Drink Different: An Intro to Specialty Coffee

Is there a match more perfect together than mornings and coffee? Hmm, a cold Saturday morning and specialty coffee, perhaps? 🙂

What a pretty poster
What a pretty poster

Yesterday I attended the class Drink Different: An Intro to Specialty Coffee organized by the wonderful people of Jiro Coffee, the same creative geniuses behind Quriocity and WorldRoom. It was a fun learning session headed by coffee guru Andre Chanco of Yardstick Coffee.

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He's like the Erwan Heussaff of coffee
He’s like the Erwan Heussaff of coffee

Specialty coffee is among the biggest buzzwords in the caffeine industry in the past couple of years. But what is it really? I learned from our class that only arabica beans can be made into specialty coffee and that specialty coffee is often referred to as the third wave of coffee. Here’s a bit of coffee history, ride the wave with me?

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1st wave – Recognizing its functionality (read: the need for caffeine), coffee was made more accessible to people (i.e., instant coffee and 3-in-1 coffee packs)

2nd wave – Drinking coffee is no longer just about the caffeine fix; it has evolved into a lifestyle. Enter Starbucks and coffee shops with warm dim lights, relaxing music and overall cozy atmosphere.

3rd wave – From being a lifestyle, coffee is now experienced differently. More importance is given to quality and the coffee itself – not the lights, music and scenery – takes center stage. (Or at least that’s how I understood it. Hehe.)

Specialty coffee also recognizes that geography and climate affects flavor of coffee beans. In simpler terms, people normally describe specialty coffee as having just the right combination of sweetness and acidity. I think maybe specialty coffee is the epitome of bittersweet?

And how we have come to the next question: What makes specialty coffee, um, special? Here are 14 points from Andre:

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Quality is never compromised. Only the ripest coffee cherries are harvested, handpicked and roasted to perfection to give the consumers a premium coffee experience.

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Precision is key as there’s a lot of numbers and measurement and calibration involved in every cup.

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You know how when you go to the grocery, every item is marked with an expiry date? Well that’s not the case with specialty coffee. Packs of coffee beans are stamped instead with the roast date because when it comes to coffee, the principle is not “best until”, but “best from”. Normally, each pack of coffee beans is of best condition until 30 days.

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As I’ve mentioned, all specialty coffee are made from arabica beans. Robusta and barako just still haven’t crossed the line.

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Packs of coffee beans from specialty coffee shops must indicate the beans’ origin, from the country down to the specific farm or area.

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This is as opposed to 2nd wave coffee that practices automatic and batch brewing to maximize commercial gains.

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Contrary to popular belief, coffee by itself is actually not supposed to be bitter. #mywholelifeisalie haha. They only taste bitter because of overroasting. In addition, there is a wide variety of coffee beans from all over the world and with it comes a whole range of flavors from sweet to strong to tea-like to fruity. Kenyan beans, according to Andre, normally taste like plums or peaches.

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Andre explaining the range of coffee flavors

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Specialty coffee – from preparation to consumption – is a treat to the senses. The taste, aroma, the visual delight, texture of coffee beans – it’s a complete package.

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Again, it’s all about quality > quantity. We also learned that you should roast beans ideally on the day you’ll brew them because prolonged exposure diminishes the beans’ aroma. (I hope I remember things right. Hehe.)

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Coffee shops are now considered the “third place.” (Parang third party. Haha.) You have home, workplace, and the other staple is the coffee shop where you hang out with friends, do your passion projects, or just stay and relax. All the more that the coffee should be experiential.

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The coffee shop is also a classroom as the coffee gurus educate the consumers about specialty coffee. Baristas know their product well and are truly passionate about it so they enjoy talking to the customers and sharing their knowlege. The other side of it is that coffee education goes beyond the coffee shop and classrooms; there is a whole world out there with all kinds of coffee beans waiting to be explored.

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Hitting two birds with one stone, specialty coffee is not only selling better coffee, but also sells coffee better, making people appreciate it more and hopefully encourage them to expand their knowledge on coffee.

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Simply put, specialty coffee is gourmet coffee.

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Despite being a fairly new industry, specialty coffee thinks ahead and pays forward to ensure the sustainability of and, at the same time, cultivate the next generation of farmers, owners, baristas and consumers – a generation that is more discerning and uncompromising when it comes to quality and the whole coffee experience.

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In the middle of the lecture, Andre also did a demo for us.

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Jiro's lovely coffee counter

By the end of our class, I gained a deeper appreciation for and better (but still basic haha) knowledge of coffee in general and specialty coffee in particular. Never again will I take a cup of coffee for granted. ☕

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Marlyn making us a cup of coffee and explaining the process
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My aero press coffee with the perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness. Not in photo: revel bar extraordinaire. So yummy!

After the class, I did a mini tour of the Jiro office which is adjacent to the Quriocity HQ. It’s the prettiest office I’ve seen. It’s such a creativity booster and every corner warms the heart and inspires you to act on your passion, whatever it may be.

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It's okay to be cray cray
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Dapper ladder
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Quriocity!
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Trivia: these postcards were illustrated by Ate Marie, the other half of the John & Juno Faceoff Kicks team 🙂
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Asian touch
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Luggage table by upcycle master Paco Capili
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So cozy! Feels like a setting for an arts show.
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Arts and crafts date, anyone?
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Lovely loveseat
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Post-event meeting and evaluation by the very passionate Jiro team

It was such a fun Saturday and I can’t wait to attend the next Jiro/Quriocity/WorldRoom event. Don’t you just love weekends? 🙂

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