Archive for August, 2009

The Perfect Cup of Joe

Fresh Coffee Beans

Fresh Coffee Beans

The perfect coffee is hard to find. The crema needs to be exact, the milk needs to be thick and glossy and nowadays the beans need to be certified by some sort of environmentally friendly association. I always snort laugh when a customer asks if our coffee is Fair Trade after they have placed an order. Perhaps it’s just curiosity but I think it would be wise to seek ethical clarification before you purchase a product.  Just to be clear, Atomica follows the certification process that is set out by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand. Our coffee however, is not Rainforest Alliance or Shade Grown; you’ll have to venture elsewhere to find those stickers.

Fair Trade is probably the most well known out of the three I mentioned above. The ethical emphasis is on a decent wage and satisfactory work conditions, but they do set forth rules for cultivation so production methods are not too detrimental to the environment. It costs $3,406 AUD to be a part of a fair trade organization and an annual payment of $851.60 AUD to stay involved. That’s a lot of money for small time farmers. Yet it comes across as a lucrative business which can persuade people to join the coffee making brigade. This could lead to more farmers making coffee instead of focussing on the local food market. There is already enough coffee on the market, who wants Guatemala to be one big coffee farm?

Rainforest Alliance is a tricky one. It is supported by McDonald’s which has greatly popularized the organization.  It seeks to “conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.” So it wants the ecosystem to be protected and the businesses in the area to prosper while it caffeinates the world. A lot of that is done through tourism and being associated with a name that will lure people to coffee farms. But only 30 percent of the coffee needs to follow the guidelines in order to be certified. What about the other 70 percent? That seems deceiving. I went into Mc Café to find out how much of their coffee really was certified, the lady thought I was nuts, I got an apple pie.

Shade Grown is old school. Before coffee became ‘the world’s second most traded commodity after oil, it used to be grown beneath rainforest canopies. Unfortunately, a lot of those rainforests are no longer with us due to deforestation. Growing coffee in this very natural way allows the beans more time to ripen making the end result full bodied and rich. Shade Grown hopes to strengthen ecosystems and create biodiversity by this method of production. Yet it is a time consuming process and doesn’t offer that much protection for the waiting farmer.

These organizations have a few faults, but they all seek to better the world in one way or another. I can only make your coffee as ethically perfect with the tools I am given, if you really want to make a difference don’t ask, just do. Actually going to these farms will boost their national economy and go a whole lot further than a question followed by a single espresso shot.

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Mug-a-what-o?

The Menu Board

The Menu Board

Ordering is a pain in the ass. I know it, you know it, yet I know a way we can come together for the benefit of the coffee shop.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could read your mind, mood and preference? Yes, because then we wouldn’t have to put up with your funny ways with words. It’s ES- presso not EX-presso, cappuccino not cup-of-cino, and what’s with mugaccino? I know it’s a large cappuccino but please no references to the Australian countryside, I’m from California.

Now since the word is in the dictionary a compromise is in order. I have acknowledged that I know this word, which has been around since 1994. I also will automatically grab a large cup when it is said and proceed to write the letters ‘B-O-G-A’, oops, ‘C-A-P’, and pass it to be made. But at the end of this coffee’s journey, I will call out “large cappuccino” and you will pick it up as if I spoke your language, moving on.

“Hi, can I have a coffee?” The customer asks.

“Um, what kind of coffee?” Says I.

“Blackish, like coffee that’s black,” replies the customer.

“Oh gee, how about a long black?” I ask, without a hint of sarcasm.

“Ok, yeah that,” smiles the customer.

And so on. So this customer wants a long black. A drink also known as an Americano. It was invented by the yanks in Italy during WWII once hot water was added to espresso shots to dilute the bitterness. This customer is most likely an American. But it’s cool they didn’t say decaf Americano so I’m still in the right hemisphere. However, this order could have lacked a few sentences if the customer had taken the time to sort through our menu. Here is a basic overview of the menu, conveniently standardized throughout Melbourne:

Cappuccino – Shot, milk, about 2-3 centimetres of froth, with a fair shake of the chocolate powder on top.

Café Latte – Shot, milk, about 1-2 centimetres of froth, most popular by far in our little establishment.

Flat White – Shot, milk, and a slither of froth, if you’re a coffee art fan, this is the drink for you.

Long Black (Americano) – Espresso and hot water, see above.

Long/Short Macchiato – Espresso with a dollop of milk and froth, the drink if you’re on the run.

Mocha – Just like a cappuccino but with chocolate sauce, if you can’t be bothered with sugar, give it a go, avoid saying mocha-cino.

Short Black – A single shot of espresso, two for a doppio, coffee straight up.

There you go, a simple guide eliminating the complexities. Most coffee makers have heard every variation, laughed, and figured it out. I’ll accept mugaccino into the vernacular, but please next time you are in any coffee shop, take a quick look at the menu, it will make everything move a lot smoother.

The Green Ranter

Continue reading ‘The Green Ranter’


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