Peoples Coffee

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

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

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

WHO WE TRADE WITH:

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE WE TRADE:

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

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

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

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

HOW WE TRADE:

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

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

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

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

This is the crux of Peoples Coffee.


May 15th, 2013


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

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“Single origin espresso is about forgetting all the rules,”
René tells me, as we sit down to talk about the newest style of coffee on offer at the Constable St store.

Wait.  What? If there’s one thing I’ve learned working for Peoples Coffee, it’s that the world of coffee is governed by rules.
Precise timings, measurements, ratios and techniques that all spell the difference between an average coffee and an exceptional one.  So I’m not about to let René throw away the rulebook quite so flippantly.  My sanity depends on it.  I demand an explanation.

“Well, those concepts of precision are still there,” he assures me.  “It’s just that the approach to how the flavours are achieved is different from most roasting traditions.”

Standard espresso is made from a blend of coffee from different origins, René explains.  Roasters typically select beans with different characteristics to complement each other, and then blend them to create a big bodied cup with balance, complexity and synergy between bittersweet and chocolatey flavours.

This much I know.  But the reason that single-origin espresso is so radical, Rene continues, is because it removes the roaster’s ability to balance flavours by combining different beans – in fact, it removes the whole notion of balance full-stop.  Roasters can still tailor the roasting parameters to best enhance the natural flavours of each origin, but they can only work with the inherent flavours within that bean.     This means that each single origin creates a completely new and different espresso experience.

This difference is accentuated by the fact that single origin espresso is roasted much lighter than standard espresso, preserving more of the bean’s inherent flavours.  “These roasting techniques are very different to how normal espresso is roasted,” says René.   “With these single origin roasts, I try to create more of a fruity sweetness, and allow acidity to brighten up the cup.”

Single origins are nothing new in the world of soft brewing, but are still relatively new to espresso.  By offering single origin espresso, Peoples Coffee is joining the ranks of roasters, baristas and coffee geeks around the world who are applying the espresso method to these interesting tasting single origins.  And it isn’t merely a case of whacking different coffee into the same machine.  René spent a whole day at a coffee trade fair in Portland researching single origin espresso machines, and then weeks modifying the Constable St espresso machine himself.  The new mechanism allows the barista to alter the pressure when extracting single origins, a variable that significantly affects coffee flavours.

Single origin espresso is a great way of introducing coffee lovers to a whole host of new and interesting coffee flavours, through a medium most people are familiar with.  “Customers will constantly get to experience different coffees, and find their own favourites,” says René.  “Some of the origins really shine when served black, others taste fantastic with milk.”

Single origins are also a great way of linking consumers with the cooperatives in the developing world, that grow the coffee we all love.  “We’re buying more micro-lot coffee from our farmers,” says René. “There are a few reasons why micro lot coffee is special; it might be a small amount of an interesting variety, or it might be from a small part of one farmer’s land that produces particularly good coffee.”

You can try single origin espresso now at Peoples Coffee Constable St!  This month’s featured origin is  Sidamo Grade One, a high quality washed coffee from Ethiopia.  There will be a new origin on offer each month, so keep trying them until you find your favourite!

 


April 17th, 2013


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Constable Street, Cooperatives, Ethiopia

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We’re lucky to live in a time when businesses are rising to the challenge of producing goods that are just that: good.   But this increased consumer demand for ethical choices has paradoxically prompted a wave of ‘greenwashed’ businesses, who market themselves as ‘green’ or ‘eco’ ( without actually living up to those claims) in order to compete for their slice of the ethical pie.  So how do consumers know who to trust?  How can we sort the ethical wheat from the greenwashed chaff?

Conscious Consumers was launched in 2010 to do just that: assess and accredit businesses in the hospitality industry according to their ethical business practices.  Specifically, Conscious Consumers award businesses with badges that indicate where ‘smart waste’ (ie recycling, composting, eco-packaging), ‘ethical products’ (ie fair trade, free range, organic), and ‘community’ (ie. food rescue and locally sourced products) practices are in place.  In short, they do the background research for consumers, so that we can be confident that the places we’re choosing to support are the real deal.

“We aim to make it easy and fun for consumers to find and support the great New Zealand businesses that are committed to environmentally and socially responsible business practices,” says Melissa Keys, Wellington’s Regional Coordinator.

The scheme takes a ‘vote with your feet’ approach, rewarding businesses for good practice by endorsing them to the thousands of conscious consumers nationwide.  More than 3000 people and 150 businesses have already signed up to the movement, and there are more joining each week.

And they’ve just made it even easier to find great businesses on the run.  The brand new Conscious Consumer App is now available for free download.  Consumers can find all the accredited cafes and restaurants nearby with only the click of a button, as well as local specials exclusively for conscious consumers.

Peoples Coffee has been an accredited business since the movement began in 2010.  And now Peoples is proud to take their involvement one step further, as a Conscious Consumer Ambassador.

“We invited Peoples Coffee to be a Conscious Consumer ambassador because we recognise them as a New Zealand leader in ethical business,” says Melissa.

“The Conscious Consumers movement empowers consumers to make informed choices, and businesses to employ better social and environmental practices” says Peoples Coffee General Manager Liv Doogue.  “As a 100% fair trade company, it made good sense for us to join.”

“We want to promote the values of fair trade and encourage other businesses to do the same. Consumers have the power to drive this change.”

For more info or to become a Conscious Consumer (it’s free, and takes only a moment!) see their website: www.consciousconsumers.org.nz


April 3rd, 2013


Posted In: Cafes, Collaboration, Fair trade, Sustainability

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2 Comments

Like most children of the eighties, I’ve always harboured a secret desire to be a Ghostbuster – if only for the chance to partake in the sticky demise of the (almost certainly delicious) Marshmallow Man.  But in lieu of any actual ghosts, I’ll have to settle for busting something a little closer to home.  Namely, coffee myths.

Over the years I’ve frequented Peoples Coffee, I’ve had a fair few of my own coffee myths politely busted by baristas.  I’ve also taken great delight in “politely” passing on this newfound knowledge to those still living under their own mythical fog.

The five coffee myths that I hear most commonly are as follows: (cue the Ghostbusters theme)

1.  You should keep your beans in the fridge/freezer
Please don’t.  The fridge is actually one of the worst places you could store coffee.  Coffee beans are sensitive to moisture, heat, light and air – all of which your fridge is merrily circulating in abundance.  There is nothing in coffee that turns rotten at room temperature, so simply seal your coffee in an airtight bag and store it in a cool, dry, dark place.  Freezing coffee is an equally bad idea, as it can contaminate your coffee with other smells (a little seafood with your coffee, perhaps?).

2. The fresher, the better
Surprisingly, this isn’t true!  Coffee beans take about six hours to degas after roasting, which causes the flavours to change considerably.   So allow the beans a day or so to settle and develop (check the date of roasting on your coffee bags).  Peoples Coffee’s roaster René recommends that for soft brewing (plunger and filter coffee), beans are best from day two.  For espresso, the beans are optimal between days 3-9.  (You can read more about this in René’s blog post, here).

3. Light roasts contain less caffeine
This isn’t strictly true.  At the temperatures Peoples Coffee roast their coffee, the beans have the same amount of caffeine whether they are roasted dark, light, or not at all.  It’s just that the beans lose weight as they are roasted, so you would need to grind more dark-roasted beans than you would light-roast to get the equivalent weight in coffee, and thus there would be more caffeine in the dark roast (and less in the light roast).  Capiche?


4. Coffee cures hangovers

False, I’m sorry to say.  It’s true that caffeine wakes us up and stimulates the brain in many spectacular ways, but it actually has zero impact on sobriety.  And because coffee can dehydrate us, it may even make a hangover worse!

5. If I grind my coffee finer, I can use less of it
Absolutely not.  This is likely to lead to an over-extracted brew and a bad tasting coffee!

So there you have it, coffee demystified.  And I’m confident that the truth tastes better than a Marshmallow Man ever could.

 

What other coffee myths have you heard?  Any others you’d like busted?  Leave us a comment below!


February 27th, 2013


Posted In: Brewing, Coffee

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Trifecta takes all the fun out of coffee-brewing.
Designed to remove the variation that arises when a human is making the coffee, the Trifecta is a high-tech filter coffee machine that produces a cup of non-pressurised coffee at the mere push of a button.

And I must admit: I’m prepared to hate it.  It looks a bit like a rocket ship, with all the bells and whistles, and even has a light that flashes on while it’s brewing.  Call me old-fashioned, but I’m more of a start-from-scratch, do-it-by-hand kind of girl.

But two mind-blowing cups of coffee, and one steep learning curve later, I’m a convert to this new fandangled method of brewing coffee.  It may be mechanized, but it’s obvious just how much human love and attention is poured into the machine.  Once set, the machine will produce a cup of coffee that tastes optimal every time; but actually programming these parameters is a task that requires an abundance of patience and good taste.  Thankfully, that task belongs to Peoples Coffee’s roaster Rene, who spends hours working behind the scenes on the Trifecta; tasting, adjusting and perfecting the parameters, in order to best showcase the unique flavours of each origin.

The Trifecta is so named because there are three stages in its brew cycle: preinfusion (the wetting of the coffee grinds), turbulence (the extraction of the coffee), and press-out (filtering the brewed coffee out from the grinds).  Each stage can be precisely programmed to control variables like temperature, intensity, and duration.  The whole process takes only a matter of minutes, and the end result is an amazing coffee.  It’s got more punch than a chemex or V60 (due to the fact that it use a metal, rather than a paper, filter) and is more akin to a plunger coffee in intensity.  But its subtleties of flavour are more apparent, and as it cools they change and sweeten.

