Coffee Common

”Coffee Common brings together world-class baristas and roasters with shared values, to create unique experiences that introduce people to the nuanced joys of exceptional coffee. We believe that great coffee is, at its best, a collaboration of an empowered coffee farmer, an artisan coffee roaster, a dedicated barista, and an enlightened consumer. We believe that great coffee requires study, experimentation, craftsmanship, and humility. These diverse roasters and baristas, who by most definitions would be considered competitors, come together as a community to proselytize the simple truths around coffee. We look forward to pouring you a cup of the most complex and extraordinary beverage in the world.”

There’s no way I would have missed this. After all, this is what my ”crusade” is all about.

 

I think we succeed in our task fairly well, pouring great cups of beautiful coffees. Many lives were ruined since they can’t go to their local coffee shops anymore.

I’ll post a more in-depth post later. Overall, working with great baristas from Europe and North America to serve exceptional coffee to people who are there to get new ideas was an amazing experience. Trying out so many good coffees from roasters including Square Mile, HasBean, Gimme! Coffee, Ecco Coffee and brewed by different baristas with different techniques was eye-opening and a lot of fun.

For more photos and information check Coffee Common website.

(All photos by Brian W. Jones)

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Coffee Common x TED Global 2011

I was asked to come brew some coffee at TED Global conference in Edinburgh. Coffee Common is collaboration between some of the best roasters around the world. I’ll blog about the event in my Tumblr and in Twitter.

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Language problem

After this year’s WBC I began thinking about the language and communication between the competitor and the judges (who seem to have a good understanding of English). Three of the finalists were native speakers of English, two had obviously been living in an English speaking country. This left me  wondering, how much competitor’s language skills actually do weight when scoring the performance?

Not having competed myself I have to rely on assumptions and observations but I reckon that in the WBC level everyone has somewhat exceptional coffee. It’s not that much about the taste of the coffee anymore when you have some 50 best baristas in the world pulling their shots((1)). It’s more about presenting the coffee, communicating one’s mission, passion or the reason why they are there on the podium, and presenting something new and exciting, just like Irish barista champion Colin Harmon did.

All of this, of course, is easier with sufficient language skills. It would be fairly difficult to give a staggering performance if the competitor cannot express himself. I think that it’s not very far from the truth if I say that one has to speak fluent and versatile English in order to with the WBC. From my experience that technically requires living in an English speaking country for some time.

We had almost similar problem in the Finnish Barista Championship this spring. Two of the judges, a sensory and the head judge, did not speak nor understand Finnish at all. Nevertheless, all the six finalists performed in Finnish though at least one began her performance in English but quickly changed back to Finnish. This left me wondering how on earth could the judges, especially the head, get everything out of the competitor’s performance. If one would have been able to present the coffees in English, not doing so was, in my opinion, almost an insult towards the foreign judges.

Be it all Finnish judges in the next year’s barista competition I’m still going to rock in English. Just in case I might need do that also somewhere else…

  1. Please correct me if you have more insight on this subject []
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3 stars worth of…

You’ve just had your 11 course surprise menu with paired wines in that hypothetical restaurant awarded with three Michelin stars. It’s located hundreds of kilometres from the (hypothetical) nearest city but it’s still full booked for every single service. The food was great if not amazing, wines were well-paired and the company was even better. Now, after platter full of mind-blowing petit-four, it’s time for the espresso.

Despite my lousy story-telling you probably guessed what’s going to happen next. That’s right – your coffee is not Square Mile nor Intelligentsia (and even if it was it most likely wouldn’t be drinkable). Not even Illy. It’s something you avoid like plague outside that restaurant.Having left your Aeropress & Skerton combo at the hotel you really don’t have any option now. ”This is a three-star place with amazing food, the coffee can’t be that bad…”

How wrong can you be after those 11 glasses of wine.

The whole restaurants & coffee -situation is quite unbelievable. Some of the world’s best restaurants, for example El Bulli that’s chosen as the number one establishment in the world several years in a row, use Italian bulk coffee roasted some six months ago. They keep talking about supporting local producers and using organic products while buying coffee from a gigantic roaster far away. I mean, isn’t that a little bizarre? Why couldn’t they really support the community and buy their coffee from a local (or nearest) micro-roastery? Establishments like El Bulli would have resources to hire a full-time barista to create something new, just like they do with the food or ”food”((1)) .

El Bulli’s chef Ferran Adrià wearing Lavazza’s jacket… (photo courtesy of Tim Varney)

Even if the restaurants used good-quality freshly roasted coffee, the preparation of it is the next stumbling block. My friend studies in the most recognized cooking school in Finland and his stories about how the waiters are taught to make espresso are quite horrifying, something I wouldn’t expect from such an institution. In my opinion that just tells us that restaurants don’t really expect any kind of coffee making skills from the graduating waiters and cooks. The situation is utterly inexplicable. So much attention is given to small details such as discarding the tiny veins from whole foie gras (not my favourite task) but why is the coffee, finishing touch for the dinner, left out of this list?

While most restaurants really don’t want to put resources in making good espresso (empirically tested) then why not to brew good filtered coffee? Good brew coffee would be great instead of astringent and watery espresso but a bit boring. Chemex or syphon, on the other hand, would besides making great coffee also make a nice show. In restaurants environment it is very difficult to brew espresso of consistent quality during the whole service but filtered coffee would be less sensitive and tricky and thus more consistent. It would also be easier to train a waiter / sommelier to brew filter than espresso.

Though this post turned out to be bit of a bitter rant my hopes are high when it comes to future of restaurant coffee. My prediction is that within the next couple of years we’ll see  revolution in the restaurant world. I hope that chefs and owners would realize the importance and potential of quality coffee and put some effort in it. I believe that it won’t take long before some restaurant hires a full-time barista who would brew all the coffee and make something innovative with it, such as cocktails or desserts. I am really looking forward to finishing a nice dinner with something new, imaginative and delicious made out of coffee.

  1. I’ve also had a few good espressos at certain restaurants but certainly just few! []
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