It's been a hectic start to the year at Crankhouse HQ and here's a little resume of what's been and what's coming soon.
A few new coffees have recently been added to the store including two from a first time origin on our list, Democratic Republic of Congo. Here's a map to show where this sizeable African country sits amongst the others that we might be a little more familiar with in terms of coffee production:
Previously we've had coffees from some it's smaller neighbours including Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda. One of our import partners Schluter coffee specialises in African coffees and has numerous projects in various countries. As well as growing a lot of Robusta coffees DRC has recently gained a reputation for some well produced Arabica's from the North-East regions especially around Lake Kivu. We have taken two coffees from two different mills, one a washed process, the other a natural. This is a good chance to taste the difference that the drying process makes in the taste and texture in the cup. Both are Red Bourbon varietals and grown under similar conditions.
One of Exeters top barista’s James Litchfield (of Exploding Bakery) recently competed in the UKBC’s (barista competition) in Bristol and he selected a Crankhouse Coffee to use in his performance. James is part of our regular cupping crew in Exeter and he picked out the Rwandan Rugali natural as his competition coffee. It was pretty exciting especially since we believe it may have been the first time that a naturally processed coffee from Rwanda had been used in a UK competition. Until 2016 it was illegal to produce anything other than washed coffees in Rwanda. The producers 'Muraho trading company' were issued a license for two mills to enable them to produce honeys and naturals and the coffee that James used was one of them. His performance was solid but his score may not see him progress to the semi-finals. We’ll know in the next few weeks
There is an active internet forum site for all things coffee related in the UK called coffeeforums.co.uk. All sorts of topics discussed and one of the forum areas is a subscription service called LSOL which stands for Lighter Side of Life. The subscribers all get sent the same coffee from the same roaster but no specific details on the label about the origin and process and taste notes etc. They then have a little time to discuss what they think the coffee is amongst themselves until the official ‘reveal;’ is made. Recent months have seen roasters such as Notes from London, Crafthouse from Sussex, HasBean from Stafford and Drop from Sweden. Some great roasters and I was thrilled and a little nervous to be asked to provide the February LSOL coffee. 43.5Kg roasted went out to 65 subscribers. Ten batches of 5Kg roasted on the Saturday and I worked extremely hard to make sure all the batches were as close as possible to each other in terms of roast profile, temps and times etc. Sunday was a day full of weighing and packing and printing labels and then 4 big post-office bags were dropped at my small local post office on the Monday am. Most of the subscribers received their coffees on the Wednesday and I eagerly awaited the first postings from this sometimes vocal and critical group. I felt pretty good when the first post came in at 9.30am with the words “It’s very quaffable”.
If you’re interested you can follow the whole thread here, including the big reveal:
For those that follow Crankhouse on various social media channels you may have seen my post about being snowed in (or out) from the roastery during the recent snow dump across the UK. I normally spend Thursdays standing outside on a market stall at the Exeter Farmers Market, serving coffee and selling retail packs and brewing equipment to some wonderful friendly customers. Its my only day of serving coffee these days and although it’s a long day I quite enjoy having that social interaction. Other days are spent standing in front of a coffee roaster or putting coffee in bags and sending out to my wholesale or retail customers so that Thursday burst of social energy is something I look forward to. Not last week. Common sense prevailed and I cancelled my attendance at the market with the prospect of -7C and howling winds and heavy snow predicted for the afternoon. Instead I went to the roastery and roasted coffee and started preparations for my imminent trip to Costa Rica. Making sure all my customers had their coffee is always a priority especially if I’m going away. I had a whole day planned and given numerous reminders I tried to get everything done and ready before the ‘heavy’ snow arrived. It came far quicker and heavier than i was expecting and loading the car up in inches of fresh snow didn’t seem clever. The next bit was far less clever. The roastery sits up a long gravel driveway that has some very steep (20%) sections that had already been covered in ice last week. A bit of slipping and sliding and sideways drifting ensued and I was lucky to get out of the driveway and onto the ‘main’ road for a treacherous 7mile drive home. This sort of weather doesn’t happen often and of course many businesses were out of action regardless if they were up a steep driveway on the edge of Dartmoor or on a big industrial park. I think I know where I'd rather be.
I've signed up again for a stand in the La Marzocco Roasters Village at the London Coffee Festival on the 12-15th April. If you haven't been it's a massive expo on all things at the pointy end of coffee. Ten's of thousands through the doors of the Old Truman Brewery building in Shoreditch. It's mental. Energising and incredibly tiring at the same time. Last week I entered a competition held by another one of my green coffee partners D R Wakefield. They asked for their customers to send in a bag or two of one of their imported coffees roasted for filter for a blind assessment. Over 50 coffees came in from across Europe and they went from 50 to 25, to 10, then 5. I made the final cut with a washed Colombian coffee from the award winning Cafe Granja La Esperanza. The Burila Estate is one of their 'estate' coffees collected from different parts of their various farms. These farms produce exceptional micro-lots and therefore the care and knowledge in processing is proven. The prize for the winner was pretty special too. A bag of greens of something exceptional from D R Wakefield to be roasted and brewed on a dedicated stand for the duration of LCF. That was definitely a prize worth going for. Unfortunately I didn't win and ended in 5th place. The deserved winner was a washed Pacamara from the same farm Cafe Granja La Esperanza roasted by one of east London's finest, Climpson & Sons. At least they won't have to go far to get to the LCF site. If you're in Devon then you'll find the Burila Estate being served as the house coffee at March Coffee on South Street in Exeter as well as the Almond Thief in Dartington for the next few months.
The more observant amongst you would have spotted ‘Costa Rica’ in a preceding paragraph. Yes I’m standing at Heathrow airport typing this entry waiting for a flight to San Jose in Costa Rica right now. This will be my 2nd trip to ‘origin’ and its something I’ve wanted to try and do regularly since starting Crankhouse. Last time I went with a small group arranged by my friend Andrew Tucker then of Clifton Coffee. This time I’m tagging along on a sourcing trip for one of my main import partners Cafe Imports. Its a 4 day itinerary:
5th March:8.30 am departure from the hotelVisit Tarrazu : La Pira de Dota, El Pilon and La Chumeca micromills6th March:Departure time pendingVisit Cerro San Luis and Las Lajas with cupping at Las Lajas micromill7th March:Departure time pendingCupping day8th March:Visit Aguilera Brothers and La Perla del Café micromill9th March:Optional cupping at Café Imports office in San JoseFLY HOME
That’s it. Short and hopefully very sweet. Crankhouse has had coffee from both Las Lajas and La Perla Del Cafe previously so it will be nice to be able to put real experiences to those great coffees. Cost Rica are the forerunners of Honey processing and there’s a lot going on with experimental fermentation techniques and different varietals which I’m very much looking forward to. I’ll keep my social media channels updated throughout.