Tuesday, September 8, 2009

the albion espresso bar has moved

so so so... what have i been doing for over a month?

well. new york happened.
thats right. i moved to new york. and its been intense.
the reason i moved from wisconsin was for work. i'm now working for stumptown coffee roasters. as much as i love milwaukee, it was time for me to move on. after being in mke for three and a half years i felt like i'd progressed as far as i was able in my career. yeah thats right. making coffee can be a career. i left behind a bunch of great friends and headed for the big apple.

my first day in the city was also my birthday. what a way to celebrate. well...not really. i worked all day. the first day of stumptown boot camp was gonna start on the 8th, with or without me.

its been one hell of a month.
hours of training down in red hook, at the roastery, while the cafe was under construction.

cupping. studying. espresso training. cupping. studying. espresso training. grind. dose. settle. tamp. repeat. repeat. repeat. oh. and i should probably mention that the time at the roastery was during the hottest few weeks of the summer. and the roastery is essentially a warehouse with no ventilation or air conditioning. needless to say, it was hot. and sweaty.

with the construction work at the cafe nearing completion we moved the training there. the difficulty due to the heat was replaced by difficulties due to contractors and more delays. the scheduled open date came and went.

but finally on september 7th at 6am the cafe opened

on an equally important note. this past weekend kai came out to visit me. this last month i've been out in new york on my own. kai came out for a job interview. and she got the job! plus we also found an awesome apartment in south bushwick, brooklyn.
it was an awesome weekend. it was wonderful to have my lady here with me. and despite it being rough while she's back in milwaukee. i know she'll be here for good real soon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


so i'm in portland, oregon for work.
my new employer flew me out here for some training before heading out to nyc to open the most ass kicking cafe the world has ever seen....well. that last comment may not be true.
but i am in pdx. and its hot!
whoever told me that the pacific northwest is always damp and raining has obviously never been here during the summer. or they're just a fucking jerk and they lied to me. either way its hot. like 95 hot. and the weird think here is that the hottest part of the day is around 3-5pm. common sense says to me that around noon would be the hottest. the sun is at its highest point etc etc. but no. just as you think its gonna start to cool down. it just keeps getting hotter.
grrrr. next time i come here i'm coming in october.

so work has been fun. long. stressful. intimidating. difficult. scary. and rewarding. really rewarding.
all of the crew out here are super cool. good honest down to earth people. if things don't work out in nyc i can totally see myself here.

i wish i had more to say. but i don't. so there it is.

Monday, June 22, 2009

new york new york

just for the hell of it, kai and i decided to take a trip out to new york. see some old friends. meet some new ones. and just hang out in one of the best cities ever.

friday. mke-lga

after a long day at work we arrive the airport to find our flight is delayed in leaving due to fog in new york. the weather seemed to become a constant obstacle in our travels over the next few days.
flying into la guardia gave us some awesome views of the city as we were circling waiting to land.
we arrived about an hour and a half late due to the delay, but were in the city by about 9:15 thanks to a totally insane taxi driver. fast driving. hard breaking. sharp swerving. and it only cost $30 including tip.

our first taste of new york was sitting at 79th and 1st waiting for brian. as ever brian was to be our gracious host while we were staying in the city. to pass the time kai decided to start looking for the cash cab. alas. her search met a dead end. do you know how many cabs there are in nyc!
some food and then it was back to brian's. cigarettes. cigars. and an amazing view of the empire state building from the roof.

saturday. brown bagging milk in union square.

i love that you can walk in new york. sounds crazy. i know. but in milwaukee people look at you like you've got three heads when you tell them you actually like to walk. 10 mins from b's place and we're at cafe grumpy in chelsea. one of the first coffee shops i went to the first time i was in nyc. i love it for that. and because the coffee is really good. i hear that they're gonna be starting their own roasting operation soon. a sweet cappuccino. an iced americano. and some costa rica from the clover. all of them great and it was off to union square.
the saturday morning farmers market and craft fair. lots of really tasty local produce and some crazy people watching. one guy in particular was just kickin' it on a bench. talking to everybody walking past and drinking some weird bright purple booze from a brown paper bag.
we were in union square to meet up with my friend lizz and the stumptown crew. we were charged with assisting in the milk tasting for the new cafe. we had milk from four local dairies. and passed half gallons back and forth between us. trying to determine which was the best. we were also tasting baked goods from the city bakery. the pretzel croissant is amazing!

