WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
The gentle puttering of our Bialetti stove top espresso pot can be heard with regular intervals throughout the day, everyday. It is made just the way we like it, using a timeless method to brewing this most magical of beverages. We simply love coffee, it's taste, it's effect, it's meaning, it is intertwined effortlessly through our combined history, it has soothed us, connected us, warmed us, kept us awake, inspired us, fitting neatly into all of our social situations.
Beginning in the 90's with the specialist coffee trend which began to spread in America, one of us discovered this new concept in a US owned coffee shop in Hong Kong in ’95 and the idea stuck. We met a year later because he wanted to open a version in London, it was a perfect match we thought, little did we know the sheer cost of opening a shop in London was prohibitive, undeterred we tried seeking out investors, however every meeting we had with our potential investors we were made into the laughing stock - being told in no uncertain terms that "London did not need any coffee shops". Luckily for us a few others had already opened theirs, so we comforted ourselves instead with great coffee from the likes of Monmouth Coffee Company on Monmouth Street or in one of the handful of Seattle Coffee Company's little bars.
Having decided to leave behind the idea of opening our own coffee shop, suddenly we had plenty of free time, so we decided over coffee, that it was time to travel instead. Travelling instinctively inspired our writing and photography, we had plenty of time and no commitments so we hung out in coffee houses, really and truly modern day social clubs where people engaged with each other and with us. We connected, we were inspired creatively, we made friends and we had fun, drinking copious amounts of coffee along the way.
Somewhere along the line we became a family and our time spent in coffee shops dwindled as did our budget for spending on endless cups of coffee - nappies are apparently of greater importance. This meant that coffee at home had to be great, which it was and still is. However on the odd occasion when we ventured out from our cave we noticed that a change was happening, syphons, pour overs, single estates where taking over, the language had changed, honouring the bean had become important, informing the consumer about origin, provenance and the roast which was giving access to all the fruitier, fresher flavours not experienced before. The baristas were suddenly filled with passion and knowledge, well trained, the biggest help to customers entering or in our case re-entering the coffee world. Coffee all of a sudden had a story that was being told.
Such as this story from Koppi in Helsingborg - a roaster in our part of the world - about the Nano Challa cooperative in Ethiopia: "The farmers bring the coffee cherries to the two washing stations where they are sorted by hand to remove under-ripe and over-ripe cherries. After the sorting the cherries are pulped and soaked under water for 8 hours before they are carefully rinsed until completely clean. The wastewater is filtered through Vetiver grass before it goes back into nature. The coffee is hand sorted again after being washed to remove impurities and defects. Dried on raised beds for about 10 days. This coffee is the result of a Technoserve project that is meant to increase the quality of the coffee and prices for the farmers through a transparent and sustainable system. They are helping with setting up the washing stations and new cooperative structures."
Coffee professionals have changed coffee culture by educating people, by introducing their customers to a high quality coffee with new taste profiles and trends. Baristas have become artists, frothing and aerating milk to a creamy perfection and slowly we coffee drinkers are becoming connoisseurs. Similarly these speciality or third wave coffee shops are - just like Starbucks et al did in the 90's - once again conquering the world, changing our palates, this time however they are doing it one carefully selected artisanal bean at a time and we are happy to be along for the ride - albeit less often than we used to.