Tasting An Ethiopian Coffee Propelled To Stardom

Archie Bland being served a very expensive cup (glass) of coffee at Queens of Mayfair. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

In 2018 and 2019 I had the opportunity to sample many of Costa Rica’s best coffees. We were narrowing our selection from dozens of excellent options down to one dozen that we would offer in our shops. Just prior to opening the shops, a friend generously gifted a bag of coffee from one of Panama’s premier growers. They had made the news for the auction price of one of their finest coffees and our bag was not from that lot, but still it was by far the most expensive coffee I have ever tasted. It was an experience like tasting fine wine, as the story below describes. The coffee was excellent. I would drink more if it was gifted but I am not holding my breath waiting. We drink excellent coffee in our home every day, and we sell plenty of it to others as well. I will leave it to the journalists to tell these stories:

‘Reminds me of vegetable soup’: how does a £50 cup of coffee taste?

It is the most expensive sold in the UK and served in a goblet, but is this Ethiopian brew worth the hype?

For £50, you can buy a return flight to Paris from London or Manchester, or a set of Liberty facemasks, or a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Or, if you’re feeling really fancy, you could go to Mayfair, and have a cup of coffee. Well, a goblet of it, to be precise.

This is the USP of Queens of Mayfair, a central London cafe that weathered a corona-cursed first few months to become a popular venue for well-heeled locals in search of a brew and a posh donut.

The newly opened establishment bought 450g of beans from the Ethiopian producer, Nigussie Gemeda Mude – and were canny enough to press release it.

Gemeda’s crop set a record this week at the prestigious “Cup of Excellence” auction, where its performance in blind taste tests led a consortium of international buyers to pay $1.3m, or £314 per kilo, for a share of the spoils.

In the UK, only Harrods and Queens’ supplier Difference Coffee Co. got a piece of the action.

Queens basked in the headlines declaring itself the purveyor of the UK’s “most expensive filter brew”.

Could I come in and have some? Yes, I was told, but there were only a couple of servings left, and I’d have to secure mine with a deposit.

Forty-five breathless minutes later, I sat down to try it.

For £50, you get theatre as well as caffeine. It starts when the head barista, Sabrina Pastano, puts down a bag of beans, a grinder, a handsome Heath Robinson-ish filtration system, and a weighing scale.

“It’s gonna be completely different to anything you’ve had before,” says Pastano, who holds several certificates in coffee expertise, and also a masters in economics.

She opens the bag and invites me to take a whiff.

“It’s unbelievable. You really can taste a lot of blackberries, white peach, raspberries, apricot, and the mouthfeel is so creamy. Almost like honey. And it isn’t acidic at all. Even people that don’t like coffee, it’s impossible you don’t like this. It’s like a very floral tea.”

At which point, sceptics might ask if you couldn’t just have a cup of very floral tea.

Pastano measures out 15g of beans, grinds them, and covers them in an initial portion of water, which has been heated to exactly 94 degrees.

This brings about the “bloom’, forcing a delicate cluster of CO2 bubbles to the surface. Now the rest of the water is poured on, and once the drip is done, it’s ready to drink.

Read the entire article here.

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