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.
The plan was a lofty one: a world first Ultra Triathlon through the rugged terrain of Patagonia.
The route was broken into three sections. A 1,600km cycle, a 65km speed record attempt on foot and a world first paddle boarding attempt.
We arrived into El Calafate on the last day of September following 12 weeks of training in the UK. After some mishaps with our luggage, we headed north to the historic (Welsh) town of Esquel. As there is very little information available about the Carretera Austral area, we'd used Google Maps to plan the majority of the route, which showed the region to be flat and smooth.
How wrong it was.
We expected long days in the saddle, but also epic views and favourable winds. But the first shock came when we loaded the bikes up with all our kit: a tent, camera equipment, minimal clothing, dried food, fresh coffee and brewing equipment (we opted for a hand grinder and a V60 for ease of brewing two cups). It turns out that ten days worth made for a very heavy load.
No more than 10km outside of Esquel, we hit a sandy gravel surface that remained for the next 145km. This set the tone for the next five days. After about three hours, we stopped roadside and brewed our first coffee. With one of us catching water from a roadside waterfall and the other grinding the Beyene, it made for a unique brewing experience. We couldn't sit for long as the cold was beginning to sink in, and after another 10 hours we made it to our first stop: a campsite, which was sat somewhere underneath a foot of water. Thankfully, a B&B was open nearby and, after discussing how brutal the day had been, we were eager to head south.
Through the next couple of days of consistent rain, cold weather and ever-changing winds, we finally reached the Chilean city of Coyhaique. We didn't stay for long (14 hours), before heading further south. We cycled upwards, with the longest climb stretching 20km and holding unexpected snowfall, but the bikes ate up all conditions and we finally descended towards Villa Cerro Castillo.
On approach to the tiny village, we were met with a huge road block. The path was rendered impassable on our bikes and so we retraced our descent and found a road heading towards the small town of Puerto Ibanez, where there was an extremely irregular ferry. Luckily, the next departure was only an hour wait which would take us to Chile Chico.
Two tickets please.
This meant that we were on the National Route 40 - the desert road that links north and south Patagonia - earlier than we'd have liked and we quickly hit a total dead zone for GPS and signal. Camping was a nightmare as we slept roadside in the tent and it was at this point that brewing a coffee became the highlight of the morning. After a few days of what felt like endless horizon, we were eventually greeted with the incredible 'Line across the sky' - The Fitz Roy Massif mountain range - and we could taste the finish line for leg one of our ultra.
We weren't quite done though. We still had two brutal days of cycling, headwinds and a couple of punctures to navigate before reaching the mountain town of El Chalten where we hoped to properly recover and fully scope out the second leg of our challenge (the 65km ultra-run).
Despite out best intentions, we found ourselves taking on the 65km Huemul mountain circuit just ten hours after arriving.
We started on the trail at 3.15 a.m. There was a light drizzle and we had nothing but head torches for light. The trail was submerged under water for much of the first 10-12km and, as we tried our best to differentiate between streams and the trail, we often found ourselves off-course. At 4.30 a.m., the snow began to fall, but two hours later our luck changed and the sun began to rise and so did our spirits.
We reached the first traverse at around 8am - a 12m high steel cable between two rocks, hovering above a narrow bottle neck of a glacial river. We had been warned by the rangers to ensure a double or even triple clip point to the wire and its pulley. The traverse caused no issues and we finally reached the summit of the first mountain pass: Paso delViento (“The Windy Pass”).
After another mountain pass and a horrendous descent, we were 15km from the finish line just as the sun was dropping. It was tough - our feet were severely blistered - but we eventually reached the finish line of the Huemul circuit in a record time of 17 hours 22 minutes. It was an incredible achievement that brought some much deserved but very short lived elation...we soon realised we didn’t have any means of transport to travel the 17km back to El Chalten. There was no choice - we had to hike it. Arriving at 4am, we reached the doorstep of our hostel only to find it locked! With no energy left, we slept on the porch until the owner re-opened at 6.30am.
The next two days were spent recovering. We savoured properly brewed coffee, food eaten off a plate and, of course, a couple of beers.
Two days later we got stuck into the third and final leg of our challenge, a world first SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) from Lake Viedma to Lake Argentino via the "La Leona” river. We spent the first day paddling furiously into a headwind, getting spun around as our bodies worked overtime. That night in the tent was the coldest we had experienced all trip, rendering sleep virtually impossible. However, as the final day of our trip came round, it turned out that the weather was favourable. A tail wind meant the paddling was a relative breeze in comparison to the day before, and 45km later we arrived at the “finish line”.
