Category Archives: Bean Talk – Coffees

A Cupping Session in Vienna @ Furth Kaffee


This is like Part 2 of my previous post in which I visited Sussmund with an informal coffee society called the Specialty Coffee Society. After that event, I proposed that for our next session we try a cupping session. So I got in touch with Charlie Furth, a Vienna based roaster whom I have known for a while. In short, our kids went to kindergarten together many moons ago, when everyone knew me as a coffee fanatic – I left Vienna for three years to open my cafe in Cape Town, and upon returning Charlie told me guess what ? I’m now a coffee roaster.


In any case Charlie owns Furth Kaffee a coffee roastery, who supplies cafes like cafe la marche, whom I wrote about here. At a little spot on Kirchengasse 44 in the 7th district, Vienna a former barista has taken over the shared space and runs a small cafe, equipped with a La Marzocco GS3 and some small bites. You can also buy coffee and some gadgets. It was in this small spot we had our coffee cupping session. Alternatively, you can shop online at http://shop.fuerthkaffee.eu/home/


I managed to get about 10 people, mostly colleagues including some toddlers to join us one Saturday in late September for a 2 hour session to taste coffees from around the World from as far wide as Mexico, Peru, India, Indonesia to Ethiopia and Kenya, with a guiding lecture from Charlie, summarised as follows;

  • smell coffee in two separate cups to adjust for differentials
  • coffee ground very thick, using water at 92C
  • Smell coffee
  • break bloom
  • Taste coffee from both cups using the cupping method, slurp if you dare
  • assess what you like and don’t like


It was really intriguing to experience the different phases of the cupping experience from smell to taste. In fact some coffees that smelt nice, didn’t quite live up to the taste test. The Peru smelt like vanilla but when I tasted it, it was not quite as intriguing. 


Nevertheless, the Kenyan didn’t disappoint and in fact I’m thinking of going back to buy a bag of it. Most of my colleagues were really impressed as it was their first cupping session and bought some coffees to take home.

Ever grateful to Charlie for arranging this session and I’m now thinking about our next session…. hmm espresso tasting perhaps.

 

 

Advertisements

I was @ Sussmund Kaffeebar, Vienna


A few weeks back a colleague sent an e-mail inviting me and two other guys to meet for lunch because she had never met three people so passionate about coffee. she thought it a good idea to get some coffee geeks together – a great idea. Because before we knew it, we even had a name”Specialty Coffee Society” – we just need to check if we can officially create one at the UN in Vienna. Before you knew it we were exchanging ideas on coffee and just this past weekend we decided to check a cafe out to start our “coffee crawl” missions. So, we decided to try out Sussmund – which means “sweet mouth” in English – how appropriate.

To be honest I’ve heard about Sussmund for a while now. Started by Nikolaus Hartmann, the roaster – it focused firstly on selling roasted coffee to cafes and restaurants, and it still does. One of my fave cafes in Vienna, Cafe Jonas Reindl, usually has sussmund coffee on their grinder as their house blend. In fact for a few months they also had a pop up shop in the heart of Vienna, which I was lucky to visit and had a piccolo (made like a cortado)  see below, where I also met with Nikolaus and had a chat about how he started, his mission and vision too.


But I’m glad to report that at the moment they have a mainstay, Sussmund Kaffee just off the centre, located on Dominikanerbastei 11 • A-1010 Wien – opposite the iconic post office, designed by the renowned architect, Otto Wagner. The cafe is actually located inside a furniture concept store, so you can grab a cup of coffee and sit on designer furniture and relax – of course if you really like the furniture, you can buy it too.

A little smallish but they have all gadgets – the Black Eagle espresso machine, all the filter brewing options using their coffees, roasted coffee for sale and brewing gadgets and accessories.

To try out this espresso milk based skills – you know my pattern now – I tried a cortado using a fruity coffee from Ethiopia and my colleague followed suit. 


She was so intrigued that coffee could taste sweet and not need any sugar and more importantly leave a pleasant fell in her mouth – another convert made to the world of coffee can actually taste sweet and not bitter. In fact, I said that we don’t usually describe coffee as “bitter” but more appropriately, “sour”, running through the 5 taste elements of sweet, sour, salty, hot and finally umami. So, I digress come d’habitude.

