Peoples Coffee

Peoples Coffee Chemex Brew Guide

Chemex 6 Cup Paper Filter Brew Guide

WHY CHEMEX?

The Chemex was designed over 60 years ago by a German chemist named Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. The filter brewer is inspired by the Bauhaus Art movement, and is celebrated in modern art circles for the beauty of its design.

The Chemex uses a specially bonded filter paper. It is heavily constructed to restrict oils and sediment, yielding a very clean cup. The large Chemex has an excellent geometry for brewing; the bed of coffee has a large surface area, the filter has a ‘v’ shape, and a large exit hole – this allows for grind size and water ratio to dictate the overall brew time.  Meaning, basically, if you treat the chemex well, it will treat you well – get the basics right and you’ll get a great cup of coffee every time.

So let’s get to it…

What You'll NeedHave on hand: Scales and a timer are vital to good brewing. You’ll also need a delicious Peoples Coffee single origin, a kettle, chemex filters, a pourer, and of course: a Chemex.

PREPARING TO BREW

Their uniqueness of geometry means the large Chemex is best used for large brews of 500-700grams of water, while the v60 is ideal for smaller filter brewing. (we prefer not to use the small Chemex).

Filter brewing, as is generally the case with coffee, requires some prep work. When the water first contacts the grinds everything should already be set up for success. we can’t stress enough how important it is to use controlled ratios of water and coffee…this means scales!

You can pour your boiled water from either an electric jug, or transfer hot water to a separate pourer if you want a more accurate pouring spout.

Boil the jug while you are preparing the brew. The brew water must be just off the boil – coffee needs around 94-96 degrees to correctly extract desirable flavours, so letting the boiled jug sit for 1 minute achieves optimum temperature.

Boil your water, and then leave it to cool for one minute, to achieve optimum brewing temperature
Boil your water, and then leave it to cool for one minute, to achieve optimum brewing temperature

Accurate pourer kettle

If using a seperate pourer kettle, pre-heat the pourer before filling with brew water. Once you are ready to start pouring, discard the preheat water and refill with freshly boiled water, this ensures the pourer won’t cool your boiled water.

Grind your coffee to a course plunger grind. Grind size dictates brew time – if the coffee is too coarse it will brew too fast and produce underdeveloped flavours like sourness. If it is too fine, bitterness will dominate. Anything over 4 minutes is too long for a brew, so coarsen up your grind if this is happening.

grinds

Grind size dictates brew time: For a plunger the grind should be much coarser than for espresso

Fold the filter paper so the 3 sides cover the spout of Chemex to allow air to escape during brew.

Rinse the filter paper with plenty of hot water to remove papery flavours and leave this rinsing water in the Chemex to pre-heat it. Empty just before brewing.

THE BREW

Grind dosed

1) Set the Chemex on the scales and dose the ground coffee into the wet filter.

2) Start your timer as you start the first pour. Pour in around 80grams of water, or, twice as much water as there is coffee (just enough to wet it all). The coffee will start to swell and rise – this is the bloom, a process of readying the grinds for extraction. It is important that all the grind is saturated. You can ensure this by gently spooning the grinds side to side and pulling the grinds from the bottom up to the surface: mixing but not stirring. The bloom should take 20-30 seconds, after this it will begin to extract. At 30 seconds, you should start to add more water. Don’t let the coffee dry out or it will taste bad.

Pouring into Chemex

It is important when pouring not to pour onto the paper as it will not enter the bed of coffee. Be sure to pour in circles on the grinds, focusing your pour towards the centre and the darker areas.

3) With a total ideal brew time of around 4 minutes, you need to consistently top up the water level, aiming to use it all by about 2 minutes. Pouring at 30 second intervals is a good way to ensure consistency. The first pour following the bloom should fill to the top of the glass, and from there continue with small top ups.

4) Enjoy the delicious fruits of your labour.

EXTRA FOR EXPERTS: If you have scales and want some extra tips, follow the barista guide below

Chemex extraction

Coffee: 41 grams. Water: 700 grams. Ratio: 1:17

 – 0:00 bloom pour to 80ml

 – 0:30 pour to 400ml

 – 1:00 pour to 500ml

 – 1:30 pour to 600ml

 – 2:00 pour to 700ml and stir in any high and dry grinds

 – 3:00 some people like to do a circular stir to create a round dome in the coffee bed

 – 4:00 remove filter and grinds from pourer as bed dries out, the brew is officially finished when the trickle turns into drips

Experiment with brew time, grind size and ratios to find the most desirable flavours of each coffee origin, but write it down if for next time!


September 24th, 2014


Posted In: Brewing, Coffee, Coffee geek out

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Mid-year for roasters is both a frustrating and exciting time. Frustrating because a lot of our green coffee is now old and roasting profiles must be regularly checked to compensate for aging…But exciting because around this time the fresh coffee harvest starts to arrive from various exotic locations. When a fresh bag is opened the Roastery is filled with the beautiful fragrance of green coffee. Almost all our coffees are now arriving in GrainPro plastic bags, which preserve the coffee from going stale or absorbing gasses. Some coffees which would usually be noticeably faded at six months, are now still tasting great because of GrainPro.

Coffee has an annual harvest, which happens at different times in different countries depending on the ripeness of the cherries. A lot of work goes into the harvest, processing and shipping of coffee, and oftentimes things don’t work quite to the schedule one might have been expecting. Involvement in this process does require a certain amount of flexibility, but from May container ships start to arrive on our shores packed with beans ready for roasting. MAF like to check containers – especially ones coming from deep Africa – and occasionally our containers are flushed with oxygen, or frozen to eradicate any bugs (organically, of course).

This year the African ports are delayed (again) and we will run a bit short until the container ship traverses the shipping routes and clears customs. This is fairly common – African coffees are regularly held up (for some reason or other) and we don’t always receive the coffee when expected.

As a customer you may not actually ever notice, but every roaster at some time will find the need to re-work a blend; to change the ratio of coffees, or to re-blend a new origin in to maintain a consistent flavour. Some coffees have a reasonably interchangeable nature and are accommodating if a blend needs to be re-worked, but others are more unique and harder to replace without drastic flavour changes.

Most of our coffees we have brought from the same farmers for nigh-on 10 years, and while it is the same land, as with all agricultural products there can be variations from year to year. Sometimes a coffee will have a slightly different fruitiness, or have more body relative to the last harvest. Over the next few months some of our coffees may be slightly different in nature, and hopefully the noticeable difference will be a fullness of flavour that is lively and pleasing.

Each year I use the new harvest period as an opportunity to assess all our coffees; what we like about them, and ways we can continue to hone our delicate roasting and brewing protocols to always bring out their full potential. Over the weeks that the coffees are arriving I am continuously sample-roasting each product in different ways to understand its subtle flavours and qualities, and to develop the retail roast profile. This maintains consistency while making the coffee taste better.

