Archive for the ‘coffee’ Category

Opening the box Halo

May 13, 2021

It was with some reluctance and against my better judgement I ordered compostable coffee capsules from Halo.

Meaningless environmental claims, hype. Quality is inversely proportional to hype.

But, with low expectations, I may be pleasantly surprised.

Service reasonable, order placed Monday and confirmed, Tuesday notified had been dispatched. Delivered in the post early this afternoon.

A long black box. Not impressed. Follow the example of Grind and Kiss the Hippo or Riverford, plain cardboard boxes, well designed, minimal impact on the environment. So much the Halo claim packaging minimal impact on the environment.

Open the box, two long boxes shrink-wrapped in what is claimed to be compostable plastic. We will see.

Inside the lid, told

  • The world’s best coffees, in a way that’s best for the world.
  • THIS BOX HAS BEEN A BOX BEFORE AND WOULD LIKE TO BE A BOX AGAIN. PLEASE RECYCLE.

If the world’s best coffee, then specialty grade, high Q grade, high 80s, low 90s. No mention of Q grade. Nor mention of origin other than country.

Kopi Luwak is not the world;s best coffee, far from it, it is to support a vile trade in animal cruelty. Had I known Halo was involved in this vile trade, I would not have ordered from Halo. Any company that supports this vile trade should be driven out of business.

If wish to recycle the box, then ship as a plain cardboard box.

Opening the box, a faint pleasant aroma of dried fruits, maybe dates or figs. The two boxes inside with the capsules is supposed to be an oxygen barrier, but the aroma suggests not effective and that the capsules are porous.

Capsules limited shelf life, use by December 2021, which again suggests the capsules do not provide a very effective oxygen barrier.

The two boxes, each containing ten compostable capsules

  • Daterra Moonlight
  • Pacamara

shrink wrapped in compostable capsules to provide what is claimed to be an oxygen barrier.

At least once opened, I have found a use for the tin from Grind. [see Opening the box Grind]

A bag of coffee when opened, often even before opened, a wonderful aroma of the coffee, a promise of what is to come. With capsules nothing, which at least shows the capsule is functioning as it should, an oxygen-free environment for the coffee.

With Halo, stripping off the outer oxygen barrier, open a box of capsules, Daterra Moonlight, an interesting, not unpleasant smoky aroma that I cannot quite place. But, unfortunately shows we do not have an effective oxygen barrier to keep the coffee fresh.

A porous capsule is to miss the plot. The advantages of capsules

  • optimum grind
  • optimum freshness
  • oxygen-free environment

The capsules, made from rice and paper, is of the look and feel of an egg box or the compressed card sometimes used for tomatoes. mushrooms and strawberries .

Inside the lid of the box of capsules, a neat touch, an offcut of card, information on the coffee, that also serves as a bookmark.

Kiss the Hippo carbon negative

May 11, 2021

Since day one, sustainability has been at the core of everything we do. We never wanted to make empty gestures — we wanted to be pioneers, a brand that leads by example, encouraging bigger organisations to make positive changes in its wake. — Kiss the Hippo

Excellent news, Kiss the Hippo carbon negative.

Kiss the Hippo the only company in London to be recognised as carbon negative.

We hear much from companies that they are carbon neutral. Scratch away the greenwash and what we find is that they have planted a few trees as carbon offsets and are still emitting carbon.

Carbon neutral is not sufficient, we need carbon negative. We also need regenerative agriculture, to improve soil structure, carbon capture, grass-grazed herbivores. We also need rewilding, reforestation of our hills and water catchment areas, restoration of peat bogs, reintroduction of European beavers.

Kiss the Hippo is not only carbon negative, they are one of the top coffee roasteries in the country, supplying coffee beans and their Broad Street house blend in compostable coffee capsules.

10 Best Coffee Pods To Buy In 2021

May 10, 2021

Luxury eco-friendly pods to try for a guilt-free caffeine fix.

Not my choice, that of Elle.

Chances are, the past year has seen you forgo your daily commute, and with it your flat white. And while it might have saved you a few pounds, we really miss a proper barista-made brew

The good news is we’ve managed to hunt down the best coffee pods (that are eco-friendly too!) to ensure you get a great-tasting cup of coffee, without wreaking havoc on the environment.

