Coffee Award Time

Coffee Award Time

What an amazing couple of weeks here and Hessian HQ! Firstly a nomination into the Hertfordshire Life Food and Drink Awards for Best Local Supplier and then we were a finalist!  To top it off, our coffee was recognised and awarded a Great Taste Award with the National Guild of Fine Foods.

We must be doing something right!  Initially we were nominated by one of our wonderful customers for the supplier award.  This came as a great surprise as we are just a couple of families running a business doing what we love to do.

Coffee Award – How it all started!

The process began with the nomination. Because of this, it then encouraged other Hessian customers to complete a form to also vote. So it allowed customers to give comments and give evidence on everything.  Everything from products, service, attitude, ethics, standards, consistency and quality. I saw the form and it was by no means a 30 second tick box exercise. Paragraphs needed to be written under the various categories so the judges knew why it was being nominated. We are not sure who out of our amazing customers completed the paperwork but the mystery is appreciated.

Following assessment on the nominations we were visited and interviewed by one of the Hertfordshire food and Life team.  This section was based on the comments completed on the earlier forms. It was nice to have a few moments sitting and talking about what it is we do.  What drives us, along with what growth plans and aspirations we have as a business. Being reflective on the business during this interview highlighted to me that we do a pretty good job and should be proud of our achievements to date. I have to say it also bought home the need to pause and take stock from time to time.  Take time to assess oursevles, ask questions, re-focus and re-energise. I plan to build this into the working week instead of running around constantly.

The next stage in the process

The next stage saw us being invited to the stunning Hatfield House in Hertfordshire for a drinks reception. Next was a 3 course sit down meal and the awards ceremony for finalist. Here we enjoyed stunning food and surroundings awaiting nervously when our category was called.

The Food and Drink 2017 awards are broken down to 12 categories.  These range from best pub, café, restaurant, chef, suppler, newcomer, customer service etc, with nominations in each area.  An added surprise was that 2 of our customers were up for 4 awards also, one winning many accolades. The lunch flowed into the afternoon with coffee and wine.  A great time was had with us getting the chance to meet likeminded people all striving to be the best at what they do. We returned home with goodie bags from the sponsors and a framed certificate which is proudly sitting on my desk as we speak.  Not a category winner but proud and honoured to be thought about in such high regards.

The award continues

Hessians recognition continued into the start of August.  We had news of a win in the Great Taste award for one of our freshly roasted espresso beans.

Our Bourbon Select was submitted a couple of month ago. We pretty much had forgotten we had done so. At Hessian we know this coffee is simply fantastic and consistent in every roast and something which we are incredibly proud of. It doesn’t just taste great as an espresso or a latte, its also 100% Arabica. The beans being farmed from a single growing area in El Salvador and is certified Rainforest Alliance.

Judged by over 500 of the most demanding palates.  Now that is impressive already don’t you think! The palates belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, restaurateurs and producers.  Let not forget also that food writers and journalists are also part of the panel.  The comments received included “Muted on the nose. A lovely creamy, coffee coloured crema. This has a big, initial mouth hit with good top notes.  The level of acidity is pleasing. The sweetness is the result of the acidity and the long finish was enjoyed by the team”

Great Taste Award

Out of over 12,300 products judged we were awarded a 1-star Great Taste award which means judges dubbed it simply delicious. Only 20% of those entered gained an award, so we are blown away again with our recognition.  Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers. As well as a badge of honour, the unmistakeable black and gold Great Taste label is a signpost to a wonderful tasting product.  Products that have been discovered through hours and hours of blind-tasting by hundreds of judges.

Not bad for a Bishops Stortford, local, family ran company in its seconds year trading!

Thats a new drink

Thats a new drink

I heard someone during the week ask for a “large skimmed, extra wet, extra hot latte”.  What the hell is that I asked the barista once the lady had been served. She told me “I gave her a hot latte”.  I did chuckle but it got me thinking about what it was that the customer was really looking for.

Breaking down the drink, firstly the milk element – All mammals produce milk as a means of nutrition for the young. Around 87% of milk is water. Then it’s made up of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.   Milk for our daily coffees generally comes from cows, although these days a wide choice is available depending on requirement and health. It doesn’t even have to be milk as we know it as alternatives are available. The customer requested skimmed milk. This is done by separating the fat content out by spinning in what’s called a centrifugal separator. The remaining liquid contains an average of only 0.1% fat content once it’s spun through this process. Compare this to whole or full fat milk which contains 3.5% fats.

