Review #11 – Yallah Coffee Roaster

Hello again folks, I hope you’re all doing well on this fine, crisp Sunday morning. I’m watching last night’s Ireland/Wales game in the 6 Nations as I write this and then after that I’ll finally watch the Scotland/England game as I hear I can’t set foot anywhere near any social media if I don’t want the score ruined for me!  I’m not much of a sporting fan, but I follow the 6 Nations everytime it’s on. Love me a bit of egg chasing, though as a lifelong Scotland fan (being Scottish myself), I am also inured to the disappointment that inevitably comes with it!

But anyway.  Coffee!  Today we’re looking at Yallah Coffee.  I believe this was one that popped up on my twitter feed as a suggestion from the algorithm so I thought I’d give them a looksee.

They’re a roastery based down in Cornwall, apparently using a 1950’s era roasting machine for their beans. I can’t tell how long they’ve been around for as their “story” on their site simply says that the idea for their business came about a few years ago.  Their Facebook page says they were founded in 2014 so I’ll go with that!

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The website is simple to navigate and I had no problems at all finding what I wanted and placing my order!  They currently have five coffees on offer and, as per usual, I decided to go for the House blend.  They also have –

  • Colombia – La Plata
  • DR of Congo – Rebuild Woman’s Hope
  • Guatemala – Las Terrazas
  • House Decaf

Prices range from £6.50 to £9.00 for a 250g bag.  Postage is £3 flat rate with Royal Mail or they offer free shipping for orders over £25.  The coffee was shipped the same day I placed the order and I’m happy to say that I had it the very next day so absolutely no complaints about that!  Couldn’t get it any faster unless you went and knocked on the roastery door.

 

So let’s talk packaging. It…could do with a bit of work, honestly. It arrived as you can see, not flat packed, or in a resealable bag (I really don’t count those twisty things, I never feel like they keep bag sealed, though that’s just my preference!) and it arrived shipped in a cardboard box that appeared to be designed to take two bags instead of one.  There was a lot of empty space for things to get bounced and jostled around which for me is always an opportunity for things to get damaged.

This really is just a pet peeve here, I hate packaging that’s way too big for the item.  Amazon has to be Public Enemy Number 1 when it comes to that, some of their packaging is just insane!  But this isn’t a shipping blog, it’s a coffee blog, so let’s move on.

EDIT (15/03/18) That said, one thing I am very pleased to see is that it comes in a fully biodegradable bag! I think that’s a first for the coffees I’ve been reviewing up till now and I do apologise to Yallah for not noticing that when I initially wrote the review, hence this update.  That’s actually very cool as I hate that most of the other coffee bags just need to go straight in the bin as they’re mixed materials and the local council won’t touch them.

So, moving on! The tasting notes listed on the bag promised yummy things  “Chocolate mousse with notes of caramel and demerara”?  SIGN ME UP.

But…yeah. This review has actually taken me a while to write.  Why?  Well, because honestly this coffee turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and I really hated to have to say that. Whether used for hot water or hot milk based drinks, it was just kind of forgettable save for a somewhat unpleasant final sour note lurking at the bottom of every cup that made me want to screw my face up if I drank it too quickly.

Other than that it wasn’t a bad coffee, it just wasn’t very good either and I really struggled to detect any of the tasting notes no matter how hard I tried.  Nothing made it stand out to me as one I’d fall over myself to buy again and I always feel bad saying that! I always feel like I’m damning a coffee with faint praise if I go “Well, it wasn’t BAD…”

So yeah. It was a nice enough coffee, certainly not one I regret trying, but not one I’m likely to order again.

TTFN.

EDIT: 15/03/18Yallah got in touch with me on Twitter to comment on the review, which was lovely.  I always like to hear back from the folks I write about, especially if they have comments which can help me improve my writing, which they did!  They specifically flagged up the biodegradable bags which, I have to admit, I’d completely missed despite it being printed right there on the bag so I’m very happy to add that into the review.

