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…


A Taste of Local Australian Grown Coffee

IMG_4756My last outing with the crew of Bean Brewding, those staunch advocates of the Brisbane coffee scene, was the Walking Coffee Tour of Fortitude Valley in August 2014, which I wrote a little about here. Now twelve months on, and having seen the “Beans” continue their great run of tours over that period, a recent event over the weekend provided a great opportunity to get involved again.

This time around, a morning of tasting some Australian grown and roasted coffee from Moonshine Coffee Roasters, held at PUK Espresso, at Kangaroo Point — in the shadow of Brisbane’s Story Bridge. Having not had occasion to visit PUK before, I was keen to head along, and also sample some coffee from a local Australian grower and roaster.

Moonshine Coffee Roasters are located (just down the road really) in the hills at Federal, in northern NSW, inland from Byron Bay:

Coffee has been grown and roasted in these hills since before we were born. It’s just been kept a little quiet, the Moonshine way.

I certainly couldn’t think of a better way to start a mild Saturday morning in August than with some Moonshine.

The Coffee

IMG_4750As I arrived at PUK things were kicking off right on time, with a brew of the 2014/15 harvest Natural Process from Moonshine just out of the Aeropress.

I had high hopes the coffee would be good, however was pleasantly surprised with the depth and complexity of flavour. Brewed through the Aeropress, the filter roast on offer was low on acidity, however extremely well-balanced, with medium body and a lovely smooth, creamy mouthfeel – like a velvety coating, which lingered long after the prominent caramel flavour subsided.

Next up, the kind folks at PUK took our orders for a complimentary espresso based coffee which would showcase the Moonshine Blend on offer at the cafe. Mine? A simple espresso of course.

This also gave me a chance to snap a few pics and take in the dry aroma of some of the freshly ground Natural I had just sampled. Nutty and earthy are terms that come to mind, which sometimes can be a little unnerving in a naturally processed coffee, however as I’ve mentioned above, this one was a beauty.

IMG_4766Onwards to the espresso, which was short, thick and dark. Here the taste belied the appearance. I found the espresso quite intriguing. In many ways it was a more concentrated form of the filter brew: mild acidity, medium on body with creamy coating in mouthfeel, with big caramel and chocolate notes. Again, the finish kept on and on. The blend served at PUK contains the locally grown variety from Federal, along with other seasonal offerings from around the globe.

I’ll certainly be back to PUK again very soon, I can guarantee that. It is a calming space, with plenty of shady outdoor seating, friendly staff, and of course great coffee.

So with the morning’s event over, off I went with enough complimentary Moonshine coffee to fuel my Hario V60 filter brews for a few days as well — a nice touch.

The Finish

Another successful Bean Brewding event under my belt, and from discussions on IMG_4767the day with the guys, the local coffee tours will keep rolling on, and there are some new and exciting possibilities also in the pipeline.

If you have an interest in coffee around Brisbane, or just coffee itself, check out Bean Brewding on the web or Facebook for upcoming events, all of which are extremely well supported by local speciality coffee establishments. It is simply a great way to get an inside look and learn from industry experts you may otherwise not have access to in a very non intimidating way.

Thanks to Bean Brewding, PUK Espresso and Moonshine Roasters for an extremely enjoyable morning.


Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web by those wiser than myself:

Craft
With my Rhodia Ice 80th Anniversary Notebooks on their way, a timely interview with Scott Druce, Co-founder of Notemaker, one of Australia’s premier on-line stationery stores, from which my order has been shipped:
Craft Cubed Interview – Notemaker

Baristafail
An introspective piece from Josh Russell of Brisbane Specialty Roaster Cup Coffee, now 5 years on. I can happily say I have the opportunity to enjoy superb coffee roasted by Cup on a daily basis, for which I am eternally grateful. What else am I grateful for? Sentiment such as this:

Good coffee is putting people before the product. The product is then made better because of this.

I’ve met Josh a few times, and do not know him well, though I would put money on him achieving and sustaining the three personal goals he lists at the end of the post. A stand up local guy done good:
Long Term Goals

The Weekend Edition
Whether or not the events alluded to in this article about the merger of Cup Coffee (refer Cup link in Baristafail above for more information) and Coffee Supreme in any way relate to the sentiment above is not my business. In any event, as a keen consumer of coffee in Brisbane, I look forward to any step in the evolution of the industry as a whole (if it must change so be it, though I’ve always loved the Cup branding):
Cup Coffee Roasters pairs up with Coffee Supreme

Asian Efficiency
Although I find mind mapping incredibly useful, I probably don’t use the technique as much as I should. The guys at AE have posted a great article on a specific use of the technique to condense and consolidate information:
Mind Mapping for Condensing Material

Pennaquod
Over the past 6 months I have been furiously Pinboarding pen, paper and ink reviews for the time I may need to refer back before a future purchase. Perhaps Ian Hedley has now saved me the trouble, recently launching this “penblog search engine”, which aims to avoid the many ad listings which confront any product search these days, with pens and paper no different. There are some great sites already signed up, and I’m sure many more to follow. What a fantastic idea (and already in my favourites bar of course):
Pennaquod: The pen blog searcher

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
I must admit I clicked the Twitter link to this review yesterday from Ian with a little trepidation, as I had purchased a bottle of De Atramentis Permanent Blue a few hours before seeing it. As the link was loading my thoughts were of course – oh no, what if this is really bad?. Thankfully it seems to be a decent ink, and I do like the colour. By the way, if you need a few (hundred) other opinions, type this ink into the search engine at Pennaquod and have at it:
De Atramentis Document Ink Blue ink review

Jet Pens
I’ve been working my way through a trio of Pilot G–2’s recently, seeing if I can find a sweet spot out of the 0.38mm, 0.5mm or 0.7mm. It’s looking like the 0.5mm, however the G–2 is not my first choice for a cheap everyday pen (at the time they were the only locally available brand in three sizes). One I have not tried as yet is the Zebra Sarasa, which is high on my list. No doubt I will have a quick flick through the following guide prior to any purchase:
Zebra Sarasa: A Comprehensive Guide

Pen Paper Ink Letter
I’ve often thought I must test or at least seek out some nice brown ink. Perhaps due to a subconscious desire to combine my love off coffee and pens, though more likely simply because there are some great brown inks out there. Heath from PPIL has been hard at work looking at some recently, and, as you will see in the accompanying images to each post, some inks are brown (perhaps with a hint of red), and some, well…, aren’t. Thankfully inks are not bought on name alone:
Fountain Pen Ink Review: Waterman Absolute Brown
Fountain Pen Ink Review: Noodler’s Burma Road Brown

The Typist
Reviewing my app purchases for any business related expenses at tax time just about drives me crazy, so I cannot even imagine the amount of effort that went into this post. As I read the article this made me cringe:

To my surprise, there was no easy way to export all iTunes & App Store purchases to a spreadsheet. So yes, I’ve gone through 90 e-mail receipts that contained 126 purchases, adding the above metadata to each individual purchase.

Of particular interest is the overall amount spent on Apps over a four year period, and just how many remain on the device. A fascinating article and definitely one worth reading:
Four Years in Apple’s Ecosystem: An Expenses Report

The Bean Brewding Walking Coffee Tour

A brisk August Saturday morning, with many Brisbane locals headed to the Ekka. My wife and I? Something much bigger. The date had finally rolled around for the Bean Brewding Walking Coffee Tour of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Both my legs and palate were ready for a big morning ahead.

Background

Glenn, George and Ben of Bean Brewding describe their website as “the collaboration of three Brisbane coffee drinkers”. In addition to reviewing various independent coffee establishments (league table on the site), they also aim to “to promote the Brisbane coffee scene with quality, quirky and ethical establishments”.

I have been a regular reader of the blog and enthusiastic Twitter follower for some time now, and was keen to get on board with the latest coffee tour, after reading about the tours that had been run in the previous 2 years. I also find I tend to become ‘local’ to one or two establishments, and probably don’t visit and experience as many great coffee destinations around town as I should, and this was a chance to do just that, with a few other like-minded individuals.

What follows is not intended to be an in-depth rundown of the tour, however highlights what you might expect to experience should you decide to join the guys on one in the future.

The Coffee Tour

1. Bear Bones Espresso – Exploring coffee roasting

Tour assembly at Bear Bones Espresso
Tour assembly at Bear Bones Espresso

The first stop for a pre-tour pick me up and breakfast fuel-up was Bear Bones Espresso in McLachlan St Fortitude Valley (whom deserve a special thank you for opening on a Saturday just for the tour). A quick meet and greet from our guides, along with receipt of our tour “passports” and itinerary began the day smoothly. It was the responsibility of owner Trent and the Bear Bones team to educate these ‘tourists’ on the key principles of roasting the humble green bean.

A pre-tour chat and slideshow from their visit to Ethiopia also provided a fantastic background into the growing, harvesting, processing and buying which occurs in a typical coffee country at origin.

This was followed by a demonstration of a couple of roasts through the sample roaster on the premises, and I was grateful for the opportunity to put some green beans through myself. Somehow the whole process seemed a little more sophisticated than my breadmaker and heat gun roasting set up in the backyard at home.

It was great start to the tour, and also gave me some ideas for improving the roasting profiles I use at home, and introduced some concepts I had been unfamiliar with, for example the “double roast”, where the beans are pulled out early and cooled, before being reintroduced to the roaster to continue the process (the aim being to allow the outer surface of the bean to contract by cooling; locking in more of the flavour producing compounds). Interesting – though perhaps a little sophisticated for my skill level.

Roasting at Bear Bones Espresso
Roasting at Bear Bones Espresso

A few final words, bagging of the beans I had roasted to take home, a Bear Bones bag of coffee for each tour member, and we were on our way. A great way to start the tour, and if you are ever in the area, go and have a chat to the guys and have a look at the fantastic art on the walls while you’re there.

Bear Bones Espresso
2/66 McLachlan St
Fortitude Valley
Web: bearbones.com.au
Facebook: bearbonesespresso
Twitter: @bearbonesbris
Instagram: @bearbonesespresso

2. Bellissimo Coffee – The art of espresso based coffee

A leisurely few minutes of walking saw us arrive at the bustling Bellissimo Coffee in Wandoo St. Thankfully a dedicated space was set up to accommodate the tour so we did not disturb the regulars enjoying their Saturday morning cup or two.

Here we were provided with a background on the principles of making great espresso at home, a demonstration, and the chance to step up and give it a go ourselves. As both a manual brew drinker and user of a home based espresso machine for many years now, it was nice to hear most of the principles and techniques I follow are still considered best practice, and I can happily continue to work on improving my consistency at home.

Further discussion ensued around the merits of spending your hard-earned cash on home equipment, and on which specific aspects of a home set-up this should be spent on. Thankfully the conclusions were generally in line with the advice I often give when asked, which is, to save a bit of money on the machine to put towards a decent grinder. I am sure “grind on demand” is firmly etched into a holy tablet somewhere.

To finish we received an information sheet containing a 10% discount voucher for Bellissimo and a round of takeaway orders to keep us on schedule. We then sipped a beautiful creamy Bellissimo blend all the way to our next destination.

Bellissimo Coffee
30 Wandoo St
Fortitude Valley
Web: bellissimocoffee.com.au
Facebook: BellissimoRoast
Twitter: @BellissimoRoast
Instagram: @BellissimoRoast

3. Blue Sky Coffee – Alternate coffee brew methods

Next!

Blue Sky Coffee is certainly an impressive space, with a cafe fronting Commercial Rd, roastery at the rear, and enough space in between to set up some brewing stations for events of high importance such as coffee tours and the like. Danny and the Blue Sky team had three separate stations set up where we learned techniques, and sampled coffee brewed from the V60 Pourover, Espro Press, and Capsule/Pod machines.

As you can imagine, two of those three stations resulted in great brews, however you cannot dismiss the burgeoning capsule market, nor deny the merit in efforts by specialty roasters to provide alternatives to the current mass-produced capsules.

The Blue Sky Team
The Blue Sky Team

A favourite of mine was the V60 lesson, as the majority of my manual brewing at home is done with this device, and I am always keen to see how professionals brew using this technique. I generally never leave without managing to pick up a few hints, and this occasion was no different.

With a view to finishing the tour with a bang, I managed to discuss a few more details on brewing equipment with the staff, and purchased a set of Hario scales to enhance my home brewing endeavours. In addition, I downed an espresso made on a beautiful Ethiopian single origin, and picked up some Kenya Gattina beans to brew at home. All this, along with the $5.00 Blue Sky Credit given to each member of the touring party and some complimentary food, lead me to conclude I had done pretty well for the day.

Blue Sky Coffee
32 Commercial Rd
Newstead
Web: blueskycoffee.com.au
Facebook: BlueSkyCoffee
Twitter: @blueskycoffee
Instagram: @blueskycoffee

In Conclusion

What can I say? My wife and I had fantastic morning out with a bunch of like-minded coffee tragics/nerds/enthusiasts (however you would like to describe us), along with our friends from the Wired Owl Coffee Co. Yes, the tour was primarily about coffee, however to me, events like these are as much about support and appreciation as they are about learning and fun.

The three ‘beans’ of Bean Brewding all hold full-time jobs, and it is no mean feat to get something like this up and running, let alone have the day go so smoothly and run to time as planned. In addition to a great learning opportunity, I derive just as much satisfaction from being able to support small, independent operations, whether they are blogs, tours, writers, or podcasts, and have a mountain of Teespring shipping receipts that will attest to this.

The Bean Brewding guys have shown a great deal of commitment, organisation, effort, and ultimately courage to pull the trigger and say “the tour is on” – and hopefully then sell enough tickets required to make it a success. Believe me, it was the best $35.00 I have spent in some time. Congratulations guys, your effort is much appreciated.

The bonus here? An exploration into something I am just a little obsessed with; a local, easily accessible event; and a fantastic bunch of industry folk happy to get behind the tour, who generously gave up their time to provide something pretty unique, and are not only passionate about their craft, but extremely willing to educate those far less knowledgable than themselves. A big thank-you to all those from Bear Bones, Bellissimo and Blue Sky who made the day such a success.

Keep an eye on the Bean Brewding blog for upcoming events, particularly the Coffee Tour page, or follow Twitter or Instagram for snippets and great photos of their travels around the Brisbane coffee scene. Thankfully there are future tours planned, and should I have the opportunity for another, I hope to see you there.

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Santa Clara

It’s a great time to sample some superb Guatemalan coffee in Brisbane at the moment, and I have also been in on the act by roasting some myself. Cup Coffee have a Santa Clara showcase of sorts, currently offering washed, honey and fully natural processed versions for sale, many of which have also found their way into a cup or two at Strauss Café & Bar in the CBD.

On a recent order of green beans from Ministry Grounds, I picked up some of the fully washed Santa Clara to roast and brew at home.

Coffee

  • Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
    Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala Santa Clara

  • City: Antigua
  • Altitude: 1600–1830m above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully Washed and patio dried
  • Owner: Zelaya family

The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the 4th generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara. The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows one of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

While tracking down some information for this post, I also came across a brief interview with the owner of the Santa Clara Farm, Ricardo Zelaya, conducted when he visited Melbourne in 2013. He talks about managing the farm, plans for the future, and how he drinks his coffee. You can find it on the Market Lane Coffee blog.

Brew Methods

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso (+ Kalita Wave at Strauss Café & Bar)

Impressions

As I mentioned earlier, this shade grown coffee is processed by both wet and dry methods, and if you can, it is a worthwhile endeavour to sample both.

As I have now begun roasting each coffee more specifically for espresso and filter based consumption, this and most future posts will discuss my impressions from this perspective (that is, two separate roast batches with different roast profiles). In the past, I have written on the basis of a single roast profile for all types of drinks.

As a morning latte or flat white, the Santa Clara performed really well in milk. It created a creamy, smooth drink, with a good chocolatey base, and some of the fruity flavours peeking through as well. A very, very enjoyable way to start the day. As espresso, also very enjoyable, a bright cup, with a pleasant level of acidity, medium body and a lovely creamy mouthfeel.

The filter roast performed equally well in the Aeropress and V60 Pourover, the V60 resulting in a more delicate, refined brew as expected. Both demonstrated a fresh, bright cup, again the acidity was pleasant, with enough body to make a great “winter warming” brew consumed sitting in the sun on a cool winter afternoon. This perhaps clouded my judgement of the Aeropress (consumed at my office desk), given sitting in the backyard sunshine carries an obvious environmental advantage! Again, nice fruity flavours with chocolate and citrus in both forms of brewing.

Finally, a brief mention of my thoughts on the variety of processing options on offer at Strauss Café & Bar, which were all sampled through the Kalita Wave. My pick would be the natural process, which seemed to enhance the stone fruit flavours a little more, and at times was reminiscent of a juicy grape. Not the most elegant of descriptions probably, however hopefully you get my drift. That is all I have to say on this point – remember, I do not do café reviews.

Final Thoughts

Loved it.

Probably one of the more enjoyable coffees I have roasted and brewed this year. I must admit, the cool weather of late has made it a little easier to control my roasts (given they are done outside), and with a little experimentation, I feel these have been improving over time as well. I’ll be disappointed when the last of the Santa Clara goes through the grinder, however there may be something even more enjoyable up ahead. After all, isn’t that the basis for the journey?

Rating: 4.5/5