Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Industry Comment – with Emily Oak


Who decides what the customer wants?


What does a customer remember about a coffee they drink? Is it the latte art, the café atmosphere, the conversation they shared with the barista or the origin and farm the coffee came from? Chances are it’s one of the aforementioned, but what a barista is trying to share and what a customer takes away is probably rarely the same thing.

The experience that a customer treasures from going for coffee or visiting a cafe is often the same reason they were attracted to go there in the first place – and it is different for everyone.  Of course there is no right and wrong when it comes to defining this interaction although for the most part a feeling of trust and respect between the customer and the café must exist.

Specialty coffee baristas love what they do. We’re passionate, dedicated and in most instances educated quite thoroughly and specifically about the coffees we roast, dial in, pour and serve every day. We know the region and district it was grown, in some instances we’ve met the farmers and workers and touched the trees that produce the cherries. We care about the supply chain and the integrity of our product, and, we want you to understand it’s true value. Despite our competing businesses, as a collective this is our common goal.

So why is this a topic worth discussing? As I mentioned earlier, the problem occurs when the goals and the outcomes don’t line up.

The biggest question currently facing the specialty coffee retailer is how to better engage customers to share our passion. Because more often than not, it seems, that customers just aren’t that into it. We have, I believe, as an industry, accepted that in the past that sometimes our interactions have been less than ideal. In the push to share our cause we’ve come across as patronising, soap-boxy and preachy, and not actually stopped to find out what people are looking for. Customers end up dissatisfied and then disengage, no longer paying attention to what we’re trying to share.  What we need to do as an industry is recognise that not every person who walks through the door is looking to know the whole story…. (yet!) Equally, customers need to recognise that coffee isn’t just coffee, hopefully through the quality of experience and relationships that can be developed between a café and its patrons.

As an industry we’re in a unique position. Our clients visit regularly (daily in most instances) and the frequency of interaction we are offered is far greater than that of most other hospitality industries.  Specialty coffee needs to share with customers our product and our story, because the coffee we serve is undervalued by the general public. Because of this, people are not willing to pay what coffee is worth, or understand why in fact, we actually need to pay more.

How we better spread this message is still being debated, but at the very least communication needs to be improved. Baristas need to adapt to respect the needs and wishes of their customers and understand that everyone is looking for a different outcome from their interaction. Hopefully from this basis, a new dialogue can open up. Equally, customers need to be willing to engage a little more and begin to understand that when it comes to coffee, things can only get better.

Emily Oak is Division Manager for St Ali and Sensory Lab in NSW and a former member of the WCE Board of Directors.

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Coffee Profile – Karatu Estate,Tanzania

by Rob Stewart

Trying to use single origins in an espresso machine can sometimes be like pushing a square peg into a round hole – they just don’t fit. The extraction can be uneven, delivering results that are either too high in acidity, sweet or sour, or lacking in body, which inevitably means that they either must be blended, or ignored and not used at all. This is pretty sad when you consider the beans’ journey in order to make it into our cups. Yesterday I decided to cup some washed coffees from Guatemala, and my whiz-bang, bells and whistles, multi-boiler espresso machine was highlighting the high levels of acidity in the coffee. Disappointed with these results, I dragged out my $10 French press and bingo, the coffee came to life! It had body, flavour and sweetness, and was perfectly balanced.

The resurgence of lo-tech brewing methods such as siphons, aeropress and pour-over units has fortunately come at a time when blending coffees is beginning to take a back seat. Roasters are searching out unique origins, micro lots and rare varieties and these brewing devices are extracting the coffee in such a delicate way that they can turn on these coffees’ unique flavours in a more palatable way. An example of one origin I have had ongoing trouble with is the Tanzania AA. It always seemed to vary in flavour from season to season and to be too bright and winey, that is until recently when I bought my first Chemex pour-over.

Dating back to the 16th century Tanzanian coffee was used as an energy food source for tribes and also as a form of currency. Fast forward to the 19th century when the Germans ruled most of East Africa and coffee quickly became a cash crop, coffee was heavily planted in the perfect, rich volcanic-soil Moshi region in the north and in the Bukoba region in the northwest. By the end of World War I, the British had control and continued to push the coffee industry, which saw many natives forming cooperatives to gain a fairer share of the market. By 1961, Tanzania finally had its independence but also had a government that made poor decisions which, in conjunction with a failing market, had pretty much destroyed the infrastructure of the coffee industry by the 1980s, with a dramatic effect on the quality of the coffee.