I have been very excited this year about the Bolivia, which is our current Single Origin Espresso. This is an excellent coffee and has allowed me to experiment with some new roasting techniques for espresso, by which I have been trying to eliminate all bitterness from the short black, and promote sweetness and fruity acidity.

We will also be releasing some new Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Ethiopia Wenago, and perhaps a Congo as they arrive.

Keep your palate handy,

Rene


June 20th, 2014


Posted In: Africa, Coffee, Cooperatives, Ethiopia, Fair trade

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Recently I was featured in a report about leaf rust in coffee and it sparked some very interesting responses – yes Renee is a girls name, but I’m René, it’s French, ok?! Maybe I should have listened when they said “Never read the comments”, unfortunately I did, but it did pull up some interesting questions and ideas on what is important in a media piece on coffee.

Leaf rust is one of the many challenges the coffee industry has been facing for decades and has been changing the way coffee is produced for years. Stories which are presented in the media are usually pitched at how it affects the consumer and plied with a click bait headline – “Coffee as we know it at risk of dying”. The story was reported as if rust will wipe out all coffee in the world and we all become decaffeinated zombies!

This isn’t quite true however, coffee “as we know it” is being affected by rust but it’s not suddenly dying on us. For decades work has been done addressing the issue of leaf rust – new resistant varietals are being created, and there is a change in the direction of high level information which guides the industry towards more sustainable farming practices.

The leaf rust story was more current for us early last year when I was visiting producers in Guatemala and Nicaragua and saw the impact of rust first hand as it spread through Latin America. So much so that I wrote about it then. Rust has made a palpable impact on many of the farmers we’ve bought from for years. It was heart breaking to see the farmers’ bare trees. These are producers who have worked their land successfully for years and whose coffee you have probably drunk from Peoples Coffee many times.

Coffee in a State of Change

There is something like 25 million families involved in growing coffee and statistics say the average payout is only around $250Us dollars a person/ per year (4 persons per family). Currently at least 5 countries have declared a state of national emergency due to the wider impacts of reduced production, however this has had little change to the global stocks of available coffee, (global stocks are part of what dictate coffee price). Coffee is a big deal for so many people globally, it is not going to die, but coffee as we currently know it will change, from what kinds of coffee are available and how they make up the global stocks.

Not All Coffee is Created Equal.

There are two very different types of coffee on our shelves.

Instant coffee (and most supermarket pre-ground brick coffee), which is low-grade commodity coffee, mostly robusta (low quality, high caffeine). This grade makes up most of the global production and consumption, and is responsible for dictating the street price of green coffee globally. Often when it is reported that the green bean price is at “an all time low” they are talking about this type of coffee, not the coffee we drink in our flat whites.

Cafe quality coffee, which in NZ is mostly specialty grade Arabica coffee, this require more controls during all stages to produce a product which has desirable flavours. Companies that are committed to trade justice and better living conditions for farmers will be paying far more than the “street price” quoted in the media.

The demand has been easily meet with commodity coffee and more and more is being produced. There is also more demand for higher grade coffee (for cafes), but this is harder to produce and isn’t quite keeping up with demand as fast as the cheap coffee. The progressive work done in the industry is focused mainly on two categories: development done for agronomy ( less quality flavours and cheeper beans), or development for cup profile (more expensive, better tasting). These developments are great for the future of the industry, but it will require new plants to be distributed and grown, which takes years, and may not really be the best way to deal with the issue from many peoples point of view.

Quality vs Value

Everyone can generally taste difference between expensive and cheap products, we all have our favourite beer, wine or chocolate. What we buy will depend on many different factors – it may be economic, to support local production, brand appeal, or because after trying them all- it was your favourite. But any of these factors may not necessarily translate to the highest quality.

Instant coffee has a place in this world and there is no shame in drinking it but it needs to be recognised there is infinitely more work and value put into producing a high quality product like quality cafe coffee. For a well made, high quality coffee, with organic milk, made by a well trained barista on a good wage in a nice environment you should be willing to pay a premium price. However, that flat white is not on the same playing field with a quick coffee using cheap quality coffee beans and low paid staff. When it comes to coffee, you can usually expect to get what you pay for. If cheap is what you are after, then shop around for the best price. If a good coffee experience is what you are after (all those quality factors listed above), then shop around for the best experience until you are happy, but don’t assume the two will naturally meet.

Organic

Every product in the world is full of chemicals, what we are talking about are biologically structured chemicals in potencies which are (most often by definition) harmful to humans, animals and the environment, but act as steroids for plants.

The reason Peoples Coffee chose organic is because of the negative impact chemical use has on farming families’ health and the bigger picture of food production, health and the planet. Many chemicals are available to producers (sometimes subsidised from US govt) to put on plants throughout Mesoamerica. This is something you should be genuinely worried about as it is often not known how to correctly handle these substances (there is no OSH for coffee farms). The impact is very clearly damaging, from what we’ve heard from farmers who have used them, and seeing it up close on coffee origin trips (not to mention all the research).

The goal in organic production is to produce a product which is sustainable and safe for humans to produce, not to supply you with a cheap cup of coffee. Pesticides are used in large-scale commodity farming to reduce work needed for production. But for many producers using chemicals is about choosing a higher yield and bigger pay day over the the long term health for them and their family.

It can be misconstrued that coffee roasters are bullying farmers into organic production for our own increased market share, there really isn’t enough supply or demand for organic coffee to justify this position. For Peoples Coffee it is about a holistic 21st century attitude towards having enjoyable world for ourselves and our children, and rolling these expectations for our own life into the lives of our supply chain.

Luxury and Ethics

In order to have your two cups of coffee a day, it requires a farmer to harvest around 18 trees a year. These people should be your best friend I reckon! And it’s important to remember that when sipping on your daily flat white.

Coffee isn’t a right it should be a luxury. The history of coffee is fraught when viewed with a 2014 world view, which is why it is important to keep it’s history topical in your mind when addressing the big picture. If nothing is changing in the industry, then those bad practices are still happening, which has helped to keep developing countries behind, and first world profits ahead.

Consumers can make a conscious choice to support everyone in the supply chain while also choosing a high quality product. This is true value because it benefits everyone in the process. So yes, leaf rust is a serious problem, it is a problem for farmers whose livelihoods depend on first world coffee consumption. Let’s change the conversation, from if you’ll get your cup of coffee in the morning, to how this has a profound of effect on peoples lives.

Where do you place value on your favourite products?

 

René

 

 

 

 

 

 


June 4th, 2014


Posted In: Activism, Branding, Certifications, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability

5 Comments

These days certifications are a part of almost every product we buy. We trust them to do what they say, but perhaps we are also a little suspicious of who is benefiting from them, and if it makes a difference at all. There are quite a few certifications in coffee. Some relate to the product and how it is traded – i.e. fairtrade. And some relate to conditions in which the product is produced – i.e. shade grown or organic.

