What’s Brewing: Volcan Azul Natural – Costa Rica

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Image courtesy Wolff Coffee Roasters

One of the many benefits in having close and dear friends in the coffee industry is what follows shortly after the statement: “we’ve got something coming in you’ve gotta try”. Queue something a little special by Wolff Coffee Roasters having made its way to our friends at The Wired Owl Coffee Co in Sandgate.

On this occasion? A naturally processed coffee from Costa Rica, produced by Alejo Castro under the Volcan Azul name, which itself has a long history in the global coffee industry:

At the end of the 19th century, when coffee production was in its early beginnings in America, without knowing it, two pioneers and entrepreneurs, Alejo C. Jiménez in Costa Rica and Wilhelm Kahle in the south of Mexico, shared the same dream: “To produce the best coffee in the world” to satisfy the new demanding European gourmet market.

More than a century has passed and today the fourth and fifth generations of descendants of these visionary farmers still produce coffee within the same ideals of excellency and top quality that inspired their ancestors. They produce one of the best pure coffees of the world with its Brand “F.C.J. Volcan Azul” on the slopes of the Poás Volcano in Costa Rica.

Information courtesy Volcan Azul – Tradition

The coffee inside the brightly labelled Wolff Roasters bag certainly carries such an esteemed tradition with distinction.

This is a seriously tasty coffee, masterfully roasted by the folk at Wolff, and will also be used by competitors at this year’s 2017 QLD Aeropress Championships. I can’t help but think the judges are certainly in for a treat that day.

Upon grinding, there is a brown sugar aroma with a hint of orange and lemon zest. Consumed as espresso, there is a lovely caramelised sweetness, medium body, and a bright citrus zing. A sweet, fresh and delightful cup — think sweet lemon tart.

When prepared as a flat white, the added sweetness and viscosity of the milk really makes this coffee shine. This one is the full lemon meringue pie — that is the honest truth. I’m the first to admit not all of the flavours listed on coffee bags always find their way into my cup, (mostly likely a combination of brewing differences and simply my palate being responsible for that). This one, however, is exactly as it says on the tin:

The pleasantly sweet aftertaste reminds us of meringue with hints of vanilla. With milk, the Volcán Azul is creamy and biscuity, with hints of lemon curd.

I mean it — a lemon meringue pie in a six-ounce cup. Not only that, but a perfect way to sneak in dessert for breakfast. A winner all round I say. I was even tempted to over-aerate my milk just to get that meringue look on top, but hey, this isn’t the 90’s anymore…

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Breakfast is served

Of course I don’t expect you to take my word for it, and if you are on Brisbane’s Northside, pop in and grab a bag from The Wired Owl (227 Rainbow St, Sandgate), or Wolff Roasters (140 Gerler Rd, Hendra). The Wolff online store is also just a click away — wherever you are.

My Pick? Visit Aaron at The Wired Owl, and depending on what is featured as the single origin that day — he might even make you a cup.

Whatever your taste preferences, this is certainly a great one to try. Get some while you can!

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A Coffee Appreciation Course – Extraction Artisan Coffee

Crossing the threshold to greater coffee knowledge…

If I am entirely honest, a good few of my Saturday afternoons are spent reading or napping on the couch. Sure, there may be lawn mowing or other activities involved, however external educational opportunities are not the norm. Let’s face it, my favourite segment of the weekend – with all of it’s promise – often finds me in a comfortable chair, utilising the I’ve got all day tomorrow to (insert procrastinated activity here) principle.

That being said, last weekend provided an opportunity too good to pass up, and the chair received a wave goodbye as I headed out the door on my way to Extraction Artisan Coffee’s inaugural Coffee Appreciation Course. It was obviously not too difficult a decision to go and learn from a very passionate and knowledgeable professional in Danny Andrade, whose acquaintance I made several years ago when he worked as a barista in the Brisbane CBD.

Social media and the occasional Bean Brewding Coffee Tour have provided a means with which to follow along as Danny’s coffee career has progressed, and I was over the moon to see the initial teasers a little over a year ago as Extraction Artisan Coffee began to take shape. It looked like my kind of place — and even better — is on my side of town.

Always on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about coffee and refine my home roasting and brewing skills, I enthusiastically ventured to Extraction in the knowledge I’d be leaving far better off in these areas than when I arrived. Really — is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

The Course

Theory

The afternoon began in an upstairs meeting room, with Danny taking us through some slides explaining and illustrating many things, including but not limited to: the taxonomy of coffee; how it is grown and produced; processing methods; and world coffee production, farming, and trade relationships (including Extraction’s philosophy and future plans in this area).

Passed around the room were various green bean samples from different countries, growing elevations and processing methods, along with some examples of green bean defects which need to be removed prior to roasting.

A recurring and very important theme throughout this part of the course was the immense amount of resources required, and the inherent difficulty in producing specialty grade coffee. Those working hard to improve the industry — whether back at the farm or at your favourite café — are certainly worthy of our respect and support.

Roasting

Roasting theory

Next it was downstairs to the roasting room adjacent to the café itself, where we observed a washed Colombian coffee go through the sample roaster. Here we learned some more specifics about the phases of roasting, and Danny’s particular approach at Extraction, which aims to preserve and highlight as many of the flavours in the coffee as possible.

After tracking the time, temperature and key points within the roast, we had a look at the resulting curve produced, and compared that with a recently completed roast profile of the 10kg production roaster Danny uses to keep the Extraction grinder hoppers full of either single origin coffee or the signature Gratitude Blend. A quick colour analysis on the sample roast confirmed it was to the required medium-light level, and we then moved onto the sensory stage of the course.

Sensory training and cupping

A few of those aroma samples

With a lot of thought and no shortage of competitive spirit after splitting into two groups, it was time for some aroma analysis and identification using the Le Nez du Café aroma kit. With our olfactory systems doing their best to identify the various samples, we eventually reached a little sensory fatigue on the last few aromas.

Overall I think we did pretty well, and whether I was in the “runner up” group or just the one which had the “harder” of the two series of samples I’ll leave for you to decide. I’ll be sure to make note of that cooked beef aroma next time I’m in the kitchen!

Next up, the familiar slurp of a cupping room, as we compared a washed process Colombian coffee with an Ethiopian natural, assessing and noting the contrast (origin differences aside) and effect different processing methods impart on the resulting cup. Along the way we also learned more about the methods and importance of cupping, and how it relates to what is ultimately served in the café.

Brewing

Espresso theory

Once our taste buds had been awakened, we were keen to move onto espresso and manual brewing, the result of which was always going to be plenty of drinking and tasting. We worked through some espresso brewing and extraction theory, with Danny providing tasting samples from across the extraction (certainly not the usual Extraction) spectrum.

Comparing under, ideal, and over extracted espresso, I must say it is the first time (and what will no doubt be the only one) in about 8 years that I have ever received sub-par espresso passed from Danny across the bar. Jokes aside, the intended lesson was heeded, with a group of twisted faces savouring not one moment of the sour, under extracted cup, with the bitter, over-extracted version not fairing much better.

Check out what I – umm… I mean Danny created

With the knowledge of what we were not aiming to produce, we were then let loose (with close supervision) on the Mythos One grinder and VA388 Black Eagle gravimetric espresso machine (yes — I did notice a couple of differences compared to my Baratza/Sunbeam combo at home). We all managed to produce espresso within Danny’s requisite brew parameters, and with a little further assistance, managed to top them off with some textured milk. I wouldn’t call what was on top any sort of art as such, however they were certainly enjoyable to drink, and it was nice to put a few key principles together and enjoy a successful result in the cup.

Finally, and with Danny giving up a lot more of his valuable time than originally planned, we moved on to manual brewing, looking at the V60, Trinity One, immersion cold brewing and cold drip. Once some preceding theory and brew parameters were discussed, much tasting ensued, with a controlled fermentation processed coffee a very fruity highlight.

The finish

While scouring the internet and reading books are valuable learning methods in their own right — there is nothing quite like having a passionate, knowledgeable, and very successful industry expert graciously passing on some of that knowledge to those enthusiastically seeking a better understanding of the subject at hand. The Coffee Appreciation Course at Extraction was a perfect example of that.

The key concepts, principles and theory are important, as are their practical application, however an opportunity like this goes far beyond a simple learning exercise. It’s about hearing a philosophy. The reasons behind a certain approach — and thinking about those reasons a little more fully. It’s about understanding the meaning of it all in the grand scheme of things, and the people, processes and effects behind the entire chain of a particular coffee.

To me, that is what those few hours were all about. The intangible benefit of hearing about an entire philosophy, and its influence on everything up to, and including making a high quality cup of coffee. Something not able to be conveyed in its entirety on a screen or in print. It is here the value of a course like this really lies.

Extraction’s ‘Class of June 17’ (image courtesy Extraction Artisan Coffee)

Overall, it was a whole lot of fun. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative way to spend an afternoon, and certainly comes highly recommended from me if something like this sounds like it may interest you. My recommendation? Keep a sharp eye on the Extraction Artisan Coffee events page (the next Appreciation Course is being run on Saturday 29 July) and social media (Facebook, Instagram) for what is coming next. The team have plans…

The Bean Brewding Brisbane Northside Coffee Tour

Having attended a couple of Brisbane coffee tours run by Glenn and George at Bean Brewding over the last two or three years, I recently felt it was time to get along for another.

Green coffee at Semi-Pro

As I’ve mentioned before, the tours are a great way to discover new coffee destinations, or for places already familiar to you — experience a more detailed look “under the hood” at a cafe or roastery and hear more about the coffee industry itself. As an amateur enthusiast, after spending many years researching and learning about the craft, I can guarantee there is no better way to further develop your coffee skills and knowledge than interacting with those who work within the industry on a daily basis. Of course I’d also recommend any of the tours for simply a fun morning out with plenty of coffee — what’s not to like about that!

So, on a sunny Saturday morning in April, it was Brisbane’s Northside which played host to a dozen or so coffee tourists eager to see more, learn, and sample some of this town’s finest coffee offerings.

The Tour

Semi-Pro Coffee

Our first stop and meeting point was Semi-Pro coffee in North Lakes, where we took a closer look at coffee roasting. Gracious hosts Jason and Tim provided an insight into their roasting philosophy and processes, creating a profile for a naturally processed Brazilian coffee while we watched things unfold both in the roaster, and on the Cropster software in front of us.

Monitoring roasting curves at Semi-Pro

Some further discussion on topics such as rate of rise, charge temperature and development time (amongst other things), took us to the end of the session, by which time we had also sampled an earlier roast of the same full-bodied and nutty Brazilian coffee.

The tour that keeps on giving

After the freshly roasted coffee had sufficiently cooled, each of us bagged, labelled and sealed some to take home.

Certainly a fine way to start the tour and the morning.

Semi-Pro Coffee
6/37 Flinders Parade, North Lakes, QLD 4059
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The Wired Owl Coffee Co.

A sort trip down the road to Sandgate brought us to The Wired Owl Coffee Co, a real suburban gem and true destination venue in its own right, which coincidentally was celebrating its second birthday that very day. Owners Aaron and Tracey (along with a very efficient team) were on hand to ensure the visit was a success. Here the emphasis was on taking the time to stop, sit down, and enjoy some great coffee.

Oh and great it was indeed, with Aaron serving a naturally processed coffee from fifth generation El Salvador producer Aida Batlle, and sharing the story behind one of the highlights from the Wolff Roasters coffee offerings from the past year.

Aaron from The Wired Owl sharing the Aida Batlle story

Those on the tour tasted the Finca Kilimanjaro coffee as an espresso and a flat white, comparing the sweet and syrupy dark berry flavours of each. My pick – the espresso, however both were outstanding, and testament to the passion and high standard of quality and service you will find out in Brisbane’s suburbs if you know where to look.

A short note to mention that Aaron and Tracey are very dear friends, and nothing makes me prouder than watching their hard work develop The Wired Owl into one of Brisbane’s finest suburban cafés. So yes, perhaps I am a little biased, however I encourage you to visit for yourself and enjoy everything it has to offer.

The Wired Owl Coffee Co.
227 Rainbow St, Sandgate, 4017
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Neli Coffee

For the final stop on the tour it was back to a little science with Ed and Alex at Neli Coffee in Redcliffe. Here we learned about and compared the moisture content and density of various green coffees from different parts of the world.

Ed from Neli Coffee talking moisture content and bean density

After a quick trip outside to view and sample the sweetness of some coffee cherries growing in the Neli Coffee “car park microlot”, we moved onto sampling some of the renowned geisha varietal brewed by filter, some cleansing Cascara (a tea-like brew from the outer pulp of the dried coffee cherries), and of course a little more espresso.

A new kind of caffeine high

A demonstration of some new and innovative brewing methods also accompanied some general coffee Q&A (with prizes!), and was a great way to conclude the tour. As well as some great coffee, Neli’s soon to be renovated roastery and retail area has quite an array of devices for the home enthusiast and is well worth a visit.

Neli Coffee
293 Macdonnell Rd, Clontarf, 4019
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Summing Up

Another region of Brisbane, and another tour completed. I must admit to having an ever-increasing amount of knowledge relating to Brisbane’s coffee industry thanks to the team at Bean Brewding.

If there is one thing I would say about these tours, it is they are a relaxed, fun, and very informative way to expand your coffee skills and knowledge. For many attendees, coffee is of course not simply one of our favourite beverages, but a passionate enthusiasm for the craft itself, and the industry bringing it to us.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, attendance on a Bean Brewding Coffee Tour certainly comes highly recommended from me — whether you are new to specialty coffee or have been dabbling for some time. Either way, you’ll feel right at home and learn a considerable amount to help you on your journey — which in itself is likely to be a lifelong one.

The next tour? Find out more on the Bean Brewding Tour Page. If you cannot make it along, I’m thinking the next best thing would be some Bean Brewding freshly roasted coffee.

Related posts:

Bean Brewding Coffee Launch

Readers of the blog may recall I have attended the odd coffee tour around Brisbane, run by the friendly, yet professional team at Bean Brewding. I’ve written about some of those occasions in previous posts:

Now come the beans

Partnering with well-respected and award-winning local QLD roaster Manna Beans, you can now get your hands on some of Bean Brewding’s own roasted coffee for your home brewing needs.

Kicking things off with your choice of either a blend or single origin offering from El Salvador, the recently launched Bean Vault complements the Coffee Tour side of Bean Brewding perfectly. Judging by the tasting notes, either coffee will result in a great tasting cup, and a couple of bags of the aptly titled (and coffee tour themed) Great Day Out blend are on their way to my mailbox. I’m always particularly interested in blend expressions and interpretations, and this combination of Colombian, Brazilian, and Ethiopian origins sounds like a beauty – well worth an extra bag to pass onto a friend.

If you are thinking of sampling what I’d say will be a pretty impressive brew – now is the time to do it. For a limited time, the team are offering a Self-Guided coffee tour from their stable of offerings free with any bean purchase. Why not end up with a glimpse into the Bean Brewding tour portfolio as well as a bag of beans to boot?

The finish

With Bean Brewding having been in existence since 2010, George and Glenn’s limitless dedication, passion, and thirst for greater knowledge and understanding of coffee is only surpassed by their desire to share it with the broader Brisbane community.

With ties to the Brisbane coffee community strengthening with each year of tours, there was of course no better way to expand things a little further than with their own line of coffee.

I’d highly recommend giving the coffee a try, and perhaps we can compare tasting notes on a future tour…

Check out the coffee here.

The Bean Brewding Self-guided CBD Coffee Tour

2016-06-04 coffee_tour_frontSpecialty coffee has certainly enjoyed a rise in Brisbane over the past three or four years. Although a number of cafés and/or roasters have emerged in suburban areas, for workers in and around the CBD there has never been a better time to sample some of Brisbane’s finest coffee.

If you are inclined to agree, though are perhaps wondering where to start or visit next, Glenn and George at Bean Brewding have things well and truly covered. The team behind Brisbane’s first and only coffee tours (running since 2012) have devised a handy Self-guided CBD Coffee Tour, mapping your path to some of the better coffee stops across the city of Brisbane.

You can find out more about regular coffee tours of various regions in and around Brisbane, as well as other one-off events on the Bean Brewding Coffee Tour Page, and having attended several, I can highly recommend them.

The tour is a stroke of genius, and reminiscent of the “disloyalty” card which sprang up in London (or so I believe) a few years ago. Regardless of the name, the idea is to guide the budding sipper to establishments where great coffee is served, however might be outside the usual well-travelled radius from your office. Of course I should also acknowledge working in the Brisbane CBD is not a pre-requisite to enjoying the great coffee it has to offer either.

2016-06-04 coffee_tour_list

Listing eight cafés from Margaret St all the way across to Roma St and many in between, the tour operates in a similar way to the well-known loyalty card concept — in which your final stop (in this case the eighth coffee) is free. I’d argue however, the benefits of embarking on this journey far outweigh simply saving a few dollars.

In one sense, yes, it is a geographical journey around Brisbane’s CBD – however it is also a journey through different styles of coffee, roasters, brew methods, and cafe environments. It’s a way to experience something different, yet of a quality endorsed by some of Brisbane’s most experienced coffee drinkers. It’s choosing to step off that well-worn path from the office to your “local” and back.

For me, it is also the unexplored adventure of visiting somewhere a little different, in perhaps an unfamiliar environment — and revelling in the experience for a short while before that inevitable return to those elevator doors back at the office. If you think that’s overstating things a little, perhaps you don’t see your coffee and lunch breaks the same way I do. Fair enough — though either way, I believe you’ll enjoy this tour.

As they say, every journey begins with a single stamp (or something like that anyway), and I’m away. Of course as you can see, the one I have collected so far is at the end of that well-worn path I’ve referred to above, however I’ll get there. You see for me personally, my cafe life is a hopeless combination of familiarity and loyalty (the merits of which I am happy to vigorously defend), so I plan on using this card to do exactly what I’ve suggested above — sample the delights this city has to offer, and with the weather that little bit cooler, there has never been a better time to charge around the city.

So, whether you plan on working from top to bottom, or perhaps random number generating your way around — pick up a card from any of the participating cafe’s and get started. I’ll see you on the trail, or perhaps at the brew bar, and do check in with the hashtag brisbanecoffeetour — I’m sure the guys would enjoy hearing of your journey. Whichever way you go, might I suggest the idea is probably not to get through the entire list in one day.

Though I’m sure if we start early enough…