Archive for the ‘NotoCosta’ Category

Gorongosa National Park Mozambique

March 17, 2021

When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and hope. — Wangari Maathai

I am always wary very wary of enterprises that claim to be helping others.

Tony’s Chocolonely, garish bars, branding exercise, poor quality industrial chocolate, FairTrade scam, chocolate produced by a company with links to slave plantations.

Recently launched Cauz Coffee, branding exercise by Cauz Clothing, buy our hyped coffee and we donate 50% of our profits to cancer.

But it does not have to be.  As we learn from conversation Emily Barker and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood over a cup of coffee, it does not have to be.

Coffee grown at high altitude, in the shade of trees, the coffee cherries ripening slowly the beans sought after for high quality coffee. We need the trees, we need the trees to be protected, sale of the coffee beans brings money into the area and a reason not to destroy the trees.

In Ethiopia, a designated forest, protected status, sadly counts for nothing. A joint project, Kew Gardens and Union. Kew Gardens mapped the forest, Union offered to buy coffee beans collected from the forest. Now local people have a reason to protect their forest.  The forest is important internationally. Wide biodiversity, wild coffee trees, watershed protection.

In Peru, Mayni people are harvesting shade-grown coffee from under the canopy of mature trees, with huge benefits for wildlife and the community.

99 Plus reforested a degraded cattle ranch. Panama Geisha grows in the shade of the trees. The green beans highly sought after, micro-lots sell for very high price.

Conservation has to take account of people. If not, the conservation will fail.

Nelson Mandela

It is important for conservation and rural development to be combined. Conservationists must take account the needs of the people around the reserves.

Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is working with local communities, supporting agriculture, health and education.

The growing of high quality arabica is bringing money into local hands, supports local projects.

We need to see Doughnut Economics Gorongosa, this would address poverty whilst at the same time sustaining the natural world on which we all depend.

The rain shadow side of the Andes was barren, nothing would grow. Non-native, trees, all that would grown in the environment were planted, these in turn protected native species, now a forest teeming with wildlife.

Wangari Maathai

It is the people who must save the environment. It is the people who must make their leaders change. And we cannot be intimidated. So we must stand up for what we believe in.

Founded in 1977 by Professor Wangari Maathai, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya. GBM works at the grassroots, national, and international levels to promote environmental conservation; to build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls; to foster democratic space and sustainable livelihoods.

In England we have heavy rain in the winter leading to saturated ground and flooding. Hard flood defences do not work, sends floodwater downstream. We need rewilding, agroforestry, grass-grazed agriculture.

Coffee certification

March 14, 2021

Marketing hype to make Big Business look good and Middle Class feel good?

The trick to finding great coffee is looking for transparency. Not a see-through bag, but a bag tells you where the coffee is from – the country, the farm, and sometimes even info about how it was produced. Coffee labelled like this is usually specialty. — Kiss the Hippo

A lost opportunity by Adventures in Coffee, trivializes an important topic leaving subscribers to the podcast none the wiser.

FarirTrade scam, pay growers a tiny premium above commodity price, coffee is coffee is coffee. Worse still, maintains farmers in poverty, no incentive for farmers to improve quality.

Percol is Big Business, low quality commodity coffee, find on the shelves of supermarkets. But hey, we greenwash with a FairTrade sticker.

The Cost of a Cuppa, a BBC Radio 4 documentary looked at tea plantations in Assam, the appalling working and living conditions on the tea plantations, the child slave labour, whether the tea was supplied to some of the most expensive tea suppliers on the market or commodity tea it made no difference, the various designations meaningless, not worth the paper they are written on.

Tea workers in Assam earn 115 rupees a day, just over £1 ($1.50), well below the minimum wage (177 rupees in Assam). This is legal, as part of their wage is paid for with housing, clean water, sanitation, food. There has been a small increase in wages since the programme was recorded.

The housing is not fit for human habitation, no safe drinking water, no toilets, cesspits overflowing, roofs leaking. Plantation owners in India are obliged by law to provide and maintain ‘adequate’ houses, and sanitary toilets for workers.The women pick the tea leaves, hard work, but not hazardous. In the fields the workmen are spraying hazardous pesticides, no protective gear, wearing only t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. The chemical used deltamethrin, harmful possibly fatal if absorbed through the skin or inhaled. The local hospital sees 5–6 patients a week suffering from pesticide poisoning.

The Source, a year long investigation by The Weather Channel and Telemundo gathered evidence that child labour is commonplace during the coffee harvest in Chiapas, the poorest state in Mexico.

Armies of kids walking down a road, 60–70 lb sacks of coffee strapped to their backs. Kids as young as six, if not younger, picking the coffee cherries.

The coffee is mainly exported to the US, commodity coffee to large corporations, companies like Nestlé and tax-dodging Starbucks.

Nestlé when challenged denied all knowledge, they outsource the certification to a company called 4C, now Global Coffee Platform.

No mention of the square-root rule. Take the square root of the number of farms to be checked, then check once every three years.

The square-root rule is used. This is fine for uniform widgets, test a small random sample. It does not work when certifying working conditions on remote inaccessible farms.

