Category Archives: World of Coffee

Please Sign The Coffee Pledge – 1 October 2019

I’ve written recently about the fact that the price of coffee is the lowest it’s been for over 15 years, meaning that coffee farmers are finding it so difficult to make a living from selling coffee that some of them have eve abandoned their farms to look for a job in order to feed their families and educate their children.

So 1 October is International Coffee Day – yes, there’s is as such a thing – and the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) together with some like minded partners have launched the Coffee Pledge, so please sign the #coffeepledge that calls for a living wage for coffee farmers.

Some the World’s top coffee roasts have already signed something similar – see below and congratulations to them too.

 

In addition, just also week on 23 September 2019 at the first ever Global CEO and Leaders of the Coffee Forum, the “London Declaration” was signed, committing;

“to taking action focusing on four themes: promoting competitive and sustainable production; fostering responsible and equitable growth; promoting responsible consumption; and promoting public-private dialogue regarding policy development.”

see link here to read more.

In any case this is historic and as we say in the project management world, all we need to do now is ‘implement, implement and implement” so that everyone in the coffee value chain gets a fairer treatment.

Here’s looking to a fairer world for commodities especially for the second most tradeable one, coffee, as we need everyone involved in getting this most popular of beverages on to our table to benefit as much as possible.

 

 

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I was @ OR Coffee Roastery, Brussels

This is like part two of my previous post, when I visited Brussels to attend the ICO SDG Coffee Symposium. Prior to visiting for the day, I obviously checked out the speciality coffee scene in Brussels and although few came up, the one called OR Roastery stood out. In any case from what I could deduce from the map, there was one centrally located but I wasn’t sure if it would be near the symposium. As I had not been to Brussels in like ages (my memory puts me visiting there around 1987 and that was a long time ago) I was looking forward to visiting again, albeit for a day.

Although there was coffee during the coffee break, my fussy palate was not satisfied with what was on offer. Having arrived late and after spending my lunch break networking with the coffee aristocrats, I decided that during the next coffee break, I would wander not too far to look for OR Coffee and wow! It was like God wanted me to visit, because would you believe it, right outside the Sofitel Hotel where the afternoon sessions were taking place, was the OR Coffee shop I was looking for – located on the corner of Place Jourdan and Rue de Cornet.

As I walked in, it had that air of Anglo-Saxon and by that I mean you could be in London,  New York or perhaps Australia, with green tiles, wood and exposed brick and copper pipes overhead – a relaxed atmosphere, with displays of their coffees, gadgets, etc. to the right hand side – see pic at the top. It was quietish but not empty. In fact it was a bit too relaxed for me as I was eager not to miss any of the sessions and waiting about 10 minutes for my coffee, made me a bit impatient even though I was second in the queue but I didn’t know that people sitting down were still waiting for their coffee. In short, don’t come here rushing for coffee, at least not at 3pm in the afternoon, but I’m sure that they can handle crowds during rush hour. In any case, it gave me the opportunity to walk around to stretch my legs and soak up the atmosphere, browsing their menu, which reminded me more of a London cafe especially when I saw their cakes, cheesecake, red velvet, etc – oh! how I wished I had come here for lunch instead. Walking over to their coffees, I was pleasantly surprised , after having just mentioned to someone that I haven’t seen Tanzanian coffee for years, to see a Tanzanian espresso blend, which I grabbed very quickly with a smile.

 

Eventually I got my coffee, brewed on a  La Marzocco GB5, served by amiable staff a flat white, with two shots, using their house blend – just what I needed.

 

I did some more research on OR Roastery, which you can view here

In short, they are the first specialty coffee power house of Belgium – they roast, they teach you how to roast, set up a coffee business, provide coffee to your office, have a few locations and more.

Upon my return home I was happy to have purchase their Tanzanian Espresso Blend.

The bag says rhubarb and high acidity, but for me it was the aftertaste even with milk, coating the outside of your tongue with a berry like acidity – delicious and something I haven’t had in a while – tempting for me to order for delivery to Vienna in the not so distant future.

