Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Pret a Manger gives away free coffee

March 20, 2018

Pret a Manger to give away 300,000 free coffees this week.

It sounds generous but is it?

Many people have coffee loyalty cards. How many coffees to buy to get a free coffee?

How many coffees do Pret a Manger sell in a week?

I do not know, but I would hazard a guess the free coffees is a tiny percentage of what Pret actually sell.

And that puts into context the ‘free coffee offer’ if we compare with a coffee loyalty card.

In other words everyone is giving away free coffee.

As with the coffee at 49p, Pret a Manger has once again pulled a very clever PR stunt, and once again the media has fallen for it.


Coffee cupping on St Joseph’s Day

March 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four coffees, two sessions.

Blind tasting. The origin to be revealed later.

I would have changed how this was carried out.

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

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

Curious. I offer an explanation.

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

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

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

Government rejects latte levy

March 10, 2018

The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action.  — Mary Creagh,  chair  Environmental Audit Committee

In an act of crass stupidity the UK government has rejected out of hand the latte levy.

This is to reject out of hand the evidence and proposals from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

It is a kick in the teeth to the many indie coffee shops that have done the right thing, introduced KeepCup, compostable cups, offered a discount to those who bring in a clean KeepCup for a refill, and above all, encourage people to sit and relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

It is a kick in the teeth to coffee drinkers who have bought a KeepCup, or better still relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

What the government has shown is that it is craven to Big Business. It has caved in to lobbying by the corporate coffee chains. The same chains, Starbucks and Caffe Nero that dodge tax, to which the government turns a blind eye.

2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year. Coffee cups that cannot be recycled, as what at first glance appears to be paper, is plastic-lined paper, and therein lies the problem, these plastic-lined cups cannot be recycled.

Plastic is a modern day curse, it is destroying our seas.

And what does the government do? Nothing. The government would rather pander to corporate greed.

Next time the government claims to care about the environment, respond with two words, latte levy.

Labour must commit now that one of the first acts on taking office will be to introduce a latte levy to take immediate effect.


February 22, 2018

Wouldn’t it be fun to see who could brew the best cup of AeroPress coffee? — Tim Varney and Tim Wendelboe

The history of the Aeropress is unusual.

It was not developed as would expect by a company like Hario, a Japanese company renowned for its innovation in coffee brewing.

The design was by Alan Adler, an expert in aerodynamics, not coffee. He wished for a quick and easy way to make a cup of coffee

He invented the Aerobie, in essence a ring frisbee.

What he noticed was the body of the frisbee introduces drag. He therefore developed a ring, where the ring functions in the same manner as an aircraft wing, it provides lift.

He then turned his attention to coffee making.

The cafetiere or French press does not provide even distribution of the flow of water through the coffee, poor quality of extraction, lack of consistency.

The same problem can be experienced with an espresso machine. Watch very carefully next time a barista at work. They carefully level the ground coffee, they press down to compact the coffee. There is skill involved. If the coffee is not level, or if cracks appear in the compacted coffee, do not get even extraction of the coffee, which can result in weak and insipid coffee.

There is no one way or correct way to brew using an AeroPress.

Variables include grind size of the coffee, water temperature and brew time.

AeroPress competitions have proved to be highly popular.

The very first World AeroPress competition was co-organised by Tim Varney and Tim Wendelboe and held at a coffee shop in Oslo.

And taking their cue from these humble beginnings of the first World AeroPress competition, an AeroPress competition organised by the Lincoln Coffee Collective is the pre-launch event for the Lincoln Coffee Festival. And yes, it is being held in a small coffee shop.

Bar Unico

February 20, 2018

A bar serving coffee, a coffee shop?

Actually neither, Italian concept, there is not the distinction between a bar and a coffee shop, a bar will serve coffee and food.

I had been recommended try.

Low expectations, Italian coffee is dark, over roasted, and even Italians are beginning to recognise they have  a problem when a cup of coffee is served at one euro.

There are exceptions, Bar Italia in Soho for example.

