Caffeinated Russia

drink coffee hot.jpgThis summer I was invited to Russia. A fascinating journey to the land of vodka, bears and Putin. That’s what everybody thinks.

I was on a mission to discover something else but vodka. Coffee!

I got a few bags of coffee from five different roasters from Australia and head to Russia to visit some of the biggest coffee houses and Russian Barista Association. What did I expect? Not much, because I even didn’t know whether a coffee culture existed there. Well, here is one big snobby thought of mine.

In Melbourne you don’t hear a lot about Russian baristas. Hmmm, not me at least.

But according to BusinesStart analysis the volume of the Russian coffee market reached more than $3 billon US dollars. It is one of the big markets in the world! The supply of coffee in Russia has increased by almost 80% in the last 5 years with 30% of the volume consumed in two main cities, Moscow and St Petersburg. Definitely something to look at.

I arrived in St.Petersburg at midday. My thirty hours journey added up to one very long day in the most beautiful city in Russia. I just had time to get a shower and run to my first cupping.

So many questions raced through my mind: Is the water good here? Can you drink it from the tap? How do they choose a water supplier if they buy potable water? How do they prepare coffee? Which tools do they use? I was also curious to find out whether our coffee tasted anything like it does back home. And on top of this I wanted to find out how established this market is and what growth potential they have.

I was on a mission with the Australian coffee flag in my hand!

Now imagine! A Scandinavian style café inside of an old Baroque building. Sounds like a mad mixture? It is! Mad coffee espresso sits behind the main city streets. Here I met Irina, a Barista trainer and International coffee judge, who was leaving to Budapest the next day where the World Coffee expo 2017 was just about to open. It is 6 o’clock in the evening and the café is full. St.Petersburg doesn’t sleep, it is celebrating White Nights which means that the sun never disappears, so you can drink coffee at any time of the day, especially if you are not planning to go to bed. Definitely not in my case today.

mad coffee.jpgI noticed that the majority of coffee here is from Ethiopia and Colombia. We started cupping. I caught myself thinking that our coffee tasted good, but not as good as back home. I missed the vibrant note and the depth of a beautiful floral bouquet of my favourite Australian roaster. In comparison, their coffee was a bit darker but roasted to suit the quality of the local water. I was slightly disappointed of the performance of our coffee but decided to try their espresso. Well, after a drink I certainly felt better. Espresso in Russia is something not many people drink and I, probably, know why.

After the cupping I asked Irina what did she think about coffee. She seemed to be positively surprised by the variety of beans although I just brought coffee from Indonesia, Tanzania, Colombia and Ethiopia. The Russian coffee market is swamped by Ethiopian, Kenyan and Colombian coffee, so not often she would have an opportunity to try coffee from Sulawesi or Java. She mentioned, that as a judge she would be impressed to see coffee from Indonesia or Tanzania. But, Ethiopian Geisha took the first prize in today’s cupping.

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My second cupping was with one of the first and most interesting coffee houses “Bolshe coffee” – an unusual name with an unusual interior and one very friendly and professional owner, Nicolay. They do public cupping every Thursday which usually attracts around 15 people or more. The cupping with coffee from Melbourne was announced on their Facebook page and brought in 35 people or so. Not bad for a midweek event.

Nicolay went on to show me “his” St.Petersburg by visiting some amazing coffee places. It was so fascinating to see many alternative brews on every café’s menu and it costs less than the “standard” machine coffee. The main reason behind that idea is to attract the attention of alternative brewing methods and single origins. Some sort of a Marketing tool that promotes additional education. I have to say, it works. Here I saw more people drinking coffee from Chemex or V60 than in Melbourne.

A few days later I had a meeting at the North-West Coffee Company (NWCC) and Russian Barista Association (RBA). Lost somewhere in a forest of warehouses, the North-West Coffee Company shares an office with the RBA. And what an office it is! Run by an immigrant from England – Chris – NWCC is the biggest roaster in St.Petersburg. I brought a few samples in order to try their coffee with our Melbourne water. I call it “Revenge cupping”.

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I have to say, I tried their coffee in a café and was pleasantly surprised. To be honest, even their baristas don’t look much different to ours: tattoos, beards, shaved heads and snobby looks.

We set up for a cupping on the workbench next to the Mahlkönig grinder and Hario scales. I caught myself in a déja vu image. That’s how I know it from Melbourne. We talked about the industry, it’s difficulties and the necessity of education and investment into barista’s training, coffee supplies, the lack of International workshops and about water quality. Unfortunately, no one drinks water from the tap in Russia and it made my life so much more difficult. I was struggling to throw one plastic bottle after another in the bins.

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A few days later I head down to Moscow which was such a different experience.

After visiting a few cafés, the famous and biggest chain Double B, Drinkit and a few others, I had a clear understanding that coffee culture here is definitely on a rise and people are prepared to pay premium for a better quality, cup of coffee in Russia costs around 300 Rubble, what’s equivalent almost to $8 AUD.

Water in Moscow was closer to Melbourne’s, yet in Terrefacto – one of the biggest roasters in town – they took a decision to buy a potable water in big 19 litres bottles. It gives them consistency and provides filtered, good quality water.

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I definitely was expected in Moscow. In the office of Terrefacto we had one of the biggest blind cupping sessions together with the whole team plus some International guests. Australian roasted coffee was on offer directly next to the coffee from Copenhagen and coffee roasted in Moscow, some of the samples were even from the same region. It was a great experience where I got to know not just new talented people but passionate coffee professionals from different countries.

You might wonder, what does coffee in Moscow taste like? Great! Our coffee tasted better in Moscow too, it was fruitier and rounder than in St.Petersburg, though slightly “tired” from travelling. During the blind cupping we were guessing the origin and the roaster of the coffee, and to be fair few times I was confused where was our coffee and where was a coffee from Moscow. Light roasts, juicy, mouthful coffees from Ethiopia and Kenia were a few of my favourites. But for home I took Moscow roasted coffee from Yemen. That’s something I look forward to cup in Melbourne soon.

I spent more than 3 hours there and we were sharing news from the coffee industry, deciding to keep in touch and, hopefully, make this an annual experience.

Overall, this Russian experience was very positive. There is a lot to improve and develop as Russia is a vast land of opportunities. But as it happens in any young market, it’s often starts with a few passionate fanatics and that means curiosity and fast development. Next year, it might be a completely different story. Hopefully, I will be back soon with a news from a Russian Coffee Forum.

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Climbing thoughts

shadow (2).jpgI’m on the run.

Again can’t find a time to reflect myself. I should do it like Tolstoy who had at least 3 diaries with him and a pencil everywhere he went. One, the main diary, was shared with every member of the family (I would love to be a part of such family evening readings), another one was kept for his ideas and a third one for himself, this one he would hide in the trousers or in his shoe.

Every little thought was recorded and reflected. May be that’s why he is still the writer number one on the planet and a great thinker?

A few days ago I stayed up late with a friend and shared a bowl of ramen in the CBD. Thanks God there are a few places in Melbourne which are open all night long. And of course, we were discussing a cosmic energy transmission and a transition of one type of energy into another; what else can you discuss at 2am?

Anyway, knowing the first law of thermodynamics, which says that energy doesn’t disappear, it just transforms itself into another form, we assumed that the energy of electric impulses in the brain plus a few chemical reactions create a thought; thoughts create movement, movement is physical action which leads us to the following: electric impulses in your brain is the cause of physical movement. The energy of movement is undeniable cause we can see and may be even measure it. That leads to the assumption that the same energy in form of a thought exists and that means it can travel. Are you still with me?

Now here is the most interesting part: if it can travel it means that with my thought I can transmit the information over an indifferent distance. Not that I opened something huge now. It is a well-known fact, but I just suddenly realised that by thinking I create a big wave, which travels the space and effects people’s senses and potentially influences my future. Boom! Your wishes – your commands. So that brings us to another conclusion: firstly that only those people who think positively will have a positive future. And, secondly, that enthusiastic people are more likely to succeed.

My granny was right when she said to me: you always have to think good and positive – every moment of your life – because once a day there is a minute when your wishes come true and if your thought is bad it will effect you quickly.

O.k. today I decided to take my time not just tracking my thoughts (Oh, hello, meditation!) but also dream bright and big.

That’s what I wish to you too!

Ministry of Manpower…or… Power of Man in Ministry

20170709_172333 (3).jpgIn former times I used to think that Governments and legal institutions around the world are alike. That there are always a Ministry of Finance, Culture and Sport, Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Science and Innovation, Ecology and Environment… what else is there? May be Tourism, Employment and Social services.

But the older I grow and, hopefully, the more I know the more I notice a few differences.

For example, I didn’t know that in Australia there is a Minister for Women (strangely, but this time it is a woman who curates it. If I would be a man I would talk about discrimination…), a Minister for Indigenous Affairs (white person, of course) and no more Ministry for Climate Change (that’s been cancelled, may be due to a fact that we found out that climate stop changing. Bad news… or, may be a good news?).