So, in summary, if you visit Brussels, try and visit OR coffee along with the other speciality coffee shops you may find on your list.

 

 

 


I was at the SDG Coffee Symposium on 6 June 2019

 

Organised by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) on 6 June to discuss the challenges of the coffee value chain during historically low coffee prices. I was invited by Gerardo Patacconi, Director of Operations. I know some of my readers are wondering is there such an organisation, yes there is and….

The ICO is the main intergovernmental organization for coffee, bringing together exporting and importing Governments to tackle the challenges facing the world coffee sector through international cooperation. Its Member Governments represent 98% of world coffee production and 67% of world consumption.

The ICO sounds like the kind of place that for me, as a development economist who loves coffee would like to work in and yes I confess that it is one of the places I would love to work in, especially located in my fave coffee capital in the World, London. Anyway I digress.

More on the jargon – the SDG stands for “sustainable development goals” and are sometimes known as the Global Goals. In any case they were initiated through the United Nation (UN) and are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

So, this Symposium was organised together with the European Coffee Federation and hosted by the European Commission (EC) bringing together coffee sector stakeholders (buyers, farmers, academia, civil society, partners) and is part of ICOs sector wide consultation that will lead hopefully to a roadmap with concrete actions to address the coffee price crisis and volatility, which has resulted in affecting coffee farmers livelihoods and which will eventually, if left unchecked, affect the sustainability of the coffee industry.

In summary, coffee prices are very low at the moment, whereby you can buy a pound (.453kg) bag of coffee greens for about US$1 at the world commodity price. Price varies with quality and with type (robusta/arabica), but a few years back it was double that (in 2010 it was three times this around US$3 per pound), which means that coffee farmers have seen a 50% drop in their income depending on other factors. Initially, you may be thinking like I did, hold on; “my specialty coffee roaster sells a kilo for about US$30 but only pays US$1 or up to US$3, so the roaster is king”. In fact, in a recent Financial Times article it was calculated that for each US$3 (UKGBP2.50) for a cappuccino, the roaster got 10p and the roaster 1p – yikes.

 

This seems very unfair and unsustainable, but there are other factors and as I mentioned on my linkedIn article on “coffee and economics”;

Perhaps the big players should consider diverting some of the profits to;

  • coffee research into new varieties to address climate change
  • investment for the local communities such as centralised washing stations and hence clean water, like Stumptown did – see “A Film about Coffee”
  • investment in transport access,
  • promotion of the crop in the local communities especially with the youth, which are running away from coffee farming. Use social media,etc.
  • educating the communities in life skills, even entrepreneurial skills.

On point (i) and (ii), Starbucks highlighted that they work with 450,000 coffee farmers and have supported research to create 400 varietals of which 5 have been released on farm trials.

On the point (v) and in general, I really believe, that the more you give the more you will get back. It runs through some of the points I have raised under my #honestmanagement series, if you show respect to your employees (and in this case we can say coffee farmers), you will foster loyalty and they will go the extra mile to grow the best coffee.  Whoever in the coffee chain has the most and in any industry they will know who they are, should really think about how the coffee industry can be sustainable for future generations – after all there is no doubt that the demand for coffee is constantly growing, so there will always be a market for it.

In summary, for coffee lovers we want everyone to get a fair deal for the best of our planet. We know that low coffee prices “never” translate to lower prices for our daily cappuccinos or flat whites, pour overs, etc, but at least those at the source, the farmers should benefit somehow, if not we will all loose out.

In short it was a very interring symposium for me, looking at the other side – away from my traditional view (cafes and quality) to the upstream side, where it all starts from the farm. That’s my take for now, but I’m working on this as a side project, so I’m welcome to any more ideas.

