Thursday, June 28, 2007

A coffee day out in Gent-Belgium

Today i planned to meet lovely Isabel for a quick break in Flanders seconds biggest city, Gent.

Just outside Antwerp i passed by my roasting friends from AKC to pick up samples :
Ethiopia Djimmah, Brazil Cerrado Perla Estate, a Colombia Supremo, French Roast mix of Santos, Costa Rica and Java and a couple of others. Soon at the cupping table.
And a couple boxes of prime coffee beans : Old Brown Sumatra, Honduras Monte Cristo Estate, Indian Mysore A, Papua New Guinea Sigri and Puerto Rico. Soon in our grinder.

Serge, the co-owner, just came back from Brazil where he visited several farms and cupped some amazing stuff, so we’re eagerly waiting for those great Daterra and other pearls.

Rendez vous at this small coffee house with the name Barista. They offer Viva Sara coffee on La Cimbali and Mazzer equipment. This can’t go wrong you start thinking, but the espresso missed presence and detail and was a tad too large with medium dark crema. Not bad for Belgian standards though. Peter Deprez, our representative for Tokyo can be proud of the products and knowledge he and his family delivered, but there’s room for improvement.

Then it was time to wander around the old city center. I have to admit Isabel is a top class guide. We quickly passed by this must see Wallpaper store Priem to pick up another roll of vintage vinyl paper for her daughter's bedroom.
To celebrate this we moved on to Mokabon. This very old fashioned, dark and noisy place is the best known and most visited coffee house in town. The atmosphere is very unique, but don’t expect any top quality coffee. A bit comparable to Antwerps’ Cuperus, very old fashioned with still dozens of people a day who come over for a half pounder of fresh desert coffee beans.

Better coffee beans at Simon Levelt. This well known Dutch Tea and Coffee supplier, active since 1817, opened up this very nice coffee store with a very wide choice of non electronic brewers, espresso machines, tea’s and coffee beans.
7 different single origins on the shelf. Although i wasn’t sure of the freshness and a roast on the light side i couldn’t resist to buy me three bags :
Guatemala Alta Verapaz, known for it’s vulcano underground.
Nicaragua Finca El Limoncillo, shadow grown.
Brazil Fazenda Lambari, organic bean from the Novo Mundo Estate.

I told this fine young lady behind the counter (sorry i don’t have her name) about my ongoing search for fine coffee and wrote her down this url. She was very enthusiastic and as a true magician she conjured up this white bag of coffee as a present. Fortune Coffee, the secret of China.
I while ago i met a guy who couldn’t stop talking about this wonderful golden triangle area in the West of China, where they harvest fantastic coffee, and his brother was managing some farms. Since then i was in a search for a sample of China coffee and so today i found this very rare bean. Exciting and thank you very much.

We still had two more hours to relax, enjoy the sun, eat and start dreaming about all the cupping and brewing that’s awaiting me the following days.
To be continued .....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sammy Piccolo National Post Diary

Sammy Piccolo is without any doubt one of the most famous Barista's in the world.
Managing with his brothers the Artigiano Coffee Company from Vancouver Canada he is a real coffee connoisseur and entertained the World Barista Championships for many years. He finished 2nd, 3rd and 2nd at the last three WBC finals! Maybe he's a bit comparable with snooker player Jimmy White, without any doubt the most popular billiard player never becoming world champion.
Last week we had the opportunity to follow his professional life in a week diary he wrote for the Canadian National Post.

Here his contribution from last Thursday, when he talks about the upcoming Championships in Tokyo :

Sammy Piccolo, National Post

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

This week's diarist is Canadian champion barista Sammy Piccolo, the only person in history to place in the top three for three consecutive years at the world championships. He kept his diary last week.

Today, I headed to 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, where the Canadian National Barista Champion is training for the (World Barista Championships). Colter Jones is one of the managers at Caffe Artigiano, and the only barista other than me to represent Canada. It's time to pass the torch. I'm very excited for him. This competition is the biggest and most prestigious recognition in the specialty coffee industry. There will be baristas from over 40 countries competing in Tokyo this year. And it's only weeks away!

