Moving into the afternoon we left the activities behind to go see some of the roasters stands and try some of the great coffees on offer throughout the festival. Before seriously getting into the sipping, we popped by Ikawa Coffee Roasters to have a chat about the oncoming home roasting revolution.
Approaching the stand we were met by the very cheerful Bradley who was excited to talk to us about their Ikawa Home Roaster. I’d somehow missed these guys in the chaos of London Coffee Festival, but was keen to take this opportunity to ask them a few questions about their now fully kickstarter funded home roaster. Bradley was really excited to explain about the possibilities for home roasting, with a 60g capacity you can roast around three or four cups worth of coffee in one go, but the really exciting bit comes when you consider how the roasting works. The roaster is designed to be controlled remotely by iOS or Android apps, allowing you to set and control the roast profile from your phone. For those less experimental home roasters the app will have recommended roast profiles for each of the green coffees they supply, in case you’re still learning or just want to play it safe.
There’s also a professional version for those in the trade, which offers a great way to roast green bean samples to specific roast profiles, allowing roasters greater abilities to test roast profiles before buying their green bean stocks. The other bonus with the Ikawa Coffee Roaster is that its extemely portable at only 4.3kg it’s pretty easy to move this around, which has interesting implications for roasting at source, something that we chatted about for a while. Having watched Todd Carmichael on Dangerous Grounds roasting at source in a cast iron ball roaster over a camp fire, we joked about how much easier it would’ve been to just plug one of the Ikawas in. At this point Bradley showed off his indestructable looking travel case complete with an Ikawa Professional Roaster, which looked pretty plane proof, I guess the trick now is getting them through customs. I’m currently trying to find excuses not to spend £600 on one for my kitchen.
Having heard that Casa Espresso had been roasting some new coffees lately, coffees I hadn’t had chance to try yet, I was excited to head over to see Nino, Jonnie and Matt to see how they were getting on. Still serving their Kenya Ther’i AB, which I know they’re proud of and for good reason too, they explained they’d adjusted the roast profile to pull out some more tomato like acidity from the beans, but having tried it before, I’d headed over to try the new stuff. Casa Espresso had two new coffees on, a Natural Guatemala Bosques De San Francisco, which they were serving as espresso and a Natural Ethiopia Gutiti as filter.
Starting with the Guatemalan, the espresso came with a large crema, which looked great. Giving off big fruity cocoa aromas, I dived in for a taste and wasn’t disappointed, plum jam flavours and textures of turkish delight lead to a sweet pleasant finish. What stood out for me with this espresso above the other Guatemalans I’ve tried was the finish, sweet and flavourful with no bitterness. Nino explained they’d got lucky with this lot of coffee, a German importer unable to take the whole lot, gave them a short opportunity to buy some of it up from Coffee Bird and took all they could. A great decision it was too because this coffee tasted amazing, definitely something I will be revisiting once my current stocks have run out.
Having let the filter cool we moved on to the Ethiopian, which they’d sourced from Schluter Coffee a green bean supplier hailing from Liverpool. Giving off floral aromas, to taste I was getting bright apricot and peach notes with some floral overtones, a little different from the blueberries they had on the tasting notes, but it still tasted great. It reminded me a little of the Bifdu Gudinas I’d tried a little earlier in the year. I’m a big fan of Ethiopian naturals so I wasn’t exactly surprised to find myself enjoying this one. I’ve always enjoyed Casa Espresso’s coffees but these might have been the best two yet, letting the head roaster Jonnie know, he humbly exclaimed how great the coffees were and how he tried his best not to mess them up.
Speaking to Nino I asked him, if like all Italians he was still an espresso in the morning man and he admitted that recently he had got the V60 out on the odd morning. Something I found pretty funny as we talked about the rise of specialty coffee in the likes of Paris and Barcelona, but strangely not as significantly in Italy with their unswerving love of Italian style espresso made on hand pulled espresso machines. Although Nino had bumped into Francesco Sanapo earlier in the day to talk about Italian coffee, Francesco being a multiple time barista champion responsible for opening Ditta Artigianale in Florence serving slow brewed specialty coffee. So maybe I was wrong and things are changing in Italy, after all it has been a while since I’ve been to Florence and Ditta Artiginale only opened in 2013.
With hunger leaning on us and Cakesmiths next door, we said bye for now to Casa Espresso and went to grab some cake.
The hustle and bustle around the Cakesmiths stand was probably larger than around any of the coffee stands, but then again when you’re handing out free cake, I guess its easy to make a lot of friends and making new friends was something Cakesmiths were certainly achieving. As we got to the front of the stall we were offered a piece of the Banana and Chocolate bread, which was impossible to refuse. Looking so tasty I forgot to take a picture of the toasted and buttered piece they gave us, because well I ate it before there was chance.
The cake was good with plenty of strong well balanced flavours, licking our lips we began talking to Tom one of Cakesmiths co founders about the business. Baking out of Bristol, Cakesmiths supply a range of cakes to coffee shops all over the country, something which we were a little surprised by, given that most of the coffee shop bakers we know all supply locally. Asking how the cakes still stay fresh and taste great if they were to perhaps send them to a coffee shop in Glasgow, Tom explained that they freeze the cakes. Freeze cakes! we thought with a look of confusion on our faces, I’m sure there was something somewhere I’d read about gluten strands and cold temperatures. Turns out the cake we’d just eaten had been frozen, something that seemed almost unbelievable. Of course this meant that we had to try another of their cakes for quality assurance purposes obviously.
