Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

If coffee commercials were honest

August 21, 2020

Brilliant spoof of promotion of crap undrinkable commodity coffee.

I like coffee, I enjoy coffee, but I am not addicted.

Coffee contains a psychoactive substance, caffeine.

The coffee plant is closely related to qat (there are many variations of spelling for example khat) often referred to as coffee’s evil sister. Qat is highly addictive and as a more profitable crop has replaced coffee in Yemen where for generations coffee grew on terraces and the port of Mokka grew rich on the export of coffee beans. WHO has a separate category for qat, US classifies as dangerous as heroin. Qat contains the alkaloid cathinone. The leaves are chewed or used as an infusion to produce qat tea.

Unlike it’s evil sister qat, coffee is a legal psychoactive drug.

I am bombarded every day with offers of coffee and coffee equipment I do not want.

No, I do not want Nespresso. Coffee from a Nespresso machines is vile undrinkable coffee. That is not to say the machine cannot make decent coffee, it can, just do not use Nespresso pods. A €60 Nespresso machine will make excellent espresso, but only if use third party pods.

I used to be bombarded daily by CoffeeJack, but since highlighting the many flaws, gone very quiet. They blocked me and deleted my critical questions. Er, blocked me, it was they trolling me with their promotions.

Nor do I wish to buy coffee from roasteries I have never heard of, that not once have I ever encountered in a coffee shop as guest coffee.

For me coffee is a drink to be enjoyed as would a good wine.  To be enjoyed at leisure served in glass or ceramic.

Good coffee does not need sugar or syrups or to be carpet bombed with chocolate. The over-roasted cheap commodity coffee served up by corporate chains does require to mask the vile taste of what would otherwise be undrinkable.

Fair Trade is a marketing scam to make middle class feel good and to never delve deeper into the exploitation surrounding coffee.

Fair Trade pays a tiny premium above the commodity price. There is no incentive for farmers to improve as they will not get a higher price for quality.

Talk to your barista, buy coffee that is Direct Trade, where farmers get a higher price for quality, where there is traceability back to origin.

And of course we never mention tax dodging that we structure our company across borders to avoid paying tax where we make money.

Imagine honest advertising for what masquerades as a bar of ‘chocolate’.

‘Chocolate’, a bar of fat and sugar, it would not be every palatable, nor sound too good in our marketing, so we add a little cocoa powder, though if we wish to be real cheapskates it will be flavouring, then we add palm oil or soy but keep quiet about the environmental damage, may be listed as emulsifiers, added to improve the texture, we could use coca butter but the alternatives are far cheaper and we have to have margins to pay for the advertising for you suckers, then additives as it kinda does not taste too good a bar of fat and sugar.

Next time you buy what you think is a bar of ‘chocolate’ please check the list of ingredients. If it ain’t cocoa solids, sugar, cocoa butter, maybe vanilla, but nothing else, then it ain’t chocolate.

Covid-19 indie coffee shops

June 12, 2020

Will indie coffee shops survive covid-19 pandemic?

I will roughly divide thoughts, observations and conversations before lockdown, during lockdown and what will happen next.

Maybe ten days before lockdown, a visit to Nottingham a large city, not deserted but few people about. One coffee shop closing early few customers. Next coffee shop, few customers, less than half their usual number of customers,  numbers dropping daily.

A couple of days before lockdown, visiting Sheffield a large city, station deserted, a kiosk on my way into the city centre told me I would find the city centre deserted, few people about, little open, restaurants I passed by, the few that were open, the few that had customers maybe a couple of diners. I ate and had coffee at Marmadukes, a coffee shop usually very busy, I was the only person there. Business down by at least 80%. Coffee shops were closing at three. In part no customers, in part to let staff home before rush hour, not that there was a rush hour. Talking to the owner of another coffee shop, the question on his mind, how was he to survive?

Before lockdown, measures were already in place, hand sanitiser by the entrance, compostable coffee cups, contactless cards, no reusable cups.

The kiosk in Sheffield I passed by earlier, after I talked to them, a sign no reusable cups.

Lockdown a mixed blessing, at least cost of staff covered by furlough, rents deferred.

Lincoln a city during lockdown. The chains stayed open for a few days then closed. Indie coffee shops closed immediately. A few weeks ago, one large coffee shop a small chain opened for takeaway. A slow trickle of customers but I doubt it will cover the cost of two staff. The only advantage, they are open before the corporate chains, maybe they will attract and retain some of their clientele.

Many coffee shops have no future. Too small to manage social distancing. A kiosk can survive on takeaway only, a coffee shop with higher overheads cannot. The large coffee shop, once rents and business rates kick back in, would not survive.

We had sunniest May on record, Mediterranean climate. The tragedy indie coffee shops and restaurants not able to spread their tables into the street. Win win for everyone. Kick starts the local economy, maintains social distancing, helps local businesses back on their feet, improves city centre ambience.

One coffee shop asked. They received an emphatic no. They currently employ eight staff on furlough. When furlough ends six will lose their jobs leaving two for takeaway coffee, but not a viable businesses.

Unfortunately we will not agree to you increasing the number of tables and chairs you use or the size of the area that you have at the current time (your enclosure needs to still be only outside the frontage of your premises).

Not even the courtesy of an explanation.

Looking at Guildford, the corporate coffee chains that litter our town centres, cafes pretending to be coffee shops, three coffee shops. Of the three I cannot see Canopy Coffee or Surrey Hills surviving as they do not have the option to expand into the street. Krema yes, if allowed to expand into Tunsgate, if not no. When first open, Krema did have its tables in the street and was ordered to remove them.

It is not only coffee shops at risk it is the entire supply chain. There are the coffee roasteries that supply the coffee shops, the growers who supply the coffee beans.

We can hear bird song, streets are traffic free, cities pollution free. We have been jolted into another now. There can be no going back to normal as normal was not normal.

We have to reclaim the streets.

In Athens in the evening the streets turn into restaurants. Athens is expanding its network of pedestrianised streets.

Sheffield has plans to expand pedestrianised streets.

North Laine in Brighton the restaurants, coffee shops and other shops are in the street. There are plans to expand the pedestrianised streets.

Soho has plans to pedestrianise the area, turn into one large open air coffee shop and restaurant. Currently awaiting approval from Westminster Council.

We all have to act. If not, we lose our coffee shops.

Talk to local councils and councillors, change the mindset that allows traffic into city centres, pedestrianise the city centre, allow indie coffee shops and restaurants to spread their tables into the street, no chains no pubs No Smoking.

Find and locate your local indie coffee shops. Support them.

If anyone wishes to follow me on social media, I will try and post every day indie coffee shops worth visiting and supporting. No guarantee they are open or when they will open.

Buy coffee. If not from a local coffee shop, from a coffee roastery.

Buy bean-to-bar craft chocolate.

Support local businesses.

Government has to extend furlough for local businesses if they are unable to open. Reducing social distancing from two metres to one metre does not help as it greatly increases the risk for staff and customers.

The Hairy Bikers’ Chocolate Challenge

February 18, 2020

I did not expect Hairy Bikers’ reality chocolate show on Channel 5 to be anything other than dire. It lived up to expectations.

Dire it was, gimmicky, dreadful presenters, dreadful contestants.

I endured five minutes then turned off in disgust. I tried again the next day. I managed ten minutes before giving up in disgust.

Set in the Nestlé factory in York, one of the worst corporations in the world. York where once upon a time Joseph Rowntree started.

Industrial chocolate.

I had hoped bean-to-bar chocolate, not fat and sugar.

The programme could have been set at York Cocoa Works. And at the very least, wander through the Shambles and look in Monk Bar Chocolatiers.

York, home of chocolate, and the viewers are insulted with corporate industrial chocolate.

Corporate chocolate makers lobbied in US to water down the definition of chocolate to include  emulsifiers and other additives.

Over the last two decades we have seen shocking reports about the use of child labor, sometimes under hazardous conditions, on cacao farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana, and of widespread destruction of forests in cacao-growing regions worldwide.

Public outcry had prompted the major chocolate companies to pledge to end the worst forms of child labour in the cacao industry. But no laws were ever passed in America to require this (those same companies lobbied against the legislation and quashed it), little has changed.

We find a similar corporate story with environmental impact. In 2017, 34 chocolate companies agreed to end deforestation by their industry. But according to a 2018 report by the environmental group Mighty Earth, cacao production was still ravaging forests, and the animals living within them, at an alarming rate.

Direct trade, traceability, transparency bean-to-bar chocolate makers source the best beans, place emphasis on the growing conditions, the terroir, the working conditions, will include details on their chocolates or on their websites.

Cacao grown under the shade of trees helps to protect the natural habitat.

Across the country we have bean-to-bar chocolate makers, viewers could have been introduced to quality chocolate, instead industrial chocolate in a Nestlé factory.

According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, sales of premium chocolates grew in the US 19 percent in 2018, compared with 0.6 percent for mainstream chocolate like the classic Hershey bar. Over the past decade, the number of small American bean-to-bar chocolate producers — the kind with cacao percentages and places of origin printed on those hyper-chic labels — has jumped from about five to more than 250.

We could have visited a cacao grower in the Amazon, learnt of the sacred origins of cacao, learnt how cacao is replacing coca in Colombia, that quality attracts a higher price than that paid by Nestlé, direct trade not the FairTrade scam, seen the different cacao pods, fermentation, selecting the roast profile, the processing to turn the cacao nibs into a bar of chocolate.

Maybe a visit to Casa Cacao to see what experts can then do with bean-to-bar chocolate.

But no, a Nestlé factory churning out industrial chocolate for the masses.

At the very least set within Hotel Chocolat. Each person have an expert on hand to advise. Then go through the rigorous selection process. But at a guess no one would have passed, and that would have been the end of the series.

Begs the question: Is this Channel 5 series sponsored by Nestlé?

Bullion bean to bar craft chocolate

February 6, 2020

What was I expecting? Coffee shop, large glass windows, beyond busy making chocolate?

