Switch to wordpress

Hey all...

After drooling over jimseven.com and now Stephen Morrissey's new flyingthud.wordpress.com I too have made the decision to switch to Wordpress. Now you can find me at Pulling Shots so please update your feeds, your bookmarks and links to my new page. It's amazing how much better it is over there!


Raw Milk / Go Fish

So I had a raw milk cappuccino the other day (and no, it's not on any menu in town). It was pretty crazy! The milk is a lot more dynamic than your standard pasteurized and homogenized milk. It's a whole lot different than even the Avalon Dairy organic milk I have once in a while. I'm not sure where I stand on its place in coffee drinks. One side of me thinks that it is awesome that you can have a drink where the milk is just as influential, or close to it, as the coffee, but the other side says that the coffee should remain the dominant characteristic and shouldn't be modified too much by the milk's flavors. In a raw milk cappuccino you can definitely taste the cow.

Also, I am a full supporter of raw milk and related products (as long as they are treated properly by the producer). This is a message to governmental food inspectors: let young raw milk cheese in from France! Let it in!

In other news, I made a trip down to Go Fish, a local fish and chips shack owned by a couple of restaurateurs with other popular restaurants in their portfolio (the Bin family of tapas bars). They are literally a shack adjacent to Granville Island at the False Creek Harbour Authority. The first time I went involved halibut and chips and they were excellent. These were easily the best chips/fries I've ever had, generously salted and perfectly fried. The second time involved their tuna tacones which were also most excellent, lots of stuff in them that I couldn't quite identify but they were well flavored with a balance between the subtlety of the tuna and the various vegetables and herbs used. Now I just need to catch their risotto that shows up on the specials board and I will be satisfied. It's a great little walk from the cafe after work too, so it's becoming a bit of a habit! Check them out if you haven't already.


Recent cups

I'm such a slacker. I haven't posted in 12 days...

A number of pretty awesome coffees have passed through my hands in the past couple of weeks.

The most notable of all of them was the Novo Coffee Hache Ethiopia Sidamo from down in Denver, Colorado. There has been enough hype about this coffee on the net, viewable on several blogs and forums. It's a brilliant coffee, but for myself, did not live up to the praise it had received. Namedropping had occurred frequently with the Esmeralda Special being the coffee that the Hache apparently topped. Not in my mind, but the Hache has the distinction of being one of the first coffees I have had that tasted as it smelled after grinding. Lots of figs, chocolate and body in the Hache, contrary to initial reports of blueberry jam.

It should be known too that I have been on an Ethiopian binge as of late, with my home supply consisting of both of Intelligentsia's Yergacheffe and Harrar. The Yerg (roasted in Chicago on Monday) pressed this morning had a really tea-like subtlety reminiscent of a darjeeling... I was thoroughly impressed. I've found with coffee that exhibits these tea-like characteristics, the body gets dropped, but this one kept a strong body and a wonderful velvety mouthfeel.

The Harrar tends to be a bit fruitier and wilder but is an exciting cup nonetheless.

At Elysian last night, a pound of Stumptown's Hairbender made a guest appearance and drinks were passed around to a group of staff and others (like myself). First were the espresso rounds... The shots were beautiful in appearance, very rich, thick and flecked crema in the heavy ACF cups. I can't quite say I was a huge fan, but the lingering grapefruit finish was most impressive.

In milk (5 oz cap), the drinks were phenomenal. There was not a touch of bitterness anywhere. Very rich, very well balanced were the main characteristic to the cup. It helped that Matti was on fire with his pours.

Other than that, not much to report here in Vancouver.


This is what happens when I don't do my research

Alright, I give up... I have been told! In all seriousness though, thanks for enlightening me (Robert, and anonymous, and the wonderful folks at JagaSilk). It all goes to show that I should probably do a bit of reading instead of making sweeping and generalized comments about a language I know virtually nothing about as well as a product I know only vaguely. I promise to do my homework next time!



I did a matcha training session the other day at the cafe. It was interesting for sure, with techniques and tastings being the focus. The most important bit of the session I think was seeing and tasting three different grades of matcha, from a medium to very high grade matcha. There's quite a bit of difference, though I wasn't surprised at that.

