Recommended Coffee Reading List – Part 1


Back in 2006 I published a recommended reading list. Since that time my collection of books has (worryingly) increased so I thought I should probably update it. I could easily write a list of coffee books that one should avoid (having learned the hard way) but I suspect that would get me into rather a lot of trouble, so I shall leave that for now. I’ve broken it down into two parts and then down into sections, and have indicated which are nice to have, and which I would consider are essential on that subject.

I will try and keep this one updated – if you think I’ve missed something obvious then let me know.  I haven’t recommended books I don’t own, so this means some books may be missing that you would expect to see here.

Continue reading “Recommended Coffee Reading List – Part 1”

And the absurd winner is….


The voting is now closed and I think we have a clear winner. You guys picked the mouth shot but I have to say thank you to everyone who voted and entered, it was wonderfully silly and I will have to think of another absurd challenge of some sort soon.

So congratulations to the guys involved at Intelli LA, Espresso Warehouse will be sending you your prize (they are gonna send me a photo what they are sending that I’ll post up later).

Thanks again to everyone – it was very silly!

Which is the most absurd? You decide!

OK – voting time everybody. I’ve been threatening to do this for some time, so now I’ve picked 12 pours for you to choose a winner from.

They were chosen for originality, quality of the pour and plain silliness. Please rank them with that in mind. The one I poured is being entered as Arthurs. In cases where ideas were done by two people the first to submit went in. If I have missed anything let me know!

Here they are:



If I have forgotten something (because I put this together quite quickly today) then nominate it for the pole – though do double check that it isn’t there before adding it please.

Anyone who feels ignored – sorry! It wasn’t on purpose!

Just to warn you – IP tracking is on, so that should stop people voting repeatedly. I will close the voting when I get back from Russia on the 8th of October. Vote now! Get your friends to vote! Family! Coworkers!

I will see if I can add to the stuff Espresso Warehouse are giving away as the prize.

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”

We’ll see your mouth and raise you an ear

By now I am sure everyone has seen the very awesome pours by the Intelli LA crew up on Tony’s blog.

Hanging out with Arthur today the opportunity came up to mess about with Arthur’s ears.  These are the results:

rosetta in arthur's ear

There isn’t much space to pour and this is the best I managed.  My rosettas didn’t really work out that well:

Stephen almost nailed a great heart a couple of times but the fear of pouring milk all over Arthur’s face meant the pull through suffered:

I think the look on people’s faces seeing us doing this in the middle of a trade show, while people were setting up made it all worth while….

Except maybe for Arthur:

(Whilst this is for the Absurd Latte Art comp we obviously aren’t eligible to win).

The Absurd Latte Art contest (voting, prizes, etc)

OK – there are now lots of lovely submissions coming in so I will say we’ll close the entries in about a week, turn it into a little competition and I will pick a dozen and create a poll for you to choose from and the best one wins.

EDIT – we now have a sponsor!  The nice people at Espresso Warehouse stepped up!  Will announce the prize in the next related post.
So – more, more, more! (please)

In other news Ola’s part three is up, and I hopefully have a really cool project to post about soon.

Absurd Latte Art update

Just a quick round up of the stuff people have submitted in my call for milk based nonsense:

Tim Styles (Tropical Saloon):

latte art in a saucer

Perrys Karavas (Flickr page):

latte art in a ladel

Grendel (Cafe Grendel):

Conrad (Flickr page):

latte art in a gravy boat

And of course there is Anette, Stephen, Jenny and I and our art in hands:

All of this is great, but I want more! MORE!

So please, if you can, find an odd vessel and pour some art in it and leave me a link or message in the comments.

(I am still gutted our plan to pour something through Arthur’s ears in Tokyo never came off – Arthur, if you are reading this then you have to get someone to do it!)

(If I have missed anyone out let me know!)

A slightly absurd latte art challenge

The challenge is simple – pour latte art in something unusual and post a link in the comments or use trackback.

I’ve been thinking about this for a little while and was inspired by a few amusing pours like these:



If enough people get into it then maybe there will be some sort of pointless prize suiting the silliness of this. I challenge you – pour somewhere stupid!

UPDATE: A rather excellent first offering from Tim Styles in the comments.

The Roadtrip – Seattle

With sadness we left Anette behind for a day as she had to collect her visa and the rest of us ventured down in the United States of the Americas.  It was nice there – warm, sunny and not as cold and mean/rainy as Vancouver had been.

We went up to Elysian Brewing for some beers and some food, which was pretty good, suffered a terrible mojito on the way home and were up and raring to go the next morning.

First stop was the newer Victrola up on Pike.  It is a lovely old building, formerly an garage for car repair (I refuse to lower myself to the American terminology!).  I love the colours on the outside and it looked great in the sunshine.

We went in and had a few shots that were pretty good and then introduced ourselves to the manager Sarah Jane and Keith and Perry who were doing the roasting in the space through the glass.  Sarah Jane then made us a press of their Yirg that was really great, and sitting in the wide open space at a massive table with the sun streaming through the large windows it was a great coffee experience.  We had a little look around the roastery and around their training rooms and it really is a good place to be on a sunny day.

Just up the road was Caffe Vita and we snuck in for a quick espresso and also to press our faces up to the glass wall into their roastery.  Their Probat looks beautiful and you can see a little up into their offices where the sample roaster is.  It is beautiful.  The coffee was interesting – mine had an odd parma violet note that I’ve never had before.

By this point my camera battery had died and my charger was in a car with Anette and Alistair stuck at the border in a big queue.  Which was very frustrating – hopefully Stephen will upload a few.

The final serious cafe moment of that day was up at Vivace Roasteria on Broadway.  I gather they are tearing the building down to make way for a light rail station which seems a shame.  Vivace seems to have a very strong identity and the roasting room in that store, whilst clearly now barely used, is very pretty.  Apart from the obvious espresso and capps in there I also tried a Cafe Nico.  It was pretty good – orange zest, a little syrup, coffee and milk in a small cup with some spices on top – nicely balanced and not screamingly sweet.  Interesting to see someone basically offering a signature drink, especially a cafe that doesn’t have a strong interest in barista competition.

Whilst in Seattle it would seem criminal not to go over and catch up with the guys at Clover.  It was great to see David and Zander again, and to meet (the now infamous) Tatiana.  Despite being extremely full of tongue tacos and burritos al pastor, I had room for coffee.  They had some of George Howell’s coffee up there and whilst it isn’t my place to say how or what they were doing they were finding innovative ways to get his coffee to really sing in the cup.  We tasted the Mamuto and it was stellar, really clean strong fruit in the cup that remained loud and balanced as the coffee cooled.  We tried a couple more and then went to meet up with a few people from Zoka and other places that were planning to go and roast on the beach.

Beach roasting was memorable.  It was also very hot and having to slowly rotate the metal ball roaster by hand over a very hot fire pit was challenging (in the good way of course).  All the roasts I got involved in were a little uneven but the last one before the light completely went was great and surprisingly even.

Trish from Zoka and Chris from Atlas (who owns the roaster) led the way and it was great to meet Dismas and a load of other people and to get a feeling of the community down in Seattle.  It was also nice to see Anette freshly allowed into the States and we went and had more amazing Mexican (it has become the official cuisine of the trip!) food with Bronwen to celebrate.

The next day we went back to Victrola so Anette could see it as well the newest Vivace.  We were all sat down at a table and one of the guys with us went off to order 4 capps.  He asked for them to be wet in his very Irish accent and the looked pretty good when they arrived.  The first sip was a confusing experience.  They were sweet, but not ordinary sweet – more like someone had stirred 2 sugars into every drink.  I know their milk is well textured and sweet but it was just ridiculous.  Turns out wet had been misheard and instead we had order white – as in 4 white chocolate capps, which explained everything.  We went back for a load of espressos and I have to say that the taste of their coffee is very distinct and consistent store to store.  (Anette is visible in the spoon).

A little later that day word had gotten out and David from Clover was on the phone (rightly) mocking us drinking white mochas in Vivace.

From speaking to a few people they recommended we try and find a new start up called Seven.  Its a small neighborhood shop near Greenlake and they are roasting in the back on a little 2 kilo Ambex.  The feel of the store was great and Carl (or maybe Karl) made us feel very welcome.