“The Trifecta is brilliant,” says Henry, barista at the Constable St store.  “We can pump out fantastic filter coffees even when the cafe is flat out, without taking five minutes to brew it.”

Peoples Coffee Constable St is the only place in Wellington where you can try Trifecta coffee.  Get it while it’s hot!


February 13th, 2013


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Constable Street

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When I heard a place called Crumpet had opened up in Wellington, I was sold, without ever having set foot in the place.  A cafe specializing in crumpets?  There are not words to express how much I approve of this.  Just…yes.

Located in the historic Opera House building and restored with some classic English flair, Crumpet looks every bit the place to find Winston Churchill puffing on a cigar and spreading butter on a crumpet.

And if, like me, you assumed that Crumpet was named after those very hallmarks of buttery British goodness, then you – like me – were wrong.

“’Crumpet’ is actually an English term for a pretty lady,” Ren Boon, co-owner of Crumpet, tells me with a laugh.  (The framed pictures of pretty ladies adorning the walls suddenly come into focus.)
“The crumpets on the menu actually came second to that.”

Which is not to say that you’ll be disappointed if you’ve come for the food, because the menu boasts an impressive array of sweet and savoury crumpets, made specially for the shop and served up with a selection of amazing toppings (think, ricotta, pear, candied pecan and maple syrup; or buffalo mozzarella and prociutto with tomato and basil).

But Crumpet has a lot more on offer than the name first belies.  By day it’s a café, serving up classic and gourmet crumpets with a full range of Peoples Coffee espresso and Six Barrel Soda.

But by night it transforms into a wine bar, specializing in tailor-made cocktails to suit absolutely every taste.

“We don’t have a cocktail list,” says Ren.  “We just ask people what they like and then personalise a drink to their tastes.”
Between them, he estimates they know as many as five hundred cocktails – including a contemporary spin on the 15th Century English posset, and a range of cocktails made on the espresso machine.

The Boon Brothers are definitely a force to be reckoned with.  Ren brings more than twelve years of experience mixing cocktails to the partnership, while Ian honed his barista skills at Wellington mainstays Lamason and Monterey.  It’s been nearly a year since the two brothers pooled their skills to open a café wine bar with the best of both worlds.  And it’s going down a treat with locals.  While they have never advertised, word of mouth has driven Wellingtonians to Crumpet in droves.

“It’s been so much fun,” says Ren.  “We have great people here. I can honestly say I’ve liked every single person who has walked through the door.”

And they have a few more surprises up their sleeves.  There’s a lot more coming in the way of coffee, starting with cold brew in the next few weeks.  Also keep a look out for some new menu items, and further additions to the shop.

All the more reason to go back again, and soon.

You can find Crumpet at 109 Manners St.  Open everyday until late (weekdays from 8am, weekends from 10am.)


January 30th, 2013


Posted In: Cafes, CBD, Coffee

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Progressing our position as leading fair traders

Fair trade has always been at the heart of our business.

After eight years in the coffee trade, we remain captivated by the idea that our company can positively impact and better represent the smallest and most marginalized coffee producers in the world.

Our focus is on small-lot coffee producers, not on private estates, plantations or larger family-owned farms.  Our farmers each work with 1-2 hectares of land and are all owner/members of cooperatives. It is a priority for us that these small-lot farmers, who produce some 70% of the world’s coffee, can live sustainably and with dignity, and can determine their own futures and decisions as much as possible.

At Peoples Coffee we have set a high bar for ourselves as fair traders, and now we want to raise it even further.

We purchase only fair trade certified, organic coffees from small farmer cooperatives around the globe. We travel annually to origin, and have visited all the cooperatives we buy from at least once.  We hear and document farmers’ stories firsthand to understand the challenges they face, hear how well our trade is working for them, and to share in their dreams for themselves, their children and their communities.

This year, we are excited to share our next step on this journey to support and show solidarity with small farmers, and to deepen and create new possibilities for progressive fair trade in coffee.

Peoples Coffee are now signed, paid and fully-fledged members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Not to be confused with the WTO, the WFTO is not run by cavalier bankers or Wall Street cronies; rather it is the leading authority on fair trade across trading commodities and is small producer focused and engaged.

Shifting focus from individually certified products, WFTO membership is solely for those whose entire organization exists primarily to support small producers. The only other business in New Zealand to be a full member of the WFTO is (unsurprisingly) Trade Aid.

We are stepping up our position to pioneer new ways of supporting small coffee farmers. In a consumer world where fair trade messages are regularly watered down, falsely appropriated, and even written off as a passing fad, we are strengthening our unique position as progressive fair traders, not sitting around waiting for the market to dictate its terms to us.

What does this mean for our customers?

The FLO certification mark will no longer be on our packaging or be part of our branding. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) recognizes WFTO members as genuine fair traders, so rather than holding two independent certifications, we have simply chosen the one that better fits our unique position as a 100% fair trade principled and driven company, not just a line of fair trade products. The WFTO will launch a product mark in 2013 for customers who like to have a guarantee mark on their bags.

Our WFTO status will enable us to define more clearly the issues facing small farmers today and into the future, and to work with others to deepen the fair trade movement.  We will continue to be members of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ), and will remain actively engaged in the Wellington Fair Trade City Trust.

This move also gives our business more focus. We now have policy drivers from the WFTO that require us to continually question how we can do a better job of supporting producers, advocating for fair trade, and showing more business transparency in these endeavours. The WFTO’s ten principles of fair trade will be a clear and annually present guide for asking the hard questions of ourselves, and how well we are performing as a fair trade business.

We think of this as part of our growing up as a business, as coffee professionals, and as people wanting to give small producers around the world a fighting chance of having a progressive and sustained way of life in the coffee trade.

In short, we want to be better at being who we are.
 We hope that you, our customers and supporters, hold us to nothing less.

Matt Lamason                      Liv Doogue
Director/Founder               General Manager


January 16th, 2013


Posted In: Branding, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

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Progressing our position as leading fair traders

Fair trade has always been at the heart of our business.

After eight years in the coffee trade, we remain captivated by the idea that our company can positively impact and better represent the smallest and most marginalized coffee producers in the world.

Our focus is on small-lot coffee producers, not on private estates, plantations or larger family-owned farms.  Our farmers each work with 1-2 hectares of land and are all owner/members of cooperatives. It is a priority for us that these small-lot farmers, who produce some 70% of the world’s coffee, can live sustainably and with dignity, and can determine their own futures and decisions as much as possible.

At Peoples Coffee we have set a high bar for ourselves as fair traders, and now we want to raise it even further.

We purchase only fair trade certified, organic coffees from small farmer cooperatives around the globe. We travel annually to origin, and have visited all the cooperatives we buy from at least once.  We hear and document farmers’ stories firsthand to understand the challenges they face, hear how well our trade is working for them, and to share in their dreams for themselves, their children and their communities.

This year, we are excited to share our next step on this journey to support and show solidarity with small farmers, and to deepen and create new possibilities for progressive fair trade in coffee.

Peoples Coffee are now signed, paid and fully-fledged members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Not to be confused with the WTO, the WFTO is not run by cavalier bankers or Wall Street cronies; rather it is the leading authority on fair trade across trading commodities and is small producer focused and engaged.

Shifting focus from individually certified products, WFTO membership is solely for those whose entire organization exists primarily to support small producers. The only other business in New Zealand to be a full member of the WFTO is (unsurprisingly) Trade Aid.

We are stepping up our position to pioneer new ways of supporting small coffee farmers. In a consumer world where fair trade messages are regularly watered down, falsely appropriated, and even written off as a passing fad, we are strengthening our unique position as progressive fair traders, not sitting around waiting for the market to dictate its terms to us.

What does this mean for our customers?

The FLO certification mark will no longer be on our packaging or be part of our branding. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) recognizes WFTO members as genuine fair traders, so rather than holding two independent certifications, we have simply chosen the one that better fits our unique position as a 100% fair trade principled and driven company, not just a line of fair trade products. The WFTO will launch a product mark in 2013 for customers who like to have a guarantee mark on their bags.

Our WFTO status will enable us to define more clearly the issues facing small farmers today and into the future, and to work with others to deepen the fair trade movement.  We will continue to be members of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ), and will remain actively engaged in the Wellington Fair Trade City Trust.

This move also gives our business more focus. We now have policy drivers from the WFTO that require us to continually question how we can do a better job of supporting producers, advocating for fair trade, and showing more business transparency in these endeavours. The WFTO’s ten principles of fair trade will be a clear and annually present guide for asking the hard questions of ourselves, and how well we are performing as a fair trade business.

We think of this as part of our growing up as a business, as coffee professionals, and as people wanting to give small producers around the world a fighting chance of having a progressive and sustained way of life in the coffee trade.

In short, we want to be better at being who we are.
 We hope that you, our customers and supporters, hold us to nothing less.

Matt Lamason                      Liv Doogue
Director/Founder               General Manager


January 16th, 2013


Posted In: Branding, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

Tags:

6 Comments

Progressing our position as leading fair traders

Fair trade has always been at the heart of our business.

After eight years in the coffee trade, we remain captivated by the idea that our company can positively impact and better represent the smallest and most marginalized coffee producers in the world.

Our focus is on small-lot coffee producers, not on private estates, plantations or larger family-owned farms.  Our farmers each work with 1-2 hectares of land and are all owner/members of cooperatives. It is a priority for us that these small-lot farmers, who produce some 70% of the world’s coffee, can live sustainably and with dignity, and can determine their own futures and decisions as much as possible.

At Peoples Coffee we have set a high bar for ourselves as fair traders, and now we want to raise it even further.

