Highlights: we got in a great conversation with David Lebovitz whose recipe aided in my first successful batch of french macarons.
Kas, who started the incredible ‘Waterloo Tea’ six years ago, had the feat of hosting the first of its kind – a Tea Brewers Cup competition in conjunction with the UK Brewers Cup last week. Now, those of you who know coffee competitions know the intricate planning, judging rubric, and preparation that go into these competitions. It was exciting to see the community of tea and coffee come together to collaborate, innovate, learn, and have a ball doing it!
It is a delicate place, the point where coffee and tea intersect. I have to say our coffee friends are laughing at how deceivingly simple tea brewing seems and in contrast, tea people think we coffee-folk take it all a bit too seriously with extractions, refracting our brews ‘tds’, fancy spice grinders, roast profiles, etc. Without getting into this discussion, I am ecstatic to see how speciality coffee and tea were showcased side-by-side.
Discussions surrounding quality and the pursuit of more information and education in tea got great thoughts brewing, literally and figuratively. There are lots of similarities that we can draw from both commodities, but also they are so different in the trade, culture, and history. It was an eye-opening weekend, with a talks & Q&A’s from Cory Bush at Falcon Coffees and Angela Pryce, a master tea buyer & expert who has been working with tea for nearly 15 years.
How the competition works:
1) the Heats (compulsory stage): the closed portion of the competition where competitors were provided three mystery teas and had to brew them accordingly.
The goal: to bring out the colour/appearance, aroma, and taste that are associated with the particular tea. There are specific times, temperatures, and some other parameters that one alters to get a tasty cup
2) the Finals (open service): there was an open competition where competitors were to present two teas to the judges and a 15-minute presentation on the teas
All in all, we had a great discussion on where tea industry can grow in transparency and absolute quality. I think the take-away was although there are similar challenges in both commodities (coffee & tea), they are incredibly different and can’t be approached in the same way.
If you were there last weekend, or would like to add to the chats about this event do give a shout below! We want to hear from you.
Here’s a wee time-lapse video I did – I’d love to see what your ritual is like.
I’m making a 3-minute filter coffee on the clever brewer here, but find that more often than not I get an under-extracted cup. Geeks abroad, is that your experience?
Share with us, post a video or send it to me and I’ll post it below!
Don’t forget to check out this month’s series on international women in Food!
my wish list is this pineapple macaron box & these cute heart cookies that’ll be coming in my breakfast in bed from cake cafe!
 Food & Travel Summer edition
Great visuals and inspiring recipes. I have been reading it all summer and thumb through it occasionally for more inspiration. I don’t buy a lot of magazines but this has been a game changer for me. You’ll see some of the recipes here.
 My Berlin Kitchen (Weiss)
I picked this up at the Food Bloggers Conference in London. It’s a story of how Luisa, blogger the Wednesday Chef, leaves her life in New York to forge a new life in Berlin. It’s a personal chronical interspersed with a collection of recipes. Touted the “new Julie & Julia”.
 The Virtues of the Table (Baggini)
Catherine Cleary lead a panel discussion with Catherine Fulvio & Julian Baggini during the Dublin Literary Festival, where I learned of the book. Julian is a philosopher focused on food. It challenges our understanding of labels on food. Do ethical labels even mean anything?
In the book he talks about the ‘holy trinity’ of of food right now S/O/L – the idea of seasonal, organic, and local. The meaning behind the terms and why we all strive to eat this way. We touched on the idea of food commodities and supply chains, and how they loosely resemble old-times slavery.
Is local definitely better? Is it more sustainable, less impact on the earth? Does it necessarily taste better? Trust me, we can’t grow coffee here in Ireland, not well. But the book is has poignant descriptors of food, almost every other sentence is a quote, it’s a book of quotes.
 The Coffee Paradox (Daviron & Ponte)
is an in-depth and well-researched analysis of coffee from farm to consumer. If you are looking for a book to engage you in a critical analysis of that brown stuff that 2.25 billion cups are filled with each day (as per 1999). It will give you an understanding of global value chains that you never wanted, but also will explain the inequalities in the coffee industry and challenge you to question what it is you are consuming. Also, touches on the ever-elusive quality topic. I will be sharing a few things I have understood through my reading and expert ‘coffee-drinking’, while working in speciality coffee.
 Swindled – a book on the history of food adulteration (Wilson)
It talks about history of food fraud and labelling, including roasting fake beans for coffee and manufacturing fake tea with elder and sloe leaves. The book traces fraud back to the rapid urbanisation of Britain, creating distance between food producers and consumers. Essentially, what we know as lengthening the supply chain.
“Adulteration thrives when trade operates in large and impersonal chains. In a rural setting, swindling is a risky business. If you are the village milkman, the chain between you and your customers is very short: you know them all by name because they are your neighbours. If you start watering down your milk, the chances are the word will soon get out and you will be ostracised”
One of Dublin’s foodie darlings, Brother Hubbard has taken the plunge like many other north-side businesses. They have come to join us on the South side. Isn’t it somewhat true that northies stay on the north and likewise for southies. I frequent the north for a few reasons, different ethnic cultural food offerings, and different cafes and customer experience. Trust me, it is different.
Well, the long awaited little Sister Sadie of Brother Hubbard has arrived as of a couple weeks ago, and know what?- We are overjoyed. Not only do we now have Boojum burritos at our doorstep, among other quality establishments such as Busen Burger, Etto & Ely wine bar, we have one of our favourite brunch spots.
As of right now, they have the same menu but limited brunch items, including salad bar and tasty sambos but now, closer. I have to admit that in two years there have been a handful of times that a Brother Hubbard brunch would have hit the spot really well, but the trek all the way across the river was just not going to happen. So south-siders, and hopefully our Northie friends who want to come visit us 😉 join me in welcoming another fab food stop who also have a coffee-centric mantra.
