Thursday, December 20, 2007
Closing for the Holiday Season
We will not not be roasting any coffee or processing any online orders until after the 2nd January.
The online store will not allow ordering from 8 am on 20th December until 8am on Monday 31st December.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all online customers for their support throughout 2007, in particular those of you who have stuck with us through the changes we have made recently.
Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Online Ordering Available Again
Please note that the 2 kg pouch option is in fact two separate 1 kg bags in a plastic courier pouch, NOT a single bag of 2 kilos. Taking the espresso option, at £35 inc carriage it is only slightly more expensive for those customers who were used to buying 8 x 250g bags through the post, whereas a purchase of 2 x 2kgs would represent a significant saving.
The House Espresso Blend available on the site is identical to the Bourbon Espresso that has been a stalwart of our range for the past few years. we just decided to change the range as we want to be able to use Pulped Natural Brazil coffees that are not 100% Bourbon varietals, when the opportunity arises to improve the blend.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Major Changes at hvcoffee.com
Online orders will be suspended at midnight on Wednesday 7th November 2007 for around 17 days.
All orders received before that date will be shipped on Thursday 8th November.
The store will re-open on Monday 26th November with some significant changes. Most notably we will be ceasing the supply of 250 gram bags of coffee beans via the postal system.
After more than 7 years supplying freshly roasted coffee beans on a "roast and post" basis, we have decided to rationalise the various facets of our coffee business and concentrate on the supply of coffee in units of 2 kgs or more.
At the same time we have reduced the range of products to a core of 4 single origin coffees and two blends. Currently these are :
Costa Rica "Brumas del Zurqui"
Brazil Pulped Natural "Fazenda Fortaleza"
Hill & Valley House Espresso Blend
All online orders will be shipped using a reliable 2 day courier whom we have been using for a number of years.
The new, much simplified, store will offer various options for shipment in units of 2, 6 or 12 kg consignments.
Whilst the changes will simply offer increased flexibility to those who habitually buy in bulk, we realise that customers who regularly buy 1 to 4 packs of 250 grams will be faced with a choice of either changing their purchase quantity or shopping elsewhere. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your loyal custom over the years. The decision has not been taken lightly, but we believe it was necessary to enable us to continue to offer our coffees online.
The 250 gram consumer packs of coffee will still be available at all times at The Coffee Tree in Aylesbury and Barry Ferguson will be happy to help you with the purchase from a selection of our beans roasted and delivered weekly.
The address :
The Coffee Tree,
11 George Street
Thursday, April 26, 2007
In the online store - and other news
We are currently stocking such a "well-rested" coffee from the 2006 Costa Rican crop, the West Valley Naranjo Co-op peaberries, and have just run out of stock of the El Salvador Borbollon. However on May 1st we raise the curtain on the new crop season from Central America, and have changed the scheduling of the Costa Rican coffees mentioned in my last post to take account of a pretty unique opportunity.
Those of you who have been buying from us for a number of years - and thanks again for your loyalty - will remember that we used to stock the excellent Guatemala Culpan Estate. This coffee became unavailable about 3 crops ago, as a certain world renowned Seattle roaster pre-financed and secured supply of the entire crop for the foreseeable future. It is testament to the owners of the Finca that they saw this as an opportunity and expanded the area of the estate under cultivation by planting new trees. The main object of this was to be able once again to supply loyal long term buyers who missed out once the long term contract had been signed. These new trees came into production this season and we are happy to be able to offer the first arrivals from next week onwards.
The disappearance of Espresso San Giorgio and Sumatra Lintong from the catalogue is temporary and both of these will re-appear with next weeks arrival of green.
As far as our "relationship" Colombian is concerned we have now virtually exhausted the stocks of La Piramide, and after some tasting with our suppliers earlier in the month, this coffee will be replaced in the range with the familiar Quebradon.
We have now been without Kenya coffee for about a year and those of you who know us realise that this was done with regret, following the effects of the East African drought of 2005. This year we are more hopeful that we can secure the quality with "wow" factor at a price that will make sense to our buyers. More news on this in a month or so.
Despite the fact that world coffee prices are now buoyant and premiums for the speciality lots are greater than ever, we have avoided making any across the board price rises for around 3 years now. Certain coffees do have to be offered at a premium, but we are trying very hard to defend the principle of offering most of the coffee we sell at £3.00 per 250g. Part of the reason that we have absorbed the additional costs on green coffee and on packaging has been the relentless increase in postage charges. At the same time the closure of local post offices now obliges us to incur additional transport costs in getting the coffee to you. In fact the service we are able to get from Royal Mail overall bears no relation to that we had in 2000 when we started at Hill & Valley Coffee in the mail order business.
We have never imposed a minimum order upon our customers as part of our mission was to treat the buyer of a single bag of fresh coffee in just the same way as the buyer of much larger shipments - the principal being that we applied "direct costs only". It is fair to say that this policy is now under review on a constant basis and at some point we may have to impose a minimum order of 3 bags in order to better consolidate our shipments and avoid excess costs. For many customers who already buy in larger quantities this will be no hardship - but we do recognise that there is a hardcore of 1-2 bag enthusiasts who may have to adjust their purchasing or who may go elsewhere if we have to change in this way, and thus we would like to hear your views.
Nothing will change before the application of the next range of postal charge changes but any views on this subject would be appreciated. Please e-mail me direct on email@example.com to air your opinion.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Production update - some further delays.
Unfortunately we have also had to deal with two close family breavements which occurred while we were away and have tow separte funerals to attend in Lincolnshire two days apart.
This in turn has meant there will be afew days further delay on some orders and we are sorry for this.
We have also just run out of Celebes Kalosi for the next few weeks.
On a positive note we are once again adding some Costa Rican coffees to our range for the remainder of the year - new crop coffees from the slopes of the Poas volcano and the West Valley region from April, but the ever popular Coopronaranjo Peaberries will once again be in our range in about 10 days time.
Further coffee-related news on our Costa Rica trip will be coming soon.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Holiday Time for Us - Online Orders suspended
Some of this time will be spent lounging around on a working coffee farm - well, what else did you expect?!
This means that we will suspend all online ordering at hvcoffee.com from 8 am Monday 12th February until 8 pm on Wednesday 28th February.
Orders for wholesale and bulk beans will be suspended at 8 am on Friday February 9th. We will also probably have to limit some choices from the main catalogue over this coming weekend.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Pre-Christmas Post. Last minute arrangements
Orders received by midnight on Thursday 21st December will be shipped by Friday 22nd December, even if this means making some choice substitutions. We do not expect all these orders to arrive before Wednesday 27th December.
Orders received between 22nd and 28th December will be dealt with and shipped on 29th - 30th December and are likely to arrive with customers on 2nd to 3rd January. Again we will make substitutions where necessary to ensure the minimum delays.
A normal roasting and shipping routine will begin immediately on the end of the holidays, from 3rd January onwards.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
End of year deliveries and February annual break
Please do keep in mind the normal last posting dates published by Royal Mail if you want your coffee before the holidays and do leave us at least 2 working days to get your coffee roasted and packed before these.
Certain coffees may run out just before the holidays - notably Brazil Bourbon and Guatemala "El Bosque" but we have a nice El Salvador coffee (Finca El Borbollon) waiting in the wings that we are already shipping against some JSMC Medium orders. We expect to be able to keep all 3 espresso blends going right over the end year period so no real need to panic or drink stale coffee! We strongly recommend you put some Ethiopia Yirgacheffe into yours (or someone you love's) xmas stocking this year.
