Three cheers for our Kiwi wonderboy Paul. He’s outdone himself with this one.
Here are some of the highlights:
First up, a nod to the Israeli breakfast staple ‘Shakshuka’ – two eggs lightly poached in a delicious tomato and spiced bull’s horn pepper sauce. It’s topped with ‘Charmoula’, a North African herb paste with lime, coriander, mint and about a dozen other herbs and spices. It also comes with a piece of sourdough to scoop up any leftover sauce and some garlic yoghurt. We’ll be serving up the Shakshuka for breakfast and lunch.
Ever craved Caesar Salad for breakfast? Neither have we, but we still managed to take some inspiration from the classic salad and create ‘Caesar’s Breakfast’. It’s got poached eggs, balsamic roasted mushrooms, roasted beans, prosciutto, tomato, rocket, parmesan and croutons.
From the wild prairies of El Paso comes the southern specialty ‘Texan Eggs’. It’s got Paul’s signature chili con carne, poached eggs and a tomato and coriander salsa. For three bucks, you can get some avocado on there too.
And for those of you with the morning sweet tooth, you can’t go past the ‘breakfast crumble’. Delicious layers of poached apricot, boysenberries, caramelised hazelnuts, an almond and coconut crumble and yoghurt. Drool…
“Do you know what they call a quarter pounder in France?” That’s right, we’ve brought the ‘Royale with cheese’ down under. Served on a delectable croissant-dough bun, it has got a patty made from mince freshly ground in-store, tomato, pickles, Swiss cheese and a special sauce. “Mmmm…. that IS a tasty burger!”
If you’re looking for something a bit healthier and more wholesome, look no further than the ‘broad bean and fetta bruschetta’. A perfect summertime combo of oxheart tomato, feta and mint is put atop of a broad bean and garlic puree that has been slathered onto sourdough.
There’s no better way to demonstrate your sophistication and good taste than by ordering a ‘paté board’, with a delicious duck liver paté, aged cheddar, house pickles, greens, house mustard and a pear, apple and pumpkin chutney.
The ‘roast chicken salad’ has had a summer makeover. We’re roasting the chicken in thyme and white wine and tossing it with some fresh fennel, roasted beetroot, tomato, beans, greens and finishing with a mustard vinaigrette.
You’ve got three months to devour your way through this menu. Get into it!
Mecca is on the hunt for a switched on, motivated individual to work full time at our roastery in packing and despatch. The job will be centred around fulfilment of wholesale orders, and for the right candidate could also lead to involvement in the roasting process in the longer term.
Duties will include -
- Processing, Packing and Despatching Wholesale Coffee Orders
- Liaising With Wholesale Customers When Required
- Packaging Roasted Coffee
- Maintaining Warehouse Space
- Preparing Daily QC Cupping Sessions
Training will be provided where necessary however the candidate will need to demonstrate good attention to detail and mindfulness. This is a great opportunity for somebody wishing to make a start in the coffee industry. To apply, simply submit the following form.
I recently caught up with Raul during his recent whirlwind tour of Melbourne and Sydney. Along with his father Henio, Raul operates one of the most well regarded coffee farms in Guatemala. Meeting the man behind the coffee was a true pleasure. Raul is incredibly passionate about producing delicious, interesting coffees and in the interview he talks at length about what it takes at the farm and processing level to achieve top quality.
You can listen to our conversation here
We are in the process of designing and writing a coffee quarterly. It is going to be full of articles about coffee – how to brew it, where it comes from and where to get it – as well as barista profiles, café guides and the odd recipe.
We’ve decided to run a competition, Name This Newspaper. For the next two weeks (until December 5) you can submit any ideas you have for a good coffee newspaper name here via email, or use the twitter hashtag #namethisnewspaper. As well as taking the title (no pun intended), the best submission will win an Aeropress and a bag of beans!
Following on from the interview with Francisco Mena from Exclusive Coffees, we’re featuring one of the standout lots that we acquired with Francisco’s help – the Santa Rosa. This coffee jumped off the coffee table when Paul cupped it at origin, and luckily it made through the long and perilous journey to Sydney with it’s character intact.
We bought two lots from the Santa Rosa mill, an AA and AAA. The amount of A’s refers to the size of the beans. At the moment, we’re roasting up the AAA big boys.
We’re not big fans of stereotyping origins , but if pressed, we’d say Costa Rican coffees behave kind of like a good rhythm section in a band. Thanks to Costa Rica’s progressive agronomical and processing practices, the coffees tend to be super clean. Great Costa Ricans coffees have a tight, integrated structure which gives the coffees a remarkable sense of balance and poise. But you don’t often hear them shredding solos. They can deliver delicious, sweet, refined cups, but without the extroverted personality that origins like Kenya and Ethiopia are renowned for.
The Santa Rosa AAA has that characteristic Costa Rican elegance; It’s got a pleasantly soft, rounded acidity, a silky, light bodied mouthfeel and a long cocoa finish. But it’s also more expressive than you’d expect. Plenty of florals, with a complex acid backbone that jumps from green grape to stonefruit.
The coffee is the product of a very small operation – just five families – in the remote rural town of Santa Rosa de Leon Cortes in the Tarrazu region. The cherries come from Finca (farm) de Macho, and are processed at the Santa Rosa Micromill. The Santa Rosa’s unique personality can be attributed in part to the altitude of the farm, which at 1900m above sea level is unusually high by Costa Rican standards. The low atmospheric pressure and cooler temperatures at this altitude slow down the coffee shrub’s ability to photosynthesise, which causes the cherries to ripen very slowly. When this happens, the concentration of sugar and overall intensity over flavour increases.
This special coffee will be making appearances both as filter and as espresso. Grab a cup before we run out!
I was delighted to be able to chat with Francisco Mena a couple of weeks ago . He is the super-knowledgable and passionate co-owner of Exclusive Coffees, a Costa Rican coffee exporting company that work intimately with the farmers that they buy from. They help farmers raise quality by coaching them on new agronomical practices, and they also give a helping hand on the business front by providing financial assistance and planning. They had a pivotal role in the micro-mill revolution of Costa Rica, which has since become a model for other coffee producing countries.
You’d be hard pressed finding a better advocate for specialty coffee than Francisco. Although our conversation focuses on the history and culture of coffee production in Costa Rica, Francisco touches on a lot of ideas and thoughts on coffee that us coffee lovers have in common. It’s fascinating to hear these thoughts so well expressed from the producer’s point of view.
Without any more rambling, here’s the interview:
It’s springtime, and in coffee-land this means new coffees, and lots of em. All those coffees that we purchased back in the beginning of the year have now been processed, have undergone reposo (resting), were shipped, quarantined, and then dumped on the warehouse doorstep.
This season, the bounty comes from Central America. First to land were the Costa Ricans. Some, like the Helsar de Zarcero (Tri from CQ’s NSW Barista Championships winning coffee ) are old friends. But most of the ten lots are coffees we’ve bought for the first time. Our preliminary cuppings have yielded some pretty damn exciting results. There will be much more information about these coffees coming through in the coming weeks.
Next to land were some lots sourced from Antigua in Guatemala, with the help of Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora, owner of the Bella Vista wet and dry mill and several coffee farms in the local area. There are some really rich, juicy and complex coffees among these. The Guatemalans have a distinctly different personality from the Costas, even though they share some of the same varietals such as Caturra and Catuai.
The icing on the cake has been the much anticipated landing of the El Salvadorian coffees from Cup of Excellence and World Barista Championship winning coffee producer extraordinaire, Ernesto Menendez. Some of his selections provided us with many of our coffee highlights of last year – the butterscotch and lemoncurd-like Grand Reserve, the Las Brumas Pacamara with it’s incredible body and complex stone fruit driven acidity, and the clean but bombastic Ernesto natural. We’ve got all of these again, plus some very interesting new additions, including a lot from Finca Los Andes which is 100% SL28 – the prized Kenyan varietal.
We’ll be posting more interesting information about all of these coffees when they’re ready for production.
Coming up – interview with Costa Rican coffee superstar, super nice guy and part owner of Exclusive Coffees Francisco Mena.
We have finally finished counting the coins from our Ethiopia Week collection jars and we are happy to announce we raised $1540 through our stores, including Mecca’s contribution. Our most successful fundraiser was our King St store, followed by Ultimo then CQ. Thank you so much to all of you who contributed.
