Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Blog Has Moved Here

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunset Junction Parking Lot Art Show

Saturday night brought us another unique opportunity to build relationships with the people of Silverlake. For those who haven't heard, the Silverlake store will be in the middle of a complex of shops called Sunset Junction... just on the corner of Sunset and Sanborne. Parking for the shop will be in the parking lot located behind the building... But for one night a year, the parking lot is filled with moving trucks and artists showcase their work on the walls of the truck. This year, our land lord, Garreth, and his wife asked us to bring some gear and rock some 'spro. So, we packed the GS3 in the back of my car and setup a couple tables.

Peop this for a taste of the happenings...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Smack Downs and more...

I feel like I've been pretty quiet the last week or so. It's probably because we've been locked in the Intelli.LA training lab for past couple weeks. Official training has been carrying on for a bit now and we're taking so much in. This week brought us time with K.C. O'Keefe and lessons on green coffee, farms, exporting/importing, and the whole shah-bang!

Anyway, somewhere in this mess of training, we managed to pick up our new barista... Mr. Stephen Morrissey. Stephen will be with us about a month for sure... and from there he'll probably keep on wandering. In the mean time, it's been great to hang out with him... and man, this kid can cook! The past three nights we've all had dinner sitting around the big table in the dining room of the bungalow... a first for this house since I've been here. The food has been incredible!

Somewhere in the middle of training, we all need to find a source of comic relief. So, we have introduced the Intelli LA Full Bar Smack Down... The game is simple... we set up a mach bar that resembles what the coffee bar on Sunset will look like. Then someone places orders and the two people on bar race to produce all the orders as fast as they can with as much professionalism as they can. I caught up with Kyle Glanville right before the Smack Down to ask him a few questions about his past USBC experience and how it relates to the Intelli LA Full Bar Smack Down...

The day was long and the competition was hard... There were four teams in todays event. Team Sha-Boom featured Stephen Morrissey and, ex-Vivace barista, Deanna Mustard. The second team, Team Management, featured Kyle Glanville and, Intelligentsia Silverlake manager, Colin Mahony. My good friend Devin Pedde rocked the bar with, ex-Victrola barista, Jules Manoogian... and finally, yours truly was paired up with former Klatch roaster, Nick Griffith... making us Team Shiite Happens... To You.

The battle was rough... Team Sha-Boom rocked the house and finished in a sheer 7:45. Team Management caved under the intense pressure. A cappuccino was spilled early on and set Management back. They recovered will, but still finished in just under 10 minutes. Team Salsa hit us all hard with a great soundtrack featuring Amy Grant. They rocked it steady, but simply took too long finishing around 8:30. Finally, Shiite stepped up to the plate and we did what we could... We hit it hard, but still finished at 7:47, simply 2 seconds behind Team Sha-Boom...

Devin Pedde grabbed the camera and managed to catch up with me right after we finished our round...

Judges K.C. O'Keefe and Stephen Rogers took sometime too calibrate in the back and finally emerged with the scores. Fourth place went to Team Management. Third place went to Team Salsa. Finally, second place went to Team Sha-Boom. Team Shiite Happens... To You won by having a sense of professionalism and keeping things fairly clean. However, Team Sha-Boom was definitely the cleanest, and apparently, the best latte art came from Team Management...

Next week we'll be offering another Smack Down... Hopefully, we'll have more video... I'm paired up with Colin for next week, so we'll see what happens... Team names will be determined shortly...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just when Silverlake was looking very peaceful... I woke up to find this in my kitchen...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Weekend in Portland

Well, I’m typing this on the plane as I am reflecting on a pretty rock-solid weekend in good ol’ Portland. It’s been an eventful past few days and looking back I think some of the experiences will be sticking with me awhile. Then again, I guess that’s the mentality I should have being that I just watched my little brother graduate a few days ago.

It was the people who were in town with me that made this trip unique. Katie Carguilo was in Portland with a ‘series’ of Murky baristas. It seemed like everyday that we hung out, she had to had to either drop someone off at the airport or pick someone up.

We rolled all over town and check out the usual spots like the Albina Press, Crema, Stumptown’s Ace, and Lava Java. We also hit a newer spot that I feel needs to get more credit. The dudes at Coffee House Northwest are awesome! The shop can be found at 20th and Burnside and is an experience. The place seems to be run by total coffee geeks. These guys know there stuff and have no problem digging deeper to learn more. The barista’s there will pull you shots till your stomach lining is begging for mercy. Here’s the catch… There’s not a sign of snobbery. That’s right kids… they are excellent in the customer service realm and extra friendly… It’s awesome. Much love to those guys. (The picture is something they have framed next to their machine... kinda cool.)

Cupped a few coffees this weekend too. We’ve been up to mad cupping action in LA, so it was cool to take my slightly more exercised skills and put them to the test. I went both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday the Guatemala Finca El Injerto was pretty bangin’… Sunday, it was a whole new ball game in the best way. The roast date was the same both days and on Sunday this coffee peaked so beautifully… It was so sweet with hints of jasmine, orange blossom, and deep dark chocolate. I’m totally stoked to rock the Arturo mug I bought as well.

Another coffee that Stumptown is rocking is their Panama Don Pache lot. This coffee is so sweet and full of life. It hits your pallet with bright ginger like sweetness. Balances out to sweet pear-like nectar. The Kenya that was on the table was also rad. It had this odd passion fruit note in the middle, but never crossed into negative territory. Beautiful.

Last night was the perfect cap to put on a great weekend. The UK kids finally landed in Portland last night. Stephen Morrissey, James Hoffman, & Annette all arrived and the beers were flowing. It was great to finally meet two of the great minds of this industry. Their trip is not over and we will be seeing them in LA soon. I’m stoked to cup with Annette… I mean, really, the World Tasting Champion.

Well, this flying out at 6 in the morning is ridiculous. I’m dead tired, so time to put the laptop away and crash. That is all for now…

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Best of Panama 2007

This year is buzzing by faster than I can comprehend at times. My lil bro is about to graduate high school next week, I'm in LA, The coffee bar is going to be open in a month or so, and the Esmeralda will be back in American roasters in full swing soon! It's madness...

So, you've probably heard all the buzz about the $130 winning Best of Panama coffee... To share my true feelings... I'm stoked about the coffee, but disappointed in the auction. Intelligentsia is part of the buying group who won this fine coffee, but we were not the ones in the drivers seat on this massive assault of money flying straight into Price Peterson's farm. I think we're all proud to have a piece of the auction and to have helped raise awareness of specialty coffee in the public realm. That is my biggest goal through this. I hope that media attention is directed on all parties involved and that rather than absorb all the glory for the company, the buyers will relay the message of quality and progress in specialty coffee.

What disappoints me though, is the prices paid for the other coffees. Last year, at Paradise Roasters, we carried the #8 finisher, the Palo Verde. This coffee was awesome and I was stoked with its quality. Now, a year later, the coffees of that caliber have been neglected...

What I am concerned about as well is where the money is going. No offense, but Hacienda Esmerelda probably doesn't have as much use for the money as the #2 farm. Are they receiving an above average price for their coffee... yes. But, still, if we had spread the wealth a bit more evenly, then I believe we could have achieved a greater good overall. To clarify... know that by we, I am referring to all of us that are part of the 'more enlightened' coffee community.

