Tag Archives: specialty coffee

Find Your Coffee

At cafehound.com, we endeavor to locate the best coffee in the world. Over the last eight years we’ve happily watched as globally, the options available to the public have exponentially increased and the public’s general awareness of specialty coffee has deepened. Although we still believe that tracking down the best coffee in the world is central to our mission, we recently decided to dip our toes into the area of recommending specific coffee(s) to coffee lovers based on a mixture of qualitative and empirical analysis.

espresso_2017

In two posts (1 and 2) from 2015, we took verbal reviews of specialty coffees from the site coffeereview.com,  and we employed various clustering algorithms to discover groupings of coffee (based on words used to describe them and other factors). This served as our initial foray into using Data Science on expert coffee reviews to improve our understanding of specialty coffee.

Over the past month, we’ve set out to improve upon that original work in order to empower java lovers to discover the perfect brew. Our years of cupping coffee and talking with experts have shown that – after a certain point – what constitutes a “good cup of coffee” is subjective and specific to the palette of the beholder.

With that in mind, cafehound.com chose to use a large, multiyear list of coffee reviews from Kenneth David’s coffeereview.com site to explore the relationship between the descriptions used to rate coffee aroma, flavor, aftertaste, body, acidity and finish. We hypothesized that there are distinct groupings of coffee based on their roast profile, body, and flavors that are relevant to informing consumer preferences in the overall marketplace. To clarify, a market segmentation based on a representative sample of surveyed consumer preferences may be more useful to marketing professionals, but that is outside of the scope of this post. Instead, we’re using the structure inferred from math and reviews of specific coffees to estimate categories of the potential “coffee experience.” These categories may provide coffee consumers with guideposts for exploring new specialty coffees.

Our results led to six broad categories of coffee that we’ve ordered from lightest to darkest roast (based on average Agtron ratings). Agtron ratings are a numerical representation of the consistency of the roast color (lower numbers indicate a darker roast <45, higher numbers indicate a lighter roast 50+). More than the roast determines the flavor profile and overall body of the coffee, which is why some of these segments may appear similar.

Initially, we bring this content to you via occasionally updated web pages. Depending on demand, we may scale our service to provide daily or weekly recommendation updates.

For now, follow the link below to Find Your Coffee.

cafehoundlogos01

For code share:

Shiny Segmentation and Prediction

Advertisements

Buzz: Starbucks Unveils High-End Roastery-Tasting Room Concept 

 

Starbucks Reserve.

Using a barrage of adjectives like super-premium, unique, reserve and small-lot, Starbucks has just announced details regarding its new “premium coffee experience” store concept, as well as its flagship “small-batch” Roastery and Tasting Room, coming to Seattle’s Capitol Hill this winter.

The company says the new roastery will be a kind of interactive coffee museum and tasting room designed to showcase the company’s “small-lot” Reserve line of coffees. It will also be the flagship for Starbucks’ new store model, which will occupy some 100 locations in strategic markets throughout the globe over the next five years.

(related: Starbucks Piloting Mobile Trucks at Three U.S. College Campuses)

Adjectives abound, but if one phrase is an elephant in this particular room, it is “Third Wave,” one many around the high-end retail industry, including this blog, has avoided using for years. But it seems particularly apt here, as the company that embodies “Second Wave”-ness rolls out its new high-end, coffee-quality-focused brand.

Starbucks itself describes the new store concept as is a kind of higher rung in “customer experience segmentation,” part of the company’s retail “evolution.” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz went so far as to describe the new roastery and tasting room as something that will revolutionize all of specialty coffee.

(related: Drama Unfolds with the Opening of Williamsburg’s First Starbucks)

“Everything we have created and learned about coffee has led us to this moment,” he said. “The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting room is a multi-sensory experience that will transform the future of specialty coffee. We plan to take this super premium experience to cities around the world, elevating the Starbucks experience not only through these stores but across our entire business.”

Here’s more from Starbucks on the new Seattle roastery:

A first-of-its-kind union for Starbucks of coffee theatre and manufacturing, this iconic Seattle destination will allow Starbucks to double its small-batch roasting capacity and grow its Starbucks Reserve® coffee presence from 800 to 1,500 stores worldwide, by the end of FY15. More than two years in development, this unprecedented experience will allow customers to engage with Starbucks passion for coffee in a 15,000 square-foot interactive retail environment devoted to beverage innovation and excellence.

In addition to the approximately 100 new premium stores, Starbucks is also unveiling new smaller-footprint and drive-through “Express” store models, where there will be a focus on quick service and developing Starbucks’ mobile ordering platform. These stores, the company says, will “address the increase in urbanization and decentralization of retail.”

(related: Cupping at Starbucks: The Sound of Silence (and Slurps)

Including its traditional retail stores, its premium stores and its express stores, Starbucks is on track to open some 1,550 outlets globally in 2014, and plans to open 1,600 in 2015, including 300 net new locations in the U.S.

Source: Daily Coffee News, http://dailycoffeenews.com/2014/09/05/starbucks-unveils-new-dont-call-it-third-wave-concept-plans-seattle-roastery-opening/

Bean Counting: Idido Natural Sun-dried – Counter Culture

Roaster: Counter Culture
Place of Purchase: Peregrine Espresso (14th St. NW Location)
Preferred Brew Method: Paper Filter Drip (pour over)
Excerpt From Counter Culture Describing Coffee:

Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Organic • Shade Grown
The community of Idido, just outside the town of Yirgacheffe, has once again produced the quintessential Ethiopian Natural Sundried coffee. One of the cleanest and most refined naturals we have tasted in years, Idido offers notes of strawberry, blueberry, and orange zest with a balanced, chocolate-like sweetness.

Cafe Hound Review:   Generally, Counter Culture got this one right. This coffee cups clean, though it has  enough of what I call, “berry funk” to entertain your palate. I cycled through several of the Counter Culture coffees this year, with the Central Americans admittedly disappointing after a VERY strong showing in 2009, and a decent showing in 2010. In 2010 my favorite growing region of the world ended up being Kenya, though the Cafe Hound annual blend at the end of 2009 included a fair amount of sun-dried Ethiopian coffee from the Amaro region. (washed version for sale at Novo now). Right now, this Yirgacheffe is rocking my world. I admit that as the weather cools here in the Nation’s Capital, I’m leaning towards more bold and fruity coffees – though I enjoy a clean cup so much that I rarely venture to the extremes of many Indonesian grown coffees (Sumatra). Though, it is all a matter of taste and I encourage you to post your comments letting us know what your preferences are this year! Happy Hounding!

info@cafehound.com

Ecotourism: Discovering Kau Coffee

Aloha — In anticipation of a series of posts relating to Hawaii’s specialty coffee market, culture and people, Cafe Hound will post a few articles from third-party sources highlighting the people we hope to meet during our visit.

The first article is graciously borrowed from Lavonne Leong  of HonoluluMagazine.com: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/July-2010/Farm-to-Table-Coffee/index.php?cparticle=1&siarticle=0#artanc


PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

Americans are on intimate terms with coffee. We consume about 400 million cups of the stuff every day. We wake up with it; work with it; date with it; pull all-nighters with it. By now, you’d think we’d know something about our favorite little brown bean.

Yet, in an age of increased interest in eating local and knowing your farmer, the back-story of coffee remains relatively unknown, in part because of a supply chain that can read like a Lonely Planet guide. It’s not uncommon for coffee to be grown and harvested in one country, undergo multistep processing in another and be consumed in a third.

Except here. Hawaii is one of the few places on Earth that both produces this strictly tropical crop and enthusiastically consumes it. The global field-to-cup timeline of coffee can be up to a year; in Hawaii, it’s possible to go from harvest to table in a few days. Vertical integration is also becoming more common in Hawaii—where a single farm, or a farm and a nearby roaster, take the coffee all the way from harvest to roasted bean rather than specializing in only one step in the process.


