My Wine Library moment

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet one of my heros in internet land, Mr Gary Veynerchuk. One of the greatest things to happen to me professionally and I had a chance to do a one of his wine library tv episodes with him.

For those who haven’t watched an episode before a lot of in my mug is inspired from Gary. He’s a legend and a great man and this is well worth watching (for me).

I hope you enjoy I hope you watch it and would love to hear your thoughts. I had the best time I hope you can see this in the video.

Stephen and the Chocolate Factory

This weekend I spent the weekend at a chocolate factory. Rather a famous one, as its been on the TV a few times.

Willies Chocolate Factory 2

Willie Harcourt-Cooze owns both a cocoa farm and a chocolate business based in Devon. Willie has a passion for chocolate. He was followed a few months ago filming a program getting the business of the ground, truly taking seed to bar to a new level. There was also a follow up seris where he decided to take a 70% bar to market.

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I am a huge fan of the program and the product, so when a friend (Aramndo a guy who brings in the Cafe Ita we sell)said he knew this guy called Willie who likes the cafe ita, I said I wanted to meet him big time.

He then went to tell me Willie wanted to try roasting coffee in his cocoa roaster, but I insisted I must help 🙂

Willies Chocolate Factory 11

Willies Chocolate Factory 16

It so happened when we arrived Willie JUST took delivery of his latest container from Venezuela with some from his farm too in there.

Willies Chocolate Factory 3

Working like dogs we got the container unloaded. We then got to meet all Willies family from the TV who were as lovely as they appeared on the box.

Treated to some amazing food at a country pub it was back to the factory to brew as many brewing methods as we could.

Willies Chocolate Factory 5

We had vac pot, french press, eva solo, ibrik, chemex, and a presso.

More photos at the link here

Willie then kindly agreed to do an in my mug with us below. It was a great laugh much fun had by all.

Episode 36 on Monday the 20th of July 2009 Brazil Cafe Ita with special guests from Stephen Leighton

Glastonbury 2009

Keep with me on this one it is a coffee post. Last weekend I went to Glastonbury Music festival held in the south west of England over three days that is as famous for the mud as it is the music.

Glastonbury 2009

I went along to work, to go back to my first real interaction with coffee and become a barista again. Most people don’t know, but we used to own a coffee shop in stafford, here we used to serve coffee sandwiches etc. This was/is my roots in coffee. I knew so little then but I was a bar barista and I think I can always have it on my CV.

On saying this I wasn’t such a good bar barista and many many roasts have passed under the bridge since then, so to say I was a little out of practice would be accurate.

Things I learnt about my Barista skills were

1. I really enjoy pulling espresso, its a strange routine I got into but it was fun and I liked it a lot.

2. I cant do latte Art. I did some great texturing but my art sucks and blows all at the same time.

3. I enjoy running bar when your customers are the headline acts at the Pyramid stage, this does make it much more fun.

4. I like working bar with great fellow baristas, this makes it so much easier.

We managed to chew through around 22kg of coffee in three days on our stand and lots and lots of milk. We actually ran out but luckily on our customers was on site also serving coffee so Sam helped us out

Glastonbury 2009

I would have some photographic evidence of me working but because we were back stage (pyramid stage) we were not allowed to take any photos but you can see my in my mug I recorded here

Episode 33 on Monday the 29th of June 2009 Brazil Fazenda Lagoa Natural from Stephen Leighton

I also found a new way to insult me, just ask me for a decaf soy chai latte extra hot.

Big thank you to Joe from Ristretto who’s gig it was, thanks pal for the invite and the chance to remind myself I should stick to roasting. Also thanks to Jamie, Chris, Loz and David for putting up with my rubbish skills.

Glastonbury 2009

Glastonbury 2009

Tamper Tantrum

A lot of the reason I’ve been not so active blogging (I know I’m in fits and spurts) is I’ve ben working on a new video project. Different from the In My Mug programs I’ve been doing this is a collaboration with the Irish Barista Champion 2009 and WBC finalist Colin Harmon.

Once a month we hope to pump out an episode (and beware they will be long) on all things coffee. A little bit of industry a little bit of fun, a little bit of learning (mainly for us).

