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Coffee Kids, the charity set up to support coffee farmers and their families, and which is supported by many in the British coffee trade, is to cease operations at the end of this year. In a rather curiously-phrased message, the charity’s directors have said that they have decided to ‘cease programming’, but will look for another charitable organisation with which to merge, and which might carry on their work.
Coffee Kids was founded in 1988 by Bill Fishbein, who told Coffee House magazine that as a coffee-house owner in the far north-east of the United States, he had become relatively well-off from coffee without ever giving a thought to the situation of the farmers – then he made a visit to Guatemala, was horrified by what he saw, and set up what was effectively a self-help organisation. In practical terms, he helped create ways in which farmers and their families could improve their incomes – “it doesn’t matter if we’re helping them make and sell tortillas,” he once told us, “so long as we are supporting them in making a living.”
In formal terms, Coffee Kids existed “to assist self-determination, and cultivate the power of coffee-producing communities to determine the terms of their future. We envision a world in which coffee farmers thrive, a world in which coffee-farming communities are self-sustaining, and families have a life of dignity, and a global coffee community in which everyone has an equal seat at the table.”
In this, the organisation has referred to supporting 150 different farming communities, and perhaps 25,000 members of coffee-farming families.
When we asked him to clarify this morning’s statement, Coffee Kids’ president Mike Ebert told us:
“The explanation is very complex, yet simple all the same. For 26 years, Coffee Kids has partnered with coffee-growing communities in order to improve the lives and livelihoods of coffee farmers. We have been dedicated to supporting communities as they build their own vision of a healthy, resilient community.
“Due to the changing landscape within the coffee industry, as well as within the development world, over the past several years, Coffee Kids has experienced challenges in raising funds sufficient to support its mission. These challenges have come to make it impossible to continue working as we did previously.
“In addition to lacking sufficient funds to continue to support our partners, we also realized that we did not have a sustainable business model that balanced disbursements of grants with our administrative and operational costs in doing so.
“As individuals, the board of directors and staff are completely committed to the mission of Coffee Kids, and are thus hopeful that another organisation will take on our work. We believe that supporting coffee communities as they solve their own most pressing social problems is the best way to build a more resilient coffee supply chain. Coffee Kids will cease programming effective December 31, 2014, and we will then search for an appropriate organization with which to merge. Understanding the time-sensitive nature of the situation, the deadline for this merger will be the end of the first quarter of 2015.
“Any donations received after December 4th, can be refunded; anything prior to that went to fund projects for 2014. If donors want us to keep their donation, please know that it will go to support final payments for 2014 activities, our pursuit of a merger and costs related to transitioning the organisation. If supporters are interested in supporting another small NGO dedicated to working directly with coffee growing communities to make them stronger and more resilient, we can recommend the following organisations with which we have close relations: GFH, Pueblo a Pueblo, Coffee Trust, Food4 Farmers.
“I hope this helps explain a very complex and confusing issue.”
The European Commission is to investigate whether a proposed massive company to be formed by the coming-together of the coffee companies Douwe Egberts and Mondelez is within the permitted merger regulations. Between them, the two companies own a number of famous brands - Douwe Egberts, Senseo, Carte Noir and Tassimo are the biggest.
The Commission has reported “concerns that the proposed transaction may reduce competition for various coffee formats and for single-serve systems in multiple member states”. The resulting company, which would be called Jacobs Douwe Egberts, would bring together two of Europe’s top four single-serve systems, Senseo and Tassimo.
The Commission has until 6th May to reach a decision.
One of the acknowledged pioneers of espresso machine technology, Bruno Dalla Corte, has died. He was 85.
The Dalla Corte machines came to major prominence in the UK around ten years ago, when the company which was then distributing them made great promotional play of the ability of the Dalla Corte machine to offer precise and independent temperature and pressure control at individual group heads… other machine makers very quickly went on to argue that they had similar systems, and those manufacturers who did not followed very quickly, but it was certainly Dalla Corte which brought to prominence an issue which has been significant in espresso machines ever since.
Bruno Dalla Corte was part of several notable innovations in espresso, and part of several famous brands. He worked with La Cimbali, Faema, and La Spaziale before founding his own company in 2001.
There has been a quite remarkable argument following the opening of the UK’s first ‘cereal café’ which we recently previewed.
The theme of Cereal Killers in Brick Lane, one of the hubs of the recently-cool coffee house world, is that it offers an all-day cereal menu, drawing on famous cereals from the past and occasionally rare ones from across the world. The opening of the café last week drew crowds of both media reporters and east-end hipsters (we witnessed it!) and drew a quite astonishing argument between one of the café’s owners and a reporter from Channel 4.
Gary Keery, one of the brothers who created the café, found himself on the end of some provocative questioning by the TV reporter, who accused him of selling overpriced cereals at £3.20 a bowl in what is considered to be one of London’s most deprived areas, although it is fashionable in the coffee, food, and antiques sectors. The café owner cut short the television interview when asked how he could ‘justify’ such prices.
He has now responded in an open letter, complaining of “unfair” questioning by the media. He has complained that the television reporter pushed him into answering aggressive questions while he was trying to serve a queue of customers, and accused him of being insensitive to poverty in a deprived area – by contrast, Gary Keery responded, he has already become involved with a local charity in a project to offer cereal breakfasts for underprivileged children in the area, which he will begin in January.
He added, notably, that if he were charging fashionably high prices for his coffee, no reporter would have questioned it!
One of the most notable cake suppliers to the coffee-house trade has been acquired by a French company – the Handmade Cake Company of Maidenhead, whose title alone gives independent café owners a very attractive, and perfectly accurate, opportunity to promote their cakes as ‘artisan-made’, has been bought by the French group Européenne des Desserts.
The Handmade company has grown to a turnover of £12 million, and is regularly seen at significant trade shows such as Caffe Culture; the new owners have four production units in France and one, Speciality Desserts, in the UK. It proposes to continue Handmade’s interest in gluten-free bakery and, director Simon Law told us, now allows the British company to offer quality cheesecakes and similar products to the coffee-house sector.
It is a week of stories from the big brands… and the biggest story comes from the biggest brand, with Starbucks unveiling its giant café-roastery in Seattle. The American press have described the project as ‘retail theatre’, while chief executive Howard Schultz has described it as the Willy Wonka factory of coffee… a description which confirms that a ‘visitor experience’ venue for coffee had to happen sooner or later.
There are already several examples of this on a small scale in the UK, but as might be expected, Starbucks has done it on a grand scale. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is a 15,000 square foot space which serves as roastery, coffee house, restaurant, and retail coffee store. The name comes from Starbucks’ range of premium coffees, and the idea, as has been tried by other roasters on a much smaller scale, is that customers can watch beans being roasted, talk to the roasters and baristas about their skills, learn about coffee drinks brewed in a variety of ways, read books in a ‘coffee library’, buy coffee and equipment to take away, and eat from a menu of locally-prepared foods.
Adding to the ‘theatre’ of the venue, coffee is transported to and from the roasting equipment through see-through tubes which appear through the floor and over customers’ heads – again, this is not an entirely new idea, but is done on a bigger scale than has been seen before.
There are, as you would expect from Starbucks, several aspects which are entertaining, and some which appear a little over-the-top in their corporate descriptions, as is the Starbucks way… typically, the staffing is to be ‘by a rotating cast of Starbucks barista superstars from around the world’. They will man the Coffee Experience Bar, which features the kind of brewing choice that is seen in coffee-house brew-bars, but again on a bigger scale.
More charming, however, is the notice-board which shows what coffee is currently being roasted on site - the name and origin appear on an old-fashioned ‘flap’ display, the kind you used to see in railway stations. Starbucks’ designer says she chose it because “it felt more authentic than a digital screen, and makes a nice sound when the letters change.”
It has been suggested that there will be smaller ‘Reserve’ stores opening up in America during 2015, and one in 2016 somewhere in Asia, but nothing has yet been said about one in Europe.
American financial columnists have observed that the flagship store illustrates a curiosity of the current American economy – things are either going wildly up in price or sharply down. The Reserve stores sell their drinks at between £2 and £4, or roughly 40 per cent higher than in Starbucks’ conventional cafes. “There is little price sensitivity for the upscale consumer these days,” remarked one American financial columnist.
Oddly, the Starbucks logo does not appear on the signage outside the building. Instead of the green mermaid, there is a white star and a big letter ‘R’ on a blue background.
Chief executive Howard Schultz has said that the idea for his ’magic interactive theatre’ of coffee goes back over ten years. He has a scrapbook of notes and pictures from various retail and museum sites which have attracted him over the years, including the retail sites operated by Apple and Nike. It was when a used car dealership building came up for sale, quite close to the original Starbucks shop in Seattle, that he decided to put the plan into operation.
Meanwhile, in its day-to-day coffee business, Starbucks intends to double its income from food, and has already tested its Starbucks Evenings programme, which features beer, wine and tapas.
The brand has also said that it expects to do better in the UK, where it has reported eight consecutive quarters of growth following the tax scandals of 2012. The British managing director has said that he has paid off the ‘goodwill’ amount promised to the taxman after Starbucks was widely criticised for paying virtually no corporation tax over an extremely long period, and has responded to criticism of Starbucks’ financial affairs between the UK and Holland by saying that the EU is at fault for not coming up with clearer pan-European rules and policies,
Lavazza, the Italian brand whose fame has rested on its espresso coffee, but which made a notable move into filter coffee last year with hundreds of Wetherspoon pubs, has now made the surprise introduction of yet another new coffee – it has launched its first instant coffee.
Lavazza is reportedly the seventh-largest coffee roaster in the world, with a history going back well over a hundred years, but has never before marketed an instant product.
The new Prontissimo is based on the continuing situation in which the British public drinks far more instant coffee than roast-and-ground coffee. Although various market research reports have suggested that the slow move from instant coffee to ground coffee is continuing, the soluble product still accounts for something over 80 per cent of our national intake, at a value of over six hundred million pounds.
Within that large percentage, the ‘premium instant’ sector is by far the best performer, and that is the sector that Lavazza is attacking.
Lavazza has said, understandably, that “we cannot ignore the UK’s love affair with instant coffee and the opportunity that comes with it being the fastest growing sector, currently dominated by two brands. There’s a real opportunity for a high-quality Lavazza product which maintains our premium, authentic Italian positioning and gives us the opportunity to appeal to a whole new segment of coffee drinkers.”
The brand suggests that newcomers to the coffee sector initially start drinking instant coffee before upgrading to ground filter coffee, then moving on to espresso-based styles.
Lavazza claims that Prontissimo is ‘the highest quality instant coffee on the market’. It follows the recent trend in instant coffees for a ‘microground’ element of coffee in the blend.
Harris and Hoole, the coffee shop chain in which Tesco has a stake, has reported an operating loss of £11.2m in the 52 weeks to February 2014, on sales of £6,648,270.
This remarkable figure was the result of the company opening 18 shops in that period; it closed one, has since said that it will close a further six, and has commented that: “the operating loss reflects the early lifecycle stage of a number of the shops and also the early development costs of the business.”
Since then the company has expanded to more than 40 shops, the majority of which are in Tesco stores.
One success reported by the chain is that of its ordering and payments app. This has now been downloaded more than 22,000 times, and has been used by customers over 200,000 times since its launch in June 2014.
The latest of Britain’s coffee festivals has been counted a success, and will be repeated next year.
The Scottish festival in Glasgow attracted 800 visitors in one day on Saturday November 29th, at a ticket price of £8, from which one pound was donated to the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.
“It actually went better than we could have imagined,” we were told by organiser Chris Brown, who is the hospice’s campaigns officer. “The response has been fantastic - I’ve been quite overwhelmed by some of the e-mails and phone calls we’ve received congratulating us on the event. We had over 800 people attending in a space which holds a maximum of 180 – so it was constantly filled throughout the day, but at no point was it uncomfortably busy, or a cattle market.
“We’ve had many people from the coffee trade getting in touch asking if we’ll be doing it all again next year, and we’re looking into holding it in Edinburgh.”
RW Stokes of Lincoln has been named as the ‘preferred bidder’ for the building which the company wants to be the site of its proposed new roastery – an extremely prestigious building which was created to be, in the language of the day, a ‘lunatic asylum’.
The Lawn in Lincoln is an early 19th century Greek-revival collection of buildings and gardens next to Lincoln Castle. Its recent history has been fraught, with the local council having failed to sell it two years ago, and reportedly being unable to afford to invest in it. This year, the Lawn was put on the market again with a guide price of one million pounds, and despite a petition being set up calling on the council to retain the property and turn into a tourist venue, Stokes has received approval for its interest
Stokes, which also runs the city’s High Bridge café, now wants to relocate the coffee-roasting and tea processing sides of its business to The Lawn, putting in place a barista training suite, a coffee museum, a restaurant and cafe, and an artistic hub.
Nick Peel, managing director of Stokes, has said that he wants to create a roastery and tea-blending site which will also be a visitor attraction and point of interest for the public.
The Boston Tea Party chain of coffee houses has made the latest move in the growing trend of using spent coffee grounds as compost for a commercial mushroom business.
The south-western café chain is working with a social enterprise project based at Dartmoor prison. This is Green Shoots, in which inmates are being trained to create a business based on an in-house mushroom farm. The café chain now has 15 shops, and serves around 12,000 coffees a week. The grounds are collected every evening and delivered to Dartmoor, where they are mixed with mushroom spore and stored away. In about six weeks, this produces a crop of oyster mushrooms.
The mushrooms are of good enough quality to have been sold back to Boston Tea Party, and have already appeared on the menu at one café. The chain has now come up with the additional project of retailing Green Shoots grow-boxes at £13.95 – the boxes should produce two or three harvests, the first possibly in time for Christmas.
This is the second such coffee-related project to be tried in the west country - GroCycle of Exeter said recently that they expected their business model of a mushroom farm, making use of coffee grounds, would appear elsewhere. And the Espresso Mushroom Company of Brighton collects around 200 kilos of used grounds a week from ten coffee houses across the town and sells a mushroom-growing kit – six kilos of used coffee grounds with a handful of grain containing mushroom root have to be placed in dark rooms, have to be watered twice a day, and in a couple of weeks the mushrooms will be grown and ready to yield around 150gm of mushrooms.
For such things to be retailed in coffee-shops, the company has pointed out, would complete a circle… as has now been proved by the Boston Tea Party chain.
What is ‘the sound of coffee’? In a rather odd project, Taylors of Harrogate has said that it is going to use ‘state of the art brainwave technology’ to explore the effect of coffee on the senses.
The coffee brand is working with an ‘audio visual and art specialist’ group called The Frozen Music Collective, which is a multi-media project exploring the symbiosis of the human brain and technology (it receives support from the Arts Council). The idea is to combines music and neuroscience technology to ‘look inside the mind’, exploring what effect the sight, sound, smell, taste and touch of coffee can have on the senses. The coffee-drinkers being tested will be analysed on their experience of drinking coffee, from the smell in the cafetiere onwards.
A headset worn during the experience is designed to pick up electronic signals through Electroencephalography technology, which records electrical activity along the scalp. Once the headset is in place, the wearer is asked to plunge the cafetiere then smell and taste the coffee as their brain waves are displayed live on a screen in front of them.
Visual representations of their reactions, both conscious and subconscious can be played out as a real-time soundtrack by live musicians. The Frozen Music Collective say that “the brain technology can give us insights into lots of experiences, and the musicians are able to turn these visuals into reality through a live music performance.”
Taylors of Harrogate has commented, perhaps quite reasonably, that they wanted a way to demonstrate that their coffee is ‘mind-blowing’.
There has been an extremely active response to the ‘coffee bond’ created by Taylor Street Baristas. As we reported a month ago, the London café chain, which was set up by the family which went on to open Harris and Hoole with Tesco, has created a 'bond' programme through the Crowdcube site in an attempt to raise £1.5 million for expansion, including four new shops next year and six the year after.
On its first day, the coffee bond raised £179,500, and after three weeks had received pledges worth half a million pounds from over 220 investors. This was the minimum threshold which allows the bond project to continue, with over a month still left in which further supporters can sign up.
The bond issue, the first such project in the coffee industry, offered bondholders to choice of having their dividend paid in either cash, at a rate of 8 per cent per annum, or in the form of store credit at a rate of 12 per cent per annum. Ninety per cent of the early investors opted for the cash dividend.
“The cash coupon has been the favourite option,” confirmed Richard Shaer, CEO of Taylor Street Baristas. “I think this reflects the very competitive interest rate, which is significantly higher than anything offered by the high street banks.”
According to Mr Shaer, those rates benefit both his company and the investors. For investors, the rate is vastly higher than average high street bank returns, and double that of larger corporate bonds. At the same time, his company is raising money in a far more cost-effective way than borrowing from its own bank.
“The Coffee Bond is an intuitive way of cutting out the banks entirely and giving something back to our customers, while also reducing our total financing costs. Our customers win by earning a substantially higher rate on their deposits, and we win by reducing the cost of growing our business,” Mr Shaer said.
Questions have been raised about the relative riskiness of the debt, compared to a high street lender or a large corporate bond. “Taylor St is no new kid on the block,” replied Mr Shaer. “We’re not a start-up with all the associated risks of that. We’re a business that has been around for over eight years and is one of the strongest premium coffee brands in the UK, with annual revenues exceeding £3.5m.
“This is a significant milestone – it has incredibly humbling to see so many people, investors and customers alike, coming together to help make Taylor St one of the world’s leading speciality coffee houses.”
It has been reported that the company's most recent accounts show turnover of £3,337,000 from nine shops, with an overall loss of £276,000. However, like-for-like sales are reported to have risen by 14 per cent in the past six months, and the chain is looking to 30 sites by 2020, producing a turnover of £19 million.
The main Thai coffee now has a new distributor - Ben Roberts of Beanpress in Poole is now seeking distributors for the first branded roast coffee under the Doi Chaang label.
Previously, he tells us, Doi Chaang has been imported as a green bean and used by micro-roasters selling under their own label.
“I used to do that myself until I met one of the family who began the business and realised that they have the ambition to establish Doi Chaang as a branded coffee in its own right here.”
Doi Chaang has a rather complex business model – there is a company based in Canada which handles the marketing, and buys from the Thai farmers at a ‘more than Fairtrade’ price. The Thais also own a share of that Canadian company, so they also get a portion of the profit when the coffee is sold on.
There will be a market in the UK, says Ben Roberts. “Asian coffee on the whole has a bad reputation – Thailand produces both high-grade and low-grade coffee, and in the past a lot of it has just got mixed together as low-grade. But the Canadian operation did a lot to change this, and Doi Chaang has become very sophisticated in the processing of their coffee.
“The branding has been already created for the Canadian and American markets, and although they’ve recently re-branded more colourfully for the younger audience, we’re sticking with the original branding, which is mono with flashes of gold, and shows the heritage.
“My focus is now on a medium-roast espresso, and there are two things which will draw interest – one is the coffee, and the other is the widespread British interest in Thailand. There are hundreds of Thai restaurants in this country, and the UK sends a million tourists to Thailand a year, so there is already a lot about the culture which captures the imagination.”
Doi Chaang also offers a kopi luwak coffee – but, aware of the scandals surrounding factory-farming, has undertaken an independent audit to verify that their beans are collected from truly wild civet cats.
The EU legislation on allergens comes into effect in three weeks, and there has been no shortage of consultancies popping up to offer café operators guidance on how they must operate from now on.
There will be big changes to the information that all food businesses must give to their customers, and in very simple form, the situation is this – the EU has ruled that 14 ‘allergenic ingredients’ must now be identified if they are used as part of a dish. This covers all catering businesses, who need to provide information about the used in foods sold or provided by them.
Details of these allergens will have to be listed clearly in an obvious place – most clearly, on a menu. If that is not possible, then there has to be a reference as to where the information can be found – that can be oral, in that a knowledgeable member of staff can deliver the information verbally, but if they do, there has to be a way for what they say to be verified by the customer.
One of the most critical aspects of this is that a caterer can no longer say: ‘I don’t know’. Nor can a caterer say that foods ‘might’ contain an allergenic ingredient – the statement ‘may contain nuts’ is no longer sufficient.
The 14 main food allergens covered by the legislation are: gluten-containing cereals, crustaceans, molluscs, soya, eggs, milk, fish, celery, peanuts, mustard, lupin, sesame, tree nuts and sulphur dioxide. (The matter of nuts is complex in itself – peanuts are apparently part of the bean family, which is only one of the difficulties presented by what most of us collectively call ‘nuts’.)
One of the big marketing buzzwords of recent years has been the growth of gluten-free foods, and this in itself is a minefield of complications - the legislators are aware that even many caterers who say they offer gluten-free items are unlikely to be aware of the complexities of what they must now do and say. Cross-contamination in particular is expected to still be a problem.
Difficult as the rules may be, the new rules will be policed by trading standards departments, and non-compliance could, in some circumstances, result in prosecutions. The law allows for a fine ‘of any amount’.
Among the resources now available is new interactive e-learning course, entitled Allergen Awareness, from CPL Online. This consultant promises that their course is ‘not only comprehensive and compliant, but delivered using imaginative animation and technology that is engaging for the e-learner’.
Upon completion of the course, learners will know the 14 allergens (and products of them) that must be labelled, will know important definitions in relation to where food is sold and how it is packaged, be able to define food allergy and allergic reactions in the body, know symptoms of allergic reactions, know the difference between allergy and intolerance, and understand the key rules and responsibilities of the caterer.
More information is here: http://www.cple-learning.co.uk/courses/369/allergen-awareness
Another support being offered is the Food Labeller app, which is free to use, designed to help streamline communication between kitchen and front of house, and also give a guide to profitability. The caterer can input the recipes they use, and the app provides an information sheet and label for each product, detailing the allergens, nutrition and price of each portion sold.
Food Labeller contains appropriate details of over 1,000 pre-listed ingredients, with more added regularly. Details: www.thefoodlabeller.com.
Despite the complexity of the legislation, it has been said that many consumers with allergies think the new regulations do not go far enough, and that as a result, many people with severe allergies will still not risk eating out, or will rely only on caterers they already know.
Amid all the new enthusiasm for brewers and pub groups to get involved in the coffee sector, one of the most established has just opened its eighth cafe of the year. Brains, the Welsh brewer, has opened a new Coffee#1 store in Henleaze, Bristol. Brains acquired the coffee shop chain in 2011, and the new opening takes the number of Coffee#1 outlets to 46. Scott Waddington, chief executive at Brains, has said that he expects to reach fifty by the end of the year, and eventually a hundred across Wales, the South West of England and the South Coast.
The world’s global chocolate supplies are running out – astonishing though it sounds, there could be a global deficit within the next six years. Both the giant Mars corporation and Barry Callebaut, the Swiss company which is the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer, are reported to have said that demand is now greater than supply availability.
We are, according to one American reporter, in the middle of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. Last year, global consumption of cocoa outpaced production by approximately 70,000 metric tons - by 2020, according to those two big chocolate corporations, the difference could be one million metric tons.
The reason is dry weather in West Africa, where more than 70 percent of the world's cocoa is produced, and a disease known as frosty pod, which has attacked perhaps 40 percent of global cocoa production. Because of all this, many farmers have shifted to more profitable crops – a rather similar situation to what has happened with coffee in some places
At the same time, demand for chocolate is growing, and so is demand for dark chocolate, which uses
more cocoa by volume than traditional chocolate bars, sometimes seven times as much.
Put together, this gives the reason why cocoa prices have gone up 60 percent since 2012, the point at which demand began to outstrip availability.
Among the attempts to counter the situation are, predictably, proposed new breeds of plant which can give greater yields. The Ivory Coast is planting new hybrid plants called Mercedes, which produce more cocoa than average, and a new strain called CCN-51 is reported to be both resistant to the frosty pod fungus and give a far higher yield than conventional plants.
However, the taste of the new breed of cocoa plants is said to be considerably milder than the world is used to
The Beverage Standards Association has made its annual awards – these are always in two sections, one consisting of ‘best drink’ prizes, and the other section covering its ‘one-cup to five-cup’ rating assessments, which winning cafes are allowed to display on their windows and doors. The meaning of the sign is ‘hot drinks are brewed here to the accepted best methods of the beverage industry’.
In the ‘best drinks’ section of the awards, the best espresso result was a tie, judged to be made equally perfectly by Timberyard of London and by Cotswold Artisan Coffee of Cirencester – the latter is the café run by Barry and Mandy Cook, who used to have Cafelicious in Swindon, and in their new business they have now also picked up the BSA’s ‘best newcomers’ award. The ‘best cappuccino’ was won by Pumphreys of Newcastle, the ‘best latte’ by Rhode Island of Stockport, and the best flat white also appears to have been a tie, between Kaffeine of London and Taylor St Baristas of Brighton. Taylor Street’s Monument branch in London picked up the ‘best filter coffee’ award.
The prize for the best hot chocolate went to Googie’s Art Café of Folkestone, and the prize for the best tea went to Bean & Bud of Harrogate, who also took the BSA’s ‘raising standards’ award. The ‘best overall experience’ award went to the Habitat Café of Aberfeldy.
The cafes who have qualified to put a ‘5 cup’ decal in their window, the BSA’s top award, are Bean & Bud, Cotswold Artisan Coffee, Habitat Cafe, Timberyard’s Seven Dials branch, Pumphreys, Taylor St Baristas’ Brighton site, and the Apple Tree, Barton-under-Needwood.
This year’s four-cup awards have gone to Taylor St Baristas’ Monument branch in London, Bean Loved of Skipton, Googies Art Café, Kaffeine, Rhode Island Coffee branches at Oldham, Stockport and Warrington, Café at 36 of Exeter, Grindsmiths of Manchester, Mocha Mocha of Bristol, Pumphreys’ showroom in Blaydon, Timberyard’s branch in Old Street, London and, notably, the Crown Spa Hotel in Scarborough, which is probably the only venue in the list which does not have coffee as its core business.
Surprisingly, the matter of Cuban coffee has cropped up again in the British trade for the second time in a few weeks. Following the development into coffee capsules by Phillip Oppenheim, the former government minister who has been instrumental in reviving the Cuban coffee-growing industry, a Manchester restaurant has opened featuring a ‘unique’ Cuban coffee blend. The restaurant is Revolucion de Cuba, and its signature coffee is Café Cubano. This is a Cuban drink which involves pouring the espresso over Demerara sugar… in some instances, the coffee is brewed directly with the espresso, a practice which some operators do not recommend for fear of blocking up the espresso machine! (Oppenheim, at Alma de Cuba, says that allowing a strong Cuban espresso to drip onto the sugar is it comes out of the filter produces a sweeter and different taste to adding sugar to the cup in the conventional way). The Manchester venue proposes to serve Cuban coffee as a ritual, on individual trays with a Columbian chocolate brownie and an accompanying domino set, the national Cuban pastime.
One of the most regular design stories to crop up in the coffee world is the matter of the ‘better lid’ for takeaway cups. The latest comes from an American company which has raised well over a million dollars from backers to fund production of the latest new kind of takeaway lid.
The company is Vaporpath, which makes the Viora Lid, an extremely unusual lid which differs from all the designs attempted so far. The inventor, Doug Fleming, says that he has moved away from the conventional practice of a sip-through hold, which requires the drinker to ‘pull’ the liquid out, in favour of a kind of recessed well in the top of the lid. The theory is that this mimics the act of sipping coffee or tea out of a ceramic cup, by bringing a drinkable amount of liquid into the well on top of the lid. It is argued that this avoids splashing (though we don’t yet know how) and gives the user a more intense aroma.
The inventor reports that prominent coffee shops from California to New York are already using the Viora lid.
There has been a remarkable response in the Far East to Tamper Tantrum, the coffee-themed sessions of talks and debates devised by Steve Leighton of the Has Bean roastery in Stafford.
The event was launched for or five years ago as a series of online video conversations between Steve Leighton and barista Colin Harmon of Dublin, and only comparatively recently was experimentally tested as a ‘live’ event. In recent days it has been taken ‘on tour’ to Busan, Shanghai, and Taiwan, with a quite astonishing result. “There has been a huge response, and some stunning talks,” Steve Leighton told us. “From £200 to £400 a ticket, every show apart from Taiwan sold out in hours -Taiwan had a 300-place venue, and sold 200 tickets. I’m very proud of the beast that Tamper Tantrum had become.”
The next ‘origin’ in the coffee world may be… California.
A reporter for Los Angeles magazine has written this weekend, with some surprise, of having found coffee trees on sale in a local farmers’ market, and having then discovered that a southern California ranch already has a plantation of 550 coffee plants, and a big existing market for beans in the far East.
The grower is Jim Shanley, who has been making something of a habit of cultivating crops which were previously not thought to be possible even in that most famous of all fruit-growing areas. He has created businesses in growing limes, ‘gator eggs’ (a kind of avocado), kiwi fruit, and now says that so far as he can establish, he is the world’s most northerly grower of coffee.
The idea of growing coffee came from a conversation with a university professor who told him that farmers in Panama were having to move their farms to higher altitudes in order to achieve better quality – Jim Shanley realised that the countries in which premium coffee grows best had climate conditions very similar to those on his own ranch.
So far, his main market is in Asia, where Shanley’s coffee sells at $60 per pound to buyers in Japan, China, and South Korea.
The rise in subscription coffee continues, with the founder of Pact Coffee, Stephen Rapoport, winning the title of Investec Food & Drink Entrepreneur of the Year.
The title was the overall top award in a contest which involved ten separate business sections. Rapoport also won the title of Best Drink Entrepreneur, and was runner-up in both the Best Online Entrepreneur category and the Best Newcomer section.
The Investec awards were created by the Food Awards Company in partnership with the Business is Great Britain campaign. Pact is a coffee subscription service which aims to help coffee enthusiasts find coffees matched to their tastes, through an online questionnaire. Stephen Rapoport founded the business after being told by his wife to launch a business he would really enjoy operating – they began in a kitchen, sealing coffee bags with hair straighteners. Two years later, the business has 35 employees.
The Investec judges praised Rapoport for “genuinely differentiating in a crowded marketplace and having the courage to try something that hasn't been done before”.
Hot beverages did well in the Investec awards – Assad Khan of Bubbleology won the Best Retail Entrepreneur title and was runner-up to Rapoport in the Best Drink Entrepreneur section. Meanwhile, two coffee businessmen named as ‘ones to watch’ were Peter Grainger of CafePod, maker of Nespresso-compatible capsules, and Gabriel Shohet of Black Sheep Coffee, the brand which has campaigned for good robusta to be recognised as a premium coffee.
The online domain name coffee.club has been sold for $100,000 (£62,600).
According to those who watch business in desirable web domain names, this shows that there are still big profits to be made in good site names – while some everyday dot-club domain names can be bought for fifteen dollars, it is reported that a list of 6,500 highly-desirable dot-club domains have been reserved for sale at higher-than-normal prices. The coffee.club sale is considered to be an extremely rare windfall for the domain's registry operator, and very unusually, it will be paid for through an instalment plan.
Starbucks and Costa Coffee are currently the most popular food and drink brands on Facebook, according to the e-DigitalResearch company.
Starbucks, says the researcher, has 1.3m British Facebook followers, and Costa is close behind with 1.2m. They are the only British food and drink brands to have more than a million followers.
“Facebook is a tough platform for brands to succeed on,” note the researchers, giving examples of the two brands’ recent posts. For Starbucks, the researchers looked at a post showing the company’s annual habit of getting excited about the arrival of its red Christmas cups – this post received a quite astonishing 47,967 ‘likes’, 1,097 ‘shares’ and 629 comments. Even a follower’s question ‘are the holiday cups out today?’ received 45 likes, an extremely surprising figure.
Strategically, say the researchers, Starbucks uses Facebook for more than promotional reasons. It uses the site to counter any rumours or adverse news that may be appearing – “it’s important to understand the importance of a good firefighting strategy”, say the researchers.
Costa was approved for holding regular contests for its followers, and encouraging followers to share their own content, with responses made by Costa staff using their own names. Starbucks, the researchers noted, replies as a corporate entity.
International interest has been aroused by a new project in which Taylor Street Baristas, the highly-regarded family-run business which is also the management of Harris & Hoole, is seeking to raise up to £3 million through the launch of Britain’s first ever crowd-sourced ‘coffee bond’. The proposed finance is intended to allow Taylor Street to expand further in London, maybe adding 21 sites to its existing nine. The project raised £184,000 in its first day on offer.
Investors have to put in a minimum of £500, for bonds which pay 8 per cent interest over a four-year period. Those who invest can opt to take their dividends in cash, or through instore credits, at a higher rate of 12 per cent. Those who invest more than £10,000 will qualify for a piece of cake and coffee once a week – which, said the chain’s chief executive, is “like having your birthday once a week at Taylor St.” It has been suggested that an investment of £25,000, used for instore credits, would bring a hypothetical team of five City investors around 1,300 flat whites a year, or one each per working day, with the intention of getting their money back after four years.
The Wall Street Journal has, perhaps unkindly, included the project in a report about ‘other crazy bond issues’.
It has been reported that Taylor Street Baristas have shown a loss on their most recent turnover of just over £3 million, but that the company plans to double the size of its business in the next two years, and forecasts a turnover of £19 million from 30 sites by 2020. The justification for this, says the company, is that the quality coffee market is increasing, and continues to win more new customers.
The bond is issued through the crowd-sourcing site Crowdcube (crowdcube.com/tsb).
The latest bizarre addition to the East London café scene is to be the punningly-named Cereal Killer - it is indeed a café which is devoted to serving breakfast cereals – with a menu of a hundred of them. The brothers behind the venture have said, perhaps quite reasonably, that “this will be a cafe experience like no other.
The operators are identical twins Alan and Gary Keery, who say they are “obsessed with everything cereal”. The intention for their café is to open from early morning until evening, serving a cereal menu which can be almost infinitely customised – guests can choose from the hundred cereals, and from twelve types of milk, and twenty choices of toppings. The café’s décor will feature a display of 80s and 90s cereal-related memorabilia.
Last weekend’s first Manchester coffee festival, Cup North, is generally reckoned to have been a success. We have no detailed reports yet, but the organisers have told us that the event attracted about 700 paying visitors over the weekend, divided roughly 60:40 between Saturday and Sunday.
The fraught question of coffee scalding has re-appeared, with yet another court case in America – in this case, a Brooklyn man who claims he suffered severe burns from a cup of McDonald’s coffee has been given clearance by an appeals court to proceed with his case, which was initially dismissed by a lower court. The aspect of this latest case which might give the beverage trade cause for consideration is the appeal court’s ruling that the McDonald’s franchisee had “failed to prove that the coffee wasn’t hotter than reasonably expected limits.” The claimant’s lawyer has said that the temperature of the coffee ‘obviously exceeded’ what was reasonable – in response, the appeal court made what may be considered a surprise ruling that the onus rests on the defending caterer to prove that that the machine from which the coffee was dispensed was in good working order and operating within the temperature parameters provided by the franchisor (McDonald’s).
The big growth sector of the moment is bike cafes, in which operators run a twin business of coffee-house and cycle servicing unit – and one is now up for an international design award. The Velo House, of Tunbridge Wells, has only been open six months and is shortlisted for the annual Society of British and International Design awards. Two beverage-related businesses are shortlisted, and the second one features an extremely eye-catching and optical-illusion design – it is Milk Tea & Pearl, a bubble-tea shop at Boxpark, a temporary shopping centre made from cargo containers, in Hackney. The design uses geometric lines and ‘false perspectives’ to make the space appear shallower and wider.
An Australian collection of tea and coffee artefacts is up for sale – the Bersten Antique Coffee & Tea Collection & Museum, made up of over 1600 coffee makers, grinders, roasters and tea makers dating back to the 1700s, has been on display at Mareeba, North Queensland, for seven years. The entire collection will be put up for auction at the beginning of 2015. The contents may be viewed at www.berstencollection.com. Ian Bersten himself was an exhibitor at Caffe Culture a few years ago – he presented a tea-brewing product on the argument that flavour was best extracted by ‘leaching’, or running the water through tea leaves, rather than immersing them.
The latest arrival in Nespresso-compatible capsules comes from Alma da Cuba, which is the company set up by Phillip Oppenheim, operator of a Cuban-themed café in Waterloo, and the man behind a project to revive the Cuban mountain coffee industry with investment of around four million dollars. The new Cafecito capsules will be available through retailers at £8 for twenty, and are expected to bring the concept of Cuban coffee to a consumer market which doesn’t know about it – in this respect, Alma de Cuba has just achieved a listing for its gourmet roast coffee gift tins in the food markets of all six of Harvey Nichols’ luxury department stores.
A big Canadian coffee-shop franchise opens its first British site in Manchester this week - Second Cup, which has 500 cafes worldwide, is now in the Arndale Centre. The president of the Canadian operation, Jim Regas, told us that he has adapted his menu to the British market: “Next year will make 40 years that the brand has been in operation, and today we are trading in a several parts of the world - we feel we compete well with all the UK brands, as we already compete with them in several other countries. The UK coffee brands all do a great job, but we felt there was an opening for a strong franchised coffee café to enter the market as the UK brands are almost all corporate locations, and our strengths are based on working with strong committed local franchise partners that know and are a part of their communities. Our offering also has a wider breadth than most of our competitors.” The British operation will receive its roasted coffee from Canada, but Jim Regas said that freshness would not be a problem: “all our coffees throughout the world are carefully roasted at our roasting facility in Toronto, but we never roast and shelve our coffees, waiting for our regions to order them – we only roast and ship in small batches, to order.” The Manchester franchise partner is Masood Akbarzai, of Akbarzai Business Associates.
Paddy & Scott’s, the Suffolk coffee brand, is now opening two coffee houses under its own name, in Bury St Edmunds and Framlingham. Although the East Anglian press has reported that Paddy and Scott’s has a chain of fifty cafes across Britain, it would be more accurate to say that to date they have branded outlets within a large number of corporate and retail sites, the most visible probably being their work with B&Q. The brand’s main growth in recent years has been in hotels and contract catering, with branded cafes in corporate head offices including Barclays, Heinz, Hewlett Packard and the Department of Education.
For the second time this year, the Fullers brewery of London has been reported as opening a coffee shop… and for the second time, the brewery has denied that it is interested in joining the café trade! The new venture turns out to be a kind of training café in a part of one of its existing sites, the Plough in Ealing, where the company can both train and experiment with menus. Fullers was reported this year to have hit a million coffee sales in a year, having increased its business several times over by creating and promoting its Brewer Street brand.
Beer and coffee also crop up in another story this week – barista champ Maxwell Colonna Dashwood is opening a sister project to his Colonna and Small’s coffee house. This is in the centre of Bath and is Colonna and Hunter, a coffee shop with craft beer. Maxwell has said that he proposes to present beer in a similar way to coffee, with a changing menu of unique and flavour-driven beers beside a regularly-changing menu of espresso and filter coffees. It is, he has said, “a third space that moves through the day and into the evening, neither cafe nor bar nor restaurant.” The challenge in doing so, he has remarked, was “avoiding a design which was a mash-up of the various styles”.
An immense deal has created one of the world’s biggest retail coffee operations – the Retail Food Group of Australia has bought the Gloria Jean’s coffee business for $163.5 million (about £90 million sterling). This gives the Australian franchising giant another 800 outlets across forty countries, and it now has large coffee-roasting operations in Sydney and Los Angeles. The Retail Food Group owns two well-known coffee-related names in the UK – the Cafe2U mobile operation, and BB’s Coffee and Muffins.
How many artisan coffee roasters are there in the UK? The number has soared in recent years, not least as craft roasting has become a fashionable occupation, but nobody has been confident enough to try and assess how much the field has expanded… until now. Lloyd Burgess has begun the latest coffee subscription service, The Coffee Roasters, which has a fascinating and unusual aspect to it – he offers a collection of coffees from 17 artisan roasters, but part of his website is given over to a list of all the roasters he knows of in the UK. So far, that’s 257 of them
It is reported that Starbucks will yet again come under questioning over its international tax arrangements. The Sunday Times has reported that a forthcoming EU report may accuse Starbucks of profiting from ‘illegal state aid’, in which the company and the Dutch authorities came to a secret arrangement to lower its tax rate. Starbucks has always come under criticism for its practice of reducing tax by a system of ‘royalty’ payments between countries. It is said that the EU is already taking proceedings against three other multinationals.
In an extremely entertaining article in Forbes magazine a few months ago, a writer suggested that all this activity against Starbucks was pointless – allegations that it had not paid corporation tax in Britain were nullified by the fact that Starbucks had not made a profit, due in turn to it having committed itself to too-expensive leases; that royalty payments to Holland were correct under international financial regulations, and that Starbucks in the UK could have been prosecuted for not paying them; and that alleged excessive payments to a Swiss subsidiary in respect of green beans, claimed to be a way of illegally transferring profits out of this country, were also justifiable because Starbucks could have been prosecuted for selling itself its green beans too cheaply!
All the furore about Starbucks’ tax arrangements were, according to the Forbes writer, incorrect because anti-Starbucks campaigners were complaining about the wrong things…
La Marzocco is bringing its trade event ‘Out of the Box’, to London.
The event, which is a collection of talks, debates and presentations, has drawn thousands of trade visitors every time it has been held in Europe or in the USA, and this year will be held at the Blank exhibition space (yes, that is right, the Blank! ) in East London, on December 13th.
“Out of the Box is intended to be a community event for baristas, roasters, and generally a day of sharing information and knowledge,” the brand’s Paul Kelly told us. “It is a platform to get people together for what will be a great deal of ‘educational’ content – lots of inspirational talks and panel discussions. There is free registration, anyone can attend, and the motto for the event is ‘all who come as guests will leave as friends’. It is all intended to be an accessible event which will support the coffee trade, with a Meet the Makers feature, a coffee panel talking about direct trade and other green-coffee issues, and a technical summit.
“We will also host the UK Latte Art contest, and the reason we are so keen on this is because we we think that the ability to pour a drink is where it all starts. We believe that because this contest is not so intimidating as a full barista championship, the entrants are those who may well go on to become UKBC entrants, and we want to encourage them. We are looking for the biggest entry list yet for a UK latte art contest.”
We now have the shortlists for this year’s Beverage Standards Association awards.
This annual project is split into two parts – the major part is the assessment for ratings, by which cafes are judged on their adherence to best-practice in beverage work, and given a rating in ‘cups’, which they are permitted to display on the windows. The second part of it is that cafes can choose to go into a contest for ‘best drinks’.
In this year’s awards, it is quite noticeable that the shortlist for the best drinks shows nothing west of Bristol, nothing in Scotland at all, or the city of Birmingham, and only one in the city of Manchester. Indeed , there is no shortlisted entry up the east coast main line between London and Harrogate!
Some cafes crop up several times in the shortlists, notably Cotswold Artisan of Cirencester, which is in for best espresso, best filter coffee, best hot chocolate, and also best newcomer (although they won several BSA awards while running their previous business). Rhode Island also crop up several times, and notably, they have three branches in the north-west all shortlisted in the ‘best latte’ section.
The cafes which have won this year’s five-star ratings are Cotswold Artisan, Bean and Bud of Harrogate, Habitat of Aberfeldy, Timberyard of Seven Dials, London, the Apple Tree of Barton under Needwood (Staffs), Taylor Street Baristas of Brighton and Pumphreys of Newcastle.
The organisers have commented to us that the ratings between one and three cups did show a more general geographic spread, but that while applications from Scotland increased ‘marginally’ this year, there were no nominations at all from Wales.
Rather in keeping with the almost nationalist pride of their region, the south western coffee trade has made an admirable display of independence by publishing their own guide to the region’s independent coffee houses are roasters.
This is a serious, professionally-produced, bound paperback of 112 pages – in the words of the famous Cornish phrase, a ‘proper job’!
All coffee guidebooks have fallen into a kind of expected design format, and this one is very much the same – each coffee house gets a page and a picture or two, with a listing of their coffee supplier or roaster(s), their espresso machine and grinder equipment, and a collection of logos showing whether each café caters for gluten-free diets or will make drinks with soy milk, offers wi-fi, has disabled access, and so on. What is quite notable is the number of coffee houses which now rank as cycle-friendly, and although there is no specific dog-friendly notification, which worried us, we do see that the ‘family-friendly’ logo also includes an image of a dog, so we do hope they count as the same thing. There is also a note of the various specialities available – and we do wonder about the coffee-infused meatballs at one venue.
What is also notable is the number of coffee houses deserving recognition – fifty get full descriptions, and another twenty or so are noted briefly. If that were not enough sign of the healthy coffee business in the region, one chapter devotes a page each to no less than sixteen coffee roasters in the region! (For the purposes of the guide book, the south west region is taken as going up to Stroud and Cirencester in the north, and easterly to Boscombe).
The volume does restrict itself to ‘independents’, so although the Boston Tea Party cafes are included, as ‘an independent family chain’, the numerous Coffee #1 cafes of the region are not, being owned by a big brewery.
The South West Independent Coffee Guide is published by Salt Media at £7.99
It is a big season for launching new regional coffee festivals – the latest new one is Glasgow, a one-day event at the Drygate Brewery on Saturday, November 29. Rather unusually, it is not organised by anyone from the trade – it is being put together by the Campaigns Officer of the city’s Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice.
The organiser, Chris Brown, told us that although interest in speciality coffee has been growing in popularity in recent years, Scotland has festivals for everything else, for wine, beer and chocolate - but not coffee. “Glasgow is wonderful city for events, and the people here are always willing to try new things. You’ve got to give things a try and put your all into it - if it doesn’t work out how we imagine, then at least it won’t be through a lack of trying.”
Most coffee festivals do tend to have relatively similar programmes - tastings, sampling, demonstrations, barista master classes, latte art, cupping, art, music and live entertainment, and the Glasow event will have all of these, with the attitude that there remains a vast section of the general public for whom all this detail is still new and fascinating.
“This will very much be a more ‘intimate’ coffee festival,” he confirmed. “We want to make it more ‘about the customer’, a real family day, for everybody. I want people to feel comfortable and relaxed in the environment we are creating, whether you know little about coffee or whether you’re an expert... and there will be a team of experts available to anybody who wants to expand their knowledge of the coffee scene.
“We have handpicked what we believe to be the best cafés in Glasgow and best roasters in Scotland to take part. We’ll be announcing our full list of participants on November 1st.”
The event will be at the Drygate, an ‘experiental’ craft brewery, which is a working brewery combined with a restaurant and events area. Chris Brown has considered taking the event to different locations every year. Public tickets are £8.
This week has been Speciality Coffee Week in Sacramento, California, an event which the local paper tells us was modelled on the area’s ‘wildly successful’ Beer Week, which has grown annually to involve dozens of events – and the coffee event has same adopted the format of dinners, tastings, and some rather more imaginative ideas.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the communities and media in California tend to get behind these things rather more than we are used to in the reserved UK, and when Sacramento tested a trial latte art contest… it was standing-room only.
The Sacramento’s event features some intriguing items. There is a home-roasting contest, in which each participant collects the same green Guatemalan coffee at the beginning of the week, and is required to submit their roasted result at the end of the week – the top two will be served on a public brew bar by the farmer himself. Another public roasting event gives an opportunity for consumers to compare the influence of different coffee roasts and how they pair with desserts and cakes. (This is being held at a ‘dessert diner’ – a very American concept!)
A particularly notable ‘all the family’ event is the ‘Create Art from a Coffee Sack’ contest. This again requires contestants to pick up used sacks from a local roaster, with a week to create their piece of art. The results are to be auctioned for charity.
The week will host the launch of a new local history book, ‘Midtown Sacramento’, with the launch event focussing on the chapter which records the history of the city’s coffee shops from the 1920s onwards, with the author giving a short talk on ‘Sacramento’s cafes of historic note’.
Again targeted at the general public, there will be a home-brewing class covering the fundamental elements of brewing great coffee at home, including coffee-to-water ratios, grinder settings, and the proper use of French Press, Aeropress, V60, and Chemex.
Sacramento does have a very active brewing community, and this seems to be enthusiastically taking part in the coffee event – a ‘Pushing Coffee Boundaries’ event will feature local bartenders showing how craft coffee can be used as a main ingredient in new and classic cocktails, and also demonstrating the use of Chemex-prepared coffee served as a ‘chaser’ to rare bourbons. Another event at a local brewery features Guatemalan farmer, who seems to be the special guest for the week, experimenting with infusing his coffee into an IPA beer… and then in another contest, the city’s home-brewing enthusiasts will be invited to try the same thing for themselves. One brewery will be launching its new coffee stout beer.
Then there will be a Coffee Cocktail Competition among eight of the city’s top bartenders, challenged to use locally-roasted coffees ‘to elevate the level of the coffee cocktail’.
All of these events have been sponsored by local companies, and by the local businessmens’ association. It is tempting to wonder what such a detailed and imaginative local event, with similar backing, could achieve in the UK…
The Artisan coffee shop of west London has created a highly-visible coffee school in its new Ealing branch.
"Essentially it is a glass room made out of second-hand windows within the coffee shop itself," owner Edwin Harrison tells us. "Customers can look in at the training, and the trainees can look out at the real hustle and bustle of a coffee shop.
"We thought there was a gap in the market for a coffee school run by people who had been there and done it. We have learned that a practical and real approach is required when it comes to training, rather than process-driven training… we find that by asking questions instead of just providing answers, the baristas discover the answers themselves by exploring different results, which leads to better understanding.
"This school is aimed at both the general public and the hospitality industry, but also serves as a facility for our own baristas to undergo continuous training.
"We'd like to share this knowledge with the rest of the hospitality industry in general."
There is a new managing director at one of the top companies involved in water treatment for coffee houses – this is Steve Slark, a well-known consultant in the water-treatment sector, who has joined European Water Care. The company has already been ‘re-branded’, with an emphasis on the British-made aspect of its products.
He is well aware of the new importance being given to water quality by certain coffee houses, he told us. “Water is now high-profile in the coffee sector, and the trendy coffee set who are trying to achieve the perfect coffee now say they need the perfect water… and now every supplier seems to think they know a bit about it, so we are up against certain manufacturers who promote alchemy and ‘science’ which is mostly bull.
“The new rebranded European Water Care will now introduce a range of targeted solutions which will still be the most cost-effective, the most environmentally-friendly and very proudly made in the UK. We will aim to be the premier provider of water solutions to the coffee trade.”
Another of the big Irish chains is reported to be considering development into the UK – it is Insomnia, which has grown steadily over the past seventeen years to the point where it is reaching a hundred stores, and is reported to be worth 25 million euros. The chain did have a blip around five or six years ago, when a large Icelandic group purchased a 51 per cent stake in the company… but two years later a group headed by a well-known businessman and TV personality bought it back again, after which the chain began developing by franchising. The owners are reported to have suggested that the first UK Insomnia should also be open early in 2015, and have said that their entry here will be ‘well thought-out and will happen at a measured pace’.
There has been a new development with the annual Lavazza calendar, which for many years was given an extremely glitzy autumn launch, in keeping with the immense budget given to the item – the photography has always been done by the world’s most famous, and probably most expensive, photographers, and certainly, it has always been considered a ‘prestige’ thing to be given one. However, there was no big launch for such a calendar for 2014, and we even wondered whether the annual project had been abandoned. It had not, and we now hear that the 2015 edition will again be a ‘prestige’ item, with one big difference – for the first time, copies of the calendar will be available for public sale. The 2015 calendar has been photographed by the international photo-journalist Steve McCurry and has the theme of ‘the earth defenders’, who are the small local farmers of Africa. This theme goes with a campaign which Lavazza and the Slow Food organisation have launched to raise funds for the ‘10,000 gardens in Africa’ appeal, which aims to create managed food gardens in African schools and villages, to try and guarantee that communities have a continuing supply of fresh food.
The UK has a new national organisation of engineers who specialise in the maintenance and safety of espresso machines, a subject which has remained consistently under the spotlight since the Sainsburys explosion five years ago. The new Confederation of Independent Espresso Engineers follows the creation some years back of the Association of Independent Espresso Engineers, and indeed COFIEE includes many of the former members of the AIEE. “The COFIEE is intended as a replacement for the AIEE, and as a renewed association,” says Stuart Menges of Universal Espresso Care, who has helped form the new body. Engineers looking to join the new body will need to demonstrate a high standard of competence, he told us: “the industry has far too many ‘barista technicians’ who have gained a certificate after a one-day appreciation course, but lack any real competent skills. The COFIEE members come from high-end service industries, having obtained various related national qualifications and full apprenticeships, and all are committed to excellence in engineering. Whilst, respectfully, baristas have a far better knowledge of coffee, COFIEE engineers are far more competent to work on equipment both safely and legally.”
Tea has been the most rapidly-increasing hot beverage across the world over the past five years, according to the Zenith International global drinks report. Its progress has been four times that of coffee. According to the globaldrinks.com online database, tea is the largest of the 24 drink categories it measures across 72 countries, and consumption grew by 62 billion litres between 2008 and 2013. Coffee consumption worldwide grew over the same period by 16 billion litres – considerably less than the consumption of milk (although of course it could be argued that any rise in cappuccinos and lattes automatically brings a rise in the consumption of milk). Tea and coffee both rated considerably higher that the performance of fruit juices, carbonated drinks and beer; indeed, the researchers noted that the increase in coffee consumption was unexpectedly higher than the increase in beer consumption.
A rather surprising compliment has been given to one of the world’s biggest tea companies by, of all people, the Greenpeace organisation. According to a Greenpeace campaigner for ecological farming, it follows ‘one of those moments when something extraordinary just happened… a small step that might start something really big’. That was the announcement by Tata Global Beverages, the owner of Tetley (and indeed Teapigs) that it would be willing to join other giant global tea brands, such as Unilever, in working towards more ecologically-sensitive tea growing. This, said Greenpeace, would be more than just a promise not to use pesticides, but ‘the big shift’ which might completely change the whole tea growing system. It followed the release of a Greenpeace report in India which suggested that tea grown in India for all the major global brands was contaminated with mixtures of multiple pesticides, many of them classified as ‘highly or moderately hazardous’ by the World Health Organisation. Promises by Tata and Unilever are a clear recognition that ecological pest control practices are the way to go, said Greenpeace. The sheer power of those two organisations means that ‘a jointly-supported roadmap for ecological tea in India has the potential to set the sector on the fast track towards a new global standard whereby every single teabag sold in markets all around the world could be, by default, ecological and pesticide-free by default’.
One of London’s great historic coffee bars, Bar Italia in Soho, raised more than £10,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children at the café’s 65th birthday celebration in July. Bar Italia has always been a meeting-place for the local Italian community and also for media and showbiz personalities, some of whom appeared at the event. The Polledri family have run the bar since 1949, and presented the cheque to the hospital last week.
We have reported recently on the spate of ‘new coffee concepts’ appearing across the non-specialist catering sectors this summer – and now there is another one! This comes from 3663, the giant supplier to general caterers, and the new concept is Beans and Steam, about which there are not yet any precise details. All we know is that the coffee is described as a ‘premium’ concept (they all are!) and yet is described as ‘competitively priced’. There are four blends available, with point-of-sale merchandising materials. It would appear, and we await confirmation of this from 3663, that they may have followed a recent pub trend in creating a way of introducing a specialist coffee offer at non-specialist beverage outlets.
The Cup North coffee festival, which is being held in Salford on 1st-2nd November, will feature a Tamper Tantrum, which is the occasional series of coffee-themed talks and debates created by roaster Steve Leighton of Has Bean and barista champion Colin Harmon of Dublin. It was largely to hold this aspect of the event that Cup North made a money-raising appeal through Kickstarter in July – and raised £900 more than their target. The festival will also feature a latte art competition with La Marzocco, tastings from Grumpy Mule, Extract and Atkinsons, live roasting by Square Mile, and an appearance by writer Piers Alexander, whose novel The Bitter Trade was launched in a London coffee house earlier this year. The Cup North coffee blend, a collaboration between several local roasters, has recently been available through local coffee houses.
There will be several screenings of A Film About Coffee during November. This film, which follows the journey of coffee from farms in Honduras and Rwanda to coffee shops in America and Japan, featuring interviews with trade players at all points in the chain, is intended to ‘open a window into the little-understood world of speciality coffee’. It will be shown on November 7th at the Arnolfini, Bristol’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, with a coffee service provided by La Marzocco, Workshop Coffee and Marco Beverage Systems. On November 10th, there will be two screenings at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The film’s director, Brandon Loper, will be at the London event and will take part in the Q&A that follows the screening.
The latest well-known machine name to go into espresso capsules is the Rancilio brand from Italy, whose machines are distributed in the UK by the Coffee Machine Company, which is itself a partner company to Drury Tea and Coffee. We have seen the prototype of the new machine, which uses the recently-popular concept of a conventional portafilter handle designed to hold a capsule. In this case, the capsule format is the ‘espresso point’ style, already used to some effect by Lavazza and Illy. This has enabled Drury to pack its own Cuidado coffee into the capsules. The new machine is a plug-in one with a four-litre water tank, as opposed to a permanently plumbed-in machine, and is aimed at the caterer doing up to fifty espressos a day – it will be available next month.
The Rombouts coffee brand, which was the pioneer of the idea of one-cup filter coffee servings in the catering trade well before the modern coffee-house boom, has become the latest brand to detail the exact make-up of its newest espresso blend (Qualitasse did the same on its Anvil blend a few months ago). Rombouts has made clear on packs the proportions of the four coffees used in its latest Campione Barista blend, which rather unusually currently includes two Ethiopians, a Sidamo and a Yirgacheffe, together with Brazilian and Guatemalan beans. “You wouldn’t expect a seasonal blend from a name like ours,” the company cheerfully acknowledged to us. “We aren’t a micro-roaster which has just appeared, and nor are we a supplier that is likely to go away… but our roastmaster has been working on smaller-quantity roasts based on ‘what coffee is good at the moment’. And what the market also likes at the moment is a coffee which works well as both espresso and filter… and this does.”
Rather surprisingly, the coffee-and-cancer subject has cropped up again in America, with a non-profit organisation in California proposing to sue major coffee chains with the aim of getting them to label their coffee as carcinogenic. The state’s Council for Education and Research on Toxics is reportedly raising actions against Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Seattle’s Best Coffee and others under a Californian regulation which requires warning labels to be placed on products that contain chemicals linked to cancer. The ingredient in question is acrylamide, described as a by-product of coffee roasting, but also something which occurs in cooked vegetables and baked goods, and which is listed in California as a carcinogen – according to ‘expert testimony’, a single cup of coffee contained far more than the state registers as ‘no risk’, and as a result, the litigants want coffee brands to be forced to publish a health warning. The coffee chains’ own experts say that acrylamide in coffee poses no significant risk under consumption of a hundred cups a day.
Starbucks has introduced a coffee that supposedly tastes like Guinness. The drink is called the Dark Barrel Latte, and has appeared in a handful of test markets in Ohio and Florida. In the usual over-the-top language used by Starbucks, they describe the drink as ‘inspired by the rise of craft beers, Dark Barrel brings together savoury toasty malt and chocolaty tastes topped with sweet dark caramel drizzle… this sophisticated combination offers a delicious complexity that builds with every sip’. It does not actually contain Guinness, but a flavoured syrup supposedly tasting like Irish stout beer. Reaction in America has been described as ‘mixed to negative’.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association proposes to extend its work to including rating the sustainability of cafes and coffee shops. In what might be considered a surprising criticism in their launch announcement, the SRA has said: “for too long, cafés have stuck to promoting the social and environmental credentials of their coffee and tea, overlooking the significance of the other ingredients in their menus”. The coffee-house trade itself might reasonably suggest that independent cafes have actually been extremely active in stressing such things in recent years – however, the SRA has recruited Costa to devise a “pioneering new scheme to support and guide the UK’s cafes on their sustainability journey”. Rating is by a survey, in which respondents provide answers and evidence to questions about their sustainability practice : it can be tested at http://www.thesra.org/what-we-offer/free-cafe-rating-demo/
It is a week of environmentally-friendly stories in the coffee world, beginning with the news that Bio Bean of London has won £400,000 from the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge.
Bio Bean is the company which has proposed to recover vast amounts of coffee waste from London catering businesses, with a view to turning them into biofuel products, such as biodiesel and biomass pellets, used for powering buildings and transport systems. The Dutch Postcode Lottery is an annual challenge for sustainable, creative, innovative products and services that reduce carbon emissions. This year, it drew 324 entries from 57 countries.
The founder of Bio Bean, Arthur Kay, has said that his win will allow him to develop his service outside London, and possibly internationally. He has already approached major coffee chains with a view to collecting their used grounds, for transformation into energy at a factory in Sussex. He says that in eighteen months, he has succeeded in collecting perhaps two per cent of the estimated 200,000 tonnes of coffee grounds disposed of in London each year. His aim is to recycle 40 per cent of the capital’s coffee waste within a year.
Meanwhile, in Cape Town, Truth Coffee has said that it is now the first coffee roaster in the world to be powered entirely by biofuel. It has gone over completely to oil power using waste chip-fat and the like, which it says is oil that would have had otherwise to be disposed of in an environmentally-unfriendly way. The flavour of the coffee is, the roaster stresses, not affected.
And in London, the Velopresso coffee tricycles have now reached full production stage. These are the bikes in which the coffee grinders are pedal-driven, and the coffee is brewed through gas-fired lever machines, with a result described as a highly efficient, compact ‘on the go’ coffee service with no motors and no noise.
It has taken three years for the company to get to the stage where it can now accept bespoke orders. There are as yet only a handful of working models in the world, and in London the cycle café Look Mum, No Hands! has the prototype working in Covent Garden.
The latest in coffee research from ‘experts’ outside the industry itself has concluded that the growth of coffee shops has had no effect on the British consumption of coffee. This one comes from what are described as ‘leisure analysts’ at Barclays, who have said that the UK consumption of coffee is lower than it was eight years ago, and that coffee shops have simply taken over an amount of coffee which was previously consumed at home or in an office.
Several people in the industry have, while not dismissing the research, pointed out that the industry is a little too complex to allow for generalist statements: one suggested that physical coffee consumption has actually increased, but that there are confusing side issues such as the arrival of pods, which mean no waste in home use, whereas home users would regularly dispose of maybe thirty per cent of what they brewed. James Hoffmann of the Square Mile roastery has commented to us that this illustrates a need for the industry itself to have a batter grasp of what is going on: “I had noticed that the total imports/consumption for the UK seem to have tracked with population growth over the last few years. I'm not sure if we're seeing a shift away from instant, whether independents are eroding sales from chains - or if the reporting as a whole is wrong. Obviously there are lots of roasting companies who roast more than five years ago, or didn't exist then, but I don't know if this is new growth or an upgrading towards speciality. I'd love to be able to understand more about it.”
The green-bean importer Stephen Hurst, the ‘coffee hunter’ of Mercanta, told us “even without hard facts, this would not surprise me – even though the the booming coffee shops serve coffee at 14-20gm a shot, the UK is still a relatively low per-capita consumer. The coffee house boom on the high street may have only had a marginal impact on per capita consumption.”
Barclays has not responded to requests for more detailed information on its research.
It is likely that one of the UK’s most distinctive mobile units may come on to the market - Colonel Grumpy’s Coffee Bus is likely to be up for sale. This is the mobile coffee business run by retired colonel Ian Blair-Pilling, which operates from a real Central American bus which he brought home after his army service in the area. It has become a regular sight at all kinds of event in the south of England. (Enquiries passed to the editor of Coffee House magazine will be passed on).
Of all the celebrity-hysteria stories in the mass media about the 20th anniversary of the American TV show Friends, which was set in a coffee shop, the most entertaining may come from a British company. CaféPod, which makes Nespresso-compatible capsules, has obtained an artefact called ‘the legendary orange sofa’, which was part of the main set of the series.
American sit-com programmes have always tended to have one fixed camera position, and all the action goes on in one place, directly in front of the camera – in the case of Friends, this was a sofa. CaféPod has managed to get its hands on the sofa, and has sent it on a UK tour. Meanwhile, CaféPod has re-designed its packaging, which now features a rather good image of the New York skyline.
With a quite remarkably unanimity of opinion, three of the world’s top coffee-house chains have made new moves in their roasting.
Costa has, after over forty years, decided to create a new roast; this will not replace the company’s existing house blend, but will be the first of a series of limited-edition roasts. It is to be called the Old Paradise Street No 3 (that’s the address of the roastery!) and is an entirely south American blend of Colombian and Brazilian. Rather oddly, the chain has said that the new roasts: “reflect how consumer tastes are changing and how their palates have grown increasingly varied”. This is something which other roasters have spoken of for years, of course.
This comes a couple of weeks after the giant Canadian chain Tim Hortons did exactly the same thing – it too has devised a second roast after almost fifty years. This one, interestingly, is a darker roast, which around forty per cent of its customers say they want.
And Starbucks has started work on what it calls a ‘coffee theatre’, which is a combined roastery, tasting room and retail store in Seattle, which will give it more production capacity for its small-batch Starbucks Reserve coffee lines. The CEO, Howard Schultz, said: “everything we have created and learned about coffee has led us to this moment.” Time magazine responded a little acidly: ‘fear not, beverage innovation is here…’
There will be a Dublin Coffee & Tea Festival for the first time, at the Royal Dublin Society from 12-14 September. The event has been created by both the Irish Foodservice Suppliers Alliance and the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, and as is often the case with such projects, virtually no advance information has been given out, but we do like the idea of a ‘home barista’ contest, and the equipment maker Marco has put together a Roasters’ Village, which is a collection of micro-roasters all looking for face-to-face contact with an audience of consumers.
The long-standing battle between Nespresso and the makers of ‘compatible’ systems may be over, according to reports from France. After years of court cases between the giant brand and other companies looking to make capsules to fit its machines, Nespresso has now reportedly agreed to a solution proposed by French anti-trust regulators, by which the company will give competitors four months' warning about changes to its machines and will hand over prototypes for testing. Nespresso said it would share the information with manufacturers selling outside France as well. One of the rival companies which has fought Nespresso all the way, and which is run by a former Nespresso senior executive, said: “everything is compatible today, from car accessories to smartphones – but Nespresso has acted as if it were legal to obstruct competition."
Peter Kirton, the managing director who has controlled the rise of the Esquires coffee-house chain in the UK, has retired – almost. “I am ‘officially’ retired, but the reality is that I shall be continuing to work as a consultant,” he told us. The new UK managing director is one of the chain’s original founders, Doug Williamson.
The ‘coffee club’ subscription concept continues to expand quite dramatically. There have been two notable moves in recent days – Pact Coffee, one of the names to have big progress in the subscription business, has now launched a new service called Coffee Run that supplies offices with regular deliveries. It is nothing new for coffee companies to target the office market, but the opportunity for these clients to choose from the varieties offered by modern artisan roasteries is probably unusual. Pact’s founder Stephen Rapoport has said: "you can bet that many of the 'Best Place to Work' companies in the UK are doing well because of the food and drink they offer onsite to their staff.”
Meanwhile, in the north, Beanify of Leeds has said that it is in discussions with its first corporate client after concentrated on subscription business with individual customers for the first few months of the company’s life. The co-founders, brothers Simon and Stuart Edwards, developed the idea last year as an entry for a local business competition – they got into the final shortlist, and have been running Beanify as a part-time interest until they decide to take it on full-time.
The Coffee # 1 chain, which is owned by the Brain brewery of south Wales, has come up with a novel charitable project in support of a disabled two-year-old boy. The young chap has a problem which, according to doctors, means that he will never be able to walk or talk, and which is a condition that is normally fatal during infancy. However, the boy has progressed better than expected, and Coffee#1 will be selling gingerbread men for the next three months and donating half of the proceeds to a fund which will pay for supporting therapy.
It is nothing new to hear the media going on about the number of coffee shops in Britain – but a fascinating online Barista Britain service has been devised which tells how many of the Big Three there are in any given area, by keying in a postcode. It uses the Food Standards Agency online database, and although the Manchester Evening News says ‘we have created this tool…’, so does the media in mid-Wales and Yorkshire, so we don’t know exactly who is behind it. The Manchester paper notes that it has 49 Costas compared to just 17 Starbucks ( ‘just’ !) and 17 Caffe Neros. Meanwhile, farther south, the local media in Spelthorne, which is near Twickenham, has reported that it is the nation’s Costa hot-spot with twice as many branches per head of population than the national average. We could not resist the obvious move, and entered the postcode of the Spelthorne council offices into the Manchester Evening News site: it reports 14 Costas, nine Starbucks and eight Neros within a five-mile radius.
You can find the search engine here -
This month sees the return of the Bring Home the Harvest campaign for British Food Fortnight, which runs from 20 September to 5 October. Many trade organisations have got involved, and indeed the latest reported today is the Hospital Caterers Association, which is encouraging its members to get take part. We have in the past discussed with the organisers of the Fortnight whether or not they consider that coffee roasted in the UK counts as a legitimate British food – and we can report that the answer has been an enthusiastic ‘yes’ (there are precedents – the Indian food trade has been recognised for innovations created here). However, despite their wish to promote British roasteries, the organisers have hit a snag – they have expected to be able to work with a trade association which promotes coffee to the general public, and of course none of our trade bodies is set up to do that. The organisers have repeated their offer to promote British coffee roasting, if only we can find a spokesperson for the trade
We have recently reported on various trade-related museums and collections – now we hear that there is to be an entire coffee-themed amusement park. It is in, of all places, South Korea, at Chuncheon in the country’s northern province of Gangwon. An agreement has been signed between the Tom’n’Toms coffee shop chain, the governor and the mayor, for an attraction will reportedly be eco-friendly and educational. The city is keen on festivals and attractions – it has a puppet festival, a mime festival, a noodle festival, was one of the first cities in the world to hold a marathon (since 1946) and is hoping for a Legoland. The governor made the rather curious announcement that “the coffee theme park, the largest one in Korea…”, as if there are likely to be several. There appears to be a business logic in it for Tom’n’Toms, which has something over 400 sites in the country – the theme park may double as a big roastery. The chain also appears to be active in Thailand, Australia, and America.
The celebrity media are getting themselves extremely worked up about a project to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Friends, the American sitcom based in a coffee shop. On September 17th, the Warner Bros media group will open a pop-up working replica of Central Perk, the coffee shop shown in the soap, with a special blend roasted for the occasion. The Central Perk coffee bar will be located at Lafayette Street in Manhattan and will operate for only a couple of days. Websites for TV soap fans have been getting increasingly ecstatic, exhorting fans to ‘check out signature props from the show, relax on Central Perk’s iconic orange couch, order coffee off the famous Central Perk chalkboard, meet the man who starred as the barista…’ and so on. Not surprisingly, the coffee will be available for retail sale.
By coincidence, the Sky 1 channel is attempting to sell, in kit form, the café which featured in 13 episodes of sitcom The Café, and which was sited on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare. The comedy ran for just over two years, to a mixed reception. The wooden building was taken down with a view to being re-built at a park in Taunton, having been given as a gift when the show was cancelled, and although planning consent had been given and volunteer students were expect to re-build it, the idea was abandoned as impractical. It was decided that the building should be auctioned off on Ebay with the money raised going to charity.
In London, it does now appear certain that the man known for the promotion of Illy coffee in Britain for many years is behind the opening of a new espresso bar in Soho, sometime soon. Marco Arrigo, who is head of quality for Illy in the UK and also manages a linked espresso school, is said to be opening in Old Compton Street, right in the area of the early espresso bars of the 1950s. From what we can gather, the business will concentrate on pure espresso, as opposed to takeaway lattes and cappuccinos, and the big question we have heard asked is: is he using Illy coffee? Marco himself has simply said: “it’s too early to comment”.
The London Tea Company has achieved its strategy of becoming fully Fairtrade-certified across all its products. The big puzzle of trying to make up an all-Fairtrade range has been the availability of ingredients of acceptable quality, not least because the Fairtrade rules are different for ‘tea’ and for ‘herbal infusions’, which are now a major part of every brand’s stock. For everyday tea as it is generally drunk in the UK, the leaf or the blend has to be entirely from a Fairtrade-certified farm, and the owners of the London Tea Company have recently worked on not just getting its own estates certified, but in helping the surrounding farms of independent smallholders to be certified as well, to qualify for premium prices – some of those small neighbours, the company acknowledges, are now producing small quantities of hand-picked tea which is of an even higher quality than the company’s own estates. For herbal infusions, the familiar Fairtrade ruling applies, saying that a certain percentage of the blend has to be from a certified farm before the entire product can bear the Mark. A typical problem is that Fairtrade-certified bergamot, the major factor in Earl Grey, can be ‘near impossible’ to source in the necessary quality and quantity. “Creating an all-Fairtrade range has been a combination of imagination, availability, and the practicalities of the rules!” remarks the company.
Taylors of Harrogate is offering caterers a chance to win a year’s supply of Yorkshire Tea. The campaign, which runs from September until November, requires caterers to visit the website www.taylorsoutofhome.co.uk for free point-of-sale kits and samples. The challenge is for caterers to get their customers to Tweet saying that they like the tea, using the hashtag ‘#properbrew’ to identify the café where they drank it. The outlet that attracts the most tweets will win a year’s supply of tea. Rather curiously, Taylors has just released research saying that 46 per cent of consumers would be prepared to pay more for Yorkshire Tea, as a premium brand.
There has been a range extension of what have been called the ‘coffee-style’ wines produced by Vinimark. The Barista Pinotage, launched in 2009, has apparently sold so well internationally that it will now be joined by Barista Chardonnay. The African winemaker Bertus Fourie is known as an experimenter, and pioneered ‘coffee-style’ wines using the Pinotage hybrid grape and a specific yeast strain. The result was described as having ‘mocha and chocolate flavours - the richness of coffee beans, the smoothness of creamy chocolate and the freshness of ripe fruit’. However, it has also been decribed as ‘the most controversial style of Pinotage wine in the world’, and has sharply divided opinion among wine critics. It is widely said that fermentation in oak is responsible for the coffee aroma, but the brewer himself says that the taste and aroma is achieved by the right combination of grape and yeast.
There has been an interesting result of the move by St Austell breweries to introduce its own-brand coffee into its pub estate. The Brewer and Bean coffee is supplied by Miko, and the pub chain has worked seriously to promote it in 22 of its 168 pubs, with the result that the chain’s total coffee business has risen by 49 per cent over last year, and one pub doubled its coffee sales. The company says these results prove that the ‘pub-coffee shop’ model is a successful and profitable approach worthy of further investment.
Another western brewery with coffee interests is Brain’s of south Wales, which has been developing the Coffee#1 café chain, and now has over forty. The newest outlet is in Newton Abbot, where a former furniture store has been turned into a coffee shop, with deliberately mis-matched chairs and tables.
A quite remarkable development of the ‘compatible capsule’ saga has cropped up in America. As is well known, the business of coffee capsules which will work in Nespresso home machines has been one of the big European growth areas in recent years. In America, the big capsule product is the Keurig K-Cup, and a lawsuit by a group of consumers has accused another coffee company of giving deliberately misleading details of the quality of coffee going into its compatible cartridges – the supplier attempted to produce its lookalike product before the patent on the original had expired, and created a capsule without an inner filter, which it believed would overcome any patent problems. However, to make it work, they then filled the capsules with a mixture of instant coffee and fresh grounds, resulting in what the court has described as an ‘awful’ response from the public. Lawsuits were filed accusing the compatible-maker of violating consumer-protection laws by giving misleading information about their contents, but a court dismissed the original action on the basis that while the coffee may have been bad, its packaging was not misleading. An appeal court has now reinstated the case.
The bubble-tea phenomenon appears to be still on an upward course – Assad Khan, who opened the UK’s first specialist café in Soho three years ago, now has instore outlets in Top Shop, Harvey Nichols and Westfield, shops in Notting Hill and South Kensington, supplies 44 outlets in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Kuwait, and has reached a turnover of two million pounds. Bubble tea is a coloured beverage which features chewy ‘pearls’ made of tapioca; it was a big craze in Taiwan, but in some far-Eastern areas the rapid rise of the sector was followed by an equally sharp decline. Assad Khan has now told the financial press that he proposes to become the world leader in the product, saying: “It is drunk all over the world, but there is no global leader. Where is the Starbucks of bubble tea?”
There has been a row among the famous and artistic patrons of a coffee shop in Hampstead, London - the idea that the Brewhouse café, which is in the local stately home Kenwood House, would open at 10am instead of nine has reportedly caused the local intellectuals to have a group fit. The problem arose after a familiar situation in the café world, in which the owners of a property decided to take on a new catering contractor to run the coffee shop. The owners, English Heritage, then published new, shorter, hours of business… and the local creative community arose in protest. A historian who writes all her books in the café said: “everyone was outraged – there’s a whole cluster of us who use it early and it would be devastating for us creatives. It’s a very literary, artistic space, different from any other café.” The Brewhouse is said to also be a writing place for novelist John le Carré, and a Sunday paper columnist has also said he does all his work there; musicians and actors make up a proportion of the clientele. English Heritage later protested that no decision about opening times had been made, and one of the London papers said, slightly sniffily and dismissively, that the row was ‘a very Hampstead story’.
A coffee-shop phenomenon which has now cropped up in several places is that of the ‘honesty’ store, where customers are invited to brew their own coffee, and either pay what they think it is worth, or refer to a price list and drop the amount into an honesty box. The owner of one such business in Valley City, North Dakota, has now reported a curioisity experienced by other such operators – the revenue in his honesty box has actually amounted to a far higher sum than shown on his price list. The owners of the Vault renovated an old bank building and then saved costs by employing no staff, but inviting customers to pour themselves filter coffee from a bulk brewer or espresso from a capsule machine, and serve themselves from a display of pastries. Patrons can pay by cash, cheque or credit card, although there is a sign below the cash slot which says ‘no IOUs’. To the surprise of the owners, the revenue has run at an average of fifteen per cent more than they would have received if customers had paid a human cashier the amounts shown on their price list. There are security cameras onsite, but no customer has yet been seen to leave without paying something.
A very unusual branch of Costa, for which planning permission was granted some time ago, now appears to be in the way to completion. The café will be built inside a wartime landmark at Kings Hill, Sevenoaks – it is an art-deco airfield control tower which is now a Grade II listed building. The architects working on it have said: “wait until you see it - it’s completely different to the usual Costa specification.” It would appear to be in a good commercial position - a ‘Wealth of the Nation’ report some years ago listed the area as having the highest average income in Great Britain.
So far as we can establish, the smaller coffee companies have done extremely well in this year’s Great Taste awards. While apologising for any omissions (it is always extremely challenging to work through the list) we see that Hands On of Wadebridge took six awards, including three 3-stars, which is quite remarkable. Beanpress of Dorset got four awards, including one three-star, and Monsoon Estate Coffee of Atherstone also took four prizes. Elsewhere, the Fine Coffee Club of Edinburgh got three, and Bespoke Coffee of Devizes won two awards. A notable scorer was the Ludlow Food Centre, which took three awards – it roasts only for its own in-house café and its town centre deli.
Among the other regionals that were recognised with awards were Owens of Modbury, Reads of Sherborne, World Coffees, the York Coffee Emporium, Coaltown of Carmarthen, Coffee Care of Skipton, Mariners of York, the Coffee Factory of Axminster and Crafted Coffee of Chichester.
Among the bigger names and bigger roasteries, Bewleys took 13 awards, of which eight were Grumpy Mule from its recently-acquired Yorkshire roaster. Also in the north, Taylors of Harrogate took 13 in total, with a mixture of tea and coffee awards. Cafedirect had seven and Union Hand-Roasted got four, including a three-star for a Yirgacheffe. Café du Monde took three awards.
Among the other interesting items we spotted, Coffee Merchants UK took five, all of which, we think, were for ESE espresso pods… and CafePod got four for Nespresso-compatible capsules. The Marley reggae coffee from Sea Island got an award for the One Love blend.
The tea section is rather more complex, but we note that Imporient, with the Birchall brand got ten including one three-star; Joe’s Tea of London got four, including a three-star. Two similarly-named brands did well, the London Tea Company (four awards) and The Tea Company of London (eight).
There were seven for Tea Studio, seven for Teapigs, and two three-stars from five prizes for Talisman of London.
(We do applaud Cup Glasgow and the Nela tea company, who had the good grace in their entries to acknowledge Blends for Friends as their blenders… we believe blender Alex Probyn had, as usual, many others successes, but anonymously!)
What is probably the first serious analysis of occupation-related pain among baristas has been published in America. It consists largely of an examination of low-back and shoulder-related activity during the preparation of espresso-based beverages, undertaken partly by questionnaire and also by video for ‘bio-mechanical analysis’. Seventy-three per cent of respondents reported having experienced lower back pain, half of them blaming their work. Another 68 per cent reported shoulder pain, and again half put it down to barista work. Particular attention was paid to tamping, which baristas had complained is the most strenuous task involved in preparing espresso. It will come as no surprise to the trade to read the researchers’ report that “during manual tamping, it was observed that baristas put their body into awkward positions in which they then apply considerable force vertically downward… those who reported lower back pain tended to be those who perform manual tamping.” The researchers noted that “although the process of making espresso-based drinks is not considered a very labour-intensive task, there are many components to the process that may significantly, over time, contribute to pain of the low back and/or shoulder regions in baristas. The data reported in this article will be used to create new or redesign existing tools used by baristas, including tampers, and to redesign workplaces for baristas.”
The manager of the Esquires branch in Coventry, who is well-known for his charity fund-raising, has suffered an accident on the first day of a proposed 19-day charity trip down the west coast of America. Steven Prime was hit by a pick-up truck and suffered broken bones in his back, wrist and six broken ribs; a local paper reports that the pick-up driver had swerved to avoid another vehicle and hit Steven who was riding at the side of the road.
Scotland’s first tea festival will be held in Auchenblae and Laurencekirk from August 22-24. The festival, taking place, will feature an exhibition on James Taylor, the Scot who became ‘the father of tea’ in Sri Lanka, with the unveiling of a plaque at his childhood home. The festival has been funded through awards and grants from Homecoming Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council, Community Food Funds, Awards for All and other local groups and individuals.
An extremely odd case has been reported by the local media in Newcastle, where the staff from a Greggs bakery café were accused of damaging an A-board belonging to another café. The incident was not witnessed, but the independent café owner says that she heard a crash and saw Greggs staff walking away from her damaged sign - Greggs has reportedly apologised, offered to pay for the damage, and says it wants to be a good neighbour.
There have been several successes in trade-related funding – Draughts, the proposed board-game coffee-house for London, has completed its Kickstarter crowd-funding by achieving £15,000 in investment, half as much again as it had hoped for, two weeks ahead of target. The Cup North coffee festival for Manchester also succeeded in making its crowd-fund target, and the Pact Coffee subscription business has raised two million in venture capital funding.
The international media has expressed unanimous horror at a report to be presented this week to the American Chemical Society, which will ‘expose’ the amount of fillers being used in retail ground coffee. The coffee trade will not be surprised at all about another allegation that certain coffee brands use large quantities of rye, wheat and corn to bulk up their packed products – the difference this time is that a group of scientists has developed a test to detect exactly what unwanted matter is inside a bag of coffee. A team from the State University of Londrina in Brazil says that after roasting and grinding, it is impossible to visually detect foreign matter – however, they say that by liquid chromatography analysis, they can now highlight the ‘fingerprint’ of known compounds in coffee, which can then be separated from the other ingredients, which are therefore not coffee. Furthermore, the university team say that they can now identify what these filler items are, and can identify with 95 per cent accuracy the presence of corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup.
Elsewhere, a report from New Delhi says that Greenpeace has raised allegations over unacceptable levels of dangerous chemicals in tea. The a global pressure group has said that pesticides considered both ‘highly’ and ‘moderately’ hazardous by the World Health Organization have been found in leading tea brands. The accusations were denied by the Tea Board of India.
There is never any shortage of research to prove that tea and coffee are either good for you or bad for you, and it is perfectly common to find contradictory ‘findings’ on exactly the same subject. It has now been reported that four to five cups of coffee a day may protect against tinnitus, the ‘buzzing in the ears’ ailment, and a study of more than 65,000 women has concluded that those who drank the most coffee were at least risk of it. The American professor involved said: “we observed a significant inverse association between caffeine intake and the incidence of tinnitus." However, it has also been confidently recorded in the past that coffee is bad for the ailment – a British health organisation says that “not drinking coffee before sleeping” helps avoid tinnitus, and an earlier American project on the subject reported that ‘caffeine abstinence’ tended to annoy the research subjects rather more than improve their tinnitus. The researchers said: “no evidence was found to justify caffeine abstinence as a therapy to alleviate tinnitus… but acute effects of caffeine withdrawal might add to the burden.”
There is a similar divergence of research over the importance of coffee shops to the national high street. The coffee trade was perfectly happy to read quite recently the research which said that “high streets are enjoying significant economic and social benefits brought by the rise of branded and independent coffee shops”. This research suggested that the presence of coffee shops would increase high street footfall, make customers stay in the high street for longer, and raise local high street economies by maybe four per cent in all. However, a local paper in mid-Sussex has recently been looking into the standard question of ‘do we have too many coffee shops?’, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how many change-of-use applications had been submitted in East Grinstead for the change of retail premises into beverage and food premises. The answer was that of seventeen such applications made in the last five years, all have been approved. The local paper reported considerable local disquiet about the number of cafes, and one person quoted by the paper said: “the high street will now be the death of this town.”
It has been a big week for predictable trade research in old subjects. According to United Coffee, three-quarters of all hotel guests are now dissatisfied with the quality of coffee in their hotel bedroom, rating it either ‘poor’ or ‘average’. Rather curiously, this research appeared to suggest that the flashier the hotel, the worse the coffee – forty per cent of ‘boutique’ hotel users said the quality of coffee was ‘very poor’, while guests in B&Bs were more pleased with their coffee. One third of respondents would not return to a hotel which served bad coffee.
In recent weeks, we have reported the publishing of an entertaining book Coffee Obsession, by a director of the Square Mile roaster, Anette Moldvaer. Now, in two months’ time, her co-director James Hoffman will publish The World Atlas of Coffee. This book comes about after he was approached by the publishers of The World Atlas of Wine, to write an equivalent volume.
An entertaining subject of recent weeks has been the refusal of Olympic athlete Kelly Holmes to give away the likely name of her new coffee-house, which will open at the end of the month. It has now been revealed – it is Café 1809 Hildenborough, after the number she wore when she won gold at Athens.
Rather oddly, the 2015 latte art championship will be held this year – it will be held on December 13. The new sponsor of the event is the La Marzocco espresso machine company, which will organise workshops and talks throughout the day, at an event which will be open to the public. The current UK champ is Dhan Tamang of the Caracoli cafes in Hampshire, who earlier this year achieved the probably-unique feat of winning two latte art titles in two days. However, he didn’t get to take part in the world finals due to administrative problems, and tells us that his aim is to do so this time, and that he has already planned his new design.
There has been a mixed response to the strategy of a small cafe in Minnesota to cope with the state’s increase in the minimum wage, which has gone up from $7.25 to $8 per hour. The café owner worked out that even with only half a dozen staff, the increase would cost him $10,000 a year, so he added a ‘minimum wage fee’ of 35 cents to every bill. Some customers called for a boycott of his café – but the owner says that business has actually gone up since he made the move.
The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee artefacts have been found
The Bramah collection, the probably-unique archive of historic coffee and tea-related machines, equipment and ephemera which formed the Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee in south London, has been located.
Ever since Edward Bramah died in 2008, and his museum and tea-room was closed and turned into a decorating merchant’s warehouse, many people in the coffee and tea trades have wondered about what became of the collection. Soon after his death, there were vague news stories in the south London press which referred to a re-opening at another site, but nothing was heard after that.
Boughton’s Coffee House magazine did not give up trying to find the answer… and last week we were permitted access to the collection by the present owner. We took with us Russell Kerr of Doctor Espresso, the collector whose renovated espresso machines were on display at this year’s Caffe Culture show, and were allowed entry to a basement store-room in which we were able to confirm with our own eyes that the collection still exists.
It is not possible to catalogue in detail the machines we found down there – for the moment we shall simply report Russell Kerr’s comment that one La Pavoni, of a design which dates from early in the twentieth century, ‘comes from the dawn of coffee’ – and then he added that seeing one of them is unusual enough, but seeing two side by side is astonishingly rare.
“This treasure trove of hidden gems should get Espresso Land talking a lot” said Russell Kerr on his Facebook page at the weekend, on which he published some pictures and a brief video of what we found underground. There is an international ‘community’ of people who seek out, buy and sell, and renovate very early espresso machines, and news that the Bramah Collection still exists will undoubtedly stir worldwide interest.
Edward Bramah was a rare authority on tea and coffee – he actually did start his career in the plantations in the 1950s, and he began designing his own coffee machines in the late 1960s. It has been speculated that his collection began when he started buying up vintage equipment for research into his own designs. He was one of the most entertaining natural speakers in the beverage world, and could hold trade audiences enthralled with his stories of trade history, invariably embellished by a vast amount of humour.
He was firmly of the opinion that too few people in today’s beverage trade understand the history of their subject, and once said: “I built two companies on the technique of demonstrating tea and coffee… but we are now paying the price for training salesmen to compete only on discount.”
He wrote several books, including the remarkable ‘Bramah Tea and Coffee Walk Around London’, which showed the main historical locations of events connected with the beverage trade, from the site of the first coffee house to the sites of tea warehouses and tea auctions. At the time of his death, he was working on a book to be called ‘Britain's Tea Heritage’.
The current holder of the Bramah museum artefacts has told us: “Edward was a collector, a romantic, a social historian. I always told him I would keep the museum alive and now I think we have the first step to bringing it back, and maybe taking it to the kind of museum that Edward dreamed of.”
The full story will appear in the next printed issue of Boughton’s Coffee House.
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