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Back in the business of Beans

Recently I have been hugely busy, as we finally have the Wheelie Good Coffee cart off the ground! Erm, not literally. Well, OK there was one incident… anyway, in case you missed my recent post, dear reader, Wheelie Good Coffee is my latest venture: a little cart from which I serve pour over coffees, hooked up to the back of my bike. Originally it was supposed to be attached to the trike, but the trike hitch is still a work-in-progress so for now I am wobbling along on just two wheels with Carl’s help. The aforementioned “off the ground” incident occurred when I overloaded the cart and hit a bump, and then managed to ping the back of wheel of the bike, and myself up in the air and into the curb. Oww.

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But these minor teething issues aside, all is going phenomenally well. After a wild and windy launch at the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, I am now serving coffee on the Regina Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and as many Wednesdays as the day job will allow. Sadly the market is only on twice a week, and only during the summer, otherwise I’d be out there every day and would quit the day job, but sadly 8 hours a week cannot pay the bills. Fun, busy, successful, confidence boosting Saturdays make coming in to the office on Mondays even worse than usual though. I am not a corporate person. I felt this to be true even before I started this job, but 8 months there has proved it beyond all shadow of a doubt. I loved my university departments, but that is about as close to an office job as I ever want to get.

At risk of jinxing things though, the cart is going so well, it inspires me to believe that I am really on to something and could really turn it in to a full time business – given time and hard work. The hard work is not the issue – I am doing this because I enjoy it. Having done something similar before, I know my limits and I’ve learned from my mistakes and experiences with the coffee Ape van and Doctor Coffees Cafe. I am not perhaps approaching this so blindly. The time is an issue though, because I am so impatient!

The response to the coffee cart has been such a massive contrast to everything I experienced in Darlington – in the best possible way. Given the circumstances, I still believe I did bloody well in Darlington – but as I said at the time, the little I managed to achieve there, was done despite Darlington council, despite the unhelpfulness and disinterest of the local market officers, and despite the horrible location itself. This time round, the wonders of a new home on a new continent have provided me with amazing amount of support and encouragement and ideas and constructive feedback even before my lovely Carl had built the cart!

I cannot thank the Farmers Market crew enough – their support has been invaluable and the market is exceptionally well run and successful. It is also very well attended, and I am rushed off my feet every week, to the point where I don’t even get time to drink my own coffee!! Every week more people visit saying “hey, I follow you on Twitter” or “ooo yay! Coffee on the market!” Or compliment me on the set up (which I redirect to Carl) or the quality of the coffee. On top of that, I am even getting a lot of help from friends at other local businesses – from recommendations for events that could use coffee, to me borrowing a licensed kitchen area with big sinks to sterilize my water tanks in properly from a neighbouring business, to Roca Jacks roasting the coffee and Cuppa T’s selling me tea wholesale. It’s just wonderful, and encouraging enough to make the whole entrepreneurial start-up journey that much less precarious!

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But this is not just a business blog! What of the coffee, I hear ye cry?
Well, most of it looks like this:
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I make pourover coffee, that is, pouring hot water very slowly over a coffee dripper lined with filter paper and filled with the best freshly ground coffee, until it drips through a fills the cup underneath. It is far more elaborate and time consuming than making normal drip or percolated coffee, but it makes a much fresher, cleaner cup. Its single serve (though I have four drippers to do four drinks at a time), and because I make it in front of the customers, there’s no issue of keeping it stewing on a hot plate for ages. It’s about as fresh as you can get outside! Also, i get to wave a large, long spouted coffee pot around and make the coffee grounds ‘bloom’ and create steam so it all looks a bit like a mad chemistry experiment. For what is coffee without a bit of magic and theatre?

The beans themselves come from Roca Jacks. This makes me very happy indeed. I tried, but I couldn’t manage to rescue the Roca Jacks coffee shop. However, Bill now appears on our doorstep bearing coffee every few weeks, and our house smells deliciously of freshly roasted gooodness all the time. Better yet, I’m going to start retailing the beans in my online store as well, along with all the paraphenalia you need (drippers, coffee socks, mugs etc) to make Wheelie Good Coffee at home!

A lot of work awaits me yet, but my coffee-flavoured future looks like a bright happy one from here. Cheers!
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Great Coffee Dictionary Project

Reblogging this from coffeebyproxy – another coffee blog by fellow coffee anthropologist, Kate in Colorado. I am going to add my bits as soon as I have time (gulp!), but if you are linguistically gift coffee lover, then please feel free to contribute!