We purchase only fair trade certified, organic coffees from small farmer cooperatives around the globe. We travel annually to origin, and have visited all the cooperatives we buy from at least once.  We hear and document farmers’ stories firsthand to understand the challenges they face, hear how well our trade is working for them, and to share in their dreams for themselves, their children and their communities.

This year, we are excited to share our next step on this journey to support and show solidarity with small farmers, and to deepen and create new possibilities for progressive fair trade in coffee.

Peoples Coffee are now signed, paid and fully-fledged members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Not to be confused with the WTO, the WFTO is not run by cavalier bankers or Wall Street cronies; rather it is the leading authority on fair trade across trading commodities and is small producer focused and engaged.

Shifting focus from individually certified products, WFTO membership is solely for those whose entire organization exists primarily to support small producers. The only other business in New Zealand to be a full member of the WFTO is (unsurprisingly) Trade Aid.

We are stepping up our position to pioneer new ways of supporting small coffee farmers. In a consumer world where fair trade messages are regularly watered down, falsely appropriated, and even written off as a passing fad, we are strengthening our unique position as progressive fair traders, not sitting around waiting for the market to dictate its terms to us.

What does this mean for our customers?

The FLO certification mark will no longer be on our packaging or be part of our branding. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) recognizes WFTO members as genuine fair traders, so rather than holding two independent certifications, we have simply chosen the one that better fits our unique position as a 100% fair trade principled and driven company, not just a line of fair trade products. The WFTO will launch a product mark in 2013 for customers who like to have a guarantee mark on their bags.

Our WFTO status will enable us to define more clearly the issues facing small farmers today and into the future, and to work with others to deepen the fair trade movement.  We will continue to be members of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ), and will remain actively engaged in the Wellington Fair Trade City Trust.

This move also gives our business more focus. We now have policy drivers from the WFTO that require us to continually question how we can do a better job of supporting producers, advocating for fair trade, and showing more business transparency in these endeavours. The WFTO’s ten principles of fair trade will be a clear and annually present guide for asking the hard questions of ourselves, and how well we are performing as a fair trade business.

We think of this as part of our growing up as a business, as coffee professionals, and as people wanting to give small producers around the world a fighting chance of having a progressive and sustained way of life in the coffee trade.

In short, we want to be better at being who we are.
 We hope that you, our customers and supporters, hold us to nothing less.

Matt Lamason                      Liv Doogue
Director/Founder               General Manager


January 16th, 2013


Posted In: Branding, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

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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.

Yours faithfully,

Matt Lamason

Founder/Director
Peoples Coffee Ltd


November 28th, 2012


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Peoples Coffee are proud to present their brand new Constable Street store.

The store opened its doors on Monday, after a winter-long extreme makeover to make it twice as big, twice as bright, and multiple times more awesome.  There are new treats in store (literally) and a lot more space to enjoy them.

Check out a few pics below!

All friends of Peoples Coffee are invited to join us for the official launch party this Friday, 16 November from 6pm at the new store (12 Constable St, Newtown).

Light refreshments will be served, BYOB.


November 14th, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Constable Street

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After three months shrouded in mystery and polyurethane, the brand new Peoples Coffee Constable St store is just days away from unveiling its bigger, better and brighter refit.

“People have been peeking through the windows ever since the plastic went up,” says store manager Eileen.  “I get asked every five minutes what’s going on inside and when the new store is opening.”

And the answer is…(drumroll please)…Monday!

As for what’s going on inside, well, you’ll just have to come take a look for yourself.  But I can tell you this much: the store is barely recognisable from its former incarnation.  The crew at Peoples have taken the best of the old Constable St store, combined it with the best of Brewtown, and created the best thing since the everlasting gobstopper (and highly preferable in that it actually exists).

The new store will offer all the espresso you already know and love, with the addition of a new range of single origin espresso.   The baristas will also be brewing up a large selection of non-pressurised coffee, including V60s, Chemex, and (wait for it)…Trifecta coffee.

The Trifecta is a mechanised method of non-pressurised brewing that’s taking the coffee world by storm.  It allows the barista to precisely control and tailor the brewing conditions to each single origin, to best showcase the unique flavours of each bean.

“We’ll be the first place in Wellington to start using the Trifecta,” says Eileen.  “We can’t wait.”

The new store will also offer a fresh selection of scones, pastries and sandwiches, as well as Six Barrel Soda and Karma Cola (the world’s first fair trade organic cola!).
Plus Cold Flat Whites are back for the summer!

And there will be a lot more space to sit and enjoy this huge variety of food and drink, both inside the spacious new store, and out in the sunshine on Constable Street.

“We have a lot of history in Newtown,” says Eileen, “but this new store will bring so much more variety to the experience.”

“It will be a place where people can learn about coffee; where it comes from and how its brewed.”

Join us for the launch!  We’ll be celebrating with music and light refreshments next Friday 16th November from 6pm.


November 7th, 2012


Posted In: Branding, Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Constable Street, Fair trade

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After three months shrouded in mystery and polyurethane, the brand new Peoples Coffee Constable St store is just days away from unveiling its bigger, better and brighter refit.

“People have been peeking through the windows ever since the plastic went up,” says store manager Eileen.  “I get asked every five minutes what’s going on inside and when the new store is opening.”

And the answer is…(drumroll please)…Monday!

As for what’s going on inside, well, you’ll just have to come take a look for yourself.  But I can tell you this much: the store is barely recognisable from its former incarnation.  The crew at Peoples have taken the best of the old Constable St store, combined it with the best of Brewtown, and created the best thing since the everlasting gobstopper (and highly preferable in that it actually exists).

The new store will offer all the espresso you already know and love, with the addition of a new range of single origin espresso.   The baristas will also be brewing up a large selection of non-pressurised coffee, including V60s, Chemex, and (wait for it)…Trifecta coffee.

The Trifecta is a mechanised method of non-pressurised brewing that’s taking the coffee world by storm.  It allows the barista to precisely control and tailor the brewing conditions to each single origin, to best showcase the unique flavours of each bean.

“We’ll be the first place in Wellington to start using the Trifecta,” says Eileen.  “We can’t wait.”

The new store will also offer a fresh selection of scones, pastries and sandwiches, as well as Six Barrel Soda and Karma Cola (the world’s first fair trade organic cola!).
Plus Cold Flat Whites are back for the summer!

And there will be a lot more space to sit and enjoy this huge variety of food and drink, both inside the spacious new store, and out in the sunshine on Constable Street.

“We have a lot of history in Newtown,” says Eileen, “but this new store will bring so much more variety to the experience.”

“It will be a place where people can learn about coffee; where it comes from and how its brewed.”

Join us for the launch!  We’ll be celebrating with music and light refreshments next Friday 16th November from 6pm.


November 7th, 2012


Posted In: Branding, Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Constable Street, Fair trade

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After three months shrouded in mystery and polyurethane, the brand new Peoples Coffee Constable St store is just days away from unveiling its bigger, better and brighter refit.

“People have been peeking through the windows ever since the plastic went up,” says store manager Eileen.  “I get asked every five minutes what’s going on inside and when the new store is opening.”

And the answer is…(drumroll please)…Monday!

As for what’s going on inside, well, you’ll just have to come take a look for yourself.  But I can tell you this much: the store is barely recognisable from its former incarnation.  The crew at Peoples have taken the best of the old Constable St store, combined it with the best of Brewtown, and created the best thing since the everlasting gobstopper (and highly preferable in that it actually exists).

The new store will offer all the espresso you already know and love, with the addition of a new range of single origin espresso.   The baristas will also be brewing up a large selection of non-pressurised coffee, including V60s, Chemex, and (wait for it)…Trifecta coffee.

The Trifecta is a mechanised method of non-pressurised brewing that’s taking the coffee world by storm.  It allows the barista to precisely control and tailor the brewing conditions to each single origin, to best showcase the unique flavours of each bean.

“We’ll be the first place in Wellington to start using the Trifecta,” says Eileen.  “We can’t wait.”

The new store will also offer a fresh selection of scones, pastries and sandwiches, as well as Six Barrel Soda and Karma Cola (the world’s first fair trade organic cola!).
Plus Cold Flat Whites are back for the summer!

And there will be a lot more space to sit and enjoy this huge variety of food and drink, both inside the spacious new store, and out in the sunshine on Constable Street.

“We have a lot of history in Newtown,” says Eileen, “but this new store will bring so much more variety to the experience.”

“It will be a place where people can learn about coffee; where it comes from and how its brewed.”

Join us for the launch!  We’ll be celebrating with music and light refreshments next Friday 16th November from 6pm.


November 7th, 2012


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When Andrew arrived back in Wellington after a few years abroad he decided to go for lunch on Lambton Quay. With limited options he quickly realised there was a need for quality fresh food and great coffee. The result is Funicular Eatery, Peoples Coffee’s new representative in the CBD.

Situated on the first floor of the Cable Car lane complex, Funicular is a haven above the hustle and bustle of New Zealand’s busiest street. Large arching windows provide patrons with a view over the Quay and its denizens going about their daily business.

High ceilings and uninterrupted views the length of the café give Funicular a very spacious feel. A large communal table at the end provides an ideal setting for functions and large parties. Low hanging lights and soft cushioned bench seats are the necessary counter to all this space.

With a focus on fresh and local produce, Funicular offers an impressive range of food. There are counter food favourites with a twist, ranging from sandwiches to pies and cakes. There is also short order menu and great breakfast staples, such as eggs on sour dough however you like them. I was lucky enough to enjoy the fish cake, served with two side salads and a homemade Thai sweet chilli sauce with legitimate heat.

Stop in and see Andy and Holly for a Peoples Coffee and a bite to eat the next time you’re in the area. Take a well-deserved break from the grind.

