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.
We are really excited to announce that we will be bringing a little slice of Workshop Coffee to Northern Ireland next week. Working in conjunction with our friends at Established Coffee in Belfast and Lost & Found in Coleraine, we will be hosting two evenings of tastings. This is a great chance to try some Workshop Coffee and hear a little bit more about us and what we do first hand.
The focus of the evenings will be on our Kenyan selection. We can’t tell you all the details right now, but we will have three different Kenyan coffees, including the outstanding Githiga AA from Murang’a.
Hope to see you there!
MAD is an amazing concept.
Each year the organisation aims to elevate food and drink, with respect to production, preparation and consumption, to a level beyond mere sustenance or hedonic pleasure. These guys want to change the way that restaurants operate and are experienced by the diner. The responsibility of a chef widens to encompass nourishing the patron with better quality produce, a more considered sourcing of sustainable ingredients, creating the right atmosphere for a receptive and discerning crowd, and constructing a balanced meal, both on the ledger and according to the appetites and desires of the customer. Flavour remains a primary consideration, but culture, tradition, history, art, craftsmanship, responsibility, relationships, trust and transparency become equally important.
Now apply this mentality to the consumption of coffee. It is a far cry from viewing a cup of coffee as fuel, medicine, a daily ritual or an addiction. Rather the aim is to sustainably source, thoughtfully roast and respectfully brew coffee so as to share the value of the producer’s work with our customers, who we come to know as friends and whose trust we gain as purveyors of something special (and delicious!). We also want to do so in a non-intimidating, humble and enjoyable atmosphere.
What it means to even be asked to submit coffee for MAD is hard to put into words, but to be chosen to attend for a second year running is something Workshop are immensely proud of. Being able to showcase our coffee at such an event is hugely important, allowing us to discuss the variety and complexity of coffee with advocates of flavour, quality and freshness, however we don’t just want to be selling more coffee to chefs and we were never there to market ourselves in that way. The hope behind the MAD Coffee service is to distance coffee from being merely the finish point of a meal in a restaurant, an end to proceedings standard that leaves an unpleasant taste; rather to promote it as a course in it’s own right, made with an ingredient held alongside those that precede it. Having a champion such as René Redzepi helps but it really is what Workshop and the other roasters attending believe in.
Curating a coffee service at MAD could simply have been providing fuel for the attendees and those working, but that just isn’t the journey these guys are on. They want coffee along for the ride, and we do too. Coffee programme organisers, Tim and Jens, curated and ensured the smooth running of a coffee service to be proud of, for some of the most forward-thinking members of the food and drink community, and boy were we well received.
Thanks for having us, gents.
For a year now, we've been a partner of The 5th Floor; an amateur cycling team with branches in both London and New York - in fact, you may well have seen them congregating of a morning outside our Marylebone or Fitzrovia stores.
The team is comprised of multi disciplined riders, bound together through common interests and sense of brotherhood who race and achieve results in road, track and cyclocross; all the while documenting their experiences. Alongside working full time jobs they go on some amazing rides, so we've invited their London kingpin, Rudy, to blog about one of them here. - Tim.
This Sunday, four members of The 5th Floor team (Rudy, Matt, Russ and Leo) will be doing the Rapha 'Manchester to London' challenge.
It's 220 long and arduous miles, straight down the back bone of England, starting at the Manchester velodrome and finishing at the Olympic Park in East London. It will be a very hard ride, but I know it will be an unique and exciting experience. While the distance will constitute both a physical and mental challenge it'll surely be worth the effort; the purpose of the event is to help raise funds for Ambitious About Autism.
Ambitious About Autism is a charity that provides enormous support to kids affected by autism, and to their families, working to improve services, awareness and understanding of the condition.
We are very much looking forward to this event, and contributing what we can. While it's not a race we will be timed to see how we got on. Over 12 hours in the saddle with mates and team mates alongside should prove to be a great day out.
We'll be honest -- we haven't planned how we are riding. There is no strategy. The only tactic is to take it easy and slow(ish) to save our legs and energy, so we can actually enjoy the ride and experience. Riding together will make things easier for all of us and we can help and motivate each other until the end.
We will be updating our site with a report after the event so stay tuned for that.
But before then, please head over to our pages on JustGiving and make a contribution to Ambitious about Autism: we're aiming to hit £750, but we need your help.
We would love to thank everyone who have supported us so far.