I love to start my day with a coffee, before setting off on my bike, and am always keen to try new coffees. Cafedirect, a Fairtrade coffee brand based in London, kindly offered me the opportunity to try out their new range of limited edition specialty coffees. I sampled the Colombia Buesaco Cherry and the Colombia Los Naranjos.
First thing to say is that the packaging for the limited edition coffees is very smart. It looks premium because these coffees are among the best in the world. A specialty coffee is one that scores at least 79 out of 100 points on the grading system of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. However, Cafedirect go further and source coffee that is at least 84 points, so 5 points more than the minimum required to be classed as specialty.
Colombia Buesaco Cherry
The Buesaco Cherry tastes incredible. It is tangy and fruity. I found it refreshing and juicy. I thought it was ideal for a hot day when you are looking for both a caffeine hit and something to quench your thirst. I am really enjoying coffees that have a fruity taste as it adds a special element to the drink, making it something that you linger over rather than just getting a quick coffee fix to start the day.
Buesaco is a town in the Andes mountains and the smallholder coffee farms are on the slopes around the town. The altitudes and fertile soil make it an excellent location for coffee production.
Colombia Los Naranjos
Los Naranjos is a cooperative of small-hold farmers in the southwest of Columbia. This coffee also has a fruity flavour. Naranjo is Spanish for orange and I could detect a citrus quality, but there is also a chocolate and nutty taste. I thought it was similar to the experience of letting a piece of very dark chocolate melt in your mouth and you get that lovely combination of fruitiness and bitterness. This is a coffee to take your time over and appreciate the flavours. A cup of this is a great start to the day.
Cafediret's ethical credentials are impressive. They invest 50% of their profits in the farmer communities. At least a third of their sales are certified as Soil Association Organic.
I really enjoyed discovering these coffees and if you want to try something with a more interesting taste profile than a standard coffee then give these a try.
How to buy
Both these coffees can be bought from the Cafedirect online shop and they also have a subscription service where you get a new specialty coffee delivered to your door each month.
I had the opportunity to try out a coffee that is recommended for drinking before a workout. GymBrew is from The Runner Bean Coffee Co. They have a roastery in Thatcham, 3 miles from Newbury in West Berkshire. This coffee is promoted as one of the strongest you can find in the UK, so let's find out what it is like.
The branding on the bag gives you a good idea of what this coffee is all about with phrases like 'powerful kick' and 'volcano erupting'. This is clearly for people who like their coffee as strong as can be. Although I love my coffee, I was somewhat nervous that this was going to be too much for me to handle when I went to make my first brew.
First the sniff test. When I opened up the bag for the first time the coffee smell was indeed bold and strong. Right away I knew that this was the most powerful coffee smell I had ever experienced, but in a good way. A very good way, if, like me, you love the smell of bags of coffee.
The rear of the bag tells the story of this coffee, from Brazil, and the efforts that have gone into creating it.
Okay, so here we go with the taste taste. Does it live up to the claim to be one of the strongest coffees? Yes, yes and yes! It is wonderfully strong, with a kick, but not overwhelming. It is full of flavour- chocolate, caramel and nuts. It is smooth and easy to drink. I was concerned that a coffee this strong might be too bitter, too powerful, but not Gymbrew. It manages to combine a significant caffeine hit with a great flavour profile. This coffee is not just about waking you up in a functional way, but delivering a delicious taste that I was happy to go back to morning after morning.
I also tested out what the coffee does for a workout. In my case it was a cycle ride. It is a normal part of my morning routine to have coffee before riding my bike. Gymbrew felt like it was in my system for longer than my usual cuppa and giving me a boost for longer. I did not have that sluggish feeling when I first started out on my bike- this can sometimes happen with other coffees and it means I take a bit longer to get going. I wondered if a stronger coffee might result in a bigger crash from coffee withdrawal later on, but this didn't happen with Gymbrew. I could only report a positive impact on my 5 mile ride and for the remainder of the day.
I really enjoyed this coffee. I think it is a brilliant idea to develop a coffee for workouts. Not only that, it tastes great and even if you don't use it for workouts it makes a great morning brew to get your day off to the best start.
Runner Bean Coffee Co. are strong on sustainability. They plant a tree for every order and their 250g bags are fully compostable. They have several other coffees available so have a look at their website to see what takes your fancy.
In December 2020 a new cafe opened up in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh. There are a lot of coffee shops in this part of town, so I was curious to find out if Modern Standard offered something different. It turns out that the coffee is roasted in Fife, Glenrothes to be precise. The Bruntsfield shop is their first cafe- the coffee tastes great and it is very competitively priced compared to the local competitors.
When I first visited Modern Standard in Bruntsfield for some takeaway cappuccinos and the barista told me that the coffee was roasted in Fife I was excited to try out a Scottish product that I had not yet heard about. I bought some of their ground coffee to try at home. The Momentum Espresso is the one they use to make the coffee in the cafe. It is a blended coffee with beans from Brazil and Columbia. I thought it was superb and full of flavour, chocolaty and nutty. Perfect for the morning brew as it was smooth and had the required caffeine hit to get you moving. I adored the smell and liked to leave the used grinds in the cafetiere for most of the day as it made my kitchen smell just like one of Bruntsfield's artisan coffee shops.
I also tried two of the single origin coffees, both from Guatemala. The Finca San Antonio was great tasting, with more citrus acidity than the Momemtum Espresso. I was happy to have this for my morning coffee and the occasional afternoon treat. The La Bolsa was incredible in every way. It had a distinct fruity taste- the tasting notes described it as 'hibiscus, red fruits, marmalade. Full body and a nuts mix finish'. The fruit also came out in the aroma and it brought a whole new pleasure to drinking coffee.
