We take tea and coffee seriously at Dark Matter Cafe! Here’s why.
What’s in it? 40% Guatemala Campo Alto
40% Costa Rica San Bosco Reserva
20% Kenya Gethumbwini
How does it taste? Mouth-wateringly rich, strong and buttery.
Proudly our supplier Ringtons, a fantastic heritage brand in the North East of England, also serves the Queens, Fortnum and Mason, as well as been the brand behind Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose own branded teas.
The following information is provided by Ringtons Beverages about the types of coffee available and the current used, and how we use it in our stores.
Good Coffee, Bad Coffee
When it comes to making coffee drinking an enjoyable experience it is important to remember that everyone’s tastes are different. Just because your favourite may be a full-bodied Gethumbwini doesn’t mean that everyone will like it. Some may prefer the milder Colombian La Ceja, or perhaps the gutsy, less acidic Monsooned Malabar. People should enjoy whatever they are drinking in whatever format suits them.
W hat is import for us to do is help educate people about the world of coffee and steer them in the right direction, if they so desire. What we can do is provide technical advice on which coffees to choose and how to achieve the best results when brewing them. At Ringtons Stores we have a wide range of top quality coffees that vary wildly in appearance, aroma and taste. No two coffees that we sell are alike; they all have their signature ‘cup profile’ and unique characteristics.
For us, good coffee means high quality, flavour, aroma, mouth feel, after taste, acidity (the good kind), sweetness, strength (of flavour, not bitterness) and even the clarity of the taste. Our Speciality coffees all score highly in these categories and this is a direct result of the careful growing, harvesting, processing, shipping, roasting, (grinding), and packing. Nothing is left to chance and every control necessary is put in place to achieve the very best from the raw materials that we are provided with.
Many things can make a coffee ‘bad’. It could simply be the case that the bushes are grown in unsuitable climates or conditions. It could be careless harvesting, processing or roasting. The packaging could be detrimental to the freshness and longevity of the coffee.
Most coffees in the marketplace are just average. They fit into a range of ‘acceptability’ and that is what most consumers perceive to be the norm. Most are blended for price and the marketplace has become flooded with very cheap, low quality coffees that are used as ‘blenders’ to reduce overall blend costs and increase margins. This is, of course, at the expense of quality.
Most coffee is traded on the commodities markets. This is where farmers simply grow their crops for yield and sell to large mills where all the coffees are bulked and sold under a standard name. You may have heard of Brazil Santos coffee – this is not a specialist name but simply the name of the port where it is shipped. Absolutely any Brazilian coffee can be sold under this name.
Sadly, most coffee shops and restaurants are happy to sell these products and most consumers have not had the chance to try anything better… this is where we come in. By offering a range of the finest speciality coffees to our customers we can give them choice and a real passion for something that is far, far better than the norm.
Where Do Our Coffees Come From?
Coffees can vary widely in taste from country to country, and indeed the differences in flavour can be considerable between regions within a country. Altitudes, soil type, amount and intensity of sunlight and humidity are a few of the many factors that influence the overall taste.
With such a wide range of flavours it is important that we can describe, record and accurately communicate what each coffee’s profile is. Coffee can possess in excess of 1000 aromatic volatile compounds and special coffee-related vocabulary is used to describe them.
Positive words used to describe a coffee may include pure, caramel, honey, refined, citric, lively, creamy, rounded, velvety etc.
Negative comments can be vast and may include sweaty, dirty, off-fruit, immature, astringent, tart, vinegar, unbalanced, insipid, sour, gritty etc.
Our taste buds are on our tongues and pallets, but we also experience aroma through our sense of smell. So part of any good coffee cupping will always include smelling the coffee (usually in three different ways!).
We have tried to include as many positive taste sensations in our range of coffees as possible. This is partly achieved by sourcing the best coffees available from the best producing countries around the world…
Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and is probably the world best-known coffee producer. As mentioned previously, when people think of coffee and Brazil the name Santos usually comes to mind. Yet this is not a coffee growing region, but the biggest coffee export port in the world.
Brazil produces 85% arabica and 15% robusta coffees and the vast majority of all coffees produced in Brazil are made using the dry processing method.
Brazilian coffee is generally quite mild, with high sweetness and low acidity. It is a very useful coffee to use as the base in blends and the best coffees are rich in sweetness and have a rounded, full-bodied taste.
We use the following Brazilian coffees in our Store’s range:
Brazil Speciality Coffee Association (BSCA) Fazenda Lagoa
Pocos de Caldas
Santos (Flavoured Coffee Only)
Colombia produces the world’s largest amount of arabica coffee. Where Santos is synonymous with Brazil, Excelso is synonymous with Colombia. Excelso denotes the most common bean size from Colombia.
Colombian coffee grows on the slopes of the Andes Mountains in areas that are typically 900-1800 meters above sea level.
Colombian coffee tends to be quite lively and has noticeable acidity. Poorer quality Colombian coffees can often taste sour but higher quality coffees will have rich fruity flavours such as blackcurrant. Colombian coffees do not tend to be as fruity as Kenyan coffees but do tend to be more rounded.
We use the following Colombian coffees in our Store’s range:
Colombia Supermo Huila La Ceja (pronounced: “La Se Ha”)
Costa Rica possesses idyllic climatic conditions for coffee cultivation. The consistently warm climate, with cool nights and high levels of humidity make for perfect coffee berry growth.
The Costa Ricans are famous for being fanatical about their coffee’s quality. In-fact in 1989 a law was passed in Costa Rica making it illegal to cultivate robusta coffees. SHB is a term that is often used when describing Costa Rican coffees. It stands for “Strictly Hard Bean” and is synonymous with the famous Tarrazu growing region.
Costa Rican coffees tend to be full-bodied, intense, rich and have a well-balanced sweetness and acidity.
We use the following Costa Rican coffees in our Store’s range:
Asociacion Cafes Finos De Costa Rica (ACFCR) Certified San Bosco Reserva SHB
Guatemala is fairly unique in that most of their coffee bushes are a sub-type of the arabica bush called Bourbon. Bourbon bushes are renowned for their high quality and populate the famous Antigua and Atitlan regions.
Guatemalan coffee tends to be rich, well-balanced, and has a distinctive, complex acidity and sweetness that produces trademark notes of chocolate, nuts and spices.
We use the following Guatemalan coffees in our Store’s range:
Guatemala Campo Alto
Guatemalan Maragogype (pronounced Ma-ra-jeep)
Kenya sits proudly on the equator and produces some of the finest coffees in world in its highland regions 1500-2000 meters above sea level. The consistent climate, high altitude, and small-scale careful farming combine to produce gentle, consistent growing conditions.
Kenyan coffees are sold through auctions run by the Coffee Board of Kenya and samples are tested in their designated laboratory. The auction system has sharpened the focus on quality and consistency in Kenya.
Universally loved, Kenyan coffee sits at the top of the range and the very best lots have rich acidity producing thick fruit flavours and often not dissimilar to full bodied red wines.
We use the following Kenyan coffees in our Store’s range:
Kenya Gethumbwini Estate AA
Kenya Gethumbwini Estate AB
Ethiopia is regarded as the true origin of coffee and hence the coffee-growing tradition is well established.
While nobody is sure exactly how coffee was originally discovered as a beverage, it is believed that its cultivation and use began as early as the 9th century. It was from Ethiopia that it travelled to Yemen about 600 years ago, and from Arabia it began its journey around the world.
A mong the many legends that surround the discovery of coffee, one of the most popular accounts is that of an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) goat-herder named Kaldi, who lived around AD 850. He was curious as to what was causing his goats to behave so strangely. They were skipping, rearing on their hind legs and bleating loudly – almost like dancing. He noticed they were eating the bright red berries that grew on the green bushes nearby.
After trying a few him self, he found that they gave him a strange sense of elation. After filling his pockets he ran home to show off his new discovery to his wife. “They are heaven-sent” she declared, “You must take them to the Monks in the monastery”.
Kaldi presented the chief Monk with a handful of berries and related his discovery of their uplifting effects. The monk exclaimed that the berries were “Devil’s work” and hurled them into the fire. Within minutes the monastery filled with the aroma of roasting beans and the other monks gathered to investigate. The beans were crushed as the monks extinguished the embers. The chief monk ordered that the grains be placed in hot water to preserve their flavour – thus the first brewing of coffee.
The word “coffee” probably his its roots from the Kaffe region of the country, where coffee bushes still grow wild to this day.
Ethiopia only produces arabica coffee and has several famous growing regions that include Djimma, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe.
Ethiopian coffees can vary from region to region. The most distinctive, and our Store’s choice is the best crops from the Yirgacheffe region. These coffees have an intense floral aroma, a distinctly unique richness and are widely regarded as the coffee that is most similar to tea!
We use the following Ethiopian coffees in our Store’s range:
India produces a mixture of grades, qualities and species of coffee. Their coffees tend to be shade grown, i.e. shaded from the sun by larger tropical trees, and hence the berries ripen more slowly, adding to fructose levels.
The diversity of our Indian coffees is quite remarkable and the Monsooned Malabar is a unique technique used to totally altering the characteristics of green coffee beans.
Indian coffee, in its normal form, tends to be milder and more edgy than other growing countries. Acidity levels tend to be low and sugars are more refined and smoother. ‘Dry’ and ‘bittersweet’ are terms that are often used to describe Indian coffee. Monsooned Malabar is entirely different. It has almost no acidity and quickly develops a rustic, thick, oily character.
We use the following Indian coffees in our Store’s range:
Indian Bibi Plantation Peaberry
Indian Bibi Plantation AA Monsooned Malabar
Jamaica is famous for producing Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Jamaicans tend to believe that it is the “Champagne” of coffees, but this may just be a little over-exaggerated! However, it is quite unique and has a strong following…who are not put off by its more-than-hefty asking price (Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is typically as much as ten times the price of the very best Kenyan coffees!).
It is grown in a very limited area and Jamaica’s Coffee Industry Board monitors the quality that is produced. The uniqueness of Jamaica Blue Mountain is not just limited to the cup profile – most coffees are exported in burlap sacks whereas Jamaican Blue Mountain is exported in wooden barrels.
Jamaican Blue Mountain has a smooth, velvety sweetness and acidity. It is mild and delicate with an intense aroma.
We use the following Jamaican coffees in our Store’s range:
Jamaican Blue Mountain Flamstead Estate.
Indonesia produces a mixture of robusta and arabica coffees. They are often defined by the name of the Indonesian island that the coffee comes from, though this is not always true. Java coffee can come from Sumatra, as well as Java itself. You may have heard of Blue Java – this is simply named because the beans have a blue tinge to them!
Java coffees are slightly unusual and often have a strong acidic taste that can be overpowering. They tend to be blended with sweeter, milder coffee to balance the flavours and dark roasted to reduce the levels of acidity.
We use the following Indonesian coffees in our Store’s range:
Nama Baik Mill’s Indonesian Mandheling
Peru has produced coffee for some time but is still considered a newcomer to the global coffee market. The beans are typically organically grown on the slopes of the Andes Mountains. Most of the beans are wet processed arabica variety.
Peruvian coffee is generally smooth and well-rounded, the ideal middle ground for no nonsense coffees and blends.
We use the following Peruvian coffees in our Store’s range:
Organic Peru El Guabo
Decaffeinated Organic Peru El Guabo
Australia is relatively unknown as a coffee producer, and this is a fantastic reason to offer it as part of the range. The uniqueness of this coffee is not just because of where it comes from but also how it tastes. The pack description states that the Australian Skybury Plantation “sits on top of the great Australian mountain range and the resulting beans is a real reflection of the landscape it comes from; wild, earthy and bold this really is something a little bit different.”
We use the following Australian coffee in our Store’s range:
Australia Skybury Plantation
Roasting, An Art
After green coffee beans have been selected, and possibly blended, they are roasted. The flavour and appearance of the desired final product will always determine what the roasting time and temperature will be.
The art of roasting comes from being able to roast each coffee to its “sweet spot”, where it has been roasted for the right time and at the right temperatures. If it is under-roasted it will taste raw and insipid. If it is over-roasted it will taste burnt and bitter.
Generally speaking lighter roasted coffees have a lively acidity and more fruit varieties. Darker roasts lack sweetness, have more bitterness and lower acidity, as well as loosing some of the beans original characteristics.
There are several key elements to successful roasting and these are summarised below:
The roast is just one step from bean to cup but it is probably the most important one in terms of developing the flavour of the coffee.
There are a number of nuisances that occur time after time, which have a direct effect on the ultimate flavour of the coffee. These include temperature profiles, airflow, time and colour.
There must be a real connection with, and feel for, the machine – but should not be a robot.
Determining the Roast
Temperatures, smell, sight and sound!
No coffee tastes good before 1st crack (the point at which the internal moisture pressure exceeds the resistance of the structure of the bean). Too lighter roast will produce nutty, grassy or bread-like flavours. Also, the beans will be very hard and difficult to grind evenly.
Any time between 1st and 2nd crack (the point at which the internal pressure of the gas trapped within the bean structure exceeds the resistance of the structure of the bean) is a normal roast.
Around, and more normally just after, 2nd crack the roast will be bittersweet. This is not necessarily unpleasant.
Beyond the 2nd crack the coffee becomes carbonated. Carbon – ashy – burnt – perhaps even rubbery. Almost industrial-like.
Coffee roasted for too long at a too low or stagnant temperature will have a baked flavour.
Roasting Different Beans
Different beans behave differently through identical profile curves.
Each type of bean will taste different at different roast heights.
Water evaporates faster in low grown, dry processed, aged and elephant (large) beans. This is due to less solid cell structures and wider centre cuts. Colour changes will be faster and more even.
Denser beans are typically higher grown, washed, fresh and peaberry and hence require different roasting techniques.
In order to achieve high quality origin characteristics in dark roasted espresso beans it is essential that the densest, most acidic and highest quality green beans.
Changes As a Result of Roasting
Physical changes are clearly recognisable and relatively easy to measure. These are colour, size, shape and weight.
Chemical changes are more difficult to monitor. However, they can be analysed and controlled via observations and experience over time.
The Three Phases of Roasting (Drying, Roasting and Cooling)
The Drying Phase is ENDOTHERMIC (external heat is absorbed).
The beans begin to absorb heat from the environment (the roasting drum) the instant they are entered. The water within the beans acts a conductor and eventually reaches 100C and begins to evaporate, cooling the bean’s surface.
As moisture evaporates the rate of heat transfer from the environment to the bean is impeded; this is due to the increasingly hollow cell structure.
At approximately 130C the colour of the bean changes from green to yellow and the beans enter the:
Roasting Phase, which is EXOTHERMIC (heat is emitted from the beans).
The internal pressure of the beans increases due to water vapour.
Colour of the bean changes from yellow to light brown.
Cell walls within the beans dry out and become less elastic.
Sucrose (sugar) levels start to fall.
Proteins and fats begin to decompose.
1st crack occurs at approximately 160 – 180C and the centre cut opens.
True pyrolysis begins (the decomposition of the bean due to heat).
Size can increase by up to 100%.
Weight loss occurs up to 5%.
Silverskin blisters and is shed from the surface of the bean.
The Maillard Reaction occurs. Proteins, peptides and free amino acids react with reducing sugars to form volatile aromatic constituents and browning pigments.
Colour changes from brown to darker brown.
Aroma development begins and the traditional “coffee smell” becomes more evident.
The chemical composition of the bean is continuously changing.
As beans approach 200C the sugars begin to caramelise.
The internal gas pressure builds, as the cell matrix becomes brittle.
2nd crack occurs at approximately 200 – 220C.
Gases and volatile aromas are released.
Internal bean oils equalise across the whole bean structure and are evident on the bean’s surface.
After a short endothermic stage the process becomes exothermic once more.
Further roasting results in carbonisation of cellulose (i.e. the beans become burnt).
Bluish grey acrid smoke appears as the oil burns.
Fats and oils become less viscous and spread more evenly over the surface of the bean.
Further carbonisation will leave the beans charred and ashy.
Organic matter is reduced by up to and above 12%. Lighter roasts are typically 1-5%.
Total waste can be as much as 20% due to loss of water, silverskin, carbon dioxide and aromas.
There are several points at which the roast can be terminated within the roasting phase. Whichever point is chosen the beans must enter the Cooling Phase:
The coffee beans must be cooled quickly so not to over roast with their own heat.
Beans can be cooled be either air or water quenching.
Water quenching is fast and reduces (or eliminates) the amount of smoke produced from the beans. However, the water tends to shock the beans and open the pores. This can expose the beans to the atmosphere and make them go stale more quickly. It also allows the oils within the beans to equalise and spread more easily across the beans. The oils are therefore prone to attack from oxygen.
Air quenching is preferable in terms of retention of quality, as it is a more gentle process. However, it is not as effective at cooling the beans and stopping the roast. It also creates a health and safety issue as it releases large volumes of smoke into the local atmosphere.
Once cooled the beans are still unstable and continue to release carbon dioxide for several weeks. One kilogram of coffee can release 6 – 10 litres of gas.
The Flavour of Coffees
Coffee flavours are both inherent in the bean and are developed by roasting.
Coffee flavours can be categorised according to the aspect of growth or process that has brought them about.
Cherries with green beans are living organisms and hence organic flavours can develop. These typically include floral notes (such as coffee blossom and tea rose), fruits (e.g. lemon, apple, apricot are common but some of the more special coffees have more exotic or rare fruit flavours), vegetables (e.g. peas, potato, cucumber) and naturally sweet substances such as honey.
Alongside these organic, or natural, flavours can be some aromas of earth, straw, leather, rubber, meat or smoke. These can become unpleasant if they are too strong.
During the pyrolysis of roasting, spicier aromas can be brought forward (and destroyed!). These typically include maple, malt, tobacco, pepper, cloves, coriander, blackcurrant and cedar.
The browning process enhances notes of caramel, butter, nuts, chocolate, vanilla and toast.
Storage, before and after opening
During the roasting process all coffees naturally produce carbon dioxide inside the structure of the beans. This gas will naturally evaporate within a week or so, taking with it the fresh, flavoursome aromas of the coffee – loosing its freshness and aroma, unless it is correctly packaged of course!
Coffees can be stored in various packaging forms and we use the following formats for our Store’s coffees:
Valve Bags – Arguably the best way to store roasted coffee – beans or ground. The bags feature a non-return valve, usually located towards the top of the bag. The bags are filled with the coffee immediately after roasting. The Carbon Dioxide that is produced during the roasting process is released from the beans and slowly fills the bag with the gas.
When settled, Carbon Dioxide sits in a layer below Oxygen because it is heavier. It is the Oxygen in the air that attacks the coffee, oxidising it and making it taste stale. As more and more Carbon Dioxide is released the pressure in the bag increases forcing the layer of oxygen out of the valve.
The Carbon Dioxide that remains forms a protective ‘blanket’ around the coffee until the bag is opened.
Caddies – Our in-store caddies do offer some protection but it is always best to use the coffee FULLY up before replenished from a fresh valve bag. The valve bags used to store the bulk coffees for the caddies keep the freshness of the coffees in the same way as the small 250g valve bags on shelf.
We will be serving from the caddies directly into ‘Kraft’ bags in-store. The bags do not offer the same level of protection as the valve bags and they are mainly designed for easy opening and re-sealing. Customers should be advised to buy in smaller quantities so that coffee stays fresher.
W e are also selling our coffees in Selection Packs. These packs are ideal for holding a selection of smaller portioned coffees bags. The foil bags provide protection from the atmosphere until they are opened and are ‘gas flushed’ with Nitrogen before being sealed. The Nitrogen acts as a protective cushion in the bag and forces any Oxygen out of the bags before they are sealed, allowing the coffee to stay in a protective atmosphere while in the bags.
Many coffee producers pack their coffees into vacuum-packed blocks. We choose not to do this because it removes all of the aroma and natural gas from the coffee before it is packed.
Coffee has a limited shelf life, that can be greatly extended by good quality packaging. Once a coffee pack has been opened it will loose freshness and flavour, and become stale very quickly, unless it is stored in an airtight container or re-sealable bag. Follow the instructions on each pack to achieve best results.
Coffee can also absorb tastes and aromas from other foods so extra care must be taken when storing in kitchens, fridges etc. If it is stored in a warm, humid atmosphere the coffee will deteriorate even faster.
The best way to stop coffee from going off is by keeping the coffee in its original bag for as long as possible before opening. Then try to prevent contact with air as much as is possible.
There are some golden rules that apply to making any coffee, regardless of whether you are using an espresso machine, a cafetiére or a filter (or anything else for that matter!).
Learn to use your equipment properly – whether it is a grinder, a machine or even something even as simple as a cafetiére. Read the manufacturers instructions and set up the equipment as required. The simplest of things can lead to improper brewing of coffee (e.g. a temperature difference of just 1C in an espresso machine can alter the flavour of the espresso produced).
All equipment must be immaculately clean! Even though coffee is virtually calorie-free it does contain fatty substances that can leave deposits on your equipment. These can soon become rancid and will add highly unpleasant flavours to any newly brewed coffee.
Use Cold, Freshly Drawn Water. This is a common mistake. Many people will re-boil water, use hot urns or water that has sat for long periods of time to make their coffee. Water that has sat for a long period of time, or has been previously heated, will have lost large quantities of oxygen that is naturally dissolved in the water. When water boils, it bubbles. These bubbles are oxygen escaping from the water. The exact same thing happens with warmed water or water that is allowed to stand for a long period, but the effect is not as rapid.
Water that is depleted of oxygen is stale. Stale water does not taste good. Coffee is made up of around 99% water. If you use stale water to make your coffee it will taste bad. Simple.
Always use the correct grind size for your purpose. Coffee is ground to make it easier for the water to extract the desired flavours from it. The finer the grind, the shorter time it takes to extract the flavours. The time taken is determined by the ‘drip time’ of your coffee making equipment.
An espresso machine requires a very fine grind because the contact time between the coffee and the water is very short (less than 30 seconds). A filter uses a much courser grind because the contact time is much longer (5-6 minutes). If over-extraction occurs (too finer grind/too longer extraction period) then undesirable compounds, such as bitter tannins, are released into the liquor.
Use the right dose of coffee. People always ask “how much coffee should I use?” Well the beauty of coffee is that you can use as much, or as little, as you like. A good starting point is to use 7g of ground coffee for every person, whether that be for a single espresso or when using a six-cup cafetiére, and take it from there. If you like it stronger, use more coffee. You should never leave coffee brewing for a longer time period to make it stronger, as this will release the undesirable flavours that were mentioned earlier, increasing bitterness but not strength of flavour.
Only use water at the correct temperature (92-96C). If the water is too cold or too hot, the resuktant coffee will be weak or bitter.
Serving: Milk, Cream, Sugar???
Simple… it’s up to you.
Coffee and Health
Literally thousands of studies have shown that coffee drinking in moderation is perfectly safe and indeed can even be beneficial to health. Moderation is generally considered to be 4-5cups of coffee a day.
Coffee helps to improve alertness, attention and wakefulness. Research also suggests coffee can lessen the risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and gallstones as well as act as a powerful antioxidant and increase physical endurance.
So just like tea, coffee can play a contributory part to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
What are Organic coffees?
Coffee that is organically certified must bear a label showing that it has been so by one of several independent monitoring and testing agencies. The labelling system ensures consumers that the coffee has been grown according to organic principles, meaning that it has been produced free of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.