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El Salvador Cup of Excellence cupping
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 04:20 PM - 11 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
At the end of April John went to El Salvador to participate in his first Cup of Excellence as an observer. We have managed to get all 30 coffees that went to auction last week and will run a cupping of all of these in the same way the Cup of Excellence is run. We will set all this coffee over three rounds with optional scoring and a quick discussion afterwards. This will run on Saturday the 28th of June from 11:30 Tickets are £15 and there will be limited numbers, they are available here to purchase.

Ethiopians
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 - 11:39 AM - 1 year ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Ethiopians
The first couple of Ethiopians are available in the webshop now, both very different but equally great examples of their regions! First up is the Reko from the Yirgacheffe region, with plenty of sweetness and florals reminding us of honeysuckle. It is a very well balanced and complex coffee with a citrus acidity and silky mouthfeel. We will be using this in our next Red Brick blend, but felt it was too good not to share as a filter first! Grab a bag here! Secondly we have the Ayichesh from the Oromia region, which is quite different, with delicate notes of pistachios and lemon drops. It has a single cream like mouthfeel and red grape or strawberry acidity to it. Available here. Both of these also make up the components of our newest Sweetshop blend, one of our sweetest versions yet! Also available here.

Easter Holiday’s
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 12:01 PM - 1 year, 1 month ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Just a quick blog post to let everyone know we will be closed over the Easter bank holidays for both Good Friday and Easter Monday. Essentially what this means, for you, our lovely webshop customers is that our normal roast and ship day of Monday will move to the Tuesday (after Easter Monday). Hopefully this added day without coffee won’t effect people too much. Enjoy the break!

