Culture

Coffee has a rich culture and history from around the world. This category contains a wealth of info about the culture of coffee from all corners of the Earth!
  • Introducing Your Family to Craft Coffee

    Hey coffee fans!

     

    It's the holiday season, and for many folks that means lots of time with family and friends. One of the joys of these kinds of gatherings is being able to share your favorite treats of the season! We know that sometimes it can be tough to "sell" grocery store coffee drinkers on fancier stuff. It's why we thought we'd offer some tips for sharing your favorite coffee with your favorite people this Holiday!

    Start slow

    Look, we would all love for our family to understand how delicious a bright, floral shot of espresso can be. This is also a pretty challenging leap from the less flavorful coffees they might be used to! We recommend starting small by going for an old fashioned drip pot of coffee. Prepare it before they arrive and offer it to them without feeling like you have to explain what you brewed. Lots of complicated information can be overwhelming and lead to your test subj... We mean guests, jumping to conclusions about what they're drinking.

    Leave the bag near the brew

    Specialty coffee usually features some beautiful bags. You might already do this, but if you don't, leave that pretty package next to your brewer! Anyone passing by might be enticed to pick it up and ask about it. Once it's a question, it's easier to share info on the coffee you've brewed.

    Keep it simple

    While we'd love for you to sell your family and friends on a challenging natural process single origin, you might want to keep it simpler. Stick to a blend that offers some classic coffee notes, plus a little bit extra. Options like our SCG Holiday Blend or Bluebeard's Snowbeard fit this bill nicely. If they like the coffee, then you can suggest they try more adventurous roasts. This ties in with using a simpler brew method like a basic drip brewer. We're sure your guests will appreciate a bit of familiarity!

    Branch out into pour over

    A very eye opening thing to a lot of coffee newbies is their first pour over. This is a brew method that is perfect for understanding the intricacies present in many coffees. After your guests have tried a more complex roast than the basic grocery store coffee they may be used to, exploring it further as a pour over could really open them up to craft coffee.

    Spread it out

    Don't try to go all in on this in one visit. After a morning pot of drip, offer a pour over at the next gathering. Coffee is still coffee! Too much at once can lead to a bit of an overload for newer coffee drinkers. That can be unpleasant and off-putting in the long run.

    Most importantly...

    Don't be a snob!

    Lots of people have a perception of craft coffee as a snobby thing to enjoy. Many folks think all coffees taste exactly the same and coffee as a hobby is a wasted effort. Rather than argue with a person like that, the best thing you can do is meet any dismissal with humor and humbleness. Not everyone likes coffee for coffee's sake!

  • Piecewise Coffee Co. Shop - Installation and Setup

    It's been a while since we checked in with our friends from Piecewise Coffee Co., and they've been busy! Piecewise just had its grand opening, so we're excited to hear more from Stanton and Lindsey soon. For now, we got some insight into their installation and set up process!

    What’s the biggest task in getting machines set up and ready to run?

    That would definitely be ensuring the utility hooks up were correct. We worked with our electrician, plumber and installation company (VP Coffee in our instance) to have all the connections meeting the manufacture specifications. Now that all the utility lines are in, we will probably never think about them again, but it sure was an effort making sure they were good to go at the start.

    What kind of testing do you do regarding the setup of machines to ensure smooth operating?

    The installation company did all the testing for us for the initial install. They used calibrated weights, scales and volumetric containers to calibrate the espresso machine. Once the initial setup was completed, we pulled our first shot of espresso and started the dialing in process. It took a day or so to get a consistent quality shot to pull, but we continually tweaked settings for just over a week to get something we were really proud of! 

    Did any of your logistic plans change based on seeing the final setup?

    For the coffee gear, not really. We were really fortunate to work closely with SCG on the machine layout, thinking about the impact to workflow with the layout of piece of equipment. The end product has proven to be well thought out and meet the needs of our coffee shop. 

    Other than coffee, refrigeration is one of the only things we have seen a need for outside of what we originally planned. However, we created our under-counter space to have extra wiggle room so the space was there to be flexible. As we learn the ropes of operating, we plan to take advantage of this area. If we had to redo everything, having an increase counter height would make the under-counter area even more flexible for equipment on casters. 

