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Around the world with our baristas: California

Discover our new Golden Gate Espresso, “bridging” West Coast coffee roasters practises and their Italian colleagues traditions. 

In California, there’s something for every taste. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived there last May. Here in Sherbrooke, during my initiation into the fine points of coffee and the delicate manipulations involved, I knew right away that I was going to have fun. I was eager to learn. It’s a very rich world. I’ve been so lucky to spend the last while (a few years now!) immersed in an exciting, entertaining universe where something is always happening. I’d like to tell you about my coffee faves in California: some iconic spots that are really worth your while.

My favorite places

Verve Coffee Roasters

As charming as its name, Santa Cruz is fresh like a cool, exotic breeze. And Verve is a gem you simply must not miss. It’s breathtakingly spacious, with a scattering of tables and, of course, the terrace overlooking Pacific Avenue. In the very centre of the shop is the bar with its various coffee machines and a team of baristas who take real pleasure in explaining the myriad fine points of their products. Percolators, grinders, slow press ... everything needful for a fine coffee experience is right there. The atmosphere is relaxed and yet stimulating, just like the aura downtown Santa Cruz projects. Verve is local business par excellence, and it selects the finest products to offer quality, know-how and a pleasurable taste experience. Surfing and coffee:  two passions united and Verve was born! Today, you can enjoy the Verve experience in New York or even in the heart of Los Angeles.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Intrigued by their history and their brand image, I couldn’t resist checking it out. I must admit that I find history really fascinating. I like to know the stumbling blocks, the anecdotes, the how and why, what made the business take off. Where did it get its name? I did my research, asked the employees to tell me more and here are the basics. Blue Bottle Coffee is a roasting house that focuses on single-origin coffees. Its tale is woven around a single desire, one the company says goes back in time: “serving our coffee within 48 hours after roasting” to get the benefit of the fine flavour. Obviously, the business has expanded over the years. It keeps growing in popularity and I conclude that its coffee is worth savouring.

Cafe Bellini

Taking its inspiration from the grand coffeehouses of Florence, Italy, Café Bellini offers a varied menu in a relaxed atmosphere. Ideally located in Union Square, in the heart of San Francisco, it’s a place that puts everyone at ease. All products are reasonably priced. The coffee is good, but no more. The service, on the other hand, is incredible! The baristas really enjoy explaining what’s hot about their products. I would call this a practical type of place: coffee to stay or go, anything, any time. Ideal for people who may not have the time to linger. The business has pinpointed its patrons’ needs in order to serve them better.

Do some research to find out the best coffee shops in town

I soon understood that in California, it’s hard to find a place without coffee. Any time of day, whatever your preference, you will find it. Of course, there are lots of coffee shops, but with a little searching, you can find good roasting houses that are sure to satisfy you.

Carolanne Daigle

 
GOLDEN GATE ESPRESSO
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Around the world with our baristas: Australia

Why Sydney is not Starbuck's realm

Arriving in Sydney, I expected to see Starbucks on every street corner, the way you do in most of the world’s big cities. To my great surprise, it was a little over a month before I spotted a Starbucks!!! In fact, the giant seems to have been sidelined by small independent coffeehouses, for a number of reasons.

First, an influx of Italian immigrants in the early 1950s introduced Australia to the art of coffee, and that heritage is central to the unique coffee culture that still lives on in the country. Visiting various coffeehouses in Australia, I soon noticed that the baristas there are passionately dedicated to their art. They take the time to make every coffee with care, and their patrons matter to them. 

Second, Aussies are known for their laid-back attitude, and it seems independent coffeehouses meet their needs better than a giant like Starbucks. Australians love to socialize over a good cuppa, be it with friends, coworkers or relatives. They like to take their time and relax while sipping a fine coffee. 

Third, Australians are increasingly knowledgeable about coffee culture. There are lots of “cupping” events (kind of like wine-tasting but for coffee) offered by independent roasting houses. 

My best finds

I don’t need to tell you that where coffeehouses are concerned, Australia is a gold mine. Here are my two favourite spots in Sydney to enjoy a good coffee (and munch on a little snack). 

Bare Naked Bowl

Shop 1, 145 Macpherson St,, Bronte, Sydney, NSW 2024

2/41 Market Lane, Manly, Sydney, NSW 2095

This superfood café is known for its açai bowls, which are a treat for eyes and palate alike. I fell in love with this coffeehouse the first time I walked in. However busy it may be (and it’s busy every day), the employees make sure every patron is satisfied. They offer fresh-roasted single-origin coffees and, let me tell you, they are absolutely delectable. Sipping a great coffee and eating a smoothie bowl by the seaside -- it doesn’t get better than this! 

Bare naked bowl

 

Harry’s Bondi

2/136 Wairoa Ave, Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW 2026


Considered one of the best places to brunch, Harry’s is an absolute must next time you’re visiting Bondi Beach! The atmosphere is warm, the food is colourful and the coffees are beyond delicious. Definitely worth the trip if you want to savour a cold drip or a flat white under the sun!

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Raphaëlle Dusseault

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Around the world with our baristas: Portugal

It’s vacation time, but despite everything, the coffee mania still grips FARO’s baristas as they roam the world seeking new discoveries. Our usual subject here is coffee-producing countries, but we’ve decided to do a series of blogs about coffeehouses in the countries where our baristas are vacationing or training abroad. As they journey, you’ll get glimpses of local coffee culture through the writings of the baristas themselves. For instance, what is unique and special about the café scene in Korea, Singapore, Australia, Central America or Europe? Stay tuned!

Being an inveterate tourist myself, it’s my pleasure to kick off this series of blogs by presenting the coffeehouses I’ve had time to visit. I paid too much for my coffee but, that being said, I greatly enjoyed my experience (all except the tab!).

When I’m traveling for work, I always seek out independent cafés. I want to see what they’re doing, and drink coffee that’s more carefully crafted than what you get in the big fast-food chains. Even on vacation, I keep my eyes open. The offer tends to be pretty standard, though. With young people increasingly savvy, and fashions in specialty coffees ever more accessible, there’s a leveling effect on the offer around the globe. That’s why I prefer to tell you about coffeehouses where the tradition has roots going back generations. I figure a café that’s been open for 100 years deserves a visit. So in this first blog, I’ll tell you about two famous coffeehouses in Portugal, places I absolutely had to visit while in the land of pasteís de nata and azulejos.  

Lisbon (A Brasileira)

Fernando Pessoa, "the Flâneur"

Fernando Pessoa, "the Flâneur"

The lavish A Brasileira coffeehouse is one of those cafés whose clientele has changed the course of history. Opensince 1905, it is located in the heart of Lisbon, on the edge of Largo do Chiado square. The eternal patron immortalized in bronze on the terrace is the elusive and multifarious personality Fernando Pessoa, also known as “the flâneur”, a noted Lisbon political and cultural writer renowned for his drunken articles (and his talent).

The coffeehouse itself is a trip back in time. The architecture is sublime. The coffee they serve is a medium-dark roast, very well balanced, quite representative of what you find in Lisbon’s other typical cafés. A short espresso that’s not at all fruity, but still well balanced and devoid of bitterness. Let’s just say that with THE ultimate local pastry, the pastel de nata, it gets the day off to a very good start!

Their logo is wild! It’s so cutting-edge it could be an agency creation from 2017.

Their logo is wild! It’s so cutting-edge it could be an agency creation from 2017.

If you’re going to Lisbon and want to learn more about the history of coffeehouses and their influence on the thinkers and critics who forged today’s world, this is a must.

Porto (Majestic Café)

A café with an impressive architecture, in the heart of Porto.

A café with an impressive architecture, in the heart of Porto.

The Majestic Café is a chic Porto coffeehouse somewhat reminiscent of the Parisian Belle Époque. Its Art Nouveau architecture has made the café a popular meeting place for Porto’s residents since 1921. Its charm and luxurious ambience have inspired the city’s political and economic élite. With time, thinkers and artists have taken it over (including J.K. Rowling, who worked on Harry Potter there). Today, the typical patrons tend to be tourists, so it’s a good idea to go early, or late, outside the hours when the place is swarming with camera-wielding tourists like myself (which dilutes the magic somewhat). Go at other times and soak up the atmosphere of a local café.

The coffee they serve is adequate but no more. The espresso is devoid of acidity with a short finish, in the Portuguese tradition. The menu is nothing special either. The prices are high for what’s offered. Don’t worry, though: the coffeehouse itself is well worth the trip. Its romantic atmosphere, costumed servers and stunning architecture will make you forget what you’re paying. This café recalls the cultural importance of drink and coffeehouses and the influential role they have played.

A tip: Visit in the evening. With the lights, it’s magnificent. And skip the food! Porto has many good restaurants where you’ll get much better fare for the price. Ask to be seated on the back terrace, behind the piano, if you want more leisure to write your book or poem.

Majestic+cafe+porto.jpg

In an upcoming blog, my coworker Antoine should be telling you about Portugal’s independent cafés. To end this first blog inspired by traditional Portuguese coffeehouses, here are some lines from a poem Fernando Pessoa wrote in a café. (I’ll leave you to guess whether drink or coffee was his muse.) It’s entitled “Follow Your Destiny”.

“Follow your destiny,

Water your plants,

Love your roses.

The rest is shadow

Of unknown trees.

 

Reality is always

More or less

Than what we want.

Only we are always

Equal to ourselves.”

 

— “The flâneur” 

Maxime Fabi

The coffee, At FARO

Fair Trade month is coming !

May is fair-trade month. Despite its initial popularity and its noble intentions, fair trade coffee has been less of a trendy product lately and has even come under criticism by certain coffee roasters. Indeed like any system, it has its flaws. The fair trade project is not an end in itself, but a living system that changes with time. The purchases that we make directly from the coffee farmers are more singular and more efficient from a marketing point of view. Despite the fact that a North-South trading axis is direct, everyone agrees that direct purchases cannot happen on 100% of the crops. The fair trade month of May is a way for FARO to claim that fair trade has its place in our purchasing system. It must and will evolve, like all business trading systems; the fairness factor that gave rise to this system is a part of our core values. Let’s ask our own Valérie Verhoef, barista and manager at FARO, to tell us more about fair trade. 

Maxime Fabi, managing director

Why fair trade ?

Fair trade exists because this type of trade is based on the theory that conventional trading is unfair and that we all need to look at the mark we leave as consumers and stakeholders. Imbalance in trade between the Northern and Southern countries has existed since the first industrial revolution.  For almost 20 years now, FARO has been preoccupied by this unfairness and holds fairtrade coffee in its product offering. Every year we visit many coffee producers in South and Central America. Although fair trade represents only 0.01% of all commerce worldwide, according to the Fair Trade Federation, we insist on doing our part. We believe in solidarity and respect for others in our trading practices.

The implications of buying fair trade products.

When buying fairtrade products we:

  1. Promote the development of good ethics in commerce. We respect the workers, while fighting against cheap labour and child work; we encourage equal treatment for women.
  2. Help in maintaining healthy commercial relationships. We redefine their terms and most of all we establish a direct rapport with all types of farmers and producers.
  3. Contribute to the broadening of the range of products being offered and their availability on the fairtrade markets. The stronger the demand, the wider the product offering.
  4. Help in the transfer of knowhow and skills that surely deserve to be passed on to future generations.
  5. Choose local producers. Whether from here or abroad… We work with people who are passionate about their craft, people who enjoy creating and offering quality products.