I watched Colter perform the presentation he will give to the judges. He will be evaluated for 15 minutes as he prepares four cappuccino, four espresso and four coffee drinks. He prepared his cappuccino first. Creating latte art on these cappuccinos isn't as easy as it looks. If you've ever been to a cafe that pours latte art, you'll notice that with a wiggle of their wrist, a barista can create an intricate pattern with the milk and crema of the espresso. But Colter has more to think about than just the design at the top of the cup. The six judges will be scrutinizing everything from the foam on his cappuccino, to what colour the crema is in the espresso. They also evaluate overall barista skills and even how clean your grinder is.

The last drinks he made were his signature drinks. I promised him that I'd keep these details secret. The signature drink is a barista's true expression of his or her personality. These drinks often take many months to develop and perfect. The drink requires a strong espresso taste and is judged on creativity, craftsmanship and visual presentation. The world will be watching to see how well Canada does this year. Canada is undefeated by an American competitor. Go, Colter, go! No pressure, but beating the U.S. is always great, even if just for the bragging rights! -Tomorrow, cupping Kenyan.

(picture is typically Sammy and taken by Coffee Geek)

Interested in the Vancouver coffee scène? Don't forget to check this interesting Jimseven article about his visit this month.

El Salvador Picacho SHG on Chemex

The Chemex is such an easygoing coffee maker and the El Salvador Picacho SHG (Strictly High Grown) such an easygoing coffee. This marriage is perfect!

After cupping the SG, SHG and premium Picacho i have to admit that the higher level is more detailed and fruity, but i need this SHG in my blend for it's mouthfeel, pleasant aftertaste and brother for the Yirgacheffe.

I think the Chemex filter does well for most of coffee's. It filters out the bitterness and brings a lot of harmony. It's comparable to the in Belgium very popular Melitta filter, but more tasteful and more beautiful.

El Salvador Picacho yes. No 'Los Planes' or 'Santa Ana', but a collection of the southern region. Following the words of Luiz Rodriguez, Head of Economics Department of the 'Café de El Salvador', - we met at the SCAE Coffee Fiesta in Antwerp in May - it is a prime selection and definitely one of El Salvador's best buys in a country that's in their golden age of coffee growing.

Price? Reasonable. Not the cheapest, but at €4,00 a 250 grams, on a full city roast to bring out the best of its espresso potential, it's worth a try.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

4 months of Antwerp Barista

Dear friends,

As you all know, coffee, and espresso in particular, is my passion and this Antwerp Barista blog my window on the world and vice versa.

After 4 months of blogging, i’m making a first evaluation.

It has only been 4 months, but it feels like an era.

73 posts. Plus minus half of them are written by myself, the other half by someone else or it’s just a photo.

In the beginning i wanted to make people from Antwerp and Belgium aware of how the life of a professional Barista looks like, but more and more i’m drifting away from being a Barista myself. I think i see myself as a professional coffee enthousiast interested in all aspects of the 3rd wave coffee community (Jason Haeger’s article here), going from harvesting over blending or charity to Barista Championships.

I noticed my growing enthousiasm for cupping and my decreasing interest in technical stuff.

I’m aware of my increased interest in the fast growing and powerful speciality coffee industrie in the States and more and more it inspires me to keep on looking forward and sharing all my wonderings and interests with you, readers of my blog.

Of course i’m also dreaming of letting you all know more about the National Barista scene, but unfortunately it’s almost non-existing.

We have our Championships, something i recommend every Barista to participate in, and we have some first class importers/traders, roasters and coffee lovers in general, but that’s not enough! So let me be bold for a moment and ask all Belgian coffee aficionados to spread the word and let all people in our country know that it can be just a small step to drink better coffee and enjoy these moments at its fullest.

In Belgium the 3rd wave has taken it’s first step on the ladder, let’s all together take on the next step and go up step by step by ...