from union square it was up to the ace on 29th and broadway to look at the new cafe. and the new hotel. the ace nyc is just as good as the ace pdx. but bigger. much bigger.
the cafe is a construction site, but its gonna be so much fun when it opens.

more bakery sampling from a swank bakery on the upper east side. i couldn't tell if they didn't want a bunch of tattooed coffee kids sitting in their classy cafe, or if we didn't want to be sat in a posh cafe that didn't make us feel welcome. but whatever the reason, we took our swag to variety in williamsburg. one of stumptowns wholesale accounts and began an epic sampling. bakery. deserts. more milk, this time we were able to get one of the barista's to steam up some of those bad boys and make some cappuccinos.

after eating far too many baked goods we headed back into the city for some real food. again we found ourselves in union square. just chillin'. sitting on the steps. and talking shit.
chat n chew, just off the square was the perfect e
nd to an awesome day. good food good friends good times.

sunday. a view from the bridge.

sunday was the day we decided to walk across the brooklyn bridge. headed for the other side of the east river and the brooklyn fl
ea market. which is held under the bridge.
lots of cool stuff. jewlery. clothes. produce. gre
at strawberries and cream popsicles. and sun. lots of sun.
also at the flea market was the first stumpto
wn cafe in new york. a tent. some huge pots of boiling water on a gas burner. and a pour over station.

the confusion of the new york subway system. getting from the brooklyn bridge to williamsburg was interesting. two changes. three different lines. one hour later and we were in hipster central. north williamsburg.
some gumbo on a stoop with some new and old friends. laughing. joking. good times.
on our way back to the city kai and i got a call from brian, telling us he was doing a set at a comedy club just off time square. you see, brian has a day job to pay the bills. but also does stand-up. he seems to be doing pretty well. the weekend we were in town was supposed to be the only weekend he wasn't out doing a gig. but hey. somebody must have called in sick. and we finally got a chance to see him on stage. funny shit.

monday. can you dig it!

up early monday morning for brian to go to work. and kai and i were set loose on the streets on new york with backpacks and a flight to catch later that evening. some breakfast at the lyric diner. and then we headed off to coney island.
an hour on the F train and we were out of the insanity of 8 million people and into the relative peace of the atlantic ocean. the train ride made me think of the warriors. boppin' all night long to get back to coney... a cult classic.

the board walk. the cyclone. the wonder wheel. the ocean. old italian men fishing off the pier. and nathan's. the best hotdog ever. i don't know what they do to them. they look just like regular hotdogs. but they're amazing. i'd love to say i had one. but i couldn't stop and ended up eating three. kai said they also have a so so fish sandwich.

back on the F train. and back to williamsburg to hang out with amanda. williamsburg ranges from uber trendy hipster central. to old italian neighborhood. i think i prefer the old italian part. i'm just not enough of a hipster to fit in.
we decided to hit some of the neighborhoods coffee shops to pass our last few hours in new york.
el beit. a 49th parallel account. my cappuccino was kinda crappy. way too hot and sea foamy. kai had a good cortado. and the kenya i had from the clover was average. i really wanted to like the place. its a super cool little spot. but the major attitude from the guys behind the bar sealed the deal.
more walking around the hood. some thrift stores. and the beaner bar. "brooklyn's first euro-style mexican coffee shop".
what makes a euro style mexican coffee shop? i hear you cry. well. gaudy mexican decour. virgin mary's. day of the dead skulls. the whole 9 yards. a three cup pour over station. a three group ranchillio. intelligentsia coffee. a van's "off the wall" rubber welcome mat. and vegan tamales.
pretty good panama, el machete. so so cortado's. but the tamales were really good.

the sky suddenly filled with black clouds and the heavens opened. we were off to the airport. after some shady car services and major traffic we were back at la guardia.
another delayed flight. again because of the weather in new york. apparently the airports in nyc freak out over some rain. because after 20mins the rain had stopped but it took three hours to clear the back log of flights.
three extra hours in nyc isn't so bad. i guess

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

good morning

bright sunshine. a cigarette. a good cup of coffee.
it doesn't happen that often. yeah i like to sleep in sometimes. an early start with nothing to do but sit outside. enjoy the sunshine. and drink some really good coffee. alterra's costa rica campeon del valle...or champion of the valley if you prefer.
bright. clean. fruity. perfect for a somewhat lazy summer day.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


it's been a long time since i wrote anything here... so i thought it prudent to enlighten the (maybe?) 3 people who read this as to whats been happening over the last month.

well. my brother came to town to visit. it had been far too long since i'd seen him. almost three years. a long time by any standards. but i should point out that bradley is my twin brother. someone who, up until moving to milwaukee, i spent almost everyday with. from sharing a room as kids. throughout school. we went off to university together. and continued to live together after graduation. we were together alot.

and the hardest thing about the last three and a half years since i moved to america, has been the separation. knowing that someone who knows me so completely is so far away. phone calls and emails are great. but they're not the same. not the same as just sitting. not doing anything. not even talking. just sitting. and feeling that connection. knowing that there is someone in this world who understands me so completely. who cares. who worries. but never judges.

it was good to have him here.

our time in both chicago and milwaukee was fun. just hanging out in awesome cities. eating good food. seeing good friends. watching the brewers win. drinking good coffee.

during the early hours of saturday morning. may 16th the impossible happened. after five long years at sea. the good ship albion finally sailed home. well, almost.
peter. carl. gary. drew (unfortunately no john). the libertines. on stage. together again.
they didn't do it for the money. they never would. millions of pounds wouldn't get these guys on stage together. they did it because it was the right thing to do. a tribute gig for johnny sedassy. a promoter who used to put on gigs by the band in years past.

the short set included... up the bracket. what katie did. can't stand me now. time for heroes. death on the stairs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

gwilym davies. world barista champion

so the results are in. the winner of the 10th world barista championship is gwilym davies. united kingdom, and now world barista champion.

hats off to gwilym, and to square mile coffee roasters. they've roasted the winning coffee for the last three competitions!

the only question remaining is, will gwilym defend his title next year? the 2010 wbc is being held in london...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

the dirty south. atl. hot-lanta

so i'm in atlanta right now for the specialty coffee association of america's annual convention. this year its being held in conjunction with the world barista championship. 61 competitors have gone. from all around the world. and the six finalists have been announced. they are, in no particular order:
attila molnar - hungary
gwilym davies - united kingdom
sammy piccolo - canada
michael phillips - united states
colin harmon - ireland
lee jong hoon - republic of korea

korea and hungary have never made it to the finals before. ireland and the uk were winners in 2008 and 2007 respectivally. the highest the usa has ever finished was second, heather perry 2007. and sammy piccolo is the only repeat competitor.

it should be an interesting day tomorrow.

i'm sorry but in situations like this my national pride comes out....go uk!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

san francisco. part 2

i'm sat on a flight headed from san francisco to kansas city. from there kai and i connect to milwaukee. where its home for a few days and then off to atlanta for the scaa convention and the wbc.
but as promised, here is part 2 of the san francisco trip.

rightly or wrongly, we decided to use public transport today. the bart seemed fairly simple to navigate, so why not? well, one reason why not is because its super expensive. seriously, why make it more affordable to drive than use public transport? and in a city that attracts a substantial amount of tourists, you'd think there would be some sort of 'one-day-pass' for all the transit lines, but no. not san francisco.
we had a relatively simple goal. get to the giants games by 4pm. now as any of my friends will attest, i'm not exactly athletic, or any sort of sports fan. but the brewers were playing the giants. so we had to. a text message to my buddy justin, a recent transplant from mke, revealed he was going to the game too. so it was on. the milwaukee contingent were meeting at four barrel and then heading to the game.
four barrel didn't dissapoint. the daily public cupping was just coming to an end when we arrived. spoons were quickly thrust into our hands and some stellar, although somewhat cold, coffees were tried. the space itself almost looks like a gallery. minimalist to the extreme. no lounging. and no internet access.
justin gave us the tour and some amazing donuts. and it was off to the game.
more money in change machines. more confused and somewhat aimless rambling. and we were back on public transport, muni this time. this shit is getting expensive.
as-far-as baseball stadiums/fields/whatever go, at&t park is kinda cool i guess. although it looks a little too much like disneyland.
the brewers lost because they suck. and they also decided to give the giants pitcher a concussion. there's sportsmanship.
after the game we walked north. under the bay bridge and to the embarcadero. a cool little spot. skateboarding kids. tourists. born-agains preaching to anyone who'll listen. and a definate mediteranian feel. wide boulavards. palm trees. sun. and apparently the location of some powel-peralta skateboard videos in the '80's. from there it was west to chinatown. via a $5 trolley car ride. lots of crowded little streets. lots of tacky tourist crap. it was glorious. we ate sushi that floated past on a little wooden boat. and then hit it back to the mission for some coffee and to chill with jT.

1pm. the regular public cupping at ritual. the table was full of brazils. seriously full. 5 out of the 8 coffees on the table were brazilian. some really good. some ok. and some amazing. there was a rad ethiopian in there too. from the mission we headed to the haight. if anyone in the uk is reading this, you don't need to go to the haight. just go to camden instead. it's cheaper to get there. i'm serious. its kinda creepy how similar they are. wannabe hippies and wannabe trendies. mixed with old pot stores and new fashionable stores. the smell of weed in the air and being asked if i could spare some change every 7seconds. oh, and don't forget the gutter punks. who are either living further up the haight with their rich parents, or on primrose hill with their rich parents, depending on which side of the atlantic we're on. seiously. don't go to the haight. go to camden. its cheaper.
from the haight we headed downtown to check out the ferry building. kinda a mall. but so much more than that. artisans of every type. cheese. breads. olive oil. face creams. coffee. all under one roof. blue bottle, an sf coffee shop, had just opened a store in the ferry building. so we were excited to check it out. unfortunately, the barista seemed to be having trouble with the dosing timer on the grinder, and the line of inpatient customers was getting longer and longer. we headed for peet's instead.
from downtown we glanced at the levi's factory. and then headed for the most touristy thing ever. lombard st. the famous street on that crazy hill. so not worth the wait.
from lombard st. it was back to the mission for a quick coffee stop. awesome cappucino from justin. notes of pistachio butter. and then to sit.
a meditation class in the panhandle. super good. we sat for about half an hour and then there was a discussion/q&a on buddhism and dharma and stuff.
after all that buddhist contemplation some good vegetarian food was in order. thanks for the recommendation mark. herbivor was awesome.

an early start and we were heading north on route 101. through the city and then across the golden gate bridge. its pretty cool. reminds me of the brooklyn bridge in nyc. only red. we stop at the little town of healdburg for brunch. a quaint little town with a really good diner. from the 101 we head west towards the coast on route 128. this is where i get to see the redwoods for the first time. they are absolutely awesome. i can't really describe it any other way. breathtaking. from 128 we hit route 1 and head into mendocino. quaint as quaint can be. its beautiful. relaxed. simple. and now over-run by tourists from the bay area. its not the same town that kai went to high school in. oh. i can't forget to mention that mendo is where the kurt russel/goldie hawn epic overboard was filmed. as well as the long running murder mystery thriller murder she wrote. the beach. ocean. its amazing how these things feed my soul. maybe its because i grew up on an island, but just being close to the ocean makes everything seem ok. burritos at the mendo cafe and sitting on the beach smoking cigarettes with tim and frida, two awesome people, was a load of fun. kai grew up with frida in mendo and tim is her husband. well travelled. well educated. tattooed. my kinda people. from the beach it was off to the mendo hotel for some live music and then into the hot tub before crashing out.

unknowingly, kai and i had decided to travel to nor.cal over easter weekend. so the bed and breakfast we stayed at was packed for easter brunch. we had reservations and the food was pretty good. i'm glad we didn't pay for it because it seemed way over priced.
from mendo the next stop is fort bragg. home of the world famous triangle tattoo museum. this place was a trip. run by madam chinchilla and mr. g. as old school as tattoo artists come. really honest and welcoming people. we were greeted with open arms and a warm smile. given the guided tour and chinchilla insisted on taking photographs to put on the wall. from fort bragg to leggett is where the road gets really gnarly. winding doesn't begin to describe it. twists and turns. up hills and down them. more turns. sharper twists. up more hills and down them again. oh, i should mention that all this is on a coastal road. right on the edge of a cliff.
we arrive in legget still in one piece. thankfully. and head to kai's dad's place. a huge property containing mountains. rivers. bridges. and more trees. huge ones. enormous. really fucking big!
we drive through a tree (no we didn't crash. there's a tree with a whole in it that you can drive through. the tree is still alive. its trippy) and then its off on the road again. back towards san francisco and dinner with more family.

we take the bart to berkeley and the east bay. we hit telegraph, which i'm assured used to be a really cool spot. the original amoeba records is there. but unfortunately, that seems to be the only store thats survived. over half of the store fronts were empty. kinda depressing really. we should've gone to sacramento, to this little coffee shop I know. oh well. next time.
from the east bay we hit bart back to the mission. grab a final cup at ritual and ask where to get good food. we're directed to yamo for noodles. it absolutely tiny. 10 seats at a bar and four chinese ladies shouting at each other. but the noodles are absolutely amazing.

that's it. the sucka free city. one week.
i'm tired.

