It’s giving tea a run for its money as the nation’s favourite cuppa, and with new, local innovations brewing, Clare Hunt wakes up and smells the coffee
Coffee chains have proliferated at a startling rate, persuading us that any time is coffee time, and it’s the artisan producers of speciality coffee who are educating our palates. Luckily for us, Devon is home to a growing band of independent coffee producers bursting with passion and enthusiasm, and they are determined to show just how good a cup of ‘speciality’ coffee can be.
To be classed as speciality, a coffee must score over 80 points (out of 100) in ‘cupping’ tests by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe. Acidity, sweetness, body, flavour and other sensory attributes all contribute to a coffee’s final score. Less than 5% of the coffee we drink is considered good enough to be classed as speciality. And alongside quality, Devon’s coffee producers also take other concerns into consideration: “Speciality coffee is so much more than just the quality of the drink we get in the cup,” says Dave Stanton from Crankhouse Coffee in Longdown. “It’s about knowledge of traceability, sustainability and ethical purchasing by all parties along the supply chain.”
For artisan coffee roasters, the beauty of the drink is in its infinite diversity of flavour. They’re looking for ever-changing profiles that will give the drinkers of their coffee new experiences. They work with growers and importers who produce top-grade beans that reflect the climate and terrain in which they grow. Andrew Webb, Director of Crediton Coffee Company, explains: “Artisan roasters celebrate the diversity of coffee flavours by roasting in small batches, giving customers choice and opportunities to try different coffees from known origins. This is like the wine model, where each estate bottles its own wine.”
For those producing speciality coffee, every link in the chain needs to be highly skilled, from the farmer, to the importer, the roaster and finally the barista who manipulates acidity, sweetness and bitterness to ensure the final cup does justice to the bean. Roasting beans for maximum results is both an art and a science. “We treat each of our coffees individually to really make them shine,” says Rachael Jowitt, Head Roaster at Voyager Coffee in Buckfastleigh. “When I get a new coffee in, I’ll sample-roast it to give a basic idea of flavour profiles and to discover the coffee’s potential. I then move onto the big roaster and will tailor a profile to suit it. This may involve a few test roasts and lots and lots of cupping and tasting. It’s all in the flavour.”
And while the artisan roasters are getting ever more sophisticated in their production methods, it appears that consumers are developing higher expectations, too. “More customers know what they want and what to expect – they don’t want just a standard coffee anymore,” says Chris Bloye, Manager at Home Farm Café near Bovey Tracey. “Flat whites, with their short extraction rate and acidic flavour, have soared in popularity. People’s taste buds seem more refined, or at least people now understand more about the different flavours that exist. We find customers don’t mind paying a little more for a quality product, providing they feel they are getting value for money.”
So, what’s the future for Devon’s speciality coffee producers? Innovation continues apace – in technology (more sophisticated coffee machines, grinders and roasters) or delivery mechanisms (pods, flavoured instant granules and even coffee bags). Caroline Little, Director of Roastworks Coffee in Willand, observes: “The capsule market is the single fastest-growing sector of the category at the moment and has the potential to revolutionise coffee at home. Our speciality capsules not only provide consumers with a super convenient espresso-style drink at home, but we’ve found that they’re actually a very successful brew method for speciality coffee.”
So, whatever your taste, there’s no excuse for a bad cup of coffee again.
With two unique blends (Union Street and Sunny Cove) and now a decaf offering, Salcombe Brew’s aim is to produce enjoyably moreish, drinkable coffees that aren’t overpoweringly strong. Classic whole beans and ground versions sit alongside the convenience of capsules as well as an innovative one-cup coffee bag.
Beans from places as far flung as Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Sumatra or Honduras find their way to Voyager’s Buckfastleigh roastery to be roasted to toasty perfection. Espresso blends and characterful single origins are available. Voyager is also dedicated to training the very best baristas at their coffee academy.
With an eye on the supply chain right back to the farmer, Roastworks is keen to bring specialist coffee to a wider market, highlighting seasonality and the enormous range of available flavours. Beans are roasted in a 1958 German drum roaster to bring out the unique qualities of each variety. Try the Nespresso-compatible capsules for top-quality taste combined with convenience.
Willand-based Little’s ranges of flavour-infused instant and ground coffees combine 100% Arabica beans with complementary natural flavours. With no added sugar or sweeteners, it’s the company’s mission to add a lively dash of flavour without overpowering the coffee’s natural base. Flavours range from vanilla to cardamom or coconut and a decaf range is in the pipeline.
Beans from across the globe land in their original sacks in Crediton Coffee’s market square shop before being roasted on the premises. While they can grind the beans for you, Crediton Coffee’s philosophy is all about freshness, so they recommend you brew and drink within 15 minutes of grinding. Freshly brewed coffee is available in the shop, and regular ‘cupping’ sessions take place to let you taste new coffees and learn about the process of making the perfect cup.
Exeter-based Crankhouse prides itself on highlighting seasonality in its ever-changing selection of coffees. Beans are purchased in small batches and meticulously roasted – this ensures there’s always something interesting and super-fresh to try. Specialist equipment and monthly subscriptions are also available.