We are going to once again take our only annual break in February and will be closed from around February 10th until March 1st - just under 3 weeks. A warning concerning this will be posted on the front page of the website from mid January and further details will be published here in the new year.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Ugandan Orphans Appeal - Latest News
The last term of the Ugandan school year started on September 18th. We are proud to announce that Hill & Valley Coffee, thanks to the support of its customers and friends, sent funds to Uganda to cover the school fees and other ancillary costs for the term for a group of 86 students to attend their various secondary schools in Iganga District.
In the end we had to send substantially more money than the £13 per child / per term that had been estimated to cover the fees. This figure had been based on an acroos the board average of 40,000 Uganda Shillings per student which came from UVP's 2005 audit of the scholarship programme. However, as in many areas, development in sub-Saharan Africa is a moving target! When the calculations were brought up to date to include increased costs of exam fees (our students are progressing so well!), it was decided to bring the coverage up to 47,000 shillings per student. On top of that the Ugandan Education Ministry and the private secondary schools have imposed a 15,000 shilling per student "School Development Fund" fee to oblige schools to invest in buildings and equipment etc. So the total per student tripped up to 62,000 shillings.
In the end we remitted exactly 2900 US Dollars in September; the fees were all paid and the remaining 86 students are studying hard for end of year exams down in Iganga.
Many of you reading this will have donated in one way or another. You can rest assured that your donation, however small, will have helped to change the life of an orphaned teenager and give vital support to the communities that struggle to support these young people whose lives have been dealt this most cruel of blows.
The donation facility remains in place on our website and all recent individual donations are being allocated to the existing group of 86. We appreciate that there is a bit of a backlog in allocating specific students to these donations, but our priority has been to raise money while we were "on the road", deliberately leaving some of the administration to when we had a bit more time on our hands which starts now. Fortunately this attitude has resulted in us holding some excess funds against our stated fund-raising objectives - a necessary insurance against "surprise" fee increases such as has been seen this term. However please be sure that we will get up to date as soon as we can. Any individual enquiries on donations already made should be sent to me directly at:
FUND RAISING FOR 2007
There was a bitter-sweet conclusion to our fund raising frenzy this year.
As we stated in the August update we have a group of 34 students at Busalamu Secondary School whose funding is our sole responsibility from now on.
We had decided to seek sponsors for 26 of these students on the basis of £50 per student / per mile for me to run an autumn marathon in Lausanne Switzerland.
First the bitter....
As some of you may have noticed I contracted a viral illness only 3 weeks before the marathon and had to pull out. This was very disappointing from a personal point of view as:
1) I was in pretty good shape, was just on the point of running my final 20 mile training run, and after switching running shoes 3-4 times seemed to have conquered the insidious achilles tendonitis that had begun to worry me.
2) The Lac Leman area of Switzerland in October can be a bit Jekyll and Hyde in autumn, but this last weekend the weather was glorious - a cobalt blue sky and virtually no wind.
3)I had planned to spend some time in an alpine spa (Leukerbad) in the days immediately before the race to "acclimatise". Instead I convalesced here in the UK - catching up on the coffee roasting I hadn't been able to in hospital, looking at forecasts of clear blue skies and Indian summer conditions across the alps.
4) I have already re-scheduled a marathon - in Seville, Spain on February 11th - and, lucky me, I now get to pound out the miles with all the London Marathon hopefuls through a dark, dull, windy and wet British winter! Karma.
You can follow the sad old "Coffeeman Running" here.
But now the sweet...
1) Our search for individual sponsors for the 26 miles and students was completed just 3 days before I fell ill and with around half paid in cash and half pledged, the support for the children is now guaranteed.
2) The success of this fund raising and the reactions of sponsors encouraged us to push and cajole our friends at UVP to widen the scope of the orphan support to cover more children. Up until now, and with some "donor fatigue" already experienced, the guys at UVP had been conservative in the numbers of new students they admitted to the scholarship scheme, the priority being to ensure that a child supported on day 1 at secondary school could be supported right through until their last day at school. This is a wholly sensible and prudent approach, but we felt that a gentle increase in numbers to match our own involvement was justified. This has now been agreed and sets us with some additional targets for 2007, in order to ensure a further increase in enrollment in 2008. I quote the "good news e-mail" below:
Here shall be the goals for January 2007, based on our conversations:
* We shall plan to continue funding all students at the increased level of 62,000 shillings per student per term, as school fees have risen precipitously this year.
* We shall plan to increase the number of students supported to 125, a significant increase from the 2005-2006 season in which we supported approximately 90 students (currently at 86 for the 2006 second term).
* We shall plan that of the 34 new students, 2/3 of them should be female to help decrease the gender disparity in secondary school education that currently exists in Uganda, to help prevent child marriages and teenage pregnancy, and to work towards the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating gender disparity in education.
* All new students should preferentially be at schools which have been identified as dependable and high quality by the 2006 auditors. Some that have been favorably reviewed include Busalamu SS and WAACHA Vocational. The new students shall be in Iganga District and we will cover their fees as we have previously, to be inclusive of exam fees that are imposed in S2 and S6.
Hope that puts us all on the same page. If you have any thoughts on the above, please e-mail me! I believe that the increase I have proposed is a good compromise between stretching our funding to the limit and trying not to leave money unused. We can definitely discuss further increases to number of students to be made in 2007 based on funding projections that exceed what we currently are raising.
We began to fund raise for the orphan scholarships in March this year. The March to October period of the year is undoubtedly our most "action-packed" period as we juggle the regular demands of roasting coffee for our online customers and select band of wholesale customers with the more intense work of running our "wet" coffee bars at outdoor events most weekends and sometimes weekdays too. It is this business that provides us with our greatest fund-raising opportunity as we are in contact continually with sympathetic relatively well-off people whom we are able to appoach personally for funding support. In a sense we have left most of the necessary formalities behind this summer in a desire to "get the money in" and "get it sent out".
We think that the results of this somewhat haphazard fund-raising blitz are justified by the results outlined above, when a more formalised and measured approach might have seen us delay any fund raising for several months. We achieved our objectives, but this does not mean that we intend to continue in this way in the future as we intend our work in Uganda to be both long-term, scalable upwards and we wish eventually to be able to include other areas of fund - raising and fund other associated projects.
So we have set ourselves some targets this winter in preparation for our fund-raising in 2007.
1. The creation of a registered charitable trust that will place us in the formal charitable sector mainstream. This will allow us access to possible corporate sponsors (including ourselves!) and allow us to incorporate other benefits such as Gift Aid.
2. A further significant increase in students funded by us at the level of secondary school education for 2008. Ideally we would like 100 students at no more than 2 schools. In order to be confident of long term support for such a number, we would need to draw up budgets that are realistic in terms of fund-raising and we need to seek out possible other fund raising partners in the UK.
3. To produce a feasibility study on a micro-finance project for agri-business in Iganga in association with UVP. There will be more details on this in a later update. This is an exciting spin off that does not involve donations, but recoverable no-interest loans, but it does add to "community wealth" in a long term sustainable way.
We hope you will keep in touch with us and any Hill & Valley Coffee customers who feel they have any valid input are most welcome to contact me on the subject. Offers of help or advice will always be welcome.
BACKGROUND, RESOURCES, LINKS AND OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST.
The guys at UVP have recently updated their website and it is well worth a thorough read through. Just click here to be taken there.
Some background on the fight against HIV / Aids in Uganda can be found here. Click away!
