A Coffee Chronology

This isn’t a short read!



Giving dates and events of historical interest in legend, travel, literature, cultivation, plantation treatment, trading, and in the preparation and use of coffee from the earliest time to the present

(From William H. Ukers’s All About Coffee, 1922)

900[L]—Rhazes, famous Arabian physician, is first writer to mention coffee under the name bunca or bunchum.[M]

1000[L]—Avicenna, Mahommedan physician and philosopher, is the first writer to explain the medicinal properties of the coffee bean, which he also calls bunchum.[M]

1258[L]—Sheik Omar, disciple of Sheik Schadheli, patron saint and legendary founder of Mocha, by chance discovers coffee as a beverage at Ousab in Arabia.[M]

1300[L]—The coffee drink is a decoction made from roasted berries, crushed in a mortar and pestle, the powder being placed in boiling water, and the drink taken down, grounds and all.

1350[L]—Persian, Egyptian, and Turkish ewers made of pottery are first used for…

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How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter


How does studying or working abroad change you? You return with a photo album full of memories and a suitcase full of souvenirs, sure. But you may also come back from your time in another country with an ability to think more complexly and creatively—and you may be professionally more successful as a result.

These are the conclusions of a growing body of research on the effects of study- and work-abroad experiences. For example: A study led by William Maddux, an associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, found that among students enrolled in an international MBA program, their “multicultural engagement”—the extent to which they adapted to and learned about new cultures—predicted how “integratively complex” their thinking became.

That is, students who adopted an open and adaptive attitude toward foreign cultures became more able to make connections among disparate ideas. The students’ multicultural engagement also predicted the number of job…

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Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was no such thing as books for boys…or princesses…or pink

I completely agree with the removal of gendering books. I would go one step further and remove anything targeted to specific sexes. Stop holding people back by putting them in a box.


Let books be booksI recently wrote about a Barbie book that should never have seen the light of day and now I’ve heard about a young girl in California who has managed to convince a publisher that it isn’t only boys who are interested in insects.Seven years old Parker Dains from California, wrote to Abdo Publishing after she discovered that the book on bugs she was reading was part of a series called  the Biggest, Baddest Book for Boys. She told the publishers:

I really enjoyed the section on Glow in the Dark bugs and the quizzes at the end…when I saw the back cover title, it said ‘Biggest Baddest Books for Boys’ and it made me very unhappy. It made me very sad because there’s no such thing as a boy book. You should change from ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys’ into ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys and Girls’ because some girls…

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Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book?


Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book?

A picture book by Lauren Child

There are lots of things which author and illustrator Lauren Child does (not just in Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book? but in her numerous other stories too) which goes against the general advice from children’s publishers. She uses words and old style phrases unfamiliar to contemporary children like ‘bedraggled’ and ‘dressed up to the nines’ and she places text


all over



However, it doesn’t seem to make a difference to her book sales and there’s a reason for that: she writes witty, playful tales illustrated in a humorous and distinctive style. You can see the illustrations and text are equally important to her and she loves to capture the imagination of all. This is why she’s become a huge name in children’s fiction and why she can get away with such brazen individuality in her illustrations and text placement.

Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book? is a story about Herb, “he wasn’t a very good reader, it didn’t matter because he could tell a lot from the pictures.” He read everywhere but the consequence of that was his books were messy. Lauren not only comments that it’s okay not to be the best reader to enjoy books but she makes a reference to the importance of the pictures right from the outset. Setting out right from the beginning that Herb is ‘normal’ and it’s all about the enjoyment the child receives.

One night Herb reads a fairy tale book and falls asleep with his head in the page. When he ‘wakes’ he’s inside the book being shouted at by an angry Goldilocks. Lauren accompanies Herb falling asleep with some tumbling text to mirror his actions. She also uses different fonts and sizes to highlight words like “Whoops” and “Seize him!”  Creating emphasis and an interest in words and language.


