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November 2009 Newsletter

Longevity  is a condition that is much admired, in people,
products and institutions. This was brought to mind the other day
by a potential customer who asked me if I had much experience
with the Lelit Combi type machines. When I looked back into my
old accounts it turned out that I'd been selling them since 1994,
starting with the Salda Napoletana. While there have been a
number of minor internal and external changes, the basic design
hasn't changed much in 15 years.

This is both good and bad, as it means that we can still maintain
those machines we sold all those years ago, but there hasn't
really been a whole lot of innovation since. This is true of
virtually all the Italian "prosumer" espresso machine companies,
so it's not necessarily a major criticism. You only have too look
at all the machines with E-61 groups to see how conservative the
industry really is.

From the customer's point of view it's great. We were servicing
one of our oldest machines last month, and our customer remarked
that the machine was older than her daughter in high school, much
more reliable and far cheaper to maintain. <VBG> Since the
machine has been serviced at about 3 yearly intervals for the
last 13 years her total cost over the years is probably double
the original purchase price, but the pump, grinder, boiler, group
and portafilter are all still operating perfectly.

My customer also stated that her espresso machine was the oldest
appliance in her kitchen; everything else, including fridge,
microwave, oven, cooktop and dishwasher had been replaced, some
items twice, in the same period. Now that's what I call

My viewpoint should probably be a bit different - if I could
convince my customers that buying a new machine every 3 years or
so after the old one broke was "normal", I'd make a lot more
money - but in reality I'm just happy to see the machines keep
going. What I would like to see is a bit more innovation. There
is a huge amount of control technology available to be applied to
espresso machines, and the Italians use only a miniscule fraction
of it.

I've given my wishlist of improvements I'd like to see to the
Italian companies, all we can do now is to wait and see what they
come up with.

Business longevity is another matter. In July next year we will
have been in the business of selling premium coffee beans for 25
years. In all that time the method of delivery has changed from
retail to internet shop, but the coffee quality has only gotten

This month's special is testament to that:

Sulawesi Toraja

Continuing the series of defined flavours (acidy, intensity,
fruity,) this one is spicy. Deep, sweet body with hints of
pepper, clove and allspice in the front palate, long finish with
raisins and chocolate. As with the other monthly specials, if you
can't find it on the list on the order page, that means it's all
sold out and there is no point in asking if we've still got it.

Finally, in an attempt to improve the chances of my own personal
longevity I'll be cutting back on my "availability" hours in the
near future, particularly in the evenings. My wife and I have
taken up various forms of healthy exercise, in particular Tai
Chi, so my phone is being switched off much earlier than it used
to be. It's very embarrassing to have your strident ringtone
interrupting the flow of soothing exercise for 40 or 50 people!

Until next month