A "taster" about sustainable agriculture in Uganda can be found here. It makes an interesting read.
A report to Unesco about child poverty in Uganda. Although the area of study is not Iganga region many of the issues of course apply nation and even continent wide. The report highlights the breadth of problems created by the HIV / Aids Orphans crisis and contextualises what we are trying to do.
Finally here is a latest available update e-mail, internal amongst UVP volunteers, about their work related to HIV / Aids in Iganga. again this puts into context the orpan support programme in the other work being done.
I would like to take this opportunity to give you some information on what UVP has been doing. I have had a number of requests from alumni clamoring to know more about UVP's activities this year. So, for those of you who are very interested, I am making official project reports available online at the yahoogroup files section for you to peruse.
For those who would just like a summary, the first group I am reporting on is our fabulous HIV/AIDS resource guide group. This group was made up of 10 students and other young people, including a Ugandan student from Makerere University. This group, based in Igangatown, faced the difficult task of traveling to as many locations in the Iganga district as possible to search for those providing HIV/AIDS-related services. I am so impressed with the results!
They interviewed 25 different entities in Iganga district providing HIV/AIDS care and support to produce this resource guide, which is included in the body of the full report. Enjoy and you may direct any questions or comments about the project to me, and I will pass it on to the relevant person/people.
The purpose of this project was to identify the health centers and NGOs that were providing services in regards to HIV/AIDS. Uganda, although repeatedly cited as one of the few East African countries to combat the HIV epidemic through strict abstinence only programs, is a country with a rising incidence of HIV infection particularly among the younger population. In order to assess the types of HIV services provided by the NGOs operating in Igangatown, Uganda a resource guide was created. The resource guide (attached at the end of the report) lists NGOs and health centers according to sub-county. We were informed upon our arrival that the sub-county lines were changing around the time that our project was operating, but fortunately the population still identified with the old sub-county lines.
The types of HIV services listed in the guide were the following:
1) Prevention of mother to child transmission - both education and distribution of the drug Nevirapine
2) Youth Education on prevention of HIV
3) Outreach programs in the form of classes, drama skits, written materials
4) Home-based care
5) Income generating projects
6) Orphan Support
7) Distribution of Anti-retroviral therapy (emphasizing accessibility)
8) VCT - voluntary counseling & testing (emphasizing accessibility)
9) Hospital treatment for HIV patients
The NGOs were inquired on the above services. Additionally, we felt that it was equally important to actually observe these NGOs in action so to speak. In addition to the questionnaire we also set aside a separate guideline for observing. For example, we were taken on home-based care visits, requested to see the testing kits including the logs of patients receiving ARVS or Nevirapine. Once these organizations were interviewed and their activities observed, we compiled the resource guide, translated it into Muganda and distributed both English and Mugandan copies. A purpose for the team that developed over time was keeping in contact with these various NGOs. Four weeks was such a short time for the rest of the team, and they all felt that they would like a closer relationship with the community. Therefore, in the evenings and weekends, our team helped out a local orphanage (Iganga Self-Reliance Training & Rehabilitation Centre) by planting for their garden, interacting and
spending time with the children, and supporting their income-generating activities of necklace-making.
In regards to my conclusions, the main inadequacy lay in the accessibility of treatment. Transportation fees, lack of doctors/nurses, and CD4 cell count machines that simply did not work. We were informed that there were 2 CD4 cell count machines in the entire country and both were broken. According to the WHO, in order to be put on ARVS, two requirements must be met: CD4 cell count under 200 and Stage 3 disease diagnosis made by a doctor (and not a medical officer). With the count machines broken, testing kits running low and as I was informed nonexistent for a two month period, and with 1 doctor per 75,000 people this makes getting patients on ARV therapy a major challenge in the Ugandan health care system. Something interesting to note is that when I visited the Walter Reed Project, they had informed me that they never go out to the villages and had no idea what was going on out there. I feel that there must be more targeted outreach to these villages. Even the people
living in Kampala refused to go out to the villages because it was not 'modernized'. This is unfortunate considering that the people in most need are not the ones living in the cities, but the ones in the farms.
Thank you for the opportunity to complete this project.
Nichole McCalvin (project coordinator)
Monday, October 16, 2006
Hvcoffee (and Charlie) Offline and now back Online!
On October 3rd yours truly went down with a mystery viral illness that resulted in me being hospitalised for 8 days from October 5th while the NHS tried to figure out what was wrong with me and how they should treat it. As I do all the roasting at Hill & Valley Coffee (yes it is a truly personal service everyone gets!), we had to close down completely for a while.
I think in the end the hospital released me for "bad behaviour". Although they kept coming up with more tests, the medical staff got the message that having a fit and well Charlie wandering the corridors of Stoke Mandeville munching smuggled-in real food would not achieve any "clinical targets". So they kicked me out before the weekend.
Thankfully I am now completely on the mend and once we clear a few backlogged orders, normal service will be fully resumed by the middle of this week.
If any of you completely ran out of coffee, you have my sympathy. Personally I had not a single cup of coffee from October 4th to October 14th, a quite serious and totally unprecendented phase of cold turkey for me that may make you all feel a little better. That first large mug of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe on saturday morning was appreciated in like very few I've ever had. Black Gold indeed!
Thanks to all who sent good wishes. They touched us and were appreciated.
Now back to work. Fire up that oven!
Monday, September 18, 2006
Slight Delivery Delays - New Coffee Delivery
Apologies to anyone who has been waiting 5-6 days for their expected coffee.
Due to an unexpected surge of demand, our main suppliers could not schedule our next delivery of green coffee until this coming tuesday 18th September. This has left us with very little green coffee in stock at the start of this week, particularly medium roasts and espresso blending coffees. As the interruption to supplies was general rather than specific to certain grades, we decided not to remove lines from the online catalogue. We have been able to make some partial shipments, but still expect to get through the backlog by 19th September.
The only change in the catalogue will be the replacement of the current Guatemala Huehuetenango "El Paternal" with the old favourite "Finca El Bosque".
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Re-cycled Coffee bags
- Garden Refuse bags.
- Mulching roses.
- Filling with potatoes
- Loft insulation.
- Funky wall hangings.
- Curtains (!)
But I think you'll agree that this is one of the best. Credit due toAdrian Ditcham and his colleagues who build cross country fences at British Eventing Horse Trials. These were taken at Highclere Castle this bank holiday monday.
Thanks also to Alastair Crook who took the action shots. He spends long hours tramping about the countryside to get some of the best action shots there are of our great (and not so great) eventers.
We hope all you riders enjoyed your airborne journey over "Charlie's Coffee Bar" and commiserations to those who didn't quite make it unscathed. Maybe you should have had that second coffee?
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Ugandan Orphans Appeal - Progress report.
We are pleased to say that we have achieved most of our early objectives more or less on schedule, thanks to the support of our customers both online and at our "wet" coffee bars out in the field. We have been touched by the regular small donations from many individuals in our "spare some change" pot. We have also been able to link a small group of donors online with specific children's school fees for the autumn term in Uganda in return for a donation of £13.00.
To date this phase of the fund-raising has grossed around £2300, thus covering the education costs for 95 children at various secondary schools in the Iganga region for the last term of their school year beginning in September. It will also allow us to make a significant contribution to sponsoring the whole group in 2007.
Our fund-raising has now moved on to a second (and slightly more painful!) phase. Thanks to the diligent work of the last group of UVP volunteers to visit Uganda in June and July, we have now sectioned off a smaller group of children from the main group and these will be our sole funding responsibility whilst they remain in full time education. This group will be at least 26 and possibly as many as 34 children. They all attend the same school in Iganga region, the Busalamu Secondary School. We hope this committment will enable UVP to increase the number of orphans on the scheme and they have told us that we are now their largest individual sponsors.
We aim to get the funding for 26 of these children for the whole of 2007 (approx £50 per child) by mid October. The means for this is by sponsorship of me running a marathon in Lausanne, Switzerland on October 22nd. 26 miles - 26 children - £50 per mile - each mile for a named child, most of whom have already written letters to sponsors and whose family and academic record we have on file.
I am happy to say that the miles (and the children!) are getting gobbled up fast, and we have been able to get the first 9 miles sponsored this past week.
We have left the individual term sponsorship of £13.00 in our online store for anyone interested to continue supporting us in this way.
We also welcome anyone who wishes to commit the full £50 for a "mile per child" and they can e-mail myself at:
to be sent more details.
You can also follow my tedious ramblings about my running training and updates on the fund-raising on my running blog.
Thanks to all who have supported us thus far. I am happy to answer any individual e-mails you may send, especially those with offers of help raising money as we slide out of summer and into autumn.
The cause is a worthy and noble one, truly promoting self-development, and giving an amazing return in terms of "bang per buck".
We are proud to be associated with Alison, Melissa, Brent and all the other med students in the USA who have chosen to commit themselves to the Uganda Village Project. We are looking forward to a long association with them and those that follow them so that Hill & Valley Coffee can continue in it's support of directly funded meaningful development charity projects in coffee growing regions.
New Postal Charges - buy 3 packs at a time!
The effect on our own postal costs has been relatively insignificant. Unfortunately a bag of Hill & Valley beans will not fit through the guide window (although we know it often goes through your letterboxes!) and we are therefore unable to benefit from the dimension discount by calling a pack of coffee "a letter".
The most significant change comes in the charge we are obliged to pass on for orders of 1-3 packs.
Amazingly we have actually been able to reduce post & packing charges on the two most popular order sizes!
- a single pack order becomes relatively much more expensive at £1.80;
- a two pack order has the reduced charge of £2.50;
- a three pack order is now significantly cheaper at £3.00!
All other charges are unchanged, except for 6 packs which goes up 10p to £6.70.
The net effect of this is to mean that it is significantly cheaper in overall terms to place orders for 3 packs! It is an anomaly in the sliding scale of charges but we would expect you all to take advantage of it.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Stock Update for August and September
Late post - inexcusable. we've been busy, but I still intended to update this blog more often!
Anyway, moving on while I still have anyone's attention.
We've again "rotated" some of the coffees and although most of the old favourites remain, there are a few significant changes.
Kenya - on reflection and after quite a bit of tasting, I decided not to continue with the Gethumbwini Estate from this year's drought affected main crop. The coffee did not have the same sparkle I was used to, the beans were a little small and it was far too damned expensive compared to other top drawer coffees. The absolute excellence of our current Ethiopia Yirgacheffe more than makes up for this and I am sure many of you have already been wowed by this coffee over the summer.
Colombia - on the recommendation of our mates at Mercanta we have switched Colmbian relationship coffee to another co-op for a while. The new La Piramide coffee comes from the Inza area in Cauca, and in blind cupping it held it's own against recent Cup of Excellence finalists. We are glad to bring it to you at the continued basic price of £3.00 per 250g bag, and it is also giving a wonderful zest to several of our blends which feature Colombian coffee.
After the orgy of the last two seasons our offering from Central America is a little restrained at the moment, and I will stick with the Guatemala Huehuetenango El Paternal as long as stocks are available. Good chocolate notes and a subtle but crisp acidity.
Although very much a minority coffee for us, we have decided to run with a slightly different Decaf for a while. It is still a CO2 process coffee, but rather than Colombian is a Peru Organic "Guabo". We've had to lift the price a little to £3.50 a bag, but this reflects rises in processing costs as well as the premium necessary for fully organic certified coffees.
We are still basking in the luxury of offering three superb Indonesian Island coffees of a quality unmatched since we started H&V in 2000. The Java Kayumas, Double-picked Sumatra Lintong and Sulawesi Kalosi are still "fade-free" from the warehouse but nevertheless should be tried at the height of the season.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Hill & Valley Coffee at Mountain Mayhem
Panoramics of the site at Eastnor Castle in the Malvern Hills.
Some views of our small espresso bar trailer and the surroundings at our pitch on the start line. Lisa and Alison were the "barista-babes" in action (and taking a well-earned break) throughout the day on saturday and sunday.
Here are some shots of our team. It was a mixed weekend for us with our first entry into the Elite category going quite spectacularly pear-shaped as 2 of the 4 riders failed to complete. It was left to the four heroes in the Sport category to restore some pride ( 3 of whom are pictured in various states of glory towards the end of the race - obviously no-one had told Graeme that there is no need to pose for a sound interview!)
And, last but definitely not least. The main man!
Sincere thanks, Pat, for letting us spread the joy of espresso at your event!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
"Coffee in a field" tour dates June and July 2006 - Iced Coffee Time!
This means our wandering coffee bars have had a fairly quiet couple of weeks which just ended with an Iced Coffee bonanza at Great Tew Horse Trials this past weekend.
At this time of the year our iced coffees surge in popularity and many customers ask us how they can prepare it for themselves at home without resorting to either the Camp Coffee bottle or some for the pre-bottled product you find in a supermarket. Here is our proven, popular method for the simplest way to create a "frapuccino-bashing" iced coffee at home.
STEP 1 - Brew approx 1 litre of extremely strong (4 times normal concentration) black coffee. we use a standard 2 litre bulk filter brewer and use about 150g of fine / espresso ground dark roast coffee (Sumatra, Three Islands or Deadline Blend or Espresso San Giorgio), but we only use about 1.1 litre of water to brew.
STEP 2 - Mix the coffee while still warm with one tin of Nestle "Fussels" Light Condensed Milk. This is available in all supermarkets these days - priced at around £1.20 per tin. As this is the base for your daily iced coffee, pour into a suitable container and refrigerate. Assume the base will last for a week or more if necessary, but throw out if you get any signs of curdling (will only happen if any utensils or containers were not clean)
STEP 3 - There are two principal ways to make your Iced Coffee drink. These days we just pour the base over cracked ice and top with ice cold milk, using drinking straws to stir. The proportions should be "to taste" - but between 1 part mix to 2 -3 parts milk. The other method is to blitz in a liquidiser with ice cubes to make a "frappe". In this case we think you need a slightly stronger mix to counteract the dilution of the ice slush.
STEP 4 - Customise! You can adapt your basic "Iced Coffee Classic" by slightly reducing the proportion of coffee mix and adding either chocolate or a "gourmet syrup". Caramel, Vanilla and Hazelnut are particularly popular. A shot of Kahlua or Baileys can also be quite devastating - but watch out for over-sweetening it in this way. For a final flourish you can top with spray whipped cream and sprinkles of chocolate or cinnamon.
If you abhor milk in coffee or it is exceptionally hot an "Espresso on the Rocks" can be a surprisingly addictive jolt to the frazzled brain and tastebuds. Just fill a tumbler with ice cubes to the top. Extract a long double espresso into a cup with 1-2 spoons of brown sugar. Mix this thoroughly with a stirrer and then pour straight over the ice cubes. Swirl the coffee over the ice until the drink is completely chilled and then drink.
We'll be serving these coffees in addition to our usual range at the following events in June and July.
