Last week, I wrote about the grand opening of the DunneFrankowski pop-up coffee bar in London. In an effort to foster conversation around the culture of coffee shops and the habits of customers, they are charting and sharing all of their coffee sales as they happen. This transparent tally will keep track of a daily and continuing sum of all the drinks ordered by customers during their time at Protein.
It will be interesting to see if certain beverages (like filter coffee) become more popular as customers begin to learn more about the coffees being served and have the opportunity to try new things. This is a cool experiment I look forward to following.
Here are some nice charts from the Colombia Coffee Hub that show 14 possible green coffee defects. They include brief summaries of what causes them and how they affect roasted coffee. I almost find it hard to look at—like photos of STDs in a science text book—the sad little leprous beans that will never make a happy cup of coffee. But we must not avert our gaze, but show compassion for the process, and learn from them.
If you haven’t signed up for the Colombia Coffee Hub yet, there’s a lot of nice articles worth reading. It’s also a really cool site, but a bit lonely right now.
There are many ways to brew coffee at home—as many bad methods as good methods. Aside from auto-drip, instant and K-cup machines, I personally think the worst cup of coffee one can make at home comes from a Bialetti. There are a few techniques to improve the coffee from a moka pot—like pouring pre-heated water into the lower chamber—but I still think the outcome is on par with burnt metallic sludge.
Coffee taste aside, the object itself is a beautiful and iconic part of design history, with a place in several major museums around the world. Which is why it looks great on posters, sitting on a kitchen shelf, or even oddly contorted into a ceramic mug.
Yesterday, The New York Times ran an article about the invention of the Moka Express that says 9 in 10 Italian homes own one—which is an incredible saturation of the home brewing market. But just like Italian espresso, ignoring progression in the name of tradition can limit the quality that good coffee can produce.
The moka pot is often referred to as a stove-top espresso maker, but it doesn’t actually make espresso. While, it does use pressure to push water through the coffee grounds, it’s a substantially less amount than what’s required for a proper shot (1-2 bars of pressure instead of the required 9 bars). In many ways it’s just a well designed percolator.
However, if you love using a moka pot as much as looking at one, atleast give the tips in this video a try to see if you can improve the taste. If you’re buying fresh roasted coffee, you shouldn’t sacrifice flavor for the sake of romanticizing an inferior brew method.
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!
There’s a great new coffee resource to add to the continually growing list of must-read websites—Nordic Coffee Culture. Featuring an editorial team that includes some of Scandinavia’s most inspiring coffee professionals, it aims to discuss the “themes that unite the coffee cultures of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.”
The people of the Nordic countries have a passionate, deeply rooted relationship with coffee. So deeply rooted, in fact, that it is rarely spoken about, and rarer still, given serious thought. It is accepted as a matter of course, a part of the cultural fabric, and – in a more narrow sense – a culture unto itself.
The site is supported by Wilfa, a Norwegian based housewares and lifestyle company, but aside from a small logo on the site, their presence is non-existent. It’s nice to see such a respected collection of voices talking about coffee with consumers in mind, instead of geeking out exclusively with others in the coffee industry. Congrats on the launch and I’m looking forward to a future filled with great content.
I have been working with Wilfa for a long time now to help them improve and develop some new coffee brewers. (To be launched at this years Nordic Barista Cup). In this process we felt there needed to be a blog to celebrate the Nordic Coffee Culture.
For the last 10 months, designer Brand Bortwein has been drawing cups of coffee on post-it notes and dedicating them to me. Or you. Or whoever may be looking at them. They range from the artistically realistic, to homages of Super Mario Brothers and Angry Birds. I really enjoyed looking through them all.
When I started this blog over a year and a half ago, this type of thing is what inspired the whole site. Coffee is fantastic and it fuels wonderfully creative things. Something about coffee unlocks creativity in people that can lead to world altering revolutions or a wonderfully simple doodle on a post-it note.
One of the newest shops in London is ST.ALi, which carries the same name and a bit of inspiration from a shop in Melbourne, Australia. What I love most about ST. ALi is that they’ve successfully combined a roastery and café bar, with a full menu restaurant. There are very few places I’ve been to around the world that can offer a solid brekkie, brunch or any other meal and compliment it with proper coffee—ST.ALi can.