The square-root rule, inspection of only a fraction of the number of farms, less than half of the square-root, then only every three years.

What this means is that for 5,144 farms the reality of any farm being inspected is vanishingly small, a little over 0.5%.

The larger the number of farms to be inspected in an area, then if we apply the square-root rule, the number inspected as a percentage approaches zero.

Incorrect to state organic not productive. Look to the work of Vandana Shiva in India.

We should be supporting grass-grazed agriculture, agroforestry,  coffee trees grown in the shade of trees, slowly ripening of the coffee cherries. High altitude coffee grown in the shade of trees, protects the forests, yields higher quality coffee cherries, the growers receive a higher price.

Union Hand Roasted Coffee and Kew Gardens have worked together to help local communities protect Yayu Forest. The forest has designated status, but counts for little if the local communities are mired in poverty. Union offered to buy wild coffee picked from the forest. The forest is an important for biodiversity, and for genetics of coffee.

Ninety Plus Coffee have restored a degraded cattle ranch in Panama, on the estate they grow Panama Geisha.

Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is working with local communities, supporting agriculture, health and education. The growing of high quality arabica is bringing money into local hands, supports local projects.

My advice to Katie, ignore the certification scams, not worth the paper they are written on, trust the roastery, look for direct trade, long term relationships with famers, what is happening on the ground, and please do not buy poor quality, stale coffee, from supermarkets or from retailers with no knowledge of coffee.

Read Coffeeography, where Stephen Leighton takes us on a journey, the relationships with the coffee farms.

Take a look at Kiss the Hippo, note the degree of transparency.

Tim Wendelboe publishes an annual account on sustainability and transparency.

Mokka takes a pride in their relationships with growers, as does Coffee Gems, as do many small roasteries engaged in direct trade.

I recently had a conversation that was the exact opposite, asked of an amateurish operation that was roasting from home, Q grade of their coffee. Did not know. How can they claim speciality coffee? Was then given more information that did not match their website. Followed by a childish response, it was for them to decide what is their businesses and what information they supply. It goes without saying, I would not be buying coffee from Jackalopie Joe or recommending to others.

What applies to coffee equally applies to chocolate. Support bean-to-bar chocolate makers, who engage with the growers, form long-term relationships, pay a higher price for quality.

Adventures in Coffee a collaboration between Caffeine Magazine, Jools Walker and Filter Stories. Presented by Jools Walker and Scott Bentley.

A Five Gun Salute to the Origins of Coffee

March 11, 2021

Coffee, red coffee cherries, originate in the cloud forests of Ethiopia.

It brings to the drinker a sprightliness of spirit and a sense of mental well-being. — Ibn ‘Abd al-Ghaffar

Within the coffee cherry, two seeds or beans (one if a peaberry, en español caracolillo), roasted, has spread around the world to become one of the most valuable traded commodities. We may pay three dollars for a cappuccino, the price paid for green coffee beans is determined by commodity markets in London and New York, the grower, if commodity coffee, lucky to see three cents a kilo of green beans.

When I visit my friend’s farm, we are in the cloud forests of El Teide. I have thought, why not coffee? But if we planted, it would be ten years before we see a crop. Coffee is grown on Gran Canaria.

The cloud forests, the trees scrub water out of the clouds, it drips from their branches. Magical to pass through.

In the podcast the arrival of coffee in Arabia quickly glossed over, too quickly. Brought in by the Sufis from Yemen in the mid-15th century as part of their religious devotions.  It would though have needed more to penetrate society. Merchants saw an opportunity, but it would not have been enough to simply bring in coffee, pile sacks of coffee in the market, no demand, what to do with it. Kiosks were established in markets to serve coffee, then coffee shops and more luxurious coffee houses, with fountains, shade of trees, often by a river.

In Arabia, coffee effected cultural change. It provided a meeting place, in addition to the mosque and the market, it was a place to socialise. Also a place to hatch plots.

Two Syrians took coffee to Istanbul, as a ready made off-the-shelf package, opened coffee shops.

According to the Ottoman chronicler Ibrahim Pecevi: (1574-1560) coffee and the coffee house was introduced to Istanbul by two Syrians Hakm and Shams around 1556.

Mocha became wealthy on coffee, in essence they held a monopoly.

In Turkey, drinking of coffee elevated almost to an art form.

In its introduction into the Middle East, coffee was never a mere beverage. It was the subject of fatwas, legal treatise, edicts, a psychoactive substance, an affront to the Koran, a commodity to speculate upon, coffee houses, places to socialise, hatch plots, exchange news, coffee shops to be closed, burnt to the ground.

I agree Dark Woods an excellent roastery but for their single origins, not their espresso blends, for espresso blends I would look elsewhere. In Sheffield they have something of a local monopoly, South Street Kitchen, Motore Coffee, Union Street.

Dark Woods is located in an old Victorian Mill, on a canal in the Pennines in the middle of nowhere.

The podcast needs an accompanying blog for each episode. With sound, one can only visualise the internal structure of a coffee cherry, a cloud forest, the terraces in Yemen.

A recent news item of Saudi genocide in Yemen (UK supplies the weapons), showed a town perched on a mountain top, cascading terraces.

Coffee from Yemen nigh impossible to obtain and until recently, no one wanted, as poor quality.

