Archives for posts with tag: drink

Something new, something odd: coffee & butter!

It seems that a lot of people think that an espresso machine used by barista, makes cappuccino or latte by just pressing a button. This is not the case.

Same goes with how the coffee is harvested then roasted. Green coffee doesn’t smell like coffee… The coffee “bean” is actually the seed of the coffee plant, the pit inside of the coffee fruit (cherries to be more precise).

Coffee ready for harvest

Coffee ready for harvest

Suddenly, more and more people are switching from tea to coffee. As if drinking an americano, filter or flat white would make you part of this “exclusive” coffee culture, blending with connoisseurs and geeks. Meanwhile, being “addicted” to a daily coffee only makes you a regular drinker.

There is sometimes a real paradox when a man/woman comes into a espresso bar and asks a lot of questions about the house coffee as well as the guest in the hopper and eventually about brewing methods…but ends up drinking an extra hot cappuccino. This could almost be seen as a waste of time  – as we all know coffee shops can be extremely busy – and customers in the queue can be very impatient…simply because they need that coffee hit.

Asking for a cappuccino and deciding to change the order for a latte (or vice versa) is never an issue as long as the barista hasn’t started to work with the milk. Yes indeed, the milk is what makes the difference between the various drinks. Pressing the button on the espresso machine will only dispense the espresso shot (which is the foundation of the beverage).

A few customers don’t actually seem to know what they are actually drinking. For them it is a coffee with milk. The milk texture will be different between cappuccino, latte, flat white. All ingredients are the same (ground coffee and milk)…it is just the final touch which will actually change the name of the drink.

There is also the question about “what happens with the used ground coffee in the knock box“? In general a local business collects daily what has been used in order to re-use it as fertilizer/compost. It can be done by an organic farm ( or just a person who has an allotment/garden. And as the saying goes “what comes around goes around“…this is the perfect cycle. It is in most cases available to take or collect otherwise it would be lost and binned. Recycling is the way forward for most things including coffee pucks.

Coffee puck - espresso

Coffee puck – espresso

Coffee puck - aeropress

Coffee puck – aeropress

Keeping such thing would be pointless. It has to be used rapidly or it would dry out.

Whether you go to an independent coffee shop in London, Bristol or in a more remote location such as North Devon where the recycling system is in place thanks to Coastal UK… it is working like clockwork. Rather important especially with the coastline not that far and the beautiful countryside to look after and preserve.

Running a coffee shop is more intricate that people think. Too often, potential customers becoming then regulars see the life of the business from their side of the counter. Generally it is a warm and cosy place to hang out and socialize. But the team behind the counter has to be consistent and working rapidly but efficiently is the key to keep everyone happy. But there is more to it.

Making sure the grinder and coffee machine are correctly set up, in order to respect a perfect extraction ratio or the brew could taste awful.

Cleaning the group heads daily is a must, to avoid any residue of ground coffee.

Group Head Espresso Machine

Group Head Espresso Machine

What happens behind the scene of a coffee shop is all about preparation, organization and planning ahead for tomorrow. Having enough of everything but never too much. Coffee beans, paper filters for Aeropress/V60 pour over and milk are the top three items to have in stock.

Being a barista is usually perceived as a “cool job“.

Barista at work

Barista at work

It is also demanding because it involves standing, serving, cleaning, brewing using various means according to what is ordered and of course there is a big part of customer service as well. It is not just about pressing a button; guiding and advising undecided individuals whether a flat white would be better than a cortado or a latte. It is can be fun, no doubt!

Nevertheless, it can also be a hard and long day. There is no way to hide or to have an easy day because each drink is unique and different. The situation is almost like a live show where there is no room for mistake…without altering the quality of the crafted hot drink(s) to have in or to take away.

A barista will make the drink you are after (as long as it is on the menu) – the espresso machine will just provide the espresso.

Wanting a coffee is understandable but it is also about being patient until it is your turn, as rushing the order won’t help. It is obvious that people are always short of time either because of a meeting or a train to catch, but this is not a reason to put the staff under pressure. It is about time management and respect.

Getting the drink right is pleasing; for the person making it and for the one enjoying it. It is worth waiting for quality.

Latte art on take away cup

Latte art on take away cup

Some people have changed their habits from tea to coffee. It seems that there is a real addiction for those beans. But do these coffee drinkers know how to appreciate the nectar?

It is common to have people going into a coffee shop asking for an espresso and a flat white too. Yes indeed, they are having two drinks one after the other. Is this recommended? In other words, why having that strong double shot then a longer drink with milk?!

Would you get two glasses of wine or spirit?

There is also that sugar situation.

We all like different things… no doubt! But, is adding sugar to a coffee not similar with pouring lemonade in a great wine? The sweetness would spoil the original aroma and flavour.

Apparently, the café culture is moving at the right pace and with success. Baristas (or baristi/bariste in Italian) and roasters have now the right skills to provide perfect espresso shots with great crema and  brilliantly roasted beans.

…Beyond the preparation of espresso and other beverages and general customer service, skilled baristas acquire knowledge of the entire process of coffee to effectively prepare a desired cup of coffee, including maintenance and programming of the machine, grinding methods, roasting, and coffee plant cultivation, similar to how a sommelier is familiar with the entire process of wine making and consumption… Source

No one would purchase a prime piece of meat/fish, make a béarnaise/hollandaise sauce and then add tomato sauce to it?! The crafted work of the cook would be instantly wiped out by the extra and unnecessary sweet condiment. There is also no need to put a lot of salt and pepper on food. Seasoning is about finding the right balance. However, a meal can be even tastier without it.

What about educating existing and future customers to drink a cup of carefully brewed coffee correctly (with no added sugar, cream, syrup, marshmallow…etc). Less is more!!!

There are already cupping classes in order to literally learn to taste various coffee according to their provenance and roasting process. This could be seen as the first step as no one would add a thing when attending such session. But why then forgetting this ultimate experience and going back on the sugar routine within a few hours?

The Multiple Personalities of Coffee - infographic

The Multiple Personalities of Coffee – infographic

Spending £2.50 on average for a coffee and then almost unconsciously destroying that dark aroma to make it tasteless can hurt the espresso bar owner and barista too. Would it make a difference if that actual beverage was made with the cheapest of all the beans? Probably not. The customer is absolutely wasting his/her money in a specialty coffee shop when getting that sweet addition.

…Eventually I learned that good coffee can have many layers of complexity and now I prefer to enjoy the taste of the bean without milk or sugar getting in the way… Source

It is all about education. This is applicable for everything:

  • food,
  • drink,
  • fashion,
  • technology,
  • litterature,
  • cinema.

The more is offered and the more people want. The retailer ends up with a full range of products which aren’t in fact needed to get a great cup of coffee (soya, almond, full fat and semi skimmed milk…etc).  Of course, it is not about forcing someone to drink a cappuccino a certain way but to guide so it is more enjoyable and tasteful. It is not about imposing but sharing knowledge to enhance rather than destroy a daily drink, whether to have in or take-away.

No sugar badge

No sugar badge

In general, in restaurants and pubs it is well accepted to be told what we should or shouldn’t mix with food and wine. However, when it comes to coffee shops, some customers can get a bad feeling and in some cases storm out the premises. Why would a barista disrespect the needed buyer to keep the business running?! Are we living in a Society where everyone knows better?

Spoon cup and saucer

Spoon cup and saucer