Virmax Colombian Cupping
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 - 10:01 AM - 1 year, 1 month ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Virmax Colombian Cupping
On Tuesday 25th March, we had the pleasure of hosting a cupping session of the 5 Colombian microlots we have purchased this year, in conjunction with our Colombian importing partners Virmax. Alejandro and Badi were kind enough to make some time in their busy schedule to come by the roastery and conduct a Q&A session for a group of our lovely customers! The 5 lots which we have secured this year and are very excited to release are: El Mirador El Cadillo Las Brisas Agua Regada La Gloria A topic of much interest and discussion was the way in which Virmax help farmers to improve standards by offering incentives. Virmax grade each coffee on a point score, and to qualify for selection, the coffee needs to score a minimum of 83 points. A coffee that scores 83 or 84 points are given an A grade, 85-86 are AA, and anything above 87 is given a AAA grade score, the highest possible quality. A premium is paid for coffees which reach a certain cup score, and the farmers are paid for the quality grading which they have been given. Once a coffee roaster has purchased one of the coffees, they may believe that the coffee is in fact higher than what Virmax has scored. In this instance, Virmax will then pay an additional premium to the farmer. Unfortunately over the past few years, Colombia and much of Central and South America have been badly affected with leaf rust (Roya in Spanish). Unfortunately rust is here to stay, and is not something which can be eradicated easily. Through a mix of better farm management and new coffee varietals which are not susceptible to roya, they can start to mitigate its effects, but unfortunately it is going to take time. Some varietals which are starting to show some positive results are Colombia and Catimor, but only if blended with other varietals. When cupping 100% Catimor, they lack the desired flavour and structure that speciality coffee buyers are searching for. How long does it take to improve quality from an 83 to an 86/87? Does it take a couple of harvests or is it quite dramatic and quick? You can see changes very quickly, depends on farmer. If they are really passionate and taking advice, within two months can be a dramatic difference in quality. Is there a training facility to help them? There is no training facility as such, but we manage a farm called San Luis where we are now in our 4th year. We have learnt a lot of things which we can put into practice on other farms. We also have an experimental farm in Popoyan, which we have 10 various varieties and they are constantly learning about processing and drying. For the normal farmers, we have PECA (Programa de Educacion Calficultores) which translates to Coffee Growers Education Program. Managed by an agronomist with many years of experience with coffee, who overseas a group of 30 producers who are either coffee growers who sell to us, or sons of producers, who have to visit 30 farms each month. They look for cleanliness of the infrastructure (cherry hopper, fermentation tanks, the dryer) and the processing techniques. We try to encourage farmers to do a dry fermentation for 24 hours, as in Colombia it is normally only 12-14 hours. We found 22-24 hours is the sweet spot, and it just so happens El Cadillo and Mirador are doing 24 hours. This is because they have been working with us for a long time and have embraced the 24hr concept. The problem with 24hrs is that the farmers run into two processes at the same time. You have to stop the fermentation process in the washed coffee, but you are also receiving the new cherry from the next day, so a lot of farmers haven’t been able to do it previously, so they need to hire more people. We also look at the drying, and we have found it makes a significant improvement in quality. We are encouraging farmers to use shade drying, or at least pre-shaded drying – which means a couple of days with no sun at all, only air flow and a very small layer of coffee on the raised drying beds, so it receives a lot of air and any moisture falls. After the first two days, they slowly introduce sun to the drying process, which in total takes 15-20 days. A lot of farmers are doing the slower drying process. The main struggle with that is cash flow, as they pick every 15 days, and if it takes 20 days to dry coffee, they won’t be able to deliver the lot to us, so they won’t have enough cash to pay the pickers next week, so we are trying to resolve these issues. The benefit of the shaded drying? We are seeing at least two points higher in grading. Coffee is a seed, and if you dry it too fast you are killing the embryo, and the embryo has all the proteins which adds the jamminess and body to a coffee. By drying too fast, you are also evaporating the water too quickly, so you lose the florals and aromatics. By establishing a slower drying process, you are protecting the seed for a longer time and you get a lot more aromatics and flavour. Which way around did the idea happen – the loss of aromatics so farmers tried shade drying, or from shade drying they found better results? It was pure coincidence. In 2007/2008, we started cupping seeds and found consistently the seeds were cupping out 3-4 points higher than their own production, and seeds are always processed under shade. We went back and asked why seeds are cupping better, and we said – ok shade! We started experimenting, and replicated results on a larger scale, so found out shaded coffee was improving cup quality. The water activity was also a lot better, generally we want activity to be 0.5, which is the equilibrium, so the longevity of the coffee was also longer. We now have farmers doing a 3 stage drying process. 