Third Post about community…Intertuuubes!!

24 Mar

I know this is a 3rd post about the UK coffee community.  I will try and make it my last for a while, I’ll try and do something a bit different nexttime but for now I wanna get this monkey off my back.

So I avoided the elephant in the room regarding the UK Coffee community and that being the internet community.  The UK online community is very strong and very friendly, and seemingly are mutually exclucive with the London scene people.  Maybe it’s a difference of mindset between Londoners and non-Londoners, I don’t know.

At any rate, it is great for the home barista or ambitious chain barista…and it is a great forum for support and help, it’s also a great place to chat and learn through experiance of everyone within the forums.  But the critique is what is missing from the UK Internet scene.  And to be fair without video-taping and youtube-ing our technique (which will be less than useful anyway due to performance consciousness etc.) the idea of getting critique off the internet is virtually impossible, and even with the recorded results the sensory results, which at the end of the day are what count, aren’t translatable through the internet.

Please note, however, this is not a post to diminish the importance of the online community.  The encouragement and friendliness of these groups coupled with the security of controllable annonymity makes the specialised coffee world less intimidating for people coming from the companies that I came from.  The fear of persecution a Starbucks/Costa/Nero/Coffee Primo/etc. barista may face when they see posts slating their brand is palpable and understandable…here I risk moving onto another rant about coffee but I think I’ll save it for another day.

Without online communities I would never had learnt about so much within coffee, I would still be baffled what E61 meant, about the idea of pre-infusion, crema-skimming, brew ratios, PIDing or anything else.  I also wouldn’t have had the oppertunity to try the difference that a singe coffee can exhibit through washed, Pulped Natural and Natural processing methods, I wouldn’t even have known what that meant. For so much of this knowledge came to me through these communities, and if you’re reading this blog then you most likely know me from either one of these communities or in person from the UKBC, UBF or Square Mile Coffee‘s events, or my experiance of flavours from both Square Mile’s and HasBean’s coffees.

[Sidenote]To anyone who wonders what the hell people are talking about when they speak about the flavours in coffee these guys subscription packs are both amazing oppertunities to try and taste things.  Square Mile offers a monthly subscription and Hasbean offers a selection of subscriptions monthly and one weekly (In My Mug) where Steve will talk about the coffee and taste it with you.  I don’t know exact numbers but I know they are both exceedingly good value, both in financial and educational value.

What I’m trying to get at (in my ramble-happy way) is that while online communities provide an amazing conversation platform for baristas around the world and help to organise meetups from all around the country/world, they will never be a replacment of the intrinsic value of a presence of another barista who can critique your day-to-day technique and have someone whom you can try out different ideas with and who has experiances from another shop, market, demographic, machine, cup or pretty much anything…

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One Response to “Third Post about community…Intertuuubes!!”

  1. Glenn 24 March, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    You’re quite right, the internet cannot (and should not) seek to replace hands on experience and training in any way and cannot get across, taste, smell, texture or passion in the same way that the human senses can pick up by standing next to, doing, or observing someone.

    The UK has a number of online coffee communities (that did not exist in such visitor numbers even 18 months ago), with TooMuchCoffee (aka TMC), Coffee Forums UK, Has Forum, Coffeegeek (UK section), Twitter (and more…) filling the void and bringing coffee folk* together.

    Online communities are gathering places and can lead to knowledge sharing and a sense of belonging.

    However, it is from real life meetups (UBF, Roastery open days, Trade Shows etc) that most value is derived.

    There are umpteen-dozen youtube videos on ‘how to make a coffee’ and some of them are so far off the mark that they border on ridiculous.

    I wholeheartedly agree that chain baristas feel intimidated on forums but the attitude is changing (albeit very slowly) and more and more forums and communities are welcoming them with open arms as they often have a passion or desire to learn more (or they wouldn’t be in their position in the first place) and more should be done to moderate negative attitudes towards these members.
    What some people don’t realise is that a chain cafe often introduces people to their first latte/capp/americano and in turn feeds the independent cafe scene (but thats a whole different topic)

    Keep up the posts Alex, always good to read your blog 🙂

    *defined as those interested in coffee, not limited to industry professionals, but ordinary consumers with a love of coffee too

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