I finally arrived in Colombia yesterday and my week long trip to origin has begun. I hope to make up for the lack of recent posts with some great content this week as I learn about and explore Colombian coffee at its source. I just wrapped up my first day and it was incredible as well as exhausting. I’ve posted a few photos from the day here, but there will more content and videos of the week over on the Colombian Coffee Hub.
After waking up at 4:30 this morning, our team took a flight from Bogota to Armenia where we loaded into a van and stopped at a nearby café for breakfast (huevos rancheros & lulo jugo). With full bellies and acquaintances made we headed to our first destination, Café San Alberto in Buenavista.
San Alberto was the largest farm we visited today and was very well groomed with a refined infrastructure in place. There was a beautiful terrace and coffee bar with a full-time barista to look after visitors and provide us with the farm’s finest coffee.
Francini prepared lovely examples of both Caturra and Castillo varieties of coffee for us in a press pot and Chemex, which were enjoyed along with the breathtaking view.
Afterwards, we toured the farm and visited the nursery where I got a close look at seedlings in various stages. The first 60 days of the coffee plant are surprisingly slow growth, followed by a fairly rapid increase in size over the next 6 months.
Next we visited two smaller farms, El Reposo and Jalisco. El Reposo, was purchased 12 years ago by Gloria and her husband after coming to the area to visit family. They enjoyed their visit so much, they purchased a couple hectacres and moved from the city to take on the life of coffee growers.
El Reposo was also visited by competitors from the 2011 World Barista Championship, who each planted a tree to be named after them. It was great strolling through the rows to find familiar names beside plants overflowing with cherries about to ripen.
At Jalisco, I visited the rooftop patio and it’s rolling roof, a contrast to Gloria’s raised beds inside a covered shelter, as well as a quirky veranda with table sets made from stump wood—the trimmings of cultivated coffee trees.
When our afternoon at the coffee farms came to an end, I rode on the back of an old Jeep Willy with a few sacks of coffee to be sold in Pijao. At the selling point, I learned how the coffee is weighed, checked for quality, and its final price calculated for the farmer. This particular lot received a bonus for being extra high quality—a way to incentivize continued progress and education among farmers.
The evening ride back to Armenia was dampened by rain and the grey evening light made it hard to stay awake as the sights of small Colombian towns passed by the window. Upon arriving to our lovely hotel, I relaxed with Camilo and the rest of the team as we talked about our day—I can’t believe it’s only the first.
Learn more about my trip on Colombian Coffee Hub and watch the videos here.
Journey to Origin: Day 1
Journey to Origin: Day 2
Journey to Origin: Day 3
Journey to Origin: Day 4
Journey to Origin: Day 5
Journey to Origin: Summary
Last week I had the pleasure of walking through the doors of Handsome Coffee Roasters to finally congratulate two of the three Handsome boys in person. Almost ten months to the day since first announcing Handsome Coffee, Tyler, Chris and Michael opened their doors to an eager public who have been teased non-stop for the past year.
The attention they’ve received is unprecedented, heavily driven by Twitter and blogs (guilty), and the endless media coverage has set the bar very high. Every step of their journey has been watched with excitement, curiosity, and envy. They’ve used several creative tactics to keep the conversation about them alive as they built their shop—making it seem like the chance to visit were always just around the corner.
One of these strategies was the “First Forty” club, which offered a social media savvy audience to be among the first to sample test roasts each month before they began selling their coffee to the public. This made sure there was a continuous buzz regarding a product that no one else could even buy. It garnered interest and bought time while everything else was being put into place—not only in LA, but also New York.
The Handsome coffee bar and roastery sits on the corner of Mateo and Willow Street, surrounded by warehouses in the Arts District of Los Angeles. It’s only about a mile from Union Station, but I doubt I could have found it without a GPS. When I arrived, there was a line out the door and several people enjoying the sunshine out front.
I showed up with a van of Coffee Common baristas, and we were greeted at the door by Tyler and Chris with welcoming hugs, coffee and a tour of their new home.
