Catch you on the flip side

There are so many things happening in coffee right now, that I’ve lost track of them all. Social media is a vortex that just sucks you in, yet I feel more over it than ever. The reason why especially now, is stumbling across this quite astonishing article on the “15 most amazing predictions for Kali Yuga from the Srimad Bhagavatam.

The Kali Yuga, or the Age of Quarrel as it roughly translates into, is the time cycle we are in at the moment according to Vaisnava mythology. It is also called, the Age of Iron, which makes us understand that this isn’t really the golden age for the human race. Anyway, being somewhat a closet Krsna devotee, I have taken my refuge to the scriptures in order to create balance in my own life. And the more I read, the less I tend to find faith in anything the “real world” has to offer. The veil of ignorance is resting thick over our existence. Two of these predictions have been very accurate to me these past few weeks, and basically made me drop social media.

“Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread.”  Srimad Bhagavatam 12.2.3

In plain English, this basically translates into the society we are fed with today. Your surface means everything, depth means nothing. Lately, I have seen the speciality coffee industry more and more desperate in sales and growth, that the old core values of quality and respect for the cause is really out the window. If you want to revolutionize the coffee industry, is acting like a normal corporation really the way?

The other week, I was involved in an interesting discussion on the structure of the WBC being predominantely male, thus shunning women from attending and therefor we have no female World Barista Champion ever in the whole history of the competition. I see this passage in Srimad Bhagavatam as a quite clear reference to this. In all of Hindu mythology, Gods have a male and a female aspect, which they cannot be separated from. By meditating on Krsna, you also meditate on Radha, even if Radha doesn’t even enter your conscious mind. The vice versa is also true. When focusing on sex, we separate ourselves from our spiritual path of unity. Not only sex as a performance, but as a belonging. I feel both sides are losing a battle. The structure is there, definitely (because it is part of maya, the veil), but instead of seeing ourselves as beings of a certain sex, we should see ourselves as spiritual beings, carrying all the qualities of what makes a man and a woman.

The last of that passage speaks another truth; a brahmana (someone born into the priestly caste) will be known as one just by wearing a thread (of initiation). A typical simplistic Marxist theory would say that is a good thing; anyone can be part of any class. But that is missing the picture. You are not a brahmana unless you act like one, accordingly to your dharma, your lot in life. We’ve seen it in a lot of churches around the world, where priests are acting very ungodly. We also see it where a lot of people say one thing about their position, then acts in another way. It will become even more clear in the next passage I’ll quote:

A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he dos not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.”  Srimad Bhagavatam 12.2.4

As we see, not only the spiritual position, but the very core of business today, is left to the shallow use of symbols and symbolic language, filled with no real meaning. And if you can’t make money out of it, it’s not worth keeping. Is that why we all of a sudden see a surge of bad coffee sold at high price because of its symbolic values? Well, I’ll leave that to you to interpret. The last passage though is really what the coffee scene seems to have become. Anyone who has read a Malcolm Gladwell book seems to be a scholar, and people love that shit to feed their own insecurity. And the consensus culture (or more bluntly; conformity) on social media thrives on it, circle jerking until the end of time. Anyone who challenges the hegemony of the coffee culture is shunned, shut down or belittled. When they say they want to learn more, they want to learn what everyone else already know, in order to package it in new clever ways.

I see no interest in participating in this monoculture that is made up by nicely designed packaging with neat goody-two-foot slogans to feed the instagram and twitter conformity, when in fact they are just designed to become the next behemoth of coffee. I’d rather thirst for the nectar of my devotion (krsna) rather than to thirst for the simple gratification, what buddhists call trsna, which is the road to samsara; the neverending circle of births and deaths created by the thirst for materialistic wealth.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

NP: Agnideva – Damodarastakam

SSCF 2016

The Swedish Speciality Coffee Fest 2016 was held about a month ago. At the last minute, I was asked if I could judge the semi finals, which was a blessing.

To be a judge in a competition is a huge responsibility, but also a great honor. I think everyone who has at one point been in a competition, and then in a judges position, appreciates the effort of the competitor regardless of the results.

Many years ago, I worked as a hypnotherapist. There is a very strong force in the aspect of competition, and that is the power of suggestion. Suggestions, in the hypnotherapeutic sense, are prejudicial opinions based on prior information that we build our new experience from. Let’s say for instance that Volvo is a very secure car to drive your children in, you will feel safer in a Volvo with your children than in any other car. This is what advertising pushes and uses in order for you to buy their product. It happens on a subconscious level, so it’s not necessarily so that you understand why you have strong opinions about something or someone, that might stem from previous experiences.

It became very clear to me in the judges room, that the suggestions from some people competing were very strong, regardless of what they produced in the cup, both positive and negative. One clear example was a competitor that had printed a card with information regarding the coffee, that stated it was picked in 2014. Once that information was out there, everyone detected past crop defects.

From a therapist point of view, I understand this kind of mentality. But as a judge, and competitor, it made me think of the value of competing. How can competition step outside its mental bubble of excluding a certain kind of style? How can obviously unbalanced acidic espresso gain strong points in one country, but be a number 35 in the World Championships? Is the World Championships less biased? Or are their criteria in the judges room of a different context?

A part of me wants to leave the judges room and hit that competition floor again. But another part of me says, Why? When the coffee I might want to present won’t please the climate of judges in this part of the world? In 2011, when I last competed in the Barista category, the taste descriptor was “Fishermans Friend”. It was two El Salvador coffees in a blend. The coffee was brilliant. I finished last of 6 in the finals. If I would compete with the same coffees today, would I even make it to the finals with this kind of coffee? Or would I finish first just because I know most of the judges?  This question needs to be answered by judges all over the world in all judges rooms, and in honesty.

NP: Bathory – A Fine Day To Die

 

Northern Soul

“Same procedure as last year? 

Same procedure as every year, James”

 

A lot of things happened in 2015, some of it written down here on this blog. In last years chronicle over the past year, I touched the subject of my health. I am fairly sure now that I know what my problems are. In fact, they are most likely chemical and can be diagnosed and treated. This is my main goal for 2016 – to get well. One of my targets is to run the famous “Midnattsloppet”, a race in the heart of Stockholm during night time. It will happen in August, and my health focus is to actually be able to go through with this!

I had the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Barcelona, a city that I adore and plan to move to one day. In the meantime, I am actually focused on moving North though. Umeå is the major city in the North of Sweden, a boom town and a cultural centre. My girlfriend has her roots and family there, and for me I have lots of friends that I would like to get to work with on various projects. One of them is Costas, the pioneer coffee champion who has a wonderful place up there. He works very closely with farmers in Panama, but also with various importers of high degree Speciality Coffee. To me, his presence there is a great pull. But Umeå is also a foodie town, as well as a strong metal and jazz city.

Working with chefs has increased my interest in food and cooking. I’m not claiming to be anything fancy, but the fact that it’s quite easy these days to get fresh produce as well as interesting flavors and textures, has inspired me a great deal. This New Years Eve saw us do a very fun menu that I’ll present in pictures below (pictures by Mattias Eklund), and this is definitely something I will try to develop over time. My dream is to get a hands on training at the Taj Hotel group in India. Dream on dreamer.

 

"Perfect egg, with fenell and raclette fritters, fennel dills, avocado cream and tong rom"

“The Perfect Egg, with fenell and raclette fritters, fennel dills, avocado cream and tong rom”

"Oven baked blue Hasselback potato and saffron grilled carrots with saffron aioli and black tong"

“Oven baked blue Hasselback potato and saffron grilled carrots with saffron aioli and black tong”

"Quinoa balls made with cilantro, sundried tomatoes and Parmiggiano cheese, served on a bed with roasted kale, roasted brussel sprouts, avocado cream, wasabi tong, aioli and lime"

“Quinoa balls made with cilantro, sundried tomatoes and Parmeggiano cheese, served on a bed with roasted kale, roasted brussel sprouts, avocado cream, wasabi tong, aioli and lime”

"Veggie carpaccio:  with sous vide made beetroots, carrots and blue potatoes and cognac and honey grilled beets and a side of raw fried potatoes, aioli, saffron aioli and basil vinegar".

