A Union of coffee & competition…

My coffee addiction reached new heights last weekend when I spent a very enjoyable day at Union Hand Roasted Coffee HQ with a gaggle of lovely food and drink bloggers. My interest had been well and truly piqued earlier in the week at the mention of a competition…we’d been tasked with bringing along an item of food that we felt would best be enjoyed with coffee. I had just thing in mind and spent Friday night baking away in preparation…but more of that later.

Union have a great little set up in West Ham…a roastery, training centre and tasting room…a veritable hub of coffee connoisseurship!

We were welcomed with a cup of their La Esperanza and some delicious pastries from Gails before splitting into groups. My group were taken into the training room and let loose on the coffee machines! I was so unbelievably excited to be given the opportunity to play with a La Marzocco, my dream machine!

Helena shared her wealth of coffee knowledge with us…

Explaining everything from the importance of maintaining and cleaning the hopper…

to exactly how to hold the tamper and the exact pressure to exert in order to produce the perfect extraction…

We were using their Revelation blend, which is very deep, dark and rich. First off we extracted it for 22 secs…

then a not very successful 13 secs…

and finally 21 secs, which produced the perfect espresso with just the right balance of acidity to get the juices flowing without leaving a bitter aftertaste!…

We all had a go at producing the perfect espresso before moving onto the milk steaming masterclass…

Steamed milk should be shiny, thick and velvety NOT empty, Mr Whippy style foam that some high street coffee shops try and palm you off with! The trick is to get the milk spinning evenly and then to gradually introduce a bit of air into it by letting the steam wand just peek above the surface…

You can gauge when the milk is ready by sight, sound (there shouldn’t be any torturous high pitched squealing) and touch (you should always be able to touch the bottom of the jug). Once it’s ready you tap the jug on the worktop to get rid of any excess surface bubbles and finally swill it round to ‘polish’ it. The finished product should coat the back of a spoon luxuriously like so…

Then you can use it to turn your perfect espresso into the perfect coffee. Believe it or not, with a little help from my friend Helena, I managed to create this beautiful cappuccino…

One of the things I love about Union, is that although they are growing in popularity and are even stocked in Sainsbury’s, they are still very grounded (pun fully intended!). The co-founders, Jeremy and Steven, are inspiringly passionate about coffee and devote much of their lives to researching, sourcing and tasting to ensure that Union produce the finest coffee possible! This is Jeremy in a hat that he brought back from one of his sourcing trips, it also happened to be the star prize in the barista championship smack down, which took place later in the day…

After lunch we were taken on a tour of the roastery, an Aladdin’s cave of sack upon sack of coffee bean varieties from all over the world…

They have 2 main roasters…the big daddy, which can roast 90kg per batch…

and the little ‘San Franciscan’ drum roaster, which roasts batches of 10kg…

Steven talked us through the roasting process…

He dipped into the roaster at intervals to check on the beans progress (spot the bloggers)…

It took approximately 13 minutes for the green coffee beans to go through these stages…

and to eventually be turned into the finished beans that can be used to make a cup of coffee…

Steven made it all look very easy, although the reality of coffee roasting is apparently very hot, messy, sweaty and physical.

We all strained to listen for the ‘first crack’, which would tell us that the beans were ready, at which point Steven released them from the drum onto the cooling tray to halt the roasting process…

We were then led through to the tasting room for a lesson in ‘cupping’. It all felt very serious. We were presented with 5 varieties of coffee from Costa Rica, which had been ground, put in glasses and covered up to stop the aromas escaping before we could get a whiff…

The first stage was to unleash those aromas and to smell the ground coffee using short ‘dog like’ sniffs.

Then hot water was poured over them…

Jeremy showed us how to use a spoon to break through the crust of ground coffee to inhale the coffee…

We then skimmed the coffee grounds off and used the spoon to ‘slurp’ the coffee. This bit was the most fun…the noisier the slurping the better! :)…

After all of that coffee inhalation I was feeling pretty giddy and just about ready for a dose of my other vices…cake and competition!

As I mentioned earlier, we’d been asked to bring along something (bought or made) that we thought would be perfect paired with a cup of coffee. Back in April I made a delicious cardamom coffee mud cake, which immediately sprung to mind as a great companion for coffee. So on Friday night I stayed in and baked (rock and roll!) to produce my (hopefully) winning entry…

After a bit of twitter banter and a good dose of healthy competition everyone had really pulled out all the stops to come up with their ideal coffee pairing… 

We had to wait until the very end of the day to discover who had won but it was well worth the wait because I’m extremely chuffed to announce that me and my cardamom coffee mudcake were victorious!!!

Chloe (@Faerietalefoody) was awarded joint 1st prize with her delicious fruit and spice laden biscotti. We are now very proud Union ‘Roastmasters’ and are going to be spoilt rotten by being sent coffee by Union Hand Roasted every month for a whole year…bliss!

As if that wasn’t enough they’ve also given me a special code to share with you so that you can receive 10% off online orders at www.unionroasted.com just shop away to your hearts content and when you get to the checkout enter the discount code ‘AFTERNOON10’.

Many thanks to Jeremy, Steven, Gail, Ari, Helena and Alan for a wonderful day and to Union Hand Roasted Coffee for fuelling my caffeine addiction 🙂

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s