Tag Archives: Barista

Where in the World Is Wilson Hines

Anybody remember the computer game called “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?”  I played that thing on a RadioShack Tandy back in the day!  And I OWNED it!  I could beat it ten ways each day!  🙂

I guess some people are asking where I am and what I am doing.  I have a few answers:

  • It isn’t work that is keeping me from posting quality information to my site.
  • It isn’t a lack of quality coffee (will reference some later in the post).
  • It is Twittering.  There is the whole blame.

The last post was the 21st of December.  I have found that Twitter is a fantastic tool for “Micro-Blogging” and I have been using it more and more every day.  On the mobile, at the desktop and checking the DMs constantly.  I “tweet” about anything and everything, coffee included.

Christmas was special.  We really had a good time this year.  I love Christmas and we try to make it a special coffee experience every year, as well.  This year, as previously posted, we went across the pond to the United Kingdom and purchased a fantastic group of coffees from @SquareMile Roasters in London (see there I go twittering).

The coffee Square Mile sent us was fantastic.  The Los luchadores Espresso was surely in a class by itself.  Everybody knows I like Toscano from CCC and this espresso was just as good and in some respects, better.  The Santa Rita Natural was just that: Natural.  Really full of flavor.  I even sneaked a espresso shot of that COE and it was great just as a SO espresso.   While there wasn’t anything wrong with the  El Portillo, it just wasn’t the Santa Rita!  It was great, please don’t misunderstand me.  But, the Santa Rita just kept coming back to us.

We surely enjoyed our time with their coffee and the shipping was great too; eight days to the Eastern United States off of roast.  I think that is perfect timing for some degassing and such.

Since running out of the Square Mile, the wifey and I have been going to Raleigh every 10 days or so and buying whatever strike our fancy up at Helios Cafe in downtown.  They serve Counter Culture Coffee.

Thanks for the visit and enjoy your coffee for the day!

In Season…wow

Introducing “In Season Coffee.” In Season is a site that is dedicated to giving exact educational information about the coffees themselves. Here is a portion of the “Mission Statement” of the site:

“Specialty Coffee has it all figured out, right? Direct relationships with growers, careful roasting, Baristas pulling perfect shots… we’ve squared the circle. Not exactly, as there is a final missing piece: seasonality.”

You really need to see the site to understand it. There is the “Mission Statement” and then there is the “Coffees” and what is listed is the “In Season Now.” As you click on, for example, “Flecha Roja, Costa Rica,” you will then get information about the Producer, the Farm, region, varietal, altitude and harvest season. Finally a “Buy Now” button that takes you back to Intelli’s site.

This is fantastic! Please take your time and get educated. You can literally learn something new about coffee every 10 minutes, I do!

Cafe Culture in the U.S.A is sometimes pure poisonus

Poisonus is a strong word.  And no, I don’t mean every cafe, just some of them.  Not even a majority, I don’t guess.  

It is just that sometimes I walk into a smoke filled joint like I did the other day at “The 76” in Grand Rapids, MI and one of the first things that hit me was the old U.S.S.R flag hanging from the cieling.  

 

U.S.S.R Flag

U.S.S.R Flag

So, then I started to look around.  These people really were not socialist.  They were stuanchly, very much communist.  There was probably as many anti-war articles and pics as there was wallpaper in most old ladies homes.   I saw more pictures of George Bush in a negative light than I saw espresso beans.  

It was evident these people were young, probably under 25, and thus never lived one minute under the “old threat.”  For some reason, they have the idea that the U.S.S.R was the place to live.  Never mind Stalin killing as little as 5 million and as much as 60 million of his own people and never mind the dang engineered famins that kills scores of people.  

As she handed me my cappuccino, which was rather Starbuxy to say the least, I mentioned the flag.  The lady glanced upwards at it and said, “Yeah, real sweet isn’t it?”  I replied, “Oh yeah, I miss those days of standing in line for bread all day and then having a KGB agent beating my wife to death because she has a Bible on her night stand.”  The girl almost went cross eyed!  

I am here to tell you they aren’t teaching true history in school anymore.  Not in High School and surely not in College.  If they did, people would think differently about all those images of a “young Castro” pasted all over the walls.  

It would almost seem the younger the kids are making the espresso the politically dumber.  The fact is they didn’t have to live through the Cold War and don’t understand it. They just assume it was another “war” and they are against “war” at all cost.  And no, I don’t think because someone believes differently than I do they are dumb or stupid.  Far from the correct answer. It is just that sometimes, like this instance, you know for a fact they have been absolutly brainwashed.  Utterly brainwashed.  

I also am aware that the U.S.A isn’t perfect.  There are problems and the answers have alluded people for years and will continue to do so.  The framers wrote in the pre-amble to the constitution on the first line the following, “…in Order to form a more perfect Union…” and I think that is fitting.  We aren’t perfect, but we are striving for it.  I will declare that while we do have our problems we also have more positives than ever before.  We are the greatest country to ever exist on the face of this earth in almost every category one could imagine.  

The moral of the story?  Stop acting like idiots and make some good coffee.  Make the coffee the story, not your crazy ideas.  You might like the results.

WBC announces espresso machine and grinder sponsors

I will leave this with you for the Labor Day Weekend, here in the states.  OMG, this is ridicules.

Read up on this over at Andrew Hetzel’s site, as I don’t have time to get all the sources and everything and do a “full report.”  Looks like he did a great job, anyway.

Excerpt:

LONDON (August 29, 2008) – The world’s top baristas will test their coffee making skills in competition using the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia espresso machine and MAHLKÖNIG K30 espresso grinders at World Barista Championship events in 2009 – 2011.

Look, I am one to proclaim the following about both of the brands:

  • Nuova Simonelli – Every single place, without any exception, I go and see these machines has the worst coffee one can imagine.  Especially their grinders.  IMHO, these are the machines people buy when they can’t or won’t afford for a real piece of equipment.
  • MAHLKÖNIG – I know of two places that uses this in their bar and they do a great job.  I honestly don’t know anything more than that.  It doesn’t bother me at all one way or another  on the grinder.  MAHLKÖNIG or the current sponsor the Compak K-10.

Now that I have pissed everybody off, I am off on holiday.  G’day!

Upgraditis? Are you a sufferer of this painful problem?

I have a poll up on Home Barista asking the big question.  Some humorous results and replies.  Please participate!

Third Wave Coffee, a Conversion :: Part 1

Subtitle: First Wave, Second Wave, 2.5 Wave and Third Wave.

I intend on defining the Third Wave concept, adding some personal points to the definition and giving my experience with Third Wave.

Third Wave.  That just sounds cool, doesn’t it?  I guess the first time I heard of  the concept called “Third Wave” it must have been on the Portafilter.Net Podcast.  What is Third Wave?  The theory was first proposed by Trish Skeie of Zoka Coffee and I think the best summary of it that I can find is

“Her theory goes like this. The “First Wave of Coffee” was the post-World War II era, a time when coffee was simply consumed, not enjoyed. The war forced the production of quick, easy foods and instant coffee reigned supreme.

“The “Second Wave of Coffee” started in the late 1960’s with the birth of companies like Pete’s and then Starbucks. Specialty grade Arabica coffees began replacing lower grade Robustas as cutting-edge roasters and baristas gained appreciation for the nuances of different roasts and origins.

I would like to add here that I think that the second wave is also probably best described as a “selfish wave.”  A wave of wanting to be identified with a brand.  For example, not starting with, but surely popularly inserted into the Mike Myers movie called “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)“, Hollywood started placing $B in movies and TV spots all the time.  A practice which goes on to this day.  Even when they either can’t get the “rights” or get paid for it via product placement, studios regularly will take a cup with a $Buxy style logo on it and put a heat sleeve around the cup and stick that cup in a actor’s hands in front of the camera.  Thus, American’s, especially, follow the stars and therefore people want to be identified with pop culture.  I think it is safe to say Starbucks was a big part of “Pop Culture” in the United States for the past 10 or so years.

Here I will add “a wave;” or better called a ripple:  Two and a Half Wave (2.5 Wave).    These are the “coffee shops,” bakers, deli’s, restaurants and other various businesses who are trying their best to whore off of the crest of the Second Wave.  Who have no desire for coffee, may not even drink the stuff, and could care less about any thing we would consider “best practices.” Their coffee is usually, gush, worst than Dunkin, Starbucks, or anything else decidedly Second Wave.

“Fast forward to 2007 and we find ourselves here in the “Third Wave of Coffee”. According to Trish, it’s the evolution of coffee drinkers toward a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness of different coffees. Today it is quite common for customers to ask for a certain country of origin (Ethiopian, Sumtran, etc) when ordering their coffee. Here at our Coffee Bar, many of our customers know the name of the farming co-op that grows their favorite coffee along with the roast profile and other unique attributes of the bean.”

——source:
Jody Treter. (2007). Bean Activist: Third Wavers, Decommodification of Coffee, Retrieved 08/18/08, from source.

Here is a walk on Google regarding Third Wave and it is very much worth reading from several sites and blogs on this topic.

To put it simply, Third Wave coffee is the love and appreciation of coffee.  Whatever benifits the coffee as a final product and what is in the coffee’s best interest is at the heart of Third Wave coffee.  Everything and everybody involved every step of the way is centered on the coffee; Not a barista, a roaster,  not money, not a company, not an individual, not a farmer, broker or real estate agent is more important than the coffee that fills a cup at the end of the chain.  To me, that is Third wave coffee.

