Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coffee's of the Year 2008

Here we are with a Top 10 list of the best (espresso) coffee's of the year at Caffenation.

This year we bought a couple very fine single origins from Phoenix Trading Company, at 3 and 7 and mixed in at 6.

Efico traded the numer 2 and some of the X-mas blend.

We had a couple of very appriciated gifts, at 5, 8, 9 and 10. These 4 we didn't roast ourselves.

And last but most definitely not least, greens we chipped over from Hasbean, numbers 1 and 4.

Our TOP 10 :
1) Finca San Francisco Tecuamburro Guatemala (roasted by Jean)
It all starts with pleasant mouthfeel, very present top class acidity, dazzling mix of fruits, deep creamy chocolate tones and an aftertaste that keeps a lot of this on your tongue for a very long time. Very complex and every shot again opens up new taste details.
On lighter roast this one is a stellar Press or Filter coffee as well. Well done Sergio!
2) Daterra Yellow Bourbon Brazil
3) Papua New Guinea (unfortunately no more specs available)
4) Hasbean's Premium Espresso Blend (roasted by Jean)
5) Fazenda Cachoeira Espresso Brazil (roasted by Ecco Los Angeles)
6) Caffenation X-Mas Blend
7) Everest SHG El Salvador
8) Harrar Little Horse Ethiopia (roasted by Knopes Luxemburg)
9) Square Mile Espresso Blend # 1 (roasted by Anette M. London)
10) Epic Espresso (roasted by 49th Parallel Roasters Vancouver)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

CD TOP 10 2008

Normally only coffee articles on this blog.
Time for an exception, or is music from an espresso bar related anyhow?

1966 must have been a wonderful musical year. Last year it was jazz singer crooner Lou Rawls who scored best new CD with a '66 production, this year it was a French 1966 record that gave us a lot of pleasure.

1) Jacques Dutronc, Jacques Dutronc (at Disques Vogues, 1966)
2) Ethiopiques Hypnotic Grooves, The very best off
3) The Horace Silver Quintet, Doin' the Thing, Live At the Village Gate
4) Sammy Davis Jr/Buddy Rich, The sounds of '66 (again that year!)
5) Bohannon, Greatest Hits
6) Trijntje Oosterhuis, Strange Fruit (and the only 'new' recording)
7) Freddie Hubbard, Hub Cap
8) Donny Hatheway, Come Back Charleston Blues Soundtrack
9) Jimmy Smith, The Sermon
10) Bo Diddley, The Essential

11) French Cd's from Brigit Bardot, Francoise Hardy, France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg, Femmes de Paris et d'autres.....(this was a very French year).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Faema For Sale

This photo from last week is probably going to be one of the last shots I took from this Faema 91 Ambassador. We continue with our second 3-group 91 at the Oever location, but this one is for sale.
In Jan our La Marzocco comes in - finally - and this 1 year and 7 months old machine goes out.
It's of course in perfect condition still pulling hundreds of shots a day and steaming tens of liter of milk a day.
For me it was always a joy to work with it. Very stable temperature, easy in use, easy to clean and maintain, huge steaming capacity, fast steaming, not too noisy, big cup shelf space and a very good follow up from the Faema boys.

Why we change?
I guess the La Marzocco is a better milk texturing machine. And a little bit faster as well. Maybe there are other advantages or even disadvantages, but it's mostly for the steaming we need to improve.
Price new should be something around 6000 euro's. We bought it in May 2007 for 5000 and are selling it now half price, € 2500. That's approximately the price of a new 1 group Faema. So, for those who think of being in need of a big machine .... It's certainly going to impress your clients. Mail me at caffenationatgmaildotcom.
More info about this nice piece of equipment, click this.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

X-Mas Blend 2008

coffee beans...
Originally uploaded by eyeofthebholder
No Harrar-Maragogype this year as our X-Mas Blend, but a very original African Pacific mix, as I call it.
A whole lot of Zambia Lupili AA, mixed with some Indonesian Kalossi Makassar and Papua New Guinea Sigri.
Full Body, controlled acidity, fruity and earthy flavors, vibrant and long lasting aftertaste.
€ 9,50 for 500 grams, in a special Caffenation package. Deal?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foto's Jessie en Katrien

Er was nogal wat belangstelling op de zaak voor de foto's van Jessie en Katrien. Vandaar enkele van hun topshots en hun signature drink. Njam njam.

