Founder of Your Write, freelance writer, editor, corporate communicator and TV Producer in my spare time, around being a busy mum to 3 little ones and managing our team at Your Write.
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Published May 10th 2015
Must love coffee
Who knew there could be so much to learn about coffee? Not me, that was for certain. As a long-time lover of coffee, I never appreciated the differences between a single origin or blend style or how different styles of food could change the taste of coffee. Fortunately, the guys at Bean Brewding and their network of some of Brisbane's best cafes knew all about coffee and were kind enough try to educate me.
Bean Brewding came into existence only fairly recently, when friends, Glenn, George and Ben were working in Brisbane's West End. They were already passionate about their coffee and set themselves the task of visiting every cafe in the area. This was easier said than done, as there are many coffee shops around West End and Brisbane's cafe scene is currently blossoming into a very respectable environment. Bean Brewding was established by the 3 friends to increase their knowledge and share their love of coffee, with this unfolding scene as the perfect backdrop.
I was invited along on one of Bean Brewding's tours to sample some great wares from our local cafes and learn a lot about coffee. The tour covered three different cafes, which we arrived at by City Cat. The first was Fonzie Abbott in Hamilton, where we paired different chocolates with different coffees. The second cafe was Bellissimo Coffee in Bulimba, where we learned all about 'cupping' - which is how the professional coffee tasters grade coffee. And the final cafe was suitably named Caffeine Espresso, in Teneriffe, where we leaned about pairing coffee with food.
Our small group met at Hamilton's Fonzie Abbott. The cafe can get crazy busy (apparently 'everyone' knows how good it is!) so it was lucky that for my first visit to this establishment, our tour group had its own private dining room. It was here that our education started. Fonzie Abbott have been roasting their own beans for almost 3 years and now supply close to 50 cafes around Brisbane and the Gold Coast. JD really knows his roasting and was kind enough to talk to us about some of the examples as they were bought out for tasting. Each of the three coffees were paired with different chocolate from various parts of the world. The coffees and chocolates were paired together carefully, taking into account many different aspects such as each of their origins, whether they were grown in a similar place, similar climates, grown in similar soil, with the coffee prepared in different ways to accentuate different notes of the coffee and what that bought our in the chocolate and vice versa.
Sound complicated? This was only the tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg, insofar as the intricacies of roasting went. I had no idea just how complicated it could be, nor how rewarding it was to have a perfect combination of chocolate and coffee. What I can tell you, hand on heart, is that Peruvian chocolate goes beautifully with an Espresso - to cite just one example.
Peruvian chocolate and espresso - the perfect combination
Belissimo Coffee in Bulimba is an award winning roaster and wholesaler. Mark took it upon himself to try to educate us about cupping - or professional coffee tasting used to order to rate and grade different coffees. In our case, we were given coffee tasting notes and asked to try to pick which coffee was which.
Cupping involves deeply sniffing the dry, ground beans, then after adding water (it has to be the exact, right amount added, the right temperature and steeped for the right amount of time), we skimmed the top of grains, slurped a spoonful very loudly (apparently the louder the better in professional circles), spat it out and tried to assess different aspects of the coffee, such as mouth feel, acidity, sweetness, flavours and after-taste. With the tasting notes, we then tried to determine the coffee's origin. Of course, everyone in the group had an opinion and no one got many right. I have to confess that out of the 6 single origin coffees before us, I got 1 right - and that was about average in our group. But it really didn't matter. What much of the conversations seemed to revolve around were things like "that taste reminds me of..." or "I really liked this one the best" or "this taste reminds me of my grandmother's lovely cooking". And let's face it, this is of course, what coffee is all about anyway - conversation and memories.
Mark from Belissimo doing his best to educate us on 'cupping'
If you are starting to think that coffee tasting sounds a lot like wine tasting, you are right. They are alike. Wine has 200-300 different compounds which differentiate its flavours,acidity, after-taste and so on, whereas coffee has 800. That makes coffee considerably more complex, diverse and complicated.
Another beautiful ferry-ride across the river, saw us arrive in Teneriffe at Caffeine Espresso. Owner Danielle greeted us with Jordie, her head barista who continued to educate us on the intricacies of coffee, including how Jordie changes the settings on the coffee grinder many times a day to accommodate for changes in outside temperature or humidity.
At Caffeine Espresso, we learned about matching coffee and good food. We paired a single origin, Ethiopain espresso with pumpkin and feta tartlets, making the pumpkin taste so mellow and creamy. The dark, rich milk coffee paired perfectly with blueberry and dark chocolate ganache. And yes, they really were as good as they sound.
So what conclusions to draw from the tour today? First, Brisbane's iconic river really is such a pleasure to float down and that our burgeoning cafe scene is equally as wonderful. But I am not sure I will ever be able to look at my morning cup of coffee the same way again, without wondering what grade it was given, what chocolate it might go best with and how its flavours might be explored best with what food. But the main thing I took from today, is that although I couldn't tell you where my coffee might originate from or how a Kenyan coffee differs in aroma from an Indian, there is so much to love about coffee.
Bean Brewding run tours monthly, which you can find more about here. They host a huge range of different coffee tours, some of the upcoming tours include a drive yourself coffee tour, a City bus tour, a walking tour of the Valley or a River bike coffee tour. The groups are kept small, so you'll need to be quick and book through their website. Tickets are $49 and include pretty much everything you need for the day.