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.
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 going to share a really “impress your friends” coffee recipe with you that should make your friends go “Wow ! you’re really good at this (insert your name here)”. OK ! first up, I’ve got to break it down to you… for purists, there’s a difference between LATTE ART and what some call LATTE ETCHING. Latte Art really means pouring your well frothed milk into your well extracted espresso and pouring it in a way that displays a design like a heart, flower or rosetta – you’ve seen many of these designs already on this blog – if you haven’t, scroll down, or check my “Art of Coffee” category or Flickr account. OK ! So what is etching then ? In summary, it means playing with the frothed milk by making designs with a tooth pick or tool. So to work then.
Assumptions, assumptions – I’m assuming that you know how to extract a good double espresso into a cappuccino cup and that you know how to froth milk properly – note on that, if you froth milk properly, it should be fairly quiet, so if you hear that loud frothing noise in a cafe, then prepare yourself for badly frothed milk with lots of air. So first up, after extracting espresso and well frothed milk, pour the milk into the espresso beneath the crema cloud, making sure that there is no sign of milk, saving the real frothy stuff. Now, spoon out the froth on top of the espresso cross ways.
Take a picture…. Now, get a tooth pick or wooden cake tester and place it right into the centre of the white cross
Now, I’m assuming you know how to draw, so quickly draw a circle outwards until you get to the edge of the cup and voila. You can even see on the stick the two tone colours, white and cappuccino brown.
Good luck and I hope to get a video of this up soon on my Vimeo account, God willing. Check this space.
Before I delve into the details of my current coffee experience, I thought that I’d give a very brief background on the coffee called Mocha. In short, the name Mocha comes from the old Yemeni port called al-Muka and was given to one of the first types of arabica coffees because it had…. mocca qualities. OK this isn’t a typo – by “mocca” I mean, chocolate like qualities. Tasting and drinking this type of coffee, provided that of course, it is made properly, should remind you of chocolate and it is no surprise that in most cafes, a mocca is typically a chocolate infused milk-based espresso drink made with additional cocoa powder or in more fancy places with chocolate syrup like Monin or Torani. Anyway back to history – mocca coffee originated from the Sidamo region in Ethiopia but it has come to represent the type of coffee grown in Yemen – the first place to grow coffee outside coffee’s home in Ethiopia. Most experts still reckon that the best mocca type coffee still comes from Yemen but similar tasting coffee can naturally be found in Ethiopia. Sadly for lovers of Yemeni coffee, coffee is being grown at a lesser scale in Yemen, meaning that what comes from Yemen is not only getting smaller in quantity but of course higher in price. The main reason for this concerns money of course and politics and so I will not proceed as this is not a blog for politics but from a coffee point of view it is very sad.
Anyway back to that scarcity thing. So, as you can imagine, when I was scanning Andronica’s World of Coffee website to buy some coffee to try, I was delightedly excited to see Yemeni Mocha on the list. I thought, if Andronicas have been supplying top quality coffee for the World famous Harrods of London then they ought to have this very special coffee. So, being a bit cautious and mindful of my pocket, I ordered 500g, to be roasted between medium (in order to bring out both a rich taste) and dark (bringing out the mocha or should I say chocolate tones). I also knew that for this special coffee, the brew of choice would have to be filter as I find this method tends to favour really rich coffees, witness El Portillo and Costa Rica Don Mayo (see previous posts this year). A further step, to make sure that I absolutely got the measurements spot on I wanted to follow the experts; so first up, I recall an e-mail I received from Anette of Square Mile Coffee (London) in which she advised me to use about 12 grammes of freshly ground coffee per 250ml/grammes of just of the boil hot water and secondly, wait for it, weigh the water as opposed to measuring it. You may not know this, unless you are a top chef, but weighing your liquids is more accurate, so I did that at home on my electronic scales. However, I was even more lucky, because I didn’t have to through the agony of memorizing where and when to stop pouring water nor weighing freshly ground coffee, during the absence of scales at the office because my Solis Maestro Coffee grinder grinds exactly 12 grammes of coffee if you put it on setting “2” and my treasured Bodum Columbia French Press, takes exactly 250ml of hot water if you fill it almost to the top with the massive crema/foam sitting on top. Luck me eh ?
Oh ! look at that filter coffee crema – dark, mysterious and bubbly, waiting to be drunk by moi.
Well ! I’m more than glad to report that it was more than worth it. Wow ! what a taste. Even before the bag was opened you are already promised what would be a great taste because the aroma is just wonderful – what every coffee should smell like – chocolate and nutty with a smell that goes up through your nostrils and begins to wet your appetite. The taste is like bitter sweet chocolate rolling over your tongue with “real” coffee and the taste lasts in your mouth for at least an hour undisturbed. My colleagues at work got so used it, that they would come rushing to my room as soon as it began to brew. One colleague called it the best coffee she had tasted and even after she had shared it with half a cup of hot milk – the taste was so powerful, piercing through the milk. Another colleague was so impressed that she got me to order 500g for her, which she plans to hide in her house away from her kids as she doesn’t think they’ll appreciate it, mistaking it for shelf stuff. When I gave her the bill, I said “it’s a bit expensive”, but she said “it’s worth it”.