I had trekked out from Sheffield city centre to Kelham Island, a desolate area of abandoned Victorian buildings, or at least caught a bus, choice of No 7 or No 8, driver not very helpful, had passed by where I needed to alight, with the eventual help of a lady at a flea market in one of the abandoned buildings, found Cutlery Works, in the far corner, a dim and dingy corner, Bullion, no one around, a sign instructing ding a bell. I decided to take a wander around the two floors of Cutlery Works, claimed to be the largest food hall in the North.

After a not very good coffee from Foundry Coffee Roasters, I returned to find now someone around.

A little crowd-funded coffee shop, not much larger than a kiosk, a seating area, and beyond, where bullion bean-to bar chocolate made.

I had encountered Bullion at Steam Yard, I was now at their chocolate making facility.

Three bars of chocolate, No 1, No 2, No 3. wrapped to look like bars of gold.

I thought Bullion, gold bars, expensive. No, though could be, cacao beans were used by the Mayans as currency, such did they value chocolate, which they consumed, not as bars or as chocolate, a hot spicy drink for their elite. Gold bars as currency.

Christopher Columbus encountered cacao beans on his fourth voyage, where he found to be used as currency.

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, a seventeenth century writer and historian, gave an account of what the cacao beans would buy among the Nicaroa people.

  • one rabbit – ten beans
  • eight pieces of a local fruit munoncapot – four beans
  • the company of a lady – ten beans
  • a slave – one hundred beans

When Spanish Conquistadors raided closely guarded treasure houses they found not gold, sacks of cacao beans.

Chocolate was a gift from the gods. Mesoamerican cultures transformed cacao beans into a mystical drink that was a portal to other worlds and dimensions.

Chocolate maker Max introduced himself. Offered samples of No 2 and No 3 to try and apologised no No 1.

Taste was that of fruits, not added flavourings  God forbid, the natural favours notes of chocolate, each different.

I would have had a coffee, but no barista. I regretted my coffee at Foundry Coffee Roasters, as Bullion were sourcing top quality coffee from Caravan.

On offer various chocolate themed cakes.

I was looking forward to a cookie, but had sold out.

Currently experimenting with coffee infused chocolate. If chocolate good but not good enough to stand on its own merits.

The coffee beans ground very fine in an EK43 coffee grinder, then ground again with the chocolate.

I tasted. It changed the flavour profile of the chocolate, though not noticeable coffee.

Coffee grounds have their uses, add to compost heaps, add to cakes. I suggested try adding coffee grounds. Max was not sure due to water content.

I also suggested embed coffee beans on the top of the bar of chocolate to give a crunch and interesting texture when biting into the bar.

Another possibility chocolate coated coffee beans.

Food for thought.

Bean-to-bar chocolate is following in the footsteps of coffee. Direct trade, working with growers, fairer prices for quality, not the Fair Trade scam, transparency and traceability, care with fermentation to bring out the intrinsic flavours, roast profile to safeguard the intrinsic flavours.

I came away with a beautiful presentation box, into which exactly fitted three bars of chocolate and a bookmark with information on the chocolates. No number 1, but I was given a small sampler bar as recompense. I could have popped to Steam Yard but no time. Luckily I found I had No 1 from a recent visit to Steam Yard.

On the bookmark, details of the different chocolates.

There are as many wines as people, as many coffees as people, as many cacao as people.

We are used to seeing the name of the chateau or vineyard the year on a wine label. We are seeing the same with specialty coffee, starting to see with bean-to bar chocolate, the name of the farm, the grower, the variety, how processed, altitude, region.

Coffee has more flavour notes than red wine, chocolate more than coffee.

In the early 18th century,  in his Conversations with Eckermann,  Goethe said: ‘One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best’.

Taste is dictated by culture, some may think Cadbury’s make chocolate, to eat at McDonald’s is haute cuisine or that tax-dodging Starbucks serves coffee.

Paulo Coelho discusses with reference to fashion in The Winner Stands Alone, we all wish to belong to a tribe, dress in the uniform of the tribe, all look alike.

In Clear Bright Future, Paul Mason contrasts the diktat of  fashinistas with the individuals of the 1960s who led not followed.

Bourdieu calls this phenomena habitus, the influence upon us of our surrounding culture.

When the beans are roasted, be coffee or cacao, the roast profile is determined by the desire to bring out the intrinsic flavours of the beans. Which in turn are determined by the grower, the terroir.

The merit of a bar of chocolate is no more determined by how bitter, how dark, the percentage of cocoa mass,  than the merit of a bottle wine the alcohol content or a cup of coffee how bitter or strong.

The role of the barista source the best beans to deliver an excellent cup of coffee, that of the bean-to-bar chocolate maker source the best beans to deliver an exquisite bar of chocolate, no additives, no emulsifiers, only cocoa mass, cocoa butter sugar and maybe a little vanilla.

If do not wish to trek out to Kelham Island, then visit Steam Yard, excellent coffee and not only Bullion on sale but also Bare Bones.

Nearby Tamper Westfield Terrace on my last visit also had on sale Bullion, though I do not recall the complete range.

Both coffee shops serve excellent coffee.

Bullion is featured in From Bean to Bar, a whimsical tour of bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Great Britain.


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