On the evening of September 4th we’re opening up our Holborn Coffeebar for a showcase of Kenyan coffee, and you’re invited.
For many of us in the industry, Kenya constitutes the most exciting seasonal fresh crop coffee arrival each year, and on this evening Tim Williams (our Director of Operations and green coffee buyer) is going to be providing an insight into how we go about finding the small handful of Kenyan coffees that make up our range each season.
We are continually aiming to improve every aspect of the coffee we serve - constantly in pursuit of the best coffee possible - and a fundamental part of that is the way we source coffees. We dedicate a great amount of time and effort to visiting producing countries, not only to secure the best coffee possible, but also so we know more about the farms and producers we work with, to understand their challenges, and to better tell the stories behind each and every coffee.
Alongside an introduction to coffee production in Kenya, and the intricacies (and rigours) of narrowing thousands upon thousands of samples down to just the very few best lots, we’ll be tasting fresh crop Kenyan coffee - Githiga AA and Gikirima AA from our own range, as well as Mutheka AA from Tim Wendelboe and Gathaithi AA from The Tate.
Even the faintest interest in specialty coffee, or simply a curiosity about how quality coffee is grown, harvested and exported to arrive in European cups, is all the qualification you need to attend. We look forward to telling some of these stories in person, tasting some of the best coffee available anywhere in the world, and hope you will join us for this exciting insight into Kenyan coffee.
All ticket proceeds will be donated to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, who work tirelessly to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned infant elephants and rhinos.
It was about this time last year that four of us here were getting excited; one of us was having a baby, and the other three were off to the MAD Food Symposium in Denmark. Fast forward twelve months and the excitement swells a-new; one of us baby-proofing their apartment against London’s most curious crawler, and the other three are packing their bags again.
This year, James, Richard and Sara (replacing Nico, who has moved on to pastures new) will be taking themselves and our coffee to Copenhagen, to represent Workshop Coffee Co. by serving around the 600 attendees of what is without doubt the greatest symposium, anywhere.
Last year’s event saw Dario Cecchini take to the stage, butchering a whole pig that hung from an overhead beam while AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ resonated through the marquis. After passionately explaining the importance of a cultural and respectful approach to the meat we eat (all of it, not just the ‘nice’ bits) and the dying craft of the butcher Dario closed with a spine-chilling recital from Dante’s ‘Inferno', and accepted an uproarious, room-shaking applause.
This was only the opening act.
For this year’s event the curators of the coffee service, Tim Wendelboe and Jens Nørgaard, requested coffee sample submissions from across the world, in an effort to identify the very best coffees from the very best roasters that they could. Amongst a great many others, and some incredibly tough competition, we submitted two espresso and two filter coffees for judging in Oslo and waited for what is always very honest feedback.
A few weeks later I was in a dilapidated Land Cruiser, bouncing around on horrible dirt roads of the Kibuye region of Rwanda when the email came through to say that our coffees had scored very well in the blind tastings; well enough, in fact, to be offered one of just four Gold Sponsor positions at MAD 2014. To say I was pleased doesn't really get to the heart of the matter; for me, it's the kind of evaluation-by-one's-peers that is a real test of the efforts that we put in to our coffee, day in and day out. And I was elated by the result.
And so, as the end of August draws near, and my colleagues are busily and excitedly preparing for what will undoubtedly be one of the best weekends of their year, I’m busily measuring for and installing baby gates on the stairs at home, all the while incredibly proud of the people that I get to work alongside.
We usually put a good deal of the attention onto the producers, the exporters and the importers we work with, who all handle our coffee from tree to port, but this time I'm more specifically interested in throwing the praise behind the roasters, the cuppers, the packers and the baristas we have on our team, who have all focused their attention on the best coffee possible, and are being recognised and rewarded for that care.
They deserve it.
We’ll be serving Githiga AA, Kenya and Finca Tamana Espresso, Colombia at the MAD Food Symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark August 24th and 25th, alongside fellow Gold Sponsors Tim Wendelboe, Drop Coffee Roasters and Koppi, and Silver Sponsors Mecca, Phil & Sebastian, Square Mile Coffee, The Coffee Collective, 5 Elephants and Da Matteo.
