Exceptional coffee: the best coffee beans!
Gone are the days of the bland caffeine fix: the coffee world is undergoing a revolution. To taste the finest produce and guarantee absolute freshness, leave pre-packaged coffee behind and discover the joys of grinding your own coffee beans.
Source: Le Figaro Magazine
Store and grind the coffee beans
Sometimes, it’s good to go back to the way things were before. Some of our readers – those who grew up without the internet – might recall seeing their mother or grandmother grappling with what looks today like a strange contraption with a handle. The object in question comprises a wooden box with a small drawer at the bottom and a nickel-plated steel cap at the top. Or, in other words: a coffee grinder.
Our country, which prides itself on all things gastronomic, has neglected this black nectar for so long that in 2010 the New York Times was moved to run with the inflammatory headline, “Why is coffee in Paris so bad?” The object of the newspaper’s ire?
Coffee bean that was ground too long ago, stuffed into bags and thus stripped of all its finesse. According to Jean-Jacques Leuner, president of the Comité Français du Café, we forget that coffee beans are a perishable product and should be treated as such. “It’s really quite simple: if you want to capture the full flavour of the coffee beans, they can only be kept for a maximum of five days at room temperature, two weeks in the refrigerator, or – as few people realise – two years in the freezer. By storing them in an airtight container, you can prevent them from aging. The deep freeze preserves the beans’ flavour. So all you have to do is take the amount of coffee beans you need each time and grind them to obtain as much flavour as possible.”
How the coffee beans “terroir” is important
For a few years now, a new generation of roasters have assumed the role of veritable coffee sommeliers. One of the flag bearers of this coffee revival is Christophe Servell, founder of the Terres de Café shops in Paris. As befits someone who is the son and grandson of roasters, he has set himself the mission of convincing the world that the diversity of coffee is just as rich and complex as that which distinguishes a croze-hermitage from a bottle of Haut-Médoc. By way of proof, his grandfather, Maurice, sold two varieties of coffee beans in the 1960s; his mother, Josiane, offered six different kinds in the 1980s; and today, his own shops stock a minimum of twelve varieties of coffee, each with an extremely precise provenance.
Indeed, the importance of the terroir – the natural environment in which the coffee beans are grown – cannot be understated. As with wine, it has a decisive impact on the final flavour of the drink. The exact geographical surroundings and location of the plantation must therefore always be taken into account. The altitude at which the coffee bushes grow, for example, is crucial: the higher they are, the fresher and more acidic the coffee produced. This is particularly important, since it is the acidity that gives the best beans a longer finish and, with it, the time to develop their full spectrum of flavours. Which is why, from Brazil and Colombia to Vietnam, the highest plantations are renowned for producing the finest and most aromatically complex coffees. Another factor pored over by professionals is the amount of sunshine to which each plantation is exposed.
The 850 flavour components of a roasted coffee bean
In order to ensure the fruit ripens as quickly as possible, it stands to reason that most coffee growers will not go to the trouble of keeping their plants in the shade. However, those who employ a slower ripening process are able to cultivate the best beans with an infinitely more refined flavour. Often, these producers choose to harvest the fruit from their coffee plants not just once a season (known as “strip picking”) but by returning up to ten times to the same place and each time picking only the ripest coffee beans. This method, known as “selective picking”, is much more expensive but guarantees the highest quality. Having been dried and hulled, the green coffee is then sorted and graded.
Arabs are said to have happened upon the roasting process in the 14th century (by way of a fortuitous brush fire!). Today, coffee beans are kept continuously moving in a cylinder heated to a minimum of 180 degrees. Roasted for between 18 and 20 minutes, the coffee gradually changes colour (in France, we aim for a light “robe de moine“, while the English produce every shade of brown and the Italians prefer a deep brown), the beans swell, lose a fifth of their initial weight in moisture and, finally, obtain their flavour components.
Spices, toasted notes, dandelion, dark chocolate, jasmine, lemon, honeysuckle, caramel, peanut, tea rose, apricot, peas… Of the 850 flavour components that have so far been identified in coffee, specialist Jean Lenoir has selected 36 of the most typical for his olfactory kit (Le Nez du Café) made up of scent vials and an informative manual, designed to enable the uninitiated to educate their senses in the subtleties of the black nectar.
The best of the best coffee beans
Among roasters, a competition has been held every year to recognise the individual who demonstrates the highest level of expertise. Last year, the title of the best roaster in France was awared to Mélanie Badets of Cafés Tchanqué roastery in La Teste-de-Buch (33).
Cafés Tchanqué is above all a human-sized company, a team that emphasizes quality. From the selection of green coffee beans (my journey helps me a lot!), to artisanal and controlled roasting (without forgetting the guaranteed freshness), I want to offer a real “gourmet” sensory experience to our customers. The passion for coffee, I like to transmit it and love showing visitors the workshop.
I take special care to know the growing conditions of the coffees that I buy, both environmentally and socially.
How to honour the coffee beans
Indeed, what could be more on-trend than serving your friends a cup of Liquidambar Caracoli from Mexico (slightly acidic, with a hint of praline) or Moka Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia (smooth and chocolaty)?
The best way to go about it is to equip yourself with an all-singing, all-dancing bean-to-cup machine for a last minute bean grinding. Although these coffee machines don’t come cheap – costing between 350 and 400 euros for entry-level models – they are less expensive to use than capsule machines.
“Over the last four years,” says Georges Pascoa of Krups, “sales of this type of machine have quite literally doubled in France, going from 30,000 units a year to 60,000. What makes them so popular? The incredible freedom offered by the coffee beans. The diversity of flavours is vast. Not to mention that we’re constantly working to improve our equipment. For example, our latest product has a touch screen, directly inspired by smartphones, to make it ultra user-friendly.”
The same attention to detail is demonstrated by Italian brand Saeco, one of the first to corner the market, and now Philips, which – having designed a ceramic grinder that enables the user to precisely adjust the grind without overheating the coffee beans and thereby altering their flavour – Moltio, the first coffee machine with a removable coffee container. Allowing users to chill their beans right up until use, this latest innovation is another breakthrough in the search for the best taste possible.
And for the French, who consume between five and six kilos of coffee per person/year (or two cups a day), there is no longer any excuse not to join this quest for the perfect brew.