Monday, April 13, 2009

san francisco trip april 7th 2009

its 10:45 on thursday morning and i'm sat at amber's dinning room table, thinking about the last few days. the first few days of my holiday in northern california.

tuesday afternoon. 5:30. leaving mke on route to houston, tx.
i really can't stand short domestic flights. the planes are always so small. no standing up. only stooping because the cabin is so low. 2 seats on one side of the isle and 1 on the other side. you know the sort of plane i'm talking about. tiny and kinda scary. is this thing actually gonna make it all the way to texas?
well yes, obviously it did. i wouldn't be writing this if it hadn't. but still, it was an uncomfortable flight.
houston, tx. george bush international airport. alarm bells were ringing right there. do i really want to be coming to a place that names its airport after bush, version 1.0? now isn't the time for a political rant, so all i'll say about texas is that kai and i ate some bad bbq at the airport and our flight to san francisco was delayed in leaving because, apparently, nobody knows what to do in california when it rains. in the midwest planes will land with two feet of snow on the ground, but in cali, a little rain has everything shut down and air traffic control freaking out.

after getting into sfo later than expected i didn't get to sleep until around 2am pacific/4am central, so being woken up at 7am pacific/9am central by a phone call from back home wasn't, to say the least, a welcome surprise.
san mateo. a little town about 25mins south of san francisco is gonna be out base whilst we're here. a quiet suburb that reminds me of most of the movies i watched as a kid. the birth of hardcore punk scene in the bored suburbs of early 80's california.
half moon bay. about 10 miles west from san mateo on route 92. the first time i've seen the pacific ocean, hell the first time i've seen any ocean in far too long. its beautiful. calm. peaceful. tranquil. its exactly what i needed. some time to just relax.
on the way back to san mateo I get my first experience of a california institution, in-n-out burger. sooo good. yum.

and then into the city for the first time. the mission and ritual.
we order a single espresso and a macchiato. the space is great. simple. bright. and in a city thats so densely populated, surprisingly spacious.
the espresso was super bright upfront, with super dry tobacco in the body, and bitter chocolate in the finish. it was a pretty good shot, but to me it seemed as though all three flavors were competing rather than working together.
the macchiato was good. straight up creamed coconut.
and then two mugs of the days french press offering, brasil finca esperan├ža. a sweet lime syrup brightness upfront. with sweet milk chocolate in the body and the dry finish that always accompanies a press.

**there will be much more about this soon. and lots of pictures too**

Monday, March 9, 2009

straight up avenger

the usbc happened in portland, or. this past weekend. unable to be there in person, due to lack of funds and lack of coworkers to cover my shifts, i spent most of the weekend glued to my laptop, in various coffee shops around town, watching an ever increasingly frustrating live internet feed from the competition.

the final round looked something like this;
devin pedde, intelligentsia los angeles
ryan willbur, intelligentsia los angeles

mike marquard, kaldi's coffee, st. louis
scott lucey, alterra, milwaukee
nick griffith, intelligentsia los angeles
mike phillips, intelligentsia chicago

after judging them both in the finals of the great lakes regional competition, and being good friends with them both, i was super excited to see both scott and mike p in the finals.

all 6 finalists performed fantastically. and when the results were in the top 3 was quite a sight indeed.

3rd scott lucey
2nd nick griffith
1st mike phillips

i'm so happy for mike. after a somewhat dissapointing end to the glrbc, where he finished 5th, he really pulled out a fantastic run when it mattered most.

to quote a text message i got from my friend zak in michigan;
"fuck yeah! mike phillips! straight up avenger!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

a post from my brother

Taste of the East Coast - Square Mile Coffee Roasters Wednesday 18th Feb 2008

Barismo - Boston, MA
Espresso Blend: Poker Face NERBC Blend (note: i just got a note from ben kaminsky at barismo, and it was their linnaean st. blend, not the nerbc blend)

Plowshares Coffee - NYC, NY
Brazil Daterre Sweet Blue

Gimme! Coffee - Ithaca, NY
Panama Hartmann Honey

Mystery Coffee (oooow the suspense!)


one doesn't get many chances to indulge ones love of all things espresso here in grey ol' london town very often (yes we do know what coffee is thanks, we don't all just drink endless cups of tea you know!), so when i found out about the 'Taste of the East Coast' espresso tasting over at square mile coffee roasters my espresso starved synapses were tingling in anticipation.

a short ride on the tube to bethnal green, east london and square mile can be found in an industrial unit under the arches of an old railway bridge. i should probably mention at this point that the other exciting thing about going to a tasting at square mile is the fact that its run by 2007 world barista champion james hoffmann and his girlfriend anette moldvaer...bonus! great coffee served by one of the best baristas in the world...what more could this coffee-geek ask for.

right, down to business...

the aroma of the barismo offering was full of caramel, praline and dry tobacco.
slightly surprising was the hint of mint and lemongrass up front, but this initial freshness blended effortlessly into the bitter dark chocolate, toffee and syrupy blueberries that i was expecting.
a nice citrus acidity, specifically lime, and a buttery mouth feel made this an excellent coffee to start the evening with.
bring on the next one...

the only way i can describe the plowshares espresso is as dark stuffy working mans club.
a darker crema that the espresso from barismo was the colour of the stained wood panelling on an edwardian tall boy.
the nose was full of tobacco smoke, liquorice and malted hops.
dark cocoa and hazelnuts were lifted by a hint of vanilla to give a nicely balanced cup.

the expression on james' face while he was dialling the grind in for the next offering suggested to me that this was going to be something a little exciting...i wasn't wrong.
the espresso from gimme! coffee was as bold and assertive as the exclamation point in the middle of their name suggests.
the aroma, with its sack fulls of caramel, cocoa and pipe tobacco, really smack you in the sinuses.
cherries and almonds almost verging on marzipan provide the sweetness to the cup, while a hint of ginger and bergamot provide the acidity that brings these complex flavours together.

so the forth and final coffee was a bit of a mystery...
apparently some of the other roasters that were supposed to be sending coffees over for the event either forgot, got the dates wrong, or their offerings got lost in the post.
so despite the fact that it wasn't technically an east coast coffee, we were treated to one of the first tastings of a sample bag of a single plot etheopian yirgacheffe that james and anette are looking to use in one of their future blends.
a really citrus nose didn't prepare me for the full on fruit assault that was the cup itself.
strawberries in syrup, cherry brandy and blueberry jam dominated any other flavours that might have been hiding in there.
the only concession was the faintest hint of pipe tobacco which cut through the sweetness of all that fruit and stopped it from being sickly.

my favourite?
despite the fact that the coffees from barismos and the sample bag from ethiopia contained all the right elements for a cracking espresso, i couldn't help but fall in love with the espresso from gimme! coffee.
maybe it says more about me than the coffees themselves, but the self confidence of the gimme! coffee cup, the "this is me! take it or leave it" attitude just put a massive smile on my face...and hey, that's all life is about really isn't it...trying to find as many of those moments as possible.

bradley fairbrass

greatlakes regional barista competition aka liquid swords

right now i'm sat on the floor behind the competition area. the finals don't start for an hour and i'm killing time by watching the final round of the latte art competition....its always confused me as to why the winner of the latte art competition wins $5,000 for making something look nice. and the winner of the glrbc, or any barista competition, wins very little in comparison, for so much more time and energy.

its been an exhausting few days, judges certification on thursday morning, a 10+ hr day of tests and calibration and i don't even know what, it seemed harder than last year. maybe i was just less prepared. or maybe the test actually was harder. or maybe it was a little of both. who knows?
i saw some old friends, and met some new ones. this is what these things are really all about for me. meeting people who share common interests. other people who get geeked out over, seemingly silly things. the new single origin guatemalan espresso from intelli. the new brew system that so-and-so are using in their cafe. the new direct trade coffee from stumptown. people who understand when i say, this is what i want to do with my life. i don't want to get a 'proper' job. they understand because they are doing the same thing. the professional barista. we're few in our numbers. but we few know that this is it. coffee is what we love. coffee is what we do.

over the last few days many of us have taken the stage. competing. judging. emceeing. running. score keeping. none of us being paid. simply doing it for the love of it.


so. that's it. the final regional competition of the season is over. the final round has been and gone. a winner has been crowned.

all six finalists performed fantastically. it was a pleasure judging all of them. some familiar and some new faces.