Sources

FT Article

http://www.ico.org

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coffee-economics-lameen-abdul-malik/?published=t


A Beautiful Coffee Shop: Alchemy Coffee, Dubai

Sometimes you just drop into a coffee shop and think Wow! what a space, and that’s what happened when I visited Alchemy Coffee in Dubai last month. I had heard about this coffee shop since last summer when we visited but we ran out of time and I missed the opportunity. As they say, good things or should I say, good coffee, comes to those who wait. As you enter, you know, as they articulated on their website that they wanted you to enter a space that feels like home. Alchemy have progressed from the so called Starbucks “home away from home” space, as you feel like you are home. It helps that this coffee shop is definitely a converted Miami style house with very clean lines, including a plunge swimming pool outside (not for coffee drinkers), but it adds to the ambience.

As you enter the front door, on the right is this beautiful info graphic;

which is actually their drinks menu – the only thing missing is the price for each drink.

To the left is the brew bar, with all the filter options (hario V60, aeropress, chemex, kalita, etc) and of course a Synesso Espresso machine with Anfim grinder and Victoria Arduino Mythos grinder. Interesting enough, two baristi hailed from Uganda.

On the day we arrived, it was their first year anniversary – 6 April and they had a camera crew taking pictures and videos of their space plus a giveaway competition with first price a trip to an Ethiopian coffee farm for two (that would be ideal for me). It was also a bit busy so we had to wait for about 5 minutes before placing our order. My cousin went for something with milk – a beautifully poured cappuccino;

Latte art!

As it was later in the day, I wanted to try a filter coffee and wow! was I in for a real treat. Yes, almost like the elusive red sulphur – I had to do a double take – Did I see Yemeni coffee (the first country after Ethiopia to grow coffee and for which the coffee variety arabica comes from) on the menu, in front of me in a  very apt golden coffee bag. I was so stunned to see Yemeni coffee that I quizzed them as to where they got it from – their coffee comes from a local roaster, Cypher. In fact I wanted to buy a bag but as it was a special edition to coincide with their 1 year anniversary, it wasn’t for sale. In any case I chose for it to be brewed on a kalita, which I don’t usually have.

 

The flavour profile was typical Yemeni; spicy, with hints of dark chocolate and medium acidity. After a while I managed to persuade my cousin – not a coffee drinker – to try.

To accompany our coffees, we ordered scrumptious looking tarts and cakes – mine was Swiss almond (yes, typical me, I told the barista, chuckling that Switzerland don’t have almonds) and my cousin an orange polenta cake – but very yummy.

Their space is very clean – perhaps too clean for a normal house, unless you have guest coming over – which Alchemy have all the time, obviously.

In summary, a very nice space, with attention paid to detail in presentation , preparation and hospitality. Looking forward to my next visit insha’Allah.

visit their website on Alchemy


I was @ Kaldi Coffee, Lagos (Nigeria)

I first heard of Kaldi Coffee early in 2018, when they liked one of my coffee photos on Instagram and was so intrigued by their concept that I told everyone I knew in Nigeria to look out for their coffees, which can be bought at the duty free, supermarkets and of course at their shops. In any case, I promised to visit them when I visited Nigeria again, which happened in December 2018. So, on my last few hours in Lagos and with the mad traffic in Lagos, it was beginning to look extremely slim that I would make it, but due to the kindness of one of my cousins, who resonated with my coffee passion, she loaned me her car and driver and I headed off to Ilupeju – near Ikeja – the part of Lagos that the airport is located in.

As I finally arrived, I was met by a very enthusiastic Dr Nasra Ali – the main owner of Kaldi coffee. I presume she was excited to meet a fellow coffee geek. We headed over to have a coffee first – I was really looking forward to my first good cup of coffee in Nigeria after 10 days (most of it was spent in Abuja and the remaining 2 days in Lagos only). Prepared on a La Marzocco GB5, using of course Kaldi’s coffee beans.

So, what is the story behind Kaldi Africa. First of all, I presume everyone knows the story about Kaldi and if you don’t, click on my page – a Brew beginning (the story about how coffee started) at the top. In any case, Dr Nasra Ali is actually a doctor, formerly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations organisation in charge of health, where she was working until she met her husband to be, a businessman of Greek origin, who resided in Nigeria – you see the connection. In any case, coffee runs in Nasra’s family bloodline, as they were behind Kenya and perhaps Africa’s biggest coffee chain, Java House (see my post here). So, when presented with an idea of setting up a business in Nigeria, it was obvious. In her own right, she’s a trained barista and roaster and has the Nigerian license for distributing my favourite espresso coffee machine maker, La Marzocco and have SCAE recognition.

