Coffee - I love it. I particularly love strong espresso with a little milk, but not too much. I do not like sugar, I do not like instant (dirty water!), I do not like decaf (insert massive eye roll) and I do not like any of those frappe-latte-caramel-white chocolate-pumpkin spice dessert confections that pass for coffee - I don't even like any of that girly froth on top of my flat white. Don't tell me it's creme, I heard you aerate the milk.
So, when I was invited to one of Merlo Coffee's 6 Torrefazione (Italian for roasting house) for a coffee appreciation morning, I was in two minds. One side said Yay! I love Coffee! and the other side said All I like is coffee in a cup, how can you improve on that? Well, I'm glad I went because apparently, yes, you can improve on that.
I left the house at 6.30 AM, which is well before my natural wake up time, so when I got there and was asked if I would like a coffee, I said Yes please, can you make it strong? I am generally dissapointed when I order coffee in a cafe, but not this time. Delicious, strong, hot coffee, in a cup, with no froth. Heaven.
Over muffins and fruit, our lovely (and knowledgeable) host, Abid, entertained my fellow bloggers and I with the history of Merlo before giving us a fairly thorough education on the history, types, legends and myths that surround coffee. The best way to taste coffee is with the cup in the middle bottom, above. The first ground beans are steeped in some hot water before you bring the cup to your face to first inhale, and then taste the coffee, using different areas of your tongue to pick up sweet, salt, acid and bitter tastes. This is the art of cupping, and is used to evaluate aroma, acidity, flavour, body, aftertaste and balance. It is a bit like tasting wine, with terms such as straw, citrus, tobacco, and berry used - seriously, it is a whole art form.
While this was going on, we where tasting various types of beans in coffee format. First, we had a Kenyan blend, and as it is not an espresso blend I was not expecting to like it at all - but I loved it! It is full bodied and well rounded, with none of the bitterness of espresso. It seems you can have strong without bitter. I loved it so much I drank a whole long black, without needing any milk. After that we had an espresso shot of Costa Rican Blend, which I thought was very bitter, although the correct terminology is 'Bright' or 'Sharp'.
We went through the different ways to make coffee, and the cafe was full of very covetable items that would look fabulous in my kitchen, especially that Bumblebee version on the left. Coffee bots, roll out! The science experiment looking item is essentially the steam punk version of the traditional Italian stove top method I use at home. The next way is the purists ideal - the Chemex.
This is quite a routine, so bear with me. (See, I was listening Abid! :)) First, you warm the bowl. Then, you put the filter in (there is a range of these as well, each with their own features). Make sure the filter is dampened, to facilitate better flavour from the beans. Now, add the ground beans, and add just enough hot water to moisten the coffee, and let it rest for a few minutes. The beans need time to move and settle into their correct formation, which will leave a small hill or flat surface - NOT a divot. This will be bad and probably means the grind wasn't correct. NOW, add the hot (not boiling!) water from a specially designed teapot like container that will aerate the water before it hits the coffee. Let it filter through, and then it is ready to drink. If you haven't guessed, this method is all about clarity, rather than body- an espresso machine is the opposite. The coffee we tried with this method was Colombian Geisha, which retails for $150 a kilo! It was an incredible experience, you could really taste every nuance of the bean and where it grew - but at the end of the day I am not going to give up espresso any time soon. I need my coffee to have a lot of body!
So after 4 strong coffee's we went backstage to look at different beans and see them coming through the roaster - 60 kilos of freshly roasted beans being stirred to cool them down. The aroma was something out of this world, and if I wasn't already caffeinated enough, that alone would have done me in!
Thank you so much Merlo, for such a fascinating and enjoyable morning, I absolutely loved it!
Did you know the Merlo Family introduced the first espresso machines to Brisbane in 1958? There are 6 Merlo Torrefaziones and 9 Bar Merlo Cafes across South East Queensland, and they ship delicious coffee to countless cafes and restaurants across Australia every day. If you love the idea of a Coffee Appreciation breakfast, contact them directly to book for yourself or for a group. I bet you will love it too!
Disclaimer - I was a guest, but not paid for this review, all words and enthusiasm are my own.