18th November 2013

Our current selection for cafetière at the plan is a bit of a twist on the norm: an all Costa Rican selection. In fact, the 3 coffees on the blackboard for French Press right now are all grown by the same family (the Aguilera family) on their three farms, in the same region of Costa Rica (Naranjo), using the same arabica varietal (Villa Sarchi), the same processing, and (presumably) the same general cultivation and harvesting practices. So it’s a case of spot the difference, or even, rather, spot the similarities! Whereas we normally have 2-3 completely different origins on the board, often with wildly different flavours, these are all quite similar – just lovely, clean, juicy, balanced Costa Rican coffees. There are just slight  leanings more towards the fruit, nut, or chocolate elements, depending on which farm you try – brought about in this instance solely by the individual micro-geography and soil of the particular farm. JGC have also deliberately kept the roasting as similar as possible across the three lots, to further allow the subtle differences, and similarities, to speak for themselves.

It’s about a year since I introduced the new system for the cafe that allows me to change our selected filter profiles for cafetière much more fluidly and frequently. With the previous system, menus were still seasonal, naturally, and the coffees changed every few months, but they were more fixed, for more extended periods. As such, we got through a smaller range of coffees, and it was easy to keep track of what coffees we had experienced, as I only had to look back at my menus. Whereas over this last year, we have (very happily!) now been able to change more frequently, as soon as the newest and most exciting coffees come into the roastery, and as such, we have tried rather more coffees within the same time period than we would have under the previous system. This is great, of course. But I do like to look back over the coffees I’ve experienced, periodically. To remember the flavours, the highlights, the experiences (highs and/or even lows), the variations between ‘vintages’, the developments and experiments that each individual coffee might have brought about with brewing techniques and parameters, etc, etc (at home and at work). But without trawling through all my daily brewing notes, or blog and Twitter posts, it’s been hard to see at a glance what coffees I’ve worked with. And so (purely for my own peace of mind!), I think I’ve rounded up the majority of what we have had from my main craft roaster, James’ Gourmet Coffee, over this last year. There have been others too though; another benefit of this new system is that as well as having Guest Roasters occasionally for the Espresso of the Day, I can now also throw guest roasters into the mix for our filter line-up here and there too – and we have had several (light roasts) from Union Hand Roasted recently, for instance, as well, such as the Konga washed Yirgacheffe that I’ve been enjoying at home on my day off this weekend through both the Chemex and ceramic filter cone. So this list is by no means everything that we’ve offered, or tried, in recent times (and one or two of these are samples that I tried but which were not available for service in the cafe), but it’s most of it:

Finca Providencia Guatemala

Kenya estate blend: Makwa and Ngutu

Rwanda BuF Cafe bourbon

Kenya Ngunguru
Guatemala Conception Pixcaya lot 1
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Idido natural
El Salvador COE Miravale
Aricha Tchembe Yirgacheffe natural
Beloya Special natural Yirgacheffe
Bolivia Julio Gonzales farm
El Salvador Suiza 2012 and 2013
Manco Kapac Bolivia
Colombian Finca Santa Barbara La Joyeria Lot #238
Rwanda Koakaka
Kenya Kirimahiga
Fazenda Serra Dos Crioulos 2012 CoE lot #9
Habesha filter blend (two versions)
Finca San Andre Esquipulas Southern Guatemala
Kenya Thithi Giiki
Finca Cirri
Knots family washed OCR grade 1 Yirgacheffe Worka Woreda
Suko Quto washed Guji Oromia
Kenya Karimikui 2013
Finca Vara Blanca Costa Rica
Aguilera family farms Naranjo Costa Rica filter selection (Fincas Beneficio, Angelina, and Tono).
…Not including various coffees for espresso, which have included Samambaia, Sertao, Passeio topiazo, Aricha natural, Finca la Paz, Winter Hoards circa 2012 and 2013, and various (many!) new seasonal versions of the Naturelle and Formula 6 blends!

For me, being able to work with wonderful coffees like these still continually feels like a real privilege. And a responsibility – to represent them as best I can. I guess I have this deep respect and appreciation for these coffees (more so than others on our team), not only because speciality coffee is my obsession, and I know how good the coffees are when carefully and successfully prepared, but also because I know how much has gone into personally cultivating this situation. It’s not been easy to get to this position, where I can select, brew and serve coffees like these, in the environment that I/we have created and nurtured, with the systems I’ve put in place for the cafe as a whole, and with the quality equipment that I (now) have available (at work and also at home). It’s taken many years of patience and hard work to gradually advance to where things are now (in both these environments), and for it to be a success. And, additionally, this has been in a region where there are few others doing anything quite like this… But it can always be better too (and what we do is admittedly very humble, by some standards). Therefore, attempting to always better understand and do more justice to these quality coffees, with (hopefully) increasing consistency and experience, is a continuous endeavour and focus, that is ever challenging, surprising, rewarding, and exciting in equal measures.

Speaking of gradual improvements, I’ve spent the last 6 months or so making even more than usual. Some bigger, some only small – but lots and lots of little changes and alterations and additions to what we do (and not just with the coffee!), in an effort to continually improve and fine tune what we already do, whilst not messing around with what works. And whilst remaining inclusive and unpretentious about what we try to offer.

I’m currently busy training the newest batch of staff members as well. At some point I might progress them onto coffee, but they’re not there yet, even after several weeks – I train all the more straightforward, non-coffee, elements of service in the cafe first, and only once staff are proficient with this, might we potentially go further with espresso training if they seem suitable and ready. Some never do. I put a lot of time into training! But it’s necessary, to continue to do what we do.

And we are altogether busier than ever before! And so now, we hunker down for the very busiest time of year..!

New burrs into the Anfim Super recently. Every time these go in, I relish witnessing and documenting the changes and results that occur immediately, and then also over the coming many kilos, until fully seasoned. Infrequent perennial events like this with the equipment, etc, give unique and fleeting opportunities to try to understand various processes better…


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