Again the Poached Pear & Ginger cake was amazing, if not better than the last. It would seem like freezing cakes is a great way to preserve flavour and freshness without effecting the quality of the cake at all. Making it difficult to see why coffee shops who want to focus strongly on their coffee, without diverting too much attention to their cake supplies, would pass up the opportunity to provide great cakes with little of the waste associated with supplying perishable goods. Needless to say we were impressed and always thankful for free cake. Stomachs satisfied we went back on the prowl for some exciting coffee.
A small hop from the Cakesmiths stand was similarly southern Horsham Coffee Roasters, who as we approached had their Ethiopian Gututi on, which tasted very similar to the one we’d just had at Casa Espresso, although it was difficult to properly compare this one, with it having gotten pretty cold by the time we made it to the stand. Fully aware the baristas on the stand said they were about to brew up some of their Rwanda Karora if we would like some. It seemed like a fitting time to start asking some questions about Rwandan coffee with a lot of focus landing on it as a producing region this year, with a feature in ‘A Film About Coffee’ and money being raised at Cup North for their Gitesi Project.
We chatted about some of the difficulties the coffee industry has had in terms of supporting production in Rwanda as the barista passed us a couple of cups of the Karora. On the nose it was darker and less vibrant than I’m used to with Rwandan coffees. To taste where I expected to find bright citrus notes instead I found darker more brooding citrus flavours like a cross between a blood orange and a mandarin. It was pretty unlike any Rwandan coffee I’d had before, less bright but somehow maintaining a connection to those that I have tried. The barista talked for a while about how it was difficult to invest in Rwanda with monetary investment often falling short of achieving its original aim to help improve the standard of living there. The focus now shifting to providing support in terms of livestock, which often proves more valuable than direct monetary help, something that is mirrored in the Gitesi Project where cows are provided as both assets and food assistance. As we were finishing our coffee the barista passed us on to Bradley who had just arrived at the stall, stating that this was the man to talk to if we wanted to learn more about Rwanda.
Bradley is the man in the first Horsham coffee picture, who left his job to become a coffee roaster and set up Horsham Coffee Roasters with the help and support of his wife as we were to find out. Taking some time this year to take a trip to origin and discover more about Rwandan coffees. Using some links with Falcon Coffee who are also based near brighton, Bradley set about visiting some of Rwanda Trading Company and KZNoir‘s washing stations. You can read more about his trip in detail on Horsham Coffee’s blog. Bradley explained that the Karora was in his opinion the best he cupped while in Rwanda having enjoyed the distinctive flavours coming from the cooperatives coffee. It was nice to talk to someone so passionate about the chain of production of coffee, so passionate that he went out to create some direct ties of his own. Looking a little edgey Bradley explained that he was eager to go cup some of the Brazilian coffees on offer over at the DRWakefield stand, inviting us with him, we explained we’d already cupped them at London Coffee Festival and left him to it. Feeling a little edgey ourselves after a wealth of caffeine, we went off in search of something a little milder.
I’m sure by now you’ll have come across Kokoa Collection, the hot chocolate choice of coffee shops up and down the country, greatly improving upon the sugary and flavourless powdered hot chocolate alternatives of old. Instead Kokoa Collection offer single origin hot chocolate in a variety of cocoa percentages with distinct and plentiful flavours. I’ve drank it in the later coffee shop hours before, but hadn’t had chance to directly compare all the origins in one go before and now seemed as good a time as any.
Starting with the Venezuelan, an area of the world known for its quality single origin chocolate, the hot chocolate was smooth, refined and lightly fruity, owing to its combination of criollo beans which give the chocolate its refined qualities and the trinitario beans which provide the light fruityness. This was a great chocolate for those that aren’t sure about some of the higher percentage dark chocolates. Following on from the Venezuelan we were handed a taster of the Ecuadorian made up from arriba nacional beans, known for making great high percentage milk chocolate, as a hot chocolate the Ecuadorian has a bright sweetness that’s surprising for a 70% chocolate, also working perfectly in milk. Next was a new one for me, their 75% from Haiti, not knowing quite what to expect with this one, it was full bodied with deep rich chocolatey notes, one of the more powerful hot chocolates I’ve had. The last of their dark hot chocolate range arrived, an 82% Madagascan, which sounds quite dark as a percentage, but with Madagascar being known for its fruity trinitario beans I was expecting this to be my favourite, which it was with subtle red fruit notes on the finish.
Dark chocolate over, we were offered some of the white hot chocolate, which while nice was a little sweet for me. To finish it was time for something that had sparked my interest on arriving at the stand, a cocoa tea from Panama, brewed from cocoa bean shells. Having tried a few cocoa related infusions I was intrigued to see how brewing the shells in a teapot might come out. To taste it was a lightly fruity tea, refreshing and really well balanced, something I’d definitely be found drinking late in the afternoons. Wth day 1 drawing to an end, tired and hungry, we popped over to Wallace and Sons for some quick food before heading back to the hotel.
Never turning down an opportunity for some Kimchi, we popped outside for some Gyoza from Wallace and Sons. Mr Wallace looked pretty tired by the time we caught up with him, but it had been a long day. Tired or not, the food was cooked up pretty speedily and luckily he hadn’t run out of kimchi, so we grabbed the delicious looking food and headed inside out of the rain to snaffle the gyoza up.
The gyoza were super tasty and came topped with some awesome mushroom type thing, but the stand out bit for me was the kimchi, which was some of the best kimchi I’ve had and all from one man in his van. Impressed we stuffed our faces and ran for the bus to the hotel, absent mindedly forgetting that Old Trafford had just kicked its many supporters out, to be honest it was nice to finally slow down a little. After all we’d be back again tomorrow.