The Awesome Coffee Culture of Iran

11.25

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Apart from the downsides of coffee shop crackdowns in Iran, there is still a determination among young Iranians to enjoy coffee socially and have incredible places in which to do so. Opened in 2010, M Coffee is an example of one of these incredible places I’d love to visit in Tehran.

This amazing shop, designed by architect Hooman Balazadeh, is less than 600 sq ft (52m) but makes incredible use of the limited space. The design goal was to offer a new perspective to patrons from every one of its 42 seats, introducing new ideas to inspire them. With such a small space, the number of materials and colors were limited to just two, while maximizing the experience with its unique form.

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The shape of the ceiling formed by a series of planks not only creates an iconic shape while defusing the lighting, but it’s also meant to dampen the acoustics from the many conversations taking place in such a close environment. The coffee shop is located on the second floor of the Velenjak Shopping Center, so the lighting remains constant throughout the day.

The front and back walls are connected through the space with dark woods and leather furniture that absorb the curving light from the panels above. This was done to create a since of unity between the contrasting elements and unite everyone sitting in the space together.

While the stories of coffee shop closures in Iran may be hard to fully understand, especially for those who aren’t from there, we can probably all agree that this is one coffee shop we’d love to sit in all day drinking coffee, no matter what kind of political issues are taking place beyond its walls.

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[photos by Parham Taghi-Of]

 

posted by on 11.25.2013, under Design, Misc.

The Repressed Coffee Culture of Iran

11.25

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Tehran has always been high on my list of places to visit. As the most populous city in Iran it’s the cultural heart of the country, combining Persian roots with modern architecture and the influence of a globalized youth who attend Tehran University. This beautiful cosmopolitan city is situated below the Alborz mountains and Mount Damavand, the highest peak in Iran. With its many complex layers of social, religious and political issues Iran is a complex destination to visit—but that does little to quell the spirit of a curious traveler.

One of the many influences the youth have had on Tehran is a rise in new coffee shops opening around the city in recent years. These coffee shops are often the only places where Iranians can socialize or use free wifi in a country without bars. However, their popularity has been countered by government raids, regulations and even shutdowns from the “morality police.” Last summer, 87 coffee shops were raided and closed in a single weekend for “not following Islamic values.”

The attempt to shutter coffee shops has been a reoccurring theme in Iranian history, with similar closures taking place following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to combat “western influence.” Another recent string of closures happened in 2007, but the coffee shops return despite the continuous efforts against them.

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One casualty of the recent crackdown was Café Prague, a popular coffee shop that opened in 2009, which had been a second home for students, activists and intellectuals in Tehran until January of this year. When the owners of the café refused to install surveillance cameras required by the morality police for “civic monitoring,” they were forced to close permanently.

An Iranian photographer, Amirhossein Darafsheh, took these beautiful photographs of the last day at Café Prague, which captures a glimpse of the vibrant café culture being repressed in Iran.

I loved this cafe not only because they had the best coffee and cakes in Tehran and not only for their free wifi. I loved the place because of their humanitarian views and their cultural atmosphere – which is a very rare substance in my country; Iran.

And they are shutting down the place. Why? because based on a new ruling, every cafe should have CCTVs installed in place, recored everything and give free access to the police and security forces to the recorded data. I loved cafe prague but I’m happy that they didn’t accepted this 1984ish order from a totalitarian government and closed the place.

Goodbye Cafe Prague and hope to see you someday in a free society. -Amirhossein Darafsheh

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It’s hard to argue that coffee shops symbolize “western immorality” when coffee has been a part of Persian and Middle Eastern culture since long before the development of the western world. The closings are more likely symbolic victims of the political struggles between governments. But coffee shops are known to have influenced revolutions throughout history, and trying to prevent that from happening is a high priority among leaders of a theocracy.

It can be easy to forget how often freedom is taken for granted, like the simple act of enjoying a cup of coffee (or affording one) with friends in a café. Coffee is a privilege, not a right—yet it’s something most of us couldn’t imagine going a day without it. Coffee is an infinitely complex beverage, not just in the cup, but also in the social and humanitarian issues that surround it. One day I hope to enjoy coffee in Tehran, when its people are free to enjoy it as well.

View all of Amirhossein’s incredible and heartbreaking photos.

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posted by on 11.25.2013, under Misc.

