The perfect cup of coffee

Words: Amy Newson

Ah, coffee. We can’t start the day without it, which is why we were buzzing to explore the complex world of our morning (and let’s face it, sometimes afternoon) pick-me-up. From growing, sourcing and roasting the magical coffee bean, to the many different ways of brewing it, our panel of coffee experts – Richard Blake at Yallah Coffee, Fabio Ferreira at Notes Coffee Roasters (who curated our brand-new Selfridges Selection coffee range) and more – are here to teach us the art of a truly perfect cup of coffee and shine a light on earth-conscious processes as they go.

Meet the panel

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RICHARD BLAKE
Founder and Director of Yallah Coffee
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JOSH TARLO
Head of Coffee at
Kiss the Hippo
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CLAIRE WALLACE
Coffee Roaster at Assembly
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FABIO FERREIRA
Co-founder of Notes Coffee Roasters
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SAM TREVETHYEN
Head of Coffee at Grind
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MICHAEL WEBER
Director of Food, Buying & Merchandising at Selfridges
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We discussed sourcing coffee beans with Richard Blake, Founder and Director of Yallah Coffee

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Coffee farmer picking coffee fruit
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The final product (delicious)

How do you go about sourcing your coffee beans?

Whilst taste is the first thing we think about when we’re sourcing new coffees, the most important things are transparency, fairness and farming practice. We place a high value on how the coffee is grown, protection of the natural environment and working with growers who are doing what they can to reduce their impact on the planet.

How does the flavour of the bean vary continent to continent?

Coffees from Africa tend to be high acidity, complex and often fruity, while coffees from South America tend to be nutty with lots of chocolate notes. I love finding coffees from regions that break these trends – Colombia is a great example of this; you can find almost every profile in Colombian coffee.

Tell us about the farmers who grow your coffee beans.

Over 60% of the coffee we buy is from a small group in Brazil called The Associate Group of Producers of Divinolandia. They’re basically a group of farmers who are working together to get recognised as a region that produces outstanding coffees. You can really feel that when you taste the coffee and meet the people – these guys are handpicking coffee on a small scale, with help from friends and family when it comes to harvest time.

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We talked coffee roasting with Josh Tarlo, Head of Coffee at Kiss the Hippo

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Coffee with a view
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Ripening coffee fruit

How do different levels of roasting affect the final taste?

A light roast means that the coffee’s inherent sweetness and acidity are reinforced and accentuated. As the roast moves into medium, that sweetness changes from flavours of fruity sweetness to darker caramel notes. Dark roasts take those dark sugar notes and turn them into carbon, which leaves the coffee tasting really smoky and strong.

Which kinds of roasts would you use for different brews of coffee?

Instead of dark roasting the coffee (which is common for a lot of espresso roasts), we look to preserve every bit of the hard work the producer puts in to make their coffee unique. This style of roasting is called “omni-roast” and has been specially developed by us to make sure you can get great coffee no matter how it is brewed.

Why did you decide to use a carbon-neutral roasting process?

As we prepare to break ground on our new roastery, we have carbon neutrality at the top of our list. Our new roastery will be powered by a mix of solar panels and renewable resources: the gas to light our roaster’s flame is made from anaerobic fermentation (gas released during the composting process).

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We have carbon neutrality at the top of our list. Our new roastery will be powered by solar panels and renewable resources.

– Josh Tarlo, Head of Coffee at Kiss the Hippo
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We found out about brewing processes from Claire Wallace, Coffee Roaster at Assembly Coffee

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Coffee fruit drying
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Claire doing what she does best – coffee cupping (that's tasting, to you and me)

What’s your favourite way to make coffee?

At home, I really enjoy making hand-poured filter coffee – the process helps me wake up in the morning.

Tell us about the different ways there are to brew coffee, and how each affects the final flavour.

The two most popular methods are espresso and filter. To make an espresso, hot water at high pressure is pushed through a cake of ground coffee, resulting in a very short beverage with a high flavour concentration. Filter coffee takes longer to brew and can be done in two ways. Full immersion (using a cafetière), where ground coffee is immersed in water and brewed for an appropriate amount of time, produces a coffee with a rich, full body. Pour-over methods (using a V60 HYPERLINK, for example) involve the brewer gradually pouring water over a bed of ground coffee – this is great to highlight the flavour complexity and brightness in a coffee and tends to be lighter in body.

What is the most popular order you receive from customers at Selfridges’ weekend Market on the Mews?

Easily a flat white, which I think is a very popular order in most cafés. It gets the balance of the richness of the milk and the espresso flavour just right.

Claire's perfect pour

YOU WILL NEED:

23g (or close as possible) of medium ground coffee

1 V60 filter (or another conical brewer)

1 V60 filter paper

Boiling water (filtered is ideal) 

Digital scales
 

THE HOW-TO:

1. Thoroughly rinse the filter paper by placing it in the V60 and pouring boiling water through.

2. Discard the spent water and set up your V60 on your mug, on top of your scales.

3. Load your freshly ground coffee into the V60 and distribute evenly so that the bed of coffee is flat.

4. Set a stopwatch running and pour 70ml of water, then wait 40 seconds.

5. Pour the remaining 290ml at a steady but slow pace – the scales should read 360ml.

6. Leave to drain completely.

7. Sip, and enjoy

Did you know

The flavour outcome of coffee is heavily dependent on the climate, soil and elevation in which it is grown. Even within the same country, coffee grown in different valleys will deliver diverse notes.

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We chatted about sustainability and our brand-new Selfridges Selection coffee range with Fabio Ferreira, Co-founder of Notes Coffee Roasters

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Fabio doing what he does best – coffee cupping (that's tasting, to you and me)
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Unroasted coffee beans

Why is it important to source coffee sustainably?

Speciality coffee farms employ organic practices to produce natural pesticides and fertilisers. The work required is much harder throughout the year, and the costs of maintaining the plantation are much higher, but the results in the cup and for the planet make it all worth it.

Why did you choose to team up with Selfridges to create our new range of Selfridges Selection coffees?

We are so excited to be partnering up to create these delicious single-origin speciality coffees. To be part of the Selfridges Selection range is a great opportunity to spread the speciality coffee story to a wider audience.

Tell us about the range: where are the beans from, and how are they roasted?

We’ve curated a range of delicious coffees from around the world for Selfridges, from the biggest coffee-growing country, Brazil, to one of the most famous producers, Colombia. We have also travelled as far as Southeast Asia, to Myanmar, which is a new arrival on the speciality coffee scene, as not many people have seen or tasted their exotic coffees yet. Our chosen crops are not only amazing quality and grown using sustainable practices but are also all from female-owned farms.

 

Cooperatives and exporters tend to pay less for coffee produced by women, so we make sure we pay each of our producers properly for their hard work.

– Fabio Ferreira, Co-founder of Notes Coffee
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We explored coffee culture with Sam Trevethyen, Head of Coffee at Grind

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Picked coffee fruit
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Getting the perfect grind

Why is coffee culture such a key part of London life?

Cafés provide a place for us to escape the office, meet up with friends, hold meetings or generally socialise. In the fast-paced environment that is London, they provide a much-needed “third space” – that place that’s not home or work.

How has Grind continued to provide coffee culture during the Covid crisis?

We’ve seen incredible growth online, with so many people wanting to bring Grind coffee home. While we’re really grateful to have people back with us in our London locations, we’re still sending out more and more coffee and compostable coffee pods every day to our friends and subscribers.

Sam’s perfect Espresso Martini

YOU WILL NEED:

40ml vodka

35ml Grind House Blend Espresso

20ml sugar syrup (equal parts hot water and sugar, stir to dissolve)

 

THE HOW-TO:

1.     Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill 3/4 full with ice

2.     Shake vigorously, ensuring the ice is hitting either end of the shaker for 8–10 seconds

3.     Double strain into a coupe glass

4.     Garnish with 3 coffee beans

5.     Enjoy!

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We caught up with Michael Weber, Director of Food, Buying & Merchandising at Selfridges, about his coffee ritual

How do you make your perfect cup of coffee?

For my morning coffee, I want the complexity and nuance of flavour you can get from a pour-over. Using a lighter roast, I use whole beans and grind them daily. Smaller pack sizes are great, as the further you get from the roast date, the more flavour components and acid you lose. I will usually geek out and weigh my coffee on a scale. The water should also be just shy of boiled to ensure enough heat to extract the flavours.

How would you describe your daily coffee ritual?

The first cup of coffee is the prelude to my day. It needs to be enjoyed in the garden, under the tarp in the rain, or by a warm heater. The news and events of that day might not be perfect, but that first cup of coffee will be. 

Why are we revamping our coffee range at Selfridges?

Coffee is not only a daily routine, but it is sourced from ecosystems that are on the front line of climate change. We have the ability to curate a coffee selection that ensures we source from roasters who prioritise economic and environmental sustainability. We’re turning this simple, daily ritual into an ability to support farmers with the resources to fight climate change.