Its a little raw, and we do plan to change it improve it, but we thought lets throw an episode out there for people to rip apart, so please do.

Mostly its about two mate’s getting together and talking coffee, good fun and your invited to watch in. Please let us know what you think.

You can view it here (or below) and you can subscribe via Itunes here.

I do hope you enjoy it, I can tell you we had great fun making it.

Tamper Tantrum

Atlanta Wrap up! (long post)

Ok I’ve been back a few days but a mixture of jet lag, staffing problems and general overwork, means that I haven’t posted an Atlanta wrap up. To say that I landed at 11 am and was standing at the roaster before midday would be very true, this is the pain I go through for you my coffee loving friends 🙂

So to recap Saturday (it hadn’t sunk in when I posted) that top six if I could bottle it and sell it, it would be more powerful than any drug. It was an amazing feeling, so proud of the work Colin did up there. I don’t say this for any response, but he did all the hard work. I just did what I do every day for the past seven years of my life. I turned so beans brown.

He held his nerve to produce the perfect performance for me. I haven’t seen Saturdays score sheet, but Colin did every thing (and even added a little humor) team ireland had planned for him to do. The shots looked so tasty (and its right what colin says about you know when its going to be good by looking) and I know the caps would have been awesome (this coffee produces the best caps I’ve ever tasted.)

I think Colin had a major advantage that he knew that machine so well. The milk was perfect the shots so good this comes with being comfortable with your tools. Buying the machine was a smart move, and it makes me realize I need to buy competition machines to understand them better but understand my coffee better.

This time I was lucky that the feedback from Colin and David (more love for David later) using the coffee on the machine was imperative to developing the profile and finally deciding to go with the Bolivian.

I so didn’t want to go to competition and let the coffee down. I can take the hit on the chin (and I’m sure the same of Colin), but I love this coffee so much that I wanted it to be done justice on that machine, and let everyone know how special a coffee and farm this is. Friday and Saturday Colin showed me how good he is and how pleased I would be for the judges to access it. I can tell you on Saturday I was 100% confident until the forth competitor was read out for top six that Colin had made it with his skill and that coffee. When forth came up and I thought of the talent that were not there it was going to be close

The great news was the rate of the producing countries progress. Guatemala in 7th place (so close) to a top six, and so many so close in the top 10. I think with the offer of an origin trip for some of the best baristas in the world they have an advantage that they will continue to make full use of that.

The WBC bar was one of the highlights too, great to be able to grab a coffee (shame about some of it,Transcend was a beacon) pulled by some of the greatest baristas in the land.

If I take on memory from the weekend was how much Colin and David made me laugh. Take a look at the video and thats how I was all weekend. giggle a minute. I’ve made two new special friends and it was a blast. I also met Colin’s family who were so friendly and kind, again a heap of friends in particular Ian, we both entertained (entertain is a loose description) people at Octane on Sunday evening with our “rude” football chants, very special

But before that there was a coffee making competition where the final six scores were

Gwilym Davies, United Kingdom, 623

Sammy Piccolo, Canada, 619.5

Michael Phillips, United States, 618.5

Colin Harmon, Ireland, 572

Lee Jong Hoon, Korea, 542

Attila Molnar, Hungary, 535.5

TOP FOUR can you believe it. Someone came up to me at the end and said

“what has intelligentsia coffee, 49th Parallel roasters, Square mile coffee roasters and Has Bean Coffee Got in common.”

For a moment I paused and then I realized we were the top four. Our little roastery in Stafford rubbing shoulders with some of the greats. Who would have thought six years ago in my garage at home that we would be here.

Its not the first time we have been in the top six but its a place up from our previous inclusion (fifth place in Bern in 2006) so its moving in the right direction.

I think the best thing to come from this competition is that I’ve feel in love with Espresso again. I can not wait to pull shots after 1 year of being into brewed coffee. Not that I don’t want brewed (that will never happen) but I want to improve my technique for espresso.

