Until today I always thought of Browns Coffeehouse (off Stour street, in Canterbury, by the river), as just a classic coffeehouse. A place with big squashy sofas, free wifi, a very well made flat-white coffee and delicious macaroons. Somehow I hadn’t realised quite how much more was there was to it.
Rewind to two weeks ago. My old Bialetti stove-top coffee maker finally died. After many years of use it had become almost impossible to screw open after use… and at my last attempt the handle broke. So I started using a French cafètiere press just because I had one around. I did not like it. It seemed time to get a “grown-up” coffee machine, which I expected to be very expensive and bulky, and I asked a friend who I knew to be fairly obsessed with coffee what should I get. He mentioned something called AeroPress and said he’d get me one.
And he did get me one. And got a demonstration of how to use it. And tasted it. And I am no longer a flat-white woman. There is another coffee world out there and this was a first glimpse.
Then I took the AeroPress home. And this happened.
And then this.
It was much, much better than any coffee I had ever made with the Bialetti and, of course, the cafetière. But not nearly as good as the one I tasted at my friends’ house. So today I remembered that I had seen tweets about Browns CoffeeHouse selling some very good coffees. So I thought I’d give them a try.
And obviously the coffee gods considered it was time to finally let me see what real coffee is about. Because when I walked into Browns their large table was set up for a coffee tasting. Or coffee cupping as I now know to call it. And they were very happy for me to join in. So I did.
There is no way I can explain exactly what happened, or even attempt to give names to all the new aromas I experienced for the first time ever. And I did not manage to taste the blueberries or pomegranates in the coffees as mentioned in the tasting notes.
One thing I learnt, though, was how important the water you use is. Thom Burrows, the barista, made two versions of each coffee, one with tap water and one with mineral water. This was one difference in taste I did manage to get. And you could see it very clearly too.
Tap water on the right, mineral water on the left
And how to do you taste coffee?
You pour the water on the ground coffee. A very precise ratio of coffee to water that I can’t remember. Then let it rest for a very precise time that I can’t remember either. And then you use a couple of spoons to “break the crust”, which is the top layer of ground coffee that has floated to the top.
And taste. No, you don’t drink it. You slurp it, as loudly as you can manage, from a spoon.
And you are in a new world of coffee. We had four different coffees. Until today, the only aromas and flavours I had really noticed in coffees where completely dominated by over-roasting. I could tell if a coffee was more or less bitter, or, in some cases, stale. I had no idea there were so many other flavours out there!
So, tasting (or cupping!) done. Time to get some coffee to take home. And not only did I get my coffee ground, but I also got an Aeropress tutorial by Thom Burrows. This is the “inverted” method. Because the Aeropress is upside-down. And, of course, it was amazing.
And now I really covet a brewing kettle with a thin spout, super precision scales with a timer, and a coffee grinder, of course.
Browns hold regular coffee cuppings and they love answering questions and, best of all, demonstrating how to make good coffee. They are very happy to let you into this new world of coffee.
I seem to remember there was a time when it was nearly impossible to get a good cup of coffee in England. It seems a very long time ago!
Browns CoffeeHouse is at Water Lane, off Stour Street. Canterbury CT1 2NQ.