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Taking the biscuit!

Taking the biscuit!

Felt compelled to put pen to paper after much research this week into what is the best biscuit to dunk with. This came about when mentioned it one evening at home and the wife informed me “I am not qualified to write about such a thing” That’s a challenge I thought, especially as I drink tea and eat biscuits so what other qualifications do I really need?

My research has led me into various supermarkets and a glance on the internet to discover this is serious stuff, maybe the good lady was right! On one report scientists and physicians had completed major studies using the same formula in terms of water temperature, dunk period, and completed dunks, plus age groups, professions, demographics and what is preferred with males and females. I have no intention to go this far!

Apparently started by the Romans it’s now popular on every continent with the Americans favouring Oreos, the Australians with “Tim Tam Slams”, In the Netherlands it’s the Stroopwaffel whereas here in the UK it’s reported to be the McVities Chocolate Digestive (I disagree personally)

Why do we do it? I am guessing in early times the biscuits were so darn hard that dunking was the only way to soften and make more palatable, nowadays to soften, release some of the flavours and sugars into the drink, to drift away for a few minutes, or simply just to get that soggy sludge at the bottom of the cup forcing the need to get your finger and scoop it all out!!

OK I have 5 of my favourite biscuits, now this is all subjective as to be honest I do love a biscuit. Rich Teas, Shortbread, Choc Digestives, Malted Milk & those nice ones that say Nice.

The test was carried out in the office, cup of Novus English Breakfast Tea, biscuits dunked 5 times each and for 5 seconds in total, high vis jackets, gloves and eye protection were worn. The test was also conducted with the assistance of an 8-year-old who knows everything about biscuits!

The results –

5th Place – Malted Milk. Love these biscuits but this just did not do it for me. Did not hold well, soft and gooey, broke and fell into the cup, not a pleasant mouth feel, warm, stuck to the pallet. Yuk from the 8-year-old!

4th Place – Chocolate digestive – The chocolate softened quickly, perhaps I should have refrigerated these first. Kept its shape well and held a good bite, but the sticky warmness of it put me off personally. Saying this the 8-year-old enjoyed it as most of it ended up on his fingers!

3rd Place – Rich Teas. I thought this was going to be the winner as a long-time favourite of mine but not in this intense experiment conducted just now. The biscuit held its own on the firmness but lacked taste once moist. 6 / 10 from my helper.

2nd Place –  Nice. I agree, does what it says. Worked well, kept its crunchy sweetness and its shape so no broken bits in the bottom of the cup. Pleasantly surprised

Winner – The Shortbread. Softened nicely yet crumbly and crunchy to taste. Held well, nice sweetness, nice warmth. 10 out of 10 from the 8-year-old.

Really, I should have included Caramel Lotus biscuits in with this experiment as these are the ones we actually sell !! – shall have to wait for my customers to read this and return a note with the 5 second & 5 dunk verdicts.

Now I am left with 5 x half open packets in the office and a hyper child!!!

Basic Grinder adjustment.

Basic Grinder adjustment.

Want better tasting coffee

Basic Grinder adjustment.

Adjusting your grinder maybe the key:

It may sound daunting but once you get to grips with how coffee beans behave its fairly straight forward.

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How does your espresso taste?

Sour: This is often when the coffee is under extracted (extracted too fast) and it will be watery and weak.

Bitter and burnt: You are over extracting the coffee (extracting too slow).

Getting the right taste:

As a general guide a single shot of espresso should be approx 30ml in volume and should take around 30 seconds.

  • If your coffee extracts too quickly the grind is too course and needs to be finer.
  • If your coffee extracts to slow the grind is too fine and and needs to be courser.

Adjusting the grinder:

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Practice will make perfect, it’s not as difficult as you may think. Most grinders you can turn clockwise to make the grind finer, although there should be a “+” and “-” signs for you to follow.

Remember just one click at a time before testing.

TOP TIPS:

  • Purchasing quality beans will ensure they are consistently roasted and give you less reason to adjust your grinder.
  • Grinder burrs will wear down overtime so ensure they are checked and changed when necessary.
  • Try to keep the same amount of beans in your hopper at all times (consistency of weight) rather than letting the hopper run dry.
  • Regular staff training will remove any fears your baristas have for learning more about getting the best from those little beans.

#baristatraining #greatcoffee #espresso

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”.