“Dr. Coffee,” Shawn Steiman, surrounded by coffee plants at Waialua Estate and Coffee Cacao.

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

Vertical integration: an easy catchphrase to drop, harder to accomplish well. A true field-to-cup coffee producer needs to master a mind-boggling array of skills: farming, processing, roasting, marketing and distribution.

Enter Shawn Steiman, scientist, consultant and self-described “coffee geek.” To Steiman, and others like him who are helping to usher in a new age of Hawaiian coffee, the creation of a good coffee is an achievable art—and a science that can be taught. Steiman has translated a love of coffee that began in elementary school into a coffee-centric horticultural dissertation and a career mentoring coffee farmers and producers across the globe. He also educates the public palate here in Hawaii through coffee “cuppings”—a centuries-old practice that is equivalent to wine tasting.

Steiman feels that the time is right for producers of artisanally made coffee—also known as specialty coffee—to find a wider audience. America, he says, is riding the “third wave” of coffee consumption (the first is coffee as a diner commodity, the second a Starbucks-type lifestyle choice, and the third, a deep appreciation of coffee’s origins, craft and subtlety).

For some, it’s an obsession: coffee’s third wave has spawned an intense culture of cupping and barista competitions, avidly read reviews of specialty coffees, “trip to origin” tours and a descriptive coffee-tasting vocabulary that approaches wine’s: an interesting coffee might offer aromatic notes of fruits and flowers, chocolate, caramel, herbs and even fir tree. “Coffee geeks are attached,” says Steiman. “They’re passionate. These people have espresso machines they can, and will, tweak to a 10th of a degree.”

You don’t have to be a coffee geek to appreciate that coffee folks in Hawaii are upping their game—and all of us who like something good in our cup will benefit.


Lorie Obra

PHOTO: COURTESY JOAN OBRA, RALPH GASTON

Small Producers, Big Flavor

The birth of a new coffee sensibility.


PHOTO: COURTESY JOAN OBRA, RALPH GASTON

Something is happening in  the world of Hawaii coffee. For years, big growers dominated the scene, and Hawaiian coffees, particularly the sought-after Konas, were routinely blended with inferior product to make them more affordable—a practice that diluted not only the coffee but, eventually, its reputation. Now, with sustainability and fair-labor practices at the forefront of farming, tastes evolving to appreciate coffee excellence and thousands of acres of prime farmland released by the sugar industry, smaller coffee farmers, boutique roasters and purer coffee are getting more play. In two decades, Hawaii has expanded from one coffee region to 11, and the coffee world at large has taken note. In 2008, Hula Daddy’s “Kona Sweet” coffee received a score of 97, the highest Coffee Review ranking in the world that year and the publication’s third-highest rating in history. A Hawaii-based barista, Pete Licata, of Honolulu Coffee Co., won this year’s highly competitive Western Regional Barista Competition with a blend of Kona and Maui coffees.

The birth of the Kau coffee region, which was planted in the 1990s and 2000s, is a prime example of this new dynamic. Less than 15 years ago, Kau was dominated by its sugar mill. Today, dozens of small farms, many of which belong to the Kau Coffee Growers Co-Operative, are making a name for the region by producing exemplary coffee. Some, like the co-op’s president, Lorie Obra (of Rusty’s Hawaiian coffee), have gone for complete vertical integration. Obra supervises the entire process from field to cup, experimenting with unusual methods such as saltwater fermentation. Her coffees have garnered reviews from the industry’s standard publication, Coffee Review, which used words like “mindblowing.”

Since they burst onto the competition scene a few years ago, Kau coffees have consistently garnered top prizes; this year, Kau’s Rising Sun Farms was named Coffee of the Year by the Specialty Coffee Association of America in the Hawaii-USA category. Alan Wong, who serves four Kau coffees in his flagship restaurant, says, “What makes Kau coffees so delicious is their terroir—you can ‘taste the land.’ They have a special combination of rich volcanic soil, rainfall, sunlight and humidity.”

Biography of a Bean

Farm Beginning

Hawai‘i is the only state in the U.S. that grows coffee, a crop with very specific temperature requirements and a love of volcanic soil. Although Kona-grown coffee has been produced for more than a century, the perfect planting opportunity occurred in the 1980s and 1990s when the withdrawal of sugar freed up some of Hawaii’s most fertile planting grounds.

Putting Down Roots

Putting down roots  Left to its own devices, the coffee plant will grow into a small tree, about 30 feet high and covered in fragrant, white blossoms. Most growers prune their coffee plants for easier harvest; farmed coffee rarely reaches more than about 10 feet high. Although coffee evolved to love shady places, it produces more fruit in direct sun—as long as it’s given more fertilizer and water, too.


Coffee cherries from Milton Decalio’s farm in Kau.

PHOTO: COURTESY RALPH GASTON

Getting Picked

Three years after planting, coffee trees begin to produce a round, red, juicy fruit known in the industry as a cherry. (The skin and pulp don’t taste like much, but the interior mucilage is sweet and packs a caffeine punch.) Because coffee cherries don’t mature all at once, and the fruit needs to be ripe to produce good coffee, growers often harvest by hand. At higher elevations, the coffee harvest can last for nine months a year—ideal for smaller growers who can keep a small staff or harvest the fruit themselves.

The Layers Come Off

A coffee bean is simply the seed of the coffee cherry. The fruit must be separated from its seed, and the seed from its thin outer layers of parchment and silverskin. There are a host of ways to do this, each of which affect the coffee’s final taste. Big growers tend to favor mechanical processing, while many smaller growers process by hand. A current trend is “natural-” or “raisin-” -processed coffee, which is left to dry inside the cherry and can produce fruitier coffees. Most coffee cherries are pulped, briefly fermented to separate the bean from its mucilage, then the bean is air-dried to the parchment stage. Green coffee beans, the end product of processing, can last for several months without losing quality.

The Heat is On

The heat is on  “Green coffee is to roasted coffee as a raw grain is to baked bread,” says Hula Daddy roastmaster and coffee consultant R. Miguel Meza. The roast—the application of heat for between 10 and 20 minutes—is where a hard, uninteresting green bean can become a thing of aromatic beauty. Sugars caramelize, acids restructure and aromatics develop, to the tune of about 1,500 different chemical compounds. This makes coffee “probably the most complex food we consume,” says Shawn Steiman. “There are over a thousand things in the aroma alone.” Once the coffee is roasted, it’s at its peak of flavor and the freshness clock starts ticking. A coffee geek will notice the difference in about two weeks; a layperson, in four to six.

Grind and Brew

The finishing touches to the art of coffee lie with you, the drinker. All coffee beans must be ground before use, releasing aroma and flavor; grinding your coffee at home, on the day it will be brewed, means that all the flavor ends up in your cup instead of your storage cupboard. Given the choice between blade grinders and burr grinders, choose the burr, which produce a more uni-form particle size and a
smoother brew.


Shawn Steiman (center in above photo, at left in photo at right) leads a group in a “cupping,” at the Honolulu Coffee Co.’s Ala Moana Center location.

PHOTOS: OLIVIER KONING

Coffea

All coffee plants come from the genus Coffea, which—although it contains 103 species—produces two drinkable bean types: Coffea canephora, commonly called “robusta” and used in commodity coffees, and Coffea arabica, which produces the complex, lyrically flavored bean used in artisanal and specialty coffees worldwide. Hawaii grows only arabica coffee.

Kona Coffee

For the most part, Hawaii coffee is grown on former sugarcane lands that were freed up in the 1980s and 1990s—but not Kona. Kona’s sloped terrain meant that sugarcane was never an option; the region has been producing coffee continuously since the 1870s.

 

Three places to score a Hawaii coffee experience

Try the freshest coffee in the United States. Here’s how.

CHAIN: Honolulu Coffee Co.

The Honolulu Coffee Co., which has a new owner, roasts its Hawaiian coffee in small batches. You can buy the beans, or let the company’s award-winning baristas show you how it’s done in one of seven coffeehouse locations that serve 100-percent Kona and 100-percent Maui coffees, alongside house blends.


PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

RETAILER: Whole Foods

At its Kahala store, Whole Foods carries coffees from all five coffee-producing Hawaiian Islands: Maui, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. A particular specialty is peaberry coffee, which is sometimes said to roast more evenly and produce a smoother-drinking cup.

RESTAURANT: Alan Wong’s

Alan Wong’s makes a special effort to not just cook local but to drink local. The menu features no fewer than 13 Hawaiian coffees, eight of which are from the Big Island.

Going to the Dark Side

What a difference a roast makes.

Most coffee is roasted dark.  There are some great darks out there, but this approach doesn’t always match the bean. There is a growing appreciation for light or medium roasts, which can showcase coffee made with care.

Light Roast: “Acidity and subtle aromatics will be at their peak” in a light roast, says Hula Daddy roastmaster R. Miguel Meza. This can produce some truly memorable coffees, but he cautions that, in order for a light roast to work, “the coffee must be exemplary.”

Medium Roast: Medium roasts strike a balance between nuance and body, sacrificing a little complexity for increased sweetness and mouth feel as sugars caramelize.

Dark Roast: Think Starbucks—and there’s nothing wrong with that. Roasting dark averages out differences in taste, conceals minor defects and introduces familiar smoky notes. Dark roasts also hold their own against added sugar and cream.

Quarantine

In agricultural terms, Hawaii is probably the best place in the world to be a coffee farmer, says Shawn Steiman. In 1888, King David Kalakaua enacted the first quarantine in Hawaii, to control imported coffee plants; as a result, Hawaii is free of the worst pests and diseases that plague other coffee crops worldwide.

Market News: Crop Fears Drive Kenyan Coffee Prices

Source: Agrimoney.com

The coffee industry has been experiencing incredible upward pressures on ‘C Grade’ prices over the past year.  The specialty coffee market is facing even more acute pressures as demand surges and supply is scarce.  Nairobi’s Coffee Exchange illustrates the scenario playing out in specialty coffee hotspots globally with the recent sale of one 340kg lot of premium AA for $1,011 per 50kg bag (approximately US$9.20/lb) in country! Applying standard export mark-up premiums to such a large purchase, assuming a US specialty coffee buyer was interested, could fetch anywhere between $30-60 a pound for this same coffee by the time it retailed in the United States.

Agrimoney Article Begins:

Could coffee become more valuable than your average base metal?

It is beginning to look that way – at least for top quality arabica beans in Kenya, where dry weather has dashed hopes of a production rise this season.

A lot of premium AA grade coffee sold at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange on Tuesday for $1,011 per 50kg bag, 40% higher than it was achieving last month.

The 340kg lot originated from a central Kenyan growers co-operative, Kiomothai, and was bought by East African specialist C Dormans, which sells to foreign markets besides running a chain of Kenyan coffee shops.

Dornams paid the equivalent of more than $20,000 tonne, making the coffee more than twice as expensive as copper, and approaching the levels that the likes of aluminium, nickel and tin trade at.

‘Outlook robust’

The price reflected the dearth of high quality beans for sale, Daniel Mbithi, a Nairobi Coffee Exchange official, said.

“There is no coffee and the market is grabbing the few available offers,” he told Reuters, the news agency, adding that “the price outlook remains robust going into the coming weeks”.

“Supplies remain tight.”

Production downgrade

Kenya, unlike some other African countries, has suffered poor coffee growing weather with unusually late and heavy rains early in 2010 damaging flowering before dry conditions later in the year damaging yields of fruit which did set.

The Kenya Coffee Board on Monday cut to 40,000 tonnes its forecast for the country’s coffee output in 2010-11, from a previous forecast of 49,000-55,000 tonnes, and leaving the crop on track to fall short of the previous season’s output of 45,000 tonnes.

The influential International Coffee Organisation last week lifted its estimate for world coffee production this season citing better weather in many major African producing nations, with the likes of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda enjoying improved conditions.

