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**