I want to finish by thanking everyone who helped or inspired me during this period

I’m happy with all the great people, national and international, i encountered on this trip. It’s also thanks to you my ambition is still burning to keep on blogging and tasting and cupping and brewing and grinding and tamping and blogging and ...

Greeting you with the words of Dave Stephens




Thursday, June 21, 2007

Coffee Kids, Grounds for hope

There is an old story of a poor woman brought before a judge and charged with stealing a loaf of bread to feed her family. The woman did not contest the charge. The judge pondered the situation briefly, found her guilty, and fined her €10.

Immediately thereafter, the judge fined everyone in the courtroom, including himself, 50 cents. He then paid the woman's fine and gave her what remained from the collection. In the ruling, the judge explained that the homeless woman was guilty of stealing. But the people in the courtroom were guilty of living in a community where people were reduced to stealing to feed their families.

In spite of many social and environmental program in the specialty coffee industry, the majority of coffee-farming families in the world still live in deep poverty.

No matter what any of us has done on behalf of struggling coffee-farming families, it is simply not enough and it won't be enough until the very lucrative coffee trade is no longer associated with poverty for the 25 million families farming coffee. All of us in the coffee community are responsible for allowing millions of others to suffer. We are responsible because it is our community. We are responsible because if are not, who is?

There will be no fine to set things right. We must be our own judge and jury, and we must hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing. And if it doesn't hurt a little, it probably isn't enough.

Please support as many cases as you can and please give generously to Coffee Kids.

Bill Fishbein, Founder.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Solar Roast

Cool photo's from a new thing called Solar Roast. I'm not a roaster myself and know little about it, but this article on is worth reading.
What's this?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cup of Excellence : Guatemala Auction

It's auction season and interesting to see how the Cup of Excellence is progressing.
Mostly an American thing, we found at the Guatemala auction some buyers this year from Iceland, Japan, Finland, New Zealand and Norway. Where's Great Britain's proud Hasbean would you ask? They couldn't find the right bean for the price offering and didn't buy this year. For those amateurs in Belgium who are interested ; don't worry, they still offer other great Guatemala.

No doubt this year top farm was the El Socorro from Palencia.

The farm has an efficient ecological wet mill. It depulps coffee cherries in dry, it transports the coffee and its pulp mechanically and it reuses water in the process. Then, the water is treated with clean production techniques, before throwing it away. Since 2005, we have been working on tests to uniform the fermentation process and we have obtained satisfactory results. Drying of coffee is done in patios. The farm is certified by Rainforest Alliance and Coffee Practices.

Their pacamara bean scored an amazing 93.60!!!
The taste was mostly described as mature, elegant with jasmine and lots and lots of fruit.
Aren't we all getting thirsty right now?

The 15 bags were all bought by Solberg & Hansen AS for € 19.50 a pound.

Click here for all results

Caffeine dependence is all in the genes

Shelley Page, The Ottawa Citizen Published: Monday, June 11, 2007

A University of Toronto study has shown that there is a genetic basis for caffeine-seeking behaviour.

While stopping short of calling it "caffeine addiction," researcher Ahmed El-Sohemy said men who possess certain dopamine-receptor genes experience an elevated mood after consuming a caffeinated beverage.

The study was based on 600 students from the University of Toronto who were asked to document their reactions to caffeine and provide samples of their blood.

Men who experience this elevated mood seek out caffeine to continue to feel elation. Those who don't report elevation of mood might be less vulnerable to caffeine dependence, Mr. El-Sohemy said.

The same genetic link has so far not been found in women.

Mr. El-Sohemy, a nutritional sciences professor who holds the Canadian Research Chair in Nutrigenomics, said the gender differences were puzzling and require more investigation, but are not entirely surprising. It might be linked to the differences in how women process dopamine compared to men. It is also well known that women metabolize caffeine at a much slower rate than men.

The 600 subjects were asked to rate how they felt within 12 hours of consuming caffeine. Mr. El-Sohemy wanted to know whether subjects felt an elevation of mood and increased energy. He also wanted to know whether, after 48 hours without consuming caffeine, the subject experienced headaches and nausea and felt irritable.

The blood samples were also analysed to look for certain genes related to dopamine, a chemical in the brain known to affect mood.

Mr. El-Sohemy found that 22 per cent of men with a particular form of the dopamine receptor gene experienced an elevated mood after consuming a caffeinated beverage.

More than 60 per cent of men with a different form of this gene reported the same kind of mood elevation, which Mr. El-Sohemy described as a "fairly big effect." He still has to figure out what other factors influence whether or not men experience an elevated mood.

Fifty per cent of women who consumed caffeine reported experiencing an elevated mood after consuming caffeine, regardless of the version of the gene they possessed. The research was funded by Canada's national Advanced Foods and Materials Network.

Mr. El-Sohemy said there has been an ongoing scientific debate as to whether there is a biological basis for caffeine-seeking behaviours. The World Health Organization recognizes that people can be dependent on caffeine, whereas the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, does not.

These results may provide a genetic explanation as to why some people become dependent on caffeine and others do not.

(Flickr photo : Starbucks addict)

Colombia San Augustin

The Huila region in Colombia is where this San Augustin comes from.
It's difficult go get single origins from micro regional lots as most of the farms are too small, so most of farmers in an area pool together.
So, unfortunately i don't know what was in the bag exactly - i hope to find out soon - but it was pretty good.

What we tasted at the cupping table? :

Medium mouthfeel. It comes in nicely.
Then acidity : where? Not so much to discover. But as it comes out way harder on the espressomachine it is not something to directly worry about.
The flavor was fantastic with lots of raw sugar and a liquorice note.
And the aftertaste was a tad too short and sticky to the tongue.

So good score all together.
I didn't have time to pull some espresso shots ; that's the monday plan.

Also on friday Jazzy Jeff dropped us a bag of Sicilian coffee, Ionia, although i'm not a 100% sure about the name. Besides of the all famous Barbera i haven't been pulling shots from 'factory coffee' in a while, so i was curious about the result. Elisa, our newest Barista in the making, was enchanted about it ; she said her grandmother from Italy sends over these bags from time to time. They drink it 'Bialetti'.
And we drank it 'Faema E91'. Well, all big factory flavor unfortunately. Raw, misbalanced, sourish and stale aftertaste and although a 100% arabica very high on cafeïne.
Good try though Jazzy Jeff who assisted at the test and agrees with the above written and thanks for bringing this coffee along.

6 hours later : first pulled San Augustin shots with taste buddy's Max and J.J. are disappointing. Start is sour, finish a bit better. It's hard to control the flow, so more practising tomorrow. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Daisy Ip Art

Daisy Ip is a Caffènation Barista for almost 3 years!

Although the photo quality is not at its best (Sony phone from your highness), and it was just an ordinary try this afternoon at Juices, Java & Jazz, it's a nice example of her unique latte art style.

Don't ask me or her how she does it, but the colors always come out in high contrast and a bit reversed.
Some times it gives a wonderful effect you rarely see amongst latte artists.
When you click on the pic you can see in detail perfectly how this one is build up (and all microfoam and tasty of course).

Keep up the good work Ippy!

Cool Jap Anime Wallpaper

Found these online the other day.
This is really Japanese at its best : They adore coffee, automats (vending machine shops) and animated movies.
The Evangelion ECC coffee project has it all.

Two nice wallpapers to download on the ucc site.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blend Building ... the horror.

We score very high on our House Blend for the moment. Both with amateurs and professionals, at home or at competitions.

I wrote you guys about my struggling on blend building. We finally managed to come to a conclusion, but meanwhile i stayed alert and saw some weaker elements, some points to improve.
Definitely our meeting up with Manu Demets was very informative/ instructive. On the tiny black dots on some of our crema’s – depending on the cups we used or the shots we pulled !!! – he could screen, just like that, the percentage of our Brazil Santos. And the fact it was a tad too high. I admit I’m not such a Santos fan, but we do not have so many different beans to pick from and the Santos is always an easy one, in terms of availability, price, roasting and taste stability.
From some micro bubbles in the brown layers of our cappuccino he noticed the content of robusta, although it’s not more than 5 percent.
Again one of my strugglings: robusta or no robusta .....

So what’s to keep?
The Yirgacheffe and El Salvador Picacho are doing really well. All cuppings we did so far, the beans came out at the same high level. That’s 60% of our blend, good mouthfeel, acidity and fruit and a combo to keep. I heard the new Yirga crop is very bleu with small beans. Not the most positive signals, but no panic yet.

But what with the other 40%?
For the moment we did some valuable cupping with a Honduras. Mostly they are pretty boring, but this one called Sante Cristo Estate got some balls and minor defects. Of course you can’t replace that 20% dark roasted Java-Robusta-Latin part with some Honduras. But maybe for that part we can take on that great Old Brown Sumatra we cupped the other day.

What is our goal? (-;
Our goal is to get a roasting consistency between all different beans, something which is lacking right now. And a blend that’s good for either espressos or lungos, and of course as a base for cappuccino and iced coffees.

The next step is some more cupping, blending and also pulling salamis from all different parts of our blend. This way we can spot where the crema building stops and which beans go well together and which ones don’t. This is new to us, but we’re eager to start doing so, i guess from next week on.

You see, plenty of questions to ask and no clear answers for grabs. The art of blending ...

To be continued.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Árni Ragnarsson, doing his thing at the SCAE in Antwerpen

My favorite photo from the Coffee Fiesta (with explanation)

A PC that makes coffee

Each office should have one.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

From the Viva Barista site

A Starbucks Story

Monday, 19 September 2005
2004 By Sharon Bell Buchbinder

“Who’s next?” said the cute blonde co-ed at the Starbucks register.

She brushed some crumbs off her green apron while she waited for a response.

“Gimme a double hot cuppa Joe,” said the bleary-eyed man in the khaki raincoat. His hand tremored as he held out a five dollar bill. Striped flannel peeked out at the end of his sleeves. “Would you like a Caf Misto, Caf Au Lait, Caff Americano, Caff Latte, Caff Mocha, Cappuccino, Caramel Macchiato, Caramel Mocha, Cinnamon Spice Mocha, Eggnog Latte, Espresso, Espresso con Panna, Espresso Macchiato, Gingerbread Latte,Peppermint Mocha Espresso, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Syrup Flavored Latte, Toffee Nut Latte, Vanilla Latte Espresso, or White Chocolate Mocha?”

"Double espresso, plain espresso,” he said.

“That will be $2.50,” she chirped and pressed the register keys.

“No. Gimme a double double espresso,” he said.

“A double double espresso?” she asked. Her blue eyes widened and she looked around for a colleague’s advice.

Her co-worker, busy fixing the last coffee order, shook his head.

“No, sir, we’re not allowed to do that,” she said. “I can give you a single espresso.”

“Then give me two double espressos,” he said and shook the fiver.

Another glance, another head shake.

“No, sir, I can’t do that,” she said with a shaking voice.

“Why the hell not?” he asked. His red eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed.

“It’s very dangerous. All that caffeine. You could have a heart attack. We can’t be liable for it,” she said and bit her lower lip.

“What if I told you it was for my dog?” he asked, still waving the fiver.

“Your dog?” she said and glanced at her co-worker.

“Yes, my dog needs a morning cuppa Joe, just like I do,” he said, with a little bite in his voice. “He needs his eye opener, too.”

Her male co-worker came to her side. He was a large, handsome, red-haired man with Caf Au Lait skin and a sprinkling of freckles.

“She said, ‘No’, so just take the one double espresso, man, and get outta here,” he said.

“But I need a double double,” the man in the raincoat insisted. “I gotta have it, now.”

