Well, actually, you might have known this… and I kind of knew it too… but I didn’t KNOW know it.
And there is SO much to know.
And now that I know a whole lot more, coffee will never be the same again.
In a really good way… I recently found myself in deepest darkest Eastest London at Union Coffee HQ, where I met the coffee dream team, was invited into their coffee bubble of mega passion, and put through my coffee paces.
I learnt all kinds of nifty things that I will impart to you now… so get comfortable, grab a coffee and settle in for some coffee revelations…
After the initial excitement of actually being in the coffee mothership, we settled in for a cupping session, which is essentially the art of tasting coffee. This is done so that the quality and flavour of the beans can be assessed….
Rudy talked us through this session and I quickly realised that he was a total expert in this field. His knowledge is expansive and his enthusiasm and love for this process flooded out of him infectiously… we got straight into it and although I was a bit slow of the mark, I started to get the hang of it… eventually…
The freshly ground coffee was brewed with water before we assessed it through smell and taste. We then identified as many characteristics as possible, including the nature of aromas, acidity, body, fragrance and aftertaste…
After cupping, coffee is then graded on quality scale out of 100 – speciality coffee is greater than 80, and Union only sources and sells coffee above 84, which is 2% of worlds coffee… so you know that it’s really, REALLY good.
We all smelled the dry coffee grounds to see what scents we could identify… then hot water was poured (at an EXACT temperature) over the grounds in each cup and we allowed the coffee to brew for 4 minutes…
We then broke the shell that had formed to smell the aroma – I had to place my nose as close to the coffee as possible, while stirring the coffee in a set pattern – this has to always the same to achieve a fair comparison – it’s a total science and very precise!
After skimming off the foam, we tasted the coffee, sucking it across our teeth (making a very loud slurping sound!) to ‘aerate’ the coffee and engage all our senses. After doing this for a bit I felt rather light headed – a coffee high and teeny brekky does a wobbly Poppy make!
We cupped five different coffees from all over the world, and their ‘taste profiles’ ranged from deep and chocolatey to fruity and sweet… there were smoky flavours and notes from aa wide spectrum of aromas… which we all sniffed in their magic box of smells ;) I smelled berries, chocolate, tobacco… and potatoes!
We then had a lesson in espresso making – Espresso Guru Geoff put us through our paces and there was measuring, temperature gauging, cleaning, wiping and constant assessing… the entire process was rather beautiful and again, very scientific. It made me realise how easy it is to get wrong, if you don’t know what you’re doing. (Which I’m sure is rather common).
And finally, I learned about a method of brewing which I was very unfamiliar with – Pour Over Brewing with a chemex – a method that is so relaxing, so pretty (love the chemex!) and perfect, Geoff said, for serving coffee at the end of a dinner party. Coffee slowly drips through the paper filter over around 4 minutes, and the end result is a gorgeous, fragrant coffee…
And our final masterclass was in latte art… which was amazing to watch and yielded hilarious results on my part… but just LOOK at what the clever monkeys at Union did.
Geoff first made a (perfect) espresso and then the milk was heated to an exact temperature, so that it was shiny and glossy and the ideal consistency of foam… I had a go at creating a heart myself and aside from being the source of much amusement, I was also very proud of myself! It’s not as easy as it looks, people.
And then Dan, the Latte Art King (I think he had a crown) went on to create these masterpieces…
My experience at Union was very special and made me realise what a wonderful journey their coffee goes on… all the people involved, from the growers and pickers in far flung places, to the owners and tasters here in London, are full to the brim with passion, love, excitement and drive to achieve the ultimate and most authentic product they can produce together.
They know that there is a love affair between people and coffee that is ever evolving, and in order to stay on the pulse and bring the likes of you and me their wonderful coffee throughout the year, they have launched their Coffee Club – a coffee subscription service, which may well be the ultimate Christmas present for a coffee lover you know!
They offer gift subscriptions for any budget – just pick the number of deliveries you’d like to pay for and the lucky recipient will start regularly receiving new and interesting, freshly hand-roasted coffees through their letterbox! And the really, REALLY exciting bit is that I have a code for you to get a 20% discount off your first order!
Just enter code ‘POPPY‘ at checkout. This code is valid until the 24th Dec, so just in time for Crimbo!
And that, my friends, may just be the crema in my coffee.
This post was shot on my LEICA D-LUX – dinky but dynamic ;)