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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Wow…many things happening lately! So much coffee, so much learning! I got acquainted with so many coffee people here in Zurich it’s unbelievable!

And there is serious preparation going on among the competitors in the Coffee Championship in the beginning of February. Wait…there are exactly ten days left, 10 days! But there’s no room for panic. Everybody is working hard and the competition is going to be tough. You have to have a certain amount of courage to compete. And not only that but faith, patience, toughness, ambition and the list gets longer and longer. I can only admire the people who take part in barista competitions and wish to be like them someday.

I’d like to point out that working as a barista and competing as one are two different things. It’s one thing when you’re working behind the espresso machine, interacting with customers, living up to their expectations for excellent service, showing real hospitality whilst the stress (which is somehow proportional to the length of the queue out the door) and another when you’re on stage – you’re being under judges’ scrutiny, everything is timed to the last second, you feel your heart trying to get out of your rib cage (direction changes as you perform) and you’re slightly worried about your latte art designs, because your hands suddenly have become a bit too shaky than expected. You might have the stage for 15 minutes and along with that an experience you’re most likely to remember quite some time. It’s not so much about winning, but learning and enjoying. I think the whole process of coming up with your latte art designs or with your signature drink is very creative and all these baristas competing are actually contributing to the global coffee industry.  At the end nothing is lost, you can only learn from your mistakes (that’s why it’s good to go through your scoresheets afterwards).

Being a barista is a very young “sport”. And I think there’s a lot of room for development and change of its rules and regulations, so that it can be attractive even for the general public. But I guess that will come with time, till then go create some new latte art patterns.

Anyway, there are going to be 4 categories – Barista, Latte Art, Brewers Cup and Cup Tasting and from the three days it looks like the second is going to be the most intense, because that’s when the Barista and Latte Art finals will be. Exciting, right? So, the Swiss Coffee Championships are going to take place from 7th to 9th of February in St. Gallen along with a Holiday Fair, so please make sure you’re in the right hall, which will be No.2. See you there!

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A post inspired by David Walsh’s lecture on NBC2012 regarding coffee extraction

Okay, so we talk about brewed coffee. There are rules, there are commonly agreed standards how to brew it and everybody brews it. How do we define our standards, what ideally extracted coffee is, what makes your cup of coffee good – we can indeed discuss much about it. These norms change as time goes, and people change their expectations from coffee as well. It’s a shame that most of the time coffee is being drunk for its functional qualities, than its taste, but this fact is slowly and surely changing. People are starting to realize this drink is not supposed to taste bad, but the opposite – it can have all different aromas and flavors, just like wine. But let’s get back to coffee.

So how did we shape these standards:

At the very beginning coffee was eaten, then wine was being made from it and only around the 11th century it started to become more like a drink. Then the invention of the coffee grinder came and soon enough in 1711 in Paris the practice of infusion began. Towards the end of 19th century in France the used ratio was a 100 grams of grounded coffee per liter. Meanwhile in the US you would drink coffee with coffee to water ratio as less as 14 grams per liter, you can imagine the difference in the taste, right? During WWII the development of the brew stops almost completely, except that the common recipes changed and the amount of used coffee per liter in the US doubled. After the war the Coffee Brewing Institute was formed and it started publishing a lot of research in this area. Also there was one study by the Midwest Research Institute that said region of optimal taste is between 18% and 22% extraction and since then this information was adopted from every coffee association.

And this was confirmed from the quite recent Gold Cup Research, part of the Gold Cup Programme launched by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe. However, this range of optimal taste is not that tight, 48% of the participants selected their most liked coffee with extraction rate out of this bounds. So when we talk about preferences the picture gets bigger, right? There are not set boundaries of which you can like and which you cannot, this studies just show us that the peak of preferences is between 18% and 22% of extraction. But still, I believe that everyone should know the “standards” and only after that should be able to say what one’s preferences are.

For me, I enjoy playing with the variables when brewing. It’s interesting how the taste changes when for example you do a stronger brew, but you don’t let it extract for long, or change the grind, or even the water. I have to admit that as a mad scientist, I’ve had terrible experimenting sessions and sometimes the concoction has not been so pleasant to drink, but hey, that’s how you get to know coffee better. I like finding these differences, because it makes me more knowledgeable about the brew. And the good thing is that there’s always more to discover!

Looking at the announced coffee events for this year made me think which would I like to attend – all of them, obviously, but I compiled a list of the events I am more likely to visit:
7th-9thFebruary – Swiss Barista Championships in St. Gallen. It’s coming! I can’t wait!

22nd March – Swiss Aeropress Championship in Basel – the first Swiss one. It’s going to be interesting and it’s a perfect reason for me to go check a few coffee places in Basel.

3rd-6thApril – The London Coffee Festival, which also will be the host for the UK Barista Championships. Oh, I am so excited about that one! And it’s going to be huge! With more than 20 000 visitors expected!

28th-30thApril – Austrian Barista Championship in Innsbruck – not completely sure about this event, but it’s relatively close so I might appear there.

10th-12thJune – World of Coffee Rimini ! Well, we all knew I’ll go to Rimini, didn’t we? World Barista Championship, World Brewers Cup and World Coffee Roasting Championship – yes we did.

So far I like my schedule, I’ll like it even more if I manage to visit all these events! And I’ll meet so many coffee people! It’s unbelievable! For sure there are going to be other events popping out, but I’ll try to update the blog more often, so no worries about that. 