    What kind of maintenance schedules do you have planned? How does maintaining an espresso machine differ from maintaining a traditional drip grinder form a practical perspective?

    The plan is to maintain regular quarterly services, as recommended by our installation company. We couldn't afford to have either the espresso machine or the batch brewer go out of service. Having this regular schedule gives us more confidence both pieces of equipment will function well over the long haul. 

    We also make sure to perform daily maintenance on the equipment. The daily cleaning procedures keep us familiar, aware and consistent in how to maintain our gear. 

    Can you talk a little bit about challenges associate with water/electricity?

    As far as the operation of equipment goes, we haven't had any issues with water impacting equipment. The electricity has been a little of a struggle. Due to building codes, a GFI outlet had to be installed on the batch brewer and bulk bean grinder outlet. This electrical circuit also happens to be on the same circuit as our small countertop oven. If the oven is running in tandem with the brewer it can trip the GFI. Super frustrating! Our electrician is working with us to plan a work around while still maintaining building codes. 

    Did you work with a technician to get things set up? If so, did they handle everything?

    Yes, our technician was from a local shop and was a certified La Marzocco tech. This was important for us since the espresso machine was purchased new and would need a proper installation to maintain the initial factory warranty. Our tech was very helpful in showing each step of the installation and providing some troubleshooting steps for common issues.

    What kind of support do you have now for long-term maintenance of your equipment?

    Our long-term maintenance will continue with the initial installation company. They also provide emergency support if the equipment decides to stop working all of a sudden. 

    What was the most exciting machine to fire up and use for the first time?

    By far it was the espresso machine! It's still a joy to come in each morning and run it through its paces for the day; however, seeing all the effort culminate with the installation was amazing. It was the icing on the cake after a lengthy build out process.

    What sort of training do you have planned for operating the machines?

    This is something we're still building. Our coffee quality manager has extensive coffee experience and has trained each barista first in distinguishing a quality espresso shot from a poor shot. From there he demonstrates how adjustments to the grinders, espresso machine and tamping can swing taste along the quality spectrum. Consistency among our baristas is most important. Long term plans include SCA training to ensure our baristas are getting the best training possible. 

    What’s the first drink you made on your new espresso machine?

    I think we just drank straight espresso shots for the first few days! 

    What other steps have to happen after setting up equipment in order to open?

    Getting a solid workflow on bar was pretty important, as was integrating our full menu into the rotation. We've been fortunate to have an extended soft opening to bring it all together slowly. The inventory process was also a huge learning curve. Find the balance between being comfortable with the stock of items on hand, having enough space, and maintaining product quality is still something we are learning.

    Are you satisfied with your equipment choices?

    Overall most definitely. The only change we would make would be a dual unit batch brewer. Having the single unit limits some of our catering options.

    Do you feel that things worked out in terms of plans versus reality?

    Time will tell, but overall things have worked fairly closely with our plans. We know there's still a long way to go before calling our coffee shop a success, but it's been a pleasure operating the shop and having most of the big picture items meet expectations from the planning stages. 

     

    We'll be back soon with more from the Piecewise Coffee Co. crew!

  • Coffee Culture: United Kingdom

    Hello coffee fans!

    Today we're taking a look into the culture of coffee in the United Kingdom! Join us for a look at what it's like to have a cup of joe across the pond!

     

    Coffee In the UK

    The British coffee industry has boomed over the last ten years, increasing cups per day by 25 million! This and other facts about the UK's coffee craze came out in a 2018 study from the British Coffee Association. It found that Brits consume a whopping 95 million cups of coffee per day. This is surprising for us on the American side of the Atlantic. Here, we tend to view the UK as a tea drinking nation, and historically this is true. It is only in recent decades that the British has made the switch to coffee. Also interesting is where they're drinking our favorite caffeinated beverage.

    The study found that well over half of coffee in the UK is consumed at home. This clashes with the notion that most coffee drinkers are doing it in shops and restaurants. In fact, a mere 10% of coffee was found to be drank in cafes. By contrast, Reuters found that American drink as much as 36% of their coffee on the go or in coffee shops. Quite the difference!

    The UK has even seen an explosion of third wave roasters. While Americans may consider this country to be the epicenter of the specialty roasting movement, some Brits would argue otherwise. Despite the figures above, café culture is also booming in the island nation. Coffee drinkers there love espresso, with lattés, cappuccinos, and au laits being common orders at the local coffee shop.

    All of this is in opposition to the history of coffee in the UK. Until recently, most coffee drinkers preferred instant coffee for its simplicity. The shift to third wave roasting is often attributed to millennials seeing coffee as upper class and desirable. Either way, Britain continues to develop into a coffee loving nation!

  • Coffee History: Brazil

    Hello coffee fans! We're back with yet another coffee history! This week we're looking at a major coffee producing country and its history: Brazil!

    A Storied History

    Coffee in Brazil stretches all the way back to the 1700s. The first coffee plants were planted in the late 1720s in the Brazilian state of Pará. Pará is located in the north-central part of the country, bordered by several other states as well as by the ocean to the Northeast. From there, coffee plants spread south throughout the country, eventually reaching Rio De Janeiro later in the century. This coffee was planted primarily for Brazilians to enjoy domestically. However, over the course of the century, demand for the bean grew through the Americas and in Europe. In the early 19th century, plantations expanded all over Brazil, and soon it was the number one export in the country.

    Over the next century, Brazil became the leading producer of coffee in the world, supplying 80% of the world's coffee beans. Processing in Brazil was primarily done by hand using natural methods. While early processors used this method due to a lack of equipment, it had a silver lining. Because Brazilian coffee is typically grown at a lower altitude than in some coffee producing countries the cherries tend to be a little less sweet. The natural process imparts more of the fruit's character in the bean than a machine washed process. This increase in fruitiness helps Brazilian coffee to develop its unique taste.

    But while Brazil remains a major coffee producer, why isn't it still the coffee producer?

    An Evolution of the Market

    One cause for this is the way the coffee industry has evolved. Early in the drink's history, purchasers were careful as to where they bought beans from. This meant that Brazil's reputation for quality product was key to its expansion in the global coffee market. As the world modernized, coffee began being consumed more in pre-ground and instant forms. This evolution of the industry led to less concern over where the beans came from. On the flip side, as third-wave roasting renewed an interest in carefully sourced coffee, more producing nations began to make a mark. The result is wider diversity in coffee availability. While this may have hurt Brazilian exports, it means more choice for roasters and end consumers, and rising demand for the drink means it will be a part of Brazil's economy forever!

    It's no surprise that we love Brazilian coffee, and we hope you've enjoyed this look at the country's early years producing it!

  • Roast of the Month: Tony's Ethiopia Deri Kochoha

     

    It's time once again for Roast of the Month! This month we're featuring an incredibly delicious Ethiopia from Tony's Coffee. Tony's offers consistently good coffee, so we've been excited to see how they handle this roast!

    This natural Ethiopia comes from the Deri Kochoha processing station. Roasts from this station were really exciting last year, so we're happy to see Tony's deliver a delicious finish to these beans!

    The Deri Kochoha processing station processes coffee from approximately 600 farmers. This diversity in producers really affects the beans that leave the station. It means that from year to year, this processor develops wildly different exports. The coffee is dried on raised tables in a natural process, leading to the intense berry notes in this roast.

    Rich, Sweet, Smooth

    And intense they are! The flavors on display here are strawberry, cocoa, and peach. We think Tony's nailed these notes, with the strawberry really taking the lead. If you're familiar with naturals, you'll be familiar with the strongest flavors here. Like the all of the best naturals, this Tony's opens up into rich chocolatey notes that fold into the strawberry flavors wonderfully. What really sets this coffee apart is how it finished. A soft stonefruit note finishes the flavor palate, leaving you with a pleasant, fruity, but mild aftertaste. It's a great invitation to take another sip!