I ordered an espresso and a cup of their new Rwanda (Abakundakawa)—which to my surprise was only available as a batch brew, which Tyler proudly defended as a great, consistent way to serve it. To be honest, if no one had told me, I wouldn’t have have been able to tell. It was a damn good cup of coffee. The espresso was bright, but balanced with a creamy finish, pulled on a La Marzocco Linea.
As my filter coffee cooled, I wandered around the space and talked with Chris and Anne about his new roasting “theater” which had a fair number of people passing through and watching him work through the windows.
As I walked around, the details of the shop are really quite remarkable. From the floor to (high) ceiling subway tiles, to the copper drop awning that mirrors the copper wrapped bar, and the hallway of etched wooden tiles with a texture so smooth you just want to run your hand across them all the way to the restrooms (where you hopefully wash them).
There are several types of seating to accomodate various types of customers—around the bar, at the window, outside, communally in the back, or perched against the glass wall watching the roaster in action. But where ever you are in the space, the baristas and the bar remain front and center of the experience.
Even though the location seems a bit out of the way (everything in LA seems that way to me) the shop remained busy throughout my visit—if business stays that way, there should be no problem keeping on the lights. As the coffee scene in Los Angeles continues to grow, Handsome has placed itself high on the list of must visit shops from the day they opened their doors, no matter where it’s located.
As the company grows along with the owners, I look forward to seeing and tasting their progress. I’d also love to eventually see Handsome/farmer relationships and more unique coffees coming from them, rather than green importers. There’s a lot of light shining on them and I would love to see some of it illuminate issues regarding coffee buying and quality—but so far none of that seems to be a part of their story.
While some may tire of hearing about Handsome, I can only think of the new people in LA their media circus will help introduce to better coffee, which ultimately helps everyone trying to do the same.
I’m glad I was able to stop by Handsome with good friends in tow. Thanks to Tyler and Chris for showing us around and I wish Mike could have been there as well. Hopefully he heals up quick and gets back behind that lovely bar soon enough.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
582 Mateo Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
There’s a new coffee guide out—and for those who enjoy the smell of fresh ink and the feeling of paper between your fingers, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not a smart phone app. This here is a genuine book with pages that turn!
I mentioned the release party of The Independent Coffee Book (London Edition) back in December and recently got ahold of one from Vespertine Press to review. From the photos I’d previously seen I thought the book was larger, but thankfully the photos were misleading. It’s nearly pocketable, measuring just 4.75″x6″ with a pleasant satin feel.
The book’s café listings are organized into 5 sections of London: The City, West End, East, North and South. There are 36 coffee shops featured with several more listed at the end of each chapter. I’ve been to about 10 of those mentioned in the book and had more than half of them on my own list of recommended locations. It’s nice to learn of a few new spots in London and it makes me anxious to return and try some of them out.
Each featured location includes a nicely written summary of them along with the accessibility of WiFi, outdoor seating and bathrooms. There are also icons that signify whether the location is a roastery, coffee cart, or KeepCup reseller.
Underneath the general information, there are stats that indicate what machines, brew methods and coffee beans are used at each location. While I appreciate this information and the effort that went into acquiring it, there are certain benefits of a digital app that would better serve this level of detail. Cafés can change their beans and equipment fairly easily, which could make the book out of date prematurely. It may have been better to leave this type of information out or include with some kind of online integration.
What I love most about this book, and what I think adds the most value, is the “coffee compendium.” This transforms the guide from a list of coffee shops for coffee nerds, to an awesome gift for the coffee curious. It not only gives the reader a nice introduction to coffee, but shows them where they can taste and learn more about great coffee.
The compendium includes a brief history of London coffee shops, maps of coffee production and consumption, articles on roasting, sourcing ethics, brew method summaries and a small glossary of coffee drinks and terms.
The design is nicely considered and well produced, with my biggest critiques being those of a typography nerd—don’t double-space after periods! The gaping rivers in some paragraphs that are created by unmanaged justified type also served as a distraction for me (although most people will never notice these sort of things). The system throughout the book is consistent and the photographs are fantastic.