I will certainly look forward to trying more of their coffees. The website has coffees from Brazil, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nicaragua. You can buy single bags or take out a subscription for regular supplies. The website is packed with useful information about the coffees, so you can learn more about where your drink comes from. There is a QR code on the back of the bags that links to brewing guides on the website.
The founder of Modern Standard is Glenrothes-born Lynsey Harley. She has an extensive background in the coffee business and decided to locate the roasting operation in her hometown. She regularly travels out to the coffee farms to visit the suppliers and source new coffees. You will notice that the front of the bag features the 1% for the planet logo- this means that 1% of profits go to environmental and social projects.
It's another great Scottish food and drink product. The next time you are in Fife or Edinburgh, or online, give this coffee a try.
Many cyclists love coffee and believe a good bike ride should be accompanied by a good coffee. I am one of those cyclists, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review some products from Rave Coffee.
"No Jargon, no BS, just great coffee made simple."
These are the words you will find on Rave's packaging and website. They capture the coffee roaster's ethos about sourcing great coffee without any of the faff that you sometimes get with other coffee companies, like fancy ways to describe coffee and too much emphasis on packaging. That's why Rave's coffee arrives in no-frills packets, but I think they still look pretty cool and distinctive. I like the crossed out phrases, used by a certain coffee-chain to describe their drinks- I think this is the 'BS' that Rave are getting at.
A bit about Rave
They have a coffee roasting operation and cafe in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. It is in the Cotswolds region, about 80 miles from London. Their range of coffees is impressive, so much to try! There are coffee blends with enticing flavours, including one called 'fudge blend evolution' that tastes of fudge. There is a vast range of single origin coffees and they do Nespresso compatible pods. There is also decaf coffee and cold brew coffee. Just take a look at their website; it is a very enjoyable browsing experience with lots to discover. Let's move straight on to the taste test...
Signature Blend for Cafetiere
First up is the Signature Blend- the photo at the top of this blog shows the packaging. I love that there is an air vent on the back of the packet so that you can smell the contents. It is an important part of the coffee drinking experience to take in that wonderful aroma. Boy, does this stuff smell good!
Then it is time to open the packet and take a look at the lovely black dust inside. These packets can easily be resealed after opening them, so you can keep the contents fresh and not worry about having to transfer it to another container.
All of Rave's coffees feature a little card with a taste profile. In the case of the signature blend it is chocolate, almond and caramel. I am not the best at picking out flavours in coffee, but I think I got the chocolate and the caramel. What I will say is that I found this coffee very easy to drink. It is smooth and not too bitter, making it easy to sink back cup after cup. It gives that all important caffeine hit, most welcome for my post-cycle java. I have really enjoyed having this coffee in my life and would not hesitate in recommending it.
The Signature Blend is currently £6 for a 250g bag and you can make savings by ordering larger quantities and/or taking out a subscription.
Nespresso Compatible Pods
I tried three different coffees from Rave's range of pods. The Signature Blend, The Italian Job and Columbia El Carmen.
The pods are 100% compostable so you can put them in your food waste bin.
Signature Blend Pods
What I liked best about this coffee was the crema, that layer of coffee foam that sits on top of the drink after it has finished coming out of the Nespresso machine. In the Signature Blend the crema is a gorgeous smooth and creamy concoction that feels lovely in your mouth. These pods have a caramel, chocolate and almond taste profile. I could pick up the first two flavours, but I wasn't too good at detecting the nut taste. It is a smooth, easy drinking coffee, so good for those that don't want something that tastes too strong.
I found these pods to be very flavoursome to the extent that I wanted to keep going back to it and taking little sips. I found it quite an addictive taste and it was pure pleasure to take in the chocolate and hazelnut flavour. I really enjoyed the strong aftertaste that remained in my mouth after I had finished the coffee. The caffeine buzz is strong on this one and this makes it ideal when you need that extra boost. A good one for when you need to get up early and on the go quickly.
Colombia El Carmen
This single origin coffee has a stunning crema formation on the top with little bubbles that feel silky in the mouth. It also came out my machine with a little swirl pattern. I could not resist taking a photo to show you this- don't you think this is a beautiful looking cup of coffee?
The best thing about this coffee is the subtle fruit taste that comes alongside chocolate and caramel. I was so pleased at myself for being able to identify the fruit flavour and not just 'coffee taste'! I loved the fruity taste so much and each day I looked forward to making my pod so that I could have this flavour in my mouth. Note that this is not an overwhelming fruit flavour and does not make this into a weird drink, but it adds something very special, in the background, to your coffee.
The Colombian El Carmen is Rave's main sustainability project. The beans are grown on a farm that supports 300 families.
The pods work out around 29 to 32p per pod, depending on the quantity you buy and if you take out a subscription to have them delivered to your home on a regular basis.
I like that Rave encourage their customers to learn more about everything that makes coffee such a wonderful drink. They do this through the tasting notes and their sustainability projects. And then there is their subscription service which is about more than getting coffee delivered to your- they call it 'monthly coffee education.' With your coffee you will receive brewing techniques, tips and knowledge. I received a brewing guide with my coffees and this is an impressive, detailed and nicely presented manual.
I was very impressed with Rave's ethos, the value and the quality of their products. If you are seeking out some new and exciting coffees to accompany your cycling life then its definitely worth checking out Rave.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.