Make sure all your gaps are filled

The staff of a restaurant operate in what looks like organized chaos. Everybody runs around the place like they’re going to run into one another at any time. Hostess, manager, bartender, they all have their job. If you went to a restaurant with a bar but no bartender, you’d die of dehydration before you get your Bloody Mary. That’s because the bartender has a set of skills that fills a role. Non any employee can fill that role. Even if one of them went to school, they might not have the temperament to be a bartender. Having a full bar requires a bartender that is good at his/her job.

If you think of yourself as a restaurant, you have many stations to fill. Chef, busboy, waiter, all these positions need to be filled with the right people. And as the owner, it’s your responsibility to do so. Also part of your duties as a manager is bring up areas that have deficiencies. You have to look at all your stations and let people go or fill positions ASAP.

It’s important to sit down with yourself and take an inventory of all the areas in your life. What areas are you lacking in? What areas are you completely deficient in? What are your strong points? You can then start filling these areas with knowledge. When you do this you get more efficient at other things and can build on what you’ve done.

A lot of people think that there’s a time limit on learning. They feel like once they get a certain age that they have filled all the spots in their “restaurant”. It turns out that they’re only serving breakfast with a skeleton crew when they’re set up to be a 24hr fine dining establishment. Fill your toolbox with as many skills as you can. There really is no limit to what you can learn. The only thing holding you back is time and effort.

Think of the person that you want to be and plan out what you have to do. You don’t have to fill all your spots at the same time. Make sure that you fill them properly before moving on to the next thing. Taking a methodical approach to this makes it easier and helps you stay organized. In the end you’ll be you’ll be running like a swiss watch.

Get into a weekly routine!

 

rat-race-2395779_1920

Do you fly by the seat of your pants most days? Do you convince yourself that you work best “on the fly”? You might be hurting your progress more than you think.

Could you imagine of an airport ran that way? We wouldn’t be able to get anywhere. They follow a “strict” schedule so they can get the most people to where they have to be as fast as possible.

You should use this philosophy in your day to day lives. Making a schedule is one of the most productive tools that I’ve implemented in my own life.

There are various ways to do this of varying detail:

Method 1 would be to take one day a week (I use Sunday) and write down all your high level important activities and assign them to a day of the week. Assigning the task is very important.

Method 2 is to assign your tasks a day AND time. This is scheduled into your calendar (digital or paper). You then review your day every morning so you know what you have to do and when.

Both of these methods give your task importance. And by doing so you give them priority in your day. Until you get them down on paper, they are just ideas and not actions. Whichever method you come up with on your own, making a schedule make you aware of how much time you need to get all your tasks done for the week. You’ll be surprised about how much time you really have and how much you can get done.

EP003- The CTE Podcast- Learn a New Language and See Big Changes

Hello everybody and welcome to The CTE Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. I’m your host, Andres Paniagua. This podcast is brought to you by Cafe Tres Estrellas. CTE is an artisan small batch coffee roaster that specializes in fair trade organic coffee. If you need a good cup of coffee, visit them at www.cafetresestrellas.com. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the show.
This is episode 003 of the podcast and today I’ll be talking about the reasons why you should learn a new language.
In the previous episode I talked about the benefits of reading for self improvement. One of the benefits was that you could learn something new. Why not use the time you schedule for reading to learn a new language? You might be saying to yourself “why do I need to learn a new language? I’m not planning on going to a foreign country”.
The benefits of learning a new language all come back to brain health. Sure you could use your time to learn to play chess or learn about history, but learning a new language has some unique benefits.
For starters, it can make you a better English speaker. The process of learning a new language will make you aware of your deficiencies in your native tongue. Improving these deficiencies will make you a better speaker and writer in English.
Learning a new language also improves your memory. The need to learn vocabulary and then learning rules to use the vocabulary uses different parts of the brain. Exercises like these have been shown to delay and completely stop the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
And finally (at least for the sake of this podcast), it can help you improve your social skills. You can either use what you’ve learned to talk to others in your new langugage or attend a class and learn with others.
All that being said, I’ve decided to start learning French. I just downloaded the Duolingo app on my phone and I’m starting with the goal of 10 minuted a day. I’ll be keeping you guys updated on then I start and of my progress. And if anyone has any tips on learning a new language, I’d love you hear them. Merci in advance.
So that’s the show for this week. Thanks for listening. If you  have any comments or questions on the things I spoke about today, please leave them in the comments below. You can email me at andres.thectepodcast@gmail.com if you want more information about the show or its sponsor.

EP002- The CTE Podcast- Reading Everyday Can Make Big Changes.

Hello everybody and welcome to The CTE Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. I’m your host, Andres Paniagua. This podcast is brought to you by Cafe Tres Estrellas. CTE is ansmall batch coffee roaster that specializes in fair trade organic coffee. If you need a good cup of coffee, visit them at cafetresestrellas.com. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the show.
This is episode 002 of the podcast and today I’ll be talking about how reading can improve your mental ability.
I have a question for everyone. Why should you read every day. A while back I found myself kind of stuck. Kind of like my head wasn’t on straight. I was in a fog. It turns out that my brain was on auto pilot. It was just going through the motions. Don’t get me wrong, I was getting stuff done, but I felt like I was just checking things off of a list.
Once I started reading, all that changed. And when I say reading, I mean making time to read something that had nothing to do with my day. Leisure, self help, educational, whatever it is, it’ll make improvements in your life. Not only because you learn something new, but you’re mainly because you’re exercising the most important muscle in your body. Your brain.
So here 6 reasons that reading improve your mental health and well being.
  1. It slows down aging in the brain- research shows that doing creative or intellectual activities such as reading can slow cognitive decline by more than 30%.
  2. Reduces stress- reading can help reduce stress by taking your mind off of things you’re worried about. If you Immerse yourself in a good book, you can forget about “real life” for a while.
  3. It can encourage you to do something new- If you read an inspirational story or read about someplace new, you might be encouraged to do or travel someplace new.
  4. It makes you smarter- 5-15% of the words we learn come from reading. So even if all you do is read romance novels, you have a high probability of learning so something new.
  5. It improves your brain health- Each part of your brain is assigned a different task. vision, language, etc, they all work together to help you function. So if you neglect an area of the brain, like the reading part, the whole brain suffers.
  6. It can help you save money- as a form of entertainment it’s relatively inexpensive. And if you get a library card it’s free. So compared to the movies or a concert, its a cheap date.
So how do you start implementing this into your life? What I did was I put it on my calendar. 15 minutes of reading everyday. You could also set a book per month reading goal. No matter method you choose, reading is a great form of self improvement and entertainment. Give it a try and you’ll see results in no time.
So that’s the show for this week. Thanks for listening. If you  have any comments or questions on the things I spoke about today, please leave them in the comments below. You can email me at andres.thectepodcast@gmail.com if you want more information about the show or its sponsor.

EP001- The CTE Podcast- Introduction

Hello everybody and welcome to The CTE Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. I’m your host, Andres Paniagua. This podcast is brought to you by Cafe Tres Estrellas. CTE is an artisan small batch coffee roaster that specializes in fair trade organic coffee. If you need a good cup of coffee, visit them at cafetresestrellas.com. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the show.
This is episode 001 of the podcast and today I guess you guys should know up front that I made this podcast for a completely selfish reason. I needed a reason to keep going. Once you change a few things about yourself and start seeing improvements, you could start to talk yourself into believing that your job is over and that it was successful. This is a big mistake.
So I thought that sharing what I’ve done and finding new information to share would keep me on task. And at the same time help others that are looking for ways to improve parts of their life.
Topics I’ll be sharing will range from physical to mental improvement and financial to spiritual. Not only will it be things that I’ve already done but I’ll share progress on new things I start.
Food and fun will also be included because being happy comes from all sorts of places. I’ll also have interviews with others that have decided to make positive changes in their life.
I’ll  be taking questions and topic suggestions form listeners as well so get them ready.
So that’s the show for this week. Thanks for listening and I hope we can all make positive changes in out lives together. If you  have any comments or questions on the things I spoke about today, please leave them in the comments below. You can email me at andres.thectepodcast@gmail.com if you want more information about the show or its sponsor.

Do you know where your coffee comes from?

 

No matter where you go visit in the world today, you will find a coffee shop or cafe.  The big commercial shops now popular in the States, the unique coffee houses of the Middle East, and the traditional quaint cafes of Europe and Latin America.  Coffee has become the drink of choice for most people around the world.  But I wonder how many people actually know the hard work and long journey behind those tasting little beans.

 

Like most things in nature, the coffee plant is very unique in where is grows.  As a tropical plant, it only grows in areas around the Earth’s equator between the tropical zones. After about 3-4 years, the now mature coffee tree gives clusters of beautiful, fragrant white flowers that become the coffee berry almost a year later. Inside the little red or sometimes yellow coffee cherry is the 2 bean seed that we use to make coffee. Each little tree will provide the farmer with only about a pound of beans, crazy right.  The two most commonly grown varieties are Arabica and Robusta, and the one you want to drink as a specialty coffee fan is always Arabica.  You know all those labels and descriptions that talk about the altitude the coffee was grown in, well that is because Arabica only grows up high and that is what gives those little beans such unique flavors and sweetness. Robusta beans are usually used for the large commercial store brands and other coffee uses.  Enough about the plant, that was my gardener side coming out.

 

So as you may have already guessed, coffee is actually grown in a ton of places, but most are lower income countries.  Each country and each region within a country gives us very unique flavors.  Most growers are small coffee farmers who together with their families and farming neighbors harvest the cherries over three times as they ripen.  The important thing to learn here is that coffee farming is a slow process that requires tons of hard work but in the end does not pay the farmers much. More on that in the next post.  

 

Once the cherry is ripe, most coffee crops are picked by hand. That is because that awesome tasting coffee we love grows in the hills and mountains and tractors don’t work well up there.  The hard working laborers/farmers who pick the coffee are in really good shape, they pick up to 100-200 pounds of those cherries a day.  They are then paid for the total weight of coffee they picked.  And you would never know that in most countries the laborers are women. Impressed yet!

 

So now you have a bunch of coffee fruit that needs to be processed in one of three methods to get the beans out.  The Dry (Unwashed or Natural Process) method is the traditional way and simply involves drying the cherries in the sun, while turning them during the day for several weeks.   If you like a smooth and heavy-bodied cup of coffee, then look for coffees with this process.  In areas where water is more available, they use the Wet (Fully washed) method that pulps the fruit off the beans and is then fermented in water to remove the remaining pulp.   This type of coffee is for those of you who prefer a less acidic balanced coffee with more of the fruity notes. The newer less common Honey method (Semi-washed/wet or Pulped natural) is basically a mix of the two previous methods, partial wash and then left out to dry.  But the Semi-washed varies from region to region, sometimes it’s fermented a little, sometimes it’s washed a little more. Now the result is more of an earthy, heavy bodied, coffee with mild acidic Each method really just depends of what is available to the farmer and yes each method creates a unique flavor profile in the beans.  

 

At this point, we have green fresh coffee beans that are usually sorted by hand and get to export.  The final product is exported through different means either directly by the farmer, through farming cooperatives, and in most cases by large coffee export-importers.   Then they arrive at the coffee roaster who roasts the beans in large or small batches. Each batch of processed green coffee must be carefully roasted to bring out its unique flavor characteristics.  The fresher the roasted coffee, the best flavor the coffee will give you.  
Now you know everything about where your cup of coffee comes from!  Well almost everything.  So go and explore all those different speciality coffee beans, you will be surprised at the uniqueness grown  and processed in each country and region.

Do you know where your coffee comes from?

No matter where you go visit in the world today, you will find a coffee shop or cafe.  The big commercial shops now popular in the States, the unique coffee houses of the Middle East, and the traditional quaint cafes of Europe and Latin America.  Coffee has become the drink of choice for most people around the world.  But I wonder how many people actually know the hard work and long journey behind those tasting little beans.