Certified coffee makes up a small part of the over all global coffee sales. For a roaster to buy certified coffee they are essentially eliminating the wider range of non-certified coffee available. From there they continue with their own criteria based on taste and availability to find good partners to trade with, thus eliminating more producers and coffees again. So some criticism comes from the smaller pool of coffee available to certified roasters. However the choice to buy certified products means the process meets an ethical criteria (which is verified by a third party) rather than taking someones word for it. No singular certification system will solve every issue in coffee, but it is an important step in giving the power back to the farmers that produce this product we love so much.

It is important to understand what each certification is for – what are its main goals, who benefits from them, and how. I’ve only scratched the surface with the following certifications, but these are a few of the main players. You’ll see not all are as transparant as others. I hope this gives you a little insight into making more informed decisions. If you have any questions about certifications I’ve missed out, please leave a comment below and I’ll try and answer them as best I can.

Peoples Coffee source beans that fall under a variety of certifications – these include FairtradeOrganic USDA,World fair Trade OrganisationEcocertUTZBCS Öko-GarantieMayacertICIAIFOAM, Naturaland and Bird-Friendly. Some of these we go out of our way to choose because of their certification, others are just a bonus. We are proud to call ourselves Fair Trade, which we achieve through our World Fair Trade Organisation certification, it allows us to be accountable and transparent about all our trading processes.

World Fair Trade Organisation is different from other fair trade certifications. The idea is that it is not one product line that will make a different with the poverty and injustice in the industry, but the business as a whole. A WFTO certified business must comply with ten basic principals. Wages, business sustainability, working conditions, equality for staff (amongst others) must reach a certain standard. Compliance for this is mostly done through accounting records, business objectives and profit levels.

This program was created to address green-washing and the over marketing of ethical products by businesses who buy and sell certified FT products and promote themselves as ethical but have poor business practices like low wages and poor working hours/conditions for their employees.

This certification is extremely hard to achieve, which is the point of it, there are only two certified businesses in NZ – Trade AidImporters and Peoples Coffee.

USDA Organic (US Dept of Agriculture) is the federal organic certification which verifies that a crop, livestock, farm and handling facilities comply with the USDA’s organic regulations. This is one of the global standards which most organic coffee is certified to.

Up to 95% of the product must be organic (allowing 5% unintentional mixing). Costs to be certified vary from $700 to $3000.

Most synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can’t be used for 3 years to gain certification on land and crop. Coffee yields will drop as much as 30% when transitioning to organic, and a lot more work is required to keep trees healthy and producing good quality coffee.

If this coffee is also Fairtrade certified then 25 cents a pound is the premium, but normal sales doesn’t require a premium.

This is a stringent certification, requiring onsite checks, but many different bodies can certify to USDA standards.

 

 

Bird-Friendly (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center) developed by ecologists to protect birds and their migratory paths across the world. It is not designed specifically for coffee quality, but coffee does benefit from it. Certification requires a 12meter shade canopy with 3 layers, at least 40% shade cover, 11 different species of shade trees, and many more complex requirements.

Coffee must already be certified organic by another body. Bird Friendly certified coffee has no required premium or minimum prices. This certification focuses on preserving forests for the birds (and the bees), it has very high standards and growing conditions which are ideal for producing coffee. There is some very good Bird-friendly certified coffees available.

Rainforest Alliance (est 1992) is an NGO who certify a variety of products, mainly forestry and agriculture including coffee, tea, cut flowers, bananas and chocolate. It is an older scheme originally for timber extraction, which until recently did not include coffee.

RFA uses SAN (sustainable agriculture research) as a basis for standards. Baseline criteria: coffee can be from non-shade and from in-organic conditions, shade grown coffee should have 2 layers of shade.

In general this certification seems to be used mainly by big businesses (e.g. McDonalds) and perhaps it isn’t specific enough to require many changes from the average diligent coffee farmer with shade grown coffee, but it does give a good basis for basic standards and practices.

However to be Rainforest Alliance approved, a product only needs to contain 30% certified beans. This means there is a lot of non-certified coffee being sold as a certified product, leaving plenty of room for green washing.

 

Fairtrade‘s focus is to raise the livelihoods of producers by addressing the imbalance in international trade relationships and unstable markets. It seeks to provide a minimum cost of production and direct trade relationships to further the benefits between farmer and roaster.

Baseline criteria: Fairtrade coffee certification is only open to small lot farmer organisations. Everybody has equal rights to vote and participate. Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.

“Producer organizations are paid a minimum price of US 1.40 per pound (for times of low market) or prices above this as negotiated. Organic coffee receives an extra minimum differential of US 30 cents per pound. A Fairtrade Premium of US 20c per pound for social and economic investments is to be distributed at the community and organizational level. Trade standards aim to encourage fairer negotiations, clarify the role of price fixing, and reduce speculation.”

Costs to join are around $2500 for producers, and 2% revenue for roasters to use the certification label on bags.

One of the main criticisms of Fairtrade coffee is that it doesn’t incentivise quality in its main criteria, and poorer quality coffee is sold under this mechanism.

The point of the Fairtrade certification is to target farmers and reward them for their coffee. It is the buyer who in charge of choosing the quality coffee they would like (Just like every system). Through FT there is an open relationship to build on better quality.

There is, of course, poorer grade FT coffee sold  and people manipulating the system by choosing who they sell the good and bad to and for how much. But I see this is a weakness in business not just the FT system as we see corruption everywhere.

Peoples Coffee have bought many containers of good quality origins for espresso blends, as well as micro lots, single farmer lots, single variety lots, zero defect lots, and all as certified FT coffee.

There are systems which incentivise quality like Cup of Excellence. However it is an entirely different trading market. COE are small amounts of coffee and is purely focused on the cup quality. It doesn’t really care who, where, how it was produced, as long as it “cups well” (scores high on a 100 point flavour based system). Comparing these very expensive coffees to the quality of the coffees we drink for $4 a cup, is like comparing a $300 bottle of wine from vineyard to a $30 supermarket bottle, because its  COE coffees we drink in out flat whites every day at our regular cafe.

 

Fair Trade USA is a fairly new offshoot from Fairtrade with whom they share many goals and criteria, but broke off to create FTUSA to further the reach of their goals. FTUSA have opened up who can join their certification to allow seasonal farm workers and estates to be FTUSA certified. This is at odds with FT who only certify small lots farmers who form co-ops. The distinction is that estates usually only have one land owner (or family) who control the business, and workers are just paid a wage and have no control.

This has caused a slight rift in the FT world, partly because some co-ops struggle to sell all of their coffee for sustainable certified prices as it is.

