One of Paris top sporting events is posing in a pavement cafe, possibly wearing a perfectly knotted scarf, watching the guys and girls go by, and being admired for an elegant sense of style while sipping an espresso or a cafe au lait. Thus, I was expecting exceptional coffee in every cup while I was there for a week over New Year. I love the city, and discover something new every time I visit, but this my first trip to France’s capital since becoming a barista and cultivating a near obsessive pursuit of the perfect coffee. Between sightseeing sessions we would, naturally, stop at a cafe for a quick espresso before the next museum, gallery or shop. I quickly discovered that Paris caffeine-scene is dominated by one name that comes up time and again; ‘Cafes Richard’ is emblazoned upon cups, saucers, sugar cubes and machines. I was getting the same coffee in at least two thirds of the cafes I went to. However it is amazing how different the same blend can taste when you throw in a few variables. A coffee bean is like a flavour pod and many things can affect its quality. Cafes in bustling areas would have fresher beans, resulting in a better pour, whereas when I left the hustle and bustle of the tourist destinations, I would find cafes where beans had been sitting in the hopper for a long period of time – exposed to the elements that speed their degradation – resulting in a watery shot which would lack substance and flavour. On the odd occasion when I ordered a cafe au lait the milk always came from a cardboard UHT carton. The milk was heated to temperatures which would have health and safety running for their clipboards. Not a rosetta in sight and I would have to wait ten minutes before the fear to sip subsided. When milk is heated that much it smells a little like rice pudding. The sugars caramelise slightly and it does have the benefit of hiding any bitterness from low grade robusta used in the blend. I missed my 100% arabica, roasted especially for me and delivered to my house. I missed Newbeans. From the cafes I visited I can only assume Parisians have refined a taste for robusta, watery espresso and stale beans. Perhaps the act of posing in a cafe holding the cup takes priority over its contents.
Thankfully the coffee was the only disappointment of my trip. I spent the final hour of 2010 on the Champs Elysees with thousands of others celebrating the beginning of the New Year, I ate countless delicious desserts and was truly inspired and revived by the buzz of the city, the art in the galleries and the points of interest on every corner. It gives me the itch to travel more often. I will know for next time that if I want good coffee, I have to research it before I leave. After all, it’s difficult enough to find a decent espresso in my hometown let alone a new city.
I returned home on the 5th of January to my own glorious coffee machine and a bag of freshly roasted Newbeans Yemeni Matari. While Ethiopia is credited as the birthplace of coffee, Yemen is where coffee cultivation began. Expert farmers have carefully prepared the coffee cherry which Newbeans have lightly roasted to unlock their full flavoured potential. Shaded by banana trees, fertilised with ash, dried in the sun for 3-4 weeks and hulled by millstones these coffee trees are amongst the most pampered in the world. Fast forward to my cup and and the espresso yields earthy piquancy with a fruity bite, further exploration reveals tones of caramel, cocoa and wine but despite these sweeter attributes, in my opinion, it remains a very savoury coffee. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon and boom I have a very unusual, very special beverage I’d be proud to prepare for friends. Newbeans Yemeni Matari. is definitely a prime example of how incredible coffee can be. I often hear people saying coffee just tastes of coffee – this would be the perfect thing to serve if you’re attempting to buck that belief or stretch your own taste-buds.
Newbeans Yemeni Matari. is a world away from my experience of the Paris cafes. I loved being in the city of light for the celebrations, the romance and the culture but for coffee purposes, with Newbeans there really is no place like home!