Coffee Corner: This coffee is too expensive

Post by Grant Mouton

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As someone with almost a decade in the industry I can safely say that even your most expensive cup of coffee is, in fact, under-priced. For those of you who managed to attend the screening of “a Film about Coffee” at the Contemporary Art Platform in Shuwaikh last week, you might have noticed that this subject was briefly talked about.

So why is there this rift in thoughts? Why is it that coffee producers and coffee consumers disagree with the pricing of coffee? On the one hand we have the people in the coffee supply chain feeling short-changed and on the other the consumers feel that their cup of joe is costing far too much.

*Disclaimer: I am a part of the specialty coffee community, and you will see that the article is heavily in favor of this industry. I have however been as factual as possible, enjoy!*

First things first, we need to realize that there are three different types of coffee at three very different price points. It’s a concept we all know and understand with restaurants, but not with coffee. We can liken coffee stores to three different tiers of restaurants:

– Quick service restaurants (Global franchises; no trained chef) $

– Casual dining restaurants (More focus put on quality of ingredients, store aesthetics; entry level chef, mainly cooks) $$

– Fine dining (Utmost attention to details; traceable, high quality ingredients; well-trained chefs) $$$

To try and simplify, I will refer to the first two tiers as commodity coffee from hereon. So in coffee you have the same thing. The modern 3rd wave (or specialty) coffee can be thought of as “Fine dining coffee”. For this you pay a premium, but it is not just a greater mark up.

Labour
In commodity coffee the baristas are site trained according to the company’s standards and not recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association. Whereas in the 3rd wave stores, you will have at the very least one employee who has not only travelled the world to attend courses and seminars, but also constantly learns through online platforms to stay at the cutting edge of coffee knowledge – all to ensure a better coffee experience for you! Now one can certainly see that a more highly skilled barista bears a greater cost to company than an entry level barista.

Green Bean Sourcing
Just as quick service restaurants (QSR) constantly seek to drive the cost prices of the raw materials down, so too do commodity coffee shops. It is no secret that the giants in the industry use anywhere between 25-40% of Robusta coffee beans to make up their blends. But, so what if they use Robusta? Well it is a very cheap, low quality variety of coffee that has zero pleasurable flavor traits to it and is very bitter. I recently attended a course in Copenhagen where we trialled the use of the highest quality Robusta. During a blind tasting (I thought I was taste testing Arabica beans) I noted on my scoresheet that a particular bean was defective, i.e. not good enough to serve. Turns out said bean was in fact some high quality Robusta. This variety is more than likely the reason why the majority of people think of coffee as bitter. On top of that, the Arabica beans that commodity coffee shops do use is considered to be low grade, again it is cheap and has no desirable flavors. To put some numbers to it, Robusta retails for $1-$3/kg, whereas high quality, specialty Arabica coffee can retail anywhere between $25-$300/kg

These high prices are justified though. Specialty coffee is comprised of picked, sorted and processed coffee and is held to a much higher standard. Commodity coffee is grown on flat land and the process is almost fully mechanized. The reason that mechanization doesn’t work with coffee is because not all of the beans ripen at the same time and unripe coffee (unripe anything, really) simply does not taste as good.

Equipment
What if I told you that most commodity coffee chains don’t even have an espresso machine? Well, it’s the truth! Most of these commodity coffee giants have a “pseudo-espresso” machine which, again, is as automated as possible and yet they are serving you espresso based drinks! The reasons behind this are simple. Making a good espresso and steaming milk correctly is very difficult with incredibly small margins for error. I can assure you it will take months of practice just to learn to steam the milk correctly. Latte art? Forget about it! This is a craft that needs constant upkeep and at least a year behind a machine to become remotely good.

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Recipes
Commodity coffee shops will only use 6-8g of coffee when preparing a regular size coffee. In contrast, specialty coffee shops will use between 16-22g for the same size coffee. This is really important – specialty coffee uses at least double of an already more expensive raw material to prep your coffee, and yet we don’t charge twice or three times the price!

