Mr. Bean: Jake Easton
Jake Easton is at the forefront of SA's latest coffee revolution, we grabbed him for a chat about the finer points of this ubiquitous brew.
As founder of Tribe coffee, Jake is keenly involved in developing a sophisticated, artisanal appreciation of coffee within the South African public. He advocates a holistic approach to coffee which takes into account all aspects of coffee production and consumption as well as responsible practice when dealing with coffee growers.
What are they key elements affecting the flavour of an espresso?
Coffee, like wine, needs humans to take it from its hidden form within a red or yellow cherry to become a fantastic cup of magic we all love so much.
There are three distinct phases in the life of your cup of coffee that greatly affect or enhance your drinking pleasure, they are as follows: Farming, Roasting and Brewing.
At the farming level there are many decisions that have to be made by the farmer. These include the way in which the cherries (yes, coffee comes in a cherry) are picked from the trees, the way in which the beans are removed the cherry, and how much sorting is to be done once the beans have been removed. Each of these steps will greatly affect the flavour and aroma options available to the roaster.
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The second phase is roasting. Roasting is one of the more scientific elements of coffee production with scientists having identified over 850 flavour/aroma based chemicals present in coffee. The function of roasting is to decide which of these flavours are to be accentuated and which are to be muted. The roaster then decides on which style of roasting to utilise. The drastic influences that this has on the coffee can best be experienced by tasting different brands of coffee beans side by side, as each will likely use a unique roasting style.
The last part is the brewing of your coffee, and this is the part that you as the drinker have the most control over. Experiment by seeing if you prefer your coffee served
What are your views on adding things to coffee?
Coffee has always depended on additives. The very first additive is the water we pour over it to extract our coffee. Water can hugely affect the flavour of a coffee.
In France where the water is very calcified and hard the resulting coffees are often slightly sour and somewhat bitter, which then requires sugar to adjust the flavour to a palatable level.
Turkish coffee is ground very fine and then incorporates anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar all together to add to the flavour of the coffee. Turkish Coffee, which to this day, is renowned worldwide for its aroma and flavour.
The Israelis and countries of the Maghreb add sugared grapefruit zest to their coffees.
In the Overberg outside of Cape Town some people add not only 40grams of sugar but also a touch of tobacco.
In North America they add Hazelnut flavoured milk and cinnamon syrup to their coffees.
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How do you drink yours?
I drink so much coffee every day that I have to limit my milk intake and taste as many coffees as possible (some days upwards of 30 cups). All of that coffee notwithstanding my favourite coffee is called a Wet Macchiato.
A wet Macchiato is a single shot of espresso, 30ml, with an almost equal portion of heated micro-textured milk. The Macchiato is made to be swallowed quickly in two or three drinks. It is the perfect drink for chefs and business people who love good coffee but have to get out and go very quickly.
Any tips for making a perfect cup of coffee?
It really is an each to their own situation, and settling on your perfect style of coffee is a uniquely personal journey. That said, one of the quickest ways you can improve your home coffee experience is by purchasing a small grinder. That way you can turn your beans into the optimal ground for the style of coffee you enjoy.
If you enjoy filter coffee, try grinding your coffee as finely as possible and then use smaller amounts to obtain a better extraction.
If you like plunger coffee, keep your grind medium-coarse and let the coffee extract in the water for 4 minutes before you push down.
Having your own grinder also allows you to experiment as much as you like before settling on your favoured style.
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What do you think about organic coffee?
Organic coffee has distinct flavours and aromas that you don’t normally find in any mass produced coffees. Organic coffees are also being proven to be higher in anti-oxidants to help protect against cognitive deficits that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Organic coffee is also the only way to go as far as decaffeinated coffee is concerned. It’s the least offensive and keeps the most amount of flavour in the cup.
Jake is the founder of Tribe coffee, a collection of professionals striving to eradicate bad coffee from South Africa. He also trains coffee roasters, designs cafe's and creates coffee blends to further develop his knowledge and love of coffee.