We knew these classes would be popular, but I don't think we were quite prepared for just how quickly tickets would sell out. After going fully-booked until the end of September (and running a waiting list of additional attendees) we've managed to add five more Masterclasses to our schedule, which means that we have thirty more tickets available!
This hands-on, 2.5 hour session is designed to help attendees get the best brewed coffee results at home and is appropriate for coffee lovers of all levels. Don't miss out this time around.
Learn more about the session, and book your tickets at: http://www.workshopcoffee.com/products/home-brewing
Last month we opened the doors of our Holborn Coffeebar to a throng of competitors and coffee lovers, playing host to the 2014 UK Aeropress Championships. For the uninitiated, the Aeropress is a single serve coffee brewer that is escalating in popularity dramatically of late. Invented by Alan Adler (of the Aerobie Flying Ring fame), the Aeropress is the method that we use for by-the-cup coffee brewing in our stores, and we were subsequently very happy to co-host this year’s competition to find the best of the ‘Pressers in the UK, alongside our friends from Square Mile Coffee and CoffeeHit.
A whopping forty-two competitors, and as many onlookers again, showed up to an afternoon of disco, Kernel Brewery beer and Aeropress mayhem, all tightly scheduled and operated by a team of our retail managers and supervisors. Bags of a blend of African coffees from ourselves and Square Mile were waiting for competitors to collect and serve to judges James Bailey, James Hoffmann and special guest Klaus Thomsen.
Some took the challenge of brewing a blend of two coffees to heart, separating out the components and pairing each with a distinct grind size, before blending again to achieve a more uniform extraction when brewed. Others selectively picked and ditched one component entirely, defaulting to what they are more used to working with, not really entering into the spirit of the competition.
Excessive cooling of the brewed coffee didn’t generally pay off. Some competitors iced their cups, or decanted and aerated for a significant portion of their brewing time. Most of these suffered from flattened aromatics and murkiness. Several bowls were barely recognisable due to the choice of brewing water, especially in the case of a magnesium rich water which altered the aromatics and the acidity of the coffees entirely. There was a wide range of degrees of clarification, with some competitors intending to increase suspended solids, emphasising the length and weight of the brewed coffee. Others opted for more clarity, using cloth, multiple Aeropress filters, or thicker bond paper filters for better clarity and definition. Broadly speaking, the less ‘murky’ bowls cupped better.
After many rounds, and far too much coffee tasting for a Saturday afternoon, Gabrielle of Square Mile Coffee won 1st place, Oli of Workshop Coffee Co. placed 2nd, and Pete (also of Square Mile) placed 3rd.
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For more information on the World Aeropress Championships, visit www.worldaeropresschampionship.com
** Tickets on sale 9:00am Thursday, May 1st through CoffeeHit **
Good news, lovers of coffee,
The team at Workshop Coffee Co. are very pleased to be hosting this year’s UK Aeropress Championship, alongside our friends from Square Mile Coffee Roasters and CoffeeHit. We’ll be opening up our new Holborn Coffeebar to host the event on May 24th, starting at 3:00pm, with spectators welcome to attend.
Bigger and badder than last year’s competition, the 2014 event will be open to 36 competitors, vying for the chance to represent the United Kingdom at the World Aeropress Championships being held in Rimini, Italy during the World of Coffee event in June.
This year’s event will see the introduction of a competition coffee that all competitors must use for their brews. Half will be roasted by Workshop Coffee Co. in Clerkenwell, the other half will be roasted by Square Mile in Bethnal Green and the roasters will meet somewhere in the middle to blend the roasts together. Maybe on the Old Street roundabout, we’re not sure yet.
At the judging table will be Workshop Coffee Co. Head of Quality, James Bailey, Square Mile Coffee Roasters Managing Director, James Hoffmannn and, special guest judge all the way from Copenhagen’s venerable The Coffee Collective, Klaus Thomsen. Sweet funk tunes all evening long from DJ Wet Process, and compere duties from the incomparable, Ross Brownsofbrockley will ensure it’s an unmissable event.
