Tag Archives: coffee

Masterclasses with Aroma coffee at Ludlow Food Festival

food festival Ludlow 2014 204

September 29th was apparently international coffee day, a day for people to celebrate their love for the dark liquid. I totally missed it as I do most of these ‘international’ days. There are so many of them we’d be celebrating something every week if we remembered them all. A couple of weeks ago the teen and I had our own coffee celebration at this years Ludlow Food Festival (there will be more on this in a future post) where we joined a coffee masterclass run by Andrew from Aroma tea and coffee merchants in Shrewsbury.

Both the teen and I love coffee, not the cheap instant stuff; proper, rich, creamy coffee.  But its something of a love/hate relationship. The teen has ADHD (caffeine + hyperactivity  = bad combination) and can’t tolerate too much, while I am somewhat sensitive to too much caffeine as well. If I drink it after three in the afternoon I can’t sleep at night. Generally speaking I am more of a tea addict, being raised in a typically British family where hot sweet tea was the solution to everything, it could cure any angst, shock, upset and always, in my granddad’s house, came in half pint mugs (his was often laced with whisky, which I have never succumbed too). Even with tea if I drink too much I find myself suffering a caffeine crash when it wears off. We anticipated that the effects of all this coffee tasting could be interesting!

Although I know the taste of good coffee and know what I like, I am no coffee expert. I was the perfect attentive student, wanting to understand and know more. The class was expertly run, fun and very informative and I soon learned the difference between Arabica and Robusta varieties; Arabica beans are longer in shape and a generally more desirable bean, while Robusta beans are wider and fatter and often considered the poor relation. I also learned that beans come from the pod or cherry, either ‘pea’ shaped or as two separate beans. I now know that beans from different countries and environments differ considerably; Columbian (high consistency of flavour), Kenyan (peaberry coffee, almost sweet, with lemony, citrus hints) and Indian beans  (high humidity, slow dry, lighter, smoother, richer coffee) and have their own distinct personality. We travelled through the process from bean to perfect roast in the search for the best cup of coffee, and imbibing plenty along the way.

We examined beans, discussed oil content, texture, shape and flavour. Andrew then tipped the beans (sourced from Cafe Feminino, an organisation which supports women working in the coffee trade) into the small roaster he’d set up in the marquee, heated to 200 degrees. The smell of roasting coffee, the caffeine hit we’d already had, made us feel slightly euphoric. I tried hard to concentrate but was beginning to feel the effects!

coffee beans, pure and unroasted

coffee beans, pure and unroasted

a 'peaberry' coffee bean

a ‘peaberry’ coffee bean

2 beans

Andrew showing us the Cafe Feminino beans

Andrew showing us the Cafe Feminino beans

More tasting next, we sampled different roasts of coffee and could easily distinguish the difference,  then we looked at different grinds and the best method to prepare them for drinking. Fine ground for Turkish style, coarser ground for Italian stove top pots and cafetierres. By now I had to cut my tasting to a sip for fear of bouncing around the tent like a drug crazed loon.


pouring the beans into the roaster

pouring the beans into the roaster

small roaster with drum for turning and cooling the beans once roasted

small roaster with drum for turning and cooling the beans once roasted

another small variety of roaster...this copper one is for using on the stove top

another small variety of roaster…this copper one is for using on the stove top

removing a sample to check the roast

removing a sample to check the roast

once the beans reach the desired level of roast they are released from the drum into the bottom container to cool

the beans are released into the bottom drum to cool once they reach the desired level of roast

demonstrating the different ways coffee can be prepared and how it affects the flavour...caffetiere coffee is very different to Italian style, Turkish, or filter

demonstrating the different ways coffee can be prepared and how it affects the flavour…caffetiere coffee is very different to Italian style, Turkish, or filter

I tried to keep writing notes but my eager concentration from earlier in the session had left me. As finished up and awaited our complimentary bag of coffee (mine coarse ground for my favoured preparation method and the teens roasted beans), we admitted we were caffeine-d out; dilated pupils, muddled brain, barely able to string a sentence together, all of it.

When I finally returned to some level of normality I realised I had taken it all in, I now had a greater understanding of the coffee-making process and the science behind it. So hopefully when I speak to the one or two coffee roasters I know locally I can sound vaguely knowledgable. I’m never going to make a high-class barista, but I’m content that I know a bit more about what I’m drinking.

the cool coffee beans being packaged for us to take home

the cool coffee beans being packaged for us to take home

teen looking very pleased with her special coffee beans

teen looking very pleased with her special coffee beans, if slightly dazed after the amount of caffeine consumed

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Filed under festival food, Food festival, local produce, photography, Sources and suppliers

Shoreditch grind

I recently read a post by fellow food blogger Food for Think about new London expresso bar Shoreditch grind. In North Wales we are somewhat deprived of eating places, let alone cool coffee bars, so on my frequent jaunts to London I take the opportunity to indulge my yearning for a nice meal or two.

As I travelled down on the train this week, I texted a friend to arrange a lunch meet. Her text back went as follows

“Want to check out new cool coffee shop in East London

A little light bulb flickered in my head

“It isn’t called the Shoreditch Grind by any chance is it”? I replied

Two hours later we were ensconced in a pair of window seats looking out over Old Street roundabout and mulling over the menu. I admit I went with some trepidation, hoping that the glitches highlighted in the food for think post had now been ironed out.  It was after all nearly a week later.

It was still easy to tell that it was early days, I wouldn’t say the staff had reached the point of calm confidence, but they were friendly, helpful and not too stressed.

Shoreditch grind serves as another trendy addition to an area that I have seen change so much over the past 11 years (my Mum used to work for Jubilee 2000 which once had its home on Great Eastern Street; I used to visit her there from time to time). I loved its quirky, reclaimed, industrial appearance, enhanced by cool design features (spiral stairs, lights, old school type of chairs) and a soundtrack of 80’s music. One complaint was that we both found the stools pretty uncomfortable. My friend who is quite small struggled to actually stay on hers!

teapigs tea

There was a small but enticing range of food on offer. My friend and I both ordered toasted ciabatta rolls, hers with rocket, salami and mozzerella and mine with cheddar ham and piccalilli. They were a little flat afer toasting and slightly hard going on the teeth but tasted good, mine oozed with piccalilli which slightly overpowered the other flavours.

I loved the stylish little touches, from the crumpled cup style water glasses and the opportunity to help myself to endless top ups, to the counter top jars full of intriguing looking teas from ethical tea suppliers teapigs and fresh mint leaves which gave off their pungent scent at the counter as we paid for our food.

the crumpled cup style water glasses

I drank a creamy latte while my friend ordered a cappuccino to accompany her cake, which we had both chosen before our sandwiches had even arrived! We ordered a raspberry crumble muffin and a pear and lavender cake. It was rather disconcerting to have our food served in paper bags, even when we were obviously sitting in and I hope they do provide plates in the future. Having said this when we asked at the counter if they had a knife so we could cut our cakes in half to share, they were happy to cut them for us and provide plates.

Both cakes were delicious. The muffin was light, fruity and the topping crumble sweet and crispy whilst the pear and almond cake was deliciously moist, the lavender a pleasing compliment to the pear. There is always the risk that lavender can overwhelm other flavours, but the small sprinkling didn’t, its flowery essence gave a little hit every now and again.

the fruity insides of my muffin!

yummy cakes

The staff were friendly and there was no hint of discord, or any attempt to hurry us as my friend and I sat and chatted endlessly.

I really hope the Shoreditch Grind finds its feet and establishes itself. It is a welcome addition and a great antidote to the indistinct tedium of the Starbucks and Cafe Nero’s of this world. The only reason we popped into Starbucks on the way out was to use the loo. As soon as ‘the Grinds’ are up and running there will no longer be a need to even go near the place!

Shoreditch Grind can be found at;

213 Old Street, London, EC1V 9NR

020 7490 7490





Filed under British food, eating out