A masterclass in coffee – the first chapter
Coffee yesterday is not coffee today; coffee today is not coffee tomorrow.
An excellent, independent coffee shop is making serious inroads in West and South West London, and I couldn’t be happier that something so now is happening at my end of town. With three successful branches in Putney, Stamford Brook and Ealing Broadway, Artisan is fast becoming my favourite coffee shop, not least because it’s so close to home.
Following the launch of the three shops around West London, Artisan have now opened up a ‘Coffee School’ in an ante-room of their Ealing branch, where SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe) level masterclasses are held and qualification exams can be taken. Part lab, part bohemian living room, the Artisan Coffee School is a laidback arena in which to become immersed in all thing related to the prized cup of coffee.
I’m here bright and early at 10am on a Saturday morning to attend the Introduction to Coffee course, followed by SCAE exam and certification. The course is taught over 3 hours, and is mostly theoretical with modest amounts of practical exposure.
The course is very high level and goes into a little detail about a lot of different things, which is great for someone with little to no knowledge of coffee – me. The Introduction to Coffee course is good for enthusiastic amateurs, although you’ll need to really want to vibe with the fundamentals of coffee to part with the £75 cost of attending the course. Taking the SCAE exam, which is good for cementing what you’ve learnt, will also cost another £25 on top of that.
The course takes us through the two main types of coffee bean, Robusta and Arabica, explaining their individual characteristics and the history of their ascendance. Arabica coffee is considered the best, and the course rapidly narrows in on different Arabica beans from different producers. We’re taken through the travel, migration and mutation of Arabica around the world, and then lectured about the differences between dry and wet processing, and the basics of roasting, brewing, storage and preservation. Our course trainer is the fabulous Alessandro Bonuzzi, whose dry Italian wit and story-telling way of imparting knowledge make the long theoretical sections of the course a little more toothsome than they might otherwise be. There are open bags of coffee beans which we are also encouraged to press to our faces, drawing in their aroma in long pulls, or grabbing handfuls and laying them besides each other for comparison.
It’s a lot of lecturing for so early in the morning, but there is also ample opportunity for tasting in the short practical section at the end. Alessandro grinds up fresh coffee beans from a variety of producers across the world, and mixes them with hot water. We are then taught the ‘cupping’ technique of tasting coffee, which involves the back of a teaspoon and a lot of slurping. Drinking coffee this way is thus reduced to its most basic form, and although I don’t have the palate or experience to be able to identify much of what I slurp, at least I know better what to look for in future.
It’s been an interesting day and I’ve learnt quite a bit that I didn’t previously know, and If you are the sort of person who has a zealous and unbending interest in coffee history and coffee tasting, then this course will be perfect for you. If you want a less theoretical course and something more practical then perhaps try the 2 hour long Home Brew Masterclass at £35 pp. If you are a business owner or aspiring barista, then Artisan also offer a full day Latte Art Masterclass at £90 pp, and various levels of Barista Skills Masterclasses, from £190-£475 pp.
Tube: Ealing Broadway
Address: 32 New Broadway, London W5 2XA
Tel: 020 7030 3170
I was invited to review