Now, as an exceptionally greedy person who wishes to maximise all eating and drinking opportunities, there are few foods I actively dislike: celery, Bounty bars and blackcurrant. My list of drinks dislikes is even shorter: coffee. I consider this evil brown liquid to be the devil's own drink but understand I am in the minority with this - witness the lovely Nicole's delight at the following torturous evening...
An Antipodean at heart (especially when New Zealand are playing rugby, or netball), I love nothing more than exceptionally good coffee. It's something we pride ourselves on, and one of the things I miss most about Aotearoa. Lucky for me then, that Manchester now has its very own artisan coffee roaster. Even luckier that I was invited to ManCoCo, located just off Deansgate, to sample a selection of their single origin coffees, roasted on the premises.
The roastery itself, located in a railway arch, is suitably authentic, with ManCoCo's sustainable and ethically sourced Arabica green coffee beans proudly displayed in burlap sacks identifying their widespread origins, and a world map with pins locating each specific source. We started with a tour of the roastery, and a talk by one of ManCoCo's passionate and knowledgeable roasters. We were introduced to ManCoCo's roasting machine, and the whole process was explained. I must admit to being rather naive to the intricacies of coffee bean roasting - I didn't realise what an involved process it is. Like all the best things in life, coffee bean roasting is an intriguing combination of art and science.
We moved on to the tasting area, to experience the cupping method of coffee tasting, a way to evaluate the flavour and aroma profiles of different coffees. We arranged ourselves carousel-style, in front of a tasting station and the demonstration began. Once the ground beans were topped up with water just off the boil, and brewed for a length of time, we all had the opportunity to try our hand at 'cupping' using two spoons. It is much more technical than it sounds, and I am reliably informed that this method is exactly as importers would experience, when they visit coffee producers to source beans.
Moving around the tasting stations gave us the opportunity to sample six of ManCoCo's most popular single origin coffees, and one of the lovely ManCoCo Men explained that we would just know when we tasted The One - that is, the coffee whose flavour and aroma profile matched perfectly with our tastebuds. I love the idea of a 'personalised' coffee, but I wasn't sure if my tastebuds would be able to discern the subtle differences in each sample. Although I felt like I was speed-dating each coffee rather than spending quality time getting to know it, remarkably I did 'just know' when I tasted Number 4, Sumatran Jagong Village. It was rich and strong, while also managing to be smooth and chocolately. The One.
It turns out that my One is also many other people's One, as Sumatran Jagong Village is ManCoCo's best-selling coffee. I can't decide if this means I'm frightfully common, or that I have frightfully good taste. Either way, ManCoCo were right - we all found our One, and each coffee was unique in its flavour and aroma, and each of us were unique in the tastes we experienced. Coffee tasting is as sophisticated and nuanced as wine tasting, but without the hangover. PS - it's polite to slurp, nay, expected.
Good coffee is hard to find. Very good coffee is even more elusive, but I think I may have found it at ManCoCo. If you too want to find The One, visit ManCoCo for your own coffee sampling session. ManCoCo sell their beans direct from the roastery and via their website www.mancoco.co.uk. Look out for their stall at local speciality markets and country fayres.