From a farm in Ethiopia to a Rocky Mountain bike trail

I’m sitting on a summit 6500′ above sea level where the Rocky Mountains of Canada meet the Columbia range. Surrounded by postcard views and staggering cliffs, I take in the crisp alpine air and turn my attention to the bag of carefully roasted beans I had stashed in my pack. Coffee is beautiful. I am reminded of this every time I open a new bag. These beans are more than vessels for caffeine, they have a story, and a purpose. The label on the bag can tell me where they came from, but how did they end up here?

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As I run my fingers over their smooth, chocolatey skin I like to think about all the hands involved in bringing these beans to my cup. I try to picture the faces of the people who planted the seeds and watched them grow into trees, then carefully harvested, sorting through rows upon rows of plants using calloused and cracked fingers to delicately select only the ripest cherries.

For the farmers growing coffee, these beans are more than a job. It provides them with income to raise a family and put their kids through school. It’s a community, both locally and globally. They form relationships with buyers around the world, who in turn form relationships with the shops, roasters, and home brewers. Coffee connects me to people,  many of whom I’ll never meet, but who’s hard work and passion for great coffee binds us.

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My cup was empty, hanging from my pack as I pedalled my way up this beautiful alpine single track. Now, at the top of the mountain, it is filled with coffee that minutes ago was beans spilling between my fingers. The story of these beans, from seeds, to trees, then harvested and processed, sold, roasted and bought, is long and beautiful. This particular coffee started life in the mountains of Ethiopia, and has now found its cup in the rocky mountains of Canada. I take a minute to revel in the fragrances cocooning around me, the alpine flowers and moss gently fraternizing with the sweet and floral aromas of the coffee. I appreciate the warmth of the cup in my hands against the mountain air, then enjoy in the view, and take a sip.

By Tim Friesen

Tim Friesen grew up exploring the forests of northern Alberta, Canada. As he got older his backyard expanded to encompass the endless mountain ranges of Canada and the US. With a mountain bike as his tool and coffee as his fuel, he is as at home in a tent in the La Sal mountains as he is in the back of his truck in the parking lot of Kicking Horse Bike Park. You may mail him here, or find him on instagram, facebook or his blog.

Humans of coffee: Radhika Valjee

Who is Radhika Valjee?

Radhika Valjee is a creative. A creative whose life revolves around creating – creating art, photography, videos, food and ideas.  She wants to share with the world her passion for creating and hopefully inspire those around her. She is currently studying architecture but her lifelong dream is to have her own coffee shop one day- one that is inspired by her favourite things (architecture, art and photography). In the mean time she plans to keep pushing herself creatively, keep learning and fill her soul with adventures.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

To be honest, I don’t remember much of my childhood but the memories I do recall all involve my grandfather. I grew up living with my grandparents and so they hold a very special place in my heart. I’ve always loved art, since childhood, and my grandfather is an incredible artist. I remember I would sit with him every night and ask him to draw my favourite story book characters. And after spending a good few minutes sketching them out I would then ask for him to colour them in with my crayons. And after all that, I would ask him to read the story book (it was always The Little Red Riding Hood) to me as I fell off to sleep and he never refused to do any of those things for me, he always made time for me.

If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

If there’s anything I could do differently that would be to be more self-confident. A lot of the times I knew in my gut what to say or do but I didn’t because I was afraid. I feel that I missed a lot of good opportunities that came my way due to this lack of confidence. However, all that I have experienced and haven’t experienced have made me the person I am today and I wouldn’t want to change that.

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What do you feel most proud of?

I am most proud of my work ethic and moral grounding. It’s easy to stray off path and follow what others are doing. It’s so easy to lose yourself, there have been many times where I nearly did but I am proud of each time I managed to stay grounded and remain true to myself. I think that each time life knocks you down and every time you stand back up you should be proud of yourself.

If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

My camera, to capture all awe-inspiring moments life has to offer, my copy of The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak to remind me how the love within you will always win and probably a sketchbook because drawing and writing is for the soul.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I don’t believe in tombstones (being buried) but if I had to choose something to be remembered by I would like to be remembered for loving and inspiring people.

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What is RAD.?

RAD. is a YouTube channel that I have started in hopes to share my creativity in the form of videos and in this way inspire others and send thought provoking messages. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to showcase but for now it’s a reflection of moments and topics that have inspired me to create.

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

I love a good old cappuccino. I enjoy a light to medium roast and Ethiopia is probably my favourite origin!

In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

Bean There and Flynn Coffee in Johannesburg and Vintage Coffee in Pretoria.

What does a perfect day look like?

I am happiest when I’m near the ocean so the perfect day for me would involve a day near the ocean, with the right company or alone, a good book, the weather not too warm and not too cold, just right. And of course, a goof cup of coffee.

A Guide to Specialty Coffee in Tokyo and Kyoto

Most people don’t associate Japan with high quality coffee. Traditional coffee houses generally serve a filter variety of coffee, and Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines carry canned coffee, hot and cold. However, the specialty coffee scene is growing in popularity and quality. Starbucks and big chains still dominate streetscapes, but hidden down quiet lanes you’ll find the following cafes slinging quality espresso. Off the beaten tourist track, the search for the best brew is a great way to discover different neighbourhoods (and importantly stay caffeinated while at it). That’s the point of travel, right?

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Fuglen

1 Chome-16-11 Tomigaya, 渋谷区 Tokyo 151-0063, Japan

This cafe and bar is the sister outpost of Fuglen Oslo, and you can tell. If you’re wandering around Yoyogi Park and surrounds in Tokyo, and have a hankering for a smooth cappuccino inside what feels like the coziest Scandinavian cabin, then Fuglen is your place. Who doesn’t love coffee with a vintage modernist aesthetic? It’s open well after dark (till 2am Friday and Saturday) for late night cravings.

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Onibus Nakameguro

Japan, 〒153-0051 Tokyo, 目黒区Kamimeguro, 2−14−1 

Coffee underneath a rumbling train line in the trendy neighbourhood of Nakameguro?  Yes please. Onibus is one of the city’s best roasters, with another outpost in Okusawa, as well as being a major supplier. Once you start sipping away at your preferred brew in the cosy seating area at Onibus, the trains completely fade into the background.

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Switch Coffee

1 Chome-17-23 Meguro, Tokyo 153-0063, Japan

Located on a peaceful residential street a short walk from Meguro station lies Switch, a roastery and cafe. It may be small, with just one bench for seating, a touch of vintage furniture and a sprawling plant, but Switch served up one of the smoothest, tastiest coffees I had in Tokyo, in a peaceful setting – I can’t think of a better way to start the day.

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About Life Coffee Brewers

1 Chome-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043, Japan

Walk a little way up Dogenzaka, away from the central bustle of Shibuya, and you might spot a small crowd of people gathering in a laneway. Welcome to About Life Coffee Brewers, a tiny hole in the wall coffee bar that is serving up some quality brews with beans from its partner Onibus.

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Single O

2 Chome-23-2 Kamezawa, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0014, Japan

Single O Japan is a personal favourite, and well worth the effort of tracking down in the Ryogoku district near the Edo Museum. Single O has been one of Sydney (my hometown)’s best cafes and roasters for over a decade, and last year opened its first overseas location in Tokyo. It’s hidden down a quiet street, and you’ll be greeted by friendly faces and some of the best Aussie-approved brews in town.

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Tokyo Bike

4 Chome-2-39 Yanaka, Taitō, Tokyo 110-0001, Japan

Tokyo Bike is a heavenly minimalist bike and retail store with a built in coffee counter. Tokyo Bike now has stores located around the world, but its original store in Tokyo’s central yet sleepy neighbourhood of Yanaka is a lovely place to stop for a coffee and then rent a stylish bike for the afternoon.

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Blue Bottle

Shinagawa Station 2-18-1 Konan Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0075

Japan is the only country outside of the US in which California-based roaster Blue Bottle has set up shop so far. There’s not one, but seven Tokyo cafes (Aoyama, Kiyosumi, Nakameguro, Roppongi, Sangenjaya, Shinagawa, Shinjuku), which operate with smooth service, sleek interiors and an emphasis on quality espresso and manual brews. I particularly enjoyed the outpost at Shinagawa station, from where you can watch the immense rush hour crowds make their way through the station.

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KYOTO

Visiting temple upon temple can be a tiring business, which is when quality coffee is desperately called upon. Kyoto has stepped up its specialty coffee game, and if you’re combining Tokyo and Kyoto as most travellers do, the following cafes are well worth a visit.

Kurasu

Japan, 〒600-8235 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Higashiaburanokojicho, 552

Kurasu is tucked away right next to Kyoto Station, making it the most convenient starting point in town. They rotate beans from top roasters around the world, meaning you’ll always have a slightly different tasting experience in this lovely coffee bar, but the quality will remain second to none.

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Weekenders

Japan, 〒604-8064 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Honeyanocho, 560

Weekenders is the definition of a hidden gem – it’s located inside a small parking lot in the fantastic central shopping district of Kyoto (Teramachi Dori and surrounds). Weekenders has been around for over ten years, a pioneer of Kyoto’s specialty coffee scene. The little cafe feels far from the bustle of the city, giving you a few moments to recuperate with a lovely cup of coffee, made with its own roast.

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By Rose Levy

Rose is a student of journalism, social sciences and is a German with a home base in Sydney and her heart in her favourite city of Berlin. She’s most often found wandering laneways, camera in hand and dog Mitzi in tow, searching for the best coffee and slickest cafes in town. She recently spent two weeks hunting for the best brews in Japan’s culture capitals. And was kind enough to share her experience with us. Follow her at her beautiful instagram page for more of her adventures.

