Thursday, July 31

The Future Of UK Coffee: Part Two (And Some Other Stuff)

I've just been having a look at the CoffeeGeek website, and I was shocked and appalled at what I found in the UK regional forums there. In such a small community to have people making personal attacks against other baristi and roasters, etc is unforgivable. The UK coffee industry is growing, yes, but we need to work together in order to help it to reach it's full potential. It saddened me to see so-called coffee obsessives bitching about people and being downright offensive. Come on guys, work with each other, help each other, lets get the Industry sorted out and make Starbucks and Costa work for their money. All this crap is just going to reflect badly on what should be a friendly, open and completely approachable industry. What I will say is thank you to James Hoffmann. Gracious and level headed in the face of personal attacks and bullshit remarks about his ability as a barista, he once again proves he is an ambassador for coffee we can be proud of.

Okay, rant over. For now anyway.

As I promised last night, today I brewed up my first Ibrik-full of Turkish coffee. I think I need a little more practice, but it was a fairly pleasant cup. Probably added a little too much sugar, and was busy serving customers so completely missed the froth appearing, but still. Might try again tomorrow, we'll see. On the other hand I might leave it for the weekend. Either way I'll make some notes on the brew process and the tasting and post them.

And I think that's about it, I think. I'm sure I can throw up some new posts if I remember anything.

Love, hugs, and plenty of other soppy, gay stuff,

Wednesday, July 30

Less Of A Post...More Of An Update.

Well, as you may have read, last Wednesday my collegues and I went to Starbucks, for their weekly Aromalab. Tragically, it was off. This week, we returned. Tragically, the 'coffeemaster' was on holiday. I wept bitterly.And I'm in Italy next week! Where will I get my coffee without Starbucks?!?!?!

Oh....wait...Florence. That's where la Marzoccos are made, yeah? Awesome. As for next week, if I have a PC nearby I'll try my best to post when I can. If not, I'll take plenty of notes. Unfortunatly I won't be visiting the La Marzocco factory. Maybe in the future...

Also, a regular at work (shout out to james Hall) recently went to Turkey, and brought us back somne pre ground Turkish coffee. I bought up a hotplate and an Ibrik, so tomorrow I'll be brewing up some Turkish coffees. Will post about that tomorrow if all goes well.

Anyway, that's about it really, apart from going out to the pub and getting fairly drunk...

Love y'all,

Sunday, July 27

Brewing Up The Grumpy Mule

Okay, I'll be honest. I've been lazy. Firstly, I haven't posted for a bit. Secondly, I still haven't gotten around to cupping those coffees I've gotten from the girlfriend. So, to make up for this, I'm going to brew up a french press, and I'm going to do it in two parts. The first part is going to be pre-tasting, the second post tasting.

Part One:
It's a pre-ground Rwanda Musasa from a roaster called Grumpy Mule. It is a Red Bourbon Arabica which 'tastes' "complex, sweetly scented with a lemony brightness". It is an Omni-grind, for french press, filter and percolators. Grumpy Mule is a British roastery, dedicated to fairtrade and organic coffees, and passionate about giving back to the farmers who grow their coffees. Okay, so that's the boring part. Now for the aroma :)

On opening the bag you're immediately hit by a sweet, fruity aroma. It was, admittedly, a little stale smelling, but it is pre-ground, so will never smell the same as the freshly ground espresso grind I've become used to behind the bar.

I've just plunged and poured the coffee, and right off the bar you can smell the sweet, citric aroma. So, onto the tasting!!!

Part Two:
First test, slurping a dessert spoon full. It's a bright, refreshing coffee, with a light acidity but great body; you can feel it, but it's not overpowering. The taste lingers at the back of throat, soon replaced by a wonderful citrus feel on the palette.

So, in conclusion, I'd have to recommend this coffee to anyone looking for a nice little french press for a warm day. Left to cool it really releases the lemony brightness the packaging advertises. If you have a grinder then try to get the whole bean, I can only imagine this coffee to be even better when freshly ground a week or so after roasting, but even the omni-grind is something lovely for those hot, humid days we get once in a blue moon on our little island.

Hope you found this helpful, and I look forward to doing more,

Thursday, July 24

Just A Quick One

It's 00:48 in the morning, and I have a 6:45 shift at work, but there are a couple of things I needed to get on here before I forgot. Firstly, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Glenn Watson, who has kindly added me to the moderating team on Coffee Forums UK. I just hope I can do my part to help it run smoothly and grow to the size it truly deserves to be.

