2013-12-07

Bored of Espresso?

Boss posted this in FB's Barista Club of Malaysia. My response, sans communal bickering/Q&A.
1. Question: [redacted]

2. Assertion: we don't know if the baristas were technically proficient and analytically sensitised to "third-wave" coffee, or not.

On the specific "coffee vs. tea example" in the original post: I'm going to go out on a limb and say... that I'd like to know if the cafe being written about was anything like the cafe where I work, where there's a "third-wave" aspiration to coffee, and a "second-wave equivalent" aspiration to tea. For example, we just considered [redacted] tea, which is like a [redacted] version of [redacted], e.g.. sold by product line, not by details of processing and terroir, at best broken tea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_leaf_grading#Broken_leaf_grades), pushed in a sales format that includes plastic tea pots.

If that cafe being written about is like this, then the behaviour of a random hire to the coffees and teas is as believable as the behaviour of most people I know who drink alcohol, who go to bars and discuss the difference in flavour between BRANDS of beer or single-malts, instead of the difference between particular bottles of wine. Consider the language quoted by the author:
"Wow, can you taste that rich butter?" "That honeysuckle?" "Do you notice that flavor that reminds you of the way earth smells after the first rain?"
- nuff said. This is non-artisanal analysis, i.e. pseudo/noob-foodie talk at its best. :)

3. IMHO: Most of the thread is apeshit bickering. For analytical talk, please skip straight to this one:

http://www.home-barista.com/cafes/how-many-cafes-are-getting-bored-with-espresso-t28105-30.html#p325542

Then skip to this one, and follow the responses:

http://www.home-barista.com/cafes/how-many-cafes-are-getting-bored-with-espresso-t28105-50.html#p326229

4. Bigger picture assertion: A lot of artistic fields get masked by people who "talk the talk" and make a business out of it. This is common in any field, and "third-wave coffee" is of course not immune to it. (As usual, I will remind folks that "third-wave" refers to a phase of coffee evolution in the USA, even if that has influence beyond US borders.)

Consider this essay on how math is often completely misunderstood despite everyone being taught "math" in school - the author uses stories to illustrate what it would be like if music and painting were taught the way "math" is typically taught: http://www.maa.org/sites/default/files/pdf/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

5. Whimsy: if I stay in this industry long enough, I'm probably going to wade into those forums at some point. LOL. But not yet. Meanwhile, feel free to quote me if you're up for posting there.

6. [redacted]
Have you tried dosing coffee grinds over a bit of spice (seed of cumin, or a clove bud) in the basket, and pulling the shot? Loads to discover.

2013-12-06

Lovely Noises

If you really love someone, you stay the fuck out of their way.

Too bad for me my folks never understood that.

LOL
I guess I have friends in two realms - people I produce things with ("work") and people I'm fucking ("love") - outside of that, I don't see why people bother...

2013-12-04

Business Everything

It's my weekly day off from work, and I am driving to meet my housing loan officers while thinking about life.

It's kinda cool to have reached a point in life where every meeting with someone else is a business meeting. It makes me feel all grown up.

I gave up dawdling with friends over casual conversations many years ago. Nevertheless the opportunity cost of neglecting random interactions with other people is considerable, so recently I switched myself into a job where social interactions are part of the role's responsibilities. Now outside of my job, I am either trading something, or discussing prospects for trade, everytime I meet another person.

Dating. Do you know what you're looking for? Yes? Can we determine a mutual match? Ok, let's try that. You don't know what you're looking for, or it's a feeling that you can't control? I'm sorry, it doesn't seem that you know yourself well enough for us to be able to strike a deal.

Moving on. And always moving. I don't suppose it's the life for everyone. Then again most informal chats are information trades. Hehe.
Eight years out of college and people think I'm an ideas guy. Which is strange, given that I mostly work on the implementation of other people's ideas (and spend my free time implementing my own ideas).

I suppose it is because I tend to work in companies which are branded as having a competitive advantage due to the quality of their ideators - professional services, new business models in old markets, old business models in new markets, etc.

Oh well, whatever. You dream, you pay me, I get it done. LOL.

Sense of Time

Sometimes, but not often enough, I wonder if the mental conditioning and learnings that I acquire are worth the time that I spend on acquiring them.

Having worked on my current personal projects exclusively for some 13 years, setting out timeframes of 10 to 20 years for projects no longer seems intimidating.

Setting aside 25 to 30 years remains on the boundary of scary. :) But that still doesn't tell me if any of it is worth the opportunity cost. But that's life, I suppose.
Circadian kinda off due to shift changes :P

Thinking of hitting the office at 7am to study.

LOL
Update: the following week's math leads me to non-Euclidian geometries. Geometry geometry geometry o_o ; how about some sanity instead? Ah, coffee... something actually sensible. :p

Cooking, and Entropy

Ok - so totally in over my head at this point.

I've been trying to (leakily) abstract the espresso brewing model, by reducing the number of its input variables. I thought of "increasing temperature" and "increasing pressure" as increases in input "entropy", but that was just a sentence that came to mind, and I am not sure if it makes any sense once you plug in the referents of those physical units. After all, if pressure goes up, entropy should go down within the system... but that's really, really, abstract, since it doesn't tell us much about how pressure changes affect the extraction rates of different chemicals from espresso grinds, to espresso infusion.

All cooking is, to some degree, the control of energy that is being applied to a mass of chemicals. Much more reading required, as some point in the future.

2013-12-03

Hygiene in Food Services

Here's an incomplete laundry list for further discussion (at your next friendly neighbourhood meetup with other food services folksies):
(1) Levels of hygiene: what activities are preferred, and what're not, and why? What's the scientific basis for this (if any)?

(2) Regardless of what's "really" clean or unclean, what sorts of activities are un/preferred because customers un/prefer them? Customers may believe anything they want, so to what extent do those beliefs affect your behaviour in food services?

(3) Regardless of what customers "really" believe - your first customer is your manager or boss, who may have preferred behaviours for staff. To what extent do you give your boss what she wants, regardless of (1) and (2)?
Meanwhile, it remains comical to me that blue nitrile (and just about any other rubber) gloves have been banned in front-of-house where I work, due to management assumptions about customers' probable assumptions about what staff have been doing, while wearing such gloves.