Tuesday, December 30

Scared Shitless By The Steady March Of Time...Oh, And A Happy Christmas...

So, it's nearly 2009...and therefore nearly time for competition heats...crap...so, to date I've had one real practice run through, and used the San Remo machine for twenty minutes...I've done fe'k all on my Sig drink except buy glasses and screw up my one attempt at them. So, tonight ladies and gentlemen, you find me brewing up all manner of concoctions...grinding up cinnamon sticks by hand while trying to boil a syrup without burning the cinnamon already in there...and type this at the same time.

So what is my sig drink? Why do I need syrups? Why don't I brew them there and then? Simple; one less thing to do. The reason I'll give though is that in order not to burn the spices they need to be simmered over a long period rather than boiled quickly. Sounds alright...doesn't it? As for what my sig drink is, it's a spiced mocha. The base of this is Union's Revelation espresso blend, with it's cherry opening, zesty acidity and spicy chocolate/caramel finish, combined with a cinnamon and a cardamom syrup. The theory is that the cinnamon will give the sweet spice flavour as well as a wonderful aroma, while the cardamom adds the middle note while contributing to the aroma. This is how it is working out in my head. No doubt tomorrow it'll all go tits up and I'll cry.

To make my drink a mocha, I am obviously using chocolate as well. This will be based on a chocolate I already know goes well with the Revelation; a single source chocolate from Hotel Chocolat. It has a fantastic dark chocolate taste, with a hint of caramel; exactly what my spiced mocha needs...again, this is in my head.

As an aside, I'm very sorry that my Christmas post is taking so long to get out. I've been very busy lately so I hope you'll forgive me. However, by ways of an apology, tomorrow night I'll post a series of tastings of the Hasbean coffees I got for Christmas, as well as a review of the Gaggia Classic-Starbucks Barista Grinder combo I was using on Christmas day.

Back to the work at hand. I'm going to be honest, I am no cook. I've been making this syrup now for half an hour, and I'm scared to take it off the heat in case it's not quite ready and I bollocks up all this time. But, who dares wins, so off it has come.

Anyway, rather than bore you with a play-by-play account of me screwing up a simple syrup, I'll just take you through the rest of my comp. stuff.

My coffee is, as said before, Revelation. I use this every day at work and know it inside out. Or at least I thought I did until I took the producer notes and actually tasted the coffee. Be it stress, or a new-found palatte, but the coffee really came to life. I now have a full page of notes on it that I need to condense into a 30 second speech. My milk, well, I'm cheap so it's gonna be Cravendale. Besides, I love the creamy heaven that is a Cravendale-made capp. And I know from past experience it works wonderfully with Revelation. Music? Well, this one's been the thing I've really focussed on. I wanted something I love to work to, which the crowd could get into, and which made me feel confident.

When it comes to competition music, Steven Morrissey really stands out. His music had EVERYONE on their feet. I even spent three months trying to find out what it was. I aimed for that with my music. My first instinct was to use The Go! Team. They're the official band of Coolaboola, and I love them to bits. Great to work to. I had a playlist together, and was listening to it non-stop, running through my presentation in my head. Then, last week, my iPod cracked out a fantastic tune by a band called the Players. Imagine modern, funky jazz. They remind me of my Mod tendencies, and make me feel more relaxed and confident. It's also something I can really get into a groove to, and I hope the crowd share my enthusiasm for them.

So, this post is already very long. I'll let you get back to your lives. See you tomorrow!

A very scared Seamus.

Saturday, December 20

The 50th Post, A New Tamp Handle, And Plaing With A New Grinder...

The 50th post! Whoop! Pity it's taken me so long to get it out, but I've been really very busy recently. However I do have a lot of very good news. Firstly, I received a very big order from Hasbean. It includes the Christmas espresso blend, the Christmas filter blend, the COE espresso blend, four different Hasbean loose leaf teas, and the Christmas roast selection pack. All of these coffees will be tasted before Christmas, and posted up here. I'll also be tasting the teas, as something a little bit different. Never played with loose leaf tea before, so it could be very interesting.

In other news, I have a new toy, which is also part of the Wish List. It's the Reg Barber Radical Pro. This is specifically aimed at anybody with larger hands. The Pro fits perfectly into the hand and eases the strain on the palm that shorter handles sometimes cause. Beautifully made it looks fantastic as well, and is a must have for the barista with big hands.

Now for an equipment review. Well, actually more like a first look. The Starbucks Barista Grinder. Coming in at £60 this grinder is one of the cheapest burr grinders I've seen on the market. The first time I really heard about it (apart from seeing it every now and again when I went in for a coffee...I was desperate) was when Ace (a co-worker) bought one for home use. He seems to have had no problems with it so far, and needing a new grinder I bought one up.

To look at, it's great. It's sturdy, the hopper is easily large enough for a 250g bag of beans and it grinds directly into a small box at the base of the grinder. My only gripe is that it doesn't have an on-off button, only a timer on the side which is set in six second intervals. More about this later though.

So, first use. I got out some old beans (the Kenya Gethumbwini, actually, from the last batch of Hasbean coffees I got...in October), and tested the grind. The grind is easily changed, with a series of steps, with the three major grind settings marked on. These are espresso, percolator and french press. The french press grind was even, and more course than the Union pre-ground coffee I had lying around. The espresso grind was very fine, possibly even moving towards a Turkish coffee grind, and had a small amount of clumping. The percolator grind is half way between these two grinds, and there are plenty of smaller settings between the two extremes to ensure the perfect grind for your coffee.

As for the actual grinding itself, it's quieter than any grinder I've used before, and so won't be too much of a pain when trying to get through a hangover. The static is acceptable, and much more so than the Mahlkonig K30 Vario I used recently. Not bad for a grinder £740 cheaper. The timer problem also isn't that bad, so long as you don't mind standing around. If you turn the timer dial a little it grinds, but doesn't engage the timer, allowing you to stop grinding when you want.

Now, downsides. Well, on my first use of the grinder my only real problem with it is that the hopper lid rattles about a bit while grinding. Even this isn't much of a problem if you're standing around holding the timer anyway; just put your hand on the lid to make sure it stays in place. But, like I say, I've only used the grinder once, and will put up another, more detailed review, later on.

So, till then, I'll say my goodbyes.

Till next time,

Saturday, December 13

Stone Cold Sober, But Here For The Wishlist

Damnit. I was meant to be out tonight with a friend, but alas, it snowed, and I live on a hill that the council doesn't grit. Damnit.

So, anyway, I'm here with you, and that's better anyway :D

So, what's next on the Wishlist? Good question. It's the Motta steaming pitcher. It's essentially a straight walled milk pitcher, but with a belled bottom and a button in the bottom. These two features help the circulation of the milk, making it easy for even the newest barista to create the perfect milk, and the elongated spout allows for beautiful latte art. The heavier weight and thicker steel make the jug feel tremendously comfortable. All in all a wonderful jug, second only to the Alessi in my opinion.

And that's all from me for tonight. I'll be off to mess about on xBox live (which would be a Wish List item, but it's not really coffee-related) and drink Martini.

Cheers y'all,

Friday, December 12


So, my first test. Was I right to recommend you buy something I hadn't tried? Well, yeah, because it was as much a lesson in what coffee really is as anything else. So, did tasting Cascara challenge my thoughts on coffee, and what coffee was? Or was it simply a coffee novelty, in the same vein as Kopi Luwak?

To answer this I'm going to break this post down into three parts; my first tasting, Ru's first tasting, and Ace's first tasting.

So, my first tasting. On opening the bag I was greeted with the most floral, woody, winey, blackcurrent aromas I have ever experienced in a coffee. Intregued I measured out eight grams and threw it into a french press. This is where my problems with the Cascara began. It smells horrible when it's brewing. Every person I have offered a cup has agreed, the wet Cascara is repulsive. Four minutes later, I plunged the cherries to the bottom of the french press and poured. The aroma is much the same as the dry cherries, but with much more blackcurrent. In the cup it even tastes like a very weak, hot Ribena. There were also floral notes, a definate peat flavour, and some chocolate towards the end. Having said this, I had already been put off, and didn't enjoy the coffee at all.

Then yesterday I took my one cup Bodum and the Cascara into work, and gave tasters to different people. The first was my boss, Ru. He described it as like hot Ribena, and while not hating it, wasn't taken by it.

Now for Ace (Chris Walton, my co-worker). Well, Ace really liked it. And where Ru and I had seen mostly eye to eye on flavour and aroma, Ace came up with some fantastic new flavours and aromas we'd missed. Firstly, the dry cherries. There's a definate raisen smell, which I had missed. In the cup he described it as a fruit tea, likening it's floral and fruity tastes to those of herbal teas.

So is Cascara really a coffee drink that you could serve day-to-day, or is it a novelty? Well, I'd start by saying it's an aquired taste. It took me three goes to properly enjoy it and even now I find it a little earthy to enjoy a large mug full. But it did challenge my belief as to what coffee is. Cascara is a fruit tea in all but name. It's dried fruit which is steeped in hot water for four minutes. But at the same time it's obviously a coffee, because it comes from a coffee plant. I promise you, if you get the chance to try this drink you will never look at coffee in the same way.

There is some bad news though. Square Mile have sold out, as of yesterday (I think). If you know anyone who does have some, or you can find any lying about, grab a taste. If you're near Newcastle I have two bags, though I'm giving one to Ace for Christmas lol. just give me a bell and let me know if you're dropping by and I'll bring it to work with me.

Anyway, Christmas Wish List tomorrow, if I'm not too drunk to type. So, till then, best wishes :)


Wednesday, December 10

Union Hand Roasted, Cold Days Ahead, And The Wish List!

So, it's getting cold now, isn't it? For all you fe'kers down South who think a cold day is where you have to wear a light jacket and a scarf, let this be an education. I went out the house today wearing thermal long johns, a thermal t-shirt, and a Canterbury thermal base layer on top of that (with my usual work clothes of jeans and a polo shirt over the top). Good God, it was cold. Anyway, that's my rant about the weather over. The moral of the story, use more petrol, burn coal in your back garden, and buy a herd of cattle. Lets get that global warming thing sorted!

So...my visit to Union. Well, I got there eventually (after getting very lost). Was welcomed in, and we set off training. To start with we messed about with their new Winter Blend, tasting it an espresso, and deciding how it was best packed, and at what time it was best extracted. In the end we decided that over packing the basket, and tamping it lightly brought out the best flavours and the most balanced espresso. The blend itself is fantastic, with zesty citrus and chocolate leading to a spicy cinnamon finish. We then messed about with my signature drink (which I'll go into more depth in at a later date), the Chilli/Spiced mocha. The espresso worked perfectly with the spices and the chocolate, and tasted great, though I do now have to work out which ingredients fit, which ones I don't need, and the best balance of the flavours.

So far so good. We tried the blend as a cappuccino and, rather than being pleasantly surprised we were stunned into silence. Rather than the espresso punching through the milk it died on it's arse. The zesty lemon had disappeared, as had the cinnamon finish, leaving only a vague taste of chocolate and the creaminess of the milk. So, in the end, I decided that rather than mess about with two grinders I'll use the Revelation blend instead as I know it's robust and versatile enough to make excellent espresso and cappuccino, while still working with the sig drink. After that I ran through my presentation a couple of times, asked any lingering questions, then headed home.

All in all it was a really useful day, and coupled with the barista jam in Blaydon I now feel prepared to give the UKBC a good go. So, watch this space!

Now, the wish list item for today. This one's aimed squarely at espresso drinkers and is...the Union Winter Blend! This is the first winter blend I've tried this year, and it's fantastic. Really, if you love espresso and like zesty coffees you'll love this. It's got a fantastic mulled wine taste, with great mouthfeel and a really nice brightness to it. So, go out and get some!

So, until next time,

Monday, December 8

Union, Barista Competitions, And Yet Another Crap Costa.

Okay, before I say anything, I want to point out one thing. I was tired, and Costa was the only place to go. So, while I'm on the train doing nothing else, I may as well review it. I ordered a double ristretto (which was to go, since I was in a train station at the time). I can already hear the purists screaming at me, but it was either that or brave whatever burned mess they seemed to be serving as cappuccinos. So, anyway, I get to my platform, no more than a minute after getting my order, open up my ristretto to see...a tiny filter coffee. No, not the syrup thick, treacley wonder that is a ristretto, it's golden creama flecked with reddish brown. Instead I see a water-thin cup of, for want of a better word, shit. Not even a hint of creama around the edges! Even Costa used to be able to make a nice ristretto! It was the one coffee I enjoyed from them! Now this?! Oh well. The lesson of the story, train station Costa is NOT good.

So, now that we have that cleared up, Union Hand Roasted. This is my first trip down to the roastery, and only my second time in a roastery (the first being Pumphrey's, at the barista jam). I thought, to start off this post I'd give you the run down on Union; what they're about, who they are, why I love them so much.

Firstly, who are they?

Well, Union is a privately microroastery based in London. It is owned by Jeremy Torz and Steven Macatonia.

Second, what are they about?

Union is about providing good coffee, and giving the farmers a fair price for that coffee.

Thirdly, why do I love them?

Well, it's my job to love them for a start. Any barista worth his salt should be enthused about the coffee he prepares and sells. In the end a barista is part chef, part salesman, and a salesman must believe in his product in order to sell it. For me, Union ticks all the right boxes. They don't pander to the Fairtrade crowd, selling only one Fairtrade and Organic coffee, but they ensure that all their coffees are ethically sourced, paying 35% above the Fairtrade minimum, last I heard. They also care about their customers. The only reason I'm so enthusiastic about coffee is because my boss is enthusiastic about good coffee. Union ensure that they enthuse the shop owners and the baristi they supply, so that their great coffee doesn't simply become a creama-less mess in the bottom of a paper cup.

The main reason I love them is because they sell damned good coffee. Before I got the job at Coolaboola I hated coffee. My only experience had been Costa mochas (and we have seen my opinion of Costa already). I got the job, was given a series of lattes made with Union's Revelation blend, and my eyes were opened to what coffee really was. Not the bitter, lifeless drink that Costa would have you believe it is, where the only difference between a latte and a cappuccino is the order you put it together. No, coffee is as much a food stuff as a good cut of beef.

And that's Union. As I type I'm on a train to their London home to train for competition, and to taste a couple of different blends they think will work well with my sig drink idea.

And, as I said last night I'll be giving you a run down of what goes on today when I head back this evening.

So, till then, I'll sign off.


Sunday, December 7

So, What Exactly Does A Barista Do On His Day Off?

Well, he goes to work...the snow melted and I went to work. I got a free coffee and bought a load of stuff, then put on a sequined cat suit, white go-go boots with a three inch heel and go to a fancy dress party...

Yeah, anyway, tomorrow should be interesting. I've got a visit to the Union Roastery, and free Wi-Fi on the train, so expect a very excited post tomorrow about all my training adventures :)

I will also be posting a review of the Square Mile Cascara on the train journey down, so expect a post-packed day!

As for the Christmas Wish List, today's entry is Union's Revelation blend. A wonderful espresso blend with a red cherry opening, leading to toasted caramel, a spicy, dark chocolate finish, and a lingering chocolate aftertaste. This really is a staple blend for the espresso machine, although it works nicely as a filter coffee as well.

Anyway, sorry for the rushed nature of this post, but I've got a lot to do, and wanted to bang a post out, as much to stay in the habit as anything else. Like I said, expect two longer, more in depth posts tomorrow.


Thursday, December 4

So...What Does A Barista Do On His Day Off?

Well, I've been snowed in. I'm meant to be at work in an hour, but it ain't happening. So, what do I do on my day off? No, seriously, that's a question: I don't know. Right now I'm sitting on my bed chatting to you guys, listening to the music of South Park and The Mighty Boosh. Well, I'd best waste some time and put together a real post then.

