Thoughts from the road

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Category: Coffee (page 1 of 2)

Articles on all things caffeine related!  If you love coffee as much as I do, why not sit down with a brew and enjoy.

The Early Morning Coffee Paradox

As every shift worker will testify, waking up in the middle of the night is never easy.  The body’s natural instinct during the night is to be sound asleep. A day in the life of a shift worker often means that it is not possible to sleep during ‘normal’ times.  This has a massive impact on the natural circadian rhythm of the body.  One of my colleagues recently described working a variety of shifts as ‘constantly living with jetlag’.  According to NHS Choices, jet lag is ‘experienced while adapting to a different light-dark schedule following a flight to a new time zone’ Although I had never thought about this before, being forced to wake up at significantly different times throughout the week probably does have a similar effect.

You might think that the most effective way to combat this natural instinct would be to drink coffee until you can handle no more. However, in the last few months, I have found that avoiding my favourite pick-me-up first thing in the morning is a more effective tactic.  During my first few months in my current job I tried to drink coffee first thing in the morning then have a coffee later on in the day during my lunch break.  It transpires that I may have been unintentionally placing myself at a disadvantage.  I recently read this interesting article from The Sydney Morning Herald which indicates that drinking coffee first thing in the morning may have the opposite effect to the one desired due to cortisol (or ‘stress hormone’) levels in the body.

When working long shifts which start in the early hours of the morning I have found that eating little and often throughout the day, complemented by a coffee in the early afternoon is a better tactic for sustaining energy.  Achieving a balance between wakefulness during the ‘day’ and being able to drop back off to sleep when everyone else is just getting in from work is more difficult.  I often find myself tossing and turning until 9pm before I finally drop off to sleep.  When I wake up just five hours later, it is time to start all over again…

My high street choice…

Coffee on the High Street

My friends and colleagues alike know that I’m a huge advocate of one particular high street coffee shop.  Although I always choose artisan coffee shops where I can, there are certain times when grabbing an Aereopress coffee from an independent is just not an option.  The high street offers a variety of chains to choose from with coffee selections varying from bog-standard cappuccinos to skinny-one-shot-soya-lattes with gingerbread syrup.  Although it sounds like you are getting good value for money the reality is that the offerings are often similar in taste and presentation.  Starbucks axed the Cappuccino in 2015 in favour of the Flat White.  This decision was fuelled by the difficulty associated with making a truly high quality Cappuccino.

The nutritional content of some of the more outlandish syrup laden caffeinated concoctions is questionable.

The Rise of Quality Coffee

Do not despair.  There is hope for coffee lovers yet!

High street coffee shops now acknowledge the growing coffee market in Britain by introducing new ‘seasonals’ alongside their house blends.  Costa Coffee and Starbucks have a milder and stronger coffee blend to choose from in their main outlets. However, it is perhaps indicative of Costa Coffee’s priority that the page advertising the Old Paradise Street blend still displays September 2015’s ‘Number 9’ blend (information correct 14/04/2017).  To my knowledge, there have been at least four subsequent additions to their range.  Starbucks offer similar alternatives alongside their house blend; I regularly frequented their outlet on Oxford Road in Manchester as a student, where they had at least two available blends to choose from.  Starbucks proudly acknowledge that all of their coffees beans are 100% Arabica whilst Costa use a mix of both Arabica and Robusta.  For a quick comparison of the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans check this out!  The mass coffee market is, noticeably, moving forwards in finding good quality, sustainable farmed coffee.

Pret A Manger

One particular high street shop has caught my attention, Pret a Manger offer good value for money where your cup of coffee is concerned.  Pret have produced their own coffee story on their website to demonstrate the precise methods they use when making each cup.  The emphasis on quality from the bean to the cup, including each intermediate step, demonstrates their commitment to high standards.

The most recent addition to their coffee repertoire is the option to have your coffee made using coconut milk! The addition of coconut milk to Pret’s ingredients also means that their entire coffee menu can cater for the vegan market.  With the recent promotion of Veggie Pret, it appears that the move towards meat and dairy-free products is gaining pace.  If the Coconut Latte is anything to go by, it is also a demonstration that meat and dairy-free products can also be ace!

