2018 is nearly wound up

2018 is nearly wound up

As we approach the end 2018 its time to reflect a little on the year that was!  The reflection of focus for us is what worked well.  Those things that we need to continue doing, and then what needs to change as a business going forwards. This got me thinking on personal stuff as well, so here goes, a wee summary on the last 12 months. 

Time certainly fly’s. It feels like just last week when we were sitting in the cold office in January looking forward to the year ahead.  Both our families had grown at Christmas with the addition of 3 cats (myself with Paddy and Murphy, Niall with Mittens).  We found most of the conversations were around how silly it was having kittens. January was naturally quite as the world got back to the hum drum of life post the festivities.  We did however welcome a couple of new customers.  Plus we launched our retail tins into a high street convenience store which was amazing!

We are both involved at the local rugby club with coaching and developing young players.  We have no let up on this with training and fixtures continuing on Sunday morning in minus temperatures. As we started to thaw out into February, 2017 became a distant memory.  Business began to get back to some sense of normality as it does this time of year.

We entered 2 of our espresso coffees, Espresso Reserve and for a second year our Bourbon Select, into the “Great Taste Awards 2018”.  We delivered coffee training sessions and began work on updating the website and producing product brochures. The cats were still a talking point throughout this time.

Business in March and April

Business in March continued to grow both via our lovely customers organically and new business coming on board.  We did unfortunately lose one customer at this time. We are not sure why as we provided the same customer service we do to all our customers.

Products were delivered on the same day when they had forgotten to order.  Or the very next day as standard without charge.  We provided appropriate free training as and when required, including out of business hours.  Responded same day to adjust the grinder on a number of occasions after it had been tampered with to the point of no-return.  Offered all the products needed to run the operation and all maintenance when needed.  So hey ho, there is only so much we can do and we felt we did our best.

April was again a positive month with a few trade shows to visit. Customers were supported with mystery shopper visits. The end of rugby season arrived. We introduced our coffee bags into the hotel bedroom market. We also introduced Matcha tea and a granulated milk product for the bean to cup machines.  All this whist continuing with all the other day to day stuff.

May through to August

The month of May came and went fast.  But we did enjoy a Novus tea tasting masterclass with a couple of our customers. We also enjoyed tasting a range of the teas over ice ahead of the summer. June, July & August always seems to be a bit hit and miss in our business, Whilst 9 weeks of sunshine and no rain is delightful to be out and about in, it does effect the hot drinks market.  This being said a couple of Conti coffee machines were purchased for new store openings. We introduced a new bean to cup machine into our range and picked up a nice little customer close to the office.  Let not forget how we were awarded Great Taste awards for a couple of our coffees, all is good.

A few Hiccups

Unfortunately, in July my two cats became one. Murphy lost his brother which was a real shame and the kids and wife were understandably upset, I fell off a ladder cracking ribs, damaging wrists, knees and face so summer personally was an adventure.  Luckily both families did manage a holiday away. Come September the schools are back, the holidays are over.  My middle child was starting year 7, big boy school. Then we were back to rugby coaching.

We settled down with some new business that had been bubbling over the summer. Some good sales from existing customers come through.  We lost a close friend and one of my rugby coaches which was/is rubbish. October and November is the months when the weather changes. Warmer drinks are being ordered and the hot chocolate sales increase.  Christmas shopping starts, black Friday deals and a customer returned from18 months ago.  This was great news for us as they were not receiving the levels of service we provide which is wonderful to know.  So here we are in December already. 

The end is near

2018 has been a good year for developing relationships and working with our wonderful customers, which we are lucky to have.  It is always a bonus securing new customers.  We are already lining up potential opportunities for the early part of 2019. Plus a potential great partnership with some exiting products to look out for. We are really proud of what we are doing and achieving at Hessian Coffee in 2018 and our continued growth.

Thank you all, Have a great Christmas and all the best for a prosperous and healthy 2019. 

Neil. 

Eyes Wide Open – Bean to Cup Machine

Eyes Wide Open – Bean to Cup Machine

The bean to cup coffee machine is not what I would normally be impressed by as I am very much a traditionalist on espresso machines.  I say this mainly because of the many years spent in the coffee industry.  Knowing through experience what a barista has to achieve manually to produce perfect espresso shots.

