Further Reading

An interesting post over at Josh Brain’s blog, titled “Further Reading“, asking about non-coffee books that people would find interesting, useful and relevant to what we do.

Over Christmas it occurred to me that there is a lack of exchange regarding what baristi, roasters, chefs, home brewers etc are reading outside of the coffee world.  Besides the likes of the Rao books, the Illy book,  the offer by Tim Wendelboe and  the evergreen Schomer didactic, there is a wider field of reference we can call upon and share the fruits of our labour.

I want to highlight this blog because I’d love to see more people answer the question he poses:

The idea I have here is for everyone to cite two books which they feel is applicable, relevant and supplementary to the coffee world, which may not be limited to the primary coffee sources outlined above.

I’ll be picking up the two books he recommends (though probably waiting for the paperback edition of the first, or the kindle edition should publishers ever work out their nonsense over pricing….).

If you’ve got something to contribute then head on over to his blog and leave a comment.

Bean Here, Bean There: Further Reading  1

  1. The blog as a whole is definitely worth a read/RSS subscription too  ↩︎

The price of coffee at home

There have been two great posts from Coffee and Conservation recently, detailing Julie Craves’ year of consumption.

I buy a lot of really high-quality coffee. The average price per pound (not including shipping) this year was $22. The big outlier was a half-pound of Finca La Valentina Geisha from PT’s Coffee, which retailed at the equivalent of almost $120/lb. Including that coffee, I indulged in 23 bags of coffee that retailed for over $20/lb. If I take out the five most expensive bags of coffee (over $30/lb) my cost per cup declines to $0.83, or $0.75 without shipping. Most average coffee consumers will be able to bring even this price down substantially without compromising sustainability, or taste.

Great coffee is incredibly cheap.  We’ve been saying this for a long time, but it is nice to have it written aloud by someone buying a lot of coffee as a retail consumer.

Most interesting to me was seeing the increase in per cup cost since 2008.  A mixture of increasing retail prices, perhaps coupled with an increasing preference for certain coffees:

The high elevations of my favorite coffees also stood out to me. The average elevation of these coffee was over 1600 meters! Higher elevation slows bean development, resulting in a denser bean and typically more well-developed flavors. Alas, we may be seeing more coffee grown at these high elevations in the decades to come. This doesn’t mean there will be a proliferation of coffees with characteristics like that of high-grown coffees today. Climate change will mean the temperatures required by fine arabica coffee will move upslope, but of course conditions at 1600 meters may soon be the same as 1200-1400 meters today.

Both posts are an interesting and enjoyable read, and it made me want to do more to track my own consumption in these terms:

My Year in Beans: 2011

Favourite Coffees of 2011 

A digital sabbatical

I really enjoy writing this blog. I can’t deny that it has been incredibly beneficial for me, and the process of sharing and discussion here has accelerated my learning and allowed me to become immersed in a community I love, without geographical restrictions.

All that said, I’ve had a creeping feeling of unease recently. I feel like my relationship with the internet has soured, and I’ve ended up a lazy consumer of “content”. The internet has become infectious, and rewarding in the wrong sort of way. I can spend a couple of hours browsing around twitter, blogs, aggregators etc and enjoy it but doesn’t really accomplish very much. I can’t help but feel a bit like a rat in a cage that has learned to push a button for a treat and that’s all I do. I want to achieve a great deal more than I feel I am, and my dissatisfaction means a need for action.

So, I am going to try to take some time out from the online world. I wan’t to focus on creating things, achieving more and focusing a little more on the analogue world. I have a growing list of projects and I look forward to dedicating more time to them – many of which are coffee related, and the results of which will likely appear here in the future.

What does that mean for this blog? More and more recently I’ve felt like I have just been recycling other people’s content and ideas on here (and quoting Oscar Wilde does not make you a wit). I want to have something of interest to share and to say. So it means that there won’t be any posts on here for a few months. Nor will I be using facebook, G+ or twitter for a while. For people stumbling onto this blog then I’d recommend checking out the recently updated articles page that has some of the more interesting posts from the past.

See you all online again in a little while…

Who can you trust?

I have been thinking about this topic for a while, but a post over on Jamie Goode’s blog has inspired me to write a little something.

I get fairly numerous emails from a variety companies asking me to post about their products.  I generally ignore these emails.  More recently some have come with financial incentives – and last week I too received an email from a viral marketing company asking me to post a series of three videos from Douwe Egberts in return for money.  At the time I didn’t know how much but it turns out it is £50.

£50 – not a huge amount of money.  Easy cash or the destruction of any credibility?  Could you get away with it with full disclosure? Blogs cost money to run if you are hosting your own, the temptation is of course there.  It seems that invite went out to food bloggers too – interesting to see how many (or how few!) have disclosed that they are getting paid.

I hope I have been sufficiently clear in the past with disclosure with things I have not paid for – the ExtractMojo for example, though a freebie doesn’t guarantee a good review either.   If I have time I am happy to review things, but if someone asks I would rather give an honest opinion because the short term gain is easily outweighed by the long term relationship with a community.

The food blogging community is ahead of the coffee one (it is bigger, has a larger audience and a wider range of focus) and it is starting to see more and more issues with conflicts of interest, and non-disclosure souring reader trust.  There was an interesting LA Times article recently on the way food manufacturers (two words that shouldn’t really be next to each other) are interacting with blogging mothers.

We’re probably a little way away from Lavazza whisking Chris Tacy off to the factory, wining and dining Tonx or David Walsh in return for some nice press (though they did send Gwilym and I this year’s calendar which was genuinely very nice of them, thank you) – but if coffee blogging survives twitter then it suddenly doesn’t seem that ludicrous.

On a side note I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by the number of Press Releases I get sent for US companies, with US only special offers.  In the past I’ve just tried to ignore it, but doing that is hardly going to inspire a change in their practices.  However you can’t help but wonder about the skills of a public relations company whose efforts only sour my relationship with their client.


This ever expanding blog

This week a small change caused me to go back and have a look at the growth of this website. It was a small change, good only in a geeky way: My google page rank went up to 5.

I know, I know – not very interesting. However it caused me to have a look at the Analytics page (is there anything Google doesn’t do brilliantly?) and see who’s visiting and why. Since the WBC the readership jumped up, and I was pleased to see we had retained quite a few of those readers – about 10,000 more visits a month in fact, pushing me up to an average of about 25,000 a month. This seems a lot, but then I don’t really know what to compare it to except what I had before.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my higher page rank in google means that when you search for roasters or products that I’ve rambled on about, my blog is often on the first or second page of results. Not sure how I feel about this, though I do notice a lot of clickthroughs from these sorts of google searches.

People have asked if I’ve considered making money from it, and I have. However I am a long way from generating enough traffic to seriously bother my bandwidth allowance (for which I pay very little) and whilst this may not be the most beautiful site it would look much worse with ugly ads running through it. Maybe when I hit 100,000! I’ve had occasional e-mails from people asking if they could pay me to promote something on here and I’ve turned them down.  What started as a place to post thoughts and progress back in 2004 seems to have become something else, and I confess that keeping it interesting does play on my mind from time to time.

To try and do just that I am hoping for a series of guest posts over the coming months, as well as some more trip reports from my future travels.

Also despite never having to compete again my brain hasn’t quite shut down on the signature drink front so I will probably continue to post various ideas and recipes in the future. There will also probably be the odd article on science-type stuff whenever I get long enough sat down with a serious book or two (I am thinking plane flights probably!) though if there are any requests I’d be interested in hearing them.

Overall I just want to say thanks for reading, and in many cases contributing. Whilst this isn’t really a community, it has been great that so many people have argued, corrected, schooled and helped me over the years. I hope you keep coming back.

The current state of coffee blogging

This is really just something that struck me this evening.  Back when I started blogging there were really only two or three blogs that I read about coffee – Gauperaa, Tacy and Veldkamp seemed the only voices shouting loud enough for me to find them.  It seems a lot has changed since.

Over at Barismo they have a great little section called blog notes that is essentially interesting clippings from other coffee bloggers.  Looking through the articles listed it seems that a lot has changed.  I have 150 coffee blogs in my feed reader.  Yes, this is a touch excessive and not all of them regularly provide interesting content but a surprising amount do.  It seems that more people are stepping up to experiment in a thoughtful way and to share what they find.  This seems to gently accelerate the speed we learn collectively which is the interesting part of the internets contribution to open source learning for baristas.  Ola’s experiments, Kiril coldbrews, Elliot’s thoughts on pests and Ben’s regular critique of our absurdity (immersed as he now may be in it) are all interesting and thought provoking.

I look forward to where this is going as more baristas step up to contribute, whilst hopefully keeping an open mind…

Thoughts in the comments?

NBC 2007

First of all – Congratulations Sweden! I think they are a really lovely group of people and a very deserving team of winners.

Second of all – this is a big post. It looks huge but it is mostly pictures – honest!

This was my second Nordic Barista Cup and I enjoyed it a lot. I spent the first day catching up with people, which is a crucial part of the whole thing for me. I missed a few of the lectures (The Nespresso one on sustainability for example – more on their presence later) though I enjoyed listening to Roberto Bendana from Cafes de Nicaragua, who talked with Stephen Hurst.

Continue reading “NBC 2007”