1 – total shade, 2 – introduce a little bit of sun with a shaded mesh, 3 – last two to three days of full sun. By drying in this way, the parchment looks beautiful, white and fully closed, and was looking a lot better than Central American coffee at the time. Most farmers do not have a lot of room, so they created three storey dryers to take advantage of the high altitude. The farmers start with the wettest parchment at the bottom, and slowly move the coffee higher which will then be exposed to the sun at the end of the 20 days. This helps with the lack of space farmers have on their land, as they want to utilise space for trees and not for drying. Rust prevention is a major thing we work with the farmers. We have developed ways to control rust, and to use as little chemical processes as possible, farmers don’t want to spend a lot of money on chemicals. We looked back at the last 50 years to find out how rust was controlled, as it has been around since the end of the 19th century in Sri Lanka and devastated their coffee industry. Copper phosphate has been embraced for many years, and we also found something called calcium sulphate, which is all organic and is actually pretty good. These are the 3 focuses of the grower education program, and at the moment 400 farmers are now part of the program. The FNC (National Federation of Coffee in Colombia) also does an excellent job of teaching producers how to grow more coffee, as this is in their interests. The funding comes from tax from all coffee which is exported, but they don’t teach how to improve the quality of the coffee, so this is where we step in with the education program. To try and increase volume and quality as well, we need a balance. Colombia seems different to everyone else, in that they dry parchment themselves compared to most other countries in the world. Seems to be a high density of small holders who are in control the process post harvest, which is interesting. I wouldn’t go as far as saying a whole lot, as we work with 1200 farmers, and there is half a million farmers in Colombia. I would say the quality producers would be no more than about about 5000, so a very small percentage of the total, but it is slowly growing. Unfortunately, it is only the small ones which are embracing it so far, there are only a small amount of the big farms which are focusing on quality, the rest are focusing on volume. With high prices, people tend to do less work. What we are seeing when the price has gone up fast, the producers are selling their coffee in wet parchment, which means they are letting others dry the coffee for them. They receive a good price for wet coffee, and also have the benefit of receiving money the next day – it means that there is no infrastructure, no hassle and the prices are also pretty good, so it is a good proposition. When prices go down though, they are trying to look for more value. They obviously know what coffee they are buying though? When you buy wet parchment, there is no way of telling what the quality is. You don’t know what you are buying. You cannot grade it as it is full of water. It could be 70% water, this is why the traditional Colombian separation is based on bean size. Usually when they sell wet, they blend everything together to receive a good price. A lot of the time, the parchment is full of water, so the mills started to pay a very low price as they were not able to know what they were purchasing. It is so difficult to buy wet parchment, but it is a very big business. If you discount a lot, you may receive some good lots of coffee, but it is a gamble. Instead of discounting 20%, you discount 40%, so you can make a lot of money. Who typically buys it? Big parchment buyers, and some of the bigger ones own their own mill as well, who do 70,000-80,000 bags a year. They just buy from the smaller guys and blend everything together. Some producers will go to the buyers when the prices are good, but otherwise they try and do as much as possible themselves to make more money. It is a very low margin business, so the least amount of manual labour they have to do, they better. All the blending, or when the “magic happens”, is afterwards. They mill the coffee, cup it, and if a coffee is great – it is classed as speciality, but if the next coffee is average they send it to the commercial buyer. This still happens today as it is easy and doesn’t cost much. This was the whole marketing of the FNC back in the 80’s, when Colombia was the world’s richest cup of coffee. You would blend all these amazing lots in with everything else, and of course it raises the average. In general, the average of Colombian coffee was better than most other countries, and it was constant. The marketing was always Cafe De Colombia, so it was singular. If you look at the marketing of other countries – Cafes de Guatemala, Cafes de Brazil, they are selling different things. The marketing in Colombia is wherever you buy, whenever you buy and from whoever you buy, it all tastes like Colombian Coffee. This is still today the marketing of Colombian coffee, something you can trust all year around. This is not what we are trying to do, we are trying to sell as much diversity as we can. If you look at statistics, we reject about 40% of what we get, and most of this is because of ferment. If our statistics are representative of the whole industry, that would mean that 20% of the coffee in Colombia is fermented. Yet everything is exported, so what do they do, they blend and blend and blend. This is the beauty of blending, and most exporters are very good at it. Thanks to everyone involved, and we look forward to inviting you to the roastery soon for upcoming events!

