Le Méridien Hotel Hiring 100 Master Baristas

09.26

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Yesterday, I shared an article from the New York Times travel blog on Facebook that mentioned the plans of Paris-based international hotel chain Le Méridien to hire and train 100 new Master Baristas. These new baristas are meant to be at the center of the hotel lobby’s concierge services, encouraging social interaction and offering recommendations for things to do around town.

During the company’s research for the new strategy, they found that an incredible 78% of 7000 people surveyed would rather give up alcohol, social media or sex with their partners for a year than forfeit their coffee—now that’s true love. I got in touch with a Le Méridien representative for more details on the new program and its potential.

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The new program is being led by the expertise of Fritz Storm, the 2002 World Barista Champion and trainer of several high placing World Barista competitors—including Fabrizio Ramirez who finished 2nd and Miki Suzuki who finished 4th in the 2012 WBC. The new program will complement 100 locations where the lobbies have been transformed into hubs that provide a more coffee shop-like atmosphere.

The disappointing part of all this is that Le Méridien has partnered with Illy to provide the program’s coffee. If the focus was truly on elevating the coffee experience as well as creating a more personal interaction about the city where each hotel is located,  it would have been great if they worked with local or regional roasters. Instead they’ll be providing a bland coffee that many other hotels (and grocery stores) already offer.

It seems like the company has put a lot of money and energy into this program—and Fritz has a track record of training talented baristas—but in the end, the company seems to have chosen a safe route that will most likely go unnoticed by many.

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[photos via Le Méridien]

posted by on 09.26.2013, under Misc.

Novel: The Folding Dream Kettle

09.25

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Novel is just that—a novel travel kettle that folds up for easy packing. The kettle design, by Slovakian designer Stanislav Sabo is currently patented, but I’m not sure how functional it is at this point. Very little information is available about the technical aspects of how it would work, if it would actually work at all. But what if it did? It would make the ultimate travel coffee kit complete. I want one.

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When I travel,  I always carry my AeroPress, hand grinder, pocket scale, KeepCup and fresh coffee. The missing link is always the hot water. Sometimes you can find it in large boilers set aside for tea, or you can hunt down a nearby café and awkwardly explain that you only need hot water to brew your own coffee. Some hotels have kettles, but they are often pretty scary on the inside—to the point that you wouldn’t want to drink anything that came out of it. But even those hotel room kettles are beginning to be replaced by K-Cup machines. 

The Novel is made from a 100% silicone liner that’s wrapped in heatproof plastic panels, which all fold flat. The pieces, including the lid are held together by magnets which also activate fuses in the electric base. From the illustrations of the prototype, I’m not entirely sure how energy is transferred to boil the water, but this can’t be an impossible task—we landed on the moon damn it!

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I’ve had conversations with manufactures about this type of product, but they’re convinced the market isn’t big enough—I think they’re misjudging the potential. If something like this could be powered in the car or by solar adapter, then backpackers, campers and road trippers of all stripes would be totally into something like this—no more bulky butane kettles taking up valuable space in your pack.

Any product engineers out there want to help Stanislav make this functional and Kickstart it? Or let’s start from scratch and make something awesome. Give me freedom or give me death! Is that really too much to ask?

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[ht PSFK]

posted by on 09.25.2013, under Design, Misc., Products

Counter Culture Opens New York Training Mecca

09.24

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On October 1, Counter Culture Coffee’s new world class, state-of-the art training facility will officially open in New York City. The fully renovated space offers 3,600 sq feet of epic coffee training wonderland that will include one of the first Modbar systems in the country as well as equipment from all the top equipment manufacturers—La Marzocco, Ditting, Mazzer, Nuova Simonelli, Marco and Mahlkonig. If the Modbar wasn’t enough there will also be several Über boilers and an EK-43.

Counter Culture Coffee is headquartered in Durham, NC but sells coffee through wholesale accounts in most major cities and beyond. The company doesn’t have cafés of their own and instead focuses their energy on thoroughly training their wholesale customers. The training program has proved quite successful for their own employees as well, helping both Katie Carguilo, the 2012 US Barista Champion and Erin McCarthy, the 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion win their respective competitions.

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The training center will be used for an array of classes from the company’s Counter Intelligence program and boasts an incredibly multi-faceted design to host a broad range of events. There will be free public cuppings every Friday at 10am (which also take place at their other training centers around the country), home brewing workshops and even food pairing events with guest chefs.

For the industry side, there’s an espresso training room that fits up to 20 people, a full service tech lab in the basement, and a competition training room. If you happen to be a Counter Culture wholesale customer you’ll even have your own key. As Counter Culture’s own Jesse Kahn puts it, “our training lab IS our wholesale customers training lab. They have access whenever they need it. It’s all about helping people have sustainable in-house training.”

