As with most people, perhaps you too, our experience of coffee has been somewhat of a journey over the years. We grew up with freeze-dried instant coffee granules and when people were really going to town, they might venture out to a department store café for a frothy coffee. My, how things have changed. Over the years we’ve learned to love a different kind of coffee that’s dark, strong and espresso-based, ready to pack a punch when you need that boost on a Monday morning.
We thought we had it all sussed but once we started to scratch under the surface we realised that there is a whole world of coffee out there that just isn’t represented on the High Street. Just with the world of wine and spirits, there is a vast amount to know and understand about the different types of coffee and how climate, varietals and production processes affect their flavour. For this reason, we almost literally jumped at the chance to visit Extract Coffee‘s roastery in Bristol, when they offered us the opportunity to come in and spend the day with Callum, learning all about good coffee!
With strong ethics and a passion for the product, Extract prides itself in being an artisan roastery, home to a small team with a big love for coffee. The business was built up around Betty, a vintage cast iron roaster which they found abandoned and then lovingly restored by hand. We can imagine the determination it must have taken to get this operation up and running but what is clearly apparent is the passion for coffee – and good coffee at that – that seems to drive everything that is done at Extract. The team know their stuff too. Head Roaster, David Faulkner, 2011’s UK Cup Tasting Champion, leads a team of roasters who experiment with different beans and roasts in order to create the best cup of coffee possible in order to, as they say, “extend the efforts of the grower through the process of roasting and into your cup“.
In fact, one of the many things that impressed us during our visit was Extract’s approach to sourcing the coffee beans they roast. Now, we’re not about to get all preachy – we’re far from experts on the subject – but we’d like to share what we learnt with you…
While many other companies buy a variety of beans in vast quantities on the international commodity market, Extract has nurtured relationships based on mutual respect with the same groups of growers year after year. They always select 100% Specialty Grade Arabicas from single farms, estates and cooperatives, and pay well above the “Fair Trade” minimum price for coffee.
We have a lot of respect for that.
Also of fundamental importance is, quite naturally, the quality of the product. For this reason, the team is constantly “cupping”. Cupping is the process used by professionals as an effective way of sampling the different nuances of beans and roasts. It’s also used for quality control purposes as well as product training. A row of cups is laid out (with or without tasting notes depending on whether you’re tasting “blind”) with an equal measure of ground coffee in each. Each type of coffee gets two cups. Boiling water is poured over the coffee and then left to bubble up. After a time, the taster breaks the crust that’s formed, inhales in the aromas deeply, stirs the drink (so that the grinds fall to the bottom) and then takes a quick, loud slurp of coffee. We were encouraged to draw in air with the coffee in order to really heighten the tasting experience.
This process really helped us to pick up the different subtleties in the coffee varieties. We got notes of rhubarb, strawberry, blackcurrant, chocolate and kiwi amongst others. Absolutely amazing… and delicious. Now, we’ve had “pour over” coffees before that tasted fruity but this was a whole new experience.
Besides tasting some great varieties of coffee, we sampled a great range of tea, were shown the roasting process, and were even allowed to have a play with their high-tech coffee machines. More about this in future posts. Until then, let us know your thoughts on artisan coffee and, if you are able to join in with a coffee cupping near you, tell us how you get on… all by leaving a comment below!
Have a browse of their online shop and try some artisan coffee yourself. We’ve ordered coffee from them in the past and it has been delivered very promptly – freshly roasted!
Extract Coffee often host events and workshops that are open to their customers. If you’re interested in knowing more, sign up to their mailing list by popping your details into their website.