For our second round we went full on filter, Hario V60 and Aeropress. I tried a berry medium acidity Guatemalan coffee, complimented by what I must say a rather French tasting croissant – i.e. it was really good. Also on offer, before I forget are chocolate brownie cakes, banana, walnut and chocolate bread, pastries and other treats.


Very laboratory orientated.

A nice brew, sweet and sour at the same time. I also waited for it to cool down to check if it would get more sour, but it didn’t, yay!


We really enjoyed the kaffee – it was Saturday, so very relaxed and before we knew it 2 hours had passed drinking coffee and getting to know each other. Looking forward to our next venture, which I hope will be a cupping session at another cafe, so watch this space for more on the Vienna Specialty Coffee Society.

Before I leave, of course, I recommend visiting Sussmund – check their website too here


I was @ Hornig Coffee: A new Coffee shop in Vienna


I came across a booklet highlighting all the happening shops and eateries in Vienna and when I saw a picture of a new coffeeshop in Vienna that I hadn’t heard off, I was excited mainly because they talked about their commitment to coffee and the picture showed an array of a brew bar complete with uber boiler, and V60 brewing stations. So, it was on my radar for my next coffee exploit.

Luckily for me, when I decided to visit on Saturday, 5 days back – a freshly brewed post – I digress, I was drawn to a little commotion just outside the shop on Siebensterngasse 29, in Vienna’s 7th district – people handing out freebies. As I got closer, I noticed it was cold brew coffee. When was the last time I walked down a street and people were handing out free coffee – like never. I thought, this is my lucky day. Asked if I wanted to taste, my answer was in my eyes. Excited, I tried some and started chatting to some of the staff and before I knew it was in full blown conversation with the owner, Johannes Hornig himself.



Very unassuming , down to earth and modest and willing to share as much info about their vision and aspirations, we chatted with a friend of mine for about a hour about coffee, the world, Brexit and more.
Before I delve into my coffee experience a bit about them.

So, it turns out that Hornig have been around for a while and have been drum roasting since 1912, over a 100 years of coffee experience. They are probably second only to the famous Julius Meinl Coffee roaster in terms of sales with a strong market share in the bottom/southern half of Austria, being located in Graz, Austria’s second largest city. They focus on direct trade coffee, visiting coffee growers mainly from Ethiopia, Brazil and Guatemala to ensure they source the best coffee possible and have a well developed online shop where you can buy their coffees. Although they have a huge client base, selling coffee to cafes and restaurants, training baristas too, their coffee shop in Vienna is their first and perhaps the first of many. CEO since 2015, Johannes IV (yes his father, grandfather and father were all called Johannes) plans to take them further.

so to the coffee….


First up, of course is their cold brew, apparently also available in some Austrian supermarkets. They use their Brazilian coffee as their base to ensure low to medium acidity, because as you know, when coffee gets cold, the sourness begins to dominate and if you use a very fruity or high acidity coffee it can become quite sour as it gets cold. So, an easy to drink cold brew that should satisfy most palates. I grabbed a bottle to take home and save for a late summer day in September to try over ice or as an indulgent dessert with ice cream.


To test their espresso milk based skills, I ordered a double shot cortado, prepared by their chief barista, Barbara, for which they used their house espresso blend (80% Brazilian and 20% Guatemala). So, I detected a nutty base with an underlying fruitiness, which is what I experienced in the middle of my tongue.

So, I’ve saved the best for last – a filter brew using their Ethiopian coffee, a natural Arabica coffee variety of Illubabor Diduon, grown at over 1,800m, produced in a very small batches, close to 5-6 tonnes a year – apparently the minimum quantity as I was informed by Johannes, who has personally met the farmer himself. I asked for it to be brewed on the Hario V60. Wow! the tastes were quite exceptional, like a carnival in your mouth – floral, fruity spice bomb.

See PIC on top as my phone crashed and I lost all my other pics….

I was so intrigued by it, sipping it slowly until it got cooler. I asked Johannes about it and he explained how it had been sourced and how he had met the farmer. I didn’t leave the shop, without buying a bag to take home.

