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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Not One More Lousy Coffee, Please!

The End


When is a customer justified in refusing to pay for lousy coffee? It depends on how you define "bad" coffee, doesn't it? It also depends if you accept and drink it. 

We agree that the bill for a consumed coffee must be settled. However, we are firm in our opinion that a lousy coffee can, and should be sent back until it is right. Accepting a lousy coffee hurts an industry.

See more Two Cowboys Coffee Content: Here.

DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS OR COMMUNITY FEATURED?


Coffee shops charge you before they serve you. Herein lies your opportunity. It gives you the chance to demand an acceptable beverage, or you get your money back. A shot of espresso can set you back as little as $1.50 and as much as $4.50. The same goes for a milk espresso drink like a cappuccino, flat-white, macchiato or latte. It too can come in as high as $3.50, and up to $6.50 at some "distinguished" establishments. If you bend over for a Starbucks, prepare to hurt even more.


We once showed a coffee shop owner that we've spent upwards of $780/month with him and that it didn't even include the beans for the coffee we make at home. The Cowboys spend more on coffee in a month than we spend on beer. That is very concerning (and a topic for another time)!

The point is that drinking coffee is expensive. Why then do we tolerate it when we are served an inferior beverage? We won't accept half a sandwich, a stale doughnut, or being served an overly salty muffin. We won't go back to a restaurant for a rubbery overdone steak and cold fries. Yet, establishments serve inferior espresso-based coffee drinks as a central feature or sideshow, and they get away with it. Even worse, some are offended when you call them out on it. 

People somehow accept the role of the espresso dice and console themselves with their fate when they are handed dark muck in a cup. "Maybe the Barista is having a bad day. Tomorrow it may be better. We'll try again later. It is the best you can get around here..." 

No more!

A (Dis)Service


It is time to call it, and we intend to do just that.

Yes, we know that we are at risk of becoming very unpopular with some of the business owners on our travels. However, as we've mentioned before, we pay for our coffee. If we are paying for it, like every other customer, we have the right to have an opinion. Even more so, because of what we do as the Two Cowboys, we have the intention to share our view with anyone that cares to read, watch and listen. 

This is a generous service to coffee lovers and the coffee serving establishment. We are gladly stepping up to provide transparency and clarity. As fellow baristas, prior coffee shop owners, dedicated coffee drinkers, and world-travellers, we intend to help coffee servers realize where they have room for improvement, and we hope to make the world a better place because of it.

This is part of the TWO COWBOYS' EPIC GLOBAL TRAVEL & CULINARY EXPERIENCE - 2019!

Good Coffee


The World Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) sets the standards for coffee. Standards can be great tools for the coffee industry as they are trusted reference instruments established by knowledgeable subject-matter experts. It is a quantifiable and qualifiable measure, based upon scientific testing, which set values and/or ranges of values for coffee.

The standards are the foundation of what is used in international barista competitions hosted by World Coffee Events at their very popular World Barista Championships. These competitions focus on promoting excellence in coffee, advancing the barista profession, and engaging worldwide audiences with a love for better coffee. Judges from around the world evaluate each performance on the taste of beverages served, cleanliness, creativity, technical skill, and overall presentation.

Now, let's be realistic. Buying a beverage at your local coffee shop should not be a world championship judging event! That is why we've lowered our standards to support our love of specialty coffees and helping fellow entrepreneurs that bravely venture to serve it to loyal patrons every day.

As far as we are concerned, there are mainly three important criteria that should be met for a Two Cowboys coffee to be an acceptable coffee (and not to be handed back for a redo). It should be well prepared, taste good, and be served in a customer friendly manner.

  1. Well Prepared: There is a whole raft of technical aspects that guide a well-prepared beverage. Bean quality and freshness, grinder setting, tamping, flushing, dosing, extraction time, and other elements all work together to produce a good coffee. Chief in these for us is the cleanliness of the preparation. Secondly, is the consistency of the beverages that are turned out. Can we trust not to get sick from a septic steam wand and expect the same consistently good coffee no matter who the barista is on any given day?
  2. Taste Good: First of all, the coffee should be made correctly. The barista should know the difference between a simple cappuccino, a flat-white, latte and a macchiato. If they are cross-eyed when we use words such as espresso, doppio or ristretto then they should not be on the machine. The coffee shot should have a nice dark rich crema and be well balanced between sweet, acidic and bitter. The milk should be rich and silky and the volume appropriately adjusted for the type of drink. Both should come together in balance and harmony. For heaven's sake, it should be served at the right temperature!
  3. Customer Service: Here is where many coffee serving establishments go to die. The barista's treatment of his or her patrons is as integral to the specialty coffee experience as is the beverage. If every establishment makes a reasonably good coffee, then the barista's energy and positivity differentiate mediocrity from excellence. Baristas, like barmen and barbers, have a very personal job. We've walked away from good coffee in the past because of a jackass barista, and we took our $780/month with us.
We give all three of the above criteria an equal weighting. Call it the Two Cowboys - Three Stars Coffee Rating. Unfortunately, one miss can sink a coffee ship.

Observations


We realize that the specialty coffee business is a hard endeavour.

From an outsider's perspective, the margins may look promising. However, with roughly $1 of profit in a cup of coffee a shop needs to push out at least 15 an hour just to cover minimum wage in most western countries. Coffee is expensive and a good espresso machine, more so.  Baristas don't earn much either. Even if they make a good coffee, most baristas earn minimum wage, or slightly more.

Our goal is not to give these businesses and dedicated folks a hard time. Instead, by shining a light on them, we hope to celebrate their successes and drive more patrons their way. We've already lost our butchers, bakers, dairies and our fresh produce grocers from our small towns. They've been replaced by large grocery chains. Our coffee is fast going the same route with a Starbucks and a Tim Hortons opening on every available downtown corner. Every second establishment now purports to be serving specialty coffee. Most of them serve lousy coffee. That is why it is even more critical to outdo the coffee making robots.

Let's not be distracted by accepting lousy coffee. It hurts the few remaining dedicated espresso hole-in-the-walls that are doing a decent job. Support those instead, like we do!

Hendrik
Coffee Cowboy!

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos

Dopio!

Fiagro's Whittaker's Mocha

Koffie en Beskuit

Morning Routine

Art

Heart Attack

Cowboy Love!


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Lekker Man, Lekker at The Lekker Shop in Hamilton, New Zealand

Lesson Learned


People that make things are good at what they do for two simple reasons. They like and value what they do, and they are continually working towards bettering it. We are makers because it feeds the single biggest survival instinct we developed as a species. 

Our oversized heads and brains are proof of our privilege and our affliction. Anyone with pre-frontal cortex will tell you, we are born to learn!


DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS FEATURED?


It is as universal as humanity on this little blue planet of ours. It doesn’t matter where you find people in the Tundra, deep Amazonian jungle, small Pacific Island or in London or New York. Everyone is driven by the need to keep our minds occupied. It is even estimated that our brains consume as much, or more than a third of our energy. We are learning machines.

What we do with this drive distinguishes one person’s life from another. In pre-history, the ones that learned the fastest to gather food and avoid danger were the survivors. In modern history, the ones that are better adept at sourcing information, applying it, and relating to other members of a community, thrives more.

We developed a considerable preoccupation with social engagement. It includes the elaborate rituals and rules that should provide relative harmony between ourselves and others in our group. How we relate to others also determines our standing. The better the reputation, the more fortuitous we tend to become amongst our peers. Our unique ability to better learn, adapt and organize, ultimately made us the dominant species on planet Earth.

If we knew that every waking moment of our existence and the majority of our biology is devoted to continuous, conscious, and unconscious learning, how will this knowledge influence our lives?

As a start, we will know what drives people. For example, now we know what drives the little baby to crawl and discover. It encourages some people to dream, travel and to explore. It is also the reason why our elderly are fixated on their televisions, and our teenagers are caught in online gaming worlds, pursuing the one elusive objective after the other. It is why mankind stares hypnotized at electronic screens concerned about the state of social affairs thousands of disconnected miles away, while unaware of the names of their neighbours, barman or barista.

If you capture the attention of a curious mind, you can direct it and effectively control the person.

Who Is In Charge? 


Fortunately, with our learning instinct comes a failsafe switch in the form of self-awareness and reflection. Instead of being “mindlessly” controlled through stimulus and response, we can reflect on the outcomes of our learning and then potentially direct it.

We can steer our drive towards something we appreciate and consider valuable. We do it through filtering and focus. By deciding what gets our attention and what to ignore we direct our learning. In this decision lies the single key that unlocks meaningful and happy lives.

If you are searching for more meaning and purpose in your life, all you have to do is choose or change your focus. Seek learning opportunities with a feedback loop in a context that you consider valuable. Your focus inevitably creates your reality. If you like it. Keep doing it. If you don’t change your focus. 

Lekker Man!


In the case of The Lekker Shop, they devote their focus, attention and maker efforts to not only recreating something special from their homeland - South Africa. Their focus is to make it even better than back home. We think they are on to something. They have lekker wors!

During our impromptu visit before Christmas 2018, it felt like we came home. We were instantly transferred to our favourite Kuka Shop and Butchery in the Bushveld. Thick Boerewors was waiting in the cooler and fresh Droƫwors and Koeksisters in the fridge. Within minutes we were old friends. If we had Gemmerbier, we would have shared a bottle and put a vleisie on the braai.

The Lekker Shop is a South African shop and butcher in Hamilton, New Zealand. They call themselves the home of Lekker Biltong, Boerewors, and much, much more! Facebook calls it an "Ethnic Grocery Store". We call it "our store" because they brought a bit of South Africa to us when we were away from the continent. Lekker Man!

What stands out for us during our visit was the range and quality of products. One thing was more obvious than anything - they are proud of what they do! Remember, people that make things are good at what they do for two simple reasons. They like and value what they do, and they are constantly working towards bettering it.

Now, if only we can convince them to tell us their secret to the Lekker Wors - it will save us a trip from Canada to get our fix. On the other hand, maybe we don't want to know. It will give us ample reason to make another visit to our friends at the Lekker Shop!

Hendrik
Lekker Cowboy!

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos


Lekker Man!

Lekker Wors

Lekker People

Heaven in a Derm!

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Two Cowboys are Planning to Brew and Keg Our Own Beer on the Road with iKegger, New Zealand

Counter Beer Culture


If there was ever a time to justifiably promote counter-culture, then the time is probably now. 

More and more people are coming to terms with the real current state of living in our westernized world. Folks are waking up to the perils of consumerism, the emptiness of meaningless jobs, and the realization that even the things they thought they have, they don't truly own, and never will

Having more stuff, doing meaningless work to get it, and not being in control of what you already own, is no longer an acceptable way of living. Especially, if it doesn't make you happy and you have to exert more and more effort every year to keep up with demands. 

Some people blame their problems on someone else or on their circumstances. By transferring responsibility they are sinking even deeper into the abyss of the infirm. "It is someone else's fault". They have to fix this. There should be a law against this!", is a common refrain. The Government is doing it or not doing enough. It is Trump's fault. Trudeau cannot be trusted. Soros paid them off. The Chinese are to blame. Idiots are voting. The system is rigged!

Unfortunately, no amount of calling on the Government, someone else, demon, or deity, to solve our problems or bowing to postmodern moral grandstanding will solve the problem we have. Changing our leaders is unlikely to have the desired outcome. Protests won't work. It is more likely to get people killed or jailed. Life will not get better when the racists desist, men disappear, you change your gender, white privilege is punished, refugees leave, sinners stop sinning, we all become vegan, Brexit is cancelled, Mother Earth "saved", or feminism wins.

Taking Command


Instead, more and more people are looking for alternatives to the current conventional way of living, and they are doing it by changing their thinking. People are downsizing, leaving behind, moving on, checking out and taking back control of their lives for themselves and the people they love around them. 

These folks all have one thing in common. They no longer give away control and responsibility for themselves and for their circumstances - not to an ideology and not to an institution, religion or state. They alone are taking command for their own sake, and for those around them!

We like it. 

There are a growing number of "movements" that is evidence of transitional thinking. Homesteading, tiny houses, minimalism, self-education, growers, makers, Vanlifers and Fulltimers, are only a few ways of how a counter culture is developing. It is a movement in opposition with the conventional way we are told we should live to be happy and successful. People are going against consumerism with living tiny, minimalism and through homesteading. They are leaving meaningless jobs behind and becoming self-educated makers, craftsmen, growers, bakers, brewers, traders and online entrepreneurs. They are throwing off the shackles off locality by adopting nomadic lifestyles and avoiding mortgages, licensing and taxation. They barter and use alternative currencies for trade!

People are realizing that we alone can take responsibility for our life and our destiny. It is the only path to a happy and fulfilled life. We have to solve our own problems first before we decide to put the blame on something external from us. It is done in small steps and by tiny increments. 

We believe that people's value system changes when they decide to take control of, and for themselves, and when they start to make things. Something as simple as frying an egg, folding your clothes or making your bed has the power, over time, to change a life. It changes a person because it restores ownership. With ownership comes responsibility. This simple concepts of ownership and responsibility confirm value or worth. With worth, there is meaning and purpose for yourself and for those with whom you choose to share. 

Making Beer


We are big proponents of making things. Our hashtag states, #makesomething!

We are making our own beer thanks to the innovate beer brewing equipment of WilliamsWarn, and the quality concentrated wort from Black Rock Brewing, both from New Zealand. By making our own beer, we believe we make better tasting, fresh, more healthy, and affordable beer. We drink our beer without the need to front-up for licensing, packaging, distribution, excise and taxation. It is probably one of the most liberating things to do in today's age!

We are encouraging all beer lovers to give it a try.

We are so enthused by this that we checked in with Andrew Hope from iKegger NZ to see if there is an even easier way we can make our beer while we are traveling in our vans in New Zealand. He gave us what we needed from his selection of kegs, taps, lines and sleeves and we are set to start our van beer brewing experience this March when we return to New Zealand.

Observations


Andrew confesses that he has a vast and enormous love for beer. He and an Aussie mate came together and founded iKegger.

iKegger NZ is a kiwi owned and run business that specializes in stainless steel portable Mini Beer Kegs and Growlers which have integrated taps and are powered by CO2 through mini regulators. It's like having your own personal bar with beer on tap, at home, but also the flexibility to take it with you when you are out and about!

iKegger kegs are based on the same ball lock fittings that homebrew keg setups work on so they can easily link into existing kegerators or "keezers" and the fittings will work with your existing kegs too. We think that they not only have a better way to transport and keep beer, but we can also brew in the kegs while we travel. We will do it with the help of Black Rock Brewing ingredients.

Andrew kindly provided us with what we need to get started with our brewing experiment. We ran a few test runs during this southern summer and will be ready to showcase it when we return this March to New Zealand. In the meantime, please meet Andrew and reach out to him if you are in New Zealand. He may have a plan for your next fresh beer.

Hendrik
Beer Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

Photos


Brew Keg

Brew Team

Beer Tanks

Hellfire!! Story for another time...