Episode Six – Tim Wendelboe

Finally, another podcast! It has been a while since the last one simply because I’ve been quite busy. In fact I’d been trying to record an interview with Tim for about 3 weeks and we kept struggling to find a time.

So when we ended up in Florence together, it seemed like a good opportunity and I grabbed my little audio recorder and we sat down and chatted for a while at the end of a splendid evening.

The conversation ranges far and wide covering espresso, pressure profiling, roasting, sourcing, relationships with producers, ageing of raw coffee, retail and more. Something for everyone I hope.

Apologies for the little audio glitch – I didn’t realise the mic picked up mobile phone signals the way old tvs and radios used to.

Thoughts and comments on this one welcome – I hope you all enjoy!

You can do stuff like subscribe or leave some sort of rating or comment on iTunes here, or you can subscribe to the podcast feed here.

(Music is “Journeyman” by Amon Tobin).


15 Comments Episode Six – Tim Wendelboe

  1. Tobias


    Yesterday I was drinking a freshly roasted Honduras but it tasted a lot
    like å Malabar, now I know way – it was from an old harvest.

    The last years I have witness that more care are being taken at
    preserving green beans. Like vacuum and so on. How are you thinking about
    storing green beans in freezers like Georg Howell does? He seems to think this
    benefit storing of the beans, but are there others in the industry that do the
    same thing and think like ways?

  2. Will

     I thoroughly enjoyed this one; probably my favorite so far.

    Loved the honesty about naturals, the compromises he sometimes has to make (woody old-crop Kenyans), and his dislike for the vacuum pot’s fussiness + inconsistency.  I share those opinions, so of course I think he’s brilliant ;-)

    Like the above poster, I would’ve been interested to hear opinions about the effectiveness/viability of deep freezing green, as Howell does.

  3. James Hoffmann

     To answer both questions – or to try to anyway – I think there is probably some mileage in better storage.  I’m not sure we should be looking to really extend the life of coffee by any extreme measure – I like the fact that I will never taste some of my favourite coffees again – it makes finding something delicious and fresh all the more exciting.

    Having only briefly spoken to George about this a couple of years ago now – I don’t really feel qualified to answer on his behalf.  I see his point about the value of being able to extend the life of coffees, especially the interesting possibilities of being able to compare old and new crops (with both tasting fresh) to better understand the impact of agriculture and processing.  Plus it would be fun too!

  4. AndyS

    >  I’m not sure we should be looking to really extend the life of coffee
    > any extreme measure – I like the fact that I will never taste some of

    > my favourite coffees again – it makes finding something delicious and
    > fresh all the more exciting.

    I frequently hear that argument, but I just don’t believe it. We could apply the same line of reasoning to art: let’s destroy Michaelangelo’s David, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the works of Rembrandt, Picasso, Matisse, everything else…then contemporary art will be all the more “fresh and exciting”….

    Sorry, it just seems like nonsense to me.

    Unlike the way great art endures, even the deepest vacuum pack and the coldest freezer will not keep green coffee at its peak indefinitely. But when we seek excuses to reject these innovative preservation techniques, our intransigence seems motivated as much by sloth and parsimony as it does by love of great coffee.

  5. James Hoffmann

    I get your point, and I’m all for improving storage.  Every roaster has been bitten in the ass by a coffee falling off suddenly and unexpectedly – and none are happy about it.  I’d absolutely love to see improvements made in extending the life of raw coffee – from processing through to packaging.

    I still think that if we were able to preserve something indefinitely then we’d lose something that we’ve perhaps grown to love about coffee.  Perhaps because when I think about it I think of all the logistical challenges involved in running a roastery that had multiple coffees from multiple years!

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  7. Phil Mackay

    Funny about Australia, we have the exact same problem in New Zealand, must be something like 150-200 coffee roasters, loads of good baristas and great setups, but terrible raw coffee. There’s only about 2 companies I know of who are doing anything exciting

  8. Drew Fitchette


    Loved this podcast, especially after tasting both the Hunkute and Sitio Canaa and hearing his commentary on both. Espresso has been the bane of my existence for awhile now and hearing you talk about it makes me feel quite a bit better.

    I recently vacationed to Australia and New Zealand and found the exact same thing. All the Baristas did an amazing job but the final product was lackluster by no fault of the people doing their jobs.

    I’m no stranger to this though as I live north of Seattle, and it’s a similar story there too. Great cafes great machinery, “roasty” product. Setting up a coffee bar with light roasts here has been more than a challenge.

    Best part was the mention of “Americans shouldn’t be allowed to buy Kenyan coffees”, as we served his Tekangu last month.

  9. Jay C.

    Seems to me that this is a classic example of the dogma getting in the way.  If we’re supposedly open to experimenting with the latest scientific equipment, why not an openness to experimenting with preservation techniques?

    This rush to “seasonality” and to be “season” seems spurious to me, or at the very least a fashion statement.

    I deal with season produce as a matter of fact.  At both Spro and at home, this is the time of year when we ramp things up.  And while Russian tomatoes fresh from the vine, at the peak of season, are a true beauty, there’s tremendous reason (not to mention enjoyment) from preserving (through freezing or canning) those tomatoes for later consumption. Certainly, the flavors and experience are not the same as fresh from the vine, but the enjoyment and fulfillment is typically very rewarding – like that lovely green tomato confit on my mid-winter bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese sandwich.

    As AndyS pointed out, we still love those classics.  Without a doubt, the colors of the Sistine Chapel are quite different than the first generation who viewed it, but because it is no longer “fresh” does that mean our enjoyment of it is not possible?

    To my mind, one of the more interesting aspects of this approach is the ability to offer “vintage” (for lack of a better term) coffees for our guests.  An approach much like that of Ichiro Sekiguchi of Cafe de L’Ambre in Tokyo’s Ginza district.  Right now, we’re giving some thought to the 2007 Idido Misty Valley Ethiopia and the 2007 Rancho San Francisco Chiapas Mexico on how best to present those coffee to our guests.

  10. Paul

    Great podcast, isnt’ it amazing the good conversations people can have after a splash of whiskey….. Couldn’t agree more with you on your comments regarding uniforms.  I working as a waiter in a hotel, and we have decent looking uniforms.  I plan to open my own cafe, so am spending lots of time visiting many cafes, coffee shops sitting watching and tasting everything I can.

    The amount of times I’ve sat there watching and seen one customer ask another customer for a menu, a drink, or some sort of question, thinking that they worked in the place.

    All because the staff wore plain casual clothes and no uniform of any kind!  It seems like a small thing, BUT it always leaves both customers feeling a little foolish or embarassed, which is never a good thing from a business perspective. 

    Doesn’t speciality coffee also represent something better than average, so why serve it dressed as if you’re going to watch a football match.  Simple, neat and elegant would be surely a good reflection.
    Thanks again for the podcast, my favourite one so far, some intersting views on Espresso.

  11. Eric Z

    You raised a really interesting question regarding consumers essentially being spoiled by great coffees  (my word not yours, you were much kinder), and constantly searching for different ones each day. As a consumer (home barista), I’ve thought about this for a while now with regard to my own habits. I mail order a bag of espresso and a bag of single origin for manual brewing EVERY WEEK from different specialty roasters around the US in search of as many profiles, varietals, and origins as possible. I’m not happy drinking the same coffee for more than a few weeks consecutively (or I could be happy, but I know I don’t have to be). 
    I almost feel guilty as a consumer for doing this. Hopping around online from roaster to roaster, from great coffee to great coffee, without doing any of the leg work that green buyers, cuppers, and roasters put into their craft. I have the luxury of being critical of pretty decent coffees, because I get to try so many great ones and never an awful one. Unlike a green buyer or roaster, I never have to taste a million horrible coffees or roast profiles before getting to the beautiful ones. I get to just skip that step, and I wonder if it makes me appreciate it less. Anyway, this is the kind of consumer that is being created by all the great progress being made in specialty…but I’m glad you are reminding us of this phenomenon, although you really didn’t take a position or finish pursuing the question you raised in the podcast discussion. Any additional thoughts?

  12. Eric Z

    Oh…and GREAT podcast by the way. As always, very insightful and as always, I wish it could have gone longer. But thank you.

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  14. Michael Mierzejewski

    I noticed that a few different people pointed out that often baristas have good equipment and skill, but are thwarted by limited access to good quality roasted coffee. I resonate with this completely, but from a slightly different angle. Within a few months of becoming a barista I got the opportunity to roast coffee for a local shop, because I love coffee and like to try as many people’s coffee as I can I quickly realized that what I was roasting wasn’t as good as coffee at other more notable shops.  I am constantly trying to figure out how to make my coffee taste better, but I can’t seem to get anything to work. Furthermore it is extremely difficult to find information in the digital coffee community about the roasting process. The few discussions I have found are usually discussion between roasters at well established business who do not discuss the basics of the roasting process because the intended readers (fellow established professionals) already have this information under their belt. This is in stark contrast to the amount of information that is available about brewing coffee, espresso or otherwise. 

    Is there anyway that we can make information about roasting more available so that more baristas have access to good quality coffee and so that young roasters like myself, who want desperately to learn  how to roast and source good coffee can better put ourselves in a position so that we can learn from those who have more experience than us in specialty coffee? Or do people in my position need to simply hope and wait for a position to open up at the local intelligentsia inorder for them to learn good roasting theory, philosophy and mechanics?My last thought is that if one of the goals of the specialty coffee industry is to educate customers and professionals isn’t education about roasting one of the most important aspects? Possibly even more important that how to pull the best shot of espresso or make the perfect pour over? 

    thank you.

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