Mmmm. A friend of mine just pointed out that a blog should be more than annual, and I think she has a point.
I had a great time at the Golden Bean conference this year. It is the biggest coffee roasting conference and competition in the country and has been held in Port Macquarie each year for the last five years. My first time there and I was really impressed. Good technical sessions but where the organisors really excelled was in the social events. Think Beach Party (with fireworks!) and cocktail nights. The social side might sound like an add on but in an industry where people keep their cards close to their chests it was great to have a chance to shoot the breeze with other roasters while drinking non coffee beverages. I learnt a lot from all those conversations with roasters big and small and suppliers to the industry.
Great to meet some of the growers as well from the Byron Bay region. It sounds bad but I have visited coffee plantations in a lot of other countries, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Sumatra, Vietnam, but have not set foot on one here in Australia......must rectify that soonish. Now I have the invitations from several Byron growers to come up and have a look I will be knocking on their door.
All that and we got a Bronze medal in the Organic, Milk Based and Espresso section which gave us third overall for the overall Golden Bean Championship. Finishing just a couple of points behind the winner. So in all a big few days and a lot of fun.
We got our Fairtrade certifcation last year and it seems to be something that is becoming increasingly important to more and more people.
So what is Fairtrade? It is a system that allows coffee to be traced from the grower through the supply chain to the consumer, making sure that along the way a fair price is paid and that workers are treated fairly.
How did it come about? Coffee, like a lot of agricultural markets, has a lot of small producers and a small number of buyers. The farmer usually has to take whatever price they can get at harvest time and sometimes this falls below the cost of production. Fairtrade sets a floor or minimum price for coffee as well as making sure that the growers of the coffee have treated their workers well and met the country of origins labour laws.
Why should you care? Well on a humanitarian level it matters because coffee growers and their workers all suffer if their returns are poor. From a consumer point of view it matters because if coffee farmers are getting very little for what they grow there is no incentive to take the extra steps that are needed to maintain quality and taste.
In addition, the less the farmer gets the harder life tends to be for workers on that farm.
I had been using Fairtrade coffees for a while now, just because I liked those particular coffees (Our Sumatran and East Timorese) but was not certified to sell them as as FT coffees.
That is about as brief a summary as I can make. I would be happy to answer more in depth questions on Fairtade just send me an email at email@example.com
I am working on a new blend for a cafe customer of ours and it put me in the mood (working on a blend requires a lot of tasting so for "mood" read slightly over caffienated) to finally get a blog going. Something I have been wanting to do for a while.
I thought as topic number one I would blog about blending. Blending is putting two or more coffees together (obviously) to come up with a good (hopefully) flavour profile.
Most blends will have three or four coffees in them, anywhere up to a dozen are sometimes used. Once you get to that many coffees you run the risk of diluting them so much you can't really taste the influence of any particular coffee.
The idea behind blending is to take a coffee, like a Brazil, which is a common base coffee in blends, and then add coffees that might not go so well on their own but can add to the overall flavour of the blend.
Brazils are often used as bases because they are reasonably consistent and mild coffees that "mix well with others". So you might start with a Brazil and then add an African coffee, as what is known as a highlight coffee, and then another for some contrast.
Once you get set on a blend and its particular components it is important to review it as the coffees within it will change from crop to crop. Good Luck!