49th Parallel Roasters Bags

Look what I found in my mailbox last friday....
Thank you Vince.

Website 49th Parallel Roasters.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boy from Ipanema

Kyle Glanville became a reporter.
A coffee reporter for
Clicking the title or this like above brings you to the vid about the world famous Ipanema coffee farm in Minas Gerais Brazil. By accident I just received a package of greens from this farm last week. Hopefully roasting it tomorrow.

The vid is very interesting and shows the natural and pulped natural coffee processing techniques at this very advanced farm ; totally different from Ethiopia.

At the bottom of the linked page there are some more vids about the company Kyle is working for. Interesting.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Recently bought at
This is a thermometer to stick on your pitcher. It indicates the temperature of your milk.
I thought it was a good tool to train new Barista's, but are not so convinced now.
It's hard to read and the fact you pay 13 euro's for one sticker makes it a one time buy only.

Friday, December 12, 2008

World Barista Champions

2000 Monte Carlo,Monaco Robert Thoresen, Norway

2001 Miami, U.S.A. Martin Hildebrandt, Denmark

2002 Oslo, Norway Fritz Storm, Denmark

2003 Boston, U.S.A. Paul Bassett, Australia

2004 Trieste, Italia Tim Wendelboe, Norway

2005 Seattle, U.S.A Trouls Overdahl Poulsen, Denmark

2006 Berne, Switzerland Klaus Thomsen, Denmark

2007 Tokyo, Japan James Hoffmann, U.K.

2008 Copenhagen, Denmark Stephen Morrissey, Ireland

2009 Atlanta, U.S.A. ....

(thanks nik for the list and typing ; less work for me)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seinfeld Season 9 : Elaine Gets Coffee

"I'm going in"
Not the level of the earlier seasons, but still funny.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Starbucks Belgium Visit

  • Before hopping on my flight to Ethiopia I had the opportunity to visit the first Starbucks of our country.
    It's a company I know very well, but it feels strange they are among us now. It's not directly as an invasion, and I think it's more positive than negative, but still I have my questions. The problem with this company is that most of the people in Belgium think this is Coffee Nirvana, but at the end this can be seen as a positive thing as well maybe.
  • Anyhow, my visit : It was a bit late for Isabel to drink some caffeine loaded drinks, so I just went in for a solo ride. What should I take? Since I didn't drink a decent milk based drink at Bux in years I decided to go for the brew of the day. Estima, brewed on a filter machine delivered and installed by Limarc. Not a bad word about the machine or supplier. Unfortunately a couple bad words about the coffee.
  • First the girls were not well informed about the coffee. One said it was mild and the other girl said it was strong and without cacao taste. I didn't care what they said, but they did. So meanwhile filling my take away cup they kept on discussing the taste the Estima should give. With a smile on my face I tell them I would decide for them about the taste and pay my €2,40 for a small coffee.
Although I know the American way of life and food and drinks, it's still unfamiliar to see how big, I mean huge, a small cup of American coffee can be!

My taste experiences : Burnt, Rubber and Headache came up first. Then I started looking for a garbage can. Bring on the Clover guys ; maybe that's going to help. I said maybe.

Besides of that cup, the experience wasn't unpleasant. The looks and feel of the place was cosy and way better than the Schiphol bars or the bar Java Coffee is running at the Arrivals. And Maya, my friend, Caffenation client for years, and now working for Starbucks, was welcoming me at the entrance. Super girl. Luckily for her she doesn't drink coffee. : )

Saturday, December 6, 2008

BBC Finals Evaluation and Comments

It's the day after and we know the total points. Melanie's 570 is a lot. It's always hard to compare with other country's with other judges, but it's very high. At a WBC this could be a final. But from what I saw there's still some work to be done.
I'm still missing some information, but it looks like Detlev and Peter trained Melanie very well. Out of nothing going back home with 570 points and 3 out of 4 prices! Congrats again. And to all those others as well ; the level has never been so high.

Now my thoughts on yesterday.
The performances of Jessie and Katrien I followed of course very careful. No big mistakes made. At first look it was all minor stuff.
After a quick stroll through the point sheets, two serious things I can come up with though.
1, the cups heater was so heavy all our cups were way too hot. On our Faema and on the Della Corte at Schuilenburg we had problems heating the cups. Yesterday though, we burned our hands. Judges were complaining about too much bitterness and lacks of sweetness. First I couldn't believe this. A medium roasted blend, blended after roast, with 40% washed Yirgacheffe, 40% Pulped Natural Cerrado and a modest 20% of Sigri to finish things off. Doesn't this sound smooth, flowery and mild to you? The extractions were all between 25 and 27 seconds if I'm right, but the cups ..... they were too hot ; certainly for Katrien. What else could be the reason that the same blend, grinder, machine - the middle one - technique and extraction time would give big differences in taste between Katrien and Jessie?

