Stumptown Coffee Pairing Menu at Navarre
1 August, 2006
Portland OR

Panama Esmerelda Reserve
Pan D'Epice with Goose Rillettes

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe
Foie Gras and Serrano Ham Terrine with Mizuna
2005 Lambrusco, San Prospero, Ca de Medici

Rwanda Karaba
Eggs in Meurette Nests
NV Vouvray, Francois Pinon, Brut

Kenya Gethumbwini
Chicken Galantine with a Million Herbs Corn Sauce and Farro Salad with Mint
2005 Moscato d'Asti, Vigneto Biancospino

Panama Carmen Estate
Taleggio with Honey
Blanquette de Limoux, Method Ancestrale, Vergnes

Nicaragua Los Delirios
Candied Beets and Cherries with Polenta and Pickled Porcini
2005 Brachetto D'Acqui, Pineto, Morenco

Ethiopia Sidamo
Hickory Smoked Chocolate Mousse with Yogurt Jello
Homemade Walnut Liquour


I ran into Tonx and Kyle the other day. Very fun. Got a chance to catch up, talk about Greece, theories on various aspects of espresso, our shared hatred for Monsooned Malabar, the fun times in Charlotte, IP thieves, Belgian Ale and the future.
It sounds as if things are very exciting for those boys. I'm sure we'll all be interested to see what the future holds.

I also (finally) wrapped up my article for Barista Magazine. It was a struggle. As Andrew Barnett said, "you're trying to turn a 300 page book that you care passionately about into a single magazine article." I worry that people might not get it. I worry that it might seem bizarre or obvious or obscure or just poorly written.
I guess I always kind of feel this way once done.

And I've been cupping some lovely coffees recently. Too much fun!


USBC Champs

1. Matt Riddle (Intelligentsia)
2. Billy Wilson (Albina Press)
3. Amber Sather (Intelligentsia)

Nicely done Matt!!
Well done all!

Interesting trend... seems like the days of the dark horse contender may be fading. Some serious experience, practice and backing for all the above.


The Good, the Bad... the Ugly (Pt 1)

It's taken my leaving coffee - and being away for quite some time - to give me the perspective and the objectivity to look back and see the industry for what it is.

There are a lot of things (pros and cons) that we all understand and that, in many cases, are simply obvious. But there are also a whole lot of positive and negative attributes that one either doesn't notice or hides from while head down behind the bar.

I think it's about time to detail some of these. I think that people can (or perhaps should) learn from this. In some cases - this may well be obvious. But it's good to get stuff out in the open.

The People

Everyone knows that the reason that many of us stay in the industry is because of the coffee. The good folks in this business are truly passionate about coffee. Up until a couple of years ago, this may have been less clear to many - but over the last few years it has become the drumbeat pushing us forward. "It's all about the coffee." That passion is what allowed for the sacrifices and what enables people to keep fighting and stay focused.

But few talk about the other great reason for putting up with all the compromises of a job in coffee. The people.

The specialty coffee industry attracts some of the most amazing, wonderful, engaging, smart, passionate, interesting and just plain cool people. Being around this people is, truly, addictive.

Now that I'm out of the industry I find that I miss a number of things. Some I expected (pulling shots behind the bar, cupping coffees all the time). But others came as a shock. How much I miss the people... well, this is the painful thing. I have so many friends in the coffee world and I knew that would be an issue. But it's not just the friends that I'm missing. I'm missing the community... I'm missing the people who were not even my friends but rather just cool people.

The good people in this industry are amazing - and too few of them get the notice and respect that the deserve. Folks like Jay Caragay, Ellie, Klaus, Tonx, Billy, Gabe, Vince, Brent Fortune, Barry, Peter, Troels, Phuong, George, James, Marcus... the list could go on for ever and ever. These are the people who live and die with coffee. They bleed coffee, they breathe coffee. Without them there simply would be no specialty coffee industry.

I left out the Stumptown folks from this list because they are, to me, a special case. On a daily basis I feel like I've lost a limb when I think about Stumptown. The physical pain that I feel when I think about not being a part of the Stumptown family anymore cannot be described. Joel, Lizz, Jim, Kyle, Stephen, Jana, Tim, Kate, Dave, Andrew, Todd, Blake, Autumn, Sarah, Wendy, Hutch, Dana, Steve, Liam, April, Ellen, Alex, Corey, Daniel, Nicholas, Sierra, Matt... I'm sure I'm forgetting folks and that is unforgivable but seriously... you all are why I stayed in coffee and you are why I'm no longer in coffee. You're an impossible act to follow.

Finally, there are the real heros of the coffee world. These folks are the people who in my opinion simply cannot get enough recognition.

Duane Sorenson. You taught me more that I can describe. I owe you more than you know.
David Schomer. Without you this never would have happened for me.
Doug Zell. Each and every day you demonstrate that you can run a coffee company as a business while also maintaining vision and standards.
Terry. I see the sacrifices you have made and continue to make even if others do not.
Kent. Each and every one of us owe almost everything to your committment and persistence.
Tim Wendelboe. You're the model. You've shown us where we need to go.
Bronwen. You're my hero. You live life the way it should be done. You are a barista.
Andrew Barnett. You are the cult figure for everyone - even if you don't know it. Your palate and your passion is what we strive for.
Sarah Allen. The courage it took you to step out and follow your dream astonishes me. We all owe you drinks on the house forever.

Now... before you think this is some sort of love-fest alone, the truth is that the speciality coffee industry is very immature. One of the ways in which this manifests itself is in the people it attracts. The insular and community focused nature of this industry combines with the immaturity to create a situation where the fools, the pretenders, the crooks and the monsters are hidden from view and/or ignored. And this industry has attracted more than its fair share of the above.

As many know, I have the opinion that the SCAA is the primary magnet for these bad people. Because of the structure and role of the SCAA, it seems to present a powerful pull for people who are in coffee for the "wrong" reasons. These people covet the perceived power and the sense of insider status. They see the opportunity for personal enrichment in the SCAA and see that their lack of ethics or values will allow them to exploit the trust relationships and escape any notice or censure do to the "ostrich" mentality of the industry. They thrive on the conflicts of interest inherent in the situation. And these people are the dominant players in the "old guard" within the SCAA.

They exist as consultants - exploiting their connections and committee relationships to double and even triple bill clients for services of limited to no value.
They exist as paid experts - representing institutions and industries whose very values and missions are antithetical to quality coffee while passing themselves off as friends of ours.
They exist as pundits - pursuing ego gratification through the exageration of abilities and a sort of "networked bullying" and a bully pulpit.
They exist in the media - running magazines dedicated to ad space above quality, ethics or values.
They exist as business owners - lining their own pockets at the expense of their employees; claiming specialty coffee status is owed to them through simple dues paying.
Most of all... they exist within the SCAA. Parasites spending the hard-earned profits of their constituents without providing value to anyone but themselves.

Sadly, these people are not merely limited to the "old guard." The new generation is starting to spawn their fair share of these individuals... these frauds and fakers and fast talking intimidators. They're moving from the Internet to the back room and soon to the board room. This is our chance to stop it... and it's going fast.

Personally, I think nothing could be better for the speciality coffee industry that a "zero tolerance" attitude. I hoped that the financial crimes at the SCAA would serve as a catalyst for this - and was deeply, deeply frustrated to see that, instead, the usual "close the doors and hide the dirty laundry" mentality simply became stronger as a result. I cannot see what anyone gains from this. It's time to call folks on their shit - and let everyone know. Each time you turn your back as another overpriced, underqualified consultant takes some poor coffee entrepreneur for their precious startup cash and then walks away to let them fail... we all are damaged.

The next time you go to an espresso lab and hear someone spreading the same old tired lies and misconception to the gullible - call them on it.

The next time you taste a coffee that is misroasted; the next time you see defect being passed off as character; the next time someone tries to bully and intimidate their way to personal gain; the next time a barista is underpaid... call people on their shit.

Zero Tolerance.

