On Wednesday I went to an impromptu coffee cupping at Talkhouse Coffee in Notting Hill. One of their baristas, Elyse Bouvier, recently made a pilgrimage home to Canada, and brought back a generous selection of coffees from three top Western Canadian coffee roasters. We cupped eight coffees hailing from all over the world: El Salvador, Kenya, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and more. When all the crusts were broken and the slurping was done, two coffees stood heads and shoulders above the rest, picked by every single person at the cupping. Personally, I was partial to one more that the others didn’t seem to like as much. Read on to see which Canadian coffees are deserving of your attention, no matter where you live.
1. Bows and Arrows Yirgacheffe (Ethiopia)
This coffee was at the top of everyone’s list. From the very first sip, even when it was still quite hot and the flavours hadn’t yet developed, it was clear that this coffee was something special. It was juicy, evolving into a delicate and smooth cup bursting with florals and tart sweetness. When it came time to reveal which coffees were which, almost everyone had already guessed that this was a Yirgacheffe – and they were right. This Yirgacheffe from the Kochere region of Ethiopia was labelled with the descriptors “refreshing”, “citrus”, “melon”, and “jasmine green tea”, and it lived up to these delicious words and more.
2. Phil and Sebastian Kiawamururu (Kenya)
Coming in close second was this coffee, which was a bit similar to the Yirgacheffe in it’s overwhelming sweetness and juiciness compared to the other coffees. I wrote down flavour notes such as “green apple” and “raspberry” in my notes, because it had a certain acidity to it that was more like the malic acidity found in apples rather than the citric acidity found in lemons. The wonderful smell of the coffee alone was enough to set your mouth to watering, and the cup did not disappoint once you sipped it. Phil and Sebastian describe the coffee as having flavours of “peach and apricot nectar”, “currant”, “cherry”, and “stonefruits” with a creamy mouthfeel. I ended up with “juicy like WHOA” written down. However you describe it, it’s a good one.
3. Transcend Ngunguru AA (Kenya)
This coffee was one that jumped at me out of the line-up as being quite different from the rest, and quite different to anything I’ve ever had before. I’m partial to my fruity florals, so of course the other two were going to appeal to me; this coffee, however, had a funky je ne sais quoi I couldn’t quite pin down. I thought about it for a while as the cupping went on, desperately trying to pin down the word I was looking for. It evoked a taste memory for me, a very specific one, and finally I was able to give it a name. It reminded me of the time I made bread pudding and decided to kick things up a notch by soaking the raisins in spiced rum. There were notes of raisin, warm cinnamon spice, a tiny bit of vanilla, and an almost “booziness” to it. Weird, but true. As it cools down, it develops a syrupy sweet, almost Ribena-like aftertaste. So, basically: raisins. Delicious boozy raisins.
If you are a die-hard fan of great coffee and don’t mind paying a bit more to get it, then you can order all of these online. A 12 oz/340 g bag of the Phil and Sebastian Kiawamururu is available for $18 CAD plus $10 shipping (the slow one), so if you live in the UK and want it, it can be yours for around £18.
Think it’s a bit much for “just a bag of coffee”? Try looking at it from a different perspective: good coffee is like good wine. Wine-lovers would gladly pay £18 for a great bottle of wine, and get about six 125 ml glasses out of it. From a 340 g bag of coffee, if you use 15 g to make each cup, you get at least 22 delicious brews at less than a pound a cup. The only downside? Waiting for your coffee. But patience is supposed to be a virtue (I still struggle with this one) and to me, good coffee is definitely worth waiting for.
You can find Phil and Sebastian’s coffee selection here and Transcend’s selection here ; Bow and Arrows is revamping their website at the moment, but if you email them at firstname.lastname@example.org then they can advise you on varieties, prices, and shipping rates.
Thanks again to Elyse for bringing back all the great coffee at her own expense, and especially for letting me keep the bag of Ngunguru. Hopefully she will be posting about her trip to Canada on her blog, but in the meantime check out her Instagram for gorgeous photos of Alberta province’s majestic landscapes. And of course, if you haven’t been yet, be sure to check out Talkhouse Coffee, just up the road from Portobello Market. Isa, Miguel, and Elyse are all very involved in the coffee scene here in London and know their stuff, so you’ll be sure to get a great cup every time.