Two weeks ago I embarked on a little trip up to Auckland to visit Liv and Josephine and check out some of the awesome spots now serving Peoples Coffee in the city of sails (I also MAY have seen Fleetwood Mac live in concert but that’s neither here nor there…).
Liv picked myself and our awesome photographer Renee up from Britomart (Renee and I having made the rather poor decision to take the overnight bus from Wellington) and took us on a whirlwind tour – first stop Cake & Co. on Ponsonby Road.
Cake and Co. is a cosy little nook specialising in (you guessed it) cakes! Stunningly presented, absolutely delicious cakes. Owner Jackie takes pride in using only the best natural ingredients; unrefined sugars, free range eggs from happy chooks, natural colours and flavours, spelt, rye and wholemeal flours along with her own special blend of gluten free flour.
Coffee comes served with dainty mini-cupcakes in all kinds of flavours and the place has a really great vibe – children and dogs being equally welcome.
After much cooing over several puppies, we eventually departed, refuelled and ready for our next destination: Fort Greene in St Kevin’s Arcade.
St Kevin’s is Fort Greene’s new home and it is looking PRETTY swish, a cool new fit-out with an upstairs loft giving the spot a homely and relaxed feel. Owners (and culinary whizzes) Andrea and Liam are making a name for themselves as Auckland’s ‘Sandwich Kings’ with their totally homemade, epic sandwiches built from the ground up, starting with the bread.
We HIGHLY recommend ‘The Fish One’ – hand made house-smoked kahawai fish fingers, mushy peas, tartare and snow pea shoots served warm to order on house made bread *drools*.
The next stop on our cafe crawl was the lovely Florentines Tea Room in Epson. This locals secret has been serving Peoples for a few years now – our very first Auckland foray.
Florentines is a gorgeous, eclectic spot with a real ‘old-hollywood-meets-english-countryside’ aesthetic – crystal chandeliers and ornate gilded mirrors sitting comfortably next to hand-knitted throw cushions and china tea sets. They boast a fantastic selection of cabinet food including their famed chicken & avocado club sandwiches as well as a small but lovely all-day breakfast menu.
The place was PACKED when we visited – poor Renee was in the way for pretty much every single photograph she took but no-one seemed to mind, the diverse crowd shimmying this way and that to accommodate!
Then is was back to the city to visit the new and improved Scarecrow – an artisan grocer, kitchen and florist occupying a stunning new spot on Victoria Street East.
Scarecrow have recently moved back in to this corner after giving it a brilliant re-furb and the place glows. Huge bouquets of flowers adorn every shelf, white globes of light hang suspended from the roof and the smells of baked bread and fresh ground coffee are delightful. The artisan grocer is retailing a varying selection of People’s best blends and single origins for home espresso and brewing.
They also do a great breakfast – but be sure to get in early, the spot was chocka-block when we arrived around midday, barely room to swing a cat!
We unfortunately didn’t quite have time to pop in to the fantastic Urchin & Amber on Vulcan Lane. I was lucky enough to sample their gorgeous menu and write a blog about them last time I was in the big city and had been keen to lay my hands on some more of their exceptional Green Bean, Sesame and Chilli Salad but alas, not this time around.
Storm clouds were moving in and we had a concert to catch – time to Go Our Own Way(s). Until next time Auckland, you always turn on the best weather for me – and by best I mean thunder and pouring rain – ciao!
– Jesse F
Photography by Renee Cotton Media
December 11th, 2015
Seeing as our recent blog all about Lauren was so well received we thought we would talk a little more about some of our #peoplespeople!
René Macaulay is a fixture here at Peoples. The Roaster Formerly Known For His Moustache has been with us since 2007, working with our farmers at Origin and here at the roastery – from crop to cup.
Five things you may not know about René:
1. He once lived, for a time, in the Himalayas.
2. He can convert a non-believer in minutes (to the importance of fair trade).
3. If he could have any coffee-related toy in the world it would be a colour grader ‘laser eye’ (for those of you, like me, who have no idea what that means – there is a picture below)
4. His first flat white was procured from Cuba St institution Olive.
5. He is the hero that Peoples Coffee deserves. (OK I stole that one from Batman but Rene is kind of the man…)
Each trip to Origin is quite different and very sobering, René explains. A lot of the time the trips are focussed on things that have nothing to do with coffee – issues that affect the whole community like food security and access to health care. The co-ops that we work with in Africa have been rolling out pharmacies and midwifery to all the farmers and this is making a tangible difference in peoples lives.
“It’s not about assessing fair trade – on the whole it is to assess the needs of the farmers. To get a feel for each co-op and ensuring the needs of the farmers being met by the co-op leaders.”
Peoples are resolutley fair trade – so I asked René a few questions about fair trade and the coffee industry to get a better idea of why:
Is fair trade actually making a difference in the lives of farmers at Origin?
What farmers really need is to be paid a whole lot more. As roasters we are all limited in what we can achieve by the wholesale price and the street price of a cup of coffee. The most powerful mechanism of fair trade is the social premiums and the ongoing positive value they add. They put the power and the means back in the hands of the community.
Why did Peoples Coffee change from Fairtrade certification to World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) certification?
We felt that WFTO’s 10 principles of fair trade were better suited to help us challenge ourselves, ask hard questions and analyse how well we were performing as an ethically minded business. WFTO allows us to apply the ethos of fair trade to all of our business practices, not just our product.
In your opinion what is the most dangerous emerging trend in coffee that is affecting farmers lives?
Luxury. Specialty Coffee has relentlessly prized quality as the most desirable element of coffee and this has huge implications for farmers. The highest quality coffee doesn’t necessarily mean better tasting – it just means there are zero defects and nothing getting in the way of tasting the coffee. The higher the quality, the harder it is to produce and environmental changes are making it increasingly MORE difficult. Very often retail prices roasters sell for don’t reflect the difficulty of production and chasing this level of perfection is super challenging for many of these communities.
We have been working with many of the same producers for years, in the last few years climate change has had a huge impact on yields and quality, we continue to work with these groups buying their coffee even though they have been struggling with producing enough of the quality coffee we desire, rather than just buying from someone else who we don’t know.
When he’s not half a world away at Origin, René is hard at work at the Peoples roastery in Newtown. Back in the early days of Peoples Coffee René would often pop in to the roastery to watch his friend, Matt Lamason, roast.
“I roasted at home and but had very little ‘coffee experience’ so to speak. He (Matt) hired me as junior roaster and then flew to Colombia soon after – so I was definitely chucked in the deep end.”
René has certainly come a long way from the junior roaster that used to take a sugar (?!) in his flat white – in addition to being the Head Roaster for Peoples Coffee he is also the chair of the New Zealand Roasters Guild (which he helped set-up). The guild is a formalised community that aims to stimulate roasters to progress in research, development and knowledge. Their main goal (that they share with sister organisaton The Barista Guild) is to ensure everywhere in New Zealand has good coffee.
The guild is volunteer based and holds events and meetings across the country. Membership is open to anyone with a passion for specialty coffee & the roasting craft and the desire to develop skills as a professional roaster. You can read more about getting involved here.
René is a pretty humble guy. He has a passion for coffee but much more important, he believes, is coffee with a conscience.
“There is lots of suffering in the world and it is so easy to live in our society and be blind of the repercussions of all of the little things we do.”
September 28th, 2015
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Last week I took a wee trip up to Auckland to visit Peoples Coffee superstar Josephine and check out Urchin & Amber, one of the first inner-city cafes in Auckland to be serving Peoples Coffee.
Now it has to be said – Wellingtonians are very different from Aucklanders. We are a bit more relaxed, a little more artsy and a whole lot more able to find a car-park within a 3km radius of our favourite inner-city cafe – so naturally Jo was running a touch late!
She flew through the door in a flurry of coffee beans, spreadsheets and effortless-cool and we ordered up a storm from our awesome waiter Jaime. We both went for the Panko Crumbed Fish Fingers with Tatare and Lemon and shared a Grilled Green Bean, Sesame & Chilli salad. Everything was mad tasty and the salad had a brilliant kick from the chilli.
Next up we (obviously) needed to sample the coffee, so Jo had head barista Amanda whip us up a killer flat white and long black. Amanda is brilliant, a little ball of energy and enthusiasm with a lilting Brazilian accent that makes everything sound MUCH cooler and who never stops smiling!
Urchin and Amber’s decor is cool. It feels new and vintage at the same time, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I found out that it is housed in the oldest pub in Aukland (the building was built in 1858!?) Owner David Combs, of Vulcan Lane institution Vultures, is passionate about making Urchin a warm and relaxed place to be. From next week they will be serving brekkie and brunch through until 4pm, at which point Urchin will switch over to a gourmet fish & chips menu.
After chatting with the staff and a big ol’ meeting with Jo I decided to finish up my visit with one of Urchin’s freshly made super-juices. It was just what I needed to steel myself for the long walk down a very wet Queen Street to my hotel in a rather thin T shirt.
My trip to Auckland, whilst short, was sweet. It was great to see Urchin doing so well and to catch up with the lovely Josephine. It has been rumoured in the past that she lives INSIDE Skype but I now have proof otherwise. The more you know!
