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On the forth (reverse, posting / working) day of Christmas my true love roaster gave to me….
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 08:27 PM - 1 week, 2 days ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
So for the next 12 working days (taking us up to the 22nd the last royal mail posting day) we have the Has Bean 12 days of Christmas for you, This is going backwards 12 days, not the traditional 12 days (any excuse really). This will involve a new coffee each day, to help you… Continue Reading

Quality and customers (a dialogue)
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 05:39 PM - 1 week, 2 days ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Quality and customers (a dialogue)
So – after my previous blog post , Tim Williams wrote a response here , which I said I would reply to. I must begin with an admission of failure – I didn’t really do a good enough job communicating what I wanted to with it, which resulted in it being interpreted in a different way from that intended. That said – there is something to Tim’s post, it does point out a flaw in my idea and approach: So it worries me when James puts forward a sentiment that could so easily be interpreted as, “I’m OK, You’re OK: If you’re down with past crop naturals… It’s all good!”. Because let’s be clear – within the industry I don’t really believe there should be any tolerance for those masquerading (intentionally or not) as high quality when it is all smoke and mirrors. It’s disappointing to see “seasonal” espresso blends full of flat, dead, El Salvadoran coffees in February. I don’t deny that my original post could be a confusing message, but what I’m trying to hone in on is the initial contact with a consumer, who currently drinks low quality coffee, that we would like to “upgrade” to something much better. Great coffee is still a relatively small phenomenon, and every day, around the world, we’re still giving people their first moment of exposure to it. My concern is that when our tone implies we have something better, because we think what they are drinking is terrible, then we’re likely to have them become closed rather than open to trying something new and better. I’m not sure there is a way for us to communicate what we see (with their low quality coffees) as a fault in their current preferences, without being totally offensive to them – and I see this borne out in the real world whenever we try. My point was that someone’s revealed preference should be accepted as a place to start, as a valid beginning to a hugely enjoyable journey – and not a point of judgement. I’m not saying that we tolerate, embrace or encourage low quality coffees – I’m saying that when we meet people that like them we should not try to make them feel bad about it, or come across in a way that makes them think that we see ourselves as their betters, because our preference is somehow morally better. You could argue that this approach is duplicitous. I don’t think it is. I think taking a little time to understand why people like what they like – and being friendly and welcoming so that they actually tell us – reveals a goldmine of knowledge about that person and a wealth of opportunities to present something vibrant, enjoyable and approachable to them. I’m not saying that the industry should stop working to improve quality, throughout the whole chain. What goes on, up until the point of consumer purchase, should be pushed to be improved by all of us working in coffee. I just want to make sure there is an ever growing audience of people for the spectacular, delightful coffees we know are possible and could be possible in the future.

On the Third (reverse, posting / working) day of Christmas my true love roaster gave to me….
Tuesday, December 09, 2014 - 05:18 PM - 1 week, 3 days ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
So for the next 12 working days (taking us up to the 22nd the last royal mail posting day) we have the Has Bean 12 days of Christmas for you, This is going backwards 12 days, not the traditional 12 days (any excuse really). This will involve a new coffee each day, to help you… Continue Reading

On the Second (reverse, posting / working) day of Christmas my true love roaster gave to me….
Monday, December 08, 2014 - 04:17 PM - 1 week, 4 days ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
So for the next 12 working days (taking us up to the 22nd the last royal mail posting day) we have the Has Bean 12 days of Christmas for you, This is going backwards 12 days, not the traditional 12 days (any excuse really). This will involve a new coffee each day, to help you… Continue Reading

On the First (reverse, posting / working) day of Christmas my true love roaster gave to me….
Friday, December 05, 2014 - 05:59 PM - 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
So for the next 12 working days (taking us up to the 22nd the last royal mail posting day) we have the Has Bean 12 days of Christmas for you, This is going backwards 12 days, not the traditional 12 days (any excuse really). This will involve a new coffee each day, to help you… Continue Reading

Grower of the month December 2014
Friday, December 05, 2014 - 09:16 AM - 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Since we redeveloped our site back in October 2012 we have been doing this thing called Grower of the month We have done 25 growers since we started, and I was starting to run out of interesting stories to tell you all about some of the others. The first one we did was Alejandro Martinez… Continue Reading

Holiday shipping
Monday, December 01, 2014 - 12:30 PM - 2 weeks, 4 days ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Christmas time! We’re excited because things get so busy, plus we get to grab a few days off in amongst the madness. We just wanted to send out a quick blog post to our customers regarding roasting and shipping over the holiday period. WEBSHOP Our last roast and ship day for the year will be Thursday the 18th of December, meaning all orders to be included in the days roast will need to be in before midnight on Wednesday the 17th. The first roast day in the New Year will be Monday the 5th of January with all accrued orders over the holiday period being roasted and shipped on this day. SUBSCRIPTIONS If you have a filter subscription with us, the last installment of the year will be roasted and shipped on Thursday the 4th of December, and the first installment of 2015 on Thursday the 5th of January. The last espresso subscription of 2014 will be roasted and shipped on the 18th of December, and the first 2015 espresso on January 15th. Please be aware that Christmas is a very busy time for Royal Mail, and ordering early and allowing as much time as you can for delivery will hopefully avoid any disappointment on Christmas Day! Remember last minute shoppers, you can always grab a gift card to print off and give the lucky recipient as there is no need for postage… We’ll try to keep on top of any inquiries between Christmas and New Year so if you have any questions just drop us a line at webshop@squaremilecoffee.com Have a great holiday! We’ve some very exciting coffees coming up in the New Year that we’re really looking forward to sharing with you!

What message do I want to send?
Thursday, November 27, 2014 - 12:12 PM - 3 weeks, 1 day 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 - 3 weeks, 3 days 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 weeks, 4 days 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

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