Archive for the Caffeine Category

No excuse for bad design.

Posted in Caffeine, Web Development on November 14, 2007 by Shaun

Dave Shea has a good article over on mezzoblue that highlights a coupe of basic faults on a site Starbucks have put together.  The lessons pointed out highlight a couple of the issues I am forever banging on about, especially browser detection on web sites.

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The history of Coffee.

Posted in Caffeine on February 1, 2007 by Shaun

Coffee as we all know, has become the regular stimulant for many people, certainly developers.  I see the adiction to coffee spreading through my office where I work every day and I used to work with a bunch of highly skilled coders prior to my current job.  The key there of course was that we all drank coffee.  Not the instant just add water sip and grimace kind of coffee mind you, no sir!  I mean the real coffee freshly ground and full of the finest caffeine money can buy.

You would be forgiven for thinking that coffee had been around for all time, but that just isn’t true, well at least there have never been any reports of an ice age coffee house ever being found, though without doubt it would have been the freshest coffee around had there been one. (freezing coffee keeps it fresher for longer… trust me it works).

I don’t remember there being mention of Noah taking a fine supply of coffee onto the Ark either, though I’m sure after a day or two of non stop rain he was wishing for something similar.  heck I bet given the chance Starbucks would have opened up a shop on the ark, just what every ocean going liner with no timetable or destination in mind should have.

Anyway I digress somewhat and have no doubt offended a few people.

My point and purpose for this post is to introduce you to some dainty little facts about the history of coffee.

Where did it all begin?  Aparently with a goatsherd who noticed that hit goats were very jumpy one night and just wouldn’t sleep, when he investigated he found that they had eaten from a strange bush with red berries on them, upon closer inspection he found that the berry had a bean inside it.  This my friends was the discovery of coffee.
Honestly it is!… well it’s common legend anyhow and you can read a more acurate acount of that over on the Roast and Post Coffee site

During the 17th and 18th Centuries there were more coffee shops in London than there are today aparently.  Which means that Starbucks missed a trick.  Either that or they have invented time travel.

It was the coffeehouses of England that started the custom of tipping waiters and waitresses. People who wanted good service and better seating would put some money in a tin labelled “To Insure Prompt Service” – hence “TIPS”.

Coffee shops were once called ‘penny universities’.  It was said that a man could learn more from the coffee house than he could from reading his books from a whole month.  I guess it’s true, if you ever sat in a Starbucks on your own (yeh I know…) well you can overhear loads of cool stuff. Oh and coffee used to cost a penny, hence ‘penny universities’ 🙂

Some of the coffee houses in London became very well known with different groups of workers and soon became the kingpins around which the capital’s social, political and commercial life revolved. Jonathan’s Coffee House in Change Alley was where stockbrokers usually met – it eventually became the London Stock Exchange. Likewise, ship owners and marine insurance brokers visited Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House in Lombard Street – it too moved on and up in the world and became the centre of world insurance and the headquarters of Lloyds of London.

And Finaly for this post:

Johann Sebastian Bach composed his “Kafee-Kantate” or Coffee Cantata in 1732. Partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile), the cantata includes the aria “Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have coffee…”

Here! here!  Bravo Johan! Bravo!

I shamelessly took these facts from the awesome material available on the Roast and Post Coffee Company website Thanks to all the folks over there, great coffee, great service and education to boot.

Roast & Post Coffee Update.

Posted in Caffeine on January 12, 2007 by Shaun

I promised that I would update you on the Roast and Post coffee order when it arrived… And so it has.

The folks over at the Roast & Post Coffee Co. have informed me that normal service has resumed after their troubles caused by the electrical storms over Christmas, so orders shouldn’t see any delay.

My first batch turned up yesterday via City Link courier and was roasted and packed on Wednesday. The coffee comes in plain silver bags, the plastic kind that you normally get beans in from the supermarket, with a roast & post label on the front that has all their coffees on and a box so the packer can put a check in the relevant box to show what was packed into it.

Two packs went straight into stasis while the Mexican medium roast beans were immediately packed into my airtight containers and a portion was brewed so I could give an honest assessment 🙂
The beans smell great, difficult to describe but you could most definitely smell the freshness. Ground to perfection to just under medium grind on a burr grinder, even more aroma escapes and already the caffeine receptors were getting a hit. This bean grinds to a pale brown almost tan colour, and has a very rich but not overpowering coffee aroma. I managed to guess the quantity perfectly for the first brew which is always a good sign. The brewed coffee gives off the perfect aroma for anyone selling a house 😉

This is a medium coffee so it’s not too overpowering, there’s an immediate burst of flavour when you take a sip, that gets the tastebuds tingling, I’m not all that good at the whole ‘suggestions of toffee with a buttercream undertow’ kind of thing so I’ll keep it simple. No bitter aftertaste, it leaves a clean pleasant flavour in the mouth after drinking that doesn’t get you reaching for a glass of water to wash it down.

For my tastes this is a sophisticated coffee and I much recommend it.

As far as the whole roast and post experience goes, I score it as:
Coffee Choice: 5
Order Process: 5
Speed of order: 5
Quality of Coffee on receipt: 5

(max available score = 5)

There is plenty of information about each coffee on the site, plenty of variety, and fair pricing. Free delivery is a bonus and I know no other company that will roast the beans to order and ship the same day so you get them the day after roasting.

Green beans can be ordered also and they have different varieties on offer, they also sell a home roasting machine with a 150g capacity for £135 – I am not that familiar with the equipment so can’t say if it’s a great value offer or not but it’s the cheapest home roaster I have ever seen and if the quality and level of expertise demonstrated by the company is anything to go by I would say it’s a sure bet that it is ‘fit for purpose’.