    This is a delicious roast for pourover brew methods, which bring out the brighter, berry notes deliciously. After you get the full range of flavors out of the pourover, this is a roast that some will love as an espresso. It's tricky to dial in single origins, even more so when you're working with a natural that has stronger flavors. That said, the results can be phenomenal!

    However you decide to brew Ethiopia Deri Kochoha, we're sure you'll love this excellent roast from Tony's. Grab a bag right here today!

  • Coffee Culture: Canada

    Coffee is a 6.2 BILLION dollar industry in Canada. Our favorite beverage is a big deal just a few hours north of us here in Seattle! In fact, coffee is the most consumed beverage in Canada by adults. That means adults in the great white north drink coffee more than beer, wine, soda, even tap water! So what makes Canadian coffee culture tick? How different is it than our own coffee scene in the United States? We thought we'd find out!

    The Coffee Association of Canada found that 72% of adults drink coffee daily in the country in 2018. Wow! Of that number, 60-70% of them, broken down by ethnic group, prepare their coffee at home. Most Canadians favor drip coffee, but espresso based drinks are becoming more and more popular. Only 13% of adults with a coffee brewer own an espresso machine, so most espresso is consumed from cafés and restaurants.  However, 59% of those with a brewer at home have a drip brewer, showing the preference for drip coffee. There's also a large number of instant coffee drinkers, but with fantastic roasters like 49th Parallel on the rise, the paradigm is shifting.

    Much like in the United States, specialty roasting is largely being done in major cities. Vancouver B.C., just a few hours away from our home in Seattle, has many roasters like 49th supported by bustling cafés. This thriving coffee tradition has a long history. The first coffee shop in Toronto opened all the way back in 1801, and coffee has continued to be a popular beverage since. Coffee shops across the country run the gamut from trendy spots all the way to homey, family run cafés.

    Many coffee shops in Quebec model, as expected, European affairs. From Italian and French inspired facades to more traditional drinks, these shops feature classic, beautiful atmosphere. As you might expect, Canadian coffee culture is as vast and diverse as what we experience in the United States!

  • SCG Crew Interviews: Allie

    Hey coffee fans! This week we're chatting with another one of our fabulous crew members! Allie worked in our Bellevue retail location before coming to our HQ to work on our commercial and home consulting teams! We hope you enjoy getting to know her!

    What’s your life story?

    I grew up in Louisiana in a town right off the interstate in between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It was a town of about 10,000 people, where the best food and coffee are served at the local gas station (I know). I graduated high school early and moved to Tennessee to pursue my degree. While in college, a friend introduced me to specialty coffee. I already loved my morning cup of drip, but tasting my first Chemex changed the game. I quickly fell in love with the community, the culture, and the ability to connect with people over a beverage. After graduating college, I decided to follow my heart (and my taste buds) and move to Seattle to find out what the real coffee scene was about. 

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I started working at Starbucks in 2015. I loved the rush of caffeine and adrenaline from working on the bar in the morning. I moved around a lot, so I've actually worked in several Starbucks in various responsibility positions. When I decided to move to Seattle, I was chosen to work for the Starbucks Reserve Roastery (which was the only one in the world at the time).  Working for the Roastery taught me a lot about specialty coffee, espresso, and roasting. I quickly made it a habit to go on coffee crawls every chance I got so that I could learn about how others pulled their espresso and what made it unique. When I stumbled upon Seattle Coffee Gear, I was hooked immediately. A whole new way to experience coffee: equipment!

    What has it been like transitioning from SCG retail?

    Working in SCG retail gave me great hands on experience with our most popular equipment and allowed me to have a real understanding of what people are looking for in their machines. I can pretty much narrow down the machine you are going to purchase with a few well answered questions. 

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    Coffee = connection. It brings people together from all over the world, from all places in life, at any time of day. It's amazing how many wonderful and passionate people I have met at a coffee bar.  Pouring beautiful latte art or dialing in an espresso to an exact note allow me express myself in a really fulfilling way. 

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    Black coffee. Most mornings I start off with an espresso and a hand brew chaser. 

