Luxury, a new perspective


The picture above is from the Rolls Royce website. I don‘t know about you, but I was kind of surprised by this. OK, I admit, I’ve never actually sat back and thought about what the Rolls Royce website should look like but I probably wouldn’t have thought like this. Obviously they have a massive PR department, marketing experts and quite a large budget. And, according to said experts, this is what a Luxury car manufacturer thinks it’s website, it‘s showroom to the world, should look like. This is what Rolls Royce thinks will capture the eye of prospective buyers. Gone are the days of understated elegance, subtle British beauty and “old money”.

I work in the car business, so I asked around and got some interesting feedback. (yes, the following numbers are word of mouth and not confirmed by the BMW Group… but I bet they‘re not a million miles away either)

  • The most important market for Roll Royce currently is China
  • Average age of a Rolls Royce buyer is 23
  • The buyer will have an average of eleven cars in his/her garage
  • Extravagant interior and exterior colours are a must
  • The buyer will more likely pay cash and does not want to wait.

After hearing this, the website and how Rolls Royce are marekting themselves makes perfect sense. The young guy lounging in the drivers seat with shades, stubble and what appears to be an AP Royal Oak Offshore Chrono on his wrist is the customer Rolls Royce are now going for. Let’s be honest, the english gentleman who has always driven (or been driven in) a Rolls is going to stay loyal anyway. It’s the new kids on the block they’re after now.

And you can tell.

​ value (noun \ˈval-(ˌ)yü\)

Definition of value

  1. the monetary worth of something
  2. a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
  3. relative worth, utility, or importance

Tynan had a great piece about value on his blog. He explains that value is almost entirely subjective and down to the individual making the decision. This got me thinking about what I value highly and I agree totally with his point of view. Some things that I am prepared to spend a lot of money on, have a huge value to me but likely not for the next guy (mechanical watches being a case in point). Check out his post for the things that he thinks are of high value to him. If you keep reading, I’ve listed a few things, that for me, have value… for better or worse.

House — good value

The house I bought in 2014 is probably the best money I have spent. Yes it was eye wateringly expensive and I‘ll be paying off the mortgage for a long time. The value comes from the area it‘s in and the fact that the market is amongst one of the most stable in Europe, meaning that when it‘s sold, the achievable price will still be strong.

Espresso — good value

I’ve written about espresso here before. For me, it’s not just about drinking that shot of coffee, but the whole experience. The initial outlay is rather high but as soon as you’ve got your gear set up to make yourself the best shot of espresso, there is no going back. It provides many types of subtle values for me. The actions of preparation are a kind of zoning out, talking and writing about it let’s me satisfy my nerdiness and it also promotes social activity (everyone congregates at the espresso machine at some point).

Suits — bad and good value

I own four suits. Two of them are fitted. I don’t have to wear a suit everyday, but on occasion it is necessary.
Bad value: The two non fitted suits are good, smart suits by well known labels. Compared to the fitted suits though,  it’s like wearing pajamas. I just don’t enjoy wearing them, so even considering the reduced price I paid for them, they have a lower value.
Good value: Every time I put a fitted suit on, I feel good in it. I look good in it. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to suit up, you may as well do it properly. So even though the fitted suits cost a lot more, I enjoy them more -> higher value.

Expensive meals — neutral value

This is tricky, as a lot of restaurants price themselves according to area and surrounding prices. I really appreciate the craft of cooking with high quality ingredients and superb presentation and will gladly pay the price this costs. Any time I feel this not to be the case, it feels like a colossal waste to me and I likely never go back there again.

Travel — bad to good value

I like to travel and have done a fair bit of it in my life, but it is also a very tricky point, as it wholly depends on the reason for and mode of travel for the price paid.
Bad value: paying a minimal, off season price for a train ticket but having to stand in an overfilled, stinky carriage.
Good value: Paying a seasonal premium price for a flight but having an epic adventure and the experience of a lifetime.

Facebook, Instagram, … — bad value

Ok, of course I haven’t spent money on Facebook and co (at least not in a classical way). The currency that is needed here is your time and attention. Sure, you can see what’s going on, catch up with friends, find old school mates, marvel at how others are “winning” etc. Unfortunately, a lot of the content on these platforms is being driven by companies and slowly but surely how advertisers want us “the punters” to like, feel and ultimately think. The reason I have stopped using FB and only look at Instagram occasionally, is because I wasn’t getting more out of it than I invested. I was wasting time and ultimately felt I needed to step away. I don’t miss it.

All of these things are my thoughts and my values. Obviously they will be different for you.

Espresso

Ahhh the scent of espresso in the air. I love it.
So, what is it exactly and why is it so hard to get right? (I’m looking at YOU most restaurants and cafes).

Definition

espresso ( noun espres·so \e-ˈspre-(ˌ)sō\ )
plural espressi
  • coffee brewed by forcing hot water through finely ground, compacted coffee beans
  • a cup of espresso
>The following explanations are via wikipedia, my opinions come after them<

Brewing

Espresso is made by forcing hot water under high pressure through finely ground, compacted coffee. Tamping down the coffee promotes the water’s even penetration of the grounds. This process produces an almost syrupy beverage by extracting both solid and dissolved components. The crema is produced by emulsifying the oils in the ground coffee into a colloid, which does not occur in other brewing methods. Generally, one uses an espresso machine to make espresso. The act of producing a shot of espresso is often termed “pulling” a shot, originating from lever espresso machines, which require the pulling down of a handle attached to a spring-loaded piston, forcing hot water through the coffee at high pressure. Today, however, it is more common for the pressure to be generated by an electric pump.

my bit:

I’m not sure if this is clear, but if you’re serious about espresso, you’ll be getting your own machine… and also a grinder. Don’t forget a grinder. When you have taken the plunge and invested in an espresso machine, you need to practice. You need to take your time, make small modifications to grinding the bean, tweak the size and length of your shot and generally find your taste preferences by trial and error with your setup. Putting a capsule in, pressing one button and then bumping into George is not quite the same thing.

Espresso “roast”

Espresso is both a coffee beverage and a brewing method. It is not a specific bean, bean blend, or roast level. Any bean or roasting level can be used to produce authentic espresso. For example, in southern Italy, a darker roast is generally preferred. Farther north, the trend moves toward slightly lighter roasts, while outside Italy, a wide range is popular.

my bit:

Don’t get bogged down with what bean you “should” buy. Tastes are different and just because it’s a well know brand, doesn’t mean it’s for you. Again, take your time and try out different beans and blends. Some online coffee websites offer test packages with small quantities of different brands. Go wild. This is a long game. Once you’ve found “it” you’ll know.

Shot variables

The main variables in a shot of espresso are the “size” and “length”. This terminology is standardized, but the precise sizes and proportions vary substantially.

Size

The size can be a single, double, or triple, using a proportional amount of ground coffee, roughly 7, 14, and 21 grams; correspondingly sized filter baskets are used. The Italian multiplier term doppio is often used for a double, with solo and triplo being more rarely used for singles and triples. The single shot is the traditional shot size, being the maximum that could easily be pulled on a lever machine.

Length

The length of the shot can be ristretto (or stretto) (reduced), normale standard (normal), or lungo (long). These may correspond to a smaller or larger drink with the same amount of ground coffee and same level of extraction or to a different length of extraction. Ristretto, normale and lungo may not simply be the same shot, stopped at different times – which may result in an under extracted shot (if run too short a time) or an over extracted shot (if run too long a time). Rather, the grind is adjusted (finer for ristretto, coarser for lungo) so the target volume is achieved by the time extraction finishes.

my bit:

When you’re at home, you will likely only be pulling single normal shots. As you get to grips with your machine, this will become second nature. The amount of coffee, the tamping pressure, length of time it takes etc. will all lead to your fave shot of espresso. Honestly, I can’t remember ever making myself a doppio. If needed, I just go again.

Barista

A barista (from the Italian for “bartender”) is a person who prepares and serves espresso-based coffee drinks.
While the title is not regulated, most coffee shops use the title to describe the preparer of coffee and operator of an espresso machine. Espresso is a notoriously finicky beverage, and good manual espresso making is considered a skilled task. Beyond the preparation of espresso and other beverages and general customer service, skilled baristas acquire knowledge of the entire process of coffee to effectively prepare a desired cup of coffee, including maintenance and programming of the machine, grinding methods, roasting, and coffee plant cultivation, similar to how a sommelier is familiar with the entire process of wine making and consumption. A barista can acquire these skills by attending training classes, but they are more commonly learned on the job.

my bit:

If you’ve ever had an espresso in an Italian espresso bar, you’ll know the difference between those guys and gals, and the people who work in Costas. Just saying.

Opinion

As most people drink cappuccino, latte, macchiato etc, cafes neglect the quality of the shot of espresso, because the customer can’t tell if it’s good or not. The steamed milk and whatever else people have started putting in their coffee disguises the taste of the shot. Therefore, more often than not, when an espresso is ordered, the drink itself is below average. When you do happen to chance across a cafe that can produce a good espresso, tell them. And keep going back for more.

“I want” … didn’t get

I saw one of these the other day (pic from the internet) and it reminded me of the first time I really wanted something. I started an apprenticeship at BMW Munich in 1991. I was 17 years old. Every morning my Dad would give me a lift on his way to work. On this daily journey at daft o’clock in the morning we passed a used car sales lot. Front and center on the court was a red 1972 Triumph TR6. It was magnificent, absolutely wonderful. I could picture myself, roof down, cruising the hip avenues with onlookers melting with jealousy (the guys) and awe (the girls). We never stopped at this car lot, I never actually got closer to the car, my car, than about 15 meters. Still, I knew I HAD to have it even though I wouldn’t have a license for another year, even though I had nowhere near the cash the dealer was asking for. It was mine. After a whole year of lusting after this gorgeous little car every time I was driven past, we had to take a different route due to roadworks that lasted 3-4 months. When the road reopened, to my horror, the car of my dreams had gone. Not just the car, the dealer had closed and vanished. By this time I had a license and even a few hundred notes (not enough, but a few none the less). It took a long time to get over that car and every time I see one…. I kinda want one, you know?

Realistically I was never going to buy that car at that time, but the connection I had with it is something that I still think about and smile at.

Want -> can’t have -> fantasize about -> repeat.
This still happens to me now. Oh well, what can you do? 😉