There's not much more to say beyond that... The auction is over, now lets share the coffee. Congrats to all the farmers out there who are getting a slice of the pie. Your hard work is appreciated in ways you may never know... I just hope next year the market balances itself out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Intelli LA welcomes store manager, Collin! Till now, Collin has been the assistant manager at the Broadway store in Chicago! We're stoked to have him as the manager here in LA! He's a chill dude and I think he'll be awesome to work with! The teams coming, so is the store! Soon people! Soon!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Welcomes & Other News...

For those of you who haven't heard, Nick Griffith is officially on board for Intelligentsia Los Angeles. I'm really stoked to work with a barista of such skill and passion. Till fill you all in... Nick has been roasting now for awhile and it sounds like he's pretty stoked to get back behind bar and pull shots again. It's a feeling I can completely understand...

In other new, yesterday, Friday, May 25, brought us the 4th (I believe) Intelli LA Friday Latte Art Smackdown! That's right... every Friday brings us another chance to put the money and skillz where the mouth is... The game goes like this, anyone who is capable has to throw in... Every person puts a dollar down and pours. You get one shot, no practice. It's the same thing we did at our party during SCAA, but with a smaller pot. Then, here in LA, we take 2 finalists and give them one more shot and the winner is decided on the pours there... Kyle Glanville is still the reining 4 time champ... but that will change soon... I'm coming for ya biatch!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I should really be sleeping right now... Marcus is in town right now, and earlier discussion has my mind turning on some things... Things regarding barista events, USBC, WBC, ETC. Many posts on Coffeed are doing the usual discussion of what can be changed to make things better for future... blah, blah, blah...

I've got my thoughts and ideas, and I really don't feel like posting them out in a forum for everyone to shred... these are my thoughts and ideas... take em for what they're worth...

If you read regularly here, you've heard my thoughts on the competition judges. I would like to amplify those thoughts, and even go as to explain my view on who a judge should be. A judge should be tenured. Not someone who wants to be involved, but not commit to the competition. This jump right into judging attitude needs to stop. The judges should, for the most part, be retired competitors. People who know the game from the inside. Judges should be excellent cuppers, people with an experienced pallet... and at the USBC or WBC, someone who has judged before.

The other thing I believe is there's really not a lot of reason left to not take the USBC structure further and make the regions step one... Make sure everyone and their momma has a chance to participate in a regional... but only take the top 6 or so from each region to the USBC. This will allow for more consistency in quality and excellence within the 'main event.'

We need to educate more at the regional level. The NWRBC season opened with the "pre-game warmup." Go Miletto & Co. for working with people to communicate what a competition should look like... I feel like a regional should be a 3 step process. A) is the pregame... explain rules, explain drinks, etc. Communicate what needs to happen in a presentation. B) Would be the competition itself. and C) would be a jam to wrap up the process... a jam with competitors score sheets... not just Q&A with the judges, but a chance to see what it looks like done right, and a chance to do it right yourself...

These ideas require more commitment, but I feel like it keeps regionals a little more local. Builds community and education between baristas. It also gives grounds for people like Ryan Denhardt, Joe Raines, Bronwen, Aaron Duckworth, Ellie H&M, and Matt Riddle a chance to pass on what they know from experience to those trying to carry on a competitive legacy.

I want a fourth machine... even/especially at the USBC. Show floor or none... we know from experience most floor shots are shit... Put competitors, their blends, and their personalities on the fourth machine. Keep it free. Keep it real.

A not so bad idea would be more public cuppings at regionals. It happened at the NWRBC and should happen everywhere... Think about it. You've got 20 competitors all telling everyone what is in their blends. On a local level... Roasters could provide the individual coffees competitors are using in their blends. So, when Robin Seitz is telling the audience about his Yellow Bourbon, Jeff Taylor has the stuff back on the cupping table for everyone to come get a taste...

Alright, I'm getting off of my optimistic, dreamer soap box and getting myself to bed...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Things I must get out of my head...

I've been sorta quiet post SCAA/USBC. Even on the boards, I haven't had much intelligent to say. I guess it's because my head is still spinning from all that has gone on. I mean, the 2,000 mile move, the show floor, competition (& it's drama), and now working and slowly advancing toward opening, what I believe will be, the post progressive coffee bar the world has seen.

LA, my friends, has been such a nice change of climate. Not only is the weather lovely, but the scenery is much more appetizing. Lush green hills surround silverlake and not a day goes by where I can't appreciate the views of hillsides and palm trees. The reality that I live here is yet to hit me, but I doubt it will set in until we open the bar.

I want to revisit a subject that I've been trying to avoid. The USBC. I'm not about to suggest any rule changes. That's a constant battle everyone keeps raging and I don't think it's the key... The key, is not in the rules, but in the judges. We keep looking for consistency, but we also keep bringing in these home geeks, bar owners, etc. and the inconsistency needs to be weeded out before these kids hit the competition. I'm not saying there should be a higher criteria for who judges... but for who judges what event. I mean, you're not stepping up to the WBC table until a year after you've completed the training, right? So, why not at least set the bar at having experience at a minimum of one regional? Is it just me, or does it seem logical.

Maybe my lack of faith in the first timers comes from my involvement with this years judges training... I was the guy who was supposed to be pulling good shots... And for the record, my machine was the one they pulled the plug on during the competition. I noticed the flow meters being really messed up, but just assumed someone would figure it out... yeah, I should have said something. Anyway, some of the comments being made by people, and some of the assumptions were purely ludicrous! Anyway, I just feel like until all the judges are extremely well calibrated, we're always going to have these wild highs and lows in scoring...

Why does this matter some may ask... Because it shouldn't be that hard of a competition to master! The rules are laid out before every competitor. They score sheets are theirs to study for months. They can even grab them right now and use the math to figure out what means the most for next year... The tamping, milk steaming, drink building is something that only nerves throw off. The competitors for this years comp weren't newbies... They were some of the best baristas this world has to offer... All the scoring is the same from competitor to competitor... only one factor changes and that is the judges they are serving to. I know I'm gripping from a distance, as I did not compete this year... but take out all the hype and drama of what the competition is, and look at it from a simple, logical point of view.

Lastly, I kinda want to address the Tatiana Becker issue... Understand this, I've got mad love and respect for the Trabant kids... They're some of the newest Clover kids and you have to give it up to them for that if nothing else! The only place I really feel Tatiana crossed the line was with the judges. Use your theme, be fun, but don't make the judges wear beer hats. In fact, I feel Katie Carguilo went a little over board as well. Her drink involved dropping an espresso into a tall glass of steamed milk and practically jugging it. The judges aren't college kids! Have a drink that is fun and interactive, but can we loose this party during competition crap. Somewhere in my first year of coffee it was pointed out to me how we're an industry built of college drop outs and drug addicts... We don't need to carry this into the USBC. The final piece of the puzzle is newly elected, Nick Cho. I can't tell you how pissed I've been at the remarks he made on the podcast... The apology is accepted, the podcast is removed, and it will pass... but please everyone see what has happened. We are a barista family. There aren't that many of us fighting to educate people on what coffee can be, we need each other to be encouraged and reminded we aren't the only ones out there obsessing over this. Someday, maybe there will be enough of us to go on like that, but right now, we're too small of a family...

Those are my thoughts, this is way too long... good night!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

SCAA & USBC Flickr

Well, thanks to the awesome generosity of Mark Prince, you can now see my entire USBC & SCAA photo sets on Flickr. Just click the link above and you're off!

Thanks so much Mark! I really appreciate it!

There's also a set of pics from the party as well...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The USBC Recap

Well, I'm broke... So, you won't be seeing my full collection of Flickr images from this years USBC for awhile... At least until I've upgraded to 'Pro'. It's taken me awhile to blog about the experience because there's been so much running through my mind. All the performances were top notch. The results were flat out interesting... I'm still not sure how I feel. I feel particularly down because many of my 'heroes' of the industry didn't make finals.

I'll say this... I'm extremely proud of Deferio. It was good to see someone who is already celebrated for one skill, excel in another arena. Congrats my friend! It was also cool to see Kyle Glanville (K. Gizz) rock it as hard as possible. He managed to have one of the cleanest and most impressive performances of the competition, which, in turn, gave him the highest score of the weekend during the semi finals. This has happened before as well. Billy managed the same situation last year. Pete Licata must be mentioned for the hard work he must have put in. I saw him in January at the midwest and for him to do as well as he did here, he must have really applied himself. He looked way more confident and really did a great job. But you can read all day about the finals anywhere... let me mention some performances that need recognition...

SCOTT LUCEY! Scott rocked. Bottom line. The pride I feel for my craft went through the roof during the competition. I don't care where he placed. What he did was rad. For those who haven't heard, Scott actually pan roasted some green coffee during his presentation, cooled it, and served it in the same fashion of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. When he was finished smoke had wafted above the stage area and the smell of roasted coffee filled the room. Chaff was all over the table cloth and it was beautiful. I would have loved to see him perform twice.

There's been a lot of talk about the machines used in the competition. I actually volunteered during the judges training and was placed on one of the machines to pull good shots... which was really really hard to do. Why? Well, later they found out the flow meters were off. The middle machine was a problem during the entire competition. It was shut down a good part of the semi finals. This very much complicated and made the process tiring... However, La Marzocco are obviously listening. The hot water button on the competition machines was different. It was a toggle switch. I'm hoping all the newer machines rolling out will feature something similar.

The La Marzocco booth also had some sweet new innovations. Anything people have been bitchin' about they worked into a 'concept' machine. Several machines all over had new improvements and ideas. There's the paddle group GS3, the teflon coated portafilters, hybrid coated group caps, the new grinder, etc. Much respect for all those cats.

Well, I'm worn out form a long weekend. It's time to go and rest. All there is to do today is hang out with our internationals, Deaton & Klaus, and finally clean the roasting works. Good times.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cali or Bust!

Well, boys and girls, Devin and I arrived safely in California a couple days ago. All has been a blast thus far, and it will only get better from here on out. To recap everything in our trip would be a novel, so I will just let you in on some of the highlights.

Our first night landed us in Colorado Springs. We left at 5 AM from a suburb just south of the Twin Cities. Leaving so early and so far south of all the two good shops the area has to offer, we deprived ourselves all day. We did make a stop somewhere with wifi to check the espresso map... which reminded me of Novo.

Novo was an experience. They offer somewhere around 8 single origins to be made on the Clover. Once again kids! No airpots! No paper filters! No coffee sitting for hours! All of those SO's are also available as espresso. I chose to have a cup of their Ethiopian Hache Coop. The cup was sweet, full bodied and was a great way to break a coffee drought. We followed the Clover cup with the same coffee pulled as espresso. The cafe itself sits on the main level of a performing arts center. The atmosphere is a little odd due to the fact that it's in the middle of a cafeteria-esque strip. However, the surrounding businesses aren't bad. On one side sits a lovely wine bar and on the other an organic cafe. We were treated exceptionally well and really enjoyed the break from the road.

The next morning, our friend who we stayed with, Aaron Millar, woke us up bright and early to cruise the 'Garden of the Gods.' The sunrise hitting the red rock was spectacular!

We drove from Colorado to Phoenix. We decided that with so much driving it was time for a vacation. So, we spent all day Sunday in Phoenix with some good friends, Josh and Marlo Lancaster... oh, and 8 month old Brogan. Marlo was my high school track coach... They moved from Vancouver, WA to Phoenix right after I graduated. So, it was awesome to see old friends. M-Lo's parent's have a lovely house that sits on a nice patch of desert... kinda at the base of some of the mountains there. The day was filled with riding ATV's, swimming and great BBQ!

Oh, and while riding our ATV's through the desert, we made some new friends and managed to catch it on video... enjoy!

Of course, we also have to say a major thank you to Aaron, Josh, Marlo, and lil' Brogan for letting us crash at their places. It was good to see all of you! Seriously, the hospitality was knock-out!

Monday finally brought us in on the last stretch. We conquered the remaining 7 hours and managed to get here safely... minus my AC dying in the end hour... something no one wants in CA. So far this place is beautiful. It's been a far cry from Minnesota and I'm okay with that!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Road Trip!

Devin and I are road trippin' to California. Updates will be dropped soon. SCAA is going to be a blast.

Thus far we've seen all the places of the country that suck... Nebraska, New Mexico, etc. Today we're chillin in Phoenix. Many pictures will be online...

Till then, stay caffeinated...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekend Escaping (Chicago Pt. 2)

My friend, Devin Pedde, and I just got back from an awesome two day escape back to the city of Chicago. It was a much needed time for both of us. Things are getting crazy in all directions. Life's stressful, SCAA is just around the corner. We both just needed some time to really get away. So, we packed up my jeep and busted down to the Windy City for a couple days of exploration and experience.

Upon arrival in Chicago, we headed to the roasting works for a cupping with Marcus Boni, Sarah Kluth, and Doug Zell. The cupping was practically a necessary after leaving Minneapolis around 7AM. Of course, no trip to Chicago is complete without a stop in Milwaukee to visit Alterra, and the people's hero... Scott Lucey. Anyway, the cupping involved some of the Direct Trade offerings and a couple other coffees in the Intelli line-up. Standing out most on the table was either the Papua New Guinea or the Peru. Both were solid coffees with few flaws. The New Guinea tasted much like mango or passion fruit to me and was very enjoyable. The Peru had a very veggie like aroma with a medium chocolate-like body and flavor.

From the cupping, Doug and Sarah bounced with us over to a bar called The Matchbox. Which is, literally, a bar. There's room for no more and no less. The best part about being in Chicago is the availability of New Belgian's Fat Tire. I probably should have realized how great of a beer this is before I moved to the 'Tireless' state of Minnesota. We BS'd the night away until Doug had to bounce home to put his daughter to bed.

Being exhausted, we trekked our way over to master barista, Mike Philips apartment, where we ended up crashing that night. Initially, we had every plan on making to The Map Room... but with our lack of energy, and the fact that Mike had to open the Broadway store the next morning, we thought it best to just stay in. However, that did not keep us from enjoying a little rum. For months now, Miguel has been sharing with me how excellent this 'Ron Zacapa Centario' rum is... So, you should have seen the look on my face when Mike pulled out a bottle. Miguel was right... the stuff does not disappoint.

Devin and I had made arrangements to meet up with Mr. Boni the next day to explore the Chicago stores. However, we were up way before we needed to be, so we took to the streets of the city. I miss big, busy cities. It was lovely finding a new breakfast spot around every corner. Almost everyone of them had an Intelligentsia logo somewhere. Eventually we caught up with Marcus and on to Broadway we went!

The weather was perfect the entire time we were in Chicago. With so much sunshine and the bustle of the city, Chicago was ten times more appealing than any past visit has been. We made our way into the Broadway store, which was rockin' very steady. We ran into Matt Riddle, who was passing through on his way out and about the city with his bike. I like Matt... he's all-champion with no ego. Mike Philips, who just made the change to working in a retail store, is yet to be bar certified. So, he kindly took our orders and made sure we received a couple nice cups of cat.