With the generous donation of $2000 from our friends at Qantas Helping Hands Communities the total from Ethiopia Week stands at $3540. Although this is short of our target, we will still be able to send just under 60 farmers to a one-year agronomy course run by Technoserve.
We had a great time raising money for such a worthy cause and at the same time having the opportunity to share some of the back story from the wonderful coffees we source. We look forward to doing something similar in the future.
We are on the lookout for passionate coffee people to join the award winning team at Mecca Espresso. We have a number of positions available at varying levels, with the only requirement being a deep interest and enthusiasm for specialty coffee.
So whether you are a home enthusiast looking to go pro, or a seasoned professional who is looking to further their skills we have positions that suit. The successful applicant will have the benefit of working for a company that operates from “Seed to Cup” and will receive access to Mecca’s internal training and education programs.
Candidates would need to be able to commit to full-time hours, to express your interest or to find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the last week of September, we’ll be celebrating the wonderful coffee-producing nation of Ethiopia. We’ll be serving up a delicious selection of Ethiopian coffees, while raising money for an excellent cause.
In western Ethiopia, Technoserve (an NGO) is helping coffee communities begin a transformation. Instead of treating coffee as just another commodity like maize or corn, farmers are refocusing their energy towards producing higher quality coffee that demands higher prices. This is a powerful and sustainable way to pull communities out of poverty.
We encourage you to try one of the Ethiopian coffees that we will be featuring during the week, if you want to support our efforts you can throw some loose change into our collection jars (this will be matched dollar-for-dollar by us). We will also be donating $2 from each bag of Ethiopian coffee sold during the week. All funds will go to Technoserve to continue their invaluable work.
If we can reach our target of $5000, we can help send 75 farmers through a two-year agronomy course where they will learn how to improve the quality of their coffee. Our fundraising was kicked off with a generous donation of $2000 from our friends at Qantas Helping Hands Community so we are well on our way.
For these communities, better quality coffee = better quality life.
As far as we’re concerned, no other coffee producing country is as exciting as Ethiopia. Even though coffee has been harvested throughout Ethiopia for centuries, we’ve only glimpsed the tiniest fraction of the region’s potential.
Ethiopia is the original origin of coffee. It’s the place where the apocryphal tale of Kaldi, the goat that munched on a bunch of coffee grapes and surprised his herder by breaking into a dance, was born. Coffee grows in wild abundance throughout the Ethiopian rain forests. In some places it gets harvested by native tribesmen. Ethiopia is the only coffee-growing region in the world that boasts exclusively heirloom varieties of coffee – thousands of which are yet to be classified. When you drink Ethiopian coffee, you’re tasting varieties of arabica that evolved in that specific area where the coffee was grown.
The coffee exportation trade from Ethiopia has been marred by corruption and opportunism. Coffee would get sold as contraband to other African states and abroad, creating easy profits for traders and damaging the economy in the process. This forced the government’s hand to introduce tight trade sanctions and in 2008, they passed a law that forced all coffee exports through the convoluted bureaucracy that is the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX).
While the ECX did help rein in corruption, it also completely ostracised the specialty coffee market. By the time a coffee passed through the ECX, it would be stripped of all details of its provenance and left only with a generic label of its region – like Sidamo, or Harrar – and a grade of 1 to 5.
These new regulation completely wiped out coffee traceability. Whatever exemplary coffees were produced in a given harvest would inevitably get bundled with lesser coffees from the region, to be sold essentially as clean-skins.
Fortunately there is an alternative for us to purchase coffee outside the ECX. Through cooperative unions, who act as arbiters between us (the buyer) and the cooperatives, we are able to deal directly with the people who grow the coffee we buy. This newfound trade freedom means that producers who are producing coffee of exceptional character are being rewarded with higher prices.
A Helping Hand
For a farmer to sell high quality coffee to a buyer who will reward him for it is one thing; finding the resources to produce coffee that good is another. This is where organisations like Technoserve enter the picture.
Technoserve is an NGO largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. They work extensively in east Africa and Latin America helping farmers and their communities lift themselves out of poverty in quite a unique way. Instead of simply providing donations, Technoserve teaches farmers how to make their coffees better quality, and therefore, more profitable. They work on the ground with cooperatives, assisting them with everything from training to accessing finance to building wet mills.