I think the only improvements would be to offer a guest coffee (once every 3 months maybe to make it viable maybe?) and to offer a loyalty scheme where regular customers can notch up points for a discount.

I heartily recommend them and look forward to ordering all my coffee from them in the future.

coffee of the day: Mexican medium roast. Caffeine index: 7/10 (plenty of flavour easy on the caffeine)

Found some new Coffee…

Posted in Caffeine on January 6, 2007 by Shaun

I found another online shop for buying coffee and they stock some different coffee’s to the usual stocks found at Whittard.

Great name for a coffee seller, Roast and Post 🙂 Their site is functional and easy to navigate and their prices are very reasonable too.  Top that with free, yes free delivery and I recon you are on to a winner.  I placed my first order today, so I’ll report back on the full experience once the beans arrive.  The purchasing was clean and simple though with no hiccups at all and I’m using IE 7 which can sometimes cause a site to freak out.

They have quite a range of coffee’s on offer, and for my first order I chose three from the Origin coffee range.

Guatemalan Huehuetenango

Grown at 3,500 – 6,500 feet in the Central Cordillera. The calcareous soil and high humidity combine to produce a top quality coffee. This is a fragrant coffee, very aromatic with good body and acidity.

Mexican Medium Roast

From the Chiapas region on the Guatemala border this coffee has been processed to a very high quality and produces a soft acidity with a full body.

Celebes Kalossi Toraja

Grown on the Rante Karua mountain range in S.W. Sulawesi. Although the plantation was planted 100 years ago, it was lost to the jungle and rediscovered in 1986. The trees were replanted and the cultivation was developed for 5 years to produce the unique, smooth taste of this coffee. The beans are hand picked and sun dried. The coffee produces a heavy smooth liquor and a rich flavour.

I didn’t apply any real science to choosing these coffee’s, I started with a coffee from Guatemala, simply because I have had a few different ones from Guatemala and have liked them all very much indeed.  This is a new one so it’s a pretty safe option for me. 
Then I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico, I plan a trip with my wife in a couple of years, so a Mexican coffee was too good to pass up, especially since I have never heard of Mexican coffee before.
I chose my third coffee firstly on the name and then because of the story behind the plantation, it’s a milder roast that I would normally choose being only a 2 compared to the 4 of the darker Guatemala bean.  But it comes in at 9 for flavour and sounds too good to miss.

Because I bought 3 bags I got a 10% discount and my total order came in at just under £30.  If you have ever bought 1500 grammes of coffee before I’m sure you will agree that for uncommon beans, that’s a pretty good price.

Oh! did I mention it was free postage 🙂

Of course I get nothing at all in return for recommending this supplier as I’m not affiliated at all, nor do I get a bigger discount, I just want to pass on a good supplier when I find one so that you can enjoy great coffee too.

Remember: Better Coffee is Better Code 😉

Roast & Post Logo

The holy grail of coffee?

Posted in Caffeine on January 3, 2007 by Shaun

What exactly is the Holy grail of Coffee?

I’m sure there is no one answer to that what with everyone on the planet having their own individual tastes and preferences but I found an interesting article on Wired.com by Lore Sjoberg, in which he introduces some futuristic ideas of what brewing your own coffee might entail in the future, and the high tech gadgets that aim to give you the best coffee money (credits?) can buy!

Costa v Starbucks

Posted in Caffeine on December 15, 2006 by Shaun

In an attempt to ensure I maintain a decent Caffeine related presence on this blog I’ve decided I’ll include a Caffeine induced posting every Friday.

This week I’m going to kick the whole thing off by joining in the debate of Costa vs Starbucks.

My personal standpoint is that Starbucks is by far the better coffee lovers coffee shop, the reasons for this are pretty straightforward.

  • Starbucks have a better choice of coffee on offer
  • Starbucks staff know a lot about coffee

In addressing my first point:
I went into the local Costa store that opened here the other day and if you order a coffee then you have no choice in the coffee you get, it’s Costa coffee (self roasted) or Costa coffee. Now, this approach is fine if you are just looking for a coffee and don’t want too much by way of choice. If however, like me, you prefer a bit of variety and like to try coffee from around the world, challenge the tastebuds and discover something new then Starbucks is the place.

They always have two different filtered coffee on, one is usually the default Fair trade coffee which is very nice. Then of course there is their mix of the usual cappuccino, mocha etc…

I particularly enjoy the seasonal choices which I must also say are better than Costa. A 4 shot Egg Nogg Laté is my tipple of choice in the season of goodwill, Costa’s Spiced Gingerbread Laté I’ve not yet mastered, even with 4 shots it seems too weak.

One thing I have noticed about Costa, and this is a big improvement, is that they seem to have stopped cremating the beans and have improved the roasting.

Starbucks do appear to have a good training program in place for their staff too, next time you visit a store look for the barista with the black apron, those are the coffee experts. It’s their job to know about the coffee, if there is a new one in store they should know what it tastes like and can recommend one to suit you. I admit I don’t know about Costa’s policy but I can’t imagine that it’s anywhere near as good as there’s only one coffee, hell they probably know it well though ;0)

For me it has to be Starbucks hands down simply because of the Community spirit in the stores I visit & the choice of coffee from around the world. They fit with my adventurous side, I always buy the guest coffee and coffee of the month from Whittards, I always try the new ale in the local pub and look out for new stuff in the supermarkets, and I always try the different coffee at Starbucks.