“Veggie carpaccio: with sous vide made beetroots, carrots and blue potatoes and cognac and honey grilled beets and a side of raw fried potatoes, aioli, saffron aioli and basil vinegar”.

"Vanilla and cognac sorbet with fresh mints"

“Vanilla and cognac sorbet with fresh mints”

So, wrapping up my “new year, new me” bullshit, I intend to live life as analogue as possible this year. I recently found myself engulfed in books (fiction) again, which hasn’t happened for a long time. Donna Tartts “The Goldfinch” and John Williams “Stoner” both touched me deeply. I want to get back into photography. I have so much music to make, with so many great people, I don’t know where to start! I am still working on my books. But most importantly, I want to meet people I love to hang out with more often. Catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a very long time, some scattered all over the world (Brazil, England, Australia, Germany, Spain… the list goes on forever), some so close I never get around to actually just hang out. And tea. I wanna drink heaps of tea!

NP: Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).

Back to the future

This year marked the actual year when the film Back to the Future II took us to the future of 2015, seen from the perspective of 1985. Some things are hard to predict, some things become true because you predict them, i e you make them happen.

I was asked by a popular Swedish coffee blog to make some predictions for 2016 in terms of trends and things to happen in coffee. Since that is in Swedish, and I’ve done it before with little success (but fun to do anyway), here is some thoughts from that post on my own little blog.

First I’d like to say that a trend analysis over a single year is quite hard, since we’re mainly talking about Sweden here, and Swedes are, despite their own self bloated opinion, rather late in trends, which makes it hard to predict what are trends awaiting to hit Sweden, what are lasting trends and what are just flavors of a month or two. As an example we can use the Raw Food trend that’s been around forever in America and Australia, and has been adapted by people visiting or living there, but for businesses to pick up on it has been rather scarce. But last year and this year two serious Raw Food cafées opened up in Stockholm, which makes it almost so out of date it becomes something new here. This is how Sweden works most of the times.

I think one of the most obvious trends, and one I have been very happy to see grow in a fashion I predicted some years ago, is the focus on all produce in the café. We’re seeing more and more coffee centric cafés/bars focusing on their food, their tea, their soft drinks, their bread and so forth. Coming up with great combinations. I’d say one of the starting points was Kura Café (and before that it was Coco Vaja), where the typical Australasian style all day breakfast took people by storm. The real hype though, started by Joel Wredlert opening up Kafé Esaias, using stuff from his mothers garden to make delicious stuff. And since then, a lot of cafés have succesfully done the same. One of the explanations I find interesting is, that it makes it easier to explain coffee if you treat all produce with the same care. Something for restaurants to copy. What I am hoping for, and since this is a big thing in restaurants, is to see more decent non-beetroot-with-chevre-vegetarian-options. Also, the recently proclaimed death of the single brew will benefit the other focus I hope to see increase; service!

Another trend we’re see happening right now is that more and more people start to roast their own coffee. Five years ago a few roasteries provided most great cafés with their coffee. Then, as more and more roasteries emerged, there seemed to be no real increase in great cafés. Some of the better ones then started to buy from several roasteries instead (so called ‘multiple roaster shops’). Now we will definitely see some of the cafés start roasting their own. One of the other reasons beside a great interest in coffee and wanting to be closer to the greens, is that two roasters, Diedrich and Loring Smart Roast, both have established sales- and service conveniantly close to home for these new roasters (Diedrich in Stockholm and Loring in Copenhagen), making installation, maintenance and service a lot easier and thus more attractive. And quality green coffee importers such as Nordic Approach etc. so close at hand, makes it very easy for small businesses to find quality coffee rather easily.

For Sweden this is hopefully great news, since we see a lot of action now happening outside the major cities, which pushes café trends to further parts of Sweden unlike before. What I really hope is that this pushes to maintain or increase quality rather than spreading mixed messages, confusing ‘speciality’ with ‘micro’ and ‘local’. But it’s also a delicate matter of pricing. We’ve seen some unfortunate price dumping on the Speciality Market, and besides shooting themselves in the foot, the whole market is effected by this. Compromising coffee quality and sending mixed messages confuses the consumer and it will take years to repair.

