Review #19 – Bean Smitten

That’s right folks, today is a twofer!  I realised I was falling behind in my reviews a bit so it’s time to get caught up.

Bean Smitten is a roastery based in East Sussex, founded in 2014 by Accountant turned Roaster Darren Tickner and they sell to both home and local businesses as well as being a distributor of Sanremo coffee machines.  As an aside, even though I know I’d likely have to take out a second mortgage to afford one, their Cafe Racer coffee machine is a thing of absolute beauty.   I was lucky enough to get up close to one at the London Coffee Festival earlier this year and just…yum.  So gorgeous.  Anyway, we’re here to talk about Bean Smitten and their coffee!

BeanSmitten

A nice, straightforward site design, the “buy coffee” link nice and obviously placed.  They could do with updating the “press” section, though, as there’s been no update there since Feb 2015!

Bean Smitten have a grand total of eleven coffees on offer at the moment, with four being blends and the other seven being single origin.  One of these is a decaf coffee, using the swiss water method.

Blends:

  • Classic Blend – £6.00
  • Revive Blend – £6.00
  • Contemporary Blend – £6.00
  • Roasters Choice – £5.75

Single Origin:

  • Honduras Finca San Isidro – £6.27
  • Honduras Altos De Erapuca – £6.00
  • Brazil Presente Do Sol – £6.00
  • Rwanda Huye Mountain – £7.25
  • Bolivia San Pablo – £8.95
  • Roasters Choice – £5.75
  • Nicaragua Finca El Bosque (decaf) – £6.25

Prices are for a 250g bag and are perfectly reasonable, with shipping being either £3.99 for post, or if you order over £15 then shipping is free.  As is customary around here, I chose one of the house blends, the Contemporary.

The delivery wasn’t super fast, it took four days for the coffee to be dispatched after my order was placed, and another couple of days for it to arrive. Hardly the end of the world, but just something to bear in mind if you’re just about to run out, make sure to leave yourself a comfortable margin!

A fairly standard bag, but no way to re-close and no twisty ties to seal it either, so make sure you have something air-tight to decant these into as soon as you open them.  Excuse the shadows in the picture, we had a lot of very bright sunlight in the kitchen that particular morning.

I forgot to take a picture of the shot again.   I really am going to have to print out a picture and stick it to my cupboard at head height.

So how was it to drink? Really, really hit and miss.  I just could not get this thing dialed in properly.  Too fine, too coarse, it refused to make its mind up.  One shot would be fine, the next would be little more than vaguely-coffee-flavoured water even though I’d changed nothing at all between cups! So much of this, sadly, went straight into the sink.  It’s genuinely been a long time since I had this much trouble with a coffee.  I’m used to taking maybe a cup or two to get dialed in, but I just couldn’t get this one to settle down at all, which was really frustrating.

What I did manage to get was…mostly okay? I mean I’ve had plenty worse and it was far from undrinkable but a lot of it came out very harsh, with almost burnt notes lingering unpleasantly in the mouth when made with both hot water or hot milk.  Unfortunately I honestly can’t tell you if that’s the fault of the coffee, or just the fact that it didn’t seem to get on at all well with the Barista Express.

I definitely wouldn’t say don’t buy from them, as there’s plenty of other options there, and I think I need to try one of the other blends to see if it’s my machine or the beans themselves.  If I buy from them again I’ll be back with a re-review and hopefully I’ll have something more positive to say.

TTFN.

 

Review #17 – Green Hippo Coffee

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening everyone, and today I’m back with a bit of a story for you.  Today’s roaster – Green Hippo Coffee – will need some explanation, and a couple of caveats.

I found Green Hippo following a simple google search for “Hertfordshire coffee roasters”.  My initial attempts to order coffee from the site…didn’t go so well.  Down below is a screenshot of the site as it currently stands and it’s assumed that nice, clean third-wave coffee look that’s quite popular at the moment. I have no issues with this at all, I like a nice, clean and simple look to a site.

greenhippo

Sadly, I don’t have a shot of the site as it was when I tried to order, but it was nowhere near as nice as this, with a lot of the coffees lacking any details, such as the seasonal espresso that I was looking to purchase that had no information on what varieties went into it.  So, I called up the number on the site and after a little bit of phone tag got talking to a very nice chap called Sello who runs the site who seemed slightly startled that I’d found him as he doesn’t go out of his way to advertise the site.

I explained the problems I was having with the ordering and he admitted that the site hadn’t been his primary focus because at the moment he’s working on a new business, looking at getting a new cafe/roastery set up but he apologised for the problems and asked me to give him the weekend to get the site up to snuff.

Monday rolled around, and things were still a bit dicey so I called up again and he admitted that it’d been so long since the site was updated, the underlying template had been updated and now a lot of the images were broken.  Doh!  Rather than make me wait longer for him to sort the site out, he instead offered to send me a bag of the seasonal espresso free of charge, which was lovely of him.  So thanks again for that, mate!

Currently Green Hippo offers nine different coffees with selections from Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador and Kenya as well as the Seasonal Blend though at the time of writing this two of the Brazilian ones are sold out.

Prices range from £6.50 to £7.50 for a 250g bag and shipping for a single bag is the very reasonable price of frrrrreeeeeeee!  Can’t ask for better than that.

So.  A couple of days passed and my coffee arrived.  So with all the background stuff out of the way, let’s discuss the actual end result.

First up – Packaging props!  My beans arrived in a flat packed cardboard sleeve that fit easily through the letterbox so no faffing around with having to be in, or go to the sorting office afterwards.  The bag is resealable, with all the information you might want clear on the front.  Big thumbs up on this, my penchant for resealable bags is likely well known by now.

So what about the actual coffee? Y’know what? It was…fine.  Just fine.  In the past I’ve somewhat struggled with how to describe coffees like this, ones where there’s no particular flavour note that massively dominates, but now I think I know how.

You know what this tastes like?  It tastes like coffee, and that is not a bad thing by any measure!  For someone just dipping their toes into the whole artisan coffee thing, who doesn’t know their way around an SCA tasting wheel, someone who just wants to start to see what all the fuss about fresh-ground coffee is?  This is a bloody good place to start.

Slightly sharp when made with hot water, it’s lovely and rich as a latte and…yeah. It’s a very coffee-flavoured coffee so if you’re just starting your journey into this whole “third wave coffee thing”, you could do a whole lot worse than giving Green Hippo some love and some money!

TTFN folks.  I’ll be back in a bit with another real-life shop review.

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.

img_20180710_140353

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?

IMG_20180513_183225

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!