Monday, 28 October 2013

Top Ten Coffee Origin Trip Tips

Visiting origin or any farm is an opportunity to learn something new.  Every farmer and every producer will always be proud and honoured if you take an interest in their work.  With this in mind here are a few of my tips for you when visiting coffee farms.

Take plenty of pictures.  You never know what picture you will need for what blog post or book or training class. Bring a good quality camera and several SD memory cards.  Each evening back up your memory card to an online cloud or other device just in case

Bring a notepad.  This is where the journalist comes out in you.  When you take pictures of people, write down who is in the photo and a brief description of the shot.  It will add authenticity to the image and in time (depending on social media opportunities) you will also be able to tag these images online.  You will also build up a bank of people and names and faces for future use.

Get into the shot.  Get a picture of you with the farmer, on the farm.  You never know you may end up buying from this farm in years to come and a stock shot is always a good endorsement of your trip and your experience.

Keep notes. Every evening take 30 minutes to write a summary of your day, regardless of what everyone else is doing and recount your steps.  This is VITAL.  So much happens on an origin trip you will forget all the little things and you will be glad you wrote daily notes
Don't throw out anything.  It may be a room key or a small bill for coffee in a little cafe. Keep everything during your trip and use the receipts with your daily notes to piece your story together.
Sit at the front. The front seats on the bus or coach always have the best view and big clear windows for taking pictures.  Its also where the discussions are about where to next and whats on the agenda for the rest of the trip
Travel with the farmers.  On many of the farms we visited we were shuffled into jeeps or buggys.  In some instances we were let take a buggy ourselves and follow in convoy.  By sitting beside the farmers you get to ask questions about the terrain and plantations.  Sometimes they are carrying our trial plantations and new methods of growing. you will only hear these explanations by sitting with the farm owners.  Be assertive and act quickly.  Take the best seat and ask loads of questions.  Youn might never be back there.
Bring a gift.  If there is a particular farm you are going to visit or even stay with, bring a gift.  Something from your country and get a picture of you giving the gift to the host.
Follow up.  When you return be sure to follow up with farms and farmers whom you have visited.  Send them the picture you took at the farm with your name and contact details and build your relationship with them. It may be a tentative link now but you never know where it will go.
Be prepared.  A trip to origin is hard work.  It usually involves slow bus rides, long journeys on under developed roads, long hours on coaches and a lot of walking around farms.  Bring correct footwear (walking boots), extra socks, suncream, mosquito cream, anti-histamines, painkillers and anything else you can think of like rehydrating sachets (diuralite) and foot cream.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Crimes Against Coffee

Its not easy to get a great tasting coffee
So whether you are at home or visiting a cafe, here are a selection of the top crimes that will ruin a great cup

1. Stale Coffee
Coffee tastes best within the first three months of its roast date.  Choose coffee that has been roasted within the last three months to taste the freshest and best flavours

2. Pre Ground Coffee
Buying pre-ground coffee, or buying coffee in a cafe where the coffee is not ground on site to order will also reduce the chance of getting to experience the best flavours

3. Not enough practise
There is no excuse for not practising on how you brew your favourite cup.
At home, you can call this experimenting.  Whether it's a piece of brewing kit or on an espresso machine.  Keep experimenting till you get the flavours you want in the cup.
In a cafe, you could call this training and defining their taste.  This comes from months of practise to get it correct so it is consistent.

4. Over extraction
Trying to get too much from the coffee often causes the coffee to taste flat, have a lack of body and or to be bitter.  This is caused by leaving the coffee in contact with the water for too long.  Its like leaving a cup of tea stewing too long.  It will go tar-y and bitter. 

5. Burnt Milk 
Considering over 70% of coffee's are served with milk (flat whites, cappuccino, latte) milk is one of the most important ingredients to get right.   Overheating milk (above 65 degrees celsius) will cause the natural sugars to loose their flavours and will significantly change the sensory experience.