(More to follow)


everyone has been asking what i'm doing.
here you go.

what? you thought i'd shut up?


i have not forsaken you...

i'm just a bit busy.


a) the Hairbender is completely brilliant right now. at lower temps it is really sweet, with tons of molasses and ever-lasting crema. there are great aromatics and a lovely up-front meyer lemon brightness. at higher temps it becomes less sweet, but a really nice dutch processed cocoa note appears and the meyer lemon turns to apricot.

b) i've moved and am one block from the Stumptown Annex. i'm in love with the Clover all over again. there is a clarity of reproduction that is wonderful when configured correctly and the process of discovering the configuration is intellectually stimulating.

c) top shots of espresso lately have been from Wendy (Stumptown Belmont) and Billy (Albina Press).

d) i've been traveling a lot and oh my god have i been drinking a lot of bad coffee!! i'm so glad i live in Portland. if i lived in (for example) Tempe AZ or Indianapolis IN or Las Vegas NV (to pick three recent destinations) i would be angry more often than i am right now.

e) the new Barista Magazine is out and is even better than the last.

f) i miss the GS3.


The Clock is Ticking

So I've taken a new job.
Actually... I've kind of taken two new jobs (long story) but you get the idea.
And neither of these jobs are in coffee.
Yup... it looks like my time in the professional coffee world is truly coming to a close.

I've got three things to wrap up and then I'm done.
I am writing an article for Barista Magazine that I've really excited about.
I have to finish up the Monster Briccoletta project.
And I am going to write a sort of retrospective piece about my experiences in coffee - in particular talking about the good things that get too little recognition and the bad things that everyone tries to pretend don't exist.

And then I will smile, tip my hat and become just another customer waiting for my damn coffee.


it's back!!!

That's right.
The GS3 has returned - for a limited engagement.

I'm writing an article for Barista Magazine, and needed a very flexible and very solid test-bed machine for the article. Given the requirements, there were few (very few) options. When I told Kent and Bill about what I was doing - they offered the machine.

Very cool.

Actually... the GS3 has not only returned - it has returned in an improved manner. There are some changes to steaming that are pretty profound. I can now choose a wand tip, there is no syphoning, steaming is far faster and smoother... it's all good stuff. In addition, there are some changes to temp control that seem to be providing even better (!) stability.

I'm loving the machine - all over again.


post-partum depression

The phone call I've been dreading finally came.

The GS3 is gone.

It's very, very sad.

I had a great time with the machine - it really changed things for me. I feel incredibly honored to have been able to evaluate it. But now I have no espresso machine.
Perhaps that is for the best - I think it might be a tough act to follow.

I guess this should help light a fire under the Monster Briccoletta Project. Perhaps next week we'll see the beginning of some movement there.


CoE and Clover

There has been increasing interest in the intersection of the excitement about the Clover and the slowly growing recognition and buzz around the Cup of Excellence.

When the first prototypes of the Clover were being evaluated by various people, I was told by a respected coffee person that it could "save single origin coffee." At the time I thought this was pretty over-blown. In retrospect, I guess I didn't really understand either the problem or the answer.

When you look at the list of initial buyers of the Clover there is a lot of overlap with the US companies that are becoming most active in the Cup of Excellence. You see Stumptown and you see Intelligentsia. And you see Artigiano which, after the recent Brazil CoE auction, has to be considered another major player.

The interest in the intersection and my appreciation for the relevance of the Clover to great single origin coffees (and "saving" them) started soon after the Brazil CoE auction when the news started to come out that Artigiano was planning to offer the Brazil Fazenda Santa Ines (the #1 coffee from the Brazil CoE and the highest scoring coffee from any CoE event ever) only by the cup, brewed using the Clover, with a premium price charged.

This really changes the rules in many ways. It opens up so many new opportunities and creates new potential models. Before the Clover it was unrealistic for any coffee company large enough to buy a lot like this to only brew it by the cup. It was economically unfeasible and simply impractical in a number of ways. This then set hard limits on the potential value of these coffees as the value was limited by the potential retail and wholesale prices. In addition, there was enormous risk when it came to trying to manage inventory and recoup your costs - and a perhaps greater risk when it came to the coffee being prepared (and mis-prepared) and the potential brand damage that could result.

In my mind, this is a big step. And it could be a huge step.
I'm very excited. I really hope that the customers in Vancouver appreciate what they're going to get and are supportive of this coffee. I hope the market accepts this new model and is willing to pay for the culinary value and experience of this beautiful coffee.
It's incredibly brave of the folks who bought it - I applaud Vince's courage and conviction. By seeing the potential for a new model given the introduction of the Clover and by being willing to take such a risk, he may well have taken the coffee industry past an enormous and important hurdle. I wish him luck and success in this.