Herb jumps from story to story. In the middle of the book he approaches a door which was, “difficult to open because the illustrator had drawn the handle much too high up”. Herb jumps for the handle and enters into a ball on a four page, fold-out spread.  He finds a palace with the queen sporting a biro moustache looking for her throne and a king searching for Prince Charming. We discover Herb was the graffiti artist and not only that, he’d cut out Prince Charming and the throne and had placed them somewhere else. Lauren has welcomed the child reader into, not just the book, but the imaginative world as she shows them how their actions might change the world for the characters in the story. By referencing the illustrator and Herb doodling on the characters she mixes reality with imagination: blurring the boundaries between the two.


Herb tries to draw a throne for the demanding queen but it’s not to her exacting standards – he uses green crayon instead of gold as he hasn’t got gold and, “the queen did not look impressed.” Herb escapes the raging queen by snipping a hole in the floor which creates a hole in the page for the child reader to see through.

When Herb is transported home he finds Prince Charming and places him back in the ballroom. However, “His dancing would never quite be the same again due to severe leg creasing.” Herb fixes everything, and even includes a couple of humorous additions for grumpy Goldilocks.

The story is fun with illustrations to match, but you get the feeling Lauren has a more serious message underlying the humour. I think she wants young readers to love books and reading but at the same time to respect the creations of both the text and pictures without being precious. She even attacks the text, her own writing, when she uses it as a means of escape for Herb, “Herb grabbed hold of the letters and scrabbled up the sentences. Some of the words were a bit weak and the whole lot started to wobble.” Her statement shows how important each chosen word is to the reader and how one ‘weak’ word can ruin the story.

Her love of writing and illustrating for children is abundantly clear and you really get can see she takes it seriously. Never read a Lauren Child book? Not sure where you’ve been but take your pick, there’s no shortage, and enjoy the love of childhood innocence and creativity.

Harris + Hoole Closures

harris and hoole (2)

Harris + Hoole Closures

Quote: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Harris + Hoole, the coffee shop chain backed by Tesco, is to close six stores.  Alex Lawson from the Evening Standard wrote in his article on Tuesday 19th August, “A source claimed the costly nature of the stores, which feature high-end décor and premium barista coffee machines, was to blame for the closures and questioned Tesco’s desire to grow the chain.”

The ‘independent’ looking shops have been slated for taking the backing of Tesco and misleading customers into believing they still maintain their independent status.  However the family run business was set up by three siblings with a “vision to bring great tasting speciality coffee to the high street.” (www.harrisandhoole.co.uk).  Having established a strong brand, strong enough to interest Tesco, they accepted the backing to allow them to expand and live their dream.

However, maybe they’re spreading themselves too thin or maybe it’s trial and error with the best locations for their coffee shops.  Some of the branches closing include those in Hounslow and Walton-on-Thames.  Whatever the reason it is easier to take the hit with Tesco behind you.  And although six stores are closing, there are still plans for more to open across the country soon.

Metro’s Coffee Movement


Quote: “Muscovites Middle Eastern macchiato.”

I found a good article in the Metro (June 30th 2014) called Bean Around the World.  Davide Machado, whose surname could be a type of coffee, explores some of the up and coming coffee and café cultures around the globe.

Prague is first on his list, showing a keen interest in what barista Gwilym Davis calls, “‘traceability, single farm coffee [one type of bean from one type of farm] and lightly roasted beans, which result in sweet and fruity flavours’”. 

The place to be is the industrial-styled EMA Espresso Bar and according to Machado, “has been leading the city’s coffee charge since it opened last June.”

Singapore too has independents popping up.  This is mainly because, according to “Brad Lau of ladyironchef.com” (Singapore’s leading food and travel website), “‘Singaporeans’ heightened exposure to other coffee cultures when they travel’”.

Some of Lau’s favourite places to go and indulge in a coffee are Nylon Coffee Roasters, Everton Park, The Grin, The Provision Shop and Batterworks.

Similar to the Singaporeans, the Muscovites have been awoken to the delights of a good coffee.    Gwilym thinks “Moscow baristas are considered some of the best in the world”.

Apparently Coffee Mania is the leader, creating its own coffees with Middle Eastern flavours.  The coffee shop to watch out for is Double B Coffee and Tea.  With two of Russia’s champion baristas at the helm it’s already making me a little envious and considering booking a flight to Moscow.