Watching Marcus as we visited each store was cool. It's a Saturday, the guys showing us around, and more often than not, the moment he's in the store he's asking the employees how they are, helping out, collecting loose dishes, and just making sure every customer is being taken care of. He's thorough. Even as we were on our way out of the Broadway store, he stopped for a few minutes to talk to a customer who was sitting outside the store. He was was making sure she was enjoying her drink and informing her that next week the out door furniture would be out for her to enjoy.

Our last stop was the Millenium Park store. I've seen the Broadway store a few times, but the Millenium Park store is so different... and beautiful. It's very polished and sheik. The lighting and sign-age is awesome. We had a few drinks there and tried some of the coffees we had on the cupping table, pulled from the Clover. The Kenya from the day before was no longer muted like it had been. It was shining citrus and sweet melon. Lovely! We wrapped up our visit and Marcus dropped us off back by the Jeep.

It was a lovely couple days escaping Minneapolis and life. It was nice to be around more passionate coffee professionals. Now, it's back to getting things together. Billy Wilson flies into town tomorrow. It'll be good to see him. SCAA is less than two weeks away and I am stoked to see everyone there!

Oh, and be on the lookout for a new Twin Cities publication... The Twin Cities Imbiber. The cover was shot at Kopplin's and my latte art is on the cover. Jeff Halvorson, the guy putting it together is a very knowledgeable beer resource and is a passionate imbiber himself. I think the publication is going to be sweet and really help specialty coffee in the cities...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Final COE Colombian Cupping

So, I wandered back to Cafe Imports to cup the final 13 Colombians. My scores this time were much closer. However, there were two coffees that jumped out in a major way. One of them was Diogenes Muchicon Perdomo's coffee from the farm San Antonio. It's a 23 bag lot and jury scored this coffee to the number 3 place. The coffee tastes of ginger bread and pleasant spice. It's got excellent body... and honestly, kinda reminds me of Christmas.

My highest score for the day actually co-insided with the jury's score. I gave the #1 Colombian the highest score of a 90.5 that day. It was a very well rounded flavor, semi-fruity, and excellent sweetness. The coffee also has a delicious dry aroma.

Well, I have to run for now. Gotta get to the cafe to help close. Andrew Kopplin lands today sometime from Norway. Apparently, he visited many great shops and has a bunch of coffee that is coming with him. I'm stoked for it all. Later kids~

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maddness. COE Maddness.

Well, after 4 hours and 30 coffees, there's no lie... I'm tired. This years Colombian COE's bring in some craziness. We cupped the coffees blind in two 15 coffee rounds. Ends up round one held mostly coffees from the back end of the jury's selection, while round two held the majority of the top 10. It was an awesome learning experience for me, as I have never cupped that many coffees at once, let alone all from the same country of origin.

Some of the stand outs to me were the first and second place finishers. Both being very nice. I actually scored the second place over the first place by two points, but don't get me wrong, Isaias Cantillo Osa's farm, La Esperanza produced a very fine coffee and I will be very interested in seeing how much it sells for. The second place finisher came from El Cedro, a farm owned by Leonte Collazos Rajas'. I found the aroma to being more pleasing in this coffee than Esperanza. Ironically, though, these coffees were the last two in our line-up, so my senses were numbing a bit.

One of the other notable coffees was actually the 30th placed finisher. What I liked about it most was the aroma. It smelled of fresh mozzarella, or a similar soft cheese. It was something I had never experienced before. I enjoyed that part of it.

The first round of 15 was harder to score. So many of the characteristics of them found to be common in the field. Lot's of acidity found all day long. Enough that I could have just had a few bowls of tomato soup and had the same kind of sensation after.

Monday, Cafe Imports will be cupping the top 10 scorers from today to determine which they are most interested in buying. I'm hoping to get enough roasting done early enough to join them once more. I should have more of an in-depth recap of the top 10.

Colombian COE's

I heading to Cafe Imports this morning to cup all the COE Colombians... I'm stoked. More later...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

More on Portland...

Seattle was a blast and I had a great time, and even more great coffee. Still, I feel there was so much more to my week. First, I've gotta say a major thank you to Matt Miletto, Kyle Larson, and all the other great people who bought me beer and such while I was in town. It truly was great to catch up with so many awesome baristas. Portland has a lot of talent and it's only growing... soon enough, it'll deserve it's own regional competition.

My first night in town, I found myself at a table filled with people like Matt, Stephen Vick, Jenn Prince, and David George... All eating some of the best pizza I've ever tasted. Another night, I was able to grab a bottle of Le Chouffe and chill with Matt Miletto, his fiance, Rob Ward (of Bakery Bar), and one of Matt's students. From the pub where we were, Lizz met up with us and she and I moved with some friends to The Horse Brass Pub. I love the Horse Brass. Always have, and always will. They have some awesome IPA's, including the Pelican IPA, which I had another night when I was there with Kyle and Sarah Allen. Seriously, so many great people in an awesome city!

The coffee though is what initially glued me to Portland. It used to be Hairbender was the only quality espresso you could find in Portland... One man has changed that. Philip Search has an awesome blend that I believe I have talked about before. It's a true quality espresso from top to bottom. It's body and full flavor reminds me of a red wine. It's heavy in chocolate and wonderfully smooth. It's yet to cross the river into Portland, but is available in 4 locations in Vancouver, WA.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't strayed far from my roots. Hairbender still puts a smile on my face. Oh, and to all you Portland and Seattle kids who like to travel up and down I-5... do not over look Lava Java. It's right off of exit 14 in Washington. Literally, you can see the shop from the freeway. They are doing some great things still. While I was home, they were featuring Ethiopia Idido Misty Valley as a single origin espresso... and it rocks. You can pick out all the traditional ethiopian flavors of sweet fruit, but it still has a heavy body.

Well, I am going to close this here. I leave you with this. Right now we're featuring 49th Parallel's Epic blend. It is so high quality, it leaves me with no doubts. Unfortunately, It's being pulled on a Super Jolly cause we had an issue with one of the Roburs where the spring got jammed into the burrs... don't ask. I wasn't there... I only cried when I found out. But hey! If you can't pull a good shot of espresso with a Super Jolly, then who are you to be calling yourself a barista? Especially with this kind of coffee and a Synesso. If you're in the cities, or within a few hours of the cities! Come by!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

March 21-27 Recap

The last week was supposed to be a vacation, but I'm wiped out. Mainly from the travel schedule I put myself through, but hey, I'm young. Like I've said before, watch out Portland, stuff is on the move... everywhere. From Duane & Co. creeping North to Kevin and Billy moving a bit south... everyone is expanding and pushing things further forward! Heck yes.

I can honestly say that in my entire trip I had only one undesirable espresso... And I consumed somewhere around 30 doubles in the week I was there. Seattle was the high point, where I consumed around 8. Seattle is dormant, there's no doubt about that. Beyond the Stumptown crew, you don't really hear too much about what's happening up there. By the way, on the trip were some great friends! Bridgetta from Lava Java is a rad chick. She's been around the LJ for a good while, but we never really worked together much because just as I was hired, she took off to Mexico for a year. Then, just as I decided to move, she comes back. Ridiculous. Then, Ashley Raugh, who also worked at Lava Java joined us as well. Ashley is also a hair master at a salon near LJ, and she is the only person I will let cut my hair. She's that good. Ashley's good friend, and someone who I made many-a Honey-Vanilla latte for at Crema, Kelsey, joined us as well.