So, to kick proceedings off, the Christmas Wish List! Today, it's Square Mile's Finca Mauritania Cascara . I haven't tried this coffee myself, but I have two bags on order. I don't think it's much of an overstatement to say that Mr. Hoffman and his crew of roasting buddies have opened my eyes as to what coffee really is with the Cascara. Before I was under the impression that only the bean was suitable for brewing a lovely cup of coffee, but Cascara is the dried remains of the coffee cherry itself! It is apparently the oldest form of coffee, and is brewed in the same way as a fruit tea.

The Square Mile webshop describes it like this:

"Finca Mauritania Cascara Price £5.00
A rare chance to taste possibly the oldest coffee drink in history. The dried coffee cherries make a delicious, sweet and refreshing infusion with flavours of rosehip, raspberries, cherries, plum and of course coffee fruit.
Aida Batlle, who owns Finca Mauritania and is well known as one of the most talented and progressive farmers in El Salvador, produced these coffee cherries using her Pasa method. The cherries were dried on the tree past ripe, before being sorted and then dried again on the patios. Once hulled the cherries were vacuum packaged separately and we have purchased a small amount.
We’d suggest brewing it like a fruit tea, and have found a ratio of about 20-25g per litre works very well. We enjoyed a steep of 4 minutes best – though feel free to experiment and let us know what you find!
We hope to secure more from next year’s crop – but for now we have about 40kg in stock. Not much at all….
As we said – this is a rare opportunity and you may be surprised that this is not only an interesting drink but a genuinely delicious one."

So there you have it, a drink that an coffee enthusiast should give his right arm to try. Like I said I have two bags on order, and will be reviewing it when it arrives for anyone who may be unlucky enough to miss out.

Okay, my second Wish List Item (to make up for not having posted yesterday), is a piece of kit I'd be lost without. My Reg Barber. Now, I know that choice in tamper is down to personal preference as well as income, but please do give the Reg Barber a look. Ranging in price from £30 to £100 there is an RB for everybody. Mine is a 57.5mm flat stainless steel base with a short ball handle. It's a joy to use, with a nice heavy base, and a light handle. Beautifully balanced, it makes tamping level a doddle. They're available from www.hasbean.co.uk, as well as Reg's own site www.coffeetamper.com.

Anyway, that's me done for today. Tomorrow, a day in the life of Seamus McFlurry, and the next item in the Wish List.


Tuesday, December 2

Plans For December, And The Third Wave Wishlist.

So, as you may have noticed, it's December. So, to celebrate this festive season I have some plans for Third Wave. Firstly, The Life Of A Barista. I said I'd do this piece ages ago, and I've decided to do it now for a couple of reasons. A) it's the run up to the competition, so there's that element to my days, B) I have Christmas drinks to play with, which makes the whole "latte, two capps and....etc" a bit more interesting for me to write and you to read.

Secondly, I'm down at Union Hand Roasted in London on Monday, so I'll have a full write up of that on Tuesday evening. This is again based around competition training, so it's just another little insight for you all into the life of a first time competitor.

And finally, the big thing this Christmas. It's new, it's original, it's never been seen before, it's...*drumroll*...the Third Wave Christmas Wish List!!!!!

Okay, so it's the CoffeeGeek wish list with a different name. Basically, over the next month I aim to bring you a selection of items I have tried and know to be great, or that I think will make fantastic additions to a home barista's arsenal, and be totally essential in the pro barista's kit. With it being the second of December today I'll start off with a big one.

Today's Wish List item is the HasBean 'Christmas Roasted Selection Pack'. This isn't just a nice to have, this is fe'king essential for anyone who claims to love coffee. The pack consists of four coffees for £40, roasted and shipped on 18th December. It is a one off, and for very good reason. The coffees are

  • Brazil Inglaterra Special Fazenda Toca da Onca Canario 2008
  • Panama Esmeralda Geisha lot number 5
  • El Salvador La Ilusion COE No.
  • Kenya Gethumbwini

The La Ilusion and the Gethumbwini have both been reviewed on this blog before, so I know they're both amazinf coffees. The Panama Esmeralda I know only by reputation, and it is one I am very excited to try. It is also only available as part of this set. The Canario, according to Steve's site, is from a very rare variatel (the Canario, strangely enough), which all but died out. HasBean have two of four bags in the world, making this a truely rare experience. I feel that anyone with a love for coffee should order this up now before it's too late. I know I'm ordering mine tomorrow, when I get paid.

Anyway, that's all for tonight. Tomorrow I won't be posting anything because I have to drive to Manchester and back to see the Mighty Boosh. Again...I'll explain why another time. So, to make up for this, I'll post two Wish List items on Thursday, and they're both great ones!

So till then, have fun, and stay safe on the roads!


Monday, December 1

December! The Barista Jam, And A Promise To Keep Blogging...

Well, here we are. It's December! Nearly Christmas! Whoop!

So, for my first post in fe'king ages I'm going to go over a couple of things. Firstly, my goals for December, and secondly a write up of the Newcastle Barista Jam.

So, December aims. As some of you may have noticed, posts have dried up somewhat. I am going to rectify this. I was dumped by my girlfriend of three and half years on Thursday, so I'll have loads of time to blog to you all! The blog will also be moving away from the cupping side of things. In the past I've relied on tastings to fill out weeks when I've had nothing to talk about. With Common Grind moving more towards the cupping side of things I've decided to move more towards the day-to-day life of a barista, with some french press tastings thrown in. This will include a fairly regular, detailed run up to the three competitions I'm entering. These are the UKBC, Coffee In Good Spirits, and the Cuptasting competiton.

So, no for the write up. The Jam took place on Wednesday 26th, at Pumphries Coffee in Blaydon. To be honest I had no idea what to expect from the Jam, the people attending, or even Pumphries. Fair enough I had ideas about what Pumphries would be like; mediocre coffee roasted months ago with a huge sales pitch. I have to state now that I was totally wrong. The coffee was great, if a bit fresh, and the closest thing to a Pumphries sales pitch was the free bag of goodies we got when we turned up.

So, I turned up, was offered a coffee by Stu, and got to meeting and greeting the people I met. People seemed to have turned up from everywhere. There were a couple of guys from Scotland, some from Bristol, Chris Weaver, Ash Porter and Richard Teasdale from Lincoln, and local kids such as myself and a fantastic local girl called Katie (who won the Esquires Coffee in-house comp).

The day itself was made up of a series of workshops and hands on time. The first part of the day included espresso with Hugo Hercod (an amazing workshop worth my weight in gold), a cappuccino workshop with the someone who's name escapes me at the moment (Sorry man, but your workshop was fe'king awesome), and a run down of the rule changes for the '09 UKBC. After that we were treated to a run down of Hugo's presentation, a taste of Stu's bizarre, but tasty garlic/chocolate sig drink, and a huge buffet lunch. After that we got time on the new San Remo machines we'll be using in the UKBC and a trip down to the roastery.

The day as a whole was fantastic, well worth the £25 I paid to go. The only blip was a speech by the SCAE UK director. It turned what was an informal series of workshops/networking event into a sales pitch for the SCAE sponsors. I'm not sure about anyone else, but to me it felt totally out of place, and I'm not sure I felt entirely comfortable with it. He didn't do himself any favours in my opinion by asking us baristi to join, then saying that really our money didn't matter as much as the sponsors, who we should all go and buy lots of things from. On top of that he totally forgot to mention the huge effort Stu made, and Pumphries involvement in the Jam altogether. So I'd like to say now:

Thank you Stu for a fantastic event, thank you Paula for tremendous name badges, and generally for all your effort in organising the event. Thank you Pumphries for inviting us all to use your space and equipment. We all of us appreciated you effort, and I for one am waiting for the next one :p

So there we go. An educational event, and great for networking. I'm now better friends with Katie (who I knew before the event, but had never really considered training with before the event), I've finally met Chris Weaver and Ash Porter, who really are tremendous guys and you should all go and see his website, and listen to his blog.

So, I'll sign off now, with the promise that I will carry on blogging regularly and stop being so lazy lol.

