no smoking on apron.
that's what it said on the back of the identity card that was handed to me when, as a student, i started working at prestwick airport. this was before they gave me what would more readily be recognised as an id card nowadays, encapsulated in plastic and with a photo in the corner. this was simply a piece of orange card with my name, employer and department of work written in biro on the front. and on the back was printed no smoking on apron. bear in mind that it was a catering company that had employed me, and the only aprons i was aware of, were those worn by the chefs. and when they had a smoke break, they'd to take their aprons off. however, they didn't have id cards because the chefs never had need of going anywhere other than the kitchen.
and i didn't smoke.
you can imagine how stupid i felt on discovering the aprons to which the card referred were the aircraft parking bays. though described as gates when waiting to board a flight, collectively those gates open out onto the apron. in fact, enter the aerogrill in the prestwick airport of yesteryear, through the big swing doors from the kitchen, passing the canteen where the chefs (minus their aprons) were having a smoke break, and the apron was clearly visible through the tall windows.
at both ends of the aerogrill were a pair of cona coffee machines, on which the filter coffee pots sat all day. rumour had it that, at the end of the day, if you placed a teaspoon in the leftover coffee, the spoon would remain upright. and that the coffee could then be used to repair cracks in the apron. quite how folks who had paid for a three course lunch in the restaurant could put up with such stewed coffee was something of a mystery. ironically the best way to gain a decent cup was to be on a delayed flight. meals were then prepared for usually a couple of hundred passengers, necessitating fresh coffee.
quite how it was possible to have created such a flavourless, tarry substance from carefully grown coffee plants, i will probably never know. thankfully our appreciation of the drink through the appearance of specialty coffees has taken the brown liquid from being little more than a traded commodity, to its present day status as one of direct trade. all this is made beautifully clear in dalia burde's and brandon loper's 'a film about coffee'. the british public premiere took place on thursday eve at the manchester rapha cycle club. but if you missed those convivial surroundings, it's possible to either purchase or rent the film via vimeo.com (see link at the end of this review).
not unnaturally for a film about coffee, the processes of growing, picking, processing, packing, shipping, roasting and drinking are depicted in marvellous detail, beautifully filmed and brought to life by interviews with coffee obsessives. these include david rumbanzangabo of the huye mountain coffee plantation in rwanda from whence comes the direct trade beans employed by portland's stumptown coffee. their green coffee buyer, darrin daniel explains that the first step up to providing equitable prices to coffee growers in africa and south america was the ubiquitous fair trade. however, in order to offer the customer a better coffee and the farmers the ability to plan a longer term strategy ("i can increase the size of my house and take care of my children's education."), stumptown's brown packets now bear a direct trade sticker as witness to their partnership with huye.
if you consider yourself something of a coffee obsessive, ruminating over the quality of the espresso sitting on the table in front of you in costa or starbucks (who am i kidding?) it would pay you well to observe the machinations of katsu tanaka, owner of japan's bear pond espresso. so obsessed is tanaka over the quality of the drink offered to his customers, that he has been known to keep the shutters to his premises closed until he is satisfied with the espressos drawn from his coffee machine.
that's true obsession.
however, in what is the film's finest moment, kevin bohlin, barista at ritual coffee roasters makes espressos and cappuccinos for the farmers who supply ritual's coffee. none of them have ever previously tasted their coffee in this fashion, and the look on their faces would have you wondering if this is quite what they expected. the movie lasts marginally over the hour and guarantees one outcome; you'll never approach a cup of espresso, cappuccino or latte in the same way ever again.
saturday 13 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................