Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an absolute coffee fanatic! It’s hard to believe that when I first started work I didn’t like the taste of it – I’d drink Starbucks (I know – don’t judge me!!) with as much milk and sugar as possible to make it bearable and keep me awake – how times have changed! Now I like it seriously strong, and I’ve definitely turned into a bit of a coffee snob – I love independent coffee places but despite wanting to support them I genuinely much prefer the taste.. I actually can’t believe I used to like Starbucks coffee!
Recently I had the chance to try a couple of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee’s newest blends. I’ve actually walked past their coffee roasting site in London, hoping that they’d have a coffee shop attached, but at the moment they just sell their beans online and to reputable coffee shops.
Founded in 2001, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee is award-winning artisan coffee producer and roaster based in East-London, dedicated to spreading the joy of great coffee. Co-founders Steven Macatonia and Jeremy Torz pioneered Union Direct Trade, making Union the first UK roaster to introduce a “trade-not-aid” way of linking sustainability with exceptional quality coffee. All of Union’s coffee is Q graded as 84 and above – the industry standard for high-quality coffee – and the company is currently aiming to change perceptions about the way coffee is sourced, crafted and enjoyed. In April 2017, Union won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development, the UK’s highest accolade for business success.
As seasons change around the world they discover amazing coffees and select the ones that meet their high standards. I was asked if I’d like to try their newest blend – Yayu Wild Forest Coffee from Ethiopia. Sourced from one of the world’s last remaining and important places for the preservation of wild Arabica coffee and as a result of a partnership with Kew Gardens, it’s described to have “a soft citrus taste and notes of marzipan and bourbon biscuits that lend depth to the coffee or as lighter filter brew, offering flavours reminiscent of kumquat, brown sugar and bittersweet notes of roasted cocoa beans.”
They’ve also recently launched a new seasonal Equinox Coffee, a blend changed two to three times a year to reflect the change in the seasons. The current mix is a combination of two coffees both hailing from South America. Mariela Valencia from Colombia is the backbone of the blend, lending it its sweetness, acidity and complexity, while Huadquina from Peru brings depth, balance and distinct chocolate flavours to the cup. When served as an espresso, flavour notes as an espresso include candied orange, dark chocolate and finishing on a lingering caramelised peanut note. With the addition of milk to the coffee, the flavour notes are reminiscent of marmalade on toast, roasted almond flakes and a tiramisu finish.
Despite being a huge lover of coffee, I’ll admit that when I spend so many hours out of the flat (5am – 7.30pm or even later on a typical day!), I’m usually someone who buys my coffee out, and when I do make coffee at home I use our Nespresso machine as it’s so quick and convenient! I can honestly say I’ve never ground my own beans, but I absolutely love the smell of freshly ground coffee so I couldn’t wait to try it! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect – I only usually go up to my parent’s house once or twice a year but I happened to be going up the very next weekend so I took the bags of beans back with me and used their (ancient, but still useable!) coffee grinder. The smell of the beans was incredible, and once they were ground it was literally like being in a coffee shop. I don’t know many people who don’t love the smell of coffee, even if they don’t like the taste!
We started with the Equinox Coffee. Firstly the smell! It smelt absolutely incredible – it had such a deep, intense, almost chocolatey smell. Once brewed it had a lovely rich flavour. With the chocolate came a slight bitterness (which I personally liked), though I couldn’t taste any hints of caramlised peanuts which was mentioned in the description!
The Ethiopian coffee had less of a bitter taste and tasted a lot lighter to me. I could already tell by the smell of the ground beans that it was going to be a lot less intense – it had an almost fruity, citrus smell. It ended up being a little weak for me – I don’t think we added enough ground beans! – but my mum claimed she thought it was strong so it may just have been that the coffee itself had less of an rich flavour. I have to admit that I don’t think we got the proportions of ground coffee to water right but there was no doubt that it was a very good coffee.
Both of the coffees were lovely. They smelt and tasted delicious and something about grinding the beans and having the smell of them in the kitchen made it taste so much more satisfying. Much as I love my coffee and I absolutely love trying different types and different blends (and I can definitely tell which coffee I do and don’t like!), I’m definitely not at the stage where I can really identify individual flavours – I’d struggle to identify a kumquat if I ate the fruit itself to be honest! That said, I generally do prefer more intense and strong tasting coffees, and the Equinox Coffee was undoubtedly my favourite of the two. The beans come in resealable bags too, so if like me you don’t have a grinder, you can grind the beans in bulk and put the ground beans into their bags.
More than that, I love Union Hand-Roasted Coffee’s initiatives. Maybe it’s just my perception but I do feel like independent coffee roasters really do care a lot more about where the beans are sourced from – getting products of the highest quality and ensuring a fair deal for the farmers. Having been to a number of developing countries and seeing just how much they rely on trade from countries like ours for coffee, cocoa beans and other commodities, I think it’s incredible that the founders of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee are prepared to go one step further than ‘Fairtrade’, instead working directly with farmers, focusing on the quality (not the quantity) of the coffee produced and seeking to provide a living wage for workers, not just a minimum wage, giving them a real chance at sustainable development.
The strangest thing happened to me on the tube too – I was just editing a photo of their coffee and the newest member of the marketing department, Gemma (sorry if it’s with a J!) was standing next to me! She told me a bit about her new role and how incredibly lovely the founders were – it was the weirdest coincidence but so nice to see that they really are a company who truly cares, have a rare business focus around quality than rather than quantity.. and that their employees are as nice as their coffee is good! 🙂
You can buy their beans online where they have a huge range of blends from Morello cherry, macadamia and milk chocolate to treacle, dark chocolate and cinnamon.. or if you’re like me and can’t quite tell the difference – just a seriously good bag of beans! And if you (like me!) don’t have a bean grinder, you can also get filter, aeropress and cafetiere grinds as well as whole beans.
Link to their website: https://www.unionroasted.com/