#011: Coffee optimism for 2021
Plus a recap of 2020 posts and my coffee of the year
Hello and Happy New Year!
Welcome to the first edition of Three Quarters in 2021. I started writing about coffee on this platform last August and since then, I’ve enjoyed learning about different parts of the coffee world and sharing my findings with you on as many Sundays as I could manage.
As the first send out of the year, I wanted to share some links to the stories I most enjoyed writing in 2020, some hopes for coffee in 2021 and my coffee of the year. I also want to say thank you for reading. The number of newsletters arriving in our inboxes is increasing all the time and the whole format is making a bit of a comeback. I’m really thankful that you’re happy for this email to make an appearance in your inbox every now and then.
As ever, if you know anyone that might be interested in receiving more newsletters in 2021, do forward this one onto them. If you’ve been forwarded this and would like to subscribe for real, you can use the button below.
The number of subscribers to this email only really picked up towards the end of the year and so there’s a chance that you may have missed some of the absolute gems from earlier in the year. Here’s are my favourites from the first-half year of Three Quarters:
It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Aster Mengesha about her coffee business based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We spoke about the Ethiopian coffee scene, how her business began, the impact of COVID-19 and her plans for the future. Read more
This began as a write-up into some coffee shops I visited in the U.S. last year, but it ended up being a piece about coffee shops as a kind of refuge when you’re out and about and also the importance of friendliness in customer service, which wasn’t in short supply at the spots I visited. Read more
I’ve been trying to put together pieces spotlighting coffee in different producing countries. The story of coffee production in Zimbabwe is fascinating. From producing huge quantities through the 1980s, production dropped during the turbulent years of the early 2000s, but a project led by NGO TechnoServe is supporting Zimbabwean farmers to rebuild the industry there. Read more
Streets for coffee was born out of the frustration of walking down a high street on a Sunday morning hoping to buy a coffee, only to find a bit of queue. Yes, you could just get in line, it’s probably moving pretty quickly. But ideally, you’ll be on a road with a few good coffee shops, allowing you to weigh up which queue to join. So I’ve begun a quest to find streets like that. The first one I visited was Chatsworth Road in Hackney, London. It’s the perfect street for coffee. Read more
Coffee optimism for 2021
There are lots of things to hope for in 2021. Many of them relate to areas of life much more important than coffee, but where there are grand hopes for vaccines and a recovery from the pandemic, there are hopes for coffee culture to come alive again.
A recovery and resurgence for coffee businesses
Early signs from COVID vaccination programmes around the world suggest progress will be uneven and favouring countries in Europe and North America which have bought up large stocks of available jabs. In the article linked earlier on with Aster Mengesha on coffee in Ethiopia, she outlined the impact the pandemic is having on tourism in the country, which represents a sizeable chunk of her trade. Hopefully as more vaccines are approved, more will reach coffee-producing nations like Ethiopia, allowing the coffee sectors there to recover.
In the UK, coffee shops and roasters have had to adapt quickly to takeaway-only set ups and a significant uptick in online orders from those working from home. There is a good chance that many people will continue to work from home in 2021 while vaccinations should mean restrictions on coffee businesses ease. This could mean that increased online activities could be maintained while in-person business returns, in turn facilitating a recovery and resurgence for the industry in the UK.
The return of coffee dates and meet ups
The dating app, Hinge, did try to replace the tried and tested coffee/pint date format with a video feature during the lockdown. It was a valiant effort, but who could be arsed, really? The promise of easing lockdowns before the summer could mean a return to coffee dates too. The same goes for more general coffee meet-ups. Through the power of Reddit, I started a London coffee meet up group just before the lockdown put in on hold. I’m hoping we’ll be able to restart them in 2021.
The return of coffee festivals and events
So many in person events were replaced by virtual ones in 2020, with mixed success. The Global Coffee Festival, held over 24 hours back in October, was a great success but no substitute for events like the brilliant London Coffee Festival held each year on Brick Lane. This will return next September and I’m looking forward to it.
What are your coffee hopes for 2021?
My coffee of the year
Finally, I looked through my journal to try and figure out my coffee of the year. As I was drinking more coffee out of a cafetière at home in 2020, I made a point of shopping around as many roasters as possible to try and find the best fit or a new favourite.
For my Coffee of the Year, I’ve settled on Bailies Coffee Roasters’ Sao Silvestre. The coffee, roasted in Belfast, is a part of the roaster’s direct trade initiative. This means it ticks a number of boxes relating to ethical trade and direct contact with the coffee farmers, Eduardo and Ismael. The taste is also brilliant and versatile. I love a nutty coffee and Sao Silvestre fits the bill perfectly. It’s versatility also means it keeps its great taste with or without milk. I’ve just ordered another bag to see me into the New Year, you should too!
That’s all for this edition of Three Quarters. I’ll be back in your inbox next Sunday, 10th January with a look at some of the wonderful coffee projects the EU Rural Development Fund has supported in the U.K. before Brexit. Have a great first week of the year!
Love, Ashley x