Our well-loved coffee maker, Trump and Timbal, has recently made a few adjustments to our delicious signature Cafe blend. It definitely stands out as one of the best coffees in Cape Town. We sat down with Richard, the owner, to find out more.
“It’s hard to imagine that it was almost three years to the day that Michael & Anthony invited me to design a coffee blend for the launch of their new Honest Chocolate Cafe in Wale Street. I still remember how nervous I was stepping into the dusty, unfinished interior of the cafe and shaking Michael’s hand for the first time.
I handed him a box full of bottles of different blends and single origins, and a few weeks later, after much deliberation, there I was on a sweltering Summer’s evening roasting my first batch of what was to become the cafe’s signature blend. Two days later, on the 18th of December 2014, Honest Chocolate Cafe opened its doors for the first time!
Three years on, Honest is the most popular coffee in my range, outselling all of my other coffees many times over. It has become my go-to coffee whenever I need to impress a new client or win over a fussy customer. I owe Michael and Anthony a debt of gratitude for that. I’m a pretty sentimental sort as it is, so you can imagine that this blend has a special place in my heart.
Coffee roasting, roasting done well, is a tricky business – and getting there requires a lot of hard work and mistakes – it’s stressful, humbling, and never straightforward. So, this blend and I have been through a lot together, we have evolved together, and taken many leaps of faith together. My coffee heroes and mentors are pioneers of artisan coffee in the US. Studying their techniques and innovations from afar has been challenging, and also very rewarding, for both me as a roaster and for.
I’m a micro-roaster, and that means I roast in small batches, which means I roast a lot. Roasting a lot means I get to try stuff, and the small batches mean I get to experiment and make mistakes. Small batches also mean I have the flexibility to roast to order, which means every coffee you drink at Honest Chocolate Cafe has been roasted within a week. It also means I am able to inspect by hand, and sort by eye, every roast I complete. Every batch of Honest Chocolate is sorted post-roast for defects, such as underripe beans (or quakers), that are hard to spot at the plantation.
So, why change something that doesn’t need fixing? Well, because everything can be improved upon, and in this case, refined.
Honest’s blend has always been a ballad to chocolate, as well as tipping its hat to the great Italian tradition of espresso blending. The base essence of the blend is made up of Brazils, and a nuggety robusta from Kabonera in Uganda. I love good robusta, and I adore what it brings to this style of espresso: intensity without acidity, and a malty, caramel popcorn-like sweetness. So, the robusta must stay. 😀 The complexity and character in the blend comes from the ‘highlight’ coffees, in this case from Bucaramanga in Colombia and Huehuetenango in Guatemala – adding rich body, great chocolate character and some acidity for balance. We don’t want to mess with that.
As you may have deduced, it’s time to give the Brazils in this blend a rest, and try something new! So, I invite you to get on your donkey and head up with me high into the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range in El Salvador. There you’ll find, growing in the shade, on the volcanic slopes of the Cerro Grande, our new favourite coffee! High altitude and shade cultivation (it’s rainforest alliance certified) mean this coffee is slow ripened – giving it richness, sweetness, balance and complexity. It is still classified as a ‘washed mild’, meaning it has a moderate to soft acidity, which this style of espresso demands. What stands out for me is its deep, almost almond-like sweetness, and distinctive cocoa character.
The rest of the blend remains unchanged. And, in keeping with Honest Chocolate’s principles, all the coffees are ethically sourced, and traceable.
I won’t go into the technicalities of roasting because without some roasting experience it won’t make any sense to you. What really matters is what you’ll find in the cup. This coffee has been on a 12-minute journey. It was dropped smoking from the drum just short of FullCity with its acids softened and rounded, but still juicy enough to bring balance to the rich folds of chocolate, cocoa and marzipan that make this coffee worthy of the Honest Chocolate name, and its emporium of deliciousness: Honest Chocolate Cafe!”
Come and give our updated blend a try – we’d love to hear your feedback.