Secondly, my workmates and I found out that our local Starbucks did an 'Aromalab' night every Wednesday from 6pm. Intrigued, we set off to have a look; at worst is would be a laugh, and at best educational. We turned up, went in, and asked the barista behind the bar about it. He told us that it was lead by the house Coffeemaster, who would go around giving free samples and teaching people about tasting and smelling coffee. We sat there for an hour and not one black aproned barista was to be seen. Not to be downhearted we bought coffees, sat and chatted, then knocked off to the pub to drink too many spirits and play pool.

So it seems that Starbucks has decided to make use of their Coffeemasters, and to try to ride the third wave of coffee professionals. Maybe we'll try again next week. If he doesn't turn up again then at least it's a chance for a piss-up. Will make sure to let you know if we ever get around to it.

Love y'all,

Sunday, July 20

Networking And The Importance Thereof?

Networking. It's the big trend on the web at the moment. Everyone from my 13 year old sister to my old history teacher is on Facebook, and everyone and their dog is on some kind of forum. It's no longer the realm of the computer nerd. So what bearing does this have on the modern coffee professional? Why should they network, aside from being trendy?

The coffee buisness, especially with the 'Third Wave' of coffee professionals, is one of the friendliest buisnesses around. Sure, it has it's problems, and people have their rivalries, but people are willing to share things with each other, and help each other out in the search for quality coffee and the all important 'God shot'. This is where networking comes in.

Networking allows people from all over the world to talk with one another, helping us all to become better baristas, better roasters, better cuppers, etc. It allows home baristas to talk frankly with world barista champions and pick their brains on subjects dear to them. It helps foster buisness relationships in a more casual manner than simply the handing over of buisness cards.

In my own experience networking has helped me as a barista. Only two weeks in to serious blogging and networking and already my Facebook friends list has grown exponentially. I now have Jim Hoffman and Stephen Morrissey added, as well as Chris Weaver and Glenn Watson. All four individually are a vast well of experience and talent that I look forward to learning from, be it from watching a video on Chris's blog to or sending Stephen a message asking him about competitions. To be the best you can be you need to take advantage of every chance and every opportunity, and the internet is one of the best oppotunities to meet people around.

So join coffee forums, make sure you stay in contact with people you've met, make sure you become a part of the fantastic coffee community that exists worldwide. Share what you've learned with people less experienced than you and in turn learn from those with more experience.


Wednesday, July 16

Thank God For Girlfriends.

It was (as I think I mentioned in my last post) mine and my girlfriend's three year anniversary on Sunday (whoop!)! She is the epitomy of a Coffee Widow, but bless her, she got me a box of coffee for my present. Now, she'll admit she knows nothing about coffee, except what she's been forced to pick up just to pretend to understand me, so I opened the box with some trepidation. I was pleasently surprised to find, not the generic, 100% robusta crap that I was scared of having to taste, but some interesting looking, 100% aribica Fairtrade stuff. Each coffee comes with tasting notes, a little info on the farm it comes from, some other great little tidbits.

There are three different coffees:

  • Indonisia Somatra Lintong
  • Papua New Guinea
  • The Premium Blend (a blend of Gayo Organic Coffee Farmers Association, Indonesia; La Central de Cooperatives Cafeteleras de Honduras; Empresa Cooperative del sur del Cauca, Columbia)

With these coffees I plan on just playing about. I'm going to have a go at some cupping, and try them as espresso and cappuccini. I might even post some of the stuff on here. But it looks like some good stuff. Just a quick flick through the tasting notes throw up some really interesting flavours, such as "a deep smokey spice flavour", winey flavours with floral notes, and the one I'm really excited about, a spicy opening with caramel or toffee notes developing on he pallate.

Like I said, I'll try and get some cupping sheets made up for these coffees and put them online. Hope it's of some use to you guys :)


Monday, July 14

The Future Of UK Coffee?

This weekend was mine and my girlfriend's third anniversary. To celebrate we decided to go to Corbridge, camping. While we were there I was able to taste a couple of coffees, and I found the same problems in both places; over extracted espresso, topped with badly frothed cappuccino milk. Tragically, these problems can be found almost anywhere you go, even some speciality coffee shops. Is this the future of the speciality coffee industry in the UK?

