It wouldn’t be a coffee festival without one of my unbelievably poor attempts at latte art and so in passing Artisan Coffee School, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have another stab in dark at creating a beautiful (or not so beautiful in this case) heart, tulip or rosetta. Feeling undeservedly confident I asked if I could have a go, but before I’d even finished cleaning the portafilter I was already making casual mistakes, nearly losing the portafilter basket into the spent grounds bin, not a great start. Portafilter finally cleaned I was asked if I had used a professional grinder before, to which I replied yes, before realising that this particular one didn’t have digital scale controls, instead I was informed that a full basket should weigh 19g. Grounds added, swiped off neatly and carefully with my finger, we moved on to tamping. Forgetting as per usual to turn my body sideways and come over the top of the tamp to exert some body weight force into the puck of coffee, my first effort was a bit on the weak side.
Coffee tamped, we moved over to the La Marzocco Linea PB, which was pre set to pull out 36g of espresso, so fortunately all I had to do was press the button and place the cup underneath. Espresso pulled we moved on to the milk, which is where I had the most questions, somehow I never seem to quite get the milk right, but the idea being that you start on the surface before moving the steam wand further into the milk till it gets too hot for you to hold for more than about 3-5 seconds. In doing so you can create both hot milk and the milk foam required to make a latte, this particular wand was pretty powerful, so it was all over in a few seconds, which didn’t leave much margin for error. After decanting the milk a couple of times from one jug to another to more evenly disperse the air bubbles and foam I tilted the espresso cup and began pouring the milk into the espresso. As the liquid began to reach the lip of the cup I failed to get closer to the coffee and use the correct pushing technique and so the finished item… well it looked like the below picture.
Mine’s the keyhole shaped white splodge in the Crosstown Doughnuts bag. I was told that the definition between the coffee and the white milk was pretty good, but then I think they were just being nice. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to try the coffee, she took one look at it laughed and shook her head, once again this coffee was impressing nobody and I’d even had help making it. I tried it myself and to be fair it tasted pretty good, but then again I don’t drink much coffee with milk in it, so what do I know, any redeeming features were likely due to the quality of the coffee and not my technique anyway. Seeing my girlfriend laughing, everyone around the stand had a little chuckle about the general lack of excitement from anybody to try the coffee I’d made. So next time your barista pours you a latte with a perfect rosetta on the top be thankful that they at least know what they’re doing. Should you want to make your own however, you can sign yourself up for one of the many Artisan Coffee School’s courses.
I find it hard not to make a stop off at Origin Coffee Roasters when I’m at a coffee festival, because I have a history of really enjoying the coffees that they roast and their coffee rarely makes its way up north for me to try. So we made our way over to their stand to see what they had on offer and besides their killer line up of Geisha and Ethiopians they had a Colombian available as both single origin espresso and as filter. Currently Origin’s featured coffee of April their Villa Karina is a washed caturra from Tolima and so we asked if we could try it as a brewed coffee.
Preparing the coffee for the Kalita Wave, a brewing method Origin seem to be very fond of, it was explained that they had been getting pretty good extraction ratios from this method in pretty short brew times, because of the flat bottom of a Kalita it allows the grounds to stir up giving a more even extraction as the water is poured.
Coffee brewed it was time to give it a try and see if it lived up to the Origin coffees of the past. This coffee was all about the blackcurrants, distinct and honest it was easy to differentiate blackcurrants rather than any other type of black berries from the flavour notes of this coffee. If I was doing a blind tasting on this coffee and was asked to guess at origin, I think I would have probably guessed this coffee was from Nyeri in Kenya rather than Colombia, but it was flavoursome and exciting all the same. In the mouth the coffee was fairly big and had a chewy and juicy feel to it, I could see how this coffee would translate well to espresso. Which is what I was offered as a follow up to see the differences.
The first espresso came out a little fast in around 20 seconds or so, with a massive head of crema, letting it cool a little I took a sip and it was massively creamy, a little blackcurrant acidity in the background, but just rich complex cream. Not happy with the shot, another was made this time pulling through longer, this was more in line with what I’d suspected, complex interplays of blackcurrant, chocolate, lime and cream. It’s not often that coffees work specifically well as both filter and espresso, but this one seemed to have it nailed.
Just next door to Origin was Horsham Coffee Roaster and suspecting they might have another Rwandan relationship coffee on offer I popped over to see if I could have a try. On arrival I found Bradley pulling shots on the espresso machine and testing the TDS readings on an Atago Coffee Refractometer, looking serious and busy, I swung my eyes around to the available filter on offer, which was a Peruvian washed mix of typica, yellow catarrh and bourbon from El Solitario.
To taste it was a rich mixture of cherries and nuts with a backbone of chocolate, but unlike the creamy or chocolately mouthfeel you would generally expect to pair with those flavours, this was sweet and juicy instead. I’ve always really enjoyed Peruvian coffee, as well as Peruvian chocolate, I don’t know why I don’t make them my go to more often. With no Rwandan currently on offer we left the busy stand with the intention of returning a bit later when it was quieter or when we might be lucky enough to find the Rwandan on.
Fortunately we returned towards the end of our circuit to find the Rwandan available as filter. I’d had the pleasure of trying one of Horsham’s Rwandan relationship coffees at the last Cup North, where we got to talk to them about their trip to origin and their impressions of Rwanda, so I was excited to try another offering from the relationships built up on that trip. This Rwandan was a washed and sun dried red bourbon from the Gishyita Co-operative, somewhat similar to the Karora I tried last time this is one of the darker Rwandans I’ve tried, more like candied dried citrus than bright oranges and lemons. It reminds me of how aging wine tends to temper the fruitiness and instead develops spice and dried fruit notes. This was lovely and balanced, sweet, dark and fruity all at the same time and a testament to sourcing your own coffees at origin.