I tried a cappuccino. Not as I expected, dark and over roasted. Served too hot and somewhat weak and insipid

I noticed bags of beans on sale. Roast date listed, where beans sourced from but nothing on where or who roasted by. Accountability, transparency, traceability is important. Every bean has a story to tell.

The aroma from one of the bags of beans pleasant.

Occasional live music.

The Bath Coffee Trail

February 19, 2018

One way to explore a city is through its coffee shops, indie coffee shops, not chains.

Find one coffee shop serving excellent coffee, ask, and they will direct you to others.

That is what I did in Athens, in Just Made 33 I asked of other coffee shops. Wending my way from one coffee shop to the next, I explored parts of Athens I had not explored before, away from my well trod path through Plaka and Monastiraki via archaeological sites.

This is what Marianna Chrzanowska-Hunt has done with Bath.  First stop Society Cafe, then through a series of tweets, she has explored the city one tweet at a time.

Where next, Bristol is not far away.

A plastic sea

February 18, 2018

We live on a blue planet, a planet of water not land.

We are destroying the oceans. We all depend on the sea. If there is no life in the sea, there will be no life on land.

The oceans do not exist to transport more cheap consumer crap from China. The sea does not exist to sit by on the beach in the Mediterranean.

Plastic is a modern day curse.  It ends up incineration, in landfill, or in the sea.

Plastic, contrary to industry claims, plastic is not recycled. It is not recycled as is steel, glass and aluminium. At best some plastic is down-cycled.

In the sea it breaks down into microscopic particles. It is concentrated by wind and ocean currents into feeding grounds.

Near Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, currents define the Sargasso Sea—the only sea that is not defined by land boundaries. Known by some as a floating rain forest, the Sargasso Sea is named for the free-floating Sargassum which provides food and shelter for a vast variety of wildlife. However, those same currents carry a huge amount of plastics that eventually break down in the water and are eaten by small fish and other species that are then eaten by larger fish. The toxic chemicals intensify as they move up the food chain through these animals—right onto our plates.

Fish and other marine life mistake the microscopic plastic for plankton. Big fish eat the little fish, bigger fish eat the big fish.  We  eat the fish.

The mass of this microscopic plastic exceeds that of the plankton.

Toxic chemicals washed off the land adhere to the plastic.

The Sargasso Sea is a major carbon sink.

By 2050, the mass of plastic in the seas will exceed the mass of fish.

We are all to blame.

The supermarkets with their obsession on plastic.   Why not as local markets, fruit and vegetables loose, pop in a brown paper bag and later drop on the compost heap or on the paper recycling bin?

Challenge the supermarkets for their obscene use of plastics.

Support local markets, farmers markets, where the produce is fresh. And if the are using plastic, speak with the organiser and question their low environmental standards.

Plastic straws, used for only a few minutes at best.

Plastic-lined disposable paper coffee cups loved by the coffee chains churning out disgusting coffee, grab it and go, takeaway, throwaway, consumerist culture.

Cyprus an island surrounded by the sea. The island boasts some of the worst examples of plastic abuse. The worst examples are seen with coffee chains Coffee Island and Costa. A freddo cappuccino, served in plastic with plastic straw, not even for takeaway, for their sit down customers. A drink that could and should be served in glass.

Speciality coffee shops are leading the way, moving towards compostable cups, refillable KeepCups and similar, discount if used.

But this is tinkering with the symptoms, we have to address the underlying grab it and go, consumerist culture, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with a  cup of speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Ask your local coffee shop, what are they doing to discourage grab it and go takeaway coffee?

Government has to do more.

Support the introduction of the 25p latte levy.

Are compostable coffee cups compostable?

February 14, 2018

The proposed 25p latte levy appears to have focused minds.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year. These cups cannot be recycled due to a plastic liner in what at first glance appears to be a simple paper cup. 

An environmental disaster, deadly for for marine life.

Something has to be done. Hence the proposed latte levy.

Indie coffee shops as always are taking the lead, are starting to offer on sale compostable paper cups, reusable KeepCups, discounts if bring back cups for a refill.