“You can have one, and that’s all. Now take your change, get your espresso and get outta here,” he said. “I don’t want to have to call the Baltimore City police.”

“Okay, okay. I don’t want any trouble,” said the man. He took his change and waited by the machine for his espresso. While the machine hissed, he tapped his slippered foot, licked his lips and made soft moaning sounds.

Other customers in line for their coffee stepped back away from him.

The young man handed him the double espresso.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” he murmured and sucked down the scorching coffee in one gulp.

A woman gasped.

“Mister, you gotta go now. You’re scaring the other customers,” the young man said.

“Okay, okay, I’m outta here,” he said and scuffed out the door. He pulled his raincoat a little tighter and yanked on his sleeves to cover the flannel pajamas.

He wasn’t worried. There was another Starbucks on the next block.

Thesis Thomas about coffee experiences throughout the chain

Thomas gave me a final copy of his thesis.
It was a fun time working together on this. I learned a lot about my own organisation, the coffee market in general and Starbucks in particular.

A brief explanation of his report :

Based on the knowledge that consumption experiences are being rediscovered in popular literature, a scientific literature studies is undertaken. A theoretical model is developed throughout the thesis.
First, harmony between consumption and production in the pre-industrialized era is examined. Modernism and postmodernism then are reviewed to give a sketch of the contemporary consumer.
Based on these forces and the historic harmony between consumption and production the emotion experience is analysed. The ultimate way of experiencing these aspects is through nesting, discovery and stamping, for which immersion is the general name.
Immersion implies the desire of individuals to take part in production processes. Next, this co-creation or presumption is examined in a contemporary setting. The theoretical model is completed with an examination of the time related effects of this holistic value chain on individuals. The validity of the model is situated in reality through 2 cases, Starbucks and Caffènation. The model is capable of providing a contribution to the evaluation of emotions, experiences and memories in marketing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Rants and Raves on Espresso
Check this interesting blog on the linklist.
or here

Zambia AA

This week on our Macap for Espresso and Lungo of the week ; the Zambia AA.

Zambian coffees needed some time and more stability in their processing to emerge from the long shadow cast by the East African powerhouse, Kenya.
But like their cousins from Zimbabwe they can be uniquely tasting with both balance, sweetness and interesting wild notes emerging in the aromatics and aftertaste. It takes some searching and patience to find a good single-Estate Zambian though.

These are not mine words, but those of America's main speciality coffee distributor Sweet Maria's.
Well Maria, i think Efico found us a good single estate Zambian. And AKC roasted it ; medium to bring all its valuable fruit out.
And fruit is what we got. Most honestly i think this one is best as a lungo. In the espresso you see the high acidity and fruittones overpower it's medium body and balance. With some more water (lungo the Caffènation way of course, not hot water with espresso) it is more harmonised.

Cupping Notes :
Mouthfeel/Body : Little.
Acidity : Prominent but not overdone.
Flavor : Great! On higher temperature : chocolate and colder : sweet (fruit)
Aftertaste : This is missing character. It is clean though and it tingles a little bit at the sides of the tongue.

Only one advice : check it out at Hopland 46 or buy a bag from your local roaster/shop.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

And the American winner is ...

Interesting national Championships?
We already highlighted the Belgian, Dutch and Danish ones.
And although we never saw a US world champion, it's for sure a country to follow.

Last year there was this surprising win from Matthew Riddle, who later on finished 3rd in Bern.
This year's winner is Heather Perry from the famous in San Dimas located Coffee Klatch, one of the six company's who headlined last weeks coffee journals with this winning bid on the La Esmeralda Panama bean ($ 130 a pound!!).

Heather did what no other participant did before. She regained her title of US best Barista
and will represent her country in Tokyo at the end of july.
She was the best out of 49 competitors from around the country, with Pete Licata (PT's coffee co) 2nd and Matthew Riddle (Intelligensia) 3rd.

Star on the rise Kyle Glanville finished only 5th, while Phuong Tran didn't even make it to the finals!

(this flickr photo comes from ThaRiddla)