Thank You Butterworth & Son Coffee Roasters

You’ve probably heard me many times elaborate about how blessed I am. Blessed to be introduced to the coffee bean by its Creator and I can’t even count how many times I’ve had a wonderful coffee experiences, let alone the amount of times I’ve been given free coffee (there are many reasons for this). And the blessings continue.

So a few weeks ago, or is that months now, one of the baristi (plural for barista in Italian) from Butterworth & Son Coffee Roasters Lauren Small (aka I am the Anxious Barista on Instagram) reached out to me on Instagram and wanted to know if I would like to taste their coffees. Having researched them – yes I do this because I have been offered free coffee before BUT if I don’t think I’m going to have a pleasant experience, I decline – I politely accepted. However, as I had just moved to Dubai, I was concerned that it would cost a lot for them to send me about 1kg of coffee in terms of postage and registered delivery/courier charges but Lauren was insistent, so I succumbed. In any case, after one failed attempt, I decided it was far much easier to have Lauren send it to my brother in London who would then pass it onto our daughter, who would be visiting Dubai in mid-December and voila! just one day before she was due to leave, it arrived…. The things you do for coffee eh! Nevertheless, another blessing.

Not only did I receive coffee from them, they selected a very diverse group of coffee spanning the coffee world, two Africans, one central American and one South American – that sounded strange as I wrote that. Now, off to the coffees.

Colombia Washed

From reading the taste profile, I knew that this would be good for espresso and it was. I even invited a friend over to share the experience and well what did it taste like….

Chocolate but of course, especially when brewing it as my daily cappuccino. After a few days, you would be pleased to know that it never disappointed and always tasted like chocolate. Now how’s that for consistency and a good way to start the day.

Guatemala Honey Process

This one, I must confess was a bit tricky as I brewed it both as an espresso and as a filter (aeropress and HarioV60). I started off brewing this as an espresso and picked up hints of apricot but the Colombia (above) was so good as an espresso based coffee, that I moved over to brewing this solely as a filter, either on an aeropress or Hario V60, where I picked up hints of winey dried fruits.

Kenya Peaberry Washed

Now, it’s getting exciting. If you know me, you would know that I usually get excited about Kenyan coffees but I should probably add that Lauren, I presume, didn’t know that I love Kenyan coffees. Typically, Kenyan coffees when roasted right and of course brewed right tend to have traditional taste profiles of dark berries and this one obviously had that.

However what stood out for me when brewed this on a Hario V60 was the hints of lime and mint. Now you may be wondering, why Lime and Mint? but before you judge, it was not overpowering at all. It was like after you had the first sip, then there was this delicate flower taste of lime and mint afterwards. As the coffee got older and the days went by, the mint dominated and the lime diminished but nevertheless it was a truly pleasant experience all the way to the last bag… sigh.

Rwanda Natural

I think I’ve saved the best for last. The experience with this coffee was further enhanced by my desire to start using my Chemex, which was given to me by my former colleagues as a leaving present way back in November 2019. I know, why did it take this long to use it ? but that’s another conversation. Prior to using the Chemex for the first time, I asked Lauren for their recipes (yes, each coffee shop has a recipe for how they brew their coffee per method, well serious coffee shops do). In this way, I wanted to ensure that I was brewing not just this coffee but the others too, using their recipe. In fact after this disclosure I have now amended how I brew Hario V60 to 20g with 300ml water.

Okay, so back to the Rwanda and the Chemex, now that could be a good movie title

Using their recipe of 300ml to 20g of coffee and my new Hario scales (thanks to my wife), I really enjoyed the process.

slow mo coffee drip

And how about the taste? Okay I may not have picked up strawberries and cream but Plum, medium citrus acidity and hints of buttery caramel were predominant. It was such a pleasant experience that I mainly brewed this coffee on the Chemex, despite its average brewing time of 5-6 minutes. On the Hario V60 and aeropress it was still nice but not as delicious as on the Chemex. In fact Lauren had recommended trying this as an espresso but I couldn’t take the risk of wasting 40-60 grammes of this delectable coffee during the espresso adjustment process, so I just stuck to the safer process of filter brew.

I just checked their website prior to writing this piece and sadly for you they don’t have this coffee anymore. Don’t worry, I empathise with you too as I had my last brew of this coffee early last month.

Just before I finish, kindly note that this is not paid sponsorship and I don’t get any money for bragging about my wonderful tastebud experience.

I’m not sure about the background of Butterworth and Son, who are based in St Edmunds, UK but I know that they do good tea too and from my experience, good coffee as well. I definitely recommend them and you have to love their artwork on there bags too.

To check them out and order coffee and teas, check them out here https://butterworthandson.co.uk

I was at The Espresso Lab, Dubai

A piccolo or cortado

The experience was even more exhilarating as I had my #dailycortado using #kenyancoffee

In honour of International coffee day on 1 October 2020, I decided to treat myself at one of Dubai’s iconic specialty coffee shops, The Espresso Lab, located at Dubai Design District. In fact this was my second visit, as I had visited them at the previous location in 2016, read here.

As you enter, you are greeted with a brew bar, featuring a Synesso espresso machine and many filter brew options ranging from cold drip, Hario V60, khalifa wave, etc and more, see pic below.

Brew bar at espresso lab

What was unusual for me, was the number of staff present. Let me explain; following the pandemic , I’ve noticed that most food and beverage establishments have cut down considerably on staff. I’ve always been in two minds about this because I always believe that this compromises on service delivery. Can you really provide the same level of quality customer experience ( I prefer this to service) with less people? Well, I don’t think so.

So, back to espresso lab. For me, with this amount of staff, it gave the impression that they were very focused on the customer and that each staff had clear guidelines on their job, so well done espresso lab.

Now, to the coffee. I love that they don’t serve espresso to go and don’t offer sugar, yay!

Coffee menu

I knew I was craving espresso based coffee as I had to leave my espresso machine in Vienna until it is air freighted. On offer were 3 single origins; India, Yemen and Kenya. Now, if you know a bit about coffee origins and taste profiles, you’ll know that these choices are very unusual, especially for espresso. In case you are wondering, it’s very rare to brew Kenyan coffee on an espresso machine mainly because of the typical profile of bold, berry and citrus flavours. Although very uncommon at the moment, I must say since I’ve moved to Dubai, I’ve had close contact with Yemeni coffee, so, I decided to try the Kenya coffee. Check out the latte art pour by barista Wael below.

Pouring my cortado

And wow! I wasn’t disappointed, as this was for me, one of the best milk based espresso drinks of 2020, a true treat, praise God. Well done to the barista Wael, who I quizzed endlessly before I placed my order. I salute his patience.

After that delightful experience, I knew I needed something sweet, so here comes the mini double layer carrot cake, topped with rose petals, another delicious treat. To compliment this experience I had a short black, americano with less water and discovered a book, “the monk of mokha“, which a friend mentioned to me a few years back, that I would like to buy and read.

Cute Carrot cake

Their menu is different and I plan to visit their newly opened roastery with another coffee nerd soon in order to learn more.

Coffee galore

So, when in Dubai, I highly recommend a visit to espresso lab, located in building 7, Dubai Design District.

Coffee of the Week: Square Mile Kenya Muchagara

Looking through Square Mile Coffee‘s instagram feed, it suddenly dawned on me that because of all the pandemic fiasco, I haven’t ordered coffee from them for several months. In part, this was due to my desire to support local coffee roasters in Vienna but I was also worried that if I ordered coffee from London, it might take several days to 2 weeks before I get my coffee, as post offices were using the excuse of covid to delay delivery. How wrong I was, because I actually got my coffee faster than pre-lockdown days. So, naturally I was delighted when they arrived a few days after I placed my order.

Included with my usual 2 bags of espresso and one of filter, was a gift, a 30g of a Kenyan coffee from Muchagara in Kenya’s Kirinyaga county. The first thing I noticed was the smell – WOW!, wow! wow! – probably the best smelling coffee I’ve smelt all year. Aware that I only had 2 opportunities to make this coffee, I made sure that I really measured them well. First up, I tried it on the aeropress, using 14g, which was more like blackcurrant BUT I knew that for me, brewing it on the Hario V60 would be the real test.

Using the remaining 16.5g (I got an additional 0.5g – yay!) with 250ml 95C hot water with my dear wife filming, Here’s my experience – to conclude…. ah that smell….

