“I’m going to try all your coffees one by one until I find the one that has the perfect flavour” I have heard this said so many times, when meeting a customer for the very first time, and though I appreciate their intention, my heart has sunk.

“Why?” Because the idea that there is only one perfect flavour that will fulfil expectations and suit our palates is a mistake, and often doomed to failure. It can completely spoil what should be an interesting journey of discoveries. For that is what the coffee experience should be, an interesting and pleasurable journey into one of the world’s most fascinating and challenging natural products.

I have always thought it important to try to discover just where the customer is on that journey, of course it’s personal and unique to them, but at the start of a conversation to ask them to put into words the flavour they are looking for can be counter productive. Within the coffee and tea trade we have words to describe flavours and varieties, but I learnt a long time ago that flavours that I describe as “full bodied or sharp, fruity or smooth” may resonate differently for a customer. Getting alongside in terms of language is vital.

So, I usually begin by some straightforward questions such as “Where have you most enjoyed a cup of coffee?” Sometimes the reply has been a cup of coffee tasted outside the UK. Countries traditionally source their coffees from different producers and roast them in their own distinctive styles to suit their local populations. Coffee being part of cultural identity. Coffee drunk in Scandinavia or Germany can have marked differences in flavour to say that enjoyed in Italy or Spain. Whatever the reply, and however surprising, it can reveal some helpful clues about the person’s palate.

“Do you enjoy your coffee drunk black or white?” This is useful to know because though most coffees can be enjoyed black, not all varieties take milk or cream without losing a lot of their individual characters especially when served as cappuccino or a latte. The subtle delicate flavour of coffees such as Jamaica Blue Mountain or Galapagos San Cristobal, don’t feature at their best when prepared and served in this way.

“When do you most enjoy your coffee?” If it’s drunk with or just after a meal its flavour will have stiff competition from the food you have been enjoying. Coffees vary in intensity, like wines, and what goes with some food doesn’t go so well with others. It doesn’t necessarily follow that you will always have to select different coffees for different occasions because there are varieties which are able to hold their own despite other strong or dominant flavours.

“How do you make your coffee? Are you happy with it or do you question your skill? Well have you the right method to produce the flavour you are looking for?” For example, if you tell us about a coffee you love and it was made in an espresso, but you make your coffee in a filter, or plunger pot, there will be problems, because excellent though those methods are, they don’t produce the same intensity as an espresso maker, even if you use the same type of coffee. Filter makers are very versatile, they cope well with all varieties and roasts. Plunger pots and espresso makers produce great cups of coffee but some varieties work better in them than others. In fact you don’t necessarily need a very sophisticated maker to make a great cup of coffee, some of the best cups I have tasted have been made in the most simple ways. If you understand your maker, can relax and enjoy the process, you can produce good coffee, but please tell us us about the method you are using.

Helping you find the coffee you are looking for is at the heart of our business. Sharing our knowledge and experience so as to make your discovery a pleasurable and rewarding journey which doesn’t end with just the discovery of a single flavour or variety but opens your palate to whole range of delightful flavours is our aim. Of course there can always be favourites, flavours once discovered that one comes back to again and again but teaching our palates to appreciate a wide variety opens us to so much more. So let us help you experiment. Be bold without being reckless. Try small quantities and be patient with a new variety, it may take more than one making for you to discover its merits, and tell us about your experience, either by visiting us at 79 Duke Street here on our website.

Whatever coffee means to you, whether its an essential at the start of your day, or a welcome break from a busy morning in the office. The centre of a celebration with family or just a getting together with friends. The perfect finish to a meal, or a companion at the end of a difficult day, good coffee is one of the joys of life. What do you want from your coffee? Let us help you to find it.