If you have been paying attention on social media (or indeed, reading my posts!) you’ll know that for the last four weeks, I’ve been travelling around the USA, first in Florida/Miami, then in Phoenix/Arizona. In the past, I’ve written about my travelling coffee kit and I’ve also written extensively about making coffee on planes and at airports, which makes the long journeys bearable.
On this trip, I’ve been doing a lot of touring, which means not that many visits to speciality coffee shops along the way. In the past, this has meant either not having coffee or having to put up with bad hotel coffee in the morning and bad diner coffee during the day. However, since getting my Travel Press, all that has changed.
The Travel Press has meant that I can make coffee in the morning and take it with me. Then I began to get a bit obsessed (me? no! surely not!) It started with a trip to the Grand Canyon where I took a photo of my Travel Press and Therma Cup overlooking the canyon, then last year I took a picture of them on the Great Wall of China. Then it got out of hand…
On Thursday, 25th January, something very special happened, both for the Coffee Spot and for me personally. That was the day that my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, which the British Library is publishing on next year. It has been a long time coming, almost exactly two years since Daniel of Cups of London Coffee had put my name forward to the British Library as a potential author.
So, what’s The Philosophy of Coffee all about? Well, to quote from the book itself, it’s a “short, entertaining and illuminating introduction to the history and culture of coffee, from the humble origins of the bean in northeast Africa over a millennium ago, to what it is today, a global phenomenon that is enjoyed around the world.”
It’s not a big book, just over 15,000 words, with 15 beautiful illustrations sourced from the British Library collection. It’s also, according to the blurb, “the perfect gift for coffee lovers”, so now that it’s out you should definitely buy a copy. Or two.
February 2018: The Philosophy of Coffee is now available across the UK in Waterstones and is also available as an eBook.
This time last year, I kicked off 2017 with a plea to stop using disposable coffee cups. In a piece of remarkably good timing, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published its report on disposable coffee cups yesterday, almost a year to the day after my piece. Now, I can’t take all (any?) of the credit for this: plenty of people, some of them a lot more influential than me, have been making the point for several years now, although seemingly with little effect.
According to the report, at least 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year, with ½ million coffee cups being dropped as litter each day. What’s worse is that a lot of these cups are put into recycling bins by well-meaning consumers who think that they are recyclable when in fact they are not. This potentially contaminates the whole load, which means that it’s worse than just throwing them away. As the report notes, a depressingly small 1 in 400 disposable coffee cups are recycled.
In response to this, the report’s proposed solution is a minimum 25p levy on each disposable cup, something which has met with mixed reactions within the speciality coffee industry.
It’s that time of the year, when everyone publishes Christmas gift guides. This year, due to my recent trip to Shanghai/Beijing, I’m a little bit behind, but if you’re looking for some last-minute presents, here’s the Coffee Spot’s entry into the fray, an eclectic selection of gifts for your coffee-loving friends/relatives.
The coffee-loving community can be awkward to buy for, particularly if, like me, they’re towards the far end of the coffee-geek spectrum, when any choice runs the risk of being ill-informed. Do you get them coffee? Or coffee-related kit? Or a book about coffee perhaps?
Never fear, the Coffee Spot’s here to help you out, whether you’re a novice, looking for pointers for gifts for your coffee-obsessed friend, or if you’re that coffee-obsessed friend, looking for a handy guide to point your friends towards. There’s also a few suggestions for presents to help your coffee-loving friends who’re at the top of the slippery slope of coffee-geekdom and just need a helping nudge to begin the headlong descent into the rabbit-hole of speciality coffee.
While this is a Christmas gift guide, feel free to return to it throughout the year. It serves just as well as a birthday/anniversary gift guide…
The Coffee Spot Calendar is an annual event with this, the fifth Coffee Spot Calendar. As always, the calendars are A4 in size and professionally-printed on glossy paper, while there’s also a desktop version. Each month has a landscape, full-sized picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months, although this year, as he did last year, my friend Keith has helped by choosing some of the pictures.
Calendars cost £12.00 (£10.00 for the desktop version) with a flat £2.00 postage and packing charge, regardless of how many you order. If you think we’re likely to meet up in the near future, I’ll even waive the postage and hand your calendar over in person! If you’re ordering from outside of the UK, then I’m afraid I have to charge more for postage. For orders for Europe, postage and packing is £4.00 for one or two calendars, while for the rest of the world, it’s £6.00. If you want more than two, please get in touch regarding postage.
