I can’t believe it’s already the last day on January already and that I haven’t blogged in 2020. In any case, I haven’t been wasting my time as, I’ve been learning a lot about how to monetise my passion, COFFEE following my current undertaking of a course by the famous Jay Shetty’s “Passion to Paycheck”. One of the first questions asked was “what would you love to learn for 500 hours?” – that didn’t take much time for me to answer – more about coffee – roasting, growing, and helping coffee farmers to make a better living from it. The second exercise was on taking a personality test, which concluded that I was a Guide – in summary someone that loves learning and wants to enlighten others. Well, I have always wanted to talk and teach people about coffee, making sure that they make it properly and learn a lot about the beautiful bean – hence my blog since 2007.
However, the lesson that got me thinking was embedded in the concept of the 10,000 hour rule, which I think Bill Gates talks about a lot. In summary, the rule says that to be considered a professional or expert in anything, you need to invest at least 10,000 hours in it.
This inspired me to calculate roughly how many hours I have invested in coffee and hence, the picture above, which I shared on Instagram yesterday.
So, am I a coffee expert?
If we use passion and dedication thus far, then many would say YES. In fact, I was thinking about the variable of PASSION. Can we measure it in hours or with some kind of formula ? A task for any mathematician or formulae loving person reading this.
I ask, because whilst I might be able to say I invested 2-3 hours per post on this blog, sometimes it takes hours before I start typing – like today. I’ve been thinking about this post since morning and that’s why if you were watching me as I type, you would notice that I’m not even taking a break, my writing is just flowing, because I’ve already spent time thinking and conceptualising this post – does that sound heavy ? Grab a coffee and relax.
So, you may ask what else do I know about coffee ? Perhaps I should have added this above, so here goes.
I spend at least 30 minutes a day making cappuccino in the morning, coffee on a V60 after lunch and coffee on an aeropress after dinner. I have been doing this for several years, but let’s say at least 7. What does that add up to?
30 minutes a day for 345 days a year (I’ve omitted about 20 days for when I travel even though my aero press always comes with me) + 7 years = 72,450 minutes, which in hours is 1,208 approx
Add that to when I only used to spend about 15 minutes making cappuccino between 2006 and 2010 (5 years) and we get
another 432 hours.
So, I guess my grand total so far would be……. 7,670 HOURS.
3,000 to go ????
So am I coffee expert?
I think I can handle myself and I plan on launching my coffee consulting business very soon. My wife has been encouraging me and as they say behind every coffee man (or is it great man, but I don’t want to go there…) is a woman. So watch the space and follow me on instagram for tips.
BEFORE, I go, I encourage you to try this exercise for anything that you are passionate about, as it is essential that you invest in your passion before you quit your job or want to start something on the side before giving it 100% of your time.
I couldn’t really see out 2019 without my annual London Coffee Report depicting my coffee escapades in my favourite coffee city, London. Just like last year, I decided to share with you a mix of the traditional and the new, which I visited during our annual London holiday. Just to make things exciting, if you pay attention you’ll notice that each shop had a common trait.
Monmouth Coffee, Borough Market
On this occasion, our daughter convinced us to try something new and so we headed off to Borough Market, close to London Bridge. Naturally I was intrigued, as I love food and coffee, knowing that Monmouth Coffee was also located within Borough Market. I’ve been to the one in Covent Garden but never to this one. As we walked around like tourists, taking in the sights, the smells of London street food, tasting artisan breads, pepper sauces, buying exotic spices and scratching our head as to what to eat, I finally spotted Monmouth on the left side as you exit the market. It’s actually located on a side road and it was literally bustling out of its side, with customers on the street.
As you enter the shop, there are seats to the front and left of you in wooden cubicle styles reminiscence of their Covent Garden branch. As you glance to your right, yo will see the brew bar hosting a filter station and La Marzocco linea espresso machine. Just behind is the “coffee market” – coffee enthusiasts buying coffee from open wooden crates served by lots of staff. There’s lots of coffee from different parts of the World with scales to weigh your coffee – truly like a market. I quizzed the assistants as I wanted two distinctly different coffees for espresso and for filter. Having bought my bags of coffee, I then had my daily cortado – more coffee than milk. Grab a seat outside on what was a hot London summer day.
