I used to live in Nottingham, but as I and Outpost Coffee will attest there was no good coffee there at that time – not that I would have been trying to drink it back then anyway, if I’m being entirely honest. Things have changed now, fortunately, although not for me as I still hadn’t had the opportunity of trying any decent coffee roasted in Nottingham, although now – crossing Outpost Coffee’s path – was as good a time as any to remedy that fact. Approaching the stand I was met by an excitable Harley, who was more than eager to introduce me to their Rwanda Kilimbi lot.
With a fresh cup of their recently brewed naturally processed red bourbon from Rwanda Kilimbi, I was instantly hit by the big, bold, strawberry flavour, there was no need for tasting notes on this one. Clear and tasting like real strawberries – you know the ones that don’t come from the supermarket – this was a distractingly good cup of coffee. As Harley began explaining that they’d sourced these beans from Raw Material, as if by magic Raw Material appeared with some flyers to hand out directing people to their cuppings downstairs on their stand. Listed as the ‘ones to watch’ by Harley, I made a mental note to check them out later in the day.
Trading some likes and dislikes of Nottingham, I asked them where they were located, so I could add them to a mental to do list next time I was in town. As it turns out there’s both a roastery and a cafe now, so if the festival price of £10 for 350g of this outstanding coffee wasn’t enough to get you to take some home with you, at least you’ll be able to visit them and pick some up on a second chance whim.
Having joined the festival fold last year, Cocoa Runners were back again this year to showcase their hot chocolate. Not content with improving the quality of people’s chocolate consumption in bar form only, they were intent on introducing their method of using couverture to make hot chocolate. Couverture features heavily for chocolatiers in producing their individual chocolates, with extra cocoa butter it’s easier to produce a glossy sheen when tempering and it’s pretty well adapted to making hot chocolate too.
On offer were two single origin hot chocolates, featuring Original Beans couverture in the form of their 70% Cru Virunga from the Congo and their 75% Peruvian Piura, which easily represent two distinctly different sets of flavours in chocolate. Trying the Cru Virunga first, it displayed earthy dark cocoa tones, but remained noticeably sweet throughout, one for those who like their hot chocolate to taste particularly chocolatey. Next was the Piura, known for being a delicate and refined style of chocolate with criollo characteristics from the Piura region of Peru. This for me was sweeter, which could be surprising given its higher percentage and offered something lighter and more delicate, but through milk it lacked the comparative power of the Cru Virunga for me. If I was tipping my hat it would be in the direction of the Cru Virunga, but I did hear whispers that the Piura had been the firm crowd favourite.
Continuing with the hot chocolate, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to directly compare Mork’s 70% hot chocolate to the two I’d just tried from Cocoa Runners. Originally from Melbourne – but just to confuse things Mork has influences in both coffee and Sweden too, hence the name meaning dark in Swedish – Mork have have now transitioned over to the UK market. What they’re not confused about though is their love of chocolate, which led to them creating a 70% chocolate liquor of trinitario beans from the Sur Del Lago region of Venezuela, which features in their Original Dark hot chocolate.
Like cocoa runners their hot chocolate is made with steamed milk – making it perfect for coffee shops – and flavour wise falls somewhere between the two. It’s less intense than the earthy Cru Virunga and it’s less delicate and refined than the Piura, but that’s to be expected from its trinitario roots. It’s slightly fruitier, but in general its more of an atypical chocolate flavour that’s pretty well rounded in hot chocolate form. Fairly new to the UK, you’ll probably struggle to find them outside of London, but if you’re interested you can find them at some pretty notable London coffee shops on this list http://www.morkchocolate.co.uk/find-us/ or at Outpost Coffee Roasters as above, should you want all the drinks from this overview.
You travel all the way to London in search of some new and exciting coffee finds and experiences, only to cross paths with the local and the familiar. It’s rare at coffee festivals for me not to pop by local roasters North Star and this one was no different. Still new experiences were aplenty, featuring new packaging and new seasonal coffee additions, I popped over to get a look at their new Ethiopian offering. With North Star now regularly rotating their seasonal coffee offerings they wanted to showcase standout coffees, if and when they appeared, in order to distinguish between their usual great selection they thought it best to give a visual representation through their packaging.
Chatting to Ollie on the espresso machine, he offered to brew me up their new Ethiopia Ambela washed as an espresso while we chatted about their new packaging. I’ve come across their packaging before, sort of, well at least the creative print firm responsible for it, both knowingly and unknowingly. I’d recently reviewed a chocolate and coffee collaboration bar between Taylor & Bennett and North Star Coffee, which featured packaging made from 50% used coffee cup fibres and unknowingly I’d come across their traditional print media when leafing through a copy of Coffee Shop: North. In all cases Leeds print firm Pressision were responsible for these beautifully produced and increasingly sustainable print products. Sipping on my espresso, there were distinct citric florals and stonefruit flavours coming through that expressed themselves particularly transparently for an espresso and having finished my drink I handed my cup back to Ollie so that it could be added to the collection of recycling destined to make it into their next set of packaging. A nice loop, closed.