I was very lucky and was invited to a coffee roasting demonstration by Union Coffee at their roastery in East London. I didn’t know anything about coffee so I was excited to learn about the roasting process and get some coffee tasting tips from the experts that work there. Click here to see all my photos from the day.
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee is a small company, owned by Jeremy Torz and Steven Macatonia, that is dedicated to the joy of high quality Arabica coffee. We roast our coffee every day in small batches to display the coffee’s fullest expression of flavour and aroma.
It’s easy to see that Jeremy and Steven are really passionate about what they do. They are heavily involved in visiting farms, testing, choosing and roasting beans to sell. They believe in supporting small coffee bean farmers in sustainable environments.
The day started off with pastries from Gail’s Bakery, which were amazing! We then went to watch the roasting process. Steven demonstrated how the beans are roasted. The beans are initially a green color and as the heat from the roaster takes effect they slowly start to turn a darker shade of brown. The longer the beans are roasted the stronger they’ll taste. If left in too long they’ll turn black and will essentially be burnt and taste very bitter.
The beans Steven demonstrated for us are roasted for about 15 minutes. Different beans from different farms and different countries will need different roasting times to bring out the best of its flavor. It’s like wine, grapes grown in different areas will taste different. I had no idea there was so much science in coffee. It’s very fascinating.
Jeremy then lead us through a coffee tasting session with 5 different beans from 5 different farms in Costa Rica. He tought us how to sniff the grounds of each bean and how they score the beans that they test. They test and give feedback to every farmer that sends them beans.
Not being much of a coffee expert at first sniff I found it very difficult to tell the difference between the beans. After a few rounds there were subtle differences. Coffee can have vanilla, nutty, fruity or even Jasmin tones.
We were shown how they taste test the beans as well. By creating a “cap” and then removing the grounds and taste testing which involves a lovely slurping noise! I wasn’t able to identify all the different tones but they each tasted a little different (and were all delicious).
I think my favorite part of the day was when the trainers for Union showed us how to make espresso and lattes using a real coffee machine. It’s fascinating the exact measure and science that go into making a cup of coffee.
Union can go through the process of selecting and roasting their beans for it all to be ruined by a barista who hasn’t been properly shown how to make the coffee. The trainers full time job is to travel to restaurants and cafes that use Union roasted and show the barista how to get the full potential out of their coffee.
We were shown how to measure and press the grounds, how much water to flow through and how to steam milk.
Arianna showed off her skills and made a coffee art swan (She can drink up to 15 espressos a day when she’s training)!
I learned so much and thought that I preferred milk based coffee drinks as espresso was too bitter for me but I don’t like drinking espresso because it’s not often prepared correctly! Espresso shouldn’t taste extremely bitter. It should have a lovely “cream” at the top and be a bit streaky. Making espresso is also the roughest on the coffee beans compared to making filtered coffee.
Anyone interested in buying Union Roasted Coffee (coffee, coffee accessories or gifts) can do so from their web store and get 10% off by using this special code at the checkout, USCUPCAKE10, valid until December 31, 2011 (one per customer only please).
The end of the day was the “Coffee and…” competition. Everyone was invited to bake or make something that they thought was the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee. I chose to make a Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake from Not So Humble Pie. I didn’t win but I love this coffee cake. The brown butter drizzle on top really takes it to another level.
Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake
makes 1 bundt
Cake (I halved this to make a 9 x9 inch cake)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 oz can pumpkin
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbs cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Topping (I doubled this for a 9×9 inch cake)
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs butter, melted
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted or whisked
milk (to use as needed)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C and grease and flour your bundt tin (or tray). In a small bowl sift together the flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and pumpkin and mix until combined. Stir in the flour mixture. Pour the cake mixture into the pan.
3. Make the streusel topping by mixing together the flour, sugars, spices,pecans and melted butter. Sprinkle over the cake topping and bake for 55 minutes for a bundt or 35 minutes for a 9×9.
4. Place on a cooling rack until cool enough to invert onto a plate or cut into squares.
5. In a small bowl sift the powdered sugar. Make the drizzle by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and stirring until it just starts to go golden brown. Take off the heat and pour into the powdered sugar. Whisk in the milk a tablespoon at a time until it’s thin enough to drizzle.
Thanks to Union, Steven and Jeremy for a great day!