Sunday, April 14, 2013

The UK: Taste the Coffee

The brother-in-law's yummy coffee from Volcano. 

Hello there blog, it's been a while, hasn't it? I haven't even had my coffee yet today, but I feel a sense of obligation to get going on getting back into the swing of things after my Pesach adventures in the lovely United Kingdom. After nearly three weeks in the old country visiting Mr. T's family and touring around and about visiting all the sites there are to see, I'm back in Israel and attempting to get back to "real life." We visited Hatfield House, Camden Market, took a double-decker bus tour around London on the most freezing of cold days, took a ride up in the London Eye, and so very much more.

I'm going to work my way backwards, starting with a visit to a local coffee roaster on Monday, April 8 -- Volcano Coffee Works. It's a funny thing that my in-laws are all big coffee drinkers, considering the classic English hot beverage of choice is tea. Somehow my dear husband ended up with the tea bug -- he won't even touch coffee. Luckily, my brother-in-law is a big coffee lover and was more than happy to pop into a local roaster because I've never seen the process of coffee roasting before (and neither had he).

We arrived at the industrial area in West Norwood to the startup-style location colored brightly with oranges and some amazing light fixtures. We started with coffee while we waited, admiring the wacky circus-style art on the wall and the old-timey espresso machines and coffee grinders. Then our coffee roasting expert met us and took us through a very small door (which, let's be honest was just the right side for Mr. T, the brother-in-law, and me) into another very industrial area into the coffee roasting and training area. Giant bags of colorful coffee bags were stacked up a against a wall and the hum of the roasting machine made me feel like I'd entered Santa's workshop.

You can see the green beans in the roaster,
while the last batch cools in the giant tray below. 

The odd thing? At first sniff, the entire operation reminded me of the scents of shop class. I'm guessing it was the mixture of the gas-powered roaster and the buckets of roasted beans sitting and scenting the room. The more time we spent in the facility, however, the less I picked up this scent and the more the space smelled of delicious, freshly roasted Volcano coffee.

The roasting expert took us through nearly two nearly complete roasting cycles, and we watched the beans go from a pale green to a dark, aromatic brown. I was blown away that the process only takes about 12-15 minutes; it's bizarre to watch the coffee beans change color, weight, and scent so quickly. While we were waiting for the beans to finish roasting, a fella on the other side of the room offered to make us fresh coffee, so I opted for yet another Americano (poor Mr. T, he didn't drink a thing!).

This is the sampling wand -- you pull the beans throughout the
process to make sure that they get the right roasted color and scent. 

It was heaven -- drinking coffee from freshly roasted beans while watching more beans roast.

After watching a few batches roast, asking tons of questions (How do you make decaf? How does flavored coffee get made? Can I roast my own beans at home?), we jaunted off to Camden Market, which was an experience. Imagine where goths and punks and hipsters and fetishists and tourists and foodies all meet in one giant mashup. That, folks, was Camden Market. I picked up a few beautiful scarves there that I'll be blogging about at some point in the future, so stay tuned for that. If you are ever in London, be sure to hit up the Market. You can really find just about anything to meet your wildest dreams here (including a dirge!).

Have you ever visited a roaster? There is a local roaster in Efrat (the next town over) called Sipsters. I wonder if they'd let me pop in for a roasting experience?