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.


WBC Scoresheets – a few thoughts

I am aware there is some potential for me seeming like an arrogant so and so in this post, but it really is just about having a bit of a discussion.

It is no surprise that I am a big fan of barista competitions, but having recently gone through the UK judges workshop there are a couple of things I would like to post about and get some discussion going on.  First off an issue that both Anette and I find very frustrating: Continue reading “WBC Scoresheets – a few thoughts”

Agitating the industry

Last week I had the opportunity to pop over to Vienna for 24 hours.  It was the Allegra European Coffee Symposium, and I got to dress up in black tie and go to the Hofburg Imperial Palace for the awards dinner the night before.  I even got an award 1 which was amazing and I am very grateful!

I wish I could have wandered around Vienna for longer, in the end I only had a chance to pop into one coffee house – Hawelka – and those places are just no fun unless you have an afternoon to kill with a newspaper and an unusual desire for large quantities of whipped cream with your coffee.  They are possibly less fun if you are looking for an excellent shot of straight espresso, but I didn’t sample enough to know where local expectation lay, and how my own preferenes would fit into that.

The day after the awards was the symposium.  I don’t mind confessing that I felt a bit like the odd one out again – the speakers and fellow attendees came from Europe’s larger coffee companies and manufacturers.  However I am always interested in how that section of the industry views things, what is important, what their challenges are and what I can learn from them.

Continue reading “Agitating the industry”

  1. Outstanding Contribution to the European Coffee Industry 2009  ↩︎

I know this isn’t a video

And now you do too.

However, it is probably a bit of a rant.

There was much discussion on Twitter the other day (I know, that sentence still seems awkward and embarrassing to me too) about naturally processed coffees.  The discussion had started about how everyone seemed to be ignoring washed coffees from Yirgacheffe, having become distracted by the naturals – often the microlots from Beloya and Aricha.  1

The problem wasn’t so much that people weren’t excited by washed Yirgacheffe coffees – more that these new darlings of the coffee industry contained flavours that many would consider defective.  Reading this I began to worry in an odd sort of way about our approach to coffee, as well as our approach to the consumer.  2

Continue reading “I know this isn’t a video”

  1. I am aware that it really start with the discussion of the rather disturbing word “Beloyagasm” but that is kind of beside the point  ↩︎
  2. It should be added that if twitter could work out a way to nicely present a conversation amongst multiple users then I would be very happy!  ↩︎

The importance of being wrong

I feel it is about time I broached this subject.  With an eye to the last posts, as well as to the response to my Chemex videocast, I feel the need to make something very clear.

The internet is full of information, though it is also full of keyboard heroes, and has something of an issue with its signal to noise ratio.  Identifying who is a useful purveyor of information is tricky and, while there is growing use of indicators in forums, often it is he who shouts loudest that wins.

Continue reading “The importance of being wrong”

Italian coffee culture in the UK

This morning I spoke to a journalist on the phone who is writing about coffee in London, as well as the antipodean influence on our coffee scene.

One of the questions he asked was about the influence of Italian populations on coffee cultures.  In Australia a good chunk of credit for the early rise of coffee culture there stems from the high standards of the Italian communities that quickly spread to a relatively small population and increased expectation.

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Stumptown are the source of one of my most troubling coffee experiences, one that still haunts and nags at me today.

No one in the coffee industry really likes decaf.  We excuse its taste, we get annoyed at how fast it stales, we treat it as a second rate coffee experience.  I was in that camp too for a while.  Coffee no good?  Well, it is decaf…..

Continue reading “Decaf”

The wine model doesn’t work

I think everyone in coffee knows deep down this is true. The wine model only works for wine, we can’t transplant it to coffee and expect some immediate understanding and increased sales of quality coffees.

First and foremost – we don’t drink coffee like we drink wine. Broadly speaking we buy wine in two different circumstances: to enjoy ourselves and to enjoy with others. Generally we spend more, buy better, buy more interesting when we are enjoying it with others. We want to know more, want a little story, want something worth discussing. Wine’s great success was making it culturally acceptable/desirable to discuss what you drank at some length. Coffee isn’t quite there yet. We drink coffee in different circumstances – mostly it is a solitary affair, though sometimes shared but rarely the focal point the way a stellar bottle of wine can be. We experience it in different environments, with different goals and different focus on the sensory experience.
Continue reading “The wine model doesn’t work”