Also on offer in the shop are sandwiches, other drinks and some sweet bites, banana bread, brownies and others – I had a lemon slice, reminiscent of the sort I find in London coffee shops. At the moment they open everyday until 8pm, which I think is the latest any decent coffee shop opens in Vienna – good to know if I’m on the way to the movies and need a decent cuppa to get me through.

So, I’m happy to see another third wave coffee shop open in Vienna, where you can try  coffee in different ways.

Visit their online shop to learn here

They are located at Siebensterngasse 29, 1070, not far from Mariahilfer Strasse – one of the main shopping streets in Vienna


The Tasting Files II: Good Coffee


This is like a prelude or prequel to my first post, because I think my palate got so used to tasting good coffee, I was beginning to take it for granted. Perhaps that’s why I decided to venture outside my comfort zone of world class roasters like Square mile coffee, JB Kaffee, Workshop Coffee, Balthasar-Vienna, Tim Wendelboe and the like and try something different. I wanted to challenge my coffee palate and see if I could detect a pronounced difference.

So, after my previous post, where I tasted coffee from a tin, highlight the high and lows of my experience, I defaulted to my comfort zone. So, what does good coffee taste like ?


It tastes good. Is that it ?  Okay, here’s more…

It smells good – when my son was much younger, like about 5 – although he didn’t like coffee and still doesn’t – only my daughter followed my path – he got excited when he saw new bags of coffee in the house because he loved squeezing the vacuum outlet to ingest the lovely aroma. I liken children, at least under 10 to be like angels – they know the good stuff when they see it, or in this case, smell it. 

The roasters usually describe their coffee in very exotic terms – I recall the old and original square mile coffee bags with large type-write of the predominant taste profiles. In fact, back then, the best coffee roasters had the best bags. You got excited, just by looking and touching them.

Before I continue…. there’s a downside if I can call it one.

Good coffee is so precious that when you try to find the right type of grind for espresso, so that you pull a great shot of about 45ml in 20-25 seconds, etc, you want to ,make sure you get it right the first time, because otherwise you’re just throwing good coffee away – aargh! I think that is why I got a bit excited with espresso but more so with filter grind, as you can’t really get the wrong type of grind – you can tweak it, but you don’t have to throw away 15g of coffee as opposed to 18-20 grammes of espresso grind coffee every time you get it wrong.

so may be there’s two downsides….

espresso grind is so temperamental that it changes so slightly with the weather, especially in the summer. One night, it’s a bit cooler and a grind setting just works – the next morning as you’re rushing to work and don’t have time to check settings, the coffee rushes out, leaving you with a sharp tasting daily cappuccino – aargh! Okay, not so filter grind with a hario V60.

Let’s move on and taste this thing.

Once you get used to good and great tasting coffee, it just seems right – everything is balanced – by this I mean there’s no unusual taste trying to break out of your taste bud system like corn when it pops in the microwave. I think this is probably one of the best judgement of good coffee – BALANCE.

sure, sometimes something strikes you and you’re like “what is that?” BUT it’s a pleasant kind of feeling that bring a smile to your face and if you believe you just say “praise God!” as He was the source of creating such a beautiful thing that can taste so different, albeit look so ordinary.


Good coffee caresses your taste buds – your whole mouth enjoys the experience – it wraps around your tongue and travels from the top of the tongue to the back of your tongue with different taste profiles – the experience is just wow! How can something taste one way at the beginning and another at the end – I remember the first time I tasted Intelligentisia Black Cat Espresso Blend over 10 years ago – see here.

Good coffee lasts  and great coffee lasts even longer. By this I mean after drinking the coffee you can still experience it, sometimes up to 30 minutes after. In fact that’s why I never drink water or eat anything after drinking coffee – I don’t want to spoil the experience. I don’t recall any other drink or food still giving me a tasty experience after I’ve consumed it.


Good coffee leaves you wanting – by this I mean once all those high notes have been reached, you just default to whatever coffee or roaster helped you experience that. I guess that’s how you create a great customer base – get it right the first time and all the time and they’ll keep coming back.

I think that’s enough for now. Never take anything good for granted, especially coffee. Perhaps that;s why my wife calls me a coffee snob – I just can’t compromise on drinking bad coffee and trust me, whenever I’ve slipped, I’ve regretted it and I suffer on two accounts – a screaming tongue followed by an angst stomach. It’s just not worth it.

Well done to all those great coffee roasters who do their jib well and keep up the standard.

Peace!

 

 


The Tasting Files: Coffee from a Tin


Sometimes you get so used to something, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone and drinking good coffee is no exception. So, I was thinking “does all good coffee taste the same” and dare I say it “good coffee tastes the same”. So, when I miscalculated my coffee ordering and buying regime, I popped into a shop and thought, may be I should try this coffee from a tin again that people (non-coffee connoisseurs) are always saying to me, “you should try this”, so I picked up coffee from a tin, aka Illy coffee. 


Before I share my experience, it must be said that I used to buy Illy coffee many years ago, both the espresso and filter versions. So how was my experience after about 9 years;

First up, the packaging is nice – it’s like a nice thing to give away as a present or decorate your kitchen with.

Second, once you open the tin for the first time, I have to confess, the aroma is actually breath taking – it kind of takes you back to a cafe in Italy – it’s literally “Italian caffe culture in a tin”.

Third, it looks good. By this, I mean the crema is reddish brown, which means that a properly extracted espresso will look great and a well crafted cappuccino will look good because it will be easy to pour properly frothed milk to make lovely looking patterns with a great contrast of dark reddish cream and silky white milk.


Fourthly, it is not that difficult to extract a perfect espresso. The Illy blend of apparently 9 coffees from around the World, mainly Brazil, is not complicated and for consistency sake, you won’t have to make any major adjustments to the grinder as the coffee gets older.


Now, how about the most important part… the taste. For the sake of not being sued, the taste won’t make your taste buds sing if like me, you have been used to ordering coffee from the top micro coffee roasters in the World – there you go, I missed my regular coffee roasters stash.

Illy coffee will smell nice, pull easily, look great as an espresso and a cappuccino but may not taste nice – no pun intended here.

As usual, I don’t regret things nor experiences as they only add to life’s experiences. I’m grateful for the experience of tasting Illy coffee again after so many years, using a great espresso machine.


Drinking Coffee in Leicester, England


I assume by now you know how to pronounce the word “Leicester”  as LESTER, because if you watch English football, the team that won the premiership, against all odds in what I call the year of the “underdogs” came from this city, which also happens to be the city from where I studied economics at undergraduate level, many moons ago at the University of Leicester. Assumptions aside, on our annual visit to London this summer, I decided to take my family to the city where I attended my first stage of university studies for a day out. As a coffee lover, prior to boarding the train from the gloriously renovated St Pancras train station; it was obvious that I had to research the best places to drink specialty coffee in Leicester, but of course.

 

As we toured my old university, with some of the buildings looking and feeling exactly the same, like the lecture halls and one of the catering halls, I was baffled that the old student union building was completely different, with glass exterior walls and wait for it, a Starbucks. You will be glad to know that I didn’t’ fall into temptation and succumb to satisfy my caffeine pangs for a cup of coffee from Starbucks, but decided to wait for our trip into the old city. I must confess, the pizza I had at the new, well to me at least, student union cafeteria, was one of the best I’ve had, taste and value wise. I had to fight off my wife and kids, who had boringly settled for burgers.

 

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the library, where I often used to hang out 


(notice, I didn’t say study all the time, but hang out), had been revamped and was opened by none other than Her Royal Highness, the Queen of England.

 

St Martin’s Coffee Roasters – St. Martins Square, 2-6 Saint Martins Walk, Leicester LE1 5DG, UK

 

After visiting the Leicester City Football Club – my son insisted – we headed into town. First stop was St. Martins Coffee, which I’m sure must be the most specialty coffee venue in the city, complete with two floors. As you enter from one side, you are greeted with a La Marzocco Linea and lots of coffee roasted on-site to choose from (more on that below). 


