I've recommended to several of my friends that they try the subscription service over at Has Bean Coffee. It's called In My Mug, and you can order to receive a different coffee every time - either weekly, fortnightly or monthly, over either a month, quarter, half-year or full year. The coffees are very different from one another, and are all absolutely first class (even if you prefer some to others), as you'd expect from HasBean and Stephen Leighton.
I love the idea that we can buy produce here that makes a real difference to the people who make it.
Photo: Scot NelsonA little exchange on Facebook last week made me think it was time to write a basic guide to the two most common types of coffee. This will be very familiar ground to any readers with a keen interest in coffee, but may be new ground for some.
There are three species of the Coffea genus - three kinds of coffee plant that cannot be interbred. Only two are grown commercially.
The good quality coffee plant is Coffea Arabica, and accounts for about 80% of the world's coffee production. There are a number of varietals within this one species. Most of the time, you get red ripe cherries to pick, inside each of which are two flat seeds. This is the coffee that has the best taste, although the quality of what is grown varies enormously. Please don't make the mistake that some branding and marketing executives want you to make - if it says Arabica on the packet it must be good. The preparation, roast and subsequent
Two of the people from Has Bean Coffee have produced a free e-book on how to brew espresso, and how to tune that process until you are getting the exact drink you want.
When this was first written, it was only available to those who had an iOS device - which was not me.
However they've just turned it into a 23-page PDF document, which means the rest of us can now read it too.
So go read their book called Espresso Training.
Today, I'd like to introduce you to cascara.
It's not a kind of make-up.
It's not a sequence of waterfalls.
It's a byproduct of the coffee producing process, which most people in these shores haven't heard of. Yet in the coffee producing regions it is turned into a drink in its own right.
For those who don't know, a Hot Top is a home coffee roaster that operates a bit like a miniature version of the commercial roasters. It roasts in a perforated steel drum that rotates while the air temperature around it ramps up to the right temperature. When the beans are roasted, they are ejected into a cooling tray where ambient air is blown through the beans that are stirred with a paddle. The whole thing takes 20-25 minutes.
Steve Leighton, proprietor of Has Bean Coffee, has been on a trip to Kenya.
Naturally, this is doubly close to my heart, and so it was interesting to read his thoughts on his return.
There's an encouraging twist in there that we can expect some good Kenyan coffees to land in the UK in a few months time as a result of his trip.
I've just tried Ethiopia Kerbal Konga Washed for the first time. Absolutely blows you away.
Sadly, I tried it first and then looked at the price - not the cheapest coffee you could get.
But it truly is worth every penny.
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Has Bean Coffee. From time to time, I'm asked about whether their coffees are "fair trade". In this day and age when information is so much more freely available, there's a welcome movement - which Christians have been at the forefront of - to make sure that we shop in ethical ways. The price we pay for goods matters; the way workers are treated matters.