Also, I realise I've spelt Pumphrey's wrong all this time, but it's 1am, I'm tired and I have a twelve hour shift at work, starting at 6:45...


Wednesday, November 12

The Long Awaited, And Long Put Off, Cupping!

Well, yeah, it's taken me a while. About a month in total...sorry guys. Been fairly busy recently, so it's been a case of taking sleeping pills and going to bed rather than blogging lol. So, shall we get on with the show?

I decided to take on a traditional cupping, with four dishes for the coffee, all freshly ground, a cupping spoon (okay...a deep dessert spoon), and all the other cupping bells and whistles that could be easily found in a coffee lover's kitchen.

I've described the outward appearance of the bags. So next, the coffee itself. On opening the bags the first thing I was hit by was the smell of each. Unfortunately I didn't have any paper to hand, so I can't tell you the details, but one coffee has really stayed with me since that day. The La Ilusion smelt amazing. A really sweet, fruity smell with hints of deep chocolate. It was one of those rare coffee moments when even the most experienced barista suddenly gets the feeling they had when they truly enjoyed their first coffee. Not, of course, to say the other coffees didn't smell fantastic, but the CofE just took the biscuit.

To make this feel less like a narrative I'm going to describe each coffee in full, rather than step by step.

Firstly, the El Salvador La Fany. This coffee is from the Santa Ana region and 100% bourbon. The grinds have the smell of dark chocolate and caramel. After letting it brew for four minutes I broke the crust. The aroma was deep and chocolaty, with a slight floral note. On the tongue it has a lovely sweet, creamy taste with a dark chocolate and caramel finish which lasts. It has a fantastic body, not heavy, but not overly light. A very robust, tasty coffee.

Now, the Kenya Gethumbwini. The grinds smell oaky, with a floral note. After breaking the crust the chocolate comes more to the fore, and the floral note develops into a deeper, fruitier aroma. On the tongue it has creamy feel, with the taste of blackcurrents and oak at the opening, with a floral and chocolate finish. I found it an acidic coffee, while not being overly sweet, but well balanced. This coffee is the type of after dinner or late evening french press I'm fond of.

The Brazil Cachoeira Canario 2007-2008 smelt like a deep, dark chocolate. The beans come from the Canario varietal, dried on screen from Minas Gerias. After brewing it smelt much the same I found. On tasting it was a sweet chocolate with a good body, not too heavy. In the finish I also caught a little bit of caramel with a smooth chocolate aftertaste. This is one single source I'd be very interested in trying as an espresso, despite not being a specific espresso coffee.

Finally, the Cup Of Excellence. This is from El Salvador, in the Santa Ana region and is 100% bourbon. The smell was chocolate with a definite fruit kick. After brewing I found that the fruity aroma had disappeared and was replaced by a deep chocolate aroma with a hint of cherry. On tasting, however, this coffee really comes into it's own. It opens with a real fruit hit, a mixture of acidic fruits such as gooseberries. Steve himself puts this best when he describes it as "Fruit Salad sweets". It has a fantastic body which I found similar to that of a strong tea, and had a long lasting, sweet finish and aftertaste. Frankly, i think anyone who has the chance to should leap at this coffee. It's really that damn good.

So, all in all a very fun evening cupping for me, and I hope you found it useful. These coffees and many more besides are all available at http://www.hasbean.co.uk/, and I really recommend you take a look. This is my first real attempt at my own cupping, and am looking to improve all of the basic equipment, so hopefully there should be a few more of these in future.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and again, sorry for getting this up so late.


Monday, November 10

First decent coffee in ages!

So this is my first post in ages, but I don't have too much to say, just thought I'd post what little I do have to say!
So I've been in Durham for just over a month now I think, still haven't found anywhere with good coffee let alone amazing. However I have found myself wondering into Neros every now and again for a cafe breve, I think the cream has been hiding the over extracted shots they've been pouring, but still very drinkable and it gets me through the day, although I think I may be having too much cream :s

On another note, I should be posting some reviews of some coffee I bought today soon, got some Guatemalan from Whittard of Chelsea and some from a stall on the indoor market selling Taylors of Harrogate, I'm affraid thats as good as it gets here in Durham!

Right, now to something I've been meaning to do for ages, I managed to fork out for a nice bottle of Whiskey today, J&B's to be exact, managed to use the student discount too which was nice. So trying to avoid steaming up my room and setting the smoke alarms off (£100 fine for that) fired up the kettle for the caffetier to make a remote attempt at an Irish coffee.

So the results weren't amazing but it was better than anything I'd had recently, although Seona my corridor mate, or what have wasn't too impressed, being Irish I thought she'd like it, but apparently too much whiskey, I'm shocked!

Back to the drawing board, I'll keep you all informed, if I strike lucky!
Looking forward to reviews chris is putting up tonight also!


We Will Remember...

For those of you who don't know me personally, I used to be in the Territorial Army. As such Remembrance Day holds a special significance for me. I've been lucky enough to neither have been deployed to a warzone, or to have had friends killed or seriously injured. Nevertheless it is essential to remember all those who have served abroad for their country, and those families who have loved ones deployed, or who have lost loved ones.

I would also like to take this chance to wish the guys at X Coy 5RRF the best of luck during their deployment to Afghanistan in February.

And, on a coffee-related note, the HasBean review/cupping has been written up, edited, checked over a couple of times and will be uploaded tomorrow night. It's one I really wanted to get right, so sorry for the delay.

Till then, check out the latest Common Grind Podcast complete with special guest host, Steve Leighton, a HasBean cupping, and much more besides. It's a great listen, so go for it!

Till tomorrow then!


Wednesday, November 5

Whoop Obama! But Oh...Wait...

Okay, quick break from coffee here. My other current passion. Politics and economics. I am currently watching the US election on BBC 1 and CNN. I am also getting very drunk on Martini, Apple Schnapps, vodka and Midori Melon. I also have work tomorrow. Bring it. So, what do you think?

Well, I can't say what I think. I love Obama. He's charismatic and interesting. I love listening to him. But he wants to pull out of Iraq. That is a big problem for me. I used to be in the Territorial Army. As such I have a lot of friends who are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This means that their safety is utmost in my considerations when deciding the next president. However, the economic meltdown is another consideration, as is the fact that Sarah Palin could become the president if McCain dies. Shit. Who would I vote for?

As an American; Obama. It's a no brainer. I love the guy. As a brit with a military background and friends in warzones, I'd abstain. I can't bring myself to put my support in Obama, but I can't bring myself to imagine Sarah Palin in office.

So what do you think? Who should be/should have been president? And why must Jeremy Vine ALWAYS be on those stupid sodding maps? He's a fear mongering retard and he should just retire and die. He makes my work life hell, having to listen to him between 12 and 2.

Anyway, cheers, and I'll get that cupping written up tomorrow night.


Monday, November 3

A Quick Update, Some Good News, And Are HasBean Truely As Good As Everybody Claims They Are?...

Well, here you go. I promised you something good, and now you're getting it. But I'll come to that soon. A few quick things I want to get out of the way first. To kick off, I'd like to say well done to Chris Weaver for getting through what I hear were some pretty shit times, and for getting stuck back into the podcast where lesser men may have just given up. Good on 'ya mate, and good luck. Can't wait for the next episode. You can visit his site and listen to the podcast at http://www.commongrind.co.uk/.

Secondly, I'd like to thank everyone who has kept checking back to sew if anything has been posted. I've been really busy lately with work, this latte art evening I'm trying to organise, and the novel I've been trying to write for three years now. Yeah, it's true, I'm a crap novelist as well. Hopefully Third Wave should be getting back to normal soon, and I ask that you'll bear with me for now.

Some good news! Third Wave makes a difference! I recently received an e-mail (that was for Dane, but was sent to the ThirdWave hotmail account) from Jon Hassall, from Operations and Development for AMT Coffee. It read as follows:

"Dear Dane,

I am very sorry to have read you had a bad coffee at our newly opened unit in Manchester.

I am personally going to visit the location next week and review all the equipment and training as we pride ourselves on great coffee.