Also it looks like big businesses can buy the same cheap coffee they currently do, and just certify the producer through FTUSA to turn it into certified “ethical” coffee. The potential for green washing seems much higher when anyone can be certified.

FTUSA want to tackle global poverty, and want to be able to certify almost anyone producing coffee as the means of achieving this. Seasonal workers make up many pickers during harvest time and are currently unrepresented, so there is a real need. But the FT mechanism works when it uses a unified community group that work together to meet their shared goals, how seasonal workers can participate or benefit in small scale community democracy is a challenging idea, and its in early days of its growth of the certification, but one to keep an eye on.

 

Peoples Coffee have been using 100 % Fair Trade and organic coffee since we started 10 years ago, this is because we want to ensure we make a positive impact through trading and Fairtrade is built to help with this process, not because we want to be branded as certified.

Peoples Coffee continues to use certifications because of the inherent standards and practices they build into the system. It means we can have globally recognised standards as a base line and we are held accountable to these standards, not just our own.

Certification helps us to demonstrate the authenticity as a business by being transparent in our trading practices and gives the power back to the customer to make an informed decision about who they give their money to.

For more information on how Peoples Coffee trade, you can read our page on fair trade and why co-ops matter.

You can also learn more about the World Fair Trade Organisations ten principles of Fair Trade here.

 

 

 

 

 


April 17th, 2014


Posted In: Branding, Certifications, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable

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Coffee Seasons

Coffee grows on trees and can be harvested once a year. It is part of the drupe family, meaning the flowers will grow in to coffee seeds, which then become cherries with grape like flesh covering the seeds. The cherry spends around 9 months ripening from the flower stage. They are climacteric so must be picked when the fruit is ripe, as it won’t ripen after picking (unlike strawberries or grapes). Any positive flavours in coffee are all related to the sugars and acids present when picked at optimal ripeness.

Once the coffee is picked and processed to its green form (unroasted) it can last anywhere from 6 months to just over a year before the more lively interesting flavours start to fade. Each country has different harvest dates relating to its rain season. Throughout the year roasters receive different coffees arriving from all around the world, relating to its harvest season and shipping routes. This gives us the seasonality to freshly harvested coffee. When the coffee arrives in the roastery its always very exciting to open the bag (which are hermetically sealed) and have a good smell, they smell a bit like a banana milkshake and hay, with warm rainy day puddle smell.

Harvest Trip Seasons

Each year Peoples Coffee visit some of our producers during the harvest. We visit farms to taste some coffees which will be available that year. Harvest trips are invaluable for the roaster to understand the complexities of the work being done by the producer and an opportunity to share about our respective roles in producing quality sustainable coffee.

For a roaster fresh new coffees are very exciting and following the harvest trip the stories from the trip are still fresh in the mind. This year we have chosen to release a new seasonal espresso blend based on the coffees from Guatemala and Nicaragua, following our last harvest trip, which consists of:

50% Guaya’b

50% Monte Verde

Guaya’b (Guatemala) have been busy in the last few years finishing their new processing mill, rotational driers and warehouse. Giving them better controls and consistency over processing, and raising the quality potential of their coffee.

The flavour profile has always been great from Guaya’b, with a complex caramel body highlighted by a grapey acidity, citrus and berries notes, it has always been one of my favourite single origins.

PRODECOOP (Nicaragua) are a large secondary level co-op, who have had great processing facilities for years, and a team who are very motivated to produce excellent coffee. Monte Verde are a primary co-op who supply PRODECOOP, its membership is 25 women and 40 men. The coffee from this micro lot was processed to a level of zero defects by hand. It has a lovely up front grilled orange sweetness, a full malty flavour and buttery body.

I have roasted these coffees together, with a shorter roast time, developing a fruity sweetness as its acidity, giving a nice marmalade/ candied lemon and apple acidity, backed up with a good development through first crack to produce body, coconut and buttery caramels, with a brown sugar sweetness. I have focused this roast to develop no bitterness as espresso, looking for short brew times and higher yield shots for espresso.

I trust you will enjoy the fruits of our last harvest trip.

René

The seasonal espresso blend can be purchased online or at Constable street.


November 28th, 2013


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Trips

Tags: ,

2 Comments

Blends have a long tradition in espresso history. They are generally created to build a balanced, pleasing flavour by combining different origins with certain characteristics. A traditional espresso blend may have low acidity and be full-bodied with a dark chocolate bitter sweet flavour.

Often a blend will have one main origin as the base. Beans from Brazil are common base blenders and might make up 40 percent of the blend. Then other origins are added to develop flavours, mouthfeel, and add highlights and complexity.

Blends are the bread and butter income for most roasteries — most of their business is from wholesaling to cafés. The blend plays a powerful role in this chain: it dictates the profitability of the roaster and café.

The price of a cup of coffee is often a hot subject, but the actual cost of your flat white has changed very little over the years. Whereas the price of green coffee has gone up and down due to many factors which I won’t mention here. To some degree the average price for a cup of coffee in Wellington dictates the maximum I can pay for a sack of green beans. Individual costs and ratio of profitability work their way back through the supply chain. Wholesaled blends in Wellington vary in price hugely, with blends offered by some roasters being almost half the price of others. This means there are different levels of quality available and different ratios of profit from the farmer, down through the chain to the customer.

Peoples Coffee has grown up with some basic principles which guide our decision making process. For example, we want to buy great coffee in a way which has a positive impact through added value at each step. After 5 years of visiting farmers, I have rarely heard a farmer say they hope their children will continue farming coffee. We offer terms of trade to our producers in the hope this will create a healthy life for them and that they would want their children to continue farming coffee.

Since the start of Peoples Coffee we have been 100 percent organic. For us this is about sustainability. When we travel to coffee producing origins, we see that chemical use often has a very negative impact on the people and environment. By buying only organic coffee, we support quality and sustainability and this leads to better quality and sustainability for the future. This may limit the coffee I can buy, but if we want to see change, sometimes we have to make it. Hoping coffee will become more sustainable — but buying something else until the perfect coffee is available —isn’t going to change the sustainability of coffee very effectively.

I choose not to buy Robusta or Brazil beans, cheap coffees, because they supply little more to a blend other than profitability. Brazil is the biggest producer of coffee globally. It is mainly machine-harvested, commodity grade, non-organic, and comes from large farms operating at an industrial level. These are things I don’t find very appealing in coffee. So I choose to buy from other countries because of the interesting stories involved in sourcing it and the people and communities who have been affected by the troubled history of coffee.

In 2009 I visited the co-op Guaya’b in Guatemala. With the Manager, Lucas Garcia, we visited farmers during the harvest process and talked about the specifics of production. We also went to the warehouse, and the half built drying patios, and learnt about the social projects they are running. After seeing this, and knowing their coffee, I felt the co-op fit with the Peoples objectives and chose to blend Guaya’b’s coffee into the Don Wilfredo blend. Since then we have continued selling plenty of Don Wilfredo which makes a further difference to Guaya’b, and many other co-op’s like them. When I visited them again in 2013 and was able to see the development in their production with the completion of the patio, which has led to better quality and profitability for the co-op and the coffee itself. I feel proud that Peoples Coffee was part of that story.