  • joint best compostable coffee pod Halo Honduras Nespresso Compatible Capsule
  • joint best compostable coffee pod Kiss the Hippo Nespresso Compatible Compostable Pods

Elle that well known magazine with expertise in coffee. Er, I think not, and it shows.

This morning, an e-mal from Halo, ELLE Winner: Best Compostable Coffee Pod! Really, well let’s check it out, compared with what.

In their Top 10, Grind, Lavazza, Eden Project, which says it all, their lack of knowledge of coffee.

When see magazines, newspapers promoting the Best Coffee, Independent recently had a similar list, just ignore.

Grind coffee capsules malfunction

May 9, 2021

Emptying the bin of Opal One, separating aluminium from compostable capsules, to take the compostable capsules to the garden compost heap, I noticed the Grind capsules were malfunctioning. Instead of a matrix of tiny holes, a tear.

Easy to see, and even more noticeable if compare Grind with other capsules. The Grind easy to identify, the pink capsules.

I tried another Grind capsule. At first I thought no problem, but look carefully, a small tear can be seen.

  • Batch: 6111
  • E: 05/03/2023
  • P: 05/03/2021 15:04:52

Does this explain the poor quality of the coffee, bypass being experienced by others? Possibly not, poor quality down to poor quality coffee, bypass probably down to using Nespresso machines which have high failure rate with third party capsules.

Espresso-based coffee

May 6, 2021

Excellent guide by European Coffee Trip to espresso-based coffee.

Walk into a coffee shop and two things will possibly catch your eye, an espresso machine and all too often a bewildering array of different espresso-based coffee to choose from, and to add to that confusion no consistency on how made or even on what they are called.

But first, what is espresso, what does it mean?

An espresso is finely ground coffee, water forced through the coffee at high pressure, nominally nine bars.

If thinking of home espresso, think again, a lot of work for a mug of coffee, not unless wish to have as a time consuming hobby. There are easier ways to make coffee at home.

If do wish to brew espresso at home, then look to a semi-professional machine, Rocket, Olympia Cremina, La Marzocco Linea Mini. An alternative is the 9Barista. Forget cheap domestic machines.

Coffee in Brazil is Black

April 19, 2021

Coffee in Brazil is Black, it was built on the back of slaves brought from West Africa in slave ships

I prefer to see my mother rot than sign a letter of liberty for my slaves. — Monito Campert, Brazilian coffee baron, 1888

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression. — W E B DuBois

Coffee was introduced to the Portuguese colony of Brazil by Francisco Melo Palheta in 1727. He acquired coffee beans by dubious means when asked to help solve a dispute between Dutch and French colonies in Guiana.  On his return to Brazil he planted the seeds in Para, but until 1822 coffee remained a minor crop compared with sugar. 

Coffee became an important crop when planted in the mountainous Paraiba valley south of Rio, forests cleared, slash and burn, deep purple soil, terra roxa, the coffee seeds planted in the ash, when exhausted, clear more forest, slash and burn.

Coffee estates, fazendas, were huge, two, three, four millions trees. The largest belonging to Francesco Shmidt was a fazenda of seven million coffee trees, employing 40,000 workers. On the fazendas a single slave would tend four to seven thousand coffee plants.

The early coffee plantations in Brazil were a slave economy, 40% of the slaves from West Africa ended up in Brazil.

Over two centuries, Brazil imported three million slaves to work the private fiefdoms that were the coffee estates, an additional five million worked the sugar plantations. To put these figures in context, around half a millions slaves were shipped to North America.

The plantation slave economy is reflected in modern day Brazil. Ten per cent of the population own over 50% of the wealth. Descendants of slaves are ten times more like to be illiterate or destitute.

An IBGE Agro Census (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) carried out between 2017 and 2018, Brazil has five million agricultural establishments, 45.4% are run by white producers. Brown producers have 44.5%, while 8.4% are owned by blacks, 1.1% by indigenous and 0.6% by yellow. There are 2.2 million white producers and 2.6 million black and brown ones, considering the sum of all types of agricultural properties, regardless of the culture and the size of the land.

In large properties, there are almost no black producers. Of the 1,559 farms with more than 10,000 hectares, for example, 1,232 are run by whites, 270 by browns and only 25 by blacks. The ratio is four white producers to one black or brown producer. As for small properties, with fewer than five hectares, the reality is reversed: blacks and browns are the majority.

When considering the extent of the properties of each ethnic group, the survey portrays a great inequality: white producers occupy 208 million hectares, or 59.4% of the total area of ​​establishments, while blacks and browns have, together, less than half of that, that is, 99 million hectares or 28%.

The distortion is even more profound than the distribution of national income found in the Continuous National Household Sample Survey (Continuous Pnad) in 2015, according to which whites hold 59% of the country’s wealth, while browns hold 33% and blacks 7%.

To put these figures in context, only one or two per cent of Black Americans own land, ie even worse than Brazil.

A Black farm owner, passers by ask, who owns the land. 

When Phyllis Johnson visited a group in Brazil, the Black female coffee workers could hardly believe their eyes when a Black woman stepped out of the car, they were no longer invisible. They were as proud of their work in coffee as the White coffee farmers who owned the land.

Coffee baron Grao-Mogul was one of the most notorious of the slave owners. If a child fell ill or died, the mother was punished for damage or loss of his property. He would hold banquets at his mansion, when food and drink consumed, the men would descend into the cellar below his house to take their pleasure of the female slaves tied up. 

Brazil was the last of the Western countries to abolish slavery, an internal slave market developed when the British intercepted slave ships. It was not until 1871 Brazil passed the Law of the Free Womb making children of slaves free at birth, followed in 1888 by the Golden Law freeing all slaves. Not that the freed slaves were much better off, the only employment was on the plantations under the same conditions.

When slavery was abolished, the plantations imported cheap labour from southern Europe.

An agricultural census of Sao Paulo State in 1905, sixty-five per cent of the workforce on 21,000 coffee farms was foreign born. The top 20% of the farmers controlled 83% of the land, produced 75% of the coffee, employed 67% of the agricultural workforce.

Coffee production in Brazil:

  • 1871 3 millions sacks
  • 1900 15 million sacks
  • 1930 25 million sacks
  • 2020 69 million sacks

Coffee production boomed from 1820 onward. By 1830 Brazil produced thirty per cent of the world’s coffee, by 1840 forty per cent.

Little has changed in Brazil, fascist President Bolsonaro is waging a war of genocide against the poor with coronavirus, his supporters evangelicals and wealthy owners of large estates who accrued their wealth through slavery. 

Phyllis Johnson is an African American whose widowed mother worked the family cotton farm in Arkansas in order to support her seven children who studied and graduated. She is President and co-founder and CEO of BD Imports a coffee importer and author of The Triumph: Black Brazilians in Coffee.

Coffee and slavery

April 16, 2021

The dark colonial past of coffee that changed coffee from a luxury few could afford to the commodity we know today.

The negroe is that creature that we are forced to keep in his natural state of thraldom to obtain from him the requisite services; because … under a different condition he would not labour. — coffee grower P J Laborie, The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo, 1798

How much would you pay for a cup of coffee? Ten dollars, thirty-six dollars?

A conversation I have occasionally had in a coffee shop. Buy in high quality coffee, serve as a guest coffee at five dollars a cup. Would the clientele be willing to pay for something special?

A couple of years ago, Taf Coffee, a pour over five euros for two cups of coffee, for coffee from the estate of Ninety Plus.

Stewart Lee Allen, The Devil’s Cup:

In the late 1600s, Louis XV reportedly spent the equivalent of fifteen thousand dollars a year to feed his daughter’s coffee habit. By 1740 the price had fallen to 15 cents a cup, and even the lowliest lumpens could afford a buzz.

It was only a matter of time before coffee spread from Arabia into the Ottoman Empire, and from there into Europe.

The first recorded coffee in Europe, was in Venice, one of the great city-state trading nations, the estate of a murdered Turkish businessman in 1575 included coffee making equipment.  The first coffee shop opened in 1683, by 1759 the Venice City authorities placed a limit of 204 coffee shops, breached within four years.

Coffee used to be a luxury few could afford. It was colonisation and slavery that turned coffee into a commodity.

Coffee seedlings or beans were smuggled to India; from India, the Dutch established plantations in Java. The Dutch kept the local elite in power,  tribute was paid in coffee, subsistence farmers on Java were forced to work the plantations to the neglect of their own crops.

The French established coffee on the island of Bourbon, now Réunion, also in their Caribbean territories starting with Martinique.

Stewart Lee Allen in The Devil’s Cup discusses in some detail, French naval officer Gabriel de Clieu, smuggling plants stolen from the King, given to the King by the Mayor of Amsterdam, taking seedlings to Martinique, his heroic efforts to keep the plants alive when water was rationed on the ship.

The British established coffee on Ceylon. Ceylon is now known for tea, when the British established coffee, using Tamils shipped in from India, by the late 1860s Ceylon had overtaken Java as the world’s leading exporter of coffee. Coffee leaf rust then struck.

Trees over a hundred yeas old have been found in Sri Lanka, the remnants of the old coffee plantations established by the British, the best coffee cherries selected, seedlings grown, new plantations established. I have tasted the coffee from these trees, I have a few coffee beans roasted in Sri Lanka, are hoping to ship over green beans and roast in England.

Africans captured and traded African slaves, British-made goods offloaded, slaves loaded onto the slave ships.

The conditions were atrocious. On the two lower decks barrels, the deck between and below the main deck, slaves lined up in shackles. If a slave fell sick tossed overboard as of little value.

The slaves were shipped to the Caribbean, for sugar and coffee plantations. Sugar plantations on the low lying coastal plains, inland small coffee plantations in the mountains.

A guide to growing coffee on Saint Dominique The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo by the coffee grower P J Laborie in 1798 describes all stages of coffee growing, from clearing the land to bagging the beans. He even describes the process for washed processing of the coffee cherries, ‘West Indian process’, using water channels then pass through a series of graters. The dark side of the guide, what to look for when buying slaves, how to treat the slaves.

The negroe is that creature that we are forced to keep in his natural state of thraldom to obtain from him the requisite services; because … under a different condition he would not labour.

P J Laborie gives advice on what to look for when buying slaves, features such as an open clear countenance, a clean and lively eye, sound teeth, sinewy arms, dry and large hands, strong loins and haunches and an easy and free movement of the limbs. On purchase the slaves had to be purged of any diseases, forced to drink ‘ sudorific potions’, usually sea water, to rid them of disease, and the ‘unpleasant but necessary’ act of branding.

New slaves had to be ‘seasoned’, introduced slowly to the work, light labour, weeding and gardening, before working sunrise to sunset on the plantations. Laborie preferred young slaves as could be formed to ‘the Master’s own ideas’. Discipline was maintained with a whip wielded by a trusted slave. Laborie details the knots on the whips and advises keeping the whips clean to avoid spread of disease from one slave to another.

The Dutch acquired Suriname from the British, they did a swap with New York. The Dutch had acquired what was then known as  manaháhtaan in 1624 from its inhabitants Lenape Native Indians in exchange for beads, knives, trinkets and guilders.

In Java, the Dutch used forced labour of local sustenance farmers, in Suriname they imported slaves.

Suriname is where man’s inhumanity to man reached its zenith.

In 1738, a slave ship sailing up river in Suriname hit a storm, around 700 slaves on board, the captain told the crew to lock the hold to stop the slaves escaping whilst the crew took to the lifeboats, 664 died when the ship, went down. the crew survived.

1735

  • Yemen $13-41 / lb
  • Java $9-24 / lb
  • Suriname $8-26 / lb

1760

  • Yemen $12-80 / lb
  • Suriname $5-01 / lb

Fast forward another 100 years to around the middle of the 1800s and coffee from the Suriname slave plantation has fallen to around $2 a pound.

If we look at the price of coffee on exchanges we see how the price fell from a luxury to a commodity, the impact of colonisation and cheap labour.

If we look at the impact of lower coffee prices on consumption we can see within a hundred years coffee drunk by the elite in opulent surroundings to a peasant woman hawking takeaway coffee on the street.

Café Procope established in 1686 by Italian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli lays claim to be the oldest and one of the most famous Parisian restaurant or cafés. It was the original European ‘Literary Café’ prototype. Located in the 6th arrondissement on Paris’ Left Bank, and steps from Boulevard Saint-Germain, it retains its former glory and original charm. It was here the literati and men of letters drank coffee, Rousseau, Denis Diderot and Voltaire are just a few of those who frequented the café and heightened its image, that of an authentic opulent oriental coffee house

Café Procope became the model across 18th century Europe for the grand café, Florian’s in Venice, Caffé Greco in Rome.

The Grand Café in Oxford, a Grade II listed building, lays claim to be on the site of the oldest coffee shop in England, 1650 according to Samuel Pepys’ Diary,

According to a number of; sources, including Samuel Pepys, a Jewish entrepreneur named Jacob established the first English coffee house in 1650.The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, Antiquary of Oxford 1632-1695:

This year [1651] Jacob the Jew opened a coffey house at the Angel in the parish of S. Peter, in the East Oxon; and there it was by some, who delighted in noveltie, drank. When he left Oxon, he sold it in Old Southampton buildings in Holborne neare London, and was living in 1671.

Across the road from The Grand Café a greasy spoon cafe lays claim to be the oldest coffee shop, Queen’s Lane Coffee House Oxford, established 1654.

The Queens Lane Coffee House is reputed to be the oldest continually working coffee house – not only in Oxford but the whole of Europe. It first opened its doors in 1654, in the turmoil following the English Civil War, just before the Great Fire of London. It has been serving Oxford without a break ever since.

A century on from the establishment of Café Procope we have a woman hawking coffee in the street to passers-by.

The arrival of coffee shops in England coincided with the English  Civil War and the rise of Protestantism across Europe.  Water was not safe to drink, the people drank beer, were probably not sober from breakfast onwards. Nutrition was beer and bread, in Germany beer soup.

Coffee was seen by Puritans as The Great Soberer.

When the sweet Poison of the Treacherous Grape,
Had Acted on the world a General Rape;
Drowning our very Reason and our Souls
In such deep Seas of large o’reflowing Bowls,
That New Philosophers Swore they could feel
The Earth to Stagger, as her Sons did Reel:
When Foggy Ale, leavying up mighty Trains
Of muddy Vapours, had besieg’d our Brains;
And Drink, Rebellion, and Religion too,
Made Men so Mad, they knew not what to do;
Then Heaven in Pity, to Effect our Cure,
And stop the Ragings of that Calenture,
First sent amongst us this All-healing-Berry,
At once to make us both Sober and Merry.
Arabian Coffee, a Rich Cordial
To Purse and Person Beneficial,
Which of so many Vertues doth partake,
Its Country’s called Felix for its sake.
From the Rich Chambers of the Rising Sun,
Where Arts, and all good Fashions first begun,
Where Earth with Choicest Rarities is blest,
And dying Phoenix builds Her wondrous Nest:
COFFEE arrives, that Grave and wholesome Liquor,
That heals the Stomach, makes the Genius quicker,
Relieve, the Memory, Revives the Sad,
And chears the Spirits, without making Mad;  …

Coffee houses in England were places to meet, penny universities.

Edward Lloyd opened Lloyd’s Coffee House in London in 1687 or 1688, a meeting place for those in maritime occupations, shipping agents, seamen, insurers, bankers. People went to Lloyd’s to hear the latest news.  Lloyd published a newssheet ‘Lloyd’s News’. From this coffee house evolved Lloyd’s of London.

Tattler was founded in a coffee house. The editor Richard Steele gave his address as the coffeehouse Grecian.

 

Documents c 1700 cite the existence of some three thousand coffee houses in London. [see Tastes of Paradise]

One pound of coffee on the Amsterdam Coffee Exchange  in 1735 would have cost $13-41. Today the cost of green beans around a dollar a pound.  In three hundred years, the price of coffee has fallen thirteen fold.

Liverpool, Bristol, Amsterdam, their wealth was built on sugar, coffee and slavery.  When you grab a takeaway coffee from a corporate chain, a bag of cheap commodity coffee off the supermarket shelf, pick up a bar of industrial chocolate at the checkout, you are supporting the post-colonial legacy of slavery.

Please sit and relax in an indie coffee shop with a coffee served in glass or ceramic, buy coffee from a reputable roastery, chocolate from a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, people who care, who treat coffee and chocolate with the respect it deserves.

A History of Coffee a collaboration between James Harper of  Filter Stories podcast and Jonathan Morris, Professor of History and author of Coffee: A Global History.

Parody of the American tourist in Athens?

April 14, 2021

Is this meant to be a parody of American tourists in Athens? If yes, then at best mildly amusing.

Or is it meant to be taken seriously? If yes, then dire as displays an appalling lack of understanding of coffee culture in Athens.

Mokka is an excellent coffee shop, outside Athens Central Market. A wide variety of coffee on offer. One of the few coffee shops brewing Greek coffee on a bed of hot sand.

Mokka also has an adjacent shop selling coffee.

Across the road, the fruit and veg market worth exploring.

More usual to find Greek coffee over a flame, as will find at Just Made 33 (just off Ermou).

A few years ago then barista at Just Made 33 won the world championship for Ibrik coffee. The coffee used on sale at Just Made 33.

Coffee Island is the Greek Starbucks, to be avoided if care about coffee.

Spoilt for choice with excellent coffee shops in New York. Why therefore would anyone wish for Coffee Island in New York when already have Starbucks serving bad coffee? [see Drift Manhattan edition]

Frappé is not a Greek drink. It is an example of cultural colonisation by a global corporation. An unpleasant cold frothy coffee made with Nescafe.

And no, do not walk down the street drinking out of plastic, even worse bragging about it.

Coffee sit and relax outside a coffee shop with coffee served in glass or ceramic and watch the world go by.

Top Coffee Shops in Athens

April 11, 2021

I would hasten to add these four not my choice, nevertheless I agree, at least the three I know, o.kokkos I do not know and will have to try on my next visit to Athens post coronavirus pandemic.

Good to see my friends in two of the locations.

I was in Athens November of last year during lockdown, very little was open, restaurants were closed, a few coffee shops were open for takeaway and saw a slow but steady trickle of customers.

o.kokkos

A coffee shop I have not visited, have not heard of. I will have to check it out.

dyo goulies & dyo boukies

Excellent coffee shop, though not easy to find, and impossible to find when closed and the shutters down.

Tania the coffee, Nikos the food, though if Tania not there, Nikos more than capable with the coffee.

Used to serve Taf coffee. Now changed to a better roastery, Roller Roasters.

Peak a Bloom

Hidden down an alley very difficult to find if do not know where it is.

Was not open during lockdown.

Peak a Bloom have sister coffee shop, Mind the Cup, a Metro ride away from the centre.

Opposite Mind the Cup, Manor House also worth a visit.

The Underdog

The Underdog an excellent coffee shop, one of my favourite coffee shops in Athens.

Espresso drinks explained

April 11, 2021

Walk into an indie coffee shop and we are faced with a confusing array of different coffee drinks.

There are espresso-based drinks, starting with a single shot or double shot espresso. Milk-based espresso drinks. Pour over filter coffee, V60, Chemex or Origami. And these are only the hot coffee drinks. We then have served cold espresso-based drinks, freddo espresso, freddo cappuccino. Cold brew coffee, immersion and cold drip. Japanese cold drip coffee.

To add further complexity, for the pour over filter coffee, we may be offered a choice of different coffee beans from different farms, different processing, different countries. My solution, I ask the barista to choose, and to explain their choice.

European Coffee Trip have provided a helpful overview of espresso-based coffees. But heed their warning, names can differ.

Personally, a cappuccino, occasionally an espresso if exceptional coffee. If not a cappuccino, a V60 pour over or in hot weather a cold brew coffee. There is also a choice of single shot or double shot.

Try espresso flight – single shot espresso – single shot cappuccino – glass of water – in line.

An espresso, fine ground coffee, extracted under 9 bars of pressure, typical dose 18g dose in the basket, 36g of espresso, 27–29 seconds, 12% extraction.

An espresso or cold brew can also be used as a base for elixirs, and cocktails.

When next in a coffee shop and asked what size cappuccino, respond the correct size. Too often, clueless on coffee, no idea how to serve a cappuccino. And no, cappuccino does not have chocolate dumped on top. The only reason chocolate dumped on top, to hide being served bad coffee.

Two excellent books with illustrated guides to espresso based drinks:

  • London Coffee
  • The World Atlas of Coffee


%d bloggers like this: