Espresso yourself: Coffee tasting around the world

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Assuming I’d be up all night after an evening of coffee tasting, I had planned to write this at 11pm last night, cosy in my big bed and on a caffeine high. Alas; as soon as I got home I was asleep before my head hit the pillow so the reality is that I’m writing this with my Mac balanced precariously on my knee as the bus driver stop-starts his way from Camberwell to SheBu. And it smells kinda bad.

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Last night, Ally T – yes, the same Ally T whose pictures of turtles convinced me to quit my job and book a one-way ticket to Bali – and I went to the Cafe Direct offices for an evening of ‘coffee tasting from all over the world,’ brought to us by their charity, the Cafedirect Producer’s Foundation (CPF). It’s a charity that works with smallholder farmers and their organisations. Their work reaches 280,000 smallholder tea, coffee and cocoa smallholder farmers across 12 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia – so anywhere that produces tip-top coffee.

We’d been invited by the friendly team at FunZing. A relatively new concept, it’s kind of like the AirBnb for experiences. That is, anyone can host an experience and list it on there; and of course anyone can attend one. At last check, I saw everything from language lessons to toffee apple making; and from wine tasting for beginners to street art bingo games in Brixton. I love it; there are so many quirky things to do and almost all are within my budget. I’m currently deciding what to get some pals for their birthdays and I think it’s gotta be one of these!

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Anyway, last night. My prior knowledge of coffee was somewhere between knowing I hate Costa’s sugary abominations and getting a monthly delivery of the gourmet stuff that I’m probably brewing all wrong (but it still tastes damn good). Essentially, that renders me middle class, pretentious and uneducated; so I thought I may as well go the whole nine yards to becoming an urban sophisticate and remedy my espresso ignorance.

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Everyone in our group had their own ideas on what each of the eight coffees tasted like (though we managed to avoid heated and strong debates; har har, oh God, that was terrible). A lot of the coffee tasting was subjective, which made Alex and I feel far better about exchanges such as:

  • Alex, to me: I don’t like this one. It’s so light, it’s barely there.
  • Jo, our coffee guru, to the group: What did everyone think of this one? Weighty, right? This is one of the heaviest coffees we have.
  • Alex and me: ….Paaaahahahaha

and

  • Alex, to me: Ooh, it’s sweet, like caramel!
  • Me, to Alex: It tastes like meat

Oh dear, what’s sumatra with us?

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As caffeine hits are part of our daily grinds (hehe), we decided it was time we learned a little more about the stuff by whatever beans necessary. Ok, I’ll stop with the lame coffee puns now. I am so, so sorry. Thankfully, we emerged from our two hours with Producer’s Foundation with something that resembled a base knowledge of coffee. These are my favourite snippets:

1) Don’t cold-brew just any coffee

Cold-brewing makes coffee more acidic; so don’t do it to a bean that is already relatively acidic.

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2) Kopi Luwak is just a gimmick

I’d never heard of it, but Alex had recently tried kopi luwak in Indonesia. It’s coffee made by feeding coffee cherries to Civet cats, allowing them to digest and excrete it, and making coffee from the faeces. Fine sipping at its most horrific – there’s no way in hell I’m going anywhere near the stuff. Jo told us it’s seen as just a gimmick in the coffee world so PHEW.

3) Cafetieres should only be used with the boldest coffees

Plunging compromises the most delicate tastes.

4) Like grapes for wine, the taste of beans can change from season to season

And apparently it’s been a disappointing year for Ethiopia; the beans have produced a taste that’s just a  little too delicate (although the Ethiopian coffee we were drinking appeared to be a crowd-pleaser… I think it was from last year’s crop).

5) Keeping coffee in the fridge = nope

If your coffee is ground, your ice-ice-baby fridge will make it moist. No, no, no.

The eve was a much-needed toe dip into the world of coffee and will certainly have an impact on my coffee drinking for lattes to come. But mostly, it was a happy and welcome reminder that weekday meet-ups with your pals ought never to be held over a 2-for-1 deal at a chain restaurant. Whether coffee tasting or learning how to make a clay bowl, there are so many fun things to see, do and learn about on sites like FunZing. Give it a shot!

Ok, I’m going now before I make any more coffee jokes. 

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Funzings coffee tasting

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4 comments so far.

4 responses to “Espresso yourself: Coffee tasting around the world”

  1. Mandy says:

    Oh, what fun! I never knew that about ground coffee and fridges – my mum always used to freeze her ground coffee.

    • Amy says:

      Nor did I! I’ve been keeping some in the cupboard and some in the fridge to test it out and the cupboard-kept one does taste slightly better (wow, that’s definitely the geekiest thing I’ve ever done).

  2. gunn says:

    When in Oslo I visit TIM WENDELBOE ´s coffee place at Grunerløkka.
    Some good places for coffee around the Nordic countries are here: http://nordiccoffeeculture.com/read/places/

    Enjoy.

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