I’m Drinking a Grand Reserve Coffee

Yes ! A Grand Reserve coffee – a speciality from top coffee grower, Aida Battle, supposed to be a special blend of coffees from her farm in El Salvador. Fruity and intense, yet complex and medium balanced on the acidity. Have I lost you ? If you’re an expert, then you probably want more, but I’ll just keep it simple for now. This particular batch was roasted by top roasters, Square Mile Coffee Roasters (SMCR) no less and if you have been an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know that I used to be a regular customer of SMCR -that is until I moved to Cape Town. So, how did I get my hands on this special coffee ? Only God could have made this possible but here’s the story behind it. I walk into one of my favourite cafes in Cape Town, Espresso Lab in Woodstock, get chatting to owner/roaster, Renato and spot the famous label bag on the shelf and asked how he managed to get a bag down here in Cape Town – “ordered through the internet of course”. But having read about the coffee on SMCR website a few weeks bag, I knew that it was really special with a real special price too, at about £22 (or $33 or 242 Rands) per 350g bag. Probably spotting the delight in my eye, Renato offered me a precious 40g free of charge, enough to make one French Press and one double espresso portions – thank you God.

You can’t imagine the excitement when I got home – I read about this coffee, grown by one of the top coffee growers in the World, roasted by one of the best coffee roasters in the World, unable to order it all the way from London because of the costs and here it was in my kitchen, ready to be prepared the way I love coffee, French Press and double espresso. OK ! Let’s get to work but be warned, as this is so special, I was inspired to focus on trying to capture the coffee as best as I could on photo, so that I could share the experience with you. I’ve already described the taste profile at the top of this blog, so don’t expect too much emphasis on taste profile, just enjoy the pics and dream.

First up, Le French Press. OK ! with this type of preparation, the fruity elements tend to dominate – very balanced as an afternoon cup after a light lunch, going down smoothly.

I was tempted to just drink the coffee as a double espresso to really experience it as a concentrate but there was a part of me saying “what would it be like with milk?” So, I went for a Cortado – a what ? It’s currently my favourite milk based drink, a Spanish version of a cappuccino, but with less milk, so you use about the same portions of milk as espresso, using a 150ml cup – so strictly speaking, a double shot espresso at about 50-55ml with 50ml frothed milk, which would have a foam of about 20%.

Doesn’t it look yummy and inspirational ? with this type of extraction and preparation, I found the Grand Reserve not too acidic with a soft touch of milk chocolate coming through the milk. I wish I had done this blog sooner when the coffee was readily available and then I could have said buy it now from Square Mile Coffee Roasters but I just googled it and I think Sweet Maria’s in the USA roast it too, so if you are reading this in the US, try and get it before it runs out. Until then, dream and if it’s out again, I’ll try and let you know somehow.

Autumn Espresso… What Now !

This is absolutely disgraceful – 8 weeks without blogging – I hold my head in shame but I do have a great excuse… I’ve moved to Cape Town, one of my favourite foodie city to open a coffee (but of course) and cake/sandwich shop. It’s been challenging trying to settle in without easy access to communication like internet. In any case I’ve been really busy with checking out the coffee and cafe scene and it is quite exciting. However more on that next time, as this is supposed to be about Autumn Espresso.

Yes ! It is a bit strange to talk about autumn, as it’s mid-winter in the northern hemisphere and mid-summer in the southern hemisphere – it’s like 25C outside as I write. So, I guess to compromise for my readers in both hemispheres so that no one gets left out, it is apt that I should talk about a coffee that was roasted and blended to typify the season in between, Autumn of course. OK ! I got this bag of Autumn Espresso during the northern hemisphere season, back in late October/early November but didn’t get the chance to share my experience.

It’s roasted by Square Mile Coffee in London and reminds you of the Autumn mainly because of the roasted hazlenut and caramel and toffee tastes that dominate. There is a hint of chocolate of course, but this comes out more when you make it as an espresso milk based drink like a Cappuccino or Caffe Latte.

Just love the pics of these coffees as I was really getting into studying my digital SLR and playing around with different concepts like Aperture, so that I could use the camera to bring out the best of the coffee, especially as these were taken on wet, windy and cloudy Autumn days. I must confess I cannot remember where the coffees were sourced from, but being a fan of Square Mile since they started in 2008 I can almost say for certain that there was some Central American arabica thrown in, probably from Guatemala and/or Ecuador. You’ll have to wait another 9 months for this to be available again on the market and if you can get your hands on some, go for it.

Espresso Cream

No ! that isn’t spelt wrong… it is cream this time and not crema, but you need crema first. Confusing ! I thought so, so let me explain. I was drinking Square Mile Coffee Roasters latest addition “Progresso” I love the way it sounds. It’s like a new espresso drink should be created with that name. In any case, Progresso is advertised as a cremay cup, with lingering sweetness, if brewed properly of course. So, looking into my fridge, I noticed a carton of full cream inside and thought “I’ve never tried espresso with cream before, well there’s always a first time”. The main reason for this of course, is that I thought “how can someone destroy an espresso by putting cream inside” and the very thought cold easily make me scream, BUT on this occasion, my culinary curiosity got the better of me, because I thought cream added to sweet things usually enhances it. So first up, extract a beautiful espresso with a good dose of crema visible on top like below;

Then of course, just pour a little bit of cream on top, but it should be enough to make the drink rise just a little bit – say about 2 teaspoons worth.