So Fresh, So Clean
Technoserve have been encouraging farmers to stop naturally processing their coffee, moving them towards producing the less risky and more valuable alternative – washed coffee. This is one of the most exciting aspects of their work in Ethiopia for us. Whether you love or hate natural coffees, there’s two things that cannot be denied: Firstly, it’s risky for the farmer to produce. As the coffees are drying in the sun, the sugars in the fruit ferment, and if this fermentation gets out of hand – and it easily can – the whole batch can become spoiled. Secondly, those trademark boozy, sweet, fermented qualities of even the best naturals crowd out the delicate flavours that make the coffee unique. When you’re dealing with coffees that have great personality, you don’t want to smother it with flavours created by natural processing. If you’ve got a fine single malt, you wouldn’t make a whisky sour out of it. We look at natural processing the same way. We do enjoy having well prepped naturals on board – nothing stands out on a cupping table like a natural prepped fruit bomb – but it’s not our focus.
This year, we bought five coffees through cooperative unions in Ethiopia. Four of these – Duromina, Nanno Challa, Yukuro and Sota – were from Technoserve supported cooperatives in Jimma. After we purchased coffee from Duromina, it won the coveted ‘Best of Africa’ competition. Learn more about these excellent coffees in our web store. We also bought a coffee from Hamacho Waeno cooperative in Sidamo, that was processed at a dizzying 2300m above sea level. It’s the highest wet mill in all Sidamo.
All these delicious and unique coffees are on rotation now. Check out our web store to see what you can snatch up now.
Some of the finest coffees coming out of Kenya this season have originated from a mill in the coffee growing district of Nyeri, in the foothills of Mt Kenya. It’s an area that we have bought a number of exceptional coffees from over the last few years.
This year we chose to source coffee from the Karagoto Mill, which is one of three mills owned by the Tekangu cooperative. The name Tekangu is actually an acronym of those three mills: Tegu, Karagoto and Ngungruru.
The surrounding area still has many rivers and wetlands that are still in a natural state, and that are home to an abundance of wildlife. Much of the coffee in the area is shade grown, meaning that farmers will plant different native trees and plants in between the coffee shrubs. This is a very effective technique for helping to maintain soil quality, and it also provides a habitat for the region’s native flora and fauna. This includes snakes and deer, a wide variety of birds and a number of indigenous plant species.
There are over 800 local farmers that have their coffee processed through the Karagoto Mill. These farmers own small plots of land that range in size between a quarter and two acres that sit up at an elevation of around 1700m and grow mainly the varieties SL28 and SL34. After the coffee has been harvested, it is taken on the same day from the farm to the mill for processing. All the coffee is sun, and not machine dried.
Part of what makes the coffees coming out of this mill of such a high quality it their highly developed systems for quality control. Farmers get visited by a ‘field supervisory committee’ who assess their agricultural practices and educate them on how to produce the best coffee possible. There’s even a demonstration crop at the factory for training.
The AB is more subdued, with a delicate berry tea like aroma mixed with a bit of spice, finishing with sweet, stewed rhubarb.
This coffee is currently in the rotation of coffees that we are roasting. Check out our webstore to see if we are roasting it this week.
The Sasuri Cooperative society operates in the far west of Kenya, right by the Ugandan border that is flanked by Mt Elgon. Coffee has been grown in this western region for decades, but unlike their counterparts to the east, they have not prospered. About 30 years ago coffee prices in Kenya hit an all time low, and suddenly, coffee was no longer a viable crop. Farms were abandoned and crops were replaced with more consistent commodities like maize, corn and potato. Whatever coffee was still being harvested during this time was smuggled across the Ugandan border, to be sold as Ugandan coffee for a low price. This coffee was not grown as a specialty product, but rather as just another commodity crop.
In recent years, Kenyan coffees have been consistently been fetching record prices. This has meant that there is once again incentive for farmers to reintroduce coffee as a primary crop. But if these coffees are to compete in quality and price with those of Nyeri and other eastern regions, there needs to be a philosophical shift. Farmers must stop growing coffee laissez-faire, and instead, strive for quality. In order for this to happen, the farmers need to become educated on how to farm in a more meticulous and productive manner.
This is where the Sasuri Cooperative society, established only a couple of years ago, comes into the picture. The cooperative took over a mill that was built in 1963. Now there are over 2000 members, most of which are farmers on farms of only one to two hectares. The cooperative is built on the audacious idea that working together as a community, they will be able to rebuild the dilapidated farms, re-train farmers, and improve the coffee processing until they are producing Kenyan coffee of the highest standard. In Kenya, the motto of coffee producers is better quality = better price. The members of Sasuri are chasing this goal with great vigour.
But there are challenges. In order to produce a sufficient yield the farmers need fertilizers. But many of the farms haven’t seen any fertilizers since the 1970’s, and fertilizer is expensive. The processing equipment is old and requires upgrades. And then there is the challenge of unifying the local farmers, trying to encourage them to invest in themselves so it will be possible to produce greater quality coffee in the future. Sasuri are being helped by management consultants CMS, among others, but they still lack the capital they need to be able to invest in all the equipment and training they need.
Despite all this, Sasuri have already begun following the right trajectory towards improvement with great determination. The cooperative have organised field days for the farmers, open days where farmers can come and ask questions and be trained, and they have a farmer training program that is run at the mill.
This year, when Paul and Tim Wendelboe travelled into Western Kenya to meet with Sasuri, they were quite literally the first foreign coffee buyers to ever have visited. We purchased the finest lot of Sasuri AA that was cupped on site, for a price similar to that of a fine eastern Kenyan. It is very exciting for us to begin this relationship with a cooperative of such great potential, who are doing such positive work in the region.
Our Sasuri lot shows Great complexity, with zesty lemon and lime, some berries and dark chocolate.
This coffee has landed and is in the rotation of coffees that we are roasting. Check out our webstore to see if we are roasting it this week.
We are currently on the hunt for a Warehouse Assistant for our coffee roastery. This position would suit someone motivated, self-sufficient, and switched-on who is interested in working as part of an award winning team.
Tasks include -
- Processing, Packing and Despatching Wholesale Coffee Orders
- Liaising With Wholesale Customers When Required
- Packaging Roasted Coffee
- Maintaining Warehouse Space
- Preparing Daily QC Cupping Sessions
- Work Autonomously
- Assist in Implementing Improved Workflow Systems
Register your interest on this following web-form.
Now that our Kenyan coffee lots from the 2012 harvest have finally landed, it’s time to give them a little introduction.
The arrival of fresh coffees from Kenya is always an exciting time for us. Kenya is renowned for consistently producing some of the most complex and interesting coffees in the world, and accordingly, they are some of the most sought after and expensive.
Kenyan coffees are known to have a distinct blackcurrant-like flavour, although not all of our offerings this year follow this trend. In fact this year’s harvest has bucked many trends on the Kenyan front – the total output was over double the size of the previous year.
This unusually large harvest resulted in some rather unique expressions of Kenyan coffee. We still found the familiar traits of the classic Kenyan; winey, complex and rich, but others possessed more delicate acidity and that were more tea-like and subtle.
The quality of the coffee from Kenya is no coincidence. The coffees that we purchased this year were all grown at very high altitudes – 1700 to 2000m – on rich acidic, volcanic soil. Perfect conditions for coffee cherries to slowly ripen and develop superior acidity and structure.
The two main varieties of Arabica you will find in our Kenyan lots are SL28 or SL34. They thrive in Kenya’s unique coffee growing regions, and are rarely planted elsewhere. The ‘SL’ is an acronym of Scott Laboratories, who in the 1930’s, developed coffee strains for increased yields and disease resistance. It turns out that neither SL28 or SL34 give particularly high yields, but the flavour of the coffee that they produce is often exemplary. They are a crucial ingredient in the creation of the signature Kenyan flavour.
All of our Kenyan coffees were hand picked, and as part of the rigorous sorting and grading process, also hand sorted. At some farms, pickers are graded as ‘A’ or ‘B’ depending on how consistently they pick red, ripe cherries, and then are paid accordingly.
After the coffee cherries undergo a preliminary sorting they are de-pulped, leaving just the seed with just a layer of slimy mucilage. The next step is to break down the mucilage through a process of fermentation. Here, the Kenyans do things a bit differently. In other coffee producing nations, the de-pulped cherries are taken to a big tank and are left to ferment either in water or in their juices for 12-24 hours. In Kenya it is common for this process to take as long as 72 hours. In other countries, this would result in the coffee being over-fermented and spoiled, but thanks to a very stable environment there is little risk of over-fermentation. What these extended fermentations achieve is not known precisely, but it is hypothesised that it may contribute to both the coffees’ sweetness and fruity characteristics.
Another important piece of the puzzle behind the superior quality of Kenyan coffees lies in their trading systems. Coffees are sold by the ‘lot’ in an auction that takes place each week at the auction house of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) in central Nairobi. Each ‘lot’ of coffee consists of about ten to fifty bags that come from a designated zone. This system of lot division predates even the micro-milling revolution of Costa Rica.
Since this system has proven to be successful at properly rewarding producers of great coffee, there is more incentive for farmers to put in the effort and necessary investment required for producing top quality coffee.
This year, Paul travelled with Tim Wendelboe for the first time to a coffee growing region near Mt. Elgon in Western Kenya. This is an area that had been largely abandoned for thirty years. The coffee trees here grow completely unfertilised and are practically wild. Because of a lack of infrastructure, the few coffee farmers that persisted in the area often had to sell coffee illegally over the border to Uganda. With the help of exporter Dorman’s and farm management consultants CMS, the coffee producers of the region are now working towards re-establishing a sustainable coffee producing industry and producing coffees of the highest quality.
We purchased one lot from a cooperative in the region called Sasuri that is now in its second year of production. It will be exciting to see how these coffees from such a fledgling region evolve in coming years.
That’s it for our little journey into Kenya. We’ll be following up with some posts on the specific coffees that we’ve bought. Some of our Kenyan offerings are already roasted and ready, so check out our web store.
Once again, we’re going to be running weekly cuppings at our Ultimo store.
We’ll be tasting and comparing a variety of specialty coffees from around the world using the cupping process – the method used by coffee roasters and buyers to evaluate coffees.
It’s an opportunity to experience first hand the differences between coffees from origins such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Costa Rica and Panama, as well as how different coffee processing techniques and different varieties of Arabica affect flavour.
Cuppings are still also being held at the CQ store every Tuesday from 12:30pm – 1:30pm.
The cupping is free, and held every Wednesday from 12pm – 1pm.
To book, just Click here
As some of you know Aroma Festival will be running this Sunday in the Rocks Precinct. Over 100,000 people are once again expected to attend so we thought we’d take the opportunity to create a haven near by where you can sit back, relax and enjoy a slightly different coffee experience.
Our Circular Quay store, which is situated across the road from the madness in Goldfields House (cnr George and Alfred St), will be putting on the first ever* Coffee Yum Cha between 10am and 2pm on Sunday.
View Mecca Espresso – Circular Quay in a larger map
We will be rolling around with our Yum Cha trolley but instead of Dumplings and Pork Buns you will be able to enjoy a selection of our premium filter coffees such as Panama Esmeralada or Rwanda Nyakizu COE #3, as well as some tasty sweets. We will also be running an a la carte menu that will be featuring the Panama Esmeralda as Espresso.
The menu will feature Black Coffee only (there are plenty of milk based options at Aroma Festival) and in the spirit of Yum Cha we will be serving small servings to allow you to try the variety of coffees that we will have on offer.
So come on down and join in the fun.
*that we know of.
Tonight the coffee industry of Sydney gathered as the SMH Good Cafe Guide held its award ceremony for their 2012 edition.
Mecca Espresso was well represented picking up Best Boutique Roaster, 3 Cups for Mecca Ultimo and 2 Cups for it’s City stores. We were also pleased that some of our extended Mecca family were recognised with Cornersmith picking up 3 Cups and Local Hero Award. Room 10 received 2 Cups and Best Small Cafe whilst Shenkin and Sample Coffee received 2 Cups and 1 Cup respectively.
We were also pleased for our peers who picked up the major awards. Coffee Alchemy went back-to-back for Best Coffee and Reuben Hills took the crown from Ultimo for Sydney’s Best Cafe. Congratulations to them both.
All in all it is great to see our work, and that of the broader specialty coffee industry being recognised. We have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline and look forward to raising the bar again over the next 12 months.
Awards for Mecca Espresso and its customers:
Best Boutique Roaster
Local Hero Award
Cornersmith (314 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville)
Best Small Cafe
Room 10 (10 Lankelly Pl, Potts Point)
Mecca (646 Harris St, Ultimo)
Cornersmith (314 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville)
Mecca City (67 King St & 1 Alfred St, Sydney)
Room 10 (10 Lankelly Pl, Potts Point)
Shenkin (53 Erskinville Rd, Erskinville)
Sample (118 Devonshire St, Surry Hills)
Atelier De Velo, 156 Clarence St, Sydney
Kurtosh, 20b-c St Pauls St, The Spot
Essence, 148 Wycombe Rd, Neutral Bay
The baristas of Mecca Espresso cleaned up at last weekend’s Australasian Specialty Coffee Association’s (AASCA) NSW Detpak Barista Championships. With four of Mecca’s baristas placing in the top 10.
Congratulations to Trisatya Dharmawan of Mecca Circular Quay who took out first place, his colleague Bettina Kurth, also of Mecca Circular Quay, placed 5th as well as roasting Tri’s coffee. Baristas Iain McRae and Tuli Keidar, of Mecca Ultimo, placed 7th and 10th respectively.
The competition requires baristas to prepare a set (x4) of espressos, cappucinos and a signature beverage. Competitors performances are assessed by a panel of sensory judges, taking into account both taste and presentation, two additional judges assess the competitors’ technical skills.
The successes marks the end of many months preparation. Sam Sgambellone (Mecca Espresso) and Scottie Callahan (Belaroma and Australian Barista Champion 2010) initiated a weekly industry training session for would-be competitors at Mecca Ultimo. Together, competitors from Mecca Espresso as well as the likes of Belaroma, Wedge Espresso and Single Origin trained and rehearsed their presentations.
Following the NSW Detpak Barista Championship, AASCA held the NSW Cup Tasting Championships. Cupping competitors were presented with eight unmarked/blind sets of coffee to cup. Each set contains three coffees. Two of the three coffees are the same, the third is different. Competitors must determine the odd one out. Sometimes the difference is minimal, i.e. the coffees may be from the same region but different farms. The competitor who identifies the most coffees wins.
Sam Sgambellone of Mecca Espresso placed first winning the Cup Tasting Championship for the second year in a row. Preston Peachey, barista at Mecca Espresso Ultimo placed 2nd.
Trisatya Dharmawan and Sam Sgambellone will compete at the finals of the Australian Barista and Australian Cup Tasting Championships in Melbourne in May. The winners of the final round will then represent Australia at the World Barista Championships and World Cup Tasting Championships in Vienna Austria in June.
A big part of our working year is spent looking for great coffees with a focus in East Africa, Central and South America. When assessing a coffee, its not just its representation in the cup that counts. We look for coffees that are produced with a mindfulness and care for the local surroundings and that are grown and processed in socially and environmentally responsible ways. As much of our coffee as possible is purchased directly from farmers. We work hard to build strong relationships with the farmers and workers we deal with and this helps us understand their communities, farming systems, ethics and the coffees they sell to us. It ensures the quality of our product as we choose farmers who are committed to supporting their local community, great conditions for the people working their farm, sustainable and ethical farming systems and delivering the best coffee cherries possible.
A common question we are asked is whether or not our coffees are fair trade. The short answer is no. We know that the coffees we source are fairly traded. In our view the fair trade system has definitely been integral to raising awareness of poverty issues in coffee growing (and other) countries and has had a positive impact on many communities around the world. It is a system that we believe began with an intent to be fair and equitable across the coffee world (largely in reaction to multinationals buying large amounts of coffee at very low prices). However, there are a number of core problems with fair trade which are of concern to us.