This is how I like to build my blends — from the knowledge of the co-op after years of tasting their coffee, visiting them to meet and understand who they are, seeing what problems they currently face and how they hope to achieve their goals. I know by carefully choosing coffees from certain co-ops to blend, I can build a beautiful blend and each cup of coffee we sell goes towards developing the lives of the producers. Many of these developments are simple things like processing machines and technical staff. But also holistically, with the goal of enabling them to be in charge of their own destiny, just like we all should be.

So a blend can be more than just a balance of flavours, it can be a bridge between people who are like minded in their attitudes towards people, coffee and business.


June 26th, 2013


Posted In: Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable, Trips, Uncategorized

3 Comments

Coffee has a sad history for many countries. Colonialism and slavery were used as a means to set up much of the global coffee production, which has left many farmers today living in remote mountainous villages, with coffee as the only possible source of income. Even though 70% of the world’s production of coffee comes from small lot farmers such as these, standard international business practice in coffee leaves these producers at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Peoples Coffee exists to offer an alternative to the normal basis of international trade in coffee; our goal is to use our trade as a mechanism for change in the coffee industry, as opposed to building profit for our shareholders.

At Peoples Coffee, we have a triple bottom line attitude towards trade: people, planet, profit. We measure our organizational success on much more than economic criteria: we direct our trade to those we can have a positive financial, social and ecological impact with.

WHO WE TRADE WITH:

Peoples Coffee trades exclusively with small lot coffee farmers who have joined together to form co-operatives.  Key to our vision is how much the farmers are paid in the hand, not just how much we paid someone for the beans – there is a big difference.

We are coffee lovers, and quality is very important to us in our buying decisions. We choose co-ops whose coffee has a quality and flavour profile we like, and will fit into our coffee programme. But we also choose co-ops that are organized in such a way that our trade will have a tangible positive impact on the sustainability of production, and on the lives and communities of the farmers who produce it.  We do this by paying more, and taking less profit.

Peoples Coffee purchases green beans from Trade Aid Importers (TAI), New Zealand’s largest green bean broker, who buy directly from the co-operatives. We forecast our coffee sales 16 months ahead, specific to each origin, and Trade Aid factor us in when they are setting contracts with the co-ops.  We then purchase green beans on a weekly basis from TAI, who pay the relevant profits back to each co-operative annually.

Together with Trade Aid Importers, we travel to origin each year to visit our co-operatives at harvest time. We believe regularly visiting our producers plays an important role in understanding the realities of farming specialty coffee, and is key to being able to best represent the true value of coffee. Through our visits we are able to see and hear current factors in production, and understand how and why the prices farmers receive in the hand is so important.

Peoples Coffee shares a vision for coffee farmers with Trade Aid Importers, and is thrilled to be supporting co-ops with them, knowing we have a clean and transparent money chain. Buying from a co-op means we have great traceability; we know who grew our coffee, where, how, and exactly how much they got paid.

WHERE WE TRADE:

Our coffee comes from small lot coffee farmers in Africa, and in Central & South America, where the latitude and longitude meet to form ideal growing temperatures and conditions.

Our small lot farmers manage parcels of land typically around 1–5 hectares in size, and farm at altitudes above 1000m, where growing conditions are great for high quality Arabica production, but mechanized farming is less common.

They generally live in villages in the mountains, and plant coffee in amongst the natural forest plants, shaded under a tree canopy. These are perfect growing conditions for producing the tastiest coffee, and have much less impact on the environment than mono-culture planting.  Coffee production can be good for biodiversity, and in many countries is allowed to be grown in state forests, as it encourages birds and insect life.

This is in stark contrast with industrial scale coffee that is grown in larger estates and plantations. These plantations are generally monoculture, meaning the landscape has been cleared to make room for lines of coffee to be planted and to allow machines to drive through to harvest cherries.

HOW WE TRADE:

Globally, coffee contracts (how much is paid for coffee) are almost always set using a differential from the New York Coffee Futures (the stock market), where coffee is traded as a commodity.  However, the prices we pay to farmers are set through discussions with the co-op to find a price that is reflective of the year they have had, the quality, and where the current NZ pricing market is at. These prices are set to be favorable to producers, but still competitive with other coffee in New Zealand.

Coffee is almost exclusively exported from producing countries in shipping containers that carry 250–275 sacks of coffee.  A container of coffee might costs over NZD $100,000 and takes 6 weeks to reach New Zealand via global shipping routes.

In order for any coffee to get to New Zealand, a farmer must sell, and a broker must buy, a whole container of coffee. So small lot farmers, who might only produce 50 sacks a year, are unable to directly access the international export market without a middle man.  However, this issue is resolved when producers of similar region and affiliation join together to form a co-op.  By pooling their resources, they can access the market with an export license, and through mutual profits, can buy and collectively own coffee infrastructure.  As a coffee community, they can share a vision and have the means to develop it.

Through our business objectives we want to support and help progress the small lot farmer’s family business.  We want to share and invest in goals with producers, and build relationships that are more than just a division of profit margins.  We want to change the value of a commodity, by recognising the quality and value of the raw product – not just by adding value to it through roasting.

This is the crux of Peoples Coffee.


May 15th, 2013


Posted In: Coffee, Collaboration, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Trips

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Harvest season is a time when coffee trees should be thriving, and heavy with leaves and fruit.  But all too often on our visit to Central America, we saw trees bare of leaves, with only a small amount of cherries.  This was due to the effects of a new strand of Roya, a leaf rust that is rapidly spreading through Latin America.  Some of these coffee producing countries have even announced a national emergency due to Roya’s damaging effects.

And at each of the four co-operatives we visited in Guatemala and Nicaragua,  Roya was a hot topic of discussion.  Roya is common to coffee, but this new strand seems to be worse than ever before, with many farmers very quickly losing much of their coffee to it.  Since the rust can remain in fallen leaves, farmers we spoke with had been advised to clear out all the coffee from affected areas and then burn the trees!  Once the land has been ‘cleaned’ then replanting can begin, but this will cause a three year lapse in production.

This will be tough for many producers that don’t have the money to buy seedlings to replant their farms, or the means to survive for the three years it takes to see new trees through to harvest.  This year, some countries are reporting that 10 -50% of their farms are effected by Roya, causing a massive reduction in harvest.  But the worst is still to come, as the trees which did produce this year must be cut down.

This is where fair trade and co-operatives become so important.  We were impressed with the proactiveness of the four co-ops we visited, and the social development programmes the co-ops had developed to support their members through tough times like these.   PRODECOOP, a Nicaraguan co-op, was a perfect example of this.  We visited a health clinic that was originally set up for diagnosing cancer in women, but has since developed its services to meet the many needs in the remote community.  We also visited some food banks, where members could sell their beans and corn at harvest time, and loan it back when food supply was scarce.

Another very important program run by PRODECOOP was food growing diversification.  The ability to grow quality food is so important.  It is the reason that many farmers can continue to farm at a loss during the tough times.  Traditionally, corn and beans are the main food grown by farmers, but this is not a full healthy diet, so the co-op is modeling and teaching their coffee farmers to diversity their food crops.

By supporting co-ops who run programmes like these, I hope that in years to come there will still be quality coffee to buy from these regions, co-ops and countries – not just Brazil and Vietnam, who are the biggest global producers and are mainly growing commodity grade coffee.

For me, these harvest trips are an opportunity to learn about the realities of farming specialty coffee in a commodity market, and to ensure that our business objectives reflect these requirements.  Through direct conversation with farmers, agronomists, mill staff, cuppers, and co-op managers, we try to get a full picture of farmers’ lives, production practices and issues in the region.

Through our business objectives, we hope to lessen the influence of foreign exchange rates and the ever changing coffee price on the stock exchange, and to address the realities of production in the price we pay for our coffee.  Peoples Coffee is committed to working with producers on our common goal: to sustainably produce better quality coffee, with better yields, at prices well above the cost of production.  We believe that through our trade we CAN and NEED to have a positive impact on our partners who produce this product we all love.

 

René Macaulay


March 20th, 2013


Posted In: Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Trips

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January and February herald the harvest season for most coffee producing countries, and for Peoples Coffee, they herald the time to visit our producers.  This year, Liv and I flew to Central America to visit the co-operatives we buy coffee from in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

We spent three weeks staying in the villages of the four co-ops, and spent our days traveling between producers’ farms, processing mills, warehouses, cupping labs, and development programmes.  I had visited some of these co-ops four years ago, so I was very interested to see how things had progressed in the last few years.  We hired a translator for Spanish (and another for the local dialect) so that we could talk face to face with producers and best understand what is happening in their lives.

Our first visit was with Guaya’b, a co-operative of indigenous coffee growers in Huehuetenango, in the highlands of western Guatemala.

My 2009 visit to Guaya’b had been a sobering one, as the co-op told me about the wide-ranging and complex issues they were being confronted with.  So on this trip, it was wonderful to see that the determination of the coffee farmers, the quality of their coffee, and the support from buyers like Trade Aid, had kept them going through these difficult times.

Guaya’b co-operative has spent the last few years building a large wet mill, with fermentation tanks, a drying patio, and two mechanical dryers. At the time of my visit in 2009, financial issues were stalling the building of the mill, so I was pleased to see that it was now finished and already operating near capacity!  This new infrastructure has greatly improved the harvest process for the co-op’s members, who no longer have to spend every evening of harvest season hand de-pulping, washing and drying their coffee at home.  It also gives the co-operative better control over consistency and quality, and the ability to develop new quality processes at the mill.  I enjoyed the samples on the cupping table; their exceptional Huehuetenango coffee tasted beautiful.

Guaya’b are a small co-op, producing 11 organic containers of coffee per year (fair trade co-ops typically produce between 8 and 30 containers), and due to their size must contract out some of their quality controls and processes.  This trip was an opportunity for me to spend some time with Lucas, the manager, to do an education session on sample roasting and cupping to SCAA protocols.  We discussed the importance of standards like SCAA, to ensure that globally we are all roasting, cupping and using the same vocab to assess coffee.

I also spent time with the main staff of the wet mill (where coffee cherries are processed to beans), discussing and learning about how they operate, and how and why they do what they do.  From my experiences on previous harvest trips to other co-ops, I was able to share some ideas and standards I have seen successfully operating elsewhere, and ways to increase cup quality.

Harvest trips are an exciting time to for a roaster to learn more about the coffee production process, and after years of visits, it was very rewarding to be able to add some value back to our producers in ways like this.

René Macaulay

 

You can read more about René and Liv’s harvest trip in next week’s blog, so check back in with us!

 

 

 


March 13th, 2013


Posted In: Cooperatives, Sustainability, Trips

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I see this everywhere on websites and in cafes, like a golden rule, or some sort of market monopolization they have. But good coffee isn’t as simple as “fresh is best”. This may be a hang over from years ago when the NZ market was flooded with Australian roasted coffee. But I thought I would tell you a bit about freshness.

During the first 6-10 hours after roasting, the coffee may not be a true representative of how it will taste a few hours later, as there are many gasses being released which impact the cup flavour. Many roasters and coffee cuppers will wait a day before cupping coffee, to allow for this degassing and settling.

Beans will age faster the darker they have been roasted.  Also, lighter roasts will last longer as less of the oils have been transferred from the cell structure of the bean to the surface – it is partly the oils on the surface of the bean which in time turn bad and give ‘off’ flavours.

For plunger and filter, what we call “soft brewing”, beans are good from day 2, and as the days progress, the flavours will develop. Some coffees come alive days after roasting but in general, around day 10 things will start going down hill.

Most of us drink espresso in cafes.  Did you know you DON’T want fresh beans for espresso? 7 day old beans are great!  Espresso coffee goes through a very different process to brew, part of which is emulsification, and requires different rules to soft brewing (espresso not being soft). Espresso coffee shouldn’t really be used before day 3, as it will taste tangy, give bubbly shots, and generally be annoying to work with for the Barista.  We recommend day 3-9 as ideal for our espresso blends and roast profiles.

There are differing opinions about the “expiration date” of coffee, but I generally recommend a maximum of a week for retail shelf life.  Coffee doesn’t really go off, like food, but more undesirable flavours become dominant.  If you buy coffee from the supermarket, you may be aware of “roasted on” and “best before”, there is a big difference.  Supermarkets inherently tend to retail aged product (especially coffee) – it might be over a month old before it reaches the shelf. The ‘best before’ date really tells you nothing, as it is often recommending 6 months as good shelf life.  Sadly this is the main outlet where we should be seeing “freshly roasted coffee”.  So when buying, look for “roasted on”, rather than “best before” and do the math.

Here is a little summary which is a good enough starting place:
“Babbie’s Rule” (how long before coffee goes stale):
15 seconds; to serve espresso
15 minutes; to brew ground coffee
15 days; to grind beans for brewing
15 months, to roast green beans

 

René


November 1st, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee

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I see this everywhere on websites and in cafes, like a golden rule, or some sort of market monopolization they have. But good coffee isn’t as simple as “fresh is best”. This may be a hang over from years ago when the NZ market was flooded with Australian roasted coffee. But I thought I would tell you a bit about freshness.