Separately we are opening a second unit in Manchester, this time in the Arndale next Friday, I trust you will take a visit next time you are up there and we are heading to Newcastle very soon as well.

Best wishes,
Jon Hassall
Operations and Development"

This, frankly, gave me a huge ego boost, that people actually took notice of what two coffee lovers think. It also made me very proud to think that the quality of training and hopefully the quality of the coffee will be improved due to our review of their establishment. In this respect I wish them the best of luck, as they obviously care about their coffee enough to want to impress two young upstarts such as Dane and myself. The news of a Newcastle also excites me; I always love a new coffee bar to try. So, thank you Jon, and please do keep in touch.

Anyway, onto the main event. I decided in late September that it was time I locked horns with the powerhouse of British Roasting, Steve Leighton. A year in the business and I had never tried a HasBean coffee. So, I e-mailed the man himself and asked for his recommendations. To my utter shock he asked for a delivery address and promptly sent out four of the very best coffees I have ever had in my house. Brazil Cachoeira Canario 2007-2008, El Salvador La Fany Bourbon, Kenya Gethumbwini, and El Salvador La Ilusion COE number 1. I received the box, opened it, and my jaw dropped. So let me begin this by saying a f*****g HUGE thank you to Steve.

All the bags were foil bags with a single-way valve. Nothing out the ordinary there. Each was presented in pure white, with a deep maroon/red stripe and the HasBean logo, along with a sticker which declared the name of the coffee, any special notes about the coffee, what the coffee tastes like, and the roasting date. This last detail is what impressed m most. Even Union doesn't put a roast date on their 250g bags. What really impressed me however was the actual roast date itself. I was delivered these coffees on the ninth of October, literally the day after they were roasted! So, I left them for two weeks to let them mature, then got on with the cupping...

And that is where I'm going to leave you for now! Firstly because it's 1am, I'm tired and have work tomorrow, secondly because I feel that this post is getting long, and that the cupping should take pride of place. So I will write that up in full tomorrow.

Anyway, cheers, and hope you can survive till the next post!

Saturday, October 25

Just So You Know I'm Still Alive...

I just thought I'd post something so that people know I'm still here, and still blogging. A huge apology to you all for being so quiet for the last week, but I'm working on a lot at the moment, not least of which is a post for this site. It should be up very soon.

Again, very, very sorry.


Thursday, October 9

The Search For The God Shot...

Here we go, lets try and throw up some controversy. The God Shot. Is there REALLY any need?

I don't think so. Making a good cup of coffee is a well documented art now. With all the books out there, all the fantastic barista trainers, online resources, etc there is no excuse for making consistently crap coffee. But as any self-respecting pro-barista can tell you, the God Shot is not simply a good cup of coffee. It's an experience that transcends the usual coffee shop coffee. Flavours should explode in the mouth, and it certainly should be one of those memories which remains with you for the rest of your life. The only problem is that it's impossible to achieve consistently.

Making a good cup of coffee is entirely dependent upon your ability to control certain variables such as water temperature, the consistency of the grind, the distribution of the coffee in the puck before and after tamping, the pressure with which you tamp, and the amount of coffee grounds and water used to make the shot. The God Shot is made when by some utter fluke the barista manages to control every one of these variables. Therefore it is impossible to reproduce over and over again.

But why not strive for the God Shot I hear you say? Because I feel it gets in the way. Rather than sit around as coffee professionals at point of sale, or at home trying to make the perfect shot with what we have, why not put that effort into sorting out the coffee at Origin, making a real effort to give farmers a fair price for the coffee we all love so much. Or why not spend that time teaching home baristas, or amateur coffee lovers how to make good coffee with their little press pot, or their little Gaggia semi-auto. Education is what we as an industry need to concentrate on; both technique and the ethics behind commodity trading. Yes, good coffee is what I want to see, but lets start by educating people how to make good coffee before we sit around deciding how to make the perfect coffee.

There, your thought for the day.


Wednesday, October 8

Not so good...

Right so I've been in Durham since saturday just gone, and I've only just ventured out into the city center today as I needed my course textbook, £40! for one book. Anyways, this presented itself as an opportunity to find some coffee. 
I passed O'briens of which I'm not a huge fan, but its drinkable, so decided to have a go, must say I've not had a coffee for about 5 days now, which is torture so I walked in. Then swiftly out again, the machine was filthy, the portafillers were scruffy, the steam arm white and thick, the jugs dull and stained. I'm sure it was a health hazard!
Second port of call a small independent, coffee house by day, wine bar by night, nice set up. Ordered a latte paid up for it, watched the guy make it, bag of starbucks beans next to the grinder :( 'nough said


Sunday, October 5

Just to let you all know!

Right, I moved into my uni on saturday, been looking around durham, gonna have lots of reviews for you in the next week, or two, when I should be sober, in the meanwhile if anyone knows of anywhere good please comment!


Finding Your Third Place...

Firstly, sorry about the total lack of posts for the last few days. It's been a hectic time for both Dane and I. He went off to Uni for his Freshers' Fortnight yesterday, so don't expect much intelligible from him for a while lol. As for me, well, I've spent every waking moment building a remarkably complex website in html...God it's hard...

Anyway, I was spending some time today with the girlfriend sat in my 'Third Place'. The subject of the 'Third Place' is something I've meant to mention on this blog for a while, but something I've only recently experienced. Now, for those of you who don't know, the Third Place is a part of a concept which assumes there are three places in a coffee lover's life. These are the home, the workplace and the coffee shop. I love Coolaboola. I think we serve the best coffee in Newcastle, and I think we have some of the most committed and professional baristi in the surrounding area. But it's where I work, and for that reason I can't ever relax when I stand at the bar.

The Third Place is something which should be very important to a coffee lover; a place in which you feel comfortable, where the baristi know who you are and, of course, somewhere where you love the coffee. Every coffee shop has it's own unique feel, it's own soundtrack and it's own ethos. In my opinion the ethos is the most important. There are some coffee shops (though they tend not to last very long)who try to appeal to everyone. One coffee shop in Newcastle (who shall remain nameless, for now) which has a laid-back, Costa-style atmosphere, with multicoloured lighting in the ceiling for the local gay community. Another nice touch is the tremendously capitalist Che Guevara milkshake. At the other extreme there are coffee shops who refuse to compromise on drink quality for anyone, serving only 6oz drinks, refusing frappes, etc.

My Third Place is a mix. As a barista I love it when people challenge me to adapt drinks for them. I have total respect for the hardcore baristi who refuse to change anything, and who refuse to serve capps after 11, but I love the culinary aspect of coffee, and the creativity it allows. I love caramel capps with chocolate sprinkles. They're great. That's what my Third Place allows. A huge drinks menu, with a real chance for the consumer to play about and customise their drink. I'd love to tell you all where my Third Place is, but I would hate to upset all the other coffee shops lol.

So, go, find your Third Place! And if you already have, feel free to tell me about it! Comment, and let us all know what you love.

Anyway, I have a web book now, so the reviews should be coming thick and fast soon, and hopefully posts will be a bit more regular.


Monday, September 29

Manchester coffee scene.

Right so I went to Manchester this weekend to visit a good friend of mine, with a side mission to look for coffee, good coffee. So at this point I'll be honest, I was far too ill to do that on both saturday and sunday, so...the joys of train station coffee on the way home, AMT was the target.
I bought a cappuccino, their "award winning and critics choice" cappuccino. 
A waste of 1.90 if you ask me, burnt and burnt, all I could taste was burnt milk, I cant really say too much more about it. When it cooled down I got a hint of coffee, slightly hazelnutty.
I think train station coffee is best left to coolaboola!

I'll be back in Manchester at some point, so if anyone knows of anywhere decent please send me a message! 


Friday, September 26

It's Been A While, But With Good Reason...

I know, I haven't spoken up for a while now. Sorry. But, I plan to make it up to you. Firstly, some news. For those of you entering competition, the Northern regional for the UKBC has a venue finalised! It is Pumphreys Coffee, in Blaydon. They use a fully up to date WBC set up, so I look forward to getting stuck into it. Also, the same coffee shop is holding a Barista Jam on premesise, so something else to look forward to :)

Now, if any of you have watched the Youtube link above, you'll see that a new website is coming soon. Well, now I get to give you a teaser.