In 2001, the government took action and set up the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute, to embark on fixing the ailing industry. Their goal was to replace every tree in Tanzania with plants more suited to the environment and that are less prone to diseases. This was conceived as a 10-year plan and was designed to stabilise the industry; it’s now starting to pay off, as Tanzanian origins are now beginning to appear at the cupping table, especially coffees from Kilimanjaro, Arusha region in the north and Ruvuma in the south – coffees that, perhaps surprisingly, are beginning to rival the superior Kenyans.

I’ve ordered a lot of coffee from the Karatu Estate in the north of Tanzania, bordering the Serengeti national park. I like this coffee best when using pour-over methods such as a chemex or a plunger. This emphasises the unique brightness and delicate flavours that are seemingly lost when extracting from a traditional espresso machine. If roasted lightly, the grind aroma should reveal a molasses-sweet tone but also be slightly peppery, and the aromatics when the coffee is wet offer a hint of red berry and apricot. When using the chemex, the flavour is reminiscent of camomile tea with a hint of honey and raspberry, which is near impossible to achieve as an espresso. The body is well balanced and it has a flavour that lingers, but is still relatively clean and as the cup cools more of the sweet, sugary notes start to dominate.

The coffee

Location: Tanzania, Karatu estate

Plant type: Bourbon/Arusha

Process: washed

Grade: AA

Cup profile

Fragrance/Aroma: pepper, red berry and apricot

Flavour: camomile, honey and raspberry

Aftertaste: clean

Body: silky and smooth

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Industry Comment – with Emily Oak


Singles or Blends?

Not so long ago I had a minor squabble with Neil Perry via twitter on the pros and cons of single origins vs. blends in espresso beverages. Even as one of Australia’s most recognised and successful celebrity chefs, his mis-interpretation of the merits of each had me perplexed. As I attempted to explain how each performed generally as espressos the conversation got split into tangents and inevitably came to a halt, but it left me wondering how many people are confused by what ‘single origin’ or ‘blend’ actually means and how they can best be used.

The term ‘single origin’ can be a little confusing. Essentially it means coffee from one single place – either one country, one region or one single estate. It is not mixed or blended with any other coffee, be it from another or the same, country, region or farm. It is alone, one bean from one place.

A blend is anything other than that. A blend can be coffees from various countries, from various regions, or even two varying roasts of the same coffee mixed together (usually referred to as a ‘single origin blend’– just to things!).

So, why do we offer both? It’s hard to establish how blending coffees together began, but it is easy to explain why it became popular. By putting together coffees of various taste and depth, a roaster can develop flavours and textures that might not be possible in a single origin bean. When done well, a blend can bring out the best in coffees as individuals, while complementing each other to create balance, the desired taste or other aspect most sought after. Blending can sometimes hide faults in coffees and add volume as fillers, or perform better (than single origins) when mixed with milk.  Traditionally, over decades, coupled with the limited technology for quality control from the growing and production of green coffee and roasting, blends produced a better outcome for espresso coffees.

Single origins coffees, whilst always having existed, have had somewhat of a renaissance in the last decade or so. This is primarily because of the rapid increase in the quality and traceability of coffees, as well as a renewed interest in single cup brewing. Even when I started in the coffee industry 17 years ago we sold the generic Colombia, Brazil or Mexican coffee. Now, we can trace our coffees back to the region, farm or estate and get a much higher quality cup.

Singe Origin coffees are however individual in their taste and not for everyone. In fact, the point of them, more often than not, is to highlight the individuality and nuances of a region, variety or processing method; aspects of flavour that can get lost if mixed with other coffees. As an espresso, single origins are most often softer in milk than a blend or sometimes a little confronting with unusual or unique characteristics as a black coffee. They are not for everyone and are almost always limited when it comes to repeating a flavour profile.

Both blends and single origins are valuable elements, especially for specialty coffee, as an avenue of sharing just how good quality coffee can taste. Blends are a fantastic way of introducing people to better coffees but ironically, as people explore coffee more and more they are inevitably drawn to tasting the distinct and diverse range of single origin coffees now available to the market. Regardless of what you prefer, if it’s a good coffee bean to start with you will almost always enjoy the experience.

Emily Oak is Division Manager for St Ali and Sensory Lab in NSW and a former member of the WCE Board of Directors.

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Sunbeam’s new EM7000

You’ll not find too much information about the EM7000 on the internet as yet, perhaps a little on the coffee forums, but certainly no other formal reviews or pictures of the insides of this machine.

We are pleased to bring you a review by one of our senior forum members, Mark Watts, where he gives us his insight into Sunbeam’s new EM7000.

