A couple of weeks ago I met two really cool gents who are half of a really quirky, new coffee company – Black Sheep Coffee. They are hoping to delight coffee connoisseurs and ‘shake up the coffee scene in the UK’ where cool independent coffee outlets are springing up faster than the weeds in my allotment. They’ve launched the UK’s first Robusta bean coffee to compete with the Arabica bean offerings which currently dominate coffee culture.
Robusta coffee is not a new ‘thing’
Now Robusta coffee is nothing new. The beans have been used in instant coffee for decades. But Black Sheep Coffee beans are not just any Robusta coffee beans. They are Single Estate Robusta coffee beans. This means that, like chocolate, the beans are sourced from a single estate. Black Sheep Coffee beans are grown on the Sethuraman Estate in Karnataka on the mineral rich banks of the Bhadra River belt around 3000 feet high. Every bean is hand harvested and sorted into four bean colours – red, red-orange, yellow and green. Only the red ripe beans are pulped, naturally fermented and hand washed twice. This is what brings out the flavours of the bean and has earned them three ‘Fine Robusta’ certifications.
A rich, creamy and sweeter taste than Arabica
Gabe and Eirik helped me to taste my flat white. It wasn’t quite as scientific as wine tasting but reminded me very much of my Cocoa Runners chocolate tasting. They went through flavour profiles, high notes and low notes. My novice palate was a little confused by all this but I could taste three elements.
Firstly it was not as acidic or bitter. It was nutty in a way I really enjoyed and it was creamy. Not because of the milk but the actual coffee itself had a richer, creamier flavour. I really enjoyed it. I’m not used to drinking coffee and wished I had chosen a machiato because I was buzzing for hours!
The ‘buzz’ is a bonus for athletes and sporty types
This Robusta Revival coffee has a significantly higher level of protein which creates a richer ‘crema’ (the frothy bit) on an espresso. It’s high in caffeine and so taking after Antipodean trend setters has become popular with fitness fans. In fact these guys have just started selling ‘Bulletproof Coffee’ which is the latest trend in the US. It’s a mix of oil, butter and coffee and is said to revitalise and charge your energy batteries for a couple of hours. Regular gym goers and those who love their exercise are said to have more mental clarity and energy so they can train harder for longer after drinking this. The science bit being that the fat slows down the release of caffeine so the ‘high’ lasts longer.
I do like this coffee. I went right off coffee when I was pregnant with my eldest 11 years ago and it has taken me a long time to get back to even looking at it, let alone drinking it. The smell alone used to send me running to the nearest bucket. But this coffee’s creamy and nutty edge are a great re-introduction for me to a drink I used to love.
The Black Sheep Coffee outlets are only in London at the moment. There is a cafe in Camden, a little shop which I visited in Old Street Station and a little mobile van which moves around in the City district.
You can however buy it ground or as beans online and there are a few guides to help you brew the coffee using your preferred method – aeropress, cold brew, drip or French press.
Thanks to Eirik and Gabe for meeting with me and taking the time to talk my novice self through the world of their coffee. You’ll find them tweeting at @leavetheherd
I’m keen to try baking with it as well to see if the flavour is richer and more prevalent. I’ll let you know how I get on. In the meantime here are some lovely coffee recipes: