I’m Drinking Square Mile Coffees

Yes ! It’s finally here, after several months of waiting, Square Mile Coffee Roasters have now started roasting specials coffees for sale. OK ! a brief history as to why I’m excited by this particular coffee roasters – the 2007 and 2008 World Barista Champions, James Hoffmann and Stephen Morrissey respectively together with another lady – I think her name is Anette – teamed up and because of their love of coffee, I guess, decided to take this to the next level and opened up a coffee roaster in London. They do mail order all over the World, which suits me fine, because with the current currency crisis, it is now about the same price for me to order coffee from London, including postage and packaging as it is for me to buy my current 1.2 kg monthly consumption of coffee in Vienna. On coffee sizes, Square Mile sell a minimum of 350g sizes and on my first order, I was able to order my monthly supply in 3 bags, which took a very impressive 3 days to arrive.

They also roast twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, so try and place an order about one week before you want to drink it, so that when it arrives, it has “de-gassed” for a recommended one week before you start extracting it. For more about Square Mile Coffee Roasters, please visit their website on http://shop.squaremilecoffee.com/ or just click on my blogroll to the left.

Now to the coffee. I’m not going to go into too much detail but I will just give you a taster of my experience and in a move away from tradition, use some wonderful shots of the stuff to reflect my tasting experience. My first experience was actually at Flat White in December 2008 during my last visit to London, as Square Mile now supply the coffee for Flat White. I bought a 350g bag for me to take back to Vienna, which I think contained some Central American coffee (secret blend, which Square Mile were not disclosing when I asked naturally). Why Central America ? Well ! from my experience I find Central American coffees really blend with well poured milk based espresso drinks.

Still with blends, Square Mile naturally have their Winter Espresso blend, but not wanting to hide anything and I must confess, this is the first time I have seen a roaster disclose the composition of their blends, they show you right on the packet what’s in their blend.

 

Winter Espresso Blend
Winter Espresso Blend

Naturally, it’s nice, clean, sweet, dark and rich espresso, with complex tones for me, and during the last big snowfall, I was inspired to rush out and take this pic, naturally called Winter Espresso “Blue” – the blue is for the wonderful blue sky that reflected on the snow white of the cup and the snow.

Now, a coffee that features rather little in the Winter Espresso blend is the Muchoki Peaberry from Kenya, which had a tart cherry taste for me when brewed as an espresso. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and recommend this coffee for filter or Cafetiere style coffee as the strength can be minimised by having a longer contact with water. In any case, to show off the lovely dark colours of this coffee, I took this pic in my new Bodum cup.

Now, off to the other part of the World, Central America, which by going through the coffees on sale at Square Mile, is their favourite pat of the World to get coffee. I’ll start with a mouthful, which I love saying to myself, El Molino de Santa Rita El Salvador. A “nutty” taste for a cappuccino. Still in Central America, we move to Costa Rica, for some the best coffee resides here with high acidity, a clean taste and with complex flavours. I tried two from Square Mile, the first, La Rosa, which unusually has low acidity and one I favoured for cafetiere style coffee after lunch at work.

However, in following with a family tradition, one which my daughter seems to have picked up when eating her favourite food, I’ve saved the best for last and it is…. El Portillo Cup of Excellence – wow !

I haven’t been this excited about a type of coffee for for a while. So, in order to get a really good feel for this coffee, I cleaned out my grinder, studied the beans, which look lovely close up.

 

El Portillo Beans
El Portillo Beans

Got out my La Marzocco Bottomless filter not to miss a moment

 

El Portillo Naked
El Portillo Naked

OK! I’m beginning to sound a little bit OTT here, but life is short and sometimes you’ve just got to be bothered and committed to going all out. I extracted it into my espresso love cup, newly bought for me by my darling wife, just to capture the love of this very special bean.

El Portillo Espresso Love
El Portillo Espresso Love

I liked it so much that as someone that tries to share lovely experiences, took it to work and shared it with colleagues. What was amazing, was that one of my colleagues, who doesn’t really drink speciality coffee, but tastes wine, described the coffee almost to a “T” as described by Square Mile on the package, toffee, caramel, heavy mouth feel and complex. It’s really versatile as a coffee and I mixed it with another Square Mile coffee, Los Luchadores Espresso Pacamara– El Salvador, which made a nice cappuccino and inspired me to pour this little flower.

El Portillo Cappuccino
El Portillo Cappuccino

For me, no doubt it is really special brewed in a cafetiere, which is what I’m doing with it now, after every lunch time. I noticed that it smells like toffee and tastes like caramel and the aroma just permeates my room so much so that any of my colleagues coming into the room notices the lovely aroma. I’ve just checked on Square Mile’s website, but this lovely bean is no more…. all good things must come to an end boo hoo, but I trust that the guys will find a suitable replacement. Buying coffee from Square Mile is highly recommended by moi.

I’m Drinking…. Harrod’s Coffee

If you know me, you know that I cannot go to London, see freshly roasted coffee from someone I trust and not buy it. So, when I went to Harrods and the guy at Andronicas told me that in the Harrods Food Hall I could buy freshly roasted coffee, I ran down with my son and bought two 250 bags of coffee, one was Mocha Italia and the other Mountain Blend. A word of caution – when you go to the Harrods Food Hall, look for the counter stacked with gold coloured tins of coffee, which should contain coffee beans, freshly roasted by Andronicas and supplied once a week to Harrods. If you peep over the counter and look at the back, you will see the original bags from Andronicas as if to confirm the coffees are viable. I mention this word of caution, because you can also buy Harrods Coffee from beautiful designed tins, which will be already ground. Yes ! these tins look nice and good to give as presents, but for coffee geeks, this coffee might not be up to the standard, so go for the good, and buy the fresh stuff from the speciality counter. I also want to add Harrods have about 5 cafes, including the Andronicas World of Coffee cafe on the 4th floor, which I recommend. In any case, I promise to do a “Drinking coffee in Harrods” post one of these days God willing.

 

I started with the Mountain Blend, which as far as I can remember from the sales assistant had a mix of Central and South American coffees. I found it sweet with caramel undertones and although it was fine for an espresso, I preferred it as a milk based espresso drink like a Cappuccino and Caffe Latte, where I find the caramel taste really compliments the milk.

On tasting the Mocha Italia the exact first impression was wait for it….”nice”. OK ! what does that mean Lameen ? It was full bodied, glossed my tongue, went down right and made my tummy tingle – does that make sense or does that make me sound “bean” crazy ? OK ! Mocha Italia is exactly what is says. It has a mocha or chocolate taste and definitely reminds me of drinking coffee in a typical Italian cafe.

To finish off, this coffee, extracted as an espresso had a nice thick brown crema, keeping the sugar on top for a few seconds before sinking in. I’m going to have to give Harrods my “best place to buy really fresh roasted coffee in a Department Store” award because the other department stores I’ve been to did not sell freshly roasted coffee and the coffee from Harrods passes the test for freshnest, courtesy of the guys from Andronicas of course.

I’m Drinking Mocca Mocca…

Mocca, Mocca – reminiscent of the original mocha from Yemen, which I am glad to say that my experience of drinking this type of mocca was absolutely amazing and delicious. Alt Wien in Vienna have just started stocking a bio or organic version made up of a mix of coffees from Central America from more than one region, which I guess must be a mix from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua but they were not divulging. At first I was a little bit sceptical wondering what kind of taste I was going to get and was swiftly rebutted by the smell and versatility of the bean as it was quick to find the right grind. Here ! I’ll share a really quick way to find the right grind, so that you don’t waste loadsa (English cockney slang for lots of) coffee when trying to find the right 23-25 second grind for extracting espresso. See the pic below;

I noticed that the granules should not be completely flat and linear – there should be a little bit of “clumping”. If you grind and the machine spurts out too quickly, then you will get lots of powder everywhere – that’s your first warning. Counter this by making the grind a little bit finer until you see some clumps. I am aware that this is ideal for my less than $300 machine, but perhaps for the $1,000 stuff, this might be different as the granules should be completely uniform to get all those wonderful tastes in a cup of coffee.

As an avid drinker of espresso, although I naturally found the Mocca sweetish, it was not as bold as I would like, but when mixed with milk, it was scrumptious. Also, the smell and the colours are so rich, they just typify coffee to the max, see below for colour but not smell…..

Still on the coffee style, the crema was just amazingly thick and I took a few shots to show you how wonderful it was from the top. The sugar took well over 10 seconds to drop through the crema cloud

This coffee bean refused to sink and I had to remove it before drinking. I think the colours are just amazing and this is the thickest crema I’ve got so far this year.

And of course, as it is ideal with an espresso milk based drink like cappuccino, the velvety smooth micro-foam milk just worked and was visually pleasing to the eye.

Here, I’m just trying something different to make my cappuccino look good before it makes contact with my lips and tummy.

Anyway, if you can find it, try a mocca coffee. They are still very rare and upon my return to Alt Wien to buy another 500g bag, there wasn’t any, sadly to say, but I was promised that more would be in the following week.

Mocca Ciao !

I’m Drinking El Salvador Pacamara

About a month ago, on my way back from holiday, I stopped over in London and naturally went over to my favourite bean bazaar or specialist coffee roaster – HR Higgins, Duke Street, London and stocked up on more coffee.

I was lucky enough to be offered one of their new beans, El Salvador Pacamara. Trusting the salesman on this occasion, I took two 250g bags, as they do two types of roasts, medium dark, which I usually find goes well with milk-based espresso drinks and very dark roasted, which is lovely for espresso (shhh ! don’t share the secret).

Pacamara Bags 

On return to Vienna, I was pleasantly surprised by the versatility of the 2 roasts. Sure enough, my predictions matched my expectation in that the medium-to-dark version was lovely as a cappuccino and the very dark version was nice as an espresso, but more importantly for my coffee grinder, I didn’t really have to fiddle about with the grind switch for both types of coffee. Am I making sense ? If not, I’m going to have to get a little bit tekky (technical) here. In short, I’ve discovered that you cannot use the same grind setting for a medium dark roast and a very dark roast coffee to get the ideal espresso shot (i.e 23-27 seconds depending on what book you read). The secret is…… well ! perhaps not a secret for pros, is that you need a finer setting for very dark roasts. So for example, if you usually grind your coffee on say dial 7 for a medium dark coffee, with dial 1 being the finest (like powder and usually for Turkish style coffee) and dial 10 or above being like clumps (usually for French Press), then when you come to grind a dark roast coffee, you need to use a shorter dial, like 6 or 5 to get the same grind. For me, on my previous coffee grinder, it was easy, but my new coffee grinder is a bit of a pain as there are no dial settings – you just turn the knob, after wasting about 30 grammes of coffee until you get the right grind, but I’ll save more of that headache for another post God willing.

Extracting Pacamara

Anyway back to El Salvador Pacamara. For espresso, I found it light and sweetish. I could taste the sweetness at the tip of my tongue – perhaps my palate is getting more sophisticated to all the speciality roasted Arabica coffee I keep throwing down my mouth 3 times a day. Excuse the pic below – I was still playing with my new digital SLR camera and the flash was a bit too bright. The richness of the colour can be seen in the pic above during extraction.

Pacamara Doppio 

Naturally, I kept the medium-to-dark roasted coffee for my morning fixes of cappuccinos and the sweetish taste contrasted well with the smooth silky sweetish frothed milk that accompanied it. Excuse my latte art, still trying to get there….

Pacamara Latte 

In summary, I thought that the bean was well rounded and very versatile, easily adaptable for both types of espresso drinks (with and without milk). The taste is not over powering and “bold” and reminds me of the typical Central American coffee (just in case you were wondering where El Salvador is, it is in Central America). It is not as acidic as the champions of Central America – Costa Rica and Guatemala, but still worth a buy and I’m sure your non-coffee mad friends will find it pleasant to drink too. So get out there and try some coffee from El Salvador.

I’m Drinking…..

I guess I’ve missed my self-imposed target of writing a post (or blogging) at least once a week to keep this blog as fresh as possible but, it’s been quite a bit hectic at work. Anyway, back to work on coffee.

I’m DRINKING….. Organic Bolivian beans, recently bought from my current favourite place to buy fresh coffee, Alt Wien, off the Naschmarkt in central Vienna (Austria). It’s quite aromatic and once extracted is lightish in colour compared to what I’m used to for espresso. Although it smells sweetish, it has a light sour taste that kind of hits you after a few sips.Bolivian Espresso 

Nevertheless, I find that it compliments milk based drinks well, provided of course that the milk has been properly frothed to bring out the sweetish milk elements and not the burn your mouth bubbly stuff we still suffer from in most cafes. I recently served this coffee to some friends that came over for dinner and although one thought it strong after dinner, the other was very complimentary with a puzzled expression, wondering how he would be able to drink coffee again in a cafe in Vienna after the double espresso I served him. Well I guess it was worth spending hundreds of Euros then if I get that kind of compliment. I also tested the coffee using the French Press method, which was nice for the afternoon – pleasant and light, which held its taste in my new Bodum Columbia pot for a few hours. As you should know me by now, I love variety in food and drink, so my weekly trips to Alt Wien naturally involve me buying more than one type of coffee. I think I’m going to have to change that routine to twice a week but with a larger purchase of coffee, perhaps 500g bags, because I’ve recently noticed that I am finishing 250g all by myself in under one week.