In the picture below, this is more evident, as I used an espresso shot glass, which when extracting a single espresso should rise to the line, but there was enough cream to just push it above the line.

This adventure just wasn’t about the taste, but about the art of coffee, because I really wanted to see how the colours would display with a shot of cream poured inside an espresso crema – would the crema disappear, or would it rise to the top like real cream is supposed to, and so there was a bit of the scientific too. Just look at all those colours.

On taste, I was correct, the sweetness in the espresso was enhanced, making it a truly tasty experience. So next time, break with the conventional and try something different. Is this progress with drinking espresso ? I don’t know but just one more time, say PROGRESSO like an Italian would.

Ciao, Espresso Cream Crema……

I’m Drinking …. Summer Espresso

Hmmm ! Courtesy of Square Mile Coffee Roasters (London), who produce a blend for each season. The summer version is made using 80% Finca Las Nubes from Guatemala and 20% La Carol from Colombia. Incidentally, as far as I can remember, the Finca Las Nubes arabica bean was roasted by Square Mile Coffee and used by Gwilm Davies to win the World Barista Championship this year. So this is really a special bean and if I was a crass advertising agent for Square Mile Coffee, I would say “buy your special championship bean from us, used only by champions, so be a champion and buy this bean…now !” But, I’m not, so just buy it anyway, but oops, too late, summer is over. Until next year then, God willing, but honestly visit their website (link on my blogroll to the left) and they may have some more left. In any case, what I like about Square Mile Coffee Roasters (SMCR) is that they actually tell you what their blend consists off – this is unusual trust me, as I’ve asked many a roaster what their special in-store blend consists off and they give me that, like I’m going to tell you my secret smirk. Even more props to SMCR, they give you an indication of what the coffee should taste like if you’ve got the right tools of course and know what you’re doing. So, for the Summer Espresso, it should be…

An amalgamation (i.e. lots of) of taste, however the prominent ones I detected were caramel and the berry juice finish. The berry juice finish is really freaky, because what happens is that you’re drinking the coffee, tasting the nutty and caramel taste and then as you finish each gulp, a berry tastes whirls through to the back of your throat…BERRY FINISH. almost scary, but fun for the taste buds. With milk based espresso drinks, I found the toffee more prominent with “honey sweet”

Anyway, I was so impressed with this blend that not only did I tell SMCR about it, I’ve just ordered 2 more bags before summer runs out and if you know me, you’ll know that I hardly order the same thing twice, especially in one pack. Watch this space for the Autumn blend

I’m Drinking a Berry Nice Coffee

No! this isn’t spelt wrong. This really is a berry, berry nice coffee. The origin, from Kenya, with the name Ngunguru – don’t get your tongue twisted. If you’re a fan of my blog, then you’ll know that I actually first encountered this coffee back in April, when I got a free bag from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. However, when I saw this coffee for sale on Square Mile Coffee Roasters website, I thought “why not, let me try this again” and promptly ordered it again. However, the second time around and hats off (well done) to the roasters at Square Mile Coffee Roasters because when I extracted this coffee using a French Press, I got to smell as well as taste different tones that I didn’t experience the first time. At first, I thought, this is strange – am I really smelling a fruity coffee with berry tones and rosehip…. ??? Yes ! I think I am and to verify this, I invited colleagues into my room, which was filled with a very unusual aroma – fruity coffee ad they almost started smiling, whilst I was just laughing – I mean how can coffee be so overwhelmed with fruit that it overtakes the strong coffee aroma that we know coffee has.

So, here it is a truly fruity cup of coffee. Wonderful fruity aroma, light in taste, slightly tart/citrus in taste – a really good coffee in the afternoon and to share with friends. Trust me, you’ve got to try this coffee out and well done Square Mile Coffee Roasters for roasting this coffee so well that it brought out these wonderful tastes. What would you expect from a world renowned coffee roaster and a former WBC Champion duo.

World Barista Champion 2009

Just thought that you might want to know that the World Barista Championship (WBC) for 2009 was won by Gwilym Davies from the UK. That means for all those people who thought the UK was behind in making good coffee, they are wrong, because for the past 3 years all the World Barista champions have come from the British Isles, so head over to London for the best espresso. OK ! seriously London is where it’s at for the following reasons when it comes to the WBC – check this connection: The WBC champion for 2007 was Jim Hoffmann from the UK and the 2008 WBC champion was Stephen Morrissey from Ireland and they both set up the coffee roastery, Square Mile Coffee Roasters with Anette Moldvaer – 2009 WBC sensory judge. Now ! the 2009 WBC champion actually runs espresso carts in London and guess where he buys his coffees from, Yep ! Square Mile Coffee Roasters – wow ! what a connection.

I learnt about this connection from Square Miles blog, so check it out for more in-depth coffee stuff, http://www.squaremileblog.com One thing that’s new for the WBC is that the machine sponsors have changed – the espresso machines are no longer sponsored by La Marzocco but by Nuova Simonelli and the coffee grinders are no longer by Compak, but now by Mahl Konig. For more about the WBC, check out their website on http://www.worldbaristachampionship.com/index.html.

I’m Drinking….

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”,

Ciao !

Spilling the Beans

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.

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.

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