The Shed, Clapham South Underground Station
Something New. When in London, we usually stay with my brother in Clapham but the closest station is Clapham South on the Northern Line. As we were rushing to catch the train on one of our first days, I caught a glimpse of a newish shop hosting a La Marzocco Linea machine.
Excited I popped my head in, took a picture and noticed with even more excitement, bags of Caravan Coffee. I eagerly told the lone staff there that I’d be back. and so I was, ensuring that every time I headed off ahead of my family to order my coffee not just on one occasion but twice.
I found out that they had recently opened and were committed to using only Caravan coffee (fine by me). I definitely recommend Shed coffee on your way to work or if you are heading into London from that station, where you can get great Caravan roasted coffee prepared by very pleasant staff as well as some snacks like pastries, sandwiches and cakes.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Soho and Paddington
Back to something traditional, the department of coffee and social affairs – I like writing their name. I actually went to their spot at Paddington Central for my daily cappuccino before having lunch with my cousin in plush Paddington Central. Located in a a very avant garden building, they’ve tried to give it a homely feel with some wood decorations and sofas. There’s lots on offer from food, snacks, sandwiches and coffee of course.
For my second trip, I went to their shop on 3 Lowndes Court, just off Carnaby Street in Soho. It’s another very busy shop, visited by locals and tourists alike. As you enter, to the front of you is a shelf offering their coffees (even for nespresso) and other merchandise – just to the right is where you can order, but there’s a little confusion, because there can sometimes be 2 queues – one eating to order and one awaiting their orders. The female baristi are hard at work, focusing on espresso using the La Marzocco linea machine and filter simultaneously, with another lady taking orders. They have many delectable cakes – the lamington being the most famous – haling from Australia – it looks like a chocolate sponge wrapped in coconut flakes. In this trip I ordered a daily cappuccino.
I definitely think that the department of coffee and social affairs should have a price for their name, as I think that it is just one of the best names for a coffee shop.
The Observatory, 64 Marchmont Street, near Russell Square
Now back to something new. On our last day, we had to move to a hotel in Russell Square and has ing being starved of my daily coffee from an expert, I decided to head over to Continental Stores (Store Street Espresso sisters shop), but as I approached they had already closed. Walking back dejected, I noticed this really arty looking place, selling coffee – advertised as an art gallery selling specialty coffee. Never one to back down on a coffee challenge, I went in, noticing their La Marzocco Linea machine. I took in the sights, or should I say the art and atmosphere – it was quiet, as after all it was late afternoon.
I decided to order a daily Cortado and of course I couldn’t resist my favourite pastry, Pasties De Nata from Portugal, as a tasty accompaniment.
I really enjoyed my coffee – a blend using Brazilian and Uganda arabica coffee. Afterwards, I had a chat with the barista, Tim and he told me about their roaster, Redemption Roasters. If I wasn’t already loaded with coffee from my exploits, I would have bought one of the coffees but next time.
I hope you enjoyed your coffee exploits in 2019 like I did, especially in London. Oh! What was that one commonality of the shops – did you spot it? They all had La Marzocco Linea espresso machines. Obviously, I still have my favourites spots when In London. Earlier I wrote about my fave coffee shop, Prufrock – read here – which I visited again during this trip.
In addition, whenever I’m in the West End, I always pop into
Notes Coffee, located at Bond Street Station.
Workshop Coffee , located in St Christopher’s Place, near Selfridges
Soho Grind on 19 Beak Street
Wishing you all a pleasant 2020 and I hope you discover new ways to satisfy your coffee palate and please don’t pay or drink bad coffee in London. Enjoy your last day of coffee in 2019 and wishing you a great 2020.
The latter half of 2019 has proven to be probably my most exhilarating coffee experience ever, with my last three posts taking place since September and just before that in late August, I was lucky enough on my last trip to Kenya to stop by the Coffee Research Institute (CRI). Prior to that, but of course, I had done some research on whether nuclear science and technology could be used to enhance the productivity of coffee crops and I was fascinated that in Kenya they actually had an institute specialising in coffee research, so I ensured that when I visited, I would try my best to visit. For those who don’t know I used to work for a UN organisation (until 30 November 2019) in which I was responsible for designing projects to use nuclear science and technology to address development challenges in Africa. I digress. Needless to say, the Coffee Research Institute, part of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) were very interested to meet with me to explore how the technology could help Kenya improve the productivity of coffee beans in relation to climate change.
