S T A R T E R S
Maxwell, we have a lot of coffee-related questions, so need to know you’re the right guy to ask ’em; tell us about your experience in the trade. I actually had very little interest in coffee until a lifechanging shot of espresso in Melbourne, Australia. I decided there and then I wanted to pursue coffee. My wife and I were recently married, and had working visas in Melbourne. We were shocked how culinary coffee could be, and how complex and characterful it could be too. We spent the year soaking up coffee, working in different cafés and training with barista champions. We then headed back to the UK, started an events company and then a shop in Bath. I started taking part in Barista competitions and won the UK championships three times, and also made all three world finals. This opened up all sorts of opportunities. We worked with different coffee professionals across the industry and teamed up with scientists on academic papers, seeking to solve some of coffee’s mysteries. Coffee has never been more exciting and interesting, and we continue to learn and be enthralled by this amazing drink. Now we’ve established you’re up to the job, let’s get down to the nitty gritty: what exactly is a coffee bean? It’s actually a seed. Two of them grow at the centre of a fruit that we call a coffee cherry (due to its physical resemblance to a cherry). Every now and then, though, you only get one seed growing in the cherry; this type of coffee bean is called a peaberry, and they are often sorted to one side to be sold and brewed on their own. And how many varieties of bean are there? Oh, wow. Well, there are hundreds of species, but only a couple are of real interest. Arabica is the species responsible for all of the world’s high-grade coffee, but there is plenty of low-grade Arabica also. Then, within Arabica, there are hundreds of different varieties that get grown around the world regularly. Some common varieties are Bourbon and Caturra, and it’s also possible to make hybrids. Does the country and climate a bean is grown in affect its flavour profile? Hugely. The same variety grown in one country can taste completely different in another country: just taste the Bourbon variety grown in El Salvador versus Rwanda. Go on then, tell us how. It’s a really complex web of factors; separating them out is almost impossible. The soil has a huge impact; phosphoric acid, for example, can only come from the soil. The climate and altitude have a huge impact also, and then there are the different approaches to harvesting that you get around the world. The variety has a huge impact, as PHOTO well; a variety that tastes in one environment S M AT T AUS T Igreat N may not fare so well in another. We know a lot about where coffee’s favour comes from, but there is much more to explore to really isolate the different impacts. It’s fascinating and exciting.
Published on Sep 29, 2017