Economies of Scale
This is a pretty basic concept, but those who haven’t taken economics 101 it boils down to this: A company purchasing over 100,000 tonnes of coffee per year has much more leverage to negotiate prices than a company only buying 1-2 tonnes of coffee. This means that even if specialty coffee shops were to use the exact same low quality coffee beans as the larger coffee companies, the cost price would still be higher for those specialty stores.

When all things are considered, I hope you come to the same conclusion that I do, and that is: Specialty coffee is in fact under-priced, hence great value for money and commodity coffee actually has very high profit margins for a substandard product. The other thing you can consider is from a social responsibility point of view: Specialty coffee pays people in the supply chain, commodity coffee pays large corporations and favors mechanization; This in turn leads to higher rates of unemployment in developing areas (yes, I did just guilt trip you into buying specialty coffee!).

Keep sipping!

Post by Grant Mouton
Self–proclaimed coffee guru, coffee education addict, SCAA/SCAE accredited.
Brand manager at % Arabica.


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Sponsored: Carriage – Food Delivery App (Update)

Post by Sponsor
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New Delivery Hours + Areas Expansion
We’re expanding our working hours! We’re now open till midnight, some of the restaurants that are open till then are: Eighty Six, Chili Pepper, Slice, Chili’s + many more. We’re also starting breakfast on the weekends starting from Friday, the 25th of November, so you can have your breakfast in bed from places like Crepeaffaire, Urban Café or Baking Tray!

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For those of you who don’t know us yet, Carriage is a new food delivery service that offers:
– Restaurants that never delivered before like: Street AlMakan, Bao, Gia
– Live-tracking that lets you track your order in real-time on a map
– No minimum charges
– Fast delivery

We’ve had a lot of new restaurants join us this month like: Feynman’s, for those Solo Pizza lovers who live in the Mubarak Al Kabir/Al Ahmadi areas, Al Raha by Natureland, which serves food from 100% organic ingredients and Sunset Sliders, the new 80s nostalgia slider place which has stuff like the Miami Vice slider and the Death Star spicy chicken. We’ve also just started expanded our delivery to new areas like Ardiya, Andalous and Sabah Al Nasser.

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Download Carriage on the App Store and the Google Play Store. You can also order using our beta website, which we’ve just launched. [Link]

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to find out about the latest offers and restaurants joining us.


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My Belongings Vintage Radio Shop

Post by Mark

belongings1

“My Belongings” or “Moqtanayaty” (مقتنياتي) in Arabic is a small store in Kuwait City that sells vintage radios, boomboxes, record players and even cameras. Unlike most places that sell vintage items, all the vintage music players in this store are in working condition. They actually repair vintage music players, VCRs, and even old TVs. So say you have an old radio that stopped working, you could take it to them and they’ll try and fix it for you.

belongings2

They have a lot of random items around the store as well from 8mm film and 8-track tapes to old telephones and clocks. The store is open from 9AM to 1PM and 4:30PM to 9PM. Here is their location on [Google Maps]


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Kuwait Law: Wasta

Post by Fajer Ahmed

gotwasta

I was having dinner last week with my Khaleeji friend Ghanim, and as usual we like to compare traditions and customs. It is nice to understand the differences, but one thing he said struck me. “Fajer, I heard that everything in Kuwait is done by wasta, you want to find a job? Wasta. You want a contractor to build a house? Wasta. You want to buy that bag? Wasta. I know wasta is an issue that people avoid in all of the Middle East and not just Kuwait, but it seems the situation is out of control in Kuwait”.

Now it is no surprise that we have wasta in Kuwait, reference to it is all over the place (does anyone remember the Got Wasta t-shirts?!). But somehow over the past few years, wasta turned from an unethical tool used for serious matters to a normal way of life to get anything done. Lets take a step back.

What is wasta? According to Wikipedia, it is an Arabic word referring to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done. And how bad is wasta? It sounds negative in Western media when referring to Arabic culture, but is that really the case?

I usually refrain from sharing opinions and stick to facts, but I really think that the word wasta is too broad and can refer to acts with positive and/or negative consequences.

