A new roaster, to me at least, was tucked in neatly next to Horsham Coffee, both their festival neighbour and their regional neighbour, with both roasters hailing from West Sussex. It was difficult to ignore the significant amount of Panamanian Geishas littered about their stand and so with my attention gained, we popped over to see what they were all about. Here we met Tilly Spurr, one half of the husband and wife team that run Cast Iron Roasted Coffee, asking what they had to offer on filter, they explained that they had brewed up some Morgan Estate, but that it had gone cold and so they would brew up a fresh batch of the washed geisha from Morgan Estate.
While Tilly complemented my girlfriend on her skirt, I took some time to look over the coffees on offer. They had a washed typica from El Jardin Del Cafe, Boquete, Panama roasted for espresso, alongside a natural processed bourbon from Finca Deborah, before their two big guns, the natural processed and the washed Morgan Estate Geishas. Tucked in the back a little out of sight they had a Morgan Estate Geisha that had been processed using carbonic maceration, which is, traditionally at least, more of a wine making process. Coffee brewed it was time to give it a try, there’s no mistaking a good Panamanian Geisha, as a washed it was super floral and very tea like with a lot of complexity, this was a high quality cup of coffee. Too curious I asked to try the carbonically macerated version (the coffee that had gone cold), while past its best having gone cold, it was incredibly transparent and clean. Tilly said her husband had likened it to the difference between listening to music on vinyl or digital, while both are enjoyable methods, digital is that much sharper and clearer and this coffee was certainly that.
Somewhat surprised to find I hadn’t really come across a roaster roasting coffee this great before, I asked if they had any bags for retail, unfortunately coffee from Panama isn’t really available yet seasonally speaking and these were roasted from a fly crop that they were using to showcase the coffees. So I’ll be keeping an eye on Cast Iron for when these are available on the website. Asking about their roasting set up and how long they’d been roasting Tilly explained that her husband did most of the roasting on a 6kg Geisen at their unit near Worthing. Remarking that this might involve a lot of roasting in a roaster of that size, she explained that there was a lot you could do in a smaller roaster that you cant in a big roaster and that they would rather roast more often than in larger batches. With her husband Guy being formally from the IT industry it appears there might be a few creative, shall we say, roasting practices going on at Cast Iron roastery, but if they’re producing coffees this good then Cast Iron might be a roaster worth keeping your eye on this year, I certainly will be.
Taking a trip downstairs, we came across Caravan Coffee Roasters on our way over to the Colonna stand. Having always enjoyed their coffee, we thought it rude not to at least see what they had on offer. Approaching the stand it looked as if Caravan had been expanding their brand design, taking their their style and applying it to baseball caps and tshirts and getting a little creative with their coffee names. So after asking what filter they had on, which was being brewed in a Bonavita 8-Cup brewer I might add, they offered us some ‘Special Bru’.
A 60/40 washed mix of coffees from El Roble in Huila, Colombia and Mudusi from Kayanza, Burundi, this coffee was particularly fruity and present, with a mixture of green apples and purple fruit coming together nicely like an apple and blackberry jam. Eager to make our way over to Colonna, we thanked Caravan and ambled over.
Recent talk of the town, Colonna Coffee has been making ripples in the coffee pond with its announcement that it is going to be producing its own Nespresso compatible specialty coffee capsules. Having given a talk at Modern Society recently, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood outlined his plans to produce these capsules, as well as giving arguments for why specialty coffee and coffee capsules should be part of the same sentence. Brian Williams wrote a particularly good article about it in one of his Saturday Supplements entitled Specialty Coffee in Capsules, which I highly recommend reading. On arrival to the stand there was no coffee capsules to try, with major production not taking place till the end of April, but fortunately Colonna Coffee still roasts regular coffee and there was a washed Morgan Estate Geisha on offer as batch filter. The very same coffee we’d had at Cast Iron Roasters earlier, they even popped by to try some. To taste it was remarkably similar, but with those minor differences you’d expect between freshly brewed pour over and batch filter, I like batch filter but it is somehow noticeably different from pour over.
On hand to provide us with our coffee was barista Liam, who was more than happy to talk about Colonna capsules, no doubt for the thousandth time or so that weekend. Liam is quick to point out that the coffee capsules aren’t really espresso, with 5.4g of coffee inside they produce a beverage with a weight around 22g, which is much closer to a lungo than an espresso, something I’ve actually ordered a few times and enjoyed more than espresso on occasion. It’s also a beverage style they offer at Colonna & Smalls should you be interested in trying one. On top of the realisation that this essentially an alternative beverage style to espresso, what this is about is freshness. The coffee industry is all about freshness and transparency, which is why all good roasters include a roasted on date on the bag of coffee. With the roasted coffee being at its best for the first three weeks or even more precisely in the 8-12 day from roast window. So with Roasted coffee freshness being high on the agenda, what about green coffee, the coffee before its roasted.
This is a conversation that is only just really coming to the fore in specialty coffee. Most roasters get in there shipment of green coffee and roast from it for months before it runs out, roasting to order, so as to keep the roasted coffee freshness at its optimum. Taste tests have been finding more and more that the fresher the green coffee the more prominent the attributes of the roasted coffee, essentially and maybe not surprisingly, the best a coffee is going to be is when it is from very fresh selection of green beans and when it is freshly roasted. So what does this have to do with specialty coffee capsules, I hear you ask? Well in being able to roast all your green coffee as soon as it arrives and pack it into nitrogen flushed specialty coffee capsules, you can maintain the freshness of the coffee, as opposed to leaving the green beans on your roastery floor and roasting to order. It’s important to note that vacuum sealing and nitrogen flushing are two different processes and the second is the one Colonna will be using for their capsules, this is the one that is designed to preserve freshness. The only thing left now to rationalise and resolve is how we drink specialty coffee capsules without causing unnecessary waste and a negative impact on the environment. I cant help but think the answer might lie in biodegradable pods and bokashi composting, but we will have to wait and see.