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee!

    I love to travel. I try to go somewhere new every year (if I'm lucky). So far the best place I've ever been is Salzburg, Austria. 

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe

    A ton of work goes into making an excellent cup of coffee.  I have a lot of respect for the product and the way its made. Choosing the right equipment (and using it well) makes all the difference in the drinks you sell!
  • SCG Crew Bio: Bryan

    This week we're catching up with Bryan for another SCG Crew Bio! Bryan is one of the amazing folks on our commercial operations team. He's the person who will help to make sure you get the most out of your commercial coffee purchase!

     

    What’s your life story?

    I grew up in a tiny agricultural town in eastern Washington no one had ever heard of, but that is now known for its unique varietals of hops. Seattle had been where I wanted to live as long as I can remember. As soon as I got my drivers license I would make the long trip to the "big city" (not so big back then in hindsight) to experience the culture, the people, the music and all the Emerald City had to offer. Exploring coffee shops, 24 hour diners, all age music venues, thrift stores, record shops and the like. After high school I moved to Seattle for school and have been here ever since.  

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I first fell in love with coffee, and coffee shops, at the now defunct Bauhaus Coffee on Melrose and Pine in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle. Its moody atmosphere mirrored that of the city. Tall ceilings, walls lined with shelves full of books, looking as much like a medieval library as a coffee shop. Regulars crowded around tables, The Smiths likely blaring over the stereo, rain dripping from coats as they sipped coffee beverages being prepared on a La Marzocco. My first peak of a machine I would grow to know and love. I worked as a barista at Seattle's Uptown Espresso for three years in between working in the automotive industry and as a bicycle mechanic. Ultimately I would find my place in the coffee industry combining my technical skills and love of coffee as a Coffee Equipment Technician. I spent five years in the field managing technical services for Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Seattle and throughout Washington State before making the transition to my current roll at Seattle Coffee Gear.

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    My favorite things about the coffee industry are the people, the passion and the machines that allow them to create the unique beverages and experiences coffee drinkers around the globe enjoy every day.

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    l like to start the morning with an espresso and a cup of filtered coffee (drip or pour over), followed up by an americano or cold brew in the afternoon depending on the season.

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee?

    l am an avid cyclist, enjoying riding for fun as well as sport. I enjoy bicycle camping around the beautiful northwest and racing cyclocross in fall. Getting outside and enjoying nature is always a blessing (added perk, nothing tastes better than a cup of coffee in the great outdoors). I also still enjoy working on machines outside of coffee equipment. I restore and build interesting cars and bicycles. You'll often find me with a wrench in my hand or on/in some sort of machine with wheels.

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe?

    You can't do it alone! Opening and running a cafe is a large on taking that requires a wide range of skills and a lot of work. Don't try to do everything yourself. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, rather stand on the shoulders of those that came before you. Knowing when and where to seek help in your business endeavors will save you a lot of hassles, a lot of time and a lot of money. The coffee industry is one you should enjoying being a part of, and there is a wealth of knowledge you can tap into.  

    What’s your favorite item we sell on the SCG website?

    The La Marzocco Linea. There is so much coffee history wrapped up in this machine that has been produced since 1990! Today you can certainly buy a "better", more expensive or flashier espresso machine. But the Linea, "the Volvo 240 of espresso machines", set the bar for quality in the industry and still performs today. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the classics. 

  • Coffee History in Mexico!

    This week we're taking a look at the history of Mexican coffee!

    Mexico is a fascinating nation with a rich coffee heritage, but how did coffee arrive there?

    Origin and Spread

    Coffee was first produced in Veracruz, a state in Eastern Mexico. This occurred late in the 18th century and became a popular crop of the region. Over time, coffee production in Mexico developed and became more and more affordable. By the end of the 19th century much of the production in the country had been moved to Chiapas. Over time Chiapas developed into the primary producing region in Mexico. To this day, most of the country's coffee is produced there!