August 5th, 2015
Just so you all know there is a man who delivers coffee (and other tasty tidbits) on this contraption you see here. That’s right, rain or shine, Russell Silverwood, from Nocar Cargo, will pedal your Peoples Coffee Single Origin Mexican Chiapas right to your door, anywhere within Central Wellington. Why you ask? Simple – Russell has a passion for bicycles that he wants to share with Wellington. His aim – to make our city safer, cleaner and friendlier for everyone.
You might recognise Russell (or at least his head and upper torso) from his days behind the Constable St coffee machine – we’re pretty stoked to have him back in the Peoples fold.
Despite being appreciative of what motor vehicles have to offer, Russell knows that our over-reliance on them leads to polluted air, noisy streets and annoying congestion. He hopes that Nocar Cargo can lead the way in ‘providing a practical, emission-free alternative that doesn’t waste time looking for parks, will travel at safe speeds and can give high fives’ (truly the mark of any great service).
We did a little digging on the concept and found that Russell and his Nocar Cargo aren’t the only ones who’ve seen the benefits of emission-free delivery methods.
Nimble are a Californian based company specialising in Cargo Kick-Scooters. The scooters are capable of carrying almost 140kg’s at a time and are being used by enviro-conscious companies all over the world.
Then there’s Melbourne-based cargo-bike delivery company Cargone Couriers who are changing the way Melbourne-ites (thats a word right?) send and receive their goods as well as helping big businesses reduce their carbon footprint.
Safe to say that Russell and his international compadres are pedalling/pushing/kicking/grinding their way towards cleaner, safer (fitter) cities so, if you see him around, say hello, give him a wave (or a high-five) and salute his efforts – as far as we’re concerned the man is nothing less than a bearded angel!
July 9th, 2015
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Picture this: You venture out on a brutally cold Wellington day for a bite to eat at your local haunt and think ‘I have tried everything here. Twice. And it’s all amazing, but I want something new and I want it now’. I don’t know about you but I find myself in this predicament frequently and for that reason Field & Green on Wakefield Street has recently taken centre stage on my to-do list.
Formed by chef Laura Greenfield and businesswoman Raechal Ferguson, Field and Green is a brand new stomping-ground for those of us with an insatiable palate and a short attention span – serving up an eclectic menu of European soul food that changes EVERY. WEEK.
Truth time – I’m skeptical. How? How does one have the energy to craft not one culinary work-of-art but 52?! The answer is of course practice and with Laura’s twelve years producing weekly seasonal menus for Sotheby’s Auction House Café (London) she has it in spades.
Early reports from the Peoples crew is that the food is on point, particularly the Mt Eliza cheese scones which our new Sales Manager James says are ‘where it’s at’, so I thought I’d better pop down and see what all the fuss was about.
On arrival I was handed a glass of Riesling and hustled over to the in-kitchen breakfast bar that is one of the distinguishing features of this new capital city eatery. Raechal is a designer by trade (amongst other things) so she tells me all about F & G’s modern yet welcoming look and Laura gives me a rundown of some of this week’s dishes – special mention goes to the Apple and Quince Crumble with Cinnamon Custard (which had me foaming at the mouth just writing this).
I think it’s safe to say I’m sold and will be making a return trip for the full F & G experience before too long…see you there?
June 24th, 2015
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“Wanna try some of this?” A gooey, caramel-coloured concoction appears in front of me. I’m powerless to resist the chocolate shavings sprinkled on top. As I slurp happily on my afternoon sugar fix, Morgan eases my health guilt. “It’s a cacao, date, banana, almond milk, and peanut butter smoothie,” and everything is right with the world.
Morgan is a Peoples Coffee alumnus, and one of the proprietors of Earnest, a newly opened temple to cold-pressed juice (and delicious salads), in Garett Street. Being run by one of Wellington’s finest baristas, of course Earnest also offers expertly handled Peoples Coffee.
I’m aware that there is such a thing as cold-pressed juice, but I am in need of some enlightenment on, er, the point of it. Morgan is obliging. “Cold-pressed juice is essentially juice that’s squeezed out of fruit and vegetables – with a hydraulic press in this case – through a teflon cloth. The benefit is it doesn’t get hot anywhere in the process, whereas with a centrifugal juicer it can. That’s why quite often juice bars will serve the juice over ice. Also, if it does get hot enough it can start to drain the nutrients from the fruit and vegetables.”
No nutrient dissipation at Earnest. What you see on the bottle is what you get. And what you get are bold, often surprising flavour combinations. Granny Smith apple, spinach, cucumber and mint; carrot, tangelo, rockmelon, lemon and ginger. I’m starting to sense a pattern here…
Yes, says Morgan, colour plays a role. “We started coming up with these ideas for flavours, and they were great but then we realised we can’t really add mint to a yellow juice because it goes brown. So it becomes quite a challenge in terms of either picking ingredients that fit within a relatively close colour spectrum, or figuring out ways to get a flavour out of something but not the colour – so we’ve been playing around with various infusions.”
He’s learned to love the trial and error involved in the juicing arts. The juices started out as a side project; while Morgan was working days running the ever popular Milk Crate, and August (Earnest’s previous incarnation), he would be ‘night-juicing’ – up to his elbows in beetroot pulp, combining flavours like a mad professor.
They proved popular, and as demand increased, the idea for Earnest began to germinate.
I’m curious about the inspiration behind the name… “Coming up with the name was actually almost the hardest part of the whole thing – there was a lot of discussion over several weeks. We were talking about things we were inspired by, names that could embody what we wanted to do, and give the shop a character. In the end it just seemed to make sense for us.”
The whole thing does have a very earnest vibe, and I think that the name embodies the kaupapa of the business very succinctly.
Morgan is also learning a lot more about the broad health benefits of his various ingredients. Fresh turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, beetroot is known to boost stamina, and makes a great performance-enhancer…
He’s going to produce info cards on the health benefits of the juices – but he’s very careful where he gets his information from. “I’ve been trying to dig down and get really academic, peer-reviewed papers. I’m trying to avoid anything that can’t be credited to proper research.”
As Wellington’s Autumn begins to feel discouragingly Winter-y, Earnest is bringing out an antidote in the form of pumpkin, orange and cinnamon juice (“Pumpkin juice was AMAZING when I first tried it, I couldn’t believe it”).
They’re also starting to offer delivery to offices. Actually, I wouldn’t mind ordering in some of that cacao smoothie on the regular.
April 29th, 2015
Posted In: Uncategorized
The popular Peoples Coffee stand
It was all hands on deck for last weekend’s Caffeination Festival of coffee at the TSB arena. We Roastery dwellers found ourselves catapulted out from behind our familiar machines and screens to full on customer-service and money-handling duties. I’m proud to report that I only gave the wrong change once.
Ben makes an excellent cold brew bartender. Our cold flat white and single origin black were big hits.
Despite competition with the cricket and the Wellington Wine and Food Festival, Caffeination managed to draw a good number of both coffee nerds and coffee beginners. The former group was possibly more open to giving our new nitrogenated cold brew a go than the latter – who eyed it with a bit of trepidation.
The stout-like Peoples Coffee Nitro Cold Brew
We’ve had to contain our childlike excitement at unveiling the Nitro Cold Brew for quite some time. Although it’s edging onto the radar of coffee aficionados overseas, the Peoples Coffee stand at Caffeination is the first place it’s ever been served in Wellington – and we actually haven’t heard of anyone else doing it in New Zealand. Luckily, we have obliging friends from the world of Wellington craft beer who helped enormously with equipment and advice – particularly the crew at Garage Project, but we’re also grateful to Panhead and Yeastie Boys for helping out.
The Peoples Coffee stand was 10 metres long!
To produce Nitro Cold Brew, our Peruvian Chanchamayo filter roast was infused with nitrogen gas and served on tap through a pressurised keg, eliminating acidity and giving it the creaminess of milk and a thick smooth head. It definitely resembles a certain Irish stout you may have indulged in earlier this month.
PC’s Liv Doogue chats with industry insiders Steve from Red Rabbit, Lucy from Three Beans and Barista champs finalist River
While we wanted to bring something different and unique to Peoples Coffee to the festival, we were struck by the way in which Caffeination succeeded in bringing the competitive industry together to celebrate what’s special about Wellington coffee culture as a whole. And of course there’s plenty to celebrate. The weekend brought home just how much Wellington has to offer the coffee industry internationally.
Roaster Ren rocking a killer mo
Most exhibitors had a strong emphasis on the origins of their coffees, and the crop-to-cup journey. Understanding where coffees come from and how they’re processed can change peoples’ experiences of coffee completely, and it was great to have the chance to chat with caring consumers about our fair trade producing cooperatives, and how our supply chain works.
Our retail offerings included 50g mix and match sample bags
The associated Brewer’s Cup and Barista Championship were a testament to the calibre of New Zealand’s coffee talent, and our own Constable Street barista Darryl Docherty served on the judging panel. We were reminded how lucky we are in New Zealand to have so many true coffee artists skilfully conjuring our morning flat whites.
Robbie and Lauren take a moment out
So, despite being highly over-caffeinated and sleep deprived, (and in Lauren’s case loaded up on post-surgery pain killers, and in Robbie’s case a tiny bit hungover) we had lots of fun. Thanks Caffeination, for making us proud of our coffee and of our fabulous city.
Sunrise on Saturday morning – The calm before the storm
March 31st, 2015
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Newtown has been good to Peoples Coffee. We love her for her slight eccentricity and strong sense of community. And we love how both of those features combine to produce the annual spectacular that is the Newtown Festival. We await this yearly chance to rep our hood (and eat ALL the foods) with anticipation.
This year we upped our cold-brew game, and served it on tap – cooling down and waking up festival-going hordes until 2pm, when we ran out.
Demand for both the cold flat white and the cold single-origin black exceeded expectations, and they were slurped up faster than we could make them.
Not that Jamie showed the stress… Coolest cold brew barman we’ve ever seen.
Yes, we ❤️ Newtown Festival for many reasons. Not least of which is the music.
And this year we were proud to sponsor the Newtown Sound stage – right outside the Roastery on Newtown Ave.
We also ❤️ that many of our best business buddies were there…
We ❤️ that all the cuties come out.
And we ❤️ all the mismatched-jandal-wearing, duck-umbrella-owning characters.
In summary: Newtown Festival, you’re the best. Don’t go changing, and we’ll see you next year,
March 11th, 2015
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Vic Books is as much a part of life at Victoria University as pressing buttons to open doors (confusing first years since forever), the daily struggle to summit the vicious Mount Street in time for class, and traffic jams on level three of the Kirk Building.
I speak from experience when I say that Vic Books is an oasis in a desert of 50-page required readings, somniferous statistics lectures, and assignment deadlines stretching to the horizon. In fact, I suspect that the Peoples Coffee expertly served by Vic Books baristas might be indirectly responsible for the completion of many degrees in recent years; whose holders might otherwise have slept through the majority of their lectures.
But – dear caffeine-addicted science undergrad – Vic Books and Peoples Coffee aren’t just about keeping you awake in class. We think that VUW students are a pretty socially conscious demographic, and we want to honour that by connecting you with not only the steps involved in our bean to cup process, but the people. We wanted to demonstrate to you, in a visual, interactive, and functional way, that every time you stumble off the number 18 bus and pick up your cup of lecture-fuel, you are part of a connection that benefits everyone involved, and in which everyone is equally important.
And what better way to do that than literally putting their faces in your hand? The new Vic Books cup features three faces, and one blank space. The first face is Don Wilfredo, a person so close to our hearts that we named our house espresso blend after him. We’ve been buying beans from his fair trade certified Nicaraguan cooperative pretty much since day one. Some of those beans will make it to Vic Books, and some of those beans will make it to your takeaway coffee, with Don Wilfredo’s face on it… How’s that for crop to cup?
But there are more people involved in the process, and these contributions are equally valuable. The next face is that of Rene Macaulay, our Roaster; responsible not only for the delicate flavour profile of your cup, but for helping to foster and maintain equitable relationships with the growing cooperatives we source from. Rene travels to origin regularly (he’s currently in Ethiopia), where he meets cooperative representatives and coffee growing communities; with a view to not only sourcing the best coffee, but understanding the issues affecting those farming communities, and collaborating on ways we can address those issues through our supply chain and partnership.
The next face, and possibly the most recognisable to you – O’ coffee-guzzling Vic Books veteran, is your friendly Peoples Coffee barista (or one of them) Dan Minson. Dan has worked everywhere great Peoples Coffee can be found – Constable Street, Vic Books, and now the celebrated Lamason’s Brew Bar. He’s even done a stint in the Roastery. To add another mind-bending dimension of meaning to your coffee vessel, it turns out Dan is as good an illustrator as he is a barista; in fact, his illustration of the Big Lebowski’s The Dude, stuck to the grinder hopper in Vic Books one day, inspired the idea for the cups, and naturally Dan was commissioned to do the illustrations.
But we can’t neglect the last link in in the VicBooks coffee cycle – and that is you, dear coffee-fiending psych major. That’s why there’s a blank space just waiting for your name to be written on it. And, if you find yourself with the urge to mindlessly doodle in your lecture, why not doodle your face right on to our coffee cup, thus completing the cycle of coffee? Better yet – tweet or instagram your drawing with the hashtag #vicpeoples and go in the draw to win coffee each week. (twitter: @vicbks @peoplescoffeenz insta: @vicbookz @peoplescoffeenz). And to that mysterious desktop portrait artist from last year (y’all know who I’m talking about)… we’re expecting great things from you.
The new Vic Books/Peoples Coffee cups are our attempt to demonstrate the purity, and personal nature of our supply chain. And to do our duty to you by showing you not only where, but who your coffee comes from – and who benefits from the money you spend on it. They’re also our attempt to redirect your doodling energy away from those poor lecture-theatre desks.
February 27th, 2015
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The world of milk alternatives is one that, to be honest, I’ve never really had the urge to educate myself about. I’m more than happy with mammalian mammory liquid in my coffee. This is a privileged position though; a luxury that as much as 70% of the world’s population’s bowels won’t allow them.
If you come from a European bloodline, you are likely the beneficiary of a process of recent natural selection, which favoured individuals with the ability to process lactose (found in mammal’s milk) beyond adolescence. This is an adaptation to an environment in which dairy is an available food source.
However, in many cultures this adaptation is not present – and a quick wikipedia search reveals that the frequency of adult lactose intolerance can be over 90% in ‘some African and Asian countries’. Statistics weren’t available on lactose intolerance amongst New Zealanders, but it is said to be around 5-10% for Europeans and Australians. A study in the 1980s suggested that people of Maori and Pacific Island descent might be more susceptible to lactose intolerance, but no follow-up study appears to have substantiated this.
Of course, lactose intolerance isn’t the only reason a person might seek out a milk substitute; some people are allergic to milk protein, and I’m sure there must be people who just feel weird about drinking another animal’s bodily fluid. Whatever the reason, there’s a healthy market for alternative milk products in New Zealand and globally. These are not really milk at all – being generally derived from plants.
Not all milk alternatives are created equal, especially when it comes to compatibility with coffee. We devoted an afternoon at the Roastery to experimenting with milk substitutes and their ability to compliment espresso. I recruited two of our knowledgeable baristas, Robbie and Kaspars, to give their expert opinions on the results. We chose four products to sample: Rice milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk, and soy milk.
Rice milk, or ‘Rice Dream’ as this brand is optimistically called, turns out to be more of a nightmare when paired with espresso. By itself it is thin and watery, lacking the creaminess of dairy milk. The rice lends a starchiness that is almost metallic-tasting, and the added sugar fails to mask it, this taste still comes through strongly when it is mixed with coffee. Our attempt at steaming produces decidedly average results:
The rice milk fails to produce any sort of foam; forming some half-hearted bubbles before receding back to watery flatness. Barista/Guru Robbie’s explanation for this is the absence of protein in the drink. Protein molecules, he says, melt when heated, causing them to wrap around oxygen and stretch the milk, adding texture and foam. The rice milk lacks protein, and so steaming it is reasonably futile. However I’m informed you can buy protein-enriched rice milk, which would probably perform better in the espresso test.
So, Rice Dream’s espresso compatibility rating? Robbie gives it 0/5. Kaspars is slightly more forgiving and gives it 0.5/5.
Almond milk’s popularity is on the rise, and it is increasingly requested by coffee customers as an alternative to the alternative of soy – driven by changing nutritional and taste preferences. It tastes nutty – but also vaguely sour, the bitterness of the almond skins definitely comes through. It is creamier and thicker than the rice milk, and fares slightly better when steamed.
A silky layer of foam is formed, allowing for some pretty tight latte art. However, on closer inspection we find the milk has split – with a thick foamy layer at the top concealing a watery beverage underneath. Still – it tastes alright, the nuttiness of the almonds compliments the coffee reasonably well, but that sourness still comes through. This particular brand had quite a lot of added sugar, without which we suspect it would be a lot less palatable.
The verdict on almond milk? Robbie gives it 2/5, Kaspars has worked with it before and is better at steaming it without splitting – he gives it a 3/5.
A bit of a wild card this one, hazelnut milk is a relative newcomer on the milk alternative scene, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s destined for greatness. On its own it tastes delicious. The hazelnut flavour is very smooth with a little bit of added sugar making it taste like a liquid dessert, I could drink a lot of this. But what of coffee compatibility?
It steams reasonably well and doesn’t split, but doesn’t produce all that much velvety foam. Still, it makes a passable flat white. The hazelnut lacks the bitterness that we struggled with with the almond milk, and the sweet nuttiness compliments the coffee without overpowering it. Though hazelnut milk could never pass for the real thing, it doesn’t need to – it’s a nice product in itself, and I look forward to trying it in other drinks and recipes.
The discerning Robbie grants it 3/5, and Kaspars agrees… two 3’s.
You’re likely to be more familiar with soy than the other milk alternatives we’ve profiled. It remains the milk substitute of choice for most baristas, as it is known to stretch well, and can generally be trusted to do well with espresso drinks. Soy milk is what we serve at the Constable Street Cafe for those lactose-challenged customers, and our baristas are used to working with it. Robbie and Kaspars tell me that brand is king when it comes to soy milk; the protein and sugar contents significantly influence the final product.
So, you definitely get that distinctive soy flavour – I know people who love that and others who hate it – but in terms of steaming the milk does well, probably best of the four we’ve tried. The coffee comes through and holds its own nicely, and the soy doesn’t completely dominate, but it will never have the ability of dairy milk to quietly showcase coffee flavours while adding the perfect subtle sweetness.
