Bougie Coffee [podcast]

Freshly roasted coffee beans cooling in the roasting machine tray

A podcast episode of Some Noise on speciality coffee :

Since the turn of the millennium, the percentage of U.S.-based specialty coffee drinking folk, like those who have a cup everyday, has quadrupled. Travel to any major or minor city in the country, and you’ll see an offering of coffees that transcends the uniform Starbucks experience that’s on every block.

But the image that reflects after you place a mirror in front of any craft coffee company or cafe is a bit more clear, albeit unsettling. Stare at it long enough and you’ll come across matters like gentrification, the rise of the millennial-inspired yuppie wave and the old act of global economics, power dynamics and capitalism all at play.

This podcast episode explores the intricacies of coffee and attempts to answer two simple questions about one very complex drink. What makes specialty coffee special and who is it really for?

Coffee etiquette around the world (well some of it)

Interesting post, from a while ago, about the various ways we differently prepare and consume coffee and I guess then how we develop a taste (both gustatory and aesthetic) for coffee…


When it comes to dining etiquette, it is different all around the world. From the United States, to Spain, Africa to Japan, the world eats differently. And the world drinks differently too. The myriad ways in which the world drinks coffee is vastly different too. For instance, in India, slurping coffee is normal whereas it’s considered rude in US. In Turkey, your fortune is read from the coffee ground left at the bottom of your cup whereas in Ethiopia, coffee drinking is an hour affair- not a to-go option. Here is a handy guide to help you maneuver through the world’s coffee drinking experience.


In Italy, it is common for a glass of water to be served alongside coffee, so that you can cleanse your palate and prepare it for the coffee. Coffee is always ordered after meals, never before or during. Also, espressos are not ordered to go. Espressos are drunk quickly in a shot at the coffee bar. It is also common to have a cappuccino in the morning, and nothing else. It is also common in Italy for liquor to be included in coffee.


After meals, black Turkish coffee is served strong with sweet Turkish candy. As Turkish coffee is strong, it is never ordered double. If you want more to drink later, then your next order should be tea. Also, sugar is often added while the coffee is made, and not after. Once your coffee is drunk, it is often normal to have your fortune read from the coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup.


Dunking a croissant in coffee is acceptable in France. Café au lait is normally drunk early in the morning and using a wide mug so it is easier to dunk your croissant in. Coffee mugs can be held with both hands to savor your coffee. In France, never order flavored coffee; never order filtered coffee, and never order coffee with whipped cream. Coffee in France is always served after dessert.


Coffee preparation in Bosnia is similar to that in Turkey. Coffee is served in a Dzezva, together with sugar cubes, rahat lokum and a glass of water. The proper way to drink your coffee is to take the sugar cube, and let it dissolve under your tongue while you sip the coffee.


Coffee in Vietnam is served using an individual drip filter. Hot water is poured onto the coffee grounds in the drip filter and the dissolved coffee slowly fills the cup underneath with fresh coffee. Condensed milk and sugar is added into the cup at the bottom.


A very popular drink both in Spain as well as Portugal is called Cortado, which is based off of the espresso. To reduce the acidity of the coffee, a bit of warm milk is added to the coffee. Cortado is drunk for breakfast as well as during La Merienda which is coffee and snack time, usually happens after a siesta.


Coffee is considered a national drink in Ethiopia and is a long ritual that stretches for two hours. Sugar is added into small cups, and then water is added followed by coffee. It is normal and customary to inhale the aroma of the coffee before sipping it.  Coffee is served in three rounds which are awol, tona and Baraka. When drinking coffee in Ethiopia, it is always sipped slowly and never drunk quickly.


Due to the extremely cold climate during Scandinavian winters, Denmark ranks highest in the world for coffee drinkers. Cafes are usually packed at every street corner especially in Copenhagen. Filter coffee is especially popular in Denmark and is normally eaten with sweet Danish pastries.

In the best possible taste? or the intimate geographies of training the mouth as a technology

Someone clutching their neck because of the bad taste of a cup of coffee

I’m undertaking some new research, for which I have received a small pot of funding from the University of Exeter. So, exciting stuff! This combines my theoretical work on understandings of technology and mediation and my near-obsession with ‘speciality’ coffee. I hope that I will be able to say something interesting about the kinds of intimate geography of taste (of aesthetics, of gustatory experience) that are performed through ‘speciality coffee’. Please find below a brief outline. Of course – I’d very much welcome any comments, suggestions or opportunities to chat about the themes here and things you think I’m missing or getting wrong, so please do get in touch!

In the best possible taste?, or the intimate geographies of training the mouth as a technology

Taste is something we pay for. We can pay more for food and drink we think are ‘delicious’. In turn, this creates ways food and drink we find pleasurable comes to market. This project will explore the growth in ‘speciality coffee’ and its contingency on particular kinds of taste, which I posit have a range of subsequent economic and cultural consequences. I will explore the central role of techniques of tasting, known in the coffee trade as “cupping”, in the commodity chains of ‘speciality’ coffee. Claims have been made within the coffee trade and in the popular press (in particular by Jay Rayner in The Observer, 8th June 2014) that a shift in tasting practices and thus how coffee gets roasted and prepared has created a very specific taste experience. The hypothesis of this project is that an increasingly technical and quantitative approach to measuring what we call taste is affecting the gustatory experience of coffee.

The aim of this project is to investigate how this particular taste experience has been constituted: to ask how do professional coffee tasters reflect upon the training of their sense of taste? And: do specific technical gustatory practices of tasting create orthodoxies in judgments about taste? – if so, how?

The methods for this pilot project involve undertaking two empirical activities: (1) undergoing tasting training with the London School of Coffee and documenting this ethnographically; and, (2) interviewing and tasting coffee with key speciality coffee roasters to examine how tasting techniques are used in practice.

Global coffee harvests and their arrival in the UK

As my coffee geekery has no bounds I have compiled these tables for my own use, so that I can remind myself when to expect particular coffees to be available here in the UK. Obviously people involved in coffee professionally probably know these things but I thought it may be of interest to a couple of other people. The inimitable Sweet Maria’s have a more complex table showing the full harvest period, the best harvest period, the full shipping period and the nest shipping period. I have used this alongside Mercanta’s loose reporting of when they expect particular countries’ harvests to arrive (cos Mercanta source a vast chunk of the [good] coffee that comes into the UK). I’m presuming things take quite a long time, so the periods listed here align with the ends of Sweet Maria’s periods. This sort of matches up with how the Cup of Excellence country programmes function too.

Country Harvest Arrival in UK
Brazil September October-April
Colombia November-December & May-June January-February & July-August
Costa Rica March April-July
Guatemala December-March April-July
Honduras February March-June
Nicaragua March April-July
El Salvador March May-August
Ethiopia November-February April-August
Kenya February April (possibly more in September from a ‘Fly Crop’)
Rwanda October December-January
Dominican Republic February-April (long season) April-August
Panama (for those who’re lucky!) March April-June

This table shows the most likely times for coffee to be arriving from the respective country.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Bolivia X X X
Brazil X X X X X X X
Colombia X X X X
Costa Rica X X X X
Dominican Republic X X
El Salvador X X X X
Ethiopia X X X X
Gautemala X X X X
Honduras X X
Kenya X X X X
Nicaragua X X X X
Panama X X X X X
Rwanda X X

Blogger apathy, the death of Bloglines and missing links

This year I have been mostly… blogging on the variety of sites attached to the Digital Cultures Research Centre’s network of events and projects – not least our recent conference Paying Attention which addressed the issue of the ‘attention economy’ (see the website for more details). The conference was held in Linkoping, in Sweden, and funded by the European Science Foundation. We were fortunate to have a varied and interesting collection of speakers including Tiziana Terranova and Bernard Stiegler, who were both superb.

Having written the above, I doubt anyone will read this, not least because I don’t really blog much at the best of times and its been even quieter of late. However, I have been spurred to action because of the announcement of the imminent demise of Bloglines, for which I have remained a faithful user for around five years, mostly due to laziness! I’m probably going to avoid the obvious move to the big “G” (as in the internet services company not ‘him upstairs’!) and switch over to NetVibes. An immediate cause for reflection in this circumstance is the number of ‘saved’ blog posts from the feeds I follow which I intended to write about here and haven’t got around to discussing. So, for want of a better strategy – I’m posting them here as a sort of archaeology of my Bloglines account [continued below].
Continue reading “Blogger apathy, the death of Bloglines and missing links”

Getting to know your coffee – interview with ‘La Perla’

I don’t really blog about my other obsession, which is coffee. By coffee I don’t mean the poor excuse of an insipid brown liquid one brews from the rubbish found in supermarkets but what is frequently referred to as ‘speciality’ coffee. I will be forever indebted to my friend Frank of Twoday Coffee Roasters who has taught me pretty much everything I know and opened out an astonishing variety of tastes and experiences that this amazing drink can bring. Please check out the great mugs Frank and his wife Petra sell online.

Now, Stephen Leighton of Has Bean Coffee, one of the biggest importers in the UK if not Europe, produces an interesting vlog called ‘In My Mug’ and during a recent visit to Guatemala interviewed the owners of the ‘La Perla‘ farm, which was ranked in the Cup of Excellence programme in the last couple of years. This interview is a fascinating opportunity to get to know something of the people who are producing incredible coffee. Hats off to Mr Leighton for this.

Part 1

In My Mug La Perla Special from Stephen Leighton on Vimeo.

Part 2

In My Mug La Perla Special pt 2 from Stephen Leighton on Vimeo.