The Coffee Magazine is exploring Melbourne for the incredible Global Edition of the Almond Breeze Latte Art Video Challenge and one of the things we've noticed is the quality and variation of the ceramics. That got us thinking about some of our favourite local ceramic producers, one of whom is Love Milo.
Taking daily inspiration from her surroundings, designer, Nicki Ellis, translates the gratitude she has for earthy elements into nature-inspired designs. All her designs come to life using sustainable manufacturing practices, including the use of only eco-friendly inks and the sourcing of alien wood. Nicki’s whole philosophy is to bring nature into people’s homes and into their daily activities. "When you have your morning coffee, why not incorporate nature and beauty into it? Re-connecting with nature and appreciating it’s gift to us, is so important, now more than ever! "
She has also always been fascinated with the Japanese Tea Ceremony or Sado, as the Japanese treat their tea as ART– this cultural ritual was the inspiration for her large tea cups and saucers, so that tea lovers could connect with the values of kindness, humility, discipline and simplicity, which is represented in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
“Beautiful things inspire a person, but instead of putting these things onto walls to admire from a distance, why not make it a part of everything we do. When we drink our morning coffee, why not incorporate beauty into this? Why not make this a process of interacting with art? What a good way to start the day,” says Ellis, who is the designer behind Love Milo products. It was these questions that motivated Ellis to resign from her job in the advertising world in 2010, where she felt she created for others as part of a mechanical process, and instead began to experiment with her own designs and fascination with the imperfection of nature. This curiosity and desire to make naturally beautiful things, started when Nicki was pregnant with her son, Milo, who is the inspiration behind the company name.
“You will never find a straight line in nature, so my designs are about finding the harmony between line and form; juxtaposing the imperfect elements with handmade elements to create something unique. In today’s world, many don’t have the time to stop and enjoy nature, so the aim with Love Milo is to find the beauty in the outdoors and bring it to you through our designs in every day accessories.”
Nicki’s process begins with photographing elements of nature that have striking patterns. Sometimes this begins in her own backyard, when Milo brings her a variety of interesting creatures he has found in the garden, like dragon flies and butterflies. “I look for the smallest detail in the elements, like the wings of the dragonfly or the pattern of a branch that I find while on a walk; and then photograph these in a light box. Next, I play with the imagery in black and white, as this speaks to the minimalist approach to our designs.”
Further to the backyard, Ellis and Finch spend a lot time in the outdoors, where they come across elements that stir up the creativity for a design. For example, they have found the Cecilia Forest in Newlands to be a great place for finding the intricate patterns in nature. “It can be something so simple, like the minute details in a leaf or the imperfect shape of a stone,” says Ellis. Travelling is also a sure way for Ellis and Finch to pick up on the beauty of nature’s design. They have found the Namibian dessert to be a particularly wonderful place for this. In fact, Namibia is where Love Milo’s very first branch and bird designs were born.
Although the brands signature style is black and white, Ellis brings in certain spots of colour that are found in nature to enhance a design. Currently, shades of green and indigo, inspired by the Agate stone, can be found across different products, and Ellis is now beginning to play with a pink and gold in a new range of cups and saucers.
Her hope for those who interact with Love Milo products is to enjoy the benefits of being surrounded by the beauty of nature and to feel energised when interacting with them. “Our designs are quite visually surprising, which I like. When placed against a white wall or clean background for example, the designs definitely catch your eye.”
All images Bloomsbury/Jeff Koehler
Jeff Koehler is an American writer, traveller, photographer, and cook. In his latest book, he takes readers on a literary adventure to explore the origins of coffee. Jeff Koehler was kind enough to do a Q&A with Coffee Magazine about his new book, Where the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your Cup.
What inspired you to write Where the Wild Coffee Grows?
When I was working on my last book, Darjeeling, I thought a lot about crops in their original home versus adopted ones (such as Darjeeling tea). The one that most captured my attention was coffee – Arabica coffee – which grows wild in southwestern Ethiopia. I thought it would be interesting to look at coffee in its native home. That was the idea, but it grew into much more.
Why do you think it’s important to set history straight about the origin of coffee?
Arabica means “from Arabia.” But the centre origin and diversity is in the Montane rainforests of Ethiopia. It is from Ethiopia, a point that tends to get little attention in most books. As well, it seemed logical that the world’s original coffee culture was around those forests where the fruit grows wild. Their story has never really been told.
In your book, you mention that Kafa is home to the world’s original coffee culture, yet remains virtually unknown. Why is that?
The area was, until relatively recently, extremely isolated. Western explorers didn’t really reach it until the very end of the 19th century, and the coffee forests were hardly breached by outsiders until the 1930s. The first scientific expeditions to gather genetic material did not happen until the 1950s.
How much time did you spend in Ethiopia in the researching and writing of this book?
I worked on the book for about two years. I had three trips to Kafa and around the west of the country. I also spent time in eastern Ethiopia, which has an ancient tradition of cultivating coffee around Harar, in Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, and, of course, in Addis Ababa, with coffee industry folks.
Did your research take you anywhere else in the world?
Indeed! I had four visits to Kew Gardens in London with their coffee specialist, a couple to Montpellier where some of world’s greatest coffee geneticists are working, and to Amsterdam to follow coffee’s arrival in Europe and also spend time with the most important importer of specialty coffee from Ethiopia. I went to Latin America to see coffee farms suffering from coffee leaf rust fungus and to meet farmers and families so affected by it.
For the specialty coffee world, I travelled to Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Oakland, and San Francisco in the US. Plus phone, skype, and email interviews with people working in coffee across the globe, from Yemen to Kenya to Panama. And many, many hours in libraries in various countries. As well, I was able to draw on my earlier travels to coffee producing areas, namely Yemen, Sumatra, Kenya, South India, and Mexico.
What was it like to travel through the villages and forests of Kafa?
Magical! In many respects. One of them was seeing coffee as just another plant in a forest. Cultivate coffee is meant to exist. It is planted in a field to produce. Not so wild coffee. These trees exist because they won their space in the forest. They exist simply because they fought and survived.
You mention that Ethiopia possesses 99.8% of the world’s genetic diversity of Arabica. Why is that important?
Cultivated Arabica has an incredibly narrow genetic base. In part that is from its history and how it spread, and in part from its nature. Arabica is self-pollinating – its pollen can fertilize its own ovule – and pollinates itself about 95 percent of the time, which keeps diversity from entering the species.
Genetically impoverished plants are highly vulnerable to pests, diseases, and changes in climatic conditions. They also have an inability to adapt or respond to environmental, or even market, demands, and limited potential for breeding new varieties.
Arabica’s diversity is greatest in the southwestern forests where it grows wild. Genetic variation is highest at its origin. The key is to tap into that diversity and bring it into new breeds of coffee.
You speak to the production of coffee under threat from climate change and disease – how worried should we be?
Entire swaths of coffee-producing countries will lose their ability to grow Arabica. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that 2° to 2.5°C increase in temperature would significantly trim the amount of suitable land for growing coffee across the world, perhaps halving it by 2050. In Brazil, where half of the world’s Arabica is grown, a rise of 3°C would cut areas adequate for coffee production in the principal growing states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo by two thirds and extinguish it elsewhere.
Around 85 percent of Arabica today is grown in Latin America. That region that is being incredibly hard hit by a devastating fungus called coffee leaf rust. Climate change is aggravating its spread.
What advice would you give to travellers wishing to follow in your footsteps and explore the roots of coffee in Ethiopia?
Arrange a truck and driver in Addis and head west to Bonga. From there, hire local guides and get into the coffee forests. The German environmental association NABU (Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union) is a good place to start. A massive swath of Kafa’s coffee forests have been designated a UNESCO biosphere.
I also highly recommend Aregash Lodge, in Sidamo, not far from Yirgacheffee. It is by far my favourite place to stay in Ethiopia. And Harar remains the most amazing city in the country.
I’m sure you met some interesting characters in your research and travels?
In Ethiopia, Mesfin Tekle, the leading expert on Kafa’s forests. The numerous forests walks we did together were the highlight of my time in the country. His knowledge of the natural world in those forests was matched by his understanding of the spiritual world and cultural traditions. I was also lucky to have a couple of visits to one of Kafa’s most important spiritual leaders, who taught me about the religious importance of coffee to the people of the area.
You refer to the “ceremony” of preparing and drinking coffee in Ethiopia – what is it that makes Ethiopia unique in their approach to coffee?
The process of preparing a traditional cup of coffee is so elaborate that it is aptly called a “coffee ceremony.” It begins with washing and roasting the beans and carries on through pouring it out into tiny cups. The host will brew three rounds with the grounds. It is considered not just rude to leave before the third one is served, but could bring bad you luck.
“Buna dabo naw” or “Coffee is our bread” is a popular expression you mention. How does that speak to their coffee culture?
In Ethiopia, a meeting rarely lacks coffee, and coffee rarely lacks company. The country is one of the world’s largest producers of coffee. Yet it exports less than half of what it grows. To put that another way, it consumes more than half its own production. That’s around 500 million pounds of coffee for a population of nearly 100 million, a particularly impressive quantity as nearly half the population is under fourteen years of age. By contrast, Kenya consumes just 3 percent of its production, while Colombia exports over 86 percent of its coffee.
If there’s one thing coffee lovers should take away from reading your book, what should it be?
A deeper understanding of coffee’s origins, spread, and future – and how tightly these three things are related. The story is more complex than I ever imagined. And more interesting.
How have your travels and research affected your own coffee habit?
I gained a much better appreciation for the long and involved coffee chain – there are so many people involved between field to cup, and any one of them can screw up the final brew. When I take a sip of excellent coffee I am more amazed – and thankful – than ever.
A hive of coffee innovation, the London Coffee Festival in 2017 made for some interesting discoveries. David Donde, was invited to judge in the Coffee Masters competition and made the most of the time to soak up the international coffee trends that we should be looking out for.
Words by David Donde
1. Most Interesting Coffee Trend
The biggest trend in coffee at the London Coffee Festival, was an idea. An idea that I walked into the festival wanting to corroborate. Years ago, when I began in coffee, the thing we wanted coffee to be was “Strong”. With Speciality coffee, we went from wanting strong to claiming that “good coffee has acidity” and as roasters, we all went on a quest for acidity. For about a year this has been bothering me deeply. I was not alone. As is the want of this kind of thing, other thinkers were on the same path. I am happy to report that my notes from that tiny, wet island have us all on a new quest: for sweetness. In practice, this is going to mean top roasters will start choosing beans differently. Roast profiles will subdue acidity in favour of sweetness, and as a consumer, you can expect a more approachable, more luxurious cup.
2. The Person who inspired me most
Nick Maybe, from Assembly Coffee, who eventually came second in the Coffee Masters is one to watch. He could have and should have won, but fatigue got the better of him. He is asking some great questions by looking at processing methods and extraction, extraction, extraction! His presentation called Wash Wash, a coffee trio, was fun. This is a group of three bags of the same coffee sold together, but each produced using a different washing process. So he took one coffee, had the farm treat the same cherries as a washed, a natural, and as a honey process. The idea was to taste the difference between the processing methods. Sadly they were roasted too differently for this idea to really shine in the cup, though this was still a wonderful idea to be part of. Passion, innovation and depth of knowledge are always contagious.