Over time, I see two necessary developments in the coffee/café sector, that is crucial to pave new ways. The first is more chains. We have a quality chain in Sweden already (Espresso House, which with their new design of their shops should be called Faux Barrel), plus a few really poor ones. But we would need roasteries, like Da Matteo has done already, to establish more outlets for their own products in order to get the brand well known. The second is branding itself. Today most coffee brands are very generic, and with almost no exception whatsoever, their coffee bags looks like the equivalent of Bordeaux labels; conservative, generic information and trying to look as authentic, which is another word for boring, as possible. The beer- and wine industries have done wonders in combining great produce with great branding. A good example is the producer Charles Smith and his line of wines. We need to see more of this in order to gain the attention from regular consumers.

For myself, as I mentioned before, I hope there will be a great deal more focus on vegetarian options in cafés. I also believe strongly that tea will be of greater interest to the public. Two things I hope to see less of is the coffee shot inspired espresso and Kombucha.

NP: Pretty Maids – Future World

 

Under the dome

After 7 months of paternity leave, I’m easing into work again. Part time at the moment, which is lovely. And since the place I’m suppose to work at is closed for repairs, the company took on yet another space as a pop up for a year. This is a project built by NCC, the large construction company, wanting to showcase their sustainability concept. Basically, it’s a place where art and house projecting get to meet, and we are the coffee bar for that interaction to happen. Luckily for me, there’s not even a kitchen in there, so all we can offer are very basic things.

This would be a great opportunity to showcase coffee, and I will during the fall showcase some of the best coffees around, most likely from one of my favorite roasters, Right Side Coffee in Barcelona, as well as some other coffees from around the globe! This is exciting since already I’ve encountered international students from such variety of places as Canada and Berlin, and they all seem very aware of coffee in a sense that Swedes are not.

Anyway, this place is beautiful in the Indian summer we’re experiencing now. It will be very interesting to see if it’ll be as pleasant when the temperature drops. The idea with this whole project is to log data regarding the micro climate inside, and we can’t make too many additions to the climate in order to keep it as accurate as possible. Who knows, maybe we’ll just turn into Stockholms second Ice Bar.

Another very great aspect of this little globe is that the theme is sustainability, and thus meat is pretty much cut out of the equation. Well almost anyway. You can read more about the project here: Dome of Visions (in Swedish unfortunately).

NP: Hüsker Dü – Ice Cold Ice

Kali Yuga

Through mans existence, from the start of time, the fight for survival, was her only crime

We are living in interesting times. Society is changing, perceptions are changing, people are changing. There is nothing certain in this world anymore, yet everything continues as it was business as usual. This is nothing new, really. In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a great quote from Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra; “There was no time when you nor I nor these kings did not exist”. It simply means, there is nothing new here, it’s all been witnessed and experienced before. In todays Social Media climate, this is particularly true. In coffee in general, this is also true.

When I started in coffee, latte art was a must, syphons were the latest rage, and we just started to brew with aeropress. Now, latte art is almost frowned upon in some circles, syphons some people have hardly heard of, but the aeropress is still in fashion. If anyone needs proof of evolution, there you had it. Just saw some pictures from a couple of years back, where the Clover was in fashion. Anyone remember that one? No? It was later adopted by Starbucks, which in some degree will explain its demise in more closed coffee circles.

In these days of confusion, I am a person not sure about my identity anymore. I have a job with people that I really like, however the coffee quality is not of significance. Which means I put out average cups of coffee every day with my name on it. Still better than a lot, maybe most, outlets in Stockholm in 2015. But still, I’m not pushing any boundaries. If anything, I’m more or less an Innocent Bystander of the times. We don’t weigh our coffee, we go by color and time, and we let taste rule. The quality of the coffee doesn’t really benefit from weighing, and the customer wouldn’t know the difference. So in the light of things, I am now in that sector that I myself frowned upon once in a time, where I didn’t take full response of the coffee.

