Last week was Edmonton’s chance to get wired. Like I mean, really wired and in the greatest way possible. I’m talking about YEG Coffee Week. Their mission:
To connect and build a vibrant community, that works to motivate, educate and support both coffee professionals and enthusiasts as well as our local community.
Motivate, educate, and support is exactly what YEG Coffee Week did, at least for me. From March 7th to 15th, 27 local cafés participated in the inaugural event, offering a $1 discount on beverages (over $3.50) upon showing a YEG Coffee Week passport stamp card. It was so awesome to revisit my favourite cafés and even better, discovering new ones that I had never been before!
And as if drinking your favourite espresso, latte, or brew wasn’t enough for Edmontonians, a multitude of events and seminars were offered, four of which I was able to attend in my work week. Let me tell you, I’ve learned a lot about coffee in the past week. And as a disclaimer*, I consider myself the average (or slightly less than average) coffee consumer. (For those interested, you can find my personal history with coffee at the end of the post.) Big kudos to Sarah Jackson and her team for organizing such a great week! Make sure you follow YEG Coffee on Twitter and Instagram because there’s going to be more to come next year!
Read on for the recap of my experiences: “YEG Coffee Week Launch”, “Home Brewing – Pour Over with Farrow”, “Latte Art with Café Bicyclette”, and “Transcend Coffee Roastery Tour”.
YEG Coffee Week Launch
YEG Coffee Week had a strong kick-off, a screening of “A Film About Coffee” at Metro Cinema at Garneau. I enlisted my friend Jody as my partner in crime for the Saturday. (Dieticians are extremely interested in where food comes from.) We’ve all heard of farm-to-table dining, nose-to-tail menus. Do you ever think about bean-to-cup? I can tell you that the average consumer (hi, that’s me) in line at Tim Hortons or Starbucks probably doesn’t. And that’s where the education comes in. The documentary followed everything from the production of coffee from farms in Honduras to harvesting in Rwanda. Did you know the average coffee plant only produces one pound of bean per year? You would need sixteen coffee trees in order to supply the average consumer’s yearly intake of coffee! That’s insane. The film also discussed about the growing global consumption, the crop’s economic and environmental implications and showcased roasters and numerous coffee shops from around the world. It was eyeopening to say that least. I love food movies that change the way you think of what you consume!
Following the screening, there was a short panel discussion which provided some great insight on Edmonton’s growing coffee culture. The most noteworthy point of the discussion though was that all panelists agreed that it’s not just coffee that’s important, but what a cup of coffee can represent. You don’t catch up with a friend over a cup of juice, you go for a cup of coffee. You also don’t give a giftcard for pop, you give a giftcard to coffee. Or at the Bissell Centre, a charitable partner in YEG Coffee Week, a cup of coffee “provides warmth and comfort for people who are struggling with living in poverty” and “facilitates healthy conversation[s] between staff and participants to establish trust and start strong relationship[s].
Absolutely loved the film and the discussion, great insight and super educational. For more information or to watch the film (available for purchase), head on over to A Film About Coffee website. It was a great start to the week!
Home Brewing – Pour Over at Farrow
Home brewing was not something I was particularly interested in before, but a one hour class (three groups of four) offered at Farrow changed my mind in no time. Sold out in the blink of an eye, I was lucky enough to nab a spot, tickets given up and posted on Twitter an hour before the first class started. Score? Pays off to be following everything #yegfood on Twitter. And for $5, how can you go wrong? I can ask all the questions I want with a group as little as four!
Justin and Max were our hosts for the afternoon, providing detailed instructions on how the guys brew at Farrow. I’m well aware of their outstanding sandwiches (yeah, they’re #1!), but had no idea that their dedication to buying unique roasts was just as important. Farrow uses the V60 brew system, and follow a recipe outlined by Heart Coffee Roasters with a couple tweaks here and there.
The class went through every step, from boiling the water (yeah, it’s important!) to the consistency of the grind, to the method of pouring to extract the best possible flavour from the coffee. When you think about it, there are three ways that the bean can lose its flavour: at production and harvest (if you have bad beans, it’s going to be bad coffee!), at roasting (there was even a roasting class at Earth’s General!), and at brewing. For most people, roasting your own beans would probably be too intense. But brewing at home? Totally doable.
We tasted two completely different kinds of coffee, the first from Kuma Coffee, Seattle, Kokanna Ethiopia. It was honestly like doing a wine tasting, and much more complex (which I was later informed at Transcend Coffee’s roastery tour). Our first brew was peachy, something I had never tasted so prominently before (serves me right for adding milk all the time…) and almost resembled a tea. Delicious! Our second brew, Flat Track Coffee, Austin, was more chocolate-y, nutty, and definitely a “wake-up!” kind of cup of coffee. I’ve never actually paid attention to how different coffee tastes, but the more I drink it now, the more I can pick up! It’s awesome. Fact: I don’t like nutty. I’m such a fruit-y, floral person!
All equipment (and other various methods of brewing such as the Aeropress) and beans can be purchased at Farrow. Thanks so much to Justin and Max for answering all of my newbie questions. These guys are so sweet, and super knowledgeable about their coffee. Farrow brings in a new roast every now and then, check them out for something completely different! Oh, and don’t forget grab a sandwich. Duh.Farrow
8422 – 109 St
Coffee brewing might not be my cup of
tea coffee (ha!), but lattes are right up my alley. I guess I’m team espresso if I had to choose. I’m also a sucker for beautiful cups and latte art has always amazed me. So it makes sense that I would sign up for a latte art class at Café Bicyclette down at La Cité Francophone. François, front of house and head barista, gave us the full rundown in under an hour. Everything from grinding the coffee beans, making the espresso, heating the milk, down to making beautiful latte art. Before attending, I had done a little research with the YouTube series over at Chef Steps (beautiful videos & awesome series!). That little design in your latte is not easy!
