Tag Archives: Community

The best laid plans of mice and men…

1 Jan

I know I said this last year, but I’ll say it again.  I’m gonna try and blog more in 2012.

I kept a fine roll going and made it into July but from there I did…well nothing.


I beg pardons but my last 6 months have been filled with resounding amounts of work and other hobbies coming to intercept my time.  As I alluded in my last post, I’ve started working at Peel & Peel Independent Coffee, in Northampton.  This has fulfilled one of my goals of last year but more on that in a minute. I also started working on a per diam basis for Monkshood Coffee, an independent mobile coffee company using (Working!) VW Campers and through them got to work at Download, Sonisphere and Bloodstock festivals, making top-notch coffee. This made me very happy. All the while continuing my daily job at The Courtyard Brasserie and convincing them that speciality coffee is the way to take that side of the business.

So, last year I made a set of goals for myself to achieve over the course of 12 months. They were

  1. Try as much coffee as possible – I could have tried more. C for effort
  2. Work towards my own operation or with people with a similar goal – This was perhaps my most coveted goal. In working at Peel & Peel I feel I’ve achieved this with bells on
  3. Share great coffee with more people and help educate consumers about what is possible Peel  & Peel definitely gives this an extra outlet, but Monkshood brought it to a whole new level. Metal people love their coffee
  4. Give the UKBC my all – Effort; yes. Timeliness; Not so much
  5. Visit a producing farm – A tall order to arrange but, one day…
  6. Blog more – Failed entirely.
So, with that in mind, a few new goals should be set.
  1. Blog More! – I couldn’t blog much less than I have in the past 6 months so it’d be hard to fail
  2. Try as much coffee as possible – I have 52 weeks in which to try as many coffees as I can.  I can feel a few coffee subscriptions coming on…
  3. Expand Peel & Peel toward becoming entirely self-sufficient and, with luck, work towards our own premises. (May take longer)
  4. Give one last crack at the UKBC whip.  – I feel this might be the last time I put myself through the UKBC, at least for a few years.

I’ve chosen these goals with a consideration to what their secondary effects will be.  Blogging makes me continually reassess and rethink concepts that I’ve held as fact, sometimes incorrectly. Tasting coffees expands my palette and makes me better at what I do. Expanding Peel & Peel is an expansion on my own goals in regard to running my own coffee shop. The UKBC forces me to assess myself as a barista and work on any bad habits I may have acquired.

A very Happy New Year to you all.


Sticks & Stones

3 Jun

A term that I always want a better, or at least more concise word for when I write a post, or indeed am talking about coffee, is the term by which we refer to the segment of the coffee industry which is wholly quality focused and eternally striving to improve coffee as a whole.

Speciality coffee‘ is the typical goto phrase which is far too general and the spectrum which it could technically cover would include a large spread of poor coffee with good marketing. A food connoisseur may be considered to be interested in speciality food but that would be far too wide a gamut for a concise explanation as to what they enjoy or expect when they go to a restaurant.

I suppose the partial reason for why we always default to “speciality coffee” is to a degree at least people know what you are talking about and it’s an approachable term in that it is harder to impune much snobbery as opposed to a word like ‘connoisseur’, and to an outsider it probably seems quite accurate.

A further problem with ‘speciality’ coffee is that it has been adopted by the larger companies, whose doses and standards do not come close to meeting what I consider to be true speciality coffee.

But what are the alternatives? A few get kicked around but they don’t cut the mustard in my mind.

Third Wave‘ is a popular term but the pay off of it is that it doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense to an outsider.

Connoisseur‘ is typically construed as snobby and unapproachable, which is the exact opposite.

The best term I can think is passionate, but using the term ‘passionate coffee’ doesn’t make much sense, perhaps there’s a synonym that can be better used, but a passionate barista is at the heart of what the focus is about.

It could be said that this is merely semantics, but I think there is a larger problem in the barriers of communication that are faced by baristas when trying to connect with the clientelle is how we refer to the segment of the industry we mean in a concise way.  Speaking to the average person saying 3rd wave will lead to very little understanding which starts making the whole conversation start to become arcane and confusing to the uninitiated which, in turn can risk creating the negative view of snobbery and alienating the very peole we’re trying to reach.

Does anyone have a better term?

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…