Twitter is fast becoming my favourite way to network and meet new like-minded people online. One of the most recent of those connections was through a family friend of mine who in turn put me in touch with some of his old workmates who now run a Brisbane based coffee blog website called Bean Brewding. If you’re not in Brisbane the site’s still worth a browse as it has lots of information, pictures and ideas for making coffee treats at home. If you are in Brisbane then this is fast becoming a local coffee bible that sniffs out and rates some of the city’s best coffee houses and roasteries. And on the 15 December 2012 Bean Brewding together with Yelp hosted the very first (hopefully of many to come) Bean Brewding Brisbane Coffee Tour—which I was lucky enough to get a personal invite to via my new found friends on Twitter!
The day started off at PUK Espresso which is a cute little coffee shop under a giant fig tree … both of which are dwarfed by the Storey Bridge that towers right above the shop! We were all welcomed into PUK’s art gallery out the back where we got to sample some of their delicious breakfast items and settled in to learn more about growing coffee.
Richard from Green Cauldron in Byron Bay NSW gave us an amazing insight into growing, cleaning and producing coffee in Australia; a practice that’s been going on since 1832! It was interesting to find out that many growers in Australia make up for the lack of altitude (which creates a cooler growing environment for the overseas coffee plantations) by dropping the latitude—basically moving further south to where the weather is cooler and more suitable for growing coffee. Our lack of insects and diseases over here means the coffee plants produce less caffeine (the plant’s natural defense mechanism), but there are still many challenges for the growers including the harsh Australian sun!
We got see and smell some raw coffee beans in their natural state, which had a really unique aroma, almost like the by-product from crushing grapes and stalks in the initial stages of wine making. Kind of fruity, but still very earthy. We then got to compare these to raw washed beans, which while they use a lot of water in the process, are much easier to sort and generate consistent flavours with when roasting and brewing.
I found particularly interesting that the natural beans can be cleaned using a mechanical process, therefore saving a lot of water that also becomes a potentially environmentally unfriendly by-product. Left over coffee berry flesh stuck to the beans after harvesting can be removed slightly or completely using the mechanical process, meaning the producer can vary the sweetness and distinctive flavour that the outer membrane produces by how much they remove or leave on the beans prior to roasting. Fascinating stuff.
Richard then provided us with our first coffee sample for the day, his very own single origin beans as a pour over through a ceramic V60 which we sipped black. It was very fruity in flavour and got more and more fragrant as the cup cooled over time.
We then piled into the Coffee Tour bus and made the short journey to Cup Coffee’s new roastery and coffee shop at Woolloongabba. Blink and you’d miss this place, with only a rustic looking sign stating ‘COFFEE’ denoting its existence. But once inside, wow, what a cool place.
With a bit of Melbourne and a bit of San Francisco, this raw yet funky space is just a fun place to hang out. We started out with some education about choosing beans to suit certain brewing processes and then got to both help and witness the roasting of about three kilograms of raw Ethiopian single origin beans. The roaster itself looked like it should be in a museum or art gallery—simply stunning to watch it in action. While the beans started roasting and cracking we were treated to a pour over that can only be described as the most translucent and delicate cup of black coffee I’ve ever had, simply divine. Speaking of divine, once Josh from Cup was happy with the level of roasting, the trap door at the front of the machine was opened and the beans came flooding out onto the cooling tray below. And the smell … well think about the aroma of freshly ground coffee first thing in the morning, mixed with freshly brewed coffee, and times that by about fifteen.
After the beans had been cooled by the roaster’s mechanical swishing arms, we all got to bag and take home our very own sample of freshly roasted Cup Coffee beans. A few of us then ordered some Doppios (espressos) of the same variety of beans to get a taste for them through the espresso machine. And oh what a machine. If you have never seen or tasted coffee from a ‘Slayer’ then you need to get in your car right now and go taste some. As a friend of mine recently put it, the Slayer machine is basically coffee pornography and to say that the machine is sexy is an understatement. The Slayer at Cup used what is known as ‘naked screens’ instead of the more traditional spouted group heads, and it was truly mesmerising to watch the pours.
We then got back into the bus to head over to Uncle Joe’s Coffee House at Coorparoo. The shop is very tastefully laid out, complete with a very funky Mirage espresso machine. Mark the chief roaster showed us his very generous hospitality, his extensive knowledge, but best of all he shared his passion for coffee that goes beyond what most people could even conceive. He talked about flavours and scientific processes. He spoke of spending years researching and experimenting with coffee, and shared with us the journey he had undertaken up until the present day. He even spoke about describing coffee flavours as colours as colour is more three dimensional and don’t rely on past experiences to express and analyse taste sensations.
We got to sample the Kenya Kamwangi AA as a piccolo and as a black AeroPress, the Yirgy Bear as a piccolo and finally to finish off the tour a chilled AeroPress of the Columbian Granja La Esperanza as a white iced coffee complete with a single floating ice cube.
Mark’s passion for coffee was truly inspiring. What impressed me even more was that with minimal signage and no advertising Mark is keen to keep the store as a word-of-mouth concept shop … meaning only those in the know with a passion for coffee will find out about it and frequent the store. What a gutsy, yet super-cool concept. I love it.
The bus then returned us to Kangaroo Point where we had started and we were already discussing when the next tour would be and where we should go! A great day was had by all I can’t thank all the wonderful people involved for one of the best mornings out I’ve had all year!
More photos from the coffee tour can be found here: Bean Brewding Coffee Tour
A big thank you to everyone involved in the inaugural Bean Brewding Coffee Tour: