Archive for December, 2008

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Square Mile’s Blog

31/12/2008

This is so cool I love what James and Anette are doing, videocasting is the way to go! Also have a look at the videocast about the french press!

Square Miles videocast

Have a great new years eve party and all the best for 2009!

Deaton

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Year in review

20/12/2008

The comments by volta on my In Season Coffee 2 post has got me thinking about the year gone by in all things coffee, so I thought that I would come up with my own best of  list for the year.

1. Coaching Kyle Glanville through to the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen. This was an emotionally charged build up from the western regional, USBC and to the worlds, we poured so much time and effort into this event it was absolutely exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I also want thank Mr Doug Zell for his relentless support during this time as well.

2. Training and development by Mr Geoff Watts and Mr K.C. O’Keefe with out these two in my life my palate would still be back in the stone age. Mr Watts introduced me to the Intelligentsia way of cupping then Mr K.C. O’ Keefe relentlessly drilled it into me! Thanks guys!

3. Learning to roast on our 40kg Gothot, although we were sitting in construction dust for a better part of 5 months twiddling our thumbs. Once we fired her up on April 1st the learning curve was steep, we burnt through thousands of dollars dialing her in (and us) before we opened the doors. Once the doors opened we scrambled to get our systems in place, I laugh at the thought that we were only roasting at best 2 to 2 and half batches per hour. Now we roast an average of 4 batches per hour and have roasted over 3500 batches of what I hope is delicious coffee.

4. Roasting Kyle’s Santa Teresa from Panama competition coffee for the WBC, this coffee was so heavy in the drum it roasted unlike anything I had experienced. It came into our warehouse extremely close to the competition time we barely had time to dial it in I think I got to roast a hand full of times before we had to, due to time constraints roast it for the competition. I roasted 6 batches in total for competition (3 on one day then another 3 the day after) and every time I had goose bumps from head to toe, full of adrenalin.

5. Being part of the purchasing team for the Black Cat Project and developing the Black Cat Classic along side of Kyle Glanville and Steven Lee its an been an honor gents!

6. Becoming a USBC certified judge, unfortunately I missed out on the WBC accreditation just gone by but to be certified in Europe and the United States is very satisfactory indeed.

7. seeing my good friend Stephen Morrissey, whom I worked with for years back in Dublin, Ireland, take out the World Barista Championships. When he won, it was such an amazing lift from the sinking feeling of not having Kyle in the finals. Copenhagen was so intense, so emotional, so good I ain’t afraid to say that I cried like baby for that kooky guy.

8. Seeing my coffee world get even smaller. I feel very fortunate that I have made many friends through out my time in coffee and I am seeing them/ us all develop fantastic careers within our industry. When I left Europe I thought that I would not see anyone from that neck of the woods ever again it has not been the case at all.

9. To hear the success of Mr Klaus Thomsen and the kids at the Coffee Collective is inspiring.

10. Judging at the Western Regional in Berkley and finally meeting all the personalities that I had been reading about for so long.

11. I guess all the traveling could be put into one list as well, even though some of it was not especially for coffee I always, somehow ended up sneaking in some coffee time. Places I have traveled this year, Berkley, San Fran (twice), Copenhagen, Los Vegas (not for coffee), Minneapolis, Montreal, Long Beach and New York.

12. Working with all at Intelligentsia, not having any old friends or family here in LA, the kids at Intelli have been a great substitute, thanks! Also all the other coffee friends that I have made along the way there are to many to mention but you know who you are as well.

Best Coffees not in any order as they were all winners!

Santa Teresa from Panama, Kyle’s competition coffee for the worlds was a beautiful coffee with an even better story. It sat on our cupping table and divided a company with its supreme fruits that had some believe it could have slight ferment. It didn’t we bought it and it, was, GOOOOOD!

Matalapa, El Salvodor, used for the competitions building up to the WBC for our barista team. Such a stellar coffee to work with full of fruit sweetness that was so forgiving in the roaster.

Haicenda La Esmerelda, Geisha Jaramillo Especial. Man oh man the richest sweetest coffee I have ever had Jasmin, Jasmin, Jasmin need I say more.

Kurimi, Ethiopia, I love this coffee it is really challenging to roast this bad boy but when we nail it there is a small victory dance performed every time. With this one, we have to have it out of the roaster and in the cooling tray in around twelve minuets making it the fastest roast that we do and I have ever done.

Ndaroini, Kenya great plum sweetness fantastic savory notes as well and once again really forgiving in the roaster. The sweeter the coffee the easier and more forgiving it is to roast. We can can so much out of this coffee its fantastic.

Tres Santos, Colombia, this to my mind is our sleeper coffee it just does everything that a good solid coffee should do. This coffee is so easy to drink I can sip on it all day, great cherry notes with a body that is plump and lush, good, good, good!

San Jose, Nicaragua, yet another good solid coffee that can be drank all day without getting overloaded by overt sweetness or acidity, like some of the other coffees that I have mentioned. One to have in on a cold day, not that I get them in LA. Oh and Steve is a great guy who went well out of his way during our stay in New York recently.

I am starting to realize that I could go on and on about our coffees and coffees I have been in touch with,  how lucky am I to be in contact with such stellar beverages!

Other coffees I have had and are worthy of a mention are The Coffee Collectives espresso blend, Stephen Morrissey’s competition blend, Ritual had a fantastic Colombian that they show cased at the Slow Foods, I just can’t remember the name for the life of me. I am sure that I am forgetting some coffees here but there are just way to many!

I hope everyone has a great new year, thanks for taking the time to read!

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In Season Coffee 2

15/12/2008

I thought that I would cut and paste this from Intelli’s web site,  just in case you had not seen what Mr Geoff Watts has to say about in season coffee.

Hello from Intelligentsia. I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and may I be one of the first to wish you happy holidays and/or season’s greetings. That second one seems to fit nicely, as I am going to discuss seasonality and how it relates to coffee.

Seasonality is a subject rarely mentioned in the coffee trade. It is virtually invisible to most consumers, yet it is so intrinsic to quality that leaving it out of the conversation is like planning a parade and forgetting to look at the weather forecast. Coffee drinkers have recently become familiar with the idea of freshness as it applies to roasted coffee, and those who take it to heart have benefited tremendously. It is not difficult to appreciate the difference in aromatic quality, vibrancy of flavor and sweetness that come as a result of brewing coffee that was roasted within days or weeks instead of months or years. There really just isn’t any comparison—a freshly roasted coffee shines in the cup and fills the room with beautiful fragrances, while the staled coffee tastes flat and yields, at best, a vaguely bitter, starchy kind of odor. Imagine a rose in bloom next to a fallen, wilted flower which is already well into decomposition. While they are the same in many ways, their differences are so compelling as to overwhelm whatever intrinsic traits they share. It is a matter of beauty and aesthetics—one seduces and intoxicates the senses while the other barely merits notice.

When we talk about seasonality with green coffee (raw, unroasted coffees), the principles of freshness are the same as with any agricultural product—there is always a period of peak vibrancy, when sweetness and flavor are at their maximum on the pleasure scale. Michigan blueberries are always best in July, August and September.  A fresh ripe tomato plucked from the backyard garden will always defeat the one culled from the vine two months ago and trucked in from another part of the country. You see what I’m getting at here—natural things tend to have a period when they are in their prime, after which they start to lose qualities. Most agricultural products do not benefit from extended aging.

Coffee is no different. There is a period shortly after harvest when the beans are at their very best and bursting with life. As the calendar advances and months go by the coffee loses vitality as the inevitable effects of aging set in. Organic materials inside the beans (the carriers of flavor) volatize and disappear. The gorgeous fruit notes and aromas fade away slowly until at some point all that is left to taste is cellulose and roasting related smokiness. We call these coffees past-crop. They are faded, they taste woody and lifeless, and they offer only caffeine and little pleasure. They are no longer worth much and certainly have lost the right to be celebrated as Specialty. The average lifespan of a green coffee can vary depending on how ripe the coffee was at the point of picking, how well it was dried, and how it has been stored. In the worst cases, a coffee can start to lose luster after only a few months. In the best instances, it can hold up for ten months. In any case, the life expectancy is much closer to fresh baked bread than it is to a Twinkie.

Yet with all this searching for great coffees and experimenting with the best ways to roast and brew them, it is easy to forget about the fact that the green coffees themselves are actually losing quality with every passing month. Let me repeat: Coffee does not get better with age. There is a short period of resting immediately after harvest (and before processing/export) that can be of benefit to stabilize the moisture within the beans, but beyond that point, there is nowhere to go but down. This is a source of enormous frustration for the Roaster, who invariably struggles against time to try to sell coffees before they lose their vigor and fall over the edge of the cliff. Every single Roaster has and will continue to deal with this, and anyone who has spent time cupping at origin will lament that coffees that have such a lovely intensity and complexity of flavor, that possess endless nuance, just doesn’t usually endure beyond a couple of months and rarely survive the oceanic journey to the US.