We stopped in at Batdorf & Bronson on the way up. It's always a decent mid point on the way, and I like to support the fact that they own a Clover. So, that's what I generally choose. This time my pic was their Harar... a bit disappointingly flat, but not bad. Still quality.

Once we arrived in Seattle, our first choice for coffee was Vivace. I had a decent double and a cafe Nico. The Nico never ceases to make me smile. Anyone can drink it. For the coffee fanatic it's candy, for the newb, it's a mini-S-buck kinda flavor. Jeremy Summer from Hotwire met my friends and I there. Jeremy and I met first in Charlotte last year. He's a cool cat who never ceases to amaze me with how laid back he can be.

After some catching up, Jeremy lead us to the new Victrola. The space is wonderful. Reminds me of Crema. Very open, very bright. The 3 group Synesso is a beaut. I enjoyed the roasting works being visible throughout the entire space. There is also a large window showcasing the cupping room. The barista mentioned they are still working on a new blend for the cafe. I really enjoyed it. It had one of the nicest spicy/sweet finishes I've had in a while.

Post-Victrola, we busted out to the University Zoka. It was surprisingly quiet in the space. Spring break I guess. Had a double. It was ok. The fun part was seeing the old school pictures of Jenn Prince on the wall. Even better was seeing the Seattle Times article on Phoung framed on the back wall. Go boss.

We visited Trabant as well. This was a first for me. They are working on the space, but the coffee was well pulled. It was cool to walk in and see the new Intelly packaging. Oh, how I love the packaging. Smile... Anyway, the double Black Cat I had was lovely. One of the better I've had in a bit.

The Seattle trip wrapped up in a visit to Cupcake Royale. This place is cool. It was the first Stumptown wholesale account in Seattle. I had already cut myself off from coffee at this point, but the cupcake made me smile!
Well, I'd go on about the rest of my trip, but this is long enough... if you get a chance, head over to Billy's blog ( and catch the video clip of a documentary on the barista competitions. It's well done. I really liked it... and make sure to note my good friend, Philip Surge... Peace. Love. Coffee.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Updates and Travels

Apple called. My computer is ready... $180 later. I'm in Portland for the (long) weekend. At least the thing will be ready when I get back.

My tattoo is awesome and makes me happy. No, there will be no pictures until it's completely finished.

I have to say a major congratulations to Lizz Hudson at Stumptown. I absolutely had to stop by their new store. The Ace hotel is awesome, and the cafe they've built is even cooler. 4 Clovers, 2 Mistrals, and a lot of great coffee.

Spent Friday in Seattle. I consumed more great shots of espresso than ever before. I'll write a full recap when I am back and have my computer to work with...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This Awed Me...

Lately, I've been experiencing one of the greatest strings of bad luck ever. Things from financial issues, to health problems, and all kinds of things. Well, it all topped off last night when I was installying Apple's new OS update an iphoto update. I installed the updates and when my computer was turned back on my OS failed to initiate. My powerbook is a few years old, so I never expect perfection, but I need it be alive. Badly. I've got a 4:00 appointment with a geinus and we'll see where we can go from there.

My point in posting from this computer at the Roasterie is to tell you a story. My financial issues have left me "relieving myself of some excessive possessions." For instance, my pride and joy 2005 Taylor 512CE. Another instance would be my Mazzer Mini. I bought the thing before I "went pro," and so I rarely use the thing except to test small batches of espresso. So, to craigslist it went! First call I get sounded promising, setup a time to meet and he failed to deliver. Another dude had been calling for awhile, waiting for dude #1 to show... and his aggressive pursuing paid off...

He asked me to drop it off at his house so I could make sure it was setup correctly. He also said he'd pay me a little extra to make sure he knew how to use it. Little did I expect what I found. I walk into his kitchen to find a seperate bar... solely there for the man's love of espresso. On top of the bar was a completely piped in Faema. Old school style, but still rockin the E61 group head. To the left of the machine sat his Conti grinder, and then we threw the mini up there... To be his decaf grinder! We plugged the thing in and he pulled me a decaf espresso. He apologized for his shotty tamper and said he had one on the way. The tamper he had was the standard plastic one you see with cheap home machines. The espresso was good. Not great. Beans had aged a bit, but there was no bitterness to be found in the cup. It was thin and had less body that what I would like, but I was blown away.

I have to explain that I never really believed too much in the hardcore consumer market. I figured coffee is easy enough to be involved in that post people who cared had found a way to be involved. Especially in Minneapolis. I was wrong. This guy loved the grinder and I was pleased to show him a few things and just have a ball playing with his home setup. What was equally impressive was how many people I had asking me about the grinder. It's a mazzer mini... and probably 30 people were interested. Anyway, this really impressed me and showed me how much untapped interest there is out there for the consumer market.

Today I also start my half-sleeve. It's a tattoo totally devoted to coffee, from seed to cup. I'm stoked.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Coffee and Sentiment

The weather is finally warming up here in Minneapolis. Today has been a pleasant 50 degrees... and I never thought I would find myself without a jacket in such a climate. Anyway, with this new burst of "warm" weather we've had requests for iced and cold drinks. So, time to play with cold press coffee! For some reason, over the past few weeks, I've been trying new ways of brewing the stuff. So far, the most (slightly) creative, and my personal favorite was using a Bodum Teapot. For the first two hours of the twenty-four I brewed it, the coffee was left at room temperature. Then it was refrigerated for the remaining two hours. Oh, and the coffee I used was our Sumatra Blue Batak. I don't know if was the temperature sequence or the fact that the teapot allows the coffee to not always be in contact with the grounds, but something about the method produced an incredibly sweet cup of cold press.

I also figured I'd throw up a picture of my sweet burr set. These are actually the burrs from the Robur I used in the 2006 USBC. I spent a lot of time with that grinder preparing for the competition, so I guess there's still some sentimental connection. What can I say, I like the pic...

This week our new guest espresso has been Andrew Barnett's Ecco Espresso Reserve. It's mostly Brazil and incredibly sweet. I feel like it gets lost in milk though. As espresso, this blend is delicious. We've been dosing it at about 18 to 18.5 grams and have the group set at 201. I haven't been over packing much at all, but I feel like I could remedy the milk issue fast if I did. Bottom line, I do really enjoy the blend.

Other coffee I received this week was a pound of cat and a pound of Intelly's DT Bolivia. The Bolivia and I first became friends on the show floor at Coffee Fest Chicago. Tis' a good coffee for sure. The Cat is rockin' way better than the last batch. As much as I love my espresso pulled over-packed, I've finally given up and realized that Black Cat is just best when not over-packed. The macciatto pictured is made with the cat in my favorite cup. The cup means more to me than any other one I have. My little brother brought it back from Italy last spring... So, here it is.

I saw Miguel's agenda for the next few months today. We are bringing in, easily, twenty new coffees now through June. Many will be micro-lots that come and go very quickly. Some will be around longer. Keep an eye out for what be will in.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Back To Life As Usual

This week we had a very curious man drop by the shop. His name was Chris Nichols. Chris works for Espresso Midwest. He was in Chicago last weekend working the show floor and researching stuff. There he heard about the Clover for the first time. So, he came stumbling in to check our out. I've never seen anyone's jaw drop so hardcore like his did when he saw we have two. It was magical. He was wowed by everything we have. This is where is became so apparent to me how many cafes open in the midwest that based on numbers and so few based on quality and serious research as to what really can rock an espresso well. It kinda saddens me...

