Coffee

Coffee

By
Jorge Fernandez and Rick Wells
Contains
4 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781784880118

The importance of coffee

By Jorge Fernandez

As a young child I would sit on my Aunt Ana’s lap as she dipped sugar cubes into her coffee and allowed me to eat them. This was the era of Nescafé. Milk would be heated in a pan and she would make her version of a modern-day latte. As with most southern European families, coffee was ever-present. Every household owned a stovetop moka pot and the sound of the rising water, its splurts and splutters, remains to this day in my memory – as does the evocative smell.

Fast forward to 1995, and upon returning to London from a year in Madrid, it was a fortuitous meeting with my big sister Ana Maria at the newly opened Seattle Coffee Company in London that set me on my journey into the world of coffee. A sign hung in the shop window saying ‘Baristas Wanted’. In need of some cash, and with my sister’s encouragement, I offered myself and got the job. Until Seattle Coffee Company’s arrival in the UK, the coffee scene had been monopolised by old Italian cafes selling overheated, frothy cappuccinos.

Vividly, I remember the first coffee tasting I attended, organised by the then roasters for Seattle, Jeremy Torz and Steven Macatonia. They lined up several ‘origins’ for us to ‘cup’; we were instructed to crack the crust with the spoon we had been given, pushing away the grinds to reveal the liquor beneath. My love affair with ‘monsoon malabar’ coffee ensued.

The energy and buzz that accompanied the coffee scene in the late-1990s was very seductive. What was meant to be a means of earning some holiday cash ended up as the beginnings of a career.

It was another coffee tasting that proved a turning point. Seated in one of the booths at Monmouth Coffee Company with the owner, Anita Le Roy, I was presented with a cup of Ethiopian yirgacheffe. It was a revelation, both in terms of how coffee could or should be roasted; what initially tasted like an exotic tea was transformed into liquid caramel with the addition of milk. I had discovered my teaching master and so, in 1999, I began working for Monmouth Coffee Company, along with friend and partner in crime Gwilym Davies, who was to become a future World Barista Champion. The six years spent at Monmouth were incredibly formative and I enjoyed it all immensely. Anita managed to instil in me her obsessiveness with detail, quality and the importance of provenance, all of which became the founding blocks for Fernandez & Wells.

From the outset, our approach to coffee was simple – a continuation of a more classical style, where neither the introduction of peaches or bananas are desired or required. Rather, we seek inherent sweetness and depth of flavour, resulting in a well-balanced, elegant yet fuller-bodied cup.

Contemporary coffee culture actively seeks brighter, fruitier, more acidic notes with a fashion for roasting coffees, including those used for espresso, ever lighter. We favour a longer, darker roast, which many might consider old-fashioned.

Our coffee roaster, Stephen Leighton, is continuously sampling and buying new coffees, and our espresso blend changes according to the season and the flavour profiles we desire in the cup. There has, in recent years, been a welcome proliferation of independent coffee shops, each bringing their own take on how coffee should be best made. This growth has come hand-in-hand with a multitude of theories and technologies, both new and revived, involving pH levels, temperature, timing and so on. However, it is our view that there’s no right or wrong way. Only through the joy of experimentation and development of intuition can the true wonders of coffee be unlocked.

It was in this spirit that the Fernandez & Wells ‘Stumpy’ came to be. What we were doing already felt quite revolutionary, with the first commercial Synesso coffee machine in the UK, which sat on the counter like a shiny new car, and pulling shots using a massive 33 g of Monmouth coffee. Jack Coleman and I enjoyed drinking coffees from a collection of quirky glasses, one of which, being short and stout, came to be known as the Stumpy. This slightly shorter, stronger version of the now-commonplace flat white quickly developed a cult following, so much so we decided to trademark the name. It set the bar for our coffee offer, which remains small with the emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

We appreciate that not everyone is going to have a Synesso machine lurking in their kitchen at home, and it is for this reason we would like to share with you our favourite method of brewing coffee along with some simple steps to make it.

Recipes in this Chapter

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