Monday, May 17, 2010

All About Coffee

The incomparable Ross Quail, president of the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association has posted on the AASCA site the exciting news that the William H. Ukers coffee text "All About Coffee" is now out of copyright and as such project Gutenberg have undertaken to make it available electronically - free of charge. This occurs whenever sufficient time passes after the death of an author to be sure that the author's estate has benefited as much as is reasonable from the product of that author - I think about 50 years or so.

There are a variety of formats available including ePub - which can be read on laptops, desktops iPhones and other smartphone - and naturally, iPads.

You can find the book here:

Thanks to Ross and AASCA for spreading the news as I know there are many people who cannot afford the several hundred dollars for a paper version of the text.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unstated obligations

I've been grappling with the ideas behind this post for two weeks now and find that I still cannot frame the ideas as well as I would like. I took two semesters of sociology (20 years ago) and find that this brief introduction is totally inadequate to even provide some basic guidance as to where to take this for a more structured discussion (all advice welcome!) - but here goes anyway.

It seems to me that an unstated obligation can exist between a person, or persons (entity A) who create something or advance ideas and those who benefit from that creation or idea (entity B). The obligation is not a situation of debt as such - in fact almost always explicitly not, but more likely requiring acknowledgement that the obligation exists and that an expression of thanks is appropriate.

The situation I am specifically considering is that of coffee roasting in Western Australia. It has been suggested that Perth is in a 'golden age' of coffee, which might seem like hyperbole but we have not had such choice before so in that respect I agree that 'we have never had it so good'.

A lot of this is due to the fantastic local roasters (and we have a good number now) that promote good coffee in Perth. While standing at the the deli counter of the Leederville Re store last week I was looking at the montage above the counter that showed some historical images of the Re and Ferrari families. In one photo, a shop window bore the words "Good Coffee is Fresh Coffee" and I was reminded once again that these families have been roasting coffee in Perth for nearly 80 years. I suspect that at times they may have been the ONLY local roaster in Perth.

They still continue today and I know they have kept roasting logs for decades - a wealth of knowledge and a source of learning for new generations of roasters. They also have a collection of equipment and a record of coffee purchases that would provide a wonderful track of coffee consumption in Perth's cafes.

The family remains involved in Perth's coffee scene and Catherine Natale (Winner of the Australian Cupping Championship) and her brother John Ferrari were judges at last year's WA Barista Championships and backed the effort with the resources of their company, European Foods.

In a very real sense the European Foods family have been a consistent presence in Perth coffee and have helped keep the idea and practice of local roasting alive in Perth long enough for it to diversify and gain in popularity and professionalism. In that sense I think I can acknowledge the unstated obligation that I as a coffee hobbiest have to the Ferrari and Re families and I would like to thank them for their generations of effort in making coffee available to Western Australians and to contributing to the development of Perth's coffee scene.

I know I have other 'unstated obligations' as far as coffee is concerned to a great number of people across the Perth coffee scene who have taught me a lot about coffee - most of them are roasters or baristas who I have met, but a lot are also just coffee lovers rather than coffee professionals. As I run into them over the next few months I am going to try and remember to say thank you - because sometimes obligations may be unstated, but should be acknowledged.