• Ethiopia,  The Bean

    Catching the Lion

    There is an Amharic phrase that says: ‘Spiders webs joined together can catch a lion.’ It is fitting for a culture that still predominantly works to the principles of collectivism rather than the pursuit of personal gain. The tradition of co-operative working has deep roots in Ethiopian society, primarily to address rural challenges such as maintaining food security. In a country where the failure of the seasonal rains can literally mean the difference between food on the table or an empty stomach, collective action is the means by which communities are sustained through hard times. This mode of living starts, above all else, with the family unit. At the invitation…

  • Ethiopia,  The Bean,  The Bike

    Tour de Ethiopique

    When the day of departure finally came, the early morning sun was shining brightly in a big, blue African sky without a threatening storm cloud in sight – the first time in a month. A sign that Kareumt (the long rainy season from June – September) was finally coming to an end as the warm rays bathed the Friary garden with the promise of an Ethiopian spring. After bidding farewell to the Brothers over a simple breakfast of honey and bread, washed down with copious amounts of freshly prepared coffee, I took a deep breath and started to turn my wheels once more. If the truth be told, I had…

  • Ethiopia,  The Bean

    A Family Affair

    Eleven years ago, a man with a visionary idea walked into the Government office of Ato Tadele Dargie to seek his advice. The idea was so bold, so ambitious, that Tadele was prepared to do everything he could do to help turn this idea into reality. Many years of little contact passed between the two men after their encounter on that auspicious day. Then, early one morning, Tadele received an unexpected phone call. He knew exactly what was being asked of him when the voice at the other end of the line said the words: ‘The day has arrived, I need you now’. That man was Ato Tadesse Meskela. Fast…

  • Ethiopia,  The Bean

    Let the Cupping Commence

    An inviting aromatic smell of freshly roasted beans was our cue to enter the laboratory. The air of anticipation was almost palpable as we reverently filed into the spotlessly clean room. To one end stood a German manufactured Probat double chambered micro roaster elegantly fashioned out of copper and steel that continued to radiate heat from the morning’s batch. Two beady eyes in the form of analogue temperature gauges perched on top gazed out over the proceedings that were about to take place. Heading up the investigation team, Coffee Quality Section Head and expert Licensed Grader (cupper), Ato Tilahun Mekonen, assumed the air of a seasoned detective looking for the…

  • The Bean,  Turkey

    On the Coffee Trail to Constantinople

    I like taking detours. It’s the liberating, unscripted sense of seizing the moment and flying in the face of a predetermined itinerary. After all, I’ve committed myself to follow the bean wherever it will take me and this was to be no exception… So when I took the short boat trip from Europe (Lesvos, Greece) to Asia Minor (Ayvalik, Turkey), my original plan was to push on south to the Mediterranean coast; until I reached the historic town of Bergama – or Pergamon as it was known in Ancient Greece – that is. Waking up at daybreak in a campsite-come-car-park to the sound of the call to prayer rising from…

  • The Bean,  Water Aid

    Water is Life

    Let’s face it, coffee is a thirsty business. Along with cocoa, cotton, palm oil, soya, maize and rice, coffee is one of the most water-intensive commodities traded globally today. The huge amounts of water required to ‘de-pulp’ the coffee berry depends heavily on the specific washing process employed after the harvesting of the fruit. The wet fully washed processing method, widely preferred to prepare the coffee Arabica bean for export, is the most intensive by far. Although washing techniques have improved over the years with greater use of water reuse, up to one to six cubic metres per tonne of fresh coffee cherry is still needed. Without reuse, nearly a…

  • The Bean

    Brewing up the Perfect Storm

    The price of coffee is soaring. When you consider that coffee is second in value only to oil as a source of foreign exchange in terms of world trade and provides employment for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, the ramifications on a domestic and global scale are huge. In the past eight months alone, the cost of high-quality washed Arabica beans has increased by more than 80 percent on the London and New York exchanges, representing a 13-year high. Unpredictable weather patterns and a fragile supply/demand balance are largely cited as being responsible for this surge. Colombia, the world’s second largest producer of hand-picked Arabica beans after Brazil, has…

  • A Field Guide to Coffee Bars in Barcelona,  Spain,  The Bean

    A Shining Light for Generations of Coffee Lovers

    Cafés El Magnífico Location: Carrer de l’Argenteria Beans on the Menu: More than forty different varieties and blends worldwide to suit the most discerning of palettes plus a wide variety of speciality tea Crutch Compatibility: Sins muletas, con cojera (without crutches, with limp) Caffeine delivery method: Freshly roasted Tunki filter coffee. Also purchased: 250g Espresso Virtuoso Mezcla (Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, India), 250g Ethiopian Harrar Boldgrain Hit to the wallet: €10,50 Music Playing: No jukebox required Website: www.cafeselmagnifico.com Señor Salvador Sans is a fast-talking Catalan who is serious about coffee. You could say that it runs through the veins. Well it certainly has been running in the bloodline for generations since…

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  • The Bean

    Caffeine on the Brain

    It is estimated that more than two billion cups of coffee worldwide are drank everyday. Add the delightfully restorative drink ‘tea’ into the equation and no other mood-altering stimulant is consumed on such a potentially global jitter-inducing scale. So, what exactly is caffeine? Firstly, caffeine comes from an organic family of nitrogenous compounds called xanthine alkaloids that, when consumed, give rise to marked physiological – and psychoactive – effects on the human body. Other sources known to contain this powerful compound include the Gurana berry, Cocao bean, Kola nut, Yaupon Holly tree, and South American Yerba mate, amongst many others (so far, up to 60 plants are known to contain…

  • The Bean

    The Science (and Art) of Roasting Coffee

    It is said that coffee roasting is ‘part science, part art, and part magic.’ This indeed is true. In fact, the science involved in the process of roasting coffee beans is nothing short of astonishing. Witnessing the process for the very first time, this is my personal account of what happens. Now, I do have a confession to make. In no way do I claim to be knowledgeable or experienced in this fascinating field (far from it) but the following description is a humble attempt to record my observations and what I have learned so far. So here goes… “It takes 400 man hours for every pound of unroasted beans…