Tag Archives: Coffee Roasters

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


IMG_7787

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.

 


The Sum of Us, Dubai: Revisited

  
I guess I kind of give the impression that I live in Dubai – well, my jealous daughter just told me “You stop-over there so often”, and my reply “don’t be a hater”. Anyway on yet another stop-over, just last weekend, I was naturally craving coffee, even though the curry fish I had the previous night didn’t provide relief but grief. It just so happened that on this occasion, the Sum of Us was the closest decent cafe to get to before rushing off to the airport.

On entering, I was pleasantly surprised. First up, when I visited in the summer, the cafe had only been opened about 4 weeks and hence was not on the radar yet, making it quite empty – read more here. So, on this occasion, the cafe was literally packed, both inside and outside (it was only about 24C). I only wanted a good cup of milk-based espresso a flat – a magic. 

  
After placing my order, I wandered around and went back to wait by their “take away” station. 

  
After downing my caffeine bliss, I was very intrigued by the expresso blend used – it was quite exceptional and so after discovering it was their house blend, aptly called “Tsunami”, I walked off to the roastery section to purchase my bag of beans.

  
Upon entering, there are gadgets (aeropress, Hario V60 and more) on the left-hand side of the wall, plus I was greeted very nicely by Kersti from Estonia. As we talked, she sensed I was not just another buff and mentioned that she was also holding a coffee tasting session later that day.

  
 I noticed two coffees from EspressoLab, Cape Town, chatted for a bit and ran out to meet my very patient cousin, who was driving around wondering why it was taking me 10 minutes just to drink a cup of coffee.

So, whats changed? More people, eclectic atmosphere, the smell of success and coffee tasting. By having your own roastery, you have access to multiple revenue streams – you gain control of your raw material and product line, coffee, you can sell coffee to other cafes and of course, you can hold coffee tasting sessions. On the latter, for the great value price of AED75 (Euros20), you can have an hour or more session on how to taste coffee – I did something similar at Escape Caffe in Cape Town, once a month. Hats off to the Sum of Us/Tom Arnel and Sergio.

But we’re not finished yet…

  
The coffee, which I brewed this morning, called the Tsunami or the Sum of Us house espresso blend.

   

I call it splitting the heart. Enough of the pedantic, what did it taste like? Hints of toffee and believe it or not caramelised cashews, yummy. Worth the price and transport from Dubai to Vienna in my baggage.

So, if you’re in Dubai and are reading this, pop down to the Sum of Us, enjoy some breakfast, coffee and atmosphere for me and buy some coffee to be brewed how you like.

Ma’assalama, as they say in the Emirates.

 


I’m Drinking… Verve Coffees

Lucky me, I must say. I first heard about Verve Coffee Roasters in early 2010 when I was researching ideas for the logo for my cafe, skimping through countless logo and typeset books. when I came across the one for Verve, it stopped me in my tracks. IOt was obvious that this company had taken their logo and branding very seriously, employing the services of a top firm to do so. As soon as I got home, I searched for them on the internet, reviewed the concept behind the logo and was also impressed that their commitment to their branding was backed up by their serious commitment to speciality coffee. So, you can imagine how excited I was when following them on twitter and reading abot their new coffees, I hinted it would be good to taste their coffees one of these days – and in came the reply, “sure! send us you address and we’ll send you some”. I tried to contain my excitement, having beforehand  tried to buy some of their coffees on-line, but shied away at the astronomical postage costs from Los Angeles all the way to Cape Town –  so I replied “that would be great, but I live in Cape Town, South Africa”. Jon from Verve didn’t seem to mind and voila, roasted on 29 September 2011, my coffees arrived by mid-October – well in the zone, as I prefer drinking coffee not before 7-10 days after the roast date. And my, what a package it was:

3kg of their single estate espresso from Costa Rica, 250g bags each of Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees, a wonderful coffee mug and some brewing tips – talk about spoilt for choice and very lucky me. I was so excited that everyone in my family now admires Verve Coffee Roasters (kids and wife). So, what was the drinking experience like:

For the Single Estate Espresso, it was as they said it was on the packet “Sparkling”, which is what you would expect from a high-prized coffee from Costa Rica Helsar: C. Alpizar, from Los Naranjos Region roasted medium – high in acidity with honey like colours, making a volcano with your taste buds. I tested them out as single shots (one of my fave pics below)

And sure, it was sparkling – enough to wake both you and your taste buds up in the morning. I however, preferred this coffee when mixed with well frothed milk for a cappuccino or macchiatone (Italian version of a Cortado) – for this method, I got “soft” caramel, with hints of milk chocolate.

