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What message do I want to send?
Thursday, November 27, 2014 - 12:12 PM - 11 hours, 8 minutes ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
What message do I want to send?
Over the last couple of years I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the ways that we have typically sold and tried to differentiate speciality coffee. My thoughts on this have certainly been clarified by the book, and by talking to people about it. I wanted to write up how I feel now, as part of this blog’s purpose is to document the way I think about things, though I expect this to continue to change and evolve over time. The main problem is talking about what we do being “better”. It is defined as “better” because those who work in coffee, and taste a lot of it, generally agree that it is. (I’m sure we can argue that sentence for a long time, but that pretty much sums it up for me.) The problem with selling what we have as “better” is that it requires the consumer accepting that what they are currently buying, drinking and enjoying is an inferior product. People don’t really like this idea: On just about every coffee article with comments you see the pushback, people defensive about what they drink, how they brew it, bristling with self-righteousness, feeling that their preferences have been insulted by the article or whoever is quoted therein. “I like my pre-ground Italian coffee, brewed in an unwashed moka pot, just fine thank you very much!” I did a short radio interview on BBC London the other day 1 and towards the end of the interview I somehow managed to express how I feel about promoting what we have in a way I’m quite happy with. The real joy of speciality coffee is its diversity, this is what makes it the antithesis of commoditized coffee. Whatever you drink right now, with a little bit of effort (and perhaps guided exploration) you’re likely to find something that you will enjoy even more than what you do now. What you think is better might be totally different to what I think is better. I’m not right, and neither are you – because there is no right. There is no moral high ground of flavour. You don’t have to love crisp, super bright and juicy coffees from Kiambu, or explosively floral coffees from Yirgacheffe. Nor do you have to love the earthy, heavy, tobacco filled darker roasts of coffees from Indonesia. However, if you do like one of those things chances are there is a something out there that you’ll love even more. A person’s preference is a place to start. To be acknowledged, accepted and considered. Even if their preference is the last thing on earth you’d want to drink yourself. I’m aware this goes against some people’s ideals of speciality. There are definitions of speciality that cover green coffee, and there are people who believe that their definition of quality is the only true one. In some ways I don’t mind this. I also believe that no business can cover the entire spectrum, so we should focus on the bits that we’re particularly passionate about. What those of us in speciality coffee offer isn’t necessarily unilaterally better coffee, but amongst our offerings are lots of coffee someone will probably enjoy more than what they’re drinking now. My part starts around 1hr 33m into it – just after the Otis track ↩︎ My part starts around 1hr 33m into it – just after the Otis track