Seriousness: Gender & Specialty Coffee

11.21

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The subject of the gender gap in specialty coffee is something that occasionally get’s brought up, debated heavy handedly for a brief period of time before it’s dismissed for “more important” discussions like extraction yields, filter rinsing and whether or not you should drink espresso from whatever vessel you like.

Over at Bitch Magazine, Lisa Knisely penned a thought provoking article for the current food issue that delves into specialty coffee’s gender gap that’s obvious to anyone who has ever watched a barista competition. However, the gender gap is not the only issue Lisa brings to light, highlighting more classic examples of pure sexism in coffee, such as the feminization of flavored milk-heavy drinks, and the mere existence of designations like “women in coffee.” I highly suggest reading the whole thing, but here is a brief excerpt to pique your interest.

Specialty-coffee folk pay attention to coffee at all levels: bean varietals and soils, correct roasting, flavor profiles and aromas, acidity, espresso dosage, and flawless service and presentation. In other words, they’re coffee snobs.This niche market, unheard of before 1974, now makes up almost 50 percent of the “value share” of the approximately $30 billion U.S. coffee industry each year. The largest professional trade organization in coffee, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, has been influential in developing baristas into professionals within the service industry. While the coffee retail industry used to be more like so-called pink-collar fields such as nursing and teaching, efforts to make espresso slinging more professional have led to a masculinization of the workforce. That is, the more a job is thought of as “skilled,” the more social prestige is associated with it, the higher the wage, and the harder it is for women to get, keep, and advance in the field. Whether in terms of wages, visibility, career advancement, or coffee competitions, female baristas lag behind their male counterparts in this burgeoning professional service field. –Lisa Knisely, “Steamed Up”

I won’t pretend to have an answer, nor do I expect someone to offer one, but this should be a larger issue for anyone who works in the industry and it’s one that rarely gets discussed. I found it surprising, but refreshing to see the topic discussed in a non-industry publication like Bitch Magazine.

If specialty-coffee baristas are sincere in their calls for equality, there needs to be a shift in the conversation to talking explicitly about sexism in the spaces surrounding coffee so that the masculine is no longer the default. –Lisa Knisely, “Steamed Up”

From my experience living in Scandinavia, I would argue that many of the points made by Lisa don’t necessarily apply there (competitions being an exception), but every time I travel back to the US or the UK, many of the examples laid out in the article become much more apparent.

In the future, how can specialty coffee counter balance these factors to make the industry more accommodating for all genders? What could be gained from the many voices belonging to individuals that aren’t being heard because they haven’t won a barista competition or started their own company? How can the industry support and inspire all genders who want to build careers in specialty coffee?

 

[photo credit: Christoffer Erneholm]

posted by on 11.21.2013, under Misc.

It’s Coffee Time, All the Time with a DCILY Watch

11.14

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This week, the latest DCILY collaboration launched in the form of a coffee lover’s wristwatch. The timepiece, designed with the Hong Kong-based Moment Watches, is part of a year long project that features 52 limited edition watches—this one, inspired by my own coffee story and the craft of making exceptional coffee.

Four key elements to brewing a delicious cup of coffee are great coffee beans, clean water, a solid burr grinder and the right amount of time. The impact of time affects every aspect of the coffee chain: from growing, harvesting, processing, roasting, resting, and brewing. Precision and attention to detail (along with the right ingredients) is what transforms an average cup of coffee into a fantastic one.

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The details of the watch face reflect the burrs of a grinder as they mill down the seconds until your next coffee break. The DCILY logo allows you to proudly wear your love of coffee on your sleeve and the mantra serves a daily reminder to live well. When life gets hard, grab another cup of coffee and give things another go.

Aligning with the DCILY mission to “love coffee, live well, give back and inspire others,” Moment Watches donates 30% of their proceeds to charity and works directly with artists and designers to inspire others with their watches. It’s been great working with Moment Watches and it’s exciting to have such a fun product available to DCILY readers.

Pre-Order yours now from Moment Watches [$40]

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posted by on 11.14.2013, under Design, Products

DCILY’s Favorite American Roasters for Thrillist

10.29

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Yesterday, Thrillist (a daily newsletter of curated recommendations) published a list of the “best coffee roasters in America.” I was one of the “jurors” asked to recommend my top ten coffee roasters in the US and provide a brief description as to what makes them special. Beyond that, I didn’t know who the other jurors were, or how the results would be calculated until the list was published.

