Good Food and Coffee

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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

British Coffee.

In penning this brief missive, there is a sense of going against the tide of the 3rd wave of coffee enthusiasts. However, writing what is real will stand the test of time.

The majority of British people like filtered coffee. Seconded by a coffee in milk. Way down the list is espresso. Whilst it may be surmised that the British are European, it would be a huge mistake to assume that the average British person has adapted to European tastes or culture.

A cup of coffee to a Brit, has been for many years, a cup of instant, either made with water, or milk. That is never, in the main going to be replaced by a small, expensive 1 ounce shot of black coffee.

With this in mind, and dont get me wrong, I love the good coffee shops, the atmosphere, the choices, the chance to taste different blends and single origins, it is never going to be that an espresso machine will be a standard feature in every home.

So for the average coffee shop visitor, the sales pitch, the smells, the ability to have a coffee in a different form to what is available at home, along with the American hype of the chains, has shaped a unique market for itself. Billions of dollars, Euro’s and Pounds.

To emulate the taste, its going to cost several hundred pounds in equipment that in the main will be sat on your counter and used occasionally. Drinking out is expensive though. 2 latte’s a day is about 20 to 25 pounds a week. 2 cups of filter a day is going to cost @ 15 smackers.

Britain has tasted better coffee than it ever has in the past. However, the chains work to the minimum standard acceptable, and maximise the profits from that on the basis that, its still better coffee than we are used to. As some of the smaller artisan roasters start to take a foothold in the new British Coffee scene, it is hoped that if Britain ever becomes a coffee loving population, they will not go for the bean based solely on cost.

With this mild digression, I return to the subject of this epistle, and state that the future of Coffee in the U.K., unadvertised, to be drunk at home, will be filtered coffee. Let the market leaders do what they will, and say what ever they want in order to direct profits into their corporate accounts and trendy coffee shops, but in the end, the vast majority of U.K. people will reach for a better class of coffee to be made quickly and easily. This will involve getting used to a simple filter machine, placing the appropriate amount of coffee into the receptacle, filling the water jug to the line and switching on. Its only a tad more involved than putting instant coffee into a jar, but the increase in taste and freshness is 100%.

As a coffee lover, it is good to enjoy the taste. For some, like me who have spent the last 28 years with more than a passing interest in the bean and process, it meant at some stage I would have to actually roast my own. Ive roasted in the oven, in a toaster oven, in a pan on the stove, on an open fire in Australia, Africa and America, Ive used a number of commercial Roasters, and lately am using hot air and an adapted BreadMaker. This latter method makes 600-1000 grams at a time and some of the finest tasting coffee ever. You wont know this unless you have a friend who roasts, or know a good artisan roaster. NOTHING beats the excitement of tasting a new coffee from day 5 to 15 and finding where the optimum level in the freshness is.

Wholesale coffee prices are a little lower this year than last year. The only place you will see a lowering or stabilising of prices are from the smaller roasteries. Sadly you will the chains increasing their prices to satisfy their investors and increase the dividends. Quality will not go up.

So, buy a good inexpensive filter coffee machine. A 227 gram bag of FRESH roasted coffee is going to cost about the 4 pound mark. It will make 18 cups of coffee. Thats 22 pence a cup.

We are a frugal lot us Brits. However, we dont mind paying for quality, and coffee is SURPRISINGLY cheap when looked at in these terms.

Time to look at the independent Roasters. It IS cheaper than you think, and then the choice is down to taste. Where the choice should always be.


RAVE Coffee. Unit 7, Stirling Works, Love Lane, Cirencester, GL7 1YG

 Coffee Roasting was not something Rob Hodge ever envisaged in his future. After his marriage to Vikki in 2002, Rob and new wife spent their honeymoon in Australia and developed a love for the country during their stay there. When they returned to the U.K. and went back to their industry Jobs, Rob in Telecoms and Vikki in I.T. they never forgot the country of their dreams.

Working hard and saving money, they finally managed to obtain the elusive visa and moved to Sydney in the late 2000’s. Vikki enrolled as a student in catering and worked her way through the rigorous and tough Australian college system which culminated in her becoming a professional Chef.

Rob and Vikki, always being interested in coffee as a drink, were amazed to find a really outstanding and mature coffee “scene” in Australia, with some of the most knowledgable people on the doorstep.  After discussing between themselves, Rob made the decision to study the subject of coffee making in depth, and looked around for a suitable school/teacher.

 It wasn’t long before the name of Tony Vitello popped up. Now Tony has been around coffee for all of his life and has an unsurpassed reputation as a teacher. Tony is a founder of the Australian Coffee Gang and his successful students are sought after for job placements.

Rob sought out Tony and was accepted on his course. By applying himself diligently, Rob soaked up all the information he could from the Coffee Gang teacher and practiced, practiced and practiced.

 Finishing his professional course, Rob sought more learning and worked with Rob and Dean from the Mona Vale based ROC Café.

At the same time, Rob began a detailed background investigation into roasting proper and worked with some established artisan Roasters. It was here that Rob began to develop a love for the process of taking coffee from its raw state, and roasting it so as to extract its full potential in the cup.

 In the meantime, Rob and Vikki purchased and fitted out a coffee van and serviced the North beaches of Sydney.

Rob was invited to be the only Barista of choice at the Hyde Park event of Australia Day in 2010. Rob served over 7 kilos of coffee between 7am till 2pm on that day.

Robs professional skills continued to be noted, and in February, one month later, he was invited to be barista at TAFF College and powerhouse museum, serving the entire campus.

Moving on with life, a young family, external circumstances dictated that a return to the U.K. was required. Heartbreaking as it was in leaving their beloved Sydney, Rob and Vikki sold the profitable coffee van business. Rob threw himself into intensive final training and knowledge gathering regarding roasting and all things production.

Upon their return to the U.K. The Hodge family ordered a professional Coffee Roasting machine and set up RAVE coffee immediately.  Buying best green coffee from reputable sources only, they worked night and day to produce the Roast profiles for each varietal that Rob had worked so hard on. Working to a strict business plan, and roasting ONLY to orders for best freshness… and working with the worlds leading online purchase company, RAVE coffee has become one, if not THE most noted artisan coffee roasters the UK today.

When you buy a bag of coffee from RAVE, you have the collective knowledge and experience from coffee masters all over the world. No piece of information has ever been discarded by Rob, and only integrated into his practice when he has tested it for himself. Buy RAVE. Taste the difference.

Rave Coffee, Unit 7, Stirling Works, Love Lane, Cirencester, GL7 1YG

For all enquiries:


Office: 01453 832616

Mobile: 07833 532942

The JAVA Coffee House. 1 Charles Street Newport Gwent.

  Neatly off the main Drag in Newport town Centre is a traditional Welsh coffee shop. (In featuring the JAVA coffee house, British Coffee Scene is leaving behind the show and display of Baristas at work.) There is no atmosphere of espresso presentation or the fancy latte art so reminiscent of High street chains. (A short walk to the main street will allow you to sample all the popular chains and the variants they produce.) Should you go with the short trip, you will miss out on some genuinely good coffee.

 Alun Jones, a native of Newport, a chef by profession, and his wife Helen made the decision to run their own business a few years ago. When the opportunity presented itself in 2010, they moved into Charles Street and took hold of their dream.  A bit of a traditionalist, and a man filled with passion for good coffee and food, Alun decided to produce excellent home cooking with his own expertise. Looking in the glass display, I could see plate after plate of creations, all made by him, and with that Welsh heritage in cooking looking back at me. While we were talking, Helen plated up some fresh off the griddle Welsh cakes that Alun had just made. They sell hundreds of these every month in the coffee shop and the demand is growing.

 I wanted to sample a cup of J.C.H. coffee and asked for a flat white. The machine they use is a San Marco twin station with quite a few years on it, but thanks to a loving (read expensive) complete restoration, it is as good as any modern machine on the market. In listening to the tone of the milk being heated, there was no lack of pressure in that baby.

 I watched the pour for my coffee and counted a 26 second total time including a pre infusion for a double. The pour itself was of an excellent quality with rich reddish brown crema filling the cup. The milk is whole milk and steamed a touch hotter (149F) because Welsh people like hot coffee. In tasting the coffee, There is a delicious sense of actually drinking a coffee that is rich and full without the, sadly normal, burnt taste of the chains. The depth and reach of the coffee infused the milk throughout. Now, as a coffee roaster myself, I was intrigued that the quality of the coffee was so high, and asked where he got the beans from. James gourmet coffee from Ross- on- Wye. An excellent job on the roasting Peter James.

 Alun and Helen are not trying to out barista anyone. They are concentrating on the original coffee house theme as developed in the British Isles a few centuries ago. A good coffee (or tea if prefered), a savoury or sweet cake, or indeed an excellent sandwich or light meal. Try the Brie and Bacon with Cranberry Baguette. Oh my gosh.. amazing. In my travels around the British Isles, it is getting harder to find the smaller, but determined, coffee houses of yesteryear. This is somewhere I could bring my family, and have all ages catered for without breaking the bank or be confused by the multitude of coffee variations on the market today. I noticed that the clientele of the morning were all greeted by name and drinks were prepared without asking. Alun said that they have a large repeat business which he puts down to the fact of service at the table and the staff waiting on the needs of the customer so the customer can enjoy themselves and know their wants will be met immediately.

Alun and Helen are genuinely warm and caring people people. Nothing is too much trouble for them. Alun shared with me that he is now going to concentrate on making more traditional Welsh foods and fancies. I see only good things on the horizon.

 Before I left, I was given the recipe for his famous Welsh cake. He doesnt mind sharing anything if you ask. The recipe is only half the answer he said with a twinkle in his eye..”being able to cook it like I do is the secret”.

1 lb self raising flour

8 oz butter

4 oz sugar

4 oz currants

2 eggs

Griddle till done.

For the Home Roaster

Mobile Coffee Roasting With A Breadmaker

I hereby reveal my latest development in the home roasting of coffee beans – a breadmaker and heat gun roaster mounted on a trolley for easy setup and storage.

Previously, I roasted coffee beans with just a bowl, a wooden spoon, and a heat gun mounted on a tripod (I wrote about it here). A heat gun is like an industrial strength hairdryer, blowing out there at 600°C, and it worked very well. It all dismantled and fit into a crate for easy storage indoors, the only disadvantage being the time required to set it up and pack it away.

Mobile coffee roaster in storage mode
1. In storage mode

Recently I progressed to using a bread maker to house and stir the beans – much easier, with greater temperature control and more evenly roasted beans.  The only problem was that it didn’t all fit into a crate, and taking all the bits outside and setting up, then later dismantling and storing, took longer than the roasting itself.  Because of the smoke and chaff produced when roasting coffee it needs to be done outside, but I don’t have anywhere outside suitable for storing the gear, so the obvious solution was to build some sort of mobile arrangement. These photos show what I came up with (click on any of them to see larger versions).

The first photo shows my coffee roaster in storage mode, as it is when kept indoors. Built onto a box-moving trolley is a wooden platform holding the bread maker, a heat gun mounted on the centre column of a tripod, and the fold-down cooling platform (the toilet seat). Stored with this are the other necessary bits – cooling tray, power board, extension cable, multi-meter with temperature probe, stopwatch, oven glove, wooden spoon, fold up stool, and a sweat band (it can get hot when roasting).  The only thing not housed on the trolley is the fan: that’s because it gets used elsewhere for other things.

Roasting in progress
2. Roasting in progress

The second photo is roasting mode, seen here inside my garage. Hot air from the heat gun blows onto the beans being agitated inside the bread maker, with the bean temperature being measured by a probe inserted into the side. Temperature is adjusted by moving the heat gun up and down. The fan reduces the stress on the heat gun element while also blowing away some of the chaff.

The third photo shows cooling mode. Once the beans are done, the fan is laid down on its back, a mesh cooling tray is placed on top of the fan, and the hot beans are poured onto the cooling tray. It only takes a minute for the air blowing upwards through the beans to cool them down completely. After the removal of the beans and a quick bit of unplugging and folding up, the contraption is ready to be wheeled back indoors until next time.

Beans being cooled
3. Beans being cooled

Why the toilet seat, you may ask? I needed some method of supporting the fan in its laying down position – something to keep it up off the ground to allow good airflow, with plenty of open space in the middle where the fan draws up the air.  A toilet seat performs this function perfectly, without modification. It even came with its own built-in hinge so it could be folded up for storage … and being a guy, leaving the seat up comes naturally to me.

Apart from the bread maker (which I picked up second-hand from a pawn shop), I didn’t need to spend anything on this mobile coffee roaster. I already had the trolley, the bits of wood and other parts, and the toilet seat was been sitting around for at least 10 years waiting for another chance at life. It all supports my belief that nothing potentially useful should be thrown away in case it might be useful one day.

India falling for Coffee?

Starbucks has announced it is to open its first outlet in India by the end of the year, marking the international chain’s first venture into the country. India has been a nation of tea drinkers for centuries, but in the past decade coffee has been on the rise. Is the chai losing out to the cappuccino?

At a small stand next to a photocopying shop, Ram Shankar Patidar is heating milk on a single gas stove. The focus of his attention is a stainless steel container, which is bubbling and rattling as he adds tea leaves, water, spices, and freshly crushed ginger.

Patidar has been making and selling Indian tea, better known as chai, for more than 40 years.

He has occupied the same spot in a busy suburban business district in Mumbai for more than a decade, but for the past eight weeks there’s been a new addition to the street.

Directly opposite his stand is a branch of India’s largest coffee chain, Cafe Coffee Day, abbreviated by many to CCD.

“They don’t make much of a difference to me,” he says as he ladles the mixture through muslin into a small glass. “Those who can afford to go to CCD would anyway. It’s much more expensive than what I sell.”

How to make chai

Ram Shankar Patidar
  • Heat 350ml water and 100ml of milk with four black peppercorns, 10 lightly crushed green cardamom pods, a good pinch of green fennel seeds, a small piece of cinnamon stick and a teaspoon of peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • Boil gently for 15 minutes, until reduced to a large cupful
  • Add a teabag and brew for a minute, or longer
  • Strain into a cup and add sugar or salt to taste

For many years, the humble chai wallah has been part of the country’s fabric, but in the past decade, the makeshift roadside stalls have begun facing competition from Western-style coffee chains.

The first Cafe Coffee Day opened in 1996, marking the beginning of a change in Indian tastes and habits. The CCD chain is now opening a branch almost every week, and has more than 1,200 stores across India. It’s been joined by other chains, including Barista Lavazza and Costa Coffee.

Like their Western counterparts, India’s coffee shops serve a range of coffees from mochas to lattes, iced coffees to espressos. But their appeal is greater than their beverages.

“I go to coffee shops just to hang out,” says Zain Waris, a student in Mumbai. “In India, we don’t have many places to hang out, and these chains don’t have any objections to us spending hours and hours sitting there.”

India’s coffee culture has changed the way young Indians socialise.

In a country where there is a limited bar culture, and where drinking alcohol is still frowned upon in many circles, it has provided an acceptable and safe outlet for people, particularly young Indians, to share a drink.

What Indians drank in 2010

  • Tea: 837,000 tonnes
  • Coffee: 108,000 tonnes

It is common to see large groups of teenagers congregating at coffee shops later into the evening. Some branches provide guitars for jam sessions.

It has also helped facilitate the country’s growing dating culture – having a girlfriend or boyfriend at a young age is frowned upon by many, so secret trysts at a coffee shop have become the norm for many young Indians, and serve as a suitable bolthole away from the prying eyes of parents.

For 22-year-old graduate Ronak Mehta it’s the perfect place to discuss college work. “It’s much better than sitting on a bench, where you’d drink tea,” he says.

With more than half of the country’s population under 25, and a rising middle-class that is well aware of Western trends, there’s little wonder Indian coffee consumption has doubled in the past 15 years since the first cafes were opened.

Tea drinkers, MumbaiDashrat Rathod (right): People like me just drink up and go

“Earlier you had generally had coffee at home or the office. These new businesses have made the cafe culture more accessible, thus attracting a young crowd who could hang out in a relaxed atmosphere,” says Anil Dharker, a leading columnist and social commentator in India.

Even before the coffee chain revolution, coffee had a strong presence in South Indian homes. Typical South Indian coffee, or kapi, is a made with boiled milk and plenty of sugar, and is served in stainless steel tumblers. Many families drink more kapi than tea.

“We used to have coffee at home every morning,” says Dashrat Rathod, an engineer from Karnataka. “I’ve never been to a coffee shop, people like me don’t have the time to spend there, we drink up and go.”

Rathod might have a taste for coffee but isn’t prepared to pay for a serving in a new style coffee shop. The price of tea or coffee from a roadside stand is usually in the order of five rupees (about 10 US cents, or 6p), compared with around 80 rupees ($1.60, £1) upwards for a cappuccino or equivalent. This price barrier makes the coffee shop culture mainly a preserve of the upper middle classes in India.

The entrance of Starbucks, an American chain, into the Indian coffee market follows other international coffee brands such as Costa, Gloria Jeans, and Lavazza which has bought into Indian chain Barista. Like other Western brands, these tend to be seen as aspirational to many young Indians, says Anil Dharker.

Cafe Coffee Day in BangaloreCafe Coffee Day or CCD began the coffee invasion in 1996

Even so, he says, Starbucks and others may have to work to accommodate Indian tastes.

“What actually happens is that a foreign player sees a commercial opportunity and enters a new market. And then adapts. This is particularly so of the Indian market. Just take a look at McDonalds, it’s a completely different entity here,” says Dharker.

Starbucks globally does already serve its own brand of “Indian” tea, the chai tea latte, but it’s a world away from the unique taste of authentic Indian chai. It remains to be seen whether this will be an offering in the Indian stores.

But despite the coffee invasion, tea remains popular, with consumption rising from 562,000 tonnes annually to 837,000 tonnes in the last 15 years.

“More people are drinking tea because they like it, and because the population is rising,” says Surjit Patra from the Indian Tea Association.

The average Indian drinks now around 250 cups of tea per year. This is quite a low figure by international standards – in Ireland, for example, the average citizen drinks 1,000 cups per year – suggesting there could be room for further expansion.

“We have found lots of health benefits in tea,” Mr Patra says, unsurprisingly extolling the virtues of the drink he promotes. “There’s no other beverage like it. Not even coffee.”

Additional reporting by Aarti Thobhani.

Small commercial single head coffee machine. Expobar Brewtus IV

Analysis of a roasting bean

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