El Cadillo
Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - 10:53 AM - 1 year, 1 month ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
El Cadillo
Another exciting single origin espresso is in the webshop now! Following on from some other great examples of Colombian coffee we have the El Cadillo from Omar Anacona in the Huila region. Expect plenty of crisp green apple, white grape and red currant notes, honey sweetness and little cinnamon quality to the finish. We think this is a great addition to our offerings from Colombia and hope you will enjoy it too! Available now here .

El Mirador
Monday, March 24, 2014 - 02:17 PM - 1 year, 1 month ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
El Mirador
The Colombian season is now properly underway, and the first filter on offer is the delicious El Mirador from the Huila region produced by Octavio Rueda Ramirez. It has a distinctive peach tea like quality, with ripe pineapple and lychee notes, a delicate grape acidity and creamy mouthfeel making this a very balanced coffee. Octavio runs the 10 hectare farm with his wife Norfalit Burbano and their six children. This blend of Caturra, Castillo and San Bernardo is dry fermented for 24 hours before being washed and dried. Available here.

Bella Vista
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 11:02 AM - 1 year, 2 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Bella Vista
The first of the Colombians is now available in the webshop, if you like sweet blackcurrant jam on toast then this is the espresso for you! Coming from the Huila region this fully washed coffee also has a rich creamy mouthfeel, green apple freshness and a little jasmine in the finish. The farm is owned and run by Arnoldo Hernandez Ceron and his wife Marleny Salamanca, and with the help of their 3 children they farm 3.5 hectares of the 4 hectare farm, with Caturra, Castillo and Colombia F6 varietals being grown. We feel this is a stunning example of a coffee from the Huila region and hope you will enjoy it too, grab a bag here.

Saquarema
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 03:27 PM - 1 year, 2 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Saquarema
We have a tasty new naturally processed Brazil from the Minas Gerais region in the webshop and it is tasting great. Expect lots of brown sugar sweetness, a large syrupy caramel body and a few vanilla notes. This is balanced out nicely with some cranberries and a little cardamom to finish. The farm is located in the south of Minas Gerais close to the city of Carmo do Cachoeira, is owned by Louis Eduardo and is one of the oldest farms in the region. Saquarema has been in Louis’s family for four generations, covers 389 hectares with 128 of them designated to organic coffee production. This is a great example of a coffee for the region and we hope to continue getting delicious coffee like this in the future. Try some for yourself here!