Wasta that has a negative impact on society can be a very serious issue, it can prevent people from receiving their rights, because those rights are passed on to someone with a stronger connection, a stronger wasta. How does the Kuwait law resolve this? First of all it is very hard to prove wasta in a small society like Kuwait, but if it is proven that the favorable act was done by a public employee causing damage to another person, then the public employee could be punished. For example, your uncle works in the government entity and he makes you “Assistant Star Gazer” even though there was someone else who was more qualified for that position. Your uncle could face up to three years jail time for that. This law only applies to public sector employees since wasta is not considered a crime in the private sector. But, employees in the private sector could get punished by their employer.

As for me, I believe that it is great to collaborate and network, be nice to others and do favors, but never do I do anything that might effect another person’s life negatively. What are your thoughts? Let me know.

For any legal inquiries, please email me on ask@fajerthelawyer.com and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.


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Kuwait International Jiu Jitsu Open Recap

Post by Mark

This past weekend the Kuwait International Jiu Jitsu Open was held at the ice skating rink and they just released two short videos recapping the event. They really gave the ice skating rink a proper makeover since the arena looks so good in these videos, like a world class event. Check them out.

kjjopen

Update: I updated the video links


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Running Up a KD3,000+ Phone Bill by Mistake

Post by Mark

zainbill

I spotted a post on the reddit front page two nights ago about a guy from Kuwait who ran up a KD3,000 phone bill accidentally and I was going to post about it yesterday but the redditor ended up deleting his post. But last night he posted it again so here I am writing about it.

You can read his full story [Here] but I’ll summarize it for this post. A guy borrows his friends sim card since his friend had a Zain plan that included 10GB of roaming internet. He takes the sim card goes to Azerbaijan where he uses the internet all day long since 10GB is a lot of bandwidth and he wasn’t worried about consuming it all. What the guy and his friend didn’t realize was that Azerbaijan wasn’t part of the countries where he could take advantage of the 10GB of roaming internet so when he checked his phone bill he noticed it was over KD2,500. He freaked out and posted about it on reddit and then a followup saying when he last checked it had gone up even further to over KD3,000.

The guy is pretty screwed because he didn’t read the fine print and the worst part is, its not even his sim card it’s his friends.

Now the odd thing I find here is how his mobile operator in this case Zain allow him to rack up such a high bill. I have a Zain line I never use but I keep since I’ve had that number since 1996 and when I don’t pay my bill for a couple of months I get a phone call from accounting telling me I need to pay KD15 or they’ll disconnect my line. And thats just over KD15. If someones phone bill every month is say KD20 a month on average and suddenly in a week it hits KD1,000, wouldn’t that arouse suspicion? Shouldn’t some kind of alarm go off at Zain (or any other operator) when something like this happens? They would then freeze the account until they could contact the owner of the number to confirm they’re aware of what they’re doing or make sure their phone didn’t get stolen etc..

I had an incident once with Burgan Bank when they blocked my ATM card for security reasons because it was used in two different countries within 24 hours. I had used it once in the Kuwait Airport to exchange money and then again in London to buy a train ticket. I thought that was a bit extreme but the point is companies usually have security measures they take to make sure the customer is protected. I thought telecom operators would have similar security measures but I guess they don’t? Would be great if anyone can shed some light on this.


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Followup on MMA Manager, Mishal Abul

Post by Mark

mishal
Mishal Abul on the left with Lorenz Larkin, Audie Attar, & Ramsey Nijem

Back in 2012 I posted about a friend of mine on the blog, Mishal Abul since every now and then I like to highlight a local talent or achievement. Back then I posted about how he was a partner at Paradigm Sports Management, a US based company that manages Football, Baseball and MMA athletes. The most popular fighter they were managing when then was Michael Bisping, and I thought that was a pretty cool achievement, that a guy from Kuwait was part of the team managing Bisping. Bisping wasn’t even that big of a star in 2012 but this year that changed when Bisping caused one of the biggest upsets in the UFC title fight history to become the UFC Middleweight Champion. So the fact that a Kuwaiti is a partner in a company that manages Michael Bisping is already an amazing feat.. but that’s not even their biggest star anymore. Paradigm Sports now manage a ton of other high level fighters including arguably one of the most popular fighters on the planet right now… Conor McGregor.

