Tuesday, May 29, 2018
"Sourcing for great single origin coffees is (relatively) easy. Getting them to work in harmony as a blend (of 2 origins or more) is a different story altogether!"
And this phrase above sums up my emotion at work the past weeks, managing hiring for our new space but at the same time inspiring my new series of short article for this blog. (I like to call it brain farts!)
Going through more then 300 CVs received over a period of 1.5 months, one would have thought it shouldn't be too hard to get a few in but really, we see aplenty talented people but can they really fit into a team and work together collectively. Can 11 Ronaldo (or 1 Mohd. Salah - sorry Pool fans) really makes a team?
After all, coffee is really a teamsport. Thoughts?
Monday, January 29, 2018
Chefs taste their food before serving it out, Bartenders do so with their mocktails (drinking on the job and I hope they don't turn alcoholic in the process) thus it should be almost second nature for Barista and Cafe owners? Think again!
Coffee calibrations happen daily every morning, after lunch hour too in some businesses and all the time after dialling in a new coffee in the grinder but are they really tasting it or watching the shots drip to hit the 30ml spot in 30 seconds?
How many time do Barista or Cafe Owner reject a coffee after drinking it personally or even stop a bad coffee from being served out? Or do they actually reactively taste it only when a 1 star review comes in the form of social media rating? (Or when a customer leave a full cup behind and leave the premise.)
In Dutch Colony, we taste our coffee daily and with 3 shops and 1 roasting facility, we make it a point to set up a group chat as well as a calibration form just to geek it out and discuss flavours and recipes early in the morning, before the first coffee is serve out to the earliest customer. Taking time to taste our coffees also means we put ourselves in the customer shoes and asking ourselves whether we will buy and drink that coffee or reject them. (And why if we ever reject it!)
Coffee is a serious business and it will remain one, as long as Barista and Cafe Owners takes quality as seriously as they possibly can.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
Sunday, September 24, 2017
|Milk is important and difficult to master. Dr Faishal will agree.|
Considering Lattes and Cappuccinos makes up the top two espresso based beverages we (in Dutch Colony) sell every month and the art and science of milk is something we talk about in every barista fundamental classes, milk definitely is an important topic. After all, as much as we fuss about parameters of extracting a delicious espresso, milk is at the end of the day almost 80% that completes a drink in any cafe. Unfortunately or fortunately though, milk is something that people in the cafe business don't usually indulge in. Too many incidents to mention but here is one; when a cafe customer provide feedback that the cappuccino is not as sweet as usual, the coffee roaster received a call and asked to investigate that roasted batch of coffee. What happen to the proteins in milk that contributed to the sweetness and liquid marshmallow texture then? After all isn't that cappuccino almost all milk? Oh yes, milk is just milk!
Here is another; five coffee roasters (or the more the merrier) have been called upon to provide samples for a new cafe who is opening real soon. Coffee have got to be good (and cheap) and it doesn't matter what future consumers of that cafe prefer, as long as the Bosses likes it and they like it chocolaty and 'not sour lah'. When down to the wire, any roaster who can provide that comforting notes and $0.10 cheaper per kg then everyone else, congratulations the business is yours. When it come to milk, which can account to almost $4000-$5000 of cost of good every month, the boss says any milk will do. Whatever everyone is using is good. Not a single questions asked about sweetness, about amount of protein or fat and most importantly, not a question ask about custom profile and/or exclusivity. Why do we not demand the same from our milk supplier like what we do to the coffee supplier? Oh I get it again, milk is just milk.