Changing Red Brick
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 10:59 AM - 2 days, 12 hours ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Since this summer, with the arrivals of our Central American coffees, the Red Brick components have changed a little more frequently than they have done in the past, and with the next change coming up in December, I thought I’d talk a little about the reasons for this. When I source our coffees, I don’t just buy from offer sheets of coffees that an importer has already brought to the UK and selling on to roasters here. As much as I can, I travel to the producing countries and meet with growers and exporters, tasting coffees and visiting farms, strengthening existing relationships and establishing new ones. This year was a difficult one for most of the farmers I visited, as the effects of the leaf rust that hit the coffee growing regions we work in continued to ripple through the farms. Farms where I would normally have no problem sourcing the number of bags of coffee I normally would, were down by anywhere from 50 t0 75%, and in some cases, there was barely any coffee at all. Instead of finding 100 bags of coffee, I might only find 20 or 30. This posed a difficult situation for me as a buyer; trying to find enough coffee for my customers while maintaining the ethos behind how we trade and the relationships we have built. I could decline the 20 or 30 bags and go to larger, more commercial producers who might have less of an issue filling a 100 bag order. Or I could stick with my small producers who were facing severely reduced crops and income, buy their coffee anyway and jump on the opportunity to work with a larger number of new growers to make up my volumes. I chose the latter, supporting the relationships I had and hoping that continuing to trade with them would contribute to a small part of their recovery from the rust. However, smaller lot sizes mean shorter runs of our blend recipe for Red Brick. You as our customers get the challenge of dialing in, but also (I hope) the enjoyment of getting to know new blends more frequently. And instead of blending only two or three components at a time, at the roastery we’re now enjoying the challenge of profiling and putting together blends of 4 or 5 components at a time. It’s given us an opportunity to showcase more farms, but also to think more about what the concept of a ‘single origin’, and ‘blend’, is. Our current Red Brick, for example, has 3 coffees from El Salvador (and one from Kenya, cause I love the fruit!). While the 3 El Salvadors are from one single country of origin, they have different personalities and roast different, smell different and taste different. Our next blend, due to start roasting next week, will be 4 different Guatemalas (and a Kenya, can’t stop the fruit!). A 5 bean blend, which I don’t think we’ve had since our first year of roasting, and it makes me both nervous and excited! In the new year, our new lots of Brazils, Colombias and Ethiopias are coming in, and since these countries have suffered a bit less with the rust we’ve been able to source larger lots again. We’ll have less frequent changes to the blend, which will give you all the opportunity to spend more time with the different recipes and delve deeper into the adjustments you want to make to your brewing styles. We hope you’ve had fun with the different incarnations of Red Brick we’ve showcased since the summer, and that you will enjoy the longer runs we’ll have next year. Here at SQM we’ve learned a lot from the process of sourcing, managing and roasting Red Brick over the last 6 months, and we look forward to taking these experiences with us into the new harvests!

What is the purpose of what we do?
Monday, November 24, 2014 - 01:10 PM - 3 days, 10 hours ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
What is the purpose of what we do?
It’s hard to work in coffee for any period of time, without starting to wonder about purpose, about the “why” of what we do. Most of the time the first thought is a painful truth, because the answer is money. You own, or run a business, or work within one primarily as a way to generate income. That doesn’t really explain away the decision to spend your time working specifically within the industry of coffee. It wasn’t long from starting a business to hitting the existential crisis or trying to understand what the point of it all is, beyond just making money. (I thought I had written a little about this before, but I couldn’t find the post.) One of the most attractive things about the world of coffee is its size. It is an almost overwhelmingly large and complex industry. It also feels like an industry with purpose, and as such it is a pretty compelling place to work. However, I sometimes think that when it comes to purpose, one area that I believe many of us fall down in is understanding how we fit in to such a large system. For the last few years I’ve been a loud supporter and proponent of the SCAA’s Symposium , held a couple of days before their main event each year. While I’ve enjoyed, and been grateful for, the opportunity to be on stage there – I get a lot out of participating as an audience member. When you combine stimulating or inspiring talks with a room full of people, who are passionate and active in the industry, then I think you have a great environment for gaining understanding and an overview of the wider industry. You can see opportunities for effective collaboration, for innovation, for exploration. You get a better idea of both where you want to go, as an individual or a business, and how that could be possible. This is invaluable. I’ve repeatedly described running a business as being quite a lonely, isolating experience. (Even if you have business partners there is still a feeling of isolation). I’ve yet to meet anyone who really disagrees with this. Events like Symposium (or NBC , or even Barista Camp ) feel like something of an antidote for that. This is why I’m very pleased a new Symposium event is coming to Europe in 2015, called Re:co . It will be held in Gothenburg on the 15th and 16th of June, at Eriksbergshallen. I was offered the opportunity to get more involved in the event, and I’m already enjoying working with WCE in its production, and SCAA and SCAE in its support. I’ll be working with the team on everything from content – covering both the speakers and the selection of topics – to the other aspects of the symposium such as a thoughtful coffee service, that we hope will make the event both inspiring, educational and memorable. (The SCAA have set the bar pretty high over the last few years with their Symposium, but I’m also a little competitive). The landscape of great coffee in Europe has changed rapidly in the last few years – some cities have seen explosive growth of quality focused coffee businesses, and almost every country in Europe has a flourishing, passionate and connected local coffee community. Even the most traditional of coffee cultures are starting to see changes. I hope this is an event people will get behind. I think they’re very good things for our industry. If you’re curious then I’d recommend subscribing to the mailing list so you can be the first to see who is speaking and to grab those early bird tickets. 1 One of the things I’m already most looking forward to about Re:co is the opportunity to talk more, about the issues I’m most focused on, with people of like minds. That, and some of the talks we have lined up… I respect those of you who follow me on social media, who have no interest in this stuff whatsoever, so I won’t be posting on my accounts ↩︎ I respect those of you who follow me on social media, who have no interest in this stuff whatsoever, so I won’t be posting on my accounts