Everyone knows the story about the Tower of Babel, right? When people became so secure about themselves that they defied God, and built a tower that made them lose the ability to understand each others languages, the closer to God they came. The Hindus refer to that incident as a whole age, the age of confusion, the age of quarrel. The age of Iron – Kali Yuga

Today is a wonderful time for being in coffee, really. This week, the New York Coffee Festival is launched. It is a copy of the one Allegra does in London and in Amsterdam (almost by historical irony that New Amsterdam was later renamed New York). Later, in November, the resurrection of the Nordic Roaster Forum is due. There are now many publications that enviously guard each other, which gave some resonance in Social Media when the SCAA announced its decimating the Regional Competitions earlier and one publication seemed to be solely invited to break the news. Even though I understand the animosity this might bring, it is still a luxuary in coffee to have many publications to chose from.

So where does this leave me? I skipped through my diary, and I see that a lot of the things I was supposed to have taken care of a year ago, are still to be fulfilled. I have still not taken time to focus on myself, to regain strength in my personal health. As one of my best friends was forced to live elsewhere than planned, the black metal album we were supposed to record at his house in LA is postponed. Instead, I am currently involved with a punk rock band I was in some 15 years ago, and we’ll record stuff in two weeks. I do have a Five Year Plan though. It still involves my book that needs to leave the sketching table and enter the process. It still involves music to be created. It also involves some plans for coffee, absolutely. Competing even, if time permits and the stars are aligned. But I need to rebirth. And that is still to happen. Not sure when, not sure how. But my old incarnation is getting worn out. Tired of what I have become.

NP: Boltthrower – Eternal War

World of Coffee 2015

The World of coffee was an intense affair for anyone engaged in it! I was the designated hashtagger for Da Matteo, the local coffee company and more or less the host of the event! As you may or may not know, social media is pronounced dead, yet it is more than alive and kicking! I have to be honest; I did a shitty job for my friends over at Da Matteo. Sure, I tweeted, I hashtagged, but did I give the audience all there was? No. And maybe it is because it’s such a vast exhibition! Or maybe I was sloshed most of the time… Or maybe it was just me? Maybe I am the wrong person for that kind of job? Seeing enough shows in my career makes it hard to find another angle. Anyway, it was probably the last time I ever try to engage in anything but IRL-meetings with people in the flesh.

For me personally the most interesting part was judging the Best of India. It was a serious yet rather small affair, judging the best 41 coffees India had to offer! India is a country very dear to me, so getting the opportunity to meet some of the people on the Coffee Board of India was fantastic! I am hoping to visit India soon enough, there are so many things I am interested in reconnecting with over there, not just in coffee but in tea and culturally.

In the early stage of the exhibition I was part of the local group, looking at various locations etc. It was interesting to follow up on what was chosen for each and every event! It seems, from the focus group, that the Village concept this year really took off! Various roasters, green buyers etc showed the crowd what was on offer with various cuppings and brews! On the first days, my estimation is that probably the Village had most visitors of all!  This was the first SCAE/WCE in Sweden ever, and I do think we nailed it! It was very appreciated, and it goes to show what can be done in Dublin next year!!

To this date, it was considered to be the best World of Coffee yet, and I can only agree from my own experiences of various exhibitions. But at the end of the day, what was most important was to catch up with all good friends and making new ones. That is what matters most!

NP: The Dubliners The Rocky Road To Dublin

Fire in the house

syphon sally

My girlfriend was the producer of a large cultural symposium at Moderna Muséet and Moderna Dans Teatern. It was very visual, and very high end, and she wanted me to make coffee at one of the events as a small event in itself. Since it was a cultural event, and not mainly a coffee focused crowd, I opted for the Syphon as my brewing metod (borrowed kindly from Lanthandelns Espresso), pushing three different coffees through from Da Matteo coffee roasters; a natural Brazilian, a natural Panama and a washed Kenyan.

With a lot of international guests, it was actually quite a lot of knowledge floating around during the session. People knew their stuff, and one of the producers of a show was based in Vancouver and knew heaps about the local scene there. We actually shared mutual aquantancies around the world in coffee. It’s very rewarding when people from more coffee centric countries than Sweden gives you a thumbs up.

NP: The Cardigans – Burning Down The House

A Death in the Afternoon

Barcelona. When you utter the name, you know it’s for real. I was supposed to write this blog post for an international blog but I decided to just write it down for my own memory’s sake. Why? Things move too fast in Barcelona at the moment to be tagged into a right there, right then kind of moment.

I was happy to be around in Paris around the time when things started to become serious. I was equally happy to be around in Berlin when it happened. And Barcelona is happening, but probably at twice times the speed. Most places with a rep are already either opened their second space, or looking into do be doing so within the next six months.

Let’s start at the foundation of things. For as long as I can remember (which isn’t very long, to be honest), Right Side Coffee has been the one and only coffee hub to talk about. Also, just days before I left for Spain I got the tip from the people at La Marzocco that True Artisan Café was something special, and there was my old friend Elisabet, who judged me at the barista competitions in Sweden back in 2011.

I contacted Joaquin of Right Side early on, and he kindly invited me to the roastery, which is situated in Castelldefels, a small town just south of Barcelona, with an amazing beach and a beautiful ambience. These guys are fantastic people and Joaquin is one of my favorite roasters. As I kept coming back, I saw the roastery develop into a beautiful workshop space for customers and baristi to train! Even though I’ve been to a fair share of roasteries, this truly felt at home for me. It touched a place in my heart that will never disappear!

True Artisan Café, also the host of the La Marzocco distribution in Spain, is an absolutely stunning place, with top hospitality people. I made sure this was my living room for most of my stay in Barcelona as Ionutz kept pouring me guest espressos of various kinds from a rotating menu. As Ionutz is a vegetarian, I greatly appreciated his sandwiches as well! We had some great times, doing cheese, wine and beer around town as well. Who would have thought you’d meet your Rumanian brother in a Spanish town?

Not far from True Artisan is Nomad Coffee Productions! Great people, wonderful space, fantastic coffees! The space itself is both a café and an educational space, which unfortunately reduces the opening hours. From what I gather though, there is a second location, with an in house roaster, happening in Poble Nou. I also had the opportunity to have their coffee at the big local open market Palo Alto around the same area, which was a fantastic way to showcase their coffee (my girlfriend thought it was the best cappuccino she ever had in Spain, period!).

There were other spaces in Barcelona which we didn’t really have much more time than a single visit to, but that we liked nevertheless; Satans CoffeeSlice of Life, Onna Café, Alguero Café, Cosmo Café, Caravelle and Skye Coffee are all worth a visit!

So many things are to be said about Barcelona and its coffee scene. I got invited to a fantastic showcase of the direct trade relation coffee that Right Side does, at True Artisan Café. Then we headed off o Satans Coffee Corner for a “drunken aeropress throw down”. I ended up judging with none other than Javier Garcia and Henry Brink, and we will never forgive Ionutz for his blending coffee with avocado.

Coffee in Barcelona is on moving fast! Just days before we left, Coutume, of Paris and Tokyo fame, opened up a location here. To me, this means there is something happening in this city! Can’t wait to get back, or even better; move here! I love Barcelona!

NP: Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé Barcelona

 

Non coffee related noise

I always wanted to be a musician. My grandmother was an opera singer, my uncle is a rather famous producer and my cousin is a budding house producer about to go places. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I got caught up in the tape trading business within the death metal community. We had a band that disbanded back in 1995, and after that I didn’t play one single tune. But then I started working at a place where I met this guy, Matt Slammer, who asked me if I wanted to join him for a rehersal with his band cause he thought I looked cool. I said that I’d loved to. Then he asked me if I played an instrument.

My first rehersals I can’t remember if I even had my own guitar, but soon we recorded a cover song for a tribute album, and then we did some gigs. We recorded some more, and my probably biggest claim to fame is a split 7″ vinyl with Hellacopters. Then I got my first daughter, and we left the city. The band continued, but with a friend of mine on guitar instead. A couple of years ago, I hooked up with Matt Slammer again, and we decided to put the band back together. We’ve been rehearsing new songs for an upcoming album, but we had to rerehearse some old tunes for a live set. Our old drummer invited us to open up for his new band, and so we did. This is the opening song, which is typical Weaselface rock’n’roll with lyrics by the Trash Poet.

EDIT: I started a blog with updates for the band, and you can find it here: Weaselface!

A few demo songs available here!

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