Our first place winner will receive return flights to Italy to represent the UK in the World Aeropress Championships, with accommodation and a little spending money for Aperol spritzes and Caprese salads by the beach. Second place will receive a twelve month coffee subscription from both Workshop Coffee Co. and Square Mile, while third place will take a six month coffee subscription from both the roasters. All three place winners will also receive prizes from CoffeeHit and trophies from Aerobie.
Tickets for competitors cost £10 with the entire amount being donated to CoffeeKids. Tickets will go on sale May 1st through the CoffeeHit website (www.coffeehit.co.uk). Competitors will be furnished with more detailed rules, practice coffee and a competition schedule closer to the event date.
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May 24th, 2014 @ 3pm
Brought to you by:
Workshop Coffee Co.
Square Mile Coffee Roasters
It's one thing to buy coffee, or a brewer, for that coffee lover in your life (two things we support, wholeheartedly). It's another thing entirely to sign them up for the first of our Coffee Masterclasses; Home Brewing, hosted by Sara Larsson.
Over the course of this two hour session, guests will be learn about some of the basic processes involved in taking a ripe coffee cherry growing in the Tropics, and turning it into the wonderful beverage so many of us enjoy each day. We'll also be sharing some insider tips on how to buy better coffee – from decoding coffee bag label information to understanding what just how important the quality of the beans you buy really is.
Identifying that it is not only the coffee itself that makes the perfect cup, the focus will switch to water quality, and then to the all important equipment: grinders, scales and brewers.
After the theory it’s time to get hands-on as we share with you just how easy it can be to make great tasting coffee, by focusing on excellent ingredients and a simple recipe. We'll be showcasing three different brewers, covering a wide range of brewing styles – the French Press, the V60 Pourover and the Aeropress.
With just five guests per session, and an in-class discount of 10% on any coffee or brewers purchased, this session is an eye-opening, educational and delicious way to spend a weekend morning.
Masterclasses are £35.00 per person (plus booking fee) for two hours, and include a bag of coffee to take home, and a 10% discount on any additional coffee or brewers purchased on the day.
Back in June we received word from Tim Wendelboe that he was putting together a line up of coffee roasters to provide service for this year’s MAD Food Symposium in Copenhagen, an annual meeting of the world’s top chefs, sommeliers, writers and food lovers.
We were asked to submit samples of three filter roasts and two espresso roasts, along with information pertaining to harvest dates, varieties, altitude and lot sizes, to his roastery in Oslo to be considered for the line-up. Once samples from all the contenders were cupped, we got some great news: our Santa Clara Espresso, Guatemala and our Olke Bire, Ethiopia and Gichathaini AA, Kenya coffees had been selected for inclusion.
Alongside the coffee, we needed three members of the Workshop Coffee Co. team to head to Denmark, to prepare and serve the drinks ourselves.
We had a short while to organise the trip, and spent some time deciding how we wanted to present both our coffee and ourselves. We reached out to our friends James and Lucie at Albam Clothing, who kitted us out in our own custom aprons.
On the evening of the 23rd August, Nico, Richard and I all met at our Clerkenwell store to divide all the required gear into our luggage. We were taking a lot of stuff, including V60 brewers, decanters, scales, dosing tins, stirrers, pouring kettles, towels, a refractometer, about 20kg of coffee to brew, and 120 100g sample bags, and knew we were pushing close to the weight limit. At 6am the next morning we left St. Pancras to get the train to Gatwick, and were all carrying an average of 19.2kg of our allocated 20kg hold luggage. Just made it!
Upon arriving in Copenhagen, we proceeded to our rented apartment, which just so happened to be the home of Danish film director, Christian Bonke, and dropped off everything that wasn’t coffee or brewing wares (amounting to a couple of shirts and not much else). We hopped in a taxi to take us to Refshalevej where we could see the enormous red circus tent all set up.
We gave our sample bags of coffee to be dropped into the MAD tote bags and unloaded our wares. It was great to see some familiar faces, and really exciting to get to meet some exemplary coffee professionals for the first time. Tim Wendelboe sat us all down with fellow event organisers, Jens and Bjorg, and briefed us on how he wanted the service to run for the duration of the event. With the line up of roasters and baristas representing Tim Wendelboe, Koppi, The Coffee Collective, Solberg & Hansen and Da Matteo, we felt pretty confident that it was going to be a great service, with some seriously delicious coffees on the bars.
