Monthly Archives: April 2010

Coffee Roasters: Red Cherry Coffee Roasters, Cape Town

It’s not very often that you meet someone who can talk to you about a coffee bean for hours and just amaze you with their knowledge on stuff you didn’t even know about coffee – but lucky me, because I met Audrey, the coffee roasting genius and one half of Red Cherry Coffee Roasters. Audrey and her husband, John have set up an amazing coffee roasting facility, albeit part of their garage in Cape Town environs, located up in the hills at a place called Noordhoek. I was lucky enough to be tracked down by them and more so to be invited over to check their operation out. Audrey is really “mad about coffee” and I often describe her as “someone who can talk to you about a coffee bean for hours” and I’m not joking. She may be relatively new to roasting (a few years already) but she’s travelled to London to meet with Square Mile Coffee Roasters (James Hoffman & Anette Moldvaer) to get tips, constantly studies everything there is to know about a bean before she roasts and doesn’t compromise on quality. In summary, they’ve got a coffee roaster in their garage alongside highly prized green arabica beans, ready for the “roasting”. Once roasted, after a lot of research by Audrey, where farms, altitude, varietal (i.e. type of bean) and many more variables have been checked, the coffee is usually “rested” for several days as it goes through a rapid de-gassing process. In this way through cupping, this will ensure that the correct profile for that specific origin will be determined. For the cupping, done in their well equipped kitchen, the coffees are weighed, ground and placed into specialist coffee tasting cups to ascertain flavour profile and characteristics, which helps to decide which coffees would go well in blends or just sold off as single estate origin coffees.

In addition, John, a trained barista and chief taster, pulls different types of shots on their very advanced ExpoBar Espresso Machine (where you can adjust the temperature easily per shot) to try and test at different temperatures, which coffees have brighter notes and which ones have lower tones. For example, higher notes generally bring out chocolate, caramel and nutty tastes, which go well with milk based espresso drinks or just as pure espresso.

I was lucky enough to join them at one of these sessions, where I learned the following:

The sharp taste you get when you slurp coffee is usually the mark of high acidity in a coffee, typical of African coffees, usually roasted by Red Cherry to preserve the bright fruity tones.

African coffees are usually quite complex, whilst Indonesian coffees tend to display more earthy tones – OK ! what’s that ? By earthy we mean spices that grow in the earth like vanilla, cardamon and cocoa.

Central American coffees are lovely when roasted lighter as you get brighter notes like mandarin, peaces and apricots, but when roasted a bit darker, you get higher notes like chocolate, caramel and toffee.

Kenyan coffees have dark fruit characteristics like blackberries and Tanzanian coffees can display citrus hints like lemon, dark fruits, dark chocolate and honey. Wow ! all this in a cup of coffee – better believe, BUT, only if it is properly roasted by an artisan roaster.

Light roasted coffees are usually best extracted at a temperature of around 92-94 C, where the emphasis would be on tasting the “brighter notes” of the coffee. However, these type of lighter roasted coffees can be intense and may be better enjoyed without milk. You see, I need a home machine like the ExpoBar – anyone feeling generous ?

Medium roasted coffees are usually best extracted at a temperature of around 94-95 C, where the emphasis would be to get the chocolate and nutty tastes like almonds, hazelnut, coupled with toffee and honey like tastes – probably best for milk based espressos.

Good coffee should still taste nice even when drank at lower temperatures, but more so when extracted using a French Press or Plunger.

There were some other lessons, but I was overwhelmed by the information and was probably cutting them in conversation as I tongue couldn’t stop as I fired away with questions out of pure excitement and delight at this incredible coffee experience.

I’ve already been to seen them thrice, making sure that I save myself for some exquisite coffee before I go. Even my wife, who doesn’t drink coffee (OK ! perhaps 8 times a year) has always asked for a cup whenever she goes.

My favourite is a flat white, because Red Cherry are really into perfecting the ultimate milk-based espresso blend, which I think they are close to as the current rumoured number one cafe in South Africa, is supposed to be Double Shot of Plettenberg Bay and they buy coffee from Red Cherry.

Red Cherry Flattie

Red Cherry Flattie

Furthermore and hot of the press, Audrey has been selected to be an international juror at the prestigious “cup of excellence” in El Salvador, where she will mingle with the World’s top roasters and tasters to determine the cup of excellence winners for 2010 – need I say more ?

OK ! So, how do you get this coffee ? Well ! at the moment, you can contact them by visiting their website, www.redcherrycoffeeroasters.com, selecting a coffee or some coffees you would like to try and give them a call for a good old chat about coffee but watch your phone bill and place an order – they’ll ship within South Africa. They plan on launching a webshop very soon and are working on selling their coffee through some retail outlets, so watch this space for that memorable day.