    Coffee production really took off in the mid 20th century. Due to the low cost of Mexican coffee, it became hugely popular all over the Americas. In the 1980s, coffee production spread across the country. Before the end of the decade, plantations existed in twelve Mexican states occupying 500,000 hectares of land. During this time, coffee became the primary source of income for over two million people in the country. Employment rose around the industry as well in processing, logistics, and exporting of coffee.

    Mexican Coffee Crisis

    In the early 1960s, the International Coffee Agreement was developed to maintain a stable global coffee network. This act help to regulate pricing and quotas to ensure fair trade of coffee around the world. In 1989, the agreement was dismantled, creating problems for overproducing countries like Mexico. While programs like Fair/Direct Trade have developed to protect coffee farmers, these are more recent developments. During the 1990s, coffee prices in Mexico fell drastically. This led to large numbers of coffee farmers forgoing fertilizers and weeding. Because of these cost cutting measures, quality also began to decline, causing price to drop further. By the mid 2000s coffee production had seen an immense decrease and was no longer one of Mexico's most important imports.

    Since then, however, prospects have improved. Thanks to Fair and Direct Trade initiatives and a new generation of quality coffee producers, Mexican coffee is finding its way. We certainly hope that continues, as recent crops have resulted in some delectable roasts!

     

  • SCG Crew Interviews: John!

    From giving us the skinny on the newest commercial machines to helping new café owners on the phone, John's a pro! We asked him a few questions about his past, present, and future in coffee. Read on to learn more about this SCG video host and commercial consultant!

    Hey John! Thanks for answering a few questions. Can you tell us a little bit about your history? Have you always lived in Seattle?

    I have been a Washingtonian since birth and grew up in the boonies outside of Sultan, WA. Most people knew where I lived as the place they drove by on their way to the mountains. I lived in California for a brief moment before deciding that private school was too expensive and I moved back to Washington. My wife and I met at our church in 2014 and got married in 2016. We somehow wound up with 3 adopted black cats, it was not our plan to do so!

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I was a home barista at the start and knew nothing about the difference between drip coffee and espresso. I had a series of very cheap home espresso machines that promptly broke because I failed to take care of them. After my home endeavors, I began visiting specialty coffee shops and learning about what makes coffee good or bad. I started going to local coffee competitions to observe and eventually made friends with a few folks in the industry. I started with Caffe Ladro in Seattle as a barista and over a few years worked from there to trainer and then to manager. Along the way, I led cuppings, trained dozens of baristas, and absorbed all the coffee knowledge I could. I practiced my latte art diligently and ended up in a few of the local competitions where I met coffee people in the first place. Now I get to educate people from a different perspective and help coffee shops of all different shapes and sizes figure out this crazy and awesome industry we are all a part of!

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    My favorite thing about the coffee industry is the diversity of coffee itself and what it is to different people. Not everyone wants to wait 10 minutes for a carefully prepared cup of coffee that will blow their mind! Some people just need a caffeine fix to get their day started. I have been on both sides of that spectrum and appreciate coffee for both of those things. I think relegating coffee to just one thing that you think it is isn't doing it justice, and that goes for both ends of the spectrum. 

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    I am an espresso drinker! I love the preparation, dialing it in, drinking it, the whole process. This started mainly because I did not have the patience to wait 5 minutes for my Chemex to finish so I could critique it and make adjustments. I initially liked the instant gratification a grind adjustment makes, but I grew to also enjoy the practice it takes to have consistent results all the time. 

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee!

    I'm a musician and enjoy all things music! I like to play music with others, go to shows, listen to music, etc... I mainly play with my church's Sunday morning team, but my wife and I are looking to get a house with a dedicated practice space. Drums are not meant for Condos!

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe?

    I want people to know that while it is not an easy thing to do well, the joy you get from hearing someone talk about how much they love your cafe is worth it. The relationships you get to build with your customers, as well as the experiences you get to create for them, make it all worth it!

    What’s your favorite item we sell on the SCG website?

    That's a tough question! I'd say one of our pitcher rinsers. I would put one in my home if my wife would let me! They make a world of difference in your bar flow and allow to increase your speed of service way more than you would think. 

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