Ceremonial matcha is tough. I let down the trainer at the session, but it was late and I had been up all day. We'll see how it goes in store.

It's definitely an eyeopener to be introduced to the actual process of another beverage and its presentation.

Update! In the comments I have been told that maccha is the correct spelling. I am going to counter with the argument that I'm pretty sure matcha/maccha is in fact normally written in kanji characters over in its native Japan, and I'm pretty sure there are just semi-arbitrary systems in place by English speakers to correlate kanji and their pronunciation over to roman characters. So there. ;)


Single Origin, Estate and Micro Lot

I've been thinking about this for a bit and I'm pretty sure it's come up in arguments before.

What scale do you have to work at until the coffee we drink is so homogeneous, so uniform that it becomes one dimensional without anything too impressive. Is there a balancing point due to blending at stages in the coffee process where a coffee becomes complex and exciting enough?

How does one define an estate or a single origin coffee? My understanding is that origin is a country (Colombia) or maybe a region name (Oaxaca) tagged onto some beans. An estate is dealing with most CoE and "Best Of" coffees. A micro lot is similar to an estate, but often from a smaller output farm. But are these micro lot farms producing coffee with sufficient diversity to make them interesting? I have had my share of small lot coffees, and I can assure you that some are incredible... but there are some others that aren't too impressive. There's nothing to them but some subtle nuance. That in itself is intriguing but I don't know if that is what I want from a coffee.

You run into the same sort of problem on the other end of the spectrum as well, where too much blending and vague origins result in a bland homogeneous coffee as well.

It is an interesting problem.


Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo... breakdown

The last two days were the Annual Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre as well as the Canadian Barista Championships. I attended on Sunday after my shift at the cafe, but was unable to attend the Monday events due to a day at school that couldn't be missed.

I was very impressed with most of the show. The percentage of serious/interesting booths was more than I expected, probably a 40/60 split with the old/dull/irrelevant booths. Mind you, I am a barista, not a prospective cafe entrepreneur. My interest lay in the innovative coffee booths. Or, if they weren't innovative, I had to see them regardless. I'm pretty biased, I admit it. Most of my time was spent at either of three: Elysian, Intelligentsia/Wicked and Specialty Coffee Solutions/La Marzocco. Elysian had the slickest booth, with a well thought out presentation, a 3 group Synesso Cyncra and a Clover 1s. They were continually pumping out drinks every time I went by. SCS/LM had a big collection of LM machines from the current lineup including the LM Mistral based on the Kees Van der Westen design. Lindsay, of Artigiano, was pouring shots of the 49th Parallel Private Reserve and it was very, very good. Her shot was the best of the day and competition was stiff from over at Elysian (and my own at the Intelly booth).

I watched one competitor's routine, Jimmy Oneschuk, representing his cafe, Caffe Sola in my birthplace of Saskatoon. He performed well, at least from what I know, but talking to him afterwards there were some kinks not visible to the audience.

The results are below:
Colter Jones – 574 (Artigiano)
Barrett Jones – 509 (Artigiano)
Bob Blummer – 478 (Food Network)
Mark Krause – 445 (Espresso Post, Collingwood ON)
Katherine Piramo – 370.5 (Fantastico, Victoria)
Morgan Allen – 344 (Muddy Joe's, Regina)
Jimmy Oneschuk – 340.5 (Sola, Saskatoon)

Maybe next year I will compete... (fuel some speculation...)

All in all, it was a great time, and due to school work I regret not being able to attend either the second day or the after parties. Great job to all the exhibitors and all the competitors.


Crossing paths with the Black Cat

The adjustment to a previously known and used set of machinery and a cafe is an odd experience. You return to a place that feels normal but there are subtle differences (or not so subtle) that affect your performance. Especially so if you are coming off of a period of work at another cafe, like myself, where things were quite different.

That being said, I am readjusting fairly well I think, going back to Wicked, finding different people, equipment and ways of doing things. It's really not all that different though. It does highlight the myriad of ways to run a cafe.

The GB5 is such a great machine in relation to commonly available commercial machines in Canada. Sure, us GB5 users (or Synesso converts) complain about the ergonomics, the reality of its temperature stability and its aesthetics, but try using another machine without the level of stability or the design that accounts for high volume use and you will miss the GB5 dearly. I know I did. But I am back.