I picked up a bit of the cherry and some type of caramel sweetness and hints of citrus acidity.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDg_DbRBU3e/

Coffee of the Week Video

Coffee of the week 5 April video

Here’s my first video of my new series, coffee of the week, in which I share with you which of the coffees I had during my week that impressed me the most, whether as a filter brew or as an espresso.

My first video celebrating the impressive Kenyan coffee I got at Nightjar, Dubai. Here, I’m using Hario V60, based loosely on the James Hoffmann’s method;

  • 15g freshly grinded coffee
  • 245ml 95C water
  • Hario V60 with filter paper made wet with some hot water

See methodology in my video and let me know your Hario V60 method.

With this method, the coffee was really fruity with dark berries, citrus acidity and full bodied, with a long aftertaste round the middle of my tongue. 

 

 

 

 

 

I was at the Coffee Research Institute, Ruiru – Kenya

The latter half of 2019 has proven to be probably my most exhilarating coffee experience ever, with my last three posts taking place since September and just before that in late August, I was lucky enough on my last trip to Kenya to stop by the Coffee Research Institute (CRI). Prior to that, but of course, I had done some research on whether nuclear science and technology could be used to enhance the productivity of coffee crops and I was fascinated that in Kenya they actually had an institute specialising in coffee research, so I ensured that when I visited, I would try my best to visit. For those who don’t know I used to work for a UN organisation (until 30 November 2019) in which I was responsible for designing projects to use nuclear science and technology to address development challenges in Africa. I digress. Needless to say, the Coffee Research Institute, part of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) were very interested to meet with me to explore how the technology could help Kenya improve the productivity of coffee beans in relation to climate change.

Located just outside Nairobi, the CRI is located in an area called Ruiru. I have heard the name before as I have seen it many times on Kenyan coffee bags. Nevertheless, as we approached, I was amazed by the sight of a huge array of coffee trees – a coffee lovers dream. We were literally surrounded by plantations of coffee as we drove up to the main building, which I must confess, looks like it was straight out of the 1960s.

As we waited in the boardroom for the Director of the CRI, Dr Elijah Gichuru, we were offered coffee of course and my colleague was stunned that I had it without sugar or milk. The Director gave us a short presentation on the work of the CRI which are as follows;

Coffee breeding – developing new varieties, resistant to diseases, but with higher yields

Coffee quality analysis, including sensory evaluation

Engineering – processing, water and waste analysis

Food safety – ensuring that there’s no mycotoxin in the bean

Entomology – ensuring that there are no pests destroying the plantations

Research focused on hastening crop development

Analysis on growing domestic coffee consumption

There was a lot more, but in short, at the CRI they focus a lot on researching coffee to make it sustainable for the future. They are even working on the hybrid of robusta and arabica, aptly called, Arabusta. So in summary it would be possible to use nuclear technology to help them especially in developing new varieties to combat climate change. From my perspective, I as thinking that the expertise at CRI could easily align with my goal of helping African coffee farmers to enhance their quality and hence command a better price on the export market.

If you are really serious about learning more, the CRI also houses a coffee college (yes, you read that right), where coffee farmers and other people from the industry can learn a number of techniques. Very tempting for me in relation to one of my goals to usurp myself into coffee, even if it’s just for a week, especially to learn more about Kenyan coffee, which still commands the highest premium price of African coffees on the World market.

As we finished our tour, the Director led us the front of the main secretariat to take a picture (top of post) as he handed me some coffee from the institute, as well as for me to actually see and touch a coffee tree.

Another highlight of my experiences of 2019 especially in relation to the future of coffee in Africa and for my personal project to try to help coffee farmers in Africa get a better price and recognition for the quality of the crop.

However, before I leave, I need to mention another experience that I had earlier in Kenya as this post is primarily about Kenyan coffee.

It is no secret that even with the people I worked with in Vienna or in Africa, my coffee passion stands out. So on one previous visit, one of the researchers mentioned that she wanted to show me something at another one of KALROs institute – this time in Nairobi itself.

What is this, you ask ? Well a coffee tree of course, but even though it is quite big, it is very special –

I present to you the oldest coffee tree in Kenya from the 1920s. But that’s not all. As I approached the tree, I noticed two initials SL – initials that I have seen many times on coffee bags from Kenya. So I asked, what does that stand for – they said Scott Labs – the original name for the coffee research institute in Kenya. That is why many coffee varieties in Kenya start with SL, like SL28 and SL34, which you may have seen many times, along with Ruiru 11, etc.