The terraces are used for growing qat (Catha edulis), a narcotic close relative of coffee, far more profitable than growing coffee, qat even has its own UN designation.

I am curious the terraces. In Tenerife, similar terrace system, water tanks store the water, channels run along the walls, distribute the water to the terraces. A stalk from banana tree used to close a channel. A complex cooperative scheme for water distribution.

Ethiopia, from where coffee originated.

Contemporary writers in Medieval Arabia saw coffee as coming from Yemen. It may also have come from Ethiopia and one writer did mention Ethiopia. Trade routes passed through Ethiopia. To reach Arabia, the coffee passed through Mocha.

One of the most influential 16th century writers on coffee, Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri (fl 1558), after speaking of the introduction of coffee to Yemen, cautions his readers:

We say [that this account pertains to] the Yemen alone [lit not anywhere else] because the appearance of coffee [was] in the land of Ibn Sa’d al-Din and the country of Abyssinians and of the Jabart, and of other places of the land of the Ajam, but the land of its first [use] is unknown, nor do we know the reason.

Of consideration to contemporary writers, was not the origin of coffee, their main focus was to establish when and where coffee came into Arabia, and equally important, by whom and for what reason it was introduced.

Contemporary Arab writers have no myth of dancing goats (introduced later by Europeans as an embellishment), they do though have a myth and treat as a myth, of Solomon using coffee for medicinal use on the command of the angel Gabriel.

Contemporary accounts agree on two points:

  • coffee came from Yemen
  • coffee used by Sufis as part of their religious devotions

Carolus Linnaeus attributed coffee to Arabia, Coffea arabica.

The mountainous terraces of Yemen where coffee was grown, were remote then, are remote today, were not the centre of the Medieval Arab Islamic world. It is thus not inconceivable coffee would have been consumed for centuries before word of coffee spread to Arabia.

Sufis were not a monastic order, they were members of the local community, part of wider society, had day jobs.  If coffee was of use in the dhikr as a psychoactive drug, would it not have its use getting through the tedium of the day, the wife or servants asked to brew a pot of coffee?

Writing in the early 16th century Fakhr al-Din ibn Abi Yazid al-Makki writes:

And as for us, qishr reached us in Rey in Mecca and other places twenty or more years ago, but qahwa made from it did not spread until the end of the ninth [fifteenth] century.

Coffee was on sale in the streets outside the mosque.

  • qishr:  husks of the coffee bean or a beverage made exclusively from the husks.
  • qahwa: coffee; more precisely stimulating beverage made from the fruit of Coffee arabica.
  • qahwa bunniya: beverage made from the kernels (bunn) or from the husks and kernels.
  • qahwa qishriya: beverage made exclusively from the husks.
  • bunn: coffee beans; specifically the kernel as opposed to the husk.

Coffee was on sale in the streets outside the mosques.

The spread of coffee from Yemen into Arabia, from the Sufis, to the streets outside the mosque, to the home, in public, two decades, maybe a mere decade.

Jaziri tells us:

[After the spread of coffee to Egypt and its brisk consumption in the precincts of the Azhar] the situation continued along these lines: much coffee was drunk in the quarter of the mosque; it was sold openly in a multitude of places. In spite of the long time [that it had been drunk], not a soul gave a thought of interfering with coffee drinkers nor did anyone find fault with the drink either in itself or because of factors [associate with but] external to it, such as passing the cup around and the like. All this was in spite of the fact that it had become widespread in Mecca, and was drunk in the Sacred Mosque itself, so that there was scarcely a dhikr or observance of the Prophet’s birthday (mawlid) where coffee was not present.

We know coffee was well established in Mecca by 1511 due to an edict issued by a local governor regarding  suspicious characters gathered to drink coffee. Kha’ir Beg, pasha of of the Malmuks in Mecca and muhtasib of the town, happened upon a group one night drinking coffee. As he approached they extinguished their lanterns and ran away. He called a meeting the following day of scholars and jurists to rule on gatherings to drink coffee and of coffee itself.

I may care to drink craft beer but I may object to the drunken scum in binge-drinking bars.

The activities coffee drinkers were permitting were like taverns where consumption of wine took place. Coffee was not forbidden by the Koran, unlike wine, indeed, if created by God, who was Man to decide it could not be consumed? Coffee though a grey area, not explicitly forbidden, on the other hand, if a psychoactive substance, should it not be treated as alcohol?

Such distinctions and controversies were not restricted to Mecca in 1511, coffee periodically forbidden, the prohibitions ignored, then rescinded.

The arrival of coffee and especially the coffee shop and coffee house, was to have great impact on society and economic life.

Were the clientele of a specialty coffee shop today to hop on a H G Wells time machine and pedal back to a coffee shop or coffee house in Medieval Arabia they would not find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. The main difference being the serving of undrinkable coffee.

Please obtain Coffee: A Global History from Blackwell’s. Support independent bookshops not Amazon. Or, with indie bookshops closed, order Coffee: A Global History via Bookshop.Org an on-line portal for indie bookshops. But please note on-line service by Blackwell’s appalling, long wait for book to arrive.