It takes time and skills for baristas to master their trade and be consistent.  Including an understanding of the origin of the coffees, coffee processes and coffee grind particle size. Plus you also need to include the correct dose, then the correct pressure in tamping the ground coffee level. Flushing group heads is part of their knowledge bases as in the purging of the steam wands. The list goes on with, silently foaming milk to create the perfect texture.  Also the correct techniques when pouring out the milk and serving in the correct sized cup. It also includes needing to know what the traditional machine needs to be doing in terms of water pressure at the correct time of dispense.  Because water temperature and dosing levels are also important to get the best out of the coffee.

In saying all this I have had my eyes opened this week when it comes to bean to cup machines and what they can achieve.

Bean to cup coffee machine knowledge

My initial knowledge of bean to cup coffee machines comes about because of historic experiences with using this type of equipment. Equipment that was known to regular have faults that even the best engineers and coffee technicians couldn’t resolve.  My perception of these old huge chunky machines was they would produce (if you were lucky) a luke warm, tasteless, thin, see-through liquid.  Also lets not forget whilst doing this they were also making horrendous clunking sounds for 45 seconds. Various degrees of nasty tasting coffee would emerge with poor end results had been my experience.  I think you can see why I may have stayed away from them, well that was until now!

This new era of bean to cup coffee machines drew me in with their slick, modern, peaceful noises.  Their new touch pads, fresh beans hopper, eye catching images and a range of drinks winning me over.  It kept shouting “come and try me,” “go on, give me a go.”

I was beckoned it to give it a try

So here I was being beckoned in towards the table top, free standing machine. I gingerly chose the espresso selection icon not expecting too much.  It then scrolled intuitively to a sliding menu offering me a host of drinks. Previously having steered clear of the bean to cup coffee machine I was now wanting to find out more.  So as you could imagine I had to find out more to see if my historic feelings were the same a few years on.

The bright clean lights offered me the option of an espresso. Not only that but a large espressos were an option too.  Or maybe it was a cappuccino I wanted! Or was it an Americano or a hot milk, latte macchiato, café latte or did I just want a hot water!  How can all this be hidden inside such a compact and sleek looking unit I thought.  The only thing protruding was a curved bean hopper that effortlessly blended into the top of the machine. 

This is going to be bad I thought, how can it not.  So I thought lets go with a milky based drink.  This would definitely confirm my previous feelings towards the machines, so I gently ran a finger over the cappuccino icon.

That Doh! moment

The machine screen sprang to life and told me that no cup was present – Doh, as homer would say! How did it know was my next thought, followed by a feeling of stupidity!  I should have known a cup is needed to be able to drink lukewarm, taste-less see through liquid. I was secretly impressed that the machine corrected my error as it could have been disastrous!

So back to pressing my cappuccino icon.  The screen woke again and informed me with a percentage reading that my drink was being made. Here we go I thought and again knowing what the barista must do to produce great milk I was under no illusion this wasn’t going to be good.  As the gentle noise of fresh beans began grinding so did the milk flow.  After a few moments the espresso began its decent into the cup cutting through the airy, shiny, glossy milk which was rising. 30 seconds later the liquid stopped at the top of the cup giving a good-looking foamy drink.  I was stunned!  This is not what I was expecting, however I knew the proof would be in the pudding and it would taste awful and I would be the winner!

Now I admit I was wrong

How wrong was I.  Perfect temperature, smooth light airy creamy textured milk, great mouthful with a good tasting espresso coffee in each sip? This was amazing, so much so I pressed Latte Macchiato to see what this would do.  It layered a drink with steamed milk followed by the espresso and the foamed milk.  I then thought I would press for an espresso and then a hot chocolate and finally an Americano.  The machine effortlessly produced quality drink after quality drink. If I had of had a hat on I would have eaten it!

The new Bean to cup coffee machine is impressive

I went to find the manager and asked how it did all that so smoothly and how it produced the drinks so well.  He admitted he was like I was.  Sceptical on all things bean to cup initially, but laughed as he opened it up proudly and showed me the internals. One fresh bean hopper.  Canisters for granulated milk, hot chocolate and decaf coffee.  Also included was a removable cleaning system for daily rinsing.  A removable brew chamber if ever needed from an engineering requirement and perfect coffee pucks.  Programming options were also included for all the things a barista can do.  These of course were including the dosage, temperature, brew time and grind size. A USB drive was also part of its mechanics to add video and images and blue tooth connectivity for diagnostics. I was silenced!

How wrong could I have been.   Eyes certainly opened wide this week. I am more than pleased that we will be introducing this machine into our estate over the coming weeks with the intention to open everyone’s eyes.  This is impressive so keep your eyes open!