It's estimated that 30% of small-scale coffee producers are linked to Fairtrade networks and approximately 65% of Fairtrade producers were certified organic coffee producers.Read More
I have always wanted to write about coffee and yet never done it. Why, you say? - because the coffee crowd is sometimes cray. You put an idea out there, and it gets immediate acclaim or well, the opposite is a very quick exile of doom. Love it or hate it, it is what it is. Coffee drinkers are a passionate crowd, and speciality coffee an even more serious subset of this. I have learned and loved speciality coffee for a long time now. So it was only natural to choose coffee as the topic of a recent paper. We had been talking about political economy and supply chains in food commodities, and coffee has been long traded as a agricultural commodity. I will be sharing a few things I have understood through my reading and expert ‘coffee-drinking’, while working in speciality coffee.
thanks for your time. and thanks for being nice. to the ladies of coffee ;)
[On the topic of Quality]
What is quality to you? is it a tasty coffee, a well roasted and extracted coffee, a replicable and consistent coffee that is always getting better; and if it is all those things, how do you measure quality? I mean there is the basic scientific sense of it, like how in manufacturing of food and other things we instil quality control/assurance programs to ensure we can identify defects that deviate from the defined ‘quality’ attribute is and aim to eliminate situations of lesser quality.
In the Coffee Paradox book by Daviron & Ponte, they suggest that there are three classes or distinctions of quality; being material, symbolic, and in-person service. Anyone who works in speciality coffee will agree with the evidence of all three in a successful quality coffee brand.
Material quality, independent of the buyer or seller, speaks for the physical product. We can measure this with technical and scientific equipment, sensory evaluations, etc.
Symbolic quality is more what I know as a 'perceived quality’ associated with the product brand. This is derived from reputation, for example, what the brand or trademark stands for. In retail sale, all the sustainability & fairtradingtrade or geographic claims. How many people at supermarkets will give priority to a ‘fair-trade’ label or say "oh that’s blue mountainy coffee or Kona coffee, must be good." ;) It has been observed that UK consumers are willing to pay more for a fair-trade product. But, that can be a very deceptive. One must consider what these trademarks or brands hold as a meaning, for more insight on this I suggest you see Hasbean owner Steve's blurb on direct trade & fair-trade (here, and here).
In-person service quality is by far the most personal and involved; and is the basis of what speciality coffee seeks to highlight over others. This involves buyers, sellers, producers; and because it is an interaction between the consumer and the seller, it cannot happen independent of that relationship. This relationship is based on a service; it's the preparation of the drink at the cafe, or talking through the types of retail coffees. What I think speciality coffee alone depends on. Ultimately highlighting what everyone up the supply chain has done thus far. (farmers/processors, green buyers, roasters, etc.)
Producing countries are most concerned with material quality according to Daviron & Ponte because coffee is just a product grown to be exported; with the exception of from Brazil and Ethiopia, where there exists a coffee consuming culture. I found this breakdown to be quite helpful in showing what we know as ‘quality’
 genetic type of coffee (arabica, robusta)  cultivar (bourbon, typica, caturra)  agro-climatic conditions (terroir, soil, altitude, rainfall)  harvesting procedures(sun or shade growing, mulching, irrigation?!)  primary processing (wet or dry)  export preparation  handling during transport (because we all like non-manky coffee)
There is a significant difference in processes and labour applied to speciality, whole bean retail, or instant coffee. Some argue that an informed customer with a better understanding of quality attributes will drive the roasters on all levels to provide a better product. It's my hope that consumers would have the discernment from among the homogenous mass-marketed coffee, to recognise more than just brand-associated/symbolic quality.
Hello there, friends & readers. Haven't said much lately, but this week I visited the CATEX food catering expo here in Dublin. Aside from being one of the largest food and catering exhibitions; showcasing catering equipment, food paraphernalia, suppliers and other food safety geekery; the best part about it was that one the events hosted within the expansive food show was the Irish Barista Championships (#IBC).
My experience in Dublin has been shaped mostly around coffee and food- Just the way I like it. Within three weeks of my arrival, I was lucky enough to be offered a job at 3FE. I have been learning and experiencing the specialty coffee industry… and hopefully somehow adding to it. It has been an invaluable experience getting to know new friends and foraging for adventures. It's really weird, some days I have to pinch myself to be reminded that this reality is true, and that I have the privilege to work in the 'thick of it' - experience coffee legacies in the making! I know, I love to be dramatic. But honestly, I do feel like I have a great opportunity to see the day to day goings-on of one of the (in my humble opinion) leading coffee shops in Europe.
Just a quick blog, and celebration of victories - Congratulations to Colin, Bruno, Vinicius and all the competitors. Enjoy.
In-house cured duck prosciutto served with perfectly crisp baguette, arugula, and rhubarb. We could taste the basil in the greens, subtle but somewhat hidden. Salt and fat in the proscuitto was perfectly paired with the tartness of the rhubarb.
Boursin chicken ravioli- was high salt and a bit overwhelming, but buttery and rich to offset the salt.
This has got to be, likely, the best burger I have ever had. I don't know how they manage it, but the burger is served to order; which means you can have it medium. That is certainly unheard of in Canada. Sure, in the states and elsewhere, you may be asked how you would like it done, but the risks of ground beef are no joke! So from a food safe perspective, prett-ty scary.... but then again, it is all about managing risk. We were told that the beef is ground at 'community', have to find out more on the process before I know.
In-house filtrations system is a nice treat, because you can cleanse your palate with either flat or sparkling filtered water. Who doesn't like the added touch of sparkling water with dinner.
Overall price-point is not outlandish. It is great food, prepared to great detail and a casual atmosphere to enjoy company. (Chill chair factor!!) There are a few places to get tasty food in town and this is definitely going to be starting way high on my list.
Highlights: Stilton Cheesecake Brulée with coulee - sorry, no pics. Complex, dynamic... taste it.
Service: Personal and genuine, unpretentious
Likelihood to return: I want to go, RIGHT now. (Next: sitting at the bar, trying the lamb!)
Food/Coffee: both are pretty unparalleled for the city's restaurants 4.5/5 Must try: French press coffee.
Chillness: 4.5 chill chairs - Great bar for a drink. Open kitchen. Ideal meaning of a watercloset (WC)- washrooms are single rooms. Interesting patio surroundings but great energy!
Sidenote: Boy, can these freelancers write! Check out this article on Michael from back in 06. (this is why I know I can't write)
So, it's been months since I went to this event but I would like to talk about it briefly because it great fun! I don't know if you've been to a barista jam before, but this was the first one that I finally made it out to; been meaning to go for years.
It was all the greatest things put together! Friends, cool Coffee, and great cause! I love the idea of doing something to bring encouragement for people to support a cause. It's like this; make an event of something you usually would love doing but to make it even better, add LIFE! - talk about value added. (Add Life, as in do it for a cause)- namely, Coffee Kids and The Mustard Seed.
This barjam was purely a pouring contest. We learned a bit about the latte art 'throw-down' and just kinda hung out and enjoyed some good eats.
Throwing down: is when you pour some awesome art.
This evening, saw a lot of the coffee community out from all the different cafes in the area. Even had some out of towners, like transcend coffee, Edmonton.
Upcoming: Prairies Regional Barista Championsip, August 7, 2010