With the days getting shorter and the mornings pitch black, I turn increasingly towards my little morning pick me up, dear Reader. A drop of hot, dark happiness to help ease me into the day. When the school run frazzles me from top to toe, I am dripping wet from my dawn-chorused dog walk and I am buried under a mountain of work, it is my solace. Coffee. I can’t live without it. Perhaps it’s because my dear Mamma hails from Brazil or the fact that I simply can’t function before 10am unless I’ve had my first cup of the dark stuff….whatever the reason, my mornings just wouldn’t be the same without it.
When we first moved from the Big Smoke where coffee houses were ten a penny, it was one of the things that I knew that I would miss the most. I think that one of Primrose’s first outings was to meet NCT ladies and their babes over a mug of coffee, dear Reader! Walking down the tow path and along to my favourite café, usually pushing a buggy or trying not to fall over a trike, it was part of my weekend/maternity leave/cheering myself up ritual. That was until we moved to the wilds of rural Hampshire where the nearest café is a good 20 minutes away in the car. Worried about my impending caffeine/coffee house withdrawal, Jerry gifted me a now much treasured possession……my little coffee machine. None of the pod rubbish (sorry sorry sorry I really should apologise for my coffee machine fascism). A proper grind your own beans, coffee damper, schwaaaaaah sounding number. It remains the BEST present that Jerry has ever given me for Christmas and other than the Everhot is the most used gadget in the kitchen. So when Moonroast Coffee offered me a chance to learn more about what goes into my cup, I jumped straight into the car! Coffee….on the doorstep….what could be better?!!
Moonroast Coffee may have humble digs (for now…) but it comes with a seriously impressive list of coffee credentials. Working in the heart of the Candover valley in Hampshire, Francis and Judy Bradshaw are the 4th generation of the Bradshaw family to be involved in the tea and coffee industry with Francis’ father, Haydon Bradshaw, one of Britain’s top coffee tasters, offering a consultant’s overview of Moonroast’s coffee journey. Setting up in the back garden, Fran and Judy saw an opportunity to create an artisan roastery making small batch, slow roasted coffee with beans sourced from the best smallholders in the world.
Juggling day jobs, Fran and Judy began roasting coffee beans at night with a roaster that was brought over neighbouring fields on a loader, installed in their large shed and Moonroast Coffee was born. Very much a handcrafted business, Fran takes great care to create his own blends as well as crafting single origin coffees with their own roasting and flavour profile for retail as well as wholesale. Believe me, dear Reader, this is so much more than your average cup of morning coffee!
The process is fascinating. From green beans, a lighter shade of Puy lentil, to carefully monitored roasting in the roaster, all the way through to a ristretto or flat white! The smell wafting through the shed was incredible as the beans were cooled to prevent any further roasting. You could even hear the crackles coming from the roaster as the beans begin to take on their characteristic colour.
Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Sumatran…..I fear that my mornings may well now involve a good deal of indecision. That and I am destined to become a coffee bore to anyone who will listen. Fran gave me some fab tips too – always buy beans and grind them yourself. Coffee beans stay fresher for marginally longer BUT check out the roasting date on the coffee label if there is one. Coffee starts to lose its aromas and flavours the longer it is open to the elements. Not a problem in this house as Jerry and I practically inhale the stuff daily. Try different beans, single origins or blends. Like vineyards and vines in the case of wine, beans grown on different soils (or as the winos like to say ‘terroir’) have a distinct and different flavour profile. Blends, well they bring together different flavour characteristics of combined beans to bring together a distinctive taste too. Citrus notes, floral ones, body, acidity – all these give the cup of coffee you like it’s own ‘je ne sais quoi’. Diana Henry, award-winning food writer and all round fabulous foodie, explains the whole coffee code of conduct here, far more beautifully than I ever could.
There’s an art to the perfect cup of coffee that is more than the foamy fern, heart or swan on the top. Weighing out the right amount of beans, even the amount of pressure applied with the coffee damper is key. Too compact and the water struggles to pass through the coffee, too loose and too much flavour is washed away. Extracting the flavours is what the whole process is all about.
With all this in mind, I shall make sure that I take FAR more time over that first cup of coffee. After all, it’s the deliciously aromatic, wonderfully energising rocket fuel that powers my day. Somehow it makes me much more able to deal with Primrose’s daily requests for a pony at 6am, Poppy covering herself head to toe in mud on her way from front door to car BEFORE drop off at nursery, chasing Monty across the fields yelling “IDIOT” after him and the awful realisation that I shall never manage to look anything but the essence of being dragged through a hedge backwards as I emergency exit the children, ‘drive-by shooting style’ from the moving car and into the arms of their teachers at the school gates. Coffee. I dread to think what I would be WITHOUT YOU.
A huge thanks to Fran, Judy and Rachel from Moonroast Coffee for taking pity on me in my hour of caffeine, creating some of the most delicious flat whites I’ve ever tasted and for letting me in on your wonderful roasting secrets. Anyone who doesn’t try your coffee is seriously missing out.