Checking out the farms, a good idea, but please do not direct to or promote Instagram, more data for facebook to steal and abuse.

To enjoy your coffee, need to buy fresh roasted coffee from specialty coffee shop or reputable coffee roastery. Always buy coffee beans, freshly grind each time brew.

Invest in a quality hand grinder or electric grinder, cheap grinders a waste of money.

Hand grinders in ascending price range: Rhino, CrushGrind, Knock, Comandante.

Electric grinder: Niche Zero.

To brew filter coffee: V60, swan-neck kettle, digital scales, or an Origami.

To brew espresso: 9Barista, cheap domestic machines a waste of money, unreliable, cheapest semi-pro machine La Marzocco linea mini.

Water: Cannot brew coffee with tap water, use bottled spring water or a water filter. Minimum, Brita water filter, or better and designed for coffee Peak water filter.

Once indie coffee shops reopen, please support. And please show respect for the coffee, relax with served in glass or ceramic. And if not busy, have  a chat with the barista.


  • The Devil’s Cup
  • Where the Wild Coffee Grows
  • The Monk of Mocha
  • Coffee and Coffee Houses
  • The World Atlas of Coffee


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.

Follow your dreams

March 4, 2021

But be careful what you wish for…

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In The Alchemist Santiago follows his dreams.

Federico Bolaños had a dream.

Federico Bolaños did not like coffee. Not that is until he had a coffee at a friend’s house. He could not believe how good it was. He decided to open a coffee shop serving quality coffee that tasted like his friend’s coffee.

Together with business partners Federico Bolaños opened three coffee shops, Viva Espresso, in El Salvador.

Alejandro Mendez did not like coffee. When he applied for a job at Viva Espresso he knew nothing about coffee, he did not even like coffee.

Federico Bolaños saw he had potential and offered him a job. Alejandro Mendez thought he would be waiting on tables, maybe grinding coffee beans, he learnt to be a barista, found he liked coffee.

Federico Bolaños had a dream. His dream was that El Salvador would win the World Coffee Championship. No producer country had ever won the coffee champions. Alejandro Mendez would win the world championship for El Salvador.

Alejandro Mendez entered and he won. He was World Champion barista in 2011.

Federico Bolaños did not stop there. He saw the hunger in the eyes of his young baristas. They begged him to let them enter. Once again, his barista won, this time coming third place.

But all this exacted a heavy toll on his business. Entering championships cost money. On their return they found the businesses was close to collapse, injection of new capital was needed. New investors were brought in and their first act was to oust Federico Bolaños.

But like Santiago in The Alchemist he did not accept defeat, he did not give up on his dreams, it was the start of a new adventure.

His help was ought by a South Korean coffee company. He won again, this time with a female barista, only the second female baristas in the history of the world championships. Federico Bolaños had trained three world champions.

Our modern day alchemists take coffee beans, use fire, and turn it into an elixir.

Many of the baristas of Viva Espresso, now ex-baristas, have moved on to open coffee shops with their colleagues.

Federico Bolaños has established Alquimia Coffee, Alejandro Mendez established 4 Monkeys Coffee Roasters.

The story of Federico Bolaños and Alejandro Mendez following their dreams is now a Duolingo podcast.

James Harper is host and producer of Filter Stories, a documentary-style podcast revealing the often dark reality but with glimmers of hope of the world of coffee. The untold stories hidden in your cup of coffee. He has also produced Adventures in Coffee, a Caffeine Magazine podcast (hosted by Jools Walker and Caffeine founder Scott Bailey).

A longer version of this post has been published by The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop on Medium.  [see Follow your dreams]

Three boxes from Colonna

March 2, 2021

This morning delivered by DHL three boxes from Colonna.

box one – Peak water filter

Coffee is over 90% water, water matters.

Cannot make coffee with tap water. Hopeless if trying to enjoy the pleasures of those delicate nuanced notes in a V60.

You may not realise, when drinking coffee in a speciality coffee shop, the water used has been filtered.

We have therefore a choice:

  • ask nicely for water in a coffee shop
  • buy bottled spring water
  • use a filter at home

If a filter, try Britta water filter jug. But far better a Peak water filter jug, designed for coffee.

box two – Opal One

It may seem unlikely, if not highly improbable, it is possible to brew excellent coffee with a Nespresso machine, though not using Nespresso capsules. Nespresso capsules brew disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Internally, Nespresso machines are the same, whether less than one hundred pounds or several hundreds pounds, therefore buy the cheapest Nespresso machine.

Or go one better with an Opal One superior Nespresso machine. Double the cost of the cheapest Nespresso machine.

Note: Not yet available outside Singapore, check out Morning machine, roughly double the price of an Opal One.

box three – coffee

Imagine if an optimum grind, peak freshness, sealed in an oxygen free environment. That is what a better designed Nespresso capsule offers. The capsule can be aluminium or compostable, one recycled the other composted.

A mix of capsules for Opal One, a gadget to extract spent grounds from aluminium capsules, plus a bag of coffee for comparison.

Hot tip: Sign up for a newsletter from Colonna. 10% discount off first order. Make first order a big order.