So, what is the fuss?  I really don’t know.  I listened to all of the pf.net podcast and one thing I could garner was is the fact that Jay Caragay (pf.net co-host) was always thinking the concept was b.s.  The problem with that podcast is you never know when one of the host, or both, are b.sing.  So, he may well have been fully behind the concept, but calling b.s for the fun of the show.  There is a couple podcast where Trish is on the air with the guys and at least one podcast that has Third Wave actually part of the debate of the show.  BTW, Trish had a blog on Zoka and I read her post regarding T.W, BTW I can’t find her blog,  at all – even through Google.

So, not willing to “commit” to the concept of Third Wave I reluctantly would talk about it amongst baristas, roasters, and other coffee lovers.  I just didn’t feel comfortable, in fact, I felt awkward.  As much as I love coffee, and even though I have a two group Faema in my house running off of 220v and plumbed in, plus a professional food grade Mazzer Mini, a professional grade EspressoCraft tamper and can pour latte art (read “trying”) I still don’t fit in with baristi.  So, therefore I don’t feel comfortable talking with them about Third Wave concepts.

Imagine John Riley talking smack about espresso.

Imagine John Riley talking smack about espresso.

When I go to Octane in ATL, (and guys don’t take this wrong) I don’t fit in at all.  I know it may be because I am the only one there that is just sitting there talking about coffee.  It also could be that I probably intimidate the “daylights” out of everybody because I just pulled up across the street with a 80,000 lbs truck!  “What is that trashy truck driver doing walking over here?”  Everybody else is buzzing around talking about all sorts of crap and the ONLY thing we have in common is the Toscano in the grinder and in the cup.  Every coffee establishment I go to that is decidedly Third Wave I feel like I am freaking people out when I start talking about coffee in a dedicated, knowledgeable fashion.  Sometimes they slow down at whatever they are doing, listen a little, and look at me funny.  All I probably have said at this point is “Wow, the chocolate notes in this espresso is rather prominent.  Kind of Brazilian in nature.  Almost has a Sumatran kind of ‘zing’ to it, dontcha think?”  By this time, the poor barista is thinking of calling the manager up as if I was a customer with a gun! Just think of John C. Reilly (Step Brothers the movie) or even Jack Black (All sorts of stupid stuff) walking in and talking like that?  You would stare too.

When I introduced myself at Coffee & Crema to Shannon, said, “Hi, my name is Wilson Hines, I am a “coffee geek.”  Shannon smiled and quickly stuck his hand out.  I didn’t know how else to introduce myself, I figured he needed to know I had high expectations, as geeks do.  We have been friends ever since!  Oh man, Shannon and I have had some crazy coffee discussions.  We even refer to the pf.net podcast like Bible verses, LOL!  Such as, “According to PF podcast 52 Jay said……”  I don’t know why Shannon and I mixed so well together, but we did.  But, when I packed the family in the car and went to both Murky locations in D.C I had a mixed bag of descriptor!  We went to Arlington first and they thought I had lost my mind dragging a wife and two kids 220 miles for a shot of espresso and a couple of capps.  What can I say, I wanted to see the place!  When I pulled up at the Pennsylvania Ave location they already knew we were on the way!  They welcomed us warmly.  It was odd, one place thought we were crazy and the other place was like Shannon’s reception, we really had a good time at the Penn Ave location.  I bet Liz pulled twenty shots of different grind settings.  We were trying everything in and out of “the book.”

Out of the remainder of places I have been, I have had more of the “odd” look than the “excited to see somebody who cares look.”

I still think we have a long, long, long ways to go in educating our baristas, even at a Third Wave shop like Octane, Open Eye, Coffee & Crema or anywhere else, and I am not so sure if we will ever get to the point the Third Wave concept envisions.  The fact of the matter is you must have employees.  The second matter of fact is you can’t do but so much to ensure those employees are truly in love with the product.  You can have certifications, mandatory training at a roaster or in-house, or any other method you want, but at the end of the day, you still have got to hire somebody and that somebody you have probably doesn’t come home at the end of the day after pulling shots to sit at the computer “learning lingo,” working Barista Exchange, and posting or whatever on Coffee Geek or Home Barista.   In fact, I think BE has had a good and effective impact on getting the Average Joe Barista online and communicating with others.  And lets face it, BE is decidedly Third Wave!  One thing I don’t buy about the Third Wave concept and I don’t know if this is a perceived idea of mine or a perceived idea of the industry; But, there is an idea that you have to be a screaming liberal, tree hugging, tattooed to death (tastefully or not), Bush hating, “rent a protester” that you would only imagine at a G8 Summit Protest!  Trust me, I am none of these.  I am not the guy on the opposite end of that rope either!

But, I am naturally a Third Wave coffee enthusiast and convert.

Next…”Two and a Half Wave,” what is going wrong and what we have got to do about it.

Barista Exchange makes it to main stream media

Sure is nice to be a part of something early in its life, such as the Barista Exchange. The Wall Street Journal and Marketing Pilgrim think so, too.