I wrote once that in the UAE there is a Ministry for Happiness, which probably gives orders on how citizens have to feel and live. Looks like Ministry of Happiness needed in a country where women have no rights at all. That’s probably why they need it – to control their happiness.

I even got to know that in Bhutan they created a Gross National Happiness Index similar to a GD, as indicator of the country’s economic development. But this one is based on Buddhist principles, so they decided to create a Secretary of Gross National Happiness too. Well, I wonder if my happiness would be measured in percentage or days equivalent, or will it be just a dry number? The government probably sends you a happiness slip with this text: “This year you were happy for only 180 days, which is lower than the average. Please ensue you make yourself happy due to reflecting our policy” or so. Let’s assume that I’m an absolutely happy person (which is quite close to the truth) and my neighbour is the complete opposite. On average our neighbourhood is 50% happy. I guess, that’s a positive number, which makes us all so positively equal…. At least they don’t have a Ministry of Truth, like in the famous book “1984”.

India, for example, created a Ministry of Yoga. Their Minister is probably sitting in the lotus position for 14 hours a day to ensure that the whole Ministry enlightens. Or is he stressed from trying to relax people?

I recon, we also need something like this. I said it long time ago that we need a Minister for AFL (and let it be a pretty woman….please? She probably will find a common ground with every player.)

This time in Singapore I saw a Ministry of Manpower. I don’t know what it means, but surely it must be something that human beings do the best. What could it be “A power of a man”? Where is it? Is it in words, art or construction? Or is it a power of negotiations? Yes, that’s probably it. We are human and we are known for the ability to THINK and WRITE. That’s what puts us aside from animals. So, my guess is that the Ministry of Manpower is a Ministry for Art and Science or in the worst case scenario is the union for trade or labour (how boring!). I couldn’t stop thinking and tried to search the Internet. It is a Ministry “…which is responsible for the formulation and implementation of labour policies related to the workforce in Singapore. The ministry oversees matters related to immigration, issue of Employment Pass to foreign talents, student pass, passport, visa, grant of residency/citizenship etc. The Ministry was known as Ministry of Labour until 1998.”

O.K. now I know that the greatest of all powers that us human being have is the power of Labour. Socrates was wrong.

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The morning rise

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There is one small town in Europe I visit every year. Almost always I drive through the same shady streets. And every year I try to notice a little differences on the face of that old town. EUROPE is conservative, they don’t like to change things. They repair, remake or redo thing again if they are old. But If something is taken down most likely for a restoration.

Once I noticed that one of the iconic bakeries took their store symbol off the roof. The bakery was sold to a bigger chain and a new contemporary design was introduced to the neighbourhood.

Shortly after I witnessed that the store symbol was put back in its place. The new, shiny and fresh Baker (the roof symbol) offered a bread and suggests a little more to the citizens of the town.

I don’t know if it is on purpose or not, but this baker has a bread sticking out from his basket as he promoting a men’s health together with a freshly backed rolls. Hot bread, hot guys – I guess, now I understand, why people loved him. Back in place above everybody else’s heads he is like a Cupid reminding everyone about the early morning rise.

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Day number 3

20170629_105634 (2)Today we are at almost 3000m altitude. My bum is on fire and the rest of the muscles are on strike. That path with a steel wire wasn’t quite straight (photo).

Reaching the peak I see…snow. Some sort of a Christmas in July. It certainly feels that way for me and I’m celebrating every second. Mainly because there is no more walking for today. But Champagne wouldn’t hurt. I’m sweaty, standing in snow in my short pants. Hot and cold «feelings» mixed together.

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Tonight we are staying in a hut on top of the mountain. It is busy here and we are too early. Bedtime is a few hours away and to be honest I’m looking forward to sleep, especially knowing that I gonna share a room with 11 other hikers. What could be better than a room of farting and snoring people? Oh dear! I find this thought is too disturbing to keep in my head. I need a help.

No book in my bag, only a phone with empty battery, so we decided to play cards for the rest of the day. It is not that kind of reward you are waiting for after a long and painful climb. But I quickly change my mind when I look at the snow and wind greeting newcomers. Anything is better in comparison. My mind, body and spirit are getting numb at that point. I’m reaching my summit. Looks like in altitude the air does become thin and less concentrated so do my thoughts. But there is always a reward when you least expect it.

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Clouds are gone and we can see that we are on the top of the world with a breathtaking view over Dolomites. The sun is visiting the peaks for the last time today to kiss and say “Good night”. It always does this way. Every day. For million of years and nothing changed. Time stopped. This feeling is worth millions. At this point nothing else matters, even not a few snorers.

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A cold invitation

20170701_111007 (2)Cold skin. Very cold. I touch my cheek again and to experience this feeling once more. It doesn’t feel like mine anymore. Rain and hail kissed my cheeks million times within the last hour.

Now it’s time to dive into a cloud.

Uncertainty disturbs. Especially on 2000 meters above the sea level on a sharp rocks.

I feel a brush of cold air on my lips, hairs and arms. Finally this milky universe swallowed me and there is no way back any longer. I even don’t know where is that «way back». Everything is white. Everything is the same.

Don’t stop.

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Now I can’t efford this luxury. I just look straight ahead and follow the marks on the track while I still can see something.

Fear. Joy. And curiosity. All mixed in a cocktail that I’m drinking now.

But the thought that I’m walking with a cloud makes me smile. A scarf of thick wet air thrown around me to protect from the cold.

I’m feeling strange here. I feel like I got invited for an event by mistakes.

This experience is impossible to forget. What a treat!

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Attempt failed, but recorded

20170525_094815I’m in Sydney again and I stayed at the same hotel as last time.

For those who don’t remember – last time I had a post about a marihuana shop with a signage: ”Who are we hurting?”. This time I thought I gonna check on the growth of the plants.

Well, the only thing I saw this time was an empty shop with a sign “FOR LEASE”. I guess, those plants grew too quickly and harvest is over. A restaurant next door didn’t get the reward from food traffic as much as it had planned initially.

But it did bring a small reward to the rest of us. If we do feel like something has to be done and changed then we are the ones, who are responsible for it. If you know that your attempt will fail it doesn’t mean that the attempt is a failure. We gonna keep trying and one day we will change something. For some people it is about marihuana, for others about their lives. A brave step was taken and surely it left its traces.

•••

 

Cost of recruitment or a Price for being nice

IMG_4192 (2)Once I met a boutique shop Manager. She just left a high end store to work for a local designer. On my question: “Why did you leave that place?”. She answered: “… they didn’t look after me. I was their best sales person, but I had no incentives, no “thank you” at the end of a working period, no appreciation, only plans to meet. Felt like they were using me.”

And I thought “why would people want to leave their employer if they got paid for what they did? Isn’t the whole point of work to get money you agreed on for a service you agreed to provide?”

I started to think and did my research.

It is not a secret that happy workers are 12% more productive than unhappy and more willing to stay after hours; they do extra work too. Unfortunately there are only 30-33 per cent of such happy workers. So 70% of workers are working on their 88% of capacity. That’s too much money to loose.

Find a new employee is an expensive exercise. Not only that their’s cost involved in the process of recruitment alone: advertisement, time of the internal recruiter, time of the person conducting interview, background checks and various pre-employment assessment tests. Studies show that “an average cost to replace an $8 per hour employee, determining an average cost from $5505.08 to $9444.47 per turnover.” “Chartcourse estimates it costs $40 000 on average to replace a nurse, while technology companies can run replacement costs of more than $125 000 per vacancy,”-says Financial Review. Studies like SHMR predict that it costs 6 to 9 months salary on average. That is a cost of training and speed and quality of performance.

What if an employee doesn’t need to leave? The other option is an internal promotion, which costs almost nothing to a company and brings more benefits not just for customers, but for other employees too. But sometimes it might be not an option at all. People have to or should leave a place and new blood has to enter the veins time to time, but holding on to a right person is a very necessary exercise, because it cuts costs for a company and gives stimulation for others. I’m not even mentioning the appreciation from employees, new ideas, faster up to speed performance and extra effort too.

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And here I remember another story from another industry. A Company didn’t want to employ anyone to fill up a position, they decided to wait for a the right person. When that person came in, they checked him in every possible way. He got offered a position as Sales Rep. A few days later he got to know, that he had to undergo a surgery which he might not survive after all. Besides, it might lead to complications and long recovery. He notified the company and said that he is sorry that they went through all that trouble. This company decided to leave the offer open and wait for the result of that operation. Kind? Wait a bit…

A day or two before the operation he was invited into the office where the director arranged a welcome lunch for him and gave that guy not only a signed contract which would cover his sick leave, but also a premium insurance for every occasion and family support.