Well, there's the (very) basic first draft. It was done in paint, from a plan in a sketchbook. The red won't be quite so scarlett, and there will be a lot more colour in the form of adverts, photos, etc. This is, of course, one design, and I'm sure many others will appear over time, but this is my favourite so far.

So, what is the website for?

It is not a new site for this blog. Sorry guys, but Blogger is the way forward for the moment. I do plan on Wordpressing it, but Third Wave Coffee is the priority at the moment. Also, I want to make some kind of distinction between the blog and the site. The blog will NEVER have adverts, or make money in any way. It will also remain the way it is, unbiased and fair, and will not advertise anything either Dane or myself don't love.

The site is aimed at being something akin to a UK CoffeeGeek, a repository for UK news, reviews of equipment available in the UK, and other such things. It will have a links page devoted to UK coffee sites. However, it also has another use. In conjunction with this site I will be running consumer events which will be advertised on this site. I aim to have a series of leaflets and articles on the site which will tie in with the latest events, as well as an archive of old documents. With time I might open up an eBay shop as well, selling basic cupping essentials, Third Wave T-Shirts, etc. This, along with advertising slots for UK coffee businesses, will fund the site, and consumer events.

This is, of course, all just a dream right now, but a dream I'm passionate about. Some of it may come to pass, some of it may fall by the wayside. I aim to have a functional site up by New Year, but this is dependant upon me having a basic knowledge of CSS and xHTML, as well as a copy of Dreamweaver CS3.

Anyway, any comments are truely welcome. The last thing I want is to make a fool of myself by wasting money on a crap idea. What do you guys think? Do we need this site? And if we do, what do YOU want to see on it?

Anyway, cheers, and I'll have a coffee-related post soon.


Tuesday, September 16

Beige again, but better than the last one,

Sorry about the long wait between posts, been a little busy, and sorry to Seamus, I promised I would have this up hours ago, but had a little bit of a bad day.

Anyways we both wrote this review earlier today, I think we may be doing something like this in the future again, enjoy,

Ok so Chris and myself are reviewing Costa! I ordered a double shot and a small latte, a birthday treat for Chris, I guess it’s easier than buying a card, at least he appreciates coffee. So I’ll be writing about the latte, Chris the espresso

Right so it has crema on top, which is a good sign of things to come I hope. The drink is served in a tall glass, on a saucer with a groove for the glass to sit in, nifty and groovy but I hate the glasses, it makes the latte look so unattractive, grey even. Right so to the taste of the actual drink, hmph.  I can only describe it as beige and boring, however there is more of a coffee taste than Starbucks, but it’s not spectacular. It’s boring with a weak tasting coffee element, in fact I get sweet elements from the drink if I really think about it. By the second mouthful it has left my mouth dry, water please. The aftertaste isn’t all that bad, again just a sweet milky taste, not coffee. The milk wasn’t too bad at all, but it was nearer flat-white and not enough foam for me, but that’s not too important when I consider the smoothness of the foam (what was there anyways)

I’m really struggling to say something about a drink which is so generic and bland… I’ve got it.

A hoodie – but one of those grey H&M ones that everyone has.

It’s boring but comfortable.

Before I forget, the advert when I walked in “saving the world from mediocre coffee” … “lol”


Dane/Dave (Delete as appropriate)


So. Double espresso. To look at it was lovely. Fantastic crema, nice presentation, demitasse spoon, etc. On closer inspection, however, the cup was to big for the saucer, and was large enough to hold a traditional sized cappuccino.  To taste, it was bitter and over extracted. Also, it seemed a little too cold. Usually espresso burns my tongue, but this I could have downed in one. In the end I had to add a sugar, and even then couldn’t finish it. So, in conclusion, for someone who has grown accustomed to crap instant coffee, it is perfectly acceptable. To anyone who has an idea of what speciality coffee really can be, it isn’t.




Saturday, September 13

Third Wave Coffee UK

'Lo, behold the wonder that is Third Wave Coffee UK!

Okay, maybe I should explain myself. I've talked a lot recently about the future of the blog. Well, it's developed. A lot.

Firstly, I should introduce you all to a new group; Barista Northeast. This is basically aimed at bringing together the baristi of the area and creating a community, through barista jams, fun little competitions, latte art throw downs, etc. This is Dane's love-child, which I am more than happy to help with. At the moment it looks like he'll look after the Durham area (he'll be heading to the Uni there to do Physics), while I sort out Newcastle, We'll then be looking for a guy in York to do things there.

Secondly, there is Third Wave. I've thought long and hard about what I want to do with Third Wave UK (hence I haven't posted for a few days), and I've decided that for now it is staying exactly the way it is. No advertising, and it will remain on blogger.com. For now. Instead, I plan on setting up a company called Third Wave Coffee UK. This will be totally seperate from the blog, despite using the same name. The aim is to bring coffee to the consumer and create some kind of coffee scene, first in the Northeast, then hopefully to roll it out further afield. I plan on doing this by setting up events in conjunction with sponsors, and inviting the public to come along. This would include cuppings, barista nights, and home barista training sessions.

BNE and TWCUK are both part of a two-pronged attack on the Newcastle coffee scene, aiming to get both consumers and baristi fired up for true speciality coffee. However, while BNE is almost certain to go ahead, TWCUK is not. I still have market research to sort out, and I plan on using the contacts I make with BNE to the utmost. This means that TWCUK could be six months to a year in the making. It could be ready tomorrow, who knows. I'll try to keep you all updated.

Anyway, in other news I discovered I have a grinder at home, so I'll be doing some real cuppings very soon.

Well, cheers, and absolutely ANY comments or suggestions for either Third Wave Coffee UK or Barista Northeast will be hugely appreciated by both myself and Dane. Please, please, let us know what you think.

Thanks again,

Monday, September 8

Very quick one.

If there is anyone from the Northeast reading this, please please join and invite people to join!


No Surprises.

Ok, so this post is being posted a little later than I’d planned to, which leads me to my first complaint, of many.

I decided to tackle the entity that is Starbucks, for all their wealth and resources they refuse to supply free Wi-Fi to its loyal customers and demands payment!

This really annoys me, lesser known places like Esquires and Central Bean provide free readily available Wi-Fi.

First moan over.

Ok, so I’ll be honest, I know what I was to expect at Starbucks, and do try to avoid it unless I’m stuck at an airport or it’s free, so here enter myself, Seamus, Jess and Ting. First problem, we can only just afford a small latte but somehow manage to scrape £2.05 together. I fiddle around with my amazing new barista accessory-A Macbook- whilst Seamus gets the drink in. I’m gonna leave out the craic Seamus had with the barista on the bar, because there was none to be had, he reported not an unfriendly service but one which wanted only to get the drink out on the bar and nothing else.

Ok, the latte arrives and is put on the table. Oh dear. The mug it was served in was like nothing I’ve seen before in any café or coffee bar, it was chipped, scratched, dirty and just looked unpleasant, this is low, even for a large corporation.

Onto the important bit, the coffee, as you can probably guess it turned out to be a cappuccino, a very dry one at that! It was fairly bubbly, wouldn’t have took too much effort for the barista to hit the jug on the counter but that didn’t happen, so instead we hit the mug on the table we were gathered on.

So the foam wasn’t integrated into the espresso at all and was completely white on top, no sign of a crema at all, no taste at all, other than very hot nearly burnt milk., which keeps going to below halfway.

Coffee. At last.  It’s very weak, dilute and tasteless, I couldn’t tell you at all any of the component flavours, there’s a bit of colour too, but its pale.

Ok so I’d have preferred a peppermint tea, this is indeed a child’s introduction to coffee, no wonder there’s so many syrup variations on drinks in here to give some flavour.

