We were both excited and grateful to be chosen to participate as an experience judge for the first ever Extracted Development coffee competition, which launched this weekend at the Birmingham Coffee Festival. The brainchild of the talented Cup North team, this new competition focusses on real-life barista skills, how baristas and roasters can and should collaborate to best serve their customers as well as involving the audience in a meaningful way.
Eight roasters from around the country were paired with eight baristas, and were tasked with preparing a presentation for the three experience judges, Claire Wallace of Assembly Coffee, Dénes Bíró of Heylo Coffee and myself, as well as a fourth wildcard judge who was pulled from the audience on the day. Their movements and preparations were watched over by the careful eyes of the technical judge, Sapphire Chan of Ancoats Coffee. For a brief 18 minutes on stage each duo was asked to serve the four judges an espresso, a plant-based milk drink and a filter coffee, using coffee that had to be sourced for under £12 per kilo of green.
The main ways competitors were able to gain points on the scoresheet and climb the leadership ladder reflect the reality of serving customers in a café setting, through being personable and warm, giving good customer service and displaying knowledge of their product and accurately describing the taste experiences of their three rounds of drinks.
It was refreshing to meet such a positive bunch of people over the course of the day, and after each duo called time Dénes, Claire and I would pore over the scoresheets to ensure we were taking care to allocate points to the hardworking baristas and roasters, and confidently reflect their accuracy and attention to detail.
Together, we tasted coffees from Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Rwanda and Ethiopia, everything from traditionally washed through pulped naturals, semi-washed and honeys, into the experimental anoxic/anerobic processes and even a whisky barrel aged coffee. Varieties included Arara, Gesha, Sidra, Caturra, Bourbon, Pink Bourbon and countless others. The level of detail conveyed on how coffees were sourced, roasted and ultimately prepared was fascinating, and we were often left beaming at the passion and enthusiasm that we share as an industry for playing a small role in coffee’s complicated supply chain.
Event co-creator, Grace Talbot, and event MC Ricardo
Underpinning everything, from the organisers Grace Talbot and Hannah Davies through the competitors and our fellow judges was a very strong sense of inclusivity and community. Now we’re looking forward to doing it all again at the Manchester Coffee Festival later this year, which you’ll find us exhibiting at on November 18th an 19th.
Congratulations to the winning duo, Laura Metcalfe and Culainn Boland-Shanahan, and thanks for your routine with which was brimming with knowledge, passion and, of course, tasty drinks.
Eventual winners, Laura Metcalfe and Culainn Boland-Shanahan
Purveyor of fine cycling apparel, Attaquer, are popping up in North London's Coal Drops Yard between Friday 9th and Sunday 18th July. We'll be working alongside them throughout the week to ensure visitors are able to enjoy exceptional coffee daily.
To celebrate their latest Artist Series collection, Attaquer will be previewing the new release alongside a range of exclusive Attaquer London products. Working with French artist and skateboarder Lucas Beaufort, the full range of kit will be on display each day from 10:00 a.m. and available exclusively ahead of its global launch on 12th July.
As well as a chance to peruse and take items home, visitors will also be able to enjoy a host of events throughout the week. From shop bike rides and beer tasting with Bianca Road Brewery, to an evening with cycling journal, Rouleur, the full event schedule can be found below. Visitors will also be able to pick up one of a limited number of special-release bags of Nicaraguan filter roast, Emilio Gomez.
Beginning with a launch party on Saturday 10th July, join us for a brew, a beer or a conversation inside Unit 55, Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4DQ.
Saturday 10th July: Lucas Beaufort launch party (with drinks, art & giveaways in store) – 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sunday 11th July: Shop Bunch Ride (2 distances and paces, more information to follow).
Thursday 15th July: Late Night Shopping (Bianca Road Beer Tasting in store) – Open until 9:00 p.m.
Friday 16th July: Rouleur Guest Night
Saturday 17th July: Wrap Party —6:00 p.m. 'til late
Sunday 18th July: Shop Survivor Ride — Closing 6:00 p.m.
More information on the Attaquer London Pop-Up can be found here.
On Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd February, Cloudwater Brew Co. hosted their second Friends & Family & Beer Festival. Coinciding with the Manchester-based brewery's fifth birthday, the two-day event was initially hosted in 2019 as a celebration of the independent values, collaborative spirit and community that defines the craft beer industry and, for the two days it existed, it embodied that convivial spirit.
This year we were delighted to be invited to the festival as a brewer of a different sort and the Workshop Coffee team showcased three coffees from our seasonal range throughout. Filling the hopper of our espresso grinder was our floral Ethiopian, Hunkute, and this was supported by two incredibly popular filter coffees options – our first ever Peruvian offering, Yolanda Cabrera, and Mahembe from Rwanda, which has firmly established itself as a staple in our range.