He came back a couple days later and brought a friend. His friend was from Italy and is a Nuovo Simonelli rep. They'd be taking their new grinder around to different cafes and coffee companies and letting them play with it. So, of course, we threw the thing on our back bar and went to town. Good times. The thing is impressively fast. It ground 21 grams in 3 seconds. Nice. It's digitally controlled and has no doser. Nice. It also had a built in tamper that could be set to 20 and 50 lbs. Whatever. It's not my style, but I'd been wanting to play with such a grinder for curiosities sake. Thanks guys.

We're now cupping all the coffees we have in house every Friday at noon. So far, we've had a nice turnout. Andrew's cupping setup is way cooler than when we started. I like it. I feel like cupping is something to be done with a certain level of reverence and respect. I feel it's slightly ceremonial and has a right and a wrong way to be done. Those "cupping on the fly" kinda experiences are never my cup of tea... So, I am glad we've got all the bells and whistles and what it really takes to cup "properly."

Yesterday was probably the busiest day I have worked at the cafe. It left me tired in the end, but I felt so much more productive than the average day at the shop. At one point all I had on top of my machine was a few espresso demis and macchiatto cups. Every cappuccino cup was in use and the latte cups were all occupied as well. Wonderful. Well, that's all for now. Bien.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

See My Trip Here...

Well, I've been back home a couple days now, and it's always fun coming back from these things. Everyone gets tired and needs to sit down for a couple hours, but in reality, you just miss your friends. The coffee community never ceases to amaze me. We compete, we party, and we tell each other of the latest happenings all around. It's inspiring to me. Luckily, no PCD (Post-Competition Depression) has set in yet. But it's obvious I'm not in Chicago anymore.

You've all probably heard that Mr. Riddle brought home his second regional title by now... He did very well. His drink was similar to something I once tried, but warm... a direction I never even thought to take it. He rocked so smooth and so well. I've got the video of it that I'll try to get online sometime soon.

The weather in Chicago got really crazy the last couple of days. Many people got stuck in Chicago due to snow and cancelled flights. Our drive home wasn't the most fun, but I slept through a good part of it. Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that I posted all my pics from the trip. Good times...

Kopplin's has a little bit going on right now... If you are in the area, do stop by. We now have an official "industry professional" policy. If you work in the coffee industry, let us know and you're espresso or macchiatto is on us... We are also working on our own custom blend.

Eventually, I'll try to get some videos posted online too... Oh, and if you haven't figured it out. Click the blog title to go to my Flickr.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chi City Love Pt. III

To continue on with information from yesterday... Like I said, congrats to the finalists of the GLRBC... I forgot to mention the Millrock competition. What a blast... and a crowd. I don't know if it was really that entertaining, or if it had something to do with the baristas who were actually there, but there were a lot of people watching, and that was awesome. Scott Lucey and Chris Baca get to rock the finals today. So does Hiroshi from Purple(something) coffee in Japan. Sorry, can't remember his store name right now... but Hiroshi comes from Tokyo to compete in these competitions all the time. This is the first time he made finals and I am very happy for him. Baca is at the top of his game and poured some very clean lattes... I would love to see Baca or Tiesel take home the heavy cash. Both of them have been in the top three for the last couple latte art battles, but neither have taken it yet. Good luck today homies!

The show floor was good times. I very much need to point out that The Roasterie is here in Chicago... and they brought the Mistral. It's very clean now and beautiful. Many props to Jason Burton for A) being a cool guy and B) bringing some good coffee to the show and handing me the best macchiatto I've tasted on a show floor.

The Ritual kids and myself decided to bust out for some lunch. So, we busted over to this place called The Wiener Circle. Amazing. The kids working there are straight up. You walk in and immediately people are yelling at you, "Hey! You ready to order?!?" The hot dogs are damn good. Then they shoot at you with, "What's on this Polish?" And you ask, "What'd you have?" To which they respond, "Everything." Yeah... it's great. Oh, and when you order fries. You get probably 3 lbs. of fries.

We ended the day at the Intelligentsia Party. Their roasting works is awesome. Very impressive. The kegs and wine were great. It was awesome to see everyone there. Nick Cho immediately got the dance party rolling and Ryan Jenson was definitely not scared to rock it as well. Marcus Boni was running around making sure everything went well... and it did. The party was his baby and he raised it right! Doug was happy to share the nickle tour with us... Oh, and major thanks to you Doug... I much appreciate the skate deck! Eventually we found the basketball hoop mounted on a wall... and that started a whole new realm of craziness. Oh, and I got to try Justin Tiesels full sig drink. Excellent!

The night ended in chaos as we roamed the streets of the industrial district looking for a cab... not fun. It was sleeting... Sleet people. That hurts when it hits your face... so not cool. Anyway, we finally found something and Aaron and I crammed into a cab with all the Rituals... We finally got back safe. Well, we're about to head out for the finals of everything... time to get going... more later.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Congratulations Mike Phillips.

The post is named as it should be. By now, most of you have probably heard who the finalists are in the GLRBC... Anyway, I think its awesome when someone who really cares about coffee... genuinely... is successful. Mike is one of those people. Before he moved to Chicago to work for them, he was a home roaster and barista. He's been passionate since before he was a professional. AND!!! He's a really nice guy. I have met many competitors and the compassionate ones are the ones I respect. People like Scott Lucey, Chris Baca, Chris Deferio, and, of course, Jon Lewis. Anyway, congrats to all the finalists, but especially to you Mr. Phillips.

Today has been awesome. Good friends, good times, good coffee. We had a blast at the Millrock show! We're lighting it up tomorrow too! My condolences go to my man, J. Tiesel! I wish he had made it to the finals. He's the man. Bottom line. Tomorrow, latte art. His time to shine! I'm going to go party with the Tellie's!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chi City Love Pt. II

Well, day one of the Coffee Fest Chicago show is done. The competitions have been awesome. The Millrock Latte Art competition is right next to the GLRBC. In fact, they are sharing audio for the events. The show floor is kinda cool. Not too many seriously interesting booths, but the ones that are cool, ARE COOL. ESI has their booth filled with Franke and Marzocco gear. We played a bit with the GB5 they have, but they've paired it with a Swift. Not so cool. The GS3 is there... the third one I've played with... and ironically, still different than either of the other two. Justin Tiesel and I had some fun with the thing, but like Klaus has said on coffeed, the steaming is questionable.
Zoka has their standard booth up... Clover and Linea putting out great stuff. During the later half of the day, competitor and past USBC finalist, Steve Fritzen, was pulling shots.

Next to the Zoka booth was one of my favorite places to be. The Barista Magazine booth. They have an awesome new shirt I encourage you all the check out and buy. Sarah and Ken are some of my favorite people and I am very glad they are here.

There is no Clover booth, but if you hang out long enough at Intelligentsia's booth, you'll probably be able to say hello to Anastasia. She is here serving up some great stuff. The booth also features an FB-80 and some great Black Cat. Oh, and Major props to Intelly's new packaging. I was floored. I really really really like it. No joke. If there was anything on the floor that had me impressed, it was that. Tomorrow night is the big Intelly party and I am stoked to see the roasting works.
I spent some quality time at the GLRBC and I was fairly impressed by what I saw. This was the 7th competition I have seen and each time it gets better and better. Only two of today's 13 competitors looked like rookies. Hardly anyone went over time. It was smooth. Mike Phillips from Intelligentsia... in all honesty, has some serious advantages training with his team and just working for Intelly... but, he still did a knock out job. First competition... hardly! He looked great and I wish him the best. Justin Tiesel rocked his presentation. Not as fast as when I saw him in Kansas City, but great non the less. I was able to taste a component of his sig drink yesterday up at the store... and it was awesome. I really hope he advances.

