company - education - coffee - tea - equipment

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A barismo coffee update

The great thing about this time of year is the expectations of new coffees coming in. For us at barismo, it is a really big moment because we are making some major commitments to expand our coffee lineup and develop deeper connections and relationships in the coffee producing countries we focus on. We will provide some interesting trip details of our travels this year as new coffees come in but it's been a transitional point with some big changes expected over the next few months.

Looking at the growth we have gone through and where we are at, it made a lot of sense for us to stop, reorganize, and then consolidate a lot of what we are doing with our coffee purchasing. A change in structure, hiring a green buyer, and then investing in travel time and finally looking at what made the most sense to increase the quality of our lineup were key points. A lot of that centers around a few key farms but I'll save that information for when those coffees actually arrive.

When Hong and I founded the company, our goal was a cafe and roasting was definitely an afterthought. It was after that original concept became less of an option that we recruited other investors and opened the roasting outfit where a coffee bar played the secondary role and things then got more interesting. Over the first year, we went through a lot of tumultuous ups and downs that came from a big struggle over the direction of the company. After some rearrangements internally, new characters arrived to add color to the mix and we found some supportive representation locally. Since then, we have grown a lot and struggled to keep up over the last half year. It's not an easy business to be in, even when you are growing but our local relationships and amazing staff have really helped us through this rough time.

Right now, the problems are more simple. Where are we going to put all this coffee that's on the way? ... and boy do we need a little vacation! The exciting part is seeing the investments made last year turn into relationships and as of right now, we are spending a lot of time thinking about how to move forward with them through next year. A bit too early for that kind of thinking but with all the great coffee we arranged, there are still other coffees we could not get but look forward to possibly making a relationship with next year.

We are trying to be aggressive but also sensible. It means we are making larger commitments to only a handful of producing countries in an attempt to get the most efficient usage of our consolidated volumes. While that means our new menu will have several excellent farms from places like Guatemala, it also means we will not carry a wide range of origins outside of the handful we are investing in.

A lot of exciting things are happening but it's also a lot of hard work right now and in front of us. We look forward to sharing the new coffees with you as they come in!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

barismo `slow bar day' at Pavement Mon Apr 18th

If you haven't heard by now, Pavement is finally opening, for real this time. It is the culmination of a long road for the core team of managers at ERC responsible for instigating so many of the recent upgrades, changes, and investments at all three of their stores.

Pavement however is a change of pace for the ERC family, a new entity entirely. They will attempt to do what is often coined as a slow coffee bar in what is a massive cafe at a well trafficked location. Now a slow coffee bar is something fairly uncommon in the Boston area. So uncommon, I can name three places off hand that do anything approaching it, and one happens to be our roasting location in Arlington. Slowing down the entire process and focusing on a unique brew method or a quality per cup experience is the key concept here. Pavement will offer v60 per cup of any coffee/roaster they offering at the moment. It's about time Boston got a cafe like that.

Join us Monday, take the T or bus and try to avoid even thinking about parking down there. All day, there will be per cup offerings we have roasted and even some of our espresso on tap.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cold brew coffee and teas

We have been dong a lot of cold brew over the last few years and the occasional cold brew tea. Cold brewed coffee was a big hit when we opened the bar at the roasting location and we fulling expect that to continue into the future. Hi Rise on Brattle St. also does the cold brewed coffee in the summer quite successfully and we feel this will expand to other cafes in time.

What's exciting and noteworthy is how nice our recent attempts at cold brewing the teas have been. The Fulu Red Oolong has produced multiple cold steeps to give an excellent cup and one of the most fantastic iced teas I have ever tried. It has been so delicious that each and every one liter steep has been quickly split among staff and friends before it could be offered to customers. Along those lines, we are going to try a cold brew of the Cicada Honey Black Tea.

The last time I cold brewed this tea was while I was still in Taiwan after just purchasing the Cicada tea. I took some of the samples we had been given and brewed them in a water bottle for what was a beautiful and aromatic expression of the tea. Smooth, sweet, and complex.

As new crop Fulu Red Oolong arrives in a few weeks, it will be one more addition to our menu that gives a reason to look forward to warm weather.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

NERBC fallout

NERBC 2010 stage

Post NERBC there was a bit of local press coverage from the Globe that really stayed neutral and got quotes from a lot of people there. The globe also did a sidebar piece on Luminaire as well. The Hario brew bar had two of their beta Lb-1 water delivery systems running continuous duty during the 3 days of the event. It was a great field test for their new concept and got them vital feedback from area barista/roasters. We are currently using one in shop right now and there is talk of one at Hi-Rise on Brattle St. as well as Pavement Coffee Bar when it opens. The brew bar and 4th machine were hugely successful and busy during the entire competition. Turnout during all three days was steady but the 4th machine and per cup bars were jam packed consistently.

Brew bar and 4th Machine
Anne and Neil of Tamp Tamp ran the espresso machine offering up drinks using a range of the sponsors and roasters who had contributed to the event. Likewise, the Hario and Luminaire per cup bar also rotated drip offerings by featuring two roasters at any one time changing throughout the day.

Both Somerville papers got in on the coverage. Between those articles, there were a few items that seemed a bit off, like '30,000 viewers online' and quoting how we at barismo had hosted competitions for years. We have organized and hosted many events over the years but this was our first barista competition.

Competitor area

As for competitors, we had a very specific goal this year. We did not want anyone to compete from our company but Jamie Lynn decided it would be great for her after the positive experience she had last year supporting a competitor that I felt burned us later. Her goal was to get on stage and complete a routine that represented her and the shop she works at even if that meant taking hits on the score cards or doing things that don't fit in with the stage show. I am happy about how she handled the whole situation because her confidence as a barista has increased as well as the quality of her skill set. I look forward to her article in Barista magazine about the differing experiences. Her role was a specifically unique situation where she took that same attitude of training (not marketing) toward supporting the growth of the barista we sponsored by helping prep them with rule sheets and outlines. Ironic, if only because she fully intended to challenge the rules in her own routine.

In the weeks after competition, I have seen the confidence and attention put in by barista in the community and I have been really proud of the leap in training made by the barista who took the time to use the preparation aspect of competition for personal growth. I am particularly proud of both Alison and Nathaniel at Simon's who had previously had quite bad experiences at competition in the past. It took a lot of courage and dedication to get past those traumatic experiences and turn in good performances this year.

Congratulations to Danielle who took first and to all the other competitors who got up there and put themselves up for critique. We wish her good luck representing the NE even if she is a New Yorker now! It takes a lot to get on stage and handle that pressure. Congratulations to Matt from Matt's wood roasted coffee who took home the NE Regional Cup Taster's prize and is a nice guy to boot. A lot of area barista are looking forward to next year.