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Juan Ticona
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 04:59 PM - 3 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Juan Ticona
We have an exciting new coffee from South America in the form of the Juan Ticona and it is tasty! Plenty of caramel and milk chocolate notes upfront with a lovely complex honeydew melon acidity. Expect a silky mouthfeel with plenty of sweetness like red apples. Juan Ticona is the owner of the farm in the Caranavi region and has been producing coffee since the early 1970′s and it really shows in the quality of the coffee coming from the farm and surrounding region. We believe it’s important to support Bolivia’s coffee production and encourage them to continue to grow great coffee and not replace their crops with the much more lucrative coca. Grab a bag here!

A worrying situation in Nyeri
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - 10:30 AM - 3 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
A worrying situation in Nyeri
Nyeri is a county in Kenya that produces some of the stunning coffees we’ve come to love. Coffee in the region is generally produced by small holders, rather than larger estates, which means we are used to seeing traceability down to the local factories (the term used in Kenya for a wet mill) that farmer’s societies choose to work with. Recent changes to Kenya’s political structure has given more power to local counties, and in Nyeri there has been a proposed change that is worrying. The governor of the county, Nderitu Gachagua, has announced that all of the coffee in the region shall be milled at a single mill (called Sagana) and the coffee should be pooled and sold through a newly formed company. The logic behind this is that the politicians believe that they can achieve higher prices for the coffee and pass those higher prices on to the producers. From a political perspective it should be noted that farmers are often the target of political manoeuvring in areas where they make up a large portion of the voter base, and this is very much the case in Nyeri. While great Kenyan coffees produced by the mills throughout Nyeri can already be quite expensive, compared to many other sources of green coffee, there have long been challenges in making sure that the premiums achieved make their way to the producers. This is not a universal problem, by any means, but something that many producers are aware of. However I don’t think that reduced traceability like this, or pushing all of the coffee through one mill, will preserve the interests of growers who produce the highest quality coffee in the region. As a roaster, the idea of offering a coffee traceable simply down to Nyeri isn’t strongly appealing – and there several other regions in Central Kenya (and increasingly west of the Rift Valley) growing great coffees, with sufficient traceability. As traceability is a core tenet of my business this must factor into decision making and purchasing. In an effort to further the political cause the Central Kenyan Coffee Mill (familiar to a great many speciality buyers) has essentially been shut down , and I’m sure I’m not alone in being extremely skeptical as to why and how this has been done. While I am sure this centralising move does have some support in the farmer base, I do not think it is in the best interests of every farmer. 13 farmers’ societies have taken this to court to get an injunction , though their case won’t be heard until February 10th. That isn’t the best news considering the harvest has started. As I’m based in Europe I suppose I should be looking to my trade association (SCAE) for advocacy and support in a situation like this, but I don’t think this will happen. Realistically I am hoping that the SCAA may have some opportunity to support the idea of retaining better levels of traceability. I’m sure we’ll see more information on this shared soon, but I thought spreading the word was a good idea. In summary, I’m concerned that we’re going to lose some traceability (and potentially quality through separation) from some of the best coffees in the world. I’m concerned that legal wrangling, even best case scenario, could several delay the export of those coffees (not something anyone wants), and that this decision is being made my people who don’t really understand our sector of the market. UPDATE Mette- Marie Hansen also sent me this link . The whole thing is worth reading, but it is hard to ignore this bit. The county government envisages a situation where once the coffee is milled, they can approach buyers and negotiate to supply either milled or roasted coffee at a premium price. County Secretary for Agriculture Shadrack Mubea said earlier in the week that the governor was keen to explore potential markets, especially in non-traditional markets such as America and China. Wilson Karime, the chairman of the Gititu Coffee Factory, which is under the four factory Aguthi Coffee Farmers Society, urged Nyeri farmers to give the governor a chance to prove his worth. “The past model has favoured middlemen and buyers,” said Karime. “I see no harm in trying a new set if it finally benefits farmers.” Emphasis added is mine. This is undeniably an approach that doesn’t understand the needs of speciality buyers, and doesn’t truly value quality.

Active and Passive Learning and a Project
Friday, January 10, 2014 - 04:24 PM - 3 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Active and Passive Learning and a Project
I meet and chat to quite a lot of baristas and coffee people from all over the world. Often one of the topics that comes up is having a career in coffee and the idea of progressing. One of the most common avenues of conversation is learning, and I confess that from time to time the following sentence has been like a red rag to a bull: “I think I am going to look for a job somewhere else, I don’t really feel like I am learning anything any more.” To most people this may seem like a fair comment, but I want to explore the idea of learning at work and its purpose and value. When you start your first serious coffee job (it might not be your first coffee job, but your first speciality coffee one) you go through a very intense learning experience. Learning like this feels great. Coffee seems big and exciting, and the learning is not only rapid but generally fun. Learning like this is very addictive and we all want to learn like this all the time, but that isn’t really viable – there’s work to do! We need to split the value of learning into two separate ideas here: 1. Learning is rewarding, and a motivating factor in performing and remaining in a job. The idea of mastery was best communicated to me by Daniel Pink in Drive , which is a great read about how to retain staff and motivate them to do good work. 2. Learning is a way to increase the value of a staff member. If time/money/resource has been spent on a staff member then, from a purely business perspective, this person should be able to generate more revenue and value as a result. In the simplest terms, if I teach you to brew espresso you go from being completely useless to a successful cafe, to someone who can produce products for sale. The more I train you then the more product you should be able to produce (you get faster and more efficient) or the more revenue you can generate (you can make more expensive drinks or upsell, or do good customer retention work). The second type of learning is the responsibility of the business, to assess whether you are ready to learn more (you have achieved some level of mastery of your existing skillset) and then to deliver more training. After this there is a period of time when you should be mastering the new skills. Then there needs to be a period of time where you return on the investment of the employer. If you take your new skills and jump into a different job then the employer has no return on their investment. This will increasingly discourage them from further investment in staff, and over time lead to a stagnant work environment. Alternatively there may be requests for learning from staff, but no way for the business to recoup its investment as the learning may not have a practical application to that business. The problem many people have is that in the period where you leverage your new skills for your employer, you generally stop learning. So you feel uninspired, restless and you start to look for other employment. I will accept that (and I include myself in this too) employers often do a bad job of setting out goals to met and expected time periods between the periods of advancement. (And in fairness to them, this is no easy thing to do). This isn’t the only part of this that I find frustrating. Learning does not need to be passive. If you want to learn then there is a world of information out there, and a little effort will yield big reward. Staff who are active learners stand out very clearly in any business, not simply because of their demonstrated motivation. For quite some time I suffered mild imposter syndrome, because I felt that people thought I knew lots and all I had done is read things that had been published for free on the internet – something freely available to all. I should add that while I am pro active learning, I’m not a big believer in work cultures that expect you to stay late and be in early for no extra financial reward, in order to move up in an organisation. My point here is not to try to generate sympathy for employers, but instead to try to encourage more active learning. This leads me to one of the things I’d like to do on the blog this year. The Learning Project Here is what I am proposing: a monthly topic of learning that allows people to get involved with it. The plan will be: Month 1 (this month): Write a short introductory blog post on a certain topic (approx 1000 words). This will also have a link allowing you to submit an interesting link on this topic. When you’ve submitted a link you will then get to vote on which topic we cover the following month. Month 2: Republish the initial blog post including all of the submitted links on the topic. Publish a short introductory topic on the group voted subject. Again, submit a link on it to vote on what we do next. My goal would be to continue this same cycle month to month throughout 2014 (thus covering 12 topics). I have no idea if it will work, but if it does it will be fun to take a journey around different topics and to not know where we’re going until we get there. It will certainly push me, and I hope others will benefit too. If you think this sounds fun then do please get involved. When the first topic goes live please share it (the more incoming and suggested reading the better!), and any feedback is welcome on twitter .