 


September 19th, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, CBD, Coffee

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Kiwis are crazy about bananas.  We spend over $142 million each year on bananas alone, and  import more bananas (per capita) than any other country in the world.¹

But it’s no great secret that there are serious problems in the banana industry.  Over the last twenty years, the majority of small-scale farmers have been squeezed out of the market by the big gun banana companies (you know the ones) – and the majority of people working on those plantations are overworked, underpaid (most plantation workers earn less than $3 per day!) and overexposed to harmful pesticides.²

So until recently, the only truly ethical choice when it came to bananas, was not to eat them.  So it was a relief when a fair trade option finally appeared on our supermarket shelves.
In 2010, All Good Bananas began importing certified Fairtrade bananas from the El Guabo cooperative in Ecuador, and my friends and I were only too happy to pay a little more to know that we weren’t exploiting growers in the two-thirds world.

But given that bananas are such big business here, it’s no surprise that competitors weren’t too thrilled to have this new kid on the block.
Sure enough, only a few months after All Good Bananas appeared on supermarket shelves, Dole NZ rolled out a new ‘Ethical Choice’ branding.  New Zealand consumers were now presented with two seemingly ethical options – one of which, tellingly, was still as cheap as its non-ethical competitors.

In reality, the only change Dole had made to their modus operandi was to slap pretty new labels on their bananas (and pineapples).  This is another classic example of greenwashing; of a company using deceptive marketing to appeal to those consumers who genuinely want to make ethical purchasing decisions.  I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who bought Dole bananas thinking they really were making an ethical choice.  Why did they think this?  Not because they’re stupid; because they were misled by a company more concerned with amassing profits than paying their workers a living wage.

So I was gratified when the issue hit the media earlier this month, after the Commerce Commission issued Dole with a compliance letter raising concerns about their ‘Ethical Choice’ marketing.   The letter stated that the stickers misled consumers to believe that Dole bananas were certified by an independent third party (which they aren’t), and made their bananas seem more ethical than their competitors (which they aren’t).

And what have Dole done about it?  Well, nothing.  They’ve kept their stickers on the bananas and the bananas on the shelves – safe in their assumption that most shoppers are too busy to question whether the marketing is true.

This highlights again just how important it is for us as consumers to take responsibility for questioning and researching the products that we buy.

“It’s really hard for consumers to understand what has been greenwashed, and what is the truth,” says Chris Morrison, from All Good Bananas.  “That’s why we think independent verification is so important.”

“Those companies that do go the extra mile and pay a little bit more to be certified should be supported.”

You can find out more about our friends at All Good Bananas, and where to buy their bananas,  here.

What do you think?  Are you more likely to buy a product marketed as ethical?  How often do you question or research the products you buy?  Tell us here!

 

A huge thanks to Sam Mahayni, All Good Bananas for the photos of the banana growers at origin.

1. http://www.duncancotterill.com/index.cfm/1,159,764,43,html/Ethical-Bananas
2. http://www.bananalink.org.uk/the-problem-with-bananas


August 22nd, 2012


Posted In: Branding, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability

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A little while ago, I was asked to make chemex coffee at a fair trade event I was going to.  This elicited two equal and opposite reactions in me; pride, and fear.
The organisers thought I was a coffee expert!  But also, the organisers thought I was a coffee expert!!

I drink a lot of chemex, so I know how it’s supposed to taste.  The problem was, at that moment I had never actually made a chemex myself, and I had no idea how to get it to taste that way.  So I smiled sweetly, agreed graciously, and then hot-footed it round to Peoples Constable St to enlist the help of a real expert.

I commandeered Steve, who spent an hour patiently talking me through the art to a perfect chemex.  After brewing and drinking multiple jugs of coffee, my nerves were sufficiently soothed – in a shaky, over-caffeinated kind of way.

And here it is!  Chemex 101, courtesy of Steve, my new best friend.

1.  Prepare:
Open up the filter and lay it in the coffeemaker, so that the double layer is on the same side as the spout.  Pour hot water through the filter until it’s completely saturated.  This ensures that the coffee won’t be tainted with any papery flavours, and has the added benefit of warming the jug before you start (tip this out again).

2. Measure:
A chemex demands a coarser grind than a plunger, similar to the texture of coarse salt.
The golden rule for a chemex is one part coffee to fifteen parts water.  For a small (3 cup) chemex, that’s 24g coffee to 400 ml water.  (For a large 6 cup chemex, use 45g coffee:675 ml water).  Give the jug a gentle shake to settle out the grinds.

3. Pour:
Pour a small amount (about 80-100 mLs) of hot (not boiling) water over the coffee grinds and give them a stir, to completely saturate the coffee.  Once that has bloomed for thirty seconds or so, pour more water in until the water level is about two inches from the top of the filter.  Stir again gently.

The trick to a good chemex is to pour the water in a tight outward spiral.  Called “riding the bloom,” this creates turbulence and agitation, which helps extract the good flavours out of the coffee.
Steve cautions me to avoid hitting the paper filter directly.  “Keep it close to the edge without actually touching the paper,”  he says.  “Otherwise it will filter straight through into the jug without touching the coffee.”

4.  Top up:
As the coffee streams down into the jug, the ‘coffee bed’ will start to settle.  Keep topping the water up to the initial line (two inches from the top) until you have used all the water.  Once you’ve finished pouring, give the coffee three smooth circular stirs and let the water finish extracting.  If you’ve done a good job, the coffee grinds left in the filter should form a shallow dome.  When the extraction slows to a drip, remove the filter and serve.  This should take about 4 minutes all up (for the 3 cup chemex).

5. Drink!
The flavour profile of chemex coffee changes and sweetens as it cools.  So it’s definitely the kind of coffee to sit down and linger over.

Which is exactly what I do – once I have sufficiently convinced the fair trade community of my newfound expertise, that is.

THANK YOU STEVE.

(You can pick up everything you need to make a great chemex here)


August 8th, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Coffee, Coffee geek out, Fair trade

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There has never been a more appropriate book to put on your coffee table, than the new Peoples Coffee Barista Handbook.

Last week, hundreds of friends and fans of Peoples Coffee joined us at Unity Books to celebrate the launch of a book that unites practical espresso methodology with the stories of the coffee farmers themselves.

It’s a must-read for the cafe barista and home espresso lover alike – and both turned out in force for the event.

The boys from Garage Project were there to water the crowd with their very special coffee ‘bock’ beer.

It went down a treat.

2012 Barista champ Aymon McQuade kicked off the formalities.

Matt Lamason showed us a previous incarnation of the handbook.  It was initially titled ‘Dave’ as a tribute to the five years of love and work that Dave Lamason poured into it.  And although the title was subsequently scrapped, Dave’s personality still practically jumps off the page.

(Give him a microphone, and the same thing happens…)

Peoples Coffee would like to say a huge thanks to Unity Books, Garage Project, and all the supporters who joined us for the event!

For those who missed it, fear not!

You can get your copy of the Peoples Coffee Barista Handbook from Unity Books, Vic Books (Victoria University), Lamason Brew Bar, Peoples Constable St, or right here on this website.

And if you go into Lamason and ask nicely, Dave might even sign it for you…

 


July 25th, 2012


Posted In: Beer, Branding, Coffee, Collaboration, Publications

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They say ignorance is bliss, and there was a time, not so long ago, that I happily embodied this proverb.  When someone offered me a coffee, I accepted gratefully.  I sipped my coffee and I savoured each and every mouthful, in blissful ignorance.  Life was good.  Coffee was great.

Then I moved to Newtown, and started spending an hour at the end of each working day sipping flat whites in the sun on Constable Street.  By then I knew that there was no x in espresso.  That was about the time I started wrinkling my nose up at the multinational brands.  I knew that beans had to be fresh, and that you had to buy them whole and grind them by the serve.  Life was getting better.  Coffee was becoming more delicious.

Years passed.  I started getting coffee-induced separation anxiety whenever I left Wellington.  Cafes in other cities became objects of fear and suspicion.  I started couriering Peoples Coffee to my parents’ door when I went home for the holidays.  I made annoying tut-tutting sounds when I came across coffee beans in someone’s fridge (airtight at room temperature, please).  I bandied about terms like ‘over-extracted,’ and began referring to coffee by its origin rather than its brand name.

Things escalated quite quickly after I started writing for Peoples Coffee.  I soaked up coffee-geekery like a sponge.  It became harder to hide my disdain at ‘ill-considered brew methodologies’ in the ‘outside world’.  I stopped enjoying coffee that was not made according to the precise parameters it required to taste good, and could be thrown into a full-blown panic watching my friends make coffee at home.  I started receiving my first looks of contempt around the same time that I started observing flavour notes of popcorn in my Ethiopian Harar.

I was between a rock and a hard place.  I knew enough to estrange me from the average coffee drinker, but not enough to endear me to the true coffee geek.  I suddenly knew how Britney Spears must have felt when she sung “Not a girl, not yet a woman.”

Coffee, my former trusty sidekick, now had the power to carry me to dizzying heights, but also to plunge me into the depths of despair.

Every now and then I stop and think about those blissful days of old, when every coffee tasted good and the word ‘bloom’ still referred to flowers – and I wonder, would I go back?  Would I trade in my burr grinder and digital scales for my former ability to enjoy what I now know to be an unevenly ground, stale, and over-extracted cup of coffee?

Not for a second.  Ignorance was bliss, but a good coffee is heaven.


June 27th, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Coffee geek out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

René


June 13th, 2012


Posted In: Coffee, Coffee geek out

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To be honest, I didn’t even realise I liked soda until I went to Six Barrel Soda Co.  If you said soda, I said multinational bottled sugar that makes teeth fall out and children run up walls, loudly.