So, Nasra, doesn’t compromise on quality. Kaldi’s focus is on sourcing good coffee from Africa and they have started trying to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry – yes, there is one. This is very commendable, because she could easily just buy Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees from Eastern Africa and ignore West Africa, but she didn’t and also sources coffee from nearby Cameroon too. So, now for the tour;

Nasra showed me her coffee factory. First the tasting and barista room, where she has a few espresso machines (La Marzocco of course), grinders, brewing equipment and the Ikawa mini-roaster.

Then we went to the heart – the roasting room, which houses two Probat Coffee Roasters – wow!

If you view her Instagram Feed, you will see what she went through to get this factory from an empty dusty room to this gleaming roast factory – truly amazing and I was very impressed.

On the business side, Nasra has started roasting for hotels and restaurants – I visited Krispy Kreme Lagos, who are one of her customers –

Met with Edouard Sassine, who offered me the opportunity to start a coffee roasting company with him – extremely tempting, I must say. In any case, Nasra is so generous, that she is willing to develop a roast blend for each of her customers beyond her own trusted espresso blend. If you cannot visit, you can also buy their coffees on line – 250g starting for the equivalent of $7.8 and there’s even more – something I’ve never seen. You can order your coffee as greens or roasted in three different profiles of light, medium and dark. As a coffee geek, you could order the same coffee in three different roast profiles, even though I’d omit the “darker” version. They also sell chocolate and tea, gadgets, coffee cups, brewing equipment, grinders and espresso machines. Nasra offered me two coffee bags and hot chocolate and I grabbed the Nigerian and Cameroonian coffees, which I brewed as espresso.

On services, they have three different types of barista courses, so ideally, any serious retail outlet or business that wants to start a coffee business in Lagos – a city soon to be the largest in Africa with over 20 million people, there’s no real reason to serve substandard coffee. They can also be contacted to serve great coffee at events if needed. Read more about Kaldi on http://kaldiafrica.com

Nasra was so conscious of me missing my flight back to Abuja that my very intriguing visit was all over in less than an hour and as my wife knows, I can literally chat about coffee for hours. So, I reluctantly left, but guess what ? What should have been a 15 minutes ride to the airport, took a whopping 90 minutes and if my flight left on time, I would definitely have missed it – things I do for coffee.

I was really intrigued by my visit and seeing the passion in my eyes, Nasra, ever so giving, offered to help me start a coffee roasting business in Nigeria – I can’t even imagine anyone offering to train a competitor, but I think she’s so giving and I was really tempted – perhaps I’ll add that to my wish list or should I say dream list, plus I would really like to explore the possibility of helping Nigerian and other African coffee farmers get more recognised and up the quality of their coffee – anyone interested, please feel free to contact me.

Until then, if you ever visit Lagos, please stop by but not on your way to the airport and it’s probably best on the weekend or in the morning, when there’s less traffic.

Well done Nasra and here’s to working with you to help Nigerian and African coffee producers.


London Coffee Report 2018

I cannot see the end of 2018 without sharing a brief report of my coffee experiences in my favourite coffee city, London. Although I spent the least amount of days in London in 2018 that I have done in the past few years, I tried my best to try at least two new spots, so lets’ start with these.

When in the City of London, try Rosslyn Coffee, 78 Queen Victoria St, London EC4N 4SJ 

By the City of London, I don’t mean the actually city. If you visit London and ask them how do I get to the city, they will direct you to the square mile area, which was originally the “city gate” of London. There’s actually a brick wall, mostly destroyed, around this square mile, which now hosts the financial area of London and perhaps Europe. It is also where most of money is made in London, according to some stats. To get to this coffee shop, take the northern or central line to Bank, the station next to the Bank of England – you couldn’t get more “city like” than this. From the station, I highly recommend using goggle maps to get tot he cafe like I did, as there are many streets in this vicinity. However, if you work in the city, then you’ll know how to get there – it’s not far from the Bloomberg HQ.

