Sourcing Great Coffee Beans for Sint Maarten

Getting good coffee on this island is a challenge. That’s funny because we live right in the middle of the some of the world’s best coffee countries. So you’d expect a larger selection. Sadly, the opposite is true.

While every coffee selling business here seems to focus on making coffee from cups (Nespresso, Lavazza, Illy) and the local population mostly used to and stuck with cheap, large scale, commercially produced filter coffee such as Santa Domingo ground coffee, very few places have whole coffee beans to begin with.

When I started to make an inventory of the equipment needed to create a Specialty Coffee shop on St Maarten, I immediately noticed the lack of good grinders & espresso machines, long delivery times, uncertain product availability and total lack of good single-origin coffee beans. Malongo, a large French roaster with a presence on the French side of this island (Saint Martin) was the exception. Sadly, their stock was low, the beans old (almost a year after packaging date, no roast date mentioned anywhere!) and the selection limited to four countries: Brasil, Colombia, Rwanda, Ethiopia. And they had just survived hurricane Irma as well but I have no idea how good or bad their stock survived that storm.

So I am doing what everybody here does: if you can’t get it here and people won’t get it for you, you find and buy it yourself in the US, send it to Miami, FL, and have it shipped here by one of the several shipping companies that visit the island at least twice week. Here’s the list of roasters that I’ve contacted and who’ve replied to me they’d be interested in selling us beans at wholesale:

I’m very excited to make a choice from these wonderful companies, their coffee descriptions online give me a lot of confidence that they are indeed “Third Wave Roasters” and take quality seriously. I still have an order coming in from Malongo that will last a while, but their orders take 2 months to fulfill and that’s simply too long. I contacted Smit & Dorlas in Curaçao but they don’t have single origin coffees, only blends – but can ship these in 2 weeks -, and blends are not what I want to serve in the Double Dutch Cafe for black coffees, if at all possible.

I will blog about the progress that I’m making in getting serious coffee to St Maarten and having people take coffee more seriously on this island. 🙂

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Daily Herald features Christian Peper in Weekender

The weekender section of today’s Daily Herald has a great article about head barista Christian Peper (from No Pressure Coffee) and Third Wave Coffee as well as the direction and intention of the coffee served daily in the Double Dutch Café inside the Market Garden supermarket in Simpson Bay.

It’s all about making the best coffee on St Maarten!

newspaper article barista christian peper
Barista Christian Peper in the Daily Herald

No Pressure Coffee and Double Dutch Café

Proud to announce a cooperation between No Pressure Coffee and the new food corner inside the Market Garden supermarket: Double Dutch.

The Double Dutch Café, also known as the Market (Garden) Café, serves breakfast and lunch with a variety of ready-to-eat products ranging from fresh fruit and vegetable juices or smoothies, to espresso, Cappuccino and Cortado, iced coffees, to sandwiches, overnight oats, fruit salads, rotisserie chicken, sushi homemade soups and Johnny Cakes baked fresh all day long.

No Pressure Coffee provided consulting on the coffee corner in the cafe. Where to place.the espresso machine, which grinders would work for the expected volume, which beans to use, calibration of the machinery and the coffee recipes. 4 local employees where chosen to get elementary training to make the top 3 key popular coffee drinks: espresso, cappuccino and latte. Work book with guides and rules were established fitting for a coffee shop that aims for establishing specialty coffee on the island of St Maarten.

The cafe is competitively priced and features an outside seating area. The new food corner complements the already well-known breakfast and lunch buffets of the supermarket. The Double Dutch food corner also serves the hotel guests who are staying in the Commodore Suites, so there is a steady flow of people and products.

The final layout of the food area inside the supermarket is not yet established so expect to see some changes throughout the year until we settle in what works the best.

Expect more choices among the favorite dishes from around the world in a mix of international foods and snacks.

Hand Grinder

I was surprised with a package from the Netherlands that someone forwarded for me. It contained the hand grinder I had ordered a while ago but was delivered after friends had already flown back to Sint Maarten.

Now I can take my Hario V60 or Aeropress anywhere and also grind whole beans on demand. This comes in handy because I’m always scouting for a cool great new pound of coffee beans and the lack of a portable grinder limited what I could source.

Im really happy with this product of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s solid, accurate, easy to use and clean and for a good price.

For the Market Cafe in Simpson Bay I’m still looking for an espresso bean to use and this way I can try a few samples without taking apart my commercial grinders for it!