I recommend dropping by if you are in that area and have a little time.  Some nice details in the place.  Afterwards we popped over to the Zoka store in Greenlake.  We wanted to swing by the roastery but (typically) time got the better of us.  The Zoka store was totally different, bigger and pretty much packed out.  By this time I had had a lot of coffee, and at that point yet another cup (no matter how good) was going to be hard.  I hate leaving behind half finished cups of coffee, but they dose quite heavy with their Clover and it was a 12oz cup – I am just not man enough I guess.  However, just around the corners is the masterful Hiroki who does rather splendid desserts.  Naughty but nice.

Breakfast the next morning was a chance to see Bronwen one more time before we left as she was working over at Sitka and Spruce.  I wish I lived near a place like this – I would be happy and fat.  The brunch was amazing and the cappuccinos Bronwen made really hit the spot.

We then got a phone call from David Schomer saying he would love to meet us and make us some coffee.  This is not a call you say no to, so after a very brief visit to Trabant we were shamefully running late.

We headed back down to his new store and the bar setup means that one machine can very much look after a busy queue and yet there is still a three group available for “guests”.  David jumped on the machine straight away and started pulling some shots.  What was interesting is that his were better than his staff’s.  Maybe he just knows his coffee inside out.  Mine had a really great, light fluffy mouthfeel and whilst the actually flavours may not be what I am into I can understand why his coffee tastes like it does.

He was very chatty about his coffee and his equipment and it was clear that he really looks after his staff and there is a nice friendly, family atmosphere there.  One of the barista’s mothers was there and he was making her drinks and she was clearly proud.  Pretty soon conversation turned to latte art and a couple of his baristas started to pour.  It is interesting to watch people with a totally different style to my own – back to the whole fat leaves thing I guess.

What really surprised me was when David dragged both Stephen and I behind his bar to steam some milk and pour some drinks.  I know David is strict about who works his machines and you have to really put your time in and earn your place, so I guess I felt a little uncomfortable just jumping back there.  I also had to ask for the small cups to pour in because I have yet to get my head around anything bigger than a 12!  Both Stephen and I were a little disappointed with our pours though one of the baristas pointed out that you never pour better than when you are working the line and it becomes automatic and you stop thinking so hard.  It was surprisingly nerve wracking too and I felt very much on show and I am sure Stephen felt the same.  Still – I doubt there will ever be another opportunity to work behind the bar next to David Schomer.

Our last stop in town was a small place called Zeitgeist near Pioneer square.  They have a beautiful set up and a nice vintage GS paddle group Marzocco.  I loved the feel and theme of the place and just the building itself.  Worth a look.

And that was Seattle, Portland was beckoning and we needed to get in the car and go.  I think that every one of these city reports will have a tinge of regret for the places we didn’t see and people we didn’t get to meet despite really wanting to.  I have to say that Seattle on a sunny day is a great place to be, and it has a lovely feel to it.  That, however, was totally different to the feel of Portland….

Messing around with some glass cups

Wandered into town today having seen that Starbucks were giving away free coffee between 2pm and 4pm.  Turns out it was part of FairTrade fortnight (let’s not get into ethics or labelling in coffee) and they were giving away a tall cup of their Cafe Estima blend.  I timed it just right for the first cup of a fresh brew.  I wandered out of the store, cup in hand, only to be cornered for a “taste test” which I was happy to partake in.

They were brewing the Estima as both drip and french press and wanted people to taste the difference.  Oddly they seemed more interested in asking me which one tasted stronger.  This isn’t something I usually think about, as I was paying more attention to the coffee itself.  It tasted a bit flat and lacking in character.  I asked what was in the blend.  I was told the coffee was a blend and from Latin America.  “All of Latin America?” I asked, and was greeted with a confident “Yes.”  I asked when it was roasted and was told, quite confusingly, that it was roasted for at least 12 minutes.  Having asked the question again it they didn’t really know, but the bags did have sell by dates.  Turns out french press coffee is stronger too.  Still at least they are trying and the coffee wasn’t that bad.

What captured my imagination a little more today was a nice glass cup I found in Muji.  Snuck some time on a machine this evening just to see how capps looked and then it crossed my mind that making an americano in it might be quite pretty.  Turns out I was right!  If you click the pictures it will take you to a larger image on Flickr.  I took some pictures of the coffee just hitting the water, and it was a lot of fun and I am quite pleased with a few of the pictures:

The very first drop hits:

The coffee starts to mix (I like you can see the drip tray!):

I wish this one had come out a little better – it is quite cool though:

It is also quite nice to see how much foam you are really pouring without having to spoon it around…