And 2, Katrien lost big points in her signature drink because she touched some ingredients with her hands!!!! I'm sorry, but what is this all about??? She took 4 vanilla stick as a stirrer and that wouldn't be hygienic? So if I understand well ; you may touch spoons with your hand but not another stirrer? Are bacteria running over vanilla and not over an Ikea spoon maybe? And then they took points of because she was decorating the drink with some chili chocolate crumbles with her fingers. Yes, it looks a bit tricky, but aren't all chefs touching their ingredients with their hands? Stefaan lost points because he touched the carrots he juiced? I think it's not honest. Katrien's sig drink was one out of thousand. Very wide, detailed taste with sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and creamy accents, it was well explained and beautifully presented.....

Then the new rules : points on taste. The first time I heard about the fact taste would be counting heavier than before I was a happy man, but now I'm not so sure anymore. And this has nothing to do with winning more or less points, cause I think at the end positions would have been almost the same, certainly for Jessie and Katrien. I think more about the point of view of the spectator. We knew Barista championships were not always a pleasure for the eye. Even for pro Barista's it's almost unbearable to watch a full championship. For this reason they changed the system for Latte Art, which resulted in a must see show.
With the new rules giving much more points for taste, people really get lost. In the past I was mostly right who was going to win, but not now anymore.
François Knopes his show was a joy to watch. Simul spro, one blend (very very close to ours and now as espresso of the week at Caffenation Hopland - everybody's happy François ; top class!) for espresso's and one single for caps and sigs, fantastic latte art, original and spectacular looking signature drink, great timings, great style, ... Although I couldn't see all the other competitors and also because I tasted his backroom shots and caps the winner was known to me. The best by far. His standing at the end : 4th place. What went wrong? A lot, but mostly in the taste. Nevertheless he worked simul spro, his shots were not close to one another and sometimes too short. The capps tasted not strong enough and the signature drink was kinda boring (in taste) ; mostly things you can't see as a spectator. So, tell me why I should go to see a Barista competition?
Melanie won the title and price for the best cappuccino. I think we should be happy to have her represent us in Atlanta, but how could she win a price for best cappuccino? Yes, she did nice latte art and yes she had contrast and yes they were good tasting, but what were all those bubbles in the crema??? I'm sorry, but cappuccino's like this mostly go through the sink at Caffenation. I don't know what happened and Detlev didn't understand it either, but it looked awful.
Isn't it thanks to latte art our product became so popular and can't we all, espresso bar owners, earn our money thanks to latte art? Yes there are dozens of other reasons (3rd wave) espresso bars do well, but out of all these reasons I guess latte art is the main one. Last year we already saw latte art fading ; well, these new rules are going to be the death of latte art at Barista comps. And wasn't this our most spectacular part in the 15 minutes show with a lot of cheering and 'wows' from the audience? Yes it was.
And if the taste is so important, why do we keep on wining on and on about the contrast and ring of crema at the sides of the cup? Does contrast taste better? I don't think so. Does contrast looks better? It's doubtful. We, at Caffenation, are constantly competing against one another and ask clients what latte art (design) they like the most. And what we see is that a nice leaf or apple or heart or tulip is way more convincing than contrast and a dark outer ring. So dear judges, if the taste is soooo important, why do you keep on giving so many more points for contrast? Or do I see this wrong?
To conclude this part I would suggest to continue awarding espresso's much more on their taste in stead of the looks, but keep the old point routine for cappuccino's, with eventually again the opportunity to the tech judges to check and reward crema quality in the cappuccino cup.

Final words to Simon (Turner) and his looks : I liked a lot your style and show in general. This was great promotion to you, your business and the Belgian coffee scene in general. If I see were you lost your point I agree with the fact that you forgot to put napkins, were too rushed and making to much mess, but I do not agree regarding your style. If I count right you lost 12 points for not wearing an apron and I think it's not honest. For Barista's and assistant Barista's I'm even totally against aprons or branded shirts. I'm sure it kills personality and creates a gap between client and Barista. For me you had the best looks, but for the judges the worst and I think that's a pity. They think it's not appropriate to wear sandals or not wearing an apron. 5 years ago all competition Barista's looked like Stephen Hendry at his snooker table ; I hope in 5 years they will all look like you. Keep up the good work and I guess it would even be possible you win next year, without apron, with a 12 points loss for this, but with splendid coffee's.

Melanie ; ik zal er in Atlanta zijn om voor je te supporteren. Tenminste als je die laarzen aanhoudt.
Oh ja, nog een laatste vraagje? Is het echt waar dat je je tamper overal meezeult in dat handtasje van je? :-)

Ranking Belgian Barista Championship


5 december 2008 Kokerello

1. Melanie NUNES 570.50 punten
2. Stefaan BEHAEGHE 540.50
3. Jessie BERVOETS 526.00

4. François KNOPES 513.50
5. Katrien SEGERS 485.50
6. Kathleen SERDONS 481.50
7. Simon TURNER 480.50
8. Patrick HANSENS 474.50
9. Chloë VAN BAEL 446.00
10. Gino DEWINTER 435.00
11. Emilio VENZI 383.00
12. François DELAHAUT 342.50

Friday, December 5, 2008

Melanie Nunes new Champ

Here on a row the competitors with winner Melanie in the middle, Stefaan next to her was 2nd and Jessie (in blue) 3rd. Yes!
4th was (with hat) François Knopes and our Katrien nicely 5th. Well done girls.
Best sig drink and cappuccino for Melanie and, now it comes, best espresso for Jessie with our House Blend. I always wanted to compete with our regular House Blend. I think we can score higher with (expensive) specialty beans, but I want our clients and everyone in the world bring a very high standard blend within everybody's (financial) reach. And this way we can show it is a damn good blend. And of course a damn good Barista who pulls the shots.

Tomorrow a bigger post about the other Barista's and some comments on the new rules and questions about the competition in general.

To finish of : the Latte Art competition is won, again, by Peter Hernou. Congrats Peter (on the right of the photo) on the win, and can you tell me now what those funky black 'stones' in your blend were?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Belgian Barista Championship Preview

Tomorrow it's time to perform. To pull those deep tasting espresso's, serve velvety soft cappuccino's and arty coffee creations.
13 participants. 11 rookies!!! Patrick and François were there last year, and although Patrick had a higher score than François, it's the last one that's my favourite for the title. This man from Luxembourg has the style, experience, beans and latte art technique to win and perform for Belgium in Atlanta.
For the rookies : if the two guys above make (big) mistakes, everything is possible. Exciting.

Hopefully I'll get some sleep tonight.
Katrien is performing at noon, Jessie at 1.30.

Meanwhile I want to get non professional coffee lovers heads together at Caffenation Hopland on Sunday 14 for another Barista Jam. Start 7 in the evening.
Interested? mail me : caffenation at gmail dot com
Duration 2 hours. Price : less than nothing. :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BBC 2008 Practicing

3 more days. Everybody starts to feel the nerves coming up?

There are a lot of questions to ask before you start your training for such a championship. Actually you need to thinks over strategies months upfront.
In the summer we - Katrien, Jessie and me - had a first meeting. Just planning and motivation.
In October we were sitting down to talk tactics. Since they were not familiar with Barista comps the talking was to me.
Next questions were asked :
What blend to use?
What's going to be the order of drink preparations? Espresso's or capps first?
Simul Spro or not?
Latte art?
What pitchers to use?
Milk type....?
What cups to use?
Idea's about signature drinks?
What's going to be general style?
How introducing myself?
When do we start rehearsing?

We started quiet late in October. I did two run troughs to show them a bit how you structure a 15 minute presentation.
You have your intro : much more important then many may think.
You start pulling shots of course and before you know you're standing there again at the judges table handing over your final drinks before waving goodbye.

The girls were very fanatic during my Ethiopia trip and I was happy to see them having most things in hand one month before the championship.
Jessie did two run troughs. No major things to point at. What a relieve.
Then Katrien. The thing with her is that she is very easy to program. It's almost like a robot. You type in what you want and it comes out. Her second run trough was very close to what I expect at the final day of countdown.
Well done. I directly gave them two weeks of 'holiday' to not burn them. It's like Detlev - our current champion - always says : "Doing Barista competitions is like top sport".