June 23rd to June 25th Salperton Park Horse Trials, near Andoversford and Northleach, Gloucestershire. A progressive event featuring top name riders in a superb Cotswold setting. On the friday there is an "Eventers Derby" event which features top riders in a hell for leather combination of cross country and show jumping, before serious high level competition in traditional format takes over on the saturday.
June 24th to June 25th. Saab Salomon Mountain Mayhem 24 hour Mountain Bike Race. Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury Herefordshire. Absolutely one of the highlights of our season with our coffee stand open for 32 hours straight from about 8 am on the saturday. We also are running two sponsored teams at the event again this year and you can cheer high speed coffee beans around the course as well as drink the stuff.
July 1st to 2nd. Purston Manor Horse Trials, off the A422 Banbury to Brackley Road, Northants.
July 8th - 9th. Barbury Castle International Horse Trials, near Marlborough, Wilts. This event was an absolute star on the eventing calendar last year, with a considerable investment in spectator friendly conditions making all the difference to the top class competition on the sunday. Expect bigger and better this year! It will also feature a live big screen showing of the world cup final and the wimbledon tennis to top off the day.
July 7th - 10th Tweseldown Horse Trials, near Church Crookham, Hants
July 12th - 13th Upton House Horse Trials, near Banbury, Oxon. The first year at this event for us.
July 16th Crowne Farm Unaffiliated Horse Trials, Ascott under Wychwood, near Whitney, Oxon.
July 18th - 19th Cheltenham Horse Trials, near Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucs.
July 21st - 23rd Aston le Walls Horse Trials, off A361 Banbury to Daventry Road, Northants. High level advanced competition on the friday and saturday at this popular venue run by Nigel and Anne Taylor, veteran professional event riders. With the World Equestrian Games in Aachen approaching we think many teams will again use ALW as a staging point for their top horses.
July 23rd - 24th Iping Horse Trials, near Midhurst, West Sussex. A low key family friendly event in a delicious setting nestling under the Sussex downs. Bring the Pimms in your cold box - leave the sobering up to us!
July 29th - 30th Knaptoft Horse Trails, near Husbands Bosworth off the Lutterworth - Market Harborough road, Leics. Another event much supported by the professionals, featuring an international class for the first time this year.
July 29th - 30th Little Mattingley Horse Trials, near Hook Hampshire. Hopefully Richard Clapham's land will have recovered as we lost the last day of Mattingley's main event in a deluge this spring. A low key event, mainly for younger and amateur riders with professional organisation.
A busy few weeks for us you might say...
hvcoffee.com Online Store News
For Green bean buyers we have made some slight changes. We have been obliged to increase the minimum order to 10 kgs per mixed case from 8kgs and we have now listed all available coffee in one list.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Coffee at the World Cup
It is more a bit of a guide to the myriad of coffee producers whose national teams are competing in this year's FIFA World Cup that starts tomorrow. I personally absolutely love the World Cup, not as an excuse to "get behind the lads" or stick a St Georges flag out of my window, but because of the global football party it has become with minnow nations as passionately involved as the cynical "Eurogiants". Most of the coffee producing nations involved typify this - why not pick one to follow and enjoy the vibe with them. There are now so many blogs of people travelling to the World Cup that this will be an interesting way to get involved. I'll post any links to such blogs that fit the bill as and when I find them. Please do add any you find as comments to this post.
First up will be Costa Rica - Los Ticos get pride of place in the opening game against the hosts Germany this friday evening. Costa Ricans are football crazy and I am quite sure the entire population will not be at work tomorrow. Thank goodness it's not harvest time in the coffee fields. Cost Rica is a familiar producer to Hill & Valley Coffee drinkers and produces 100 % arabica coffees, almost exclusively by the wet method. The volcanic soil and high elevated valleys are ideal sources for some of the most flavourful and aromatic coffees of the world.
Straight after Costa Rica comes Ecuador, who open against Poland the same evening. Ecuadorean coffee has often been a real disappointment - too much earthy robusta and grossly irregular unwashed arabicas. I hear these days better coffees are available, but this stuff caused me problems in the past when I tried to trade some of into the middle eastern market, so I've never been tempted to inflict any on my roasted coffee customers. England might just have to beat them in the last 16 you know.
On day two England line up aagainst a country that masqueraded as a significant coffee producer throughout most of the 1980's. With International Coffee Organisation quotas in place, Brazilian coffee smuggled across the border into Paraguay from the neighbouring state of Parana acquired a different nationality for export dollars. England fans will certainly be hoping that their footballers are not "Brazil in disguise".
Saturday evening brings what I think may be THE game of the first weekend, Argentina v Cote d'Ivoire (it is against the law in that country to refer to them as Ivory Coast!). It is ironic that the Ivorians find themselves in the group of death in their first world cup - I once took a car ride through a very unsavoury suburb of Adidjan with some colleages that made me feel I might be in my own group of death. Never have I felt more menaced in a coffe producing country. Cote d'Ivoire produces harsh robusta coffee in vast quantities. Yuk! I never touch the stuff and leave it to our friends just across the channel. I think their footballers may just live through the group of death though.
Sunday afternoon should see Mexico dispose of Iran. Central / Northern America's largest producer has always provided the USA with a great quantity of "Primo Lavado" and "Alturas" for the monster roasters, but is now a major source of giant bean, organics and other boutique coffees. However prejudiced as I may be I have never felt I couldn't get better coffees by turning my eyes southwards. Their footballers are always rated in the world's to ten also - but do they ever live up to this? One thing is sure, the country is bonkers for it's footie and most of California as well will know what side they are on this sunday.
Angola come up last this weekend - against former colonial masters, Portugal. Did you know that.....(dramatic pause) until 1975 and the civil war, Angola was the largest producer of robusta coffee in the world and all traders of that era remember the demand for "Ambriz" in the markets of southern Europe. Nowadays I hear production is being revived, but I was associated will an ill-founded attempt to do this in the late eighties also. The truth is that the world doesn't need this type of coffee any more, certainly with Vietnam filling any excess robusta coffee demand these days. Sadly I think their footballers are also destined to be an also ran in their first world cup - but wouldn't it be funny if theye embarassed "big Phil" this sunday evening.
On monday three very minor producers can strut their stuff in yellow shirts. I've written about the boutique producers in Australia earlier this year in this blog, so don't need to build them up here. Most of us would just love to see them get crushed by Japan before giving the Brazilians a real fright later in the group stages. I don't think I could take it if they weren't back drinking coffee back home in NSW in 10 days time. The USA in coffee terms is pretty much the same with just the Kona producers on Hawaii holding up the banner. One thing though - percentage of production wise their coffee is probably the highest quality and most expensive in the coffee world. True Kona coffee is a unique and great pleasure to drink, and certainly in the Coffee top 6. Ironically so are their "Soccer" team, but with two first games against the Czechs and Italians, I think (hope?) they may have lost interest after 3 hours of play.
Ghana - yes they do grow a bit of robusta coffee, but cocoa is their big thing. I think the Italians will sort them out good and proper in their opener (Luca Toni is the secret weapon of my Fantasy League Team!)
And that leaves just two for tuesday. Little Togo and the behemoth Brazil. I'm talking coffee not football! Togo was a boutique robusta producer, beautifully prepared coffee much sought after in Italy and always able to command a premium against its neighbours. I have no idea how their first game against South Korea will pan out, but I'll be rooting for them then and when they face the French in the last match of the group stages. If only 2002 could be repeated....
What can you say about Brazil - they pretty much encapsulate all that is good and bad in the coffee world these days? Millions of bags of mediocre multinational fodder arabica and robusta and some of the brightest stars of the speciality coffee world, some of which we are glad to offer you week after week. Football, though is what they do even better than coffee. You have no idea what it can be like to have Brazilians around you when the national team is playing. So carefree, so musical, so rhythmic and KASHASA! They are also probably also set to break English hearts in the semi final before cynical old Italy "do" them in the final as revenge for 1994.
So that's 11 teams you can follow with your coffee mug in your hand. The African nations are probably even more passionate about their football than the Brazilians these days. I hope they can create mayhem amongst the big budget Europeans wherever they meet them. And a few crying Argentines wouldn't go amiss either.
Coffees in and Out
We will not have any Colombia relationship coffee for another month or so now. This gives us a few blending challenges, but two new coffees should help me to solve the riddle.
We'll be receiving deliveries next week of our first 2006 Central American coffees an estate Guatemala Huehuetenango (the first huehue we have stocked for about 3 years) and peaberries from the West Valley Naranjo co-operative in Costa Rica. We have stocked their peaberries before and after visiting the co-op in 2004 were pleased to carry their excellent certified El Roble for two years. We are pretty confident that you will adore these coffees and appreciate the vivacity they will bring into some of our espressos and Mountain Blend.
I must confess to being a little undecided as to whether to persist with the Kenya Gethumbwini this season. The drought has certainly had an effect, particularly on the bean size. We still have some limited stocks but then will give this a break for a few weeks until we see some more arrivals. Kenya addicts should order before mid June to be sure of getting any.
We have used the PNG Kimel Peaberries for around 4 months and have not replaced them this time, principally because the Coopronaranjo coffee fills the "peas" berth. This coffee will probably also run out by the third week of June and we will then be also obliged to withdraw FDE Espresso from the catalogue. Yes we know it was very popular, but we can't carry 4 espresso blends all the time!
We think the 3 Indonesian arabicas we have at the moment are probably the best ever selection we have had at any one time. Please do try the Java Kayumas, Celebes Kalosi and Sumatra Lintong - varying degrees of dark roast and each with their own extraordinary virtues. We'll start to reduce the choice in this area from mid July onwards.
Lastly - and to the chagrin of some customers I am sure - we have decided again to not stock any decaf for the next few weeks. The Colombian CO2 was not available to us and we felt other alternatives were not suitable.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Up to Date Stock news
We have a strong focus on Indonesian coffees at the moment, with new offereings from Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. One or other of these coffees are featured in FDE Espresso, e.caffe, Espresso San Giorgio and our Three Islands Blend.
It's time to cast your eyes eastwards for a few weeks!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
How to enjoy Hill & Valley Coffee FAQ - Part 1, the basics.
First of all you should know that “coffeespeak” is full of bunkum, over sophistication and subtle commercial positioning. Coffee snobs rarely know what they are talking about and self-styled experts lack humility and the right perspective. Lost in the complexities of the market and it's processes, experts tend to forget that apart from the grower, the drinker is the most important person in the “supply chain”. Those amateurs who claim expert status are often victims of extreme selectivity or worst obsessive tendencies. Most of the commercial interests in the business (in direct proportion to their size and turnover) try to divert you from the obvious to make you choose their brand. The “obvious” is that coffee must be enjoyed freshly roasted, preferably within 2 to 10 days of the roast and ground seconds before brewing. No branded coffee gets close to offering you this proposition and yet only an infinitesimal share of the UK coffee market goes to “obvious” coffee. A remarkable tribute to bunkum! Nowhere in our food industry are smoke and mirrors employed more than in the coffee market. Well, what you can expect when you know who has the “largest share of throat”?
We strongly advise you to heed your own advice above all others and to experiment relentlessly. Find out what works for you, not what others tell you is “best”.
If you want to understand many issues surrounding the complexities of coffee better then an hour or so spent on the excellent Coffee Research Institute website is worth a hundred e-mails to people like me who are trying to sell you stuff. (With a good mug of fresh Hill & Valley Coffee at your side of course!)
Today we'll deal with two of the most basic entry level questions in some length.
How should I drink my coffee?
“Coffee” is drunk black without any additions such as sugar or milk. Any additions bring a whole range of new variables and create a different beverage. If your favourite coffee is cappuccino (a sensational, sensualist idea) then please remember that it is no longer really “coffee”.
So our question can be re-phrased : how do I make my coffee to best enjoy it black?
Our answer is to “keep it simple, stupid!” The two methods we prefer at home are :
Simple drip filter.
Plastic or ceramic cone over a glass or ceramic pot.
Fresh finely ground beans. Freshly drawn water.
Catch the water just before boiling.
First steep the grounds with a half cup of the water; wait 15 seconds then pour slowly into the grounds until your cone is brim full and you think you'll have enough coffee. If you don't, brew some more – don't refill the cone of already extracted grounds unless you want extra caffeine and bitterness. And next time pour more slowly!
Otherwise known as “moka express, caffeteria, stovetop, stovey etc.” That is one of those Italian, screw-together coffee pots that goes on the stove. Grind as per filter or slightly finer (between caster and icing sugar but still slightly gritty when rubbed between index finger and thumb) Fill the small basket and softly “tamp” the coffee to an even surface. Fill the bottom part with water to just below the valve; drop the coffee funnel on top and screw the top on tightly. Place on the stove at full heat, turning the heat down when the water starts to percolate. Remove immediately when extraction has finished and pour. I recently bought an electric version of this in Spain for around 60 euros (a Delonghi Alicia) and it has improved the experience mainly due to its “walkawayability”. I think they are now available online in the UK for about £50.
We don't like cafetieres (french presses) and are amazed at people's mock francophile love of them as the french never use them! In most people's hands they tend to over-extract the coffee and produce bitter mud out of a bright vibrant beverage. It is one area where the Coffee research people and I differ and where I think they have forgotten that coffee is made by ordinary people! Make up your own mind.
You can make good tea in them though, so don't throw them away immediately.
If you want to invest in some more sophisticated coffee equipment at home, first go for a burr grinder. Generally speaking if you spend £50 -£60 or so on an entry level Gaggia ( I use an MM), it will improve all your coffee immeasurably. Uniform particle size in the grind is an essential element in an even brewing extraction.
If you truly feel you must imitate the espresso / cappuccino / caffe latte experience each time you have coffee at home, then there are several high end home espresso machines on the market these days. We particularly like the Rancilio Silvia, but with the need for an equivalent quality grinder, you will be investing more than £500 in your daily cup of coffee. At Ryanair prices that would give you 10 daytrips to somewhere like Treviso in north west Italy where you could gorge yourself on great coffee all day and soak up the atmosphere as well. You might even get some Serie A football or top grade Rugby into the bargain if you time it right. If you already have a set-up like this then a question in the next part of this FAQ may help you with some of your frustrations.
You have many coffees on offer, which should I choose?
If you are new to buying fresh high quality coffee, then the journey will be long and immensely rewarding for you. You can literally start anywhere in our range, but if you do take the random walk approach, you should remember where you came in! We can give you a few clues, but a lot of this is down to you – there is no prescriptive approach.
First piece of advice – you are unlikely to immediately enjoy what I call “big acid coffees”. In our range, most of the coffees from Kenya and Central America will fit into this category. Our Kenya AA in particular is an acquired taste, but once you get there, you will probably want to stay. In general the preponderence of soluble coffee and blandness in roast and ground coffee in the UK has left people unprepared for the complexity of these high grown coffees (in much the same way we go for fruity new world wines in preference to high tannin Bordeaux and Burgundy these days).
