Category Archives: Life

Best coffee known to man?

Rick Stein’s Christmas Odyssey is currently airing on BBC2. This minute. Right now. I very much enjoy Rick’s programmes, though somehow I managed to miss the entire Eastern Odyssey series earlier this year. The Radio Times write-up suggests that tonight’s offering is largely a recap of the best moments in the series with some Christmas voice-over by the man himself. That may well be so, but Rick is always entertaining, and besides, it’s all new to me.

My point? No, I haven’t gone all Ronnie Corbett, though I do admit to a little digression thus far. My point is that anyone reading this may well consider what I am about to say as old news. I’m not even sure if the part of the show to which I refer even appeared in the original series.

To the point: Civet coffee – or Kopi Luwak to you and me. There, I finally cut to the chase.

For anyone not aware, civet coffee basically consists of coffee beans, often type and quality unknown, that have been ingested and passed by the cat-like, and rather beautiful, civet – a native of numerous exotic Asian locations, most specifically Bali in the case of Rick Stein’s piece. The gastric juices of the civet are said to alter the features of the coffee in some way. That may or may not be true. What is certain is that the coffee costs a lot and depending on the origin may even be Robusta in some cases.

The point of my waffle is not however the origin and merit of civet coffee, it is what Rick said.

A blind cupping involving cafetiere brewed coffee was held on the programme by what appeared to be a gaggle of chefs including Rick’s two sons – both of whom failed to identify the Kopi Luwak amongst a Kenyan AA, a Brazilian and a Costa Rican. They all managed to spot the fruity Kenyan which was first up, then there was some speculation over which coffee was the Brazilian. All except the two already mentioned spotted the civet coffee, which was impressive for Rick given his previous somewhat hilariously failed record in blind tastings involving turkey and other meats.

In the end Rick stated that civet coffee is the finest known to mankind and certainly the most expensive. Really? I wonder where the researchers of tv cookery programmes obtain their facts. They could be forgiven for the assertion over cost as prices change and unless they were aware of the Cup of Excellence and Panama Geisha Esmeralda beans, the Kopi Luwak could still be considered the most expensive coffee ever. Perhaps it still is when sold in small packets, but pound for pound as a commodity it is not the most expensive.

The best? Was it ever? Did anyone ever claim that to be the case? Rare – yes. Mysterious – certainly, but never the best. I am not sure that any coffee could be declared the best. Coffee is such a varied flavour provider with the myriad of varietals available and regional subtleties derived from soil and weather conditions amongst other things.

It is difficult enough not to change one’s favourite coffee season on season – that is the fun and excitement of it all, eagerly awaiting what is coming next and comparing it with previous crops – nevermind finding even two people who would agree on a single coffee. Individual taste varies so much, and fortunately the wonderful world of coffee caters for us all.

It would be nice if one of these days a tv chef would take a guided journey around the wonderful world of truely great coffees where they could rejoice in the fantastic spectrum of flavours that we enthusiasts all know and enjoy.

Rick was still great though.

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Merry Christmas Everybody!

At the risk of the title sounding like a Slade classic of yesteryear, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!bell01

It looks as though 2009 will be a tough year for many with the current economical crisis and the disappearance of much loved high street giants like Woolies and MFI. Let’s hope things improve as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.

The I. T. Crowd

It takes a lot to make me laugh aloud at a television programme, and a great deal to make that more than a little chuckle. The I. T. Crowd, now a few series old and demonstrating it’s maturity as a ‘fine wine’ of a comedy has brought me to tears more than once.

The depiction of a computer department ‘dungeon’ and those who inhabit it is perfect, and the subtle social references can easily be lost.  Hey, this is all sounding far too serious!

If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest you give it a go – and a couple of episodes for you to get into its groove. If you have ever worked in or with an I. T. department, you’ll probably ‘get it’ immediately.

Damn my sex pants ………..

Danny McNulty

The all too small speciality coffee world that many of us inhabit was rocked yesterday with the shock news that fellow enthusiast Danny McNulty had passed in the early hours of the morning.

It is always a surprise when someone dies suddenly, but even more so when they are apparently healthy, quite young – Danny was forty-nine – and a larger than life character. It seems that Danny had not been feeling too well and had been to hospital for tests. From accounts on alt.coffee, he went downhill quite quickly. That is all I know. It certainly made me think about how precious yet frail life is and how important it is to make the most of every sweet moment.

I came across Danny’s fabulously eclectic and informative website (www.danny.mcnulty.btinternet.co.uk/about.html) very early on in myDanny as he appears on his own website coffee journey, long before finding TMC and other places that I now frequent. His espresso area was full of useful information about pulling shots, grinding correctly and all sorts about equipment. I have been pointing newcomers to coffee towards Danny’s pages ever since as his style of sharing information made so many hirtherto befuddling things very clear to me when I was at that stage of my development.