Speaking of advancing, Nick Cho will be moving into the finals of the latte art rock out! Even Doug Zell is in this one... he didn't advance, but he did a much better job than I'd expect more head hancho's to do. Honestly, I forgot who else moved on, but give me a break... there's much happening. Well, we're about to head out for the parties. Till tomorrow! Viva Espresso! Viva Chicago! Viva Barista!

Chi-City Love.

Today is the first day of the GLRBC and Coffee Fest Chicago. I'm stoked. Mr. Scott Lucey flies into the city tonight, straight up and outta El Salvador. Chris Baca and Co. are here representing Ritual. The only sad story is that Nick *AKA* PureArabica... Couldn't make it. Not enough out of region spots for this one... Nick we'll miss you!

We left the cities around 9:15 yesterday and headed first to Cedarburg, WI to drop off some coffee to a wholesale account. The place, The Java House, is awesome! David, the owner, buys both green and some roasted coffee from us. What green he buys he roasts in this tiny space in a local music store. It's literally a closet that he has his roaster in. Anyway, the espresso was surprisingly good... It was actually the first shot I had pulled using a swift, so I was very skeptical. But, the results were great. Heavy chocolate presented in a totally balanced and unoffensive way. Well done Kevin. We would love to have more wholesale accounts like this place.

From Cedarburg, we headed down to visit Alterra. We stopped, first, at the main store. The one with the roasters... yes, it is awesome. Justin Tiesel was there and gave me a quick tour around the space. It's awesome and they're expanding... It's cool to see such good coffee in Milwaukee. I lived in Wisconsin for a few years back in the day, and coffee was the last thing I remember about Milwaukee... but not anymore. We rolled over to the Lakeview store, and I was blown away. Alterra knows how to market themselves in ways we dream of. I could have purchased enough Alterra clothing to where I would never have to wear anything else again. They've got it all. Cups, clothing, teas, chocolate. And the store itself is beautiful. Oh, and the food we had at the Alterra stores was awesome. Well, done kids.

We finally, after a short detour looking for some other cafe, got into Chicago. Out hotel... Hotel 71, is beautiful and makes me smile. We're a short distance from some sweet bars and the venue. Aaron and I spent an awesome night with some great cigars. Well, we're about roll over to the competiton. Much love to everyone! I'll do my best to keep everyone updated!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More News...

Well, after a bit of a battle, it sounds like our GB5 is running ever-so-smoothly at the Paradise Roastery. I'm excited. To actually have great tasting espresso at anytime at either job will be great. The problem we've had to deal with was in one of the copper compression lines related to the hot water jet on the front. But, now that's in the past. As a result of the new machine, we'll be offering our first espresso training classes on March 3. So, call the roastery (763-433-0626) for more details on how you can join in the fun and play with the new GB5...

If you haven't seen this then you're sure missing out. My good friend, Scott Lucey, is bearing it all in this issue of Barista Magazine. Scott's a rad due, and the article proves there are things happening here in the midwest.

We've been rocking the Espresso Havana at Kopplin's lately... well, I haven't, but our other baristas have (Story to come someday). Here's the shot I just had...
While this blog seems to be giving props to cool people in the world... I've got to give it up for my girl, Lizz Hudson, and the man- Mr. Duane Sorenson at Stumptown... This past week was the opening of their 4th cafe... on Valentines day. The shop, on the main level of the Ace Hotel, is amazing. 4 Clovers... putting us to shame. Power to the industry!

Well, finally, for now, I leave you with this... Here's a shot of our coffee menu as is right now. Notice the note about the Tolima Perez. Life isn't bad here in the 'Sota! Oh, and this Thursday we take off for Chicago! We'll be staying at Hotel 71 and I am excited to see everyone!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dancin' Pat

Well, while I'm on a video kick... here's a crappy one taken with my phone a bit back. Enjoy as we celebrate some the terrible music we used to play in the shop...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Finger Lick'n Goodness...

Well, the GB5 is in. We've spent two days getting odd parts to make it work with the ridiculous water system the roastery has. Finally fixed it today... only to find a fastener needs to be tightened or the thing shoots water whenever we turn on the hot water jet. Either way, we can now pull shots that taste great... I'm loving it.

Pat, a good friend and hilarious co-worker at Kopplin's took this video of Andrew Milstead... one of our great baristas. I'm sure there will be more Kopplin's videos to come...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where does your coffee come from?

Many of my friend this year have been able to visit coffee origins... Billy, Kevin, and Phoung all just got back from Guatemala. Scott Lucey is about to bust out to El Salvador, Nick Cho just spent some time with Ms. Batlle in El Salvador, and apparently, Jay Caragay is on his way to Ethiopia... I talked to Phoung the other day and spent some time checking out Billy's Flickr photos... and it's all got me wondering more and more about what it's like on the farms we buy coffee from.

Now, when I say what it's like... I don't mean, how hard is the work, or anything like that. I mean, how much do the farmers care about a) the human being working for them and b) the coffee they are producing. From start to finish... is the coffee being taken care of? Paradise is a small company and we don't have a huge travel budget, but I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with the idea of buying coffees, even great tasting ones, where we have no idea what's going on beyond what gets to us.

All the time we talk about specialty and relational coffee in the cafe... Getting to know your customers and all that jazz. I feel it needs to be just as relational with the farmers. If I had a mug in my hand right now I would raise it to the simple idea of continuing to raise standards and to making the world a better place!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Leaving school, I knew I was taking on a challenge... but what's already happened in the 37 days of 2007 I've experienced is just kinda getting ridiculous. From car problems, to sickness, and everywhere in between, it just sorta leaves me wondering what's next? Ah, so pessimistic... hold up.


Let me tell you about some of the rad things going on. For starters, sometime this week we are getting the GB5 in at the Roastery. I'm feeling kinda giddy inside on this one. There's something exciting to me about coming home to La Marzocco. Speaking of Paradise, I love roasting coffee. I never really thought it would be my thing, but I really enjoy it. I call it my coffee "desk job." I have a workspace and it is filled with my tools, and when I arrive I grab my morning cup of something delicious off the Clover... yes, you hear all about Kopplin's Clovers from me, but Paradise has one as well... I'm surrounded in the best way possible... When I need to work out, we simply get a new shipment of beans, and there I go lifting 100 lbs. bags. When I am not roasting I walk myself into Kopplin's and I grab a double espresso or try a new blend... that I roasted. I see customers take the first sip of every coffee and I stare with anticipation of how they will react to the flavors of the roast. It's changed my perspective completely.

Oh, and something else rad is going on. I just started brewing beer again. Yeah! Well, battery is about to go. I'll wrap this up. Later...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This still makes me smile... and people are buying it all the time. No one has even flinched at the price. The only thing I've seen is someone who would love to buy it go for a cheaper coffee based on their budget. It's beautiful. So, I think this says it all. Professionals, keep asking, can it be done... well, it's being done. It's awesome.

Chris Baca asked about my last posting... wondering why we are switching... Well, we're not actually. The GB5 is coming and will be in the cities sometime within a couple weeks... Thanks Lee Walters! However, it will not be in Kopplin's. The GB5 is for Paradise. Roasting is a blast, but sometimes when working with new blends, we'd actually like to taste the espresso as it will be pulled in a cafe. So, now we'll know. Oh, and when it comes time to get serious about the USBC, I can actually get serious now... no more getting lost in the competition machine or struggling to steam on a machine I'm not used to. I'm stoked.

It also comes back to who supports you... I'm proud to have a La Marzocco back where I can use it. They support the USBC and the competitions. They back serious baristas and are good people. Sure, they're not the perfect machine, but they are a quality machine... Other companies are yet to step out and do the same.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bolivia Burns Bright...

Interesting... So, today we had a cup of our Bolivia COE returned to us with the complaint that it was too bright... brighter than normal. The customer (a regular) immediately started looking for a new coffee to pick... I wasn't really cool with this being that our 12 oz. Bolivia is selling for $5.75 a cup... yeah, no joke. Anyway, with a closer investigation, I realized that the Clover I used was set at 206... and the other was set at 201. The second cup from the other Clover yielded a much more balanced cup... anyway, I did turn the temperature down to 204 on the one and raised the other to 202. I just found it interesting that we had this incident. I expect more of these, but I love it... I never imagined the Clover would bring us such events.

In other news, Miguel created a new blend he's calling Mohka Java... a tribute to the origin of coffee. It's partially Sumatra Lake Tawar and then a couple a of our many Ethiopians... Anyway, I kind of expected it to be a good espresso... and I was right. It's bright and slightly earthy... with a tang. It's available on our third grinder right now.

Our second grinder is rocking Alterra's espresso right now... Scott gave us some of their leftovers from the MWRBC... I've never enjoyed a crema like this coffee has... and I know it's kinda old right now... It's stripes, it speckles, it dances on your tongue! It's so sweet! Yeah, I'm diggin' it! Thanks much Scott!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Goodbye Yan...

This sucks to say, but I need to say it. A friend of mine and great barista, Yan, took his own life Friday, January 19, 2007. Yan worked at Lava Java up until a couple weeks before his death. Actually, Yan had been around the shop for awhile. He worked as a barista back before I was hired. He was hired there sometime around when Billy left. Anyway, he never competed, never posted on forums, but he was a damn good barista. Yan was there making my drinks as I was discovering coffee and how great it could be. The first time I noticed my shots were really good vs. okay, they were pulled by him. He explained to me how they did look good and why... Yan left Lava Java right before I was hired, only to return shortly after I left. Kinda crazy how that worked. Yan was always a little spacey... but he was a very good kid. He was a wanderer and someone who was never afraid to go someplace new. He's part of the Lava Java family and always will be. We all will miss him.

It's sad, but this is the best picture of him I could find in my archives. This is in October 2004. Please note; Yan is the one on the left.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

MWRBC... The experience.

Well, the worst weekend of my life is over. Needless to say, I didn't perform my best for this years MWRBC. But that's not even what made the weekend so rough... It started out about an hour outside of the cities. A lovely white mini-van pulled up next to us on the road to let us know we had a flat tire... After pulling over and a few seconds of examination... yep, they were right. So, we spent an hour and a half getting that fixed. Six hours later we arrived in Kansas City. Our hotel was absolutely sweet. The Marriot President is a historic hotel that has a very grand entrance. I'm not going to lie... I was totally impressed.

Day two started out in the same direction as day one did. Half way to the venue, another white car pulled up next to us... to let us know we had a flat tire... again. In the same spot. So, while I went to the initial meetings at the competition, Andrew and Aaron took my car to get the tire fixed... and somewhere in there the power stearing got a leak... and stopped working. My perspective on this all wasn't too bad at the time. After all, the Altera kids were in town... they seem to make everything more fun. While they were out fixing my tire and exploring what my car is like without power stearing, I had my 10 MINUTES of practice time!!! This is where I made the initial mistake of thinking my signature drink cups were going to work out just fine. Next, Andrew, Aaron, and I all rolled out looking for a grocery store to buy things still needed. We drove a good 45 minutes looking for something, and barely found anything... finally we stumbled into a tiny local grocery store.

So, my round comes up... and I lost it. By lost it, I mean, I first left a puck in the third group head. Automaticly taking my clean work space points to an automatic 0. Then the timer got going and I forgot that I was on a 3 group GB5, not a 2 group Synesso. My milk was crap. And then the big duzzy came. My port sippers... as cool as they are, do not sit very balanced. One fell over while I was preheating them, spilling all the water it contiained onto my hand. Next, as I was brewing the first shot, one of the sippers fell over again... while the shot was still brewing. Finally, as I grabbed for my last portafilter to pull my last set of shots, I grabbed a portafilter with a puck in it... I got lost in the GB5. Not cool. Many other things went very wrong... including how I went a good 36 seconds over time. These though, are all things we can learn from... the rest just drained the life from me.

That night we went out to the BGA party at the Roasterie. Of course, this is where the real fun begins. On the way in I happened to pass somewhat of a diamond in the rough. Apparently the Roasterie owns a Mistral. Apparently the Roasterie couldn't care less about their Mistral. Danny... clean the damn thing. Seriously! Anyway, I told the Altera kids about it and it was only a matter of moments before we found ourselves knocking the dust off. Steam wand tips were caked with milk, portafilters hadn't been scrubbed, it was a mess, but we found what coffee we could and grabbed the milk we had and set out to do what we do best... pour the coolest lattes we could given the circumstances. We had so little milk we even ended up cutting it with water... redefining the ghetto latte. We tried to find a bar after that, but with little success we all called it a night.

The next morning I woke up with more tension in my shoulders than I've ever experience before. I was hurting, and my guess is that the lack of power stearing had something to do with it. Pain man, pain. We bounced to the finals and had a blast watching the last performances. Alex McCrackin... you are an awesome barista and I was pulling for you all the way. Pete Licata, you are a competitor to the core and it was awesome to see someone with such experience rocking it like a pro. Robin Seitz, the new MWRBC, congrats. Well done for a first time competitor. I look forward to seeing you all at the USBC. Oh, and if anyone hasn't heard. Alex pulled off second, Peter third, and Robin, first. The big improvement from round one to finals was the judging. I'm sorry to say, but the first couple rounds of judges were a little shaky at times. I noticed a lot of little technical things that they weren't looking for. Anyway, judging in the finals was WBC certified (head) judge, Mr. Tracy Allen, Technical judge Dan Jansen, WBC certified Lani Peterson, WBC certified Mr. Jeff Babcock, Tech judge Mr. Berry Jarret, Mr. Spencer Turner, and the seventh was some other dude... whatev.

After the finals, the Altera kids took off to book it home before the storms set in. It's always good to see Scott and Co. though. There is talk of a pre-Great Lakes throw down to happen right before Coffee Fest Chicago. We'll see. As soon as we left the venue we took my car to have the power stearing line fixed... and then we found out I need to replace the motor soon as well. Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money... That night we had our first really decent meal since we'd been in town. That was nice, and we ended the day by crashing early.

Aaron and I woke up early today to take my car to another car place to have the pump replaced for the stearing... and apparently, it's not necessarily the pump. It's the belt and some other parts... All in all, it's just more money. At the end of the day, we got back and now I am tired. There will be more stories to tell. but it'll take some time, for now... enjoy some of the great pics.