I have just drunk the best cup of coffee I’ve had since 1990. The last one was in Rome, way before coffee culture made it to England, (Gold Blend was still the height of luxury) where my sister and I flummoxed the Italian waiters by drinking three cappuccinos on the trot.
This coffee blew our minds. ‘Like ice cream,’ we said, ‘only better.’
This time I’m in Bruton, in a small cafe and roasting house on a trading estate just behind the Godminster shop, a few hundred yards from Hauser & Wirth.
Bean Shot Coffee is a new enterprise set up by Australian Nick Law. He’s from Sydney where coffee has long been treated like a religious experience. In Australia, especially Melbourne, a global mecca for coffee-obsessives, he says, meeting for a coffee (of the micro-roasted, specialist, taste-sensation kind) is always the first step of any plan.
Here we’re still more in the rush in, rush out Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero way of things – a great big pint of coffee and milk and maybe a shot of flavoured syrup to take the taste away. But still, Nick is not complaining.
‘Those high street brands got people to move away from the greasy spoon coffee, from the oversteeped cafetiere of coffee that was the only thing available.’
And so to Bean Shot Coffee, a specialist coffee house which roasts and grinds beans for you to sample and take away, trains baristas in the high art of administering the ultimate capuccino, sells equipment, aka the Rocket, the absolute don of coffee machines, £1000 and counting but if you’re going to do it properly….
Anyway you get the picture, it’s the real deal.
I try a cappuccino – from the Bella blend – which arrives in a smallish cup, perfectly dark, just the right amount of froth, no chocolate sprinkles (what were you thinking) and it’s nectar. The years drop away, I may have to order three.
The Bella is an Ethiopian blend with tasting notes of chocolate, fruit and nut, honey and toffee according to Nick. I can only say it’s sublime.
We go and have a look at the roaster, a beautiful beast of a machine and discuss roasting methods – Nick favours a lighter roast which allows the beans to retain their natural sugars and flavours. Each type of bean – imported from single estates in Ethiopia, Columbia, Brazil, Kenya - has its own roast profile which Nick describes as a recipe.
‘The secret to great coffee is being able to do it consistently which is why we build up very precise roast profiles. It’s also important to buy small amounts often to keep it fresh.’
So, without the uber Rocket espresso machine, can we still make a decent cup at home?
Well, yes, if you buy the right grind of coffee and steep it in your cafietiere for no more than 2.5 minutes with water that is just off the boil, between 94 and 96 degrees.
Personally I think I’ll be beating a regular path to Bean Shot Coffee and letting these guys do it for me. This is serious stuff, part science, part art form – and ultimately coffee that’s worth travelling for.