Thursday, 22 November 2012

Tanzania Ruvuma Mbinga, Small Batch Coffee Company, Brighton

This single origin Tanzanian coffee comes from the Ruvuma project which is situated around the town of Mbinga, Ruvuma district, South Tanzania.  Mbinga sits in a remote southern corner of the country and many people there are dependant on the coffee they grow as the primary source of income. 

The soils the independent farmers and small holders work are rich in volcanic materials and the coffee's are noted for bringing an acidic fruity flavour to the table.

Tanzanian coffee has improved hugely in recent years thanks to projects like this. Processing here was poor in the past which resulted in lower quality coffee being produced. The Ruvuma project is sponsored by two coffee companies, Soochak Bush & co. Ltd. and Tropex ltd. They pay a premium for a higher quality of raw beans from the farmers. 

The other aspect of the project is that they have built a central facility for processing and grading who's services are included as part of the price that is paid. In the past the farmers would have had to do the processing themselves or pay for it. With this project the farmers make greater profits and the coffee buyers are ensured higher graded and well processed coffees. 

The premium the projects pays allows the farmers to concentrate on growing the best crop they can and not worrying about other aspects and costs of bringing the product to market.

The beans are light brown and graded AA. This is the 2nd size down from the top and the AA rated beans now make up 14% of the crops from Mbinga. They hold a sweet acidic scent and when ground down further fruity notes were released.

On the Aeropress brew a good thick crema developed with even more fruit filling the air. 

The taste wasn't disappointing, mirroring and enhancing the aromas that were spied back with the whole bean. A full bodied flavour carried a sweet creaminess which was struck through with a bright, light, citrus acidity. The acidity did not overpower the coffee and gave a zippy, cherry noted through line all the way to the finish. It was clean and well balanced leaving a sweet, fruit after taste to enjoy.

As it was single origin a tasting from a slow drip brew was also completed. A Hario V60-02 was used with boiled and then slightly cooled filtered water. 

This provided a more subtle and delicate taste experience but revealed more details. It was a little less acidic and the fruit flavour had more tones and depth to enjoy.

  • Beans: Arabica, Variety: 100% Bourbon             
  • Certification: None - But from the Ruvuma Project
  • Region: Ruvuma district, Southern Tanzania
  • Altitude: 12,000-18,000
  • Process: Washed, wet process

An  enjoyable single origin coffee, full bodied with striking sweet fruit notes and clean acidity throughout.

How do we taste it? Go here.

Small Batch Coffee Company
 01273 220246

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Gantry, Brockley, South East London

Attending a birthday celebration in Brockley I got to sample one of the recently "done up" restaurants around there. The Gantry is broken up into a number of different spaces, bar, dinning room, conservatory and outside at both the front and the rear. The style of the place is generally modern but with nothing too striking to catch ones eye. The food on offer was quite wide ranging but centring in on what I would see as brunch. We were seated in the conservatory at the back and although nice and light I was bothered by a strange odour for most of my stay. 

After an enormous delay (and after some promoting) some good quality complimentary olives and bread arrived to stave off the hunger. A little later the ordered food arrived along with a few mistakes that needed to be ironed out. Despite these issues the quality of the food was good, the produce was top notch and it had been well prepared. Being with the family I managed to sample a wide range of what was available and thought each meal was a solid offering.

A pretty exciting looking Bloody Mary dominated our tables by those who had them. They were a little lacking in vodka for my tastes but perhaps that is just me. 

Of course a black coffee was my beverage of choice so lets discuss. It had a little crema but a good amount of oil tracing across the surface. On imbibing it was found to be lacking in any real kick and pretty devoid of flavour. After some time and tasting I found it carried a gentle sweetness that was quite pleasent but a muddiness towards the end and through the finish started to dominate. 

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £1.70
  • Weak
  • Small
  • A slight sweetness
  • Very light Crema 
The coffee was bland and uninspired although not undrinkable. The food was good but late.


Monday, 29 October 2012

House Blend, Small Batch Coffee Company, Brighton

The House Blend from Small Batch Coffee Company is a seasonal affair so the exact make up changes to reflect that. As this write up is long overdue the beans you can buy today will be different but promising a similar cup. Recently renamed the Goldstone Espresso, what can you expect from one of Brighton's premier independent roasteries? 

Sticking my nose in the bag and taking a big sniff out lifted a fruity acidity and a sweet licorice scent. The beans where a darkish brown with an almost golden green tinge caused by the oily iridescent surface. The blend had beans of all similar sizes and ground down nice and evenly. 

On brewing, a smooth light brown crema formed and a chocolate aroma clearly emerged. The taste was quite bitter at first, with a good bite to it, which then mellowed with coco infused sweetness. As the flavour developed there were iron like qualities to the subtle notes of stone fruit acidity. 

The blend was well balanced and low in acidity overall. It didn't make an overly heavy, broad espresso but one that was medium bodied with good sweetness and some playful notes. The finish was smooth and clean with some distant memories of lightly sharp, sweet fruits. 

Certification: None
Region: Varied, see beans
Altitude: Varied
Roast: Medium to dark
Process: Washed
Beans: 3 bean blend -Brazil Capim Branco, India Bibi Plantation and Tanzania Ruvuma.

A superb blend that keeps things simple with the one-two of chocolate sweetness and sharper fruit notes. This coffee has plenty of flavour without being overpowering. 

How do we taste it? Go here.

Small Batch Coffee Company
01273 220246

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Broca, Brockley, South East London, UK

The Broca is one of two coffee shops just outside of Brockley station in charming South East London. Set up by Erin and Rob, The Broca has an admirable mission to be an ethically aware community focused cafe. They provide this by sourcing ethical products and using second hand and found furniture and equipment. As well as coffee the cafe has a range of things to eat but we did not sample any on this visit.

The coffee shop is divided into two halves and has two doors, with the ordering and business end in one, seating in the other. With one side of the venue all windows, sun light streams in and fills the space well. The decor of truly mismatched and used furniture works well together but the graffiti and notice wall off set that homeliness to a more ascetic student vibration. However to counter my aesthetic critique the notice wall leads us directly back to the owners desire to create a venue focused on the community. 

The coffee came in a tea mug and was shrouded with a light brown crema. On tasting it was unfortunately a huge disappointment, it was strong but overly bitter and muddy to the taste. It was a little watery and a little burnt, so much so it was hard to pull out any of the actual flavour specifics. It wasn't out and out terrible but one expects more from a modern day coffee shop. The old mugs it was served in continued the theme of the place and the hot chocolate also being served went down well (see below).

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £1.80
  • Strong
  • Medium size
  • Muddied and a little burnt
  • Light crema
  • Machine: La Marazocco

To be blunt not a great coffee but the cafe has some charm and an excellent location by the station.


Friday, 28 September 2012

Giddy Up Floripa, Hackney, East London

After a fair old break I found myself back East and had the pleasure to visit a stall I wanted to cover months ago. The Giddy up Hackney stall AKA Giddy Up Floripa (they have 3 other locations, Fortune Park, Islington and Islington Memorial Green and Guild Yard, City of London.) is a stones throw from Old Street round about. 

It sits at the corner of Great Eastern Street and Rivington street under the canopy of the Brazilian bar and restaurant Floripa. Look out for the Giddy Up rocking horse to help you find your way.

It is a stall but does benefits from the external seating of Floripa. It also has a notable coffee machine; a Kees Van de Western, Mirage Veloce, 3-group lever operated machine. To be honest I don't know much about machines but I read it was the only one of its type around (happy to be corrected). It is also incredibly sexy looking as you can see above.

I was joined (in reality she sat near me) by the actress Vicky McCLure (Lol from This Is England) but through sheer gutlessness I didn't tell her how awesome she was in that role. The barista was friendly, quick and informative which is always a boon at any cafe and made me feel very welcome on this sunny but windy afternoon.

Shortly after ordering the coffee arrived with a thick crema made of fine bubbles and a few different layers of colour. It was quite windy as I said so it was hard to get an aroma fix but on tasting it immediately and generously gave up a rich, golden flavour. It was deep and earthy in tone, quite broad and had slight acidity. 

It was however a little muted overall, the true spark of flavour was struggling to get out after the initial warming broadside was delivered. The barista did inform me that he was having some issues dialling it in and balancing brightness and bitterness so I assume this is what he meant.

Further down the cup some strong cherry notes emerged with a little more clarity. It was generally sweet on the after notes and although a little too bitter it was still clean and not at all muddy. 

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £2.00
  • Strong
  • Small (short)
  • Rich full flavour with earthy tones and cherry notes
  • Thick crema
  • Beans: Square Mile Red Brick seasonal espresso blend
  • Machine:  Kees Van de Western, Mirage Veloce
A very good coffee, professionally made and with very much going right for it but on this occasion it struggled to shine to its fullest potential. Despite this Giddy up is still hitting high and well worth a visit, enjoy.

Map Giddy Up Coffee can be found outside Floripa at 91-93 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3HZ

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Redroaster espresso house blend, Red Roaster, Brighton

Redroaster is a legendary coffee house and roasterie in Brighton, that has been producing gourmet coffee for well over a decade. Why are they called the Redroaster? Because they had a big old Red Roaster to start out with and continue the tradition with their latest machines.

I may have some niggles with their Americano (review here) but I do have a fondness for their beans and would often purchase a few grams on my cycle to work. The fine people at Redroaster kindly sent me a small sample of their espresso to try out and here is that review. Their espresso changes seasonally, the beans are individually roasted and then blended to make a consistent smooth tasting brew.

The beans arrive in a sealed foil envelope with roast date and over information clearly covered on the label. On opening I was greeted with a lovely rich honeyed aroma, there was a clear sweetness to the beans scent with just a slight pinch of acidity.

The medium roasted beans were smallish and a dulled bronze, Their finish gave them the impression of weathered, dried out armour, shielding the roasted goodness within. They ground down well and released more of the pleasant honeyed notes as I got to work with the Kyocera.

As I applied the water the coffee bloomed nicely and a little stir produced a good level of light brown crema and a good nose full of sweet caffeine heaven.

To the lips with it and what do we find? A great full rounded flavour that cloaks the mouth like a velvet muffler. It then reveals itself with light, tart cherry notes that can be clearly picked out and are felt right down to the back of the palette. 

The honeyed sweetness remained strong along with some hints of spice and a gentle backing of dry tannin tones. The after taste was creamy, smooth and with a light zestyness. 

Certification: None
Roast: Medium - dark
Roaster: IR-24 (ie 24kg) Diedrich (a red one!)
Price: 125g £2.50

Brazil Fazenda Samambaia (majority of blend)
Variety: Mundo Nova
Region: Sul de Minas region
Farm: Henrique Dias Cambraia
Process: Pulped natural and patio dried
Altitude: 1,200m (unconfirmed)

Guatemala Finca San Francisco Tecuamburro 
Variety: Bourbon/ Cactuai
Region: Chiquimulilla/Guazacapan (Fraijanes) region
Farm: San Francisco Tecuamburro owned by Sergio Barillas Escamilla
Process: Fully washed and sun dried
Altitude: 1460-1770m

El Salvador El Borbollón
Variety: 100% Red Bourbon
Region:  Santa Ana region
Farm: La Reforma and El Cerro by the Alvarez family
Process: Washed and sun dried
Altitude: 1,300-1,500m (unconfirmed)

A well balanced espresso blend of a rich sweetness with little sharp stone fruit highlights. A good drink for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

How do we taste it? Go here.

Supplier: Redroaster
+44 01273686668

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Fee & Brown, Beckenham, South London, UK

Moving back to Beckenham I was hugely disappointed to find not one decent real coffee house. A bounty of cafes and a few of the big chains but no one here was making the effort. To be fair most of these establishments offer a nice environment and good food but where things crash is the coffee. 

A few weeks back I spied a review on The Faerietale Foodie blog that things had changed and finally someone had opened a place serving proper coffee here in the high street where Ziggie Stardust was conceived (true) and Bob Monkhouse started his little book (this last bit is conjecturer).

I popped in on a Sunday afternoon to see if it really was the answer to my prayers. Situated opposite St.Georges church at the nicer end of Beckenham it is in easy reach of Beckenham Junction station and Beckenham green for commuters and sun worshipers respectively.

A single modern bench sits outside the modest exterior and inside we are greeted with a large open counter groaning with good but naughty things. The walls are white, the ceiling high and the light fittings many and modern. Wood benches and matching light pine tables fill the front of the cafe and a rear area is taken up by a single long seated area, good for a  large group. It is clean and modern and airy, I like my cafes a bit more ramshackle and earthy than this but it is nice. 

Out the back is ample space for a future large additional outside space, my only bone of contention with the décor was the menus on silver gilded mirrors but each to their own. After taking our order we were kindly offered a seat and I cast around what else Fee & Brown had to consume. 

Artisan sandwiches which looked the part, freshly made fruit and veg juices and the aforementioned cakes and pastries. They also had free and tasty lemon water on hand to refresh the pallet, the perfect coffee accompaniment (bar pastries).

The young staff were constantly buzzing around to attend to people's needs, they were fast, polite, attractive and lent the place a positive vibrant energy but were perhaps a little too keen to tidy up which verged on rushing. By the till they keep a manifesto of sorts bemoaning bad coffee, so the question was whether they would keep to their principles. 

We were soon joined by the coffee in neat sky blue cups, old teaspoons and the milk in a cute mini bottle. The babychino came with a large chocolate button and got the cheeky grin of approval. The americano looked good, thick dark cream shrouded a short drink. There was not much aroma to pull out from this shot but what was there smelt right. 

The initial burst of flavour and strength gave me a bit of a shove out the aeroplane of taste but I was soon free falling in joyful imbibment. It was strong and the flavour full, bitter but utterly clean and crisp. As I acclimatised a gentle sour cherry acidity emerged that lifted and lightened the mood. Overall it was full and rounded in flavour with the lighter notes offsetting the deeper bitter tones. The finish was clean and creamy lending me a pleasant after taste all the way home. 

Black Americano, drink in
Small size
Full rounded flavour with cherry notes
Thick brown crema
Machine: La Marzocco
Beans: Caravan Coffee

Really good coffee, strong and flavoursome, made and served well. Beckenham has a cafe saviour and it is Fee & Brown.