The design utilizes ample amounts of reclaimed and salvaged wood filling the space, and its 16ft high ceilings, with some warmth. The architect, Jane Kim, has worked with other well known coffee spots in NYC, including the second location of Everyman Espresso and Third Rail, but the work for Counter Culture seems to better reflect some of her beautiful lofty residential work.

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[above the CCC dream team in their new training center: Park Brannen, Katie Carguilo, Jesse Kahn, Erin Meister, and Erin McCarthy] Photos: Alan Tansey

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For those of you in NYC this weekend, the training center will have an open house on Friday and Saturday to celebrate with cuppings, brewing workshops and giveways. I can’t make it, so stop by the new space, taste some great coffee, Instagram the hell out of it and give Jesse Kahn a giant hug for me.

The New York Counter Culture Training Center
376 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013

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posted by on 09.24.2013, under Design, Misc., Recommended Roasters

WeBrew With Beautiful Things

09.20

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John and Radek, two coffee lovers in the Czech Republic, have recently directed their passion towards creating unique, hand crafted products to compliment your coffee making. WeBrew sent me one of their hefty—yet delicate—slow pouring decanters, which is a pleasure to use and makes much more of an impression on guests than the Hario vessels we’ve become so accustomed too.

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A beautiful tasting coffee can be enjoyed many ways. You don’t need fancy glass to get a fantastic cup, but it sure does look nice on your table. The vessel you choose to drink (or serve) coffee from can affect your perception and experience more than you may realize. From the balance and comfort of the vessel, to the thickness of the lip and the heat your hands are able to feel— it all enhances or limits the experience.

WeBrew set out to compliment the joy of great tasting coffee with well made products. They’ve already created a small line of their own that includes hand blown glassware, custom wooden tampers and denim aprons.

Check them out at WeBrew!

posted by on 09.20.2013, under Design, Misc., Products

Linea Caffe Opens in San Francisco

09.20

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Andrew Barnett is a veteran of specialty coffee who has been around longer than many of the younger roasters you might be familiar with. In 2000, Andrew founded Ecco Caffe which roasted coffee for the San Francisco Bay area for years before it was sold to Intelligentsia in 2009. New Yorkers may also be familiar with Ecco from its use at Joe Coffee, until Joe began roasting for themselves earlier this summer.

This week, Andrew opened the door of his newest foray in the world of coffee—Linea Caffe. The new espresso bar is an intimate, open air café on the corner of 18th and San Carlos in the Mission District. The focus on espresso based drinks and its standing room only intimacy, creates a European feel that’s contrasts with the spacious San Francisco spots that can feel more like co-working spaces than coffee bars. For those who don’t have work to do, Linea provides a warm neighborly environment that’s better for standing around talking with friends than meeting deadlines.

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Apart from Andrew and his coffee, the space is also shared with Anthony Myint, of Mission Chinese fame, who’s making fluffy Brussel-style waffles and salads meant to satisfy. Andrew is determined to ensure the focus on coffee and fare be well balanced, instead of leaving the food as an afterthought. So Linea Caffe partnered with Anthony to launch food concepts that will be just as much of a draw as the coffee.

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The espresso at Linea is meant to be sweet, balanced and approachable, leaving the more experimental flavor bombs to some of San Francisco’s other specialty coffee bars. After sampling the espresso with and without milk, it was right on target. It was a straightforward, enjoyable coffee that should please both coffee purists as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Next I’ll be sure to try the waffles.

Linea Caffe
3417 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
8am – 3pm Daily
@linea_caffe

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(I’m also a big fan of the Heath Ceramic demitasses)

 

 

posted by on 09.20.2013, under Coffee Touring, Misc., Recommended Roasters

Lewis Black Rants About Coffee (NSFW)

08.08

Some coffee guy who you’ve most likely never heard of is running for NYC Mayor. Well not actually, but it was a good way to get his coffee company’s press release published in the New York Times. The only thing interesting about this company’s million dollar campaign is watching Lewis Black, who always seems like he’s had one too many cups of coffee, rant about how important coffee is to NYC.

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John Vassilaros is a personal friend of Lewis Black and the owner of Vassilaros & Sons Coffee, a large wholesale coffee company that’s been selling coffee direct to diners and dives around New York for 95 years. Now they’ve got themselves an AD agency (NSG/SWAT) who wants to help them sell directly to customers and claim the title of “New York’s own” brand of coffee, which they say doesn’t currently exist—ignoring the success and admiration of New York coffee companies like Joe, Grumpy & Gimme!

The company’s new strategy involves “developing new products” like an Italian roast espresso and a premium-priced (note: not premium quality) line of coffees called 1918. The first offering in this new premium-priced line of coffee includes a “rich roasted Sumatra.” So intense, earthy and bold!

Meanwhile, the company’s social media strategy includes a new Instagram account, who’s first post is a reappropriated image of Sam Penix’s coffee tattoo from Everyman Espresso—another well-known name in NYC coffee. I guess Vassilaros $1 million dollar budget wasn’t large enough to develop original content alongside their new products. But then again, Vassilaros thinks the “new world” of coffee still revolves around Starbucks, so they didn’t spend much on research either.

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posted by on 08.08.2013, under Misc., Videos

Philly’s Specialty Coffee Revival

07.18

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A unique campaign was recently launched to tell the story of Philadelphia’s spirited specialty coffee community. The dedicated website is a collaborative effort produced by Hy-Lo, a marketing agency that’s focused on working with hyper-local movements and independent businesses. By promoting the collective specialty coffee community in Philly there’s a greater opportunity to communicate the idea of specialty coffee to consumers in a more effective way that elevates understanding and appreciation.

The story begins by introducing the camaraderie of the baristas who make up the Philly coffee community, their lively TNT events and the knowledge shared to foster their growth. The site also highlights the origin of five influential coffee shops who credit their birth to the passion that once emanated from the now-closed Spruce Street Espresso.

Ultimo Coffee
Bohdi Coffee
Shot Tower Coffee
Elixr Coffee

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It’s been many years since my last trip to Philly, so I haven’t had the chance to visit any of these shops. But with roasters like PT’s, Counter Culture, Stumptown and Intelligentsia all being prepared by dedicated baristas, this list offers a solid start for anyone looking to do a bit of coffee touring in Philadelphia.

Philly Coffee Revival

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posted by on 07.18.2013, under Coffee Touring, Misc.

Coffee Cultures Brings Counter Culture to SF’s FiDi

07.16

The coffee options in San Francisco’s Financial District continue to grow with the recent opening of Coffee Cultures on Bush Street. This new café is the first to exclusively serve Counter Culture in the city (though it could be found previously at the multi-roaster shop Stanza). Apart from coffee, they’re also serving Straus frozen yogurt (I assume that’s why “culture” is plural). I’m looking forward to a FroYo Affogato when I visit.

Counter Cultures was started by Jason Michael Paul, who co-founded CoffeeBar another San Francisco company preparing to open their second shop in the Financial District this summer. When Jason isn’t opening coffee bars, he is a producer of concerts who make incredible things like this exist—Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.

If the design of Coffee Cultures branding looks familiar, it was done by the same Chen Design Associates who were behind the iconic Verve Coffee packaging. It uses an extravagant mixture of earth tones, intricate patterns, and layered details to create a leather bound feeling of warmth, and to some, a greater sense of value when paying more than usual for their coffee. Though if you’re working in the Financial District, come on.

Coffee Cultures
225 Bush Street
San Francisco, Ca 94104
Monday – Friday, 6am–6pm

posted by on 07.16.2013, under Coffee Touring, Misc.

The Coffee Collective Begins Food Pairings

07.15

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The Danish stalwarts at Coffee Collective recently made an exciting announcement on their blog. After years of only serving limited pastry offerings to maintain focus on their coffees, they will now begin offering delicate treats created specifically to pair with certain coffees on the menu at their location (and roastery) on Godthåbsvej.

The idea was to keep it as simple as possible. Three small dishes, each paired with a specific coffee as a combined experience. The dishes change along with our coffee menu, so new flavour combinations can be tested. - Coffee Collective blog

This idea comes from the company’s experience working with and learning from several high end restaurants who have begun incorporating the flavors of coffee into their tasting menus the same way they would wine and other foods. It’s an inspiring addition to an already fantastic coffee shop. I’m definitely looking forward to my next visit.

The Coffee Collective
Godthåbsvej 34B
2000 Frederiksberg
Denmark

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posted by on 07.15.2013, under Misc., Recommended Roasters

Video: Home

07.12

This video has little to do with coffee and at the same time everything to do with coffee. It’s an honest glimpse into the life of Josh Brine, a filmmaker who now lives in Portland, Oregon. Though he isn’t from the Pacific Northwest, he packed his car and headed that direction several years ago. In this beautiful place, one known for its love of coffee, Josh found home.

Home and the feeling of comfort that comes with it, is something many of us connect with a great cup of coffee. It creates a moment of clarity, reflection or calm that helps us forget anything else that may be going on in the world. It pairs well with friends, family, laughter and love. Or just a quiet solitary morning. For those of us who enjoy coffee, it is intertwined with our lives in an unextractable way. No matter how you drink it, love coffee and live well.

film by Josh Brine
music by La Liberte

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posted by on 07.12.2013, under Misc., Videos