But one visit to Six Barrel Soda Co. changed all that.  Now, I can tell you what real kola nut tastes like (nothing like the cola giants on the supermarket shelves), and what colour it should actually be (nothing like the cola giants on the supermarket shelves).

Six Barrel Soda Co. is a brand new café serving up a selection of specialty sodas, made on-site from fresh and natural ingredients by the boys who brought us Monterey and Kreuzberg Café.

Located upstairs in the old Eva-Dixon’s, Six Barrel Soda Co. is perfectly placed to catch the all-day sun, and to spy on unsuspecting pedestrians in the park below.  It’s bright and sunny, there are soda bottles hanging from the fruit-stencilled walls, and the classic decor and long communal benches give it the relaxed feel of a diner (or at least, what I imagine a diner to feel like..).

It’s an ideal place to while away a sunny afternoon, which is exactly what I do.  I order a haloumi slider (baby burger) and a kola nut soda, and settle in at the window between a lime tree and three pots of fresh mint.

“We’d been making our own soda for some time at Monterey, instead of buying pre-bottled drinks,” co-owner Joseph tells me when he brings my food over.  “Our customers started asking whether they could buy them to take away.  So we got the idea to start up a place where we could make and shift the syrups.”

All the soda syrups are made on-site using filtered water, fair trade organic cane sugar, and fresh fruit – and come in flavours like cherry and pomegranate, raspberry and lemon, and vanilla cream.  They fizz them up by the serve, using traditional soda siphons that are available for purchase in the shop.

“In the olden days the soda trucks used to go round like the milk trucks, and serve out their soda from these siphons straight into glass bottles,” says Joseph.  And while I’m sorry to say you won’t find any such  truck parading the streets of Wellington just yet, you can pick up their soda from a variety of stores and cafés around the city (try CommonSense Organics, Good as Gold, and Lamason for starters…)

The café also offers a full range of Peoples espresso and bottomless single origin filter coffee, as well as sliders, bagels and ‘scrams’ (scrambled things) if you’re feeling peckish (make sure you are).

Six Barrel Soda Co. is open from 8am-8pm weekdays, and 9am-8pm weekends, upstairs on the corner of Eva and Dixon Sts.


May 30th, 2012


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To be honest, I didn’t even realise I liked soda until I went to Six Barrel Soda Co.  If you said soda, I said multinational bottled sugar that makes teeth fall out and children run up walls, loudly.

But one visit to Six Barrel Soda Co. changed all that.  Now, I can tell you what real kola nut tastes like (nothing like the cola giants on the supermarket shelves), and what colour it should actually be (nothing like the cola giants on the supermarket shelves).

Six Barrel Soda Co. is a brand new café serving up a selection of specialty sodas, made on-site from fresh and natural ingredients by the boys who brought us Monterey and Kreuzberg Café.

Located upstairs in the old Eva-Dixon’s, Six Barrel Soda Co. is perfectly placed to catch the all-day sun, and to spy on unsuspecting pedestrians in the park below.  It’s bright and sunny, there are soda bottles hanging from the fruit-stencilled walls, and the classic decor and long communal benches give it the relaxed feel of a diner (or at least, what I imagine a diner to feel like..).

It’s an ideal place to while away a sunny afternoon, which is exactly what I do.  I order a haloumi slider (baby burger) and a kola nut soda, and settle in at the window between a lime tree and three pots of fresh mint.

“We’d been making our own soda for some time at Monterey, instead of buying pre-bottled drinks,” co-owner Joseph tells me when he brings my food over.  “Our customers started asking whether they could buy them to take away.  So we got the idea to start up a place where we could make and shift the syrups.”

All the soda syrups are made on-site using filtered water, fair trade organic cane sugar, and fresh fruit – and come in flavours like cherry and pomegranate, raspberry and lemon, and vanilla cream.  They fizz them up by the serve, using traditional soda siphons that are available for purchase in the shop.

“In the olden days the soda trucks used to go round like the milk trucks, and serve out their soda from these siphons straight into glass bottles,” says Joseph.  And while I’m sorry to say you won’t find any such  truck parading the streets of Wellington just yet, you can pick up their soda from a variety of stores and cafés around the city (try CommonSense Organics, Good as Gold, and Lamason for starters…)

The café also offers a full range of Peoples espresso and bottomless single origin filter coffee, as well as sliders, bagels and ‘scrams’ (scrambled things) if you’re feeling peckish (make sure you are).

Six Barrel Soda Co. is open from 8am-8pm weekdays, and 9am-8pm weekends, upstairs on the corner of Eva and Dixon Sts.


May 30th, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee

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To be honest, I didn’t even realise I liked soda until I went to Six Barrel Soda Co.  If you said soda, I said multinational bottled sugar that makes teeth fall out and children run up walls, loudly.

But one visit to Six Barrel Soda Co. changed all that.  Now, I can tell you what real kola nut tastes like (nothing like the cola giants on the supermarket shelves), and what colour it should actually be (nothing like the cola giants on the supermarket shelves).

Six Barrel Soda Co. is a brand new café serving up a selection of specialty sodas, made on-site from fresh and natural ingredients by the boys who brought us Monterey and Kreuzberg Café.

Located upstairs in the old Eva-Dixon’s, Six Barrel Soda Co. is perfectly placed to catch the all-day sun, and to spy on unsuspecting pedestrians in the park below.  It’s bright and sunny, there are soda bottles hanging from the fruit-stencilled walls, and the classic decor and long communal benches give it the relaxed feel of a diner (or at least, what I imagine a diner to feel like..).

It’s an ideal place to while away a sunny afternoon, which is exactly what I do.  I order a haloumi slider (baby burger) and a kola nut soda, and settle in at the window between a lime tree and three pots of fresh mint.

“We’d been making our own soda for some time at Monterey, instead of buying pre-bottled drinks,” co-owner Joseph tells me when he brings my food over.  “Our customers started asking whether they could buy them to take away.  So we got the idea to start up a place where we could make and shift the syrups.”

All the soda syrups are made on-site using filtered water, fair trade organic cane sugar, and fresh fruit – and come in flavours like cherry and pomegranate, raspberry and lemon, and vanilla cream.  They fizz them up by the serve, using traditional soda siphons that are available for purchase in the shop.

“In the olden days the soda trucks used to go round like the milk trucks, and serve out their soda from these siphons straight into glass bottles,” says Joseph.  And while I’m sorry to say you won’t find any such  truck parading the streets of Wellington just yet, you can pick up their soda from a variety of stores and cafés around the city (try CommonSense Organics, Good as Gold, and Lamason for starters…)

The café also offers a full range of Peoples espresso and bottomless single origin filter coffee, as well as sliders, bagels and ‘scrams’ (scrambled things) if you’re feeling peckish (make sure you are).

Six Barrel Soda Co. is open from 8am-8pm weekdays, and 9am-8pm weekends, upstairs on the corner of Eva and Dixon Sts.


May 30th, 2012


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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


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Uncategorized

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Having heard rave reviews of August, the newest arrival to the Wellington coffee scene, I have been counting the sleeps to go and find out for myself.  But when the day finally comes, DISASTER STRIKES.

I wake up with a cold, and the complete inability to taste, smell, or even form coherent sentences with my croaking husk of a voice.  So I commandeer Liv from the Peoples Roastery to be my mouth, nose, and trusty sidekick for the afternoon, and together we head to 13 Garrett St to see what everyone’s talking about.

We find out pretty quickly.  August is the latest incarnation from our friends at Milk Crate, so you can rely upon the same top quality Peoples espresso and freshly baked baguettes and croissants.  But August is also making a splash in the city for its dual function as a creative and interactive space for local talent.

“We want to go beyond giving people a cup of coffee,” owner Ben Lenart tells us.  “We want to exhibit and celebrate the creative people we have around us…to give customers a unique experience.”

There are no tables or chairs in the café (which serves takeaway espresso only) and the counter is on wheels, which means that the space can be constantly adapted to accommodate the latest installation or exhibition piece.  The shop has a minimalist industrial feel; concrete floors, exposed copper pipes and the building’s original chainy-hoist thing (my words, obviously) still hanging from the ceiling.

“Last week we had a tyre swing hanging from that,” says Tom Mackie, manager and barista of August.  An artist himself, his own work is among the collection of pieces currently adorning the white walls.

While he makes us our flat whites (which Liv tells me are first-rate, though I’ll have to take her word for that), Tom tells us about some of the exhibits they’ve had since they opened their doors six weeks ago.  These include a Shannon Rush exhibition, and a group show featuring artists from as far afield as Melbourne and Sydney.

Their next project involves a 44-gallon drum of honey.  (This is very timely news for someone with a cold).  It’s in collaboration with local mead producers, Love Honey, who are going to use the space to display their honey extraction.
“They’re going to wrap the drum in a heat pack up here,” says Tom, pointing to the concrete platform behind the counter.  “Then the honey will melt down into smaller demijohns over about 3 or 4 days.  It’s going to be an amazing process to watch.”

The honey will be on display from this Friday until Monday (May 4-7), with the odd honey and mead tasting thrown in for good measure.   Don’t miss it!  I have a feeling it’s going to create quite a buzz.

(sorry.)

August is open at 13 Garrett St (next to Global Fabrics) 8am-4pm, Mon-Fri, and 10am-3pm, Sat-Sun.  Join them on facebook for updates about their latest comps and exhibits!


May 1st, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Collaboration

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When it comes to coffee, I like to think I have excellent taste.  But being plunged headfirst into the world of coffee has made me realise just how little I know.

Some weeks I sit at the Peoples Roastery listening to the staff discuss a coffee they had in the weekend, or their latest experiments with light roasts.   It gives me the same feeling I get travelling in a foreign country, or watching Lord of the Rings.
I don’t understand half of what is going on, but I love the exotic ‘otherness’ of it all.