For more tips and tricks on how to brew coffee at home visit our website or tweet to @coffeeculture

Sunday, 8 September 2013

MeTime Coffee Morning

Coffee Culture in Association with Mental Health Ireland are hosting a coffee morning campaign for October.
We are asking cafe's across the country to host a coffee morning and send the proceeds to Mental Health Ireland.
Coffee Culture will provide you with everything you need.

Dates October 6-13th 2013 
Duration 1 morning of the café’s choice during this week
Mechanic: To engage as many cafes as possible in Ireland to host a coffee morning in
aid of Mental Health Ireland.

50% Directly to Mental Health Ireland
50% to organisations who collaborate with MHI at local level

Proceeds from:
Sales of coffee
Café’s are asked to donate their coffee sales for the morning. Additional
sales of cakes/associated items are not expected; this is seen as the café’s
own revenue.

Why Café’s
More than ever, café’s are seen as the third space (1. Home, 2. Work, 3. The Cafe)
A café is the perfect environment to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, read the
paper, have some quiet time with friends or alone. It is informal. Can provide
privacy. It is the place where people can feel most comfortable outside home
or work. In comfortable surroundings people can feel more open and willing
to talk and discuss their troubles and concerns

For Coffee Culture, we wanted to use the resources we have - our friends and colleagues in the Industry and our own coffee partners - cafe's and restaurants whom we supply.  The idea is about collaboration and teamwork on a national level.

Why Coffee
Coffee in this sense is a euphemism. It could be tea or another beverage.
The sponsor for this event is Coffee Culture. Irelands’ leading artisan coffee

Brand Values - Coffee Culture
At coffee culture we want to surpass the norms of social responsibility and
affect change. While we actively comply with ethical standards, such as
ethically sourcing our coffee from The Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and
sourcing direct from farmers. We feel along with our wholebean coffee
customers who re-sell our coffee that we can make a bigger difference.
On a recent trip to Guatemala, I saw first hand how green bean purchases
directly benefit the farms and their communities by aiding build projects such
as schools, roads, infrastructures and homes.

We have other ethical approaches too such as buying compostable cups, always encouraging cafe and people to invest in training and education, actively promoting education exchange,
welfare of our employees, and structuring our workloads to create a worklife
balance.  We also believe in the 1% Difference.

The 1% difference
Visit :

Charity begins at home.
While we are very proud of our commitment to buying from developing
countries, we also believe that charity begins at home.
We will make a difference on a national scale
We will encourage a positive impact at a local and national level.
We will achieve this through our activities on the environment, consumers,
employees, communities and all other members of the general public who we
engage with.

Why choose Mental Health.
We wanted to select an organisation where we felt our customers could make
a real difference. Where we could create synergy between the needs of the
organisations clients and what our coffee customers/café owners can offer. It
is a mutually beneficial relationship.
The decision was easy. Café’s provide a social outlet for people at many
levels. We wanted to share the kindness and generosity that exists in cafes.
We want to share the traditional Irish welcome that is extended to every
customer over the counter in a café. The type of homely, warm, welcome that
is funneled from café owners to customers through their staff is unique.

Café Resources/Engagement process
Café’s can register their interest at
Each café will register online
Must be registered by Sunday 29th September

Café’s will be sent a promo box prior to the event with items such as the
2 A2 posters
2 A3 posters
20 Metes Bunting
20 MeTime green Balloons
Raffle Tickets
The Mental Health Quiz sheet (competition)
100 no. Custom designed ‘Half full’ take out coffee cups (12oz) [more can be purchased directly from Coffee Culture]
‘Me-Time’ chocolate sweets (individual servings)
Café Loyalty cards (12 ways to improve your mental health on one side)
Avonmore Sponsored Milk (will arrive on the day)
MeTime Barista Bib [Additional can be purchased from Coffee Culture]

Cafe Prizes
Each cafe will be entered into a draw to win vouchers to the value of over 1000 sponsored by Coffee Culture Training
1st Place €600 voucher for one days training at the academy
2nd Place €350 voucher for a half days training at the academy
3rd Place €155 voucher for one place on a days training course for one person
Contact persons
Project Co-ordinator & Sponsor
Alan Andrews
Coffee Culture
Mobile: 087 294 3839
Email :