They also said “Around the same time as your review we actually flagged an issue with the roaster through our normal QC programme, the roast has since changed ” so it’s possible that the bag I got from them wasn’t a proper reflection of their usual quality and they’ve offered to send me a replacement to taste again which I’d love to try.  I was hoping for good things from this coffee and that last sour note that kept creeping in just spoiled it for me.

I will do a re-review of Yallah once I get another bag to try!

Intermission – A Coffee Cupping Experiment!

Hello again, lovely people, and welcome back to my ongoing journey to true coffee snobbery.

Before I pick up the reviews, I wanted to talk about the coffee cupping experience we attempted a few weeks back!  We had four coffees on offer from three different roasters. One each from PocoEspresso and TAP Coffee, and two from Dear Green.  We found that the instructions on the Dear Green card left room for confusion in the instructions, for example on things like how fine to grind the beans (I ended up grinding too fine. Oops) but we went on and we tried it out anyway!

So, a quick explanation before we go any further.  What is coffee cupping and why would you do it?  Basically it’s how they analyse coffees to put those tasting notes on the bags that you buy.  It’s how they check the aroma, the taste, the body, all that good stuff.  Sort of like wine tasting, you’re not necking entire glasses/mugs, you’re taking sips from spoonfuls to see what tastes hit your palate.

You can find a really good description/explanationof cupping at Has Bean’s site HERE

So, back to our attempt.  We ended up consulting the actual SCA guidelines at one point to see how they compared to the instructions that came with the cupping kit to double check if we were doing things right and….wow.  That’s a whole new level that I have yet to even come close to attaining so in truth Dear Green did a really great job of breaking down an immensely detailed process into something that fit on the back of a postcard.

Here’s a few photos from that weekend!  Huge thanks to my friends Rob and Carole, and to my wife (the one wearing the Progress Wrestling hat) who really isn’t that much of a fan of coffee but stepped up to give it a try all the same.  You can see from her photos that she really wasn’t a great fan!

So we quickly found that we had broadly similar opinions about the coffees, though we disagreed over which of the Dear Green offerings was better.  For a while the kitchen was full of slurping, and debates about exactly what we could taste with each coffee on offer, with much consultation of the flavour wheel printout (also supplied in the cupping kit!) till we came to a consensus.

Ladies and gentlemen, your winners in order from left to right!  PocoEspresso won hands down.  A lovely coffee in every way!  The Dear Green’s were a solid second and third, but when it came to the TAP Coffee…It’s a very strong, very distinctive taste, mixed berries assaulting your tongue like you’ve just taken a swig of forest fruit squash and then gulped some coffee. It was just way too weird for most of us, though that was actually the one my wife preferred over all the others (as per usual, we agree on nothing!  This has been a long running thing)!

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Closing thoughts?  It was a fun experience, something a little different for us all to try! Would I do it again?  Probably, if I had friends round to make a bit of an event of it. I don’t think it’s something you’ll see me doing all that often, I’m content to just make my cups of coffee and write about it rather than go through this somewhat more convoluted process.

That said, I hope you’ve found my little experiment educational!  You can pick up one of the cupping kits I used from Dear Green HERE.  I went out and bought some more of the cupping bowls myself, you can get them from eBay and Amazon for not a great deal of cash.

That’s it for today, I’ll be back with a review of Yallah Coffee!

TTFN.

Review #10 – Minor Figures Nitro Cold Brew

This is going to be a quick little review while I assemble the photos from our reasonably successful and definitely fun coffee cupping experience. This was a bit of a spur of the moment purchase and I can honestly say it’s not one I’ll be buying again because Oh.  Oh Dear.

That’s one of the most horrid things I’ve put in my mouth in a very long time.

This is produced by a company called Minor Figures and what I thought was going to be a straight-forward review has suddenly become a bit more complicated as it appears they’re going through something of a relaunch and rebranding!

Originally their website address (if you search for “Minor Figures Coffee”) led to a dead website with just a holding page on it which was a bit confusing.  Now, though, they’ve got themselves a proper domain at – www.minorfigures.com – which leads to a newly minted Instagram account.  Their FB page is alive and well, though again there’s not a great amount of detail about them as a company.

