My morning routine goes something like this : Wake Up bleary eyed, reach for phone, tweet that it’s time for a coffee, make coffee and then check my twitter and Facebook feeds to see what’s been happening overnight whilst reading said cofffee 🙂 and during this little process hopefully become a little less bleary eyed and start to awaken for the day’s activities (a little like the pic – but I’m never this glamorous looking, even when fully awake – but you get the idea)
So imagine my delight, recently during part of this morning routine to see a post on Facebook for a Coffee Club new to Dubai and a few weeks after this to get an invite through the club to visit the Coffee Planet Roastery. Just perfect 🙂
So on Saturday morning I skipped an exercise class, which is fairly unheard of for me, (eek hope my Instructor isn’t reading!!) and set off to visit Coffee Planet Roastery with a group of Coffee Club members. We had been invited along by Robert Jones who is the Managing Director of Coffee Planet and is a member of Coffee Club Dubai.
On arrival at the roastery we were served a cup of beautiful Kenyan coffee whilst we met other members of the Coffee Club. We were then were then taken upstairs where a whole tasting session had been set up for us much to my delight.
I love my coffee, but to be honest I’m not a an expert by any means. When I say I love it, I know what I like and what I don’t like, but to be honest I know this purely by taste and not through any form of expert knowledge or research. So I was delighted when we were told that we would be taught more about how to taste coffee properly, yeah – this sounded like it could be fun.
Each of us had our own place mat which had three cups of different coffee beans as well as a variety of nuts, fruit and chocolate sample and a little syringe of something too. Also we had a coffee filter and a pencil. Hmm I was now intrigued.
We were told that before we got to sampling some different coffee it would be good for us to understand different tastes and how you these are reflected when you are tasting coffee. So here starts, the first little comedy moment of the day 🙂 we were asked to hold our noses and to chew an almond until it was mushy and then to let go of our noses and to really taste the almond. It sounds bizarre and I discovered that I take a long time chewing so had to learn to do this quicker so I could breath ! – but WOW – try it ! When you are holding your nose you can’t taste anything – but when you release it you get an intensified taste.
We moved our way from left to right through the nuts, first an almond then a hazelnut and finally a walnut. As we tasted each nut Matt explained how the level of sugar in the nuts was giving us the different flavours and that this nutty taste is typical of coffee from Brazil.
Our second set of tastes started off with a raisin, followed by cystalised ginger and a crystallised red fruit which I loved. (I want to know what that was because it was truly lovely anyway).
We then moved onto tasting 3 different types of dark chocolate – not my favourite part as I’m not a dark chocolate fan at all – but it was possible to understand the different tastes and textures from our samples.
Finally, came the fruits starting with a cherry, then a blackberry and finally a Raspberry. As we moved along each fruit Matt explained how you start with a sweet fruit which has low acid through to blackberries which have less sugars, are more acidic but also have malic acid through to Raspberries with a high level of citric acid and lower sugars still. We then sampled Apple which is a malic acid taste and then the content of the syringe which was lemon juice and very high on the citric acid scale.
During the tasting Matt gave us more information about what we were tasting and why and how this linked to coffee tastes and blends. For instance Brazilian coffee is nutty and light, coffee from Sumatra tends to be more dark, heavy and earthy and that from Kenya more fruity and/acidic.
Whilst some of the above, looked a bit funny, after all it’s not every day you meet strange people and spend time holding your nose in their company! it really did start to make me understand how you can link taste to coffee and to where coffee is sourced from.
Next came the grinding of our 3 different types of coffee beans, giving us the opportunity to really enjoy the smell of each different type of coffee as the beans release the most fabulous aroma. One of the guys was so taken with it I think he wanted to wear it as a new aftershave scent 🙂 I can kind of see where he was going with this as I have to say the coffee smelt just wonderful.
Once our coffee was ground hot water was added to each of our cups and we waited patiently for 4 minutes for the coffee to brew before being instructed on how to sample the coffee which is called cupping. You do this by breaking the crust of ground coffee and dipping your spoon into the coffee which you are then encouraged to slurp noisily to get it to the back of your mouth and then spit out. Lovely !! First we meet strangers and hold our noses, now we slurp and spit ! Hmm apparently I’m not too good at slurping, the Brit in me wanted to keep quiet and do this without making a noise and as for spitting – well, I struggled with this too and just might have swallowed some of the coffee – sorry Matt, I’ll try harder next time 🙂
Our earlier training about what to look out for though in coffee tastes and flavours really did help us out though as we were all able to guess the country of the coffee we were tasting. Brazilian, Sumatran and finally Kenyan in case you are wondering.
For more details about how to do this properly and a other great articles on coffee and the Coffee Club please take a look here.
Cupping over, we then donned hair nets (comical moment number three !) before being shown around the roastery. NOTE : For the protection of the others (and because I look terribly in a hair net! ) I’ve not included any of these pictures – but I have them for a small fee !!
Coffee Planet roast to order so their customers get the freshest coffee for them and whilst a lot of coffee is drunk within the UAE, they also export and all of this is done with Dubai as the hub of their operations.
The warehouse was full of sacks of coffee beans which had been imported from around the world and were waiting to be quality checked before being roasted to meet specific blends of coffee and customer requirements.
The entire process from the arrival of the beans, quality control, roasting, packing and dispatch all happens within this purpose built roastery which was packed with some very specialist equipment and was immaculately clean and well ordered.
The roasting process sounded fascinating and I hope to be able to go back and visit one day when they are roasting as I am sure it will smell amazing.
The final part of our visit ended up with some more delicious coffee and some great home-made cupcakes which were made by Sofia and were a lovely accompaniment to our coffee.
Being a lover of coffee art I ordered a latte and watched the Barista as he carefully made a tulip in my coffee foam – he made it seem so easy. I was also treated to a double expresso with a little honey later which was simply amazing, smooth and a little sweet and soothing for my sore throat 🙂 As I said in my previous article, there is a drink for everything !
Here’s the bit where I have to confess that I had not done any prior research about Coffee Planet before my visit and my only knowledge of them was that they do coffee at a lot of gas stations. Well, yes, that’s right, they do but WOW – they do so much more, they provide coffee to a lot of hotels and restaurants and to companies for their lucky staff. Their coffee is available in supermarkets in Dubai and also on carts and small concessions in some of the malls. They have franchise opportunities and they export within the Middle East and across the world. They have big ambitions and I have to say, they seem like a really fun place to work for people who are passionate about their coffee 🙂
Thanks to all of the staff at Planet Coffee and to Hayley from Coffee Club Dubai for arranging this great trip.
You can also find them in all ADNOC and select ENOC/EPPCO convenience stores as well as in several retail locations in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi . They use only 100% Arabica beans with only fresh milk in every cup unlike some of their competitors who now use long life milk.
The Coffee Club – Dubai can be found here on facebook or you can follow them on twitter.