Located just outside Nairobi, the CRI is located in an area called Ruiru. I have heard the name before as I have seen it many times on Kenyan coffee bags. Nevertheless, as we approached, I was amazed by the sight of a huge array of coffee trees – a coffee lovers dream. We were literally surrounded by plantations of coffee as we drove up to the main building, which I must confess, looks like it was straight out of the 1960s.
As we waited in the boardroom for the Director of the CRI, Dr Elijah Gichuru, we were offered coffee of course and my colleague was stunned that I had it without sugar or milk. The Director gave us a short presentation on the work of the CRI which are as follows;
Coffee breeding – developing new varieties, resistant to diseases, but with higher yields
Coffee quality analysis, including sensory evaluation
Engineering – processing, water and waste analysis
Food safety – ensuring that there’s no mycotoxin in the bean
Entomology – ensuring that there are no pests destroying the plantations
Research focused on hastening crop development
Analysis on growing domestic coffee consumption
There was a lot more, but in short, at the CRI they focus a lot on researching coffee to make it sustainable for the future. They are even working on the hybrid of robusta and arabica, aptly called, Arabusta. So in summary it would be possible to use nuclear technology to help them especially in developing new varieties to combat climate change. From my perspective, I as thinking that the expertise at CRI could easily align with my goal of helping African coffee farmers to enhance their quality and hence command a better price on the export market.
If you are really serious about learning more, the CRI also houses a coffee college (yes, you read that right), where coffee farmers and other people from the industry can learn a number of techniques. Very tempting for me in relation to one of my goals to usurp myself into coffee, even if it’s just for a week, especially to learn more about Kenyan coffee, which still commands the highest premium price of African coffees on the World market.
As we finished our tour, the Director led us the front of the main secretariat to take a picture (top of post) as he handed me some coffee from the institute, as well as for me to actually see and touch a coffee tree.
Another highlight of my experiences of 2019 especially in relation to the future of coffee in Africa and for my personal project to try to help coffee farmers in Africa get a better price and recognition for the quality of the crop.
However, before I leave, I need to mention another experience that I had earlier in Kenya as this post is primarily about Kenyan coffee.
It is no secret that even with the people I worked with in Vienna or in Africa, my coffee passion stands out. So on one previous visit, one of the researchers mentioned that she wanted to show me something at another one of KALROs institute – this time in Nairobi itself.
What is this, you ask ? Well a coffee tree of course, but even though it is quite big, it is very special –
I present to you the oldest coffee tree in Kenya from the 1920s. But that’s not all. As I approached the tree, I noticed two initials SL – initials that I have seen many times on coffee bags from Kenya. So I asked, what does that stand for – they said Scott Labs – the original name for the coffee research institute in Kenya. That is why many coffee varieties in Kenya start with SL, like SL28 and SL34, which you may have seen many times, along with Ruiru 11, etc.
Perhaps Kenya should, if not done yet, start a coffee tour package for coffee lovers like me.
Next time you have the opportunity to buy Kenyan coffee, please do as when it is roasted properly, you will understand why so many coffee connoisseurs believe Kenyan coffee to be the best in the World.
Ever since I heard about Gold Box Roastery in 2016, I have been trying effortlessly to visit them. However, the main reason I was unable to visit them in the past 3 years was because although they open for 6 days a week, they are always closed Fridays and whenever I used to stopover in Dubai for 48 hours, the only full day I had was, Friday. So, on this occasion, as my stopover was from Saturday to Sunday and when asked by my friend where I wanted to go, I naturally said, “let’s try Gold box roastery”.
Situated in Warehouse #7, Building: SMARK 3, Umm Suqeim Rd. East, Near Mall of Emirates Next to Warehouse Gym Al Quoz Industrial Third, the industrial but arty district of Dubai, you could easily miss Gold Box roastery, like we almost did – google maps isn’t always the best for this part of Dubai. Luckily as determined as we were, we found it. As you enter, you could be excused for thinking you’ve walked into a coffee warehouse – right in front of you is a custom made purple La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine – giving the indication that pouring 100s of cups of coffee per day is not their focus. Behind the barista station, also decked out with filter brewing options and a mahl konig grinder, is where the action is, as you can just glimpse the coffee roasters – yes, there’s more than one – this is a coffee roastery. To the left of you, you will see bags and bags of coffee sacks, containing waiting to be roasted green coffee from al over the World, selected carefully by the owner.
The sitting area is small, decked with their theme, purple. Whilst visiting, the customers that stopped by, were regulars, stopping over on their way to somewhere, sitting briefly to drink their “black gold” or buying lots of bags of wholesome coffee to take home.
On the right is an impressive array of coffees on sale with an enticing logo to accompany the delicious coffee beans inside. If you just edge your eyes atop of the coffee bag rows you will see a placard – owner, Barbara Croce awarded as a Q Arabica Grader by the Coffee Quality Institute – now if you don’t know what that it is, here a short explanation
The certification is useful for purchasing coffee, selecting roast profiles and production/processing methods, understanding coffee origins, and more. It allows (them) to communicate objectively about quality throughout the entire coffee supply chain. (source: perfectlydailygrind.com)
In short, Q-graders are like the superheroes of the coffee industry. It allows them, once qualified to detect quality right through the coffee process, enabling them to know how to choose coffee and grade it for its quality, let alone, know how to get the best out of the coffee.a custom made purple La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine – giving the indication that pouring 100s of cups of coffee per day is not their focus. In short, Barbara is really serious about her coffee
But wait, there’s more.
I walk over to a lady and exclaim, finally I have found this place after many years of trying – I noticed that the lady had an air about her, relaxed but confident. To my pleasant surprise it was none other than Barbara herself. Great! first of all we just about find the place and secondly, I get to meet the owner herself.
In fact, to the detriment of my friend, even though he was very polite about it, Barbara and I spend the next 1-2 hours talking about coffee – I learn about there commitment, her vision to make the Dubai roastery world class (her first one is in Newcastle, north England), her family history in coffee, her commitment to understanding coffee by living on an actual farm for a few months, her expansion plans, right opposite their current site, which will become a training school too, the expertise of her staff (one of them Lyndon Recera was UAE barista champion for 3 years in a row until last year – see my previous post on Typica) and much, much more.
It’s only after chatting for a while, that I noticed that I hand’t even had my cup of gold.
I chose a fruity blend as I actually like fruity blends in my milk based coffee. Afterwards, I looked at the impressive display of coffee and was totally spoilt for choice, so of course I ask Barbara to advise me, as I wanted a coffee that would be great for espresso and filter, so I selected the Bolivian Caranavi with tasting notes of fig, dark chocolate and nougat to name a few.
Just before we left, Barbara kindly gave me the invite only to the opening of Typica (previous post), as I presume she had detected a real coffee nerd in me.
Definitely one of my best coffee experiences and looking forward to hearing more from them and their new barista academy.
Read more and order coffee from them on their website https://www.goldboxroastery.com/uae/roastery
I think God is too kind to me. I stopover in Dubai, pop over to one of my most anticipated roastery visits, Gold Box (more on this next week) – get invited by the owner to the opening of a new coffee shop by the 2018 UAE Barista Champion, which turns out to be probably one of my best coffee experiences ever. So, where do I start?
I arrive in a beautifully designed cafe in Umm Suqueim 2 – Jumeirah (Dubai’s best coffee neighbourhood by far)
Show my invite only card but welcomed like I’m a VIP.
Offered a seat and asked what I would like to start with – naturally I let the staff – hold on, no, it’s actually the UAE Champion herself. What can I say, but, “please offer me what you want” I’m thinking “when was the last time I was attended to by an actual barista champion….. well! actually, never… so let me indulge my senses in this experience ”
The menu is simple and to the point
I start with a white (I asked for a cortado), served with a salted caramel brownie on the side together with a never seen before – little card describing type of coffee, altitude height it was grown, process and taste profile – wow!
Could I ask for more….
But there’s more…
Michaela Ruazol, the custodian and UAE Barista Champion has something very special for you on – THE CHALLENGE – the signature drink that contributed to her winning the UAE Barista Championship. However, before you start going crazy with delight – whilst this may not actually be the exact bean that she won the championship with, she has managed to creatively select a coffee with the same profile, so that you too, can delight your tastebuds with what won the judges over – cold brew.
I must say, it was very exquisite, with so many flavour profiles in your mouth, but not at once – progressively, as at first you taste the berries, watermelon (yes, you read that right) and then later on, the caramel type swirl and citrus from the dried orange. It’s like a party in your mouth. The clever part about this type of coffee drink is that, as it was developed as a cold brew (not the easiest type of coffee to get a great taste profile)I think it really challenged Michaela a wide range to experiment because she had to get it just right and more.
Now, where else do you get to taste championship coffee prepared by a champion if you’re not a judge ? For me, TYPICA, Dubai of course.
So what else is on offer?
Looks strange? Well this is a very special coffee machine, Aremde Nexus One– the first of it’s kind in Dubai – Typica are about pushing the boundaries read about this one of it’s kind machine here. It’s one of the very few espresso machines in the World trying to solve the problem of having the barista prepare your coffee whilst looking at you and at the same time, you viewing the process. Naturally, I asked for an espresso, again, prepared by Michaela.
As I wandered around, I spotted coffee being roasted on the spot on the Ikawa (one for my wishlist). The Ikawa is the World’s first smart roaster, so basically you can roast green beans on it – read more here
I’m not sure if they were roasting for consumption right away as this will go against the coffee roasting and chemical principle but it was part of the experience that was Typica.
As I sat there enjoying the vibe, I spotted a man walking around taking pictures and directing another in videoing the opening. He eventually walked by and introduced himself and asked if I wouldn’t mind being featured in one of the promo videos – he laughed as he said, we just want a shot of your mouth, sampling and enjoying the delicious coffee on offer. So, if you visit their instagram page, you may spot me on their page around 2-3 September 2019. I later found out that he was Keith Dallison, a creative hailing from Birmingham (UK), who came to Dubai about 20 years ago and never went back. Later on, Barbara Croce, owner of Gold Box joined the party as well as some inquisitive onlookers and friends. Also on offer are exquisite coffees (no space for normal here). For those who don’t know coffees from Panama are usually very, very special with a posher sounding coffee varietal called Geisha.
I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Michaela and of course I have to say she’s a charming lady that comes across as humble but determined. She offered me more, but after three coffee drinks in less than hour, I was caffeine out. Determined that I still delight my taste buds, she offered me her favourite cookie (biscuit if you are English) which is owned and baked by a local Emirati baker and I must confess it was one fo the best I have had. Her staff are naturally friendly and gave the impression that they were having a great time, with a party vibe but committed to giving you the best. After all, they are also the UAE brewers champion.
Before I finish, I have to mention that the amazing story of Michaela doesn’t start or end here. I found out that the 2016-2017 champion actually didn’t enter the UAE Barista championship, because he wanted to coach her to be the champion and of course he succeeded and its a a real coffee love story, because they are together. In 2020, Michaela will actually represent the UAE at the Melbourne World Barista Championship in 2020 – wow! what a story and this is typical (excuse the pun) of leaders, there’s always a fantastic story behind their success not to mention their hard work, passion and dedication. Naturally he was there during the opening but I think he’s still an employee of Gold Box.
Well done Michaela and I definitely cannot wait to stop by again – a real contender for my fave cafe in the World.
Read more about them on www.typicauae.com
Sometimes you think about something and you talk about your ideas with someone and then it happens. All I can say is praise God. In short, I was introduced to Princess Adeyinka Tekenah, CEO of Nigerian based coffee solutions company, Happy Coffee and wow! her passion for coffee was incredible. I think our first conversation was close to an hour as we exchanged lots of ideas on coffee and how Nigeria can benefit from the World’s most popular beverage. She shared with me a video of when she met H.E. President Macron of France in late 2018, offering him a bag of Nigerian grown and roasted coffee beans. I subsequently shared the video on WhatsApp with all my relevant contacts. One of the ideas we mentioned was for Nigeria’s first coffee festival, similar to the ones across the World, especially the London Coffee Festival. Et voila, on 5 October 2019, it happened – now who says things take time in Africa. Well, not in this case and with coffee charged Yinka, who rounded up a team of planners, visited all potential sites, set up a company for the festival and a website, met with lots of potential sponsors around the country and just went for it with her “full of beans” determination.