So now, time for coffee

 

This is actually a picture of a clock in the cafe. A small spot, designed to churn out coffee at high speed to a busy on the go crowd on their synesso espresso machine coupled with batch brew coffee on the go. There won’t be much time for any chit chat with the staff, order, wait, pick up and go. If you have a bit of time, facing the till, look to your right and you can buy some coffee to take home (roasted for them), which I did – their espresso blend to be precise. In any case, I ordered a cortado, being mid-afternoon – a milk chocolate taste – the standard, carefully prepared.

Also on offer, are pastries and brownie bars. If you have a bit of time, which you should always have for coffee – have your coffee in a porcelain cup (it taste much better) and sit on some high stools before that important meeting. If you are lucky and if they have time, chat with the staff, which I did, with one of the owners, James, formerly of Caravan Coffee (who opened this spot with Mat, also formerly of Caravan Coffee). Highly recommended if you are in the city and want some coffee well prepared with no frills.

The Best Coffee in Balham: Story Works, 31 St John’ s Hill vs  Birdhouse Coffee 123 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1SZ

Actually I didn’t give them that acclaim but it was awarded to them by a reviewer. The main reason I was here was because I stayed with my brother in Clapham and by default I just head into the city for my specialty coffee fix without checking if there’s anything worthy in this part of London. So, one Sunday morning, I decided to google and having scanned some reviews and pics of shops, I decided on two – Story works (the smaller version of Story coffee) and birdhouse. I must confess when I checked the pics, I was bias towards Story Coffee, with their bright looking shop and their Kees van der Westen Spirit machine. I thought they must know what they are doing, plus it was in much closer proximity to my brothers house.

At Story Works, opposite the Clapham Junction Railway Station, I’m not sure if they had a trainee by himself on Sunday but I already started getting nervous when I asked him some basic coffee questions like type of coffee and commented in the machine. I also timed the shot and heard the manner in which the milk was frothed and eventually poured – let’s just say I dint even bother to take a picture and after a few sips, I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t finish the coffee and left hanging with coffee withdrawal symptoms. That’s why I decided to take the other 6-7 minutes of walking up hill to birdhouse, where I passed by the original Story Coffee on 115 St John’s Hill, which was quite packed as they offer enticing looking food, but another time.

As you enter, I must say, there is absolutely no frills. It’s reminisce of a classic general shop, grey and hints of yellow, nothing special, but I wasn’t here to take pics of their decor, but to taste their coffee, prepared using one grinder and a La Marzocco Linea. After my not so amusing experience at Story Coffee, I was already sceptical, but it paid off and I must confess after this beautifully crafted cappuccino, I was thinking “the best coffee in Wandsworth” as one reviewer mentioned might not be off the mark.

Also on offer is food, so you can brunch and lunch too – check goggle for some enticing looking food to savour.

One proviso, to be fairer I plan to try Story Coffee next time when in this area, but for now Birdhouse wins.

Coffee and the Best Banana Bread – Saint Espresso Kentish Town and Baker Street

I know I went here last year but it is a good spot to meet family in this part of London. So you can probably guess how my family conversations go”where can we meet Lameen?” “a coffee shop but let me choose and tell you where”. If we are going to meet, let me take control and chit and chatter over good coffee and cakes, so we were back here again – family gathering over lots of coffee and some hot chocolate too.

Coffee was good but I must confess the banana bread was the best I’ve had and I let the chef know too.

On another occasion, I tried their coffee shop at Baker’s Street (located at 214 Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 5RT), which is smaller for my daily cappuccino fix.

As you enter, you can pick up gadgets and coffee and as you approach the counter, there’s lots of treats (cakes, pastries, etc) to choose from before your coffee is made on their customised black linea La Marzocco machine. I met their manager, Rustam Baratov, who was very hospitable and we exchanged contacts.