Today I had the pleasure to visit the roastery of Stoll Kaffee in Zurich and to chat (and drink coffee of course!) with the Swiss Barista Champion of 2013 Shem Leupin…what can I say…it was simply amazing. So keep on reading!
Shem is originally Swiss, but lives a substantial amount of time in Australia, where his relationship with coffee begins. Around eight years ago he gets acquainted with the art of coffee making, while working as a bartender in Australia. He gets hooked up immediately, but he’s not allowed to make coffee, because there are these specially hired people for that called “baristi”. It took him six months of practice before being able to serve coffee to customers. Then he moves back to Switzerland along with his coffee passion, knowledge and experience. After some experiences in different cafés he finds a place where he is given the freedom to experiment with all the different dimensions of the espresso shot and that wonderful place was namely Sportbar in Zurich.
Now from more than a year he’s working at Stoll Kaffee where he’s not only a barista, but he’s also responsible for the quality and development management – a workplace that’s giving him even more opportunities for experimenting with coffee, contributing to the coffee culture in Switzerland. Now Stoll Kaffee has even a specialty coffee line (which I started to fancy quite a lot) – coffee beans selected and roasted almost only by Shem on a very small roaster, since the demand for such coffees is not that big.
And did I say he’s a Swiss Barista Champion? Ah, yes I did…but he’s a very easy guy to talk to! At first I didn’t know what to expect (actually, I was prepared to conduct a formal interview), but then he gave me a tour of the place, which is not that big – the coffee roaster itself is not that big either (I think the capacity was 70kg) and they are in the process of modernizing it, since it’s quite old. Then he started pulling espressos…the way he was tasting and discerning all the aromas and flavors in the cup…fascinating. I want to learn to do that one day!
For the moment his efforts are all concentrated in the area of specialty coffee – hopefully it goes well in the future!

 

We were also talking about the upcoming Swiss Barista Championships in the beginning of February. This time he’s not competing, but coaching. He’s helping Daniel Sanchez, who is going to enter the competition for the first time. I’m sure he’ll do great and who knows, he might get a medal! And while we’re talking about coaching, if you want to take a barista course I highly recommend the ones offered at Stoll, you already know why.

After coffee was imported through the major ports of Venice and Marseilles in the beginning of 17th century news for the new drink quickly spread throughout Europe. Of course this included England where the first coffeehouse opened in 1650 in the university town of Oxford. It’s not a surprise that it became one of the popular meeting places between students and not much time later it became one of the first English social clubs.
Two years later a coffeehouse in London was opened by a man named Pasqua Rosée. He was brought to London from the wealthy merchant Daniel Edwards and after serving coffee to his master’s house guests, who grew in number overtime, Rosée financed by his master opened a coffeehouse in St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill, London. And that was it, the beverage firmly established itself thanks to the explosive growth of coffeehouses and by the beginning of the 18th century there were more than 2’000 in London alone. Coffeehouses became a gathering place for all kinds of people – merchants, lawyers, writers.
At that time coffee was also famous for its supposed healing abilities. The public knowledge about its pharmacological qualities greatly facilitated acceptance of the new drink and made the visits to the coffeehouse seem a better option to taverns (it’s a good thing to note that at that time beer was consumed almost with every meal). As taverners saw the noticeable decline in their business almost naturally they became rivals with the coffeehouse owners. There were many broadsides written against coffee in attempt to get people back to taverns.
But there were also other unhappy-of-the-success-of-coffeehouses people. Coffeehouses in England were not open to women, that’s why in 1674 they protested with The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, which was a rather funny petition and wasn’t taken too serious. They complained “that coffee makes a man as barren as the desert out of which this unlucky berry has been imported”, when actually the protest was about them being left alone too much in the evenings. Later that year, the men answered with The Men’s Answer to the Women’s Petition Against Coffee, which was an equally hilarious piece of writing. You can see it here.
 Coffeehouses in England became politically important, a tribune for free and potentially seditious speech, that’s why in 1675 King Charles II proclaimed their suppression. He soon realized that he himself has a big share from the trade, so he reinstated the coffeehouses, but with additional tax and prohibition of pamphlets and books being sold as well as speeches being held on their premises.
As a whole the spread of this new drink came with acceptance, but also with a lot of fear based on religious and ethnic differences. People started to drink something that was not a product of their own country, a foreign drink with which they started incorporating a different culture and religion into their lives. However, the Enlightenment Age would not have been what we see now if not for the significant role of the coffeehouses.
Sadly, towards the end of 18th century coffeehouses started to disappear from the British social scene, as for tea – the demand increased significantly and it gradually established itself as the national drink in Britain.  

References:
Banks M., The World Encyclopedia of coffee;
Luttinger N., The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry;
Modern History Sourcebook: The First English Coffee-Houses, c. 1670-1675
Can’t believe it’s already 2014, time flies so fast. Happy New Year to all our readers! We wish you lots of coffee through the whole year! Hope all of you had an amazing festive season. For me, I had great holidays in Bulgaria, but I’m excited, because soon I’m returning to Switzerland, where I can continue my adventures. Through this year there will be so many coffee events and inspiring people to write about I cannot wait! And to be honest, I miss the cappuccinos and the caffè lattes I get in Switzerland. I’m very much used to the SCAE standards, which looks kind of pretentious here, but I’m trying not to be harsh.The coffee culture in Bulgaria is very young and I’m sure it’s going to continue its development and specialty coffee will become more popular.