It is not our intention to hold a moralising discourse; we are merely craftspeople who specialize in roasting coffee. We are affected by the fairtrade aspect of economic development and we are proud to offer our patrons various fairtrade products.

 

 

 

The coffee

The process of decaffeination

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a chemical and psychoactive molecule that acts to stimulate the mind and body. We often hear that caffeine increases focus, helps coordination and supports physical efforts. Naysayers will affirm that caffeine feeds anxiety, that it disturbs sleep and gives headaches. Contrary to rumors which mention that dark roast coffees contain less caffeine, we are now able to state that a multitude of factors influence the amount of caffeine contained in our cup of coffee: the nature of the bean, the roasting, the infusion, the water temperature or the amount of coffee used, among others. If you would like to know more on this subject, you can refer to this article of the SCAA, expert in the world of coffee.

How is coffee decaffeinated?

First of all, be aware that decaffeinated coffee will always contain a minimum of caffeine. As mentioned above, the caffeine molecule is tenacious! However, there are 2 well-known methods to eliminate a good deal of caffeine.

Swiss water process:

  1. The coffee bean is soaked in water. This step allows the bean to expand (it becomes waterlogged) and thus prepare the extraction of caffeine.
  2. The bean is then filtered with charcoal. This filter traps in caffeine.
  3. This process is repeated until coffee is decaffeinated to more or less 99%.


KVW process (chemical process):

  1. The (green) coffee bean is first placed in a high-intensity steam bath. The objective is to open the pores of the bean.
  2. Subsequently, the bean is rinsed in a solution of dichloromethane (methylene chloride, an organic solvent) where it will macerate during 10 to 12 hours.
  3. Finally, the coffee beans return to steam for several hours in order to purify from the residues of the solvents used in the previous step.

 

Watch this video if you want to learn more about the Swiss water process!

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A new roaster for a new year

What a thrill to FINALLY write this blog about our new roaster! It’s the best way to start the New Year. This baby is CLEARLY the most beautiful coffee roaster in the world, our dream machine! I’ll spare you all the technical details, but I have to say this: this roaster was custom built for our specific needs. It’s able to meet all our particular requirements regarding the quality of the beans we shove down its throat in massive quantities, indeed in much larger batches than before. You can tell we’re very excited about this new member of our family, can’t you?

 

A roaster that reflects who we are

The most beautiful roaster in the world !

The most beautiful roaster in the world !

In order to rejuvenate our roasting plant, we had to design and find a roaster that would be able to reflect who we are and our total commitment to quality, while increasing the production output we needed. The thing is, at FARO, one of our divisions specialises in private brands and is dedicated to supplying restaurant chains, food distributors and grocery stores. It was therefore important that we remain very competitive for our customers. Some of our clients even select their own green coffee beans.  Although our new roaster is a true work horse and looks tough, it is a gem of technology and regularity. This mechanical jewel allows us to adjust roasting curves and confirm roasting temperatures from a remote location - even from my own cell phone.

 

The ideal machine from Diedrich

It is a hot-air and gas-fired piece of equipment. For our private brands division, it’s the ideal machine; you see, with ordinary roasters the amount of beans being roasted at one time has to remain the same if we are to obtain constant roasts. With our new beast, we can roast the amount of coffee we need for a particular batch since it adjusts its roasting curve according to the amount of beans it contains. We can therefore continuously obtain perfect batches of coffee with all the specific aromas, every time, all the time, whatever the amount of beans poured in the beast’s belly. This is quite a benefit for our type of production!

The challenge was to find a roaster capable of meeting the financial requirements of our private brand division while being able to reproduce FARO’s quality products in greater quantities. Given the increase in demand for such superior products, we needed to deliver the same FARO quality to large food chains.

Believe me, this machine does the job exceptionally well. It is a more precise, greener, steadier, tougher machine, and a highly praised piece of equipment in our industry. But still, it allows the artisan touch, where the art of coffee roasting prevails. Here are a few pics of OUR OWN best looking roaster in the world!