It is no secret, that life’s ‘little’ perks can make all the difference. These treats vary from person to person, but a common one is coffee.

Nothing rivals the satisfaction of a good cup of coffee. The flavour, how it feels on your tongue, the sweetness from the milk. I could go on and on, but when these factors come together in harmony, you cannot deny, it’s magic.

Over the years, I have drunk a lot of coffee. From petrol stations to speciality third-wave coffee, I have tasted both good and bad. I understand now what makes a great coffee.

My first ‘big’ job was as a coffee roaster in a London roastery on Redchurch Street. A foodie paradise, this street will always hold a special place in my heart. Being a coffee roaster was wonderful. I grew to understand how the terroir the coffee is grown in can impact its flavour. I learned how to enhance these distinctive characteristics by adjusting the roast profile. I am grateful for the opportunity to taste a wide range of coffees from across the globe. ‘Cupping’ is a universal standardised way of tasting coffee. My team and I would work hard to roast outstanding coffee, so our customers could savour their brews.

So what makes a good coffee experience great?

  1. Quality Assured
  2. Freshness
  3. Barista Skill
  4. An inviting environment
  5. An ethical story

 

  1. Quality Assured – A great coffee puts a smile on your face. You take a sip, get that “ahh” feeling and let out a long sigh. The taste is exceptional, but it also satisfies our emotions. It’s a cherished part of our every day, and it is more than flavour. It’s a ritual. Baristas talk about the importance of the origin of your coffee. Without a doubt, origins matter to the flavour profile of your coffee. Colombian coffee is bright and zesty and Brazilian coffee is nutty. But this is a matter of personal taste and does not tell you if it’s good or bad. Quality does. Only 10% of all Arabica coffee is a speciality grade. Classified by a grade from 80 – 100, it guarantees quality. According to the Speciality Coffee Association, 2.5% of the world’s coffee is speciality grade. That’s pretty special.
  2. Freshness – Coffee companies want consumers to experience their coffee at its best. Passionate coffee roasters will roast with the consumer in mind, and they want them to love every cup. The humble coffee bean is like a honeycomb, with teeny-tiny bubbles of gas trapped inside. These gas bubbles lock in that delicious flavour, and over time, the gas escapes. The older the coffee is, the less flavour it will have. For the best flavour, it’s a good idea to brew coffee while it’s in the ‘sweet spot’ of gas release. This is between 5 days and 4 weeks (when stored in an airtight container). A great coffee company will be able to tell you when they roast your coffee and give you tips and tricks to keep it fresh.
  3. Barista Skill – A coffee roaster is an aspirational role for many baristas. I felt like I had missed a career step, so I moved to Melbourne and became a barista. Some of the world’s most discerning coffee drinkers live in this part of Australia. With no experience in making coffee, I survived on passion. I left making silky flat whites and exceptional espresso, and I know how elusive the perfect cup can be. Coffee likes consistency and responds to any change in the weather. I would pull sweet and juicy espresso shots, only to find 2 hours later my shots were sourer than lemons! C’mon. As a barista, you must be confident in your skill. There is always more to improve on, no matter how exceptional your training was. Your tamping technique, what time your shots start to fall, and your amount of crema. It takes courage to reassure a queue of people “Thank you for your patience” when your grind changes. You must understand how to get the best from your coffee and be brave when it gets nitty gritty.
  4. Inviting Environment – A warm and welcoming environment can add considerable value. I have found that successful cafes have these things in common. Pleasing aesthetics, great equipment, a well-planned customer journey, and friendly baristas. As a coffee lover, I like to explore and find new coffees, but I also want to feel heard and appreciated. A smile, a “Hi, how are you?” and your favourite ooey-gooey cookie on the house, are irreplaceable.
  5. An Ethical Story – Globally, we consume 500 billion cups of coffee a year, Coffeenatics confirms. A significant percentage of coffee farmers are underpaid and overworked. I want to enjoy coffee and understand where it comes from. Let your coffee company do the work. It’s a bad sign if you have to dig deep to find out your coffee’s provenance. Great coffee companies are proud of their coffee’s origins, and they want you to know.

I cannot deny the role that taste plays, but a great coffee experience is more than taste. It is emotional, it’s ethical, it’s skilful. When all these elements come together, you have a great coffee, so sit back and enjoy every…last…sip…

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