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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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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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Branching out and going solo

First up – the best news:
FINALLY, I really am Doctor Coffee, officially.
I got news from my PhD examiners that they’ve accepted all my revisions and corrections to the thesis, and they’re happy for it to be accepted for the PhD. Woohoo! So the Official Version will now gather dust in the University of Sheffield library, and I get to graduate – except I can’t afford to go back to the UK just to ponce around in a silly hat and get a piece of paper, so we shall have to arrange our own little ceremony over here! I am also reclaiming my Fanny logo from the cafe:

"Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee!" - Stephanie Piro

“Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee!” – Stephanie Piro

So, what do I do with a PhD in coffee?
Tried to open a coffee shop… loved it, found it very difficult with BabyCoffee, hated it being in Darlington. Moved on.
Next: “Those that can, teach” [sic] right?
To this end, I’ve gone self-employed again, and I have started Doctor Coffee Consulting. This is my new website: www.doctorcoffee-sk.com This really came about through unrelated circumstances giving me a boot up the backside to organise myself, but the idea is to use my knowledge of all things coffee to help other businesses set up; either adding or improving coffee in existing businesses (ie: restaurants who want to do a bit more than just old filter coffee on their desserts menu), or helping new start-ups. I’ve done plenty of barista training already, but I am also keen to do unique blend designs and so on. So far, I’ve worked with three businesses in Regina already and did a “home barista” workshop for a guy who just really, really liked coffee. It’s all good!

Finally:

A lot of people commented on my coffee-related, geeky t-shirts when I was barista-ing, asking where I got them. (I had numerous, all black of course, but my favourite one is “Instant Human, Just Add Coffee!”) My usual answer was “down the back of the internet.” Never one to pass up an entrepreneurial opportunity, I have since created a CafePress shop, devoted entirely to coffee geekery. T-shirts, mugs, bags, and loads of other paraphernalia, even baby clothes, all adorned with my coffee designs! Here’s a few. The rest of the shop can be found at http://www.cafepress.com/drcoffeescaffeinatedcollections

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Blue Arsed Fly syndrome

(bit of a personal blog this time – this is all about Doctor Coffee’s Cafe – exciting stuff coming soon!!)

I had to text Ol today apologising for being late for meeting him, because I was doing my blue-arsed fly impression. He didn’t get it. I meant, of course, rushing round in small circles hopelessly, and occasionally bashing my head into windows.
I am actually feeling very positive now, despite meeting Ol. (only in the sense that I dropped his beloved motorbike and scratched it, not realising how monstrously heavy it was and thus shattering my meagre confidence supplies with manual bikes… Specifically seeing him doesn’t really depress me that much. But anyway-) I feel as though everything is coming together finally, and it is exciting. I have a billion and one things to do this week, but for some naive reason, I feel I can handle it.
Doctor Coffee’s Cafe is nearing physical existence. What passes for my maternal nature is kicking in, and I feel it’s Birth is imminent. (it is my child, even if giving birth to it isn’t equally painful, it is certainly equally expensive, if not more so!). The Ape van has nearly been converted fully: over the last fortnight we’ve struggled to find it a suitable generator, and found one on the second attempt. We also bought it a mini fridge, a cash register, display jars and not forgetting of course, my beautiful wonderful shiny beast of an espresso machine, and grinder. The lovely Robin and Jamie at Protruck are bringing all these elements together into one glorious whole, and it should be done early next week!

Isn't it CUUUTE???

Isn't it CUUUTE???

On top of that, I have managed to procure some truly excellent coffee from Cafe Cristina in Costa Rica, and some gorgeous but unusual teas from Teapigs. I’ve also been practicing my cake making skills, sourced a garage in Darlington for the Ape to live in, I’m getting in customised aprons with the Doctor Coffee logo on, and attempting to get a trader’s license off Darlington Council.
The website is very nearly finished too… www.doctorcoffee.biz Carl has been helping a lot with little photo slideshows, but my own knowledge of cascade style sheets has vastly improved! The only things left to do are the Locations and Hire Me pages, which rely entirely on me knowing where I will be able to trade, which in turn relies on the traders’ license and/or Darlo markets, and also how far and fast the Ape will actually go when it’s fully laden with coffee.
We are still on a learning curve. Carl is being packed off to Pumphreys soon to get barista trained, and I am (STILL) having motorbike lessons to get my full license to actually drive the Ape. Despite disasters on more than one occasion, (two total mechanical failures on the part of Binky, one hospital trip and one embarrassing case of frustrated tears in full view of my instructor) -I am actually enjoying it. I certainly feel far more comfy on a bike than in a car!! Something about having the clutch in your hand, and being able to put your feet down to stop, seems infinitely more sensible to me. But that said, I’ve had a few off days and am still generally pretty hopeless particularly when it comes to coordination and losing first gear! Negotiating roundabouts in neutral doesn’t help either. And Ol won’t be letting me anywhere near his machine again in a looong time….(I quote: “So, is there anything else you want to break here before you go?”)
Miraculously, my uni work doesn’t seem to be suffering too badly. To my mind, it all seems a distant dream… Ah yes, I remember, I’m doing a full time PhD, aren’t I?  Fortunately, the business and the Phd are all cunningly intertwined, my coffee obsession has its uses! I can rant about Fair Trade quite happily whilst opting for ‘direct trade’ myself, for instance. But Peter and Matt have been very encouraging and reassuring on the uni front; the end of the dreaded, mind-numbing interview translations is in sight, and lo and behold, in the beginning were the words, and the words were “you must be ready to start writing up now!” I do wonder where he gets these funny ideas from… To this end, anyway, I am charged with writing my first chapter over the next couple of weeks. And two conference papers. (“Don’t think of them as papers, think of them as Powerpoint presentations! It sounds a lot easier!”). And I still have to chase up Coburg roasting company who aren’t talking to me. And edit all my fieldwork videos into something comprehensible. Again I say, who’s bright idea was this??
There is still much to be done, however, so in all this spare time I get around university, I have to find insurance for the Ape, (both vehicle and public liability), still chase up the Nicaraguan coffee, pass my damn bike test, get my traders license, convince Darlington market officers that they really do want me there as well as the burger van (ye gads…), finish the website, get some proper promotional material sorted, get Ok’d by environmental health, design graphics for the Ape and remember how to do latte art properly. Oh. and figure out how I am gonna pay for all this!! Not much then.
I am excited, I feel I can handle most of this, but I am exhausted!

