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.

I’m Drinking a Special Coffee: JB Kaffee

JB Kaffee Espresso

A couple of years ago I went into a coffee shop in London and on the menu they had a guest espresso from “Jb Kaffee“. Puzzled, I asked if I could have the guest espresso as an espresso. He replied “sadly, we’re out and we won;t be getting anymore either, but I think this roaster is one of the best in the World”. Okay, I was curious – that was quite a profound statement and accolade. I forgot about this company for a while and then last year when I was looking for some new cafes to try in London, I saw Mother’s Milk, now located on 22-23 Little Portland St, London W1W 8BJ,  advertised that they were serving Jb Kaffee. To quote them:

We only offer JB because we think it’s the cremé-de-la-creme and so tasty it’s actually nice.

JB Kaffee is Johannes Bayer and Johannes Bayer is a top notch coffee roaster in Schwabhausen, Schwabhausen was recently voted the “nicest smelling place in Germany”.

And I’m sure the coffee roasted there is one of the reasons for this.

Luckily for me, Mother’s Milk were selling bags and I quickly purchased an Ethiopian Kochere bag. In any case, my curiosity didn’t stop there – I started searching for them and hey presto!, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could purchaser their coffee online. Since late 2015, I’ve ordered at least three times and for Ramadhan, my treat was to order 1kg of their coffees; 500g of espresso and 2 filter blends.

My coffee

So what do I like about them:

  • Easy to order online even though their website is in German
  • Delivery is fast with DHL, usually within a few days
  • But what about the coffee:
  • Wow! the aroma
  • Wow! the taste
  • Okay they roast pretty light, but my current brew at night is using the Colombian Antioquia san pascual with 16g with 240ml 90C on the hario V60 was, wait for it smooth like butter. Yes, there were other tastes but that sums it up.
  • you can order by size, 250g, 500g and up
  • And Wow! the price – not sure if I should say this, but definitely the best value for money for coffee of this quality in the World – check the prices yourself and gawp!
  • And most of all, its delectable and different


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So head to http://www.jbkaffee.de  and if you’re struggling, consult a German friend you have.

I can’t say more, but, you’ve got to try this coffee.

 

Thanks @ Hackney Coffee Company for a Friendly Coffee

  

 Thanks to Jon Penn, co-founder of Hackney Coffee Company, located on 499 Hackney Road, London for reaching out to me through Instagram and sending me a bag of delicious Nicaragua Nuevo Segouia Catuai, natural dried arabica coffee.

About the coffee, the taste profile is advertised as rum, raisin and cascara tea. I can’t say for sure that I picked up those exact profiles, except for the cascara tea, when I tested it cold, leaving the coffee fro about 20 minutes. What I picked up was dried berries, like cherry, a fruity burst, medium acidity, well balanced and on calling dark chocolate.

   
  My colleague, an expert wine taster actually described it as a

Friendly coffee

By that, he meant, well balanced, pleasant to drink, raspberries, medium acidity and well balanced.

A pleasant cup.

On brewing method, I tried it out using an aeropress, but I must confess I loved it better using a Hario V60. This is where I was able to pick up a high tasting notes. In fact I liked this coffee so much, that I visited their website to try and order it, but form what I gather, they don’t have an online shop yet.

  
so, if ya down in East London, go grab a cuppa at Hackney Coffee Company, mate – sorry couldn’t help myself in putting a typical cockney accent.

I’m Drinking a Cup of Crema

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I know, look at that crema and although I can’t capture the depth of it in the cup, trust me, the cream is literally half of the coffee in the cup. Curious ? Of course you are, that’s why you’re still reading. In short, this is a pure robusta espresso blend. If you look through my pages on types of coffee, you will know that there are two main types of coffee, arabica and robusta. The latter is a cheaper variety of coffee with a much higher caffeine content, inferior in taste and used mostly for the ghastly stuff called “instant coffee” Sorry! but I’m a self-confessed coffee snob and drinking instant coffee is like saying you’re eating fresh fruit that has been somehow preserved for many months and years and looks like fruit – I’d rather drink water. Ok! I digress, but I’m coming to the good bit.

