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The Art of Accessible Coffee

As a roaster, I spend many an hour thinking about fantastic, exciting coffees to source. Coffee that challenges perception of what coffee can taste like. Coffee that challenges my experience as a roaster and cupper. Coffee that I feel proud to showcase to my peer group. However, experience has taught me that this can sometimes go against what my customers really need or want (relative to their journey into speciality coffee).

I roast coffee for two quite different audiences – retail and wholesale. Roasting for retail is where I can confidently enjoy experimenting with roast profiles and sourcing*. Yes, I’m restricted by what coffee is seasonally available, but most other constraints are left behind. I can find micro-lots that challenge. Roast in ways to accentuate fruit qualities. Roast to maintain brightness of acidity and clarity. However, this currently represents the smaller proportion of the volume of coffee I sell. I am not in any way suggesting that coffee I roast for wholesale is not exciting, more that it needs to be accessible to a wider audience. More often than not, an audience who may not yet be aware that coffee can show flavour beyond ‘bitter’ and ‘strong’.

This used to trouble me. However, over recent times, I’ve come to accept that it’s OK to chase more accessible flavour profiles. Not everyone wants to be challenged each time they pull an espresso shot. Not everyone wants to brew by filter, not add milk and not wait until the perfect temperature to drink. Many people (like I did when I took my first foray in to speciality coffee) need a ‘comfortable’ transition. This has become my new challenge. Source, roast, cup and sell exceptional coffee that’s accessible to everyone*

* My retail mix is derived from those who are already aware of speciality coffee (internet searches etc), or have bought from me face-to-face and are engaged in talking to the roaster.

** This doesn’t mean that I will now disregard those exceptional lots that blow me away on the cupping table. More that I’ll use the higher volume of accessible coffee to facilitate sourcing even more ‘exclusive’ coffees.

James
Roaster

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Seasonal Coffee – April 2016

April – Seasonal Coffee

This time of year as a coffee roaster can be tough – waiting for the seasonal coffee arrival of Central American coffee. We’ve had some pre shipment samples sent over by one of our importers, Falcon Speciality, and have chosen at least two Guatemalan lots and a brace of coffees from El Salvador. All of which are new farms for us, which makes us super excited indeed. There will be more information about these in the May post.

Until then, we’ve still got a couple of stellar examples of seasonal coffee to showcase this month. One of which is a returning favourite, Rwanda Gashonga, and a completely new farm and varietal in Brazil Rainha Da Paz which is a Rubi (hybrid between Mundo Novo and Catuai). The Gashonga will be in short supply – I only managed to secure 30 kg of Lot 4, so if you fancy trying this, get your orders in soon. The Rainha Da Paz will be around for a few months as this was bought as a component for our main espresso blend, Jones. Below is a little information on both the coffee.

Gashonga

Seasonal Coffee Rwanda Gashonga

Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon. The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province. Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills – or washing stations as they are known locally. Flowering takes place between September and October and the harvest runs from March to July with shipments starting in late May early June.

Gashonga can be found in the tiny corner of Rwanda that lies between the Congo and Burundi. It is located in the Rusizi district in the West and is made up of around 1592 members who grow their Red Bourbon coffee at approx. 1,683 metres above sea level. Once picked it is washed and sun dried on raised African beds.

Rainha Da Paz

Seasonal Coffee Brazil Rainha Da Paz

Fazenda Rainha Da Paz is a relatively new farm having been established as recently as 2008. However, there is by no means a lack of experience since the farm is owned by the Montanari family and is managed by fourth generation brothers, Roger and Marcello. Under the watchful eye of their highly experienced coffee farming father, the brothers are pushing the boundaries of modern coffee farming in Brazil.

The Montanaris are descendants of Italian immigrants and Rainha Da Paz is located close to the town of Patrocinio in the heart of the Cerrado in Minas Gerais. The altitude averages 936 MASL though the range runs from 800 to 1,300 MASL. The farm is one of three owned by the family and the other two, Fazenda Sao Paulo and Montanari III, are located close by. Like many farms in the region, most of the tasks have been mechanised – in particular the harvesting and incredibly the three farms are run by just seven members of staff. It’s astonishing to think that a farm of a similar size as Sao Paulo (74 hectares) in a country such as Nicaragua or Guatemala, would require more than 500 people to pick the coffee during the peak of harvest. The flat lay of the land is seldom seen in other coffee producing countries and it is this factor that allows for mechanical harvesting.

Until next month’s seasonal coffee, enjoy brewing.

James, Roaster.

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Coffee Arrivals – July 2015

Hull Coffee Roaster, East Yorkshire

Hull Coffee Roaster, East Yorkshire

New Coffee

Coffee is seasonal, and we generally see new coffee arrivals every month in the roastery. This month has been a good month for coffee in Hull.

Today we’ve released our first box of Kenyan coffee – Karimikui AB and it’s tasting stunning. Next week we’ll see a return of a coffee that impressed us last year, El Salvador Las Meninas. The Las Meninas will also be an ongoing feature in our espresso blend, Jones. Test roasts to ascertain blend proportions are scheduled for next week. We’ve also released our first ever coffee from Honduras – the Altos de Erapuca and seen our first Costa Rican micro-lot bought through Falcon Speciality, the really beautiful tasting Finca Santos. Oh and a new decaf to boot too – Brazil Santa Lucia Decaffeinated.

No doubt, August will some some more great arrivals. Until then, below is a synopsis of each of the coffees described above.

Costa Rica Finca Santos

Displays sweet, clean citrus acidity, buttery body with notes of cherry and cocoa powder.

Honduras Finca Altos de Erapuca

Has a lively and pointy lemon style acidity with notes of caramel and sweet orange on the finish.

Kenya Karimikui AB

Displays an intense lemon like acidity with jasmine florals and underlying red berry and blackcurrant notes. Sweet and complex.

Brazil Santa Lucia Decaffeinated

Shows great sweetness, notes of toasted hazelnut and plenty of chocolate.

Enjoy the coffee!

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GrainPro

I mentioned in the last post about green coffee, that our coffee gets transported to us in Jute bags with a Grainpro liner. So what is a Grainpro liner and why is most speciality coffee transported in it?

A Grainpro liner is a bag that acts as a gas and moisture-proof barrier which guards against the ingress of water vapour, while retaining low Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide levels created by the respiration of the commodity. They are made of tough, multi-layer plastic with gas barrier between layers of PE 0.078mm thick material. They are sealed using tie-wraps and placed inside an outer jute bag. The bags can be used with any kind of commodity, and in tests using coffee, the bags have been shown to extend the colour, flavour and aroma life of the coffee.

When I first started roasting commodity style coffee six or so years ago, all of the coffee I bought came in a jute bag with no Grainpro liner. I noticed that the coffee seemed to ‘fade’ within the periods of time they were in storage at the roastery. Admittedly, I didn’t roast as much coffee as I do now, so a bag would sit around for longer. However, since moving into roasting speciality coffee and the use of Grainpro for all the coffee, I’ve noticed that the coffee doesn’t fade. Now, I can’t say that the initial take up of Grainpro liners wasn’t instigated by me, but the work of our importers. However, Grainpro bag liners have become a prerequisite to my purchasing criteria of green coffee.

Every coffee that is listed on our site has been shipped from origin in Grainpro. This indicates that we are making every attempt to optimise the flavour profile of our coffee throughout it’s route to the roastery and whilst it’s warehoused with us.

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Coffee Subscription

Coffee Subscription package by The Blending Room, Hull, East Yorkshire

Coffee Subscription
When we fired the roaster up on January 5, along with our weekly espresso roasts, we were roasting the first batch of coffee for our coffee subscribers. Don’t ask me why it has taken nearly six years to put together a subscription coffee package, but better late than never. From January 2015 onwards, each month we will select a coffee to roast and send out as part of our coffee subscription. Sometimes the coffee might be part of our range, often it’s a pre-release coffee, and sometimes we offer a coffee which is exclusive to our subscription customers.

With each coffee subscription we produce a newsletter giving additional information about the coffee we have sent. Our aim is to try and vary the content of these newsletters and include subjects such as coffee sourcing, roasting and brewing.

We hope that those who purchased their coffee subscription are enjoying their brew, and hope those to come do too!

Our coffee subscription can be purchased as a 3 or 6 month package through our website.

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Coffee Varieties

Bourbon

Bourbon coffee was first produced in Réunion, which was known as Île Bourbon before 1789. It was later taken by the French to mainland Africa and to Latin America, and is now one of the two most popular Arabica coffees grown worldwide.
Bourbon coffee is usually produced at high altitudes and has a higher yield than Typica, but produces a similar quality of coffee.