Anyway I digress, Alt Wien have recently introduced a new Malawian Arabica, with a very African name, Malawian Mzuzu. I just finished my Bolivian coffee last night and was able to try the Malawian this morning as a cappuccino, so my thoughts should be fresh. I find this coffee good for holding its taste with milk based drinks. It has a bit of a bold taste that holds its own so to speak and can be characterised with a chocolate tone and an intense taste.Malawian Mzuzu 

So, as you can see above, I prefer it with milk as a cappuccino or as an espresso macchiato. In using the French Press method, it is quite bold and good as a digestive after a heavy lunch or to boost you up in the morning.

However, I’ve saved the best for last. I must admit and perhaps I will loose credibility for this, but I’ve never been impressed with Kenyan coffee. That was until about a few weeks ago when Reinhold of Espresso Solutions (see blog on La Marzocco GB5) returned from the WBC in Copenhagen and gave me a 200g bag of freshly roasted Kenyan AA beans, roasted by none other than the famous American coffee roasters and cafe, Stumptown (see http://stumptowncoffee.com/) – they started in Portland, Oregon and are now famous amongst coffee connoisseurs. Investigating their website, I see that this Kenyan AA is properly called Kenya Gatina Peaberry. OK ! Time for some coffee facts – a typical Kenyan peaberry is a type of coffee that unusually has one beans inside the cherry fruit as opposed to the normal two. OK ! Back to the coffee – the first thing I noticed was the “Wow” factor in the aroma – even my 6 year old son was like “that smells really nice Daddy..” You can imagine – I just couldn’t wait to try it out and I was not disappointed – If I was to give an award of best coffee that I have prepared this year, it would be for this – I drank this coffee almost one month ago and I can still remember the feeling, that’s how good it was.  Anyway, it had a fruity and smooth mouthfeel and was wonderful as an espresso. You’ve got to have two cups, because one is not enough…Kenyan Espressos

I also loved the colour – it just seemed “just right”. Needless to say I was sad when it was finished. If I could order from Stumptown, I would, but naturally they only ship in the US, so all those lucky American reading this blog who have not heard of Stumptown, check their website out and spoil yourself by ordering some coffee from them (I’m adding them to my blogroll)  They are not paying me to do this, but when you come across some good stuff, it’s good to share the knowledge.

Delicious !

My First Cup of Excellence Coffee

I just wanted to introduce you, to those of us who do not know to the Cup of Excellence group. Scanning through their website on www.cupofexcellence.org the idea began 1999 when a group of coffee connoisseurs believed that Brazil had some really special coffees that kept on being unnoticed or disregarded, probably because although Brazil grows the most coffee in the World, their coffees are primarily used for instant coffee or if of good quality, blended with other coffees.

In any case this group got together “cuppers” (expert coffee tasters) and they went through a few coffees and the best ones were selected, giving the Cup of Excellence stamp and auctioned through the internet. This practice continues today and now has 9 country programmes, mainly from Central and South America but with one exception, Rwanda in Africa. The coffees are very special, each with their own distinctive flavours, aromas, etc and are practically handcrafted by their grower and eventually auctioned off through the internet.

The Cup of Excellence is now what may be known as the Oscars of the Coffee World. The coffees are bought by coffee connoisseurs all over the World, roasted by top specialists who want to give their customers the best highest quality coffee. Furthermore, the people who really benefit from this scheme are the growers themselves, who are recognised and financially rewarded, enabling them to plough back the profits into their business, leading to better education for their loved ones and impacting positively on their communities – Well done !

So, naturally, you can imagine that I was very excited when I got my hand on a Cup of Excellence Bag of coffee from the Costa Rica Libano coffee farm, roasted by a specialist in Austria.

CoE Label 

I checked out the coffee on the Cup of Excellence website, where it was described by the professional cuppers as “bright, honey, syrupy and dry fruit”. I was advised to use it for espresso, which I found sweetish, reminding me of the espresso I had at Flat White, Soho (London). It had a nice golden colour too, having not been dark roasted.