Traditionally, robusta is not used for speciality coffee because amongst other things, it is inferior in taste and for coffee connoisseurs, taste is king. Even when it is used, it is blended with its much more superior cousin, arabica, to give it some colour and a more profound caffeine kick. The Italians tend to prefer a bit of robusta in their blends because the other key quality of robusta is….. wait for it, crema, plus it looks good with a brown reddish vibe and we all know the Italians love what things look like. So, if you want crema and a good looking espresso or ristretto with a caffeine kick, then head to Italy or search for one of the rare coffee roasters that uses robusta in their blends. But, I know you’re asking “what about taste ?”

Yes, taste is king. My previous experience with robusta blends was a caffeine kick, where literally the back of my head by my neck hurt. However when I visited the cafe at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington, London (see my post before last), I was pleasantly surprised by what I had and even more so to discover that the espresso coffee was 100% robusta, roasted by the company Leave the Herd Behind – a very apt name denoting that they are going against the grain, having discovered how to work with coffee growers in India to grow robusta coffee in a way that can be roasted with a good taste profile for espresso based coffee – they call it black sheep coffee, read more about them on www.leavetheherdbehind.com

In any case, the robusta comes from the Sethuraman Estate – the first specialty grade robusta farm in the World

So impressed was I with their coffee that I made a special order of two espresso blends and two Ethiopian single estate coffee for filter, Yirgacheffe Dumerso, grown at over 2,000 metres, naturally processed, very fruity and sublime, when brewed on a hario V60.

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The espresso Robusta blend was literally a cup of crema, dark chocolate and very full bodied and you could literally scoop the crema out with a spoon. Using the sugar test – a spoon of sugar took about 10 seconds before it fell through the crema cloud, wow! now that’s what I call a full bodied crema. When blended with milk, literally hot chocolate came to mind – I even paused and looked at the pack again to check they hadn’t sent me hot chocolate.

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I know the picture looks weird but honestly there’s no photoshop nor manipulation of the picture – it’s like the crema blends weirdly with milk giving it this dreamy like effect. Well, if you dream of chocolate then this is the blends for you. If you can’t buy and brew beans at home, then when you’re in London visit them, as they have two shops:

63 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PG London

Inside Urban Outsiders on 469 Oxford Street, W1C 2PY London

So, if you’re nearby, leave the herd behind on Oxford Street and grab a good looking cup of crema, yum!

Best Coffee Moments of 2014

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I just wanted to share with you some of my top coffee moments of 2014 (yeah, I know we are already approaching the mid half of the second month) but this site is about sharing the love.

First up, was my first Chemex experience, which my palate witnessed at Curators Coffee new shop on Margaret Street, just off Regent’s Street, Oxford Circus, London. As I had a bit of time to burn (i.e. I wasn’t in a rush) I decided to try a non-espresso based coffee and have my coffee expertly “curated”, selecting their top coffee to be brewed on the chemex. I wasn’t really expecting anything out of the ordinary as I’ve only really had a few exhilarating experiences when having filter brews outside my home or office. But wow! the flavours of the Kenyan coffee were at one point refreshing then, fruity with a balanced acidity pic at the top of this post. OK, I know the coffee plays a really important part but I think on this time, the brew process was able to extract some really precious delicate flavours, making this one of my key coffee moments of twenty 14.

 

OK, let’s move to where the coffee was the “star”. Fresh after making coffee for Tom Cruise and team on the set of Mission Impossible 5 in Vienna, Jo Wechlesberger (Vienna School of Coffee) asked me to help her lift a very heavy La Marzocco Strada 2 group into her shop. A few bloodshot marks later, she invited me to taste a very exquisite coffee she had just roasted.

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After a very delectable palate experience, I was like “wow!” that was great – wild berries and a fruit bomb in your mouth – what s that ? An Ethiopian Sidamo, scoring over 90 and known as Nekisse N2, mixed heirloom varieties and naturally dried in the sun. Jo’s taste profile was wild strawberries, peaches, passionfruit, rhubarb, creamy with a long lasting clean finish. But it gets better – I was actually on the verge of buying what undoubtedly would be my most expensive coffee at 100 Euros a kilogram – yep, that’s right, instead Jo gave me a 150g bag for free, for helping her and another gentleman lift the espresso machine inside her shop. I was more than ecstatic, even declining the offer, preferring to pay to support the artisan coffee trade, but Jo insisted and I could see my wife in the background, winking just take the gift, so I did. Of course I enjoyed every little bit of this coffee, sharing it on one occasion with a colleague who loves wine and has been schooled how to taste – naturally he was very excited.

 

I don’t have a picture for this next experience but having a cold brew coffee served in a tall wine glass was another wow experience courtesy of Otto from Balthasar Coffee, Vienna. To emphasise the point, Otto gave  me a trial in a typical porcelan cup and most of it in a tall wine glass – again another fruit bomb but with a delicate cocoa and long lasting finish, proving that how you serve it is very important.

 

 

Lick Me, LIKMI !!! – Don’t be deluded

Lick Me Espresso
Lick Me Espresso

So, what do you see ? A well prepared espresso by moi ? Well! To the best of my knowledge, ability and experience

A good picture of an espresso ?

Well, almost but sometimes it’s not about looks, sorry guys and gals who spend time perfecting their looks and espresso shots, BUT ultimately it’s about taste. I’m passionate about the “real” deal. So many times I taste stuff, especially cakes, that look fabulous, but when you bite into it, you’re like screaming, Why!!!!!!!! I prefer something to taste better than it looks, but of course the ultimate culinary experience is for something to look and taste great simultaneously.

So, how about what you don’t see where were we… what do you see….

Great beans and roast ? A bit difficult

BUT! Let’s build on that last point.

First up the facts. It’s an espresso blend, called LIKMI (lick me), roasted by Jo Wechlesberger, of Vienna School of Coffee Master Roaster extraordinaire, to get an espresso roast so delicious and sweet, that you just want to….. yep. you guessed it, “lick it”. In it, are coffees from Brazil and Rwanda with a roast profile of dried fruits, molasses – see the bag below.

Secondly, we know that it’s just not about the beans and roast profile – if it was, anyone could learn how to roast coffee like a pro, and we know that’s not true, if not, I’ll be on the waiting list to do so pronto. It’s takes guts, experience and something you can’t buy, a gift or skill – God given and some may argue on that point.

But, that’s not all. When I went in to buy this special coffee, Jo told me that she had started using burlap bags to pack her coffee and had noticed that it seemed to preserve the coffee taste for longer and of course it is also better for the environment.

LIKMI
LIKMI

So, upon buying the coffee, I raised concern saying”it was roasted about a month ago, are you sure its fresh enough for espresso?” Of course, she said. So, when I got home, and pulled my first shot, I was pleasantly surprised, but more so, after another few days of pulling shots, I realised that the coffee still tasted great, sweet and caramel like. I DRANK THIS COFFEE IN MARCH 2014.

LIKMI Latte Art
LIKMI Latte Art

With milk (excuse my latte art), it was really sweet – caramel and raisin sweet, yummy.

So, what’s this post about – if I’ve lost you in all my jargon

The picture at the top is an espresso shot following all the rules but using coffee that was roasted over a month ago and still with a great taste (I usually don’t use espresso blends over 2 weeks old) – it’s the first time on this blog that I’ve shown a picture of an espresso shot using coffee roasted over a month ago.

So, once you’ve mastered the skill of roasting, taking care of your beans by packing them in environmental friendly packaging could preserve the taste and your reputation far and beyond, especially if you are in the online coffee selling business. It also helps if you have a roast profile that’s sweet like dried fruits, which tend to develop into complex tastes profiles, giving you the joy that different cups will give you different tastes.

I was @ TomAndSerg, Dubai

tomandserg collage
tomandserg collage

It seems the coffee scene is vastly improving in Dubai. It was only about a year ago that I was excited when I visited Dubai and visited RAW Coffee – see my blog here. Now, just a few months later, two guys called Sergio (from Spain) and Tom (from Australia) team up and open up Tom&Serg – a post-modern Aussie style cafe, dedicated to offering artisan prepared coffee using the state of the art La Marzocco La Strada, hearty well prepared food in a no frills atmosphere – exposed brick, blackboard walls, open plan kitchen with noise to create a homely feel.

The Entrance
The Entrance

Most of us visiting from NY, Melbourne and London will instantly feel at home here. For me it is reminiscence of Workshop Coffee (Clerkenwell, London), cum St.Ali (Melbourne). In fact its a style I very much like, because it was not long ago that the it was very difficult to get artisan coffee and well prepared food under one roof. I remember my trips to London, where I had to eat in one place and then trek to find good coffee in another and vice versa, but that’s changing now. So, to Tom and Serg, Dubai and to my freshest post ever, as I just got back from Dubai yesterday (12 April 2014), that’s how excited I am.

Relax and Eat
Relax and Eat

I didn’t hesitate upon entering to let the waitress know that I’m here because of the coffee and persisted to let her know that when I owned Escape Caffe, my Magic was made with a triple shot of espresso in a 150ml glass. In any case, that’s what I ordered and then I asked who was in charge of coffee and she directed me to Jamie, who hails from Melbourne and has done a stint of jobs at Melbourne’s finest cafes such as Proud Mary, Auction Rooms, Sensory Lab (St Ali’s sister shop) and Seven Seeds, so in summary, a well-trained barista that knows what he’s talking and drinking about. My wife looked at me and was like “you know you want to, so go and talk to the chief barista”, so, I walked by for a chat to talk all things coffee, blend, taste profile, market preferences, etc. I was glad to know that they get their coffee from RAW, but the blend is made specifically for them under Jamie’s guidance. In summary, it hails from Central and South America with medium acidity, roasted just after second crack (where the oils begin to sip out) – ok, I’m getting a bit geeky here, so I’ll stop. In any case, ti goes well with milk, with chocolatey and caramel overtones with not in your face sweetness.

A Magic
A Magic

 

For me however, what blew my mind was the cold brew, offered to me by Jamie and his description as on point – it’s very unusual in that you need to take several sips to try and pin point the taste and so that’s what I did and I have to confess it wasn’t easy.

Cold Brew
Cold Brew

 

All I know is that the first couple of sips sent flavour profiles literally through my whole body. In fact it puzzled me so much that I ignored my lunchand then realising that I hate cold food, had to succumb and indulge in my burger and fries.

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I washed my palate with more water and went back to the coffee. After that I took a stroll around the shop, which is fairly big as there’s also an upstairs area, a black board describing the coffee.

So what coffee do you like
So what coffee do you like

a library area and another La Marzocco Strada, supported by another barista from Australia – this time from Brisbane – wow! two under one roof – baristi from Australia and La Marzocco Strada that is. As we literally got there 30 minutes before they close on a Friday – 4:30pm I rushed through the place and tried to take some original pics and on our way out, I met another lady, Michaela, from Melbourne, who used to live in London but never had a chance to try out some of the top cafes there. I reassured her that if she ever visited London again that she would be wowed by the quality of cafes there, who could rival those in Melbourne too, encouraging her that London’s acceleration to the top of the World coffee drinking cities was partly due to the influx of baristi from Melbourne itself – she was happy with that confirmation.

All in all, a great place to visit and from what I read (the owners were in the Esquire Middle East Magazine for their dress sense), there’s more to come from Tom and Serg, perhaps more shops, definitely more publicity and similar concepts. Please try Vienna, Austria, where I live.

Lots of seating space
Lots of seating space

For more info, see http://www.tomandserg.com

Open from 8am to 4pm (4:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays)

A Branded Bottle
A Branded Bottle

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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