Then time to rehearse again and again and the last week to finish things of.
Sunday evening four run troughs with Katrien. This time with full presentation. The looks of the judges tables. The music. The 15 minute preparation time rehearsal etc...
Around midnight things were over. She's ready. Of course there are always small mistakes. Even the world champion makes mistakes. Isn't it Stephen? But for me it's most about how it feels. And are the extractions ok? And rhythm and timing? Consistant way of working? Yes they were. Congrats Kat!

Monday evening me and Jessie were ready for the same kind of session.
When you see her behind the bar it looks like it's all very easy. Her style is very calm and natural ; like breathing for non ashmatics. The Cappuccino's were the best I ever tasted in my own bar and the tables at the end looked totally not as if she just prepares 12 fantastic drinks in 14 minutes. Spic and Span. Like it should be.

I'm a happy man. People like these two girls are hard to find. They're gifted and fanatic.
Thursday one more session to keep the shape and friday Gent. Exciting.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Championship Week

Friday December 5th : 4th Belgian Barista Championships at Kokerello Gent.

Two years ago I participated at the BBC. Everything was new for me, but I learned quickly and by the time I walked off stage I felt ready to start training my Barista's for future championships.

Last year my pupil Bird was one of the favourites for the title, but we failed. Not enough practicing, we didn't bring enough and the right equipment, bad luck and some over confidence killed us.

This year we're back!
And with two weapons in stead of one.

Katrien is a one year pro, but with a very strong determination of getting the very best out of her.
And Jessie is a three year pro, with a fluent style and nice Latte Art skills.
For both participating is much more important than winning, although they wouldn't mind taking the title and representing Belgium at the WBC next year in Atlanta.

Yesterday eve I had final practising sessions with Katrien and tonight with Jessie. In my next post I'll tell you how things went and what preparation we need for a competition like this one. Expect a long post : )

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Simon Says' Gent

There's a new bar in Gent.
Since a while. I know. It just took me some time to get there.

Simon and Chris own this lovely espresso bar/bed & breakfast. The house has a very appealing look and the interior is beautiful. We couldn't have done it better.
The equipment : A 2-group Faema E61, paired with a Faema MPN Grinder. The machine I like, the grinder not.
The coffee comes from Hoorens and tastes mediocre. I'm not so found of the blend. Either with too much robusta or Java, probably both. Not too fresh and even the roast seems to be suspicious. Lovely Annie, behind the bar, and Chris worked hard to get the best possible taste out of it. It was definitely good, although it missed some freshness, detail and character.
The cappuccino was well made. Good temperature and latte art. Small bubbles appeared ; the E61 is not directly known for good milk texturing.

Best coffee in Gent for sure and totally recommended!

Next week Simon is one of the competing Barista's at the BBC in Gent. Wish you all the luck Simon.
Some more info about the Barista competition and the two Caffenation participants one of the days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Cake

Sometimes we serve a small cake with candle for people's birthdays.
It's a small nice gesture that brings a smile on peoples faces.

The other day we brought over this small lighted dish. The girl was happy, blew the candle, drank her latte, but did not touch the cake.
When she left the bar, I lighted the candle again and gave it, for fun, at a nice client at another table. "U2 a happy birthday", I said, joking.
This girl looks at me like I came from another planet. .... "How do you know?" she said.
I said : "What?".
"That today is my birthday?"
What an accidental, but fortunate coincidence. With some magic and luck I shot two for the price of one.

A story that will stay in my mind forever.
And let's see it as a big honour people come to us at their anniversary.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vac Top Brewing

My first Vac Top brew.
I had this kit since a year. Bought it for 10 euro on Ebay, but it was stuck in a closet somewhere. Finally had it running on the stove.
It is amazing to see your coffee water going up and down again.

I followed the techniques shown by Barismo, but somewhere it looked like my coffee was boiling too intensively. Presumably that was the reason it tasted somewhat burnt, what spoiled a bit the overall experience. Besides of this very deep and well pronounced tastes came out. Certainly going to do some further brewing in the near future on this funky piece of equipment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bagersh, Ethiopian Specialty Coffee Exporter

The last day of our trip, the last hour even, Abdullah Bagersh was so friendly to welcome us at his office on Bole Road.
Before entering his office, I was already impressed by his sample roasters, warehouse, espresso machine and ..... Clover! A clover in Africa? Yes!
It's true they are real pro's and on a constant search for the perfect bean. Or more precisely ; the best way to treat the already wonderful Ethiopian coffee beans.