 

The Great Coffee Dictionary Project.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Launch day! Again!

drcoffee:

I couldn’t decide which blog this should go on – it is COFFEE, in Regina.

Originally posted on The Regina Monologue:

Yesterday, 19th May 2014, saw the launch of my 3rd coffee business, Wheelie Good Coffee. You’d think with all this experience, starting up would be a breeze by now. Fat chance!! For nostalgia purposes, I read back over my post from September 2009 on here, when we launched Doctor Coffee’s Cafe Ape Van. Five long years ago, I was equally exhausted and apparently nearly fainted at my friends’ wedding and developed a mysteriously swollen ankle. In hindsight, it is easy to see these were signs of early pregnancy! This time, I am aching all over and knackered, but no other Big News to report I’m afraid.

Wheelie Good Coffee has already taken on a life of its own online. I’m at http://www.wheeliegoodcoffee.biz, and most significantly, @wheeliegdcoffee on Twitter. Twitter has been invaluable, both for inspiration and for the support to actually get this idea off the ground. I’ve received so…

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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Spring Greens

I meant to post this the other day for Earth Day, or better yet, a few weeks ago after Earth Hour at the end of March. Of course, everyone turned out their lights at the allotted time then, so the planet has been rescued and we can all breathe a sigh of relief as we all get back in our cars and switch our screens on again….

Excuse the sarcasm. I just don’t get Earth Day. Isn’t every day Earth Day? It’s not like we go anywhere else often, is it?

I am on a bit of a Green coffee kick nowadays, however. I don’t mean Green coffee as in, raw coffee, although I do have some large sacks of that in the basement at the moment. Nor do I mean the likes of Nescafe Green Blend. Despite that still being the most commented on post on this blog, I haven’t actually seen many anti-oxident filled, weight-loss marketed, gimicky and green-washed coffee products in quite a while. Maybe they haven’t reached Canada yet. This is a very good thing.

What I mean this time, is environmentally-friendly coffee, if that isn’t an oxymoron. I’ve already written a great deal about organic and/or sustainably produced coffee, and there are very many issues with it. In brief, organic coffee is far more difficult and more risky for impoverished farmers to grow – sometimes is it not worth the investment of time, labour and resources to grow a crop that may well be eaten by pests before it can be harvested. Then there are the high-end buyers who refuse to buy organic coffee under the impression that using chemical fertilizers optimises the quality of the beans….

Of course, the farmer-friendly alternative involves cutting down the cloudforests and destroying the biodiversity in the tropics, just to grow a cash crop.

In summary then, it is very very difficult to grown coffee in an environmentally-friendly way. But given that millions of people’s livelihoods depend on those crops, can we not just consume it better?

I am trying to do my bit. My last post was ranting and raving about how wasteful Keurig k-cups and other coffee pods are. Getting rid of them would be a start. I am soon going to launch the first ‘green’, trike-drawn coffee cart in Regina (not actually green, more, PURPLE) – it’ll be the only food truck downtown that doesn’t have an engine too.

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I am also selling reusable travel mugs, and CupCuffs – very stylish, reusable sleeves for your takeaway coffees that don’t involve cutting down trees to make cardboard disposable ones. (FYI, they’re made in Canada too, not sewn by small Korean children and shipped around the world).

I also saw this the other day:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/citi-bike-coffee-program-launches-dumbo-article-1.1764063

I’d love to see that in Regina – it may be a while yet though…

Recent studies claiming that arabica coffee could be wiped out by climate change in as little as 80 years were widely reported, but the one that stuck with me most poignantly was this:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/30/latin-america-climate-change-coffee-crops-rust-fungus-threat-hemileaia-vastatrix

Mainly because it highlights the devastation in my beloved Nicaragua. I can as flippant as I like about Earth Hour and associated first-world hand-wringing, but this – this is serious.

So what can we do? Not stop drinking the coffee. Stopping drinking coffee just makes it worse – the farmers still have to sell it to someone! The whole globalised market is not suddenly going to disappear over night, no matter how much I dislike Starbucks/Nestle/Keurig/insert-latest-fashionable-boycott-here. Instead, do as the farmers tell us:

Coffee picker Myra Carmen Chavarría in Atuna Uno was amazed when I told her that I spent £2 or more every day on a cappuccino. “If you love coffee in your country that much, you need to help us survive to grow it for you!”

Simple really: pay more for it, or lose it. Paying a higher price for coffee won’t cure climate change, but it will certainly help the farmers cope with that climate change better. Or, start learning to love Robusta coffee that is more resilient to climate change and disease – and tastes far worse.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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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!

DSCF4822

WATCH THIS SPACE!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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