And trust me, we all tried. I loved that the class was hands-on and started from preparing the espresso. We were a little pressed for time but every one of us (group of ten) were able to make our cup of latte (or chai latte, hot chocolate) and practice our rosetta. Not only is making the rosetta hard, but just preparing everything at the right time! That espresso shot is just waiting for you, the milk steamer needs a wipe down before milk starts curdling on it, you need to “tamp” and swirl the milk to get those air bubbles out and ahhhh! Good thing François was supervising.
Although I absolutely loved making my first espresso shot and steaming my own milk (it was so intimidating!), I would have loved to learn more about latte art techniques and designs. Even practicing with water first would have boosted my confidence in pouring the milk! Practice makes perfect though, and I’m ready to go now at home with a milk frothing container. My Nespresso machine will take care of my espresso! Who knows, maybe you’ll see me at the next latte art competition? Probably not. 😉
Thanks François for showing us behind the counter and letting us all play with the equipment! Drop by Café Bicyclette and make sure to grab a treat by Sugared and Spiced Baked Goods or lunch, they’re delicious!Café Bicyclette
8627 Marie-Anne Gaboury
I’m going to try and recap the Transcend Coffee roastery tour as best as I can but let me tell you now, I learned a whackload with Kate and Josh. This was the first time the local roaster has given a tour of this size (16 of us!) and it was so well done! Transcend Coffee’s roastery will actually be moving their roast to the new market in Ritchie, opening summer 2016, and will feature an open-concept roasters, with glass windows. Imagine sipping your espresso while you watch them roast the next batch of beans!
Anyways, moving on. Half of the allotted ninety minutes was with Kate, head roaster for Transcend Coffee. Samples of beans will come in and it’s Kate’s job to analyze everything there is to analyze the little green bean. Things like moisture (they want 10-12% moisture content), size, density, and defects are all noted. We took a look at a sample of green coffee beans, noticing their colour, sheen, and smell. Little nuances can tell Kate a lot about the bean even before roasting them.
Next, it’s into the roaster for some sample roasting. The green coffee beans are loaded into the pneumatic loader which blows them up into the hopper and into the steel drum. Three natural gas burners start heating the drum, constantly spinning to ensure even roasting. Four temperature probes and other contributing data are all processed into the computer, spitting out charts and graphs. From this, Kate’s able to see exactly what stage the beans are at and adjust the pressure and the temperature accordingly.
Samples can be pulled from the roaster and Kate was able to show us varying stages of the roast. At 4 minutes, most of the moisture had evaporated from the bean (dehydration period) and we could see that thereon after, the beans darkened pretty quickly! We began to hear a popping sound, called “first crack”, signifying the start of a light roast and the start of the most critical portion of developing the flavour profile. The beans had started to expand in size, the skin a bit wrinkly. It takes Transcend Coffee about 11 to 15 minutes to roast, depending on if they’re looking for light or medium roast. Kate let the beans roast for a little bit longer to show us a dark roast, allowing us to hear a “second crack”. The beans were super smooth by this point!
Once roasting is done, the beans are emptied to the agitator for five minutes, a fan drawing air through to cool them down. Once collected, Kate does a quick scan to see if there are any beans that didn’t roast properly, like quakers (unripened coffee beans), beans with insect damage, or even stones and stowaway lentils!
Roasted beans are packaged into bags with a puff of nitrogen pumped to the bottom of the bag to remove as much oxygen as possible, thus preserving your freshly roasted beans and sealed. Ready to hit the shelves at your local Transcend Coffee or shipped to their accounts across Canada.
The last half of the tour was with Josh, where we learned about tasting or what the industry calls it, “cupping”. Once Kate finishes roasting samples, the next day the Transcend team gathers together to taste. Each bean is weighed, ground, and placed in cups. Hot water is poured and let to brew for four minutes. Josh showed us to break the crust, and skim it off to allow the aromas to rise. Then we tasted! Just as there’s technique to tasting wines and swirling it around your mouth, there are techniques with cupping. We paid attention to the taste, the mouthfeel, and the acidity. Check out this flavour wheel and fault wheel. Josh told us that coffee has more flavour profiles than wine. It’s insane!
What was most memorable about the tasting was when Josh gave us two kinds of coffees to taste and asked for our thoughts. Our group all had differing opinions about what got from our spoons, some saying they preferred cup #1, some saying cup #2, lower acidity, higher acidity, taste of grass, tomatoes, floral notes. At the end of our discussion, it took a lot of us by surprise that they were the same cup of coffee, just different methods of brewing and rest time. Bonkers.
We talked a lot about the regions beans come from, how things like soil, climate, water, and the fermentation process is all important to the production of beans. It was so awesome! I could literally listen all day if Josh kept talking about beans. Should have stuck around for the second group tour and ask more questions!
Thanks to Kate and Josh for sharing with us their knowledge on roasting and cupping. Tours are currently not being offered on a regular basis but you can contact the roastery via their website. You can grab a cup of Transcend Coffee at three locations: Argyll, Garneau, and Mercer.Transcend Roastery
7724 – 69 Street
Disclaimer: I am what I consider the “average coffee-drinker”. I went through my university days with four to five cups of Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha a day. I currently drink lattes now with a bit of sugar or vanilla shot (depending on the café). I have a Néspresso machine with built-in milk frother which prepares my coffee every morning with a press of a button. I can control how much froth I get. That’s about it. Since YEG Coffee Week, I have learnt that I like fruitier, floral-tasting coffees with mild to moderate acidity. I think I like Ethiopian coffees, although I’m continually discovering more and exploring! I love learning! 🙂