Coffee, a world as deep as the ocean and as coloUrful as a rainbow

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Coffee, a world as deep as the ocean and as coloUrful as a rainbow

When I was given the opportunity to write this blog I couldn’t stop thinking in the boy that used to drink instant coffee thinking that our choices were limited by the kind of blend in the label. As any other developing country, in Colombia we were drinking the left overs, all the beans that were not suitable for exportation.  Still we loved coffee and sure one could differentiate from a well prepared cup from an average or even undrinkable one… nothing that couldn’t be fixed with 2 or 3 cubes of sugar (still remember those?) 

The Industry has come a long way to the times of Specialty Coffee, something we cannot take by granted as the coffee world faces some big challenges ahead. Generally speaking we could say there are 2 families of coffee beans: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta is mostly used for instant coffee or as a source of caffeine and other sub-products that can be extracted from it.  This is due to its higher levels of caffeine which also gives it a substantial bitter taste to that compared to the Arabica bean, if they were to be roasted equally. Arabica in the other hand is like the Royal Family, is elegant and has a wider flavor gamut as a result of a constant evolution and adaptation to different terroirs.

Educational Specialty Coffee Foundations

If we were to dig-in in the Arabica family, then we would end up writing a book. So to keep it simple let’s just focus in the fact that every Country that produces Arabica beans does offers more than one varietal, and in many cases is this varietal what determines the kind of cup one will get. Then, in order to achieve a higher score in the cup, the farmer may decide to pick a specific varietal. But that is just the beginning as the place, the altitude and the way the coffee is processed may change the result substantially. The most popular processing methods we know are: Washed, Honey and Natural but we are not limited to it as there are many other experimental methods that are taking the specialty coffee scene as the next trends to follow.

Once a coffee is being picked and processed it is in the hands of the coffee roster to unlock those flavors trapped inside the bean and make sure they are kept “intact” –as much as possible-. It wouldn’t be too crazy to say that a light roast is basically designed to expose the most delicate notes of the bean and is most probably better for alternative brewing methods (V60, Aeropress, Chemex, Syphon, French Press, Stovetop and Cold drippers). A medium roast targets the espresso machine. A more intense extraction where one still wants to preserve as many original notes as possible and still being able to balance the acidity, sourness, body and bitterness that will work fine as a black coffee or as milk based coffee. A dark roast, in our opinion, shouldn’t be included as an option in the Specialty Coffee game as this is a technique used for many players to hide the defects of the beans.

Another factor to decide how a bean is roasted could be the processing method. Washed coffees are the more commons ones as is a standard adopted for most of the coffee farmers around the world. The coffee is picked, the skin and pulp are washed out, and the bean inside the coffee cherry is dried out until reaching the optimal humidity. Honeys and naturals are both fermentation techniques designed to trap the sweetness of the pulp and give the final bean a more elegant and delicate taste. In the first one only the skin is taken out leaving the pulp around the bean. For the Naturals neither the pulp nor the skin are removed before the drying process. It is for this reason that many of the specialty coffee roaster choose to go for a light or medium light roast when working with Honey and Naturals as they are fully packed of sweeter and delicate flavors.

As one begging to explore this deep world of choices the more you try the closer you get with your perfect cup of coffee. For some a Washed Medium Roast is perfect as they loved the intensity of a coffee espresso, for others a Light Roasted Honey is best for they Pour Overs as they opt to perform the full coffee ritual and have develop a pallet to appreciate the different layers it has to offer. That was the reason why we brought to you the now finished Diofanor’ Trilogy: same bean processed under the 3 different methods. Amazing, wasn’t it?

This month we launched La Bomba , a Medium Light Roasted coffee. Rafael Amaya is the farmer behind this amazing single origin and after experimenting different ways to improve his cup he developed his own processing technique: A Washed extended fermentation process.  This coffee has been roasted medium light so it can be versatile to perform as an espresso or black coffee, and still giving an impressive cup when enjoyed with your preferred alternative brewing method.

Nicolas Tobon

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The Hardcore 4x4 Coffee professional Rock Star: An endangered species  

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The Hardcore 4x4 Coffee professional Rock Star: An endangered species  

“People don't want to see the guy next door on the stage, they want to see a being from another planet. You want to see somebody you'd never meet in ordinary life”.

Lemmy Kilmister

Rock music is an extremely important constant at our coffee company.

Looking at the past summer music festival’s line ups and the current season in Europe and North America one can only keep wondering why the same solid rock and heavy metal acts from 4 decades ago are still on the top of the chain?

It seems that such resilience and consistency have kept them on their feet regardless the many and constant changes in the music industry… Sure they (Solo artists and bands) have been receptive to new trends, new techniques, ideas and technologies; but nevertheless, consistency and stubbornness have obviously paid off. Thanks to it longevity is something celebrated in the world of alternative music. An attitude that should be embraced by anyone regardless their profession, vocation or lifestyle… In words of Lemmy Kilmister (RIP): "I'm not too old, and until I decide I'm too old I'll never be too f***ing old." 

As romantic and inspirational it may sound, we believe that we are also witnessing the sad disappearance of such breed of charismatic musicians. A great deal of new artists seem to offer nothing but what already has been done. It is like that generalized pursuit of fame, money and popularity has overpassed the genuine desire of doing something different, of creating a new sound or simply having fun and enjoy the intensity of the rock-n-roll experience for what it is in itself… Challenging the system of rules is no longer an option which is sad as the soul of Rock-n-roll was exactly that… To be rebellious, to challenge the dogmas!

Such spirit seems to be dyeing with Its agonizing heart bits still beating with the old and veteran bands that are still rocking like they did 30 or 40 years ago…

Nikki Sixx Flat White Specialty Coffee

“Celebrities, Movie Stars and Rock Stars are losing their Mystique”

Nikki Sixx

What is the point of this rockanrolla introduction?

It is probably us and our own world but at Connection the Coffee industry feels no different to the music industry.

Not long ago the coffee industry went through a whole revolution. 20 years in the past a bunch of typical names in the industry used to control what we were drinking in Australia.

The Italian wave of coffee was at its peak and so its heavy and punchy espresso profiles, fluffy milk cappuccinos and the humble beginning of the mighty “Latte”.

Baristas, roasters and operators were submerged in a very profitable industry but without a clear north to follow in terms of coffee of premium quality. Back then coffee was still treated as mere commodity. A product grown somewhere, most probably at a second or a third world country then exported to a mysterious warehouse where coffee blending and coffee roasting secrets were hiding inside the head of a very traditional (Most likely Italian) old man.

The pillars of today’s coffee industry were just about to start being built and for such task a breed of tough and resilient rockanrolla coffee professional was needed.

Those were the days when rules, dogmas and traditions were challenged. Espresso equipment was pushed to its limits and baristas became this magical and enigmatic beings from another planet.

The first World Barista Championship occurred in Montecarlo in the year 2000. Proposed and managed by Scandinavian hands. By the year 2003 Australia produces its first champion and from that moments the Australian Wave of espresso hits a point of no return.

Former young and revolutionary coffee roasters started to show us a different way of doing things. Baristas turned into roasters, bean buyers and alchemists working in improvised labs trying to unlock hidden secretes inside rare and exotic beans… Some of those young entrepreneurial enterprises became the main players of today’s specialty coffee industry.

Everything felt exciting and supercharged with innovation and rebellion against that old and boring way of treating coffee as a brown commodity… And just like the music industry a good bunch of baristas, roasters and other coffee professionals got overwhelmed by popularity. Rebellion and the questioning of rigid methods slowly faded and everything went from excitement to a new stage of repetitive procedures where the magical coffee professional who seemed to come from another planet turned into a serious and emotionless robot unable to think outside the box or even remember its costumers’ names or orders.

Suddenly competitions went from being events full of joy and fun to very strict processes of selection of power and superiority. Almost like a carnival of influence and networking… Innovation, rebellion and curiosity has been hijacked by influence… The Rockstar barista is an endanger species replaced by a push-button operator unable to solve problems, always at the mercy of what its deity-roaster is commanding them to do… And as in Rock-n-roll only the veteran and most daring of coffee professionals are still standing being able to materialize its magic though a single boiler entry level machine and a basic decent set of grinders as well as through the most advanced and expensive espresso equipment. Their coffee is solid enough to stand variations on brewing.

Sure modern technology helps to get better results of an already amazing roast. The real concern is that a lot of blends out there require to be brewed with the latest technologies and under strict recipes to only deliver an average decent cup of coffee…

I’m completely convinced that a band like Iron Maiden will sound great either using a custom Fender 1980s with hand-wired pickups and custom Marshall amplification or if they were using cheap $500 Epiphone guitars and entry level Peavey amplifiers… As a matter of fact, that’s how most bands have recorded their biggest hits: with very basic musical and recording equipment.

At the end what really matters is the essence, the core. In rock-n-roll terms: That rebellious attitude delivering a fresh and honest message to its public… It can always sound better but definitely not worse (If played properly). So is a great coffee brew… If an honest batch of roasted coffee tastes so great when extracted with very basic and simple equipment set up, its only fate, when treated through state of the art equipment, will be greatness, also counting with every individual involved in the process playing a vital roll in such mystical-yet transparent chain.

Improvement is not about forgetting about one’s roots and beginnings but to embrace them and make them better. Is about rescuing those elements that have always worked and most likely will keep working to our advantage…

We don’t want to see more robots behind the counters. We want to see more of those mythical creatures ready to brew magic for all of us… We need for Rock Star Coffee Professionals to come back…

 Cesar X Vela

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