If 5/5 is cow’s milk, soy fares pretty well on our unscientific rating scale – the boys both give it 4/5.
We would have liked to include hemp milk in this blog. It’s made from the seeds of the hemp plant which can contain very tiny trace amounts of THC but of course nothing that could produce a psychoactive effect. Hemp milk is a wonderful health food – high in protein, omegas 3 and 6, and tons of other nutrients. It is also efficient and sustainable to produce. Its protein content would make it quite ideal for steaming and use with espresso, and it’s also said to have a pleasant creamy finish and a subtle flavour. However, the Food Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have recently reversed a long standing legal standard from Food Standards Australia New Zealand which said hemp seed products were safe for general consumption. The reason given for the reversal is that “The use of low THC hemp in food may undermine drug reduction strategies by contributing to a public perception that low levels of cannabis are acceptable and safe to consume.” I’ll let you form your own opinion on that one.
Love coffee but don’t drink milk? We’d love to hear your thoughts on milk alternatives in coffee in the comments below.
February 9th, 2015
Posted In: Uncategorized
Ah, the flat white. Despite having been Antipodeans’ velvety friend for over two decades – has it ever featured so strongly in our national conversations as in the past week? As its name suggests – it has its origins in that unassuming culture that prefers its coffee strong and short, and has worked quietly away at perfecting it in our little corner of the globe. Which corner that is exactly is causing a brouhaha lately as we engage in our favourite national pastime: Fighting with the Aussies over who can claim credit. They can have Russell Crowe, but while ownership of the flat white remains hotly contested, Australasians all know it to be objectively special – steamed microfoam and a double espresso shot beats a cappuccino with its mountain of dry foam any day.
But now the fast food behemoth that is Starbucks has cottoned on to the appeal of the flat white, and as they attempt to align with the growing market for specialty coffee and coffee preparation, the flat white provides a natural avenue for attracting the more discerning of American coffee consumers. It’s a savvy business move. The flat white was just poised to blow up in the States; its following has grown significantly in the UK, and a few of the more hipster-y independent coffee companies have begun to offer it in the likes of New York, Boston and Portland.
More than one blogger has read this as an attempt on Starbucks’ behalf to be taken seriously as a quality coffee purveyor. The company itself introduced the addition with the proud headline “Starbucks Honors Coffee Artistry and Espresso Craft with New Flat White”. Whether it will be successful remains to be seen, but early reports are less than positive. And really (brace for snobbery) it is hard to be taken seriously in the world of ‘coffee artistry’ when your menu includes such delights as the caramel brulee frappuccino and the double chocolaty chip creme frappuccino.
Regardless, Starbucks’ success or otherwise at representing the celebrated Antipodean creation really depends on your definition of a flat white. Any Kiwi barista worth their salt will tell you that the espresso-to-milk ratio of a flat white is one of its defining characteristics. Ideally, a flat white is served in a 160ml cup. This ensures the flavour of the coffee will not be watered down by too much milk – but as Australasian visitors to America have bemoaned for decades, American coffee drinkers in general have a penchant for quantity over quality.
Photo: David J. Bertozzi/Buzzfeed
Starbucks’ smallest size on offer is bafflingly the ‘Tall’, which at roughly 350ml is double the size of a traditional flat white. It is hardly surprising, then, that many Starbucks patrons and twitter users have struggled to understand the difference between a Starbucks flat white and a Starbucks latte or cappuccino.
Also, at risk of sounding nit-picky, or worse – pretentious – can we maybe talk about the ‘latte art dot’ gracing the top of these? It does seem an oxymoron… Isn’t a dot basically what you get if you make no attempt at creating latte art? In all fairness, Starbucks would have to give its thousands of baristas a very effective crash course in latte art to expand beyond the dot, and really – the first thing to get right should be the taste; maybe we can cut them a bit of slack on that one. But actually – it seems the dot itself eludes some Starbucks franchises:
It is not only Starbucks’ preparation and presentation of the flat white that is causing controversy amongst coffee connoisseurs in our neck of the woods. The other issue at hand has proven even more contentious: Which country is responsible for the invention of the beverage we know and love? After extensive self-reflection, I have decided that it is not beneath me to dive into the ultimately inconsequential debate…
A smattering of individuals have come forward to claim sole responsibility for the development of the flat white, and the story usually goes something like: “I got my cappuccino wrong at (insert name of Sydney, Melbourne or Wellington cafe) in the 80’s, I called it a flat white, and bada bing, bada boom: Cultural Revolution.” Not to discredit these claims though – they probably all contain some truth. The general consensus amongst those in the know tends to be that it was a group effort.
Foremost amongst those in the know is Australian food historian Michael Symons: “I declare that it started in Australia, where it often remains weak, murky, fluffy and under-appreciated. It was then perfected in New Zealand, more particularly, in Wellington. It’s impossible to find a better morning coffee anywhere. I know, because I’ve tried.” So there. But we’ll refrain from blowing our own trumpet too much and add that it is possible to find a pretty spectacular flat white by world standards in the vicinities of Melbourne and Sydney.
Australasian espresso culture has a lot to do with Italian mass migration to Australia in the period following World War II. To put it quite simply: that European coffee refinement, and our trusty ‘coffee with a bit of milk, mate’ collided. They evolved into something even the blokeiest of blokes could feel comfortable ordering: The flat white. Kiwis took it, and ran with it. Having had very little time with espresso to develop bad habits, New Zealand (and Australian) baristas brought a fresh perspective to the world of coffee, and our innovative coffee pioneers refined the drink into something that the world has begun to recognise as the cutting edge of espresso craft.
So, all in all, it was a team effort. And it will be even more of a team effort to ensure that our flat white is being done justice by that titan of appropriation – Starbucks. No time for in-fighting, we’re already on the back foot.
January 15th, 2015
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Our little elves have been working hard to make sure your festive season is fuelled by gorgeous coffee and everything related.
If you’re looking for local, ethical and delicious products this Christmas, we got you covered.
We are very stoked to present the Peoples Coffee Body Scrub, in partnership with the wonderful Wellington Apothecary.
Treat yo self or a loved one to the best scrub-down you ever had, courtesy of Peoples Coffee Cafe Feminino beans, trade aid sugar, and essential oils of cardamom, almond, vanilla and orange. Available from the Wellington Apothecary (76 Ghuznee St, Wellington), and from the Peoples Coffee Cafe (12 Constable St, Newtown).
Or, make Peoples Coffee materialise on the door step of your coffee-loving friend on a regular basis, with a coffee subscription. Check out the range of options for subscriptions available on the Peoples Coffee webshop; and watch the brownie points bank overflow.
Not sure about the tastes of the coffee aficionado in your life? Are they a light or dark roast person? Do they prefer fruity or caramel flavours? Are they into citrus acidity or a smoother profile? Huge questions… but not to worry, you can get them a ‘VIP Card’ voucher! We have $20, $50, and $100 vouchers available from our webshop – or from Peoples Constable Street.
For the home brewing expert, we have V60 starter packs – ideal for both beginners and experts, and guaranteed to up your home brewing game. Check out our website for more details on these these sexy brew kits.
We also stock a number of Peoples coffee related items: from tote bags to t-shirts. And if you’re looking for coffee brewing equipment, we’ve got the best… Chemex, grinders, tampers, filters and scales – They’re all up on the webshop for your Christmas shopping convenience!
There you have it: Everything you need for and especially merry, and very well caffeinated Christmas. Have a great one, from all the folks at Peoples…
December 18th, 2014
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There are people who drink their coffee with significant amounts of both butter and coconut oil. It’s sort of a fitness/biohacking craze popular in paleo-diet circles.
As I’ve never been anywhere near a paleo-diet circle, and I just had to google ‘biohacking’, I am not generally one of those people. In fact, I’m a carb munching, 3-coffees-a-day drinking, sweet-toothed sceptic. I work out pretty regularly, well, every time my cup of gym-guilt starts to overflow, but I do not tend to frequent fitness blogs.
So when our Manager Liv suggested I write a blog about ‘bulletproof’ (butter) coffee, I unsurprisingly had not heard of it. You may be in the same boat. If that is the case, let me briefly explain:
One day an American fitness guru called Dave Asprey staggered into a Tibetan guesthouse halfway up a mountain and was served a cup of coffee with a healthy dollop of yak butter in it. It was a revelation. He bounded right on up the mountain, and wasted no time in slapping a price tag on this Tibetan tradition, calling it ‘bulletproof coffee’ and marketing it internationally.
To be fair he refined the recipe quite a bit. Instead of yak butter, followers the world over are now carefully measuring out a tablespoon of unsalted, grass-fed butter and a tablespoon of MCT oil (refined coconut oil), and blending it into their single-origin filter coffee. While ‘Bulletproof’ is the name Asprey has given his brand, many people simply buy the ingredients themselves and make their own.
Bulletproof coffee is often used as a breakfast replacement, and is famously consumed by top-level athletes and Silicon Valley execs. The brand is gaining international cult-status, with Asprey as the larger-than-life, inside-sunglasses-wearing, tight T-shirted cult leader. In fact, Stuff dedicated an article to the rising trend just yesterday.
Obviously, the pivotal question here is ‘why?’ In an attempt to answer that, not only did I gulp down a slick of oily warmish yellowish coffee-ish liquid yesterday morning, I also forced it on my very obliging colleagues. There were varying reactions.
The touted health benefits are manifold. The saturated fats in the butter and oil smooth out the caffeine and release it over a longer period of time. Theoretically, you won’t get the jitters, and you won’t crash. Also, the MCT in the coconut oil acts like ’empty carbs’, giving you heaps of energy to burn, without storing it as fat. In fact, (according to Vice Munchies, my gastro-media holy grail) saturated fats have gotten a bad name. There is actually little evidence linking them to increased cholesterol and heart disease. There are lower rates of heart disease in the blubber-eating Inuits, and the foie-gras-eating French. Apparently, coconut oil is actually a fat that helps you burn fat – basically reducing the body’s absorption of other types of fat and satisfying carbohydrate cravings.
I decided, for experiment’s sake, to engage in a hearty work-out about half an hour after the potion had gone down, and I have to say – it was unprecedented. I had skipped breakfast, and the only thing in my belly was this oily ball of froth, but it honestly seemed to work. While I wasn’t quite “floating in a depersonalised way” like the aforementioned Munchies contributor, I did smash all my previous times and levels – easily. I breezed through things that I’d usually struggle with, my perception of exertion was almost non-existent. Back at the Roastery I powered through my to-do list, firing off bulletproof emails, taking bulletproof meeting minutes, and invoicing orders with unusual aplomb.
But to this I must add a disclaimer: There is a very large chance that it was all in my head. I’ll be the first to admit I have a more suggestible subconscious than most. However, my workplace guinea-pigs also reported having more energy, and not feeling hungry later in the day.
If you do get an inkling for trying out the concoction, allow me to debunk one myth for you right this minute… Asprey claims to have unlocked the secret to ‘upgraded’ coffee, professing that other coffees contain mycotoxins, or traces of mould from improper processing techniques. But actually, the coffee industry figured that one out a while ago. Any commodity grade coffee that has been water-processed is safe. It is very unlikely that your espresso, or the beans you use at home contain anything close to harmful levels of mycotoxins, unless its a really crap instant blend that hasn’t been processed to a quality standard. Basically, forking out NZ$109 for a pack of bulletproof branded coffee is not necessary if your concern is mycotoxins.
So, is butter coffee the real deal, and is it worth sullying your pure morning brew with mounds of oil? Well, the only answer I can give is that this morning before heading to the gym I very briefly lamented the fact that I had no coconut oil and butter on hand – I was back to my usual red-faced, sweaty struggle. But then again, I doubt I’ll be jumping online anytime soon to order Dave Asprey’s miracle fitness potion. For one, I’m not sure I completely agree with Asprey’s marketing approach, and for another, the idea of drinking butter and coconut oil in such large quantities still turns my stomach slightly.
If you’ve tried bulletproof coffee we love to know what you thought…leave us a comment below!
December 4th, 2014
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What do you get when you cross a carpenter and a barista? In this case – a coffee caravan that’s so much more than a coffee caravan.
Alex (the carpenter) is from Tasmania, and Jo (the barista) from the Kapiti Coast. I have recently been informed that Jo and our Sales Manager Beth have a childhood jazz-ballet school in common. You know what they say – jazz is thicker than water.
Jo and Alex met four years ago in a house full of drunken backpackers at the Canadian ski-fields; it was love at first keg stand. They’ve been spreading their combined creativity all over the place since then, but lucky for Kapiti-ites, they have finally decided to settle (for now) near her hometown. Roll on Summer.
It’s been a labour of love. Taking, as these things tend to, about three times longer than planned, they’ve finally created something that’s both very new to the Coast, but that fits in perfectly.
The Little Black Caravan is more than meets the eye. Yes, it is a caravan that dispenses (very good) coffee, but it is also becoming a community; a social hub. Jo says that, during the short time they’ve been open, their regulars have become like family. People stop by on their way to work for a coffee fix, or relax in the courtyard, on ply furniture designed and built by Alex.
They’re gathering together a little collective. The large section once occupied solely by Little Black Caravan is now a gourmet trailer-park of sorts. The Independent Burger Company truck has moved in, and a fantastic waffle cart called The Hot Wafel. It’s the most delicious, ethical and organic trailer park I’ve ever heard of.
Jo and Alex do not restrict themselves to coffee you know. This Summer you can pick up a handmade soda, or a Whittaker’s chocolate milkshake…Don’t mind if I do.
Seemingly effortlessly, the pair have managed to cultivate a business that draws from their personalities and their respective skills, and brings it all together with a simple, sleek, and very current presentation. They get to spend their days chatting with the locals, sitting in the sunshine, and serving up straight-forward but delicious fare.
It’s any globe-trotting couple’s homecoming dream. Minimal input, maximum fun. They’ve created the environment they want to spend their time in – and it’s a refreshing and unique addition to the Paraparaumu Beach scene. These two know exactly what they’re doing. So Summer holiday-makers and Wellington stay-cationers, stop by for a coffee and a burger, and you’ll be hooked.
They’re at 384 Kapiti Road – the beach end (alternatively – you can let the smell of fresh coffee and waffles guide you). Although they’re on wheels, Jo assures me they’re going to stay for a while. Check them out on facebook for updates on all things Little, Black, and Caravan-y.
November 20th, 2014
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The two guys sitting on the plush red chairs across from me have an obvious rapport with each other. As I gaze around I quietly suspect this is what gives this place its continuity of vision – its edge. It just feels meant to be.
“The whole process of Elie and I starting this journey, began when we were just looking at Courtenay Place and just vibing on the idea of what we could do – looking at New York style street food, and the concept of five boroughs and five sandwiches evolved. We were in negotiations for a lease but it fell through, so we just kept our heads up and kept looking. We decided to go mobile, so we started looking at food trucks. We liked the idea of being in a different place in the city on different days. We found a food truck and flew up to Auckland to buy it, and we had a huge weekend of celebrations up there – we thought “We’re driving down to Wellington in a food truck – awesome!” Then we went to pick up the truck on the Sunday and it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be. It was held together with sticky tape and bubblegum. We had to spend a really hungover day up there negotiating how to get our money back. We ended up with no food truck, and no space, and nothing else to do except keep moving forward – and Elie kept telling me: “it’s taking us somewhere. We’re being led somewhere”.
They were being led to the corner of Roxburgh and Majoribanks Street. To an historic Wellington space. To a rooftop herb garden, a 48 item menu, and another six months of planning.
Five Boroughs is the product of equal parts perseverance, and serendipity. Bryn and Elie had such a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve with the place that it seems the universe conspired – in its own irreverent way – to bring it into existence.
The establishment opened its doors on Sunday; smashing projections for the first couple of days and proving that Mount Victorians and Wellingtonians at large are more than ready for Bryn and Elie’s particular brand of New York street food (complimented of course by bottomless filter Peoples Coffee.)
Aesthetically, Five Boroughs embraces dichotomy, occupying the somewhat divergent space between classic New York Diner, and more edgy Brooklyn hip-hop culture, and pulling it off beautifully.
Bryn enthuses: “We both grew up with hip-hop culture. New York has been a massive influence on us without us even realising it. When we were over in New York it just felt so familiar and we felt so at home – even though we’d never been there before. We’ve listened to the soundtrack of Brooklyn for the last 20 years almost.”
For what it’s worth, I’m sure Q-Tip, Mos Def, and Biggie would all approve.
The menu leaves no holds barred, and has come a long way from the original ‘five sandwiches for five boroughs’ concept – although of course Queens Beans, the Brooklyn Burger, the Manhattan sandwich, Staten Island Stacks and the Bronx sandwich enjoy pride of place. These guys are both foodies from way back, and the menu is wonderfully inventive. As a ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ fan, I’m particularly excited to try the Larry David sandwich, capers and all… (See season 5, episode 1 – ‘The Larry David Sandwich’).
Despite my brief introduction to its proprietors, I can tell that Five Boroughs is the product of a personal journey for both of them. It’s an homage to the influence that New York culture has had on the two of them; musically, visually, and gastronomically. The street photography crowding the walls was all taken by Elie and Bryn, and provides an insight into their New York – with a focus on people. The pictures were taken “just to remind ourselves when we were developing the concept back here – not to forget about it. We wanted to bring it all home, essentially.”
The building itself has a rich history – one which Elie and Bryn are determined to honour. It was once the infamous Monde Marie; an iconic folk bar hosting a who’s who of 1960’s music, and the only place in Wellington to get a post-6 o’clock-swill shot of rum in your coffee (if you knew the right things to say). “This place is where a lot of the Wellington hospitality scene really originated from, it was edgy even then, and it just felt right for us.”
Five Boroughs does feel right, from the fit-out to the menu, to the charismatic pair that made it happen. Stepping through the doors means leaving Wellington behind and becoming a New Yorker for a moment, and we at Peoples Coffee feel privileged to be involved. We suspect this has the makings of an institution. So pop in for a Larry David or a sloppy joe – and let yourself be transported.
Connect with Five Boroughs on facebook, twitter @fiveboroughsnz, or even better… in person.