My mouth is left dry and milky, and needing water, to which Seamus points out there’s water for sale at £1.20 a pop, wow! So anyways, I’m going to be fair, and give Starbucks its dues, it was on the scene first in Newcastle and was the only option, but now there are many Thirdwave outlets and it needs to seriously up its game, which I believe it’s trying to do. Apparently according to a friend of mine they’re upgrading all the machines with a paddle controlled steam arm. That’s all I know though. I’ve had better coffee from Starbucks, but only the milk was better, the shots, are obviously consistently boring and tasteless. Ok, so this has been a massive rant, sorry, but its better to get Starbucks out my system and over with!




Sunday, September 7

Episode Two: A New Blogger?

Lets hope this works second time around!

I’d firstly like to introduce myself properly and say a big thanks to Seamus, mainly for taking the risk of letting me loose on his blog!


As mentioned before I work at coolaboola and have done so for about a year and a half, and it’s been a brilliant time as I’m sure most of you reading can imagine, being a barista is good fun!


Hopefully over the coming months I can add to the Third Wave Blog mainly because I’m going to be a full time student, and will have a lot of time spare to review and sample coffee as well as (hopefully) organise events such as a mini-competition for baristi in Newcastle.  The intention is to strengthen the spirit of Third Wave in the area.


I’m gonna keep it short until I figure out how to use blogger a bit more efficiently and have something to write about, comments on how to improve my blogging will be much appreciated as I’m a first timer.


Cheers for reading, and I look forward to posting some reviews pretty soon, hopefully with a balanced approach as Seamus has done, I’ll try and forget that awful macchiato I had at Costa yesterday and wipe the slate clean.




Central Bean Update, The Blog, And A Warm Welcome

Well, I thought that, having been back to Central Bean this morning I would update you all on it's progress. For those of you who missed it, Andrew Hetzel was nice enough to reply to my review, and to explain some of the criticisms I made. As for the quality of the espresso he said this;

"With respect to that over extraction, I suspect that the problem was with the coffee; specifically, the coffee over-freshness. I can explain all of the details to you tonight, but essentially, the stuff that we were bringing in was way too fresh out of the roaster, so we're letting it age a little while before it hits the hoppers."

This is fair enough, and seems to be proven by what I taste in the cup. Like I said in the review, each coffee I have had has been better than the last, and today's was no different. I had a lovely 'classic cappuccino' today (basically a traditional, competition cappuccino). The espresso tasted stronger than it has previously, but had a wonderful taste, but was possibly a little overextracted. The milk was a little bubbly, but perfectly smooth and tasty.

In regards to my criticism of the milk, Andrew wrote;

"I've been working with the guys here all this week to keep to our standards and it's looking better than ever. I was here for two weeks bookending Copenhagen and left about a week before the soft opening. We're 7 weeks in now and I'm really impressed with how it has all come along. Super guys, really committed to the trade; lots of good stuff to come."

Again, this is proven in my experience of Central Bean. The milk has gotten better and better each time I've been. The guys there seem really committed to the quality of the coffee, and the owner really cares about his cafe's reputation for serving great coffee in a town which sees Costa and Starbucks as high-end speciality espresso. I was speaking to the owner today and he seems very interested in entering his baristi into competitions, and building the local coffee scene. So, watch this space!

Okay, the blog. We're doing well! Nearly 700 hits, people viewing all over the world, and everything going very well across the board. This, in conjunction with my wanting to help the local coffee scene, has given me the incentive to expand Third Wave UK and be more proactive with the site. So, there are currently three things on the cards. First, I'm planning to use Third Wave almost as a brand name, a kind of neutral organisation under which coffee-based events can be hosted, with the help of local sponsors. Hopefully this means that the industry can become more integrated, rather than cafes simply putting on their own events, polarising both the baristi and the customers. I hope that by using Third Wave as a neutral group the baristi of Newcastle can come together and help one another, and customers can be shown just how wide ranging coffee can be, rather than simply seeing one company's interpretation of coffee.

My second idea is to host Third Wave independently. This would involve either building my own website, or hosting this page on a separate server. This is a much more long term plan, brought about by the limitations of Blogger, and also my desire for a more professional approach to the day-to-day running of the site. This might also include adding a membership option, the introduction of a newsletter, or possibly CoffeeGeek-style articles. None of this is certain, and is simply a vague idea floating about in my head, but is one I will defiantly evaluate.

Thirdly, I'd like to introduce a new blogger. His name is Dane McGreevy. I'm in the process of adding him to the site, and hopefully he'll add a new life and perspective to the blog. We both work in Coolaboola, and he loves coffee almost as much as I do, so I look forward to seeing his contribution to this site, and to Third Wave's plans for the Newcastle coffee scene. I know he's already had the idea for a Newcastle Barista Championship!

So, exciting times. If you have any opinions on all of this, please let me know. You know the deal, e-mail me, comment on this post or hunt me down in Jesmond Metro Station.


Friday, September 5

My First Real Cupping, The Newcastle Coffee Scene, And Plans For the Future

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to two people. Firstly, I'd like to pass on my boss's thanks to Chris Weaver, for kindly giving Coolaboola a shout out on his podcast. And of course, I'd like to say thanks for giving me a shout out in the same sentence lol. Secondly, a huge thank you to Liam Beadle. Liam is a guy I know from church, and we also used to go to the same school. After adding him on Facebook he seems to have discovered my blog, read it, and given me a shout out on his blog! Turns out he loves coffee and was born in the same backwater town as me, so kudos.

Anyway, my first real cupping. Well. I met Andrew Hetzel for the first time not so long ago. Seems that he discovered I was in Copenhagen and that I work in Newcastle, where he has just helped open Central Bean. He got in touch with me on Facebook and we arranged to meet through that. When we did finally meet up he invited me to a public cupping at the Bean. I went along with Dane and Jess, not really knowing what to expect; would it be a real cupping, or would it be a few filter pots lined up, and a load of stuff I already know. I was pleasantly surprised to walk through the automatic doors and see a cupping table laid out, with bowls and cupping spoons. As for the cupping itself, I can't remember a huge amount about the coffees, let alone where they came from, but I've asked Andrew if he could send me some info on them, so hopefully I'll be able to write up a full review of the cupping itself soon. As for the presentation and the information given it was a huge learning experience. I already had a good working knowledge of cupping process, but this really gave me an insight into it. And Andrew was a well of knowledge that everyone at the table made every possible use of. So all in all, a tremendous event and one I look forward to trying again at some point in the future. But, like I say, more on this later, hopefully.

So, the Newcastle coffee scene. One thing I've made a point of pointing out in the past is how much I want to see the Newcastle coffee scene grow. At the moment it is no different to the scene in many other cities; mostly Starbucks and Costa oriented, where people think that seeing Tall or Venti on a menu means good coffee will be served. Despite this ignorance of coffee quality, I serve speciality drinks to all sorts of people. Builders buying cappuccinos, school kids as young as 12 having to be talked out of buying double espressos, and buying a small mocha instead. People love speciality coffee! The problem is that people simply don't know what speciality coffee is.

So, future plans. One thing Andrew said at the cupping truly inspired me. He said that helping to grow the Newcastle coffee scene was his pet project. This is something I would love to have a hand in. In the next month or so Coolaboola is planning on having a barista night, to help raise money for Union Hand Roasted (they're building a day care centre in Costa Rica). Being resident coffee geek I'm helping to plan this out, and will be using it as a test case for future events. I'm going to make more of an effort to talk to local baristas and get to know them, as well as getting to know shop owners (hopefully). This should give me a good platform on which to launch future barista nights (where we can teach the public about the art of the barista), cupping sessions, small barista jams and get togethers, and with any luck some small competitions such as latte art comps, WBC style comps, or other (slightly more quirky) comps I've heard about in Norway and Australasia. Whether any of this will actually happen, who knows, but no one else in the region seems to be doing anything apart from Coolaboola, Olive and Bean (a deli) and Central Bean.

So, finger crossed guys! And if you've got any ideas, suggestions, or if you live in Newcastle and are interested in any of this, drop me a line, comment or hunt me down and tell me. It's all gonna help me.


