It’s about time that I mentioned it here. My coffee journey has moved on, and its a shame that I didn’t let you know about it. But be sure not to misread my silence for lack of excitement because I couldn’t be any more… After working at Or Espresso Bar, I am now slinging shots at Caffenation in Antwerp. Yes, another city. Yes, a completely different vibe. Yes, a crazy bunch of baristas with strong personalities. And Yea, many a good coffee. Yea, loads of good skills (including Belgian cuptasting champ). Yea, so much knowledge and passion to share. Yea, barista jams. Yea Yea Yea. And thats all I need to say right now, all you need to know. More… soon!
As my journey is proceeding, so is coffee’s. As we flip the calendar’s page, new resolutions, wishes and predictions are made. Some peeps, who are far more knowledgeable about coffee than i am, dare to predict some of coffee(s industry) future. Yesterday I was pretty excited to read this list by Geoff Watts, Intelligentsia’s Head coffee buyer and a strong reference in the industry.
As far as I am concerned as a barista and (not yet) coffee buyer, i can definitely agree with points 3-4-5 and 6 (well, and 9 too) on his list of ‘bad things’. Points 4, 5 and 6 of the good things list are things i advocate for myself.
Adding some personal notes:
At first, about the supersizing, I really wonder why people want “the biggest coffee drink you have on the menu”? Usually it means you just get more milk in your latte… I know people think economically, and think that a big milk drink will take them longer to finish without spending money ordering a second drink… but it really doesn’t taste any better, it gets cold after a while (and we get the whole terrible “I want a hotter latte” discussion) and we really won’t blame you for spending time at the bar only drinking a cheaper and smaller espresso. Our largest is 10oz and that really is more than enough… Watts is talking about 20oz (60cl) drinks! Holy cow (pun intended), that is more than half a liter of (mostly) milk you are having… What’s the use of putting a 1oz espresso in there?
Secondly, the certification bodies. I believe he is right that people blindly devote themselves to what is (sometimes) nothing more than another brand with another marketing strategy. Almost daily I get to deal with people that want organic, soy, fair trade coffee and milk… without actually knowing how these ‘certifications’ are any better, taste any nicer, let alone actually ethically mean something for the producers at origin. It is nowadays just hip and cool to go ecological and fairtrade. I am not saying that I am against it, of course I also want the farmers to get a fair price and of course I care for the environment, but that doesn’t mean you should simply prefer one (famous) brand over another.
Point 4 of the good things list deserves some extra attention indeed. People often ask what is a good way of brewing a good cup at home. Some people are intruiged by the beauty and craft of an espresso machine, and the flavors and aromas it produces… but don’t forget that the machines that do that are expensive machines, built for the industry. In order to get a similar espresso or even cappuccino out of a home espresso machine, you need to spend lots of money, you need the right barista skills and lots of time for trial and error. People lacking these things will either get frustrated or disappointed or won’t like espresso anymore. So, slow coffee is the way to go. At home yes, but even at the bar. More and more bars are investing in a ‘slow-bar’ where coffee is freshly prepared by the cup on a chemex, drip filter or syphon. Buy yourself a french press, or a simple drip filter. It is a much safer and cheaper option for great coffee. Agreed, it also requires some practice to get some complexity and a variety of flavors, but you’ll enjoy coffee as the farmers made it to be. And when you really crave for that thick gloupy mouthfeel, pay your favorite coffee shop a visit for some good espresso.
As a last comment on these predictions: Science! Science! Science! Yes, we need it so badly. Not only as a back up for our own tongues, ideas and industry (specialty coffee), but to continue investing what the factors are that produce a good cup or a good espresso. It was only recently that I complained about it to a fellow barista, imho the one in the local community that spends most time on this ‘scientific’ investigation: it is so hard to lay your hands on this kind of information. I mean, lots of it is already known to the world, but unknown to me, as a basic barista. And I am dying to learn, but why is it so hard to find the right information? Why are there a bunch of ‘basic barista’ courses, but none for advanced levels? Some people ask me why I know so much about coffee… and while I think to myself: “so little you mean”, I can only tell them about the blogs of coffee folks I follow, the books I’ve read and advice them to really just search and look around. The journey, continued!