So, here we were, after countless WhatsApp messages – the Lagos coffee festival, the first of its kind in Lagos. The main objective was not only to inform people about coffee in Nigeria but to also showcase small and medium enterprises involved one way or another with Nigerian coffee. We had products on offer that showcased coffee as a beauty product such as Damini (owned by NYC trained beautician that developed her products for herself and decided to sell them) and Coffeeskinpert
In addition, there was the infamous, Asah Bara Designs by Zoza Icha, who brings art alive in her cup designs –
I say this, because I think her cups are too beautifully designed to drink from. You need to display them somewhere so that they can be appreciated. Needless to say, her stand was one of the most popular at the festival.
Also on show were coffee stalls, with ever popular My Coffee Lagos who had coffee and snacks on offer, which I couldn’t resist. In addition, there were artisanal bakers – I bought a peanut butter and banana cake – you know me and dessert; and also Merlyn Nutri, who offer healthy drinks and spices (I must confess their customer service was great, as they hand delivered some products that were not available together with some things for me to try, like their delicious zobo (hibiscus) and Tiger nut with ginger and dates drinks, thanks Melody).
So, how about the coffee festival itself.
There were three panel sessions; the first focused on “opportunities in the coffee business: creating wealth through coffee”, which featured entrepreneurs who are already in the coffee business, like Yinka of Happy Coffee, Ms Adesola Gbadamosi – Coffeeskinpert founder and My Coffee Lagos owner, Ms Tatyana Buchak. The second focused on “Starting a Coffee based business” with the panel consisting mostly of people who have started non-coffee related businesses but giving tips on how to start a business and find a niche – the main exception was Ibrahim Samande of Mai Shayi Coffee. The third was on “Stakeholders in the Nigerian Coffee Economy: Defining the Coffee Value chain”, which I moderated – filmed entirely by my wife (who accompanied her crazed coffee husband to Lagos), with the panel consisting of Ms Bisola Olusanya, Special Adviser on Agriculture for Lagos State Government, Alhaji Olomide, President of the Nigerian National Association of Coffee and Tea Farmers (NAFCOTAN) and Mr Ejide Oladuoye, a coffee farmer.
This was probably the most apt session for me as I have written a bit about this lately, having attend the International Coffee Organisation SDG Session on this in June 2019 – read here. The main focus was to hear from the coffee farmers as to what their main challenges have been, including their problems with accessing domestic markets, let alone international markets. It was interesting to note;
- 22 States in Nigeria already grow coffee (Nigeria was 36 states) and there could be more depending on the ecosystem.
- According to the recent ICO Executive Director, Jose Sette, Nigeria is the 7th largest coffee growing country in the World and with a population of approximately 200m people, the focus should be on growing domestic consumption.
- The government has put in place initiatives to promote the agricultural sector, including coffee.
- Nigeria grows both robusta (mainly in the south) and arabica (spanning from the central to the north east).
However some gaps remain, like data on the value and output of coffee. Needless to say, some work needs to be done to determine the quality of Nigerian coffee, essential to tap international markets. All this will be really valuable information needed to entice the private sector to get more involved too. In fact that was one of the things I committed (coffee geek) – to develop a public private partnership (PPP) proposal involving both the Federal and Lagos State governments to facilitate the process for developing the Nigerian coffee industry, which may include exporting coffee, possibly through a coffee processing plant near the harbour – just thinking.
All in all, I really enjoyed myself and I was really encouraged by the energy of the panellist, the participants – we had over 70 in the last session and by the atmosphere. Driven by all this energy, I was hungry but more important, I was craving coffee – naturally I headed over to the Happy Coffee stand of course, where I had a double espresso – I had to, after all Yinka was their CEO.
In addition, I tried some coffee from the Mai Shayi stand, where the Syphon was on display. Later on, their CEO, Ibrahim Samande held the coffee appreciation session.
So, here’s looking forward to the Lagos Coffee Festival in 2020 and developing a PPP proposal to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry, which will now become one of my main personal projects. If anyone reading this, is really interested to join this ride, please contact me.