We know. There is a lot to care about these days. You can barely walk down a supermarket aisle any more without breaking into a sweat over whether dolphins were killed for your can of tuna, or whether your free-range chicken ever actually found the door to get out. But single origin coffee is a new one on us and we thought you should know a bit more about it.
A lot of people think we're at peak hipster when it comes to coffee, and just want to order a cappuccino and get out without being subjected to a lengthy lecture about whether or not the beans were washed , and what the name of the farmer was (Katy McGuinness we're looking at you), but like everything with a cult-ish following, once you do a bit of digging you tend to start getting sucked in. Ebb & Flow in Clontarf are one of the speciality cafés in Dublin who've made the decision to serve 100% single origin coffee, and owner Dave along with barista Hannah enlightened us on what's so great about it.
It turns out Single Origin coffee is like good wine, and here's why. People who love wine tend to buy a lot of single vineyard bottles. Wines where the grapes came from one site, are looked after by one person, and made into a wine containing only the grapes from that place, as opposed to loads of grapes from different sites (or even regions), so that we might get a sense of the 'terroir' from this one site. It's not consistent year on year, and tastes different depending on the weather or what decisions were made in the winery. Single vineyard is seen as a marker of quality, a way to tasted a nuanced expression of a single place, and single origin coffee is exactly the same.
Most coffee that's served in mainstream cafés is a blend of a lot of beans from a lot of different places, and often if the beans aren't that good they're roasted really dark to cover it up - just like bad wine can be covered up by using a lot of oak. The other reason why coffee tends to be roasted dark is so it stays consistent across sites, day in day out (just like big brand wines), and many people on their first encounter with single roast coffee are shocked by its paleness, thinking it looks more like tea than coffee. With single origin you are tasting beans from just one place, grown by one farm, and it only gets more specific from there. Generally the better the coffee, the lighter it's roasted, to bring out all of the subtle aromas and flavours.
The other thing you might want to consider is that speciality coffee tends to be more ethically sourced and sustainably grown, and to ensure this is the case with their own supply, Dave and his business partner have started a roastery in Dublin called Full Circle, which ensures that money is put back into educating the farmers that their beans come from, and allows the whole process to come full circle.
We tried Ebb & Flow's espresso tasting plate, which contained a small amount of espresso in one cup, and the same coffee used to make a latté in another, so we could see how the milk changed the flavours. The espresso tasted like cake, and the official tasting notes were given as orange, caramel and cherry, all of which we could taste. The latté was one of the best we've had in this city, presumably helped by sitting and savouring, rather than running and throwing it back.
Like wine, cheese or art, coffee appreciation takes time, energy and interest, and if you're just not into it then go forth and order your dark roast cappuccino, but if this has piqued your interest then visit a place like Ebb & Flow and ask the barista to tell you more about what they're pouring that day. They will be very happy to see you coming.
Ebb & Flow
56 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Mon - Fri: 07:00 - 17:00. Sat 08:00 - 17:00. Sun 09:00 - 17:00.