It’s also interesting to note that their Twitter account – @MinorFigures – is also set to protected so that you have to request to follow them before you can view their tweets. I’ve not met a coffee company who seem so determined to make it difficult to find out about them until now!

Along with their new domain, there’s been a re-design of their cans.  Black is out, pastel colours are in!  But as I bought this at the tail end of last year, I had one of the old versions.

They sell through Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Whole Foods and somewhere called Planet Organic. I picked mine up at my local orange-branded supermarket.

I will admit, the concept of slightly fizzy coffee is one that has my brain recoiling in terror, and the initial pour into the glass did have my eyebrows lifting as you could really clearly see the bubbles rising up through the coffee.  It was around this point that I realised the error I’d made.  I’m neither a huge fan of black coffee, nor am I a fan of fizzy water.  That said, I was determined I’d give it a fair shout.

I have had cold brew coffee made with soda water before, and that was downright WEIRD. It ended up tasting, I swear to you, like liquid jaffa cake. You could barely detect the coffee underneath this surge of chocolate and orange that obliterated any other flavour so I was tentatively hopeful this might be a similar experience.

After letting it stand for a minute or so, we get the picture on the right which, from a distance, could easily trick someone into thinking you’re having a half of Guiness. It’s even darker than the picture, with a thick head of foam.   The smell is…sharp, a bit offputting, it’s an odd combination of smells.

I am sorry to say that this did not taste like jaffa cakes.  What you got instead was a car crash of two strong, competing flavours.  The first thing to hit your tongue is the sour-sweet taste of the water, followed immediately by the harsh kick of black coffee.  The flavours just don’t meld at all, at least not for me!  It’s a very distinct two-stage affair.

Now here, gentle reader, I have to admit I actually nearly spat out the first mouthful it was so unexpected and unpleasant.  I had to psyche myself up to go back in for a second, third and fourth try. Like I said, I was determined to be fair and offer my proper opinion on it beyond just going “EWWW!”.

For me, this just doesn’t work.  There’s no harmony to the flavours at all.  I even tried adding sugar to see if it would mitigate the harshness of the coffee, but it didn’t help. It might just be that Nitro Cold Brew isn’t for me.  The one thing I can say about this is it does have a really silky and smooth mouthfeel which, I gather, is the whole point of the nitro shot so it certainly did its job.

That aside?  Not recommended.

TTFN

Review #9a – Poco Espresso

Hello again folks.

So we’re back to revisit the fine folks of Poco Espresso today.  Along with the Sumatran coffee I got from them they also sent me along a bag of Kenyan Peaberry and (slight spoilers here) I like it waaaaaay more than the Sumatran!

I’m not going to go into the purchasing process or anything like that again (If you want to know more, hit up my original review HERE), though I will post some additional information that I received after my first review.

I mentioned in my initial blog that I wasn’t sure how long they’d actually been roasting coffee.  I now know they’ve only been roasting for 6 months or so, which really isn’t a great deal of time at all and bodes VERY well for their future if they’re already producing coffee of this quality in my humble opinion!

Regarding the somewhat sparse blog posts on their site, they are aware that they need to be a bit more active on that front and they hope to get more folks visiting and interacting with them as time passes.  Does take time to build an audience after all!

They also advise that the coffees they have on offer will be changing frequently as they’ve been buying in small batches and roasting a wide selection to see which are popular before they settle on a selection of staples to offer all the time.  I for one hope that the peaberry at least makes guest appearances from time to time because (further spoilers) it’s bloody good.

So! Let’s move on to talking about the coffee itself, that’s what we’re all here for, right? I mean if you’re here for reviews about cars or fashion I’d strongly suggest you’re in the wrong place though I am happy to talk about motorbikes till your ears fall off.

Man. I did it again.  No picture of the shot.  I have no idea if people think this really adds anything to the review, but I think it’s a handy way of showing the differences in colour when it comes to the various beans and roasts as well as the size and texture of the crema.  So hang on, one second and I’ll go make myself a coffee!