The C Market in 2014 – Some Speculation
Friday, January 03, 2014 - 12:24 PM - 3 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
The C Market in 2014 – Some Speculation
I’ve tried to stop making predictions, but in some ways I can’t really help it. I’ve been watching the commodity price for coffee moving around quite a lot in the last few years, and things are currently in a pretty difficult place. I thought it was worth having a look at why things might be the way they are. Here’s a very, very short summary: In May 2011 the C-price for coffee briefly exceeded $3.00/lb. This was a great time to grow coffee and sell coffee, and doing so could be considered profitable. This price spike wasn’t simply because of supply and demand. While consumption of coffee had risen to the point where it had briefly exceeded production, and companies were digging into existing stockpiles, the rapid rises and extreme volatility in the market were intensified by general financial speculation in this particular commodity. There were discussions at SCAA’s symposium in 2011 about the need for more coffee, and I remember hearing Carlos Brando speak about Brazil’s capacity to increase yields and produce more. 1 Over the next two years the price of coffee dropped steadily, reaching the precarious, and psychologically significant, low of $100.95 on November 4th 20132 . The reason for the drop was pretty simple, there was more coffee being produced than was required. Supply had exceeded demand, and the market pushed sellers into lowering their prices. Prices fell so low that, in many countries, it was below the cost of production. We saw strikes in Colombia3 as growers demanded more support from the government. Brazil’s government talked about trying help its producers through finance, to enable them to withhold coffee from the market until the price had recovered, which it didn’t really do4 . To further compound the woes of our industry, the impact of coffee leaf rust was dramatic on many Central American producers with massively reduced yields from many farms. This scarcity did nothing to impact the commodity price of coffee, because the reduction in coffee exported from Central America was more than made up for by Brazil, Ethiopia and Indonesia. By definition, the commodity market doesn’t really care where the coffee is from as long as it is coffee. The International Coffee Organization (ICO) estimates that from October 2013 to September 2014, supply will exceed demand by 4 million bags. So, here begins the speculation5 : - We’re going to see less coffee from Central American producers ongoing. This reduction will come not just from leaf rust, but also from producers moving away from coffee. It is important to remember that no one is obliged to grow coffee, and I don’t think it is right to push people into doing so if it is not in their best interests. On a somewhat related note, despite massive efforts to the contrary the number of producers of coffee in Bolivia is shrinking. It simply makes more sense to grow coca – the price is more stable, it harvests more often and there is little threat of criminal repercussions. This is a decision that is absolutely contrary to the developed world’s best interests, but can we convincingly argue that it isn’t a better decision for those producers than growing coffee. - Hopefully the demand from speciality will drive the prices for high quality coffees up, ideally to the point where growing good coffee is sensible and sustainable. - We’re going to see more coffee from Colombia. It seems like the rust resistant varieties are starting to kick in, and Colombia’s production is up. What is interesting is that the differential for Colombian coffee, the varying premium that certain countries get above the C, has decreased recently. I am not saying they are directly linked, though differentials are as much about reputation as they are about quality, and some would argue countries like Costa Rica got undeservingly high differentials once quality from other Central American producers caught up. - Brazil’s production is going to be sufficiently large that it will continue to squash the commodity price. The 2013 crop is considered to be an “off” year in Brazil’s biennial production cycle, leading to speculation that the 2014 crop will be very large. There is, inevitably, a sort of public denial of this because confirming it will only keep prices low. Most banks and financial agencies seem to be talking about it being a big crop, and the presumption seems to be that the market will stay low. I would say that it is unlikely that the price will sink below $1.00/lb, but I’m sufficiently aware that no one has ever really been successful in predicting the movements of financial markets to not be too sure of myself there. 6 What does this mean for speciality (again, more speculation)? - Supermarket/grocery store coffee is going to remain pretty cheap. I would expect it to increase with inflation/cost of living but to look increasingly cheap compared to speciality. Cheap drip coffee, cheap espresso, will still be around. - Wholesalers of lower quality coffee will once again be able to leverage free-on-loan equipment more aggressively, as it will be easier to hide the margin necessary in the price of the coffee. Good news for businesses who don’t really care about their coffee program (by which I mostly mean restaurants – for which I don’ t really blame them ), and I suppose good news for espresso machine manufacturers… - Roasters, and coffeeshops, will have some decisions to make. With the gap between speciality and commodity likely to widen then the choices may be to go premium, to go mass market or to try and bridge both. The latter is the approach tried by many in the past and it seems to be difficult to genuinely achieve – with many ultimately doing the bulk of their business on a lower quality tier. - Those involved in making decisions about green coffee buying need to decide on their short and long term strategy when it comes to buying. It is possible to buy cheaper right now, and make more money on roasted product. It is also possible to invest in the future too, and those companies with long standing relationships with producers look, to me anyway, to be in a stronger position than others. - I don’t think we’ll see the wider industry embrace certifications again. It is pretty hard to feel positive about certifications like Fair Trade at the moment, when it becomes appears that the best they achieve is an alleviation of a symptom rather than any sort of solution to the root problem. There is still brutal fluctuation of price, and when the prices were high it was not unusual to see Fair Trade producers default on contracts because they could get more money for the coffee elsewhere. The idea that there was some of loyalty owed is somewhat laughable in the context of coffee’s trade history, but this is a topic for another post entirely. It’s not all doom and gloom, though I’m aware that what is written above seems very negative. I still believe it is a great time to be in the business of high quality coffee. I think that with sufficient planning and anticipation, most problems can be avoided or turned into advantageous solutions. It will require that we perhaps do a better job on converting raw product quality into better customer experience, to charge what we need to charge to keep doing this for years – but I’ve also been saying this for years so make of that what you will. I will be interested to look at the ICO’s production data at the end of the year to see if any of the above is accurate. I guess I really did a bad job on stopping with the predictions… We did also see various articles about new places, such as Yunnan in China, planting coffee. I’m not sure if significantly more coffee was planted though. If anyone knows of data collection of land under coffee then do please let me know! ↩︎ Source ↩︎ More info here and a summary by Michael Sheridan here ↩︎ Summary here ↩︎ This is obviously another term for “guessing” ↩︎ For good reading on the science of predictions then I strongly recommend Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction ↩︎ We did also see various articles about new places, such as Yunnan in China, planting coffee. I’m not sure if significantly more coffee was planted though. If anyone knows of data collection of land under coffee then do please let me know!Source More info here and a summary by Michael Sheridan here Summary here This is obviously another term for “guessing”For good reading on the science of predictions then I strongly recommend Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction

Guest Blend Subscription 2014
Thursday, January 02, 2014 - 09:16 AM - 3 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Last years Guest Blend Subscription went down rather well. But it was lots of work energy and money to make it all happen, and I didn’t want to do more of the same. So we decided that it might be fun to involve some of the amazing coffee shops we work with and share with [...]

Has Bean Top Ten Coffees 2013
Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - 04:03 PM - 3 months, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Every year I do a review of my top ten favourite coffees of the year Its a lonely thing so I decided to invite Roland (one of the roasters with us at Has Bean) along to review the year with me. I hope you enjoy

Has Bean Top Trumps
Saturday, December 28, 2013 - 03:35 PM - 3 months, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Bored of the holiday season, broke all your christmas present toys, can not bear another game of snap with granny or patince on your own ? Then we have the solution for you, Has Bean Top trumps, with more in jokes than an episode of the Simpsons. Feel free to ask why Buffalo toaster is [...]

Planning for 2014
Friday, December 27, 2013 - 12:10 AM - 3 months, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Planning for 2014
I’m not a New Years resolutions kind of person, but I do like a little planning. Years are as good an arbitrary unit as any other, so it seems appropriate to be looking ahead to what I want to achieve in 2014. I don’t plan on sharing every single goal but I can probably summarise things as: 2013 was a year where I talked a lot, had ideas (enough that a few might even be considered good) but I did not do. In 2014 I want to follow through on things, achieve things and feel productive. We shall see how I measure up or whether I fail publicly on that front… As for this blog, I have some thoughts too. I know I seem to vacillate often, and have angst ridden moments about writing on here but answering the question “Why do I write on here?” can be tricky when the answer changes as often as it does. My biggest worry is that I just use this place as somewhere to complain about things. Looking through the last year of posts this isn’t really true, but looking through my half dozen unpublished posts the fear returns. I’m at the point where the negativity around coffee online has started to bother me, and I have to decide whether I want to contribute to the snark or be more positive. I don’t want to get to the point where I join the other cowards in the industry in starting an anonymous twitter account so I can berate people who I think are “getting away with it” when it comes to quality or the like. This blog started as a vehicle for my own learning, and in 2014 this blog will turn 10 years old. My learning hasn’t slowed in the last 10 years, in fact it has accelerated every year. This blog doesn’t reflect that properly, which seems a shame but something that is entirely within my control to change. Let’s see how I do…

The Has Bean Christmas carol
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - 02:59 PM - 3 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog

My Christmas Treat
Friday, December 20, 2013 - 04:12 PM - 3 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
At Has Bean we get lots of emails every day (and I mean lots). Some are missing orders, advice, locked accounts, interest in working in the coffee industry, you get the kind of thing. But this time of year I always get asked what coffee will you be having with your Christmas meal? Well every [...]

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