Wednesday, January 31, 2007
My experience with East Timorese coffee has not been good - mostly because I have never had my own beans to roast but always been given pre-roasted coffee of uncertain vintage. I have heard that it is like a combination of PNG and Indonesian coffee - which given the geographic position of East Timor is somewhat appropriate.
The beans are hand picked and were a lovely olive green and very dense. The aroma before first crack was something like roasting peanuts and it was a joy to watch them roast.
I now have a large bag of these set aside and I intend to test them at various intervals through the next week or so to see how they change.
With my large stock of beans coming next week I also need to re-arrange how I handle and store my green beans as they are growing to numerous for my current storage area.
I've been documenting the running battle for control of the front room with Mrs Grendel but I am wondering about adopting a new negotiating position where she gets the front room for scrapbooking and I get - well I am not sure what, but it will be coffee related!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Electricity is the least efficient way to roast, natural gas is a little better but surely there must be a way to roast coffee using renewable energy.
In my brief search so far I have found a number of very interesting operations, including biodiesel powered roaster and a solar roaster which is operating commercially in the United States. The solar roaster in particular looks very good, and uses a parabolic mirror array to focus the sunlight onto a rotating roasting drum. The drum motors are also powered through solar panels making the entire array independently powered.
The temperature inside reaches over 300° C and they are able to roast a bit under 4kg an hour with the array.
I wonder about temperature fluctuations though – it might be hard to establish a good roasting profile.
Still, given all our lovely sunshine here in WA there would be a terrific opportunity to set up a similar operation here.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Business Focus: Bakery/Café (or is that Café/Bakery. . .)
44 King Street is one of the classic Perth coffee venues. Stylish in its old-world charms it is well known to most who work at the Western end of the CBD.
It was very quiet there this morning but most patrons seemed to be there for something to eat.
I have tried a number of the 44 King Street baked goods before and enjoyed them but I’ve never tried their coffee, which as far as I understand is roasted on premises. There was a roaster there that looked well used – a 5 kilo Probat (or something very similar!).
I ordered a double ristretto and a double espresso arrived, ah well. There crema was a rich colour but very thin and broke up swiftly. The aroma was of warm but somewhat musty with some light spicy tones.
The shot was thin, with little mouthfeel and an initial sourness that almost hid the fruityness of the blend. On the back palate it was generally mild and pleasant but there was also a distinct bitterness that was similar to that of quinine and is not something I have found in a coffee before. The beans seemed fresh and there was no stale aftertaste.
Overall it was an interesting coffee and generally better than much to be found in Perth, but had some disappointing features. This is a shame because the fruit bread that arrived a few minutes after the coffee really deserved a better partner.
44 King Street bakes better than it brews. The fruit toast was outstanding and certainly worth a try. Their fruit toast with Epic’s coffee would be a perfect pairing.
Expect to get away from 44 King Street with a much lightened wallet. I would have had eggs except that I thought $15 a bit steep for breakfast. In fairness to the café, it is aimed at the upper end of the market with an extensive wine list and a premium product range. It was disappointing that it was let down by the coffee that should also be up there with the rest of the 44 King Street experience.
Coffee: better than average but with some way to go.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Unfortunately I am down to my last 400 grams of this blend and there won't be any more because I am short of both the Tiger Mountain beans and the Bundja.
The good news is that early in Feb I will bet my hands on 10kg of Ethiopian 'Yirg' beans and I have been looking forward to that for a long time.
I must say though that the corretto while unlovely to look at does produce amazing results in roasting.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
My blend at the moment is 50% Monsooned Malabar, 20% Tiger Mountain and 30% Bundja double pass. It is still maturing but it hasn't worked as well as the previous roast of this blend.
It is ok, but it need careful handling and I have to watch the temperature on the Faema very carefully.
I prepared three shots (double risrettos) and poured those over some crushed ice. Then I added two tablespoons of condensed milk.
Into a large stainless steel milkshake beaker I placed 3 large scoops of vanilla ice cream then I poured the coffee and condensed milk over that and added a cup of milk and a liberal shot of Frangelico.
I quick whirr with the stab mixer and it was done.
Must take photos of it, but the recipe is most important - it'll help retrieve a little hot summer day sanity for you.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Both Cafe 130 and Greens have solid reputations, although my experiences at both have been mixed. It will be interest to see what happens to the Leederville coffee scene with one of the most notable cafes in the area buying such the cavernous space that was Greens.
As a place to kick back and relax, Greens won easily over Cafe 130, but for some reason Cafe 130 was always favoured in the press and among the young and cashed-up.
It can't have been the coffee though!
Business focus: Coffee/food
Tank Coffee Lounge is hidden under St Martins Tower just off London Court in the Perth CBD.
Tank was a favourite of mine for a while after it opened but things started to slide after a while and getting a good coffee became very dependant on who was the barista on duty.
They use Five-Senses coffee, a good start, but I did notice that occasionally they were still using beans more than a month after roasting - still ok, but past their best.
Tank have a licensed area which is nice on a quiet afternoon and at one time they had a chef on staff producing the most amazing food in a tiny kitchen.
Tank was sold about a year ago and the new owners have worked hard to boost the business, but the coffee is not what it once was - and could be again.
I know a lot of cafes rely on volume sales of coffee - that is ok, I can understand when quantity can give quality a nudge, but to use the same techniques when it is quiet misses a terrific opportunity to show off barista skills.
Tank is still better than the average coffee to be found around its immediate area and the food is still good. Worth dropping in to if you can't handle the idea of a Muzz Buzz or a segafredo coffee from London Court.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Business Focus: Coffee/Food
Caffe Zero on Hay Street in West Perth has recently undergone extensive renovations. They are also attempting some innovations with their coffee by buying beans from a ‘micro-roaster’ in Melbourne.
Their new look is terrific, very stylish, light and airy with splashes of colour against white walls. They have an extensive breakfast menu and a lunch menu that changes regularly.
I can’t judge the food there as I haven’t tried it, but observing the dishes served to others it looked pretty good.
I ordered a ristretto, which while a little longer than I prefer, didn’t look too bad. The crema was light with some russet streaks, and the aroma was light but earthy – generally undistinctive however.
The mouthfeel was similar, light rather than chewy, but generalised. There were no distinct tones – either good or bad that came through the shot and overall I would describe it as ‘unremarkable but inoffensive’.
Probably a good deal better than much of the coffee in Perth, but not distinctive enough to represent a reward for the initiative the café owner is showing by trying a unique blend from a micro-roaster and of course that is the risk of taking such a path.
I suspect that Caffe Zero might be worth checking out for its food, but I wouldn’t expect too much as yet from the coffee.
I’m hoping they keep working at it, as a mini-micro-roaster (if 800 grams a week qualifies me as such!) I’d love to see a place working from such an individually prepared coffee.
I am also aware that the unique nature of each roast on a small scale means that the flavours and impact of the coffee can change radically with each new roast (I have prepared more than a couple of mediocre roasts myself after all!). With that in mind I may try again in a few weeks and see if anything has changed.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The truth is though that I don’t really think it is easy to get the top mark in the coffee game. It is more related to the fact that I am starting with the cafes in Perth that have the reputations for the cutting edge of great coffee or as a great café.
I said in an earlier post that I won’t use a café as a comparison with another, but rather judge each on its own merits. This is pretty crucial because each café owner has their own business to mind, their own style and their own product.
I am judging on the experience to me as a ‘coffee snob’ so coffee will be my focus, but I am rating also based on whether or not I think someone else could visit the venue and enjoy the same level quality experience that I have.
Yes, there are going to be some top ratings early on – and I will provide a rating of top 5 Perth Cafés (in my opinion – feel free to differ!) but generally I won’t bother with a lot of cafés that don’t offer certain minimums. As an example I probably won’t review too many that don’t use locally roasted coffee – this should trim my list down considerably.
I’ll also try to get back to a venue more than once to get some control over single visit variables (everyone has bad days) and I will have others popping in to feed me their opinions as well. Ideally I'll rate Coffee, tea, food, service and ambiance - we'll see how it goes though.
I have to say though – it is a lot of fun getting out and trying the coffee!
I was hungry this morning and decided on a whim that eggs on toast were needed to get me through the day. It was back to Tiger Tiger where I ordered poached eggs and a ristretto.
BANG – Right on the money this time and not even a little hint of the burnt flavours. What is it they say about Mondays and Wednesdays with any machine? I guess coffee machines like their weekends as well.
A very impressive flat white followed arriving just after my eggs.
I may have mentioned before that I love poached eggs. I’m also an ‘egg snob’ and I like them to be done just right – firm whites and runny yolks.
The eggs were served on thick toast (I didn’t ask if it was a sourdough or not but it had the taste of a light rye sourdough) and as I cut into the first egg a glorious golden flood erupted across the toast.
Perfectly poached free-range eggs.
Two great coffees.
Five Bean Rosette.
And for bonus points I discovered that Tiger Tiger is open on Saturdays from 7 am.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
After I saw Tiger Tiger was reviewed on Abstract Gourmet I have been keen to get over there and try it for myself.
I was worried that it would be hard to find, but as I stepped out of Queen Street into Murray street, I looked across the road, and there was the archway at number 329.
The tables and chairs for Tiger Tiger start almost back at the entrance to the archway. Each chair an individual, each table unique, a multitude or styles that evoked memories for me of many places and people all at once.
I was struck by the quiet of the mews – having just stepped off the pedestrian rush of Murray Street I was not expecting to find such a peaceful nook.
Inside the café is unique as it’s outdoor furniture, the lighting is warm, the brickwork rough and the long farm kitchen table seemed very welcoming.
Tiger Tiger are using Fiori coffees, and I wanted to try their coffee again before visiting the roastery.
I ordered a ristretto and chose a table outside in the courtyard. The customers were an eclectic group, and Tiger Tiger seems to be a place where people really relax – it has a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere and is the kind of place I can really feel at home in – my typically rumpled look always seems out of place in the bright modern atmosphere of some venues.
The ristretto arrived and it was very good. It seemed a little ‘overheated’ to me, but it the next coffee, a flat white, was spot on. Like all the great café owners, Claire is always working to improve the coffee and her coffee making style is similar to Kamran’s (Fiori Coffee) roasting style – that is very hands on, feeling the changes with each shot and working towards consistently good rather than just consistent taste (after all some large coffee chains that I shall not mention pride themselves on their ‘consistency’ and don’t seem to care that they are indeed consistent – consistently crappy!).
I tried the fruit toast – it was full of luscious fruit and really it must be my favourite breakfast food but I am keen to go back to try breakfast or lunch there one day soon because the food really looks and sounds great.
On each table was a bowl of coarse sugar lumps, and I will try one in a coffee just to taste it – I could smell that wonderful molassesness that reminded me of the smells of sugar milling season in Proserpine.
Tiger Tiger is a sanctuary – very tranquil, somehow even when people are bustling in and out with coffees. Claire and her staff have created a remarkable venue.
Tiger Tiger is an outstanding place to relax and enjoy a fine coffee and as such I’ll be adding it to my ‘follow-up’ list for a revisit.
Easily 5-Beans and nudging the ‘Rosetta’ very firmly – another month or two playing with the new blend and it’ll be there I think.
UPDATE - INDEED ON THE RETURN VISIT THE COFFEE MADE THE GRADE OF ONE OF THE BEST IN PERTH
Monday, January 22, 2007
Today I was privileged to be able to visit one of the Perth coffee scenes greatest (and newest) assets. Fiori Coffee, in Douglas Street West Perth, is heaven for the coffee snob.
Kamran has a genuine passion for coffee and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the beans, their origins and variations and the gentle ways they can be coaxed into giving up their best.
Fiori is starting to make its mark among Perth cafes, and with the stunning blends being produced by Kamran at Fiori and other local premium roasters, I confess to being at a loss as to why any cafe would choose imported beans.
I am sure that Kamran gave all his secrets away, but he rattled through the origins and estates so fast I couldn't keep up, so the blends are safe!
For a home roaster, being able to get up close and personal with such a large quantity of green beans makes you lightheaded with glee. Here was I, excited about my latest 20kg order, standing in a room surrounded by thousands of kilograms of the finest estate grown coffees on earth. I resisted the temptation to throw myself onto the pile of bags. . .
Kamran prepared a shot of his new Mohka blend. Wow. What a time to be living and drinking coffee in Perth. This blend had enormous mouthfeel, spice, tobacco warmth and for two hours afterwards my mouth was still tasting cocoa.
The crema was a rich russet, the aroma a heady lift of earthy chocolate and savoury aromatics. Prepared by a good barista, this would be a true champion in any cafe.
Kamran has a great stock of beans and a terrific knowledge of both coffee roasting and preperation. In a city that for a long time has been dominated by lacklustre coffee and poor knowledge and appreciation of coffee we are suddenly confronted by more than one premium roaster with a great love for fine coffee.
More I say, More!
Kamran's roasting style is very organic in the sense that his roaster is fully manual and he relies on being present and watching each step of the roast carefully. While each roast is done with a similar blend, no two roasts can ever be exactly alike, and subtle variations even down to the temperature and air pressure of the day can alter the profile of the roast. To meroasting is not so much about total consistancy in flavour (although it is a goal to aim for) so much as a consistently high quality in the roast.
That said, Kamran's roasts appear to have a remarkably consistent flavour profile from roast to roast.
It is very lucky he is only in West Perth because I think I'll have to go over to visit regularly!
I'm also lucky that his coffee is being used by some very fine Cafes in Perth including Pranzo in West Perth and Tiger Tiger in Murray Mews in the western end of the CBD.
Fortunately I had breakfast at Tiger Tiger on my way to work - but they deserve their own post!
Of course, my photography and food writing aren't quite up to his standard and I'm cheating a little because this is Mrs Grendel's skills on display, but I will claim credit for the homegrown (organic as well) heirloom tomatoes (Green Zebras and Tigers), zucchini and herbs that were used in the fritters.
This recipe uses polenta to add and extra element and nicely supports the fresh corn flavours. The zucchini are all young, with much more flavour than many of the sad tired examples you find for sale.
Served with mushrooms and bacon and a little fetta crumbled over the top to finish it off.
Not that long ago I was not a fan of Zucchini, but lately I have really been enjoying these ones. Freshness makes a big difference with some vegetables and the plant's habit also make them a big hit with the camelia's along the back wall, providing a nice low shade to keep the soil moist and cool. The Zucchinis have also survived against the slaters that ravaged this year's cucumber and watermelon plants. I'm beginning to wonder if adding my coffee grounds to the garden might by hyping the little buggers up too much.
Our lime tree has been working over time on its very first fruit (there is only one!) but I couldn't bring myself to sacrifice it just yet, so the slice of lime sporting on the edge of my beers, is regrettably as yet, a bought one.
I'm sure at this point (if this were Abstract Gourmet) Matt would wax lyrical about the recipe and provide it for your convenience, but I am afraid I am not so obliging - you'll have to find it the same way I did - with google (It is the ABC radio recipe from adelaide).
Saturday, January 20, 2007
As I walked through the front door I saw some coffee display bins - the type with the brass port on the front and a bit sheet of glass so you can see the beans.
Then I glanced to my left, into a dark alcove near the entry. The photo is not the best but you can see that it is a Probat coffee roaster.
Here it is in wanneroo hiding away sharing space with a kids play centre.
It was then that I noticed all the 'Wild Harvest' packaging around the place. I'd really like to have a chat with the guy who runs it all.
Having seen the roaster and that the play centre uses that coffee I was rather hopeful that it would be a good coffee.
Sadly it was dreadful - I couldn't tell from the shot I got whether or not the beans were even fresh - over extracted, too hot, no crema - the kind of coffee I sigh and push to one side.
I'd still like to meet the guy with the roaster though. I have a contact number so maybe I'll give him a call.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Lunch! Oh, I love lunch and Pranzo (italian for lunch) could not be better named - it is (in my opinion) the best place to grab lunch from in West Perth.
Opinions on their coffee varied, but the negative opinions I had heard are invariably from those who have not been back in a while.
In 2006 Pranzo started using the coffee of a West Perth roaster called Fiori, and the fresh, well crafted blend has certainly lifted the coffee at Pranzo. This year Fiori tweaked the blend a little and that has raised the quality yet again.
Pranzo's greatest asset is co-owner Jan. Each day Jan and Pete arrive early to prepare the amazing food that sets Pranzo above all other West Perth lunch venues. Jan has particular skill with muffins and cakes - and I have waxed lyrical about these previously, but I repeat, Jan's Muffins are the best in the known universe, and since the matter is academic, the Unknown universe as well.
Each day brings a different muffin and Wednesday (Pumpkin muffins with cinnamon sugar on top) has been my favourite but every muffin has its own charms.
I will return and take a photo of their cold case when it is full, but I snapped this one today as I was leaving - doesn't do it justice but look at those salads!
The turkish breads are my favourite and everything is made fresh each day. The biggest trap is the fudge brownies though. I haven't ever had any quite as luscious as those at Pranzo.
Unfortunately I have had to ban myself from the muffins and the brownies, but once in a while, just for a little treat couldn't hurt could it?
Judging Pranzo for their food alone they are a five star establishment - I had a very quick coffee today to try the new blend and it was great, but I want to sit down and try a couple of variations before I start awarding 'Beans'.
Because I work in West Perth it is inevitable that I will be covering a few cafes up there, but I'll try to space them out with some further afield. Lemon in Claremont is on my list as well as Adesso in Mount Lawley (Thanks for the heads-up Erratic).
Pranzo in West Perth I will cover a little tonight - one aspect at least before sitting down there again and having them make me a whole batch of Coffees.
For tea drinkers I have some good news - I'll be joined shortly on this blog by a 'Tea Snob" who will be reviewing tea around Perth here at Cafe Grendel. Not sure what we'll use to denote great tea's - I can see some more photoshop work coming up with a tea leaf or two.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I am going to stop making comparisons whenever possible. Each café deserves to be judged on its own merits and I’d like to keep comparisons to a minimum.
I want to be able to rate a café with my own rating system. I have my own criteria for judging coffee that are largely similar to those used in cupping coffees, but I also have other criteria about the venue, the service, the style and the experience offered. Naturally for a coffee snob though, my focus is on the coffee.
My rating system will award 'Beans' to cafés. I had thought of a 'three bean' scale, but the ‘five’ scale is so much more common that people may misinterpret a three bean sale and think I have rated a place too low. After all I am hardly ‘Michelin’ (although my similarity to the ‘Michelin man’ has been previously noted).
So my ‘Beans’ rate from one to five, no half beans but there is a 5-bean rosette (as opposed to a line of 5 beans) that I will award to places that in my opinion are truly outstanding. I’ll get around to making the graphics later and I’ll add them to previous reviews as well as new ones.
Do I sound like a total tosser yet? Doesn’t really matter though – MY BLOG! Muahahahahahaha.
SO, on with the reviews!
Since I heard Velvet Espresso mentioned, I have been meaning to get off the CAT on the way to work and try it.
This morning, on an impulse I did.
Velvet are located on King Street, between Hay Street and St Georges Terrace. The place was full, with a large crowd of cyclists in attendance, lean greyhounds trying their hardest to make me feel fat. (Ok, they were totally ignoring me but that doesn’t absolve them!)
The single 3-group Synesso dominates the counter and it was servicing a brisk trade.
My double ristretto was classic. It rates right up there with the best in Perth, but had enough points of difference to make it interesting. It was clean, and intense, a blending of choclate and spice flavours but with more chocolate than spice.
I have had from time to time some 99% chocolate, and the aftertaste of the shot was very reminiscent of that. The mouthfeel was warm and thick without being cloying and the nose was rich and intoxicating.
The crema was a lovely mahogeny - I took photos of that (to be posted later).
A flat white followed – smooth and the coffee cut through the milk with ease. The temperature was just right and both the shot and the milk were sweet. The latte art can speak for itself in the photos!
The New Norsia fruit toast I ordered is a personal favourite that I find goes very will with good coffee and I love to see it on the menu at a café.
Fruit toast is simple to prepare and in my opinion is always a winner. It was served with a generous portion of butter – and I silently thanked the coffee gods for a café that understands how tacky those little portion control packs can be.
The staff are quick and friendly, and Justin seems to have a sixth sense – he came out and introduced himself, knowing something was up.
It was a champion effort all around and they are an impressive crew in a great venue and I can give the highest recommendation if you are in Perth and in need of a coffee.
I took a number of photos – I’ll only post two for now and the rest when I get home tonight.
Oh yeah - the ratings. . .
Velvet Espresso are quite definitely a 5 Bean Rosette.