Waves of achievement, elation and relief washed over us as we sat there on the shore of the La Leona river, contemplating the last three weeks. We were ecstatic to have completed this ultra triathlon in one of the rawest environments on the planet.
We have never been to anywhere remotely similar to the completely unique terrain of Patagonia. It deserves all the respect and notoriety it has gained over the years, and we feel proud to have accomplished something never completed in the region before.
We wholeheartedly believe that involvement at every stage of a coffees lifecycle is paramount in providing the best coffee possible.
It’s the reason we spend several months of the year in producing countries, visiting numerous farms and tasting hundreds of coffees. It’s why we have a dedicated Roastery in Bethnal Green, where our Quality Control measures and standards become more rigorous by the week. And the insight and knowledge gained is then executed in each of our coffeebars, where we’re able to serve our guests every day before feeding back to the beginning of the process.
Each stage informs the other and we wanted to create something that served as a reminder of that fact.
So a little earlier this year, we extended a challenge to the entire Workshop team: to create an icon that brought these three things together in a clear, simple and beautiful way. We're incredibly happy to unveil the results.
Taking inspiration from the visual simplicity and immediacy of boy scout badges, each element is brought together in a clear and beautiful way:
SOURCE: A simple outline of a mountain range represents our dedication to sourcing from the worlds best farmers, producers and co-operatives.
ROAST: A curved line that runs through the roundels middle shows the roast profile from Deiby Sair Sanchez, one of our many filter releases this in 2017.
BREW: A small water droplet is a nod to the brewing process that brings the hard work of others to the final cup.
You can shop the first products from the collection here.
The Tempest Two don't sit idle for long and recently announced what they've got planned next. As they prepare to leave the UK for Patagonia next month, James and Tom outline what lies in store following a recent visit to our Roastery in Bethnal Green for a brew class with a difference.
In three weeks time, we'll be taking on our most ambitious challenge to-date. Project Patagonia consists of a world-first ultra triathlon through one of the rawest environments on the planet. As always, we will be totally unsupported and have no experience in any of the disciplines we are undertaking.
Part 1 | 1,600km cycle
Our initial leg of this world-first triathlon is a 1,600km cycle from the North of Patagonia to its South. Skirting the Chile/Argentina border, we'll cross into both countries on numerous occasions. Our greatest adversary on the bikes will not be tired legs or winding hills, but the power of the wind. Outside of Antartica, Patagonia is the windiest region on the planet and gusts often exceed 100km. This variable can work both ways. A prevailing tail wind will allow us to rack up average speeds of 40km/h with little to no peddling. However, if caught riding into a headwind a days riding can equate to a morale-denting 20km.
We'l carry all of our gear in pannier’s, along with our brewing kit and a couple of bags of coffee as the gruelling schedule will no doubt require some daily rituals and, as ever, a morning coffee will be a bright start to each day.
Part 2 | 65km run
To put it bluntly, this is going to be brutal.
Neither of us have any experience in long distance running. In fact, we both hate running. However, we've decided to take on the infamous Huemul Circuit near the town of El Chalten.
The Huemul is one of the regions most renowned trekking routes, a challenging four day circuit which skirts the Fitz Roy range and winds through glacial fields, mountain passes, and raging river canyons. We are tying up our trail shoes, arming ourselves with a day-pack, and aim to become the first people in history to complete the route in 24 hours. We'll leave in the cold of the night and push ourselves as hard as we can.
This will be a true test of mind-over-body, as we're far from finely tuned ultra-runners. Instead, we will fix our minds on the finish line, and accept that for 24 hours we will be in a dark-place. We have been there before, and know that all lows are followed by memorable highs, and that is what we will focus on.
Part 3 | 200km SUP
“I am not sure that is possible, if I am being totally honest..."
Familiar words uttered once again, this time from a local specialist in Patagonia that we spoke to earlier this month. It was he reaction to our Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) attempt.
This has been echoed by almost every person we've mentioned this to. Our naivety means we remain undeterred in what will be our final push to the finish line.
Our plan is to paddle across two of the largest glacial lakes in the region (Viedma and Argentino) and the adjoining river. Again, we are at the mercy of the wind and will be skirting the shoreline, camping each evening and trying our best not to fall into the icy water. After navigating the crystal lakes, we will pull into El Calafate victorious (we hope).
Being self-supported brings with it fresh challenges. Weight and time are important factor to consider, so we've been working with Workshop Coffee to streamline our brewing setup. Spending some time in and nearby to their Roastery in Bethnal Green, their Head of Quality, James, offered up his advice on how to brew most effectively in the wild.
Until now, on the waves of Atlantic, on the shores of the Swedish Archipelago and amongst the dunes of the Sahara we've used our trusty Porlex Hand Grinder and AeroPress. But with yields of a single serving -- and no fewer than the both of us ever requiring a brew -- this method doesn't seem best suited for Patagonia.
Instead, we'll be brewing with a 2-Cup V60. A quick brew time, minimum hassle and robust and lightweight in design means the conical dripper will be up the the travails our adventure has to throw at it.
A cup of coffee may seem a trivial detail to fuss over, but trust us. When times are tough, you are cold and wet, your body is screaming for mercy, and all positivity has left your thoughts, the small things make a big difference. A good coffee, a bite of a chocolate bar, or a message from home are all things that can turn morale on its head. We take these little luxuries seriously.
You can follow our journey via our social channels (@thetempesttwo) and track us on our website (thetempesttwo.com). Hopefully our adventure will inspire you to take on your own, because if we can do it, you certainly can.
See you on the other side.
James & Tom
As a quality focussed roaster it’s inevitable that you create roasted coffee stock that you aren’t willing to sell to customers.
It’s all part of Research and Development, and Quality Control.
For instance, when we want to release a new coffee into our range, we carry out test roasts. We learn as much as we can about the green beans by sample roasting, cupping and tasting, taking density, moisture and water activity readings, colortrack readings and comparing it with our existing coffees and their respective roast recipes. This puts us in good stead to write a plan for the initial roast; the initial gas setting and subsequent gas changes, the temperature at which the batch is charged and the target for end time and for temperature — all provide a guide on how to approach the roast.
However, every coffee behaves differently in the roaster.
Adapting to how the batch of coffee takes on heat and develops momentum up to and through first crack is part of the skill of a roaster. We rest the coffee and taste it time and time again to understand what flavours we're able to highlight and bring out with the roast approach. As we gather more data through roasting more batches of the same coffee, we’re able to tweak that initial recipe to ensure that we’re only ever sending coffee with a complete and round flavour profile out to our customers.
We’ve never wanted to sell either test roasts or blown batches. They simply do not reach our quality criteria. Instead, we’ll use them when training our baristas (particularly when it comes to practicing latte art), to season new coffee burrs or we simply donate it. In many instances though the coffee is still very good and totally enjoyable.
But in AMBER, we’ve found the perfect solution.
By first flash heating the ground coffee before slackening down with cold water, we’ve found that we’re able to achieve a wonderfully round extraction whilst not driving off too much aroma. Avoiding the pitfalls of cold brew such as a stale, oxidised flavour, and the issue of flat flavours that come with hot brewed coffee left to go cold, we’re able to get a nice flavour in the brewed coffee which we can then modify and enhance with the addition of a few ingredients.
Sugar in coffee is considered taboo in some circles, but in cold drinks a little sugar can go a long way to enhancing overall flavour. It increases body and length and helps to balance and round out the edges of an incomplete flavour profile. Lemon juice then marries with the sugar, adds a refreshing bite and lowers the pH of the drink, meaning we gain a twofold benefit of a more intense flavour.
Lemongrass was the last to join the party. We wanted to add something to create more aromatic complexity and bolster AMBER's natural sweetness. Cold drinks without alcohol don’t tend to be intense in aroma, and so by adding a very fragrant and delicate, complementary flavour we lift out a little more of the coffee aroma.
And then we carbonate. Bubbles make everything more fun, but they also make the drink that bit crisper and brighter.
Available in all of our coffeebars and in our online shop, AMBER is refreshing straight from the fridge or over ice. Complex and totally more-ish, it also works superbly as a mixer as well as a drink in its own right. We’ve been enjoying it with aperol and grapefruit bitters, or with a floral gin and a slice of orange.
Last month a group of 10 riders from The 5th Floor boxed up their bikes and headed to Sierra Nevada, Spain, for their annual training camp. In the four days they were there, they covered over 350km of riding and almost 8,900 metres of climbing.
But it was one ride -- one mountain -- that drew them there in the first place. 5th WMN's captain, Sophie, takes us through its ups and downs.
When Luke sent around the route links for our Sierra Nevada trip, my ears pricked at the Pico Veleta. I'd read about it in an edition of Cyclist Magazine: Europe's highest paved road. The profile was pretty much one giant triangle. One enormous Toblerone triangle with absolutely no gaps.
The route looked and sounded tough, but it wasn't until the morning of the ride that it really sunk in. What lay before us was 43km of pure uphill. We drove from our house in Gergal to Granada, about an hour and a half of smooth, winding tarmac flanked by wind and solar farms, and national parks.
We had to ban any Googling of stats on the climb as the nerves started to buzz.
Before we left the house we'd already devoured two decanters of São Judas Tadeu that we'd brought with us, but we still settled in Granada for another.
Delaying and procrastination techniques reached fever pitch.
I can't take you through all four hours of the climb. I'll leave that for your own pilgrimage to the Pico (or, in lieu of that, I'd recommend looking up the 2013 Vuelta, in which Chris Horner sung his swan song).
What I can do is pull out some of the points that will linger in my memory for some time.
The gradient in the first few kilometres edged towards 28%. Whilst the pros pushed back on their saddles and appear to power up, we danced a clunky waggle-weave up the steepest parts, avoiding each other's wheels whilst slowly ticking off the meters. The gradient eased and took us up through cherry groves and pine forest followed by an open moonscape littered with clumps of wild thyme and herbs the higher we went.
The top was higher than the highest ski lift. It's hard to remember that riders don't just ascend this mountain in the summer, but that skiers also fly down it in the winter. The rutted roads from the piste bashers of many winters were evidence of that.
Still closer to the top, the tarmac became gravel, which in turn became dark shale and we, along with a headwind, all arrived at the top. Truly breathtaking.
And then came the 43km descent. It was awesome in the original sense of the word; smooth and empty four-lane roads with sweeping turns and views of turquoise quarry pools and hamlets dusting the mountain sides.
The Pico is a one off – it’s a proper challenge. Especially when climbed the ‘other’ (tougher) way round.
That 43km time segment will remain my lifetime best. I won’t be doing it twice.
As well as their bikes, The 5th Floor also packed our BREW BUNDLE: FOR TWO for their trip to Sierra Nevada. The team are continuing to race throughout Europe and throughout the year. Their Summer Cyclocross Series is already underway and you can stay up-to-date on everything they're doing by visiting their website.
Six years ago, I set up Workshop Coffee at 27 Clerkenwell Road. Taking sledge hammers to walls and bars, we turned the former nightclub into our flagship café, our roastery and, for some time, our headquarters too.
From the day we started, our commitment has always been to giving people access to the best coffee possible and we’ve continued to adapt, change and iterate with every lesson we’ve learned and opportunity that’s presented itself.
It was from Clerkenwell that we opened our first coffeebar, Marylebone, which in turn led to the opening of its subsequent sibling bars, Holborn, Fitzrovia and, most recently White Collar Factory.
It was also where we took on our first wholesale partner, signed up our first subscription customer and sold our first bag of coffee destined for the other side of the world.
We’ve come an incredibly long way as a company and have learnt an awful lot as we’ve continued to grow. And as each year has passed, our commitment to quality has only solidified and our purpose has become increasingly focused.
Our business, our product and our expertise lie with coffee and, because of that, I’ve decided to close our Clerkenwell Cafe.
Clerkenwell and every person that’s walked through its door – whether once, weekly or daily – has been an important part of our journey. And there’s no question that it’s a fantastic location, having become an institution in its own right; a must-visit on any coffee tourists UK or London shortlist and a warm, friendly and familiar haven for weekday workers and weekend brunchers alike.
But I believe that to continue our ongoing commitment to quality, we need to renew our focus on providing the best coffee we can. That means focusing on coffee more intently, removing distractions to make for a better coffee experience and a better overall product in our four coffeebars, for our wholesale partners and for our growing community of online and subscription customers.
We intend to close Clerkenwell on Friday 28th July, with many of the Clerkenwell team continuing to work with me and others in the team in redoubling our efforts in key areas of the business.
Whether you sat with us for one cup or one hundred over the years, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you. You’ve helped to get us to where we are today and provided us the platform to continue onwards.
We look forward to continuing to welcome you to each and all of our coffeebars soon.
-- James Dickson