Cutting edge reporting from the Telegraph

January 15th, 2012

There was a most unusual article today in the Telegraph that you can view here.  I’m probably going to do myself no favours by picking up on a few problems with the article, but also in the piece there are some really important points that probably require a longer post that this.

The most avant-garde espresso experts now say that crema is rubbish. Apparently, when you really concentrate on the taste, crema is very bitter. Those in the know treat it like scum, and skim it away before drinking.

This ‘espresso-stripping’ started in fashionable Copenhagen at a place called the Coffee Collective, but it’s now spread to London where its leading proponent is James Hoffmann, a spiky-haired coffee geek who looks a bit like Gareth Malone.

Why yes, of course – I am absolutely the leading proponent of this.  It is all I talk about.  I never drink espresso with crema.  Oh wait, nope…. It actually appears that I just made a video over 2 and a half years ago about how removing it was interesting and worth some discussion or experimentation.  Cutting edge reporting there….. 1

One other quote set off a little train of thought in my head – about which I am happy to be proved wrong.  I agree with the quote from Tim, but not the inference that follows.

Williams agrees that the world of London coffee is evolving at such a pace it’s hard to keep up. ‘When I arrived in 2006 a good cup of filter coffee couldn’t be found.’ Now, thanks in part to antipodeans like him, London has become a mecca for coffee purists.

I think antipodeans have had a massive positive effect on London.  However, I would argue that the vast majority of places pushing good filter coffee in London are not Antipodean owned business.  Just a thought.

Onto the really important stuff – that merits its own separate post and discussion really.  (I’m going to skip my quibbles about us going too far with Penny University  It turns out Tim never said this….).  This is something that I agree completely with:

Williams also thinks the current obsession with new gadgetry has become a distraction. Japanese syphons can be a gimmick, in his view. ‘It would be ridiculous to walk into a wine bar and order it by the device the cork’s been removed with!’

I agree.  I think selling the brew method is bad idea.  By this, I mean promoting the way we make a cup of coffee as part of the way we sell it.  We should, I believe, be selling the coffee itself first and foremost.  The price should match the experience and no brew method improves a cup of coffee, it doesn’t make it more valuable. You can argue that “experience” has a worth, a value – so the engagement of a syphon means that it can be sold for more.  I believe that this leads to bad cups of coffee, sold at high prices, justified by the spectacle.  As for argument of theatre – how many performances of exactly the same thing would you pay to see before you got bored?  If I price by the spectacle of the brew then it gets less and less valuable the more often I buy it – not great encouragement for repeat purchases and customer loyalty.

I promise to write up something a little more developed on this topic soon, but in the meantime I probably won’t be rushing out to buy a copy of the Telegraph.  As for the aeropress – I think it’s great, and I swear I once saw a box with a picture of Gareth Malone on the side…

  1. I should add that I didn’t speak to this journalist and had no input into this article  ↩︎

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