JackBeanstalkimagesSonny and Cher. John and Yoko. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. Me and Sean Connery. I could go on about various perfect duos, but I’ll spare you and stop. (Sorry, couldn’t resist putting the last one in.) The ultimate pairing is in my opinion, coffee and writing. I’ve been writing now for a few years and as my output has increased, so has my love for the humble coffee bean. It has magical qualities and I’m convinced that Jack (the dude who had issues with a beanstalk in that oft told tale) was actually in possession of coffee beans, not some hocus pocus green bean-style nonsense.

Back to the point; coffee is one of my many loves, because a cup of this steaming hot elixir really gets my creative juices flowing. At first, I just liked the flavour of it. But being the inquisitive soul that I am, I wanted to know more about what really makes a good coffee. Hence began my journey to find places that serve delicious coffee. I’ve visited numerous cafés in my time and the best ones have really stuck out, guaranteeing a return. There have been a few note-worthy places I’ve visited so far – expect a ‘Coffee Hot Spot’ post soon. (I’m also in the middle of fleshing out a brand new food and drink segment, but more on that later.)

I wanted to tell you sooner (I just didn’t have the time) about this cool coffee tasting evening I attended last year. It was hosted by North Tea Power, which is something of an institution in Manchester. It’s informal yet professional ambience attracts a diverse clientele, from post-work corporates to chilled scholars. For me, the main selling point of North Tea is its coffee. Being a coffee fiend always in search for my next caffeine hit, I was happy to learn about their coffee tasting evening for which they had roped in an expert in the field. Dale from Has Bean is a coffee connoisseur and now my Go-To response for all my coffee related queries.

For a bargainous £12 (which included a take-home bag of fresh roasted coffee beans), a bunch of coffee enthusiasts gathered one cold, wet evening to hear about and taste variations of espresso.

ESPRESSSOimagesNow, I’m not a huge fan of espresso (my coffee of choice would be a double shot, super hot, skinny sweet flat white). Still, I enjoyed the tasting so much, that North Tea Power is now on my speed dial (you know, in case I need to make a mad dash one day if I ever run out of coffee).

At the tasting evening, we were greeted with platters of delicious food adorning the rustic wooden table like a medieval feast. Part of me actually felt like Henry VIII, but that was because I was layering up with two jumpers, scarf and warm parka (I did tell you it was cold, right?). Yellow raspberries, bitter chocolate, creamy toffee, walnuts, slices of lemon, banana and pear, in addition to cubes of sticky fudge and Turkish Delight were a beautiful sight to behold. It was one hell of a smorgasbord. The idea was to see which flavours complement the coffee and it was a wonderful exercise in really tasting and ‘being at one’ with the coffee. There were a total of seven tasters who were all served hot of the press espresso whilst Dale gave an engaging introduction to coffee, including a brief history and his recommendations.

As Dale talked us through the various offerings, he answered questions and gave tips and advice on how to serve coffee. For example, did you know that the taste of coffee can be prolonged by freezing? I tried this with North Tea Power’s Deer Hunter variety (50% Cost Rica Funa Deliche, 30% Nicaragua, 20% Costa Rica Herbeza) and have to say the flavours were definitely more pronounced in the second frozen batch in comparison to the first non-frozen lot.

Back to the coffee tasting evening; I sampled numerous espressos that were creamy, nutty, earthy and smoky. Various shots were inspired and there were numerous different tastes, but the flavours that stood out for me were bitter blood orange, melted chocolate and salted caramel.

handshakeimagesTime, consuming coffee, is always time well spent. Especially in the company of other coffee enthusiasts. Yes, we can be quite a geeky bunch. A fellow coffee enthusiast mentioned that tasting coffee is like getting a handshake, which I think best sums up taking that first sip of coffee – it’s personal, intimate and you know when it’s going to be a lasting connection.

(Just a quick note to my bonafide caffeine dealer North Tea Power: another coffee tasting event would go down really really really well… Hint hint.)