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Part Two: A long Coffee Road Discussed
Part Two: A long Coffee Road Discussed
Posted July 7, 2003 4:35pm
hyperlink comments (10): read | write

Heyya. Welcome to part two of "Welcome to my Coffee Life, May 15 to June 27, 2003" :)  I know I said only four days, but well, as usual, I suck. It took longer than I thought.

If you missed the last CafeTalk, make sure you check it out before reading this one.

So what else went on?

Well, I had heaps of coffee in the house these past few weeks, which was fortunate because I needed it all. I got coffee sent to me by Supreme Bean who sent along many, many pounds of Espresso Del Norte, Espresso Bella Luna (awesome), and Organic Espresso. JJ Bean House of Coffee gave me several pounds they gave me when I judged a recent in-house competition and after that as well. Caffe Artigiano and Intelligentsia Coffee supplied me with several pounds of their supremely superb Black Cat Espresso. Hines Public Market Coffee and their signature five bean espresso blend was great. Zoka Coffee and Dismas Smith giving me 5lbs of their Paladino Espresso Blend was very nice. And last, but certainly not least, Doma Coffee Roasters for Vito's Espresso Blend, which was awesome).

All in all, these suppliers provided me with over 30 pounds of coffee to use for evaluation and testing during my Judging skills-building sessions. Thanks to all of them!

The Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo!

Click for larger image

The weekend of June 20-22 saw the annual Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo come back to Vancouver for the second year in a row.

Vida Radovanovic is the organizer of the event, and she is an extremely kind, patient, and special person. She loves quality coffee (she needs some skills-building in espresso though, but I think witnessing the first annual Canadian Barista Championship helped), and is a tireless supporter of quality coffee in Canada.

Jeanette and offered to help her any way we could this year with the show, so I stepped up and did something I absolutely hate to do - I did a presentation for her. Mine was "Venturing into eCommerce", which was a clone of sorts of the presentation I did in Boston in April at the SCAA trade show. I did about 10 hours' of research to Canadianize my presentation, and about 20 hours' of work revamping it to correct some mistakes from my SCAA presentation, practice the darned thing, and eliminate the portions that required live internet access.

I also did my role as Barista Judge, which, as I mentioned in my previous CafeTalk, I was very honoured to do.

Jeanette really, really stepped up and not only volunteered her time the entire weekend to Vida, but found five students who served as "show officials", standing guard at seminar rooms to check badges, helping out on the show floor as runners, and more. Some were even younger than the minimum age requirements (you had to be 16 or older to attend the show), and what was funny (in a sad way) is that all the girls got hit on by greasy old guy types… 'c'mere little girl'. But I have to say all of them handled with grace and amazing professionalism, and Jeanette was the best of all.

The event is pretty small - I think about 50 booths, but well attended, and a good mix of seminars and presentations.

Mike Ferguson from the SCAA made the show, and provided a presentation on the State of Specialty coffee which was very well attended (by comparison, I only had about 15 or 20 in my presentation!).

I had fun at the show, but I'll save more writing on this for my Show Report on the CoffeeGeek site in a little while.

There are two things I want to mention. One is disappointing, one is very encouraging.

I'll get the encouraging, great news out of the way first: Rancilio is no longer with Mr. Cappuccino in Canada! They made it official at the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo: Rancilio is now represented by Canterbury Coffee, Canada's largest Specialty Coffee Roaster / Wholesaler (10 million pounds a year!).

I've known this news since January this year, but was asked to "sit on it" until the show. I can tell you I was giddy about it. Those who are long time fans of this website know I am no fan of Mr. Cappuccino and Walter Cattoni's rather unique (for lack of a more impolite word) way of treating his customers. As western Canada's rep for Rancilio, he was doing major damage to the brand name - and Rancilio is a kick-ass brand.

Greg Filan, the Product and Equipment Manager with Canterbury got nudges from me over a year ago that Rancilio needed a new distributor, and Greg was looking for a new line to carry, one he could have confidence in. Greg began talks with Glenn Surlett from Rancilio North America, and the rest, they say, is history. I really think that Canterbury Coffee will represent Rancilio well in western Canada, and I am beyond happy about this new partnership.

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image
Greg Filan
Greg, from Canterbury Coffee.
Glenn Surlett
Glenn, up from Chicago, representing Rancilio N.A.
Mike Ferguson
Mike, from the SCAA, giving his presentation.
Vida Radovanovic
Vida, the lead organizer of the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo.

Now the disappointing stuff: the machine supplier for the first ever Canadian Barista Competition did not, to use a phrase I'm using more and more, "step up".

Espresso Cappuccino Machines (ECM, but not the Giotto ECM people) were invited to be the machine sponsor for the competition. ECM imports Nuova Simonelli machines for all of North America, and they have the entire Lower Mainland (Vancouver and environs) sewn up - they own this market.

