Coffee Review just reviewed our Rwanda Karaba...

great score, rave review.
it's interesting to note the differences in perception. the "astringency" that Ken Davids notes in the review (and considers a negative) is something i've perceived as a lovely vanilla note. amd while i think the coffee does, in fact, have lovely floral notes (i've described coffee blossom, orchid, etc.) to me it's dominated by the chocolate/berry truffle tone (when hot, a tart raspberry and as it cools it moves toward cranberry).
is Ken Davids' review wrong? hell no!
is my palate wrong? nope.
and therein lies the challenge of evaluating perception of taste.

regardless - i'm really really excited about this. folks here are going to be so proud.
a deserved honor!


clarification etc.

so... obviously my previous post was a bit cryptic and incomplete.
in my defense, so was my thought process.
through thought and some fantastic exchanges with Duane (the owner of Stumptown) i've clarified things in my own head.

so, let's see...

what do i mean between there being "a link" between Cup of Excellence and Transfair?
link was a bad word. i mean that there is something really critical that is missing in Transfair and is present in the CoE. Cup of Excellence reward producers for quality with recognition. in addition, through the auction process, they reward producers financially. this ties quality to revenues. Transfair does not tie increased pay to quality but rather divorces it entirely.

to be blunt, Transfair are a bunch of paper pushers. they have rules and structures and numbers -- all objective, note of them subjective. this is the way life is with bureaucratic organizations - they exist on an objective basis. it's reality. they're doing great things - there is not doubt about it - and their hearts are in the right place. but they're missing the boat on quality.

at a certain level, it would be great if an organization like Transfair could learn from CoE -- if they could start to understand, explain and push the link between quality and price to both producers and to consumers...

CoE is rewarding the producers of quality with recognition and with increased income. but CoE is limited in scope and leverage and brand. CoE is (honestly) entirely dependent upon a handful of buyers/judges like Duane and Andrew. there are a very small number of people who are pushing for quality at a bean through consumption level -- and who are (as a result) creating a link between quality and income for the farmers. these folks are making a difference and are setting an example -- but there is no Organization.

you can make the argument that, right now, Transfair has the money, they have the resources and they have the leverage. they may well be the best positioned to make a difference on a larger scale.

but... can one create an organization with that sort of structure that is subjective in basis? can you somehow codify quality of taste? to be honest - i can't see it. i don't know if it's possible for an organization like Transfair to work the way CoE does and to focus on quality.

i really do believe that there is some way to increase awareness of quality at the consumer level and to tie increased income to quality at the producer level on a larger and replicatable scale. i feel like i'm close to seeing it - but it's all still a bit fuzzy.


i worked a really fun shift at the Division cafe yesterday. great people on both sides of the counter - tons of fun. it's challenging to switch between the cafes still - but i'm also starting to get more and more positive out of it. it not only keeps me fresh, but i'm starting to be able to identify the really good things and figure out if and how they can be transfered. neat.

today i had a great talk with one of my favorite people in the coffee business. Andrew Barnett is the owner/roaster of Ecco Caffe in the bay area and a truly great guy. every time i talk to him i learn something new, and much of the time my conversations with him clarify thoughts in my head as well.

we talked a whole bunch about the issue of taste, and the lack of understanding of the importance of coffee quality and taste above and beyond all else. on a related topic, we also talked about the implications of this on all aspects of the industry - not just baristas but also roasters and brokers and growers. in the end, the conversation turned to Transfair and Andrew really nailed one thing for me. he talked about how he supports Transfair and thinks they're doing great things but that they need to start focusing on quality. and he made the (now obvious to me) link between Transfair and Cup of Excellence.

hmmm... a whole lot to think about there.


another really fun shift today. this time at the Division cafe. great crew, great customers great fun...
it continues to be both strange and challenging to switch cafe to cafe.

oh... if you've not signed up for Barista Magazine yet - do so.


i worked the last two days downtown. it was very cool.
two different types of shifts. yesterday was steady rocking business, today was sporadic, with the rushes being pretty insane. both were fun.
my shots seem spot on. it's always been my strength - and continues to be what i rely on.
my milk is getting better. texture is getting better (in part due to Stephen's training) and my latte art is getting much better as well. milk is hard if you're not working shifts with regularity i find - plus milk has always been my weakness. but i feel like the rosettas are getting more defined and more structured and there is more symetry in the design now.
and two different crews as well. yesterday was a cool crew, but today was a sort of all-star crew. fun fun fun.
and there were some good customers as well. Kyle and i both were pouring rosettas in macchiattos, which was fun, and then a guy came in and ordered one and Kyle poured a pretty damn amazing design for him. now... to be fair it was a single and to be fair i steamed the milk, but still it was awesome. and the guy, after drinking it, said it was the best macchiatto he's had in his life. very nice to hear.