 

When in the West End again – Notes Coffee, Bond Street Station and Grind Soho, 19 Beak St, Soho, London W1F 9RP but of course

But of course…. I’ve got to add the to go places. My first stop since 2017 has been Notes coffee located at Bond street underground station because it is just where we always end up as soon as we arrive in London – the West end. You are guaranteed a good cup of coffee, whether espresso based or batch brew and there’s always tempting sweet bites and friendly staff for a more pleasant experience.

 

Another place in the heart of the West End is soho and for coffee, Soho Grind. During the summer they were celebrating their tenth anniversary, which meant a fantastic batch brew and by fantastic, I mean juicy mouthfeel, balanced acidity, fruity – so good I went back not twice but thrice. In fact it was so good I wanted to buy a bag or tin (Grind sell their coffees in tins) but it was so special that if they had a price, it would have been one I would  have had to hide from my wife, ha!. In any case it wasn’t for sale, just for their customers to enjoy over and over again, until it ran out – lucky me and my taste buds.

So there we are my London coffee report just in time before we hit 2019 God willing.

All the best for the new year; don’t drink too much…. coffee and here’s to more great coffee shops opening in London in 2019, enjoy!

 

 


I was @ Brew Cafe, Dubai

It should no longer come as a surprise to you that whenever I get the opportunity to stop over in Dubai, I take it. So on the last occasion, my plan was to try another cafe that I had never been to. Calling my newly converted “to specialty coffee” friends in Dubai one afternoon and enquiring what they were up to, they mentioned that they wanted to try a new cafe out in Dubai and what do you know, coincidentally, praise God – it was one I had never been to – Brew Cafe, located in Jumeirah Road, Umm Suqeim 2. As I wasn’t that far away, another friend drop me by.

Upon entering I did my coffee geek thing – scout the cafe and ask the staff about the coffee on offer. In summary, they have an uber boiler and a special gadget, never seen before, for preparing filter coffee, a typical Swedish style glass counter, displaying some sweet treats and sandwiches. As you enter, there are some high chairs to your left and some lower seating on the right together with red tiled topped tables. Closer to the window on the left, where we sat, they have a low table with some chairs. To the far left near the brew counter, they have a shelf selling coffees and brewing gadgets. The pay point has a back drop of their logo.

However, the main scene stealer for me was the Kees van der Westen spirit two group coffee machine, which I haven’t seen for a while. A very fine looking machine that promises to deliver;

So, off to the coffee then. They have some unusual coffee menu items for the untrained eye, like the nitro (never tried) and the magic (I used to serve this at Escape in cape town but in summary it hails from Melbourne and mine was a triple shot cortado). I settled for a piccolo, knowing that later I couldn’t resist a filter brew.

On coffees, they have a strong bias for Barn Berlin – one of Berlin’s finest coffee roasters, offering for both espresso and filter brew, but I was wondering why they haven’t been loyal to the up and coming local coffee roasteries. However, I spotted a coffee bag from newly crowned world coffee roaster of the year Gardelli – a bag from Uganda – the Mzungu coffee project. Initially the barista, John, wanted to make this for me but when I went for it, he informed that there wasn’t enough to make my chemex, crying out loud. For my second brew, I chose a Costa Rican coffee, roasted by Barn Berlin. I shared some with my friends so that they could sample filter coffee not just from one of the consistently good coffee producing nations on earth, but more importantly to introduce their taste buds to a new way of tasting and drinking coffee.

Before I left I bought a bag of Barn Berlin Costa Rican Vulcan Azul coffee to take back to Vienna – perhaps I should have felt guilty from an environmental perspective – buying German roasted coffee, shipped to Dubai and then shipped back to Germany’s neighbour, Austria. Sorry!

In summary, another good Dubai coffee experience at a no frills place that might need more staff when it gets a bit busy. Nevertheless you are guaranteed some good coffee and if you have space, some sweet treats too.