If I am on my way home, have picked up fruit and vegetables, I can pop my compostable cup in with my fruit and vegetables, then when home, deposit my compostable coffee cup on the compost heap.

But what if not on my way home, what if not a convenient compost heap, what then with my compostable coffee cup? And therein lies the dilemma, what to do with the compostable coffee cup? It will find its way into the general waste stream.

The underlying assumption, is that my compostable cup will do what it says, actually compost.

Only one way to find out, drop a couple of cups on the compost heap, sit back and wait. That was a few weeks ago. Nothing has happened. They are siting there. Though to be fair, it is winter.

If I am at Infinity Foods in Brighton or at the farmers market in Guildford, I will often pick up a biodegradable plastic bag, these are made of plant-based cellulose.

I will fill with kitchen waste, throw on the compost heap, or at least I used to.

What I found was, everything rotted down, the bag still there, even after several cycles through the compost heap.

For comparison, yogurt pots, those made of waxed paper, do rot down, leaving behind the plastic liner.

The plastic bag is very thin compared with the compostable paper coffee cup.

We need more people to do as I have done, deposit these compostable paper cups on their compost heaps and monitor what happens.

KeepCup and clones thereof are refillable, but from observation the take up and usage is low.  Easy to see why, expensive, bulky, often heavy, a pain to carry around.

This may though change, with 25p latte levy helping to focus minds and indie coffee shops reporting an increase in interest.

In Australia, or least Melbourne, Abigail Forsyth co-founder of KeepCup reports reuse rate has risen from 1% to 30%. Still low, but 30% a lot better than 1%.

The demographics to aim KeepCup at office workers popping out for a coffee, coupled with substantial discount when used.

Compostable coffee cups, KeepCup, are addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture, typified by the chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Do we not value good coffee? Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served from glass or ceramic, the only way to appreciate a good coffee.

We need dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Could the latte levy kill your local?

February 13, 2018

The latest issue of Caffeine, has a lead article Could the latte levy kill your local?  It is nonsense and shows a lack of understanding of either the proposed latte levy, its impact or why it is necessary.

The simple answer to the question posed is no.

We have a simple principle, the polluter shall pay.

It is not acceptable that coffee shops externalise their costs onto the rest of society, which is what they are doing with plastic-lined coffee cups.

The 25p latte levy is not to penalise coffee shops, it is to make them pay their externalised costs, but more importantly, to change behaviour.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. These coffee cups cannot be recycled. Although they appear to be paper, they are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem, these plastic lined coffee cups cannot be recycled and are adding to the growing problem of waste.

The planet is being smothered in plastic, sea life is being destroyed by plastic.

Compostable paper cups are a step in the right direction, but they are not the answer. If I have a coffee in a compostable cup, I am on my way home, I can drop on the compost heap. But if not what then? Therein lies the dilemma. It will join the general waste stream.

How long to decompose? I dropped a couple on the compost heap a few weeks ago. Not a lot a happening. It is though winter.

I would like to see a few people carry out this experiment. After use, drop compostable cups on a compost heap, monitor what happens.

Reusable coffee cups are not the answer either. Bulky, expensive and a pain to carry around.

I have yet to see anyone buy a KeepCup or clones thereof, let alone see anyone walk in a coffee shop and use one.

Conversations in coffee shops bear this out. Even when substantial discounts are on offer, take up is low.  Though this may be about to change.

I was in a coffee shop, where Frank Green cups were on sale. Ugly,  inelegant and made of plastic. I asked how much did they cost, what discount if any if used? No one knew. They did not know because no one could ever recall one being sold let alone used. They could not even find it on the till.

Where reusable coffee cups come into their own, is if targeting office workers popping out for a coffee, and only then if coupled with a substantial discount.

Compostable cups, reusable cups, are addressing the symptoms not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture.

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass, make takeaway coffee socially unacceptable.

Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

Those who will lose out will be the chains, not the indie coffee shops. Their businesses model is built on grab it and go undrinkable coffee.