During the first 6-10 hours after roasting, the coffee may not be a true representative of how it will taste a few hours later, as there are many gasses being released which impact the cup flavour. Many roasters and coffee cuppers will wait a day before cupping coffee, to allow for this degassing and settling.

Beans will age faster the darker they have been roasted.  Also, lighter roasts will last longer as less of the oils have been transferred from the cell structure of the bean to the surface – it is partly the oils on the surface of the bean which in time turn bad and give ‘off’ flavours.

For plunger and filter, what we call “soft brewing”, beans are good from day 2, and as the days progress, the flavours will develop. Some coffees come alive days after roasting but in general, around day 10 things will start going down hill.

Most of us drink espresso in cafes.  Did you know you DON’T want fresh beans for espresso? 7 day old beans are great!  Espresso coffee goes through a very different process to brew, part of which is emulsification, and requires different rules to soft brewing (espresso not being soft). Espresso coffee shouldn’t really be used before day 3, as it will taste tangy, give bubbly shots, and generally be annoying to work with for the Barista.  We recommend day 3-9 as ideal for our espresso blends and roast profiles.

There are differing opinions about the “expiration date” of coffee, but I generally recommend a maximum of a week for retail shelf life.  Coffee doesn’t really go off, like food, but more undesirable flavours become dominant.  If you buy coffee from the supermarket, you may be aware of “roasted on” and “best before”, there is a big difference.  Supermarkets inherently tend to retail aged product (especially coffee) – it might be over a month old before it reaches the shelf. The ‘best before’ date really tells you nothing, as it is often recommending 6 months as good shelf life.  Sadly this is the main outlet where we should be seeing “freshly roasted coffee”.  So when buying, look for “roasted on”, rather than “best before” and do the math.

Here is a little summary which is a good enough starting place:
“Babbie’s Rule” (how long before coffee goes stale):
15 seconds; to serve espresso
15 minutes; to brew ground coffee
15 days; to grind beans for brewing
15 months, to roast green beans

 

René


November 1st, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee

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I see this everywhere on websites and in cafes, like a golden rule, or some sort of market monopolization they have. But good coffee isn’t as simple as “fresh is best”. This may be a hang over from years ago when the NZ market was flooded with Australian roasted coffee. But I thought I would tell you a bit about freshness.

During the first 6-10 hours after roasting, the coffee may not be a true representative of how it will taste a few hours later, as there are many gasses being released which impact the cup flavour. Many roasters and coffee cuppers will wait a day before cupping coffee, to allow for this degassing and settling.

Beans will age faster the darker they have been roasted.  Also, lighter roasts will last longer as less of the oils have been transferred from the cell structure of the bean to the surface – it is partly the oils on the surface of the bean which in time turn bad and give ‘off’ flavours.

For plunger and filter, what we call “soft brewing”, beans are good from day 2, and as the days progress, the flavours will develop. Some coffees come alive days after roasting but in general, around day 10 things will start going down hill.

Most of us drink espresso in cafes.  Did you know you DON’T want fresh beans for espresso? 7 day old beans are great!  Espresso coffee goes through a very different process to brew, part of which is emulsification, and requires different rules to soft brewing (espresso not being soft). Espresso coffee shouldn’t really be used before day 3, as it will taste tangy, give bubbly shots, and generally be annoying to work with for the Barista.  We recommend day 3-9 as ideal for our espresso blends and roast profiles.

There are differing opinions about the “expiration date” of coffee, but I generally recommend a maximum of a week for retail shelf life.  Coffee doesn’t really go off, like food, but more undesirable flavours become dominant.  If you buy coffee from the supermarket, you may be aware of “roasted on” and “best before”, there is a big difference.  Supermarkets inherently tend to retail aged product (especially coffee) – it might be over a month old before it reaches the shelf. The ‘best before’ date really tells you nothing, as it is often recommending 6 months as good shelf life.  Sadly this is the main outlet where we should be seeing “freshly roasted coffee”.  So when buying, look for “roasted on”, rather than “best before” and do the math.

Here is a little summary which is a good enough starting place:
“Babbie’s Rule” (how long before coffee goes stale):
15 seconds; to serve espresso
15 minutes; to brew ground coffee
15 days; to grind beans for brewing
15 months, to roast green beans

 

René


November 1st, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee

One Comment

Yesterday during the roastery cupping, one of our favorite coffees on the table, was Monte Verde, a new special lot from PRODECOOP Nicaragua. With immaculate green beans giving its clean flavours of orange sweetness, grape and citrus acidity. This is definitely a special coffee.

Monte Verde is situated in Los Llanos near Esteli, and is a prime Nicaraguan coffee growing region. It is a small co-op, made up of 25 Women and 40 Men, and is a primary producer co-op for PRODECOOP. This selection of coffee has had special attention paid to its processing to raise its quality, which comes through handsomely ‘in the cup.’

Washed’ coffee is the main processing method of specialty coffee to separate quality. It involves placing the cherries in water, ripe cherries will sink, while a range of defects cause substandard cherries to float, these are scooped off and discarded.

Early in PRODECOOP’s formation, they were lucky enough to buy a second hand ‘laser eye’ processor. In a few hours, a container of coffee will proceed past the laser, with the defects being rejected. This replaces hand sorting done at the final stage of processing, many dry mills employ woman to hand sort green coffee, taking weeks per container.

Like wine, part of the inherent flavour comes from the variety of its species, Caturra and Bourbon are the varietals grown by Monte Verde, and are part of a handful of varieties which made it out of Africa many years ago.

Over the years PRODECOOP have entered ‘Cup Of Excellence’ auctions with numerous placings, and this coffee certainly meets the strict quality criteria of COE assessment. This coffee comes to us in hermetically sealed GrainPro, a PVC cocoon which preserves the original moisture content of the beans as they travel from origin to us on shipping routes.

On the roasting side, to get a diverse flavour profile out of the roast, it has been developed with plenty of heat during first crack to foster a round body and sweetness, it is then spilt at the maturation of first crack, allowing for the preservation of its acidity and clean cup characteristics.  I have no desire to develop any roasty flavours for this coffee!

The exciting thing for us is this same roast profile we loved on the cupping table, with a nice synergy of acidity and sweetness, also translates beautifully to espresso. Giving a glazed orange sweetness, buttery body, with a pleasing acidity.

 


October 4th, 2012


Posted In: Coffee, Coffee geek out, Cooperatives

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We all need to detox from time to time, and our coffee roaster is no exception.  So earlier this year, I decided it was high time to give our beloved Probat UG22 coffee roaster a a little bit of a detox and a good overhaul.

This machine is around 60 years old, German-made, and was built to last a lifetime.   Since we brought it over from Germany four years ago, it has roasted more than 150 000 kgs of coffee (that’s as heavy as a blue whale!).