The Coffee formally known as Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza
Friday, February 14, 2014 - 02:31 PM - 1 year, 3 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
We always try our hardest to make sure we represent the coffee we buy as best we can and always endeavour to make sure that the farmer or producers are credited for their hard work. However it has come to our attention that the coffee we have been selling as Ambiental Fortaleza is actually from Sitio Laranjal, it is owned and run by Alfredo Mengalis. The rest of the details of the coffee remain the same, it’s from the same area, grown at the same altitude and is actually dried and processed at Ambiental Fortaleza. FAF do a lot of work with their neighbour farms and many many farmers use the processing facilities at FAF, so we didn’t get it too far wrong but we wanted to make sure that the write praise went to the right person!

Uk barista competition judges training
Friday, January 17, 2014 - 10:49 AM - 1 year, 4 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Uk barista competition judges training
At the end of last year Steve Leighton got himself nominated as National Co-ordinator for the UKBC. This happened fairly late on in the year, Steve is an amazing person and a very close friend of mine and Square Mile’s and we wanted to help him and make his newfound role a little easier. So I offered to give him a hand to organise the competition in any way I could, with John competing again my options were limited in the ways that I could help. Steve and I had a chat and decided that the best way for me to help was to put my position as Chair of the Rules and Regulations Sub Committee for World Coffee Events to good use and run the judges training course for the new judges and the calibration for the older judges along with Sonja Bjork Grant. Once this is done I will step back and let Denise the Events co-ordinator for UKBC choose the groups and put together the schedule for the judges and return to helping John practise. This year Steve used his charm to convince Sonja Bjork Grant to come out and help with the judges workshop, for those who don’t know Sonja she has been around barista competitions since they first started in 2000 at Monte Carlo. Sonja has seen these competitions continued growth and was there for the beginning of World Coffee Events, which now runs all 7 competitions for it’s parent companies. Sonja’s enthusiasm and passion for the competitions is amazing and the fact that she is still actively involved in them after 14 years is inspiring. If you haven’t seen her Tamper Tantrum talk you can watch her talk about barista competitions here , she has great stories to tell about how it use to be and if your lucky enough you might get to meet her at the finals of the UKBC in April as she will be head judging there as World Coffee Events representative. It’s been quite a few years since I have personally judged and when I did the training course years ago it was only a one day course, I remember leaving feeling like I wanted to do more and would have been happy to spend a couple of days learning what to do. Judging is an important role and when the barista puts so many hours into practising the least judges can do is spend some time making sure they are comfortable and ready to judge. The first day was purely training for new judges, we expect the people that attend to have an understanding of the rules and an ability to taste – it is a training for the competition and not a coffee training course after all. In the morning Sonja did a quick introduction of WCE and what it means to be a judge. We then moved on to dissecting the sensory score sheets and how to use them correctly. We broke them down into each section and the categories in their sections. This included simple things like what to write in the introduction and coffee information section and how to best organise the sheet effectively so you can get all the baristas information down without running out of room. Then on to the more detailed explanations like how to apply the correct protocol when evaluating the drinks. These things are all in the rules documents but sometimes it really helps to talk through things so people have a full understanding. Judges are taught that they must make all their comments relative to the corresponding rule, so every section of the score sheet was followed up with the corresponding excerpt from the rules. For example in the cappuccino evaluation it starts with the visuals of the coffee, followed up by the consistency and persistence of the foam and then goes on to the flavour. This is a very important part as the score weighing for this is very high, any score given is then multiplied by 4. Cappuccino flavour section 14.3.3 The cappuccino is a hot beverage that should be served at a temperature that is immediately consumable. Sensory judges will drink from a spot on the cup different from the area that was disturbed during foam evaluation. The texture of the foam, temperature of the beverage, and the taste of the coffee and milk will be included in the flavour evaluation. After the initial sip, the sensory judges will revisit the cappuccino for at least one additional sip from an undisturbed location on the rim of the cup. The cappuccino should have a harmonious balance of the sweetness of the milk and its espresso base. Judges will listen to any flavour descriptions and explanations given by the competitor and compare those with the beverage served. There should be a correlation between the coffee beans used in the espresso, the coffee’s taste profile, and how those flavour profiles are highlighted by the addition of milk. If no flavour descriptors are given, judges will score based solely on the balance. After we finished going through the sensory score sheet we moved on to the technical aspects of the competition. Ken Cooper who has been a technical judge for WBC talked through the ins and outs of the technical score sheet – highlighting points like cleanliness and wastage – baristas can lose points for things like having to much steamed milk left over. With 34 bodies in the room we had to divide everyone into groups and send them to one of four stations. The first station was an entire mock routine by our friend Geunha Park who is the Korean Barista Champion who very kindly agreed to come do run through after run through for us and the judges. This was a great chance for the judges to see how it feels to watch, drink and take notes on a real routine and then discuss their thoughts afterwards with Sonja. The next station was the espresso station where judges were pulled shots and tasted and talked about the different coffee they were served. The third was similar but a cappuccino station where they could assess latte art, use the correct protocol to assess the coffee and then discuss what they tasted and start trying to assign scores to the drinks based on the things they had been taught earlier. The fourth station was the technical station, this is where Ken had made piles of ground coffee and made the judges eye ball it to figure out how much waste it was, they also did this with pitchers of milk and trying to guess how much milk waste was left – this is a very important part of being a technical judge. The baristas can be deducted points based on their wastage and the technical judge has to assign a point number to a weight of waste, and they don’t have the option of weighing it on stage so you will find a lot of tech judges will go home and start weighing things so they can have a good idea of the weight of things. After everybody had completed one station each we had a quick Q and A session and then called it a day, by this point everyone was well caffeinated and ready for dinner. Monday was Certification day Sonja and I set 3 stations. The first was a written test with 60 questions of varying difficulty, some were easy, some sounded easy but in actual fact where trick questions and others were quite difficult. There were lots of important questions that related to the rules directly so it’s important for people to do well on these questions. The next station was the mock routine by Geun ha, judges were assessed on their ability to apply correct protocol and make rules based comments as well as their ability to apply the correct scores to coffees. Judges are shown a list of competencies that they must be able to do with some of them being critical- meaning that if they can not achieve these then they will not pass the test. Things that are included in that list are things like using the correct protocol, following barista instructions and applying rules correctly and many more. The third testing station for the day was a triangulation, 5 different triangles where placed on a table and judges were given a set time to identify the odd cup out. Judges were required to achieve a pass mark of 70% or higher in order for them to be able to qualify to be a UKBC judge. I feel its especially important these days for the judge to be a highly skilled individual, baristas are getting better and better and the team of judges must also live up to this. The third day was a day for judges that certified last year to come back and calibrate with the group- once a judge passes they are certified for two years in the UK and then they have to re sit the tests. On this day we set up three stations again, two for pulling shots and tasting coffees and one mock routine but instead of Sonja and I leading the groups we let the judges discuss and bounce ideas off each other. Although its hard for them to taste that much coffee its a great chance for the new team of judges to bond and learn off each other and really start to become one coherent group that is in agreement with each other. I had totally underestimated how important this aspect was until I started talking to some of the judges and listen to their conversations with each other. During this day the groups of judges also practised full run throughs right from walking on stage and introducing them selves to the baristas, to the calibration time in the room after the routine where they talk through their scores and comments with the head judge. This year the UK is also going to be implementing shadow judges that the WBC has been using for a couple of years. There are two shadow judges, one is an information shadow judge – their job is to stand out of the way and record everything the barista says, this doesn’t mean that the sensory judge can stop recording information, but it does mean that they can fully concentrate on the actual sensory aspect of judging and applying scores correctly. The second shadow judge is a protocol judge – they are there to make sure that the judges are applying the correct protocol for each course and following barista instructions to the letter- if a judge fails to do this it will be noted and the judge will be reminded in the judges room of what they have done incorrectly. Shadow judging has been very successful in other national bodies and the WBC, and is a great way for new judges to get involved if they are nervous about actually judging. I think the shadow judges will improve judging standards hugely and create a great amount of support for the judges. It looks like its fun sitting up there drinking amazing coffee but its a high stress environment where you are trying to do the right thing, take it all in and judge the barista as fairly as possible. I’m really excited about the calibre of judges this year and are excited to watch them grow and become amazing judges- hopefully some of them will even go on to judge in the World competitions.

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