Catuai

Catuai is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Caturra bred in Brazil in the late 1950s. Another high yielding plant, low growing coffee variety that is widely used by Brazil coffee plantations.

Caturra

Caturra is a mutation of the Bourbon variety, found near the town of Caturra, Brazil in the 1930s. It produces a higher yield than Bourbon due to the plant being shorter and with less distance between the branches. The Caturra variety generally matures more quickly and is more disease resistant than older, traditional Arabica varieties.

Mundo Novo

Mundo Novo is a hybrid between Bourbon and Typica, crossed in the 1940s in Brazil.
The variety is particularly suited to the climate in Brazil, which allows for its very high yield. Another positive is its resistance to pests and disease and its ability to be planted very densely. For these reasons, a large proportion of Brazilian coffee consists of the Mundo Novo variety.

Typica

Typica originated from Yemeni stock, taken first to Malabar, India, and then to Indonesia by the Dutch. It later made its way to the West Indies to the French colony at Martinique. Typica has genetically evolved to produce new characteristics, often considered new varietals.

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Restructuring Our Coffee Selection

Last week I made some big changes to the coffee line up at The Blending Room. Those of you who are internet customers have received an email briefly explaining the change in direction, but I thought a blog post would allow me to go into further details about the reasons for changing direction.

For the past three years I have stocked a number of coffees and blindly thought that having a long list (upward of 24 at one point) was what you, the customer, wanted. Yes, this did give you choice in respect of a varied list of origins, but it didn’t take into account the seasonality of coffee and promoted habitual purchasing without thought about the product. This approach applied to me too (purchasing green coffee) and needed to change.

I know that over time, I have improved as a coffee roaster, cupper, green coffee purchaser etc and feel that you, the end consumer, have too. It’s this continued personal development that has been the driving force behind restructuring the coffee on offer. My approach from now forward will be to buy coffee that I feel will challenge us. That is, challenge me as a coffee roaster – knowing the effects of varieties, altitudes, processing methods etc on roasting and for you, how the aforementioned changes the cup profile of your coffee.

My green coffee purchasing will now follow some simple rules. Coffee will only be bought on a seasonal, “new crop” basis. Each coffee will come with greater provenance – origin, farm details, variety, terroir etc. The list of coffee shall never exceed what I deem adequate to turn over in no greater than 6 weeks (to expose each of us to as many coffees as possible). All coffee will be chosen on their performance on the cupping table.

What will I expect from you? Greater feedback on the coffee I put in front of you and trust. It’s that simple.

I hope the above explains the reasoning behind the fine tuning in direction. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment.

James

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January 2012 Coffee Arrivals

The New Year brings with it a new coffee and the reappearance of an old favourite, albeit a limited supply of!

Daterra Bruzzi is now back in stock, but we only have a limited amount of it; 50kg. This will not last very long at all. So, if you enjoyed a bag last year, make sure you grab a bag whilst stocks last.

Along with the Daterra Bruzzi, we also have a new coffee from this impressive Brazilian coffee estate, Santa Colomba. This blend, created by the Daterra growers, is full bodied, sweet and has very delicate acidity. Its preferred brew method is espresso where you can expect to find a chocolate aroma, dense and heavy mouth feel and long finish.

We may be receiving some more newcomers over the next week or so, in which case, I shall add to this post as the come in.

Enjoy your coffee!

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June 2010 Coffee Arrivals

We are happy to announce a new addition to our coffee catalogue for June, Papua New Guinea Bunum Wo Estate AA. This is another example of the excellent quality of coffee that Papua New Guinea produces!

Papua New Guinea Bunum Wo AA is a 100% Arabica coffee from the Bunum Wo Estate situated in the Western Highland region of PNG. Like its neighbouring estate, Sigri, coffee from this area is considered to be the best in PNG and ranked as some of the best gourmet coffees in the world.

So what will you expect to experience in the cup? Well, Bunum Wo is wonderfully complex both on the palate and in the nose. Expect to find tropical fruits, delicate acidity and milk chocolate overtones. This is a perfect coffee to sit back and imagine life in a tropical country!

Papua New Guinea Bunum Wo Estate AA is available now both online and at Beverley’s Saturday Market.