2015 in review – a comparative edition

Last year I wrote a “2014 in review – number edition”, and I thought I’d write a comparative one to see how the year changed and what that means.

Words written on the blog: 18,240 (2014) vs 18,376 (2015)

This was something of a surprise, mostly because I’m not very good at remembering how much or how little I write on here. More surprising was the fact that 2015 saw the highest pages views of any year.

Here’s a selection of my favourite/the most popular posts from 2015:

Make or Steal
My Favourite Question
The Cappuccino Index
The Price of Coffee in London (2015)
An Analysis of Nespresso Part 1 1
The Coffee Professional Beginners Guide
The State of Espresso (2015)
Part 1: The Lull
Part 2: The Bubble
Part 3: Implications and Predictions

Flights Taken: 44 (2014) vs 51 (2015) Distance Travelled: 69,788 miles (2014) vs 98,562 miles (2015)

In the past I had mixed feelings about the amount I travel. I don’t anymore, I have no doubts that I travelled too much this year. I know this because I really don’t want to travel this much next year. (It probably didn’t help that my average flight distance went from 1,586 miles to 1,932 – a 22% jump).

When travel is considered aspirational, I’m aware that complaining about too much of it is like complaining about too many meals in good restaurants. However, I don’t want to complain – I just want to try and learn my lessons about what makes me happy and what doesn’t. I have no intention of consigning my passport to a drawer and not leaving the UK for the foreseeable – I just intent to be a bit smarter about the travel I do.

Applications through Coffee Jobs Board: 14,905 (2014) vs ~30k (2015)

I don’t actually know the real number here as we now have to purge older applications from the server, because there were too many and they were taking up unnecessary space. This is a guess based on what I can see now. I’m investing a lot into making the site better, and version 2 should launch in the next 4-5 weeks. I want it to be a better service, and to be more useful to the industry, more valuable. It is an enjoyable challenge.

Plans for 2016

I seem to alternate between years in which I plan, and years in which I do. I get a growing feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction when I don’t finish things – and 2015 has been a frustrating year that way.

I want 2016 to be a year of narrowing focus; a year of finishing off things that I’ve started, and doing more of the work I enjoy.

  1. I know, I know – I will continue this series in 2016, I promise!  ↩︎

Distributing/Selling The World Atlas of Coffee

After the last blog post I received a lot of emails and tweets from various people asking about selling the Atlas in their cafe, in their online shop etc, from around the world. So – if you’re a coffee business of any kind then hopefully this will be of interest to you…

I should be clear that I’m just the author, not the publisher – so I have limited control over somethings. However, it would mean a lot to me to have cafes supporting the book and I definitely want to do whatever I can to enable this and get distributors access to good pricing, to make this worthwhile. I want this to be useful to any coffee business in every way possible.

Worldwide the English language edition will be out in October. Translations won’t be out until June next year, though the English version will be available via distributors. There are currently translations planned (but not confirmed) for French, Spanish, Dutch, Czech, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Hopefully more to follow!

To help make all this easier I had a quick chat with the publisher and figured I would start with collecting the information of companies that would be interested. I can hopefully work with distributors and my publisher to sort out direct access to books. There will likely be a minimum order to get wholesale pricing, but I don’t know what that is yet.

There are a couple of boxes to check, relating to potential events. Nothing is confirmed yet, but I travel a lot and (while most authors tell you to avoid book signings) there may be a chance to do something creative if I am a town or city where people are stocking it. I am also working on an idea for a launch event that I’d like to try and coordinate nationally (and internationally if possible) that could be a more interesting way to do a book launch, and also get consumers a little more excited and curious about the possibilities of coffee. Nothing below is a commitment of any kind – just collecting contact info at this stage. Thanks again to those who’ve gotten in touch, the response has been lovely and I’m grateful that so many people want to support the book.

Coming Soon: The World Atlas of Coffee

In around two months time, on October 6th, my first book will be released. I’m very excited, and maybe just a tiny bit nervous too. The book is titled “The World Atlas of Coffee”, and I want to talk a little bit about how this happened and what it is.

I remember a moment, very early on in my time in coffee, when I had been cupping coffees and was trying to understand exactly where they were from. I remember the coffee that triggered the question, something from Kalossi. More than that, I remember the feeling of being both stunned and annoyed when I asked which book I should buy to look up where this coffee came from and being told there was nothing. This was astonishing to me, considering how rich the world of coffee was and is.

While I always wanted to be the person to write that book, for a long time I never really felt it was my place to do so. (And I expect to hear that criticism in the future too.)

What changed was very simple: I was approached by a major publisher, already well known and respected for books like “The World Atlas of Wine“, and have a reputation for producing beautiful, high quality titles. They asked if I would be interested in writing this book, and I thought I would be a fool to pass up such an opportunity. So I jumped at it.

What followed was full of all the necessary clichés, best summarised by Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” I don’t mean to be dramatic but this book is undeniably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. (I know people say that, but there’s a good reason they say that. Listening to Oliver Strand talk about how difficult it is on the portafilter podcast was hugely reassuring.)

I had one unusual challenge in writing this – focusing on exactly who I was writing this for. I wanted to produce something valuable to those coming into the industry who want to learn, and also something that’s a useful reference for those of us who’ve worked in coffee for some time. More than both of this, I wanted to write something for all our customers – the people who go out and buy, brew, drink and enjoy coffee every day. I believe that understanding something more can make it more enjoyable, and I wanted to make more of coffee accessible rather than make it more mysterious and exclusive. I want to help people to understand what they like, explore what they don’t know yet, and feel more confident in the somewhat intimidating world of specialty coffee.

The book isn’t about me, or about Square Mile Coffee, but just about coffee. The book is divided into three sections: an introduction to coffee in general, a section on brewing techniques (aimed at making professional standards accessible and worthwhile to home users) and then the atlas section, with individual countries divided by continent.

This third section was the killer. Finding accurate, credible information and facts that can be double checked felt nigh on impossible sometimes. I’m aware that the moment we publish the book some facts will be wrong, or be disputable. This is why I am hopeful this does well enough for a second edition (which will also be out of date the moment it is published!).

What I have tried to do for each country, in writing a summary of its history of coffee production is to try to explain why its past makes it the way it is. The existence of smallholders and garden coffee in Ethiopia is the result of a very different history than that of Brazil – with single estate businesses that can produce more coffee than all of Bolivia put together. So along, with the history I’ve tried to explain where a customer’s expectation of traceability should be. I’ve done my utmost to get harvest times, altitudes and typical varieties for each region within each country that I’ve covered. Inevitably a source of some contention – there are some very basic guidelines for how coffees from a producing country may taste. (I’m aware that this seems reductive and negative but please wait to judge me until after reading them.)

I haven’t covered every single country that produces coffee. I’ve covered those with a focus on arabica and the capacity for speciality. In some cases I’ve decided not to include a country because I don’t feel the data available is accurate enough. (Haiti, for example, is a difficult place to write confidently about post earthquake.) Equally, this is not a project without constraints of size and word count. If it is successful then it will be expanded in future editions, and the work is already done on some additional countries.

My greatest hope for this book is that it becomes a genuinely useful tool for us to communicate better with our customers, to help make coffee more engaging, and more valuable. I’m proud of the work I have done, I’ve given it my best, and I hope that you’ll either enjoy it, support it – or both! I’m going to promote the book as widely as I can, and I will be working hard to do it in an interesting way – rather than just ramming it down people’s throats until you unfollow me on twitter and block me on Facebook!

I am going to post more about it in the next couple of months – about its availability around the world (Including various translations), about reselling (if people/cafes/roasteries/coffee businesses around the world are interested), to say thank you to those that have helped me, and about any events I may be doing to promote it (come and say hello!).

It’s actually available to preorder on amazon already (and has been for a month already, despite the fact that I’ve yet to hold a physical copy – such is the nature of modern publishing). While I’m deeply conflicted about amazon, I can’t deny it is probably the cheapest place to buy it and if preorders are decent the price actually drops (which is why the US price is already lower than RRP)! The book will only be available as hardback (the digital version I dream of requires some physical sales first) and it is both fabric bound and without a dust jacket! (I just really, really hate dust jackets so this makes me very happy!). Here are some links:

The World Atlas of Coffee – Amazon UK

The World Atlas of Coffee – Amazon US

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…

New design for the blog

The time had come for a redesign of this site, and a move away from free wordpress templates towards something custom. Feedback is, of course, very welcome. I’ve tried to make sure a few bits of previous feedback were incorporated such as having recent comments nice and clear on the front page.

Post pages are, I hope, simple and readable. Comments (which are a massive part of why I write this thing) are also a little more readable and clear. Any bugs then let me know (unless you are on IE 6 1, in which case I am sorry, terribly sorry).

Looking forward to the Christmas break, as I have a tonne of draft stuff I need to post. In the meantime – why not cast your vote in the Absurd Latte Art Contest II.

UPDATE: For clarity – I did not do the design work here. I was merely a tyrannical and irritating client.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Full credit to Lawrence Brown for the design work.

  1. I know some people are stuck with this browser at work, but I probably shouldn’t condone reading my ramblings during working hours….  ↩︎

GCQRI Day 1 – Dr Vince Petiard

I will try and post a few summaries of talks here – it seems overkill to liveblog an academic congress. I suspect that what I post here will suffer from my brain not being able to process these things fast enough, and I won’t get a copy of the slides until afterwards.

The first full talk of the day, after the opening address, was Dr Vince Petiard. He is Executive Vice-President of Business Development for Natural Source Genetics and former Director of Plant Science and Technology Centrer for Nestle, L’Oreal and the Syntheloabo. I’m not sure exactly what that all means but in his talk he explained that he worked on raw material research for various companies as they were acquired by various larger companies.
Continue reading “GCQRI Day 1 – Dr Vince Petiard”

WBC Blogging

Despite the backlog of other posts I can never find the time to visit, I suspect blogging for the next week will probably be devoted to the WBC.

Having said that I don’t know that I will have time to create the kind of coverage you will see on the unofficial WBC blog over here, which is already chock full o’content.

People are arriving into town, as I type this team Japan are at the roastery plying us with delicious things.  Other barista champions are visiting or arriving later today and I hope people get a chance to enjoy both London’s coffee scene – as well as the city itself.

Having done these before I’m coming to terms with the frustrating idea that I just won’t have time to properly chat to everyone I want, that there will be a lot of half finished conversations but I am excited to see lots of people again who I haven’t seen for a while.

I’ll try and update flickr, twitter and here too!

UPDATE:  Another WBC Blog.

WBC London Coffee Map

Just a very quick post to let you know that if you are coming to London for the WBC and want suggestions of somewhere to go then I’d recommend checking out the WBC/Coffee Kids London Coffee Map.

Not only will you get delicious coffee, but the participating shops are also raising money for Coffee Kids, which is two good things for the price of one!

London Coffee Map


I don’t often post work stuff on here, but I figure I am allowed to break my own self imposed rules once in a while.  I have a whole backlog of posts and comment responses that I will get too soon.

I plan to talk a little bit more in future about some of the ideas behind The Penny University, but for now I will say that we are about to close out the applications for the two jobs we have open there.  We hadn’t really posted the advert in a lot of places, and while we’ve had some great responses, I just wanted to make sure it was spread as far as could be.

You can read a little more about the project in the job descriptions.  I should also add that we’d be very uncomfortable asking anyone to relocate for a job, especially with work visas being so difficult right now.

If you have any questions do let me know, though we’re not releasing a lot more detail about the shop for a few more days.


Store Assistant

Travelling to learn

This weekend the reigning Aussie barista champion, Scottie Callaghan, is in London as part of a trip around the world.  He’s been hanging out in Copenhagen, Oslo, Sweden and Amsterdam beforehand and is heading to the US early next week.  I can’t help but be jealous.

Scottie’s trip is all about learning – talking to as many different people as possible, tasting as much as possible – and it seems like a pretty good idea to me.  It is easy to slip into habits where working hard every day at what you do, and maybe reading up on stuff online feels like enough.  You can’t replace the experience of learning through doing, but what I like about learning through discussion and tasting is that you often are taken down avenues and get ideas you hadn’t expected.

I haven’t travelled very much since the company started roasting, so I am really looking forward the upcoming SCAA show.  The show is all about people for me, but I am pretty excited about the SCAA Symposium on the days beforehand.  (It probably won’t surprise you to find out that Scottie is going to this as well!) Yes, I should be clear and state them I am involved in one of the sessions on the first day (about which I am actually a little nervous) but I am looking forward to the rest of the program too.  (If you are curious you can see the program here)  The idea of being in big room full of people who know more than I do about every single aspect of the coffee industry is immensely enticing!  I’ll try to blog as much as possible from the event, but if you are going I look forward to having a chat over some coffee!

Hopefully when I get back I can get stuck into (and reveal) another couple of big projects that I think will be amazing – and are the reason all has been so quiet on here of late.

Poll results

Just a quick post on the poll results (which has now closed).  Interestingly the percentage split was the same for the first 100 responders as it was once it hit 1,000.  I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it was probably a good reminder that it is ok to talk more about consumer stuff and various questions surrounding that.  One of the things I love most about having this blog is the conversations, and I am probably missing opportunities to have some very interesting ones.

Thanks to all who responded!

Do you work in coffee?

  • Yes, I do indeed work in the coffee industry! - (56%, 594 Votes)
  • No, I don't work in the coffee industry - I just like coffee! - (44%, 472 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,066

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There are a load of posts I keep meaning to publish, but they are all so horribly written that I haven’t!  (The post about who is to blame was so badly written that, while the responses were really interesting, I didn’t manage to communicate what I wanted to – which was embarrassing!)