This decision was made by Vida, the show organizer, out of loyalty to ECM and all their support to her in the past with her trade shows, wanted ECM to be the supplier. That's very fair, though I had serious reservations about it all. After all, all the US regional and National Barista championships, and many of the Scandinavian ones use La Marzocco machines. I felt we needed La Marzocco machines in our national competition as well.

Plus, La Marzocco and their US distributor, Espresso Specialists really have set the bar in terms of supporting Barista competitions. Not only do they bend over backwards to make sure everything's right, but they informally allow Baristi to get some "face time" with machines prior to competitions, either at their showrooms, or their "satellite partners" showrooms. I remember going to ESI's Seattle office and seeing Dismas Smith (Zoka Coffee) training for the World's last year - getting a full day in ESI's showroom, allowed to do pretty much anything he wanted (with Jeff Babcock overseeing everything Dis was doing). ESI also graciously provided the facilities and equipment for the first ever Pacific Northwest Barista Jam last February.

So as I said, La Marzocco and ESI set the high bar for what a machine supplier should do. I didn't expect ECM to get to that bar or exceed it, but I am afraid they didn't even come close.

First problem was back early in the year when ECM was told the machine requirements - three 3-group machines. They were also asked about providing 3 grinders, but at some point we went to Mahlkoenig as the grinder provider, and they provided the very capable new Mahlkoenig Twin Espresso Grinder - an amazing digitally controlled, dual grinder, single doser grinder that saves a lot of coffee for a shop.

So the problem with the three 3-group machines - ECM came back to the Competition organizers and said that they thought about it, and that the competition only needs two machines, and they would be 2-group machines.

Huh.

Well, ECM was told, no, the competition is set up with specific timings, specific sessions, and three machines of equal stature are needed. It works like this:

  • Machine One is manned, and the Barista does their 15 minutes' warmup.
  • Machine One is manned, and the Barista does their 15 minutes' competition; meanwhile, Machine Two is manned, and the Barista does their 15 minutes' warmup, concurrently.
  • Machine One is finished, but needs to be cleaned. Machine Two is manned, and the Barista does their 15 minutes' competition. Machine Three is manned, and the Barista does their 15 minutes' warmup.

And so on. See why three machines are needed and used?

Three groups are also essential, because believe it or not, in some competitions, some Baristi actually use all three groups to bang out ristrettos fast. And most serious cafes have machines with three or four groups.

So ECM was told, no, 3 machines, 3 groups each. I wasn't privy to this conversation, but I was told they accepted this, probably grudgingly.

Next… a couple of weeks before the competition, several of the entered Baristi expressed concern about not being familiar at all with the machines in the competition. Hell, I didn't even know what specific Nuova Simonelli machines would be used. So I called up ECM informally, and asked if some competing Baristi could drop by the showroom to get some face time with the machines.

The person who answered the call had no clue that ECM was involved in any competition.

Chills.

So I called Vida on the Friday, a week before the show started, and asked her to make a formal request to ECM to allow some informal drop in times into ECM's very well equipped Burnaby, BC showroom to check out and try out the machine.

Vida was told no on Monday. She was told that they don't have time to have Baristi running around their showroom.

I was very unhappy about this. Did ECM realize what they were involved in here? Did they have a clue what their involvement meant for increasing quality coffee and espresso in Canada? Did they know the role they were asked to take on, and to be brutally frank, the privilege it was?

I know Danny Bresciani at ECM. I though we got along fine, so I wrote an impassioned, but professional letter to him on Monday evening (here is the letter for your reference). I asked for a response. I got none. And none of the Baristi got what they could naturally get from the top notch crew at La Marzocco or ESI.

That alone was a major disappointment. But the worst was to come.

I get to the Judges' training on Thursday evening, and what do I see? Vic from ECM unpacking two machines,two double group machines. No third machine. No third group on each machine.

What can I say.

Well, I can say this. Thank God that Rancilio and Canterbury Coffee were at the show, and set up right next to the Barista Competition area. Greg Filan and Glenn Surlett stepped up big time, providing a shiny new Rancilio Epoca 2-group (we had to go 2 group because of ECM's decision to do what they felt instead of what they were asked for), and they were very involved in dialing in the machine doing, and I quote "whatever it takes to make this as perfect as possible for you folks - we're just glad to help".

But it didn't end there. ECM set up the machines then took off, not even really dialing them in and calibrating them. This is a competition - the machines are supposed to be a neutral in the competition - all equal. That means all machines must be at identical operating conditions and temperatures. The fact that we had two of one type, and one of another (and in my opinion, the Rancilio Epoca was a much superior machine to the Nuova Simonellis provided) was bad enough. But ECM didn't stick around to dial in their machines properly, which took time, and was a multi-day thing - not only during setup on Thursday, but Friday and Saturday the needed to be adjusted.

John Hornall from Hines Public Market Coffee (fortunately) had experience on Nuova Simonellis in the past, so he took on a job that was not his job: he dialed them in. The Rancilio boys took care of their machine for us, which was simply awesome.

Okay, I've focused on this enough. I do want to say that ECM generally does do good business - they aren't like Mr. Cappuccino - they usually take care of their customers. But they dropped the ball big time here, and they simply had no concept or idea about what we were trying to achieve with the CBC, and why their role in this is an important one that can't be taken lightly.

I'm pretty confident they won't be approached to do this next year. Next year, the thought was we'd go to La Marzocco, who have already indicated it would be their honour to do it… but now, after the way that Rancilio and Canterbury Coffee stepped up? I'd be seriously honoured if they sponsored the 2nd Annual Canadian Barista Competition.

Sunday Barbeque…
Now on a completely different subject…. :)

After the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo was over, Jeanette and I wanted to be the "Sunday Relaxation" crew, so we hosted an outdoor barbeque for a bunch of the industry folks, any pro Baristi that wanted to come by, and consumers who attended the show. I sent out the invitations a couple of months ago.

Here's some major name dropping… let's see if I can remember everyone (and apologies to those I forgot): From Doma coffee, Rebecca Patano and Julie Osborne-Moss. Aaron De Lazzer, who has a new company called Coffee Missionary (a coffee consulting business). From JJ Bean: John Neate, Angie Lof, Jon Lewis and his wife (I apologize for forgetting her name). From Artigiano, Sammy Piccollo. From Zoka Coffee, Jeff Babcock, Dismas Smith and his wife and three kids. From Ambex Roasters, Terry Davis and his wife Kathy. Bronwen Serna from Hines. Mike Ferguson from the SCAA. Rick Knowlan and Ken Fox from alt.coffee. Sherri and Danny Johns from Whole Cup Consulting. Vida Radovanovic, the "owner" of the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo. Rick Knowland and Ken Fox from the alt.coffee newsgroup. And I'm kicking myself because there were several others who's names currently escape me.

The day started out a typical "Vancouver Day" - cold and raining. But the few hardies who got their early toughed it out with me outside where our new patio furniture sat (sidenote: Jean and I bought a new $600 set of patio furniture the night before, and built it all in the dark Saturday night!).

But then, the way Vancouver usually does things - the weather slowly cleared up and the sun even peaked out. We had the beer flowing, the barbeque cookin, and everyone had a great time. We had the Iron Barista contest (mentioned in my previous CafeTalk), and I had a bunch of consumer machines set up for everyone to check out.

Some time was spent watching some raw footage from the SCAA USBC and WBC competitions, and I got to show off my Illy cup collection, collection of vac pots, and other goodies.

It was a great time, and I was very sad to see the day end.

Loose ends.
A few final notes - first, I have been having several conversations with an editor for the NY Times. They want to do a huge feature story on coffee, consumers, the SCAA, and the CoffeeGeek site, and have been talking to my friend Fortune Elkins in NYC, and me.

They want me to provide some photos of myself doin' my thang on the La Marzocco. Problem is, I hate photos of myself, hated them my entire life. Sigh. What to do.

I don't know what the final status of the article is, or when it will come out, but it's still in flux.

Click for larger image
Hamid Mortazavi
Hamid, from Morala Trading out of Ottawa.

I also got several new machines from Hamid at Morala out of Ottawa, including a new Innova Arc and Dream espresso machine, a slightly upgraded Innova doserless grinder, and an Animo office coffee brewer.

Hamid knows that these are a long term thing - I'm so backlogged with review products, I probably won't squeeze these ones out till the fall, but since he was in Vancouver for the trade show, he wanted to leave them with me.

The Arc and Dream look promising, and the price is awesome - the Dream is under $400 Cdn retail from Morala about $280 USD), and looks to be very similar to a Francis! Francis! X5 or X3 as far as the internals go - with a few (positive) exceptions - for instance, the portafilters are very beefed up compared to the FF!! machines, and I like the looks of them.

And last, but definitely not least, I want to point you to two recent newspaper articles featuring pro Baristi I know.

First up is Stephen Vick from Zoka Coffee. Way to go Stephen for that primo coverage... but the reporter needs to do some homework:

  1. it was the USBC (United States Barista Competition), not the NABC... Canada has one this year, and I hear Mexico may have one this fall.
  2. It's Yemen, not Yeomen
  3. It's fifteen minutes to build, not 45

But overall, it's a great article that pushes the art of the Barista out there into the general public.

Next is Andy Cronin from Batdorf and Bronson in Olympia, WA. I met Andy at the first ever Pacific Northwest Barista Jam, and was really impressed with his dedication and skills. Great to see him given some spotlight, and talked up in the press. The article's all
good.

And very last, but not least. These two CafeTalks I wrote (this is part two)? Guess how many words… 5,485! Yikes!

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