Coffee Review #25 – Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

So, uh, it’s been a while. Cough. There’s a few reasons for that but the main reason is that for a long time I couldn’t drink coffee. I attended the London Coffee Festival last year and something I ate there didn’t agree with me and I ended up being sick as a dog.

Unfortunately my brain decided what this meant was “Coffee makes us sick, let’s not drink coffee anymore” so that was that. For months afterwards even the smell of coffee turned my stomach. THANKFULLY that has now buggered off and I’m back to enjoying coffee again so here we go!

Today we’re going to look at a London based roastery – The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, which is an awesome name. They’ve been around for ten years now and are still going strong. If you want to know more about what makes them tick, check out their About page for more details but the main theme here is all about that focus on single origin coffee.

The site design is that now-familiar crisp, minimalist black on white layout that’s so common among third wave coffee sites. It’s nothing exactly standout, but it does the job nicely. It’s quick to load and easy to navigate and wastes no time in letting you get straight to choosing and buying your coffee.

At time of writing they have six coffees available to purchase in 250g bags. The coffees on offer are –

  • Christmas Espresso Blend
  • Christmas Filter Blend
  • Natural Pilgrin (Ethiopian)
  • East End Blend
  • Desert Rose (Colombian)
  • Super Nova (Rwandan)

Prices are either £9.00 or £9.50 and UK First Class shipping is £3.30 a bag, with every additional bag adding another £1 to the shipping cost.

I ordered the East End Blend and the Natural Pilgrim and my order was despatched the next day. I think it took two days to arrive, so all in all a fairly quick process. I decided to start with the East End Blend, the Pilgrim is still sitting in the kitchen waiting to be cracked open.

This is a versatile coffee for espresso based drinks, it makes a lovely long black and an equally tasty latte when put through its paces in my Barista Express. The website describes it as “A blend of dark/milk chocolate, fruit and nut” and I’d agree with that. There’s a definite chocolate/nut overtone that’s really pleasant. It’s at the stronger end of the coffees I enjoy, but it manages to be avoid being overwhelming or bitter

I also gave it a shot in my tried and tested Hario syphon filter, and found that it ends up quite harsh, as a lot of coffees do. You can definitely taste the chocolate/nutty side of things, but it ends up tasting dark and almost over-roasted. The filter is definitely best for the more floral end of things in my opinion, or perhaps that’s just the way I make things. It would probably fare well in the cafetiere but I will admit I haven’t got around to trying it in mine.

All in all, this is a good all rounder offering. It’s strong without being harsh, distinctive without straying too far away from the tastes of “traditional” coffee, making it another great entry point for those just dipping their toes into the wide world of speciality coffee.

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.

and-now-for-something-completely-different

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.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 19

Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I wanna go to bed. I had a lil drink about an hour ago…and it was actually coffee, so I’m not THAT tired.  Let’s take a look at what Pact had in store for me on day 19.

This one was…it was a bit weird. It was almost sweet and sour? In little sips it was lovely, with quite a sharp citrus taste.  But if you gulped it then it quickly became rather overwhelming.  This was not a coffee to be rushed, no sir.  You want a coffee to gulp, you go mosey on down to McDonalds, kid, and you tell them El Chollo sent ya and…I’m sorry, I appear to be channelling the spirit of a spaghetti western there.  Ahem.

Definitely one to be enjoyed in small amounts.  I wonder if having it in hot milk would mitigate the sharpness any.  We’ll be tentatively adding this one to the “like” column, but with the caveat that this would be an occasional coffee, at least for me, not an everyday one.

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 18

Today’s review is brought to you by “Dear God, are we still doing these?  Why isn’t it Christmas yet?”

So this one.  This one was NICE.  I genuinely have not got a single complaint here. I could happily drink this one every day, every hour of the day, and likely die of caffeine poisoning with a big, happy smile on my face.  It was sweet, smooth, utterly delicious and I was rather disappointed when I finished the cup.

That’s one I definitely want to get again so I can try it with a milk based drink as well.  Top marks, highly recommended, hats off to Maria Pacas who has grown a simply lovely coffee.  Get yourself some if you get the chance!

TTFN.

Review #9 – Poco Espresso

Okay, taking a moment to step away from the Pact Advent Calendar, let’s talk about another roaster that I recently got some coffee from.  Now in the interests of full disclosure, I’ll state right from the getgo that this coffee was provided free by the fine folks at Poco Espresso.  I said I’d give an honest opinion about the coffee, and about my purchasing experience with them, so let’s get right into it.

Poco Espresso are based in Preston and their site states that they are a “young” roastery, though I can’t see any specific dates on the site to indicate how long they’ve been in business.  There’s a single blog post (which is actually very handy for those who are unclear on different coffee grinds) from November this year and the Twitter account dates back to 2014 but that doesn’t necessarily mean they started roasting then, it could have been before or after.

pocoespresso

Site design is simple, easy to navigate and I encountered no issues at all in placing an order. I like that their next roasting date is prominently displayed right on the front page so you can tailor when you place your order to make sure you get the freshest coffee, or make sure there’s no too big a wait for it to arrive.

Clicking into each coffee gives you a quick overview of the variety, processing, cupping notes and other useful information.  I also like that you get to see a picture of the green beans, not just the roasted end product.

There is a very simple selection of three coffees on the site.  Two for espresso, one for filter. At the time of writing the following were on offer, all in 205g bags –

  • Sumatra Mandheling G1 Rainforest Alliance – £5.50
  • Ethiopia Natural Sidamo G1 – £6.50

  • Colombia Excelso EP Fairtrade – £5.50

Shipping is £2.00, sent First Class Royal Mail. For my initial order, as you may all recall, I’m not a massive fan of Colombian coffee, and I wanted something for my Barista Express, so that made my choice fairly straightforward.  Sumatra Mandheling it is.

With…mixed results.  But we’ll get to that, let’s cover the packaging next.

Joy of joys, a flat-packed, re-sealable bag!  Ten out of ten, all the thumbs up and a very happy me.  Fits nicely through the letterbox, can be re-sealed to keep your coffee fresh.  Top marks.  Love the information on the back too, everything you need to know there.  Unfortunately this is where I realised that I had made a booboo. Clever me in my “Oh, well I’m not going to order Colombian coffee so that’s an easy choice” hadn’t noticed one important piece of information.  A single line.

Roast Level – City+ – And I’m sorry, but I have to do it.  It’s Indiana Jones reference time.

he-chose-poorly

Well…damn.  I’d managed to order a coffee that’s waaaaay stronger than I normally buy.  The moment I opened the bag I realised my mistake. It’s got a heck of a potent smell, but I went ahead and I tried it all the same and I made my usual double shot of espresso.

IMG_20171207_124350

Now THAT is a dark coffee. Almost looks like a mini pint of Guiness, don’t you think?  The scent was enough to have my nose hairs standing on tiptoes.  If hair had toes.  Stop looking at me like that.  The important thing here was one sniff was enough to have me wide awake and after I’d added hot water, one sip was enough to let me know that I couldn’t drink it two shots at a time. It was astoundingly rich and strong, enough to make me wince, but at the same time it’s not overroasted, it’s not harsh or burnt, it’s perfectly well done and you can detect those spicy tasting notes sneaking through near the end.

After trying it with hot water, I tried it with hot milk and hoooooooo boy I swear it was even stronger in milk!  I ended up that I can only drink it as a single shot and you know what?  It’s strong, but it’s nice. I even had a couple of friends over to get their opinions and they both gave this one a big thumbs up.

Is it something I’d buy again? No, but that’s because I prefer a lighter roast than this.  But if you want a good, strong, rich coffee?  This one is well worth your time.

My next review will be another one from Poco Espresso, a Peaberry.  Yum, looking forward to that. I’ve had a lot of lovely Peaberry coffees over the years.

TTFN.

 

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 17

Today’s coffee is brought to you by a recently discovered musical track (Thank you BBC 6 Music).  You should check it out. It’s called “Yo Mae Leh” and it’s by a person? Group? Murder of Crows? Pod of Dolphins? Cyborg Horse? called Invisible Minds.

Link to music

And now for something completely different

Coffee.

I gotta admit, jury was out on this one to begin with.  I’m not a massive fan of dark roast coffees, and this one is definitely veering toward the darker side.  That said, it’s not unpleasant at all and the predominant tasting note I got from it was…treacle, I’d say.  Something dark and rich but not chocolatey or sweet, at least not for me.  I think I’d really like to try this one as a latte or a flat white, I think it’d be bloody lovely.

I am suffering from a stinking headcold so my tastebuds might not be working 100% at the moment but you know what it sort of reminded me of? Cinder toffee. It was like having a mouthful of that and then swirling in some coffee. Good stuff, Pact.

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 16

I know, I know, late again!

My excuse is Star Wars. Star Wars is the best excuse for everything. Have you seen the new movie yet? If not, you should, just for the visual spectacle.  The story is mostly decent, with some slightly questionable decisions in the storytelling in places, but I enjoyed it more than the Force Awakens BECAUSE IT WASN’T A BLOODY REMAKE.

Anyway. Coffee.  This was an interesting one!

The blurb on the back talks about “lemony acidity” and I’d have to agree.  Wow, this one was JUICY.  We went way beyond acid, way behind fruity or floral and solidly into juicy territory.  The last mouthful was so potent it was like finishing your coffee and promptly swigging a glass of really tart fruit juice. This is another that I think wouldn’t be a regular purchase, but damn if I wanted something with a bit of ZING to it, this would be my go-to.

We’ll add this one to the “Like” column as well as my “I hope Pact stocks this regularly!” list.

To sum up where we are with the scores so far –

  • Like – 11
  • Meh – 3
  • Dislike – 2

TTFN.

 

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 15

Ten days to go, ten days to go, hi ho the derry oh, it’s ten days to go.

Have you done your Christmas shopping, boys and girls?  Made sure to lay in enough coffee to see you over the festive period?  If not, might be time to think about it!  We’re mostly organised here at Casa Del Snob, and our daughter spends every day yelling “SANTA IS COMING!” But that’s beside the point, let’s talk about today’s coffee.

And I was stalling a bit because today’s was….it was alright, I guess. It was nothing massively special, nothing hugely memorable, but nor was it terrible. After the two in a row that I definitely did not care for, it was good to get back on track with a couple of decent ones! This is another that, at least for me, was just coffee flavoured. No massively standout notes, but no nasty overtones or lingering aftertastes either. Just a nice cup.

That’s it, I’m off for now!  Be back tomorrow with another review.

TTFN.

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 14

Sorry folks! Running a bit behind again, but determined to keep it going.  The end is nearly in sight.  And hey, today’s coffee was bloody lovely and another that goes solidly into the “Like” column.

So the back of the pack talks about cherry and red apple flavours and I have to agree. It was sort of like biting into an apple, then taking a swig of coffee to wash it down!  A little odd, but pleasant all the same. I’m not sure it’s something I’d buy too often, but as with some of the previous ones I think I’d pick it up if I fancied something a little different.  Not sure how it would work in hot milk, but might need to get some again to try it and see!

The Pact Advent Calendar – Day 13

~Opens Advent Calendar. Looks at Day 13~

Finca Filadelfia.  Bugger.

So yes, this is another one that I’m familar with from my previous subscription with Pact and honestly? I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now.  I did make it up and try it as it had been a while and my tastes in coffee have changed over the years but this is still another that goes straight into the “Dislike” column.  It’s harsh and tastes like it’s been overroasted, so acidic that it’s sour and just generally a coffee that I really don’t get on with.

Huh, maybe I really don’t like Guatemalan coffee after all. We’ll add that to the list with Colombian (though this calendar is definitely showing some exceptions to this rule, some lovely Colombian coffees so far).

Yeah. Moving very swiftly on from this one. Not a fan, not a fan at all. As I recall even having it with hot milk wasn’t enough to mask the sour notes. Ah well.  Here’s hoping tomorrow is an improvement!