Part of series The Kitchen Counter Coffee Shop. Started last summer with Aeropress, V60, digital scales, Rhino hand grinder (since given away as a present) CrushGrind hand grinder, though sat dormant not used as coffee shops reopened following lockdown.

What I now require, Comandante hand grinder, 9Barsita espresso machine and Niche Zero single dose grinder. All three ludicrously expensive with long lead times or impossible to obtain.

Also require, top quality ceramic in which to serve. Maybe also add, a cocktail shaker for cocktails.

Cauz Coffee

February 22, 2021

Cauz Coffee, never heard of? Me neither neither. Launched today as a branding exercise by a clothing company, Cauz Clothing. Never heard of them either.

Why buy coffee from a clothing company? Why indeed? I would not, not when there is no shortage of reputable roasteries and indie coffee shops to buy coffee from.

Launched with a generous helping of hype and bullshit.

Q grade 82, bare minimum. I would expect at least 85.

Q grade 82 is not ‘World Class Specialty Coffee’, it is the lowest can get away with and still claim speciality coffee, world class it is not. Comparison with instant coffee meaningless, anything is going to be better than instant coffee, not a high bar to exceed.

All that I see is a marketing exercise, a branding exercise. Take coffee from unknown roastery and stick your label on it.

No mention of country of origin, the farm, processing, the roastery. Or at least not on the bags. Nothing but unsubstantiated claims.

Roasted by ‘one of the best in the business’ but refusal to name the roastery does not inspire confidence.

No, these are not ‘the best roasted beans you can imagine’, far from it.

No reputable coffee roastery roasts dark roast. Dark roast destroys all the intrinsic nuances of the coffee. Dark roast is to hide the defects of bad coffee.

Claims of high profit margins by others in the business, but no evidence to support the claim.

50% of our profits go to support cancer. Looks good, eye catching, but utterly meaningless. The profit may be very low, and 50% of very low is even lower.

And what is this support? They do no not say.


The Caps are Cauz Coffee not mine. No mention of the charities which will receive their largesse.

Contrast with Stephen Leighton of Hasbean coffee who wished to help one of his growers install drying beds. An appeal to buyers of his coffee. Would they support a small premium on the bags of coffee sourced from the farm to support drying beds. They agreed, a small premium was added, this paid for drying beds. Transparency.

And if the hype was not sufficient, a 25% discount code.


And no, I will not be taking advantage of the discount code.

If you wish to support a cancer charity, that is fine, visit their charity shop, volunteer, make a donation, but please do not fall for a guilt trip to buy branded coffee from an unknown roastery. If you want to buy coffee, buy from an indie coffee shop or reputable coffee roastery.

Reputable coffee companies, direct trade, high premiums paid to the growers, higher than the FairTrade scam, transparency. And they don’t have to resort to bullshit to promote their coffee, the coffee speaks for itself.

The same applies to chocolate, do not fall for the Tony’s Chocolonely baloney, buy from bean-to-bar chocolate makers, quality chocolate, growers paid a premium for quality.

From Bean to Bar, a whimsical tour of bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Great Britain, is an excellent guide to quality chocolate.

It is not only a clothing chain. Would I buy coffee from a band? Er, no.

The Fourth Coffee Wave

February 14, 2021

We are seeing a fourth coffee wave. The first three waves were determined by the coffee consuming countries, the fourth wave determined by the growers and coffee shops and roasteries in the producing countries.

We see several examples of this, opening of speciality coffee shops, where the coffee shops and roasteries and farms work in close collaboration, the development of a coffee flavour wheel using local fruits, not northern fruits, El Salvador the first ever world champion barista from a producer country.

That a flavour may be distasteful irrelevant it is consistency that matters.

It is interesting that India has its own coffee filter equipment, made of brass, passed down through the generations. And yes, I would love to get my hands on one to try.

Where I have questions is on heat retention. A lid popped on after first bloom, water between 85 and 90 C, brass an excellent conductor of heat, a brew time of up to 15 minutes, is not the final brew lukewarm?

Is there similar in Ceylon?

Ceylon famous for tea, but once it was famous for coffee, tea replaced coffee when coffee leaf rust wiped out the coffee plantations.

Old surviving coffee trees have been found, at least a century old, the best coffee cherries selected, new trees planted, a nascent coffee industry. The roasted coffee shipped to a Ceylon Coffee House in England. Not ideal, and this is where I would disagree, it is best to ship the green beans than to roast at source. Too risky for the roasted beans they need to be fresh, and the expertise in the roasting not good enough.

A trial roast is being arranged in the UK. I cannot say more as coronavirus has put everything on hold.

But hopefully more than one coffee roastery, more than one variety, and in the coffee shop, Indian brass coffee filter would be interesting to try.

In Bali, the development of an Indonesian coffee flavour wheel. [see Drift no 9 Bali edition]

The coffee flavour notes remain the same, the difference, referenced to local sensory experiences.

Am I damaging the planet with my coffee habit?

February 13, 2021

Are reusable coffee cups doing more harm than good?

Indie coffee shops are as always showing the way, ahead of the game, compostable coffee cups, reusable cups, but are we doing more harm than good?