Now, most of us know Ethiopia has been (and still is) highly regarded in the history of coffee.  The reason behind its superiority is: “‘The beans are roasted, ground and brewed on an open fire while you wait,’ says photographer and aid worker Melany Markham, who recently spent a month travelling around Ethiopia.  ‘But it’s more than an ancient mastery of the bean that makes the coffee so good.  It’s the climate – cool and humid – that makes Ethiopian coffee possibly the best in the world.’”

Machado goes on to explain how the Italians colonised the country leaving behind a legacy, espresso machines and baristas.  Because of this the country not only produces fabulous coffee but it can also make a fabulous coffee.  Let’s move now!

Machado says the best coffee shop is Tomoca Coffee which opened in 1953.  There is also the newer Choché which “sources its beans from local growers and roasts them in a small room behind the café,” and “this year’s newest opening Melange Coffee Roasters”.

It’s nice to see that with travel comes great coffee. A broadening of the mind and the taste buds. But it’s not just the love of a good coffee which seems to be circulating; it’s the interest in supporting local farmers and creating a good coffee and not one which will just sell.  People are taking pride in their local producers and in their work.


By Ally Condie


Crossed is the second and middle book of the dystopian Matched trilogy.  It feels like a middle book: joining the first to the last with not as much happening as one would like (the ‘one’ being me).

In this book it is not only Cassia who has a narrative voice; Ky’s thoughts are now available to us and we are shown alternate viewpoints to varying situations.

Crossed is a physical and emotional journey.  The couple are searching for each other outside of the Society.  Cassia has become disillusioned with the Society, waking up to who and what it really is and how restrictive it can be if you don’t conform to a specific type.

‘There is no place for someone like him in the Society, I think, for someone who can create.  He can do so many things of incomparable value, things no one else can do, and the society doesn’t care about that at all.’  Cassia muses.

She is keen to find the Rising: a rebellion group.  There is one problem: Ky.  He is unsure about the Rising due to his past history with them.  He doesn’t trust either of the leading factions but he does trust Cassia so these young lovers have a choice to make: each other or a fight for freedom.  Will one make the sacrifice for the other?  Will their relationship survive?  These are the questions which lead us through the rest of the tale.

During both of their journeys we uncover secrets and meet new characters which enlighten and drive their lives in a different direction.  This is an element which is needed, although as a device it feels as if some of the characters (initially anyway) are purely introduced for that purpose.

The book and its characters can be ponderous and reflective at times and it contains a lot of new information driving us towards the fine tale: Reached.

Creative and artistic references show us how the society has no place for imagination and individuality.  This book champions the creative arts and culture and reminds us of how society is reflected and driven by the arts.  The Society has only 100 select poems and artworks which they feel are suitable for their people.  However, stories, poems and art of the past remain in the minds of a few which have been passed down through generations wanting to make a difference and who were also aware of their importance.  They’ve been subliminally and purposefully altering mind-sets and creating unrest which ultimately is leading to The Rising.

This book really hammers home the importance of the arts and the fundamental role it plays within our lives.  But, fundamentally it’s another Romeo and Juliet – I’m wondering if it will end in a similar way.

A Creative Day

A Creative Day

Quote: “Creativity comes to those who don’t plan.”

Sometimes you have a day of writing planned or you have organised a trip to an exhibition, but sometimes a creative day comes at you from nowhere.

Easter Cakes

I was looking after a couple of girls for the day; one was imprisoned (self-imposed) in her room studiously revising for her exams and the other was 9, so we could do what we wanted. I had nothing scheduled but I knew 2 things: 1, we were going to the cinema later to see a subtitled film about Laos and 2, I needed a coffee.

After a catch up interspersed with readings and giggles from Calvin and Hobbs, we began discussing books and writing and I said I love Choose Your Own Adventure. The girl replied, “I have one but haven’t done it for ages.” So she ran to get it and there began our morning of rolling dice, battling creatures and pointing swords at old crones. This book was a little more advanced than the ones I used to read where you only got the option at the bottom as to what page to turn to next; this one was more suitable to Sheldon and the boys in The Big Bang Theory. It had need for a pen, some paper and dice (but if you didn’t have any then cleverly there was a picture of them at the bottom of the page so you could flick the pages and that was your ‘roll’). You could also buy things such as the Armband of Strength and the Headband of Concentration as well as potions and weapons. Once we’d left our morals at the door, entered a pretty useless waterfall cave and riled numerous creatures we decided to pause while still alive and go for a coffee.

