For the next three days I am in Marin County, California, teaching a class at Boot Coffee Consulting. The course is called Roast Profiling and Cupping. It combines information on sensory analysis, heat-transfer dynamics, and artisan roasting techniques.
The first day of this class begins with, well, coffee of course. Once everyone's acclimated to the lab, where we have several different sample roasters, brewing equipment, an AV set-up, cupping lab, coffee library, etc, we start with a lot of theory. What's the difference between convection, conduction, and radiation when it comes to the development of coffee during the roasting process? How does processing affect the way beans of different densities absorb heat?
Then we dive right into sensory analysis. We do sessions with nuts, dried fruits, chocolates, apples of different acidity levels and sweetness levels, fruits with different kinds of mouthfeel. All this is leading into the really important stuff: the sensory analysis of coffee. Cupping, that is.
We cover cupping vocabulary, cupping protocols, cupping technique, and we do LOTS of triangulation exercises to put people through their paces. And that's all just day one.
Day two and day three involve a lot more theory, but mainly it's about roasting and cupping, and roasting and cupping, and roasting and cupping. I teach or help teach this class several times each year. We have roasters from all over the world come to learn and practice. This class has folks from California, New York, Wisconsin, Seattle, Massachusettes, Australia, and Singapore.
This week we set up a canopy outside because of the heat in Northern California. Students are starting to arrive right now as I type this. Time to go!
My sister got married in May. After the ceremony, my job was to drive the happy couple to a special location on Lake Washington to shoot some extra photos. From there we had to drive to the U-District in Seattle for the reception.
Rick, my brother in law (as a Brazilian, he's a man with coffee in his blood), said suddenly, "Do we have coffee at this reception?"
My sister and her husband realized that they might have another 3 or 4 hours of speeches, dinner, toasts, greeting, dancing, etc, before they would get a cup of coffee. This, of course, after hours of getting ready, taking photos, and the ceremony itself.
That was all the prompting I needed. I took them to Solstice on the Ave, where I used to study my Cervantes and my Lord Byron back in my college days. How many times do you see a beautiful 5'10" blonde woman in a flowing white wedding dress in the middle of a college café? That's my sister for you. It runs in the family, see...
So when the newlywed-mobile rolled up to the reception, we all got out holding our americanos (extra shot, natch), and Rick and Jane-o powered through the festivities with a smile.
I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, where it's in the mid-90's (???), where I'm shooting some instructional videos; from Wednesday to Friday I'm teaching a course on roast profiling, cupping, and sensory evaluation. Anticipating, "Teacher can we have class outside today?" we're setting up an awning and folding chairs. A little delayed summertime, nice!
Part three of my videos in Panama, featuring the beautiful Tesse, the adorable Tiborcito, Daniel being way too excited to be crossing the Panama Canal, and a place that attracts bird-watchers and entomologists from all over the world.
Incidentally, I'm quite serious about organizing a trip to Ojo de Agua. We are looking at the week of January 3rd or January 10. I will of course post more about that if it's happening, but if you want to get at the top of the list, send me an email at email@example.com.
Just to give you an idea of where all this is, I've included a map. The marker here is for the town of Volcán. Just to the northeast, you can see the large volcano. On the far side of the volcano is Finca Sofia (featured in the earlier videos, and quite close to the place shown in this video). Just north of that, shrouded in clouds in this Google Map view, is a vast protected forest land called Palo Seco. The farm lies right up against this protected zone, surrounded, in fact, on three sides by protected forest land.
Brew Methods has been around since January. An equally simple page, it provides a list of links to brewing instructions all over the web, for a variety of methods like press pots, Chemex, and siphon brewers.
Scandinavia is the epicenter of the world quality coffee movement. Last week I was in Stockholm drinking coffee and researching my Nordic roots. At the same time, on the other side of the great peninsula, the Nordic Barista Cup was taking place in Oslo.
I've never been to the Nordic Barista Cup, but it's very high on my list of coffee to-do's. Baristas and coffee professionals from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland get together once a year and have all kinds of coffee events and parties. Teams from each nation dress up in matching jumpsuits like Olympic athletes, and snapshots from the various parties always show beautiful people having a lovely time.
As for me, I had a lovely time island-hopping in Stockholm. I did some interesting work for Pernod-Ricard, the spirits company. Absolut — a very Swedish vodka, of course — is one of their brands, and that's what took us to Stockholm. But I wasn't doing any work on vodka, but actually on Kahlúa.
I did some very interesting blind tasting of various coffee liqueurs. They are most decidedly not all the same. Some have some extremely disagreeable chemical-rubber tastes underneath all that sugar. I hope to be able to share the outcome of the work I did there on the blog soon; but for now I have to keep it somewhat under wraps.
For you New Yorkers out there, I thought you might get a kick out of this picture. It's a collaboration Absolut did with Spike Lee (no joke).
I uploaded some more pics on my flickr page. Not much coffee related (except the awesome french press hotel coffee I got which made my day on Thursday), but there's some pretty rainbows.
Finally, I shot this video at dinner (amazing food at this restaurant). You can't see anything cause the light is too low. But you can hear what my Swedish friend, Frida, thinks of Norwegian coffee.
Longtime coffee expert and überblogger Tonx took some pictures many years ago of lattes made at Victrola Coffee in Seattle, where I used to work. He put the set on flickr and it has over half a million views. In fact, he made these pictures available on the web even before they were put on flickr.
Many, many more beautiful lattes have been poured (though rarely have they been as well-photographed); but because these pictures were some of the first high-resolution pictures of really excellent latte art that were freely available on the web, they quickly spread all over the place. Now, as is so often the case with internet property, they're completely out of tonx's control; he told me he long ago gave up trying to get credit for all these pictures.
Anyway, a lot of those lattes are mine, and though I'm used to seeing them pop up randomly, sometimes it still takes me by surprise.
With the new Google insta-search that debuted this week (in which it starts showing you results before you have even finished typing... try it!), even if you aren't looking for images, if you type "latte ...", before you even get to the a in "art" a bunch of pictures pop up, and at least as of this week, the one in the upper right is my latte. Kinda weird; it links to some auto-bot sight called thatsweird (dot) net (no linkage for them!).
Bing.com takes you to this page in which one of my lattes is used as an interstitial illustration meant to encourage you. "Latte Art is all the new craze, and looks great," it says, "go on, have a go..."
It's been a while since I jumped behind the bar and made two hundred lattes in a morning. I know I still have the chops, but I wonder if my "handwriting" has changed at all. Have you ever looked at old notebooks or letters or schoolwork and marveled at how your handwriting has changed over the years? I wonder if it's the same with latte art.
Check out my own flickr page. I have some latte art pics there, but the nicest photo sets are the ones from Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Peru.