Perhaps Kenya should, if not done yet, start a coffee tour package for coffee lovers like me.

Next time you have the opportunity to buy Kenyan coffee, please do as when it is roasted properly, you will understand why so many coffee connoisseurs believe Kenyan coffee to be the best in the World.

Enjoy!

I was @ Java House, Kenya: Perhaps, Africa’s best coffee chain?

Actually, I’m a bit embarrassed by the lateness of this post, because last year I had one of my most surprising coffee experiences in the eclectic city of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and main hub. As per usual, I had to attend a five day meeting in the city and of course I was on the hunt for coffee. Prior to my departure, I visited lonely planet’s helpful guide to cafes and restaurants to visit in Nairobi – also a major tourist destination and springboard to visit the vast wildlife and safaris across the country; and found 2-3 interesting ones. You may wish to know too that Nairobi is the only capital city in the World where there’s actually a natural safari park, near the airport, which we visited on our penultimate day – pics at the end.

So how about the coffee ? After all I was visiting one of the premier coffee countries in the World – not just a coffee growing country but a country that reputably has one of the best arabica varieties in the World (SL28 and SL32 but let’s not go there with deep coffee neurosis), sought after by coffee connoisseurs all over. Due to the location of our meeting and hence hotel, we were placed right bang in the middle of the city. I had initially wanted to check out another brand, the Artcaffe Coffee & Bakery, which looked very “European/American” in design, but all their locations were too far to get to during my busy week, so Java House it was – located on Mama Ngina Street, Transnational Plaza, about 5 minutes walk from the Hilton Hotel.

Upon entering their cafe, you won’t notice anything special in terms of decor; no exposed bricks, Scandinavian clean white washed floors and serving bar, because this is no frills per say – you could easily be in a typical local restaurant, apart from the smell of coffee and for geeks like me – the La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine. I looked around, the clientele was mainly Kenyan but there were a few what looked like backpackers as they had free wifi for customers too. I checked their menu – typical espresso menu, even with an offer for double as well as triple shots. I enquired about their coffee – roasted in small batches every day, primarily from Kenya but also from the region, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. I checked out the barista and his skills as he prepared other drinks and not to seem to geeky in front of my colleague, recommend that we both try a double espresso each. I must confess I wasn’t expecting much – I could hear my wife echoing her usual verdict of “coffee snob” into my ear from 1,000 of kilometres away in Vienna.

Hmm! Espresso served with a biscuit

So impressed with the extraction and of course the taste, my colleague immediately went over to ask about buying their coffees. Initially I was reluctant, but bought a Kenyan AA filter blend 500g of arabica coffee beans. The bill, for 2 double espressos and a 375g of Kenyan AA bag of coffee – wait for it US$10 – now that’s a great all round experience.

Of course I went back but must confess that on one occasion I was the victim of the plague of inconsistency that sometimes hampers African businesses, as on my second visit, the espresso lacked vigour – no crema and bitter. Needless to say, the other 1/2 visits did not disappoint. In a way I got the impression that their roasting skills would not disappoint and bought another bag of coffee, but this time from their speciality offering of a Rwandan arabica to take home with me and try on my French press. My colleague bought about 3-4 bags – I lost count.

Java House, I came to find out have about 40 branches in Nairobi alone. They seem quite popular and were always busy when I visited, perhaps because they also have an extensive food menu, including red velvet cake closing late, around 10pm everyday.

They also have a branch at the airport and saw their beans being sold in a duty free shop, but be warned, the coffee was not as freshly roasted as the ones in the city and were more expensive – I smiled to myself as I left the bags of months old roasted coffee at the airport duty free, informing the shop keeper that the coffee costs more at duty free but in town.

In summary I was quite happy to see that Java House, Kenyan created and currently still owned is an African coffee chain that is built on using locally produced coffee, roasted in small batches and successful in terms of its wide range and number of outlets in the city and beyond – It was also gratifying to see that Kenyans were enjoying one of their most prized exports in their own country and that the best stuff hadn’t been siphoned off to the European US and beyond – proud to be African is what comes to mind.

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