Monday, September 29
Friday, September 26
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
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
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.
Monday, September 8
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
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.
"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
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
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.
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.
Welcome to Third Wave UK!
- Seamus McFlurry
- 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