The back cover folds out to reveal maps of each section, highlighting the featured locations and the nearest Underground stations. This is infinitely helpful if you’re visiting and don’t want to pay data roaming fees to use the map on your phone and have pledged to navigate your entire trip through analog means.
I generally prefer to have things like this in a digital format, to reduce the amount of things I own and the ensuing clutter it creates. But when designed well, it becomes a useful, beautiful object that won’t run out of batteries and can easily be loaned or given to friends once you’re done using it. I’m already planning a trip to London in March and look forward to putting this book through the trials of urban exploration.
For £10, it’s priced similar to other travel guides, but with a more specific focus. However, if you’ve read my thoughts on coffee touring—this book is all you need.
Order yours from Vespertine Press
On the train ride between Gothenburg and Copenhagen, there’s a small but lovely town on the coast of Sweden called Helsingborg. Aside from being home to Ikea’s corporate headquarters and a Nicorette manufacturing plant, it’s home to Koppi Kaffe & Roasteri—one of Sweden’s finest. Last month I posted this great video of Koppi in action and knew that I could no longer put off visiting. There is very little I love more than being around great people doing what they love and doing it so well.
At Koppi’s helm are Anne Lunell and partner Charles Nystrand who have a taste for both great coffee and design that’s reflected in their gorgeous downtown café and roastery. Natural light floods in on two sides making the space feel warm and vibrant even in the heart of Swedish winter. There’s a La Marzocco on the bar, a daily brew in the airpot and a slow bar where you can try coffee from an AeroPress, Chemex, or V60.
I had the pleasure of first meeting Anne and Charles last summer at Coffee Common in Edinburgh and catch up with them occasionally when they pass through Gothenburg. They continue to be one of my favorite Nordic roasters and consistently offer delicious and surprising coffees. For being such a small company they work extremely hard to build direct relationships with farmers and travel to origin as often as possible.
Anne has been on the Swedish national team at the Nordic Barista Cup four times and she won the Swedish Barista Championship in 2006 —finishing 4th at the World Barista Championship that year. Charles, who was crowned Swedish Barista Champion in 2005, is in charge of Koppi’s roasting and has the best facial hair between the two.
While quite small, they’re coffee is still finding its way beyond the shores of Sweden, with wholesale accounts in Copenhagen and possibly the UK in the near future. They also recently launched a webshop that will ship internationally for free with an order of 6 bags or more. So if you don’t have the pleasure of living in or visiting Sweden anytime soon, gather some friends and order some of the finest coffee Sverige has to offer.
Coincidentally, Koppi is the cover story in this month’s Barista Magazine, where you can read much more about their journey in Sarah Allen’s great interview with Anne. Check it out to further inspire a future trip to Sweden.
Koppi Kaffe & Roasteri
Norra Storgatan 16. Helsingborg, Sweden
Oliver Strand published a great new article on Ristretto, his column for the New York Times, about his recent travels to Japan. Strand shares a bit about the history of Japanese coffee shops, called kissaten, and reveals where you can experience the next generation of coffee on your next trip to Tokyo—map included.
When I tell people that I went to Tokyo to check out the coffee, I get two reactions. One is bewilderment — as if I went to Denver for the surfing. The other is fascination: those who pay attention to coffee know that Japan is the world’s third-largest importer (after the United States and Germany), with obsessive buyers who regularly land the winning bids at Cup of Excellence auctions, and that it produces the coffee gear everybody wants. –Oliver Strand
Full article and interactive map at New York Times.
[ Photo: Oliver Strand]
I’ve talked about my visit to The Coffee Collective’s original shop at Jægersborggade in the past, and I recently used one of their coffees to compete in the World AeroPress Championship in Milan. So it’s fair to say I’m a big fan of what they’re doing.
While I was in Copenhagen picking up my competition coffee, I also stopped by their newest location at Torvhallerne, a public market near the city center. Oliver Strand was one of the first to write about visiting the new space, and I was excited to see it myself.
This location consists of a really long bar in the back corner of a modern glass pavilion. It’s surrounded by other vendors selling chocolates, baked goods and spices that will more than inspire your appetite.