 

Like most things in nature, the coffee plant is very unique in where is grows.  As a tropical plant, it only grows in areas around the Earth’s equator between the tropical zones. After about 3-4 years, the now mature coffee tree gives clusters of beautiful, fragrant white flowers that become the coffee berry almost a year later. Inside the little red or sometimes yellow coffee cherry is the 2 bean seed that we use to make coffee. Each little tree will provide the farmer with only about a pound of beans, crazy right.  The two most commonly grown varieties are Arabica and Robusta, and the one you want to drink as a specialty coffee fan is always Arabica.  You know all those labels and descriptions that talk about the altitude the coffee was grown in, well that is because Arabica only grows up high and that is what gives those little beans such unique flavors and sweetness. Robusta beans are usually used for the large commercial store brands and other coffee uses.  Enough about the plant, that was my gardener side coming out.

 

So as you may have already guessed, coffee is actually grown in a ton of places, but most are lower income countries.  Each country and each region within a country gives us very unique flavors.  Most growers are small coffee farmers who together with their families and farming neighbors harvest the cherries over three times as they ripen.  The important thing to learn here is that coffee farming is a slow process that requires tons of hard work but in the end does not pay the farmers much. More on that in the next post.  

 

Once the cherry is ripe, most coffee crops are picked by hand. That is because that awesome tasting coffee we love grows in the hills and mountains and tractors don’t work well up there.  The hard working laborers/farmers who pick the coffee are in really good shape, they pick up to 100-200 pounds of those cherries a day.  They are then paid for the total weight of coffee they picked.  And you would never know that in most countries the laborers are women. Impressed yet!

 

So now you have a bunch of coffee fruit that needs to be processed in one of three methods to get the beans out.  The Dry (Unwashed or Natural Process) method is the traditional way and simply involves drying the cherries in the sun, while turning them during the day for several weeks.   If you like a smooth and heavy-bodied cup of coffee, then look for coffees with this process.  In areas where water is more available, they use the Wet (Fully washed) method that pulps the fruit off the beans and is then fermented in water to remove the remaining pulp.   This type of coffee is for those of you who prefer a less acidic balanced coffee with more of the fruity notes. The newer less common Honey method (Semi-washed/wet or Pulped natural) is basically a mix of the two previous methods, partial wash and then left out to dry.  But the Semi-washed varies from region to region, sometimes it’s fermented a little, sometimes it’s washed a little more. Now the result is more of an earthy, heavy bodied, coffee with mild acidic Each method really just depends of what is available to the farmer and yes each method creates a unique flavor profile in the beans.  

 

At this point, we have green fresh coffee beans that are usually sorted by hand and get to export.  The final product is exported through different means either directly by the farmer, through farming cooperatives, and in most cases by large coffee export-importers.   Then they arrive at the coffee roaster who roasts the beans in large or small batches. Each batch of processed green coffee must be carefully roasted to bring out its unique flavor characteristics.  The fresher the roasted coffee, the best flavor the coffee will give you.  

 

Now you know everything about where your cup of coffee comes from!  Well almost everything.  So go and explore all those different speciality coffee beans, you will be surprised at the uniqueness grown  and processed in each country and region.

 

Totally Overwhelmed

On October 1st, 2016 I attended Coffee Fest in Anaheim California. This is an industry trade show where vendors showcased their products from industrial roasters to coffee cup sleeves. Held in the Anaheim convention center (next to Disneyland), I thought it would be a good idea to attend since it was so close to home.  

 

So I packed my snacks and laptop and headed to the show. Of course, me being me, I got there super early. There was no line at registration because even the vendors had not arrived. I was given a bag and the  conference schedule so I looked for the classes that I had registered for. They also had free classes that you could attend before the show started. I picked a class and went up to the meeting room. It was a talk on buying green coffee so it was right up my alley. Unfortunately, the speaker was nowhere to be found. I guess he had too much of a good time the night before. It was a free class, so I figured I couldn’t complain much.

 

The good thing was that there was free coffee. One of the vendors set up a coffee stand in the common area. They also had a barista competition. The baristas were competing in Latte art. All the artists we good, but you could tell which ones took their art more seriously.