Our coffees fuelled a day of talks on the Friday, which spanned an impressive breadth of subjects, from the objectives of modern IPAs and the future of bioengineered brewing yeast, through to an insightful and inspiring panel discussion on the practicalities of independence and a keynote speech on building an inclusive and equitable work place from PhD Beer Scholar Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham.
As a damp and windy Manchester afternoon gave way to the evening, the doors to the main event space opened and the lights lowered in anticipation of what was one of the most impressive range of breweries and beers we’ve witnessed under one (rather beautiful, wrought-iron) roof. 72 brewers poured more than 500 beers of varying styles and strengths and amongst that impressive number were a host of one-off beers brewed especially for the festival or simply not available in the country at any other point of the year. The full list can be viewed here and has to be seen to be believed (and even then, it might take a few reads).
An enormous thank you once again to Cloudwater Brew Co. for the invitation and to everyone that took the time to join us for coffee and a conversation. The medicinal benefit of a caffeinated kick was no doubt beneficial as the number of beers mounted, but we were thrilled to see our coffee being tasted, savoured and enjoyed with the same excitement and sense of exploration as the beers in the room.
We’re already looking forward to next year.
Caffeine can be a bit of a taboo in the realms of specialty coffee. We choose, quite rightly, to focus on flavour and provenance in the coffees we showcase. However, there's no getting away from the fact that caffeine plays an important part in coffee's consumption. After all, it's what gets many of us up in the morning.
With this in mind, we recently welcomed Christophe Reissfelder, formerly of Botanic Labs, to our Roastery in Bethnal Green. Well practiced in pharmacological plants and their effects on the body, he was perfectly placed to host a couple of sessions for the team on caffeinated alternatives to coffee and tea.
There are around sixty plants that contain caffeine, approximately eight of which are consumed around the world. Unsurprisingly, coffee sits comfortably at the top of the pile as the most popular, followed by the next most obvious answer: tea. But from there, caffeine sources become lesser known and are, at times, in danger of being forgotten completely.
It was these more obscure options that we wanted to familiarise ourselves with.
We started with Yerba Maté, a drink made from Ilex paraguariensis, a tree related to Holly that is grown in the Atlantic Forest in South America. We tasted two styles, with the first hailing from Brazil. Simply steamed and then dried, it had a very green taste that was reminiscent of Sencha. The second had been dried with smoke, a process more popular in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. More heavily processed, it offered a more pungent aroma with notes of tobacco and leather, reminding us of roasted oolong.
Next up was Guayusa, a cousin of Maté, and native to the Amazon Rainforest. Unlike its relative, Guayasa contains no tannins at all, so you can boil it for a long time without experiencing any astringency or bitterness. Containing L-theanine, an amino acid also present in tea that's known for its calming effect, this can help to temper the jitters caused by something we're all too familiar with: caffeine overdose. L-theanine is very umami rich, making Guayusa a tasty addition to stocks and soups. As well as tasting Guayusa as a tea, we also enjoyed a delicious blueberry drink, prepared by steeping the Guayusa in a water bath for 12 hours to create a thick, dark liquid. This allowed Christophe to extract as much L-theanine as possible, which gave the drink an incredibly syrupy texture. A blueberry puree was added and the drink was served chilled.
The third plant of the day, we soon discovered, became synonymous with the UK Techno scene in the 1990s. Club goers would chew gum laced with Guarana, a powerful stimulant that contains over twice the amount of caffeine of coffee, in order to keep themselves going into the early hours. Unlike Yerba Maté and Guayusa, the seed of the Guarana fruit is the part that's used. Slightly roasted and ground into a powder, the end result is compacted into a 'stick' and then dried in the sun. To drink, the sticks are grated into hot water with a bit of sugar. When Christophe is short on time in the morning, and doesn't have time to brew coffee, he'll drizzle a sugar syrup, made using Guarana, over his porridge.
Our final stop on our voyage through caffeine is often chewed in West African countries and presented at social events to guests and loved ones, as well as being used as a sacred offering during prayers. The kola nut is native to the tropical rainforests of Africa and was the original ingredient used in Coca-Cola before a switch to synthesised caffeine was made. The taste is very bitter, so we grated it before steeping it in boiling water and adding it to a paste made from lime zest, sugar and rose petals. Served over ice with fresh lime juice, it was the perfect tonic for a warm summer's day.
These insightful sessions saw us exploring caffeine found naturally in other substances, but just like with coffee it was interesting to pursue as much deliciousness as possible. After all, if you're looking to reap the functional benefits of caffeine, why not do so in the most delicious way you can? Typically bitter herbs, barks, roots and powders touted with health benefits aren't used creatively in cuisine, more often than not being thrown in a smoothie or, even less inspiringly, taken in tablet form with zero gustatory impact. Christophe not only wanted to explore the effects but also the flavours of these ingredients, and we were more than happy to join him on his journey.