The rest of the day was spent dialling in the various coffees we had brought with us, and to get familiar with the equipment. Bunn had provided water towers and batch brewers and Nuova Simonelli provided two Aurelia T3 espresso machines and two Mythos espresso grinders. It is always interesting brewing your coffee in a different environment through different equipment, and we were really happy with how things tasted. The water treatment was a reverse osmosis system (sadly the Danes are also cursed with vile water quality) supplied by Bespoke Water Systems, the same system we’re currently testing in our own Production Department.
The next morning we woke early to get to the tent for 7:00 am, and were scheduled to work the brew bar alongside Koppi and Da Matteo from 7:45 am. Once the Gichathaini was dialled in and tasting great, Rene Redzepi gave a short speech to brief us before the punters arrived. The best piece of advice given was simply “Don’t freak out.”.
As soon as people started arriving and the tent started filling up, we were instantly slammed! The three of us were brewing away under a menu that simply read 'Delicious Black Coffee' and we could barely keep up with the demand. The people we were serving had various degrees of experience with specialty coffee, but the general level of interest and curiosity was very high. Because all the coffee was included in the price of the ticket, there were no tills or payments to transact, meaning we had extra time to talk about the coffee and provide a more engaging service to a really captive audience. People wanted to know where the coffee was grown, how we roasted it, why we bought it, what flavours to expect, how we were brewing it, and where they could buy it! Working alongside two other roasters on one bar was great as it meant people could have a small taste of each coffee being brewed. It was also very intimate with 9 people working in a space of about 10 square feet, in a tent!
Once the lectures started and people made their way into the main tent, we packed down our brew station and moved onto the espresso machine. Now standing under a menu simply reading 'Espresso, Cappuccino' we were serving our Santa Clara Espresso for the lunch period and during the afternoon. It caught a lot of people’s eye that we were weighing every dose of coffee and weighing every shot pulled on drip tray scales. Several of the bakers in the crowd applauded our considered and scientific approach.
We closed down and returned to the flat, and after a much needed power nap popped out to Mikkeller Bar for a very modest couple of half pints and a blood sausage.
On the Monday morning, Tim briefed everyone again before service, saying that the feedback from Sunday was incredibly positive, and that we should focus all our energies on giving great and memorable service for the last day. We were manning the batch brew stations for the morning rush, so were capable of serving a much greater volume of delicious coffee. None of us were too experienced brewing filter coffee on such a large scale, so we trialled a few different settings before settling on a recipe that produced great results. We struggled to get enough out of the coffee and experienced some uneven extractions, so developed a technique of manually ‘blooming’ the dose of coffee with some hot water and stirring it all up to ensure a complete wetting of the grounds, and a more even brew. The results were much more consistent and very tasty indeed.
After brewing at least 50 litres of coffee in the morning, we returned to the manual brew bar for the last two services of the symposium. This time we were serving our Olke Bire, and, knowing how busy our first session on the brew bar was, we were far more prepared for the swarm of people coming in from the big red tent. Mission Chinese Food were running the lunch service, and with the smell of chilli and soy heavy in the air and Smashing Pumpkins blaring out, the hundreds of symposium attendees poured into the food tent for lunch. Alas, every person queueing was drinking a bottle of Mikkeller Beer, specially brewed for the MCF lunch service with coriander and lemongrass. We were barely visible through the haze of wok smoke, and everyone seemed content with their beer. Remembering Tim’s request to up the service angle, we decided that we needed to start bringing the coffee to the people.
Outside it was glorious, and people were perched on hay bales and long tables in the sunshine. Armed with a couple of pots of the Olke Bire and a sleeve of cups, we wandered around looking for potential coffee drinkers. People were so appreciative of the coffee being brought to them, and many weren’t even aware of the coffee service being provided inside.
We met a lot of interesting people that we might not have had we stayed inside, for instance the lovely folks at Blanch & Shock. A few bottles of Mikkeller may have made their way over to our side of the bar, and the atmosphere in the tent was incredible.
Once service was over, we cleaned down as usual and helped Jens pack up the equipment. After heading back to clean the flat and pack our things, we headed out to join everyone at Cafe Europa for a delicious dinner of lamb shank and polenta and several gin and tonics. Our bellies full and spirits high, we moseyed on over to the MAD afterparty being held under a bridge. Ice cream and Mikkeller beer were freely available: a hedonist’s paradise! Sadly the police came at midnight to stop James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem, and incidentally a huge coffee nut) DJing after he had played all of three tracks.
We headed back to the flat to polish off a few more beers and dance around the The Very Best of the Ventures playing on our host’s turntable. After tucking in our guest for the evening, Ben Kaminsky, we set our alarms for 5:00 am and turned in ourselves. There’s no denying we all felt pretty exhausted the next day after traveling back to London on the early flight, but it was a small price to pay to have been part of such an amazing event.
I really hope that we are asked to attend MAD again, and would recommend attending the event to anyone interested in spectacular food and drink or just hanging around with some really rad people for a few days in a big red tent in of the world's most beautiful cities.
For the second year, we're very pleased to be involved in the judging of the Young British Foodies Awards, and were especially glad to be hosting this year's judging session. If you're unfamiliar with The YBFs, now is a good time to do some research and get on board; it's a fantastic annual award, celebrating and promoting the people behind some of the most delicious, artisanal and crafted food and drinks in the UK.
In their own words, Young British Foodies are...
...the people putting food and drink back at the heart of our communities. They're the men and women using lost arts and new skills to bring craft back to the kitchen. Perhaps more importantly, they're the people who've come to represent the best of British innovation and entrepreneurship in a struggling economy.
Whether they're using an airing cupboard as a smokehouse, or putting their own twist on butchery techniques that are centuries old - together they are defining a new culture of food in Britain. The YBFs Foundation is here to shine a spotlight on this grassroots talent (in the annual awards) and provide a springboard to success with world class mentoring and commercial opportunities.
This year saw even tougher competition on the coffee category, leaving my fellow judges -- Marco Arrigo (the man behind Illy in the UK) and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood (owner of Colonna & Smalls, and last year's winner) -- with a difficult task; interviewing each finalist and deciding on a winner.
Presenting this year were David Freeman (Freemans, Edinburgh), Gideon Botha (Blankbox Coffee), Hoi Chi Ng & Mattias Suchert (Coming Soon), and Lee Harte (Giddy Up Coffee). Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony evening, held at Tanner & Co on September 10th.
Follow @theYBFs on Twitter for more information, and updates on other categories.
Saturday morning we arranged a USA takeover of our cupping table, and invited London coffee lovers to come along, and taste what some of the best US roasters are producing. While the more or less unanimous favourite was the Thunguri AA, Kenya, from Heart Roasters in Portland, a full list of coffees featured were:
Heart (Portland, OR)
Thunguri AA, Kenya
Intelligentsia (Chicago, IL)
Kunga Maitu, Kenya
La Tortuga, Honduras
Toby's Estate (Brooklyn, NY)
Bajo Mirador, Colombia
Santa Ines, Colombia
Sightglass (San Francisco, CA)
Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Brooklyn, NY)
Joe (New York City, NY)
Be sure to keep an eye on Twitter as we plan to hold plenty more of these events.
The thing about visiting friends in the States is that you invariably come away with a lot of gifts. When your friends just happen to work for the best coffee roasters that a nation has to offer, you invariably come away with gifts that are also delicious.
And there's too much coffee here for just us to drink, so we'd like to share it with you all. Come and taste the freshest offerings from Heart (Portland, OR), Intelligentsia (Chicago, IL), Toby's Estate (Brooklyn, NY), Sightglass (San Francisco, CA), Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Brooklyn, NY) and Joe (New York City, NY) with us, this Saturday morning in our Clerkenwell store.
This tasting is open to anyone, coffee professional or not, and it's free to attend (just drop us a line to let us know you're coming).
Cupping: Treats from the United States
When: Saturday, July 13th - 11:00am
Where: 27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN
Who: Open to all, just drop us a line to let us know you're coming