Sunday, 28 August 2016

Week beginning August 29th - London Latte Art Smackdown 2016 #smackdown16

It is back again, now for  the fourth year and as per last year, there are a massive 64 places available. The London Latte Art Smackdown, sponsored by Square Mile, Coffee Hit, Victoria Arduino, The London Coffee Festival and Kaffeine, runs over five weeks starting with four rounds of heats from Friday the 9th of September at our new store on Eastcastle street and finishing with the final on Friday the 7th October in the event space at Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Yes, it is now on a Friday, hopefully allowing for a bit more of a sleep in/recovery on the Saturday morning.

It is pretty simple. 64 spaces, £10 entry, maximum of four entries per company, 16 entrants per heat, knock out rounds to get the top 4 to go through to the final, making another 16 competitors for the finals. Kick off is from 7:30 pm sharp each Friday night and we usually finish up about 9:30 pm.

The rules: They get tighter each year, but again we keep it simple.

A Kaffeine barista will be pouring double shots for you into 2 x 5 oz 'flat white' Acme cups.
You steam your milk and split your jugs.
You pour your preferred pattern, but we only allow rosettas, tulips or hearts.
Cup handle must be presented to the right of the judges, with the base of the pattern at 6 o'clock
You choose your best looking and presented drink and put it forward for consideration
You pour your left over milk into a glass to measure your 'wastage'
You remove your second drink.

The barista you are battling against then goes through the same process and the judges will then confer.

The judges, who include some of the complete legends of the London Coffee Scene are looking for:
Dribbles (or lack of)
Milk wastage
Fullness of the cup
Formation of pattern
and many other things that they make up as they go along.

The judges, of which there are three, will then make a decision and on the count of three, point to the winning cup.

The winner goes through to the next round.

The prizes? Well all entry money goes into the pot, so that's £640. The Allegra London Coffee Festival have kindly put in £250, so that is £890 all up in cash. Last year Coffee Hit donated 1 x Baratza Grinder and a Rhino Hand grinder for 2nd and 3rd and Square Mile organised trophies and even more prizes, not to mention the glory and accolades and hopefully a bonus from your employer that comes with it. Along with this, Victoria Arduino will again be helping out with prizes, last year the winner Nico Halliday walked away with a single group espresso machine. NICE!!!

The judges confirmed so far include Dan Fellows (UK Barista Champion) from Origin, James Hoffman from Square Mile, Ben Townsend formerly of Espresso room, James Phillips from Dose, Andrew Tolley (World Barista Judge) from Taylor Street Baristas, former winners James Bailey of Workshop and Nico Halliday from Noble, multiple UK Latte Art Champion Dhan Tamang and lead judge for the fourth year, Glenn Watson.

Spaces are filling fast already, with most spaces on the first three heats already gone. To get involved, the best way is to come into our Eastcastle street and say 'I'm want to compete' and we will help you out.

At the heats, we will have light snacks for free and cheap beers available to purchase if you so desire and Square Mile are already in talks with one of London's iconic beer suppliers for the finals. Guests are welcome to watch and to support you on your way.

Also, it is not just limited to London baristas, anyone can enter. And seriously, every year now someone misses out on entering. Do not be late. Enter today.

Any queries, please email me direct. It's going to be brilliant, we look forward to seeing you.

Peter Dore-Smith

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Kaffeine - The Guest Espresso Program rides again

Quite a long time ago, we started a guest espresso program on weekends, whereby we would take off decaf on our second grinder and order in and dial in a guest espresso from various roasters across the UK and Europe on a weekly basis. To start with, it worked very, very well and we ran it for approximately two years. However, over that time, we also started to realise that we had a few problems. I have addressed most of these in previous blogs, so I will not go into them here. As I did note in them though, there were certain benefits and certain problems with the entire process.

I am quite open to being told that what we have done now is what we should have done originally or at least a long time ago, in fact a few people already have, but that's okay, as an old boss used to say when he stuffed things up 'well we are where we are we are'. I also admit I am not an expert specialty barista, with loads of knowledge about coffee or new equipment and I cannot keep up with all the many writings and informations on equipment or techniques, just like I am not a superstar chef with loads of knowledge about food, and I am quite comfortable with this too. What I think I do know is a little but about hospitality and a little bit about business operations and a little bit about listening to advice and acting appropriately.

Our current lead baristas Sam and Dan as well as previous baristas in Bianca, Jakub, Shaun etc have been pushing for us to invest in an EK43 for ages. I have been reluctant. The EK made a lot of news, a lot of headlines and a lot of discussions. In fact,  as an example, James Hoffman and Dale Harris wrote extensively on the issue of EK43's.

In fact, there is lots and lots to read on it, a lot of it captured here by Sprudge.

One of the main points that was easily picked up on here was 'do not rush into this as a silver bullet'. But time has passed, and I feel that the purchase and the use of this grinder has finally justified itself.

Over the past six months or so, we started again at looking into it. We did quite a lot of research, made lists of negatives and positives, consulted with Square Mile coffee and eventually have now invested in an EK43 for each shop. We have taken off our Anfim grinders that we used maybe twenty times a day for decaf and installed the EK in its place. I also watched a very good Tamper Tantrum video on the benefits of the EK43 by Rob Berghmans form Caffenation. I was finally convinced.