Fair trade works by guaranteeing a base or “fair trade” price for goods, aiming to protect producers should the market price of the product fall below a certain level. The price is set annually by the International Fair Trade Foundation. In 2011, the fair trade minimum price for Arabica coffee reached $1.65 USD per pound. This base price is all well and good, but in our view the across the board pricing does not allow for any differentiation between economic conditions in participating countries – for example a coffee farmer in El Salvador may have a higher cost of production than in Ethiopia to survive – and in our dialogues with coffee growing families, it has become clear that the fair trade price is simply not enough to sustain them. There are also environmental and quality issues associated with fair trade. Fair trade does not provide farmers with any incentive to produce quality coffee in an environmentally friendly or sustainable way. The emphasis is on harvesting beans quickly and getting a sale across the line so that the fair trade dollar can be paid through to the farmer quickly. It doesn’t encourage development of better systems and long term investment to create a strong local coffee industry, attracting higher prices for the community. The result is an inconsistent and sometimes unsustainable product.
When we are purchasing coffees directly from farmers, we pay prices that are well above the fair trade price. We also have an ongoing dialogue with the farming community about how we can work with them to help them grow environmentally sound coffees, attract hire prices and secure a better life for their community. If we are not purchasing directly from farmers, we purchase coffees through the Cup of Excellence programme (COE). COE is an award system that introducers roasters to farms, encourages farmers to adhere to strict quality parameters and pays qualifying farmers well in excess of the fair trade price. Farmers submit their coffees for sampling and each coffee is given a score. The coffees that score above 84 gain entry into that country’s COE Auction (typically one auction per country per year) where opening bids are set at $4.00 USD per pound. The opening bid price is well in excess of the fair trade price. COE encourages coffee producers and their communities to strive for excellence, with significant resulting benefits. COE may be seen as a one off “win” for farmers, but we believe that the system encourages long-term sustainable relationships with farmers. As such, many of the producers we deal with were introduced to us through the COE system and we hope to continue working with them and their communities to ensure we can continue to present some of the best coffees in the world to our customers.
We will be holding the first ever NSW Barista Guild Competition Training Night at Mecca Espresso Ultimo on Tuesday 25th of October at 6pm. This will be the first night in an ongoing program whos primary aim is to guide and assist those who are interested in competing in the NSW Barista Competition, we are also open to those just wanting to come along to further their skills and knowledge. If you’ve ever had an interest in competing but never got around to it, come along and find out what its all about.
The program has been put together by Scottie Callaghan from Belaroma (Former Australian Barista Champion, 3rd Place at the World Barista Championship) and will include the following plus much more:
- Competition training/education
– Mock competition run throughs
– Cupping/sensory training
– Practice competitions
– Talking through score sheets
– Making coffees and judging them as a group using the score sheets
– Watching and reviewing previous champions on video.
The cost is only $10 per head, with all money going into the AASCA NSW coffers to help run the AASCA NSW coffee championships. The night will then continue every week rotating between Tuesday Nights at Mecca Ultimo and Thursday Nights at Belaroma in Manly Vale.
If you are interested in attending RSVP will be essential to email@example.com so we can make arrangements.
The target is to raise $3000 to replace the out of life oven in the kitchen at Don Bosco House, Marrickville in Sydney.
You can donate at any of our stores by placing your donation in one of the donation boxes provided. In light of the urgency of the sitiuation we are aiming to reach our target by Friday 21st October 2011. Your contribution will go directly towards the cause and help us reach our target and will go a long way to support the youth of Sydney.
Don Bosco House provides crisis and short term accommodation for young homeless people between the ages of 15-18. The refuge provides young people with a safe and supportive environment. Don Bosco House provides crisis and short termaccommodation for young homeless people betweenthe ages of 15-18. The refuge provides young peoplewith a safe and supportive environment. The kitchen facilities at Don Bosco house are used to prepare lunch and dinner for the residents. It is also used to prepare means for the food van that goes out every night of the year in Sydney to Green Park and Darlinghurst.
Youth Off The Streets supports homeless and drug addicted young Australians as they work to turn their lives around. The goal is to have these young people leave the care of YOTS drug free, with a high school education, living skills and a full or part time job in hand. Based on the philosophy that every young person has greatness within, these programs are non-denominational and non-discriminatory.
For more information regarding this project or to learn how to contribute directly, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Don Bosco House, or Youth Off The Streets visit http://www.youthoffthestreets.com.au.
Mecca Espresso and QHHC would like to thank you for your support.