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“It’s funny because it’s true!”

I’m sure I recognise a few people here.

Hipsters Love Coffee: http://youtu.be/IR7StSaaDKM

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Keurig? I’ll just have a nice hot shot of printer ink instead…!

I don’t think I’ve ever actually written about Keurig on here.

I kinda didn’t want to acknowledge their existence in the hope that they just died a death quietly in the corner. However, despite my abhorrence, they are incredibly popular still, and I really cannot fathom why.

At my current office job, we have fairly dreadful, stale old drip coffee, but it is cheap and hot and readily available. On the floor above us, the other department has a Keurig machine, which is considered LUXURY in this company. Our supervisor’s desk is full of little pods that he sneaks upstairs to brew on their machine when they aren’t looking. He lent me one once during an Out of Coffee Crisis on our floor. I actually prefer the stale drip…

I honestly cannot understand the fascination with Keurig – or any of the other pod-brands, Tassimo, Starbuck’s Verisimo, Nespresso etc. Their fans cry “but.. convenience! speed!” – really? how? By the time you’ve waited for it to heat up, clipped in your k-cup and waited for it to ooze into your cup, you might as well have boiled the kettle and made a pour over or a French Press. “But it makes just one cup at a time!” – again, why is that a good thing? In the other department, there must be at least 30 people sharing one Keurig machine. Making a big potful is not only easier, it’s also more sociable. If you want to make coffee for just one person with a French Press, just put less coffee and less water in, simples!

This office is not the only place I’ve encountered Keurigs, I worked somewhere with one over the summer and had no choice but to drink it. I tried everything in it – every brand, every different variety/flavour I could lay my hands on (yes, flavour, even “cinnabun” or Irish Cream flavoured k-cups – both were undrinkable!). I never found a single one that didn’t taste stale. I know the pods are sealed and air tight, but you’ve no way of knowing how old the pre-ground coffee was when it was put in the pod!! Fresh is most definitely best.

Then of course, there’s this:

K-cup-binHOW MUCH PLASTIC WASTE??

ICK.

Keurig is made by a company called Green Mountain Coffee, but the only ‘Green’ I can see is that bin, above. I mentioned that K-cups are airtight and plastic – this unfortunately means non-recyclable plastic and lined foil lids glued on, so the different materials can’t be sorted in order to be recycled. So, even if everyone in the upstairs department has just one k-cup a day, that is 30 plastic pots going into landfill every day, plus all the creamer pots for their beloved double-doubles (cos woe betide anyone who ever has actual fresh milk in our fridge!!). It is disgustingly, needlessly wasteful.

But! I hear ye cry, You can get reusable, refillable k-cups!

Yes, you can:

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But, why would you want to? Why spent $100+ on a Keurig machine and buy refillable pods, and not just put your coffee in a French Press which costs a tenth of the price? I don’t get it.

However, it gets worse:

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/companies-and-industries/keurig-2-single-serve-coffee-pod-drm/

It is worth reading that article if you are offended by this rant – they are far more balanced than I am. In brief though, Keurig are launching a new version of their machine, only this time, the pods are going to be DRM-protected. This means, only official Keurig-branded k-cups will fit in the machine. Pirated copies (?) won’t work. So no more buying the cheaper varieties from Costco. No more Timmies or Dunkin Donuts versions. And no more refillable ones. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure someone will “hack” the DRM soon enough, my point is just that instead of doing something about their packaging waste, Keurig have decided patenting is more important than the environment, and have now made it impossible to use their machine in a more eco-friendly, sustainable manner.

It is the same technology that allows various inkjet printer companies to stop you using unbranded printer cartridges, or stops you refilling them – so you end up with a situation where it is cheaper to throw out the whole printer and buy a new one, than it is to buy replacement cartridges for the original. Printer ink is the most expensive liquid in the world, followed by Chanel No.5, then champagne, bottled water, then maple syrup which is still more expensive than crude oil! I am fairly sure k-cups follow along not far behind, particularly when you factor in the environmental cost of the plastic pods.

When “researching” this post, I came across someone else’s hashtag: #killthekcup ! I won’t got that far, but I remain convinced that k-cups are giant bras, and pods are for whales and alien hatchlings only, and neither should be confused with coffee makers. Don’t do it, folks!

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Pedalling Coffee Since 2014

Happy New Year Coffee Lovers!!

