Category Archives: Coffee Roasters

Getting a Good Cup of Coffee in Dubai: RAW Coffee Company

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When you think of Dubai, you may think of Toobuy and many moons ago, when I thought about opening up a speciality coffee shop somewhere in the World, I thought about Dubai. Well, why not – they had big shopping malls, flashy cars, the best paid expatriates with tons of perks, a growing coffee lifestyle market, the highest amount of 5 starts hotels with the highest occupancy rates in the World at that time and even now the tallest building in the World, BUT they didn’t have good coffee.

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Sure, all the major coffee chains from the UK and the US are there but still, not good coffee. So, I thought, let’s break the bean and start something special. In any case, as you know, I chose Cape Town to pursue my dream (I sold Escape Caffe in February this year) but I’m glad to report that someone else beat me to it a few years back, RAW Coffee – at this moment, the only speciality coffee operator in Dubai, focusing on sourcing fair trade and organic coffees and roasted locally in Dubai – located at Warehouse 10, Al Manara, al Quoz – in an industrial complex of the very busy Shaykh Zayed Road.

I like what they’ve done with the place to make it feel more authentic – first of all it’s in a converted warehouse – as you enter on the left, there’s the La Marzocco Strada machine to make espresso based coffee and other gadgets as well as a brew bar with an Uber boiler to help make pour-over coffee.

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On the right they have a “green” living wall and some chairs. Walking through to the back, on the left hand side of the warehouse/shop, there’s a glass enclave featuring not one, but three coffee roasters – so they import and roast all their coffees (When the proprietor, Kim started, she only had one Probat, now she’s expanded to another two, a giant 18kg Coffee Tool roaster and a smaller Dietrich sample roaster).

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I think the main reason for this is that they also supply some restaurants – a list of their customers is on their website. Dotted around on the ground floor to add more authenticity are heaps of green coffee sacks. Right at the back of the shop, there are some stairs to a small sitting and workshop area at the top, overlooking the rest of the shop. You can sit and drink coffee from a very authentic solid wood table or relax on some bean bags. In any case, if there’s more than 4 of you, I would recommended sitting upstairs and chilling out.

Now, to the coffee. Upon entry, I ordered a flat white as I usually do to test out their milk frothing and latte art skills. I noticed that another customer was very impressed with the latte art as he kept looking at it and I silently thought “Erm! I know this is new to you, but eventually you’re going to have to drink it”.

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Lots more people, mainly expatriates, shuffled in briefly to buy bags of coffee. For my second test – I usually order a pour over to test the roasters skill with the bean and have to confess, I thought the coffee a little too darkly roasted for me – it was good with milk but as a pour over, pure black, slightly bitter with no delicate notes picked up. I quizzed the barista present as to how he prepared my coffee and in conclusion the water was too hot (over 92C) and the dimensions (20g with 200ml water) way too high. He apologises profusely and my cousin, accompanying me for his first speciality latte (he is used to chain style coffee) bought two 500g bags of coffee for me to take back to Vienna, so that appeased the barista somewhat.

I would have loved to have met Kim but it was Friday afternoon and I guess her time off.

In any case, to the best of my knowledge, if you want a speciality coffee experience in glitzy and flashy glass skyscrapers Dubai, I recommend you escape into RAW coffee.

Visit them online at www.rawcoffeecompany.com to order coffee and get directions to where they are. They’re open 7 days a week; offer barista courses and sell all types of equipment for the very keen home barista.

 

 


Salt Caramel Espresso ?

This year – yes, disgracefully so – it’s my first blog of 2013 – I’m into feeling, which means that if I feel like doing something related to pushing my taste buds further, then I’m going to do it.

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So, here we are. Salted Caramel Espresso ??? Did I arrive at this because I found this wonderfully unusual coffee, roasted by a supremo and brewed it in an unusual way ? NO! Simply, I manipulated one of the major elements of the espresso brewing process. BUT, first up, a little about the raw ingredient – the coffee itself – Shakisso from the Sidamo Region of Ethiopia, from the 2011-2012 season, grown at 1800m above sea level, organically grown and sun-dried on raised beds, shipped in grain pro bags (???). Who was the roaster ? Espresso Lab, Cape Town and how did the roaster describe the taste ? floral, silky body, soft chocolate, honey, jasmine, stone fruit, sweet lemonade and tangerine – quite a mouthful and quite a wide range of tastes. Now! that might seem delectable to some readers, but the main reason I bought the coffee was because I trusted the roaster and not because of the taste profile, because based on past experience, if you don’t have a very developed palate and extra-ordinary attention to detail in preparing coffee, using the best – yep! the best tools, then there’s no way you are going to experience some of those wonderful taste profiles described by this or any other skilled roaster.

Where am I going with this ? Well! What do I feel like tasting when I buy coffee – something special all the time. I never buy coffee for the sake of buying coffee. I buy coffee from trusted roasters and I don’t mean Illy or Lavazza. I mean people who spend time roasting with passion. BUT, I do have some taste preference when it comes to coffee – I love caramel, cocoa, dark chocolate, hints of milk chocolate, toffee, butter toffee (typical of Square Mile Coffee) , silky smooth wrap around yout tongue, vanilla, maple syrup, honey, pecan, praline, roasted cashew (organic Ugandan I once had), grapefruit acidity and probably more that I haven’t developed yet and of course SALTED CARAMEL.

So what did I manipulate ? Just the water. I added a few drops (say quarter of a teaspoon) of Himalayan Pink Salt into the water tank before I brewed my espresso – that’s it and wow, what a delight for my taste buds.

If you like something and people always tell you, don’t do it, it’s not right, at least give a shot once and you may not regret it and if you do, at least you experience something different, right ?

Good luck.


@ The Vienna School of Coffee

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It seems natural that Vienna, one of the first places to launch Europe’s coffee culture, should have some sort of World renowned coffee school, BUT, that wasn’t so, until Joanna Wechselberger opened one up in the late noughties (the decade before 2010). If you have been reading my blog, since it’s inception in August 2007, then Jo (that’s what I call her) was behind the first serious espresso based coffee shop, Mocca Club (now closed after new ownership) in Vienna. I learnt a lot from her on my way to becoming some sort of coffee geek. In any case, Jo’s Vienna School of Coffee now has a lot of respect, as Jo is one of only 3 master baristas in the World whom the SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe) has authorised as barista trainer, international judge, brewmaster and certifier. Any barista reading this, would know of her, as during the World Barista Championships (WBC) in June 2012, her school, equipped with the latest Nuova Simonelli T3, was used by all competing baristi to practice – in fact she still has their timetables for all their practice runs up in her school.

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Now, the good bit. Yes, the Vienna School of Coffee (VSC from now) is a training school, run by Jo, teaching everything from coffee tasting, different brew methods, latte art, to professional SCAE barista level courses and upon request, she will run courses for friends for a fee of course. This means that from Monday to Friday, the VSC is closed to the public, but on Saturdays from 10am until 3pm, you can pop in for a chat about coffee and Jo or her mum (trained by Jo, of course) will make you an espresso based coffee too, at no cost, but you will be embarrased not to pay at least the normal price for espresso in Vienna €2 or €2.70 for milk based espresso, i.e cappuccino.

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Now, isn’t that cute, a ristretto ?

Jo is also a trained coffee roaster, sourcing direct trade coffee for different regions and you can also pick up some freshly roasted coffee too. She has single estate coffees as well as espresso blends on sale, as well as brewing equipment, such as Hario V60s, Aeropress, Syphons and other bits for sale. Also on sale is Jo’s book on coffee in German, but happy to say, translated into English as the The Ultimate Coffee Book – for beginners and professionals – of course, I have one, bought by my wife.

From my past visits, Jo seems to be getting a bit of a following as back in September when I visited, I had jo all to myself to tal coffee, but now, I’m like in the queue, But that’s fine, the more the word spreads the better. I’m also planning on arranging a coffee tasting session with some coffee enthusiasts early in the new year of 2013, so feel free to get in touch with moi.