Still here?  Good.  I return with pictures.  Picture.  A picture.  And a new cup of coffee.  I swear this blogging thing is such a hardship.  Take picture of coffee, drink coffee.  HARDSHIP, I TELL YA.

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As with the Sumatran coffee of before, this is another quite dark roast, darker than I usually buy, but UNLIKE the Sumatran, this is one I can happily have as a double shot because while it is strong, it’s also sweeter than the Sumatran coffee.

In a milk based drink it’s gloriously silky, the strength of it hitting you from the first sip, but it never grows too much, too strong, instead tailing off into this lovely creaminess that lingers in the mouth with a rich, nutty aftertaste.  This one is just…GOOD.  There’s nothing bad I can say about it at all.  It looks great, it smells great, it tastes great.  I’ve had it as the basis for both hot milk and water based drinks and it’s great in either of them (I’m enjoying a latte as we speak.  Type.  You get the idea).  I’ve not tried it in the syphon as yet, I suspect it might be a bit strong for it and I find the syphon can be very pernickety about some coffees, but I’ll try that at some point down the line and update this review with my findings.

So what do I think of Poco Espresso and the coffees they have on offer?

I think that for a relatively young roastery, this is a damn good start.  I had no issues with the purchasing process, they were really approachable on Twitter, the coffees they have on offer are really lovely though I would like to see some different roast levels on offer for those like me who aren’t a fan of really dark roasts (Though I do see they have a medium roast Sidamo on there at the moment, I might need to give that a shot).

I think they hold their own very well against more established roasters and I would definitely recommend you give them a try for yourself! Big thumbs up, guys.  Thanks for giving me the chance to try your coffee and write about you, I’m looking forward to seeing where you go in the future.

TTFN, folks, and have a great New Year!  I’ll be back in 2018 with a review of an offering from Dear Green Coffee.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 25 and Final Thoughts.

Here we are at the end at last, we round out our little coffee journey with another Colombian offering and I swear I need to stick a note on the cupboards above my coffee machine that just says “TAKE A PICTURE OF THE SHOT” in huge letters as I forgot to do it yet again.  Doh.

This one was alright. It was neither particularly interesting, nor particularly unpleasant.  It was quite smooth, not particularly fruity or acidic, a perfectly pleasant coffee to start my day with and round out 25 days of reviews! I’m still not a massive fan of Colombian coffee, but I would like to thank Pact for introducing me to some that are not only not half bad, but I’d actually buy again!

So what did I think of the calendar as a whole? The calendar cost me £35, so that works out to a cost of £1.40 per cup of coffee. That, however, is a discounted price as we bought two calendars at once.  On their own they’re £39, for a cost of nearer to £1.60 per cup.

How did my opinions break down in the end?

  • Like – 15
  • Meh – 5
  • Dislike – 5

I’d consider that a pretty decent ratio all in all. Only five that I actively didn’t enjoy and twenty that I either really liked, or at least didn’t mind. Also, this let me identify some trends in my coffee drinking.  I don’t really care for coffees from Guatemala, nor do I enjoy ones that are honey processed.  Having so many different coffees in quick succession has let me identify trends that I might otherwise have missed.

I also think that if you (or a friend) want to get a bit more serious about coffee, then this is a really good place to start. It lets you try lots of different types for not a massive outlay of cash compared to buying full bags from lots of roasters.

Would I buy it again?  I would.

Would I post a review a day for it again? Maybe not. 🙂

That’s it for this year, thanks very much for taking the time to read my thoughts on all these different coffees and thanks again to Pact for producing a very nice calendar!

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 24

Hey folks, sorry I ended up being a bit late with these reviews but here we are with the last two!

Nope. Didn’t care for this one at all. Again there was that weird flavour note somewhere in it that just makes me want to wrinkle my face up. It wasn’t terrible, not like day 23’s papaya offering, but this one did nothing for me at all.  My Mum’s down visiting for Christmas and she tried it as well and agreed with me that neither of us cared for it very much.  Guess I see where I get my dislike for Colombian coffees!

Moving on, one more day to go where I’ll tot up the scores and give an overall opinion of the calendar, if I thought it was a worthwhile purchase and if I’d buy one again.

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 23

Today’s coffee is brought to you by “Aw crap, the last two days are both Colombian.” Have I mentioned I’m, not a big fan of Colombian coffee? What’s that?  I’ve mentioned it so many times I sound like a broken record? Oh, alright then.  Let’s talk about a coffee that isn’t Colombian! (How many times can I say ‘Colombian’ in one paragraph?)

Two more days to go, and this one goes straight into the “Dislike” column. I’m beginning to suspect I don’t care for honey processed coffees. This was another that goes solidly into the sharp, almost sour families of coffee.  Tasting notes are listed as “papaya”.  Now I haven’t the slightest clue what that actually tastes like, but if it’s anything like the coffee then I suspect I wouldn’t care for it all that much.

My wife didn’t mind it, so she ended up drinking the rest of my cup so it didn’t go to waste at least!

So, tomorrow is Christmas Eve proper, I hope wherever you are you have a good supply of lovely coffee laid in, your shopping is all done, presents all sorted and you’re looking forward to Christmas Day.  Talk at you all tomorrow.

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 22

Back on track.  Like Thomas the Tank Engine.

Today’s coffee has an awesome name, however the connotations it brings up in my head aren’t great.  It makes me think of the Pak’ma’ra from Babylon 5, who were a race of smelly carrion eaters!  Luckily, this coffee is far nicer than that. Also, I will studiously NOT be mentioning “Who’s your little Pak’ma’ra” because there are things we don’t need to be thinking about.

Oh yes.  This one was lovely.  You open the bag and your nostrils are immediately hit with the smell of cherries and chocolate.  It’s not QUITE black forest gateau flavoured coffee, but it really was quite delicious.  It was so rich with cherry overtones it was almost boozy.  I always find coffees like this put me in mind of red wine.

Thoroughly enjoyed, another in the “Like” column, would definitely buy again, regret not having any more to try it in hot milk!

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 21

Keeping this one brief, I’m afraid.  I’ve come down with a stinking head cold right now so unfortunately coffee sort of just tastes like coffee at the moment so I suspect I might not be being entirely fair to the next few days of the calendar as I can barely smell anything at the moment.  Oh well, it is what it is!

This one was….alright. I think it was good enough not to merit a “Meh” but nor was it one I’d desperately go out of my way to drink.  Now the card says the tasting notes were “stone fruit” and that’s what I detected, a sort of fruitiness to each mouthful, but nothing that I could specifically put a name to.

What’s interesting is that my friend with her calendar, she tried this one and described it as smokey, definitely not a word I’d have used for it!  Goes to show what a difference it can make between people and how dependent it is on how you make it as well.

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 20

Today’s review is brought to you by the soundtrack to “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” which is a legitimately great album which deserved a far better received movie than it got.  And now, because I can, here’s a nod to one of my all time favourite TV shows.

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Coffee!

I know, I know, I forgot to take a photo of the shot again.  In my defence, it was 7am and I really, really needed some coffee.  It’s a shame that this one turned out to be…not great.  The tasting notes listed on the back are “raspberry and pineapple” and it also states that this coffee has been voted the best in Africa but yeah, it really didn’t do it for me at all.

It’s a car crash of strong, conflicting flavours, veering towards the sharper, more acidic end of the scale as you might expect with those sort of tasting notes.  The last mouthful was enough to make me screw my face up.  I’m not a fan of pineapple at the best of times (unless rolled in brown sugar, cinnamon and then grilled.  Bloody lovely) so I suspect I was never going to have a good time with this particular offering.

I’m thinking this is past “Meh” and into “Dislike”, honestly.  Ah well, they can’t all be winners as the saying goes!  I’ll be back tomorrow with, believe it or not, day 21.

TTFN.