Its around nine on a Sunday morning and I’m one of two customers in Glasgow’s newest quality focused cafe. Adam Green and Postal Service are humming softly and I’m really enjoying my custard tart even if it is a little heavy for my hung-over delicate self. Before I go into the main subject of this post, I really need to talk about this cafe a little.
Often when cafes or bars go after a very trendy design they sacrifice a sense of character and comfort. They’re usually a little too stark and cold, and end up resembling every other bloody ‘trendy’ bar. Luckily this cafe, called Tinderbox is not in this categroy. With one already in Glasgow and another in London, this Tinderbox opened three weeks ago. I have to say its on of the nicest cafes I’ve seen in the UK and Ireland. The colour scheme is quite nice as you can see in the pictures, and I’ll always love somewhere thats basked in natural light. The bar is well designed with a good flow system and quite a fancy order screen. Its quite big so they definitely had a luxury of space when designing but still kept it quite tasteful. Its a lot more bar like than cafe but thats something I’ve often liked. I’ve had two cappuccinos here and while they were a little hot, they were quite balanced and in a nice small cup. The shots I saw being pulled looked solid too and their food offering is a lot more interesting and attractive than the norm. Staff are particularly friendly efficient and were pretty cool when a drunken me and another well known coffee guy asked if we could have a little latte art re-match right when they’re cleaning the machine. (More about that later)They also sell beer and wine and if the small upright piano is anything to go by, I’m guessing the intention is to have live music in the evenings too. So yeah, altogether a great little spot and I just wish one was open in Dublin.
So why am I in Scotland? Yesterday saw the second SCAE accredited Barista jam held in Glasgow, Scotland. The hosts and organisers of the event were long established roasting company Matthew Algie with all the classes and workshops taking place in their Roasterie.
The day started with all the participants gathering early in above mentioned cafe, ‘Tinderbox’. Everyone got a free coffee and pastry and had enough time to mingle with the new faces before we jumped on a bus to the Roasterie. Along with my good friend and co worker Deaton Pigot, it turned out I knew a fair amount of the people there; SCAE UK co-ordinator Steve Penk, Northern Irish Barista Champion and a better photographer with the same camera as me, Se Gorman, Ben Townsend who was on the winning UK team at the challenge back in Dublin, John Sherwood of the SCAE UK and importer of Jamaican Blue Mountain, Joe O’Hara of Daily Grind Trading Co and the special guest for the day WBC Champion 2005 Troels Overdal Poulsen.
The director for the day and just a lovely person Kirsty soon bundled us into a bus and brought us to the roasterie located not far from the city centre. After a quick introductory chat by Matthew Algie Director David Williamson, we were separated into different groups and sent off to our first workshop of the day. As a member of Team yellow we had Troels first and did a workshop on espresso and milk. I might as well mention it now but the only misgiving I had about the day was how the participants were grouped. I was in with Deaton, a really nice New Zealand guy called Tom who had a background in wine and another chap who had absolutely no experience with coffee. So essentially only two of us had experience with coffee which made our first workshop with Troels a little basic for Deaton and I yet perhaps too overwhelming for the fresh guys. Alternatively I guess you could argue that the premise of these jams is to expose people to new techniques and meet other baristas and so maybe segregating the classes isn’t the answer. I still really enjoyed each session and it was only with Troels workshop that it became an issue. I’d imagine it was frustrating for him too, but at the same time I really enjoyed watching him teach some of the more rudimentary skills as you can never have too many analogies for how to pour a rosetta. In addition to this, the class was really well facilitated with around 8 fully equipped espresso stations set up, lots of milk and coffee and the patient cleaning skills of Ruth from Espresso Warehouse always at hand.
The following workshop was a tour of the factory by one of Matthew Algie’s head roasters who’d been in the business I think around 25/30 years now. He was really informative, quite funny and I’m kicking myself for not remembering his name. (edit, he was and still is Peter McGadey). The factory was really impressive and some of their quality control methods are really quite remarkable. One machine I hadn’t seen before was a chaff compressor (not the official name) which made little concentrated tubes of chaff that apparently they sell to some guy who uses them for worm farming. What was really interesting though was the information that apparently some of the larger roasters blended this chaff back into their ground coffee as technically it was still coffee. I’m sure it’d be in small amounts and I doubt it adds huge weight but bloody nasty all the same.
I’ll add more to this tomorrow as right now, I’ve to sleep, tend to the girlfriend, check some names and get more photos. More pics on flickr.