OK ! how do I end this ? Well ! I can tell you that I’ve ordered another 500g from Andronicas – check out their web shop on my blog roll and if you visit London, go to Harrods, 4th floor and buy some bags. My main contact at Andronicas is so kind to me that he has given me a discount on both occasions when I bought this online to be delivered in Vienna, making this coffee experience one of my best buying experiences of the year. As you know, I love variety and I’m always in the hunt for new coffees, rarely drinking the same coffee for more than 2/3 weeks in a row, but for this I’ve made an exception and will be drinking Yemeni Mocha for what will be almost 2 months in a row, at least in the afternoon after lunch, but due to the scarcity and the good guys at Andronicas, it’s worth it…. a very special coffee indeed.
Flat White and Finca Kilimanjaro coffees, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London. This is like part 2 of my previous post as on my visit to Flat White, Soho in London, I picked up these two bags to take home with me. I had already tried the Flat White version when I was in London in December 2008, but I was really drawn to the Finca Kilimanjaro, as I had read about this on Square Mile’s website and was really intrigued about how a Kenyan peaberry tree, planted in El Salvador, would taste- it’s called a Bourbon and Kenyan Varietal and Square Mile seem to pack their really special coffees in these nice white bags. I thought “that’s really original, taking a coffee plant from one country and planting it in another to get a really good mix of soils, air, etc… for a coffee”. Apparently, the lady who thought this up, Aida Batle, is famous for this and is one of the World’s renowned coffee growers, so who am I to question her logic.
So, what does it taste like ? Fruity, spicy, earthy, sweetish and with a “real” coffee aroma is what comes to mind, or should I say to my tongue. I didn’t try this as an espresso, as I just didn’t think these type of characteristics together with the Kenyan mix would work as an espresso, so it was the French Press or Cafetiere for me, where I definitely had no regrets – a truly beautiful cup indeed. I also give it my “very versatile” coffee award in that although it was roasted on 9 March 2009, three weeks afterwards it was still tasting nice and not bland. This coffee is offered for a limited period only, so log onto Square Mile’s website (their website is on my blog roll) and buy a 350g bag quick.
For the Flat White coffee blend, I still think this works better with properly frothed milk with its chocolate undertones and of course every morning was like a throw back to Flat White in London. With all this inspiration from my triple ristretto day in London, I tried out some of my latte art skills, extracting a double ristretto for my morning cup – still wanting with the latte art, but I thought looked nice in my “love” cappuccino cup, so I sign off with this pic to wish you “from coffee with love”,
Spilling the beans – that’s right – I want to “spill” the beans on some coffee bean secrets, known to the experts but not to us minions (i.e those who do not know) but of course until now.
First, don’t be deceived by size – size matters but not in the way you think – La Rosa Costa Rica beans are advertised as low in acidity and are tiny in relation to your normal coffee bean, BUT I was puzzled, when I grounded these beans using the same timer setting on my coffee grinder when more coffee came out.
Usually with normal beans, I have to grind two and half times, but with this bean, two times was more than enough. Still puzzled, I tried crushing the beans between my finger tips and found it a bit tough – it was dense all the way through, which means that there was no air – the beans were “full of beans”, tee hee..
Second, still on size, smaller beans like the La Rosa above actually have lower acidity and surprise, surprise, these beans were tagged as “low acidity”. Now in coffee, acidity is actually what you are looking for and these are typical of much prized Central American and Kenyan coffee beans. So, in summary, smaller beans usually have a lower acidity than bigger ones, but of course, there are exceptions.
Third, coffee beans even from the same farm don’t necessarily have to be the same size – WHAT !!! Yes ! I just found this out when I bought Los Luchadores Pacamara beans from El Salvador, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London.
I was studying the beans like one does before they grind them and thought, “that’s odd, why are some beans bigger than others ? Have they mixed another set of beans with what I ordered – that’s it I’m calling them to sort this out…”. So I quizzed the roaster, Anette from Square Mile Coffee, and she explained to me that this is normal and one way to test this, is to actually painstakingly separate the larger beans from the smaller ones and take a tasting test – they will taste the same. As she is a WBC Judge, who am I to argue, but to learn.
Fourth, and perhaps not that exciting for some of you caffeine junkies, is that when making coffee that needs a longer contact with water, like filter coffee (4 minutes and more) or French Press (4 minutes), you should ideally get a stronger coffee so that you get the real taste, rather then a watered down one. I also have to point out for those of you who have not visited the main website – shame on you – that the longer the bean has contact with water the higher the caffeine content. What does this mean ? Making coffee using a cafetiere/French press or a filter system means more caffeine than for instance making espresso. I just wanted to mention this again, because whenever people see you drinking espresso, they always say “isn’t that really strong ?” But of course I am always glad to explain that it isn’t and they look at me like “really ! are you really into coffee ?” Only if they knew.
Beans, beans, beans – there’s so much more to know about you.
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.