I know that I'll be planning a trip to Vancouver in a couple months!


Prototype La Marzocco GS3, in review

The review is, at last, done.

Go to Home-Barista.com to read it.

It's been incredible, it's been exhausting, it's been a great opportunity.
And now it's time to sleep.


Top 10 Coffee 'Moments' of 2005

As it seems to be tradition... I figured I would do my own, personal, top 10 for 2005.
These are entirely subjective - both in terms of the list and the order. They reflect my own personal view of coffee and the coffee world.

So, without further ado...

Top 10 Coffee 'Moments' of 2005

10) Stumptown Annex opens. While there have businesses in the past that have done coffee brewed by the cup (for a long time now), the Stumptown Annex is the first business I know of that focuses totally on customer education. With free and open cuppings twice a day every day, no espresso and all Stumptown coffees available - this new venture has the potential to radically alter the power relationship between coffee consumers and coffee vendors... and it's about time.

9) La Marzocco GS3 Prototype. This machine has the potential to dramatically affect espresso theory and practice. Both as a test and experimenation machine and as a development platform for new machine technologies which will spread to other models and machines - this is a breakthrough espresso machine. I would put it in the same (historical) class as the E61.

8) Tim Wendelboe wins the SCAE Cupping Competition. Proof to all that baristas are the folks who are currently pushing the envelope of coffee and a slap in the face to all who claim that baristas are "button pushers" and "teenagers working for tips."

7) The introduction of the Scace Thermofilter. Finally, we have a standard for temperature measurement and temperarture evaluation.

6) The SCAA scandal. It's been a long time coming is all I can say. Yes... this sort of thing has happened to other organizations. Yes... a bad person did a bad thing. But that doesn't mean that there are no problems with the SCAA. The coming year is going to show us a lot about the organization. Is it going to be "business as usual" or are we going to see a new, more effective, more responsive and less ethically corrupt SCAA? Only time will tell.

5) Troels wins the WBC with a US espresso. For years many of us (myself included) have said that a US barista isn't going to win the WBC until we have espressos that please an international judge. Well... we were wrong. Our coffees are great - and Troels showed this to the world. Now it's time for our baristas to step up.

4) Barista Magazine launches. A voice for baristas throughout the world! A magazine that is professional and ethical! Content that is valuable, worthwhile... and about coffee! Very, very cool.

3) The Bolivia CoE auction. Last year a bunch of people started whispering that Bolivia could be the "dark horse" producer soon. Well... soon just came. Not only was the price paid for the #1 coffee incredible -- the coffee was deserving of that price. A stunning accomplishment. And there were at least two or three other coffees in the auction that were truly world-class. How many great countries of origin do we have now? A couple dozen? More? Yet another indication that we are living at the beginning of a golden age of coffee.

2) Hurricanes in the Gulf and Latin American - Tsunami in Indonesia. Tragedies for one of the major coffee ports in the world and a half dozen countries of origin - with countless dead and even more with their lives and businesses and livelihoods disrupted. This, for many of us, put everything back into perspective. With each tragedy there were emails and phone calls as people in the industry tracked down friends and colleagues and family members. It's been a really rough year for a lot of people. Sometimes a cup of coffee doesn't really seem that important.

1) The BGA Booth at the SCAA show. Baristas in the US come of age. I saw skeptic after skeptic come into the booth, start watching and listening and then tasting and interacting... and then leave a convert. The value of the barista - the profession of the barista - was demonstrated and became real at this moment. We had all talked the talk and for three days folks showed the world that we could walk the walk. Producers, vendors, business owners, pundits, consumers... you name it. They came, they saw.... we conquered.


Happy New Year

Coffee Resolutions - 2006

First and foremost... I resolve to be more tolerant and more forgiving.

Second... I resolve to cup more coffee.

And not a resolution, but.... in light of the "over-exposed" award as well as various comments about how I'm "not real" or "acting" or the like...

To clear things up for those who don't know me and/or have not met me in person here is a picture of what I look like.

Happy New Year.