For anyone who knows me well, you will know from the title of this blog, that this was a very special day for me!
Yes, I got to visit a real life coffee roasting and blending facility for both one of Hong Kong's most famous coffee shops (Zambra) and a socially responsible enterprise that helps some of the poorest people in the world in Laos, grow delicious organic coffee which they then buy off them providing their living and sell all over the world! As you can imagine this made me very happy! I could help save the world and enjoy lots of cups of different delicious coffees at the same time. If you know me, then you know this was like a dream come true. I must say a big thank you to Charlene Kotwall for introducing me to the guys and inviting me to go down with her and to Dennis Ng & Charles Schmitt from Bolaven Farms for making it a fantastic afternoon. Now let's get into it... First we went right into the storage and roasting room to have a look at all the green beans that are in stock for Zambra as well as Bolaven Farms, to smell them, see the different sizes and feel their textures and see the difference in different quality levels of beans. What an amazing sight this was! All the beautiful big burlap bags filled with delicious unroasted green beans! To me this was like a work of artAnd then right next to them, these fantastic miniature barrels of the high quality stuff, none other than real Jamaican Blue Mountain coffeeAnd next to the Blue Mountain, what could be more expensive? (that's a question for the coffee gurus of you out there)That's right, Kopi Luwak as consumed by the Civet Cats of Indonesia and the lovely Charlene holding up the bag for me. I have yet to taste a cup of Kopi Luwak, though the Bolaven Farms representatives were incredibly kind and gave me a small package of it. I wish they'd given me this size of package: Here you can see the full facilities, with both of their roasters in the background of the burlap sacks. You can shift a lot of coffee through hereHere's a close up of the larger roaster:From the storage and roasting room, it was into the main office and tasting room, so we could brew up a few cups of the Bolaven Farms coffee that I'd been hearing so much about. Here is the machine that is going to bring me a lot of joy: Dennis's right-hand man (who's name I can't remember) pulled the first espresso shots for us:How beautiful does this look?Me getting ready for my first sip of joy... I was very happy to see that they were using my good friend Paul Pratt's specially designed tampers and espresso glasses (his brand is the awesome named "bumper"). Now the peaberry: Bolaven Farms standard espresso blend is light, smooth and grassy, with a slightly savoury, rather than sweet tang. The darker roast variety has a bit more body and a touch of sweetness. The peaberry, pulled as a straight espresso had some interest, but was a little flat for me. The big surprise for me was that their Robusto bean (generally regarded as a lower grade of coffee than Arabica beans and used in small amounts in an espresso blend to give each shot a good crema - the name for the foam or head on an espresso) produced a very flavoursome and not overly bitter espresso. I had never had a pleasant espresso shot made from Robusto beans before. The reason why is that their Robusto beans are grown at good altitude and harvested more carefully and with higher quality standards than at least 95% of robusto grown around the world. Next up, we were moving onto the brewed coffee and Dennis stepped up to take the helm, using a Dutch filtering apparatus which extracts a very good ratio of coffee oils (which provide the flavouring) to coffee acids (which provide bitterness). More oils to acids are preferable. The best of the brewed coffees was the Arabusto, a blend of Bolaven Farm's Arabica beans and Robusto beans, which was malty, mild(ish), with a decent body and low acidity and some grassy notes. Very enjoyable!We decided to finish up with a shot of "team Bolaven" and their quality coffees: And so you can easily pick up the coffee of your choice, here is a close-up of the different varieties:
All in all it was a superb afternoon for me! Getting to see the whole process from the sourcing of raw green beans, through roasting, blending, packaging and finally brewing! I got to drink about 8 - 9 cups of coffee in around a 2 - 3 hour period, which is ideal for me :-)Bolaven Farm coffees single origin coffees and blends are ideal for people who love a lighter coffee, without that acid bite that is so common with such brews. For espresso lovers, the blends also produce smooth, relatively light bodied coffee, with grassy high notes that are easier to identify than in richer blends (unless you have very sensitive tastebuds). I recommend the darker roasted blend, as it adds a desirable level of body. If anyone is interested to taste any of the coffees feel free to drop me a private message. You can easily purchase all of the Bolaven Farm beans at Zambra Cafe, one of the most excellent coffee shops in Hong Kong, at this location: Shop A, 239 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai.