Thursday, June 22, 2006

a night in the elysian, fun

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

like these

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ha ha ha

(I just got a phone call saying the apartment isn't available anymore. A kick in the face is ever there was.) Just a quick post, I found out today that I definitely passed all my exams, and then... a few hours later, I found a fully furnished apartment. Its close to work, has free internet,a dvd player, a bbq, a playstation, an x box, a guitar and a piano!! A ha ha ha ha ha ha. I'm delighted! To top it all off, the clouds have pissed off, and the sun is shining in BC. Whats next? Yes I'll take that free GS3.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A good day today.

As you know, I've been having trouble adapting to the espresso style of Vancouver. Well,... today I popped by the Elysian room just around lunch time. I had a quick chat with the coffeed administrators and barista Matt before I went to see a documentary about Frank Gehry (which was only ok,...i had a bad seat up the front). But anyway, as I was chatting about the unwarranted high price tag of the alessi steaming pitcher, Mattie, came down and gave me an espresso. I didn't really feel like it, but took it anyway. In a word, it was perfect. I simpy really really enjoyed it. It was sweet and balanced, but not too heavy. It had wonderful juicy fruit, but wasn't overly acidic. I told the guys there how good it was pretty much straight away. I really really enjoyed it. I'm probably going back this evening, hoping I'll get it again. I now have a new standard in the cup to aspire to. Interestingly, I've tasted shots from the same batch of their Hines espresso, made by Mattie on their Linea, and they weren't nearly as good as this. It was honestly hard to believe it was from the same blend, nevermind the same batch. Was it that particular part of the batch? Did Mattie just nail it? Or was it the machine? For those of you who don't know, the Elysian room is now operating off a Synesso......Telling? check my flickr for some of today's pic. Go Oilers.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Life is good at the moment. I've been working seven days in a row which was a little hard going, but then I really wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I've really enjoyed being a full time barista again, getting to know the staff, the regulars, and seeing my latte art return to form. There's something so satisfying when you clear a line knowing that your drinks were all of a high quality. Its an ego thing I know, but I love people's faces when they respond to latte art.

I'm not nealy half as annoyed by the complicated orders as I thought I might be. For some disturbing reason, a customer ordering a '16oz half-caf, non fat latte with an extra shot and with semi sweet vanilla, extra hot, and with soy milk' doesn't really bother me. Possibly because such orders are simply the norm. But I would question each customers ability to detect the difference each preference in the order provides.

Its been a bit of an education using the swift grinder. Its something I was initially quite skeptical about but now suprisingly respect. It felt really weird at first; sorta like handing over a central part of well engrained routine to somebody you don't know or necessarily trust. You can still make superior shots on a manual grinder, but I'm quite suprised the Swift didn't take off more in Europe. If you train your staff to dial the grinder in properly, you could be capable of a standard of espresso far higher than the averafe cafe, at least in Dublin.

After work today, Brad came in and we headed down to Granville island. Before we left, we grabbed, a couple of tampers, pitchers, cloths, group handles, coffee, a grinder and milk, and threw it into the back of Brads Honda. There was just enough room for the lot,... in between the boxes of Intelligentsia coffee, equipment from the shop, oh, and a La Marzocco GS3.

There was a digital media conference on in Granville Island, and Brad had agreed to provide free coffee in the break. We rolled our equipment in, set up on a rocky plastic table, and were up and running in around 5 minutes. People started coming over pretty quickly, especially when they realised it was free. Brad was on shots, and I was on milk. We did around 70 drinks in rougly 15/20 minutes. The shots were just beautiful, although the steam pressure couldn't reallyt keep up (especially after a round of Americano's) I should mention that this was one of the prototype gs3's and that many features, such as the steam pressure have been tweaked. I would talk more about the shots, but I've been going through a funny spout of not wanting coffee for the last three days. I really can't explain it though Brad thinks I just coffeed out on the first few days (excuse the pun), and that my body was just re-adjusting. I've been a bit ill as well which didn't help, but knowing all you readers are out there wishing me well, I'm sure I'll be fine in no time, thanks for that.

If you wanna see pics of the gs3, click here for my flickr photos.

more soon,


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cupping COE's, and espresso in Vancouver.

A quick post. Spent Sunday afternoon in Mark's place cupping the top five Colombian COE's from the spring harvest. It was pretty interesting as apparently the #1 scored first as it was considered a perfect representation of what a Colombian should taste like. I had been under the impression, that as we expose ourselves to all the different collaborations of growing factors from farms across the globe, we are learning that nothing is absolute and that each country is capable of producing coffee's unlike anything in their region, or even country. So how can Colombia, have a favour profile? That said, I have cupped far too few coffee's in my short time in the industry, and so I can only presume that cuppers by trade must encouter many similar coffee's from the same country. Yet, how long is it now since Colombia stopped blending all their countries greens together? 2 years? I am sketchy on the details here, but its interesting that for a country that only recently allowed their farmers to sell directly to buyers, it can already be labelled with certain characteristics in flavour profiles,.. I'd appreciate clarity on this, especially if I'm working off false information. Briefly, I've now had a chance to taste shots in Artigiano, JJ Beans, Continental , The Elysian Room and Casa del Princhay; all fine espresso serving establishments in Vancouver. However,...I've spent so much time in Ireland trying to recreate the espresso flavour profiles I read about online and although successful now and again, I would have appeciated knowing that nearly all of these Pacific North West Cafe's were using triple baskets, and were pulling straight into one demitasse with naked pfs. Silly me on the other hand was struggling with double baskets, and splitting the shots. (essenially 8g espresso) So am I behind the game? Should I be encouraging cafes back home to saw all their spouts off, and pull 1oz triple ristrettos? Fecked if I know. But its taking time for me to adjust to the higher dosage here and so I'll hold off from giving my top 5 espresso in Vancouver just yet. This post is not really short, and I'm sorry that I siad it was. But I'm not scrolling up just to delete it for you sorry bunch. Latte art is easy in 16oz ceramic cups. I am yet to try it in 20oz take away cups, but lets pray that I never have to. If Brad trys to introduce it,..I'll walk....actually I'll run. ..............well, no, I never run, but I'll trot, yes, I'll trot right out the bloody door! silly post I know, but its late. night

Saturday, June 10, 2006

the story so far

So,.....I'm in Vancouver! For those of you's eager to hear any news, I'm sorry for not writing anything sooner. (Are any of you eager to hear my news?) Anyway, the reason I haven't posted yet, is that yesterday morning, I wrote a 1000 word post on all my antics so far and lost it all when the battery on my laptop died. Which was particularly annoying. So, right now, I am sitting in Wicked Cafe with my laptop securely hooked up to a power socket, and grudgingly rewriting the post. So after a long day of traveling on Thursday I arrived into Vancouver at half two local time. I rang my boss Brad and found out he was very kindly waiting outside to pick me up. Unfortunately, instead of taking the normal 20minutes to get through to the arrivals lounge, immigration had other plans and I ended up not leaving the airport for a full three hours. Even more annoyingly, Brad's mobile died, and as neither of us knew what the other looked like, he ended up staying at the airport a full four hours, till he eventually realised I'd already left. It was really odd to leave a heat wave in Ireland and be greeted with I'm told unseasonable torrential rain. To add insult to injury, the hostel I was required to stay in on the first night was a bit of a kip (an Irish term), so I decided I'd move into my house share straight away. My apartment turned out to be really nice, and so after I'd unpacked, I rang Alistar Durie of Elysian Cafe, and joined Brad, and others for dinner. I was pretty late and only had time to say a quick hello to the group, and enjoy a really enjoyable glass of 30 year old port, courtesy of Mark. I then got a quick tour of the local area off Brad and went home to bed at around 6 am my time. The next morning, I got up early in an attempt to tackle jet lag and walked the 4km walk to my new job at Wicked Cafe. Thankfully, I wasn't on the roster till today, so I had a chance to go in and soak up the feel of the place. Its quite a small cafe, around 20 seats, and is equipped with a gleaming gb5, an lm swift, and a mazzer major grinder, and a twin fetco brewer. As Brad is the distributor for Intelligentsia, the back wall behind the bar is adorned with a range of coffee's offered by the company. I then got a taxi into town to do an orientation course, another mandatory feature of my work visa, but one I have to admit that proved very helpful and informative. The weather had cleared up quite a lot and I got a chance to walk around downtown a bit. On first impressions, I have to say Vancouver really is charming and always feels safe. I met up with Brad in the afternoon, and we drove around the city, dropping off a few orders for his Intelligentsia customers. We also got a chance to check out Artigiano. More importantly, and I ha dno idea of this, but this was also the first day Artigiano were selling the famous #1 Brazil Cup of Excellence, Santa Ines on the Clover in their store. I had been under the impression this coffee would have been finished already, but instead, I was there to taste on its premiere! What was it like? Well before I answer this, I should talk about the significance of the moment for me. It has been discussed before by others, but living in Dublin, and trying to keep up with cutting edge developments in speciality coffee can be a little disheartening as often you have no benchmark, to compare to. So I make a press pot at home, thats freshly ground, with fresh water and fresh coffee, and I enjoy it. But, is it as good as what Jim makes for breakfast in London? Or what they serve in the Annex or Elysian? Its easy to presume from online chatter that what I make at home isn't as good. So for me, to get the chance to sit down in one of the world's most famous espresso bars, with arguably one of the best coffee's in the world, and brewed on the machine thats wet many pants both for its quality mark, and its price tag, was a great benchmarking moment for my palette. So what was it like? Well, I won't attempt to describe alla coffeereview style, but here's what I thought. It was incredibly well balanced with no one note jumping out at me. It was quite sweet and had more fruit come out as it cooled. It has quite a winey texture, and an interesting acidity. I did really really enjoy it. However, it wasn't so radically different to coffee's I've tasted before. Now, perhaps my palette isn't yet capable of properly recognising the quality in the cup, but for me, I found tasting this coffee a very reasurring experience. Reasurring as it told me I was capable of making very good coffee. Sure people throw such praise at barista's often, but for me, that moment was the coffee speaking, not a customer or friend. The clover , whilst definitely requiring a certain level of care and attention, takes so many of the factors under control, and allows the coffee to shine. I also recieved some extraordinary shots in Artigiano, pulled by one of their barista's Robert. He gave me a great shot of their house blend as well as one from Sammy's blend. I will talk more soon about the espresso I've been tasting, but for the moment I'm gonna go check out the Elysian room. I apologise if this post was poorly structured, but if you've ever met me, and seen my own physical features, you'd understand.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I'm off

Hi, so, this is very quick. Its half six on Thursday morning, and I'm just about to leave for Vancouver. After going through an indifferent couple of hours last night as I was packing, I'm suddenly very excited, and a little nervous. I couldn't decide whether or not I'd bring my barista case as I felt I might not get full use out of it. But as it looks like I'll be doing a bit of training anyway, and I'm still under the weight resrictions for British Airways, I decided sure feck it. I might as well. I was talking to Mark Prince last night over gmail chat, and he's very kindly invited me to dinner, with himself, Alistair Durie, Brad Ford, Kent Bakke and a no. of other top people in the PNW speciality scene. So I'm really looking forward to that, even though when we sit down to eat, it'll be around 5 am my time, so I'll be reasonably exhasuted. So unfortunately, I think my first shots in Vancouver will be all about the buzz and not the quality. Sorry Mark. See all you European heads when I get back, and any of you in the Vancouver area, well hopefully I'll meet you soon. I'll hopefully post a lot about my experiences over there, so stay tuned if your into that sorta stuff. bye for now