APE. :-D

APE. 😀

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Suenos de Arroz y Frijoles

Mi vida esta confusanda.

Life is bloody complicated at the minute. I’ve been doing some real proper research in the real world, involving talking to real actual alive people, (as opposed to reading and regurgitating, or emailing). It’s HARD. And the more I learn, the more complicated it seems to get.
One real, actual alive person was helpful – Paul/Pablo from Caffe Nero head quarters. Unfortunately, what he told me has totally and utterly confused things even more. Maybe I was naiive to think it wasn’t that complicated. Tracing the origins of coffee is an immense task at the best of times, but when the only source of information I can get hold of at the moment is trying hard to protect the positive image adopted by their brand marketing, what I get is not exactly deep – or even that accurate.

It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Nero’s coffee does not come
rom the award winning co-operative in Brazil that they promoted on their website. Well, some of it does, but not the stuff they make into cappuccinos behind the bar every day. Instead, 600 tons of the stuff, comprised of seven different strains of coffee, is imported for Nero every year, coming from “Central and South America”. By the time it reaches Nero, it has been through the hands of the farmers, the co-operatives, the commercial exporters, the roasters and the distributors, not to mention all the regulatory bodies, and anyone in charge of overseas import tariffs and customs….. Far from buying “direct from the producers”, at least six different companies are involved in the industry from beans to mug.

And I’ve got to go through the whole bloody lot, looking for any opportunity in this vast network for coffee to be wasted. This may take a while. Not only is this a lot of work to get my head round, it also ladders my proverbial fishnets (instead of being a linear commodity chain, I’ve decided it’s now a complex mesh of a network – hence, commodity fishnets). There is a big hole in the proceedings now, and its quite embarrassing.

I had a plan… up until last week. That was, to go to Fazenda Cachoeira (Waterfall Farm) in Brazil, to find out the extent of wastage from a plantation that directly supplies Caffe Nero. This gave me something to concentrate on, prepare for; I would need to learn Portuguese for instance. It also gave me a time frame – I’d go in the harvest season, which is between March and September, 2009.

Now, it doesn’t matter if I go to Brazil, or any other coffee-producing country in Latin America. Going to a Spanish speaking country would be far more sensible… but then, when to go? And indeed, where? I need to find out the different harvest seasons…

For anyone who knows anything of my non-university plans at present, the timing of this is highly important. I don’t know which Plan should take priority, whether I should just let Que Sera, Sera, and rethink depending on what happens, or whether I should take assertive action, decide for definite that I am going to, say, Costa Rica in May 2009, and fit everything else around that. That might be the easy option.

Basically, I HATE planning when everything is a variable. I hate making important decisions that I might regret. I would far rather have life Just Happen to me, as it usually does. Or, I bury myself in trivialities, or wild fantasies which even I know are totally impractical – because even hampered with a short attention span and over-ambitious nature, those plans are always far more fun than the ones I actually need to focus on.

Jo is filling my fragile, wanton little mind with ideas of the RASC cafe – that is, my dream of my own coffee shop called Doctor Coffee’s, only promoted as an arts venture, so that we don’t have to worry about it actually making any money. It would be a social enterprise project, providing a space for the RASC writers to go create in. She was even on about hosting it in a caravan at one point so we don’t have to pay lease rates…. And all the while, I am sitting in Caffe Nero for days on end, studying coffee shops, when actually all I want to do is run one myself! This does not a productive Bel make.

fAnd then, there are other dreams… Latin America. Again. It is no longer really a case of wanting to go back there, it’s almost a sense of inevitability – I know I will someday, for whatever reason. I am sorely tempted to just say ‘screw Nero’, go visit Donna in Nicaragua or El Porvenir in El Salvador, and just pretend they supply a big chain… but that would not constitute good research practice, would it? I would love to catch up with Donna and Diego and all the chavalos and payasos again out there, I still feel like I have ‘unfinished business’ in Nicaragua somehow, I was rushed away all too quick last time. Or I could go next door to Costa Rica or Honduras and see bits I am less familiar with… For that matter, I would love to catch up with mi familia en Peru…

Siempre yo siento como estoy malgasto mi vida, mi tiempo en este paid, cuando yo podría alli viviendo la vida en vez de lo estudiando. Soy demasiado impaciente. Tengo suenos de arroz y frijoles, y de aventuritas en climas lejos, quiero mas, siempre mas que este. Quiero una cambia.Yo me confundo con relaciones diferentes, los amores diferentes y entonces yo siempre siento que la necesidad de escaparse cuando todo falla. Yo no puedo ver lo que tiene razón bajo la nariz, que lo que quiero es ya aquí. Mi marido, mi niño, y todo que yo ya he creado aquí.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Dreams and Distractions

So, it now looks like Costa Rica. And Nicaragua. Possibly sooner than I thought, as well. Christmas in the Carribean? I am supposed to be constructing Cunning Plans to make this a definite possibility (“A plan so cunning you could tie a tail on it and call it a weasel”) and I am…in a way. I would LOVE to go back to Nicaragua, but it doesn’t feel real yet. I don’t think I am the same person as I was the last time I disappeared to Latin America on a whim.

Instead I am dreaming and thinking and planning and fantasising about The Highly Improbably. I am collecting a diverse group of the Mentally Interesting it seems, and any idea reinterpreted through the minds of the Loons must, therefore, be borderline genius. The fine line has not so much been crossed as jumped on, scuffed, and bent to at least a 45 degree angle…One of the most Mentally Interesting is currently snoring upstairs. “Lets dance to Joy Division, celebrate the irony, everything is going wrong but we’re so happy!”

And what could be more sane, rational and sensible than planning my cafe? Sure, I have no money, no real capital, no time, no experience, no venue (this is NOT going to happen in Darlington. Ever. Understood?!) a crap credit rating, a doctorate to do, a mortgage to pay, plans to emigrate to the other side of the world in three years time, and family plans, but… hell, why not?

All I actually want to do with myself in the future is run my own cafe. I don’t actually need a PhD to do that, but I am at least learning far too much about coffee at the moment that I feel I’ve got to put this knowledge to use somehow! So, the cafe will be called Doctor Coffee’s. We will serve only the best, fair trade, highest quality (and probably Latin American) coffees made by skilled baristas. And it’s not going to be entirely espresso either! How revolutionary is that?

And I will cook. Lots. There is not going to be pannini in sight!! No fake Italianess, but Latino food, as authentic as I can make, and as designed by the experts at CafeChavalos in Nicaragua and Senora Julia in Peru, who’s recipes I am still using now! If amazing foods like quesedillas, tetelas, picarones and anticuchos can be made on the streets in Leon or Huancayo, I see no reason why I couldn’t make them in a cafe.

I was going to sell Cyberllama goods at the cafe too – Peruvian oddities for anyone interested. Carl and I started talking of this YEARS ago… he was going to get involved and turn it in to an internet cafe, and be responsible for the technical side of things. That was… 2002 I think. Nowadays, there wouldn’t be much call for internet cafes…the world changes too quickly. Now, he says he’ll support any mad scheme of mine, as long as he gets to keep a massive aquarium set into one wall – with piranhas in, of course, just to keep the Amazonian feel!

These plans have been delayed and postponed because we’ve never yet been in the position to even take ourselves seriously. We are full of intentions of moving to Vancouver post-PhD, and that would make a far better base for business than Darlington! But still… that is three years away. I am not a patient person, it seems….

And then the Mental Interesting contigent keep putting ideas in my head. A very dangerous activity. We have RASC – our writing group, full of the slightly eccentric creative types for whom even the most impractical ideas are a source of excitement. RASC currently meets in the overpriced and relatively atmosphere-deficient cafe at the Arts Centre. Wouldn’t it be so much more inspiring if we had our own venue? A writing cafe? That way, it wouldn’t be a business, it would be an arts venture. And we could get Arts grants, as opposed to business loans, and it would even be a community development and/or socially helpful project – it would provide gainful employment and a creative/productive outlet for the Mentally Interesting, teenage stench or otherwise unemployable members of our little town… With a little help from my friends, I could almost do it at the same time as my degree! And, the most bizarrely sensible suggestion yet: save on leases and business rates – set up my Gaggia machine in a caravan and have a travelling cafe! A Magic Cafe that pops up on request and is never in the same place twice! Yes yes yes!!!

(You can tell I’ve had my caffeine now, can’t you?)

Sigh. It would be so good.

And so to work….

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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