Project Liason
Lorraine Dolan
TRYS Templemore
Mobile: 086 354 3445
email :

Project Liason
Treasa Hannify
Mental Health Ireland
Mobile: 086 0412789

Project helpline 01 901 2010
Project twitter #me-time

Register here

Friday, 16 August 2013

Don't replicate. Innovate

It's not easy to open a cafe or restaurant. It can look glamorous - can be social and fun but in truth it requires dedication, persistence and a lot of hard work.

Most cafe owners I know have a vision of what they want their cafe to be. Its in their head. If I was to give one piece of advice to anyone before they consider to open a cafe, it would be to create your vision.

Yes there are loads of other really pertinent issues you need to consider but before all that.. before you get caught up in the how will it run, who will I employ, what will it turnover - you need to figure out what this cafe is going to be. This, is the only place to start.

 Map out on paper what you would like your cafe to look and feel like. What message do you want it to communicate to the customers. Then figure how will you communicate that message through everything you do. What values will it stand for. You build everything around this from the toilets to the menu. Let this be the core of everything that your cafe will stand for. Remember, a business is an extension of its owner. It represents you. Without this core and vision you have just an idea. The same idea as everyone else who just wants to open their own cafe. Worse, you have an idea without a plan.

Once you know what you want to achieve, get some ideas and create your own footprint. Don't replicate someone else's idea - because that hasn't come from your heart. Its not yours, its an extension of someone else. You'll tire of that. Innovate and you'll never stop innovating. Create something new.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Does your coffee need a taste lift ?

People are more discerning.  It's a fact.
We are more educated, we can access vast amounts of information at our fingertips and we simply have more answers.
In the coffee world there is always something to learn, you never stop learning. This month we have been looking at coffee harvests, how different countries harvest at different times of the year and how the flavours vary from region to region.  For example some coffee flavours from Central and Southern America can taste of dark fruits, cocoa and bitter chocolate, yet coffee's from Southern Africa have bright ripe citrus fruit flavours and floral tones.  You wouldn't believe me unless you tasted them for yourself when brewed properly.
A properly made espresso will have a balance of flavour, depth and a richness in the mouth.  There will be some acidity, some fruit, some bitterness. Nothing dominant. Balance.  Ideally this balance of flavours carries through into the milk based drinks and the natural sugars in the milk will compliment the sweet tones in the coffee.  The overall effect is a joy to taste and savour.  We strive to teach this to every barista we train and cafe that serves our coffee.  If you can nail this, if you can deliver balance of flavours in your coffees - you will have happy returning customers.  If your coffee tastes of ...well ...just bitter coffee - you are doing something wrong and its time for a Coffee Culture taste lift.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Because you're worth it

Bad Cappuccino Image
Getting a great coffee these days can still be hit and miss. I'm not here to name and shame. I'm just having a little rant.  These days I feel strongly about sending coffee's back if they are anything other than acceptable.  The problem is though what makes a great coffee ? 

And whats the point in sending it back.  Do the cafe staff and owners even know how to improve the product?  Could they care less ?  

Successful businesses care about the customer experience.  They keep themselves current.  The best cafe businesses keep the offering up to date and relevant, aligned with consumer trends.   If a cafe is not serving freshly roasted, ground to order coffee these days it is not current. It is irrelevant.  

Extracting the best espresso
And If you visit a cafe and they don't know how to pour a decent espresso, they may as well forget it. This, is the basis of all great coffee drinks.  We are more discerning now.  Most likely we won't tell the cafe if the coffee was less than average.  We just pay and laugh it off.  Is that an Irish thing ? Next time consider sending the coffee back and encourage the cafe to improve, to try harder, to make your experience better.  Because you're worth it.

Upskill your staff with barista training at Irelands first dedicated barista academy and learn how to deliver exceptional coffee.  For a great coffee experience visit our Coffee Culture clients who share this ethos and who have trained with us.

Bear Market Coffee in Blackrock, Dublin
Delish Cafe's, Limerick
Blessington Bookstore, Blessington, Wicklow
Box of Frogs, Bantry, Co. Cork  

Coffee Culture, creating Irelands coffee quality standards.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Don't be so Bitter

Next time you drink a cup of coffee I'd like you to consider its flavour.  Rather than slurping it down, take a second or two to allow the coffee sit on your tongue and in your mouth and see what flavours you can pick out before you swallow it.  Even after swallowing keep searching.  At a typical barista training class we will taste and assess anywhere between 50 and 100 coffees.  We look for flavour and mouthfeel.   More often than not when you drink a poor coffee you get a taste - not flavour.  Usually that taste is bitterness, it is at the back of your mouths or in our throat and is often confused with strength.   The more bitter, the stronger it is perceived to be.  Wrong. 

Coffee has an abundance of flavour. When you taste coffee, the flavours should sit in the middle of your tongue and they should wrap around your mouth.  Caramels, dark fruits and chocolate are just an example of flavours that you might be able to identify.   The mouthfeel is also known as body.  A properly made coffee will be balanced. When you taste it, it will be present in the middle of your mouth, it will be rich in mouthfeel and the flavours should be noticeable on your tongue. Acidity to the front, fruits and sweetness to the middle. It should not be bitter.  Think flavour not taste. 

t. @coffeeculture

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Rich Sweet Milk

There are three main properties that affect how the milk tastes in a cappuccino and latte.  
Fat content is high on the agenda - and the reason is that the fat carries the flavour. Think french food - loads of butter and cream.  This is the richness.  
The higher the fat content the richer the texture in the mouth.

The sweetness comes from the lactose (disacharides).. this natural sweetness in milk is accentuated with heat, as the milk is heated the natural sugars are more obvious to the senses. Now heat is another discussion.. and something we touched on last autumn.  Suffice to say that if you over heat the milk, you'll ruin the texture of the milk.  There is a key temperature for this.  Its 65 degrees celsius.  Anything above this makes the milk split into a dry foam and boiled milk.  

The last factor is protein. Protein comes in simple terms as grass, and specifically grass feeding.  Cows fed on a high grass diet will produce higher protein milk.  This is essential for the milk texture.  As you heat the milk you release the proteins. Again too hot and the milk splits and loses its texture. 

For really great milk try different varieties.  Avonmore sell milk that has consistently high values in protein and lactose.  Other suppliers like Adare farm foods sell organic whole milk - loads of natural proteins, happy cows, rich and creamy.

The most important thing is to find what you like.  The sensory taste and texture is really important when making coffee.  If you can deliver this texture and mouthfeel regardless of latte art and all that fancy stuff, you will have great tasting coffee.

Great coffee is not enough

Every week I visit different cafes.  From Dublin to Cork and Waterford to Westport. Last week I was in Ardkeen Quality Foodstore in Waterford.  We train their barista's to deliver the best coffee they can.  One thing struck me while I was there.  It was the sense of community within the shop.  The barista knew everyone by name.  There was no rush, no pressure, it was a really nice environment to arrive into and to be a part of.  Its what a cafe should be.

Mind you, I don't have to travel to Waterford to experience that.  I can experience that here in Limerick too, be it Michelle in Arabica on Shannon street or Laoise out in Delish Cafe Castletroy.  I'm sure you all have your favourite local place.  For many It used to be the pub.  Now, more than ever cafe's are more important in our lives.  As author Ray Oldenberg suggests, they are our third place.  First : home, second : work and then that third place where we go to have a social coffee, a work chat or to fix the world. 

Great coffee is not enough.  What makes a great cafe is the chat, engagement, being able to nod your head at the barista and they know you're having your regular cuppa.  The barista job, and that customer interaction is often overlooked by many cafes.  It is what separates the average from the great.