When I first came across Standart I thought it was a book, a book I could not find. It is not a book, a quarterly publication,which explains why I could not find in bookshops. It can though be found in coffee shops.
Once upon a time, there was a period of dark coffee and socialism in Czechoslovakia, and that was when the ‘Standard Coffee Blend’ was born. The coffee was, well, let’s say horrible. However, it served as the very beginning of a coffee drinking culture in the part of Europe we come from.
It’s been a long road, and we’ve taken huge strides since then. Speciality coffee and the lifestyle of third wave cafés are knocking at our doors. We would like to show people that our passion is not posh or hipster — good coffee can be the standard for every cup.
Standart is an attempt to capture coffee culture, from the grower to the barista, and all aspects in between, top quality writing, beautifully illustrated.
Wine shares much with coffee, both need care, an art as well as a craft.
I observed this when I stayed at a villa last autumn, set in a vineyard, views to the horizon. I learnt of the care looking after the vines, micro-environment, the winery, all helped, to produce the best red wine I have tried.
The same care with coffee. The grower, the picking of the cherries, the processing the roasting, and finally the barista who serves us that excellent cappuccino.
Every coffee bean has a story to tell. The variety grown, the finca where it grew, the farmer who tended the beans, who treks across rugged terrain to bring his green beans to market. Rarely is that story told.
I am surprised more coffee shops do not tell us that story, a chalkboard for the current roast, information on the bag of beans, a QR code for more information.
Cupping is an art form, something baristas do, and buyers, and maybe us mere mortals if we are invited to a cupping session which many coffee shops now run in the evening, invite only. A useful step-by-step how to.
It is cupping that determines are the green beans worth buying, what price, what potential for the roaster and barista.
Incredible magnified shots of caffeine, 100x and 250x using polarised lights.
It would be an excellent idea to have these on-line, as hi-res images.
There are around 1200 native flowering plants in UK. I used to be able to identify most of them. Plants have a common name and a Latin name.
Many years ago I was in Uppsala in Sweden. Whilst there I visited the house of Carl Linnaeus. My Swedish hosts were surprised I knew who he was. It was he who devised the naming system for plants, indeed all living organisms. A common name is ok, but there is often more than one common name, often a local name.
Coffee has more than 125 known species. Only two are grown commercially, Coffea canephora syn Coffea robusta commonly known as Robusta and Coffea arabica commonly known as Arabica.
If we discover a new species, we can name it. We also have to provide a description, which is then agreed upon that it is a new species.
With Robusta, two different people named it, Albrecht Froehner as Coffea canephora in 1897, then three years later Lucien Binden as Coffea robusta.
It is the norm for the first name to take precedence, in this case Robusta has stuck.
Papua New Guinea supplies less than 1% of the world coffee. The farms small, remote, inaccessible in mountainous terrain. The farmers focus on food, not coffee, coffee an incidental crop. This is how it should be, the focus on food self-sufficiency, not on a cash crop, the downside the quality suffers. How to achieve that balance, quality coffee production, whilst at the same time retaining food self-sufficiency.
Useful advice on home roasting, especially the side bar showing beans changing from green to burnt black and a description of each stage, lacking, the roast temperatures and roast profile. Nor mention of the need to rapidly cool the beans, otherwise they carry on roasting.
A little booklet included, which gives more guidelines, including temperature and roast profile.
With the ready availability of small roasters, every coffee shop, every barista thinks they can roast beans. They cannot.
A couple of years ago, I had disgusting coffee. What had changed? I learnt they were sourcing the beans from an ice cream parlour cum coffee shop who were now roasting their beans. I asked could I take away some of the beans?
A sample of beans, poured over with hot water, same for another sample of beans. First sample, gurgle gurgle, that was it, the second sample a minute or more. The difference was due to the lack of aromatic oils in the first sample.
On closer examination of the beans, they had been burnt to a cinder, there was no bean left, the coffee was being made from the burnt shell. They were also roasting poor quality beans.
Surprising when beans are roasted, the roasted beans are larger not smaller than the green beans.
As the beans goes from green to yellow, a grassy smell, until it cracks, the sugars caramelise, and we start to get what we recognise as coffee.
I am used to coffee tasting as, well like coffee. A light roast brings out many different tastes and flavours.
Interesting interview with French barista champion Charlotte Malaval, Championnats de France de Barista 2015 and 2016 and two times world runner up.
She makes the interesting observation of the passion of people at the high end of coffee, only too willing to share their passion. The contrast is when you walk into a low quality coffee shop, and it is not only the chains, where there is no interest, it is just a job.
Charlotte Malaval is a freelance barista, travels around the world participating in workshops and exhibitions, and is involved with education and certification with the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe. She is now based in Sydney.
At WBC 2016 her signature drink combined fresh strawberries, basil, and cinnamon, poured over ice in a siphon with espresso. It was served in a simple, stemless wine glass with no adornments.
Art galleries these days often have a coffee shop. What we are also seeing, is coffee shops acting as galleries, in part the loss of public space and the huge commission charged by private galleries.
Cafe Mila is one such coffee shop. Another Boulangerie Bon Matin.
Much missed The Barn, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, not only had exhibitions, but also ran art classes.
Inside that shiny espresso machine, a boiler, maybe two, valves, piping and electrical wring. It is vital to keep well maintained.
Zoë Saunders, who after a move to Brooklyn, went in search for a new regular coffee shop. The catch? It had to be vegan.
I wished for a cappuccino. Being vegan, no milk, artificial milks only, a long list including almond, coconut, spelt, soya. I let them choose. I was recommended spelt. The result a disgusting cappuccino that tasted as though several spoonfuls of sugar dumped in the coffee. The beans were cheap rubbish over-roasted Italian beans intended for the catering trade. Normally would be bitter, but so sweet, hid the otherwise bitterness of the over-roasted burnt beans. The beans sourced from Caffé Salomoni, a brand coffee, suppliers to hotels, restaurants and cafés, which says it all. The blend, Optimo é con Caffé Espresso, which includes robusta. No roast date, and as shipped from Italy, probably long past their optimum, assuming it had any meaning in this context.
The idea of podcast is a good idea, as is putting on soundcloud, the sound quality could be better. I would also recommend adding to bandcamp.
What is a coffee shop for? Drinking coffee obviously, meeting friends maybe, all types can be found, and some are a bloody pain in the arse.
The coffee snob. Hopefully I am not. I appreciate a well made coffee, would not dream of setting foot in Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks or Caffè Nero. I appreciate a decent cappuccino, in the same way I may appreciate good food, good bread, a beer, wine or music. Am I therefore a coffee snob, or merely a connoisseur with good taste? I am more interested in learning from people who know more than me. But I get annoyed when I am served by someone ignorant of coffee, who tries to impress me with their ignorance.
An example of this was the fool who manages or did Caracoli in Guildford. He could not understand why roast date was important.
I hate noisy groups, equally the idiot shouting on their mobile, and coffee bars with music blasting out when you wish to quietly relax or have chat with a friend.
One group I often notice, those for who it is a quiet study space or an office.
I have a book, The Seeds of Kokopelli, it shows dozens of tomato varieties, same for French beans, same for squash and pumpkins. We used to have hundreds of varieties of apple. Commercially, we now grow only a handful of varieties.
If we look to coffee, the situation is even worse. It resides upon a very narrow genetic base. With rapidly changing climate, this does not bode well for coffee growing.
Nor does climate chaos with increasing rainfall, drought, major infrastructure damage, as we have seen with mud slides in Colombia, a major coffee producer.
What is a coffee shop?
Self evident you may think. Is it not a place that serves coffee?
This is true, but also a place of cultural activity.
Do we not have preconceived idea of an indie coffee shop?
If yes, then can it also have a sense of place, the local?
I let my feet take me where they wish, I do not use a guide book.
That way I have a sense of discovery.
Very sad, India thought it had arrived with the arrival of Starbucks. But then we saw the same with the arrival of the first McDonald’s in Moscow.
Standart does not have advertising (at least not in the conventional sense), instead partners, associates who share their commitment to quality. In issue 6, Espresso Supply (sundries to the coffee trade), Falcon Coffees (coffee beans), Tim Wendelboe (coffee roaster and coffee shop), Comandante (hand coffee grinders), Victoria Arduino (espresso machines) and KeepCup (non-disposable coffee cups).
A few of the articles, or at least shortened versions, are available at Standart Journal. A pity not all.
A pity too, not available as an e-book. I can see why not, an e-book would not do Standart justice, but could act to tempt to search for or subscribe to Standart.
Standart is on sale at Madame Waffle, though curiously not listed as a stockist by Standart. Available to browse but not buy in Makushi. Listed as available in Small Batch, though I have never seen on sale. Ideal place to stock would be Magazine Brighton, especially as they also sell coffee beans supplied by Coffee at 33 just up the street.
A few of the articles, or at least shortened versions, are available at Standart Journal.
It would be great if they made all the articles available at Standart Journal and released as an e-book. I can see why not, as would lose some of the look and feel. With that I would agree, but if people could access as an e-book, they would then be tempted to subscribe or go in search of.
I picked up a copy of Standart 6 from Madame Waffle. I was surprised when I was charged nine pounds. They were surprised when I told them I could subscribe four copies for eleven euros (post and packaging I do not know), even less with code of STFB10 which grants a 10% discount. Surprised because they order ten copies, for resale, pay £9–17 each and sell at a loss.
Something going very wrong. I then looked again, as something did not add up. Oops. To subscribe a single issue, which is then automatically renewed, 11 euros per issue, to subscribe four issues, which is automatically renewed, 40 euros. I thought it did not make sense 11 euros a single issue or four issues.
Standart is from Czech Republic, or is it Slovakia, not that clear. I was surprised, as my experience of Prague was the lack of quality coffee shops, as now the norm in England.
Cafe-Cafe expensive, pretentious and please do not laugh, Nespresso. Try across the road opposite, Mama’s Baking. A cake shop, where the girls do their best with the coffee, but not quality beans. And therein lies the problem, no one roasting beans or so I thought. Without a quality roastery, everyone was stuffed for a source of quality beans. On the day I was leaving, on my way to the Kafka Museum, I passed Bakeshop little bakery. I had a cappuccino on my way back. Excellent, and as I learnt later, they source their beans from another coffee shop that roast their own beans.
Prague is excellent for bread and beer, and the architecture.