A steady line begins at one end of the bar, where orders are placed, that makes its way down the line passed the lovely (world exclusive) Spirit espresso machine. If filter coffee were ordered, you continue on to the V60 bar where there’s an unobscured view of each coffee brewed by the cup.
A large, full-color map of the world illuminates the back wall and serves as a colorful backdrop for the baristas working methodically to serve the 700 to 1000 cups that can be ordered on a given day. The map is punctuated with photos from the farms where coffees have been sourced, adding a visual sense of scale to the process.
The new shop has a completely different feel than the original, but the coffee is just as good. So depending on your mood and the kind of atmosphere you’re looking for—you now have a choice.
The Coffee Collective
Vendersgade 6D, Copenhagen
Almost a year ago, to the day, I visited Tim Wendelboe in Oslo for the first time. The Kenya, Mugaga I had on that trip is still one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. While there was no Mugaga this time, there were two other kenyalicious coffees, Tekangu and Ndumberi, and lots of good company.
I finally met “the Tim” briefly as he was leaving for the Nordic Barista Cup and spent the following morning with “the other Tim” while he was roasting some fresh coffee. Chris Owens from Handsome Coffee was also in town, who I hadn’t seen since the USBC in Houston, so I caught up on Handsome progress while sampling the menu with him.
If you find yourself in Oslo, Tim Wendelboe should be number one on your list of coffee shops to visit. Until then, brew another cup and enjoy some more photos.
I may have missed the Nordic Barista Cup last week due to a pre-scheduled vacation, but my week long road trip through Norway wasn’t without some coffee fun. After a day spent in Oslo visiting coffee bars (which I’ll be posting about later), I left for the Norwegian Food Festival in Ålesund, where I attended a coffee and chocolate pairing at a great little coffee bar called Brenneriet.
I’d never actually tasted chocolate and coffee together aside from what’s stuffed in the occasional croissant and it was a unique test of my palette in attempting to discern how well certain chocolates paired with certain coffees.
The 90-minute event began with an introduction to specialty coffee that briefly covered where its grown, how its harvested, proper roasting, grinding and brewing, and the importance of coffee freshness. One of the most interesting points made in regards to preparing coffee (translated from Norwegian), was how 4-6 months of hard work from the farmer can be ruined in 4-6 minutes of improper brewing.
During the coffee intro, glasses where passed around containing green beans, roasted beans, and ground coffee to illustrate the transition and to add a sensory experience to the mini-lecture, which was then followed by an introduction to cocoa and chocolate that set up the experience of tasting the two together.
Gunnar brewed up two coffees on a Hario V60—a Colombia, Omar Viveros and a Kenya, Tegu roasted by Kaffa in Oslo. We were asked to draw a matrix that included the two coffees and the three different chocolates—Bailey’s Truffle, Crème Brûlée, and Raspberry Dream. After taking a nibble of a chocolate and a sip of a coffee, we would determine if the pairing highlighted the coffee, the chocolate, or if they combined perfectly. I was surprised to find that the sweetness of some chocolates made one coffee bitter, but not the other—while the Raspberry Dream made the fruit notes in the Kenya extraordinary.
I usually drink my coffee by itself, and while I’ve heard of coffee pairing being done in some restaurants similar to wine, this was my first foray into the deliberate pairing of food and coffee myself. It’s a great way to test your senses and explore the effects that outside elements can have on a coffee. Some for the better and others for the worse. If you get the chance to try something similar, I highly suggest it.
The next day I went back to cup some Tim Wendelboe coffee I brought from Oslo and introduce Gunnar to the AeroPress disk. It was a great time with friendly people who are passionate about great coffee. If you’re ever in Ålesund, Norway and looking for a good cup, be sure to stop by Brenneriet.
I love to travel and thankfully get to do so quite often. However, my method for exploring new cities has changed over the years. Before leaving on trips, I use to bury myself in travel guides at the bookstore to map out what to do and see. But my strategy has shifted to combine my love of coffee with my love of travel to create much more fulfilling experiences. Coffee shops have become my bookstore and baristas my travel guides.
