Going Green with Fair trade

October 30, 2008 at 7:23 am | Posted in Coffee Info, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Monday October 20 2008

Coffee company Bewley’s has agreed to a $1.5 million deal with Soppexcca , a farmers co-op in Nicaragua for the supply of fair trade-certified coffee.

The Soppexcca group of 15 co-ops comprises 650 coffee producers and their families.

The development is part of a long term sustainability drive by Bewley’s, which will become Ireland’s first fully certified carbon neutral coffee company by the end of this year.

The initiative will remove over 3,500 tonnes of CO2 from the athmosphere each year according to the company.

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Our Baristas… Baristi… Bariste

October 27, 2008 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hey everyone, check out the barista page on this site for updated bios on our baristas… err… baristi. Oh, and one bariste. While you are at it, cheer on our barista Dirk who will be competing at 11:50 on Saturday at the Regional Barista Champs at the Good Food and Wine show in Joburg. Dirk is new to the barista trade, but catching on very quickly. So, if you happen to be in Jozi, don’t miss him!

Great Blog Post

October 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Coffee Info, The Coffee, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ennis Pepper just wrote an awesome post about Urban Grounds on his blog.  Ennis, we at Urban Grounds welcome you to a free coffee of your choice!  Check out his post at www.taitoday.blogspot.com

The Caffeine Curve

October 24, 2008 at 7:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The Caffeine Curve (Courtesy freakapotimus/Flickr)

A New Book!

October 23, 2008 at 6:32 am | Posted in Coffee Info | Leave a comment
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It is not often that a book worthy of writing about pops up in the coffee world. So, when one does come along, it is worth hopping up and down about! I have not gotten my hands on this book yet, but I do know that the photographs alone will make you want to run to your nearest coffee haven for a good cup… I just hope that run finds you at Urban Grounds!

The Espresso Quest is an exciting tale of an espresso lover’s quest to find the pure joy experienced in a perfectly prepared cup of espresso coffee.

In the Espresso Quest, Instaurator weaves in tales of how he became enlightened to that perfect espresso, and how his journeys – and people he met along the way – helped him realize that espresso is not something that can be prepared by following a set of rules. Instead it requires passion – of the grower, roasters and barista – to ensure the coffee bean is brought to its purist state.

Join Instaurator as he dives into the intricacies of growing, processing and brewing espresso, revealing how each are necessary to understand if that perfect little cup is to find a place in your heart. Throughout the book he shares memories of his first true perfect espresso, then takes the reader on his journey to seek that sublime taste time and again. Along the road, he recounts his observations, discussions and first-hand experiences in the world of espresso coffee. Through it all, Instaurator emphasizes “Let taste be your guide.” His quest is sure to incite many more passionate discussions about how to best experience that ultimate espresso.

Check out the website to view the amazing photographs, read a sample and learn more about the author. https://www.espressoquest.com/

Espresso Secrets, Part 1

October 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Thoughts By Barista Ben | 3 Comments
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I am in constant pursuit of the perfect demitasse of espresso.  My daily espressos at Urban Grounds don’t stop me from a wandering eye all about town, seeing if anyone else is putting in the effort to pull shots worth writing about.  Sipho, at Urban Grounds, has been extracting some amazing caramel sweet shots lately, but today Peleka’s dark and tiger-striped elixir could rival any I’ve seen from the Cape to Durban to the USA!

What I have discovered is that the more I know about espresso, the more I realize how little I actually do know about it! The biggest obstacle to a great espresso in Durban is the humidity.  This fickle and constantly changing weather on sea-side Durbs has given me headaches as I watch perfectly good shots go south with the change of the wind.  These irritating events have lead my recent research of espresso to David C. Schomer.  You might call him the coffee guru, or perhaps just an espresso fanatic.  Either way, it makes him worth a read for us coffee zealots!  So, here is a little something from his book “Espresso Coffee:  Professional Techniques” that has helped us out at Urban Grounds.

Humidity intimately affects your operation on a moment-to-moment basis, because ground coffee is very hygroscopic, meaning it exchanges water molecules freely from its surrounding environment.  As you grind coffee, it absorbs water molecules or gives them up to the atmosphere, depending on relative humidity surrounding the grinders.  In very humid conditions, the espresso packs tighter, like matted dog hair, producing a slower extraction rate.

In espresso, we are very concerned with how much water passes per second through the ground, packed coffee.  There is a golden rate of water flow, corresponding to about a 25-second extraction for the total shot, that maximizes flavor release and minimizes the amount of bitter flavors and excessive caffeine that pours into the final cup…. but more on that next time.

Joburg Barista Championships coming up!

October 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are you budding barista dying to stretch your wings? In case you missed the Durban barista champs in July… head on over to Joburg and check it out!

It’s that time of year again when the Good Food and Wine Show comes to Johannesburg.  This year we will be at the Coca-Cola Dome in Northgate from Thursday 30 October to Sunday 2 November 2008. The Good Food and Wine Show will be hosting the Regional Barista Championships where the 6 finalists will proceed to the nationals in Johannesburg during the month of February 2009.  The winner will proceed to the World Barista Championship in Atlanta, USA in April, all expenses paid.  This opportunity is not to be missed.The coffee theatre sponsored by Lavazza, Kahlua and Beyond The Bean, endorsed by SCASA will be hot when richly brewed coffee’s will be made throughout the day as contestants in the Barista Championship display their talents in latte art and perfect cappuccinos.  The cost is R300 per barista.To ensure you receive a time slot of 30 minutes which includes 15 minutes prep time and 15 minutes competition time, please contact me (Tanya) on 021 797 4500 ext 116.  We only have a limited amount of places so do not delay.

Urban Grounds has one barista, Peleka, competing in nationals in January. Cheer on Peleka in the shop whenever you have a chance!

Coffees of Ethiopia

October 8, 2008 at 7:15 am | Posted in Coffee Info, The Coffee | 1 Comment

Because I am drinking a nice Ethiopian cappuccino this morning, I thought I would post something about this amazing coffee region. This is by no means a comprehensive education, just a quick overview of Ethiopia’s best coffee producing regions.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee, and Ethiopians have been drinking coffee longer than anyone else. Coffee is the national drink, with over 50% of the country’s production internally consumed. Wild coffee trees still grow below the canopy of forests in southern and southwestern Ethiopia (Anyone had our Organic Ethiopian Wild Limu?). The coffee trees’ natural diversity makes them a unique repository for selection and breeding around the world. Around 25% of the Ethiopian population is involved with coffee production, which represents over 50% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Here’s a look at the different regions coffee is grown. All of these coffees can be found at Urban Grounds, depending on seasons and availability.

Coffee is grown over a wide area, from the southwestern to the southern and eastern regions. By far the two most recognized of these are Harrar, to the east, and Sidamo, in the south. There could not be two more different coffees than those produced by these regions.

Harrar is a natural processed coffee and provides a preferred flavor profile of the Middle East: medium-bodied, acidic, winy, even “wild”, a euphemism for bearing the traces of vinegary fermented fruit. (I refer to Harrar as a rustic coffee, borrowing from modern wine terminology) This coffee is often “enhanced” in the Middle East with cardamom and other ingredients. Since production is limited and demand in Middle Eastern centers is great, prices for Harrar can be quite high.

Sidamo, to the south, on the other hand, specializes in washed coffee. These coffees are delicate and can attain a unique floral aroma. Within the region of Sidamo lies the valley-town of Yirgacheffe. The heart of the Yirgacheffe Valley; Yirga means “let it settle” and cheffe means marsh. It is the coffee from the slopes bordering this valley that Ethiopian coffee attains the fullest expression of terroir. No other coffee in the world has its perfumed, sweet, lemon-apricot aroma. It has been prized by coffee blenders since cultivation began after World War II.

FREE coffee!!!