Not necessarily. Lately the market has been flooded by, dare I say it, second rate espresso. Starbucks now use automatic machines, delivering under extracted shots, coupled with milk done in 1.7 litre jugs. I visited one of the better Costa branches lately, the first customer in, and they gave me milk done from another vast jug. I've lost count of the dirty, mistreated espresso machines I've seen in pubs and tea shops, or in carts on train stations. But there is hope.

Third Wave baristas and coffee professionals need to make their voices heard. Even within Newcastle (my native city) the rise of quality coffee shops has begun. From small corner shops, to train station kiosks, to the much hyped Square Mile in London, all are important. If this continues and small independents, or large multinationals who still manage to understand coffee, keep opening then hopefully the British public will grow to learn what a good coffee really is.

International factors may also help. Starbucks, for example, have recently bought up Clover, which promises to improve the quality of drip/filter coffee hugely, being able to brew coffee by the cup, as well as controlling a huge number of variables in each up. Many shops in the US are also beginning to roast their beans on site (something which has yet to really take off in the UK, to my knowledge). With any luck these things will find their way over to the UK.

The rise of small roasteries is also helping the industry hugely. Companies such as Union Hand Roasted (from my own experience), or Origin (from what I've heard) are massively influential. These are run by passionate people, and each have their own fantastic barista trainers who go around the country training the baristi who use their beans. This gives the café owners and the baristi working there a drive (hopefully) to really try, and to make the most of the quality beans they buy.

So all of these factors, in my opinion, are helping to educate the public in what coffee really can be. But in the end it comes down to us; the baristi, the coffee enthusiasts, the coffee professionals. It is up to us to break down that wall between us and the customer, to educate them, enthuse them and make them care about the coffee they drink. We must teach people that coffee is not just coffee, that it is a complex culinary experience that has taken thousands of man hours to reach their cups.

Here's to the revolution.


Thursday, July 10

Wonderful Coffee 2008

Wonderful Copenhagen, Wonderful Coffee 2008, home of the WBC. For those of you who don't know, the World Barista Championships were held in June this year, in Copenhagen. 51 national barista champions from around the world converged on the Øksnehallen in the centre of Copenhagen. The level of competition was incredible, with some truely inspiring signature drnks being created. The UK entry, Hugo Hercod, did his country proud, placing tenth overall.

After round one, the 51 baristas were whitled down to six finalists; David Makin (Australia), Liesbeth Sleijster (Netherlands), Daniel Remheden (Sweden), Soren Stiller Markussen (Denmark), Michael Yung (Canada) and Stephen Morrissey (Ireland). The finals were packed, with people crowding around any TV screen they could find, the various trade stands around the main hall showing the live internet feed. Even the seperate SCAE competitiom stand was packed, a live feed being shown on the video screens.

The whole atmosphere of the finals was electric. Each of the baristas seemed more laidback and seemed to be having more fun the second time around. None embodied this more than Stephen. During the first round his signature drink (espresso with melted chocolate, panacotta and blueberry jam) had gone wrong, with his panacottas falling over. Second time around he seemed a lot more slick, as though he was happy simply getting through to the finals. As it turned out, Stephen left Copenhagen the World Barista Champion.

Around the WBC was a fantastic trade show. Companies from all corners of the coffee world turned up. Never have I been given so much fantastic, free coffee! Even as a barista the trade show was a great way of building up contacts, learning new things, and even keeping you interested for four days.

I should also mention the SCAE competitions; The Latte art championship, Coffee In Good Spirits, the Cupping Championship, and the Ibrik/Cezve competition. I didn't get to see much of these, but managed to catch a couple of the latte art contestants. They are some incredibly talented baristas, and are well worth a look.

So, four days of barista goodness, and well worth a look for anyone interested in coffee. It's in Atlanta next year, sometime in May.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 9

Coffee Blogging

In the spirit of giving you, the blog reader, the widest variety of views on the coffee world, here are a few local and international coffee sites that I really like.

Well, there you go. Any other suggestions for sites you find helpful are welcome, so feel free to shout them out.

Till next time,


Episode One: The Phantom Blogger

Well, here we go. My first venture into the crazy, yet bizzarely sparse world of UK coffee blogging. Basically this blog is aimed at everybody from the budding home barista to the best profesional barista. In it I hope to have, for want of a better word, educational articles, reviews of equipment, how to articles, and general UK coffee news. Of course, any feedback is welcome.


Welcome to Third Wave UK!

My photo
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

Seamus McFlurry At Work!