After all of the excitement over at Heart & Graft x Conti Espresso, we thought we best check in with another of Manchester’s coffee roasters who had taken up stall on the other side of the dividing wall. Here we found Ancoats Coffee Co, who we’d had the pleasure of visiting earlier in the year on a day out in Manchester – it’s a lovely space, you really should go – ready and prepared with four separate batch brews on the go. Jamie started us with a washed Guatemalan, which had pleasant red apple notes as well as a lovely balance, next we moved on to the familiar bright stonefruit flavours of the Guji Liyu from Ethiopia. This was like a showcase of atypical flavours in origin so far, with the range of coffees well balanced like a beginners showcase introduction to coffee. Up third was the Rwandan, which was on the dark side of citrus featuring blood orange and cocoa, a style of Rwandan I’d first come across at last years Cup North. Which left Jamie’s favourite coffee for last, the Kenyan Gakayuini washed peaberry a complex, but fruity coffee focussing around blackcurrants, I have to admit I still struggle with the odd Kenyan tending instead to prefer its fruity Ethiopian neighbours.
We talked over the coffees with Jamie, before noticing that they’d brought one the tables from Ancoats with them to use as the stall, Jamie explaining that he’d wanted a sort of communal area away from a stall front that didn’t separate him from the customers. A friendly touch. which is mirrored somewhat in the open layout of their roastery cafe, which again I’ll add is well worth a visit.
Starting to feel a bit peckish we headed across the room to the saviours of cake standards in cafes across the country, Cakesmiths. Having fallen in love with their breads at last years Cup North and London Coffee Festival earlier this year we got ourself a cake box. The pear and ginger loaf was a must, with the breads being in my opinion the best of the selections, but we thought we’d branch out and take a gamble on the vegan chocolate brownie and a slice of the banoffee. Saving the brownie for later we devoured the other two and added a minor sugar rush to the building caffeine we’d already consumed. I think we already knew what we’d be having for breakfast.
Leed’s own and close to my heart North Star Coffee Roasters have been undergoing some changes in the last year or two, moving location, switching to a Giesen roaster and on top of seasonally changing their coffee offerings they’ve introduced the North Star Coffee Academy. It’s difficult to find certified SCAE and Q training outside of the capital cities and for a time now there’s been a lack of access to these courses in the mid and north of England, so fortunately for those looking to progress their coffee education and qualifications North Star are now able to offer these courses in their dedicated training facility.
If you’re interested or already thinking of trying to achieve your SCAE diploma you can read about it here https://www.northstarroast.com/academy/ there’s also sensory courses and courses for home brewing too for those of you just looking to make a better cup of coffee. We picked up some of the literature to read later and moved on to the real reason why we were here, their new Ethiopian, which we hadn’t tried yet.
Ollie, North Star’s barista skills trainer was on the espresso machine and so we ordered the Aramo natural as an espresso to share, while Ollie explained they were only using 14g doses because of the massive flavour the coffee was producing. Sipping it, it was massively bright with big notes of blueberries and a tonne of flavour, there was no mistaking this coffee. While we sipped away we chatted about a recent vegetarian one off dining experience we’d all been to at Ox Club in Leeds and how similarly to the Aramo natural how surprised we’d been to find so much flavour in the dishes, we all agreed the carrot steak was a winner.
Finally finding the stand on the quieter side, we took our opportunity and snuck in to Carvetii’s batch brew area to try their offerings. Sneakily pouring ourselves a couple of taster cups of the yellow honey Finca Don Claudio from Costa Rica and the natural Ethiopia Limu, while no one was around, or so we thought. Suddenly as if from nowhere like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn, Gareth appeared to talk to us about his coffees. Head roaster – when his wife will let him – Gareth asked us what we thought of the coffee, the Don Claudio that we were currently sipping was pleasant enough, slightly complex there was some sweet dried fruit in there like raisins and maybe some apple in there
He asked us if we’d tried the Ethiopia Limu yet, I explained I’d left it till last because I’d tried a lot of Limu coffee before and they all tended to be lime and marzipan to me and I’m generally more interested in new and exciting coffees. Intrigued he got me to try the Limu and explained that he thought flavours such as lime in a coffee suggested to him an uneven or under developed roast. The Limu didn’t taste of lime to be fair, it was fruitier, plums and berries maybe a sort of fruit medley, Gareth went on to explain that lime was likely due to a coffee that was well roasted on the outside, but where the centre of the bean might have been unevenly roasted on the inside. Something that is very difficult to tell when you’re roasting especially when you can’t see the centre of the bean, instead having to judge by smell and by colour and obviously by post roast QC. We stayed on a while after we’d finished the coffees, talking about the coffee scene in Cumbria, the difference in attitudes and expectations for coffee service in rural and inner city areas, the pains of fixing broken roasting equipment and how good the pancakes were at Brew and Brownie in York.
We finally timed it right to end up at Atkinsons for the beginning of their cupping table, what’s better than turning up when you can try all the coffees at once. With a relaxed preparation going on and the two of us being the only interested parties, we broke the crusts and made (slow) attempts to spoon the grounds out of the cupping bowls.
Making our way around the table it reconfirmed what I already knew about my preferences with my favourites being the Ethiopian and the Colombian, there was a good selection there with lots of different flavours available, but I found myself drawn to the two brighter and fruitier coffees.
Revisiting the red bourbon honey lot from Colombia it stood out as not only being my favourite, but also as noticeably the best coffee on the table. There was a delicious underlying red berry acidity with melon top notes and this cocoa biscuit base. It was so good we went back on the second day to pick up a bag.
Conti Espresso – Round 2
It wouldn’t be a coffee festival without one of my failed attempts to make a decent looking latte. So I enlisted the help of serial UK Latte Art Champion Dhan Tamang to help me try and improve my atrocious skills. Ever excitable, even about making his 783rd latte of the day, Dhan was more than willing to waste his time on me after explaining some hand movements to a barista making much better use of his time.
Above you can see Dhan’s example of how to do lots of individual work without filling the cup up too quickly and below that the visiting barista’s quick attempt at a tulip. Just so you have something to compare my effort too.
Shot pulled on the machine after tamping a pre set dose from the grinder and pressing the pre set espresso function on the machine, left me feeling that espresso once dialled in wasn’t too difficult to produce on a modern machine. Next came the more difficult tempering of the milk, which was heavily supervised by Dhan and stopped at that hand feel for temperature moment. Dhan swirled the milk in the jug and tapped in down to even out the foam in the milk, before passing it to me to execute the pour.
I tried my best to pour the milk back and forth over the espresso, before bringing the jug closer to the cup to add white milky detail as instructed with intentional start and stop pours, but for all my effort and fantastic instruction, I ended up with the could be worse cup below.
It could’ve been worse, but I’m not entirely sure how, tasting it, it all felt a bit loose and unsealed and I began to understand better the qualities that well tempered milk adds to the texture of a latte. I think the milk work was definitely best left in the hands of Dhan and so we asked him for something more exciting to drink and that’s when he produced this.