October 3, 2008 at 11:36 am | Posted in The Coffee | Leave a comment
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All you have to do is blog about your experiences at Urban Grounds on your blog, include some photos, and come in for a free coffee of your choice!  Make sure that you send a link back to our blog. Valid until the end of October, so hurry!

Upload photos of you and your friends at Urban and get a free Coffee

Upload photos of you and your friends at Urban Grounds to your blog, add some comments, send a link back to this site, and get a free coffee of your choice! Valid until 31/10/08.

How to make a great cappuccino

October 1, 2008 at 10:31 am | Posted in The Coffee | 2 Comments
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Great cappuccino hunt

Great cappuccino hunt

In July, our own in-house barista trainer, Ben Carlson, had a moment of fame in The Sunday Tribune after he took pen to paper in order to describe the perfect cappuccino. In case you missed it, here’s a quick look at the article.

And, because I know you can’t read the image, here’s what Ben said, before things hit the cutting room floor.

The Cappuccino Hunt

Minnesota, USA gets cold in the winter.  It’s the kind of cold where young boys dare their friends to lick a metal pole, knowing that their tongue is going to freeze there until someone brings a cup of hot water to help tear it away.  This is where I learned to love a hot cuppa as I paid my way through university making coffee drinks.  The cappuccino’s I made were piled high with airy foam and hot enough to burn those tongues off the frozen poles.  I killed any taste that may have existed in the hand-crafted espresso by drowning it in burnt milk.

If I only knew then what I know now…

Sooner than normal and bigger than ever, the 2008 Cafe Society has started.  It comes with the necessary pressure that drives every coffee shop in the Durban area to try and woo the judges with the perfect cappuccino. Judges will come out of their caffeinated offices, kitchens, and favorite haunts to immortalize or lambaste hard working café owners.  Progressive and globally tested standards are being implemented to uncover the best cup in town.  So what are these mouth-watering standards?

Let’s take a closer look at the cappuccino itself.  It’s the delectable yet oft messed up drink we are judging each café on.  I recently demonstrated the World Barista Championship standards for the judges at Urban Grounds Coffee Emporium.  We sipped shots of ground-on-demand espresso from preheated cups.  Conversation got serious over what makes a bitter or sour cappuccino (over and under extracting the espresso for those who care). We also debated over what temperature is too hot for milk.

No one wants burnt milk in their cappuccino, but what is burnt? My recent stop at a Washington D.C. Starbucks, after the 22-hour flight from Joburg, showed me that the world’s most prolific coffee burners, I mean makers, don’t even get this right!  My frothy cappuccino was burnt and milky.  A great cappuccino will be graced with micro-textured milk that is velvety on the tongue and no hotter then 67 degrees.  Big frothy bubbles on top are like wearing an old “I work for Eskom” T-shirt.  A cappuccino divided into thirds (one third espresso, one third hot milk, and one third airy froth) might be comfy and familiar but your friends will start to disappear and the judges will ridicule you for your lack of training. Judges are looking for a perfect shot of espresso combined with velvety micro-textured milk until a 150-170 ml cup is full.

A technically correct cappuccino will get you far, but it won’t win you the Café Society championship unless you also have a great coffee shop atmosphere. We want to find café’s that make us feel at home and give us reason to relax.  I want to drink my cappuccino in peace without a waitress shooting me dirty looks as I sit reading the paper.  Creating a unique ambiance and that special café culture will help your favorite coffee shop emerge as a top ten finalist in this year’s Café Society.

My experience from naive coffee maker to barista trainer was a 12-year process.  2006 World Barista Champion Klause Thomson (Denmark) has helped me grow from my frozen Minnesota beginnings.  Likewise, Durban is also growing to become a great coffee destination by living up to international standards.  Unfortunately, many in Durban still consider regular coffee to be a scoop of Nescafe.  They also think a good cappuccino takes two hands to lift and should be hot enough to burn off your lips.  No coffee shop is safe from being reviewed and everyone’s standards are rising as we hunt for the 2008 Café society champion and best barista in Durban!

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