We are in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, takeaway coffee cups, contactless payments, necessary evils to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Best practice is that shown by Coffee Aroma. Only one person allowed into the coffee shop at a time, contactless payment only, takeaway cups a necessary evil, no reusable cups. No reusable cups accepted, anyone who tries will not be served and if persist will be asked to leave.

At the other end of the spectrum, Brian of Brian’s Coffee Spot going around coffee shops insisting they take his coffee cups, in one coffee shop he handed over two different coffee cups, then bragging on social media his cups accepted and encouraging others to do the same. Highly irresponsible behaviour.

A minority of coffee shops have reusable coffee cups on sale. Why reusable cups on sale? If on sale customers will expect to be able to bring in reusable cups. When I have queried this, no one should be using reusable cups during coronavirus pandemic, I was told if someone brings a reusable cup, they fill a takeaway cup, up to the customer to then fill their own reusable cup. Somewhat self-defeating.

It cannot be emphasised enough, no one should be taking a reusable coffee cup to a coffee shop, no coffee shop should be accepting. It is to introduce an unnecessary disease vector that puts staff and customers at risk.

Compostable coffee cups are not compostable, at least not on a compost heap, they will biodegrade in an industrial biodegrader, though I have found they will compost on a well made compost heap. What do we we do with them once we have drunk our coffee, unless on our way home to drop on the compost heap, assuming we have a garden let alone a compost heap.

Reusable coffee cups simply address a symptom, not the underlying problem of grab it and go, instant gratification, pointless consumerism.

The only way to enjoy a coffee is to relax in an indie coffee shop with coffee served in glass or ceramic, which sadly not possible in the midst of coronavirus pandemic. And even when coffee shops were open, even before the first lockdown, many coffee shops were only serving in takeaway cups contactless payment to reduce the risk of cross infection.

Coffee shops get lumped together with pubs as hospitality, they should not be, they were not spreading coronavirus.

When we come out of lockdown, it should be slowly slowly, pause at each stage with a willingness to immediately impose hard lockdown, with testing in the community. We should close our city centres to traffic, pedestrianise the streets, the first to open as the weather warms up indie coffee shops and restaurants with socially distanced tables in the street. Win win for everyone, kick starts the local economy, helps local businesses, improves city centre ambience.

I would berate Scott though not for forgetting his reusable cup and using a takeaway cup. I would berate Scott for using either. If the coffee was so good he wished to brag about, why did he drink it from a disposable cup (pandemic excepted but then should not be using a reusable cup)? I would berate Scott for not relaxing in a coffee shop, the excellent coffee served in glass or ceramic. To do anything less, is to not do justice to the coffee and the person who brewed it.

Would we treat a red wine in this way, slosh into a takeaway cup and jog off down the street? I think not, not unless we are a wino. Therefore why do we treat coffee with such contempt?

We face several existential crisis, global pandemics, climate change, plastic pollution, mass species extinction. We have to address all, we cannot pick and choose.

UK later this year hosts COP26. Cumbria has given the go ahead for expansion of coal mining, Leeds airport expansion, relaxation of rules on night time flying at Leeds Bradford Airport.

Worrying about drinking a cappuccino is pissing in the wind. We would better direct our efforts at closing down drive-thru takeaway coffee outlets.

Plastic-lined takeaway cups contribute to plastic pollution.

Currently whilst in the midst of a global covid-19 pandemic, a takeaway cup a necessary evil to reduce risk of cross infection. No one should be taking a takeaway coffee cup to a coffee shop, no coffee shop should accept, it is to introduce an unnecessary disease vector which puts staff and customers at risk.

Grass-fed cows, the grass continually eaten acts a carbon sink, improves soil structure, soaks up rain water, soaks up carbon, slows flash floods, good for wildlife. We have woods, hedgerows, ponds and marshes.

Yes, we should be concerned about about our carbon footprint. A cappuccino is the least of our worries.

Drinking a cup of coffee, drive to a drive-thru coffee shop? What of flights?

Fake milks cause huge environmental damage, soy destruction of rainforest (and unless certified organic almost certainly gmo), almonds drain the California water table.

I would not have coffee beans shipped from outside the country, not when add shipping cost. On the other hand, if out of the country, I may pick up a bag of coffee and bring it back home.

But what of my arranging coffee beans to Cyprus? If not, do we deny coffee shops source of speciality coffee beans?

Beggars belief incineration being suggested as alternative to landfill, landfill we are running out of, hence a landfill tax.

No, we close the loops, we reduce waste, we do not use takeaway cups, we do not use reusable cups. In the natural world waste does not exist either in time or space, output of one process feeds into another process.

How many coffee shops place their spent coffee grounds outside in a strong paper bag to be taken away to be used on the garden?

Carbon neutral transport? Electric vehicles powered by renewable sources, or the carbon offset scam? The only way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere is not to emit carbon.

We have to look at whole life cycle cost. At best the plastic cup can be downcycled, the metal cup recycled many times, the energy recovered.

And that was the problems with the discussion, takeaway cups or reusable cups, which is the better? Neither, neither should exist, instead we should address the underlying problem of takeaway culture.

If we care about the coffee we are drinking, let us do it justice, let us show respect for the barista, the roastery, the farm and the growers.

Laura Young sums up Oatly:

I don’t want my money going to the destruction of the planet, and putting peoples lives and land at risk just so that I can have a creamy coffee in the morning!

A man flogging fake milk tells us to drink fake milk. Now who would have guessed that?

Comparison of Oatly with milk from cows was biased, but then what to expect when the source is someone flogging fake milk.

We heard of transparency. No mention of acquisition of a share of Oatly by Vulture Capitalists responsible for forest destruction or by a Chinese state owned company to facilitate access to the Chinese market.

Oatly used to be a small company that made a profit. They are now a big company that made a loss of $35 million in 2019.

The comparison was with industrial agriculture, the same industrial agriculture producing oats for Oatly, intensive agriculture.

Cows have an advantage, they are very efficient at converting to something edible what we cannot eat, converted to meat, milk and cheese, cheese produced by an age old natural method of fermentation.

Yes, cows produce methane, and yes methane 20 times more potent than CO2, but CO2 lasts decades in the atmosphere, whereas the methane produced by the cows short lived. We fill a field with cows, assuming we do not increase the stocking level, a small increase in atmospheric methane which will then remain constant, it will not increase, the grassy field will be a carbon sink.

No mention of nutritional deficiency

The only thing can be said in favour of Oatly, one of the better fake milks, nevertheless a cappuccino poured with Oatley looks and tastes disgusting.

Is that milk with your cappuccino or watered down porridge with enzymes added?

Milk needs fat for structure and flavour, essential for a cappuccino.

If do not wish for milk in a coffee, then ask for a V60 pour over.

The only fake milk maybe worth trying, and I confess I have yet to try, Rebel Kitchen, they at least have attempted to address the issue of fat.

Plant-based has become the new low fat, a means of marketing the output of global food corporations.

We should be supporting grass-fed agriculture, agroforestry, not monoculture, rows of monoculture crops which require herbicides, fertiliser, pesticide, will enable runoff, loss of soil, no improvement of soil structure.

Climate Change is a result of a mindset, that is based on monoculture, fossil fuels, chemicals, corporate control. We do not address Climate Emergency by applying the same mindset that caused the problem, global corporations trying to control what we eat and drink, destruction of local culture and diversity, is not the answer.

Excellent environmental issues being raised and discussed, but please do not greenwash on behalf of Oatly.

Adventures in Coffee a collaboration between Caffeine Magazine, Jools Walker and Filter Stories. Presented by Jools Walker and Scott Bentley.

James & James: Five Elixirs

February 6, 2021

Stories and elixirs inspired by James Baldwin and The Book of James. 

When James Hoffmann decided to hand February over to guest creators I thought ‘nah James, a bad idea’. How wrong could I be. But happily proven wrong with the first video, James & James: Five Elixirs.

Gilly Brewing Co, a coffee shop, a cocktail bar? Neither, Gilly Brewing Co are story tellers, creators of coffee-based elixirs.

Each season they create five elixirs. The winter season 2020 five elixirs based on James, James Baldwin novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, activist and The Book of James.

Stunning cinematography, a moving story, the readings, I was moved to tears watching.

Pretentious, but pretentious in a good way not a bad way.

The James & James Winter 2020 recipes can be found on the Gilly Brewing Co website and available to download an e-book.

I have though a criticism, anyone can use their recipes, but if a coffee shop or cocktail bar required to obtain a  licence. When I have shared what others have shown me, for example Yuzu signature drink which I was shown at The Barn Hackescher Markt I make the point, do not pass off as your own creation, credit the creators.

Speciality coffee is pushing the boundaries, it is also sharing, a philosophy James Hoffman has always been keen to encourage. An example would be leading baristas invited to 90 Plus estate in Ethiopia to work with their super-pickers, to create and share, one of who was Stefanos Domatiotis. Or James Hoffmann inviting guest videos.

Watching brought back to me a visit to The Third Room in Larnaca, two brothers,  a boutique hotel, a coffee shop that at night becomes a cocktail bar.  The coffee not quite up to scratch, I think the coffee beans used, James would have been able to hit the nail on the head.  Sourcing locally commendable and to be encouraged, but not at the expense of quality. I promised to source coffee supplies. Maybe James would care to send them samples.

The barista apologised, he was not really a barista, he had sought help from local coffee shops, Paul’s Coffee Roasters, Kaffea, Nick’s Coffee Bike, was a  cocktail maestro. He then offered to make me the most amazing cold brew coffee cocktail. But it was not only the cocktail, all the ingredients and concoctions he  had created, often from what they had grown, they own a vineyard and a distillery up in the mountains. All he lacked was quality coffee beans. With his level of sensory skills, this guy is going to brew amazing coffee. I see a future world champion Coffee in Good Spirits in the making.

Also came to mind The Alchemist, a novel by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. We are seeing alchemy in action, heat and fire used to turn coffee beans into an elixir. Gilly founders base their art on literature, let us see the two use The Alchemist for their next inspiration.

I would love to see a season of elixirs based on The Alchemist,  coupled  with readings from The Alchemist.

