How To Taste Coffee with Dan from Coffee + Beer
Ahead of our coffee & cheese box with Dan -we had a little chat with him about his expertise on Coffee .
How do we taste coffee and what are the common misconceptions around coffee tasting?
I believe the most common misconception is that coffee tastes bitter. Yes, coffee can taste bitter but that’s due to poor processing, roasting and brewing. The coffee bean comes from the fruit of the Coffea plant and therefore should have some fruity, sweet characteristics. The speciality coffee movement have been pursuing these flavours for many years now and that Is what separates us from commodity coffee.
I believe this misconception is due in some part from how coffee has been viewed in the media. The classic scene of an American detective drinking a strong coffee with cream and two sugars plays into the narrative of coffee, especially black coffee, being a strong, bitter drink that is designed to keep you awake. In reality, coffee can be a beautifully light, sweet drink full of a range of different flavours.
What was the thing that made you want to pursue your passion for coffee?
I actually fell into loving coffee by accident. I was a tea drinker (and still am!) until the age of 21, you could not get me to drink a cup of coffee! However, I was working in a café and a colleague made me a silky, smooth latte that tasted sweet and I was hooked. From there, I wanted to know how to make coffee like that myself and pour latte art hearts on top of my drinks, so my colleague and I trained ourselves using Youtube videos.
This was about 2008/9 and London was just about starting it’s coffee revolution. I went to visit a number of times and remember being offered an espresso that “would taste like cherry”. Having never really drank straight espresso before, I didn’t believe it could taste like that but it definitely did and that was one of those life altering coffees people talk about. From there I wanted to know how they did this, how they could make coffee taste like that and how I could do it.
This lead me to investigate different coffee roasters and understand origin, variants, processing and how all this alters the final product. I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to open a coffee shop with my colleague and it was there I really honed my skills and knowledge of how the whole coffee world works. This really fired up my passion for it and I’m still passionate about it to this day. I firmly believe we produce world-class coffee in the country and it should be something we are very proud about.
Is there a particular style of coffee that we all need to know about but is still unknown?
There are a lot of interesting things happening in Asia right now. Traditionally, it has been a region that produced a high amount of coffee but the vast majority of a lower grade. However, in recent years there has been a movement to plant and grow speciality grade crops and these are now starting to yield amazingly unique coffees. These coffees taste very different to what you would expect and are starting to become more available to us so watch out for these!
When looking for the right coffee roast, what should we be looking for?
My personal preference is towards lighter roasts as, if brewed correctly, can bring out the sweet, fruity flavours I prefer to taste when I’m drinking coffee. There is a time and a place for a dark roast coffee, maybe a traditional Italian espresso sat outside on in Italian city square, but for me, light roast is what I want to drink 99% of the time.
Who, at the moment are your favourite roasters? And why?
I’m very fortunate to get to try coffees from many different roasters and enjoy comparing styles. My shop can have coffees from up to 7 different roasters on the shelves at any one time and I feel this is one aspect that makes my shop unique.
I could not tell you my favourite roaster but there is a reason why I have my ‘core’ roasters of Triple Co, Origin, Round Hill and Square Mile in the shop. I think these four have different styles and complement each other really well. Each of them roast exceptional coffee and depending what style you want to drink that day, they can offer you what you need.