Latte Stage 2

Second part of the lady’s drink choice – Extra Wet? Ever wondered what this is all about? Wet and Dry are terms describing how much foam is present in the drink and as far as I’m aware only relevant to cappuccinos and introduced by the Americans.

“Wet” has more milk and less foam than a “dry” beverage that will contain pretty much all foam. Extra Wet I am struggling with so assuming she wanted a large cup of hot semi skimmed milk!

Finally, she wanted it extra hot. I can only guess she had a long drive ahead of her and wanted to give the drink to someone else when she arrived! Burnt milk smells bad and tastes bad. To get the best from the espresso the milk really should be at 70 degrees Celsius allowing the proteins and sweetness to enhance the espresso and allow good foam to form for a great end result.

Final stages

The take-away cup was full to over flowing, the lady then added a couple of sugar to it. This I found ironic!  She gave the steaming liquid a stir, put a lid on it, grabbed a sleeve to ensure she did not blister her hand and off she went. Most bizarre!

It’s all subjective and the customer is always right apparently.  I can understand why the barista gave her a latte.  Did the customer know what she wanted or was it the barista knowing the customers needs better?

Whether its Almond, Coconut, Rice, Semi, Full fat, Skimmed, cow, goat or any other mammal! Without milk the world would be without large skimmed, extra wet, extra hot latte’s and without quirky customers keeping the industry alive.

I ordered a cup of tea!

It’s good to talk!

It’s good to talk!

The Oxford English dictionary definition of the word communication is as follows. “The imparting and exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other form of the medium”.

It doesn’t sound like it should be a hard thing to do, so why is it so hard for some people to do this?

As an example!  An inbound business enquiry came into the office. The potential customer found us via a recommendation, good news so far!  They ask all the right questions and understood what it is that we do at Hessian Coffee. Also they understand how we could support their business and arranged a meeting within 48 hours of the call. Another piece of positivity! This is going great. Diary re-arranged, meeting planned, preparation done as scheduled to taste 3 different coffees. Time was allocated to re-iterate the conversation we had on the phone allowing us to bond face to face ensuring all their needs are discussed and met. All good and positive wouldn’t you say!

The Big Day Arrives

Big day arrives. Introductions, the coffee tasting goes well, we share knowledge of what we know and what they expect. I ran through the equipment Hessian Coffee can offer, including how we have free barista training for our customers.  I also explained our range of freshly roasted espresso beans and filter coffee.  We discussed how we do more than coffee with syrups, takeaway cups, award winning teas.  Also I let them know we offer next day delivery, 30-day credit, competitive pricing.  This is all good once again, so I leave the meeting feeling positive on the all-round good day being had.

As I was leaving I mentioned to the prospective customer I would follow up that afternoon with an email outlining the meeting and the meeting notes.  Hessian would commit to what we can do and how we can move forwards. I put a trace on the email to ensure it goes to the correct person and that it is received. Pretty damn good first impressions in my book I feel.

It all goes wrong

Now this is where it goes wrong.  A couple of days later not having heard anything, I re-send the email (which I know was received). Once again with a trace on, and once again picked up. Naturally we are all busy people and guess they had forgotten to reply initially, these things happen.

Leaving it a couple of days and still nothing I give them a call on the mobile. Guess what happens, sent straight to voicemail so I leave a positive message. Giving it what I consider appropriate time I give it a couple of days and try again. Once again sent to voicemail.

Where I struggle is at what point do you give up and put it down to arrogance?  Surely basic politeness is not hard and its one of the only things in life that is free.

You win some

You win some and you lose some. I understand that and that is not the problem. If you can understand why you have won or lost then this helps us as a business and as an individual to grow, I get it.

The thing I don’t get is the whole lack of communication thing. Surely a one line email, text or heaven forbid returning the phone calls and saying sorry I am not interested at the moment. Or sorry I didn’t like your shoes, I would be content with anything!

So to finish up, I bring you back to the above dictionary definition because I assume that the “or using some other form of the medium” is NOT referring to telepathy!

I will end this by saying; “Let’s not be afraid to communicate”.

Excited about a box!

Excited about a box!

NOT JUST ANY BOX! Take a look at our new Hessian Box. Our new espresso boxes, which we are very excited about if you couldn’t tell, are not your usual plain brown boring box.  These boxes have been thought about, designed, re-thought about and produced. Then re-designed and re-produced until we were happy to deliver our product out to our customers in them. We decided a box should not be dull, it should reflect the journey it’s taken along the way. Also it should give an insight into what it holds! We think it should also educate and inspire.  Lets make it add value, brand loyalty and educate at the same time. After all these are the core values we strive towards at Hessian Coffee and our boxes now reflect this.