However, the real prize in the package were the Ethiopian (my favourite of the bunch) and the Kenyan coffees, which I thought  were “exceptional”. For the Kenyan, Ndimaini, being your typical bold and berry-ful coffee, I extracted it using the French Press and Hario V60 methods and this coffee made me fall in love again with the V60 method. It was like the Kenyan coffee was roasted only for a pour-over – very delightful to drink, complex flavours, full in your mouth with dark berries and a mild hint of dark chocolate. I should add that I adhered to Verve’s coffee tips (a bit simlar to mine, 20g of freshly ground coarse coffee with about 200ml of off-the-boil hot water) when brewing their non-espresso coffees. Not only was this another discovery, but it made me think, “these guys really know their coffee and how to get the best out of it” so they must have spent a lot of time on their brewing methods vis-a-vis the roast profile of each coffee.

OK! the Ethiopian, Biloya. Naturally, I used the aeropress method for this – why ? Usually, when I sense a coffee is really special, aroma, look and feel, I think it should be treated gently, which is how I relate to the aeropress – the most gentle way of getting the best out of your coffee. Again, I followed Verve Coffee guidelines and the taste profile was as they described (which I tweeted about), raspberry and wrap around your outer tongue, citrus.

However, following my tweet about my experience, I got some feedback from DearCoffeeILove You (aka DCILY) about Verve Coffee. After a brief interaction on twitter, he (sorry, I don’t know his real name) pointed me to his post about his aeropress method, which you can read in detail here. In summary, his method got him into the top 4 of the World Aeropress Championships in October 2011 (Yes! there is such a competition) and involves reducing the dosage to 16g with 92C 215 water, using a slightly finer grind than what I use, and with more steeping time (1 minute to 1.5 minutes). So, off I went and immediately tried his method, bringing out my scales, measuring jug, etc and wow! my efforts were not wasted  – the taste profile changed dramatically – It reminded me of my fig and orange honey cake – so we are talking about dried sweet fruits, with honey completed with a citrus linger.

Since then, I have been using this method for extracting coffee, the aeropress way. A bit of a digression, BUT I had to share this wonderful revelation.

Back to Verve – I just found out that they are now 4 years old and that they have just opened (23 November 2011) their third store in LA and from the pics, it looks amazing. So happy for the residents and future customers of their 1540 Pacific Avenue store. Read more about them on their website HERE.

Thanks a lot Verve Coffee Roasters and keep up the good work.

 


I’m Blending….

I'm Blending: The Beans by Lameen
I’m Blending: The Beans a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

I’m blending, yipee ! But what exactly does that mean ? In summary, it means that I’ve got my experimental hat on again. Having changed my coffee bean roaster at my caffe, Escape Caffe, I’ve started sourcing beans from another roaster but this time I’m sourcing single estate coffees from different regions of the World. I’m experimenting because part of my character loves change and getting to understand things from the bottom right up. Have I lost you ? It means that I want to understand what makes a good espresso blend. So, I’ve been trying to build up on my basic knowledge of taste profiles.

In general, and I wish to emphasize, GENERAL, most coffee roasters have a formula for blending coffee for espresso preparation, which goes as follows:

A Brazilian for BODY,

a Central American for ACIDITY and an

Ethiopian for natural SWEETNESS.

One of your main goals in blending should always be to get a BALANCE, as you don’t want one coffee taste to dominate. In principle, very high quality or distinctive coffees (lots of black fruit juiciness, acidity and boldness/heaviness) are seldom used in blending for espresso. WHY ? Because they will dominate the blend. Think of it like making a soup/stew – if you cook – you don’t want to put lots of chillies in with subtle tastes like basil, as you will kill the basil taste with hot and fiery chilli. This is one reason why you won’t see Kenyan coffees in espresso blends. I can’t imagine blackberries tasting sweet if exposed to a harsh preparation process.