Phew! We were parched after such an adventurous morning. Refuelling took place at Lavish Habit in Balham for a cappuccino and a hot chocolate. Next was the collation of materials for the afternoon’s events: Easter cake baking. Yay!

We baked and decorated like elves making toys at Christmas. Our cakes had carrots half buried in the middle so it looked like it was in a garden, Easter eggs, rabbit faces, flowers and colourful sprinkles. What was nice was teaching the 9 year old how to pipe icing, make carrots and create flowers – although I gave up on teaching not to lick your fingers whilst making the cake as it was a losing battle.

Easter Cake 2

I had a lovely time doing my favourite things. Then she took me outside to so something she liked: archery! A Katniss fan (Hunger Games) she had a bow and sucker arrows to fire at will in the garden. Time out to kick ass in the garden was fun, but short lived as we had to speed off to the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton.

We were seeing The Rocket, a foreign language film with subtitles. (SPOILER ALERT!) Set in Laos, ten year old Ahlo is a surviving twin who is said, by his grandmother, to bring bad luck. This film sees his journey to shedding his bad luck by entering the Rocket Festival: a dangerous competition where entrants compete to win money and to hopefully bring rain.

The films primary focus is on the unexploded bombs dropped on the country by the Americans during the Vietnam War. We see how the bombs have affected the villages and the lives of the villagers and also how outside influences end up determining the locals lives.

Director Kim Mordaunt shoots the film in a documentary style using a lot of non-actors and only a little direction to give a natural feel. The film is thoughtful and beautifully shot capturing poignant images of Ahlo, moving the cinema-goers to tears. Although subtitled there are actually very few and of the ones there are the text is limited, making it easy for the younger viewer to keep up with. There are a few hard hitting and shocking scenes which serve as a reminder to the existing danger these children and their families are still in. By using a Laotian boy as the protagonist Mordaunt hits home this point.

The end of the film is much like the rest but with a smack of sentimentalism. The Rocket Festival serves to stick one finger up at the bombs by firing explosives back into the skies and making a positive out of a negative. The end might perhaps do better to remind us that not everything will turn out well like in the movies. However, it’s a good film absolutely worth seeing and taking your older children to.

If only everyday was this enjoyable. Hopefully in the future I will remember to put some of my more mundane and unimportant tasks aside to allow for more creativity in my life and those around me.


Quote: “Vive la revolution!”

Ziferblat!  Bless you.  Seriously, we have a coffee shop Russian Revolution happening.  Ziferblat is offering free drinks and food.  It’s not that simple, but the concept is: you pay for your time at the coffee shop.  It works out as 3p per minute or £1.80 per hour.

After opening 10 shops in Russia they are branching out and in my opinion where better than London.  The people love something new and quirky and they love being the first and boasting to their friends about the experience.

According to Vicky Baker’s article in the Guardian, Ziferblatt means clock face in Russian and German. Rather than clocking in and out of the office for work we will now be punching the clock at a coffee shop.  A new way to work, rest and pay.

It’s a Swedish Invasion!

Quote: “I may be a tad dramatic.”

A bright purple car caught my eye on Teddington High Street the other day. It wasn’t just the purpley-purpleness of the car – it was the advert on the side. It read:

Caffeine Response Unit


I was quite excited, but also a little frustrated because it sounded as if it was an emergency vehicle which could have actually responded to my caffeine need. Alas it couldn’t. The doors didn’t open up as I walked by. There was no hand poking out offering me coffee. Nope, it kept it’s doors closed and played a quiet advertising game.

I looked up the car and came across Lӧfbergs. They’re a company who, according to their website, were ‘founded in 1906 and is now one of the biggest coffee roasters in the Nordic region.’ They say all the right things – the things the middle class, eco-conscious are concerned about. Things such as: ‘Fairtrade’, ‘organic’ and ‘family owned’.

They are apparently very popular in Sweden and it looks like they’re ready to show us a thing or two. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled. For more coffee info and the potential to book a coffee tasting visit their website: http://www.lofbergs.co.uk