Bel Townsend's Blog (11)

What the customers actually think - focus group responses to questions of quality, value and skill

I have been asking lots of people what they think "high quality" coffee is. The following quotes are from professional Baristas, coffee shop owners and other industry specialists from Barista Exchange.

"coffee made from a barista, so he can have the best blend but if he dont know how to grind and dose or he or she are overheating milk, whats the point of 'best beans'?"

"For me everything start in the coffee bean. At least for my country coffee is an art. We want the… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on October 1, 2008 at 7:22am — 6 Comments

It's been a loooong, long time.

Hey all,

I haven't been on here in MONTHS! tut-tut, how lapse of me. Anyhoo, while I catch up on all the gossip for you merry bunch I thought I'd post you all an update.

My uni project is developing slowly but surely in that I'm just about to start my second year. It has come round sooooo quickly, it's unnerving. For the past year, I've been reading solidly about Coffee, and Waste and Quality, and coffee shop culture, and the effects of caffeine on the brain, and the economics of… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on September 20, 2008 at 5:45am — 1 Comment

First unOfficial Attempt at Coffee Cupping


I know how cupping should be done; I know that I am supposed to use very small samples of single origin green coffee beans, roasted to order to a light Vienna or half-City roast. I should then grind these to French Press level - not too coarse, not too fine. Then I have to smell it. Then I add boiled water straight on top of the beans, and allow it to cool and for the grinds to settle. After that I break the 'crust' - that is, all the grinds still forming a skin on the surface… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on May 15, 2008 at 3:57am — 7 Comments

Finished!!!! (dances round room madly)

Hey everyone,

this is a bit of a cop-out blog post, but I thought I'd publicise today's Happy Thought.



I am currently registered as an MPhil student at university, and in order to be upgraded to PhD, I had to write an enormous paper, explaining exactly what I want to do in my research, and why I want to do it, and why it's remotely interesting to anybody else. Mine is all about the coffee industry. 4500 words DONE.… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on April 14, 2008 at 1:49pm — 8 Comments

What the hell I think I am doing...

Even the words terrify me now. "Upgrade Proposal". I have to write exactly what I want to do with this project, 4000 words, and then a panel interview to defend The Plan. I've still got a couple of months, but it is now becoming obvious that before I can convince other people that this is a good, plausible idea, I need to figure out once and for all what that idea actually is.

I've been faffing. Farting around with vaguely academic concepts and seeing how they could possibly be… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on March 17, 2008 at 3:52am — 4 Comments

Dreams and Distractions

So, it now looks like Costa Rica. And Nicaragua. Possibly sooner than I thought, as well. Christmas in the Carribean? I am supposed to be constructing Cunning Plans to make this a definite possibility ("A plan so cunning you could tie a tail on it and call it a weasel") and I a way. I would LOVE to go back to Nicaragua, but it doesn't feel real yet. I don't think I am the same person as I was the last time I disappeared to Latin America on a whim.

Instead I am dreaming and… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on February 29, 2008 at 6:09am — No Comments

Really need some help finding a plantation!

Hi all,

I am doing my PhD research about the global coffee industry, and for part of my project, I need to visit a plantation. I am doing some comparison work - comparing a small-scale, organic, very high quality and ethically sound plantation with (I hope) a big commercial plantation that supplies coffee to the UK and likes of Caffe Nero or Starbucks. Ideally, I would like this to be in Central America, for purely practical reasons.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I've not had too much… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on February 27, 2008 at 4:37pm — No Comments

Genuine Italian Quality?

(NB: This is a follow up for uni - I started a discussion on here a while ago asking why coffee is perceived to be Italian at least in the UK. These are just some thoughts and experiences on that topic)

Walking round Darlington town centre gives you a relatively large selection of places to get cups of coffee. There are numerous 'traditional tea rooms' where coffee is an afterthought, and greasy-spoon cafes who will do instant Nescafe in a polystyrene cup. And then there is two… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on February 16, 2008 at 10:24am — 1 Comment

Not Spilling the Beans – Barista Championships 2008

When I got my first job in a coffee shop I thought, “I like coffee, that machine looks fun – how hard can it be?”. I was more worried about burning the food in the café or how I was going to amuse the scary looking emo

teenagers in the corner than what sort of coffee was going to go into that

strange noisy hopper on the worktop. I'd used the coffee machine when I worked

in the pub; it involved sticking a cup underneath and…


Added by Bel Townsend on January 31, 2008 at 9:38am — No Comments

My dark love affair

I have a headache. I moan to Carl about this, but he is not impressed."I don't believe such a thing exists." he says. This is because I have a caffeine headache, or rather, a lack of caffeine headache. I didn't sleep particularly well last night, and this morning I had to get up unhealthily early for me, rush round trying to pack everything up for the weekend, and then leg it to the station to catch a (late) train at 8.14. I did not get time to make coffee. Further more, as a conscientious,… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on January 29, 2008 at 5:44am — 1 Comment

The Art of Cappuccino and the Art of making money

Today I am pondering this wonderful creation, the cappuccino. A cappuccino will cost you anything between 55p in a

sincerely dreadful vending machine at Doncaster train station (these

are the lengths I go to under the name of research - or possibly

caffeine addiction) to the £2.65 Grande-mug-with-extra-shot at Caffe

Nero. (I would quote Starbucks prices but haven't yet swallowed my

pride enough to dare go in there). I will cover why I need an extra

shot in Nero's… Continue

Added by Bel Townsend on January 21, 2008 at 9:35am — 1 Comment

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