We will now be starting our guest program again, just that this time it will be different. We will run a guest for an entire calendar month. We will have the words 'guest espresso' on our printed menu on the walls, we will be training the FOH staff to be informing the customer when they order a short drink that we have a guest on offer. We will all know the guest characteristics, so when we deliver it or get asked about it we can answer with confidence and we will have retail bags on sale for take home. It is not really designed to be on for milk based drinks, though of course you can try it if you like, but more specifically for espresso or short drinks only. Because we are running it for approximately a month, we will not have to try and 'get rid of it' over the weekend. We will be able to play with it over time, dial in and experiment the flavour profiles and extractions.

In order to get to this stage, the lead baristas will be responsible to talk amongst their staff about what great roasters we should profile, they will contact them at least a month earlier, request any samples and once received, will cup them and assess them with as many staff as possible to gain feedback and also to train palettes.

We will have decaf available as well of course, pre-portioned into those little metal jewellery containers and also very importantly we will also start to be able to grind coffee for retail sales, something we have never really done before.

In order to track how the program goes, I can look at the past 12 months of sales and be able to compare them in another six or twelve months. For example over the past year at Great Titchfield street, double espresso have made up 2.64% of our total coffee drinks whilst single espresso make up 1.68%. This is only on Square Mile Red Brick. I am looking forward to being able to look back again and see if sales of espressos have increased, decreased or remained static.

What is for certain though, is that it has created great excitement amongst all the staff who work here, which of course was the main problem when we took it off. We will now be further challenged, our palettes will be further enhanced, we will be able to show off our skills and knowledge with even more pride and enthusiasm and really get behind some of the amazing single origin espresso that are available these days.

Of course we will cost our coffees out and work how much extra a double shot of espresso may cost including postage and shipping and we will sell the espresso at 'market price', so they may be an extra 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 pence per shot. This will allow us to bring in coffees up to £30 a kilo and have a pricing mechanism that works for the business and reflects the price of the coffee fromm the roasters.

We will start with the Koppi Bildiimoo Local Heirloom from the Gora Fone washing station in Nensebo, Ethiopia. It is a fully washed coffee, with tasting notes from Koppi of nectarines, jasmine and rhubarb. We are currently working on our guest calendar and if you are a roaster reading this, we do welcome your contact.

It is something we are all very excited about and we think is a new stage in Kaffeine. We hope you can join us.

In coffee we trust.

Peter Dore-Smith
Kaffeine Ltd

Monday, 1 August 2016

Week beginning August 1st - Should all customers be treated the same, or should all different customers be treated differently?

We are very lucky in that the majority of our customers are regulars, or become regulars, but we also attract other customers, the occasional tourist who is looking for coffee, or the occasional lost tourist, or Antipodeans looking for coffee on their travels, or parents with buggies and little children etc etc. It is easy for a service person to simply to treat all customers the same, and of course it is fair and reasonable to do so, but this cannot and should not be the case.

Recognising the different types of customers and dealing with each one is such an important part of the service provided in any quality hospitality establishment. In our situation, this will most often be the person on service at the front end of the shop, the first person the customer sees in the door. It would be by using their amazing talent of peripheral vision that this person on service would recognise that a customer is approaching the shop, or walking in the door and they would do this often whilst serving other customers already in the queue. In their mind, they would already be breaking down the new customer into a certain category and preparing themselves to be able to assist them,  probably also acknowledging their entrance with a nod of the head, or a quick smile.

Once ready, they will break into the appropriate actions, words, gestures and processes that the specific category of customer requires. This is one of the true signals of a great service person or manager, it is why service people are just as valued as any other staff member in the business, it is why they are as important to your business as the chef, the kitchen hand and the barista. I often feel that a lot of talk within the specialty coffee industry just focusses on baristas. 'What is the career path for a barista' ' How do you look after your barista' What training do you offer your barista'. I get a bit fed up with this. Does any one else work in your cafe?

In Kaffeine, each person is as important as each other, so when these questions are asked, I feel they should be asked to include all the categories of employees that work in specialty cafes. 'What is the career path for a employees' ' How do you look after your employees' What training do you offer your employees'.

In some cases, a barista can go and hide behind the machine if they wish and just pull shots. A service person cannot hide. A service person is in the front line. They need to be talented, fast, clean, efficient, adaptable, empathetic, patient, understanding, helpful, sympathetic, fast, friendly, service focussed, clean, tidy, organised and hospitable. Simply being empathetic is a hard enough. Worst case is that eventually, a person's empathy can run out and it is very hard to replenish.

So treating each customer according to their demographic is another vital component of a great service person or manager, as this will greatly enhance the overall experience of the customer, which is basically what all customers are looking for, a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

We recently did a staff training session to try to focus on this and highlight it.

We broke into four groups of four. Each group was given a category of either regular customers, a family with child in buggy, tourists with limited english skills and first time customers. No-one knew what the other groups had, it was their 'secret'. They had to then talk amongst themselves about how they would deal with their secret, what might be important to think about. When ready, the leader of the group stood behind the counter and the rest of the group role played their secret category in front of everyone else. Then, the other groups had to guess what they were role playing. It was hilarious, great fun, but it also has a point where we really highlighted the differences. I know I certainly treat any customer with a buggy differently these days than I did before children of my own. Empathy big time.

Every customer that takes the time and effort to walk in the door is quiet simply there to have an overall pleasant experience, but as all people are different, they need to be treated differently too. The employees that can recognise this and act appropriately to the customers demographic are extremely valuable employees indeed.

Please enjoy the menu for this week, as we will certainly enjoy bringing it to you.

Peter Dore-Smith

Great Titchfield Street Menu

Seven Seeded toast with butter and preserves 2.00
Cinnamon and Raisin Toast 2.50
Fruit salad with pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes, passion fruit 3.90
Traditional bircher muesli with Greek yoghurt and rhubarb and raspberry compote 4.00
Granola muesli with pomegranate molasses, Greek yoghurt and rhubarb and raspberry compote 4.00
Brioche with omelette, pancetta, rocket and tomato salsa 5.00
Brioche with avocado, omelette, rocket and tomato salsa 5.00
Croissant with Italian roast ham, talleggio cheese, spinach and plum tomatoes 5.00
Breakfast Ciabatta - Cotechino sausage, fried egg and gruyere cheese 6.00 (weekends only)

Pastries by Seven Seed bakery
French butter croissant 2.00
Pain au chocolat 2.50
Almond croissant 2.80

Baked Treats
ANZAC cookies 2.00
Portuguese tarts 2.00
Banana bread 2.50
Double chocolate chip and macadamia cookies 2.50
Blueberry with white chocolate muffins 2.50
Butternut squash, rosemary with feta savoury scrolls 2.50
Cherries with milk chocolate friands (gf) 2.70
Super moist chocolate brownies (gf) 2.80
White chocolate blondies 2.80
Raspberry and coconut slice (gf, df) 2.80
Polenta cake with citrus and spices 2.80
Carrot Cake 3.00

Own made brioche 5.00
Grilled honey ham, roasted apple, red onion, sweet chilli, brie cheese, rocket 
Buffalo mozzarella, crumbed courgette, plum tomato, lime mayo, baby spinach 

French retro baguettes 5.30
Smokes chorizo, basil pesto, roasted red pepper, gherkins,  gruyere, rocket 
Smoked salmon, wasabi pesto, cucumber, avocado, watercress

Salads: 5.50/7.00
Chicken pad thai salad with cucumber, carrot, bean sprout, cabbage, mixed herb, cashew nut, lime and chilli dressing
Grilled yellow courgette, pea croquette, roasted red onion,  feta, mint and caper dressing, pine nut, rocket  
Green beans, broccoli, sesame seeds, coriander, tahini sauce

Tart: 4.40 or 8.00 with salads
Spinach, new potato, chilli, egg

Eastcastle Street Menu

Sourdough seeded toast with butter and preserves 2.00
Fruit Toast 2.50
Fruit salad with pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes and passion fruit 3.90
Traditional bircher muesli with Greek yoghurt and rhubarb and raspberry compote 4.00
Paleo granola with Greek yoghurt and rhubarb and raspberry compote 4.00
Brioche with corn fritter, baked egg, chives cream cheese, onion marmalade 5.00
Brioche with treacle smoked back bacon, roasted tomatoes, smashed avocado, rocket and aioli 5.00
Croissant with Italian roast ham, talleggio cheese, spinach and plum tomatoes 5.00
Croissant with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, tomato and rocket 5.00

Pastries by Seven Seed bakery
French butter croissant  2.00
Pain au chocolat 2.50
Almond croissant 2.80

Baked Treats
ANZACS  2.00
Portuguese tarts 2.00
Lemon curd tarts  2.00
White chocolate, oats and cranberry cookies  2.50
Banana bread 2.50
Passion fruit and cream cheese muffins 2.50
Courgette and feta savoury scrolls 2.50
Strawberry and coconut friands 2.80
Raspberry and coconut slice (gf, df) 2.80
Super moist chocolate brownies (gf) 2.80
Protein bar (gf, df) 2.80
Salted peanut butter and white chocolate bar 2.80

Own made brioche buns 5.00
Meat patties with baked apple, fresh tomato salsa and rocket
Roasted aubergine and tomato with basil pesto, goat's cheese and watercress 

Baguettes 5.30
Italian ham, pear, aioli, Leicester cheese and rocket
Smoked mozzarella, spinach, plum tomato, cucumber and spicy peas pesto 

Salads 5.50 / 7.00
Stir fried pork minced meat salad with pickled cabbage, tomato, mix pepper, cucumber and lime vinaigrette.
Shred raw beetroot and carrot with feta, pomegranate, toasted walnut and molasses dressing
Steam baby potato and carrot with boiled eggs, garden peas, fresh herbs and peri peri aioli

Savoury Tart 4.40 or 8.00 with salad
Cheesy butternut, courgette and leek quiche