The other jurors included:
Bill Walsh (Pure Coffee Blog)
Jordan Michelman (Sprudge.com)
Kelly Stewart (Roast Magazine)
Chris Cusack (Down House)
Sean Henry (Houndstooth)
Sarah Allen (Barista Magazine)
Joshua McNeilly (Black Black Coffee)
Greg Martin (Urban Bean)

Here’s how the final list was complied: all of the roasters who were named by jurors received points based on how they were ranked by the respective juror who mentioned them. For example, if I listed Heart Coffee Roasters as #1, they would receive 10 points towards their total score. If I ranked them #10, they would receive 1 point. If I didn’t name them at all, they received no points—a simple (and fair) format to balance the blind recommendations of nine jurors.

This list is not scientific. It’s not written in stone. It’s only valid until the next internet list of 10 greatest things is published. And it’s all in good fun to reflect the recommendations from a small group of people who drink a lot of coffee—both as professionals in the industry and as consumers. You don’t have to agree. But just maybe there are some roasters on here you haven’t heard of, or tasted, and maybe you’ll find something new that you like. If you’re personal favorite roaster didn’t make the list, don’t hate the internet over it. Drink what you enjoy.

For the sake of transparency, I wanted to share my personal list of top 10 US coffee roasters below (which is not an easy task). However, seven of my selections made the final list—so I wasn’t alone in thinking those companies deserved a mention. Agree, disagree, either way, please enjoy.

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1. Heart Coffee Roasters, Portland
Heart stands out as having clearly embraced the Nordic influence of their owner Wille and the taste of the coffee reflects it. There’s always something juicy, lively and interesting to enjoy in coffee from Heart. 

2. Ritual Coffee, San Francisco
Ritual has always felt like an underdog of the San Francisco coffee scene to me. They often fall to the wayside of Blue Bottle’s marketing prowess and the unexplained hype of Phil’s, but they offer some of the best coffee you’ll find in the Bay area and the country as a whole. 

3. Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago
Intelligentsia is where I first discovered the joy of black coffee in the mid-2000′s. They may be “big” compared with newer, smaller roasters in the US, but they still discover some of the most unique coffees around and haven’t lost their touch. 

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4. Verve Coffee, Santa Cruz
Verve stands out for representing where they come from better than most other coffee companies. Their brand and their attitude reflects the lifestyle of Santa Cruz in almost every way. Verve’s green-tip gesha from 2012 remains one of the best coffees I’ve ever tasted.

5. MadCap Coffee, Grand Rapids
MadCap may not come from a large metropolitan area, but they push forward with unique varietal series and Sunday tasting experiences. They’ve also got a stellar brand, one of my favorites, by the renown designers Chuck Anderson and Seth Herman

6. Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca
For a time, Gimme! was one of the only “local” roasters in New York City serving quality coffee before an influx of outsiders like Stumptown and Intelligentsia forced others to jump into the game. Gimme! still remains one of my favorite roasters and cafés in New York. 

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7. Handsome Coffee, Los Angeles
Handsome formed from a team of big names in the world of specialty coffee with lots of experience and knowledge to transfer into something new. They added fresh variety and energy to the LA coffee scene after forming in 2011 and haven’t slowed down since.

8. Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco
Four Barrel has really progressed over the years, helping to further expand San Franciscan’s access to good coffee and sourcing really delicious beans in the process. Their coffee shop puts their roasting on display and stands out among the many options in San Francsico.

9. Ceremony Coffee, Annapolis
Ceremony underwent a successful name and brand overhaul in 2011 that better reflects their values and the ceremony involved in crafting a delicious cup of coffee. Since then, they’ve been showing up in even more places around Washington D.C. and throughout the country with some really tasty coffees.

10. Counter Culture Coffee, Durham
I consider Counter Culture a part of the “big three” in terms of US specialty coffee roasters (including Intelligentsia and Stumptown). However, with CCC’s unique training-based wholesale model that lacks high profile coffee shops, they rarely get the awareness they deserve among average consumers.

My shortlist for runners-up included:
PT’s Coffee, Topeka
Equator Coffee, San Rafael
George Howell Coffee, Acton (Boston)
Olympia Coffee, Olympia
Cuvée Coffee, Austin

See the final collective list published on Thrillist.

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posted by on 10.29.2013, under Misc., Recommended Roasters

First Look: Saint Frank Coffee in San Francisco

10.18

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Saint Frank, the newest specialty coffee bar in San Francisco is set to finally open this weekend in Russian Hill. The new space is really incredible and I’ve got the photos to prove it. I stopped by this afternoon for a delicious cup of Honduras and to talk with Kevin Bohlin about the new venture.

