Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Specialty Coffee Flavors & Cup Of Excellence

This week we have our first Cup Of Excellence coffee on display.

The washed and sun-dried bourbon from Finca Los Amates, Apaneca-Ilamatepec was one of the winning coffee's in this years COE auction in El Salvador.
The bean is a fantastic result of how the craftsmanship of a dedicated farmer results in a remarkable coffee bean.

On press we have a super light, mild and very fruity (mostly citrus) coffee with an aftertaste that's very long and pleasant.
On espresso the citrus comes in very direct and heavy. In the middle you have a complexity that's varying from shot to shot. And again an aftertaste like no other.

But what is happening right now : People order this one as a lungo of the week are mostly very positive and very surprised by the clean and refreshing taste. Those who order an espresso (plus minus 20 grams for a double. 91°c. And a 26 seconds running time for 2 times 2,5cl) are very often confused and sometimes not very amused.
The acidity the bean is giving, is too much for the occasional coffee drinker. They experience this coffee very often as being sour, even in the after taste.

We promote this coffee as a very clean citrus fruit bomb with tobacco smell- that's what it is. But it looks like most people do not want a very clean citrus fruit bomb with tobacco smell.
It reminds me at this story from Mark Prince (Coffeegeek). He had a great coffee with a remarkable blueberry profile. One day he visits his father with this coffee and tells him he brought along this great coffee with profound blueberry tastes, on which his father answers : "why should I want to taste a blueberry coffee?".

I guess he's right. And wrong.
I mean, it's nice to have coffee's with complex and extreme tastes, but it's mostly only interesting for the die hard coffee afficionado's.
So, don't be surprised, dear Barista colleagues, if you offer the most special bean at your 'average' client and he/she doesn't appreciate it.
Sometimes Specialty Coffee can be too 'specialty'. :-)

Those who want to drink one better be fast. Wednesday the next Specialty in our '3 dolle weken' is coming.
But Hasbean still has some greens or roasted. Great working with Steve on this one.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Home Brewing Session 1

November 11 is a bank holiday. We open at noon.

All about brewing that 'perfect' cup of coffee at your own kitchen table.

For once we have to ask a (symbolic) amount for entrance ; €10. This way I hope the people will be present. I can't ask more than 12 persons to participate and it would be problematic when the people don't show.
For this sum you'll get a bag of coffee free at the end of the class.

Oh yes : the classes are in Dutch.

Voor geïnteresseerden :

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Trip to Origin : Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico here we come.

We booked our flight to visit this tropical island and its warm people. At least, that's what they say about Puerto Rico.
I know for sure the coffee I tasted from this island is fantastic.

So, hopefully at the beginning of November a post about the all famous Hacienda San Pedro.

(flickr photo from Old Shoe Woman)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vietnam Boven in België (Dutch)

Dit is ons koffieland : wij zijn de grootste afnemers van Vietnamese koffie ter wereld. Maar ons huis komt die 'bazaar' niet binnen.
Voor de anderen : 'Schol!'.

Artikel De Morgen

Saturday, September 19, 2009

La Marzocco's at Bar du Matin

Two of these GB5's at the Bar Du Matin in Brussels!
The coffee is less impressive, unfortunately.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stumptown New York

You can say a lot about Stumptown.
I think they're more stylish then ever.

Nice clothing, beautiful interior, 2 La Marzocco Mistral 3-group machines, Chambord presses, high ceiling, ACF Marron colored cups and tons of top class coffee beans. Say no more.

20 West, 29th Street (Ace Hotel), Manhattan.
And hopefully an Antwerp Barista reporter soon with a full report.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Aeropress Vid by Jeff

Iced aeropress @ caffenation antwerp from jeff verellen on Vimeo.

For less acidic iced coffees and to enhance sweet & fruity flavors : brew cold (plus minus 40degrees) and put the glass without the rocks in a fridge for a night. Perfect!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Need for Fresh Greens

How would a well roasted blend with
Costa Rica Finca Tonomiel
Costa Rica Herbazu
Ethiopia Limu Organic
Brazil Coromandel Fazenda Sao Joao
and Rwanda Gikongoro Nyamagabe
taste like?

Not good at all.
When the green (unroasted) beans are not fresh.

We're talking a lot about freshness and how we should drink the coffee the first weeks after roasting. But very often it's forgotten we may not store the green beans too long before roasting (and drinking) them.
The above noted beans were all top class the first year (some less, some a bit longer maybe) after harvest. The day we threw then into the roaster they had an average age of 2 and a half years and it showed in the taste.

Of course a lot has to do with the way we store the greens beans, but also for greens freshness is key. Freshness tastes. And freshness sells.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

BBC '09 : The Sequel

I hope to end all the talking and gossip with this (hopefully) final post about this years Belgian Championship.

It's just hard for us to loose after the endless hours of hard work.
We just didn't make it.
There are reasons for that of course.
I made judgemental and tactical mistakes in the preparation and Roeland made mistakes on stage. Of course this happens, certainly with a rookie at the wheel.

For me it's a very bitter pil to swallow that our (Caffenation and all our professional and non professional clients) taste buds do not correspond with those of the jury last Monday.

I hope people stop shooting at me for this opinion.
I never told we are the best ; it was just my feeling that we were worth to be in the finals.