There are maybe three or four places in Dublin that I would say take both their food and coffee very seriously. These guys have worked very hard to be a real mainstay for serious food & coffee friends. Here’s the full Brother Hubbard menu.
I have always wanted to write about coffee and yet never done it. Why, you say? – because the coffee crowd is sometimes cray. You put an idea out there, and it gets immediate acclaim or well, the opposite is a very quick exile of doom. Love it or hate it, it is what it is. Coffee drinkers are a passionate crowd, and speciality coffee an even more serious subset of this.
I have learned and loved speciality coffee for a long time now. So it was only natural to choose coffee as the topic of a recent paper. We had been talking about political economy and supply chains in food commodities, and coffee has been long traded as a agricultural commodity. I will be sharing a few things I have understood through my reading and expert ‘coffee-drinking’, while working in speciality coffee.
thanks for your time. and thanks for being nice.
to the ladies of coffee 😉
[On the topic of Quality]
What is quality to you? is it a tasty coffee, a well roasted and extracted coffee, a replicable and consistent coffee that is always getting better; and if it is all those things, how do you measure quality? I mean there is the basic scientific sense of it, like how in manufacturing of food and other things we instil quality control/assurance programs to ensure we can identify defects that deviate from the defined ‘quality’ attribute is and aim to eliminate situations of lesser quality.
In the Coffee Paradox book by Daviron & Ponte, they suggest that there are three classes or distinctions of quality; being material, symbolic, and in-person service. Anyone who works in speciality coffee will agree with the evidence of all three in a successful quality coffee brand.
Material quality, independent of the buyer or seller, speaks for the physical product. We can measure this with technical and scientific equipment, sensory evaluations, etc.
Symbolic quality is more what I know as a ‘perceived quality’ associated with the product brand. This is derived from reputation, for example, what the brand or trademark stands for. In retail sale, all the sustainability & fairtradingtrade or geographic claims. How many people at supermarkets will give priority to a ‘fair-trade’ label or say “oh that’s blue mountainy coffee or Kona coffee, must be good.” 😉 It has been observed that UK consumers are willing to pay more for a fair-trade product. But, that can be a very deceptive. One must consider what these trademarks or brands hold as a meaning, for more insight on this I suggest you see Hasbean owner Steve’s blurb on direct trade & fair-trade (here, and here).
In-person service quality is by far the most personal and involved; and is the basis of what speciality coffee seeks to highlight over others. This involves buyers, sellers, producers; and because it is an interaction between the consumer and the seller, it cannot happen independent of that relationship. This relationship is based on a service; it’s the preparation of the drink at the cafe, or talking through the types of retail coffees. What I think speciality coffee alone depends on. Ultimately highlighting what everyone up the supply chain has done thus far. (farmers/processors, green buyers, roasters, etc.)
Producing countries are most concerned with material quality according to Daviron & Ponte because coffee is just a product grown to be exported; with the exception of from Brazil and Ethiopia, where there exists a coffee consuming culture. I found this breakdown to be quite helpful in showing what we know as ‘quality’
 genetic type of coffee (arabica, robusta)
 cultivar (bourbon, typica, caturra)
 agro-climatic conditions (terroir, soil, altitude, rainfall)
 harvesting procedures(sun or shade growing, mulching, irrigation?!)
 primary processing (wet or dry)
 export preparation
 handling during transport (because we all like non-manky coffee)
There is a significant difference in processes and labour applied to speciality, whole bean retail, or instant coffee. Some argue that an informed customer with a better understanding of quality attributes will drive the roasters on all levels to provide a better product. It’s my hope that consumers would have the discernment from among the homogenous mass-marketed coffee, to recognise more than just brand-associated/symbolic quality.
Life Update: this is what I’ve been doing recently, with my life.
S found this the other day, i.e. yesterday and sent this to me laughing that ‘I had been caught in the act of making bad aeropress.’ Although I don’t make that much coffee, I love being part of the great community dedicated to excellence in specialty coffee; where people do want to do better all the time, and try new and progressive things. I love this three minute movie because it makes the event look like soo much fun.
Basically you have 8 minutes to brew an aeropress, however you choose (inverted, not inverted, any method & time). Three judges blind taste the cups & 1, 2, 3… point to the one they think is the tastiest, most balanced, well-extracted coffee.
Thanks Lorcan for setting it up, but all the sponsors, judges, and competitors for the great craic! Good Luck at World’s, Mashbeard 😉
Beautiful space: by Roasted Brown Cafe
Hello there, friends & readers. Haven’t said much lately, but this week I visited the CATEX food catering expo here in Dublin. Aside from being one of the largest food and catering exhibitions; showcasing catering equipment, food paraphernalia, suppliers and other food safety geekery; the best part about it was that one the events hosted within the expansive food show was the Irish Barista Championships (#IBC).
My experience in Dublin has been shaped mostly around coffee and food- Just the way I like it. Within three weeks of my arrival, I was lucky enough to be offered a job at 3FE. I have been learning and experiencing the specialty coffee industry… and hopefully somehow adding to it. It has been an invaluable experience getting to know new friends and foraging for adventures. It’s really weird, some days I have to pinch myself to be reminded that this reality is true, and that I have the privilege to work in the ‘thick of it’ – experience coffee legacies in the making! I know, I love to be dramatic. But honestly, I do feel like I have a great opportunity to see the day to day goings-on of one of the (in my humble opinion) leading coffee shops in Europe.
Just a quick blog, and celebration of victories – Congratulations to Colin, Bruno, Vinicius and all the competitors. Enjoy.