November 5th, 2014
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Some of the members of the CMM group in Huehuetenango
We are very proud to be introducing a special new single origin this month. ‘Cafe Feminino’, from the Cafe con Manos de Mujer branch of the ASOBAGRI cooperative in Guatemala’s Huehuetenango region has a very particular point of difference, and if you speak Spanish you’ll know it already.
Cafe con Manos de Mujer (CMM) translates to “Coffee grown by the Hands of Women”. Or, as Google translate put it: “coffee with woman hands”.
Guatemala has endured a civil war of nearly forty years, with a coup d’etat in the 1980’s securing military rule, and a resulting campaign of widespread violence against any perceived dissidents. Many men were killed, and between .5 and 1.5million political refugees fled to the United States. There are a lot of women in Guatemala who have been widowed by the conflict, or whose partners are still in the US. Emigration continues, now more economically motivated, and remittance inflows make up Guatemala’s primary source of foreign income. Guatemala’s main exports are bananas, sugar, and coffee, but as we know these are commodities vulnerable to price shocks, and their terms of trade tend to be controlled by foreign buyers.
As of 2011 54% of Guatemala’s population were living below the international poverty line. Rural women are a particularly vulnerable group, and are more likely to fall below the poverty line than men, or their urban counterparts. This is due in part to a lack of educational and economic opportunities available to rural women. UNESCO estimates that 31% of Guatemalan women are illiterate. Women are more likely to engage in unpaid work, including household maintenance and childcare, and a 2010 study estimated that this work was equivalent to 30% of GDP – highlighting an opportunity cost: Women are both time poor and income poor in Guatemala.
Enabling women to participate more actively in agricultural production will not only benefit women and girls, but the economy as a whole. Women represent an untapped resource, and helping them to gain the tools to enter into business will have significant impact on community development and poverty reduction in rural areas.
Angelena Berna Berramos, a member of CMM, traveled 4 hours to meet our visitors
ASOBAGRI cooperative has recognised this need, and offered their support to single female coffee entrepreneurs, in the form of micro loans and training. Our Head Roaster Rene, General Manager Liv, and Trade Aid’s Justin Purser visited Huehuetenango during last year’s harvest to meet the women of CMM, and to show their support for the project. Meeting the women in person and hearing their stories was memorable and moving, and the beginning of what we hope will be a long-standing relationship.
Sebastiana Martinez Gomez is a CMM entrepreneur who recounted her story to Rene, Liv and Justin:
“ASOBAGRI has educated us in how to plant seedlings, and told us of the need to keep improving and increasing. Traditionally we would just plant the seeds in the ground but the trainers taught us a better technique. How to use terraces, how to compost, to grow under shade and to pick the red cherries. This is a lot of work but we have to increase the price of coffee through quality of yield. I have five children, I teach them this work so they can have an income.”
Sebastiana Martinez Gomez, on her coffee farm, with one of her five children
Sebastiana’s husband died trying to carry coffee across a nearby river. The river is dangerous, but the producers have to cross it, and the community hopes to build a bridge through the ASOBAGRI programme.
Sebastiana picks coffee from 6am-3pm every day during the harvest. Then she has to sort it, depulp, and ferment. She has other jobs to do as well; at 4am she grinds the corn for the day’s tortillas. She also sees to the chooks, and the bulls. She doesn’t have electricity so in the evenings she processes her coffee by candlelight.
“Good quality requires hard work. Please share our stories in your country. It is very hard to get ahead of subsistence life.”
ASOBAGRI believes that producing good quality, fair trade certified coffee is one important step in the process of bringing income above subsistence levels. And we can certainly attest to the quality of the coffee. Rene describes it as “A strong full bodied single origin espresso with rich dark malts and barley overtones.” So when you’re enjoying a cup of Cafe Feminino, you can also enjoy the knowledge that it is a contribution to the economic independence and development of hard working Guatemalan businesswomen, including Sebastiana. Expertly roasted Cafe Feminino can be bought from our webshop, or sampled at the Constable Street Cafe. It’s perfect for espresso, but also makes a lovely plunger or filter brew.
Cafe Feminino sample at the PC Roastery this week
October 22nd, 2014
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“World Fair Trade Organisation Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment
Organizations which produce Fair Trade products maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. They use production technologies that seek to reduce energy consumption… They seek to minimize the impact of their waste stream on the environment.”
We at Peoples Coffee have a mandate that means we’re always looking for ways to up our sustainability game. We are accountable both to World Fair Trade Organisation environmental guidelines, and to our own values. We use recyclable coffee bags and compostable take-away cups, we choose only sustainable products and we always have an ongoing conversation about what we can do better. We’re very proud of the fact that this year we have been nominated for a Sustainable Business Network Community Impact Award, but we know we can always be doing more. We often find that being truly sustainable means getting truly creative. Thankfully, we now have Pinterest to tell us how to do that.
We always have excesses of coffee chaff, coffee grounds, coffee sacks, and shipping pallets, and like good greenies, we aim to wherever possible find the highest re-use for those materials: To re-purpose them in their current form, rather than to use more energy breaking them down. Obviously, we cant turn every coffee sack that comes our way into a twee cushion, but we can help you to do it. So if you need more cushions in your life, and you feel a hankering for some upcycling action, stop by the Roastery and leave with as much chaff, grounds, sacks and pallets as you can carry. To encourage you, I’ve compiled a list of uses for these items.
1. Coffee Chaff
I hate to break it to you but there’s a chance your compost isn’t composting. Compost needs a mix of carbon and nitrogen to produce the desirable microbes. Nitrogen comes from food scraps – most of the stuff we would compost anyway. But carbon comes from brown ingredients; sawdust, egg cartons, brown paper bags. It’s crucial to include brown ingredients in your compost, and fortunately for your petunias, we’re here to help.
Coffee chaff is dry bean husks left over from roasting. It looks a bit like sawdust, and it’s perfect for your compost heap. It’s also great as chicken coop litter. We always have a sack of organic chaff sitting around at the Roastery free to a good home. So first in first served!
2. Coffee Grounds
Pinterest exploded when I inquired as to uses for coffee grounds. Every home and living blog on the internet fell over themselves to offer me advice, so I’ve had to narrow it down to a few ideas – but there’s no shortage of them out there.
Coffee grounds contain so much goodness that they’re basically crack for vegetables. Carrots especially love caffeine – mix some grounds in with your carrot seeds before you sow them and they’ll be off to a great start. Though grounds are not a whole fertilizer in themselves (for that you’ll need to add some brown material like chaff), you can sprinkle them on your garden for a booster, or add them to the compost heap. Grounds are also a natural pest repellant. They’ll deter ants, snails, slugs and even some small mammals like cats. We’ve been giving our coffee grounds to Jocelyn for the garden at Island Bay’s Home of Compassion for six years, and she swears by them.
Coffee grounds make excellent soaps and body scrubs, and it’s actually quite easy to make them – most of the ingredients you’ll have in your kitchen cupboard. Coffee soap makes a great kitchen soap – it will get rid of all garlic and onion smells from under your fingernails. You can make a simple coffee body scrub just by adding a bit of coconut oil to your coffee grounds. There are plenty of trusty soap recipes out there.
(Photo from rusticesentuals.com)
Coffee grounds are also good for hair growth and colour maintenance- massage some into your scalp in the shower and smell like a roastery for the rest of the day (but only for dark hair – they’ll turn your blonde locks a bit muddy for a few hours).
Coffee grounds absorb odours. You can keep a container in the fridge or car as a natural deodoriser, or put them down the waste disposal to freshen it up.
Soak grounds in hot water to produce a natural golden/sepia dye without undesirable chemicals.
Coffee grounds can also add flavour to your cooking if you’re brave enough. This blog recommends them as a meat rub.
3. Coffee Sacks
Coffee sacks are durable and easy to work with, and they also have a really rustic and interesting look. I had only to look in my immediate vicinity today to spy some ingenious uses for coffee sacks. In fact, the notice board above my desk is simply a coffee sack stretched over cork board, courtesy of my accomplished office-mate Efi.
I discovered more up-cycled coffee sacks when I popped out for lunch at the wonderful Ramen Shop today, chose a drink from a menu printed on a coffee sack, and sat on their coffee-sack upholstered chairs.
Of course, at a pinch, the humble coffee sack also makes an elegant fashion accessory – as our colleague Jamie demonstrated one slightly raucous eve…
We at Peoples Coffee have been so inspired by the genius of The Pallet Kingdom, who have proven through social enterprise that shipping pallets may be turned into any piece of beautiful furniture you could think of. These guys are masters of up-cycling and sustainability, and you can pledge to their Kiwi charity here.
Photo from the Pallet Kingdom
You can sand them down and paint them, or leave them as they are, you can take them apart for the wood, or use them in their original form. In terms of pallet DIY, the easier options include planters and shelves, but pallets can also be re-purposed as coffee tables, sofas and beds.
Again, the folks at the Ramen Shop have proven their upcycling credentials by making all their shelving entirely from old pallets – and it looks great!
In conclusion – there is no reason to throw away chaff, sacks, grounds and pallets – but we need you to help us put them to good use. If any of these ideas inspire you, or if you have your own creative uses for our stuff, come down to the Roastery, score some of it, and turn it into absolutely anything you can think of! We encourage a koha to go to Trade Aid’s Next Generation Coffee Fund – which helps farmers weather the short-term losses involved in pruning and rehabilitating coffee trees.
