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Red Giant sets off into the Sunset

The new blends launched a few months ago and you seem to be enjoying them. I know I have been.

I did a blogpost back in April explaining about our new blends and how going forwards we would be rotating and reinventing some of them. Its time for Red Giant to take a bow as we welcome in Sunset

Sunset will be the new name for RED giant, which was a replacement for Jailbreak. We changed Jailbreak a lot while it was called that, now we are just being a little more transparent that its changed its components.Its exactly the blend jailbreak mark 450 would have been (or something like that).

Blends in the ‘Red’ profile will be focused on balance, sweetness and cleanliness. It’ll is consistent, easy-to-work-with, tasty, sweet, smooth and balanced espresso.

Its made up of

50% El Salvador Argentina Washed Bourbon
25% El Salvador La Fany Washed Bourbon
25% Kenya Kiriga AB Washed

Please don’t be sad Red Giant has gone (or that Jailbreak has too). Its the same thing, just changing with the times. Just think of it as a child growing up and changing with the seasons. I hope you love it as much as we are loving it here.

You can buy it here

 

Recycling coffee bags

I think we can all agree now, that recycling is a very important part of everyday life. Resourses are not infinite, and ladfill gets, well ….. full.

Its always something thats bugged me about coffee bags, becuase of the way they are made, they can not easily be recylcled.

We have tried many different bags, but none keep the coffee as fresh as we would like, so rather than compromise the product, we have carried on regardless. This keeps me awake at night as sustainability is not only about buying coffee fairly and with ethics, its not only using organic certifications (or organic principles more on this in the coming weeks), but my being sustainable in as many areas as you can.

Se we found out about this company that will recycle coffee bags, but at a cost. This cost is out of reach of most people, so we have invested in a bag recycleing box at Has Bean. We get through a lot of bags so it’s a start.

But we have decided that if you (home or coffee shop customers) buy coffee from us, we will pay for the recycling costs of Has Bean bags all you have to do is get them back to us. Collect as many as you can and send them to us at the address below and we will do the rest.

Has Bean Coffee Ltd
Unit 16, Ladford Covert
Ladfordfields Industrial Estate
Seighford, Stafford
Staffordshire
ST18 9QL
United Kingdom

Then the collected waste will undergo extrusion and pelletisation to be moulded into various recycled plastic products.

Its not perfect, and we will see if (depending on interest) maybe rolling it out to some collection points, but every journey begins with one step, and this is our first.

In My Mug reboot

Its been months in the making (literally) but you may have noticed the past few weeks In My Mug http:/wwww.inmymug.com has changed. After 449 episodes it felt like it was really time to shake up the format. I know I’ve done this a few times (shaking it up), but this feel the most drastic and the best yet.

This week was one was one of my favourites to record, as we had the “Steve’s fun bag challenge” where a member of the team has to come in and weigh out 3 bags by eye, getting as close as they can to 250g. Its a test of speed and accuracy, where every gram over or under they get a second added t their score and then the time that its taken added on. Its not something we wild every week, but was great to get Mick on screen for the first one.

We also had our guest brewer slot this week with Katie coming on and chasing her favourite brew method and making the coffee for me. Again, great to share the awesome team we have here with you.

Each week there will be something new and different, and the aim is to keep them a little shorter than they have been in the past to keep it snappier.

I’d love you to check it out, and I’d love your feedback, and I hope if you have not watched one for a while, you will dive in you may be surprised.

Brazil nut (Wildcard)

I did a blogpost back in April explaining about our new blends and how going forwards we would be rotating and reinventing some of them. So we have Red (Jailbreak replacement and Philter) White Blend (which would be a replacement for Jaberwocky, Kicker and 1973) and Black Blend (that would be a replacement for Black and Breakfast Bomb). I’ve loved the feedback on them and on the whole everyone has embraced the new blends (and bags).

But theres the 4th blend, the place for us to play and have the fun. Dark Side of the moon has been lots of fun to play with and a coffee thats received lots of love. But its time for the first change. An in the spirit of having fun were reviving a blend we have not had for a while.