After a week of experiencing the Costa Rica, Zamorana at Coffee Common, it was nice to also try the espresso blend they use in their shop. Which I found more balanced and enjoyable than the Zamorana alone. The coffee wasn’t the best I had in the city, but the program is young and moving fast, already creating a new venue for people in London to experience well-prepared, progressive coffee. Tim Williams, a fellow co-founder of Coffee Common, has been leading the growth and refinement of the coffee program with help from Baptiste Kreyder, who participated in Coffee Common at TEDGlobal.
The space itself is beautiful with two floors and two coffee bars. The downstairs is outfitted with a lovely Slayer, while a Synesso graces the bar upstairs. The back of the restaurant opens up to a ceiling of skylights high above—which keeps the living wall well fed and the roasting area well lit during the day. The environment is a great way to get everyday customers—coming in for food—to be introduced to coffee in a great new way.
If you’re in London or going soon, your coffee tour wouldn’t be complete without ST.Ali. I would highly recommend planning your trip around a meal as well.
Doma Coffee is the first coffee roaster I’ve tried from Idaho. It may actually be the first thing I’ve tried from Idaho that isn’t a potato. Idaho is one of those places that never seems to come up in conversation and I’ve never had a specific reason to go there. However, I hear that part of the county is beautiful and if it’s filled with more people like the good folks at Doma Coffee, I won’t write off a future visit.
Doma sent some Idaho love my way and it was much appreciated. They’ve been roasting since 2000 and made it clear from the start that principles of social and environmental responsibility would be reflected by their business. From focusing solely on Fair Trade and relationship-based organic coffees, to roasting in a Loring Smart Roast—which is more efficient with its use of natural gas—the company has created a strong foundation for doing business right.
The design of Doma’s packaging and collateral all have a very tactile feel. The bags are biodegradable and letterpressed with veggie ink by Dreyer Press (who’s also responsible for the rad looking La Bicicletta illustration), and it all just looks and feels really nice in your hands. It’s the kind of bag you don’t want to throw out (or even compost), because they are individual pieces of art.
Aside from supporting coffee growers, the company also supports a variety of non-profit organizations as well as cycling advocacy—and after coffee and design, bikes are next on my list of things I love. Proceeds from their La Bicicletta blend go towards supporting competitive women’s cycling and the company often sponsors local cycling events.
Of the three coffees I received, the La Bicicletta blend was my favorite, a good balance of sugar and spice. Although all of them were roasted slightly darker than I prefer. I often found my palate contending with roast flavors while trying to discern the true essence of the coffee. This is not to say they were dark by any means, I know there are many people who would really enjoy them. The Colombia was comfortable, balanced, and would make for a fantastic “everyday” coffee for my parents.
Coffee can be very subjective and everyone will always debate what tastes “good” and what doesn’t. The industry continues to learn, experiment and evolve. However, coffee tastes aside, it’s clear that Doma’s heart for building a responsible company focused on supporting its community and providing a product that makes them and their customers feel good is honorable and much appreciated. Some coffee company’s principles are worth praising, while others most certainly aren’t.
I’ve been sent this video by roughly 20 people and it’s been making rounds on the internet so hard that even Gizmodo has posted it. The video is interesting, and though not necessarily incorrect, I find it really annoying. Describing it as “everything you need to know about coffee in less than five minutes,” while only spending 8 seconds on the actual process from crop to cup, overlooks all of the work it actually takes to produce coffee. The rest of the video is little more than a 4-minute ramble about the effects of caffeine. There’s far more to coffee than caffeine. If that’s the only reason you drink it, you’re missing out on so much more. Just sayin.
I really enjoy this animation chronicling the childhood and life of a coffee bean, set to the tune “Java Jave”—the 1940′s hit by The Ink Spots. The animation was illustrated and produced by Kristyna Baczynski, an artist from Leeds, UK. It also won the Digital Media Award in 2008 at the Northern Design Competition.
Kristyna’s whimsical, but refined illustration style reminds me of Ren & Stimpy with a more refreshing color palate, I love her unique take on comics and sequential art. Check out more of her work, shop her Etsy, or read a nice interview with her at Pika Land.