Until then, if you are in Vienna over the weekend, pop by to

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The Vienna School of Coffee

22 Hahngasse

9th District, Vienna

http://en.viennaschoolofcoffee.at/

 


I’m Drinking… Has Bean Coffees

Almost upon arrival back in Europe, I was already on the search for great speciality coffee and decided to scan the sites of my popular roasters. In the end, after reviewing countless coffees on the http://www.hasbean.co.uk site, I opted for 3.

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Wote (Washed)

Well! I have a fond palate weakness for Yirgacheffe coffees and this was actually the first one on my list and the first one I tasted naturally. In general, Yirgacheffe coffees tend to be quite aromatic and floral in taste with an underlying acidity and this was no exception. Using the inverted Aeropress method, a light grapefuit acidity could easily be detected, winning over the more citrus lemony aspects of the coffee. However, on using the Hario V60, a burst of sour lemon dominated the sweetish grapefuit acidity element of the coffee, making me select this coffee for my after dinner drink using the Aeropress method.

Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pacamara Natural “Funky” 201

 

Wow! what a mouthful and boy was it one. Steve of Has Bean describes this coffee as “strawberry angel delight…. and mad as a hatter”. I’ll confess, I wasn’t picking up the strawberry delight, but I don’t even know what I was picking up, so I agree with Steve on the “Mad Hatter” description. The taste notes were jumping up and down on my tongue, making it one of the most exciting coffees I’ve had a for a while. I just couldn’t pin it down and it’s one of those coffees you just have to try. Never put milk in it, more exciting on the Hario V60 and one to make you forget about your problems at the end of the day – it has a creamy chunky mouthfeel with huge body (more so on the V60 than aeropress). I’ve got to mention that these arabica beans are humongous – just looking at them, made me laugh – twice in size as the Yirgacheffe – they are the bigger ones in the cup at the top of the post on the right.

And Finally…

Phil ter Filter Blend (using 50% El Salvador Finca Santa Petrona Red Bourbon, 30% Nicaragua Escondida and 20% El Salvador Montserrat Washed)

I selected this blend because I was intrigued by the concept of a blend for filter machines, plus I needed beans for the afternoon and could only use a Filter machine, so I thought, “why not ?”. My former colleagues were like “here’s the coffee man, so what’s brewing?”. I knew that using the V60 or the aeropress would be time consuming, so this fitted the build, so to speak. The Filter method traditionally rinses out the more delicate methods in the coffee, so we were limited to the darker side with hints of brazil nuts, dark berries and cocoa. Nevertheless, a good pick me up coffee in the afternoon ahead of long meetings.

 


My Fave Coffees So Far…

The year seems to be going through pretty fast and I thought about documenting what has delighted my taste buds so far this year in the World of Coffee. First up, was the Colombian Gaitania, roasted by then St Ali London (now Workshop Coffee), which I picked up at their sister store, Sensory Lab (now Workshop Coffee) on Wigmore Street. I fell for this coffee when I first tasted it on an aeropress in Clerkenwell and made sure that before I left London I picked up a bag to take back to Cape Town with me. I featured it as a coffee at my coffee tasting event at Escape Caffe and then enjoyed the remainder at home on an aeropress. It didn’t disappoint on every brew, displaying a clean caramel light acid taste. I used this coffee to induct my 12 year old daughter on the pleasure of drinking coffee on an aeropress and she too was pleasantly surprised by the clean sweetish taste she experienced. I have to confess,  I can’t see many coffees beating my experience of this bean this year, at least on the aeropress.

 

 

A close second has to be the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Konga, sourced by Union Hand Roasted Coffee (another top London based roaster). I’m glad to report that they now have a satellite shop or should I say “Field Office” in true UN lingo, in Cape Town, down the road from my caffe, Escape Caffe on Bree Street, Cape Town. At the forefront of their Cape Town branch, located on Buiten Street, is Gerald, the main roaster, who had 4 months of training at Union Hand Roasted in London before being sent back to Cape Town. When I told Gerald I wanted something special for my Coffee Tasting Event/ cupping sessions for customers (held on the 1st Saturday of every month), he highly recommended this bean. At first, I was wondering why I loved this bean so much – light, sweet finish, hint of caramel, sour berry and pleasant + soothing effects. It should come as no surprise then that I have featured this bean on 2 occasions. On the second, I even had the pleasure of sampling the bean roasted in 2 different ways – sample roast 10 days before and large batch 5 days earlier – subtle difference but the 10 day old roasted got the edge for me as I felt it was more developed and had a cleaner/more refined finish. For the record, the Yirgacheffe Konga is washed. The taste profile for this bean – well! Again, I asked my 12 year old daughter to taste and give me her profile “caramel and hint of blueberry Daddy” – well you never, the taste profile on Union Hand Roasted website is blueberry caramel – Wow! My daughter’s going to be better than me.

I can’t leave without at least mentioning a Square Mile Coffee bean and here we have Rwanda Musasa Rushashi. Described as having a hint of graprefruit acidity, I felt this was more pronounced only when brewing on the French Press. Other taste profiles, reminded me of black berries and hints of dark organic chocolate. In conclusion, an unusual bean and perhaps not everyones “cup of coffee” but that’s what makes it interesting and after all not all coffees are supposed to taste the same. I preferred this coffee after a heavy meal and for livening the senses.

 

 


I’m Drinking… Verve Coffees

Lucky me, I must say. I first heard about Verve Coffee Roasters in early 2010 when I was researching ideas for the logo for my cafe, skimping through countless logo and typeset books. when I came across the one for Verve, it stopped me in my tracks. IOt was obvious that this company had taken their logo and branding very seriously, employing the services of a top firm to do so. As soon as I got home, I searched for them on the internet, reviewed the concept behind the logo and was also impressed that their commitment to their branding was backed up by their serious commitment to speciality coffee. So, you can imagine how excited I was when following them on twitter and reading abot their new coffees, I hinted it would be good to taste their coffees one of these days – and in came the reply, “sure! send us you address and we’ll send you some”. I tried to contain my excitement, having beforehand  tried to buy some of their coffees on-line, but shied away at the astronomical postage costs from Los Angeles all the way to Cape Town –  so I replied “that would be great, but I live in Cape Town, South Africa”. Jon from Verve didn’t seem to mind and voila, roasted on 29 September 2011, my coffees arrived by mid-October – well in the zone, as I prefer drinking coffee not before 7-10 days after the roast date. And my, what a package it was:

3kg of their single estate espresso from Costa Rica, 250g bags each of Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees, a wonderful coffee mug and some brewing tips – talk about spoilt for choice and very lucky me. I was so excited that everyone in my family now admires Verve Coffee Roasters (kids and wife). So, what was the drinking experience like:

For the Single Estate Espresso, it was as they said it was on the packet “Sparkling”, which is what you would expect from a high-prized coffee from Costa Rica Helsar: C. Alpizar, from Los Naranjos Region roasted medium – high in acidity with honey like colours, making a volcano with your taste buds. I tested them out as single shots (one of my fave pics below)

And sure, it was sparkling – enough to wake both you and your taste buds up in the morning. I however, preferred this coffee when mixed with well frothed milk for a cappuccino or macchiatone (Italian version of a Cortado) – for this method, I got “soft” caramel, with hints of milk chocolate.

However, the real prize in the package were the Ethiopian (my favourite of the bunch) and the Kenyan coffees, which I thought  were “exceptional”. For the Kenyan, Ndimaini, being your typical bold and berry-ful coffee, I extracted it using the French Press and Hario V60 methods and this coffee made me fall in love again with the V60 method. It was like the Kenyan coffee was roasted only for a pour-over – very delightful to drink, complex flavours, full in your mouth with dark berries and a mild hint of dark chocolate. I should add that I adhered to Verve’s coffee tips (a bit simlar to mine, 20g of freshly ground coarse coffee with about 200ml of off-the-boil hot water) when brewing their non-espresso coffees. Not only was this another discovery, but it made me think, “these guys really know their coffee and how to get the best out of it” so they must have spent a lot of time on their brewing methods vis-a-vis the roast profile of each coffee.