Second piece of advice – if you drink your coffee with milk (stop that, will you?) you should choose a coffee that we have roasted to accentuate body and “guts”, ie. slightly mork dark. Just a quick aside here, we don't roast dark to hide defects in cheaper coffee as many do, we roast dark to diminish acidity and bring out other flavours in our coffee. All our Indonesian arabicas are good starters in this respect.
Third piece of advice – why not start with a coffee from an area that you know something about? If you have any form of attachment to a country or its people, why not try the coffee and try to imagine the lives of those that produce it while you are drinking it? I have no doubt that the prices some people are willing to pay for coffees from Australia, Jamaica and Hawaii are due in large part to post tourism purchases and the nostalgia attached to that first experience of drinking coffee grown “just over there”. Not many people have done a trip to the southern highlands of Ethiopia – but I'd drink a cup of Yirgacheffe at £3 a bag every time in preference to a cup of Australian Mountain Top at £10 a bag! Ethiopia is as good a place to start for several reasons. Most of us can remember Live Aid (or even Live 8) and Ethiopia is the “origin of origins”.
Fourth piece of advice – and this follows from my remarks on prices above. Never be fooled into thinking that you more you spend, the “better” the coffee will be. The “designer luggage” approach to coffee is good (the more flashy the label, the less it may be usable). The unique micro producer coffees can be very rare (St. Helena, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Hawaii) and their very rareness attracts a certain type of buyer who may or may not have a clue about comparative tasting. But in that buyer will never have value for money as their main concern. There is no miracle ingredient that makes Jamaica Blue Mountain ten times the price of top Kenya AA, but there is a solid annual demand from habitual users (Japan) and an extremely finite supply. The prices of Colombian versus Galapagos coffees demonstrates the idiocy of how markets work where supply is extremely limited. When you buy a really top Colombian such as our relationship coffees the price is reasonable, and you are getting some of the best from a rigorously competitive local market out of a crop of more than 11 million bags. The whole of Galapagos produces less than the co-ops we have bought from in the past three years under the relationship coffee programme. So if you start with that you are getting a good impression of what you can get for £3 a bag.
Last piece of advice – and it may seem obvious. If you are buying coffee to use in an espresso machine, then buy an espresso blend. We road test all our espresso blends, not in a lab, not between tasters nodding and shaking heads, but face to face with thousands of coffee drinkers. The bloke who sources the green also blends and roasts it. But this is where we are truly unique in the field of espresso in the UK – that same bloke also pulls most of the espresso shots on our travelling coffee bars. March and April, the first two months of our season, are periods of intense experimentation and fine tuning, usually at just the time new crop coffees are starting to arrive. All four of our current espressos have their unique characteristics and we would hope you would try all of them in your home environment before turning to your own blends. However we would never discourage this experimentation at home and are happy to share blend percentages with regular customers to guide their own progress. (We won't publish these percentages online as we have been plagiarised by competitors who should know better for the past 4 years!) If I had to choose a starting point among these blends it would be e.caffe. The reasons will be apparent if you tried them all!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Online Donation facility for Ugandan Orphans available again
Unfortunately a rush of dubious credit card payments obliged us to take some fairly forthright action with our secure transaction handlers at Worldpay to defend ourselves against a rush of credit card faud testing emanating out of the far east. Despicable although it may be, fraudsters tend to focus on charitable donations online as a means to test cloned or stolen cards before launching into purchases of actual goods where address data is likely to be manually checked by merchants and their fulfillment partners. Happily it seems we had chosen the right secure payment handlers in 2000 when we first opened online and until recently we had experienced only a handful of attempts to de-fraud in six years.
The ability to identify individual IP addresses behind purchases via Worldpay has allowed us to re-construct our defences and also do our bit towards directing the authorities to specific locations where fraud may originate. None of this process has affected in any way our normal day to day business with genuine customers, but it did mean we had to remove the donation facility for a while whilst we put measures into place.
Happily we have been able to re-instate the donations facility today and we hope online customers will be able to "catch up" with our customers on our outdoor event bars with their donations. The remarkable generosity of some online customers and many face-to-face customers means that we are now almost 60% to our first target to pay the fees for 95 orphans this September. We are hoping to be able to send these funds to Uganda by the end of June.
You can donate your own £13 at any time at this link. Donate here!
New Coffees in the hvcoffee.com online store
Top of the list is a prized Kenya AA Gethumbwini from the 2006 main crop. We've kept the price rise down to 20p per 250g and hope you will take advantage of this outstanding coffee at a still reasonable price.
As promised we now have three Indonesian Arabicas once again on offer and the new lots of directly sourced Java Kayumas Estate and Celebes Kalosi promise yet more improvement in quality.
The new coffees have allowed us to re-introduce some popular blends which have been absent for a few weeks, notably Inspiration and Three Islands Blend dark roasts and e.caffe espresso.
Our abundant choice of central american estate coffees from the past two years suffers another reduction as we run out of the Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu and we expect to run out of Nicaragua Linda Vista by the end of the month also. We await new 2006 crop coffees and expect to focus on Guatemala when these arrive in early summer. In the meantime it is time to shift the focus eastwards for a while.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Increase in Postage and Packing charges at hvcoffee.com
Following this week's increase in postal charges (again!) and recent rises in the cost of our packing materials, we have been obliged to review upwards the cost of shipping which is added to all orders placed in our online store. The increases reduce proportionate to the amount of packs purchased and we have even managed a 20p reduction where 10 packs are purchased at one time due to special conditions from ANC, our courier service.
Considering the service we offer of roast - ship - at your doorstep in 3-4 days, we still believe that our pricing is competitive. It is, and will for ever remain, just the true cost to us of postage and materials - no hidden premiums.
Fuel costs and the cost of parking in towns and cities have spiralled out of control in comparison, making a special trip to a local coffee merchant even less attractive than ever to the true enthusiast.
Thankfully, you can still get a bag of our coffee, freshly roasted, each week into your kitchen for less than £4.50, just with several clicks of the mouse. If you are prepared to buy 10 at a time, this still drops to below £4.00.
We have also been obliged to raise the free shipping threshold from £100 to £120 to take account of increases in green coffee prices.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Coming Soon at hvcoffee.com
In East Africa, the main crop in Kenya is in and is drought ravaged! The best lots are the subject of great competition in the auction and it will be a fight to get the quality we need at the prices you will accept. We've made a tentative first purchase and will watch developments.
In Colombia main crop coffees are now at their peak - it's the time to drink it! In central america we await new crop arrivals before buying anything new, and this time we are hoping to again have some fine coffee from Guatemala to offer.
So the following will be the effects on our catalaogue over the next 2 weeks.
Stocks of Celebes Kalosi have run dry and we have removed it from the store. It will re-appear after easter - totally new coffee, new crop, new shipper. we hold out great hopes of an improvement in the somewhat patchy quality of the last few months. A really good Kalosi remains a total classic coffee drinking experience.
Ethiopia Harrar has now run out, gone, none left. We had a long run with this coffee and it is very much an acquired taste. Highly evocative to anyone with the imagination to visualise groups of tribesman huddled around a fire with the sun setting over the plateau and the chill descending in the Abyssinian highlands. Coffee roasts in the traditional pan on the open fire and the men chew their chat patiently, while pulling their robes around them to keep out the cold. It's time will come again for us, but I'm wary of turning the exceptional into the mundane. Hope you all understand why.
