tests some Cork coffee beans
We are never far from good coffee in and around Cork. Many savvy cafés sell beans and ground coffee, and having a cup in-house first is a good way to test before buying.
Arabica coffee beans are usually better quality, with a rounder, softer, more layered range of flavours, compared to robusta which are easier to grow, cheaper and have a harsher, narrower range of flavours and higher caffeine content.
Unlike wine, which is simply poured to serve, how we make coffee is crucial. Bringing water to boiling point will scorch coffee grounds, so let it come off the boil and down to 90-96C, with a dessertspoon or scoop of coffee per person. Allow to infuse for four to six minutes.
All beans in our survey arrive in Ireland green and are roasted here. Generally, the lighter the colour, the shorter time it was roasted and softer the flavour.
Darker, towards black, may have a more burnt flavour, like overdone barbecued food.
We had a look at what is available in supermarkets. Coffee House Lane roasted in Waterford impressed tasters most. Reasonably priced at €4.95 for 227g from SuperValu. We were also impressed by McCabes Wicklow Organic blend €7.20 for 250g which had a great, Italian-style kick. From Coffee Central, English Market Cork and online mccabecoffee.com.
While difficult to compare brands with different blends, we looked for a satisfying, multi-layered mouthful that begged a second cup and found it in all of these eight.
Stone Valley Coffee Roasters Simbi Rwanda 250g €12
Red bourbon variety of arabica beans are lightly roasted near Bandon, Co Cork. Started in January by musicians John Boyle and Tom Doherty, a beautifully rounded and mellow blend has no overpowering element. With a satisfying, warm depth, it is a good one for beginners. Other, livelier blends available too. From Union Grind, Filter, Alchemy, all in Cork and Cakeface patisserie, Kilkenny.
Red Strand Kenya Gatina peaberry 250g €8.50
All tasters loved this multi-layered blend which is smooth, yet lively, and has plenty of rich flavours. While blackberries and plum jam are mentioned on the pack, we did not discern many fruit notes. Tasters loved it. Good value.
3FE Momentum Blend 250g €9.50
Third Floor Espresso, established in 2008 after a career in finance, Colin Harmon joined with Steve Leighton in Dublin to give courses and run a café as well as roasting and blending beans. This one has 50% Nicaraguan caturra, 25% Costa Rican yellow honey caturra and 25% Brazil pulped natural bourbon. The result is nutty, slightly sweet and smooth, with a hint of chocolate. Delicious. Available in speciality food shops and online at 3fe.com.
Badger & Dodo Beneficios Los Andes 250g €8.20
A consistently good brand, now widely available, this blend has red catuai, bourbon and typica from Honduras. Since 2008 beans have been roasted by Broc (Irish for badger) and his father-in-law Dodo in Fermoy, Co Cork. Delicious layering of nuts, chocolate and a little fruitiness show their experience. They run classes and sell equipment too. We bought in Bradleys North Main Street, Cork.
Golden Bean Kenya Kima Iti AB blend 260g €8.50
This one from Kenya has delicious notes of cocoa and interesting layers of light fruit and nuts to make a well-rounded coffee. Tasters wanted more. Always worth trying their latest blends, ask for El Salvadorian Finca La Fany. Roasted in Ballymaloe by Marc Kingston since 2012, we bought in East, Winthrop Arcade, Cork. Also available in selected cafés and at Douglas and Mahon Point markets. Good price.
Cloud Picker 250g €9.95
From a range of blends, this one from La Cuesta Costa Rica has catuai beans was toffee like, with quite a lot of cherry fruit flavours. Soft deep and delicious with a nice, fresh kick. Tasters loved the complexity. From Filter, Cork which will grind to suit and Ali’s Kitchen, Cork for whole beans. Online sales of coffee and equipment, courses and cafés in Dublin can be checked at cloudpickercoffee.ie.
West Cork Coffee 250g €10
Tony Speight’s micro roastery in Inishannon produces top class coffee which has wonderful hints of nut and cherry from Typica, Bourbon and Catui beans. A regular brew of some of our tasters. Buy in SOMA, Langford Row Cafe, Good Day Deli at Nano Nagle, and Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork; O’Neills, Skibbereen, Olive Branch, Clonakilty.
Cork Coffee Roasters Rebel blend 227g €6.75
Established in Cork in 2006, these roasters are getting better and better. With a wide range for sale by the bag or by the cup on Bridge Street and French Church Street, Cork, as well as in shops, this one is quite lively and needs a lot of milk for the faint hearted. Full bodied, it will appeal to those who want a decent kick. There are more mellow blends in the range.