 

Once the convention started, I went to my first class: coffee roasting 101. Both speakers were very knowledgeable in their field. One worked for the SCAA (The Big Coffee Association) and the other owned the company whose roaster they were using. The class lasted about an hour and it was the first time I had ever seen coffee being roasted. First crack, second crack, I was able to see, hear and smell all the things I had read about on the internet. This was a great class given the circumstances. We were all in the middle of a conference hall. The roaster was a prototype that was going to be released later that year (2016). It was about the size of the roaster that we’re going to buy (1kg).

 

After the class I had about a 2hr break until my next class. This gave me some time to wander around the convention hall. People from all over the world were there. I guess this was a big event. This was my first time in the coffee “environment”. It became apparent right away that I was out of my element.

 

After a few hours of looking like a fish out of water, it was time for my second class. Cupping 101. This was a much larger class, I guess it was going to be good. I sat in a large round table with other students. People from all aspects of the coffee industry were seated. Farmers, importers, roasters, students of coffee. We had lots of cups, water, spoons and coffee in front of us. Score cards and note paper for all the coffees that we were about to try were neatly placed in front of us. My coffee tasting experience was pretty binary at this point, and it still is. We tried three different flights (I borrowed this term from beer tasting). Each flight was different is some way. Roasts, regions, processing methods each impart their own characteristics to the bean. The people there were naming all the flavors they could taste in the coffee. Leather, flowers, berries were all terms being thrown around. All I tasted was coffee. I could tell the difference between the 6 types of coffee. But is was just good coffee to me. I’m not sure if this is a skill you’re born with or if it can be cultivated.

 

After the cupping class, I wandered the exhibit hall once again. Everyone seemed to act like they belonged there. Every stall had someone standing there asking questions. I stopped by a coffee importer that I had spoken to via email earlier in the week. They are headquartered about 15 minutes from where I currently work. I expressed my feelings of anxiety and they reassured me that it was normal. They shared that there was a lot to learn and that I should give it time.

 

I ended my visit to Coffee Fest 2016 with a trip to Downtown Disney. My kids would kill me if I didn’t bring them a souvenir. I stopped at one of the restaurants and reflected on my day. I questioned if this trip was a big waste of time because of how little I knew or if it was an eyeopener to all the things I had to learn. Either way, it makes a good story and starting point.

 

I can perform surgery after watching a YouTube video

Not really…but it feels that way. Every time I need to learn to do something, I always check with YouTube. So when I needed to find something to start testing coffee roasts, it was no different. So I searched “homemade coffee roaster” and got a long list of search results. This set-up below was the most popular and closest to what I needed.

home-roaster

All you need is:

  1. A turbo oven (as seen on TV)
  2. A Stir Crazy popcorn popper
  3. An aluminum spacer
  4. A few bolts, nuts and washers from the hardware store.

At the highest level all you have to do is:

  1. Purchase all the equipment
  2. Throw away the bottom part of the Turbo Oven
  3. Throw away the top of the Stir Crazy
  4. Rip the heater and over temp switch out of the inside of the Stir Crazy
  5. Replace the plastic motor shaft from the Stir Crazy with metal hardware you purchased from the hardware store.
  6. Assemble the Stir Crazy, aluminum spacer (I used a modified air conditioning coupling) and Turbo Oven.  And there you have it, ready for roasting.

The other things you need are:

  • Fan for cooling the beans after you’re done ( just your typical fan)
  • Wooden spoon for moving the beans around while cooling
  • Scale to weigh out your green beans
  • Tongs for removing the metal spacer (it gets hot)
  • Oven mitts for handling the Stir Crazy

Total cost (for me): $60

Now this roaster will not get you a Diedrich level (the Cadillac of roasters) roast but with the right bean it’ll be better than anything you’d buy in the grocery store. Now, you might think, if I roast them, I will have a  bias but believe me really good coffee is really fresh good coffee.

If you are interested in experimenting with roasting coffee beans, nuts or anything else, without spending a ton of money, I would recommend giving this a try. Like most things food, nothing beats freshly roasted!