This coffee company is probably one of the most important in the world. No other country is so full of fantastic coffee beans as Ethiopia. And no other company in Ethiopia has so many single origins and estates as the Bagersh coffee company.
After years of testing and experimenting with different picking, drying and mostly washing (or non-washing) techniques the company got a ton load of specialty's. A 1100 meter high top class arabica? Got it. A funky bean from an exotic 'monastery' island on the Lake Tana? Got it. Bale Mountains coffee? Got it. Djimmah or Limu? Dozens of Djimmah or Limu. And the end is not yet in sight.
It's a bit too early to evaluate all the samples Abdullah gave us. More on that in a later post.

For now it was an experience to cherish. Next week our roast of the week is a Bagersh Djimmah. Other Bagersh bags are on the way. This is a company to follow.

Thank you for this warm welcome and information Abdullah, and I hope to see you sooner or later again.

Interesting link : Peter Dupont wrote a couple of nice articles about Bagersh and their coffee. Click it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trip to Origin. Sidamo

Finally I've been walking with all coffee trees surrounding me. Coffee left, coffee right, coffee everywhere. I felt so good to see all these beans in different colors. It just rained, but then by miracle the sun came through and made the coffee tree look like a shiny multi colored jewel. I picked the darkest red bean at the tree and tasted the delicious fruit. The beans gulped out the berry directly. It felt weird but magical, these fresh coffee beans in my mouth.
I thought I was dreaming that day at the Aregash lodge in Yirga Lem, Sidamo.

The weather was very bad and we didn't have a lot of time. Luckily Haile Mariam gave us a quick guidance at the Aregash logde's coffee plantation.
It was an unforgettable experience and we want to thank him and the owners and staff of the Aregash logde for their warm welcome, friendship and good food. I can recommend this place to all you traveling Ethiopia.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sammy Piccolo is Back

The new Canadian champion is the old one.
At least he was champion, three times even, several years ago. And three times top three at the world championships.
Every one liked his shows and, of course, his drinks.
He's the Jimmy White of the WBC and .... my favourite for Atlanta.
Go Sammy!

Click this link for the results and a photo.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coffee for Ethiopians

In contrast of many coffee producing country's, Ethiopia is using a lot of their beans for proper use.

At their famous coffee ceremony you can have a good idea about the way they roast and brew their coffee.

Here's how it goes :

Freshly cut grass and flower petals are spread on the floor where the ceremony will be held, to resemble the carpet of grass and flowers found in nature.
The women who prepare and serve the coffee usually wear traditional Ethiopian clothing.
The lit charcoal burner is place on the grass carpet. The dried green raw coffee beans are washed and placed in a metal ladle or pan to be roasted over the charcoal burner. The rich, pungent aroma of coffee soon fills up the air, as does the sweet aroma from a very small quantity of incense, which is also burned in an incense burner. It's almost like we're in a church.

The roasting coffee beans are shaken sporadically until they turn dark brown.
Then the beans are grinded in a small mortar where they are (literally) smashed into powder.

The powdered coffee is poured skillfully into a jebena, a special clay kettle with a rounded bottom and a long skinny spout, which has already been filled with boiled water. If the water overflows when the coffee is added, a little cold water is added. After the coffee boils for a while, the jebena is removed from the charcoal. Finally the jebena is put on a special round stand for a short while to let the coffee grounds settle to the bottom.

The coffee is then poured skillfully into small coffee cups without handles.
Most people add lots of sugar and even milk, but the girl (on the photo) at the Bishangari lodge at Lake Langano did such a brilliant job the coffee was dead perfect. By far the best cup I had in those ten days. Most of the coffee is roasted way too dark, but not this one. Congratulations.
Off course, it helps when your boss is the brother of the most specialised coffee exporter in Ethiopia. More about Abdullah Bagersh in another post.
Here at the local market in Lallibella you see the people are selling green beans from the local plantation.
Even in this dry area, the coffee tastes good and sweet.
From what I saw over all my years in coffee business, I guess almost all beans in Ethiopia got certain charms. It's mostly just a matter of the right picking, washing (or not), drying and packing.

