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.
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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.
How is your coffee roasted? This is often a question asked either by customers, prospective customers, or competitors. I would like to say it is lovingly roasted by 2 guys in a shed with tattoos, handlebar moustaches, skinny jeans, no socks with impeccable sensory awareness. Men with pallets as smooth as silk and hand packed by ninja’s! But this is not the case and nor is this the case for the majority of coffee roasted in the UK.
Most coffee we drink in the UK has been commercially roasted and packaged (still lovingly) in a factory somewhere. At Hessian Coffee we are extremely proud of the fact we use a commercial roaster and don’t feel the need to pretend we are something other.
The roasting process
The roasting process is something that needs your undivided attention. Attention that is required throughout the entire process to ensure this perfect consistency. I am a big believer in letting those that know what they are doing get on with it.
So it begins with the green coffee beans (the coffee plant seed) arriving in large Hessian coffee sacks. They come from whichever part of the world it is grown (always between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn). As seeds, the green coffee will not deteriorate and it is the process of roasting that unlocks the flavour and aroma from the cells. This gives us coffee beans as we know them. Before these little green beans can enter the oven, they are always quality checked for defects or any foreign bodies that may have entered the sacks during harvest or transportation. Next, small batch samples are roasted and cupped to ensure they meet our quality requirement.
Coffee roasting takes time
Roasting takes around 15 minutes at temperatures of between 200 – 230 degrees C. During this time the beans will expand and “crack”. This cracking is fundamental in the process as it allows the aroma and flavours to develop. If the beans pass the point of no-return which is after a second crack the beans will be ruined. This is one of the reason we use an expert for their years of experience, quality controls and state of the art roasting technology.
Once roasted to our recipe they are cooled. Cooling is critical as you don’t want to continue cooking the beans. Lighter roast coffees generally have more acidity and tend to be dry. Whereas darker roasts develop oils on the surface and offer a bitter taste. Caffeine levels also decrease the darker the coffee is roasted.
It’s about the balance
Getting that balance correct 100% of the time is the key to our blends. One of which is a great taste award winner. Transported through tubes like something out of Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory our beans are whizzed to packaging. Here they are cleverly weighed to ensure each branded kilo bag has a kilo of wonderful coffee in it. Next they get thermally sealed with a valve to ensure any additional de-gassing can take place. Lastly they are lovingly hand packed in our bespoke boxes ready for shipping.
Our Coffee beans in either single origin, arabica blends or mixed blend, are roasted specifically for the Hessian Coffee brand. By using the finest grade green coffee every time and it is our policy to trade in an ethical, environmental and socially responsible manner.
It’s a real art and science to consistently deliver quality freshly roasted coffee. So as mentioned we are delighted to leave it with the pro’s, allowing me and the other guys to get on with what they are good at!
Why do we have numbers ranging in the supermarkets from 1 to 5? Some have dots increasing in a neat line or different shades of colour to identify what strength a bag of coffee is?
Surely strength is made up from the how much coffee is dissolved in the liquid? Take for example a nice gin and tonic. If you have a shot of gin in a pint of tonic it is going to be weak! Now lets take a shot of tonic and a pint of gin, strong eh! Every diluted beverage is the same whether it’s a cup of freshly brewed loose leaf tea. A refreshing orange squash or a pint of shandy. It’s all about the ratio to get the correct balance for the perfect drink.
Producing coffee (espresso or filter) does not allow all of the coffee bean to be dissolved into the liquid. In fact, only around 30% of the bean gets dissolved. Generally, this leaves wet soggy coffee grounds behind when the liquid is removed. Now within this 30% that is dissolved, only around 20% approximately is what we want to go into the cup. This is your caffeine strength.
It’s about the Brew
No matter how you brew the coffee. No matter how much liquid you use you can only ever get the same amount of extracted caffeine from the coffee beans. That’s just life and chemistry, no magic involved.
We can however control some of the other elements to get the best flavour. Water to coffee ratio as mentioned earlier with my G&T analogy. Use excellent quality water and filtered where possible. The time the grounds sit in the water. The correct water temperature and even down to the correct grind size for the chosen brew. Espresso, cafeteria, V60, chemed, or a pour over for example all should have different particle sizes. All these variables will have an impact on the extraction being either weak or strong.
Country of Origin
The wonderful taste coffee gives us is dependent on the country of origin. Processes used in the harvesting. Blending by the expert roasters and the physical process of the bean roasting. Flavour and aroma is brought out during roasting. Because of this, it is a rule that the darker the roast the more pronounced the bitterness will be. The darker the roast the least acidity in the final drink product.
So to summarise. A dark roast or a light roast has the same amount of caffeine extracted from the beans. So when our supermarkets are mentioning strength, I feel this mostly references the roast profile i.e. a mild, a medium or a dark roast. The coffee descriptors will give you what you see in the cup.
As a guide to growing areas, South America’s (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua) are said to have a clean and bright taste. Natural acidity, well-balanced and with a mild to medium body.
Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia make up much of coffee growing countries in South America. They offer a very mild-body. Whilst still being a light, clean cup, these coffees are also a bit creamier, often with a slight chocolaty after-taste.
Brazilian coffee varies in profile from spicy and rich to mild and fruity. Great for a filter coffee!
The Africans are more complex & bold. Generally a sweet, fruity and floral coffee taste. With the most popular roasts coming from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Asia beans are more earthy, and with a fuller body.
Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. Just like having a shot of tonic in a pint of gin. Strength guides on supermarket packaging can in my opinion be a bit misleading.