What’s inside the box!

Our freshly roasted espresso beans are what’s inside the box. These could include our Espresso Number 1, Espresso Reserve, XTC Blend, House Blend and our Great Taste Award Winning Bourbon Select.  Hessian will be delivering all these coffees in our 6 kilo boxes detailing the coffees journey from seed right through to cup.

The coffee Journey

This coffee journey is a long one.  It all starts from the planting then moves to the harvesting, this can take up to 4 years! The beans as we know them are initially the seeds from the coffee plant which are nurtured as seedlings.  They are watered often and kept shaded from direct sunlight. Once planted and in time, these become the newly grown coffee trees which bear the fruit, commonly known as the cherry, and are ready for harvesting.

This harvesting (picking) is generally done by hand making it very labour intensive.  For our Arabica coffees, these are picked at altitudes above 4 thousand feet (this is Ben Nevis FYI). Once the beans are harvested these then go through a process to remove the seed from the plant either by drying in the sun, or by rinsing constantly in water. Depending on the method a different taste profile is produced. The seeds need to be dried once again, either on huge patio beds whilst being constantly turned over in the sunshine, or by large tumble dryers.

Our little seeds then have a further process called Milling to remove the outer skin or “parchment”.  They are then polished ready for grading, sorting and filling into Hessian (Jute) sacks ready for shipping.

It’s a long Journey

After the long journey across the seas, the seeds are blended and roasted to our specifications. Next they are tasted and inspected for consistency and quality.  Then they are packaged locking in the freshness and the last 4 years efforts.  Finally they get delivered direct to our favourite customers doors.

We cannot control a lot of the journey until this stage.  Maintaining fresh coffee is key.  Also using and maintaining the correct espresso equipment is fundamental.  The water needs to be of great quality.  Grinding our coffee is as important as that first planting of the seed and if not, a correct extraction we will ruin the last 1460 days of its journey.  At Hessian we recommend staff training by a professional is critical.  This ensures great coffee is made simple whether it’s an espresso, cappuccino, flat white, latte or americana.  If you do this then your customers will return time and time again. Great Coffee made simply!

A box doesn’t just need to be a box but a story and a journey of excitement.  Something to give that feeling of opening a present on Christmas day from someone that cares.

Cappuccino or Latte?

Cappuccino or Latte?

The only difference is a sprinkle of sugary chocolate dust?

So, its Friday, yippee!   You decide to head in to town to pick up the random items not possible to get in the weekly shopping. While in town you decide to treat yourself to a large shot of hot caffeine, but which one?

  • Cappuccino is in theory ⅓ of espresso coffee, ⅓ milk and ⅓ froth, usually with some chocolate sprinkles or powder on top.
  • Lattes arrived later to our shores, at least I think they did and are milkier!

Back when I was working for peanuts, in hotels and restaurants, it was Cappuccino’s all the way.  Nobody outside Italy, knew what a Latte was! This normally involved splashing, steaming, screaming, hot milk about in a big, old milk caked jug and hoping that you would muster something resembling foam.  You then would spoon onto a cup of steaming black stuff made several hours earlier.

What is a Latte?

So, a Latte, often served in a tall glass, precariously on a saucer that doesn’t fit the base with a long spoon. What’s that all about? Also with a single or double espresso shot.  Depending on what you have ordered or the premises you have visited.  The milk should be silky smooth with a little foam on the top, which if lucky, your Barista (get me) may have created something artistic on top for you to gaze at.

The Cappuccino

So, to conclude! Cappuccino should taste a little stronger as there is less milk and more air, and probably less calories if you forgo the chocolate on top.  Latte is a milky coffee, it will be a longer drink as there is more milk and less aeration.  You will possibly get a mixture of the two as the cafe are making lattes and cappuccinos at the same time. The only discernible difference will be that whoosh of hot chocolate on the top and the type of cup or glass that they have served it in.

After queueing for more than 5 mins, drooling over the lemon drizzle cake and chocolate tiffin tray bake. At the same time you are justifying why you should or shouldn’t treat yourself. Then reluctantly realising there is a very real chance that you are going to get a parking ticket. So you opt for a takeaway.  A takeaway then will leave you completely clueless what you have been served until it’s finished.  This is the time when you take the lid off to get the best bits of the ‘Capsulate’ chocolate foam entrails.  Don’t forget this  requires you sticking in your middle finger around the edges of the cup to rescue the good bits.  In the process you get it all over your hand and down your chin in the process, or is that only me?

Roll on wine o’clock when there are no such complicated decisions to be made.