conor
Conor McGregor winning his second belt at UFC 205

Yup, a Kuwaiti is part of the team that manages Conor which is also how I got into Conor’s afterparty last year after UFC 189 (best wasta ever). It’s crazy! Their whole roaster of fighters is now insane, like no exaggeration here are just some of them:

Artem Lobov
Chris Weidman
Conor McGregor
Gunnar Nelson
Jimi Manuwa
Lorenz Larkin
Michael Bisping
Rick Story
Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson
Tony Ferguson
Uriah Hall

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Mishal Abul with Amir Aliakbari in Rizin

In 4 years they’ve managed to grow so much and these are just their MMA stars, they also manage other athletes but since I don’t follow any other sport (except for Formula1), I’m not really interested in the other athletes. Mishal is also now a partner in Tough Prints who do most of the printing for the UFC Reebok fight kits and he’s also now the point of contact for the Japanese Rizin Fighting Federation who are exploding because of their fight matchups involving the likes of Fedor, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop and Shane Carwin.

Anyway, to most of you the above is going to sound gibberish, but for those of you who’re into MMA I thought you’d appreciate this random info. If you’d like to find out more about Paradigm Sports Management you can check out their website [Here]


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VOL.1 at Mayar

Post by Mark

vol1-1

Over the weekend I passed by the new VOL.1 thats opening up in Mayar Complex to get a sneak peek. I was curious to see how the place was turning out so I asked the owner if I could drop by and check it out. The new location is going to be located in Shuwaikh and is around 3 to 4 times the size of their current location in the city. The new space has a much larger circular bar and the same bench style seating surrounding the walls. The new location also has an second floor which will contain their offices as well as a small space where they’ll be holding classes or coffee cupping sessions. They’re expecting to open sometime next month but no specific date has been set yet.

mayar1

The Mayar Complex where VOL.1 is located is surprisingly a pretty good looking space. I didn’t think it was going to turn out the way it did and I love the way they’ve used marble everywhere. I took a walk around it and a bunch of shops have already opened with a bunch of others opening soon. There is going to a gym there, two spinning studios, a bunch of fashion and accessories stores and a few restaurants. The only issue I have with the complex is there isn’t enough parking, but thats to be expected I guess. Here is the location on [Google Maps]


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Deraya Exploratory Campaign

Post by Mark

sensors

I’m sure many of you have noticed strange looking devices similar to the ones above lying all over Kuwait. These devices are part of KOC’s exploratory campaign called Deraya to explore Kuwait’s geological layers. Over 50,000 of these devices have been placed all around Kuwait so that specialized vehicles like the one pictured below can perform seismic surveys.

seismicvibrator

When I first started seeing these trucks rolling up and down the Gulf Road I though they were electric generators but turns out they’re actually seismic vibrators. These trucks drive around Kuwait and stop at various locations to perform seismic vibrations which are then picked up by the sensors.

The aim of this campaign is to study and record data about Kuwait’s different underground layers to form a basis for future studies. KOC have a video explaining the whole process which you can watch above. It’s in Arabic but it’s an animation so you can still figure out whats going on.


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Kuwait’s 41st International Book Fair

Post by Mark

bookfair

I found out about the Kuwait International Book Fair earlier today so I decided to pass by and check it out to see if there were any English books available. The book fair is taking place in halls 5, 6 and 7 of the international fairground and so its pretty huge. 95% of the books are in Arabic which makes it sound like there aren’t many English books but due to the size of the fair, 5% is still a lot. In hall 6 there were two large aisles stretching from one side of the hall all to the way to the other end full of English books ranging from educational and kids books, to novels and more. The amount of people at the fair tonight was insane and parking was crazy so I’d recommend parking far like at hall 8 and then walking over to the book fair. The fair is going to be there until the 26th of this month.


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