In New York, arabica futures for March delivery stood 1.0% higher at 234.60 cents a pound, equivalent to $5,172 a tonne, at 11:45 GMT


Cafe Hounding: Cafe Samba – Bogota, Colombia

Cafe Samba
Bogotá, Colombia
Cra 7 # 58-48
Tel: 348 1697

Unfortunately, I enjoyed Café Samba so much that I’ve barely even took a photograph of the place, though having frequented it on many occasions spanning from 2006 to 2010.

It is difficult to state what the best part of the lounge/cafe/bar located on the Septima is: the coffee products, natural juices, and cocktails are simply the best in that part of Bogotá; the moderately sized food selection is equally impressive in quality. They make the most of what they have when it comes to ambiance of the place (lounge feel even without the chic lounge budget of the Chico and Parque 93 neighborhoods). Service is superior for the price range and the couch located at the front of the shop always seemed to be reserved for me. Also, the clientele is an attractive youngish blend of professionals and students.

My favorite item on their menu would be a fresh blended non-alcoholic natural joice cocktail of Maracuya, Mango and Orange Juice mix. The quality of their coffee is above average for a country that exports the majority of their high quality beans.  They use a high quality vintage Elektra espresso machine and decent coffee roasted in country.  I imagine they could improve their coffee quality if they sourced their coffee from a better roaster.

Musically, this café makes an impression on locals and visitors alike considering the high quality sound system wired from wall-to-wall and mounted in the ceiling. The “DJ” tends to be whatever barman  has a free moment. Luckily, all have terrific taste when it comes to selecting a good playlist.

View of Bogota afternoon from front of Cafe Samba

If you make it to Colombia, Cafe Samba is well worth a stop along the way.

Mushrooms, Aromatica Tea, Fruit Drinks in 2010

– Maher Hound

Cafe Hounding: Cafe Grumpy – New York, NY (Chelsea)

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) West 20th
224 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212 255 5511
http://www.cafegrumpy.com/locations/cafe-grumpy-chelsea/

Best coffee in New York; possibly the entire Atlantic Seaboard.

They began roasting their own beans in September 2009 (at Greenpoint roastery in BK, New York). Before that, that only bought wholesale from the best roasters in the United States (including Novo Coffee, Intelligentsia, Ritual Roasters, Blue Bottle, Counter Culture).  Both Kris and Maher visited Cafe Grumpy in October 2009, their initial visit to this location.  The clean and bright interior of the locale is very appealing and it becomes immediately apparent that Grumpy is very serious about coffee and about great customer service.  The baristas all are very well trained and coffee knowledgeable.  The machines are all of excellent caliber and the cleanliness is very impressive.

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) from the front.

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) from the entrance. Old friends catching up inside.

There is no wi-fi here and the philosophy of the management is that people come to Grumpy to socialize, drink coffee, and NOT get lost in their electronic equipment.  Given the popularity of iPads and smartphones these days, I’m not entirely sure that the management is completely batting back the gadget-aholics.  That said, the quantity and volume of conversations here is noticeably more than in many other shops visited in DC and elsewhere.  Without a much surprise, during this October trip Kris and Maher visited at least five shops – including Abraço, Everyman Espresso, Mud (East Village), Juan Valdez – and Grumpy easily bested the rest.

Cafe Grumpy cappuccino with latte art included 🙂

Coffee here was plentifully available in retail whole bean variety and drinks were made carefully and wonderfully.  UPDATE:  In November 2010 a friend recently brought me a pound of ‘Heartbreaker’ from New York.  This is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to try their self-roasted blend (formerly custom blended by outsourced roasters).  It rocks as espresso.  Not bad for drip coffee but wouldn’t recommend it.

Blue Bottle has recently opened its own location in New York and now Grumpy is roasting its own beans.  As the top of the specialty coffee segment broadens its customer base, competition among the best is increasing.  Following the increase in market size and competition among the major players, there has been a very interesting diversity of business strategies employed by the big names. More to come on this…

– Maher Hound