Brazil nut is a cheeky nod towards what was the very popular Perfetio and I’ve received many many many emails saying that perfetio isn’t a word and I must have accidentally slipped when typing. The truth is that I did slip but a very long time ago and the name just stuck!
In Brazil they speak Portuguese and the word ‘perfect’ in Portuguese is ‘perfeito’, when I first created this blend many moons ago I was going to go for that as the name but accidentally made a typo. Once I’d seen it there I quite liked how it looked so decided to keep it as it was, always fun creating a new word! I’m sure at the time if you searched the internet for ‘perfetio’ it would have said you couldn’t spell but now you’re shown lots of things about this blend, a giant success I think!

We have called it Brazil nut as I have already said, its a nod towards Perfetio and not a direct same blend, but its fun and I like it.

The blend is made up of

40% Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama Natural Yellow Bourbon
30% Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama Pulped Natural Canario
30% Brazil Fazenda Inglaterra Pulped Natural Bourbon
In the cup you can expect a fantastic body, loads of sweetness and creaminess, heaps of smooth milk chocolate with walnut and a gorgeous finish.

You can buy it here.

Child labour and coffee harvesting

I’ve really been enjoying writing recently, and its been great starting to publish things on the blog again. I’ve also started write a book (have I told you about my book http://coffeeography.co.uk ). I never realised writing a book could be so time consuming, so it means the flow of things here is not as prolific as I might hope.

Step in guest bloggers, I’ve asked some of my coffee friends if they want to write something on the blog for everyone to enjoy.
The first door I knocked on was that of Alejandro Martinez from Finca Argentina in El Salvador. I gave him a blank piece of paper to share thoughts he has.
Little did I realise that he was going to scribble all over that paper and draw two fingers to the world. Well maybe not that bad, but I think the piece he has written is quite controversial, and make rattle some cages and make people have opinions, but what else is a blog for than to make people have opinions.
So sit back enjoy, and read the disclaimer the thoughts and opinions shared in this blog may not be that of the blog owner 🙂 But I must admit its made me challenge many of my thoughts, and brought clearer into focus how import it is that we don’t impose our values on society’s and cultures that have different ones.

 

Child labour and coffee harvesting
By Alejandro Martinez
 

The other day I went with my family to pick coffee at the farm. A few days later, my sister-in-law and I got into an argument about the topic of kids picking coffee. Apparently, she saw a picture that my wife posted of Lucas, my son, with a basket of coffee. It seems he did not look too happy, despite my counter claims that he had a blast. You can judge for yourself, since I am attaching the picture to this post.

I feel that not everyone understands the complexity of the issue, and I thought about writing a little bit about it in order to shed some perspective from the field.

First, I do want to emphasize that it is preferable for children not to do any work. I do believe that kids should have fun and play as much as they can in their childhood. I empathize given that at my age and many years of hard work and pent-up bitterness, those days when you are young and without a worry were the best ones.

However, here is the hard reality of the rural farm worker and his family. Most workers get paid a low wage, which tends to be not sufficient to cover all basic needs. Furthermore, consider that work is often intermittent and there are times that a worker is unable to find work, sometimes for up to two or three months.

 

Now, consider the following factors:
School year is in sync with the coffee harvest: the school year usually ends about the time that the coffee harvest begins. Public schools are on vacation for the three or four months of the coffee harvest. It is not by coincidence but probably by design given how important coffee used to be in El Salvador. So, during the harvest, parents usually have no one to leave their children with given that both parents go out to pick coffee.

Children are usually not registered as workers. Kids normally are around, accompanying their parents. Heck, once I even saw an 8-month-old baby inside a basket next to her mom in the estate. I remember it vividly since he was the same age as my kid at the time. Thus, some kids will help their parents by combining their pickings with their parents. It is a way to contribute to the family income.

Picking coffee is not hazardous. No one is exposed to pesticides or toxic chemicals. The climate is mild and shade trees provide cover from the sun. There is one issue though, the weight of the coffee bag. Now, kids usually carry the amount that they can lift. In the case of my son, no more than twenty pounds…he is really skinny.

 

Finally, no one is forced to pick a minimum amount of coffee. At harvest, the coffee is paid by weight, so the more a worker picks the more he gets paid. Children are not able to pick the same amount as an adult, but it does not matter, since payment is done by weight.

So, I had a hard time explaining all this to my sister-in-law. It is easy to judge from the outside, but each family has their own unique situation. It is not popular to talk about this and I know it is a touchy subject, but I feel that we may do more harm than good if we preclude children from helping their parents around harvest time. We may even impact a child’s health if the kid goes hungry because his parents have no money to sustain him. So, why not allow them to contribute and make a better future for themselves?

More Barista Competition ramblings and Dale Harris

So I did a blog post a few weeks ago about how much I hate barista competition and why it sucks (mainly because I didn’t win).

For the sake of balance I thought it was important to share why as a company Has Bean still continues to be involved with enthusiasm in barista competition.

Dale Harris has been with Has Bean now for 7 years (your average manslaughter kind of sentence). When I first met Dale he was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar (that much is true). But it was at a barista competition I really got to speak with him and I realised that I had to have him as part of my team.

Dale since that time has become one of my closest friends and confidents at Has Bean and instrumental in the success we have had. Think all the good things are down to him and most of the mistakes down to me.

Also since that day both me and Dale have been on many barista competition adventures, most of them ending in us also not winning (some very close scrapes though and bullets dodged). But it has given us some focus and some great times along the way.

Most importantly it has pushed us both to think about coffee in different ways, year on year. Before going to Central America this January, Dale charged me with finding him a coffee for this years UKBC competition. Sounds easy right ? But with Dale there has always had to be an element of learning or understanding about the coffee industry and sourcing in a different way. This makes the task harder, delicious and tasty coffee with a twist.

Towards the end of the trip I had found many tasty coffees that were good, but nothing that really fitted his complicated brief. Then in a cupping room in Nicaragua I was presented with something special, that blew my mind and made me challenge a lot of preconceptions of coffee sorting and separation.

The coffee was from Finca Limoncillo and was the amazing Yellow Pacamara. Nothing new here I hear you cry, its a coffee we have worked with for nearly 4 years now. The yields of this coffee are low, and the demand is high. We jump to the front of the queue for this coffee because we bought it in the first auction of it, and have been big cheerleaders, but still theres not enough for how much of it you all demand.

So when cupping with Eleane, (part of the Miresch family who own the farm) she suggested I tried the petits. Petits are whats left over after the coffee has gone through screen sorting sieves to find just the biggest beans. Screen sorting is something thats left over from commodity days, mainly to ensure some kind of consistency in times where picking and processing details had no resemblance to the highly skilled and attention to detail coffee farming of today. The larger beans stay in the top of the screens, and the smaller ones fall through to their death. The industry has have found new ways to maintain consistency, but still we sieve them through the screens and normally throw these petits into commodity coffee to be sold on the C market or to fill lower quality blends.

In these times of speciality coffee becoming more scarce, lowering yields and environmental challenges. this seems crazy. Why remove good coffee to become commodity when there can be eqaually (or maybe even better) coffee there. Its something we tried last year with Finca Argentina in El Salvador with great success, so when someone like Eleane suggested I try them I jumped at the chance.

It cupped amazingly and I had found my special coffee with a unique and interesting twist on it for Dales Competition.

Dale competed with this coffee the weekend just gone, and made me incredibly proud of what he presented, you can watch his performance at the video window below, and we’ll be watching things closely at the London heat, crossing fingers that Dale will be able to take this forward to the finals.

So why is competition important for Has Bean? Mainly to keep Dale off the streets between January and the summer months, but also for us to push the boundaries of what we do as a coffee roastery and give us things to get excited about. It gives us focus, and to see how we can improve not just barista skills but to keep coffee buyers like me on my toes, making sure we do the best job we can.

We should have some of this coffee later in the year for you to try, but for now Dale has some areas to improve on and practice with for what is a much more technically demanding competition to the brewers cup, and I expect to sit through many more run throughs of his perforce in coming weeks.

Do expect another blog post about rules and how the competition sucks and how it isn’t a coffee sourcing competition (I understand fully the contradictory tone of these two posts) later in the year. But for now this isn’t my performance and isn’t my message, Dale is his own man, with his own ideas and interpretation of the competition scene.

I think this is a great example on how competitions can be used to push yourself to get better not just as a barista, but as a company and industry. Its an excellent way to showcase your thinking and present to the world whats on your mind.

I’m incredibly proud (as I always am) of Dales performance and what an amazing job he did, and look forwards to where he takes his competition this year, and sometimes (like the brewers cup competition this year) theres more than just winning to be gained. But come on, wouldn’t it be nice for once !