The return of Java is upon us. New crop Kayumas Estate is due the day after easter at our roastery and we'll re-launch e.caffe, Mocha Java and Three Islands Blend the next day!
Three recent introductions will remain for a month or so, two because of their exceptional quality and one because it became a quick classic. So FDE Espresso, PNG Kimel Peaberries and the fantastic Sumatra Lintong have been re-ordered / maintained. This Sumatra in particular is the best I have tasted anywhere for about 15 years.
Then that leaves Kenya.....
We've decided on a small purchase of Gethumbwini new crop AA and will offer it after easter as well. There will have to be a price rise, but I think Kenya fans will find it worth the expense.
April and May "Tour Dates" - Coffee in a field!
Well, we've just finished the first month of our outdoor event season with the usual blend of frozen pipes, "desperate for coffee", customers, early morning darkness, wind, rain and mud. And then more mud, and more mud. Business as usual then.
We trialled our new FDE espresso and then promptly nearly exhausted supplies in two weeks. Our Rancilio machines are being re-built one by one thanks to Steve and the engineers at Coffee Machine Company, but our old original Magister machine stood up to the rigours of a thorough frost while acting as stand-in. Thank goodness it is built like a Land Rover and not a Range Rover.
As more and more small businesses try to cash in on the popularity of speciality coffee at outdoor events, it's nice to be on familiar ground at the British Eventing Horse Trials we attend. Familiar faces, plenty of lively discussion, great coffee...just a coffee house on the road really. Thanks to all our loyal friends - we love you all.
The signs are that spring is "just around the corner" and April represents a quiet month before the season gets crazy from the second half of May onwards. It still promises to offer opportunities for a nice day in the country at some attractive venues though.
April 8th - 9th. Larkhill Horse Trials (Amesbury). Likely to be windy, cold, wet - bracing! A junior level event for the committed.
April 22nd - 23rd. Withington Manor Horse Trials. Perched on a ridge with superb views over the Cotswolds, 3 miles off the A40 between Northleach and Andoversford. A chance to see top international riders with some of their best horses on an advanced course 2 weeks before Badminton.
April 28th - 30th. Hambleden Horse Trials. On the Henley Show ground A4155 Henley - Marlow road opposite the management college. Unique viewing conditions and a walk in the bluebell woods as part of the day. Usually good weather the chance to sample the Hambleden Estate's game and the beer from the Stag & Huntsman.
May 11th - 14th. Aston le Walls Horse Trials. Off the Banbury - Daventry road, about 6 miles from M40 J11. Easy viewing, a huge volume of horses and riders and the first of three events at this venue each year. Come on the thursday to see the top riders exchange Badminton war stories before they head off to Chatsworth.
May 19th - 21st. Mattingley Horse Trials. Hampshire. 3 miles north of Hook and south of Wellington Country Park. 15 mins from M4 J11. Superbly organised, attractive course and a friendly event with good shopping. Mainly for the junior riders or the top guys with less experienced horses.
May 25th - 28th. Tweseldown 2 star 3 day event. Tweseldown racecourse near Church Crookham, Hants. The long format version of the olympic event at a reduced level of difficulty. Cross country day is Saturday. We'll be hidden in a competitor only area near the stables.
May 27th - 28th. Brigstock Horse Trials, Northants. A new event promising an Aston Martin Owners Club vintage rally. If you're nearby worth a look in.
May 29th - 30th. Borde Hill Horse Trials. A junior level Horse Trials in a scenic show gardens right by Haywards Heath in West Sussex. A good family day out on the sunday, certainly.
And all with the benefit of superb Hill & Valley Coffee on sale if you make the effort.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Get Ugandan Orphans through school
Awareness of many of the issues surrounding poverty in Africa was heightened in 2005 by the Live8 concerts and the Make Poverty History campaigns. In our particularly coffee focussed area of East Africa, the crisis is deepened by HIV / Aids infection which robs society of its most productive members often in their prime.
As Uganda enters it's third decade of relative political stability, nowhere else in the region is achieving more tangible results in educating young people and starting to reverse the tide. Children see the light with free primary education and are grasping at the chance to improve themselves and the future life of their communities.
But they still need a helping hand from us and their needs become more and more specific.
In 2002, Charlie and Debbie Massey's daughter, Lisa, taught in a school in Iganga as part of her gap year before going to Medical school, and Lisa's experiences have inspired our association with a "cause" for 2006 and the foreseeable future. Succinctly we want to help those kids who have a thirst for knowledge and education to continue their education through secondary school, which remains mostly fee-paying in rural Uganda. The group we want to help most of all are HIV / Aids orphans, who are often trapped at the age of 12 or 13 into working to support younger siblings or elderly relatives rather than continuing their education. Girls can easily find themselves embroiled in child prostitution rather than their maths homework.
With our "Get Ugandan Orphans through School" fund raising we can begin to make a real difference, by sponsoring individual children through their four years of secondary education. Sponsoring one child for one term costs only £13.00 and we have made it easy to do via our online coffee store.
Please help if you feel you can.
More details of the project we have associated with are available on the Uganda Villages Project main website.
New Espresso Blend Launched
The new blend, FDE Espresso features some exciting asian coffees with a good seasoning of a Sul de Minas Brazil Pulped Natural coffee to smooth out the finish and improve the crema.
We used several kilos of the new blend on our first event of the season this weekend and in true H&V style it promises a dark and sweet espresso and good flavour passage through the milk in an 8oz cappuccino. We will be using this coffee at all our events as long as stocks last.
The Coffee Tree in George St, Aylesbury will continue to use Bourbon Espresso.
Both blends are available in the online store.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Fairtrade Fortnight - an announcement
But we are not Marks & Spencer, thankfully.
We source our coffees based on the following criteria :
1. Excellence in the cup. Particularly when compared to other coffees from the same region, we go for coffees that reflect the traditional virtues of a particular growing region. New growing regions are always treated with some scepticism - particularly when we can't find the right Kenya AA that year!
2. Where possible we source from single estates / farms or from co-operatives, but always from organisations that rely on excellence to achieve a sustainable premium price. We abhor artificially manufactured pricing that ignores issues of quality. In all cases we try to find out the most we can about the growers and how they work and satisfy ourselves that basic human and workers' rights are defended.
3. We do not buy "first world coffee" from USA / Hawaii, Puerto Rico or Australia. We do however pay very good prices for the right coffees from developing countries - way above fairtrade prices.
4. We act in a non-patronising manner to support "good causes" in coffee producing countries and do not confuse these aims with our uncompromising approach to sourcing. It is our belief that we can find causes more needy than that of the so-called impoverished grower. He has his land and his crop after all....
So in 2001, we gave some help to a catholic charity that built a refuge for street orphans in Bogota Colombia.
In 2002, our daughter Lisa worked in secondary school in Uganda and sales of Uganda coffee helped fund a new fiction lending library for her pupils.
In 2004 and 2005 we supported Angeninge, a theatre group in Tanzania that taught Aids / HIV awareness to illiterate rural people through community drama.
In 2006, we have settled on a "house charity" which will benefit from our support for at least the next four years, and we hope that we can enlist support from those of you out there who buy Hill & Valley Coffee.
It is our "Get orphans through school" project set in Iganga, Uganda.
There are 95 HIV / Aids Orphans who are currently in secondary school and are depending on us to pay their next set of school fees. And we want to get 20 more on the scheme next year!
A detailed announcement will follow in the next few days, but for now here are some of the wonderful young people whose lives are already being changed through this scheme.