My new year’s resolution (pledged, 25th Jan… yeah, yeah…don’t judge me!) is to keep up with this blog a lot more this year. Last year was hectic and relatively uncoffee-filled, which was a sad state of affairs. It has been ten whole months since I last worked in a coffee shop, 8 months since I had my little PhD graduation ceremony, and over a year since my book came out. Unsurprisingly, this has meant fewer coffee related activities to write about on here!

Currently, I am existing as the inverse of most social science graduates – instead of being vastly over-qualified but having to work in a coffee shop through lack of jobs in their field of study, I am highly qualified to work in coffee shops, yet I have to work an entry level job in something completely unrelated to my field. It boils down to money. You cannot work in a coffee shop and pay for child care, it just doesn’t make sense. Sadly, that seems to be true the world over!

All this is about to change though, for me at least. I haven’t suddenly been able to make a living from coffee again, and I’m not about to give up the day job. But I have been dreaming up a coffee side project, and I am extremely excited about it!

What do you get if you give a coffee geek a tricycle?

wheeliefulllogoThe plan, in simple terms, is this:

Build a coffee cart on a trailer, attach it to my trike, and serve coffee outdoors in downtown Regina, on the Farmers’ Market and at all the manymany festivals here over the summer.

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Technical plans. Proof again that I really can’t draw.

 

I am hoping this can be fitted around my work: the market is on weekends, and the festivals tend to coincide with public holidays anyway. Given recent Extreme Temperatures, suddenly my warm office looks much more inviting than standing out in the park on a bike over the winter too!

I am applying for the appropriate licenses and permits for street vending at the moment, but assuming all goes well, I intend to position myself on Victoria plaza and Scarth Street, the pedestrian area where nearly all downtown office workers have to pass through to get to the Hill Towers, SGI, Government offices or the large banks, and also access to the Cornwall shopping mall, providing a steady stream of passersby.

Of course, there are other coffee shops downtown, but as yet, nothing outdoor or mobile. As I have found through being a downtown office worker for the past few months, it is virtually impossible to dash out and get NICE coffee from one of these coffee shops in your 20 minute coffee break from work – queues and barista-ing takes way too long unless you happen to work next door. Our office block is just that bit too far away. But if there was a coffee trike parked outside it…..

Recent, sad developments in the coffee world on my doorstep (better explained on my other blog) led to a long and involved conversation on Twitter, bemoaning the lack of good, convenient coffee downtown. When I ventured the idea of Wheelie Good Coffee on there, my twitter stream went completely mad and I got put in Twitter jail for the first time ever! (That is, it blocks you temporarily for sending over 100 tweets in an hour – I wish I’d got a screen shot!). There are a lot of local folk who would be very supportive of this venture I think.

It will take a while to get organised, but the market doesn’t go back outdoors until May, so May seems a reasonable start date to aim for. Until then, it’s permit applications, business plans, a mentorship with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (a wonderful organisation that includes me both as being an honourary Canadian, AND still “youth” – which made me feel great!), helping my lovely Carl actually build the thing, coffee blend designing… oh, and the day job.

Here’s Twyla the Trike – the engine of my new business!

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WATCH THIS SPACE!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Doctor Coffee’s Cafe, Darlington

Posting these old ones, because a few Canadian coffee folk have been asking!

My first cafe, Darlington, UK, 2009-2011

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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“Cofficing”

Yet another loooooooong gap between posts, many apologies!

It’s not that I have gone off coffee… how could I? In fact, I am drinking more of the stuff than ever, it seems. Life just seems to be getting in the way again.

I am currently playing Coffee Consultant on a very part time basis, and staying home to look after Miranda, which is a full time job by itself. I am also scooping icecream at Dessart Sweets in the evenings, and I can highly recommend coffee and cardamom soft serve ice cream there! (made with real coffee grounds and ground green cardamom – SO GOOD!). My little espresso machine at home is getting vastly overused just to keep up with myself.

I do keep finding myself missing the days when I could sit in coffee shops for hours on end, tapping away on my laptop and writing things – blogs, my thesis, novels, poetry,  even actual work, whatever… without interruption. I even made time to do this in my own coffee shop (admittedly, what I was usually doing then was keeping up my social media marketing for the place, or the accounts, neither of which was particularly relaxing!). After that, afternoon nap time, or the brief period between finishing work and picking Miri up from daycare were reserved for my coffee-and-writing time. Then, she decided naps were for babies and she was a Big Girl, and apparently expects attention and entertainment from 8.30am to 9.30pm with no let up. ” Good luck getting your own stuff done now, Mum!” And my coffee is grabbed on the go in a keepy cup, and my blogging time is confined to when she is watching TV and doesn’t notice me taking my eyes off her.

So, I pine for my Coffice. Actually working from home is verboten – “What you doing Mummy?” “I want to draw on that!” “You want to play with me Mummy!” (the last one is a statement, not a question.) So, at weekends when I have something urgent to do that requires concentration, I leave Miranda with her Dad and traipse downtown to find a good Coffice – that is, a Coffee Shop Office, from which I can guzzle coffee and work on my laptop in relative peace.

A good Coffice is hard to find. To my mind there are three critical elements and a few nice additions that turn a coffee shop into a coffice. The three most important things are:

  1. GREAT coffee (so you actually want to go in there)
  2. Free, reliable, wifi
  3. Baristas who don’t try to hurry you out/ create a welcoming environment

And of the “nice to have” elements:

  1. Accessible plug sockets
  2. Quiet, but not silent, atmosphere
  3. Sit-up tables (to sit an type at) and soft sofas (for meetings)
  4. Discounted refills!

Here in Regina, I have yet to find one that fulfills all these criteria. My favourite coffee shop doesn’t have wifi and has only just cottoned on to the idea of having tables to sit at, but the coffee is the best in the city. The best option, downtown, has mediocre coffee, plug sockets, and enough of a laid back, hipster crowd that I can sit with my laptop and pretend to be doing something highly intellectual and creative without feeling like I should drink up quick and leave, but the wifi is unreliable and slows down to the point of being unusable when there are more than three people connected. Finally, the last option has both reliable wifi, a good atmosphere to work in, plug sockets, cheap refills, but unfortunately, pretty rubbish coffee.

If When I open my own coffee shop again, I aim to make it the best Coffice space I can. So many people work away from their company office desk now – whether you are out meeting clients, or have to travel with your job, or you’re self-employed or freelancing and like me, can’t work at home for fear of Small Children or other interruptions, or students seeking a more social environment than the library to work in – coffee shops can provide a very useful, neutral and creative space.

Caffeine stimulates the brain, aids concentration and enhances your creativity. There’s even been research done that suggests that low level background noise, such as other people talking and the various machinery whirring in a coffee shop, is actually a more productive environment than complete silence. To this end, the slightly odd folk at Coffivity have invented a phone app and a website containing the streamed white noise from a busy coffee shop (where they don’t appear to ever grind coffee?!) for you to play to yourself if you are ever trying to concentrate in somewhere that isn’t actually a coffee shop. In fact, I have it playing in the background as I type this, as it is more preferable than absentmindedly listening to Miranda’s Go Diego Go show.

From the point of view of coffee shop owners – the best customers are repeat customers. People who “coffice” may use up valuable seats when you are busy, but get it right, and they will always be back for more. When I was writing my thesis, I’d go down to a local coffee shop, armed with as much money as I could afford, and stay until either my money or my laptop battery ran out. If the coffee shop had a plug socket, I’d spend a fortune. Several times a week. For FOUR YEARS. And then I’d bring my focus groups or interviewees in there, or just meet friends. Custom creates custom, happy customers bring more customers. Simples! Friendly service also creates a sense of obligation to buy more as well…

A final disclaimer: the ‘Coffice’ isn’t my own term, in fact, the concept was apparently dreamed up by some former Marketing executive, who realised there were whole communities of freelance workers who, like him, worked from coffee shops. He, (Sam TitleHI if you are reading this!) has a twitter account @thecoffice devoted to networking these freelancers, and there’s a website coming soon, too. I have already signed up – as a ‘cofficer’ for the moment,  but hopefully, soon, to be a Coffice Manager again myself!!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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5 Years In… and a Question for you!

Today, WordPress wished me a Happy Anniversary! Apparently I started this blog five years ago today!

This is a long blog.

This is a long blog.

121 posts, (that doesn’t seem a lot?)
226 comments
60,495 views but sadly
17457 Spam comments caught by Askimet! Not bad for a caffeinated stream of consciousness, right?

So, if you are a regular reader or even if you are not, I’d appreciate it if you could answer me this:

Plans. Are. Afoot.
You have been warned!

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
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PhD Graduation! (unofficial!)

I got my PhD! But I can’t afford the flights back to the University of Sheffield to graduate properly. So we did our own outside the Leg here in Regina.
Model: Annabel Townsend,
Bespoke Coffee Bean Mortarboard by Rachel Chapman Millinery,
Gown from Bedsheet by Claire Terrill,
Coffee bean dress: model’s own.

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Now, what on earth do I do next????

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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