Nice story? You would say that a right person deserves it? Surely, he deserves it even if they don’t know yet his performance, KPI and communication style? What do you think, does a person who has been working for a company successfully deserve acknowledgement too then? Yes? And even that person, who leaves after 3-4 years of employment deserves a “thank you” gift for all the money saved and the progression of a company? After all, knowing that average job change in Australia is 1,5 years, 4 years of employment history saved a company at least 6 to 12 salaries.

6 to 12 salaries? Well, in my case it was an email saying, that I was “one of the best employees they have” and that I  “will be truly missed” plus an offer to catch up if I want.

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Drug test or Painful question

mmm.jpgI haven’t been here in WordPress for a long time, but I gave myself a word as soon as I find a new job I will write at least once a week. Life a bit too hectic at the moment. Talking about hectic life and relaxation.

This week I was in Sydney. And while I was strolling through the streets of the biggest Australian city I saw this:

“Who are we hurting?”- said a shops signage. You might ask me what is this shop about?

If somebody didn’t get it yet – it is about giving love, sun and care for the plants. And I’m assuming people are waiting that those plants gonna “pay” them back. If they not gonna give them sun, they might provide some love and TLC.

And a restaurant next door got an extra traffic. It would be funny, if in a restaurant instead of the question: “What are you gonna drink today, guys?”, would ask: “Which drug are you gonna take today?”. Or something like: “We don’t supply marijuana, there is a shop next door. We are B.Y.O only”.

After all I guess there is no answer on the question “Who are we hurting?” apart from:  ourselves. But saying this, many people think this “pain” has to be legalised. We need to be free to choose our life, our death, our pain and our drug too.

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Среди повседневной беготни, где- то в Сиднее, я прочла такую вывеску магазина: “Кому мы причиняем боль?”. Приглядевшись, я поняла, о чем вопрос.

Посреди самого большого города Австралии люди выращивают марихуану, надеясь не только получить желаемый урожай, но еще и социально взбудоражить общественность.

Общественность взбудоражилась, трафик пешеходов увеличился, ресторан по соседству поучил все дивиденды. И мне стало интересно, если все же марихуану легализуют, то, например, в ресторане будут спрашивать: ” Вы пить будете или курить? По сути дела, посетители будут отличаться только скоростью выхода из ресторана и прямотой ходьбы.

Hard work

IMG_4263 (2)Two questions are now on the agenda of our professional workforce.

First one: Shall we implement siesta or not? And second one: Shall we cut penalty rates for Sundays or not?

First question is important for those who go to bed at 11 p.m. or later (that’s me, but not my partner). Here is why it’s important: if you have a nap for an hour and a meal for two hours and go back to work after that, it might stretch your working hours to the “forever” point. And you have to live and breath your work space literally, staying there till 9 or 10 p.m. Who wants such a life? (I know the answer -lawyers! But I’m not a layer.) Latest statistics shows that only 9-11% are happy to work where they are. So stretching an “unhappy practice” would not help to improve our world.

Other news sound almost insulting: from now on Sundays will get paid less. To be honest, I never understood why Sundays are so different to Saturdays, for example. Working on Saturdays means you are missing all the parties, but working on Sundays is quite boring (read: easy) anyway. So my verdict is – No sleep during the day, but more money on Saturdays and resting on Sundays.

That would be great! Better would only be the Swedish way: implement a robot which would work for us and produce goods, but money gets paid to the citizens because the robot decided not to take salaries or a siesta. So “Yes” to Sunday siesta, Saturday high pay and robots at our workplace. The only thing I’m worried about is if robots don’t care about pay and rest, I hope, they also don’t care about promotions.

•••

Два рабочих вопроса сегодня на повестке дня- сиеста и отмена высоких окладов по воскресеньям.

Ну с первым, все просто. Два дополнительных часа во время обеденного перерыва увеличат рабочий день до 9-10 вечера. А это значит, что с семьей я увижусь ночью. Не вариант. Зная, что большинство из нас ходят на нелюбимую работу (только 11% любят то, чем они занимаются), то продлевать пытки на целый день не хочется. Так что решено! Оставляем сиесту итальянцам и грекам.

А вот вопрос номер два не шуточный. Я голосую за поднятие почасовых ставок в субботу вместо воскресенья. В воскресенье все равно мало, что происходит. А вот в субботу – все вечеринки можно пропустить.

Так что, вот мое мнение- живем субботами, а спим по воскресеньям. Или еще лучше – все как в Швеции – робот работает, а население получает дополнительную выгоду, так как робот решил не брать ни денег, ни сиесты. Так что я голосую за расширение семей по швецкому варианту путем принятия робота в ячейку общества.