There comes a point at London Coffee Festival where you just need a cup of water – for which the Project Waterfall stand is always a trusted friend – or some ice cream, something to take the edge off, to level you out a little and calm those encroaching caffeine shakes. At such times, who am I to ignore the luring pull of the True Artisan Café and its signature drinks.
On offer was a collaborative affogato, both combining and showcasing Quarter Horse Coffee’s washed Tanzanian Tweega, with Jakes London’s cinnamon curd and the neutral complementary workhorse of desserts, vanilla ice cream. How could anyone refuse?
With bold and lightly punchy citric acidity the espresso rises before being pulled into the spicy creamy depths of the curd and ice cream, wherein it becomes a dark molasses like dessert lifted by the vanilla. I can’t say mine lasted very long.
I did say I was in search of the unfamiliar and having essentially just had dessert, I figured my palate was in the right place for sampling an espresso spread. Offered a miniature splat on a colourful plastic stick I entered into the green and red counter game of likey/don’t likey. To taste this was essentially a glossy textured chocolate spread – that encouraged you to think it might be marmite, but wasn’t – which tasted of atypical dark roast espresso. The glossiness was no doubt due to the cocoa butter content, which has its unique melting point and allows you to create a spread roughly equal parts sugar and equal parts fat, that moreish balancing point. All in all, a worthy coffee based contender for that ubiquitous of toast – or straight out of the jar – spreads, Nutella.
Another regular of the coffee festival roasters, Clifton Coffee, who never fail to bring some good filter offerings with them. With Mexican, Ethiopian and Kenyan filters available it was difficult choosing, but back with the filter coffee I was in the mood for something bright and fruity and the Ethiopian threatened to be just what I was looking for.
Asking for a small cup while Clifton Coffee questioned me on my preferences for origin while I sniffed away at an unmistakably fruity coffee. Definitely a natural coffee with a natural profile, but with flavours somewhere between the washed and natural processes, distinctly fruity, but with yellow fruit flavours that only ended with a cherry finish more atypical of a natural. Just what I was looking for to get back to the filters and in retrospect the whole line up was probably well worth a deeper inspection, but unfortunately there’s only so much coffee one man can drink.
Making a second loop past the Fetco stand, I’d timed my visit to coincide with local Leeds’ roasters Maude Coffee’s stint on the stand. Having been to their recent cupping I’d tasted their new season’s coffee, but it was all around a day off roast and so I was intrigued to see how they’d settled and reaffirm any preferences I’d had. Seeing Matt on the stand he recommended I try the Burundi Kanzu, in its stylish new grey packaging. By far the pick of the three, the Kanzu now rested was a little fruitier with some more noticeable delicate florals, a fully washed red bourbon giving it natural sweetness and some encouraging pink fruit notes that made it a light and uplifting cup. Something, no doubt I’ll have to opportunity of revisiting.
I’ve never tried any coffee from the Roasting Party, I’ve never tried any coffee from Uganda and I’ve never tried coffee brewed through the Gina Smart brewer, so I was prepped for a whole host of new experiences. I don’t exactly know why I’ve never popped by the Roasting Party’s stand at London Coffee Festival, I think the loud music and the slightly over zealous party revelry and resulting confusion of service that resulted always put me off. Fortunately this time the stand was quiet and the music wasn’t giving anyone a headache, so I wandered in to enquire about what was going down.
Presented with a new origin in the form of Uganda, which was being brewed on a new Smart brewer, as of yet unshipped from preorders on their kickstarter page – link below – I was pretty excited. As the coffee dripped through the brewer feeding back its information to the Smart phone with numbers rapidly changing from weight and time to brew ratio’s, Anze Miklavec began explaining the device to me. At first it just appears to be pleasant aesthetics, but with immersion brewing options and adjusted flow controls as well as built in scales and a number of other handy features the Gina was starting to appear a bit like the everyman’s brewer. Capable of every and all brew method to a number of personal presets, while monitoring and cataloguing all your brews, it would have probably been more prudent to ask what it didn’t do. All that said, this was a simple V60 brew of the Roasting Party’s Ugandan, which came out with a lot more citric delicacy that I’d expected, with a presumption of an earthy coffee, I maybe shouldn’t have been surprised to have my origin expectations subverted.