23 Jul 2017

What is a Coffee Professional?

The Difference Between a Cupper and Other Coffee Professionals, and the Need for a Common Language


In December of 2015 I went to one of the Odorama events of Mediamatic. It was an evening dedicated to the vocabulary of fragrance. The whole evening was structured around the question of our sense of smell and why it is so difficult to find the words to capture what we experience. 

One of the most interesting talks was given by Ilja Croijmans, a linguist researching this very thing. Apparently Western languages are one aspect of making the act of aroma descriptors difficult. Just think about it, how many words to you know that are only dedicated to a smell?
In other languages around the globe, and specifically in some parts in Asia, there are words dedicated only to olfactory experiences; there are specific words to specific smells, and so constructs such as: 'smells like ...', are not necessary.
Ilja wanted to know if in Western society the fact that we find it difficult to describe smells is due to this lack of specific defining words, or if there is an other layer of explanation: do we simply not get enough practise?

To test this

2 Apr 2017

Cascara Banned in the EU?

What is a novel food and why can we suddenly not drink cascara anymore?




A lot of people have read this article "Is cascara actually banned? Mixed messages in The EU" by Perfect Daily Grind the last couple of days, which was probably inspired by the video James Hoffmann of Square Mile posted recently.



The article is quite short, slightly confusing and arguably incomplete causing some misinterpretation of what is actually going on with cascara in the EU. As someone working in coffee as head of quality, which not only includes quality control of the products, but also the food safety aspect, I wanted to give some background and further information on the concept of novel food and how it is linked to the use of cascara.

what is a novel food?

The whole idea is to keep people safe and not bring anything to the food market that could be harmful or even deadly to humans, literally food safety. For the EU this is regulated through the European Commission. A novel food is a food  is a food that has:

5 Dec 2016

The Christmas Coffee Gift Guide 2016


Christmas time! But what should you get for that coffee loving geek in your circle of friends or family? Below some ideas for gifts that any coffee lover would like to receive.

Five Elephant 
 Coffee EU8-50
Coffee, it's always a good idea. Most roasters or coffee subscriptions have some awesome coffee beans on sale during Christmas.

Any good artisan coffee roaster will do, so go and find your local coffee roaster, dealing in the lovely product of specialty coffee and buy some beans.
Try not to buy too long in advance, as coffee beans are better when freshly roasted.

If you are looking online, these are some awesome options for you.

15 Nov 2016

How to Prepare for Taking the Q Arabica Coffee Grading Exam



Me (front row in the brown apron) and my fellow Q graders
When I started working at a green coffee sourcing company as their cupper, they requested I take the Q grader's exam for Arabica coffee. I had heard of it before, but had never really looked into it. Al I had heard was that it was an exam to test your sensory skills in coffee tasting and that it was quite difficult to pass.

The Q grader's exam is part of the Coffee Quality Institute and it meant to create a universally shared language for coffee tasters. It is an internationally recognised certification grading and cupping calibration. Meaning that all people that passed the Q grading exam will give a calibrated score for the same coffee. 

I read up a little on the test that would be taken, but mistakenly saw it as a course, not necessarily an exam. So when I walked into the cafe in Paris during a cold February day, I was surprised to find everybody there had been practising at home for weeks. I had read up a little bit, but I hadn't created my own training program beforehand. I also quite quickly learnt that the 'course' part of the exam mostly existed of practising the exam. Not an actual educational training session. So if you failed a practise exam, there really was no time to understand why you failed and to really learn how to improve yourself before the actual exam will take place.

This freaked me out quite a bit, especially as the course is quite expensive. I did not want to fail and let my boss, who paid for everything, down. So the first three days in which we practised the courses I tried to learn as much as I could. At night I would practise in my Airbnb and think of strategic ways to pass the exams that I had trouble with during the day.

I have to say, going through all the exams in the following days, must have been some of the most nerve recking days in my life.

And...it paid off. I passed with flying colours. So what did I do to pass the infamous sensory exam, or the sample roast identification exam? In this blog you can read the tips I wished I had had before I took the Q grading exam per exam category.

18 Aug 2016

Coffee Crawl Leiden: Where to Drink Coffee in Leiden

People from Amsterdam never want to travel outside the capitol of the Netherlands. Everything you need is at a palm's reach. Although the Netherlands is a small, tiny country, everything outside of the city centre is far-far-away land for the Amsterdammers. But there are a lot of amazing cities and coffee spots to see all across the country. And so friend 'B' and I decided to put on our walking boots and 'travel'; take the trains and discover all the lovely coffee spots outside of our hometown. 

Finally, after months of trying -I don't exaggerate, first it was the Reco symposium, then a sick pet, a sick human and some inconvenient calendar mix up- we made it to Leiden. Leiden, a city in South Holland, holds the oldest university of the country. The old centre is beautiful with canals, small courtyards and multiple monumental buildings. But we weren't there for all that. We wanted coffee.




see map

17 Jul 2016

Restaurants Serving Specialty Coffee in Amsterdam

Restaurants serving specialty coffee

We have all experienced it. One night you go out, with your friends or family. You go to this well recommended restaurant. The service is friendly, the food is tasty. You talk and laugh. Perhaps take some pictures of nicely plated food to put on social media. And then you order coffee after. And if you're lucky, you get a Nespresso capsule. If you are unlucky, you get some dark roasted, robusta blended drink that maybe if you quench your eyes kind of falls into the category of an espresso, made from beans that were pre-ground at a certain time in history on a machine that has not been cleaned properly since it was installed. What a way to finish a meal.

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