Where is this going? No where of course but just to address the importance of milk in a cafe business. If I have the time to collate what I have been working on, is to address the issue of bubbles on milk foam of an espresso based beverage. This was also discussed in the blog FB group. A topic for another day.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Tonight is rather different though. What I saw during a short but intense wholesale training yesterday encouraged me to write down what I encountered. After a step by step demonstration, it was the trainee's turn to pull some shots but right on the first extraction, he got a little panicky and start muttering that he doesn't know then when to stop as he has forgotten to use/start the timer. (We were in a unique position. The operator has bought his equipment from Supplier A, attended coffee training from Supplier B and bought coffees from us.) I asked after that failed espresso attempt if he knows how to look out for signs of blonding or weight/volume of the espresso to perhaps decide when to cut the extraction. The answer was NO. He said, "I stop the extraction at 30 seconds. I cannot do without the timer."
Don't get me wrong. The core ideas of parameters of espresso extraction remains largely unchanged when I conduct training myself. Extraction time is something I hold dearly too, but not the ONLY thing I hold on to. There are also other parameters that I preached about but it was rather amusing to see a trainee being taught to only measure a good espresso by how long it takes to extract the espresso. Is it true that the espresso taste good only at 30 seconds? What happen at 29.5 seconds or 32 seconds?
Appreciation of coffee, expectations of flavours and consumerism behaviour have evolved so much over our specialty coffee years but it is sad if training providers out there are still holding on to that only rule book of 30 seconds and/or 30 mls to measure good espresso. I know we are better then that.
Oh... I will take that 35gm - 40gm double shots espresso done at 22 seconds anytime. :)
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Unwashed, Dry and/or Natural Process - Tasting the process instead of the actual flavours of the coffee?
Unwashed, Dry and/or Natural Process, either names but they all refer to the same post harvest process. A process we love to hate or a love-hate process? Tasting the process instead of the actual flavours of the coffee? This article discuss the different appreciation of natural process coffees within the specialty coffee community and the flavours it brings to the table.
Unwashed, Dry and/or Natural Process
|A graphic from training slides that I used for Dutch Colony workshops, explaining the difference between the two main processing methods.|
The natural process is very environmental friendly with almost no reliance to machinery and very little need of fresh water. Unfortunately with the reliance of a natural resource (the sun), there are notable drawbacks which leads to a higher room for errors while processing as well as a inconsistent flavour profile. As there is no reliable method to predict weather conditions, prolonged rainfall or excessive drying may caused opportunity for mould, fermentation or rotting.
The flavours of fermentation
In tasting the process instead of the actual flavours of the coffee, in particular the natural processing method, fermentation or fermented flavours usually becomes a point of discussion. Mostly western coffee professionals hate the idea of it and in cupping stints with them, have heard the description of rotten animal and/or onions far too many times.
In Asia, our appreciation of food follows the tag line, "the smellier it is, the better it taste!" Think stinky tofu and even durian and thus our appreciation of Natural process coffees are more then those Americans or Europeans palate. Having said that, a point to ponder upon. What happen then to non-asian delicacies like blue cheese or cured meat, where equally #gamestrong on fermentation and why is it then those palate cannot appreciate natural process coffee the way they do with their cheese?
Analysing the typical flavours one will get upon cupping a natural processed coffees, the likes of melon, jackfruit, banana (MJB) (which are arguably always considered as negative flavours) candied strawberries, blueberries, lychee, mango (positive flavours) are often presence. These are all yummy flavour attributes in my honest opinion but MJB somehow or rather are often linked to fermented fruit notes, which are considered tainted or defects. It beats me why melon, jackfruit and banana are considered flavours of fermentation! After all, natural process is all about taking in most of the skin of the cherries and the whole fruit into the finished beverage and when one argues 'taste the actual flavours of the coffees in its truest fruit form rather then the process" shouldn't that mean have it natural process?
Upon the beautiful discovery of post harvesting and turning coffee as a beverage, rather then having it boiled and drinking it as tea, it relived the moments when natural process was first discovered thousands of years ago in ancient Ethiopia, which indicates instead of calling it flavours of fermentation, it could possibly be the first flavours one get out of coffee which leads for it to be commercialised. Yet the community is pushing for the washed-method instead and lead it it to be cleaner, less complex and sweeter!
End of Part One.