Back in July, I wrote about the opening of Saint Frank’s pop-up at the Public Bike showroom in South Park. That location is still there and has since become a longer term project that’s kept customers satisfied while the new flagship space was being completed on northern end of Polk Street.

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The new space is awash in natural light from the four large skylights overhead and the wall of windows up front. A long, low bar adorned with white hexagon tiles and a matching white counter top reflect the light and illuminate the light wood planks that cut across the floor diagonally and continue half way up the towering walls. The tension between the wood grain and white space create an atmosphere that’s dynamic enough to give warmth, but airy enough to be a gallery space.

It’s an absolutely stunning space.

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One of the greatest features is what the space lacks—the presence of physical barriers between the customer and the barista. Kevin worked with John Ermacoff to install the first prototype of a new under bar espresso machine similar to the MOD Bar used in the new Counter Culture Training Center. The machine is still unnamed and uses the guts of a Synesso Sabre. It features the same volumetric and PID benefits, while being extremely low profile.

There are two groups and two cool touch steam wands that are controlled by foot pedals on the floor for hands free milk magic. The groups themselves have a profile that’s more aesthetically similar to an Über boiler and less like the flowing lines of the MOD Bar. But most importantly, guests are no longer walled off from baristas. The espresso bar now provides the same theater as the pour over bar.

There will soon be two espresso machines (a second low pro is being built) which will add the option of ordering single origin espressos ground on the EK43.

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There are a variety of seating options, from small two person tables to larger high tables in the back of the shop. There’s a bar at the window for watching the heavy foot traffic go by outside and a future loft space that can be used for meetings or larger groups. There will also be a training lab hidden away upstairs, wifi for the internet starved and pastries for the hungry.

The coffee itself comes from a partnership between Kevin and his former employer Ritual Coffee, where he sources the coffees from farms he has built relationships with, while Ritual helps do the actual roasting. This partnership leads to coffee roasted at the same level of quality you would expect from Ritual, but with unique coffees sourced by Kevin himself.

The brand was developed by the talented Brooklyn-based designer Dana Tanamachi and the beautiful architecture was done by Amanda Loper (whose husband is currently making A Film About Coffee).

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The grand opening takes place this Saturday, October 19th at 7am. So stop by and congratulate Kevin, drink some delicious coffee and admire the beautiful space.

Saint Frank Coffee
2340 Polk Street
San Francisco, California
@StFrankCoffee

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posted by on 10.18.2013, under Coffee Touring, Design

Brunch with Stumptown’s Duane Sorenson

10.07

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What would brunch be like with Duane Sorenson, the founder of Portland’s celebrated coffee company Stumptown and budding restaurateur? Fantastic. Chris and Sarah Rhoads, from We Are The Rhoads, attended such an affair and captured Duane’s love of coffee and food with friends and family for Bon Appétit.

There was definitely coffee, brewed by Duane himself, but it wasn’t the only thing worth noting. The atmosphere was punctuated by famed artists (both in person and on vinyl), a delectable looking sausage & broccoli rabe frittata, salmon & capers, hazelnut granola and a fantastic looking cocktail called the “Dark Moon.”

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Dark Moon Cocktail

Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups of cold brew coffee
- 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (Duane uses this)
- 1/2 cup spiced rum
- 1 bottle of “Mexican” coke
- 1/2 cup heavy cream

Mix all of the ingredients together (except the cream) and divide into rocks glasses filled with ice. Distribute cream evenly on top and serve.

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View all of the photos and recipes from Duane’s brunch on Bon Appétit.

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[Photos: Chris & Sarah Rhoads, We Are The Rhoads]

posted by on 10.07.2013, under Misc.

The Minimalist New Cold Bruer

10.03

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Bruer, a new start up in California, launched a new cold brew coffee maker on Kickstarter last month called the Cold Bruer. This isn’t the first cold brew coffee maker to launch on the crowdfunding site, but it’s the first one that’s practical enough for home use. Unlike the meter high towers that most people design for cold brew coffee, the Cold Bruer’s simplicity is what makes it so fantastic. Less is more—and the minimal design of the Cold Bruer makes that clear (as the glass it’s made with).

Bruer was founded by Andy Clark and Gabe Herz who met at a product incubator in the Santa Cruz mountains. After discovering their joy of cold brew coffee and being unhappy with all the options available for making it—they decided to create their own. The two co-founders wanted to design something transparent to show the process, and they’ve created an elegant and compact way of accomplishing that.