My first impression is that the people at Sunbeam have got together around a table and looked at what worked for others, and where some long overdue upgrades could be made, with a focus on retaining/growing their niche in the home coffee machine market.  As a result, the essence of a well-engineered machine can be found, and at a price that shouldn’t put the budget at risk. The finish/quality of this machine has come a long way.


Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Buy a ‘Cappuccino for a Cause’ : 26 & 27 October

With more than a billion cups of coffee each year now consumed away from home by Australia’s café society, Variety – the Children’s Charity, is asking our growing nation of coffee drinkers to have a cappuccino to help kids in need during October.

Cappuccino for a Cause, an annual fundraising event by Gloria Jean’s Coffees is seeking to raise $170,000 for Variety – the Children’s Charity this October. Donation boxes, in coffee houses nationally will be dedicated to raising funds for Variety throughout the month.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Melbourne :: Ducale launches dc Tunes this weekend

Ducale coffee invites you to join them for the launch of dc Tunes at Grumpys Green this weekend, seriously!

Three nights of live music from 5 of Melbourne’s finest Rock n’ Roll bands

When: from the 28th-30th of September

Venue: Grumpys Green, 125 Smith St, Fitzroy

Doors open at 8pm and entry is free

Local music, local venues supported by local coffee

For more info,go to the Ducale Coffee website


Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Gloria Jean’s Coffees crowns their 2012 Australian Barista Champion

Nathan Trebbin from Castletown, Queensland was announced Gloria Jean’s Coffees Australian Barista Champion for 2012. Nathan won the prestigious title amongst fierce competition, which showcased Gloria Jean’s Coffees’ most talented and creative baristas from around the country.

Eight Barista finalists presented four espressos, four lattes and four signature beverages to the panel of judges, who critiqued against World Barista Championship standards. Judges awarded points for each finalist’s professional performance and how the individual barista’s personality and flair were presented to the audience.


Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Cafe Cities of the World :: Seattle

As a coffee destination, Seattle is a city with a big reputation. On the one hand, Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, that behemoth of all coffee chains, but on the other, Seattle is also home to a sophisticated independent specialty cafe scene. Quite a dichotomy, some might say. But then Seattle is a city which comfortably embraces the creativity and inherent diversity that thinking ‘outside the square’ can bring — two of its most famous children, Jimmy Hendricks & Bill Gates are perhaps testament to that.

Surrounded by lush evergreen forest with the snowy peak of Mount Rainier in the distance, Seattle is a vibrant city in a magnificent setting. Located on Elliott Bay, Seattle was founded by white settlers in the mid 19th century and went on  to become a primary hub for fishing (think Chinook salmon) and logging with a large number of immigrants attracted to the area. By 1910, about one-third of Seattle’s foreign-born residents hailed from Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland.
They played a strong role in defining the young city’s identity — a legacy that can still be seen today.

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Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Best Cafes of Melbourne 2011

Proud Mary_Cup_webWhen we started up, and we’re just about to celebrate our tenth anniversary, we floated the [then slightly sacrilegious] notion that Melbourne might not, after all, be Australia’s coffee capital – in fact the things that were happening in the Sydney coffee scene were rather leaving Melbourne in the shade. Since then, however, coffee in Australia has taken many leaps forward and we’ve enjoyed riding the wave as coffee in Melbourne, in particular, has surged forward.

We have recently concluded a coffee-hopping trip [including the erstwhile capital of modern world espresso - Seattle] and we now firmly believe that Melbourne takes its place – not just as Australia’s but pretty much the world’s, coffee capital – and as you’ve probably guessed, we don’t make that sort of statement lightly!

However, coffee has got to such a stage in Melbourne, that there may not be much further you can go with espresso. The ‘third wave’ in coffee has seen more emphasis on brewing with different methods – syphon, pour-over, chemex, french press and clover – to the extent that some roasts are optimised for these brewing methods & may actually not be quite so good for espresso… a quandary that probably no other city in Australia may be experiencing.


Friday, July 15th, 2011

CafeSmart 2011

cafesmart logoCafeSmart will take place on Friday 5th August, during National Homeless Persons’ Week (1-7 August 2011), and will bring together cafés and their customers, to create change for some of our most disadvantaged Australians. Part proceeds, from each cup purchased on the day, will be put towards charities that tackle homelessness in Australia. The initiative is StreetSmart’s most recent project called CafeSmart whereby participating cafes have generously pledged to donate $1.00 per coffee sold to fund local grassroots projects.

Cafe Customers – is your favourite local cafe participating? If not, ask them why they haven’t signed up yet? For a list of participating cafes visit the StreetSmart website

Cafe Owners – Why sign up your cafe? For lots of good reasons, (more…)