Review #16 – Camden Coffee Shop

Hey folks.

I am back! I’m really sorry it’s been a full five weeks without any new coffee for you all, but my kitchen is now restocked and we’re ready to rock and roll.

Today we’re going to be looking at another real life experience, the Camden Coffee Shop which is sort of like stepping back in time the moment you cross the threshold. There’s old scales, grinders and roasters all over the place (And I mean OLD. One of the roasters dates from around 1918), the beans out on display in big tubs with signs shoved in them like it was a market stall.  In the back you can see all manner of coffee making equipment and old grinders in various states of disassembly.  The scales used to weigh the bags look like they could have easily been made in the 1950s, requiring a separate weight to be added to them to balance out the beans to the correct weight.

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Nestled in Delancey street, Camden, this unassuming little shop is home to a wide array of coffees, all out on display for your sensory delight thought sadly there were no beans being roasted that day.  When I visited it a week or so ago there were around 12 different coffees on offer for an average price of about £5 for a 250g bag which is really quite reasonable indeed.

I can’t go into too much detail about the history of this particular roastery, sadly, as they have no web presence of their own though you can find details on Google with a number of reviews and pictures.  What I do know, however, is that the current owner has run this teeny roastery for FORTY YEARS years after taking it over in 1978 from his uncle, who had already run it for who knows how long!

That kind of longevity is seriously impressive and speaks volumes for the quality of the product on offer if it’s able to survive in the face of rising competition as the new wave of roasters jostle for customers.

So what did I buy?  After a nice chat with the owner about the sort of things I enjoy we settled on two.  The Mountain Blend, and Santos Light.  Below are pictures of the Santos Light as that’s what I currently have in the coffee maker.

The Mountain blend was….okay.  A perfectly decent if slightly forgettable coffee.  Fine in water, it was richer and more chocolatey in milk so I’d recommend it for latte/cappuccino rather than Americano style drinks.

The Santos Light, though, THAT is a whole other matter.  This might actually challenge my all time favourite, the Granary Blend from Rounton.  In water it’s nice, a little nutty and fruity, very easy to drink but initially nothing that would make me fall over myself to buy it again.  That, however, all changed when it’s used for milk based drinks.  From the moment you take a sip your mouth is filled with this gorgeously rich, nutty, chocolate flavour that’s just…sublime.  Not a harsh note, not a hint of sharpness from first sip to last and when it cooled down a little it got even better

I cannot recommend this coffee highly enough and I look forward to trying it in my syphon filter as well.  Really the only problem here is that if you want to sample this superb coffee then there’s no other way but to visit the shop for yourself to buy it!

TTFN.

 

Review #15 – Algerian Coffee Stores

We’re moving away from the website side of things today, and instead we’re going to look at one of the first coffee suppliers I ever visited.

Tucked away on Old Compton Street in London’s Soho, Algerian Coffee Stores has been in business since 1887, which is pretty goddamn impressive however you look at it.  Offering over 80 different coffees and 120 different teas as well as sweets, brewing equipment, spices and lots more, this place is a must visit if you’re any sort of fan of caffeine.

The one thing you miss when you shop online is the smell of a place like this.  The moment you open the door your nostrils are assaulted with the myriad scents of the teas and coffees, it’s lovely. I think I’d probably rate that in my top ten favourite smells, though for me nothing beats the musty scent of a secondhand bookshop. Mmmm. Smell of my childhood right there! (Big love and shoutout to Abbey Books in Paisley!)  But anyway, once again this isn’t a book blog, this is a coffee blog, so let’s talk about what I purchased here and let’s take a little look at their website while we’re at it.

Algerian Coffee Stores

Honestly I think the kindest thing I can say here is that the website is functional, if looking somewhat dated these days.  Functionally it does the business and I have ordered online using this site without any issues.  One criticism I do have here is that details of some of the coffees are thin on the ground, with some getting only a few words. I do get that it’s probably a right pain to try and keep this many coffee listings updated but as a newcomer to coffee as I was when I first ordered, I found that kind of intimidating and had no real clue where to start.  Even now I definitely prefer to go into the shop and buy it in person anytime I get into London as the staff are very helpful and knowledgeable!

Ordering through the site, shipping costs within the UK range from £2.95 to £15.45 for a single 250g bag of beans depending on how desperately you need your coffee.  You’ll pardon me if I don’t go listing every different kind of coffee they sell here, that’d be one heck of a list!

So what did I go for?  Well, after a chat with a very nice lady in the shop about the kinds of things I like I was steered towards two that I’d never tried before.  First up we had the Tanzanian Chagga.

And then after that we had a coffee from Malawi.