Nearly every coffee you drink is a minimum three months “off the tree,” but most are far older than that. A typical growing season will last several months, and shipping will continue for several months after the harvest finishes. It is not unusual for a coffee that was picked in January to show up in the US in June or July and make it to a grocer’s shelf in August to begin its sale cycle.  In countries that are especially remote or landlocked (Rwanda or Bolivia, for example), things can take even longer. I remember our first Rwanda purchase in 2003 and I shudder recalling the frustrations we dealt with. I was there in June just as the harvest was winding down and bought some coffees that reminded me of fruit nectar, with a juicy black cherry flavor and apricot flavor along with a cane sugar sweetness that wouldn’t quit. It was exciting. We bought the coffee and waited with giddy anticipation. Two months went by. Then four months. More waiting. In May of 2004 the coffee showed up, just as the new harvest was getting underway back in Rwanda. By then the coffee was a shadow of what it had once been, and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to launch it. There was nothing to celebrate. To understand the entire process, take a look at the image created by Jason Lips, one of Intelligentsia’s multi-talented Roasters.


Click for larger image

That Rwanda was an extreme example, but it is indicative of one of the biggest challenges facing our industry today. It is hard to get coffees out of producing countries and into our Chemex pots and Clover brewers while they are still possessive of their most outstanding characteristics and virtue. And it is hard to maintain a constantly replenishing inventory that follows the harvests and never allows a coffee to get old. There are some clever new protocols being applied today that will have benefits. Vacuum packaging, the use of innovative materials that help protect coffees from oxidation and humidity change, and even some deep freezing techniques will significantly extend the useful life of a coffee if done well. Still, it is an uphill climb.

With Intelligentsia In-Season we are trying to achieve something that is simple in theory but that will have a profound effect on how coffee is considered and how it is sold. The premise is an easy one to grasp: Nearly every coffee producing country has one main harvest period annually* that lasts between 3-4 months on average. Since we want to sell only coffees that are in their true prime and at their very best in the cup, we will offer coffees when they are in their peak season as determined by harvest patterns. When you see the In-Season sticker on a coffee bag, it means that coffee is still fewer than 10 months removed from the termination of harvest and can be considered very fresh.

[**Some countries like Kenya and Colombia have small crops that fall outside of the traditional harvest season. There are also one or two countries with so much rain that the coffee plants flower perpetually and the coffee kind of leaks off the tree all year long. Even in those cases, however, there remains one key harvest during which the best quality is usually found.]

Fortunately, given the way coffee trees have populated the world over the last century, there is always a harvest happening somewhere on the planet during any given month of the year. In general, Northern Hemisphere coffee countries harvest between November and March each year and those in the Southern tend to harvest sometime during May-September. Depending on rainfall patterns, elevation, specific climate conditions and latitude the actual harvest periods can fluctuate slightly, but they are pretty reliable. For example, Costa Rica harvests its best coffees in December, January, and February each year. The Peruvian harvest usually kicks in during June and July. Northern Tanzania really gets going in August and September. Factor in the time it takes to process and ship a coffee to the US (between 6-8 weeks typically) and you can predict when a coffee should become available again by looking at the harvest dates.

So by purchasing coffees from all over the world in both hemispheres, we are able to follow natural harvest patterns and always keep a stock of coffees that are fresh and at their best. By combining this strategy with new shipment and storage materials, we will always have coffee that is vibrant and full of life, as it was meant to be. You can check our calendar and see when the harvests happen to get an idea of what to expect. Or just look for the In-Season sticker on the bags to let you know that what you are drinking is the right coffee for the time of year. It may take a while to get used to the thinking about coffee this way, but eventually it should become second nature. Best to avoid Costa Rican coffee in January, drink something from Colombia or Peru or Rwanda instead. But lay off that Rwandan coffee in May, since it’s time for the new Central American coffees and the Yirgacheffes and Kenyas. That’s the idea—we understand that coffee is seasonal just like most things, and we want to respect the natural cycles by showcasing individual coffees during the time of year when they are at their best. It does mean that we’ll be keeping inventories smaller and will not be offering any single origin coffees year-round, but that is as it should be. There will always be a great and dynamic lineup of fresh coffees available, and offerings will be grouped into seasons based on their harvest periods.