3. The Cafe to visit in London
The New Black. They serve coffees from a small selection of the world’s top roasters. Magnificent in its conceptualisation and actualisation. Imagine a cafe: There is no coffee sitting in a grinder. Rather, little capsules of pre-weighed coffee, waiting grinders, and a bank of extraction methods greet your eyes. A coffee is chosen, a brewing method discussed, and the coffee made to perfection. They have created their own flavour wheel to help you choose which roaster’s coffee you should sample based on what flavours you enjoy. I may be biased here, they did choose our coffee as one of the roasters to open with, but this is a breathtaking coffee experience.
4. Most delicious coffee
The best coffee on the trip was not so much about a specific bean, but more about the process of brewing the coffee. There is a whole debate going on at the moment in the filter coffee sphere about the benefits of immersive vs drip. For me immersion is the way to go, but the V60 is such a gorgeous piece of equipment. Well, Gwilym Davies (World Barista Champ 2009) and I were discussing making an immersive brew then putting that through a drip filter, and lo and behold, a competitor in the Coffee Masters the very next day brewed coffee in a milk pitcher, timing its immersion in there, and then using a Hario to filter it. What does this mean in the cup? A clean, deep and rich extraction, highlighting complexity and sweetness. This is what I have always liked about the Clever Dripper’s capabilities.
5. Best New Product/piece of equipment
The Oomph Coffee Maker for producing immersion brew filter. This is an example of science put to good use. It is simple to use and superficially understand; it gives one the best aspects of the AeroPress and Abid Clever Dripper, while being easier to use and clean and allows further extraction if wanted after brew completion. I bought one!
The only other toy I bought was the Commandante Hand Grinder. Amazing. Abec 9 bearings (normally used in the skating world, the damn thing’s handle spins seemingly forever when the chamber is empty!), CNC manufacturing, super sharp blades, and interchangeable accessories. Mine came with a selection of grind size adjustors (clear and black), two handle knobs and two grind jars, and utterly amazing laser engraving. The thing is a pleasure to use. One cannot say that about any other manual grinder I have ever tried.
Goat Story let me play with their new brewer, the GINA, and although it wasn’t a marketable product at the time of testing, it looks beautiful and they’ve had huge backing from a Kickstarter campaign to produce this integrated Bluetooth scale and brewing contraption. One to look out for.
We had so much fun at this event. It was amazing to see so many different coffee businesses represented here, putting aside rivalries to have a fun night of latte art under pressure! Thanks to the teams at Tribe Coffee and SanremoSA for making this happen, we know how much goes in to putting on these kinds of events.
Congratulations to Nakahosa Nanimozuela Idricia aka Idris, from Truth Coffee Roasting who walked away with the prize money and the glory!
The Judges, Organisers, Winner and Runner Up, fun was had by all! From left to right: Melanie Winter, Armie Vanucci, Idris (Winner!), Atang Tshikare, Chris Gaag (Tribe Coffee), Brigitte Hauptfleisch (organiser), Cristiano Mendes (Runner-Up)
Getting creative for your coffee
Could you string some sentences into a stanza and set your creativity free for a cup of coffee? On the 21st of March every year, Julius Meinl changes the currency in hundreds of coffeehouses around the world – inviting people to pay with a handwritten poem on World Poetry Day.
The global coffee roaster and ambassador of Viennese coffeehouse culture has championed the cause of coffee, tea, and creativity, and this is the fifth year of their #PayWithAPoem initiative. So, what’s behind it all? What inspired this blend of beverages and bards?
Julius Meinl is synonymous with Viennese coffeehouse culture – established in 1862, the company was the first professional roaster in Europe and has been a premium purveyor of gourmet coffee, tea and fruit preserves for more than 150 years. Rooted in Viennese coffeehouse tradition, it’s this respect for culture that led Julius Meinl down the poetry path…
“It is a place where all sorts of individuals meet to discuss their dreams, to reflect on their thoughts, to share their ideas, to compose masterpieces, to read or just to quietly sit and watch our colourful life happen. With one single cup of coffee, which traditionally comes served on a silver tray with a glass of water, one is entitled to linger in the coffeehouse for hours and hours, even without ordering anything else, making you feel at home. It is here, in this amazing institution full of history, emotions and life, where poetry comes to life.” – Meinl Coffee
Poetry in a cup
Julius Meinl prides itself on being a champion of this culture of creativity, with coffee and tea as a source of inspiration. If you’ve always suspected that coffee is the fuel that feeds your creative fire, here’s your validation. On World Poetry Day in 2017 over 100,000 coffee drinkers in 37 countries around the world paid for their coffee with a poem at participating cafés and coffeehouses.
The coffee roaster believes that poetry contributes to building a better world by increasing positivity through creativity. We might not be able to pay with a poem in South Africa yet, but that’s no reason not to sit down with a cup of coffee, put pen to paper, and see what happens. With the right barista, their poetry in a cup could become your poetry on a page…
A holiday bush tale where Leopard goes in search of a decent cup of coffee and finds so much more.
chapter i – a bitter brew
“Isn’t it great?” enthused the leering Warthog.
“Didn’t tell you, huh? Huh?” he cried.
“er…yeah….” Leopard mumbled as he reluctantly sipped the murky black liquid.
The Warthog’s knowing grin widened even more, showing the yellowy gums that steadfastly gripped his rotting, brown-stained tusks.
Leopard took another sip and mock-smiled. It wasn’t nice. Not even close. It was pasty, and bitty. For all those grounds in it, Leopard would thought there’d at least be some flavour. Instead it was just very very hot, muddy water.
“er… it sure is hot’” – at least 8 degrees too hot mused Leopard mournfully.
“Yeah I boiled it up good!” sniggered Warthog, who moved in closer and lowered to a halitosis-soaked whisper. “It’s my secret”, he breathed with a conspiratorial wink, “and half the reason why I call the place Hog Coffee”
“…ah” … said Leopard.
This was Leopard’s 4th holiday morning in the bush and he was yet to find a decent cup of coffee. There were promises of caffeine nirvana under almost every Marula tree but sadly, none had had come close to delivering transcendence.
He had started at “The Latte Leopard”. The name had of course made him chuckle, so he had gone inside filled with milky hope. Instead he discovered they specialised in ‘flavoured lattes’ by adding all manner of sickly sweet extras – presumably to disguise the taste of their hideously poor beans. A suspicion, that later turned to fact after he ordered an Americano.
“Full of Beans” was next. It was run by a wired Meercat called Snitch who talked at high speed from the moment he walked in to the moment he walked out – stopping only to throw back espressos which kept magically appearing in his little paws. Clearly he drank too much of his own wares, but Leopard was hopeful the addict before him could pull a decent shot. How wrong he was. It was sour, burnt and had no crema, just a brownish smear on the side of the small cup – which, upon closer inspection, could actually have been dirt.
Day 3 involved an early morning visit to “The Double Shot Hunter”. The barista, a surly Honey Badger this time, looked blankly at Leopard when he asked for a macchiato. So, with a sigh, he carefully explained it was similar to a cortado – but of course very different because one obviously uses foam instead of steamed milk. The blank look turned to irritation, so Leopard hastily explained further that it was also along the lines of a flat white or a piccolo, either of which he would also be more than happy with. This caused Honey Badger to begin to growl. So, to keep the peace (and his perfect face) Leopard said he would actually be marvellously content with a simple cappuccino if it wasn’t too much trouble thank you very much. Honey Badger stared him down for 10 whole seconds before asking “so you want milk with it then?”.
chapter ii – hot, hot hot
“You’re new here aren’t you?”
The question ripped Leopard from his mournful memories and back to his current cup of hot (Hog) coffee.
He blinked up from the steam to the source of the question.
The sight before him completely evaporated any words from his mouth. And apparently all thoughts from his head.
Before him stood the most perfect cat. Graceful and poised with vast golden lakes for eyes that reached out and drowned him in their mysterious depths.
She reached out a perfect paw, “Hi, I’m Cheetah”
“er…um…Leopard”, he stumbled.
“Pleased to meet you, Leopard” she purred, shaking his paw.
Her touch was silken, yet powerful. Her claws (Un-retractable! Always ready for action!) grazed his pads as she took her paw back.
Leopard now found his voice; the words babbling out of him in a gush, “You can call me Leo though - my friends call me Leo – well some of them - which is kinda weird because I am an Aquarius, not a leo - and I am also not a lion - I am…a… leopard”.
“Yes,” she said. “I spotted that”.
His grin spread wider than his saucer eyes.
“Enjoying the coffee?” she enquired mildly.
“er…well…it’s …pretty…hot”. He couldn’t lie to this beauty.
“That’s his secret”
“So I have been told”
“Not so secret then, huh?”
“And …not so good either if we’re honest”
“Well, come along then.” She said and marched out the door.
chapter iii – make mine a double
Leopard gaped around him at the new wonderland. Coffee implements of every shape and size packed the shelves behind Cheetah, who now stood next to a gleaming, silver espresso machine. Pour overs, presses, filters, tampers and more, it was all here.
“Espresso, cappuccino, latte? Or are you more of a macchiato kinda chap?” Cheetah asked. “I also make a mean cortado if that’s your thing?”
His tongue was skipping almost as fast as his heart was.
“You know how to use that?” he pointed hopefully at the Aeropress behind her
“Well I do have a secret recipe” she grinned
“Inverted, 42 grams, medium grind, 250 mls water, 10 pour, 23 stir, 12 pour, 38 steep and then my final secret move.”
He held his breath…“Which is….?”
“…Well, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret now would it?” she winked slyly.
“Ha!” chuckled Leopard.
“The good news is that it’s a 2 cup recipe,” she said with flashing teeth. “Make yourself comfortable over by the window and I‘ll join you as soon as I am done”
A warm glow crept across Leopard’s entire coat and enveloped him in a gentle hug. He was now truly in heaven.
the end … and the beginning.
This month a team from TriBeCa coffee company will head to Kilimanjaro to both build a dairy for a woman farmer, Scolastica, who produces amazing organic coffee on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and in celebration of woman in coffee, they will also be climbing Kilimanjaro and brewing Kilimanjaro coffee on the summit. As supplier to coffee the W Cafes and Woolworths Food stores this company brings a lot of coffee into the country! It is always good to know that they are putting in the hard work to uplift the farmers and source coffee responsibly.
Photo supplied by TriBeCa Coffee
Of the world's estimated 1 billion poor, 70% are women. Women own less than 1% of the world’s titled land. The World Bank estimates that more than 500 million people throughout the world are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods, and of that number, 25 million are coffee farmers. Unfortunately, coffee farmers typically live and work in substandard conditions, which are compounded by the fact that they receive only a small percentage of the actual price for which the coffee is sold to the consumer. Women, who represent a good majority of coffee farmers, face additional challenges. Aside from the day-to-day struggles women coffee farmers face in order to maintain a respectable standard of living, they also struggle with the gender inequality prevalent throughout the world’s coffee growing regions. Frequently suffering from abuse, neglect and poverty, women are unable to gain economic, social or political power in their family’s coffee business, or in their communities.
Matt Carter, Coffee Sustainability Manager at TriBeCa tells us, "It is for this reason that we have decided to support woman farmers and their families through this project. This isn’t something new for TriBeCa, in 2016 we built a dairy and did training with Anna, a farmer in the Usambara region of Tanzania. It was so successful that she was then able to buy two goats to add to her dairy with the money that she got for the coffee that we bought from her."
This isn’t just the story of a few cows and a farmer, this is one about a community coming together for the greater good. This is the story of a value chain that actually adds value all the way from crop to cup.
Good luck to the team! If you want to track their journey which begins on 12 March you can do so here: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0vhqaymkiyxYhjOUNG6WTay3aCmfsXptq