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The First Cup

Exploring…..

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

The first cup of coffee has always been special. The first thought of going into that black,bitter,bold liquid. Never would I have guessed it would become an addiction, a necessity to function, to become part of my soul.

It all started with instant coffee, a coffee that now makes my blood curdle. But it was that first step into a world that I never thought would have been possible. The mellow, sour notes and plastic processed taste, will always be the first memory that lingers. From there it would just get better.

This blog, was meant to be an exploration of coffee, not just from where I am, but from travels, from gifts, and from experiences. This is my coffee journey, in a world where capitalism is on the rise, and quality and equality is neglected, I am here to feed my addiction, and explore, where possible, their origins.

Better Latte than never

There are times when I would choose to have my coffee black, be it americano or long black. But most of the time I would prefer to go for a latte.

Lattes’ are complex, whereby it is a marriage of the espresso and fine steam milk. Espresso is one integral part of this amazing drink, the acidity, the timing, the water, the grind size, the roast, the origin and the care of the barista. All of these points go into making a good espresso. Note the choice of word is “good”, for getting an excellent espresso takes years of honing the senses as well as tuning the skills to produce the espresso. Consistency of the barista is also key, producing the same espresso over and over again, sounds easy, however there are so many factors that require control over, to achieve that level of consistency.

Through making coffee I have experienced countless flavours possible from a coffee bean. The factors that I find especially when teaching young baristas, is grind size, tamping, cleaning and shocking the espresso. Espresso from multiple books, from multiple talks with expert baristas should be around 20-30 seconds. That I find is a huge time gap, but there is a reason why this has become the case. Non-baristas will not be able to taste the difference in 10 seconds of extraction, especially those coffee fanatics that go to commercial brands, and call themselves coffee lovers or avid coffee drinkers. To an experienced barista 10 seconds is the difference between an under extraction and an over extraction.

Espresso’s are only 30 mL of this drink. The other part is the milk. The type of milk, you use will determine the sweetness of the latte produced. Origin of the milk will also determine the characteristics of the milk. The fullness of the milk, the creaminess, and most of all the texture.

The least talked about factor, is the barista. The emotion when making a coffee can easily be transferred from the barista down to the coffee. Therefore when making coffee there must constant smiles. The customers’ experience when buying a coffee makes a difference, and making that difference will be a leading factor is making the sales.

Baristas are not only frontliners, they are most times the face of the cafe. Therefore their people skills, appearance and barista skills needs to up top notch all the time. Return customers is a significant indicator of how successful a barista is at what they do. Taste of coffee is secondary in a business, whether it will make a profit, that’s the reality of the industry we have today.

However this should be taken positively, as with making money, it will also lead to innovation, producing better espresso machines, efficient ones, ones that heat up faster, ones that can consistently get the correct dose all the time. These are the things that can come to light as we progress in this direction.

Nevertheless we must not lose the human touch when making coffee. Recently I have seen a documentary where by a robot was making a coffee . Whether it was good or bad, would that mechanical being understand it? Would they be able to taste the difference? More importantly would you come back?

This post has gotten a bit too long, and gotten deeper than I have expected it to. But it is just some thoughts, and opinions from one coffee enthusiast.

What are your opinions on the matter? What makes you come back to that one cafe? What matters most to you when you have a cup of coffee?

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