Last week I got my first real taste of coffee. I’ve enjoyed the caffeine fuel since I moved to Paris in 2013, where I got hooked on espresso in the morning, after lunch, and in the afternoon too. Back then, it was just that: a fuel.
Now, I know that coffee represents a lot more than that: its heritage, cultivation, aroma and flavour make it more than just a drink.
Not another coffee snob…
…I hear you sigh. And no, I promise, I’m not. I may have only dipped my toe into coffee culture at the cupping event with Oatly and Old Spike Roastery, but the lesson I really learnt was that our preference of coffee is all different, and that’s okay. Some of us may want a fruity flavour, others, a chocolatey taste. And no-one is right, no-one is wrong.
I was invited along to try all different types of coffee with Oatly, the alt-milk brand I love having in my fridge. Not only is their packaging iconic, they’re also championing a sustainable way of life, moving away from animal’s milk without losing the taste, consistency, and pleasure of real milk.
They’ve exclusively partnered with socially-focused roastery Old Spike, who I stumbled across when I moved to South London a few years ago. The small but mighty social enterprise has been running both a café and coffee roastery in Peckham, where they employ former homeless people and support homelessness charities across the UK too.
This partnership began last year at London Coffee Festival and is continuing this year, with Old Spike being Oatly’s roast of choice on offer at their stand throughout the London Coffee Festival (12-15th April).
What is cupping?
Coffee tasting, or cupping as its properly called, is the art of identifying good coffee through its scent and taste. Our small session covered the process of making coffee, from bean to brew, and Rob of the Old Spike team took us on a journey from the hilly homes of their coffee brewers, based all over the world, through the coffee rating system, sorting (sometimes even by hand to remove bad beans) and finally, the roasting and drinking.
We then got our noses involved by smelling seven different types of coffee, freshly ground to provide the best aroma possible, and for the first time I started to recognise the differences between coffee types. I found its less about strength, and more about the fruitiness, the acidity, and the plain chocolate base that levels it all out.
We then tried tasting the coffee, at its optimum temperature and with the floating coffee grinds removed. It was the first time I learnt that the “crema”, the floating froth on a freshly brewed coffee, isn’t actually a good thing! Surprisingly, my favourite coffees to smell were not my favourites to taste.
Why baristas love Oatly
The Oatly team then revealed that one of the coffees we’d been tasting was their top pick for their stand at London Coffee Festival; they’d created a special blend with Old Spike that works perfectly with their Barista Edition oat milk.
The partnership seems to be mutual; Oatly’s milk is formulated for use in coffee, making frothier drinks such as a latte or cappuccino both possible and delectable compared to other plant-based milks. And both businesses share a sustainable focus, making good coffee taste even better.