Better living everyone!
October 8th, 2014
Posted In: Uncategorized
We have seven single origin retail beans that make appearances in our silos at Constable St and with the variety of retail coffee that we offer, there is some serious opportunity for experimentation. So I got my experimenting pants on and decided to have a play around with the different brew methods we have at Constable street. I thought I could describe to you the differences each one made to one of our single origin coffees.
Coffee is subjective so I never think one origin is better than the other. But I have been drinking a lot of Sidamo recently, it’s a light and bright fruity, sweet and intensely aromatic coffee. So using the Sidamo as the constant and a no filter brew as the control I thought I could explain the effects alternative methods have on the Sidamo’s inherent flavour profile. I think a good place to start after no filter, then siphon and the trifecta – a special automatic brewer we have at constable street – and then through the paper filters of the V60 and Chemex.
No filter – the no filter brew is similar to house hold plunger, in that it is an immersion brew. With this control method the Sidamo brew that came out was rich, malty and chocolatey at first, a sweet vegetal aroma, then through a phase of milk chocolate and malts with a rich berry sweet finish. The brew tasted of sweet malts and berries, blue berries or blackberries and dry, crisp red apple. The crisp apple flavour was met with some grapey acidity and a bright lemon finish later in the brew. With this in mind its time to compare these flavours with the magnified or manipulated flavours of the brews.
Next up I got into the fancy filters, starting with the Siphon. The Siphon is a tricky piece of equipment to master, but can produce some amazing tasting clean cups of coffee. The aroma of this brew was also much more malty and spicy. The cloth filter of the siphon manipulates the flavour of the coffee subtly producing a strong, silky smooth, rich cup of berry sweet chocolatey filter coffee.
Next I brewed a V-60, and I have to say, it was a bangin’ cup of coffee (just quietly). The paper filter of the V-60 produced an extremely clean, juicy cup of coffee. Intensely sweet, fruity aroma, It without word of a lie smelt like gummy lollies. The brew was so sweet when hot and it only got better from there, cacao and berry/red apple acidity, bright grapey flavours even raspberry. A crisp cup of coffee, so good that I drank it cold and it had more to give!
I then moved on to the big boy Chemex, brewing so much more coffee is a different game to the V-60, slightly different geometry and weight of paper filter seems to make a significant different cup. The Chemex brew was a rich and smooth, it had a sweet vegetal aroma that took over much more than the V-60. This translated into rich, sweet dark berry flavours teamed with zesty acidity – a bright finish compared to the red apple of the V-60.
Here was the surprise to me, the Trifecta. A special automatic brewer that we are lucky enough to have at Constable St. It is a strange combination of immersion and pressurised brewing and kind of works like an automatic Aeropress. The cup was mind blowing! Juicy, malic acidity, gorgeous mouth-feel. It was clean, dry and sweet with a dominating red apple characteristic, it was bright and all around freaking awesome! As it cooled it had a tasty cherry sweet cocoa finish.
So in the end, no one brew method is right or wrong, just different – manipulating the flavour in its own way. The numbers and the science that we deal with behind the scenes might tell us where to start in order to present products for you to try, but ultimately its up to your personal preference as to which is your favourite. Hense, the experimentation! Mine was definitely a close race between the Trifecta and the V-60, I definitely recommend getting down to Constable St and trying a few for yourself. Or grabbing a retail bag and brewing a cup or two at home.
February 12th, 2014
This year, in September to be exact, Peoples Coffee will turn 10 years old. As we approach the completion of our first decade, we are more than ever reflecting on why we started. 2014 will be about harnessing that founding spirit that has driven Peoples Coffee and made us who we are today.
In 2004 Matt Lamason, a recent politics graduate and coffee geek, started a tiny espresso bar and roastery in Constable Street, Newtown with the vision of connecting coffee drinkers to the farmers around the world who had for too long been marginalised and forgotten. He believed that influencing social development through business seemed an effective way to enable self-sufficiency and sustainability in developing countries rather than policy. While the idea of trade being more effective than aid was not a novel idea, fair trade coffee in New Zealand was a relatively untapped source. Met with disapproval and told countless times that it will never work, Matt’s perseverance throughout the years and the demand for ethically sourced coffee grew and grew that now sees Peoples Coffee in quality cafes all over the country today.
It is also a time for us to celebrate the longevity of our farmer partner relationships. We have always been committed to buying exclusively from small-lot farmers in co-ops, rather than large estates and privately owned plantations. Ensuring a fair price is paid to coffee farmers is only part of how we value our trading relationships. We are committed to long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our farmer partners, as we believe this not only leads to a reliable income year after year, but also improves infrastructure, thus upping the quality of coffee and ultimately a higher price paid to farmers
With the move to becoming a fully certified company under the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) over a year ago, we not only re-established our position in the market of authentic fairly traded coffee, but also encouraged a different consumer viewpoint: rather than buying a product because it bears an ethical logo, instead buying a product from a company who is holistically dedicated to authentic good trading practices. We are not about ticking the “ethical” box. We are about creating real, sustainable change, with the support of the savvy consumer.
This year, we are broadening our approach as a values-led company, taking the Peoples Coffee founding spirit to the next level. We will be launching some very exciting social projects, both local and at origin, that we will be sharing with you as they roll out over the year. We look forward to sharing these stories with you.
In 2014 we are, more than ever, committed to the idea that the success of a company is more than financial profit alone and we will continue to lead by example and inspire others to do the same.
January 15th, 2014
Posted In: Uncategorized
If Constable street was to have a number one customer, which we don’t of course, but if we DID – Muridi would be it. Not only because he can be seen drinking his 2-3 coffees outside of the shop most days (it used to be more but is doctor advised against it), but also because he was there from day one when Matt Lamason opened the original Peoples Coffee cafe. He even has his very own button on the till!
There is a big community of Somali and Ethiopians that frequent the shop, this is the main reason we offer green beans at the shop, as they started asking for it for their traditional home roasts. I was particularly interested in this. So after talking to Muridi one afternoon and he invited us back to his house where his family had so lovingly prepared an enormous traditional feast!
Muridi has 13 children (17 grandchildren and counting) so the house bustling with his children going off to uni, others returning, some waking from a nap, you’d never be lonely in Muridi’s household. We were particularly charmed by one of Muridi’s youngest daughters – Hani. Being the one of the youngest, her quick wit was clearly her survival technique with 12 other brothers and sisters. She talked us through how to make their ginger coffee like a sassy cooking show host (something I often do so I now have a huge friends crush on her).
The beans were darkly roasted in a pan then cardamom seeds were added with the beans, once these were grounded the kitchen filled with an incredible smell of earthy coffee and spice. Had we know the feast that was awaiting, I don’t think any of us would have eaten lunch (luckily Jamie eats more than three grown men). First we tried the espresso made from a stove top coffee maker. I’ve always found stove top too strong, but my mind was pleasantly blown when the cardamom really lifted this drink to a whole new level, it was delicious and combined with Hani’s sweet sesame biscuits it was a perfect combination.
Another traditional Somali coffee was made in a big pot of simmer water over the stove, the cardamom grinds and lots fresh ginger was added. I’ll definitely be making this at home, the fresh heat from the ginger almost had that pleasant mouth burn that that strong mints do. Both coffees complimented the sweet cakes and somali samosa (a lot more meaty than the potatoey ones we’re all used to). Hani insisted we put the samosa inside the donut type sweet bread, a winning combination – spicy, sweet and savoury. She deserves her own cooking show! The cakes and sweets are traditionally baked to break their fast at Ramadan.
In New Zealand where coffee to us means flat whites, workplace plungers and desperate measures instant; it was a lovely reminder that coffee is universal, and like the different traditional breads of the world, there are so many different ways to brew coffee.
It was such a honour to be invited into Muridi’s home, he and his family showed us not only wonderful hospitality but a glimpse into a culture we don’t have much exposure to in New Zealand.
Have you tried Somali coffee? What other traditional coffees have you tried – Moroccan, Turkish, Greek?
December 12th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
As I walked into the Laundry on a dark stormy day, it had that same warm comforting feel as t-shirts just out of the dryer. There is the fire going in the corner, lush red velvet curtains cascading from the ceilings and Don Wilfredo rocking the coffee machine. This is the sort of place you could get comfortable on a Sunday night. But this bar also seems to be some sort of shapeshifter. I’d been there the night before when the place was pumping and also on a sunny day drinking a shandy (shh don’t judge me) and each time it fit the bill. It’s an any time kind of place.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been there so often in the last week but it has this feeling like it’s always been there. Which is interesting when I talk to two out of the three part owners they admitted they were all pretty new to the hospitality industry. But it makes me wonder if this is why Laundry works so well. They opened the type of bar they all would go to themselves, and looking around me it seems it’s the sort of bar the rest of us would go to also.
The fit out is like your eccentric great aunty Virginia’s flat: who was big in the theatre world, never married and a perpetual horder. I guess this has something to do with the fact that Matt and Chung are perpetual hoarders themselves — Flamingoes from Texas, an old wharf light from Matt’s basement, even an old wall from Matt’s old job at BNZ (eight years ago).
Out the back is caravan, fully kitted out with a commercial kitchen. There they are turning out tacos, toastie pies and a damn fine burger. Considering they’ve been taught under the tutelage of Mike from EKIM, you know damn well it’s going to be good. I also found out my favourite EKIM burger is named after this very Matt I’m talking to. Chuffed.