This roaster was hard-won, and very nearly the ruin of Peoples Coffee.  When we (foolishly) put down full payment for it in 2007, Peter Von Gimborn, the great grandson of Probat’s founder was running his shop roaster subsidiary of Probat into the ground.

This meant that we had to fly to Germany and spend three days prying our partially reconditioned UG22 out of his cold, arrogant hands.

Many other coffee roasters were not so lucky, losing their deposits and never receiving their machines, as Von Gimborn went bankrupt and skipped Germany.

The Probat is a beauty, with solid case metal parts and a thick steel drum that holds conductive heat without scorching the bean surface (which happens in cheaper roasters).  It has five three-phase motors, all running separate parts, and a single gas burner with a gas pressure dial that I use to record and replicate flame size.  I had also added a wheel to adjust airflow during roast via a baffle in the flue.

Even after churning out such a huge volume of coffee beans, the machine was in great nick.  It just needed a good clean throughout and a fresh coat of special heat paint, Por 15 (which can withstand 750 degrees Celsius!).  For a hands-on roaster like myself, the challenge of stripping this machine down to these dozens of parts was a job I was giddy with excitement to get stuck into…

After I had surveyed each part and lovingly restored them, I carefully reconstructed it all, and brought it back to the factory floor glow.  Fun!

The entire process took 2-3 weeks to complete.  During this time, we had to survive without the machine.  This meant roasting hundreds of kilos of coffee each week on our tiny 5kg roaster, one of these weeks hit 1 ton, requiring Matt and I to roast in shifts, and me pulling some late nights laboring over parts. Coffee Supreme also put a few hundred kilograms of “The Don” through their 120kg Probat roaster for us (a huge thanks to Fraser and the lads at the Supreme factory for the help out!)

And yes there was a couple of bolts left over, but I do know where they go!

René


June 13th, 2012


Posted In: Coffee, Coffee geek out

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You can’t beat a flat white in a hip cafe, served by a barista who knows your name and understands how you like your coffee.  It’s an experience we all hold dear, even in these tough financial times.  But it’s not merely the flavour in the cup that I hold in such high regard.

What really gets me interested is its value.  The quality in the cup is directly related to the extremely wide range of factors involved at every stage of the process that got it there.  My mind boggles at the scale of hurdles there are in making a high quality cup of coffee, and (arguably) its true value is only understood when these factors are appraised during its preparation.

This quality starts firstly in the soil, where the (not so wide) variety of coffee species resides.  Coffea Arabica, the main species of quality coffee, was voyaged by conquistadors many decades ago to the mountains of equatorial countries.  There it lies entrenched in soils with a diverse makeup, set against (what were once) stable micro climates, and grown by people with their own unique cultures, traditions and farming practices.  The production techniques favored by coffee farmers at origin forever impact the makeup and flavour potential of the coffee beans.

The financial value of this ‘commodity’ is traded by brokers, bloated by demand shortages due to frosts in Brazil, diminished by weather, insect damage and currency exchange.  All the while, this simple bean is carried on the backs of men, and processed and sorted between fingers of women, or the pulse of a machine.  These beans are then stockpiled in warehouses, traded and marketed as fair/ethical/real/certified, floated between ports, and inspected by customs for bugs.

Only then are they ready for the next vital link in the chain: 16 minutes turning at 50 revolutions a minute in 200 degree heat.

Ahh…the roasting of the bean.  Thermally coaxing out the desirable flavours by balancing airflow with the volume and moisture of the beans, controlling the temperature development curve throughout the roast, allowing Millard reaction to take place and brown the multitude – until that optimum moment when the beans are liberated from the roaster.   Ambient air stalls the roasting process and cools them at the point when their flavours are most heightened and palatable to the human condition.

An exponential range of variation in quality is then introduced through the brewing process.   Grind size and uniformity, water condition, temperature, contact time, pressure, agitation; all these factors combine to seriously influence the quality of the cup being held up to the looking-glass mind of a coffee maker.

Only after years, even decades, of cultivated secrets employed and passed on to fellow confidants, do we have a set of parameters which, when followed with fervor, can produce a beverage which any of us industry people would care to approach with confidence.

 

As I’ve started to point out, quality in coffee is complicated and interdependent at every level, as is its value.

What do you value in your daily coffee?
What defines its value , and how does that compare to wine, chocolate, bread, veges..?
Leave me a comment below!

I hope I have interested you in searching for some intrinsic value, and hope Peoples Coffee can contribute to this, even if its just in a cup.


April 18th, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Coffee geek out, Sustainability

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Wellington Cafe Zeitgeist

Once in a while a few of us from the roastery get out on the street together for a cafe tour. We visit various establishments to have a mix of drinks and see how different cafes operate; who’s pumping and why. It’s always a bit of fun despite the sore guts after too many coffees – yes we have a limit too!

The interesting part is learning what makes different cafes successful, and seeing what works in different streets and areas around Wellington. Is it their service? Their coffee? Fit out? Location? We then discuss this between the group and see if we agree.

The tough part is to satisfy the industry expert as well as the regulars (though we are both pretty fussy!) Some things work at the street level, but there are special things we like to see happening: clean machine and coffee prep area, trained staff who are personable and friendly with each other and their customers, the making of exquisite beverages, fitouts which follow a theme throughout the whole cafe and appeal to the customer base, and a coffee supplier brand which adds value to the cafe brand – the list goes on…..

I would be interested to hear from anyone who cares to share what they look for and why they go back to their favorite cafes. Best rosetta? great design and brand? Hot counter staff (dare I say it)? A barista that remembers your name and drink; or is it just that it’s round the corner?!


October 17th, 2011


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee

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René standing by our 22 KG Probat Roaster

I have been roasting for peoples Coffee for over 4 years now, and remember the good old days of 100-200kg of coffee to roast a week. Matt, Ben and I would pump the music in the little cottage as we did our thing, and lunch from the Mediterranean – bread, cheese and red wine!

Steadily we grew and these days there are teams of people in sales, dispatch, roasting, management, cafes…. but sadly less red wine.

However last week, after 7 years in business, and hovering around 900kg a week for what seemed years,

we hit one tonne of coffee a week!!

(queue high five)

Most of this volume is in our much-loved blend “the Don” wholesaled to cafes scattered round Wellington and the country, equating to around 30,000+ cups of fairly traded organic espresso a week. 5,280,000 individual beans which have been grown, picked, sorted, processed, traded, shipped, roasted, retailed and ingested.

So big ups to the team at Peoples – you ALL pay a part in the success of the product and brand.

Thanks too to the producers of these fine beans who do so much work.

And finally – a BIG thanks to all you fans and consumers of People Coffee! We are all pleased to offer you an opportunity to enjoy our great coffee, and share in the stories we find in the journey of the bean.

Bottoms up – bring on the next Tonnage.


September 14th, 2011


Posted In: Coffee

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