Union Hand Roasted Coffee
I must start this post off with an admission – In my daily life when judging products I, at times, lack the journalistic impartiality which I should have and judge on appearance alone, digging no deeper than a superficial assessment of quality based on surface visage. This was the case with Union hand roaster coffee and myself for a time.
Yes, I had seen, read and on a purely intellectual level understood the message of “Union hand roasted”. What I failed to grasp was that this did not relate to an incorporated body whose purpose was worker protection and who had branched out into making coffee. This assessment led me to the incorrect assumption that it wouldn’t be great coffee. Square Mile and Monmouth were my mantra for good quality coffee.
Imagine my surprise to learn that Union was actually roasted by hand in the sense that someone literally stands by the roasting machine and continually checks the coffee beans. They change colour as they roast – something I learned on my tour of the factory. Yes, I decided to actually find out what was happening behind the logo and try the coffee and it was a complete eye-opening experience.
These guys are passionate about their beans. Coming from a highly skilled medical background, you can imagine they are fully au fait with the manuals and technicalities involved with roasting the perfect bean. They go beyond this to actually visit the farms they buy from, control quality by sampling the coffee at different stages of drying and processing and then when the beans arrive at the warehouse, they try different roasting times and heats until the beans are perfect. This is much like the process artisan chocolate makers go through only here it is for coffee which has come slightly later but with the same enthusiasm to the party.
We were given a tour of the factory and after roasting the beans (we didn’t do this ourselves but were walked through it) with the roasted coffee still popping behind us, we went through to the tasting room. Here we had 5 different coffees all from the same region all with a slightly different flavour profile. It was quite striking how similar and yet different these beans tasted. There were subtle and yet distinct flavour profile differences between all 5 coffee samples with at least one standing out as extremely different. Amazing how something we all take so for granted as tasting a particular way can vary so much within a single growing region. Like chocolate!
After a break for lunch, we got on to the serious business of making espresso from the beans they roast at Union hand roasted. Now, remembering I was not previously a fan because the logo lacked sex appeal for me, this was a bit of a revelation. They are not just passionate about sourcing and roasting the best coffee – they are also passionate about ensuring the coffee is treated correctly at the coffee shop, checking how baristas who make their coffee treat the method of creation from drip to milk steam. These folks are perfectionists when it comes to coffee and they want that drive for perfectionism to translate all the way down to the people who serve you their coffee. They don’t want you having a bad experience after they have taken such pains to make the best possible coffee and so they make sure every part of the process is perfect.
They taught all of us to make espresso from preparing the equipment through to cleaning it afterwards. It was a truly awesome experience. We were taught latte art, how to pour properly, why espresso has a frothy top and how long freshness lasts for in a shot (not long at all!). You can see a bit of the latte art and apparently using a tool to create a design is cheating so the swan was made from a direct pour only – so our teacher poured the milk from the jug into the shot in the cup and voila!
I have to say from sceptic and cynic I was converted into a fan. Yes the logo is less than sexy and no I had no clue how much passion and effort is placed in striving for excellence so I am a convert. I now talk about Union coffee in the same breath as Square Mile and Monmouth – high praise from me indeed.
You can get Union Roasted coffee at a discount – just use my special 10% OFF CODE until it runs out 🙂 CHOC10 (one use per customer, valid until Dec 31st, 2011)