Coffee tells a story. Coffee has never been a mere beverage. It travelled into the Middle East from Yemen in mid-15th century, carried by Sufis as part of their religious devotions, not a drink for taste or to quench thirst, a psychoactive substance for use in religious ceremonies to bring closer to God. It spread into coffee houses, was subject to legal treatise and opinion, fatwas were issued. Coffee then spread across Europe.

With Gilly Brewing Co we are seeing another chapter open, alchemists practicing their arts.

A special thank you to James Hoffmann whose generosity made this video possible.

For more coffee stories please check out two podcasts: Filter Stories and Adventures in Coffee.

Is really expensive coffee a ripoff?

January 30, 2021

What do we mean by expensive coffee, really expensive coffee? And is it hype?

I pay somewhere between eight to twelve pounds sterling for a bag of coffee. Sometimes maybe fifteen a bag.

Expensive coffee is something very special, £10 for a bottle of 100g, twenty pound for a bag, maybe even twenty five a bag.

So what is really expensive coffee?

The topic for discussion in the first episode of Adventures in Coffee, a podcast by Caffeine Magazine.

Adventures in Coffee a collaboration between Caffeine Magazine, Jools Walker aka Lady Velo and Filter Stories Podcast. Presented by Jools Walker and Scott Bentley founder of Caffeine Magazine and produced by James Harper of Filter Stories Podcast.

A conversation with Rachel Petersen from Hacienda La Esmeralda, where Panama Geisha was discovered.

Coffee from this farm reaches record prices at auction. It is auctions which are driving up the price not hype not marketing. Japanese buyers are willing to pay high prices.

I have tasted Panama Geisha a few times. But be very wary of cheap Geisha. At a guess, Geisha is fussy about the growing conditions.

A couple of years ago I was shown by Stefanos Domatiotis coffee beans from the Geisha Panama estate of Ninety Plus,  a restored degraded cattle ranch.

Taf serves filter coffee from Ninety Plus.

Last year I was talking with a barista. He was in Japan, coffee at $10 a cup. He was invited to coffee cupping with Ninety Plus. He met the guy who ran the farm in Panama, who invited him to carry out soil samples on the farm. On leaving he was given coffee beans as a thank you. He said had he sold the beans it would have paid for his trip. On return home the beans made him very popular.

The world record for coffee beans was around $600 for a pound of beans. A few days later this was broken for beans from the Panama farm of Ninety Plus. The bid price was over $5,000 for a kilo. These prices are for green beans not roasted beans.

Panama Geisha from a Nespresso machine?

I was horrified when I saw a Nespresso machine on the bar in The Underdog. Earlier I had spotted on the shelves what looked like egg boxes for quail eggs. Try this. I was treated to Panama Geisha from a Nespresso machine. Wow, I could not believe it, from a 60 euro Nespresso machine.

The price for these Nespresso pods, 30 euros for 18 capsules.

Wush Wush, a very interesting Ethiopian variety from Colombia, best described as weird.

Jools Walker wanted to know was it worth spending seventy-five  pounds on a bag of coffee as a gift for a friend? I would most definitely say no. Spend the money instead on coffee making equipment.

Try coffee from Cartwheel Coffee. All their coffee is high Q grade, somewhere between high 80 and low 90.

Outpost Coffee had a Cup of Excellence, ten pounds for a bottle of 100g. I was treated to and it was excellent, but I baulked at the price. I changed my mind, thought I would treat a friend but when I returned had sold out.

If wish for something special, try Finca La Chispita Costa Rica or Finca El Mirador Colombia from Coffee Gems.

And yes, Kiss the Hippo.

When buying coffee, buy from a reputable coffee shop or roastery, check the roast date for freshness. You will not only obtain top quality coffee, but will be direct trade, a long term relationship with the growers who will be paid a higher price for quality, not the insulting FairTrade scam, a tiny margin above the price for commodity coffee. The FairTrade scam, not only paid a low price, no incentive to improve, thus maintaining the growers in poverty.

God in a Cup is an excellent account of the discovery of Panama Geisha.

Please do not buy kopi luwak.

Shy nocturnal forest creatures kept in battery cages and force fed coffee beans. A vile trade in animal cruelty that no one should support.

Coffee companies peddling kopi luwak should be named and shamed and driven out out of business. They reach new levels of bullshit, ‘connoisseurs’ ‘one of the world’s finest coffees’.

Coffee Bean Shop typical of the bullshit:

One of the world’s finest coffees, with one of the most interesting stories behind it! Fully certified, our Kopi Luwak coffee beans come from fully trusted farms where the Civet cats are treated with kindness and freedom.

The key word here is ‘farm’. These are wild animals, they do no live on farms.

They go on to say:

There’s been some bad press about the civet cats and how they are treated and force fed in the production of Kopi Luwak. To reassure you, I only buy my Kopi Luwak from an industry trusted friend, Joseph, who has meticulously visited each farm to confirm the animals’ welfare. We support these small, trusted farms where the Civet cats are treated with freedom and kindness. So, if you haven’t tried this, it’s an absolute must…

This is Del Boy at his finest, my mate Joseph checks the farms so you don’t have to. Isn’t that right Rodney?

Cowboys peddling Kopi Luwak should be named and shamed and driven out of businesses.

Drift no 9 Bali edition has an excellent account of the vile Kopi Luwak trade.

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