Now a moment for David Walsh from fame. David was without doubt the real reason for the top six finish. Colin did put in the hours and preparation without doubt, but by his side was David every step of the way. David is an amazingly clever man. So clever that he isn’t involved in the coffee industry(yes very clever) and is involved as a home user thats very enthusiastic. But he backs up this enthusiasm, with a depth of knowledge that makes me blush at how little I know. Legend, a top man and I hope a true friend, one of the long term highlights of the weekend. I am going to work hard to keep that friendship going thats for sure.

Shout out to Ben at Octane who was a legend the whole weekend and the thing I will most about Atlanta. You want to come to the UK any time Ben my door is open even as an Arsenal Supporter.

And Colin, well I cam with few expectations of my involvement. I expected to be sitting in the crowd, blogging and twittering and being a bit of a spare part. Colin got me involved from the start made me feel important and part of the team. He was such a legend and I have to thank him for one of the finest weekends of my life. I was so proud of what he did and how he represented the coffee for Mario and Maria.

Three good friends having a fun weekend in a foreign country, stuff I should have dine when I was in my teens instead I do it with grace and with a certain poise. Actually you wouldn’t have thought it on Saturday when that result came in.

So a great weekend, great time and great competition. One thing that amazes me is that barista competition always find the right winner no mater how it gets there. Gwilym will be a great champ and will scare the hell out the WBC with his direction and what he wants to do when he wants to. But thats a good thing. Two UK roasters in the top forum UK Champion 4th Place Irish competitor, its a lot better that when I first joined the industry seven years ago, uk coffee scene isn’t recognizable. I hope in a very small way thats down to people like me and James and Anette and Peter James and alike.

But without Baristas like Gwilym and Colin thats so much harder. This has taken the whole evening to write and has been edited so many time its time to post, but the closing words are GREAT WEEKEND for coffee.

Day 2 Finca Siberia and Finca La Fany

This is the special day of the trip (ok I’m going to say that every day I guess but this really is).

We left the Sprawl of San Salvador for the tranquility of Santa Ana and surrounding area’s. Left behind are the plush 5 star hotels with there lovely beds and fast internet connections and into the heart land of some of the finest coffee in El Salvador.

The two farms we visits today (La Fany and Siberia) are both owned but the same people the Silva’s. Raffieale and Carmen are two of the most perfect hosts you could wish to meet as you will find out later. Siberia is a new coffee to us and over the past two years has done very well in the cup of excellence program (on friday it made it tot the auction at number 27). La Fany is a firm favorite and a major component in our espresso blend and in our range. This is probably our second most important coffee that we hold, and has become very much a staple so to see the place was a treat.

I’ve met both of them before, but to see them in there own environment and amongst the farms it was very special.

I will admit I do get a bit gushy around farmers, but Carmen has such a way about her I didn’t get over excited and girly, and both of them were so welcoming and friendly I felt completely at ease.

Siberia is based in Santa Ana and is one side of the mountain (see below)

El Salvador Siberia and La Fany 37El Salvador Siberia and La Fany 52
(on the other side of this mountain is La Fany)

The access to this place was shall we say tight and we had to do it all in 4 x 4 just to get there. It was a tight squeeze.

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We went to the house and drank fruit juice in an amazing environment with some fantastic food which was all very civilized. After the food everyone went a bit sleepy but the whole time I was “come on time to go, time to go see my farm 🙂 “.

So Reluctantly we set off from the comfort of the garden and took an all together much easier trip to la Fany. Around 20-30 mins from the house and easier access. The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how orderly it all was. I’ve seen quite a few farms now, and this was like a lovely extension of the garden we had been relaxing in. But this struck a cord to me. I like to work in a nice environment it makes the world a better place if you like the space you work in and I felt I could enjoy working there, as everyone seemed to.

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There was a climbing tree that just had to be climbed, and the naught boy in my did so (see below)

El Salvador Siberia and La Fany 89

On the way back I was able to take a quad bike instead of a 4 x 4 which was great fun something again I could do again and again. Then coffee watching the sun go down, its tough this coffee hunting 🙂

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As always lots (and lots) of photos take a look at them here . More to follow as soon as I get a better internet connection