Les Stoneham (LaTerza Coffee, Cinti, OH)
Mike Phillips (Intelligentsia, Chicago, IL)
Scott Lucey (Alterra, Milw., Wisc)
Trevor Corlett (MadCap, Grand Rapids, MI)
Chris DeMarse (Coffee Alliance, Muncie, IN)
Jesse Crouse (Intelligentsia, Chicago, IL)

after all of the points had been counted the top three were as follows;
3rd Trevor Corlett
2nd Jesse Crouse
1st Scott Lucey

scott's performance was fantastic. as was his coffee. a colombian cauca grow by nelson melo, who just happened to be in the audience. bright. fruity. grapefruit and ginger tones. it was outstanding.
really, it was scott's performance and signature beverage that separated him from the other five finalists. he was confident. relaxed. focused. passionate. knowledgeable. these things were pretty much a prerequisite to make the finals. but scott simply raised the bar.

"this drink is my machete"

what could have been a relatively simple sig bev was turned into something quite extraordinary by careful planning. stellar explanation. and near perfect execution.
liquid swords. grapefruit juice and melo espresso. separated by a layer of whipped sweet cream. we were instructed to, confidently, drink the juice first. then break through the cream layer and sip the spro from underneath. the juice and espresso combo worked perfectly. the juice further enhancing the existing grapefruit notes in the melo-spro.

sL, the drink truly was your machete.

photo's by twitchy

oh... one thing i forgot to mention is that scott's winning score was the highest in the country this year!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

9 down. 1 to go

over the last few months barista's around the country have been spending countless hours in training labs. cafes. random machines. practicing. rehearsing. revising. polishing. and practicing again.

the usbc...thats the united states barista championship, not the united states bowling congress...is taking place in portland, or. at the beginning of next month. the usbc is split into 10 regions. with 10 regional competitions, to determine who goes forward to the nationals.
9 of the 10 regional comps have happened. the 9th was in atlanta this weekend. the 10th is in chicago in a weeks time. feb 20-22nd. navy pier.

the results so far are thus;

northwest: alex pond, fresh pot. portland, or.
western: nick griffith, intelligentsia. los angeles, ca.
mountain: greg lefcourt, ozo coffee company. boulder, co.
southwest: jason silberschlag, cartel coffee lab. tempe, az.
midwest: robin seitz, pt's coffee company. topeka, ks
south central: cancey rose, cuvee coffee roasting company. spring, tx
northeast: amber sather, ams. brooklyn, ny
midatlantic: katie duris, murky coffee. arlington, va.
southeast: danielle glasky, ocatane coffee. atlanta, ga.
greatlakes: who knows? will it be a repeat of last year? intelligentsia? alterra? metropolis? scott lucey? mike philips? we will see in one week from today....

the national

it doesn't happen very often, that there's a coffee shop in milwaukee that i haven't been to atlest a dozen times, so when a new cafe opens i'm itching to check the place out.
when i heard about the national, all the signs were good. sweet location; the corner of 9th st. and national ave. the same spot that brooklyn bob's used to occupy before their ill-advised move downtown. good coffee; they're currently a wholesale account of metropolis out of chicago. and a good espresso machine; faema e61.

saturday afternoon and the cafe was about half full when kai and i arrived. aesthetically the space looks really nice. clean colours, simple design, and a homely feel. high backed dark leather booths eliminate any chance of it feeling clinical.

food offerings contain a wide variety of standard cafe fare, the vast majority of which is made on-site. the coffee menu contained all the usual suspects, as well as a few surprises, espresso with a twist of lemon....

rwanda, butare gkongoro. a super rich body with subtle fruit sweetness, a pleasant crisp acidity and a super clean finish.

this is what i was excited about. red line espresso. i've known tony and the guys down at metropolis for a few years now, so i when i heard about a cafe where i could get some red line i was anxious to see what sort of job they do. i shouldn't have expected anything other than great, metropolis do an awesome job with their wholesale training. a double for kai, and a single for myself, cut me some slack, i was headed to work...
visually the double looked a little better than the single. rich, red-brown crema, with flecks of red, brown and orange. the single on the other hand looked more than a little blond. bright without being overtly sour. raw nuts. chocolate. and a dry tobacco finish. rad.

the only possible negative thing i could say about the national is that they have a wonderful looking espresso machine, and its hidden away in back, on a rickety old prep table. seriously, the thing looks as though its going to collapse whenever anyone pulls a shot. put the machine out front. pride of place. the machine should be the first thing you see when you enter a cafe. its the reason you go there. its the most important piece of equipment in the building. and this one in particular, just looks so so pretty.

check these guys out. they're good people.
839 w national ave.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

i'm in print. this is weird

so last night i was making my usual rounds online. checking various websites. blogs. forums. that sort of thing. and i found something that i've never seen before....myself. in print.

