

Everyone urged to join DiEM25 to form progressive alliances across Europe.

We have to transfer power back to nation states, back to town halls, back to people, at the same time, network and cooperate.

When Greece needed help and support, they were betrayed by politicians across Europe, politicians who pretend to be progressive.

When someone says they want to be a politician, want power, they are the people not to vote for.

Cappuccino in Makushi

April 11, 2017

A pleasant afternoon, sunny, but cold in the wind,

I walked up Steep Hill, to Makushi.

Well strictly speaking, I did not, I walked up The Strait, went on a detour to The Collection, then carried on up Well Lane, along Danesgate, which brought me half way up Steep Hill, opposite Makushi.

I walked up Steep Hill, as far as Pimento tea rooms, and looked in Imperial Teas located in Norman House, Bookstop Cafe is located in the undercroft below.

Mainly tea, but they also do coffee.  I counted seven shelves, each with five large jars of coffee. More shelves of the same coffee behind the counter.

I did not sample any, but they looked over roasted.  No roast date given, and when I asked, given the usual story, freshly roasted, only yesterday. Unless large turnover then I doubt at their best.

I was reminded of La Cafeína in La Laguna.

On the way up, I popped in Madame Waffle, picked up latest copy of Caffeine, inquired if they had copies left of Standart, yes they did, I said I would pick up later.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been waiting for the latest batch of beans in Makushi, this time from Brazil, today they were in.

When one thinks of Brazil, one thinks of large mechanised plantations, low quality commodity coffee.

But they also grow and produce quality coffee.

Today, florentines. I resisted the temptation, had three put in a box.

The little garden out the back is now open. I am pleased to report, No Smoking.

Back down in the town, Standart issues 6 and 7 picked up from Madame Waffle. I wish I could find issue 5. Strange Standart do not list Madame Waffle as a stockist.

Looked in Ruddock’s, which is closing after 163 years in business, last day Easter Saturday.

Henry’s tea rooms will also have last day on Easter Saturday.