Humans of coffee: Tyrone Watson

Who is Tyrone Watson?

A handsome spiritual cowboy and aspiring beam of light. At least, that’s what my Instagram bio says. I’d say that I’m a twenty-something year old who hasn’t got it all figured out just yet. I’m a human being, yogi and extremely passionate young dude who can sing along to any musical at the drop of a hat. But more than that, l love coffee so, so much that I packed up my desk at a corporate job to jump head-first into the coffee industry with nothing but my background as a volunteer barista, my relentless optimism and my desire to learn.

One day I’m hoping to include coffee professional, barista trainer and Batman.

Tyrone feels so formal. Just Ty is perfect.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

I’d probably say it’s all the simple stuff. I’m an empathetic person so how things feel is so important to me. Getting picked up from school in the afternoon, falling asleep in the back of the car and adventuring down to the coast during December. As I get older those really ordinary moments become more and more special.

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Photograph by Lianri Malan

If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

I’m here to learn as much as possible, so I don’t make a habit of spending a lot of time looking behind me because it always served a purpose. If I had to give my younger self some advice: Listen less, feel more and don’t take anything too seriously.

And buy more Bitcoin. Or sell more Bitcoin. I’m still not sure exactly what Bitcoin is.

What do you feel most proud of?

Always having a sense of humour. Life is tough whether you laugh or not, but it’s way more fun if you do. Falling in love with coffee and leaving my corporate job when I recognised that it wasn’t right for me makes me feel good, too.

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Photograph by Lianri Malan

If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

  • My iPhone. It’s such a convenient camera and learning tool.
  • A yoga mat to practice anywhere.
  • Birkenstocks. There’s a line in Will & Grace where Will says, “And by the way some sandals can be very dressy.” I’m both horrified and impressed at how often I hear myself saying the same thing.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

The same thing as my high school year book: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

What is @boymeetsbean?

Boy meets bean actually started with some advice from Shan Venter (@pretoriacoffeegirl) during a long chat about getting started in the coffee industry.

Technically, it’s an Instagram-based photo blog that explores coffee, coffee culture and coffee people in South Africa. More than that, it was a way of filling my time when I left my job by forcing me to adventure to different coffee shops and engage with the people behind the counter to learn as much as I can about coffee.

I’m an incredibly visual person and I love taking photos. Instagram is such an easy, accessible way to explore and express that creativity.

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Photograph by Lianri Malan

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

At home, I love a French Press. Otherwise, a single cortado is my go-to. A real favourite at the moment is a Konga Natural from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.

In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

Spout Coffee in Pretoria, especially over weekends. During the week I’m usually at Vintage Coffee in Menlo Park, or out and about in Joburg. I’m in love with Dear Maria.

What does a perfect day look like?

Early morning. Black coffee. Good music. Better people.

Coffee syrup

If, like me, you’ve had a lingering suspicion that something’s missing from your life, it’s because something is. And it’s this: Angie Batis & Nicole van den Berg’s recipe for coffee syrup.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup coconut sugar
  2. 1 cup water
  3. a double shot of strong espresso or 80mls of strong black coffee
  4. 1 x teaspoon cinnamon
  5. a pinch of nutmeg
  6. 1/2 cup coconut milk
  7. 1/2 cup almond milk
  8. crushed ice

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients except for the two milks and crushed ice into a pot and bring to the boil.
  2. Turn the heat down to a medium temperature and let the mixture boil slowly for about 10 minutes.
  3. In a jar or drinking glass add crushed ice and the coconut and almond milk, then about a double shot of this coffee syrup (you can make it more or less sweet if you’d like just by adding more or less syrup).

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By Angie Batis & Nicole van den Berg

Angie runs a beautiful blog called Lucky Pony while Nicole has one of the most beautiful food pages on Instagram.

 

How I spent 48 hours in Amsterdam: Little Collins

Brunch isn’t really a thing in Amsterdam. But it is in Melbourne. So Little Collins‘ Australian-born owners brought a slice Melbourne to Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighbourhood.

I could write a book about how good my breakfast waffle was. And turn that book into a best seller by including images of my perfectly prepared flat white. Instead I’ll leave you with this – the most important piece of advice you’ll ever hear about this spot:

Go early.

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How I spent 48 hours in Amsterdam: Scandinavian Embassy

My only regret about my visit to Scandinavian Embassy is that I took an Uber. Hidden away in Sarphatipark in De Pijp, it took my driver ages to get there. But like all of life’s great adventures, it was worth the trip.

The shop is run by the owner / operator duo of Rikard Andersson and Nicolas Castagno. Rikard is a chef. Nicolas is a champion coffee maker. My expectations were high.

Every blog post I read recommended the freshly baked cinnamon rolls. So I ordered poached eggs with salmon on toast. I washed it down with a perfectly prepared flat white. And then I had a freshly baked cinnamon roll.

I recommend it.

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