But what really makes this place wonderful is the staff. Which Matt cannot stress to me enough. Take Shane for instance, salt of the earth kind of guy. He moved down to Wellington from Gisborne after deciding on a career change from commercial fishing to being a chef. Matt and Shane had a chance meeting at Duke Carvell’s, where Shane was looking for work experience and Matt was asking if they knew of anyone looking for a job. Shane was willing to work for free, but Matt gave him a job instead. “He’s the hardest working person I know”. Talking to Shane, he quips “a lot of people say being a chef is hard, but this is nothing, you should try working in commercial fishing”, I don’t ask why, but I’d say the fact he only has four fingers on his right hand has something to do with it. As for the other staff, they were chosen from over 200 CVs, that was only from having a sign in the window, Matt interviewed 70 of them, and now it is clear he’s found the cream of the crop. They’ll ask you what you’re drinking, make a great latte and won’t judge you when you order a Shandy. See you down at the Laundry soon for some good clean fun!
October 16th, 2013
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
I got talking to a tourist from Brisbane at the weekend who was lamenting the lack of juice bars in Wellington. Oh, we don’t really do juice in Wellington, I told him, we are all about the coffee here. Probably something climate related and how unsatisfying sipping on a pineapple and mint smoothie would be when it’s blowing 100km/h gale outside. The tourist seemed to agree and informed me they only drink coffee once it starts getting cold around this time of year, and by cold he meant 24 degrees. 24 degrees? That is our summer!!
I rattled off for him my favourite cafes and as I mentioned in my last post, we are pretty spoilt for choice. So I thought I would talk you through a few, in no particular order and no loyalty to one particular brand either. It’s about good coffee, good service and interesting surroundings.
And because I take this blogging malarkey very seriously, in the name of research I’ve spent my day cafe hopping just to make sure they are still my favourite. Right now I’m so jacked up I think my eyeballs are vibrating.
Not strictly a cafe, not strictly a bar but they do it all pretty well here. I’m always partial to a flat white but at Monterey I will always drink the bottomless filter coffee. For only $4 it is all-you-can-drink, so spend a lazy Sunday brunching and doodling on the tables covered in butcher’s paper. Then maybe you can move on to a craft beer or two.
Another cafe roasting onsite and boasting the 2013 National barista champion, so you can guarantee a great cup of coffee here. Lumberjack chic is what I imagine the interior design brief to say.
I was once told to leave my Chemex brew for at least 3minutes because that is when the Jasmine flavours would really pop. I may have sniggered at first but dammit, if he wasn’t bang on, I had jasmine popping all over my palate. These guys have an incredible knowledge of their product.
Pulling together a few virtuosos of the Wellington cafe scene Jeff Kennedy and Bridget Dunn (ex L’affare) have gone large. Opening a beautiful industrial space that looks like how I imagine Google’s cafeteria to look like. Almost self sustainable they roast all their own coffee and bake bread on site. In terms of food miles you couldn’t get any less. Service is always exceptional here.
Hidden away down Garrett Street it is one part coffee, one part chocolate shop and one part gallery. As well as the art, the people who work there are also pretty nice to look at!
Milk Crate have hired a bevy of master bakers who make the most incredible layered cakes and delectable treats that adorn the bench at Milk Crate. One of my favourite ways to treat myself is cutting through the incredible decadence of one of their cakes with an expertly made long black.
Dave Lamason, formally of Peoples, opened up Wellington’s only coffee house where siphons as the star. A dramatic way to drink coffee involving an open flame, reverse pressure and spot cooling. WOO SCIENCE! Siphon coffee is a very clean way to drink coffee and Dave is just a lovely guy, friendly and approachable.
So I guess what makes all of these places worth mentioning, is that in a city where we have more cafes per capita than New York City, these guys are thinking outside of that get-your-coffee-and-blueberry-muffin-box and doing something a little different or niche. These are the places I recommended to my Brisbane tourist purely for that reason. We should all be pretty smug really, living in a place with loads of exciting and innovative cafes.
Get out there and check out these places if you haven’t already (although if you are reading a coffee blog I’d say you probably have). Do you have a favourite cafe? Is it included above or somewhere different? I’d love to hear what makes your favourite cafe special.
June 12th, 2013
I started roasting coffee in a Sunbeam popcorn machine on Constable St in 2003. Back then, my kitchen was always full of smoke and coffee parchment husks. I never imagined that those tiny beginnings would grow into the rather larger operation we have today!
Over the past eight years, Peoples Coffee has continued to grow and thrive, and is now at a point that needs stronger management and a clear structure for the further growth and development that lies ahead.
For this reason, after eight years at the helm of Peoples Coffee, I have decided to step away from the day to day management of the company. I’ve absolutely loved starting and developing Peoples to the point we’re at now, but I’m an ideas person, and management has never been my goal or forte.
I’ll be handing the reins over to the brilliant and capable Liv Doogue. You might already know Liv, who has been a valuable contributor to Peoples Coffee for more than three years now. Liv has demonstrated a thorough knowledge of our business operations, is a passionate believer in the Peoples brand and values, is a responsive and successful client care manager, and (all importantly) knows how to get the job done.
I’m very excited to be appointing Liv as the General Manager of Peoples Coffee. She holds to the values of justice in our trading with coffee farmers, quality in the products and service we offer, and is excited to lead a company that will pioneer new positions as the leading fair trade coffee roaster in New Zealand.
Of course I am still committed to Peoples Coffee and will stay keenly involved in a director’s role, as chair of the company’s board and owner of the business.
In terms of my next steps, I’m looking forward to doing my part with child number two, who’s due any day now! Beyond that, I have a few ideas that that I might try my hand at. There might be another business venture even…
I’m so glad that Peoples is going to continue on as awesomely as it has till now. I even suggest it will do better! While news of change in business leadership can be unsettling, I want to say that I, and all the staff at Peoples Coffee, think this is a great and progressive shift.
We’ve worked hard to arrive at this point, and I’m looking forward to the great work that our motivated team, led by Liv, can achieve for everyone invested in our business: our clients, our customers, and of course our coffee farmers and the cooperatives we stand with.
Peoples Coffee Ltd
November 28th, 2012
Posted In: Uncategorized
Everybody wants to be a barista, right? Who hasn’t had a shitty day at work and fantasised about throwing it all in to make coffee for a living? Pouring swirly rosettes in the flat whites to the low hum of the espresso machine, as you dispense coffee and heartfelt advice to your customers, who call you by name, and skip away happily.
I have this dream. And I know I’m not alone. But what sets me apart from the other dreamers is that I know I’d be really really good at it. I know this.
So when I go to have my first coffee lesson with Eileen, legendary barista and manager of the Constable St store, I’m confident that I’ll be an expert in ten minutes flat.
She’s busy serving customers when I arrive, so I stand and observe for a while before we begin our lesson. Watching her whip out half a dozen coffees while she chats to the waiting customers only confirms my belief: she’s relaxed and efficient and the whole process looks very, very simple.
We get started. I quickly learn that the quality of a coffee shot does not come down to the mere push of a button. The grind size needs to be exact. The coffee has to be tamped perfectly evenly, and with the precise pressure to allow the water to flow through the coffee consistently. This is a little harder than I anticipated, but I press on confidently. I get the coffee machine cranking and watch the espresso stream slowly into the cup.
“That’s pretty good,” Eileen says, when I show her my first shot. “The extraction was a bit slow, but it’s not bad…” At this stage Rene (the Peoples Roaster) pops into the store and tastes the shot. I assume a modest expression while I wait for his praise. There is only silence, and a grimace. He refuses my offer to make him another one. I am shocked. But not deterred.
Eileen continues on with the science, and the art, of milk frothing. I want to make the perfect flat white. She demonstrates, talking all the time, and then hands me the milk jug. I get flustered the minute the frother starts humming. It makes strange spluttering sounds, and it takes me so long to get the milk moving in a whirlpool that I scald my fingers on the metal jug. I try to ask for help but my ability to talk and work at the same time has vanished. I give the milk jug a good bang and scoop the foam off the top to get to the silky layer underneath, before pouring the milk into the cup in a way that feels like it should produce a lovely heart shape.
But something goes wrong – there is no ring of crema around the edge, and within seconds tiny bubbles start to appear across the surface of the milk. Eileen kindly remarks that my pour looks a bit like a butterfly. What it actually resembles is a blistering angel of death.
“Well, the taste matters as much as the presentation,” she says diplomatically. So I taste it. It tastes bitter, over-extracted, and nothing like the espresso coffee I have come to expect from Peoples. While I ruminate on my own failure, Eileen whips up a flat white and places it next to mine for comparison. Hers looks beautiful and tastes delicious.
“Don’t worry. I’ve been making coffee for eight years and I’m still learning so much,” Eileen reassures me. “It’s something that can look quite easy, but the more you get into it, the more you realise how complex it is.”
My ego is in tatters, my fingers are in pain, and my barista fantasy is well and truly shattered. But my respect for the talented baristas in my midst has increased exponentially, and one thing is clear: I’m going to need a new form of escapism for those shitty days at work.
(I’m fairly sure it will still involve coffee though).
May 16th, 2012