Soon more about it....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

SBux in Crisis

Zelfs op Mars kan Starbucks niemand meer boeien

Blijkbaar heeft u in deze Moeilijke Economische Tijden geen zin meer om 4 euro voor een kopje koffie te betalen. En dat is niet leuk voor Starbucks; ze houden geen winst meer over.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trabocca Office Addis

Abraham of Trabocca gave us a warm welcome at their offices in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

It was very interesting to hear about their initiatives to improve coffee quality, increase the farmer's income, detect and harvest new single origins and work together with specialised coffee company's around the globe.

The endless efforts of Menno Simons and the Dutch government have resulted in many happy Ethiopian coffee farmers and their family's and satisfied coffee amateurs. The average Ethiopian bean quality from Trabocca coffee bags is way higher than what we see from the Antwerp coffee trading company's.
One of their interesting projects is the OCR ; Operation Cherry Red. Very simply it's the picking of only the reddest cherry growing at the tree. It sounds simple, but for most farmers it means much more work. Luckily Trabocca is ready to pay for these extra efforts and of course we, coffee lovers, are ready to pay extra for extra quality as well.
A must read article about Trabocca's OCR project is this one at CoffeeGeek.

For the moment they only talk about something like 20 lots of 25 to 50 bags per location of washed naturals.

For the rest Trabocca's main objectives are
- quality first
- keep beans from different origins/farms separate
- double cupping to secure quality standards

With the soon upcoming efforts like vacuum packing, cotton bags (around the jute) and, new for me, Grain Pro Bags and Aluminium foil packing, the future of Trabocca and their Ethiopian coffee farmers seems to be guaranteed.

Looking forward to taste all Trabocca specialty's....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gondar Barista

This Gondar Barista was so overwhelmed she couldn't even smile.

Very unusual in Ethiopia where young and old are the most friendly and warm people I ever encountered.

Although Ethiopian coffee beans are the best in the world and the locals like to get high on their own supply, the coffee drinking in Ethiopia was not what it should be.

Two things to separate. First you have their famous coffee ceremony. Let's say the way they roast, grind and brew their coffee at home for the last hundreds of years. On this one I'll post you later on.
Second is the espresso machine. Even the smallest bar has one. On the photo you see a typical espresso lever machine. The fact the Italians where colonising this country for a very short period makes it a place where it's normal to drink macchiato's or espresso. And the lever machines are still omni present. Even new machines have often one or two handles to press the hot water through the filter baskets.

The espresso is mostly served in small cups, filled to the rim. The looks and taste reminds me a bit of France, but not as bad.
The macchiato (very cheap; plus minus 20 Euroct) is served in a small glass and resembles best at the Spanish Cortado Condensato, what's called a caffe bonbon in Madrid, if I remember well. First some sweet condensated milk, then the espresso and a layer of warm milk on top. Not my kind of cup, but very popular in this country.

The cappuccino is another drink to be avoided. The one we had at the Central hotel in Jimma (€ 0,35) tasted like the Nescafé cappuccino powder bags drinks my mother used in the past. Brrrr. Most of cappuccino's looked like a cheap 'airport cappuccino'. Not good.
But even worse was the only real 'airport cappuccino' Isabel ordered at the Addis airport. It was very early and the bar just opened. The two girls behind the bar looked to be totally lost and what they served was unbelievable. First they had a small pitcher with some pre made coffee. They steamed this one, poured a bit in a cup and added a lot of warm milk. We couldn't taste any coffee and told her. Then she warmed a bit more coffee and added this to the cup. What a crap and the highest price ever. Complaints didn't help, so we gave her the money and back the 'coffee'.
Afterwards we think, since they acted very strange and difficult, they did this to put the money of the drink in their own pocket. Who knows?

The regular cup of coffee is dark, strong, but not much of details and fruit is present. Biggest mistakes are the roast - too dark- and the fact they mostly use pre ground. The fact most machines are old and not too well maintained doesn't do a lot of good of course. Overal they where drinkable, but a bit of warm milk and sugar helped.

Also noticeable is the fact the local Barista has to stay aside of their machine. This Gondar (a historical city in the North of Ethiopia) Barista girl was standing there in a dark corner of the establishment. The place was very small, cheap and not crowded, but still she had to stand by the machine for the rest of the day, pulling one or two shots every 15 minutes. Weird. But this wasn't too bad for her. Some of her colleagues 'Barista's' had their machine in a small kitchen somewhere in the back, without any direct sunlight or clients around. Consolation for them can be found in the fact so many others do not have a job at all and live in deep poverty. Tough!