I'm only human and as I told before ; I took my conclusions and decided to withdraw from competition as an active trainer/competitor.
Afraid to loose again in the future? Probably, but most of all tired of fighting.

It were very heavy but learnable years. Lot's of ups and downs.
I made some wonderful friends and learned a lot.
I can recommend participation to everyone and hope future Championships are going to be as successful as the past ones.

Good luck to everybody in the finals. Good luck to Jeanne and her team, and may the 'best' Barista(team) win.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No More Championships

Caffenation is out.
We're out.
I'm out. Knock out.

What's going on in this crazy coffee world?

Last year I've been traveling around the world to taste the best possible espresso's and see the best Barista's at work.
Every year we taste (and mostly offer at the bar) the WBC winning espresso.
And in between I tasted supreme espresso's from Intelligentsia (a lot actually), Stumptown, Ritual, Blue Bottle, Coffee Collective, Johan & Nystrom, FourBarrell, 49th PR, Kontra, Bocca, Square Mile, Vivace, Hasbean, George Howell, Barismo, Knopes and so on (5 of them were top 6 this year at the World Championships). This is my list for 2009 till today.

Our goal at the Belgian Championships this year was to get ourselves up to this world class level.
For that I was willing to find some aid abroad and order the best of the best (reviewed and tasted) beans.
But it's still a Belgian Championship and in the Antwerp Harbour we found goodies that seemed to match the level of the above tasted beans/coffee's.

Our 'Little Green Bag' was the most popular blend we ever launched and tested by dozens of coffee enthusiasts, both professional or amateur. I was so delighted we finally were able to close the gap with the International Roastery's.

Last year we won the prize for 'best espresso' - so you can't call us a bunch of dreamers without experience on championships - and this year it would be a whole lot better...
First of all : I have to admit we won last years 'best espresso' trophy with an espresso I wasn't so crazy about. We just won because the rest was even 'less'. You know we're still selling a comparable blend as last years for €12,50 a kilo. I guess it is the cheapest on the market. And for the sure the best value for money.
This year it would be a totally different ball game. Our 'Little Green Bag' has much more depth, intensity and taste and is a perfect match for milk and chocolate.

Yesterday eve Jeff (the man with the highest Visa 'Coffee Bill' in Belgium), Katrien (Last year's number 5, pretty fanatic and maybe the best Barista I know in this country) and Pauli (German coffee addict) all agreed this year's espresso and cappuccino were our best ever and way better than the one from last year.

Today backstage we encountered a lot of happy faces drinking our clean shots and caps.
And onstage I couldn't spot mistakes in the extraction or bad shot coloring. Every day I go to work I see a couple hundred espresso shots running out of the spouts. After a while you can see how a good shot looks like, trust me on this.
Milk frothing on stage looked good. Nice micro foam and 1 cm in the cup.
Style was good, the atmosphere right.
But then the results on the scoring sheets : awful!

Was the cup too strong? Grow up. I totally do not agree with this!!!! (and some of the most advanced Dutch pro's who've recently been drinking some of our shots probably will back me up on this).
And what happened with the calibration? They took some Illy beans?

Of course I feel like an idiot. Are we nuts? Do we fooled ourselves?
We never trained harder. We never invested more time and money in this. We were never so satisfied and confident. And still, today we're not with the first 9 to advance to the BBC October 1st.
Of course I feel like an amateur without taste buds and knowledge. And Roeland is a bad Barista (he did 35 run throughs with in total 8 professional Barista's judging him on some of the runs. And he's a pro Barista who's grinding plus minus 15 kilo of specialty coffee a week!!!!)

Or are we too advanced into 3rd wave and isn't a Belgian judge these days not informed how an espresso or cap in 'our' world tastes like?
Tell me what to think...

85% of the points go for taste and today they say Caffenation is running (far) behind the other Barista's in Belgium.

I guess I won't sleep tonight.
Bye bye Barista Championships. This is not our cup of tea (no more).

ps : The other Barista I helped, Isabelle, did not do a very good run. The blend was not a real championship blend and the techniques limited, which is normal for a 4 month old Barista.
On stage there were of lot of problems, but she had a very good presence.
We were a bit afraid for the result, but look .... she passed though.
Congrats Isa and good luck at the Village.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Getting Ready for BBC 09

Every year we visit Schuilenburg - the Belgian Della Corte/Mahlkonig distributor - for a better feel with the machine and testing the blend.
As at all previous visits we were welcomed very warm by Ingrid. Thank you very much.

In the past we were used to Faema and the switch to a multi boiler machine was not the easiest. In competition it mostly showed in the Cappuccino's. In 7 performances by Caffenation Barista's we were never able to deliver anything better than average quality.
But that's going to change it looks like. Our daily La Marzocco handlings copy perfect on the DC. The shots are running smoothly and timing does not seem to bother us.

It took years of training and talking with International Barista's to see how to pull competition shots. In previous championships they often lacked (dark) crema and intensity. Not this year.

If we find a way to keep the nerves under control Monday, the future could be bright.

Wish us all the luck and see you back in blogland or Caffenation Monday night or Tuesday. Ciao.

ps : for those curious how our blend tastes : it's now on offer as Espresso of the Week at Hopland, Oever and Minderbroedersrui.