OK! what do we mean by BODY in the case of Brazilian arabica coffees ? We mean body as in the density of the liquid. IOf you taste/drink lots of good coffee, then you will know that some coffees taste light. Sure, they are both liquids, but orange juice does not have the same texture/body as apple juice.

Now, ACIDITY. I’ve spoken at this at great length before, so won’t go in to it too much, but in summary, it’s detected by the sharpness in taste when you drink coffee, resonate of citrus fruit. So, when you blend, although essential to round off the taste around your tongue, you don’t want it to dominate either, if not it could confuse your tongue with sourness. After all, orange juice and mlik (think of a cappuccino) don’t look nor taste nice together. Personally, I’m not in favour of medium to high acidity in espresso based drinks.

Finally, SWEETNESS. Very essential for coffee and to dispel the misconception that coffee is only sweet when you add sugar. However, by sweetness, we don’t mean sugary sweet, but more like natural sweetness, such as the type found predominantly in honey and sometimes elevated in dried fruit like dates, raisins and figs.

So, what are you looking for ? As the coffee roasters rule – and yes they do, as they control what you taste and more often than not, they roast the way they like coffee to taste – you are looking for a coffee that has a nut like character, with a hint of chocolate (and sometimes cocoa, because most people love the cocoa family) with natural sweetness wrapped around your tongue, well balanced and with medium acidity and a lingering finish. Wow ! what a mouthfull, quite literally.

For nuts, think almonds, hazelnuts and macadamia (if you are lucky) and more specifically BRASIL.

For hints of cocoa, toffee, subtle citrus fruitiness, think Central America, like COSTA RICA, GUATEMALA.

For honey like sweetness and sometimes hints of red berries think ETHIOPIA.

If you favour spices like vanilla (hard to get), cinnamon, etc then in general look to the East like INDONESIA, INDIA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.

BUT, of course, coffee is a lot more complicated than this, so sometimes the basic rules above can be broken by sourcing coffee from a very high quality single estate farm, roasted by a very experienced cupping and roasting master.

I also don’t want to get into the wet-processed and naturally dried process of coffee as these too affect tastes and how you blend, but in general, a lot of top roasters seems to be ignoring naturally dried coffee when blending. Some also use just Central American coffees in their espresso blends. Personally, my ideal espresso would have hints of almonds, vanilla, caramel, buttery toffee, dried figs, medium to low acidity, balance, smoothness and lingering taste. Fussy ? Yes I am. I sometimes get this from drinking Square Mile Coffee Espresso blends and just this morning from Verve Coffee Roasters (my next post God willing).

 

So what did I experiment with ? First up I used a Brasilian for body, a Malawian for bursting chocolate and a Cup of Excellence Guatemalan for acidity, sweetness and for balance. The result, a bit mellow, easy to drink and favoured by most.

Next up, I tried just two coffees, the Brazilian and the Guatemalan COE. The result, bursting with energy, toffee, caramel and customers saying “Wow! what coffee is this, can you get more ?”

And so for my next experiment…….


My Best Coffee of 2010

I know it’s late BUT I’ve got to let you know about my best coffee of 2010 because it will just be unforgivable if I didn’t. So what was it ? It was, CAPAO CHAPADA DIAMANTINA or Capao for short. It hails from Brazil, was roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London. It’s primary taste notes were described as toffee, cocoa, hazelnut with a slight vanilla finish. There, they got me – whilst it’s almost normal to find taste profiles along the lines of toffee, caramel, hazelnut, almond, cocoa, chocolate, it’s very rare to find vanilla. Trust me, I’ve tried. Square Mile even went the extra mile to tempt me “it’s like snickers in a cup”. Snickers being the chocolate bar with a peanut nougat base, topped with peanuts and caramel and wrapped in milk chocolate. Now ! tell me that isn’t tempting.

However, I’m not that shallow to fall for looks alone or in this case, taste profiles. So what did it really taste like and why did I really like it that I gave it the high accolade of “COFFEE OF THE YEAR”.

So, what did it taste like as an espresso….

Oh my God !

And as a Cappuccino….

This isn’t real

and as Americano…… This can’t be happening to me

and finally, in a French Press…. OK ! you’ve got to be kidding right.

You know what they say “somethings are better left unsaid” OR “few words have the impact of thousands “. OK ! the last one is slightly made up, but you can quote me on that.

In summary, let’s just say this coffee was inspirational. Even my barista at Escape Caffe, poured his best latte art so far.

Capao Heart Close

As a cappuccino, it was the best experience – creamy and buttery (the latter a square mile signature), toffee like, cocoa all over my mouth, finishing off with vanilla.

As an espresso, nice body (and looks too) with toffee and hazelnut to the fore, just wrapping around your tongue and delghting your stomach.

As an Americano, there was almost full body crema and similar tastes experienced in the espresso were enhanced with toffee and caramel dominating.

The final taste test was in a French Press, but before that one proviso for those less gifted. Usually, coffee that is made with such vigour using the espresso machine, just doesn’t cut it when extracted using more subtle methods like the French Press, but not in this case. The taste was still amazing “vanilla and cocoa with a hint of berry in the finish and lingering way past 30 minutes”.

So, in summary again, this coffee was not only great, or should I say fantastic in taste, but very versatile across many ways of drinking it.

So sad to see it go, but I pray it comes back in 2011. Well done Square Mile for getting it and roasting it just perfectly for me.


Coffee Roasters: Red Cherry Coffee Roasters, Cape Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Cherry Flattie

Red Cherry Flattie

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

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

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


Coffee Roasters: Deluxe Coffeeworks, Cape Town

I’ve decided to add a new category as I launch myself into the Cape Town and South Africa coffee scene, to be called “Coffee Roasters”. I was thinking, if you are new to a new city and are really craving not only good coffee, but somewhere to buy good coffee, it can be stomach wrenching – I am speaking from experience in my new home city of Cape Town. So, imagine my joy in late December, when the bags of coffee I carried over from Europe had run out and I stumbled across a shop, wreaking with the smell of freshly roasted coffee. Of course I walked in, spotting a coffee roaster tucked into the back and someone behind a coffee bar offering me free coffee to taste, “God relieved me of my distress”. Where was I ? Deluxe Coffeeworks. Well ! actually I have been thinking, but I have never asked, where did that name come from and I thought about breaking the name into a phrase ” Deluxe coffee works” Get it ? Well ! Good coffee works, but bad doesn’t. OK, I’m digressing. So, who are they ? Currently there’s Carl, Nick and Judd. Judd, originally from New Zealand, was also trained there at Cafe Supreme and from what he is doing in this new establishment, he obviously learnt well. They’ve only been up and running since 2009 and already have a following and a growing client base amongst some top cafes and restaurants in Cape Town. Their plan is to focus entirely on wholesale coffee sales but lucky for us, you can pop into their roastery cum shop on Church Street, which is very centrally located and they would gladly serve you any espresso based drink at a fantastic price.

The other bonus of course, is that you can also buy freshly roasted arabica beans to take home with you, packed in organic looking brown bags by the kilo or shiny 250g bags. They can also grind it for you if you prefer and they sell little gadgets like milk frothing jugs and Bialetti’s version of the French Press. The guys at Deluxe Coffeeworks are really easy to talk to and if you’ve got some time to spare, drop in and chat about coffee, Cape Town and life. Naturally, I’ve tried their coffees, which I tend to find is very aromatic. My current favourite is their organic espresso blend,

but their espresso blend is also very nice, blending well with milk and displaying chooclate and nutty tastes.

I’ve currently got one of their experimental blends at home, which is a mixture of Kenyan and Ecuadorian arabic coffee beans. I find it a bit spicy, bordering on licorice in taste and very distinctive as an espresso.

I was also lucky enough to be invited to an espresso tasting session of single origin coffees a few weeks back, which ranged from a very strong Kenyan espresso to easy-to-drink and very mass appealing Guatemalan arabica. So, definitely worth a visit before they completely close their doors to the walking public, but if you’ve got a cafe or restaurant in the Cape Town area, check them out as a possible supplier and they ain’t paying me to say that.