Cup of Excellence Espresso 

However, as far as I am concerned Central American coffees are excellent for espresso based milk drinks and I as soon as I used this coffee for a double espresso macchiato, it was  FANTASTICO – Heavenly, Wow ! What a feeling. Naturally ! I only drank this wonderful coffee in the mornings when I tend to drink milk based espresso drinks such as Cappuccinos or Lattes. I think the price I paid, about 7 Euros for a 250g bag of beans was worth it, considering that I have spent more and it hasn’t been a Cup of Excellence coffee. So, next time you visit your specialist roaster, try and ask if they can get you a Cup of Excellence coffee, but not one that will break the bank.

I’ve Been Drinking… lots of Coffee

Bags of Coffee 

I’ve been a bit lazy with this category, where I share my latest coffee bean experience with you – so I’m going to give you a snapshot of what I’ve been drinking over the last 2 months and promise to keep you up to date with my latest taste adventures.

First up is a Rwandan Musasa, which I bought from Origins Coffee Roasting, Cape Town, back in February 2008.

Rwandan Musasa 

It was quite nice as an espresso, rich, dark and …. handsome (to the taste buds that is). I found it earthy/chocolatey and a smell of it, reminded me of Africa. So it was quite true to its name. I also got on that trip an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe as they didn’t have my favourite Ethiopian Sidamo. The Yirgacheffe was what I call typical African – bold and earthy, nice for Cafetiere and I couldn’t resist the temptation to make a portion in my bodum Cafetiere and shoot it in a newly bought “African” coffee cup, which I bought in Zimbabwe.

African Coffee

On my way back from that trip to Africa, I got to stop over in London and rushed on over to my favourite roaster, HR Higgins, where sadly enough they didn’t have Indian Malabar Monsooned but I was tempted to try their Brazilian Bourbon, which I can tell you has been added to my favourite list for espresso. Delightful ! It’s quite smooth as an espresso and has that Italian feel – I seem to recall reading somewhere that Italians use a lot of Brazilian arabica coffee beans in their espresso blends. As I usually drink espresso at night and wasn’t able to get a good shot of a rich and smooth espresso due to bad lighting, I can only share with you, a snapshot of the coffee bag below.

HR Brazilian Bourbon 

In any case that basically summarizes the main highlights of my taste adventures for now. Of course I’ve also been drinking lots of other coffee but I just wanted to focus on the main discoveries.

I’m Drinking – Indian Malabar Monsooned

Wow ! I take my hat off to the guys at HR Higgins (79 Duke Street London), i.e I’m impressed. I was sceptical about trying Indian coffee beans for espresso, but I’m sure pleased that I gave in and bought a 250g bag from HR Higgins during my last trip to London – should have bought 2 bags.

Indian Malabar Monsooned 

Quintessentially coffee is one way I describe this wonderful aromatic and crema rich coffee, ideal for espresso. It has the main characteristics of how most people will describe coffee: a lovely aroma – even people that don’t like coffee, love the smell and if you want people to lounge in your cafe, the smell of this bean brewing will do the trick; it has a wonderful dark reddish colour – beautiful for pictures – I took some and will share with you sometime God willing ! it has a sweetish taste that can make you sell espresso to those who think it is just a bitter dark drink; it has wonderful thick crema, the sort that sits on top of your lip like thick double cream. I also carried out some other tests; the sugar test – even with thick brown sugar crystals (I only buy brown demerara sugar) it still took at least 7 seconds before the sugar dropped below the crema cloud to the bottom of the cup.

 Sugar sinking espresso

For example, I put sugar on top of my freshly brewed espresso, got my camera out and still got to take a picture with the sugar just beginning to drop. 

Sugar Gone Espresso 

I also passed it through the after taste test, whereby, even with my regular cappuccino fix in the morning, I was still able to feel the glossy after taste in my mouth for at least an hour after consumption. However, there are some other things you may wish to know about this experience – it is dark roasted by HR Higgins, which naturally contributes to the colour and aroma – this means that for me HR Higgins have roasted the bean right, however, another roaster might roast it a bit lighter or darker, taking away from the experience I had. Also, although when made as an espresso, it is sweetish – hard core espresso and coffee lovers might point to its lack of body (i.e, it doesn’t hit you like perhaps a Kenyan coffee might). I liked it so much as an espresso and for a cappuccino that I didn’t want to sacrifice it for another brewing method, so I can’t tell you how it would taste when brewed for the filter or French Press methods. They always say, if you have fresh roasted coffee, consume it within 2 weeks, but with this bean, it didn’t last a week in my house and that’s just with me drinking it – no ! I’m not selfish, it’s just that my wife doesn’t drink coffee, but she loved the smell of this bean.

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