From Friday 26th April until Monday 29th April 2019, you'll find us brewing up filter coffee in Covent Garden alongside New England-based running brand, Tracksmith.
Dedicated to championing the pursuit of personal excellence, Tracksmith seeks to celebrate, support and add to running's distinct culture. Their pop-up Trackhouse in Seven Dials, which marks the brands first ever physical presence in the UK, is an embodiment of that commitment. Not only will it showcase their limited edition London Collection and other clothing staples; it's also bringing together the rituals that surround the sport. Conversation and conviviality will be facilitated by freshly brewed coffee and cold beers.
The Trackhouse will be playing host to shakeout runs and panel discussions throughout the weekend. We'll also be there fuelling running's era and facilitating conversations between and with visitors. Showcasing our tangy, sweet Ecuadorian filter, Felipe Abad, we'll be using Kinto Japan's 2-Cup Brewer Stands to brew delicious cups throughout the pop-up.
Their first visit to the UK couldn't be better timed, as tens of thousands of runners descend on London to take part in and support one of the biggest running events in the global calendar: London Marathon. We're excited to be a part of Tracksmith's inaugural visit to our home city and hope to see you there.
Coffeebar opening hours:
Friday 26th April - 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday 27th April - 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Monday 29th April - 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Trackhouse opening hours:
Thursday 25th April - 12:00 p.m. - 8:00p.m.
Friday 26th April - 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 27th April - 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday 28th April - 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Monday 29th April - 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: 9-11 Short's Gardens, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9AT.
For more information on the pop-up and the activities happening around it, visit the Tracksmith website.
Saturday 6th April 2019 saw the return of The 5th Floor Track Day for the fourth consecutive year.
Kicking off race season for many of London's track cycling teams, the event was hosted once again at Herne Hill Velodrome -- one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world. Built in 1891, the track is no stranger to organised races and large crowds, having played host to thousands of cycling events over the years, including the track cycling event in the 1948 Olympics.
On this particularly grey Spring afternoon, though, the atmosphere was as much convivial as competitive. Music, catch-ups, beer and, of course, coffee provided the backdrop to an afternoon of fast, furious, but ultimately fun, bike racing. It also saw the official launch of The 5th Floor's 2019 kit.
A snapshot of the day can be viewed below, courtesy of our very own Mikey Gatineau.
The weekend brings with it the opportunity to take a little more time and be a touch more considered in the things we choose to do. That in turn allows us to appreciate the process a little more and discover more as a result.
With that in mind, we've partnered with tokyobike and Kinto Japan to brew and serve coffee from our seasonal range on the first Saturday of each month. You'll find us in their Shoreditch store from 11:00 until 12:00 brewing up something new on Kinto's 2-Cup Brewer Stand.
Stop by at your convenience for a conversation, to learn more or simply to enjoy a delicious cup of freshly brewed filter coffee on on us.
And after your coffee, you can also join tokyobike on a free, guided ride through and to some of London's scenic spots. Making use of cycle paths, tow paths, back roads and green spaces, bring your bike along to enjoy the ride and take in the views. Find out more and sign-up here.
London Coffee Festival is always a mad time of year. In the Old Truman
A pre-requisite of curating a range of tasty coffees is the desire to shift and rotate your roasted offering to reflect what is tasting best at different points in the year. We aim to always offer two single origin espressos (alongside a single origin decaffeinated espresso) as well as between three and five single origin filter options. It's challenging, but we love the variety and fluidity that this offers, rather than artificially creating a diverse offer list through altering our roast style or blending coffees together.
As well as our current coffees we put some other samples on the cupping table to bookmark the range we have available, with some 'no longer fresh' and some 'not quite ready' coffees providing some context for when we use the terms “fresh” and “seasonal”.
The London Coffee Festival is almost upon us once again.
As cafe owners, coffee lovers and roasters from across the country descend on East London, we'll be keeping the shutters at our Roastery in Bethnal Green up a little longer than usual on Friday 13th April from 5:00 p.m..
Providing a welcome break from the franticness of the festival, we'll be putting coffees from our current range down on the cupping table. You'll be able to taste these alongside some past favourites and a preview of some new arrivals as we seek to highlight our commitment to continually move with coffee’s seasonality.
All that, plus a few drinks and a whole host of conversations.
Find us at 29-43 Vyner Street, London, E2 9DQ.
We're looking forward to welcoming you.
We've been supporting London-based cycling team The 5th Floor for five years now and have enjoyed brewing up our coffee at their annual track event for the past three.
This year was no exception. We headed down to the illustrious Herne Hill Velodrome on an uncharacteristically sunny Saturday afternoon to serve up our Gitesi Espresso for riders and supporters.
Below are a few photos we captured on the day.