The 25p latte levy will not be absorbed any more than the 5p plastic bag charge is absorbed. To believe otherwise is to entirely miss the point of the levy. It is there as a deterrent to change behaviour, not to penalise coffee shops or coffee drinkers.

All the indie coffee shops I have spoken to welcome the 25p latte levy, they see it to their benefit, plus they see the environmental damage caused by disposable coffee cups.

Since the policy has been proposed, it appears to have focused minds.

One coffee shop I spoke to had had KeepCups on sale for a couple of weeks, more to see how they sold, than anything else. They sold like hot cakes. The day I was there, three had been sold that day.

Another coffee shop has already changed to compostable coffee cups and will have KeepCups on sale soon.

Other coffee shops have told me they are looking into both compostable cups and KeepCups.

Four Boroughs offer a substantial discount which is a good idea, more should follow their excellent example, though I prefer the elegance of KeepCup.

Or is it simply a clever PR gimmick rather like Pret a Manger offering organic filter coffee at 49p a cup, with no reusable  cups on sale? Four Boroughs are not offering a discount if you bring in a reusable cup for a refill.

Research has shown, need to both offer KeepCup or clone thereof and a substantial discount to make any impact on reducing use of disposable cups. Either one on its own has little impact.

I recommended to a coffee shop about to open, buy in KeepCup, sell at cost as a promotion during first week, offer a discount for a refill. They are an integral part of a new bus station. Bus passengers would have been tempted and intrigued by their fellow passengers. Sadly my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Even worse they stuck up a poster telling bus passengers the coffee shop was not a waiting room, in other words bus passengers not welcome.

No one will be paying a latte levy, not if they use a compostable cup, not if they bring a cup for a refill, not if they sit and relax with a coffee served in ceramic or glass.

What we need is dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Rather than writing nonsense and showing lack of understanding of the issues, even worse asking readers to lobby Members of Parliament to oppose the latte levy, Caffeine should be urging its readers to lobby hard for the latte levy to be brought in at the next Budget.

By calling for no latte levy, Caffeine is not helping either indie coffee shops or the planet, they are working hand in glove with the chains who behind the scenes are lobbying hard to block the latte levy.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

Cappuccino at International Bomber Command Centre

February 11, 2018

Last visits to the International Bomber Command Centre were a couple of weeks ago when not yet open to the public, press day and a preview for veterans, I was curious what it was like now open to the public, what better way to find out than to drop in for a cappuccino.

Sunday roast dinner at the Butcher and Beast at Heighington, then on to the International Bomber Command Centre for a cappuccino.

I was pleasantly surprised on arrival to find how many cars parked in the car park, almost full.

Shocked to find have to pay £3 to park. This was a planning condition imposed by the local council. The money will go to the centre, but only I assume after covering the cost of the parking machines.

How to access by public transport I do not know.

There needs to be access from South Common, otherwise quite a trek if on foot.

Speaking with the Director, previous weekend, the first weekend open to the public,  was even busier, I think she said 1100 visitors.

Excellent news, as they need visitor numbers to make the centre viable and provide cash flow.

On entering the open plan reception area, I noticed cabinets arranged corralling a central area, books on sale, souvenirs, including bags of coffee and tea.

The range of books quite limited. I assume not long open, hopefully a wider selection in the near future.

My cappuccino, too hot, weak and insipid. Classic mistake to serve piping hot.

The coffee served, Bomber Command blend, is a blend from Brazil, supplied by Stokes, exclusive to IBCC.

The Bomber Command beans are on sale, but already ground. For freshness, beans have to be whole, ground on demand. Also essential when supply beans, the roast date, best by or use by is meaningless.

Information on the bag about a Bomber Command pilot from Brazil, but nothing about the beans, where sourced from in Brazil, Q grade, not even if Arabica or heaven forbid Robusta.

Also on sale Bomber Command tea, again exclusive to IBCC supplied by Stokes. Disappointingly, in tea bags, not loose leaf tea.