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The Cold Bruer was conveniently designed to work with standard paper AeroPress filters, but comes with a reusable mesh filter of its own if you aren’t concerned with clarity. With a capacity of 700ml of water and about 56 grams of coffee, it produces three cups of coffee concentrate (6 cups diluted) to be enjoyed however you like it—with ice, water or milk. The drip valve is fully adjustable allowing brew times to be as short as two hours or as long as eighteen, depending on your level of patience.

The photographs published here are of a Cold Bruer prototype, so I spoke with Andy at Bruer to find out if any changes will be made to the final product:

The prototype is pretty much the same as what we will be delivering. There are a couple changes that have happened already, like the shape of the glass to make the interaction between the pieces more stable. There is also a silicone “shoulder” now that provides a cushion between the two glass pieces. We will be making some improvements to the valve to make it easier to use, based on feedback we received from people who tested our prototypes…

Andy said they’ve also begun designing a lid that will fit both the reservoir on top as well as the pitcher for storage that will also be included with the Cold Bruer.

When I first shared the Bruer on Twitter a few weeks ago, I never really followed up on it since I’m personally not a fan of cold brewed coffee—but I know many people are. I do however think it’s one of the best looking cold brewers on the market and the design alone is worth sharing. Now that the Cold Bruer has surpassed its goal on Kickstarter by over 450%, there’s only a week left to order one at a discounted price.

By backing the project on Kickstarter you can pre-order a Cold Bruer for only $50—later retailing for $70. And although the original delivery date was estimated for January 2014, there’s a possibility they might ship a bit sooner. Andy said with the success of the campaign so far, some parts have already been ordered in hopes of delivering early. That’s good news for cold brew fans everywhere.

Cold Bruer on Kickstarter

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posted by on 10.03.2013, under Design, Products

An Illustrated World of Coffee

10.01

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Mr. Porter, an online retailer of high-end menswear, published a lovely interactive map of global coffee trends this summer in the journal section of their website. You can glide around the map and read tidbits about each location’s coffee culture and brief summaries of various brew methods and coffee drinks.

The illustrations were done by some of my favorite designers at Hey Studio in Barcelona, Spain. Their simple geometric style illustrates twenty-nine different drinks from around the world, from the AeroPress to the Ten Belles.

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The map is also accompanied by some thoughts from Mansel Fletcher, the site’s Features Editor, and Marco Arrigo from Illy, regarding today’s evolving coffee scene:

One of the striking things about the modern coffee scene is the extent to which the Italian tradition has been written out of the picture. The flat white has become so popular that it’s possible to imagine that the espresso was invented in Melbourne, rather than in Turin. However, Mr Marco Arrigo, Illy’s head of quality in the UK, believes that there’s one element of Italian coffee culture that Anglo Saxons can’t reproduce. “In the UK and the US you can have the coffee, but you still don’t have the culture. You should enjoy a coffee with somebody else, sitting down, drinking from a real cup. To drink coffee on your own, from a paper cup, while sending an email on your BlackBerry is missing the point; it’s like eating a meal in front of the television. It’s sterile.” – Mr. Porter 

View all the illustrations and explore the map at Mr. Porter Journal.

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posted by on 10.01.2013, under Coffee 101, Design, Misc.

The Beauty of Kenya from Verve Coffee & WTYSL

09.27

Kenya is a beautiful place. Many of my favorite coffees come from this East African country and having the opportunity to visit a few years ago, still remains one of the greatest trips I’ve ever taken. Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz, California has captured many of the things I loved about that trip in a new video, while also showing the process your coffee goes through before getting into your cup.

Thanks to technology, curiosity and roasters who visit coffee farms, there have been an increasing number of coffee origin videos in recent years. The production quality continues to rise, bringing many people closer to coffee farms than they will ever get themselves. This particular film stands out for its warmth and for its broad perspective showing the viewer coffee farms as well as the lively street culture and dramatic country side of Kenya.

Verve worked with What Took You So Long to produce the film, an organization who is quite experienced with film making in Africa. WTYSL was founded by Sebastion Lindstrom to make guerrilla films in the most remote parts of the world and to share positive stories from those regions. The organization came together during a trip across 16 countries in Africa while researching best practices within nonprofits. Since that maiden trip they’ve built up an impressive portfolio of work on the continent.

So grab a fresh cup and enjoy this lovely journey through Kenya.

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posted by on 09.27.2013, under Misc., Videos