OK! the Ethiopian, Biloya. Naturally, I used the aeropress method for this – why ? Usually, when I sense a coffee is really special, aroma, look and feel, I think it should be treated gently, which is how I relate to the aeropress – the most gentle way of getting the best out of your coffee. Again, I followed Verve Coffee guidelines and the taste profile was as they described (which I tweeted about), raspberry and wrap around your outer tongue, citrus.

However, following my tweet about my experience, I got some feedback from DearCoffeeILove You (aka DCILY) about Verve Coffee. After a brief interaction on twitter, he (sorry, I don’t know his real name) pointed me to his post about his aeropress method, which you can read in detail here. In summary, his method got him into the top 4 of the World Aeropress Championships in October 2011 (Yes! there is such a competition) and involves reducing the dosage to 16g with 92C 215 water, using a slightly finer grind than what I use, and with more steeping time (1 minute to 1.5 minutes). So, off I went and immediately tried his method, bringing out my scales, measuring jug, etc and wow! my efforts were not wasted  – the taste profile changed dramatically – It reminded me of my fig and orange honey cake – so we are talking about dried sweet fruits, with honey completed with a citrus linger.

Since then, I have been using this method for extracting coffee, the aeropress way. A bit of a digression, BUT I had to share this wonderful revelation.

Back to Verve – I just found out that they are now 4 years old and that they have just opened (23 November 2011) their third store in LA and from the pics, it looks amazing. So happy for the residents and future customers of their 1540 Pacific Avenue store. Read more about them on their website HERE.

Thanks a lot Verve Coffee Roasters and keep up the good work.

 


My Best Coffee of 2010

I know it’s late BUT I’ve got to let you know about my best coffee of 2010 because it will just be unforgivable if I didn’t. So what was it ? It was, CAPAO CHAPADA DIAMANTINA or Capao for short. It hails from Brazil, was roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London. It’s primary taste notes were described as toffee, cocoa, hazelnut with a slight vanilla finish. There, they got me – whilst it’s almost normal to find taste profiles along the lines of toffee, caramel, hazelnut, almond, cocoa, chocolate, it’s very rare to find vanilla. Trust me, I’ve tried. Square Mile even went the extra mile to tempt me “it’s like snickers in a cup”. Snickers being the chocolate bar with a peanut nougat base, topped with peanuts and caramel and wrapped in milk chocolate. Now ! tell me that isn’t tempting.

However, I’m not that shallow to fall for looks alone or in this case, taste profiles. So what did it really taste like and why did I really like it that I gave it the high accolade of “COFFEE OF THE YEAR”.

So, what did it taste like as an espresso….

Oh my God !

And as a Cappuccino….

This isn’t real

and as Americano…… This can’t be happening to me

and finally, in a French Press…. OK ! you’ve got to be kidding right.

You know what they say “somethings are better left unsaid” OR “few words have the impact of thousands “. OK ! the last one is slightly made up, but you can quote me on that.

In summary, let’s just say this coffee was inspirational. Even my barista at Escape Caffe, poured his best latte art so far.

Capao Heart Close

As a cappuccino, it was the best experience – creamy and buttery (the latter a square mile signature), toffee like, cocoa all over my mouth, finishing off with vanilla.

As an espresso, nice body (and looks too) with toffee and hazelnut to the fore, just wrapping around your tongue and delghting your stomach.

As an Americano, there was almost full body crema and similar tastes experienced in the espresso were enhanced with toffee and caramel dominating.

The final taste test was in a French Press, but before that one proviso for those less gifted. Usually, coffee that is made with such vigour using the espresso machine, just doesn’t cut it when extracted using more subtle methods like the French Press, but not in this case. The taste was still amazing “vanilla and cocoa with a hint of berry in the finish and lingering way past 30 minutes”.

So, in summary again, this coffee was not only great, or should I say fantastic in taste, but very versatile across many ways of drinking it.

So sad to see it go, but I pray it comes back in 2011. Well done Square Mile for getting it and roasting it just perfectly for me.


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