Pret provide all the usual drinks that you would associate with a high street coffee shop alongside their more outlandish offerings.  When you ask for an Almond or Coconut Latte, your drink will be made with fresh almond or coconut milk, not flavoured sugar. Sure, you can still choose to have a syrup but these are a supplement rather than a mainstay of the Pret a Manger menu.

 

Pret a Manger’s approach to producing high quality organic coffee is a reminder that speed and price do not need to be sacrificed for quality. If you live in the City of London, why not take your own cup along to take advantage of the 25p discount Pret are currently offering to aid sustainability?

Enzo: A night of Pizza and Prosecco!

Tucked away on Fountain Street just off Manchester’s bustling Market Street, there is a vibrant addition to Manchester’s international food scene.  Enzo is a modern Italian restaurant with a twist (or two)!

Inside Enzo

Inside Enzo you are greeted by vibrant colours, open space and the kitchen which faces out onto the restaurant floor.  The restaurant has a bright and airy interior, the back wall of the restaurant adorned with vibrant multi coloured letters spelling out the word PIZZA, whilst coloured light shades hang above each table.

LED-Pizza-Sign

The layout of the restaurant gives the first indication of Enzo’s commitment to cooking honest, good quality Italian food.  Ingredients including olive oil, tomato sauce and chillies are proudly displayed on outward facing shelves and why not?  Enzo have nothing to hide; every dish is made fresh to order with high quality ingredients.

The Food

The staff at Enzo were very accommodating towards each customer, catering for a number of different dietary requirements, and willingly cooked me a pizza without cheese.  I haven’t eaten cooked cheese since my childhood and have become accustomed to more unusual and experimental toppings as a result.  I was served a mouth watering combination of olives, peppers, tomatoes, onions and basil atop a thin and crispy base.  The pizza was my idea of a delicious creation.

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However, as I entered Enzo, a waitress encouraged me to try pizza made with vegan cheese.  The vegan cheese had a more solid texture with a milder flavour than standard mozzarella and satisfied my palate.  The availability of vegan cheese ensures that most of the pizzas can be adapted to suit the needs of vegan customers.  It is fair to say that I quickly became a convert once again to pizzas topped with cheese, something I never thought I would say!

The most unique selling point of the menu is the breakfast pizza which comes in four varieties each including a combination of traditional cooked breakfast fare!  Although I did not have the opportunity to try the breakfast pizza on this particular visit I will be sure to pop into Enzo in the near future to sample this highly unusual yet curiously appealing offering.  Why would you want to have egg on toast when you can have egg on pizza?!  A breakfast revolution is taking place!

Drinks

Recently I have documented my visits to a number of different coffee shops across Manchester; another of Enzo’s passions is good quality coffee.  I had the opportunity to sample Enzo’s coffee blend, brewed exclusively for the restaurant, during my visit. The Enzo Blend contains coffee beans from Vietnam, Indonesia and Guatemala resulting in a strong, earthy coffee with a lasting finish.  Enzo also stock decaff coffee sourced from Peru; a country with a history of producing some of the world’s finest coffee beans.  As with all other food items, coffee beans are stored whole and are ground just before use to preserve their full flavour and aroma.

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Quick side note:  How on earth did the barista get so much detail into his latte art?  It seemed a shame to drink it!

For an evening tipple Enzo offer a range of alcoholic drinks.  The wine list comprises of three red, two rose, three white wines and a prosecco.  Three carefully selected Italian craft beers are available alongside the more familiar beer and cider selection of Peroni, Brewdog’s Punk IPA and Rekorderlig.

Glass-of-prosecco

All you need is Pizza… and prosecco of course!

The People

The high quality of the food and drink is only part of the story here at Enzo Manchester.  The most endearing aspect of this new city centre Italian is the people.  Every team member here is full of life.  There are no scripts.  Customer service is a genuine passion at Enzo.  It was clear that staff members are encouraged to express themselves and be happy and proud in their work.  You have the opportunity to commend the team through the feedback forms on each table.