We’re hiring!
Monday, November 03, 2014 - 11:25 AM - 3 weeks, 3 days ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
We are recruiting for a full time Delivery Driver/Production Assistant! More here .

A Face for Radio
Monday, October 20, 2014 - 12:15 PM - 1 month, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
A face only a mother can love, I have a face for the radio, not a video blog. I’ve had this a few times that people would like me to do an audio podcast rather than a video one as I scare their children or pets, so for those people welcome to in my mug… Continue Reading

Our Bolivia coffee should be leaving shortly
Saturday, October 18, 2014 - 12:44 PM - 1 month, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
A question I get asked most days is when will your Bolivian coffees be back. Its a question I had no answe to until today. I received these three pictures yesterday telling me this is our shipment having its final touches before export. It takes a while to Leave for Chile across the altiplano to… Continue Reading

10 years of writing this blog
Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 11:41 AM - 1 month, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
10 years of writing this blog
Ten years ago today I posted my first post on here. The idea was pretty simple – I wanted to learn more (learning can be hard if you feel isolated) and sharing is beneficial if you want to learn faster. I think that what was true then is true today. Milestones, arbitrary as they may be, always tend to be times of introspection and (while nothing is more boring than a blogger writing about a blog post about their own blog) it has been interesting to spend a moment considering the role of my writing on here in my career in coffee. I remember registering the blog, inspired by the blogs of Thomas Gauperaa (gone now), Chris Tacy and Tonx (also gone now). In the next few years it seemed like coffee blogging became somewhat fashionable – at one point I had maybe 300 blogs in the “coffee” folder of my RSS client. Then, slowly, they all began to disappear or become dormant. That isn’t to say that new, interesting blogs haven’t started more recently – more that there was a massive swell that has since receded. There are somewhere around 400,000-450,000 words published on here, spread across about 870 blog posts. I did think about turning the best bits of it into a little book but I’d imagine the demand for something like that would be so small that the resulting price would put off the few interested. I’m quite pleased that the timing of my book has meant that I do get to publish something I’m proud of on my ten year anniversary. (I’m also delighted, and relieved, by people’s positive reaction to the book. Thank you!) I think it is worth restating how valuable writing here has been to me. It has done so much for me, both personally and professionally, that I’ll continue to recommend people do it – no matter how much further out of fashion it falls. Writing here has always been a great way to clarify my thoughts, to force me to think coherently enough on

Ask Stevee pt 2
Friday, October 10, 2014 - 01:17 PM - 1 month, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
So in my quest to answer your questions I’ve done another audio podcast to answer all the things about coffee you were to afraid to ask listen to ‘ask stevee coffee questions’ on audioBoom there will be more of these so keep the questions coming

Ask #stevee not Garyvee
Thursday, October 02, 2014 - 10:49 AM - 1 month, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
listen to ‘no #askgaryvee you should ask rip off #askstevee for you @jimgrant17’ on audioBoom

Carlos gets a new depulper, thanks to you?
Friday, September 26, 2014 - 08:56 AM - 2 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Last year we had an amazing new coffee, one that blew my mind how good it was. So much so I nearly gave up my house and all my worldly possessions to get it. I first got to meet a guy called Carlos at my Costa Rican exporter’s office on the last day of my… Continue Reading

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