But I have gleaned enough to know that the key to the coffee world lies in the mysterious art of coffee cupping.

Cupping is a very controlled way of tasting coffee.  It’s the method used by coffee professionals (and coffee lovers alike) all over the world to quantify the aromas, flavours, and quality of brewed coffee.

The process involves firstly smelling the coffee to experience the aroma, and then slurping it quickly with a spoon in order to aspirate the coffee and spray it evenly over your palate.

“There are three main reasons for cupping,” says Rene, the Peoples Coffee Roaster.  “To sample new origins for quality or defects, to improve your palate, and to figure out the flavours you can get out of a bean through controlled experimentation.”

Each different brewing method produces a flavour that influences the taste of the coffee.  So the same coffee brewed in a V60 and a plunger, for instance, will taste quite different.

The beauty of cupping is that it keeps all the brewing parameters of grind, dose, water quality and temperature exactly the same, so that any variation you taste is in the coffee itself.  This allows you to taste coffees from different origins in a comparative setting, so that you can figure out their key flavour notes, and how they compare to each other.

“I like to think of it as a chess game against yourself,” says Rene.

“Most people just know what they like because that’s what they like.  Cupping helps them connect their experience of the different tastes and aromas with useful vocabulary.   It helps them to qualify and enunciate why they like it.”

“It’s an awesome thing, “ he says.  “Everyone I’ve done it with has really deepened their love of coffee.”

But is it something just for the experts?

“Well, no.  It’s really interesting for people that love coffee to be exposed to the way coffee is evaluated and quantified by professionals; to hear the language used to describe the flavours, and talk about what created these flavours.”

“It’s not something you do half a dozen times and suddenly get the hang of,” he adds.  “It’s ongoing, something you do regularly to keep your palate honed and in touch with the coffee.”

Find out for yourself!  Rene is at Brewtown on Constable St every Thursday at 10am for a free coffee cupping session.


April 4th, 2012


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

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Making quick decisions has never been a gift of mine.  Making quick decisions before my first coffee is downright unrealistic.  So a few weeks back, after I had dithered in front of the coffee beans at the Constable St store for an unacceptable length of time, Seb asked me if I needed some help choosing my beans.  I said yes please.

He gave me a quick tutorial on the different origins and their general flavour profiles that was so illuminating, I went back a week later and asked him to do it again – this time armed with a notebook, a pen, and a caffeine-sharpened attention span.

“Choosing the right bean firstly depends on how you’re going to brew it,” he tells me.  This is the simple part.  If you’re using a stovetop or a home espresso maker, then you want an espresso blend.  Peoples offers two: Don Wilfredo, the smooth and chocolaty ‘house blend’ that Peoples uses in its espresso machines; and Tadesse Meskela, which has the same smooth caramel flavours, but with a more prominent acidity and grapefruit finish.

And if you want to try a single origin in your stovetop or espresso machine, then Seb recommends the Mexican Chiapas.  It’s a slightly darker roast than the other single origins, with a robust chocolaty flavour profile that can stand up to being pressurized.

Our single origin beans spend less time in the roaster, which means they retain more subtle flavours that are better showcased by non-pressurised brew methods, like plunger, chemex, or V60.  Peoples Coffee offer five single origins, as well as a limited release light roast that changes monthly (personally, I can’t get enough of these).

Generally speaking, the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Harar origins are lighter and fruitier, compared to the more chocolaty flavours of the Mexican Chiapas, Columbian Ocamonte, and Guatemalan Huehuetenango origins.

The Harar has a deep flavour of sun-dried fruit (think, apricots and berries), compared to the grapefruit and honeysuckle elements of the Yirgacheffe.  The Mexican and Columbian origins both have delicious bittersweet chocolaty flavours, but the Mexican is more “nutty,” while the Columbian is distinctive for its more prominent citrus acidity.  The Guatemalan origin has malty and acidic flavours that could almost be described as savoury.

And if you want an awesome coffee without the caffeine hit, then try the Honduras Decaf.  “It’s a bit more tangy and lively than the Mexican, but with the same smooth caramel flavours,” says Seb.

Don’t be put off if you don’t yet know which flavours you prefer.  I guarantee you, the process of finding out will be a delicious and enlightening experience.  And once you’ve experimented with different beans in different brew methods, you can start throwing geeky coffee statements into casual conversation, like “I find that the honeysuckle elements of the Yirgacheffe get a bit lost in the stovetop” or “I think the malty flavours of the Huehuetenango are better showcased in a V60 than a plunger” etc etc.

Trust me, the people will thank you for it.  (And if they don’t, fear not – the people at Peoples always will.)

 

What’s your favourite origin?  What flavours do you look for in a coffee?  What’s the geekiest coffee statement you’ve ever thrown into a conversation?  Leave us a comment below.


March 21st, 2012


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

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If there is one word I would use to describe the Auckland coffee scene, it would be vast.

As a spoilt-for-choice Wellingtonian, it’s all too easy to write Auckland off as the land that coffee forgot.  But after spending five days trawling through cafes in Auckland city, I found that good coffee is there – you just have to know where to find it.

There are a small number of cafes that have remained relatively unchanged and consistently popular for what seems like decades.  Alleluja in St Kevin’s Arcade and Rakinos on High Street (still selling flat whites at the old price of $3.50) are among these timeless and iconic spots.  These old favourites serve up the classic espresso range, and are consistently keeping people coming back for more.

But these are rarities.  With such rapid population growth, and therefore an expanding need for nearby caffeine, there is an increasingly huge amount of choice when it comes to where to buy your coffee.

The good news is that many Auckland cafe owners are now looking to set themselves out from the crowd, expanding beyond the old school “Paniniccino” options, and raising the bar of quality coffee in Auckland.

Little b, a tiny industrial-chic joint hidden away in Newton Gully, and its sister cafe Ben on Fort Street in the CBD, are two of these stand outs in the Auckland coffee scene.   Both are owned and operated by the guys behind micro-roastery Barista Empire, and are diversifying with non-pressurized coffee, including Siphons, Swissgolds and cold drip.

Then there’s Grey Lynn’s new boutique roastery Kokako, where you can sip on your flat white while watching the coffee being roasted.  They also offer a great selection of locally sourced organic food.

The beautiful, white-washed Zus & Zo in Herne Bay serves up well-made coffee and a delicious range of open sandwiches.  There is not a panini in sight, and the flat whites are served small and strong (the way nature intended).  The mushrooms with blue cheese on sourdough will blow your mind.

Coffee Supreme’s 42 Douglas St espresso and brew bar has definitely helped bring a healthy dose of Wellington coffee influence to Auckland, both in its design eye-candy and range of brew methods.

And when you need to get your Peoples fix in the City of Sails, then head to our good friends Catroux in Westmere, and Florentine in Epsom, both cranking out quality Peoples Coffee espresso – the way Wellingtonians like it.

Where do you go for coffee in Auckland?  What’s your experience of the Auckland coffee scene?  Where would you like to see Peoples Coffee served?  Let me in on any top spots I might have missed…


March 7th, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee

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I don’t like waste.  I couldn’t possibly.  That good old protestant ethic, “waste not, want not” was drummed into me so effectively as a child, that to this day I cannot leave anything uneaten on my plate without fear of locust plague or death.  And as for disposable takeaway cups, well, they are merely string telephones waiting to happen.

But there are only so many string telephones that one household can take (ask my flatmates).  Which is why I’m grateful that Peoples Coffee have taken another step up the environmental ladder and introduced a new composting system for their biodegradable takeaway cups at the Constable St store.

It’s all part of a new sustainable innovation by the Wellington City Council called “Kai to Compost.”  The name says it all really.  You pop your biodegradable takeaway cup in the compost bin at Peoples.  A Kai to Compost truck picks it up (along with green waste from cafes and restaurants all over the city), and takes it out to the southern landfill at Owhiro Bay.  But it isn’t dumped in the landfill like regular rubbish – instead it’s shredded and then heaped into long piles, called ‘windrows’.   These windrows are turned with a forklift each week, and left to biodegrade for about 100 days, until they are safe and clean enough for a child to eat.

And then, voila!  The green waste is mixed with bark and sand, and sold for use locally as compost.  Your old coffee cup is now feeding golf courses, gardens and roadsides all over Wellington.  Genius.

“This is not a silver bullet to waste problems, but it’s one more thing we can do” says Matt Lamason.  “At the end of the day, plastic will always be plastic, whereas our biodegradable cups will degrade back into organic compounds.”

A similar system in Christchurch was composting up to 300 tonnes (that’s 300 000 kgs) of green waste, per day prior to the earthquake (which has sadly put the system on hold).

“Kai to Compost has a huge capacity for green waste.  It’s currently only operating at about 10% capacity in Wellington.  The key is getting our biodegradable cups into the correct waste stream.”

That means putting it into the right bin!  You can find one now at the Constable St store.  Go on, make the effort.  If only to fend off that locust plague…

So, string telephones aside – what would you normally do with your biodegradable cups and lids?  Do you compost your cups at home?  Do you have any other creative solutions for reusing your biodegradable cups?   Tell us here!


February 23rd, 2012


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Sustainability

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In 2008 I spent a year roasting coffee in sunny Brisbane with my good friends, Marty Richards and Vonny Andrews, at Blackstar Coffee Roasters.

Queensland (unlike Wellington) is hot most of the year.  So Vonny started experimenting with making a cold coffee in beer bottles with crown caps, and calling it ‘cold press coffee’.  It was a coffee epiphany for me.  Simply milk, coffee, and a touch of sweet; but a serious coffee beverage.

The punters at the West End markets and Blackstar’s Roastery lapped this new beverage up.  No other 0.04ml coffee essence milk drink, corn syruped and sugared to hell, could come close.

