The Sunday Club is currently hosting a series of coffee focused evenings for like minded enthusiasts held weekly at The Dissapearing Dining Room. Run by Rob Dunne and Vic Frankowski, a pair who are not only fully ensconced in the world of coffee, but have their fingers firmly on the London pulse. I happened to find out about the club, as you do sometimes when things are this new and exciting, by being inquisitive; this time asking pertinent questions in Tapped and Packed one Saturday. The project is still in it’s bud like, early phase and I was delighted to be invited along last Monday as a guest.
First of all it’s impossible not to mention the venue; a single room made beautiful by its uniqueness, accessed through a non descript, unmarked door and turned magical by the guys with tea lights. Along with the tiny rooms eclectic mix of ornaments and treasures, they’ve managed to create an intimate and slightly dreamy setting for the evening. The table is adorned in an enchanting and seductive manner by a central tableau bursting with edible temptations and pretty glasses filled with unknown secret that you know will unfold over the two hour session.
Following an informal introduction, our teachers start with some basic facts and a little history about coffee, I’m sure I’m not alone in my ignorance and found many of the facts enlightening. Did you know that Ethiopia is the only country where coffee is grown as a native and where all plants originate? Or that so far only around 5% of all varietles have been discovered? That Brazil is the largest coffee producer followed by Vietnam? Or even that coffee grows on trees like a fruit and takes around 5 years before they’re ready to harvest? Coffee is very much a product of the land and takes on much of the terroir of the area, this we discuss later when it comes to tasting. We learn a little about the two main species, and I’m pleased when some of the terms are explained i.e. the difference between washed and inwashed; terms you often see used to describe coffee beans. Fascinating stuff!
Next we move onto the practise of tasting and a few exercises to help us identify and deconstruct what it is we are experiencing. Recognising the different flavour characteristics of acidity, sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and the rather more ellusive unami is just the beginning and where the table full of props comes into play. We are also told to measure and appreciate mouthfeel, longevity of flavour, texture from the oils, and most importantly smell as this gives us 70% of taste, and is the only sense to trigger memory; this can understandibly have a massive effect on how we percieve things. I personally had no idea that coffee only has 842 flavours compared to some 15000 for chocolate which should make it that much easier to pick them out. It’s obviously important to be able to taste without preconceptions or judgements and breaking it down into elements helps with this, the lovely edibles giving us a relevant point of reference.
And so finally we come to the ‘cupping’ itself, the word a simple explanation for the brewing method and the purest way to brew coffee; hot but not boiling water is poured over ground coffee beans and left to steep for 4 minutes. After this period we’re shown how to break the crust, releasing the aroma and inhaling deeply to achieve the first part of the appreciation process. And we now get to taste the coffee; coffee changes in flavour as it cools and the optimum temperature is between 70 and 40 degrees, with the flavours expanding as it cools, enabling the taster to pick out individual flavour profiles. We’re also taught to aerate the liquid as we draw it into our mouths by slurping it noisily, a little embarassing and unladylike at first, but when everyones doing the same, you soon lose self consciousness. We are given three very different coffees to taste and a form on which to make our own notes; I find it fascinating discussing the different flavours we all pick out, and although we generally come to the same conclusions, we find ourselves still picking different ones as favourites.
I really found the evening an amazing insight into something I had just a very small grasp on before. Obviously coffee tasting is very similar in many ways to both wine and chocolate and certainly it highlights how fantastic a pairing evening might be for certain matches (indeed both chocolate and whisky were mentioned as possibilities future events). I think the two hour session is fantastic value for £25 and found myself impressed by the amount of information Rob and Vic managed to cram into it. The room holds a maximum of six people so it’s always going to be a nice, intimate affair and I think it’s a must for any London coffee lovers.
I loved it so much I’ve already booked myself onto the next home brewing course!Tweet