A Frenchman, an Englishman and Van der Merwe walk into an espresso bar…
On your average Neighbourgoods Market Saturday morning, in Woodstock, Cape Town, it never takes more than half an hour to provide our first hostile encounter:
“Why don’t you serve espresso?!” exclaims the said hostile customer in a “North of the Orange” accent “You call yourselves artisan but don’t have any espresso… you guys are a joke.”
Judging by the look on his face, we are not a particularly funny joke. We are the worst kind of joke.
Now ordinarily we are not shaken by the traditional Saturday morning unshaven personification of hangover and ignorance, but the more we thought about it, the more we realised that something must be said to communicate our philosophy a little more clearly. Not because it upsets us. Nay, nay! Rather because it seems to upset so many of the people we encounter when their expectations are not adequately met. This article is our attempt to reshape expectations. Because, sometimes, the only differences between a grumpy market troll and a chirpy city slicker is a little understanding and a revised sense of perspective.
Coffee is still about enjoyment – in all its forms
As we’ve said before, coffee is all about enjoyment. The coffee you buy either improves your lifestyle and brightens your day, or it doesn’t. Once you’ve made the choice to buy coffee that achieves that purpose, you can brew it in whatever method you want to in order to extract the enjoyment you seek. We’re of the opinion that the more options available to you, the better.
”Rosetta Roastery is seeking to do something new at the Neighbourgoods Market – combining a coffee tasting with the simple enjoyment of a morning cup of coffee.”
Depending on your mood, degree of roast, the origin of your coffee, the varietal, or the flavour profile of the bean, you might choose a different brew method to achieve a particular result. A French Press gives you a far fuller slow brew result than perhaps a drip/filter might. But when it comes to intensity, it can’t compete with a rich, velvety espresso. In turn, a warm summer’s morning might call for the incredibly smooth and light flavour structure attained by siphon extraction, rather than finishing breakfast with a heavier, milkier flat white. In short, no brewing method is more- or less virtuous than the next. Each one achieves its purpose in its own way.
Okay, so why not espresso?
“So, if all brewing methods are equal, and everyone loves espresso, why not just serve espresso, you poncy git?”, said one delightfully frank marketing fellow while chewing on his spicy boerie at a neighbourhood braai. At the time I had been trying to explain the delicate art of coffee tasting, and how Rosetta Roastery is seeking to do something new at the Neighbourgoods Market – combining a coffee tasting with the simple enjoyment of a morning cup of coffee.
“What you taste at our Neighbourgoods market stall is exactly what you’ll taste … in the comfort of your home”
“Well, as I was saying,” I countered, “we’re not wanting to just sell a cup of coffee. We’re trying to sell an experience. Every coffee we sell has been sourced for its unique flavour profile. We want people to get genuine enjoyment out of their morning coffee while still being able to engage with the three unique coffees that we serve there. Drip coffee is a simple and transparent way of doing that.”
“I see,” he said, thoughtfully poking his sausage. “Well, can’t you just bring a jug of espresso as well, so that people can taste some if they want to?”
Rather than bothering to respond, I feigned distraction by pretending I’d found a piece of meat that looked exactly like Kiefer Sutherland.
Getting what you pay for
As I said at the beginning of this piece, this is written to improve your customer experience, and hopefully provide the key to a whole new coffee experience. In this light, permit me the decadence of a furniture analogy:
There are few more frustrating consumer experiences than seeing an exquisite designer couch or table, buying it on a whim, and then getting home only to find that it doesn’t fit in your lounge. Or that it clashes with your wife’s pilates mat. It is equally frustrating, although admittedly less costly, to buy a bag of coffee - having sampled it as a perfectly pulled honey-like espresso in a coffee shop – only to take it home, brew yourself a pot of French press, and find that the experience is nothing like what you’d experienced earlier.
Now despite the market being flooded with low quality imitation espresso machines, the vast majority of coffee drinkers in South Africa still enjoy their daily cup of coffee as a French press or drip/filter. By offering our coffees in a simple slow-brew format, we not only guarantee a distinct lack of caffeinated smoke and mirrors, but we can also promise that what you taste at our Neighbourgoods market stall is exactly what you’ll taste when you buy yourself a bag of our finest, and brew it in the comfort of your home.
And that is exactly what Rosetta Roastery is all about; the world’s finest coffees in the comfort of your home.
But what if my daily home cup IS an espresso?
One of the other beauties of slow brew coffee is that it gives you a fairly accurate picture of the potential of the bean itself. All the flavours that might be present in espresso form can be tasted in a cup of filter coffee, which is why roasters always taste coffees for the first time as a slow brew coffee (in a process called cupping). The same cannot be said the other way around (IE you can’t always accurately assess the merits of a coffee simply by tasting it as an espresso). My point to all this, is that even if you enjoy your espresso each morning, it’s still a great idea to “test the bean”, so to speak, with a simpler, transparent brewing method. The other advantage to doing this is that, should you want a change from your usual daily espresso (by brewing some filter coffee), you can be confident that you’ve bought a bean that performs in any coffee brewer.
 Having said that, there are contraptions (like the moka pot, for example) that employ a hybrid of these methods to increase ease-of-use or convenience, and are thereby a seeming compromise of purist principles. If, however, the basic laws of coffee-to-water ratios and extraction times are followed, these brewing methods can all be valid expressions of your daily cuppa.