Unfortunately, work commitments have meant that I’m very late in producing this year’s calendars, so while I will do my best, I can’t guarantee they will arrive before Christmas.
Something very exciting happened in November. I visited the British Library, where I met with Rob, from the Library’s publishing arm. In what turns out to have been a very well-kept secret (or a very poorly publicised one, depending on your point of view) I have written a book, The Philosophy of Coffee, which the British Library is publishing on 25th January this year.
To quote from the book itself, it’s a “short, entertaining and illuminating introduction to the history and culture of coffee, from the humble origins of the bean in northeast Africa over a millennium ago, to what it is today, a global phenomenon that is enjoyed around the world.”
It’s not a big book, just over 15,000 words, with 15 beautiful illustrations sourced from the British Library collection. It’s also, according to the blurb, “the perfect gift for coffee lovers” so you should definitely buy a copy. Or two.
January 2018: The Philosophy of Coffee has now been published. For more details, including how to get a copy, please read my lastest post on the subject.
It’s that time of year again, when I announce the Coffee Spot Calendar, which will be my fifth calendar to date. As before, the calendars will be professionally-printed on glossy paper, each month featuring a landscape, A4 picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months. I will also be continuing the very successful Coffee Spot Lighting Calendar, with help from my friend Sharon Reed, which is now entering its third year.
When it comes to the Lighting Calendar, Sharon has always helped me select the pictures, which got me thinking last year, why not let you, my readers, help select the pictures as well, both for the Lighting and the regular Coffee Spot Calendar? Why not indeed? So I did and after a successful trial last year, I’ve decided to give it another go!
All you have to do is nominate your favourite Coffee Spot pictures. They have to be landscape and from a Coffee Spot published on or after 1st November 2016. It’s as easy as that!
However did that happen? There I was, minding my own business, when I looked at the calendar and realised that the Coffee Spot is five years old tomorrow. Where has all the time gone? I launched the Coffee Spot four years and 364 days ago on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise). Back then, I had no idea just how big it would become and how it would evolve to drive (takeover?) much of what I do.
In the Coffee Spot’s fifth year, I published 215 times, covering 139 Coffee Spots, with the remaining posts covering various coffee events, roasters and the Coffee Spot Awards. I’ve also been getting around more, visiting six countries outside the UK, including four for the first time. In turn, you have been looking at the Coffee Spot in ever greater numbers. In the last year, more than 83,000 people visited the Coffee Spot and between you, you’ve looked at more 137,000 pages.
So, thank you, everyone, whether you dip into the Coffee Spot every now and then, or whether you read every single post and page. Without you, there really would be no point in my doing this.
For a long time, my go-to hand-grinder has been made by Knock, which produces a range of top-quality hand-grinders. I actually have two Knock grinders, Woody, the world’s first wooden feldgrind and Red, which is a feldfarb, the metal version of the feldgrind. I wrote a comprehensive article about Woody two years ago and since then both Woody and Red have received extensive use.
What sets Knock’s grinders apart from the cheaper hand-grinders on the market is the use of a high-quality steel burr set. This gives far superior grind consistency (not to mention being easier to use) when compared to the ceramic burrs used in entry-level grinders. The Knock grinders also have the easiest adjustment mechanism I’ve seen on any hand-grinder.
Earlier this year, Knock created something of a stir by launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new grinder, the Aergrind, which was fully subscribed in less than a day. I got my first look at a prototype at this year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, and I have to say I was impressed. Then, towards the end of last month, there was a knock at the door and there was the postman with a package for me. A cylindrical package…
A little while ago, a reader, Linda, got in touch to ask me how I managed when travelling to places where there was no good coffee. This made me realise what a very good question that was. While I’ve written on several occasions about my penchant for making my own coffee on long-haul flights and overnight trains, as well as hinting on other occasions about making my own coffee in hotels, I realise that I’ve never really addressed the issue in a comprehensive matter.
Over the five years I’ve been writing the Coffee Spot, I’ve gone from drinking whatever I’m given to being quite obsessive above bringing my own coffee and coffee-making equipment. I’m not quite sure when this started, but it’s become increasingly important with the amount of travelling I’m doing. As an example, tomorrow I’m off to Manchester for a week for work, then the weekend after that, I’ll be in Leeds, before flying to Chicago for three weeks (work + play). I can’t imagine being away for all that time without decent coffee, so I’ve assembled a basic travelling kit which, give or take a few items, comes with me wherever I go.