No comments on packaging this time as I bought in store.  The bags are simple enough, a rather eye-catching shade of red, though there’s no twisty tie or ability to re-seal so make sure you have a nice air-tight hopper or jar to store your beans in once you open them up.

Of the two, the Tanzanian was definitely my favourite, though neither of them were bad coffees at all.  The Tanzanian reminded me of a peaberry, that lovely blend of nutty and fruity, sweet and just yum!  I finished that entire bag in like a week and was rather disappointed when it was finished.  Again, definitely one for hot water based drinks rather than milk, though it did make a perfectly nice if somewhat unremarkable latte.

The Malawi, though, there was a funny tasting note that was quite off-putting when I first tried it though after a bit of fiddling I got it dialed in and was able to enjoy it.  Looking at the details on the website they do mention that it has honey notes so I’m definitely beginning to think that’s one I need to start steering clear of, just not a fan!

As one of the oldest coffee sellers in London, it’s hard to go wrong and any self-respecting coffee lover should give this place a try, even if just once.  With so many options on offer I can pretty much guarantee there’s going to be SOMETHING there you’ll like!

Oh, personal suggestion?  Steer clear of the spiced coffee though.  That stuff is just plain weird.

TTFN.

Review #14 – Dark Arts Coffee

Today, let’s take a walk on the dark side.  Or as we sometimes quote around the Snob household –

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Dark Arts Coffee are based in Hackney in London, and have been in business since 2014. Their blurb on the site reads “We had visions of funnelling the profits into a cult based on our love of the occult, bikes and all things unholy” and I am totally down with that.  Coffee, the occult and motorbikes? Where do I sign up?

For future reference, as well as being a coffee lover, I love motorbikes as well.  I am the current owner of a 2005 plate BMW R1200RT, a huge, mile-munching tourer that I semi-regularly ride to Scotland and back.  But anyway, once again, this is a coffee blog and not a biker blog so let’s move on!

Dark Arts

Dark Arts have eight different coffees on offer at the moment that break down into one decaf, one geisha and six other regular coffees.  Prices range from £8 to £19.50 depending on which variety you choose. with an additional £3.30 in shipping for a 250g bag.

  • Dead Flowers – Ecuador – £15.00 (Out of stock at time of writing)
  • Eat the Rich (Geisha) – Costa Rica – £19.50 (Out of stock at time of writing)
  • Goat – Colombia – £9.50
  • Life After Death (Decaf) – Colombia – £8.00
  • Lost Highway- Nicaragua – £9.00
  • Maggie May – Kenya – £12.00
  • Satan Lives – Bolivia – £12.00 (Out of stock at time of writing)
  • Scarlet Woman – Rwanda – £9.50

Lost Highway is the seasonal espresso so, as that’s the closest to a house blend they had on offer, that’s the one I went for.  As is reassuringly common in these reviews, I encountered no issues at all when placing my order and my coffee was not only shipped same day, it arrived the day after.  You can’t get any fresher than that unless you go knock on the roastery door yourself.

 

Let’s talk packaging.  While the box isn’t quite letterbox friendly and did come inside additional packaging to protect it in the post, I’m adoring the design. It was almost a shame to cut into it! It’s just a lovely, well made thing.  Full marks for both the design, and the blurb on the box and label.  Love it!  Getting inside, we have the actual bag with the beans.

What’s the catchphrase?  “Business up front, party in the back?” The unexpectedly cheerful sticker made us chuckle.  Again, we have a twisty-tie bag but my feelings on them are well known by anyone who reads this blog so I won’t bang on about things again here.

So we’ve got nice packaging, a straightforward website with some lovely music/movie inspired coffee titles, but how was it to drink?

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Again.  Argh, again.  I hate damning coffee with faint praise but here we are once again.  This coffee was…okay. Just okay. I had some problems getting it dialled in, I will admit, but there was this lingering sharp note I couldn’t quite get rid of no matter how much I fiddled with the grind and the amounts.  I’m starting to think that chocolate notes are ones I need to be wary of, my luck seems very hit and miss with them.

It is interesting how many of these coffees are so much better in a hot water based drink as opposed to milk.  In a latte this was almost overwhelmed by the creaminess of the milk.  The sour note was gone, yes, but you were left with a drink that was just kinda…generically coffee flavoured.

Now this all said, I don’t regret the purchase, it was far from terrible, and I’ll definitely be ordering from these guys again as I love the ethos and the packaging.  Maybe I’ll try the Maggie May instead, I rather like Kenyan coffee.  If/when I buy from them again, I’ll be back with a re-review.

Next month, though, we’re going to be looking at a little shop in London called the Algerian Coffee Store.  If you’re ever in Soho this place is worth a looksee.  But is their coffee any good?  Guess you’ll need to wait and see!

TTFN.

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!

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!

yallah

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)!

IMG_20180120_122859

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