“Come up to the lab” sang Dr. Frank’n’furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show “and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver with anticipation…” Well its cold brews (below) on the slab at the Espressolab in the Old Biscuit Mill, and jolly nice they are too. Chilled espressos, slightly sweetened with xylitol or agave (or brown sugar, if you’re a Rolling Stones or sucrose addict) and frothed up in a cocktail shaker. Sugar or its imposters smooth out any residual bitterness from the coffee beans and improve that all-important mouth-feel.
Single and double espressos cost the same in the Lab as the same amount of coffee (R19 for 19g) is used in each. The difference is simply the amount of steam passed through the ground beans which may be a blend (Brazil, Guatemala and Ethiopia is today’s combination) or produce of a single plantation. High altitude sites in Kenya and Ethiopia produce the best African beans according to Renato Correia (below, with partner Helen) whose family moved to Mozambique from Portugal in the 1950s. After a first career on cruise liners, Renato has been in SA for six years and at the Old Biscuit Mill for three.
Renato’s roasting is a revelation: high acid so fruity “people used to think there was something wrong.” This is the acme of Arabica with not a rude Robusto in sight. After one this morning, the penny dropped that I’ve been drinking burnt espressos all my life. Forget about SA reds reeking of burnt rubber, what about SA coffee?
The attraction of cold brews for SA spirits distillers is obvious. Only Hunter S. Thompson could get away with drinking spirits in the summer during daylight hours. But cold brews are game changers. The task for the SA Brandy Foundation is to match single origin coffees with different brandies and a place in the history books awaits the perfector of the Afrikano. Marketers, take a look at patrons of the lab (below) and ask “is this my target market?”
It became clear at David Donde’s Quixotic Quest to find the Best Irish Coffee last week that variables such as cream and temperature added two more knobs to twiddle (along with whiskey/whisky/bourbon, coffee blend, sugar, espresso machine, coffee style and glass shape). Cold brews and single origin beans linearize the problem and in a hot climate, make total sense.