Danny’s Aladdin’s cave of a site also yielded the extemely entertaining story of his exploits in starting up a ‘commercial’ mobile coffee trailer near his Portsmouth home, which at first appeared to be as much for fun as anything, but subsequently became a very successful venture. That was Danny, up to all sorts and always having an adventure. He certainly seemed to live life to the full.

Like many online coffee folk, I never met Danny personally, but I did email him to say thank you for the information on his site and a very pleasent conversation ensued. He was clearly a very nice and very patient man, whom many felt as if they knew like a friend through his online persona. Danny was a member of TMC and an infrequent poster, though when he did pop-in, everyone seemed to know him.

For a while, Danny was the UK distributor of Monsooned Malabar. A few of my TMC compartiots bought from him now and then, all spoke highly.

In a small way, Danny was the ‘Alistair Cooke’ of the UK coffee world, regularly penning extremely funny pieces regaling readers of alt.coffee with his adventures in the coffee trailer, entitled “Sitting in a Field”. A search on An early photo from his own website of Danny's Espresso Bar 'Sitting in a field'alt.coffee will yield years worth of these classic little pieces that remind me very much of ‘Letter from America’. If you have not read them, they are well worth seeking out. Danny’s charm and wit shine through readily, as does his obvious consideration for his fellow beings. These are his lasting legacy to this, our little coffee world, which is today poorer for Danny’s loss.

God bless you Danny, rest peacefully. You will be missed by so many different people in lots of different ways. Thank you from those of us to whom you gave guidance either directly or through your website.

Our thoughts are with Danny’s loved ones.

I’m back and thinking about football ….

It has been a while since I last posted. Quite a long time in fact. It was not deliberate, but just happened for a number of reasons, none of which are particularly note worthy or relevant to what is ostensibly a coffee blog. Needless to say, I missed it and am pleased to be back.

Having just said coffee is the main subject around here, today’s topic is football. I guess, on that note, most of the coffee people, bar one notable roaster, have just surfed away to something more relevant to them and anyone left is either a football fan or simply can’t be bothered at the moment to look for something else to read.

It’s that time again, the start of a new football season with all of the usual excitement. Everyone has hopes and dreams. I remember the summer of 1976, an August Saturday morning, not unlike today, but with less rain. It was my first real season of following football properly. Football Focus had a preview of

Jumpers for goalposts?

the season and as Grandstand began Frank Bough stood in front of the old green BBC football results and tables charts. They were still manually operated in those days, clever graphics were years away. I remember as the show opened, Frank said that it was the first day of an exciting new season and at a quarter to five, the boards would spring frantically to life with details the day’s events. Earlier that morning, I had bought a new football magazine called ‘Roy of the Rovers’. It was fantastic and for the next few years, without fail, I would run down the hill to the newsagents every Saturday morning to claim my copy from the ‘collections’ pile. It could have been delivered with the morning papers, but that would have simply spoilt my excited fun. I wanted to feel that first Saturday morning every week.

The excitement is still the same for most football fans as it ever was, but things are different these days. For starters, the Premier League and Football League often seem to kick-off on different Saturdays. Oddly though, today’s Football League season opening seems more like the old days to me than next

Jumpers for goalposts?

Jumpers for goalposts?

week probably will when the ‘big boys’ including my team begin their season. For me, the Football League Championship, not the Premier League, more closely resembles the old First Division. I think it is because the lower tier teams still have a large number of British players. I love the Premier League, it is surely the greatest league on earth these days and the quality is breath-taking. It’s just that each year the start of the Football League evokes strong memories of my youth. So, when Championship tactics appear a little naïve by comparison, I just remind myself they play a brand of football that many of us were brought up on, and then I rejoice at the whole stunning other level of skill that those in the Premier League are capable of producing. I love it all. Continue reading

It’s just not cricket ……

I don’t know the details of or pretend to understand the complexivity of the issues in the recent cricket test between Australia and India. The alleged incident itself is not what leaves me feeling uneasy, but the way those involved in the aftermath have behaved, and in particular the position of the ICC.

Following the shambles some time ago involving Pakistan and Darryl Hare, we seem to be witnessing a second occurrence of the ICC capitulating in the face of pressure. It mayHowzat? or may not be that India are right in their position, but it bothers me that cricketing nations appear to be willing these days to threaten a withdrawl or boycott rather than to appeal any sanction through the correct channels.

Now whether this is beacuse the ICC determinations have been perceived to be so incompetent that those affected feel there is no option other than to resort to mutiny or simply that the ICC is known to have a soft underbelly is not clear to me. I do think, however, that the ICC needs to address the issue and might do well to begin by asking itself whether it is making enormous errors in judgement or has simply lost all authority over the game of gentlemen. Sad times.