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March 2013 Newsletter

Sometimes newsletter topics come easily to me, based on something I
want to say or an item of interest that's popped up during the
month. For example, February's newsletter about coffee rust was
about a week in advance of mainstream media attention. At other
times I just sit in front of the computer staring at a blank screen,
with an equally blank mind. This is definitely one of those months.

I think that to some extent it's because there is currently so much
media attention on coffee, at least in Melbourne. We are currently
in the middle of the annual Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, and
coffee is one of the themes of this year's festival. There is a
"Coffee Farm" display set up to show the progress from farm to cup,
the Australian heat of the World Barista Chamionship has just been
decided, and The Age newspaper's Tuesday food section, "Epicure",
was "the coffee issue."

In fact, I can't remember a time when there has been more media
attention on specialty coffee. This has both good and bad aspects;
as people get interested there are more customers (good!) but I have
to fight harder to get hold of great coffees before other roasters
snap them up (bad!) Fortunately for me the wider commercial market,
cafes and bars, is still fought out mainly on price and service and
not quality.

Also fortunately for me, a lot of specialty coffees don't get much
attention from the espresso crowd, although that is changing to some
extent. This month's special on one of them.

Kenya Monarch Peaberry

It has a juicy front palate acidity followed by a creamy mid palate,
ending with cacao notes, a superbly balanced coffee.

It's not just Melbourne that is promoting coffee, we are coming into
the conference season. There are upcoming coffee conferences in
Europe, Asia and the USA. The big one, the annual SCAA conference,
will be held in Boston from the 12th to the 14th of April, and we'll
be there. I will include more details in the April newsletter.

One thing I have been meaning to write about is the expiry of the
Nestle patent for the Nespresso system. This has resulted in a bunch
of "new" capsule machines and capsule suppliers. Some of the
capsules are compatible with existing Nespresso setups, others can
only be used in specific machines, but they all have 3 things in

1) The machines are cheap (under $100.00 for non-steaming units) but
the coffees work out to be very expensive, over $150.00 a kilo.

2) The quality in the cup is poor to middling, even the original
Nespresso has never been that great.

3) The capsule system is incredibly resource intensive in terms of
energy and materials.

The only decent (about 6 to 7 out of 10) system of this type that I
have seen is the commercial Nespresso system, which uses foil pods.
Even there the coffees involved are average, inoffensive rather than
sparkling in the cup.

The supermarket chains are pushing capsules pretty hard, though, and
shrinking the aisle space they use for roasted beans. Presumably the
capsules give them more opportunity for house brands and the profits
that go with them, as well as providing lengthy "use by" dates.

Until next month