I Like this time of year. Not because the birds are singing or that the days are getting longer, not even that I can start venturing int beer gardens of my favourite hostelries. No its the time of year that we see lots of new coffees arriving in warehouse, and in particular Kenyans – the roasters favourite. (ask most coffee roasters their favourite origin and Kenya’s always up there. )
Year on year we have been buying Kenyans from the cupping table from how they taste and score against our knowledge of what Kenya can produce. This is a great way to find quality coffee, but we often found that there would be a new relationship to start up every time we did this, a new farm to get to understand and new coffee to learn to roast. Its hard to add value to a new relationship every year. Like any relationship, the real benefits come when you get to know each other, and understand each others needs and the mutual respect and friendship that gets built that way
So two years ago, I went to Kenya to see two people we had worked with in the past and see if we could work on a longer term basis. I had set a goal of working in two very different regions and with two very different producers. I wanted to work in Nyeri and in Thika, two places I have had exceptional coffee from, and I wanted to buy from an estate and from a coop. Estates are on the decline in Kenya, and coops are notoriously hard to work with, but I love a challenge.
So my trip began in Thika, the Birmingham of Kenya (who wants to be the Birmingham of anywhere?Even Birmingham doesn’t want to be the Birmingham of the UK )
- AA – AA is a grade of coffee. Beans with a screen size of 7.2 millimeters (approximately 18/64 of an inch and often referred to as a screen size of 18) are assigned the grade AA. This grade of coffee often receives a higher price than other grades.
- AB – Slightly smaller that AA, with a screen size of 6.8 millimeters (or 17/64 of an inch). On average, 30% of Kenyan coffee is assigned this grade.
Following on from last weeks podcast appearance on coffees.me part two is now out
We talk about the in my mug podcast a lot and how its changed over the years
I was asked recently to guest spot on a podcast about coffee, which makes a nice change from making podcasts (someone else gets to do the editing).
Valerian runs a podcast called coffeeis.me and I had super fun talking to him about how I got involved in coffee, what 7 year old in Cannock do, and my dreams of going to prison.
Below is part one, at 55 mins its a long one but I hope you get chance to listen.
I hope you enjoy it.
Some of you may have heard of the UKBC, some of you may not…for those who don’t know what I’m typing about UKBC stands for the United Kingdom Barista Championship and once a year the top baristas in the country compete to be crowned #1 in the UK! The lucky, skilled and amazing individual that takes that #1 spot then represents the UK at the World Barista Championships and fights against other #1 seeds from around the world to take home the title of best barista in the world!
If you already knew what the letters UKBC meant then it’s more than likely that you know the name Dale Harris : ) Dale is my Director of Wholesale here at Has Bean and loves few things in life more than barista competitions. The UKBC regional heats finished in Bristol last week (after heats in London and Glasgow over the previous weeks) and I think here a picture will speak a thousand (or maybe 607 words)…
Those are the results of all competitors after the 3 regional heats and as you can see Dale is right up there at the top! OH MY DAYS WELL DONE DALE! Not only did he take top spot on the day but he was also awarded best espresso and best milk drink for the Midlands heat : D
“Hey Steve! #1 place wow! Best espresso and best milk drink too! What coffee was Dale using?” I hear you ask? “CAN I HAVE SOME?!”
Well my friends yes, yes indeed you can! All you need to do is click a link!
A coffee we originally found via the El Salvador Cup of Excellence but this time went direct to the farm and I’m so incredibly happy that we did : ) Dale used this coffee and this coffee alone for his routine and produced espressos and milk drinks that were considered to be the very best of the day, if you can’t make it taste amazing then it’s definitely you not me ; )
As a special little treat so you can try this amazingly delicious coffee I’ve decided to be really nice and offer a bit of a discount, pop the code “superdale” into the discount code box when checking out + click apply and it’ll knock 15% off the price of the coffee.
The UKBC finals will be held at the London Coffee Festival in April, I’ll be there cheering Dale on and I hope some of you can make it down to London to join me : )
I know many readers here will have seen my blog post, about the disappointment of the Alliance for coffee excellence cancelling a number of next years program in Africa and Central America.
One of the ones that disturbed me the most was the El Salvador program, which is one thats been super close to my heart. This was the the first cup of excellence program that I was able to buy the number one coffee (2007) and purchase that I followed through with a long term relationship (and many since). This has also be a a country that has been hit hard by the leaf rust epidemic thats swept through some of my favourite growing areas, and effected many of my friends who we buy coffee from.
It was also the place that I had emails reaching out to me, from producers (read as three separate people) who read my blog post and were compelled to contact me, expressing how upset they were that the program wouldn’t be coming and how some of them had been working on special lots to enter the competition, and their work was to be wasted.
So instead of a negative blog post about how bad this is, it’s lovely to report that the Consejo who are the supporting body for the Salvadorian coffee community have written to me and said that they plan to hold a national project to carry on the local specialty discovery program in house, and carry on the hard work done over many years of COE programs. Sure the protocols will be different I am sure, and some of the way its implemented will be different, but I am sure with a good group of people searching through samples for quality and using protocols and procedures, there will still be a very good opportunity to find true quality coffee and help producers find quality buyers.
I’m also really excited that the Consejo have asked me to be one of the judges for this program this year, and I am more than happy to offer my help and support to make sure something happens.
Dates are yet to be confirmed and I ma sure there are many hurdles to overcome, but I am excited to be involved, and I’ll be offering as much support as I possibly can, and very excited to be asked to be involved.
Watch this space!!!!
Some of you may have tried Cascara, and thought wow that’s it, I’m trying all the plant! But no no no there’s more! An idea that first popped into my head back in 2010 has finally come to fruition. Dale Harris my Director of Wholesale here at Has Bean towers likes to compete in barista competitions, and these competitions require you to come up with signature drinks. I remember sneaking back from Costa Rica with some coffee flowers to try and incorporate into this drink. We never found an effective way to use them, but it’s something that bugged me over and over again.
So with our partners in Bolivia I asked them if they could harvest some flowers for us, and see what we could do. This doesn’t damage the crop, as they are harvested just as they are about to fall from the tree but it does involve lots of work (which is just 1 of the reasons why we love the people we work with).
So the process begins after a coffee harvest when there’s normally a period of dry weather, during this time the coffee plant gets a little stressed at the lack of water. Then the rainy season comes which sparks the coffee plant into creating little blossom flowers, these flowers are one of the most amazing and powerful smells I have ever experienced (if you could make a aftershave of it then it’d be my smell of choice) and these flowers appearing mark the start of the process of the coffee plant creating its cherries for our lovely coffee beverages.
The amounts we have are tiny and won’t be around for long. We’ve also got a number of different varietals that all taste quite different.
We played with brewing it as a tea, and boom a unique drink! Our hard working partners in Bolivia have spent a huge amount of time and energy collecting these and we’re also able to separate different varietals of flower, which surprisingly taste very different.
We have –
We even made a brew guide here to help you get the best out of the flowers :
We’re selling them in one brew sachets, that’s how little we have, but it’s an experience you will want to enjoy. Were also selling in a 5 pack so you can try them all side by side.