Enzo-Menu

Why you need to visit Enzo!

Enzo Manchester is the second restaurant in the Enzo brand following on from the success of their Nantwich restaurant.  The restaurant’s location, a short walk from Manchester’s main shopping area, ensures that this venue is accessible; to shoppers at the weekend and office workers in the week.  The restaurant also offer takeouts at a 10% discount for those in need of a quick but tasty lunch!  However, to really indulge yourself in the Enzo Experience, take a seat, relax and allow the team to win you over with their delicious food and excellent service.

Mid April Coffee Round Up…

In the last two weeks, I have visited a number of coffee houses with some appealing and unique features.  Grindsmith and PKB are two coffee houses in Manchester whilst The Albany Coffee Lounge is located in Heywood.  Here’s why they are well worth a visit!

Grindsmith, Deansgate

The first of these was Grindsmith, Deansgate.  The layout in Grindsmith make the prospect of grabbing a coffee and getting down to some out of office work an appealing prospect.  There’s plenty of room to spread out here!  The coffee selection when I visited was made up of three different blends although the food offering was a little depleted as the two non-cheese sandwiches had already sold out (as those who know me will testify, I don’t eat cheese, particularly when cooked).  A good venue with a lot to offer, especially if you need some space to be creative!

Grindsmith Coffee

Pot Kettle Black

PKB is a regular city centre haunt of mine and I love to go whenever I’m grabbing a coffee with friends.  Since it was refurbished last year the venue has become more cosy than before.  I think that feeling comes mainly from the service as you are now encouraged to take a seat whilst the waiting staff take your order.  After the recent changes I have found myself spending more time in PKB each time I visit, that is no coincidence.  There is always a good selection of coffee and a lovely decaff which is fantastic for a mid-afternoon visit!  Each coffee is served with a curled chocolate wafer and a glass of water again demonstrating PKB’s focus on the little details.  PKB’s relentless focus on the smallest details makes this coffee house stand out from the crowd.

PKB Coffee

At first glance, the food menu is a little pricey but it is well worth the money.  Last week I had a Korean Chicken sandwich which was every bit as intriguing as it sounds.

PKB Korean Chicken Sandwich

PKB is somewhere that has gone from strength to strength since I first visited two years ago.  I hope I have many more visits to come!

The Albany Coffee Lounge

Lastly I visited the Albany Coffee Lounge, a two week old venue in Heywood, North Manchester.  Attached to the longstanding Albany Pub I wondered how the coffee lounge would work.  I visited when the pub was closed and the coffee lounge did feel sufficiently separate from the pub space.  Nonetheless, I would be intrigued to see how they work side by side.  The coffee used here is sourced from Limini Coffee and is a well rounded blend with a smooth finish.

Albany Coffee Lounge menu

Although it has only been two weeks since this little gem opened it is becoming clear that homemade cakes and scones are a particular strong point!  I opted for a scone (pronounced ‘sc-own’ until it’s ‘s-gone’!!) on my first visit, it was so fluffy and went really nicely with a pot of jam!  If you find yourself in Heywood, the Coffee Lounge is the perfect place to stop to relax and have breakfast.

The truth about the McCafe advert…

McCafe:  The Advert

 

Last year, McCafe held the highest market share in the coffee industry.  Their low-price selection of coffees proved extremely popular, combine that with the presence of McDonalds in most towns and cities and the hugely popular American arm of the business and you have a winning formula.  Surely the quality and popularity of its coffee alone should be enough for advertising purposes?  The quality of the most popular coffee brand should surely form the platform for its very advertisement.  Apparently not…

The most recent McCafe advert takes a negative view of McDonald’s competition.  The advert promotes the idea that other coffee outlets are:  Over-priced, complicated, underwhelming, served in poor quality venues and pretentious.  The slogan at the end of the McDonalds video chimes ‘Great taste in coffee.  Simple’.  As with most adverts however, this is a gross oversimplification of the truth and conveniently ignores the facts about third wave coffee in particular.

