Review #13 – Change Please Coffee

Good evening folks (at least it’s evening as I write this).  Today we’re going to be looking at something a bit different from the coffees I’ve reviewed till now.  This is going to be another one that you can buy at your local orange-branded supermarket, or from mobile vans in five locations around London.

Let’s talk about Change Please.

Change Please

Change Please is a social enterprise in London, working with the homeless, staffed by the homeless and in parternship with folks such as the housing charity Shelter and the Big Issue magazine to train folks up to be baristas, to pay them a proper wage and get them off the streets and frankly I think that’s a bloody brilliant idea.  You can find more info on the site linked above and, as I said, you can try the coffee for yourself at your local Sainsburys.

NOW.  That being said, yay charity and everything else, but it’s no good if the actual coffee isn’t any good because then you’re only going to get the most altruistic of folks coming back a second time. So let’s take a look at the coffee.

Change Please have three different offerings for us, each one created by someone who’s homeless and roasted with the assistance of the Old Spike roastery in London (I totally need to try some of their own coffee too). We have –

  • Tom’s Blend
  • Lucy’s Blend
  • Ethiopia Single Origin

Each of these will set you back £4.50 at Sainsburys, though I have found that of the three only Lucy’s blend is available as beans while the other two are pre-ground, at least at the two shops near me. We’re going to be looking at Lucy’s blend today as I picked up a bag at the Coffee Festival a couple of weeks ago.

Packaging is fairly standard supermarket fare, there’s nothing that makes it radically stand out to my eye amongst the sea of other bags.  In fact, I tend to veer towards the more minimalist designs as (at least to me) that usually denotes one of the “third wave” roasters as clean text and simple designs are really in at the moment.

Here’s where the review gets a bit more interesting.  My first impressions of this coffee weren’t great, honestly. It made a very disappointingly harsh espresso shot and went unpleasantly sharp in milk, while in water it was oily and rough. Okay, thought I, not a great start, but I’m determined to give this stuff every chance.  Let’s try it in the cafetiere.

That was an improvement. It went from being unpleasant to just kinda forgettable. Not a great coffee, but far from a bad one, a perfecly decent cafetiere coffee that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve to a guest.  Still, I was struggling for something, anything, that made it properly stand out and I was definitely struggling to detect any of the specific tasting notes listed on the bag.

Okay, last chance.  Let’s try the syphon.  It’s a darker roast than I normally try with it, but at this point I had nothing to lose!

And oh, am I glad I did.  This is DEFINITELY one that benefits from a filter, so I would likely suggest a syphon, maybe V60 as well.  I’m not sure it would be great in an Aeropress but it might be worth a shot and I’m slightly regretting I didn’t think of that sooner or I could have tried it myself.  In the syphon the bitterness was finally gone and what I got instead was a rich, dark coffee where the berry and citrus notes were finally back from whatever corner they’d been hiding in.

Was it a stand out coffee?  No.  But you know what? I’d buy it again.  It’s joined Modern Standard as my go-to for the times I run out of my fresh roasted stuff and need something to tide me over till the next delivery arrives. I can’t recommend it if you only have an espresso machine, but if you have access to some sort of filter coffee maker then this is worth a look.

My one disappointment is that I can’t tell if they sell bags of beans for the other two varieties of coffee.  Their website doesn’t seem to be entirely functional at this point and clicking “More Information” under the coffees link just takes me to the same page as “Events”, with no actual information available.

I do hope they sell the other two as beans as I’d like to try them, at some point, especially the Ethiopian as I love me some Ethiopian beans. I actually have another bag of djimmah in at the moment, this time from a local roaster by the name of Campervan Coffee. You can expect a review up soon for that one.

Right, it’s nearly midnight as I wrap this up so I’m gonna head off.  Thanks for taking the time to read this and I’m glad I can give my own modest signal boost to this endeavour.

TTFN.

Recap: London Coffee Festival 2018

Hello folks, sorry it’s a bit late but here’s my look back at the London Coffee Festival 2018!  Overall? I had a lot of fun.

So without further ado, let’s get into it by bombarding you with pictures! Here are just a selection of stands/kit that caught my eye, there are dozens on dozens more at the festival itself. Some of what you see here will be getting reviewed in the future, some of it I would need to win the lottery to be able to afford, sadly (I’m looking at you, La Marzocco)!

 

They had expanded out to three floors this year which was a damn good thing.  Last year it got a bit cramped and claustrophobic later in the day, but this year there were only a handful of bottlenecks that could be avoided with a minimum of fuss.  As this was my second visit, I was a bit more prepared for what to expect so I took the opportunity to book some add-ons for my visit.

First off was “Home Barista Skills” in the La Marzocco Kitchen.  This was an informal little class where you got to chat to a trained barista, discuss the kinds of kit you have at home and where you might be able to improve your skills. I got some helpful tips for my shot and for measuring/tamping the grounds so all in all it was well worth a fiver! I also got to play with a La Marzocco Linea Mini which is probably the only time I’ll ever get my hands on one of those. 🙂

Second was with Hotel Chocolat’s School of Chocolate and that was the “Coffee and Chocolate Pairing” and it turned out to be both funny and educational.  The gent they had doing the talking was very engaging, I learned more about the history, farming and production of chocolate in that hour than I had in the last twenty years and also discovered I’m not a fan of 100% cocoa chocolate! If you’re a chocolate fan, this is well worth your time.

I did have a third class booked, but by the time it started getting close to it, I was utterly knackered and my feet were killing me from near six hours of tromping around the stalls so I gave it a miss and headed home instead.  Note to self, buy the really heavy stuff LAST not FIRST like some sort of n00b. Ah well, there’s always next year!

As well as all the stands displaying coffee, tea, etc, they have a live music stage where I spent some time. I was delighted to find that All the People were playing there again, a band I was introduced to at last year’s festival.  Here’s some videos of them for your listening pleasure.  Unfortunately I can’t embed them properly here as that would require me to chuck wordpress another chunk of change and I’m not quite willing to do that yet.

All the People – 1

All the People – 2

One thing though, guys? Give us song titles when you’re playing!  It’s lovely to hear you and all, but it’d be handy to know which songs you’re playing. 😛 I’ve included a link to their site up above because they seem like genuinely nice chaps and if you like your music a lil funky then they’re well worth your time!  I made sure to pick their album up this time round.

What else to say?  I think my only problem, and part of the reason it’s taken me a while to write this, is there’s simply so MUCH to try and cram in.  The smells, the sounds, the atmosphere, the chance to try fifty different coffees in one day. Oh! Here’s a hot tip – You will be offered copious quantities of coffee throughout the day. Do not drink it all or, if you’re like me, by the end of the day you’ll never want to see another cup again!  I learned my lesson and this time I only took a few sips of each cup to decide if I liked it before moving on.

For me, this is a chance to learn more about coffee, to see the new kit, to try all these different sorts of coffees and pick up information about roasters I’ve never done business with, and hopefully chat to those I have.  With that in mind, I’d like to give a big shout out to Lynsey, the founder/CEO of Modern Standard coffee.  These guys are my go-to supermarket coffee if I ever run out of the special ordered stuff and I had no idea they were such a tiny operation, nor that their founder is a fellow Scot! They’re a company of nine people, supplying a major nationwide chain of supermarkets and doing a bloody fine job of it. It was lovely to get to hear about the history of the company and how they got to where they are now.

If I had to criticise, and you know I have to because that’s kind of my thing, I would have three suggestions for LCF for next year.

1. Improve the street food offering.  I get that everyone is going vegan/veggie/non-dairy because it’s hip and trendy, but when there only appears to be a single meat option available?  That’s pretty poor, guys.  I don’t do veggie, and I don’t do seafood.  Luckily there are food trucks outside, less luckily I got to sit in the peeing rain while I ate my food.

2. Some sort of cloakroom/bag storage would be lovely, somewhere to store our purchases so we don’t need to carry them around everywhere! Please please please consider this for next year because for those of us with bad backs (such as yours truly.  Two lower discectomies have left my spine somewhat temperamental) carrying our purchases around becomes an actual pain in the back, neck, ass and everywhere else.

3. Can we please make the Secret Garden non-smoking?  It’s kinda rank and puts me off wanting to spend more than a few seconds in it because you’re hemmed in on all sides by people smoking.  Personal peeve, again, but dang. That’s nasty.

Oh! Another tip for anyone who hasn’t been to things like this before – Dress comfy and try to avoid too many layers. It gets very warm in there, and you’re going to be doing a LOT of walking.  Comfy shoes go without saying.  This place is sort of like the Tardis, everytime you think you’ve seen everything, you find another whole new section and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Well that’s all I think I want to say right now. There’s so much more I could say but I think I’ve gone on long enough.  If you like coffee, tea, chocolate, if you like gadgets, you owe it to yourself to visit this at least once.  If you DO go I’d strongly recommend you splah out for a VIP ticket, if only so then you don’t need to worry about time limits, and the freebies are always nice.  I, for one, had an absolute blast and I’m already looking forward to tickets going on sale for 2019!

Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

TTFN.

Review #11 – Yallah Coffee Roasters – An Update

Hello again folks, I hope you’ve all having a lovely Friday!

So as you may have noticed in my previous review of Yallah, they reached out to me on Twitter after the review went up and one thing they mentioned was that they’d had a quality control issue with their roaster which might have impacted the beans and so they sent me another bag to try.  As a reminder, here’s what the bag/beans look like. I didn’t bother to take a new picture as the only thing that had changed was the roasting date.

Well, the bag arrived, I tried it….and I can say that whatever QC issue they had, they’ve solved it.  This stuff was amazing, everything I’d hoped the first bag would be.  Now at my end the only thing I’ve changed is setting my grind a couple of clicks finer.  The Ancoats beans seemed to come out quite coarse at first so this may also be impacting the taste of the Yallah coffee.

That sour note that spoiled the cup for me before now? Gone. What I got instead was a rich, chocolatey cup of coffee that was so good I went through the whole bag in a week and was actually rather disappointed when I reached the end.  Again, this is one that tasted better to me just in hot water than hot milk. It’s still good as a latte, don’t get me wrong, but for me it was way better as an americano with those chocolate notes coming through lovely and strong.

My thanks to the fine folks at Yallah for sending me another bag, you can be certain I’ll be ordering from them again and I’m very happy to be able to update my review as a now very satisfied customer.

TTFN.

Review #12 – Ancoats Coffee Limited

Hello folks, I hope you’re all having a lovely week so far!  Now, there’s been a little gap since the last review, it’s been just over a month, though this is not the only coffee I’ve had in this time. There have been three others, but honestly I wasn’t particularly happy with any of them.  One was downright nasty while the other two were just…forgettable.  There was nothing bad about them as such, they just really weren’t all that interesting so rather than post a series of reviews where I just go “Yeah, they’re alright” I decided to skip them until one I genuinely enjoyed came along.  That said, I will list them here in order of my preference for them just so you know who they are.

80 Stone Coffee Roasters – Heavy bag seasonal espresso

200 Degrees Coffee – Brazilian Love Affair

360 Degrees Coffee – Italian Espresso – This one was just unpleasantly dark and oily, with a harsh overtone that wouldn’t go away no matter what I used to brew it. I get that it’s meant to be a strong roast but I just couldn’t find a way to make it palatable for me. I really need to steer well clear of darker roasts from now on.

Moving on from these, let’s talk about the latest one that I’ve enjoyed!  It’s time to take a look at Ancoats Coffee.

ancoats

This is a roaster based in Manchester, I couldn’t find any specifics about how long they’ve been in business on their site, though.  The FAQs talk about their coffees and their subscription services rather than providing any business specific information I could find.

They do have a blog, but updates to it appear to be somewhat on the intermittent side, I have to say.

Moving on, we have a modest five different kinds of coffee on offer, which I actually prefer. When I see a roaster with thirty different coffees it actually puts me off a bit. I’d prefer people focus on just getting a handful of excellent coffees rather than offering a huge selection of just okay ones. Again, just my preference!

At the moment Ancoats offer the following –

  • El Fenix
  • Graphene Espresso
  • Kana Natural (decaf)
  • Kayon Mountain
  • Warehouse City

Prices range from £9.00 to £13.50 for a 350g bag.  That’s right, you get 350 with Ancoats instead of the usual 225/250 from other roasters!  So with postage costing an extra £2.80 with Royal Mail on top of that, it is one of the more expensive roasters I’ve covered so far in terms of how much you pay for a single order. The flipside of that is that you get more coffee! This was enough to fill the hopper on my Barista Express and still have about another 100g left over to top it up.

Ordering was nice and straightforward, no issues encountered with picking what I wanted and paying for it. I went for the Graphene Espresso in the end, bringing my total order to £14.80.  So how was it?  Well, I’m very pleased to say that it was lovely!

But first, let’s take a look at the packaging for the coffee before we get into the end product.

I do like these bespoke boxes, exactly the right size for the coffee within, so no wasted space or wasted packaging and it fits through a letterbox! Roasting date is printed right there on the box so I knew this was roasted the same day I ordered it and it was with me the day after which makes me very happy.  Delays with my caffeine addiction make this snob a sad, sad panda.

One thing to note here is the actual bag for the coffee beans.  The box and the card within, being card/paper are recyclable but here Ancoats have upped their game compared to a lot of other roasters! The bag is made of low-density polyethylene. Oooo. Sciency. What that means is it’s recyclable! You can stick it into the same recycling bins as you use for your plastic bags from the supermarket. Big thumbs up for this from me.  That’s two in a row now that don’t need to just go in the bin and it’s lovely to see.

So what about the actual coffee itself?

The tasting notes on the card state that we should find notes of “Yuzu and mango, kaffir lime, hints of red berry and cacao bean”.  Now that’s quite a mix!  I went into this with high hopes and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.

This is one that I would describe as “boozy”, in that the taste reminds me of the way red wine smells.  Rich and potent without being floral. Something almost cloying, but not unpleasantly so.  Now Ancoats site does mention a “special red cherry preparation” so I don’t know if this has anything to do with the overall flavour, but at least for me it was definitely the red berry end of things that came through LOUD and clear, each mouthful ending with just a hint of sharpness that really wasn’t unpleasant at all.

This one is another I would strongly recommend you use mostly with hot water as in a milk based drink like a latte I found that boozy taste was smothered byu the creaminess of the milk and the acidic notes heightened so it was a far less pleasant drink.

Overall this one gets a big thumbs up from me.  Straightforward ordering, nice packaging, bigger bag, lovely coffee.  All damn good.

TTFN!