Archive Page 2

Our lipstick in the middle of ORcup

On saturday, we have quite some classy shopping ladies coming in for a cup of coffee and a delicious piece of cake… We like them, they bring some attitude and liveliness to the place… but, honestly, we don’t like what they leave us with once they’re gone :)

What have they done to ORcups?

I can’t help but wonder whether such amounts of lipstick influence the taste of the cup?  Ladies, help me out here: lipstick flavored coffee on our new summer menu?

Speaking of which, that new summer menu is being worked at very hard. Both content as lay-out will change. We’ve been trying out some new coffee specials, refreshing home-made limonades and ice-teas. Ready for those hot’n’sweaty summer days. Some summer teasin:

Summer teasin

Advertisements

Some cupping notes

Last Friday, May 8, the Belgian Cupping Championships took place at Lion Products in Bonheiden. Cupping is the tasting of coffee, usually following a certain routine. Freshly roasted coffee beans are grinded in small (cupping) cups. At this moment a first evaluation takes place. By smelling the dry coffee – freshly ground – the coffee fragrance is detected. The fresher the coffee (closer to roasting date), the more intense the fragrance.

Water, just off the boil, is poured over the ground coffee. Coffee particles will rise to the surface and form a crust of coffee on top. You let it sit for about 4 minutes. Then you break the crust with a cupping spoon (this spoon is a little bit deeper and different in shape from a normal spoon) and gently stir in order to fully moist all the coffee. Breaking the crust is a second evaluation point. Sniffing the coffee thoroughly reveals its aromas. The tasting wheel below gives you an idea of the possible aromas in coffee. The range of aromas is different for each coffee.

 Tasting wheel

The particles will sink to the bottom. Those that don’t sink should be skimmed off. Now the coffee is ready to be tasted. With a cupping spoon, a small amount of coffee is brought to the mouth and forcefully slurped as to fully aerate the coffee and spread it evenly all over the tongue. Attention is paid to acidity, sweetness, body (how the coffee ‘feels’ in your mouth) and aftertaste (what remains after swallowing). Usually the coffee is spit out, taste buds are cleared, spoons are rinsed and the process starts all over. Read more concrete step-by-step guides here, here and here.

 

Cupping is used by coffee professionals to identify the quality of coffees and to compare different coffees. It’s a way for coffee roasters to sample different coffees and decide which ones they want to use in a blend. It’s a way to detect deficiencies in coffees or just really outstanding crops. Related to this is the “Cup of excellence”, a contest held each year among farmers of a coffee producing country. More about this in a next post or here.

 

But there are also cupping championships, where competitors are asked to ‘cup-taste’ 8 sets of 3 cups of coffees. In each set of three, there are two identical and one different coffee. The latter one is set apart from the other two. The winner is the one who picks out the most ‘faults’ in the shortest time. (Note that the coffee is prepared as drip coffee, so different from ‘traditional cuppings’) As with other coffee championships, national champions compete against each other at the world championships. Last Friday, some ten coffee pro’s took the challenge. Several people from Efico (a Belgian trader, importing green coffee into the Antwerp harbour), some smaller roasters (Donko’s, Deprez) and few barista’s (Rob, Bird, Francois). OR was well presented with both Tom Janssen (our roaster) and Simon Boone (barista) participating. While the boyz were having fun, the girlz (Katrien and I) were securing income (aka working the bar). We were however happily surprised that Tom ended 4th, at only 5 seconds from the third. Efico’s well-trained cuppers took home 1st (Bart Vansanden), 3rd (Laurent) and 5th place (Jean). Louis from Donko’s placed 2nd and Peter Deprez 6th. Congrats to all participants and good luck to Bart for the World Cuptasting Championships in Cologne in june. More pictures follow soon.

 Tom and Simon testing their tastebudsscore sheet

As for my own cupping experience; I’ve participated in 6 sessions so far, evenly distributed between NYC (Cafe Grumpy, Joe, Intelligentsia) and Belgium (Caffenation, Efico, Deprez). Most memorable were probably Grumpy (5 really different and really good coffees and my first encounter with the amazingness that is Yirgacheffe), Intelli (most thorough and just the nicest knowledgeable people) and Efico (their cupping tables and skills are impressive ;) ).

I love cupping, it gives you the change to really try and describe what you taste and smell… what it is that makes you like or dislike a certain coffee. It’s easy to do at home (ok, you need a good grinder) and you can taste more coffees than you usually do at a cafe (where there’s at most two kinds on offer, here in Belgium that is). It broadens your palate, cos cupping and learning to discern and identify all those different aromas and tastes really just needs a lot of practice! How happy I was when I recently experimentally found out what they actually meant with ‘a clean cup’.

But mostly, the more you do it, the more complicated it becomes (up until a certain point I guess)… and hey, that’s just why I love coffee so much. :)

An absurd challenge

Challenges are fun. Challenges are necessary to keep things interesting. If everything would be a piece of cake, we’d soon be all bored to death. Each challenge, whether a real competition or just for fun, implies trying to push your limits a little bit, thinking out of the box, being creative and aiming as high as you (realistically) can.  And afterwards, whether you go flat on your face or just beyond all imagination, you’ll have learned. A new possibility to get better.

 

Browsing the internet for interesting coffee related stuff – some daily pastime for me :) – I recently came across this. James Hoffman created an ‘Absurd latte art challenge’, where you have to pour latte art into something unusual. Ok pouring into saucers, portafilters, pitchers, trays… but Ryan Willbur and Devin Pedde (Intelligentsia LA hotties) decided to do something a little bit more ‘special’. Danger danger! Tonx took pictures of there submission; here. (Hoffmans own try isn’t too bad either)

 

With my latte art skills almost non-existent but being worked on very hard, it’ll still take a while before I get there! But as I said: challenges are fun. Who’s willing to be my canvas? :)

How the virus got me

It all started last summer, when I ended a one-year trip through South-America with a 3 months stay in NYC.

I was lucky to be living in lovely Williamsburg and every day my roomies came home with a great smelling cup of Oslo coffee… and I just got intrigued by the atmosphere and friendliness that goes with standing in line with all the regulars and drinking a delicious cup before heading to work or home… or just staying in the bar meeting people, working on my laptop… Coffee to stay or to go, coffee in the morning, afternoon coffee with friends, coffee right before hopping on the bus, a cup to wake up, a cup to go to bed. Back then, coffee was not my main interest, nor did the idea of getting a job involving coffee pop into my mind… but my days did involve lots of coffee…and somehow the coffee virus must’ve silently settled into my body somewhere…

 

…ready to hit hard a couple of weeks later.

Coming home after an inspiring year of travelling, meeting wonderful people, leading a ‘non-traditional’ life… is not really like stepping into a warm, welcoming, cozy home at all. Oh of course, there’s family and friends that you’ve greatly missed and that are happy to spent some time with you again. There’s some habits and staple foods that you gladly pick up again. But rather then being fulfilled with the embracing feeling of home, I found myself confused and without any goal or project. Though my plane had safely brought me ‘home’, I was floating around and couldn’t find good soil to plant my feet in. While everyone in my surroundings had a bunch of expectations that I felt I obliged to live up to, I would’ve rather just run away again.

I had to choose ‘the next step’, which seemed harder than all the previous steps I had taken in my life. Was I supposed to work in advertising or event organizing again, something I had studied for and done with pleasure (and a suit and overtime)? Or should I try to find a job in a cultural centre, promoting music and theatre, something that has always been an interest? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I also had the idea of opening my own coffee shop one day; something that seemed fun and great to do but that I didn’t have money for now.

And the idea that seemed the least plausible at first won. Somehow – the virus must’ve broken out – I found myself browsing coffee blogs, searching the existing espresso bars in Belgium (oh so few), looking for barista training (even less). As if my senses had now incorporated ‘coffee’ into their library, I came across articles in the newspapers, interviews on the radio, workshops, books and more information.

 

Coffee became my passion, my goal, my project, my savior, my soil to land in. My home is not a real time place, rather a feeling, a satisfying project surrounded by people that support it. So while I was waiting for OR – the new espresso bar that I was gonna start at – to get ready, I went back to NYC. This time on a concrete mission: visit as many coffee shops as possible, do some coffee research and get some training. It’s lovely to see how the industry is booming over there and how friendly most baristas are. A huge thank you to Daniel Humphries who gave me my very first barista training and who’s an amazing and encouraging trainer. And thanks to Everyman’s Espresso, 9th st, Oslo, Cafe Grumpy, El beit, Gimme and all the other cafes for my daily doses. As always, time in NYC flies and visits are too short, but I was excited to go back this time…

 

I am happy that I got the opportunity to start at OR, where I am learning every day and I am able to be part of the upswell of espresso and the growing awareness of and interest in good coffee in Belgium. Turning the key of the front door of the cafe and serving shots of espresso everyday, yes, it does feel like coming home.

 

Just so you know: my new home’s open to everyone: come in and sip your coffee; and I’d be happy to show you around.

 

Ps: People interested in my adventure through South-America can still read my stories on http://mwoi-isa.blogspot.com (in dutch except for one article in english)

Dear readers

As I hope the name and design of this blog already show, it’s about coffee.  Some of you will probably think: “bean there (pun intended), done that…. another coffee blog, how exciting.”  Well yea, I realize how this amazing web of information is filled with sites about coffee. From roasters over bar owners via traders and professional baristas to espresso enthusiasts; from geeks that get all turned on by the technical details of the newest fancy schmachines and grinders to regular cafe customers that describe their daily worries while sipping their favorite coffee drink… For some reason, they all feel the need to blog about or discuss their cup of joe… Why bothering putting time and effort into creating another coffee blog?

What (most) coffeebloggers share is a passion for coffee. We all want a good cup at home and an excellent shot at our favorite cafes. However, what we mostly get is bad and tastes like shit.  What we brew at home is our own responsibility, but we wanna share good techniques. What we get at cafes and restaurants is a shared responsibility. Have you ever returned a cup of coffee because its taste was way too acidic, bitter or rather faint or because you felt like you were drinking dishwater? Most likely, the answer is no.  If you did indeed return a cup, did you get an apology from the waiter or barista and a new coffee without having to pay for it? Most likely, the answer is no.  Did you know that an espresso does not contain more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee? Did you know that the pills your doctor prescribed you probably contain more caffeine than the coffee you stopped drinking on his advice? Most likely, the answer is no.

 

So why then do we need another blog about coffee? Well, another blog about coffee… another vote for a better coffee future… another voice that gets the word out… another possibility to educate and infect people’s taste buds… another person that stands up for what he believes in…  So that in time, everybody knows one of us… So that in time, yes, we all return bad tasting cups… So that in time, yes, we all get an apology for bad quality… So that in time, yes, we know what we are drinking and where it comes from… So that in time, yes, the coffee movement – or should I say wave ;) – receives equal recognition (as wine and whiskey)… So that in time, yes we can… one cup at a time :)

Big ambitions start small…. and it is my hope to start off with giving people in Belgium a better idea on what coffee is, how a good shot of espresso is made, how it tastes different from a bad shot, how much of a variety of coffee there is…

As my coffee journey has only started very recently, I also want to describe the path I am taking, how it all started and what experiences and people I meet along the way. It’s a journey without an end, as we will always evolve, as will the coffee industry, as will our tastes and whims, as will technology and techniques, as will so many things that influence a shot of espresso.

Starting out myself, browsing through all the other blogs, reading books, visiting cafes… I felt as if something was missing…  It seemed as if everybody I met and everything I read was already at an advanced or professional level. Everybody was talking about different types of machines and grinders, the body, flavor, acidity and aftertaste of coffee, the barista techniques… as if everybody just jumped to that knowledge level ignoring their very own learning process… They all seemed to have forgotten where they came from, how life was when they started out, how they became what they are now…  By leaving out this part, the gap between ‘mere coffee lovers’ and ‘professionals’, between espresso bar owners and their own customers only gets bigger… and people feel as if they need a lot of time and energy to know what a good cup of coffee is… time and energy they don’t have.

I have doubted whether it was a good idea to start a blog right away, at a time when I dare not even call myself a barista yet, when my knowledge of coffee does not reach further than one book and a few articles I’ve read, when my tasting palate is as inexperienced as anyone who has drunk coffee for a few years and when there’s no way I can tell why one machine is better than the next apart from following what everybody says…

But yes, I have come to realize it IS a good idea to start now. By describing my journey, right from the start, I may not create the blog that people in the industry follow for my valuable opinion, I may not become the next number one reference, but I do hope to create a bridge between coffee laymen and professionals, to let people know that everyone can learn about coffee and how interesting a field it is.

And oh well, I also want my friends and family to know what I’m doing, without having to explain them in boring lengthy conversations :)

Comments, questions and requests are seriously encouraged.

 

There’s nowhere to go but on… I have lived by this motto – brought to me by Feist (http://bit.ly/Ev2U2) – for about two years now, and it has never deceived me. Thanks for hopping on my train!

Isa


Tweets.

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Pages

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031