Cooperation with Market Garden supermarket

I’m proud to announce that I’ve closed a cooperation with Market Garden supermarket in Simpson Bay. I am providing consulting services to them on their new coffee shop inside the supermarket, the Market Café. Calibration of the espresso machine, which grinders, grinder settings, milk, coffee recipes and some training of the other baristas.

Soft opening is currently underway with full opening scheduled for end of next week. Official opening to be announced in April 2018.

I’m still waiting on another grinder so I have two, one for black coffees and one for milk drinks. But I’ve been busy trying out different recipes for Cappuccino, Latte, Flat White and the iced versions. Lack of proper coffee equipment is one of the greatest challenges on this island. Local suppliers have nothing so everything has been ordered from USA.

Here are some photos of the drinks I made.

Everything is focused on drinks to-go and we use certified biodegradable paper cups for everything. So sadly, you can’t see the coffee and milk layering. Maybe in the future…

Baratza Virtuoso

baratza virtuoso

So happy to finally have received my Baratza coffee grinder and Bonavita water kettle!

With the grinder, I can finally start grinding my own beans for brewing with my Aeropress or Hario V60. I’ve had these beans for months already so I’m glad I can use them at last. Most fresh roasted beans are beyond their peak after 3 months, so sadly they won’t be as good as they could have been.

I’m starting with Ethiopian beans from Nordkappcoffee.com in Utrecht, my friend Jasper also supplies coffee to the Koffieschool where I got my training and Jasper is a King in roasting. Ethiopian coffee is fresh with citric notes and green flavors, so that is something completely different from the dark roasted Ethiopian coffee I get from the local supermarket!

Next in line is the beans from Man met bril in Rotterdam! Can’t wait!

Opening in Simpson Bay after all

I’m so excited to say that I’ve found a partner to work with in Simpson Bay who’s opening a coffee corner soon and I’ve been hired to consult for them on the set-up of the coffee corner. After the set-up, I’ll be the Head Barista and work 4 days a week in their shop.

The shop’s in Simpson Bay on Welfare Road, but I’m not going to announce exactly where until the shop will actually open… But if all goes well and as planned, that will be very soon!

Getting Started with Specialty Coffee

If you are serious about coffee and want to learn and experiment more, I’ve put together a list of items on Amazon that will help you getting started.

You basically have a choice to make about which brewing method to start with:

  • Aeropress
  • Chemex
  • Hario V60

If you prefer an espresso-style (stronger) cup of coffee, then choose Aeropress. If you prefer a more smooth, rich bodied cup of coffee.

Next, you will need to get a coffee bean grinder,a scale to measure the grinds with a precision of 0.1 grams, a water kettle with precise control of the water temperature and ideally also a thermometer to check the water temperature. But if you choose one of the kettles I’ve listed, they have a built-in thermometer so you can forgo that.

If you’re the only person drinking coffee at home (I sympathize with you) then you might want to get a great hand grinder and skip the more expensive Baratza grinder for now. You always get them later and then use the hand grinder for your travel needs!

hand grinder

Proud SCA Member

sca logo

SCA_MT18_With_Logotype_Stone_CMYK-01I decided to become an official SCA member so that I can showcase my expertise and work towards earning the “Coffee Skills Diploma” with all the courses and training that I’ve been doing.

In addition, it gets me market research reports, a sticker and access to some of the industry’s leading conferences. Most beneficial is, however, the discount you get on additional training!

Facts about coffee

Ideal coffee water is fresh and pure in taste and has no discernible odors. It should be mineral-rich, yet have a balanced mineral content. A total hardness of 7–12° EH, a carbonate hardness of 3–4° EH and a pH value of 6.5–7.5 are ideal. Only then can coffee develop its full aroma.

Source: Deutscher Kaffeeverband

Read more about the meaning of EH or Eh, as chemical literature calls it, here.

What does this mean for anyone on a small island making coffee?

  • Don’t use tap water!
  • Don’t use water that has been desalinated!
  • Don’t use Reverse Osmosis (RO) water!
  • Don’t use just any mineral water but pay attention to pH and “dissolved minerals” per liter

If you do get RO water, get some tablets from Third Wave Water and you are fine!
Update: Chemists at MIT and 2 UK baristas have made a deep dive on this subject and analysed why soft water is particularly bad for making coffee.