Monday, September 1

Roll On September!

I love September. Really love September. It's my birthday in September. It's also the start of the school year, which means that my days at work are longer (so more money for me), and a rise in the number of customers who frequent our humble coffee kiosk as sixth formers rediscover the best coffee in Newcastle.

Also, two months in (well...near enough), we're properly international! I have recently added Get Clicky to my blog, which allows me to track the ebb and flow of the blog, and allows me to improve it, and direct it in a way that a hit tracker simply can't allow me to do. So I'd like to say welcome to my international readers. Firstly, hello to David Fogel from Israel. Secondly, hello to my readers in the US and Milan. It makes me really proud to think that my blog has such a wide reaching audience. And of course, records are automatically deleted after thirty days, and are used simply to improve this blog.

Anyway, the big thing.

*deep breath*

Central Bean.

I've tasted a fair few coffees now. I've spoken to people who have tasted coffee there. I've had comments on Facebook about Central Bean. I've even spoken to Andrew Hetzel, who has helped to set the shop up. So this could be a bit controversial. But, I pride myself on being able to write a no-holds-barred review. Here we go then.

First, what Central Bean advertises themselves as.

Central Bean is advertised as a taste of the Pacific NorthWest, a bar which prides itself on the quality of it's espresso. It is open to it's customers, providing cards with information about their product, their trade and their methodology. They are holding the first cupping I've heard about on Thursday, and are the only place I know about in Newcastle who sells a traditional cappuccino and espresso afagato.

So, my review. On my first trip, the decor lived up to all expectation. It's difficult to explain how it feels to sit inside the shop. As you walk in it feel like any other highstreet shop, but as you go around the back you're suddenly set into the pavement, with people walking at shoulder level on the pavement outside. There are three circular mirrors on the back wall, giving the back of the shop a surreal underwater feeling, coupled with the sensation of being below ground. While this might sound strange, I love it. It gives the shop a unique feel, as well as making it seem more secluded and 'third wave'. From a geek's point of view they use dual La Marzocco GB/5s, with La Marzocco twin hopper grinders, though I couldn't tell you the model number.

Onto the coffee. Now, I've got to be honest here. My first coffee I really had to force down. The espresso was woefully overextracted, and the milk was bubbly and lumpy. But, for reasons I'll explain later, I decided to have another. The second was much nicer. The milk wasn't perfect, and the espresso was a little underextracted, but it was perfectly drinkable and enjoyable. My second foray into Central Bean, I ordered an espresso afagato (espresso poured over vanilla ice cream). This was lovely. It tasted like a creamy, natural espresso con panna, with none of the artificial sweetness the whipped cream gives. However, cream (and ice cream) can hide a multitude of sins, so I withheld judgement once more. More final trip to date was today. I had arranged to meet up with Andrew Hetzel, who has helped to set up the shop, just after Copenhagen, so today we finally met for ten minutes or so. The impression I got from him was that the owners had gone to great lengths to provide quality espresso to their punters. So I had a cappuccino. Despite the milk being slightly bubbly on top the drink was lovely. And, through all of this, the customer service has never been anything short of inspiring. The baristi are all very friendly, and more than happy to chat if it's quiet.

So, my judgement. At the moment, my only reservation is lack of experience. Newcastle is not, to my mind, a well of quality baristi. Starbucks and Costa reign here, and as such the coffee scene still has much growing to do. So I hope that with time the lack of consistency I've encountered is resolved, simply through practice on the machines. I know for damn certain that their shots are no worse than mine when I first started as a barista. The decor, the feel of the shop and the people behind it are all perfect. So I'm very hopeful, and will continue to visit Central Bean, and keep track of it's development. So, all in all a lovely shop, with coffee which has improved each time I've tasted it, and now is at a good level, easily the equal of many other cafes in Newcastle (and much better than a lot of cafes as well).

Now, I've got to be honest, compared to my usual reviews of coffee shops (and anyone who knows my personally will attest to this) this review has been very understanding and balanced. I haven't condemned Central Bean for things which I have condemned other shops for. I have two reasons for this.

Number One: It's just opened. Most of the other cafes I've ranted about are well established, so I feel more comfortable bitching about them.

Number Two: The coffee scene in Newcastle is not what it is in London. There are no sit down cafes in town where I can truly say you can buy a world class espresso. This means that people continue to buy coffee from high street brands, thinking that it is world class. At Coolaboola (the kiosk where I work) we're doing our bit to educate people, but we can only do so much. It's up to cafes in town to do the big stuff and I hope that Central Bean can rise to the challenge. If Central Bean sets itself up as the best coffee in Newcastle, and servesthe best coffee town, as well as continuing with it's Third Wave approach then it'll be a huge step forward for the coffee scene here. Maybe then other coffee shops would step up to the challenge, raising the quality of coffee here.

I'll try not to get this soppy and emotional all the time.

Here's hoping.

Sunday, August 31

Readers List

Well, upon closer inspection of Blogger it seems that I can automatically e-mail up to ten people whenever I throw up a new post. So, would anybody be interested? If you are, e-mail me at thirdwaveuk@hotmail.com and I'll add you to the readers list. That way, whenever I put up a new post, you'll be the first people to hear about it.


Friday, August 29

WBC 2009 - The Sponsors!

Finally, the WBC 2009 sponsors have been announced. At 2pm (London time) today the WBC broadcast the announcement on their homepage (http://www.worldbaristachampionship.com/).

Well, I'll get straight to it. The grinder sponsor is Mahlkönig. They have put forward two grinders, the K30 Vario and the K30 Twin, both of which were used by a few baristi at last year's event. As opposed to the classic grinder design we saw in previous events (the K10, with it's dosing chamber) the K30 is an automatic grinder, ensuring that coffee wastage is kept to an absolute minimum. The Twin also allows the barista to use two hoppers, both of which have totally independent grind settings and ventilation.

The machine sponsor has been a subject of debate for a while now; would La Marzocco keep it, or would Nuovo Simonelli finally take their place. Well, I can tell you now that La Marzoccos dominance over the WBC is at an end, and that Nuovo Simonelli are the official sponsors for 2009-11. The Aurelia is an amazing piece of kit, with more technology than I can fit into a post. If people were excited about a dual boiler, it's nothing compared to the tech in this baby. My advice is to watch the announcement on the WBC site, it'll be worth watching if you haven't already.

So what does this mean for us competitors?

The grinder, well, this effectively removes the worry about coffee wastage. I got to use the Mahlkonig in Copenhagen, and if you're on the ball you'll have no problems what-so-ever. This is because, with it lacking a dosing chamber, you have an unfettered view of the portafilter, allowing you to see when the shot is dosed properly. To be honest, this is the bit of kit I'm most excited by, and one that I look forward to getting reacquainted with come the UKBC.

The machine, well, I'll be honest, I was really looking forward to getting onto a GB/5. They look gorgeous, and they're La Marzoccos for goodness sake! who wouldn't want a go. But from the looks of it the Nuovo Simonelli is by no means an inferior machine. Major differences will be the chance to change the length of pre-infusion, and a group system that supposedly removes channeling (though I'd check up on that if I were you; the tech confused me a bit lol). Also, the steam arm isn't switched on and off with a knob, but a paddle instead. It is still a three-group machine.

So, we live in exciting times eh? Two new sponsors, giving Compak and La Marzocco three years to build something better than the K30 and the Aurelia. Personally, as a competitor I can't wait, and as an audience member I can only imagine that this change in espresso machine will level the playing field a little, hurting those people who work on Marzoccos day in day out, or those with previous competitive experience. But that's just my two cents. So, what do you guys think?

Till next time,

P.S: I have been to Central Bean, but haven't gotten around to actually writing any kind of review yet. I promise I will get around to it, just bear with me lol

Welcome to Third Wave UK!

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Hey y'all. Welcome to the Third Wave UK speciality coffee blog. Whether you're a coffee profesional, home barista, or just interested in speciality coffee or the speciality coffee scene in the UK, this blog will hopefully have something for you. Cheers, Seamus McFlurry

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