‘Coffee should never taste bitter and sour’.
Renato Correia owns the Espresso Lab located in the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. He comes from Portugal and to say he is knowledgeable about coffee is an understatement.
He’s a walking library on the subject and much more he is passionate about this brown liquid. His love for coffee which oozes from his pores.
I better declare something right up front; I love the taste of coffee in food but I personally prefer tea.
The odd time I drink coffee it invariably tastes bitter or burnt and after having spend an hour with Renato in his lab I now know why. Most of the coffee served in Cape Town has been improperly roasted.
Renato is adamant coffee should not taste bitter. It will if the roasting hasn’t been carried out correctly.
Renato is on a roll as he goes up a gear.
“Coffee is actually a delicate food product and it has to be handled with care and you have to know what you are about in order to showcase the taste”
‘Roasting is the secret’ according to Renato, but he makes it clear your beans have to be the best. The best beans are grown at high altitudes where the beans take longer to develop and the growth period is slower making these beans more expensive to buy.
The Espresso Lab gets their beans from the main coffee growing regions in the world, Ethiopia. Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Kenya, and Brazil.
Renato’s girlfriend Helen Varlien is from Sweden, and this is one of the reasons they went on a coffee trail to the Scandinavian countries; to learn about roasting techniques.
Renato explains the Nordic style of roasting beans is much lighter.
And it’s the lighter roasting which is the key to getting the best out of the bean.
‘Coffee is a sensory product, the flavours of coffee are complex and extraordinary’, claims Renato.
’When roasting it’s like conducting an orchestra; light and shade strong and light. I’m looking for everything to work in harmony and be balanced. It’s about getting the acidity of coffee and the sweetness working together. A really good cup of coffee should have no noticeable acidity and, believe it or not, a touch of sweetness.’
And so the moment of truth has slowly dawned and a cappuccino is placed in front of me.
What if I think it’s awful?
I’m informed it’s the house blend for this season. It’s a mix of beans, Dalle from Ethiopia, Don Mayo from Costa Rica and Serra do Bone from Brazil. I never heard of these beans in my life.
I take a sip, the coffee tastes soft, hints of chocolate, nutty and even sweet.
There is no sourness no burnt bitter taste. It’s truly the most amazing coffee I have ever tasted.
I’m speechless. Does this mean I’ve spend a whole lot of time drinking awful coffee.
The penny drops, that obviously the case.
As I leave the Espresso Lab I spot Luke Dale Roberts popping in for his daily fix.
If you are serious about coffee you have to drink a cup in the Espresso Lab before you die.
Espresso Lab Microroasters. (Turn left when you enter the Biscuit Mill, it’s opposite The Test Kitchen)
The Old Biscuitmill
021 447 0845