And now, four years later and sitting on the shoulders of the Blackstar giants, we are most happy to finally launch the Peoples Coffee ‘Cold Flat White’.

The reason it has taken us four years to have a crack ourselves, is out of respect.  Many folk (including their own coffee accounts!) started imitating Vonny’s heavenly elixir, but no one ever gave credit to her recipes (which she was all too forthcoming in sharing).

It is simply this: fresh ground coffee, steeped in cold water for 12 hours, painstakingly filtered through Chemex filters, and then mixed with organic full cream milk and a dash of real Canadian maple syrup.

Like all our coffees, the brew is from our small farmer-owned cooperatives, making this one awfully good way to support organic small scale coffee producers during a lukewarm Wellington summer.

Cold Flat Whites are available now at Peoples Coffee Constable St, and Brewtown, and coming soon to Vic Books and Lamason.
And look out for the new Cold Long Black, on its way!


February 9th, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Coffee, Collaboration

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It’s never easy coming home after the holidays, but if there’s one thing that made it easier this year, it was the coffee (or, more accurately, the lack of good coffee elsewhere).
Now, I don’t consider myself a coffee snob by any stretch of the imagination, but after three weeks out of Wellington, I was ready to pitch my tent in the middle of Peoples Coffee, curl up on a sack of coffee beans, and never leave again.

And to make my homecoming even sweeter, I found that the little elves at Peoples had been busy brewing up a few surprises over the holidays…starting with Brewtown!

Brewtown is a Peoples Coffee Pop-Up store, temporarily bringing fresh, single-origin filter coffee to the streets of Newtown.  If you haven’t yet jumped on the non-pressurised coffee bandwagon, now’s your chance, people!   You’ve already heard me raving about the purity and goodness of the mighty V60, and you can try one here, along with chemex and cold drip, at Wellington’s first brew bar to specialise exclusively in filter coffee.

Which might seem a little crazy, given that filter coffee hasn’t always had the best reputation in New Zealand.  If you’re anything like me, the words ‘filter coffee’ evoke images of American diners with checked tablecloths, ill-tempered waitresses, and the sort of lukewarm bitter coffee found lurking in office staffrooms of the nineties.

But trust me, one visit to Brewtown will change all that.  For a start, Danny the barista could not be further from a ill-tempered woman.  He’s nice, he wants to answer all your burning questions about non-pressurised coffee, and he’s got cold-drip coffee brewing in the front window that he’ll let you taste for free!  And once you’ve figured out your favourite, you can buy your own brewing tools and learn how to replicate it at home.

What’s more, the United Nations have named 2012 “Year of the Co-operative”, so Brewtown couldn’t be more timely.  All Peoples Coffee comes from small producers who are part of fair trade cooperatives.  While espresso coffee uses a blend of coffee beans, filter coffee showcases beans from a single origin, so you can taste the unique flavours of beans grown in different regions of the coffee world.
“Their coffee is a way of telling their story” says director Matt Lamason.  “Single origins are a way to promote our co-operatives, and connect consumers with our coffee farmers.”

Keep a lookout on the Peoples facebook page, because Rene (the Peoples Coffee roaster) will be doing weekly cuppings of different fair trade organic coffees, and you’re all invited.

“A Pop-Up store lets us trial something we wouldn’t normally do with a shop” says Matt.   “We want to see if Newtown is ready for filter coffee.”

So what do you say?  Are you ready to for it?  Get yourself down to Brewtown for a taste, and then tell me, tell me, tell me!  Leave us your feedback below.  I want to know how you rate filter coffee, and how you think it compares to espresso.  (But you’d better get your skates on, because pop-up stores tend to pop down again, when you least expect it…).

Brewtown is open Tue – Sat, 9am – 5pm.  You’ll find it at 12 Constable St, Newtown (right next to the espresso store).


January 25th, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

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Christmas.  It’s a time of joy and peace and elbowing your way through crowds of frantic shoppers to the tune of Snoopy’s Christmas.  That much we know.  But have you ever stopped to consider the psychological underpinnings of this most wonderful time of the year?

I have.

You see, last Christmas, I awoke to a shocking sight that no child should ever have to experience…

…An empty stocking.

Shock.  Disappointment.  Confusion.

What could I have possibly done to warrant this bewildering lack of reward?
Ever since I could remember,  I had been taught by the authority figures in my life (my parents, the television, and Santa) that if I was good, I would be rewarded.  With stuff.  It was very simple.  Behaviour, reward.  Behaviour, reward.
I was Pavlov’s dog and when they started ringing those Christmas bells, I started looking around wildly for my slab of meat.

And the bells were still ringing (louder and longer every year), but the goods had stopped coming!  Where was my stuff?  Where was my stuff?
It seemed I had unwittingly crossed some invisible threshold and “Santa” (who had just earned himself a nice pair of inverted commas) had made an executive decision to cross me off his list.  It seemed I had “grown up”.

In light of this shocking discovery, there was only one thing I could do.  And that was to reward myself with the gift I always deserve.

Coffee.

And so this is my Christmas message to you, boys and girls.

When you can’t trust that your stocking will be full on Christmas morning, there is one thing you can always count on.

Coffee.
Santa may abandon you, but coffee will always deliver.
It is the stimulus and the reward.

So this year, I won’t be listening out for sleigh bells in the snow.

This year, I’m dreaming of a flat white Christmas  (ho ho ho).

Merry Christmas from everyone at Peoples Coffee!  We hope your holidays are safe and well-caffeinated.   See you back here in January!


December 20th, 2011


Posted In: Coffee

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When it comes to plunger coffee, everyone knows best.  If you’ve ever been dive-tackled as you go to plunge the coffee, or had a spoon wrestled from your grip mid-stir, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  I’m a big fan of plunger coffee, but it has certainly tested more than a few relationships over the years.

Which is why I decide to spend an hour studying the secret art of plunger coffee with someone I’d never dare argue with – Peoples roaster and human encyclopedia of coffee, Rene.

He begins by introducing me to the holy trinity of plunger coffee: grind size, brew ratio and water temperature.  While every step of the process is important, varying these three factors will affect the taste of your coffee more than anything else.

So let’s start with grind size: Coffee should be ground much coarser for a plunger than for an espresso machine, to a gritty sand-like consistency.  And it goes without saying that you should grind your beans fresh each time.
“Coffee degrades when exposed to oxygen, so you should use it within about a minute of grinding.”

Water temperature is also key.  You shouldn’t use boiling water straight on ground coffee, as it produces bitter and sour flavours. To cool the water down, either let the kettle sit for three minutes after boiling, or pour it into another vessel before pouring it into your plunger.  (I know, waiting is not my strong point either.  But trust me, the coffee will thank you).
Once you’re ready to pour, half-fill the plunger and give it a good stir (but not for more than ten seconds, says Rene). “By stirring it you’re activating more infusion and encouraging that extraction of flavour.”
Let it sit for a moment, then pour the rest of your water in and leave it to brew for another three minutes before serving.

Now for the big one: brew ratio.
I’ve spent the last five years heaping coffee into a plunger like the world was about to end.  But this is one of those times where less is more.

To prove the point, Rene makes two plungers, one with 18g of coffee and one with 20g (to 300mL of water).  And although it’s only a matter of grams, the contrast between the two brews reaches up and slaps me in the face.  The 18g brew is much lighter and fruitier.  The 20g brew has a stronger coffee taste, and while delicious, it‘s definitely missing the more subtle flavours of the first cup.

“The golden rule is one part coffee to sixteen or seventeen parts water,” Rene tells me.  But how is the average person supposed to figure that out?  Simple.  You use scales and a calculator.
“It’s geeky, but if you want to have a perfect cup every day, you’ve got to use them,” says Rene.  “I’d like to arm all the people who are passionate about coffee with a set of scales.”
(You can pick up a set at the Constable St store).

Rene is an exceptional sort of coffee geek, so if you’re not quite there yet, then he recommends you at least weigh it once to see what it looks like in a measuring spoon.  Then measure the water into the plunger and see where the level rises to.  From then on, you should stick to those measures like your life depends on it.
“It’s important to do the same thing every time, unless you’re experimenting.  If you’re not aware of what you’re changing, you’ll never be able to replicate a good cup.”

So there you have it.  Plunger coffee 101.  Any arguments, see Rene.

(Or you could leave him a comment, below)


December 14th, 2011


Posted In: Brewing, Coffee

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Have you noticed that fair trade is popping up just about everywhere these days?  Coffee, bananas,  chocolate, sugar; we’re positively spoiled for choice!  Even the big gun multinationals are touting pretty ethical labels!
Does this mean our years of prodding everyone we know with fairly traded sticks has paid off?  Have multinationals finally traded profit for justice? Has big business finally found its conscience?

…can pigs fly?

This week I joined the Peoples crew to meet a man who’s been a pioneer in fair trade for over 35 years: Trade Aid NZ’s general manager, Geoff White.
He didn’t mince his words.
“Fair trade has been taken over by the certifiers.  As the big players have come in, we’ve let them take over and determine what it is.”

So while consumers should be applauded for increasingly opting for products with traceable and ethical supply chains, it has paradoxically created a valuable market that big business want their slice of.   And the enormous clout of multinational supermarkets and food corporations means that fair trade has seen a departure from value-led business, to ‘business as usual’.

Which explains why so many greenwashed companies have flooded the marketplace, and why every second product claims to be ‘certified this’ and ‘accredited that’.  It’s little wonder that customers no longer know what to believe, or who to trust.

This storm has been brewing in the fair trade world for some time.  In October this year, TransFair (the governing body for all fair trade certification in the USA) announced a unilateral split from the leading fair trade certifier FLO, stating its intention to extend fair trade to include plantations and factories (typically owned by wealthy land owners, and even multinational food corporations).  And fair trade cooperatives, which consist of small scale farmers with a moderate supply capacity, just can’t compete with these big-gun producers.
So what happens?   The small farmers lose out in a market that was designed and built specifically for their own empowerment, that’s what.

But don’t throw in the towel just yet!  While this may all seem quite dire, Geoff reminds us that “it’s crisis that breeds change.”   He believes that consumers are smart, and in tough economic times like these, are asking more questions about the values companies claim to uphold.
“There are challenging times ahead, but that’s where the relationship [with producers] becomes so important,” says Geoff.  “Fair trade is a trust-based system, based on relationships with people.  That’s what we’ve got to maintain.”

And Peoples can testify to the importance of these direct relationships.  Since their outset, they’ve travelled to more than eleven coffee lands with Trade Aid to meet the farmers themselves, and have seen firsthand the hope and change that their coffee trade is party to.

So what is the future of fair trade?  Well, Geoff is uncertain.  But one thing’s for sure:
“Producers need to determine where fair trade goes, because it’s for their benefit.”

Sounds fair to me.

 

 

So we’re curious, how do you decide what goes in your shopping basket?
Do you look out for the Fairtrade label, or choose a product because you trust the company?  How much do the values of a business affect your shopping choices?

Tell us what you think!  Leave a comment below.

This blog was a collaboration between Matt Lamason and Anna Costley.


December 7th, 2011


Posted In: Coffee, Fair trade

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V60

V60

I love a good flat white.  And I love that I don’t have to question my love for it.  I can walk into a cafe, order the same thing every time, and know I’ll be completely satisfied, every time.

But these days there are a few different coffees competing for my affections: siphon coffee, chemex, the V60…they’re all different forms of non-pressurised filter coffee that are making their mark on the Wellington coffee scene.
So perhaps it’s time to branch out from my flat white?  Play the coffee field, so to speak?

I decide to devote an afternoon to doing just that.

My first stop is Peoples Coffee Garrett St, home to the beloved V60.  I settle in as Kirk pours water in slow concentric circles into the drip filter, from what looks suspiciously like a genie bottle (with equally magical results).  It seems to me that with pour-over coffee, the process is half the fun (the other half is the drinking.  Mmm…).  It’s a method that brings out the subtleties of each bean, and is definitely one to savour slowly.

kieran and V60

Which is exactly what they’re doing up at my next stop, Vic Books; another hive of V60 excellence.
“Nobody who orders the V60 gets it to go,” Kieran tells me.  “It’s definitely something to sit down and drink.”
So is this style of coffee just for the connoisseurs of the coffee world?
“Not at all,” says Kieran.  “It’s great for people who want to learn more about coffee, not the ‘already-know-it-all’s.”

Deliciously caffeinated by this time, I head back down the hill to my final stop: Lamason Brew Bar.  On top of espresso, the good folk at Lamason crank out around 200 siphon coffees a week.  There’s nothing new about this style of coffee; siphons have been around since the 1830s, and Japan drinks more non-pressurised coffee than espresso.  But Lamason is New Zealand’s first siphon brew bar, and Wellingtonians are definitely taking advantage of a different way to enjoy coffee.

dave with siphon

Dave Lamason prepares a row of siphons for a table of first-time siphon drinkers.
“As it starts to cool down more of the profile will come out,” he tells them.  “When you get to your second cup it will be even smoother and softer.”

Halfway through my third cup, I can certainly vouch for that fact.  The clean, fruity qualities of the V60 and siphon coffee mean that I just can’t get enough of it.  It’s a completely different coffee experience.

Which is good news for a coffee lover, but also presents a challenge.
It means that from now on, I’ll actually have to think before I order, and let’s face it, thinking before coffee has never been my strong point…

 

Go try some non-pressurised goodness yourself!  And tell us what you thought, here:


November 30th, 2011


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Bags of Don

Bags of Don

A topic I’ve spent much time discussing with people over the years is roasted bean maturation, or ‘aging’, as there seems to be confusion or misinformation around in New Zealand cafes. I’m writing specifically about our primary Espresso Blend, but much of this applies to coffee used in espresso in general.

In the last ten years or so there’s been a widespread shift in cafes towards using very fresh coffee. The alternative is coffee that’s been roasted overseas, often in Italy, is freeze-dried or vacuum-packed, and is probably months old by the time it’s used in a cafe here. It comes in both whole bean and ground forms, the latter being the worst-case scenario for coffee-drinkers. An espresso disaster of sorts.

This shift towards freshly-roasted coffee has happened in combination with a shift towards locally-roasted coffee. It’s now the norm for a cafe serving high-quality espresso to have beans provided by a roastery in the same city, or quickly couriered from another. Which is great, both for flavour and food-locality.

A probable downside to this zealous fresh-mindedness is beans being used before they’ve matured; that is they are being used on or close to the roast day. This leads to espresso-based drinks tasting less balanced than they should.

Coffee beans go through dramatic chemical change in the roaster. New chemicals are created during the roast’s development, others break down. Much (around nine atmospheres of pressure) carbon dioxide and others gasses start to be released, and this continues after the beans are ejected from the belly of the mechanical beast. This is one of the reasons very fresh espresso has massive levels of crema – the grinds are still giving out a lot of gas.

Fresh espresso

More importantly than its very bubbly and ‘weak’ crema structure (which makes drink preparation harder to manage for the coffee-maker), super-fresh espresso tastes different. For our primary blend, Don Wilfredo, common descriptors tossed around include “grassy”, “tangy”, “unbalanced”, and “being smacked in the face with a lemon”. I find these are perceivable through the strong taste of espresso when you’re looking for them.

These less-than-ideal flavours are highlighted by our expectation of rich, smooth chocolate and malt flavours from a Don’ extraction. The chemicals responsible for flavour within the beans haven’t ‘settled down’ enough after roasting. In some ways this is similar to why a curry can taste a bit average straight after cooking, but much better the next day.

Just after roasting many of our favourite flavours have not fully developed, though towards five days they become prominent. In normal conditions where the beans are stored in a paper bag, out of sunlight and heat, it’s around this mark where we get our best espresso. This ideal zone lasts until around twelve days after roasting, under these conditions. Four to ten days after roasting is the Safe Zone, and the window of use we recommend to everyone making espresso with the Don’.

Keeping an eye on flavour and extraction performance is a must. Too fresh and the coffee tastes non-ideal; too old and it will lose its zing, tasting much earthier. Extractions from too-old beans will run very dark and thin, and have very low levels of crema – a good visual indication of what’s going on chemically in the beans.


November 14th, 2011


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Wellington Cafe Zeitgeist

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

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

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

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


October 17th, 2011


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Peoples Coffee is proud to relaunch our Garrett St store with a fresh new look and a refined focus. “We want it to be more of a sampling space, as well as a place to get your espresso” says our own Matt Lamason.

With a specialised focus on 100% fair trade single origins, the revamped store allows coffee lovers to experience the unique qualities of beans grown by co-operatives across the coffee world. We want to connect the co-ops with the coffee and with the consumer. Garrett St provides a space to showcase our single origins, so you can taste all of them in one place, and then take them home with you.

The single origins are best sampled in the “V60”. This non-pressurised drip filter draws out the sweetness of the bean, resulting in an exceptionally clean and full-bodied brew that showcases the individual flavour notes and subtleties of each origin. “The difference between a V60 and an espresso coffee is like the contrast between a strong cup of black tea and a herbal,” says our Garrett Street store manager Morgan West. “It’s a completely different coffee experience.”

This simple and focused approach to coffee is reflected in the elegant new surrounds. With its whitewashed walls and exposed copper piping, the store verges on an industrial art space. Everything has been stripped back to its purest form, and the only thing to distract you from the coffee is the tempting new array of pastries that line the shelves.

But you’ll still find the same friendly baristas, who greet you by name and crank out the same exceptional coffee. Former manager Esther is replaced by her partner Morgan, as they count the days to the birth of their first child.

The full range of Peoples single origin beans and espresso blends are now available for purchase by the 100 gram, so you can take a selection of your favourites home with you.

Peoples Coffee Garrett St is located next to Global Fabrics. Opening hours are 7:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri, and 9am-4pm Sat.


September 15th, 2011


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René standing by our 22 KG Probat Roaster

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

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

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

we hit one tonne of coffee a week!!

(queue high five)

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

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

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

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

Bottoms up – bring on the next Tonnage.


September 14th, 2011


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I have never been one to care much for Twitter and its cloud cousins. That was until by making one small comment to Wellington’s newest craft brewers I managed to connect with the two gifted gentlemen behind the Garage Project.

Pete and Jos were interested in small coffee roasting company with a similar story to theirs, and I had the good pleasure of hosting them and a few of their first brews at our roastery one fortunate Friday afternoon. After sampling beer A and B I was suitably willing to work with whatever crazy ideas they wished to put forward. The first 750mls of a sparkling lager saw us happily sharing brand stories and business plans; half way through the light porter we had hatched a cunning plan to brew a beer with green coffee!

For someone who works around coffee 24/7 it is always a welcome aside to find passionate food folk outside coffee, and craft brewers seem to be right up there for me (is beer a food?). It never ceases to amaze me how much brewers know about their trade – and Pete, who has 11+ years in craft brewing, is a shining example of making simple the profundities of brewing chemistry. We hope to collaborate much more in the future, even if keeping the beer and coffee separate turns out to be a better plan!

Watch out for their 24/24 releases at Hashigo Zake – 24 beers brewed in 24 weeks!


August 18th, 2011


Posted In: Beer, Coffee, Collaboration

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