McCafe:  The Coffee

Before analysing the advert and the coffee it is worth noting that McCafe coffees are made with 100% Arabica beans (a high grade of coffee bean!).  The beans are sourced by Gavina Coffee of California and their website proudly displays the origin of the coffee that they source, it is both of respectable quality and ethically sourced.  When I visited my local McDonalds recently I purchased a small black Americano without sugar for £1.29.  The result was what I expected for a mid-range machine bought coffee.  It did not, however, compare favourably to any third-wave coffee outlet offering I have consumed in terms of taste (one of which I had already tasted on the same day) nor aroma.  However, the content of the advert itself is what leaves the most bitter taste in my mouth.

Coffee by Numbers

In belittling third-wave coffee houses, and indeed pretty much any other coffee retailer, McDonald’s also fail to see the broader picture.  Third-wave coffee houses promote good quality coffee with high-quality service in a welcoming environment, not machine made coffee in a quantity-over-quality environment.  A single shot espresso can be purchased for just £0.79 at McDonald’s, which compares favourably to all the other coffee outlets on the high street according to UCC Coffee’s price watch.  However, it also has to be acknowledged that McDonald’s pay their staff a measly £6.32 per hour starting rate, 47 pence lower than the average barista wage in the UK (277 respondents).

Whilst third-wave coffee outlets may charge more per cup of coffee, they also ensure that the barista serving you is knowledgeable and skilled.   When visiting high street coffee chains like Cafe Nero and Costa, the baristas take care in making sure they pay the same level of attention to detail to each cup.  No such knowledge is needed to press a button on a machine which makes the coffee for you.  Specialist knowledge and equipment costs money and requires training and dedication; autonomy does not.  That McDonald’s recently boasted that they were investing in more coffee machines for their outlets should not be treated as good news, rather as an indicator that they see human interaction and skill as a non-essential part of the coffee experience.  As a direct result of the training and dedication of many baristas, advice is always available should you need it.  You are seldom left to ponder a long and complicated menu alone.  A good barista is often on hand to inform the customer about which type of drink or blend of coffee would suit their tastes.

As I have previously discussed, third-wave coffee outlets are rising in popularity in the UK.  They offer a unique product and the option to experiment with your normal coffee selection in contrast to bigger chains.  As a direct result, the price of a coffee is understandably higher.  However, in three years of exploring third wave coffee outlets, I have never encountered a shop charging £9 for a coffee as McDonald’s advert implies (even in Geneva where prices are high to begin with!).  The prices are in line with the quality of the product and the option to have a simple filter coffee still provides the consumer with a cheaper option.  As with much of the McDonalds advert, the many positives of the coffee market in the UK is disregarded to promote the McCafe brand.

The Advert – My Conclusions

The McDonalds advert is well wide of the mark.  By slighting other coffee outlets,  McDonalds lowers itself to an almost political level.  The tactics of many recent political candidates have centred around creating negatives about others rather than speaking positively of themselves.  When used here, such negative advertising tactics only beg the question:  What are McDonald’s trying to hide?

The Mushroom Coffee Review

Organo Gold:  The Mushroom Coffee Review

You aren’t imagining things, the title of this blog post really does contain the words ‘mushroom’ and ‘coffee’ together!  Organo Gold’s Ganoderma Coffee, an instant coffee, is a revelation as it contains mushroom powder, giving the coffee its unique twist.

This coffee was recommended to me by a colleague.  When she heard about my near-obsession with the good stuff, she asked me whether I’d like to try Organo Gold.  I was sceptical about the addition of mushroom to a coffee.  However, I am willing to give anything a try once and as a result I gladly accepted her offer.

The unique selling point of Organo Gold is the addition of Gandonerma powder.  Gandonerma Mushrooms are claimed to have several positive effects on health, specifically the immune system.  The health benefits are listed on Organo’s website.  Although the body of evidence pointing towards the health benefits of taking Ganoderma Lucidum is not particularly strong, the claimed benefits range from anti-oxidative effects to cancer fighting properties.  However, the summary of these health benefits provided by examine.com suggests that more could be done to prove the validity of these claims.

Although strong to taste, Organo Gold actually contains less caffeine than your average cup of Java.  Crucially, I did not know about the lower caffeine content until after I drank it before an early shift in work.  I was impressed with the caffeine ‘kick’ that I experienced afterwards as it kept me feeling alert for at least as long as other coffees that I have tried.

Organo Gold Black Coffee Sachet

Although the coffee does have an interesting and very rich flavour profile, the aftertaste is slightly bitter.  I found the coffee more palatable with the addition of a little milk.  I was secretly hoping that the addition of mushroom powder would give more of a karate kick than a subtle caress of flavour!

Although I tried the Gourmet Black Coffee, Organo Gold offer several other options for people looking to buy an experimental instant coffee blend; these include Cafe Latte, Cafe Mocha and King Of Coffee.  Gourmet Black is a good quality instant coffee blend with a somewhat quirky taste.  The handy sachets also mean that you don’t have to worry about spooning out your coffee in advance.  At £22 for 30 sachets it is expensive compared with high street instant coffee blends but if you are prepared to pay a little extra to experiment with your morning brew, Organo Gold is well worth a try…

My first coffee cupping with Atkinsons

Who are Atkinsons?

On the 9th March, I attended my first coffee cupping at Grind and Tamp.  The evening was hosted by Atkinsons, a local roaster based in Lancaster.  I have tasted their coffee on a number of occasions in a few of the coffee houses I have visited and it does not disappoint.

Before the event, I didn’t really know what to expect.  I knew that coffee cupping involved testing the characteristics of different coffees but not quite how the evening would unfold.  Enter two charismatic, friendly looking coffee experts with nine different and diverse coffees in a room full of enthusiastic coffee lovers.  If you took blood from Casper or Jacob I am almost certain that they would bleed coffee as they have been raised with the business from when they were young.  After the event, I chatted to Casper for a while and he explained how, when he tried to do something other than work with coffee, he felt lost and returned to the family business almost immediately.

The Art of Coffee Cupping

Nine different coffees were on offer at the event.  Set out on a table in the middle of the room, the selection of coffees were brewed for a few minutes.  A crust formed on top of each cup which was then broken before any excess grinds on the surface were spooned away.

Once the coffees were ready, Casper and Jacob introduced each of the nine varieties.  The benefit of a coffee cupping is that you can taste coffees side by side for a direct comparison.  This would otherwise be impractical in a home setting.  The most unique offering came from the Natural Geisha coffee with a distinctive aroma and sweet wine gum-esq taste.  The intriguing story of how Natural Geisha came into existence, including how the spelling changed from Gesha to Geisha can be found on the Atkinsons website!

Casper and Jacob explained how Atkinsons source their coffee.  They have developed a partnership with a company in London to ensure the standard of coffee is maintained.  I learned a lot from the talk about how coffee is sourced.  I found it really interesting how Atkinsons visited the farmers who were responsible for their coffees on a regular basis.  Travelling to origin is important to Atkinsons.  It is important to see where their coffee is coming from but also to allow the farmers to see how their beans are going to be used.

Atkinsons-Sao-Francisco-Coffee

Sao Francisco:  My Brazilian Purchase

The end of the evening brought the opportunity to buy your favourite coffee of the night.  I chose Sao Francisco, a full bodied chocolatey coffee from Brazil with a unique flavour.  The coffee is produced using the pulped natural method.  For a full explanation of different coffee processes, I recommend attending a coffee cupping with Atkinsons themselves!  The energy boost I have experienced after drinking a cup of freshly ground Sao Francisco is quite something; I wouldn’t recommend drinking this too soon before going to bed!

Following Casper’s advice, I bought whole instead of ground beans.  One of the most important things I learned from the event is that a coffee’s aroma begins to fade just 20 minutes after grinding.  Although time consuming, grinding fresh beans for each brew improves the coffee’s aroma.  Plus, there is nothing better than a room which smells of coffee first thing in the morning.  Purchasing a small hand grinder for use at home is well worth the cost and the effort and I recommend the Rhinowares Coffee Grinder from Second City Coffee for anybody looking for an easy to use device.

The Future of Atkinsons Coffee

Although Atkinsons are a very well established company, there is still room for growth.  They have opened two cafes:  The Hall and The Music Room in Lancaster.  The team is always on the look out for the best coffee beans to maintain and improve their diverse offering.  If you visit a cafe where Atkinson’s coffee is on offer, you should not hesitate to order it!

 

The importance of the coffee bean

The UK’s Coffee Addiction

A staggering 55 million cups of coffee are consumed in the UK on a daily basis according to the British Coffee Association.  The mass coffee market in the UK opens many opportunities for coffee growers and roasters alike, but how do you know that your coffee is of good quality?  Many coffee shops now show great pride in using 100% Arabica beans, but why does this matter?  Using different coffee beans in the process of making your hot drink can yield very different results, it is therefore important to know what to look when choosing your coffee bean…

 

Why is the type of coffee bean so important?

Coffee beans can be categorised into many species, however the main two used for production of the vast majority of coffee that you drink on a daily basis can be narrowed down to two species:  Arabica and Robusta.  Comparing the two species of bean reveals a few key differences:

  • Quality:  Arabica coffee beans are widely considered to be of a higher quality than Robusta varieties.  The taste of Arabica beans is widely regarded as better than its rival, the Robusta.  Many artisan coffee shops take great care in selecting only the best arabica beans on the market in order to ensure that the cup of coffee you drink in their shop is of the best quality.  However, it is worth noting that some high quality Robusta beans are better than low quality Arabica beans.
  • Cost:  As a result of the difference in quality between Arabica and Robusta varieties there is a difference in cost.  The higher quality Arabica coffee is more expensive than the lower quality offering of the Robusta bean.  Many instant coffees are made with Robusta beans to keep prices down in the supermarket.
  • Caffeine Content:  On average, robusta coffee beans have almost double the amount of caffeine than Arabica beans.  Although this may appear to be a positive attribute at face value, the higher caffeine content results in a bitter taste.
  • Sugar:  The natural sugar content of Arabica beans is slightly higher than in Robusta coffee varieties which is not surprising given the many Arabica coffee varieties with a sweet flavour profile.
  • Ease of growth:  Robusta coffee beans are easier to grow and do not require the very specific conditions associated with Arabica beans.  Robusta beans are hardier and highly resistant to disease and insects meaning that production is cheaper.
  • Roasting:  As I have recently discovered through visits to several independent coffee shops, the vast majority of Arabica coffees served in high quality independent coffee shops are lightly roasted.  Lightly roasting coffee brings out the most flavour, emphasising positive flavour characteristics such as chocolate or nutty notes, whilst dark roasting is often used with inferior coffee as it produces a bitter result, masking undesirable tasting notes.  A darker roast, resulting in a bitter flavour profile, suggests that the beans are lower quality as the true flavour of the beans are masked.
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Second City Coffee:  The Mancunian

 

The Popularity of the Coffee Shop

The growth in the independent coffee shop market, experienced over the last decade, has contributed to the rise in importance of selecting quality coffee beans.  Whilst there has been a recent decline in instant coffee consumption by the mass market, the demand for high quality coffee products continues to grow.  Manchester’s coffee scene is a prime example of the demand for better quality coffee with North Tea Power (opened 2010), Grindsmith (opened 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign), Pot Kettle Black and Takk just four of many well established city centre venues where coffee takes centre stage.  Each of the independent coffee shops takes pride in selecting appropriate high quality coffee beans from independent roasters in order to produce the best drink to the consumer.    Independent coffee shops now hold a 30% share of the coffee shop market, with branded chains (Costa, Starbucks, Cafe Nero etc) just one percentage point ahead at 31%.  The strong performance of non-specialist coffee outlets, with a 39% market share, is indicative of the need for coffee on-the-go, in the workplace or whilst performing leisure activities.

A tendency to move towards higher quality coffee is also reflected in the number of people choosing to use specialist coffee devices such as the Aeropress, V60, French Siphon and Chemex.  The World Coffee Portal reported a 5% increase in use of ‘third wave equipment’ in people’s homes between 2014 and 2015.  Although the initial outlay for a specialist coffee making device is expensive when compared to the price of coffee in the instant coffee market, the coffee which results is worth the cost.  As people find out how many different varieties of coffee there are in the artisan coffee market, more and more people are experimenting in order to find their favourite.

Taste the Difference

So why should you delve into the more expensive Arabica coffee market?  If you are not already convinced, the tasting notes of Arabica coffee are more wide ranging as a result of their lighter roast profile.  A quick look through my cupboard produced the following tasting notes as given by the roaster:

North Star Roasters, Czar Street:  Orange Marmalade, Marzipan, Raspberry

North Star Roasters, Christmas Blend:  Clementine, Marzipan, Cranberry

Second City Coffee, The Mancunian:  Blueberry, Floral, Chocolate

York Coffee Emporium, Nicaragua Cerro de Jesus:  Clove, Orange, Hazelnut, Muscovado, Chocolate

York Coffee Emporium, Brazil Fazenda:  Cocoa, Plum, Berry

York Coffee Emporium, Guatemala SHB Huehuetenango:  Plum, Milk Chocolate

York Coffee Emporium, Peru Tunki:  Orange, Citrus, Milk Chocolate

As you can probably tell, I like coffees with chocolate and nut profiles but there are a whole host of alternatives ready for you to try.  Instead of choosing the same instant coffee the next time you go to the supermarket, why not give a good quality Arabica coffee a try?  You might just find yourself falling in love…

Grind and Tamp

Grind and Tamp is a recent addition to Greater Manchester’s coffee scene opening in Ramsbottom in spring last year.  Ramsbottom is a small market town in the Irwell Valley, just to the north of Bury, the main street is lined with independent shops including the indulgent Chocolate Cafe, a bakery, butcher and even a pub.  Now Ramsbottom’s main street also hosts Grind and Tamp, the northern point of Manchester’s coffee scene.

Coffee

G&T offer an impressive 15 different coffees at any one time, each of these can be brewed in any of the available brewing methods as the beans are ground by-the-cup.  Coffees are selected from a diverse range of roasters including North Star and The Barn, a coffee roastery based in Germany.  The team’s knowledge of tasting notes for each coffee is extensive and short descriptions of selected coffees are chalked up behind the counter.

Grind and Tamp Guest Espresso Menu

The guest espresso provided by The Barn

Coffees vary in price depending on which blend and brewing method you select.  Once ordered, the coffees are delivered to your table when they are ready.

V60 Coffee

The V60 – One of many available brewing methods

Food

The coffee house has a small food selection made fresh by the in-house chef, indeed, the owner is originally a chef by trade.  Breakfast offerings include doorstep toast made with bread from a local bakery.  If you are feeling slightly more adventurous there is the choice to have Smoked Salmon with Free Range Scrambled Eggs on Toasted Sourdough with Rocket Oil.

Unusual and unique combinations dominate the menu.  The first time I visited for lunch I chose tomato soup with harissa oil, a warming twist for a winter’s day.  The menu is ever changing, such is the focus of G&T’s owner to keep the food offering fresh and seasonal.  On my most recent visit I opted for a Jerk Chicken wrap with Banana Ketchup – sounds odd, right?  It tasted delicious.  The subtlety of the banana ketchup combined with the spicy Jerk Chicken perfectly.

Freshly Made Jerk Chicken Wrap with Banana Ketchup

Jerk Chicken Wrap with Banana Ketchup

The chalkboard displays of available coffees, alternative hot drinks and food offerings reaffirm the homemade feel of this particular venue.  It is true to say that the venue is almost entirely self styled by the shop’s owner and manager Adrian.  He has created a warm and welcoming space for people to enjoy quality food and drink.

Grind and Tamp Lunch Menu

Lunchtime Specials!

Inside Grind and Tamp

I don’t often marvel at the decor in coffee shops but particular features of G&T are particularly striking.  A coffee mug hangs from the ceiling in front of the counter, this is a coffee shop after all!  The wooden tables are surrounded by stools with a plant in the middle of each, simple yet effective decoration.

Grind and Tamp Cup Decoration

If you find yourself at a loose end in North Manchester, Grind and Tamp is definitely worth a visit.  Grind & Tamp opening hours are 08:30-16:00 except Sundays when the opening times are 10:00-16:00.  The only day Grind & Tamp are closed entirely is on Wednesday.

Throughout your time here you are made to feel at ease; from table service to the explanation of how the coffees are sourced and brewed.  Quality is achieved throughout with care and attention at every level ensuring each and every visitor is served to the same high standard.  Adrian’s mission statement clearly sets out what Grind and Tamp want to achieve.  I am certain that he has achieved just that:

‘My passions is for quality coffee, I wanted G & T to be a place where the bean was the star and to produce the finest speciality coffee, using contemporary brewing methods, whilst offering a relaxed and friendly experience for our customers.’
North Star Roast Coffee Selection

North Star – Coffee with a twist!

North Star Coffee Roasters

North Star Coffee Roasters produce some of the most unique and varied coffee that I have ever tasted.  The roastery is based in Leeds and pride themselves in producing high quality Arabica coffees.  They earned a place in the Northern Independent Coffee Guide 2106 due to their commitment to speciality grade coffee.

The North Star Range

North Star currently have seven coffees on offer.  However, as coffees are chosen in accordance with their freshness and season, the selection of coffees are subject to change.  This philosophy is one that contradicts the general trend in the food and drink industry as more and more products are being treated so that they can be sold year round.  However, the coffee distributed by North Star is fresh, not treated nor preserved and to this extent, the quality of their coffee is optimal every time.  From a consumer perspective, this commitment is both refreshing and liberating as different coffees are available at different times of the year giving coffee drinkers the opportunity to try new blends and single origin coffees when they are in season.

Czar Street

I recently purchased a bag of Czar Street finely ground for use in an Aeropress.  Czar Street is a blend of Rwanda Bushoki (which can be purchased in its own right here) and Columbian Andino beans.  Rwanda Bushoki is a delicious coffee in its own right; if you prefer single origin to blended coffees I highly recommend it.

North Star Coffee Czar Street

Opening a packet of Czar Street is an olfactory delight; a powerful marzipan aroma gives way to more subtle berry notes.  After brewing the coffee using the Aeropress method for four minutes the smell of the coffee mellows.  The flavour of the coffee is unique and complex and develops as it runs across the palate.  Marzipan dominates the tasting experience but hints of berry are ever-present.  The coffee is both smooth and full of flavour but harbours no bitterness.

I made two cups of Czar Street in succession, one with milk, one without.  As a result of the complex flavour profile, I preferred the coffee when made without adding milk.  Without milk, the flavour of the coffee is bolder and both the marzipan and more fruity notes are free to develop unhindered.  Czar Street is not a coffee to gulp down first thing in a morning for an extra caffeine kick; it is a coffee you should savour.

Ethiopian Aramo

Another coffee from North Star Coffee that made a serious impression on my taste-buds recently was the uniquely fruity Ethiopia Aramo.  The distinct blueberry notes that distinguish this coffee come from the natural method used when the cherries and coffee beans are processed.  The coffee packs a powerful fruity punch with a sweet and lasting finish.

Although I have only discovered North Star in recent months, their coffee made an instant impression.  When bought for use at home, North Star’s coffee retails between £5.50 and £8.50 for a 250g bag.  A bag of North Star is a real treat and is well worth the cost.  The quality coffee they produce guarantee that you will get value for money no matter how you like your morning brew.

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