They’ve also got delicious looking English style cakes and other drinks on display for non-coffee drinkers, like specialty teas (well their full name is St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants) and soft drinks. The downstairs is decked with your usual comfy leather sofas, steel and wooden chairs together with some cosy spots on the other side of the stairs too. 


As it was a very sunny and warm day – the summer in England was tops this year – it was about 25C; there was also an abundant of chairs, European style, outside.
Heading upstairs, there are more sitting spaces, but the main focus is the roastery, with lots of sacks stuffed presumably with green beans, waiting to be roasted. 


I met the head roaster (I’ve forgotten his name… sorry!), who just graduated from Leeds University but decided to head back home to Leicester – a very young and impressionable chap – he wasn’t even born when I used to live here and visit this space – which was my favourite Italian restaurant in the city (Joe Rigatoni). He shared with me their philosophy to introduce his city to “real” coffee, not compromising on quality and his expansion plans – in fact they are beginning to grow out of their space and plans are to move the roaster to another space to roast more so that they can accommodate an ever increasing number of customers from the food industry too – great!

To test their milk frothing skills, I ordered a cortado – something I don’t usually do in the middle of the afternoon when its 25C outside, but on this occasion, it had to be done. It went quite well with my lemon drizzle cake. Impressed with their offerings, I took two bags of coffee to test at home on my return to Vienna.

 

I found out later on their website that St. Martins are like the go-to-people for coffee in Leicester – by this I mean, they do everything from barista training to selling and leasing espresso machines. If you want to set up a coffee shop in Leicester or in the midlands, they are your guys. They can even develop a blend for your coffee shop if you want and assist with branding and packaging – wow! They are a small family business committed to serious coffee and if you want to find out more, check their website here http://www.stmartinscoffee.co.uk/

So, I’m going to commit myself and say this is probably the best place to get specialty coffee in Leicester with their focus on sourcing and roasting the best beans they can and just being a cool place to hang out too – it’s quite well located in terms of its location, but as it’s just off the main market, you might need google maps or a well-placed local to guide you.

Gourmet Coffee Bar and Kitchen, Leicester Railway Station

So, after my coffee exploits, we had to make a dash to catch our train. Arriving earlier than usual, I decided to test this little coffee spot with another La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, which I had noticed upon our arrival a few hours earlier. Placed right in front of the station exit and as my wife got distracted buying football magazines for our son, I made a dash for it and ordered an espresso to go. 


Not bad, slightly bright but I’m not sure if the paper cup had anything to do with it, but recommended for your way in or out from Leicester nevertheless.

 

So, there you have it, two coffee spots to check out in this smallish city (population of 330,000 based on 2011 census) – If you don’t know why the English call a place a city, then let me inform you thus – in England any place is automatically called a city if it has a cathedral in it – like a big church with an archbishop, no matter what the population or surface area is. For my postgraduate, I went to an even smaller place, Exeter (population of 124,000) but was baffled when it was referred to as a city and that’s when I learnt that it’s the cathedral that makes a city a city.

So, enough of cities for now, if you are feeling adventurous and want to pop out of London for a day trip – it’s only about an hour by train – then check this city out for some medieval landmarks, shopping that’s cheaper than London, Indian food and of course a good cup of coffee.


Drinking Coffee in Dubai: the coffee roasters edition 


So, I was completing a survey on Dubai a few weeks back and the final question was, “why would you advise anyone to visit Dubai”, So I started “if you love calm beaches, oceans where you can see your feet, stay in hotels with great value for money, eating food from different parts of the World, access to great shopping, a holiday that is great for both kids and parents alike….. and love coffee, then visit Dubai” Wait a minute “coffee”. Yes! It seems like every year I visit Dubai – can’t help it, the kids love it, plus I connect through there a lot – the coffee game has been raised. Before 2010, there was only one specialist roaster, Raw Coffee – read here. Then in 2014 two guys called Tom and Serg opened their Melbourne-esque style cafe with great coffee and world cuisine style menu with a strong focus on breakfast and brunches. Fast forward to 2016 and I couldn’t even visit all the specialist coffee roasters in Dubai alone. Tom and Serg now have 3 cafes (the original Tom&Serg, the sum of us and common grounds) – all featured on my website. In addition, they now roast their own coffee. There’s also Speciality Batch, Espresso Lab, Goldbox, which I couldn’t visit and Seven Fortunes, which I blogged about recently. Okay, so here’s a snapshot;

Speciality Batch/Espresso Lab

If you read my post on ratio’s coffee, Sharjah, you’ll know that I had already heard of Speciality Batch many moons ago. Specialty Batch roast in Dubai, focusing on roasting small batches of only single origin coffees.

Their coffees are favoured strongly by Espresso lab, located at the 100 Wellness centre – a very unassuming place, which I must confess, can easily be missed, as it’s located in a very residential area. Having just visited culinary boutique and being that it was like 40C outside, I popped in for a cold brew. The first thing that you notice is that this a no frills coffee place, manned by male and female baristi that seem very committed to coffee. 


I learnt afterwards that they are also a coffee school offering certified barista training too and that their owner, Ibrahim Al Mallouhi is the only Emirati certified by the American Barista & Coffee School, Barista Guild of America, SCAA and SCAE They don’t even serve any snack to go with your food and the only other drinks on offer are sparkling or still water. They have an innovative coffee menu, offering different type of beans with different brew options, coupled with expert advice on how to brew and of course they sell coffee. For the cold brew I wanted something not overtly fruity and they were served with these steel balls, which apparently have some kind of effect on the cold brew.

 

It looks gorgeous, doesn’t it ?

Speciality Batch are beginning to amass a large retail following, so you may start seeing their coffees at numerous speciality cafes opening up in Dubai now. Check speciality batch here and read more about Espresso Lab’s plans to roast their own coffees and expand here.

Leopolds of London

Located at the very Miami-esque part of Dubai, the Walk, is this newish restaurant – a franchise now only based in the UAE. In fact we just happened to enter this place by chance. As usual I was craving coffee at around 10pm and as we were walking through the Walk, decked out with flashy restaurants, like the Real Madrid Cafe, household retail outlets and of course the traditional coffee brands, I was close to giving up, when I saw a sign outside this facility about coffee. So, we popped in, egged on (English colloquialism for encouraged) by one of the staff. They were so delighted to hear that I loved coffee, that they took me upstairs to show me their roasting facility, surrounded by both green and recently roasted coffee beans. 


Naturally at that time, the roasting facility was shut, but after quizzing them about their focus and spotting their La Marzocco GB5, I decided to order a double espresso to accompany my triple layer red velvet cake. Before I carry on, they really have delectable cakes (carrot cakes, cheesecake, which my wife loved, chocolate fudge cake, etc) and a mouth watering menu here and for Dubai, I must confess, the value for money is great – shhh! keep it a secret.

 

So, it’s never too late for an espresso, even at close to midnight, yummy!. We went back twice and although I didn’t buy any coffee to take home, I’m willing to say, this was the best coffee at the JBR – the Walk. Visit their website.

 

So where else….

Seven Fortunes – affiliated with a company in Canada, these guys are really serious about coffee. I wrote a bit about them on my visit to Culinary Boutique but you can read about them here. A welcome addition to the speciality coffee roasting scene. So impressed was I with my visit to Culinary Boutique that I bough a large bag of espresso beans, which I really enjoyed on my return to Vienna.

 

Fruity and caramel like and great with milk too. Highly recommended and if you live in Dubai, they have an online shop too.

 

Goldbox Roastery – Again, I had heard of this specialist roaster a few months ago through instagram and actually wanted to visit them, but sadly they are closed on weekends. In any case I had the opportunity to taste their coffee when I visited Sharjah in May 2016, but most of the roasters I visited, had a lot of respect for them and recommended that I visit if I get another opportunity.

%arabica, Dubai Mall

This is really fresh news as this cafe just opened in Dubai in mid-September 2016, located at the World’s largest Mall, the Dubai Mall. Decked out with two very expensive Slayer Espresso machines, it;s definitely one to check out when I visit Dubai again insha’allah. For those of you reading this and located in Dubai, go there now and let me know what you think.

Signing off with this pic, so “where’s the good coffee in this place Dubai?” Well, there are too many man.