Just wanted to let you know that Red Cherry provided some inputs to the editing of this blog as it was easy for me to misunderstand some of the finer elements of the complicated and wonderful world of coffee.


I’m Drinking a Grand Reserve Coffee

Yes ! A Grand Reserve coffee – a speciality from top coffee grower, Aida Battle, supposed to be a special blend of coffees from her farm in El Salvador. Fruity and intense, yet complex and medium balanced on the acidity. Have I lost you ? If you’re an expert, then you probably want more, but I’ll just keep it simple for now. This particular batch was roasted by top roasters, Square Mile Coffee Roasters (SMCR) no less and if you have been an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know that I used to be a regular customer of SMCR -that is until I moved to Cape Town. So, how did I get my hands on this special coffee ? Only God could have made this possible but here’s the story behind it. I walk into one of my favourite cafes in Cape Town, Espresso Lab in Woodstock, get chatting to owner/roaster, Renato and spot the famous label bag on the shelf and asked how he managed to get a bag down here in Cape Town – “ordered through the internet of course”. But having read about the coffee on SMCR website a few weeks bag, I knew that it was really special with a real special price too, at about £22 (or $33 or 242 Rands) per 350g bag. Probably spotting the delight in my eye, Renato offered me a precious 40g free of charge, enough to make one French Press and one double espresso portions – thank you God.

You can’t imagine the excitement when I got home – I read about this coffee, grown by one of the top coffee growers in the World, roasted by one of the best coffee roasters in the World, unable to order it all the way from London because of the costs and here it was in my kitchen, ready to be prepared the way I love coffee, French Press and double espresso. OK ! Let’s get to work but be warned, as this is so special, I was inspired to focus on trying to capture the coffee as best as I could on photo, so that I could share the experience with you. I’ve already described the taste profile at the top of this blog, so don’t expect too much emphasis on taste profile, just enjoy the pics and dream.

First up, Le French Press. OK ! with this type of preparation, the fruity elements tend to dominate – very balanced as an afternoon cup after a light lunch, going down smoothly.

I was tempted to just drink the coffee as a double espresso to really experience it as a concentrate but there was a part of me saying “what would it be like with milk?” So, I went for a Cortado – a what ? It’s currently my favourite milk based drink, a Spanish version of a cappuccino, but with less milk, so you use about the same portions of milk as espresso, using a 150ml cup – so strictly speaking, a double shot espresso at about 50-55ml with 50ml frothed milk, which would have a foam of about 20%.

Doesn’t it look yummy and inspirational ? with this type of extraction and preparation, I found the Grand Reserve not too acidic with a soft touch of milk chocolate coming through the milk. I wish I had done this blog sooner when the coffee was readily available and then I could have said buy it now from Square Mile Coffee Roasters but I just googled it and I think Sweet Maria’s in the USA roast it too, so if you are reading this in the US, try and get it before it runs out. Until then, dream and if it’s out again, I’ll try and let you know somehow.


South African National Barista Championships, And the Winner is..

Wow ! what a weekend. I’m really loving being here in Cape Town. Just last week, some new friends of mine invited me to the South African National Barista Championships, which incidentally were taking place in Cape Town from 26-28 March at the luxurious Table Bay Hotel on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. I’ve never been to one before and sadly I’ll be missing the World Barista Championships (WBC) this year, which will be taking place in London – typical eh ! just when I leave Europe, they finally have it on my doorstep. So how was the South African version ? It seemed a bit low key to me on the promo side, although I found out there were some important “coffee” VIPS in the room, but nevertheless the baristas and their fans/families were very committed, cheering the competitors all the ways, with loud screams of support everytime they extracted an espresso or poured some latte art. In summary, each barista has to make 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos and 4 signature drinks for the 4 tasting judges and they are tested by another 2 judges for preparation, checking many things such as wastage in coffee preparation. I also managed to get a free 1kg bag of freshly roasted coffee from one of the speciality roasters attending the event.

This years winner was Ishan Natalie, who also won the competition last year. Ishan works for Woolworths – which should not be confused with the same name shops in UK or USA. Woolworths is an upmarket supermarket store so committed to coffee that they purchased La Marzocco GB5s for their standard espresso machines. They’re supposed to have a really good coffee roaster called Tribeca, which supplies them with coffee, sourced primarily from Africa but also from Brazil and other places. So here are some pics of the event; First up, the winner pouring some latte art

And second the winning drink, a signature coffee drink made primarily with espresso, cream and whipped eggs – almost like an eggnog latte without the alcohol – cups were pretty cool and the presentation tops, especially as Ishan didn’t compromise on effects by mixing some concoction to create a smoking ice glass placed underneath the winning signature drinks.

So, Ishan will be representing South Africa at the WBC in London, scheduled to take place in the latter half of June 2010. I think it may be held during the Caffe Culture event, but I’ll try and keep you posted.