Craft: Connecting Coffee+Bread+Wine+Chocolate was held at London School of Coffee’s new Fulham location on 31 August. The afternoon was an opportunity for professionals and aficionados from a variety of overlapping industries to meet and discuss questions of quality, craft and value.
To commence proceedings, Stephen Hurst introduced Mercanta and the London School of Coffee, both of which are committed to education in quality coffee. Mercanta has been a long-time investor in the Cup of Excellence programme since the very first Brazil auction in 1999. He had the pleasure of introducing Susie Spindler, founder of Cup of Excellence (COE), who presented on Cup of Excellence as supporting craft in coffee. Every year, hundreds of c offee producers from producing countries around the world submit samples of small batch, hand-crafted, green coffee to the regional COE board. Only the highest qualities are selected for the international stage. Once selected, these beans are available to purchase on an online auction. These producers stand to earn some of the highest prices ever recorded for these exceptional goods – a record of $300/lbs was reached last month in the Costa Rica Auction!! The Cup of Excellence competition has pioneered integrity and transparency in the coffee industry, ensuring the value of winning coffees. Each sample entering the competition process is assigned a number known only to the auditor for each competition, and each jury member cups the coffee blind. In addition, each lot is documented through the entire process so that winning coffees are traceable to the farm and exact micro-lot.
Susie was then joined by Synøve Nesøen from Kaffebrenneriet, Oslo and Stephen Hurst from Mercanta the Coffee Hunters, both long time investors in the Cup of Excellence programme. Speaking from the perspective of a Roaster and Importer, respectively, Synøve and Stephen offered honest insight in to their experiences of working with COE, the benefits that this institution provides to producers and roasters, and areas where participation amongst the wider coffee and restaurant community can be improved. Both also pointed to the difficulties experienced in scaling this and other quality driven projects and products – particularly in the restaurant environment.
The discussion was followed by a sensory exposition, focusing on five quality coffees from around the world, including a Cup of Excellence coffee that Mercanta secured in this year’s Guatemala Auction.
After the cupping, James Low, Head of Coffee at Lyle’s London discussed scaling craft coffee – particularly in a restaurant environment. Lyle’s coffee programme is renowned, and James is a true expert in scaling a specialty coffee experience and shed a great deal of light on the intricacies involved.
Following this, the amazing Andrew Wilkinson, of Gilchesters Farm & Mill in Northumberland, and Joshua Meiseman, a pastry chef with whom Gilchesters works closely, discussed many of the connections between heritage, organic grains and coffee as a product. This section drew forth many surprising synergies between the two products, particularly with regards to communicating added value to the end consumer. This engaging talk was followed by a delicious discussion of the similarities in the field of chocolate, led by Andrew Lowkes of Pump Street Chocolate. Andrew drew forth the similarities in the way that coffee and chocolate must focus on origin and on the importance of adding complexity to our sensory lexicon.
The afternoon ended bread and wine experience, drawing on the importance of processing method and variety of raw product in both of these artisan goods and how they are inextricably linked to specialty coffee! The wine sensory experience was led by Lona Jones, who sampled and spoke about Roberson Wines’ London Cru range.
Thanks to all who participated in the event.