I’ll open by saying, I don’t write a lot of book reviews, I have a lot of coffee and chocolate books, but the majority are picture heavy reference guides and recipe books. They are with the exception of Allen M Young’s ‘The Chocolate Tree’ – a lengthy discussion of the genetic history of Cacao and its cultivation – mostly educational, on how to prepare coffee or chocolate, where it comes from or recipes for how to cook with them, factual, but in a very direct sense. Brian Williams’ ‘The Philosophy of Coffee’ is different, it’s a balanced and unbiased history of coffee as a global commodity and its connection to historical culture without agenda or romanticism. It is in many ways the most approachable and believable account of coffee’s history I’ve come across, since watching PBS’s 3 part series entitled ‘Black Coffee’, many years ago. What strikes you early on is the books simplicity, in a good sense, its accessible and relatable, much like most of Brian’s writing, easy to follow and informative the whole way. Continue reading
I’ve cupped with Raw Materials before, after discovering the taste sensation that was their Rwanda Kilimbi lot at London Coffee Festival. This time they were presenting their lots from El Fenix, Colombia, a project of theirs that goes beyond the usual green bean importing. In 2016 they ran a kickstarter to help fund the construction of a community wet mill in Quindío, Colombia in order to offer farmers that traditionally sold their coffee at market prices the opportunity to process their coffee at a central mill and engage in education to improve the quality of their coffee. Paying farmers above the market price for producing great coffee is one thing, but improving the quality of coffee in an area not traditionally producing specialty, so that farmers can charge more is another. You can read more about the project here https://www.elfenix.coffee/
This year’s Cup North was slower and more relaxed than in previous years, less sirens, less amped up music and as Brian Williams pointed out it was warmer too. Warmer not just in ambient temperature, but in spirits and that oh so intangible of currencies, conversation. The coffee’s great, it’s almost always great at festivals these days, cups of excellence and bags of unusual microlots for showcasing the length and breadth of specialty coffee’s extremes and well it wouldn’t be a coffee festival without it, but to my mind as good as the coffee is, it’s not necessarily the most valuable thing on offer. Coffee, it seems to me, is somewhat of a vocational calling and it appears to attract some pretty passionate individuals, the kind who talk about hard work, difficulty and problem solving all through the encouraging smile on their face, they’re interested and interesting all at the same time. It’s these people that are the real gems of a coffee festival and so while I might mention the odd geisha or natural microlot from time to time, this article is dedicated to those people, those conversations and to those at Cup North who make this kind of thing possible. Continue reading
Up again the next morning we went in search of breakfast, but made a quick stop into Café Secret Life first for coffee, before the short walk to Kawiarnia Fawory. Stepping inside Secret Life it felt a lot like a neighbourhood café, relaxed, slow and with locals taking their time over what were probably their regular orders. We enquired at the counter as to what was on the brew menu and after some language barriers the barista agreed to brew us up some coffee. Stomachs rumbling we added a slice of blueberry tart to the order to tide us over. Not fully sure what we were getting, but with coffee bags from notable roasters used like bunting on the ceiling all over the café we were pretty sure it would be good. Continue reading
On our way back into Berlin we were lucky enough to skirt past Concierge Coffee, a cosy little spot hidden in a courtyard alley. Stepping inside, there was just enough room to swing a cat, featuring a cosy looking chair, some retail shelves and fully equipped bar at the back. Browsing the menu, we opted for a couple Ethiopian Yirgacheffe batch brews roasted by Concierge Coffee themselves. Continue reading
Bologna and Venice are both old towns with a wealth of historic culture, but they’re both distinctly different. One a university town full of youth, progressive ideals and a love of food and the other a maritime powerhouse full of beauty, canals and tourists. They wouldn’t be Italian though, without a love of espresso and chocolate and both help to cater to their devotees in different ways. Bologna providing traditional Italian coffeebar culture to its discerning patrons and Venice providing the locals with a very Italian respite from the heavy impressions of non native feet. If you look closely, it’s not too hard to find these hidden gems as you explore the cities history and culture.
Starting in Bologna and getting in late, we arose in the morning to head out for our first introduction to northern Italian coffee. Continue reading
Just a step outside of Oslo’s Mathallen building is a coffee shop that owes its name to Henrik Ibsen a Norwegian playwright and poet and the universally beloved Jimi Hendrix, which I guess speaks of both home and music a theme that encompasses this cafe. Entering the place, it feels like a hangout space, walls lined in equal parts by records, art and bags of retail coffee beans, with nothing looking out of place. Continue reading