I used to write a lot more on here about what I was doing, where I was visiting etc. Â I realised today that I’ve pretty much stopped doing that. Â Explaining why that is wouldn’t be particularly interesting, but instead I’ll write a little about a couple of trips I’ve taken recently.
Unsurprisingly I have a few air miles stocked up, and with Anette travelling (Sumatra and Kenya) I had some weekends to spare and the chance to travel very cheaply indeed. Â The first trip I took was over to see the Coffee Collective. Â This is embarrassing: Â Despite being in Copenhagen for the WBC in 2008, and being there again for NBC last year, I had never been to the Coffee Collective’s shop onÂ JÃ¦gersborggade. Â This needed to be fixed. It was good to see both of their shops, drink some tasty coffee, cup a bit and just hang out in their shops.
This weekend I went to visit Oslo, and of course see the Tims at Tim Wendelboe. Â I also managed a quick visit to Java (thank you again for coffee!) and also Kaffa (thanks BjÃ¶rnar!) – I love seeing other roasteries because I’m fascinated by the different way companies overcome challenges and manage processes. Â I hope I’m not alone in finding weigh and fill machine workflow interesting….
Again – embarrassing: Â This was my first visit to Tim Wendelboe. Â I hadn’t been in Oslo since August 2006 – before Tim had found a space.
These are both businesses that I feel a bit of an attachment too, if only because they’ve been operational for a similar amount of time. Â They’re run by people my own age, and the whole WBC connection is a thing I suppose. Â They are both businesses that have inspired me over the years, as well as made me jealous or annoyed that their coffees were so good. Â They’re also run by people who’ve been totally honest in their feedback when tasting our coffee – for better or worse – which is an absolute rarity in this industry, and indescribably valuable. Â We face, in some ways, common challenges – though each have different markets and consumption trends. Â For example – London may have the advantage in population density but we don’t have a strong culture of brewing, serving or drinking drip coffees which obviously impacts buying practices.
On both occasions I brought our coffees to taste. Â On both occasions the coffees had been roasted on Thursday, I had cupped them in London on Friday and then cupped them again on Saturday in either Copenhagen or Oslo. Â The impact of water on the coffees blows my mind. Â Worrying about water isn’t new – brewing coffee with London water pretty much obliterates any interesting or unique flavour characteristics in a coffee. Â In Copenhagen we were cupping with reverse osmosis treated water (we have similar systems) and in Oslo the water is very soft, and just taste/odour filtered. a
Technically both times the water was within spec – not too hard, not too much TDS. Â The coffees in Copenhagen were suddenly flat, though we later cupped one at different water TDS quantities and got better results from a slightly higher TDS than the Collective would usually use. Â This higher TDS would turn out to negatively affect their coffees. Â In Oslo one coffee noticeably improved (I had worried it was bordering on a touch light in London), others were good and one tasted Â much worse. Â I know water effects coffee taste – it was just shocking to be reminded how much of a difference small changes make.
This wrecks my head. Â The idea that each company is roasting based on a feedback loop of cupping, and in each case water is throwing a variable into the mix. Â As much we might roast espresso to work at a certain dose and extraction, we may be roasting coffee to work well with the water in our roasteries. Â This probably merits a whole other post when my head doesn’t hurt so much from thinking about it.
The result from each trip was the same – I was inspired, full of ideas and grateful for the chance to talk about all the stressful stuff of running a business with like minds. Â On each occasion I am exceedingly grateful for the incredible hospitality shown by my hosts. Â I’m looking forward to seeing them in London soon, and I definitely won’t wait so long to go back….
- I am aware that flying with these coffees may have had an effect, but I am increasingly skeptical of the excuse of air travel on poor cup quality (back)