Coffee touring has many benefits, aside from tasting the best coffee a city has to offer. Here are some of the reasons why its become my preferred way to travel.
Many independent and progressive coffee shops can’t afford, or choose not to pay, rent near the city centers and tourist attractions. They tend to open shops in neighborhoods, art districts, and future up-and-coming parts of town. By visiting these shops, you find yourself in new parts of the city that a guide book may never lead you to. It also creates a trip unlike those who only visit the typical landmarks—most of which look the same as they do in pictures anyway, only with the mobs of people surrounding them. By allowing yourself to wander, you’ll gain a more unique and personal perspective of a place.
Baristas Know More Than Coffee
Any good barista will love talking about coffee, but there’s a pretty good chance they have other interests as well. If they aren’t too busy, engage them in a genuine conversation. They’re residents of the city you’re visiting after all, which make them wonderful people to talk with for recommendations on the best burrito joint, parks to relax in, art galleries to visit and even other coffee shops that aren’t on your list. I’ve learned about upcoming concerts, closing art exhibits and even parties to attend from talking with baristas. Just consider putting some of that money saved on travel guides in your barista’s tip jar!
A seasoned coffee drinker can easily consume three beverages a day. And if you get them all at three different shops, you can cover a lot of ground in between. When I travel I try to walk everywhere I can. Even in cities with great transportation, you will see much more while walking than if you’re underground or even on a bus. Walking also allows you to take detours down alleys and try on that cute dress you passed in the thrift store window. You’ll have plenty of time to sit and recover at the next coffee shop.
Most coffee shops have some kind of food. Whether its pastries or paninis, you should be able to find something to hold you over until following that burrito recommendation.
While it’s generally frowned upon to make a coffee shop your personal office, there’s always the chance that you can plug in long enough to recharge your phone or camera. If they have wifi, don’t forget to check a map of the area and tweet Instagram photos of you planking on the La Marzocco Strada. Just be considerate, obviously.
Locals In The wild
One of the best ways to gain authentic insight to a place and its people is to view residents in their natural habitat. It’s in those instances when I often realize we’re all human with many of the same habits and vices, no matter what country or culture you’re from. Since locals tend to avoid the overcrowded tourist hubs, you won’t see many of them at cafés in Time Square and Covent Garden. So its the coffee shops in unexpected places, where you’ll find and meet the people who live there.
Planning a Coffee Tour
So how should one begin planning a coffee tour? Being here is a great place to start. There is a category on the right sidebar that lists all of the coffee tours I’ve published so far, and will give you suggestions for coffee shops worth adding to your list. You can follow DCILY on twitter and ask me for recommendations and I’ll do my best to help you find great coffee wherever you’re traveling.
Once you have a few coffee shops on your list, you can begin plotting which ones to visit that allow you to see the most. Be strategic. Sometimes you’ll find a couple great shops within a block or two of each other. If you plan to visit all of those on the same day, you may not make it out of that neighborhood. Once you get to your locations, talk with baristas, talk with locals and let those conversations help shape your trip.
These tours are by no means complete and are to be seen as inspirational suggestions for your own travels. If you know of any shops in the places I’ve been that I haven’t checked out, please leave a comment and let me know about them. Enjoy!
Past DCILY Tours
New York, New York
Stockholm, Sweden: Part 1
Stockholm, Sweden: Part 2
While I was in London a couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of stopping by the Square Mile roastery just days before they packed up moved into their new space. Square Mile, co-owned by Anette Moldvaer and James Hoffmann, the 2007 World Barista Champion, is the go-to roaster in London for great coffee. It’s hard to find a progressive coffee shop in the city that isn’t serving them, and for good reason.
If you’ve ever listened to any of James Hoffmann’s podcasts, you have an idea of how passionate he is about coffee and exploring the possibilities of how much better it can be. He’s one of the nicest and most enlightening guys I’ve met in the coffee world and it’s always a pleasure to discuss coffee and enjoy a cup of it with him—especially when he’s brewing it. Congrats to James and Anette on their new space!
Enjoy some photos of Square Mile’s last days in their old location.