Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Disclaimer, an Introduction and a small rant...

<--AS explained here my journey has taken a new direction. Starting in the next post. The post below contains only my personal views and experiences. I have chosen not to name our previous supplier in this post. My goal for this blog is to expose and explore coffee culture in Northern Ireland based on my experiences and hope to begin by reviewing and evaluating more of the scene here, from roasters/suppliers to cafes and their staff. It is amazing to find a roaster/supplier that is willing to work so closely with a customer to provide a great service and a great product, when so many are content to settle for one or the other. Some cafe's here set out to be the best but only end up being better than the worst due to a poor attitude, average suppliers, a desire to expand rather than improve, a lack of knowledge or ability to implement it and lastly under trained 'baristas' that also lack personality and ambition. It will take everyone involved in the industry to try and banish the view that coffee is a convenience food or that "coffee is just coffee."

Let's collectively welcome our customers to coffee's third wave from an industry made up of speciality roasters, cafe owners and highly trained baristas so that mediocrity is eventually wiped out (by the best roasters, trainers and staff being employed by all independent cafes and by global banishing of super auto's, dumbasses and green mermaids.) :-) I can but dream...

Todays main post is below, enjoy!

Ristretto: The Art of Coffee

Ristretto Coffee
Originally uploaded by i_got_art.
Two posts in one day! Arn't you lucky!!!

Well, I have been working at an Espresso/Juice bar called Tonic for the last 3 months and from I stepped in the door (or gap in the counter) I have been intent on changing the coffee supplier from a mediocre one to the best in the UK (in my opinion, although i have not tried all other offerings, i understand there are others that may be great but will explain my biased view in a moment!)

They are called RistrettoCoffee and are located in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, so they are fairly local to me. Like Tonic they are a fairly new enterprise and are intent on raising the bar for coffee in Northern Ireland. Unlike the bigger roasters here Ristretto can provide a unique service to their commercial customers. They can tweak and create a specific blend for a location to suit the demands/tastes of the customers and the staff. For example Mark, one of the owners of Ristretto, knew that i really liked their signature blend found on their website as i used to order it for home but when we got to talking about a blend for the location we agreed that a unique blend for us would give us the edge over local competitors. So between our shared views on how the blends performed as straight shots, milk based drinks and americanos; and Marks roasting expertise, we sampled a few different variations of their signature blend, until we decided which one was the right one! I won't go into the specifics of the blend as it is classified information!!! lol :-)

It has the right mix of fruitiness (sharp citrus and sweet berry jam-like flavours and mouthfeel when pulled as a ristretto), warmth (sort of peppery in a cappuccino) and a chocolatey nuttiness that i can't really place (would hazard at milk chocolate with an almond after taste, particularly in the back of my nose.) It is something I am extremely pround of being a part of creating by giving feedback (my own, staff and customers) to Mark and also something he is happy with, as I seem to remember him telling me that he thinks that it might be the best blend he has made yet. Thankfully Ristretto use a computer system that holds all their roast profiles on, so that they can continue to produce the same great but unique blends for all their customers. Like George Foreman did with the lean mean fat grilling machine, I put my name on it. Or rather jokingly Mark labelled all of our last batch Scott's Blend! I was honoured and amused. My staff our also amused as they think my head is big enough!!!

Our last suppliers beans weren't bad but they just tasted like generic "coffee," both as a shot and as a cappa. Like most places it was a mass produced, over roasted mediocre blend. (I won't name the supplier here as it would be somewhat unprofessional of me, nor will i mention their refusal to let me sample any of their other blends or the number of bad beans i used to pick out from each bag of beans or the two weeks and numerous phone calls it took to acquire a product guide and pricelist from them... arrrgghh! I hate bad service).

To get to the point, i think Ristretto are second to none in the UK and would highly recommend that you check out their website at WWW.RISTRETTOCOFFEE.COM or go straight to their ONLINE STORE and indulge yourself in their range of speciality coffees or even a new Espresso Machine (Northern Ireland customers only, Mainland UK see Drury Tea & Coffee for rancilio equipment), i mean who doesn't need a Rancilio Silvia and Rocky set? (unless you already have one...)

In Other News: I sold all my home equipment last week and am now saving for a silvia & rocky combo, from ristretto of course! Good things come to those who wait... It's ok though, i'm kept busy at work and being a mentor for the new owner of my equipment, his last set-up was a steam toy and a blade grinder, he now has a pump and burrs, has ordered his first batch of ristretto beans and is waiting on a Reg Barber Tamper! What an upgrade!

Anyway i hope that was enough of an update for now.
Take Care