i've been helping organize a barista jam at one of the local coffee shops in town, and i emailed sarah allen, the editor of barista magazine, to tell her about the event and possibly get a little attention from the wider barista community. yes, there is such a thing! she seemed really interested as asked for some details.
now i'll admit, the reply i sent her was not one of my most structured. gramatically correct. business-like. or even vaguely serious emails. i just figured, she's an editor! she'll take this nonesense and turn it into a somewhat coherent string of prose. something people will actually understand when they read it. if it even makes it into the magazine.

well, i was wrong. my more-than-somewhat-flippant email essentially appears, in full, in the next issue of the magazine. with an awesome picture of current great lakes barista champion mike phillips taken at last years event.
photo credit; brian fuckin' hayes.

note to self: maybe, just maybe, don't always be such a sarcastic barstard...it might come back and bite you in the ass.

p.s a certain someone....ryan....has been giving me shit for not including this in the original post. the barista jam in question will be happening at roast coffee co. check them out here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


right now i'm trying to enjoy the simple things in life. far too often i find myself getting caught up in 'the future' and projecting about what i want to, or think should happen. when i do this i inevetably find myself feeling out of sorts. frustrated because things aren't going how they 'should', obsessing about things i realistically have absolutely no control over. just generally not feeling good about my life.
so, as i said, i'm trying to enjoy the simple things in life. the things that i can always count on to make me feel content. satisfied with my lot in life.

music. specifically punk. even more specifically, listening to old punk rock vinyl. i don't know why, but there is something about listening to vinyl, as opposed to cd's. part of it, i'm sure, is the romanticized idea that now exists about actually listening to a record, and part, i think, is that vinyl is how most of the albums i listen to regularly were originally heard. minor threat. 7 seconds. black flag. circle jerks. the clash. elvis costello. all were pressed to vinyl originally. before 8-tracks. before cassettes. before cd's.
vinyl has a soul that none of the other formats do. thats my theory anyway, and i'm sticking to it.

coffee. also makes me happy. it feeds my soul. my imagination. my conscience.
today i have two coffee's that i've been meaning to write about; two east african coffee's from johnson brothers, in madison, and from stumptown, in portland.

johnson brothers
organic ethiopian yirgacheffe adado natural processed
the most noticeable things is the crisp clean brightness throughout the cup. there are plenty of lemon and floral tones, with some dark bakers chocolate and caramel stuff going on in the back and in the finish.

kenya gaturiri reserve
the thing i love about this coffee is that it makes me think of a christmas pudding, something that i loved as a kid. and still love, although its difficult to find it now. lots of dark dried fruit flavors. raspberries. blackberries. plums. with a super heavy body. stumptown describe it as a stout body, which is perfect, because i've always used guiness in xmas pudds.

now its time to go digging through some crates and buy some new old records

Thursday, January 22, 2009

the day off

i've been somewhat neglectful of my blog recently, so today, my day off, i'm forcing myself to write. anything. something.
the only problem is i can't think of anything to say. life has been somewhat dull recently. kinda like the weather. there hasn't been a whole lot going on recently. my good friend scott was in town to play a show a week or so ago, but writing about us hanging out, drinking coffee, catching up and talking shit would make for some boring reading. although i'm convinced nobody actually reads this stuff. we did kinda get lost walking around the scary basement of the rave, a venue here in mke, which was fun. although the we didn't get to see the pool. darn. thwarted again.

we now have a new president, which is fun. i say we, but its really you, seeing as i couldn't vote. but hey, well done you, for electing someone who at least has a few brain cells to rub together.

i love having the occasional thursday off, because i get to listen to the early morning punk show on wmse while i drink my morning coffee....a natural dry yellow bourbon from cachoeira da grama in brasil. as always i brew on my chemex at home.
raw hazelnuts upfront with overwhelming milk chocolate notes throughout and a dry bakers chocolate gives a pleasant finish. a crisp, juicy apple brightness throughout makes it super easy to drink. then a cigarette and i'm good to face the day.

punk rock to some deep dub reggae. i love wmse. the track cosmo is playing right now is tight. i can't help but nod my head. jah rastafari

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

mr president

dear president obama,
you don't know me and i don't know you. i'm happy you made it into office, for a second i thought the dreaded they would get to you before you actually got to sit behind that desk. i certainly don't envy the task you have in front of you. if i may, i'd like to offer some completely unsolicited advice. in the imortal words of albert finney: