Maruyama Coffee Experiences

A single-origin espresso served in a wide-brimmed demitasse cup at Maruyama Single Origin in Aoyama, Tokyo, part of an espresso set where the same coffee is served in two different cups.Earlier this week, I wrote about the Maruyama Single Origin store in Aoyama, one of my favourite after-work haunts when I’m working in Tokyo. It’s a lovely coffee shop in its own right, offering the sort of high-end service that I’ve come to expect from visits to other Maruyama locations, such as Nishi Azabu and Nagano Station. However, the single origin store goes one step further, with the focus even more firmly on the coffee.

As well as only serving single-origins (a typical Maruyama will have seven different blends), there are delights such as an espresso and cappuccino set (effectively a split shot or one-and-one) and, a new one on me, the same espresso served in two different cups. About the only thing that Maruyama Single Origin doesn’t offer is a filter tasting flight, but since there are always four or five samples for you try on the downstairs counter, it’s almost the same thing.

Naturally, I had to indulge, and, over the span of several visits, I put these various coffee experiences through their paces. Rather than try to cram them all into my write-up of Maruyama Single Origin, I decided to dedicate this Saturday Supplement to my experiences.

Continue reading

London Coffee Festival 2019: Coffee Experiences

Three different types of cup: open (front), tulip (back left) and split (back right) at the La Cimbali Sensory Session at the 2019 London Coffee Festival. What impact do they have on your perception of taste?Welcome to the third and final detailed write-up of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place last month at the Old Truman Brewery. Along with my overall Festival Round-up, so far I’ve written about the coffee and the coffee kit. Today’s the turn of one of my festival highlights, my coffee experiences.

But what do I mean by “coffee experiences”? These are the events that go around the coffee itself, such as coffee cuppings, roasting demos and coffee/food pairings. They’ve been very popular over recent years, with the festival running practical, skills-based events such as Latte Art Live and Home Barista Workshops. There have also been experiences such as The Tasting Room (with subjects ranging from tea to Vermouth) and The Flavour Discovery, a multi-sensory journey from Union Hand-roasted!

As in previous years, most of these events were pre-ticketed, with limited numbers at each event. As a result, I only attended one, the annual La Cimbali Sensory Series, which I only managed to attend thanks to a kind invitation from La Cimbali! Hosted by the fabulous Rob Ward, he manages, year after year, to invent with some new way to challenge the senses and educate at the same time.

Continue reading

Discourse Coffee

The sign hanging outside Discourse Coffee in Sister Bay, Door County.If you haven’t worked it out already, I’m in America, the Midwest to be precise, taking a long road trip that began in Chicago, with me working my way up the west coast of Lake Michigan, stopping at Kickapoo Coffee in Milwaukee. Today’s Coffee Spot is from Door County, the peninsular that sticks out into the lake north/east of Green Bay. I went there to enjoy the countryside and the lake views, but much like Flagstaff earlier in the year, I found great coffee as well, this time in the shape of Discourse Coffee, which subtitles itself “a liquid workshop”.

Run by the friendly and enthusiastic Ryan since July 2017, Discourse will take you on a journey through coffee. As well as offering a standard(ish) espresso-based menu from the single-group Slayer on the counter, there’s batch-brew and pour-over using the innovative Phoenix 70 dripper from Saint Anthony Industries. However, the fun’s only just starting, since Discourse offers a regularly-changing cast of latte-based drinks with some very interesting flavour combinations. All this is served in a lovely, cosy, basement-like space that you really have to seek out, so the only people who are there are those who really want to be.

Continue reading

London Coffee Festival 2015: La Cimbali Sensory Sessions

The front of La Cimbali's Coffee Notebook, given away as part of the Sensory Sessions at the London Coffee Festival.Welcome to the third of my detailed London Coffee Festival Saturday Supplements. If you want to know what I made of the festival as a whole, take a look at my round-up. In this series, I’ll be covering individual aspects of the festival. In the first two instalments I’ve looked at all the interesting coffee kit that I came across and written about my coffee experiences. Now it’s the turn of something quite special.

I’ve recently returned from the Pacific Northwest, where I had the pleasure of visiting the likes of Portland’s Either/Or, with its espresso and beverage flights, and Seattle’s Slate Coffee Roasters where I had an amazing, one-on-one coffee tasting flight. To follow that up, I want to tell you about one of the highlights of this year’s Coffee Festival, the excellent La Cimbali sensory sessions.

Located in the main hall, about halfway up on the left-hand side, La Cimbali has always brought innovative ideas to the London Coffee Festival, but this year it surpassed itself with its sensory sessions. These highlighted the impact of taste (and our other senses) on how we perceive coffee and on how the way we prepare coffee can radically change our perceptions.

Continue reading

Coffee Tasting Flight at Slate

The sign from the window of Slate Coffee Roasters in Seattle: the words 'SLATE COFFEE ROASTERS', one word per lineEvery now and then something comes along that is so special that it immediately jumps out at you. Such is the case with the wonderful Slate Coffee Roasters of Seattle and its amazing coffee tasting flight. Slate is a coffee shop/roaster that has been going for a couple of years now and somewhere where the focus is more clearly on the coffee than anywhere else I’ve been. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the coffee tasting flight.

I’ve written about Slate as a Coffee Spot in its own right, while this Saturday Supplement is solely about a detailed description of the coffee tasting flight because I feel it deserves the attention. I’d already been forewarned by my friend Kate Beard about Slate and its amazing deconstructed espresso (more of which later), but it was the coffee tasting flight that jumped out at me, partly because it has no price attached.

Why? Because the coffee tasting flight is pretty much what you make of it and its charged accordingly. Think of it as a 45 minute, personal curated coffee tour. Want to taste the same coffee four different ways? No problem. Want to explore the differences between processing methods? You got it.

June 2019: My visit to Slate was one of my personal Coffee Spot highlights. I’m therefore deeply saddened to learn of reports of mistreatment of the staff.

Continue reading

Birthday Coffee Tasting

The set-up at my Birthday Coffee Tasting at Bar des ArtsI celebrated my birthday last weekend by inviting a group of friends down to the closest thing I have to a local, Guildford’s Bar des Arts, for a coffee tasting. I’d originally been given the idea by Lee Hall of Matthew Algie when he did a similar demo at the Caffé Culture Show. There he put two different coffees through a pour-over filter and a Chemex and I was astounded by how different they tasted.

So, when thinking about how I wanted to celebrate my birthday, I could think of nothing better than surrounding myself with some friends and replicating this experiment. I approached Bradley of Horsham Coffee Roaster, who supplies Bar des Arts, and he provided three very different coffees for us to try. Meanwhile, I brought along my trusty Aeropress (and one of the guests, Richard, brought his down) to go with Bar des Arts pour-over filters and cafetiere.

So, the scene was set for an afternoon of good company, coffee tasting and cake (although, very disappointingly, I seem to have taken exactly no pictures of the cake!).

Continue reading