One thing I thought I was going to miss after moving back to Malta was the coffee culture. I genuinely thought I would be disappointed. The thing is I could never find the good stuff during my various visits to see friends and family here. Only recently I’ve been to a place where the coffee just didn’t cut it. Honestly I would have been much happier if I just ordered a glass of still water, instead of wasting a few euros drinking tasteless mud. It was undrinkable. Having said that I would advise you never to order an espresso from a pub when you’re in England. There could be good ones you never know, but I wouldn’t risk it if I were you. Ah, memories!
A few months before J and I moved back, I was told that quite a number of good coffee shops have opened, or were about to open, on the island. My sources assured me that I was not going to be let down and that I will indeed have a handful of great options. Now listen, I am neither a coffee snob, nor an expert. Far from it. I, like many others, just like good-quality coffee. That’s all.
Pair that with good service with a smile (a cliché I know but it’s part of the magic formula for success) and excellent baristas, who when tentatively try to guess my ‘usual’, they almost never do – which is not their fault. Poor things I tend to drive them nuts, because I like to take my time to order. With life going by so fast, especially lately, I relish that time when there’s someone before me in the queue. An added plus is their charity work.
Now you’d think that an avid coffee lover like me, who takes the vulnerary aspect of coffee very seriously indeed, would not only know about International Coffee Day (I knew that), but would also know when that day actually is, or at least an approximate week or month. The truth is I did not. I was about to say I’ve been extremely busy these past weeks, but come on. There’s really no excuse.
However luck, faith, or my inner automatic coffee compass directed me to Costa Coffee in Balzan with my mum for a coffee and chat (you see, what you read here on C&T is religiously applied to real life. The Coffee Chats aren’t solely virtual.) While waiting for my turn to order I saw a flyer on the counter for a Beginner’s Coffee Masterclass to celebrate the day.
Costa holds these types of events relatively often during the year. Three stand-alone espresso tasting sessions were being held – two in Balzan on the 1st of this month and one in Bay Street the day before. Vouchers were also being given to anyone who wanted them for a half-price discount redeemable in any of their stores.
After confirming my attendance, they were also kind enough to let me bring in my camera to shoot some images for this blog. I must say that it was as much fun as I anticipated. I don’t want to give a lot away, there weren’t any restrictions imposed by any means, but while I have complete control of my content here, I am sure that I won’t do any justice to the session itself. What I will give you is a summary of the main areas of the what I could call a workshop. And as all good workshops are, this was very interactive.
After a brief introduction of the company’s history and charity work, Jen and Wayne talked about the types of coffee beans, arabica and robusta, the differences between them and where and how they are grown, and how to tell them apart. The percentages of the blend they use is top secret, something which is expected. My impression is that there’s a lot of robusta in there, but of course don’t quote me on that one.
Next on the agenda was the feel of the coffee as in texture and grind. Then straight on to what I think was the most enjoyable part for most of the participants: the taste test. Jen opened a file containing labelled ‘coffee aromas’, containing quite a considerable number of glass vials.
Thankfully a sheet was handed out with a list. All that had to be done was to match them with the order they were shown. That seems much easier than it really was. Before the actual tasting of the espresso, there was just one more step. Four small cups were distributed to each individual, a sample of the four main tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami was explained.
Finally came the espresso. Slurp they said, and we did. Then another slurp and keep it for a few seconds underneath the tongue. Quite the surprise. It’s amazing what you can learn in an hour. Questions were then answered gracefully and in considerable detail, with the session ending as it started – bang on time.
Disclaimer: Costa Coffee Malta did not pay me in any way, shape or form for this blog post. The espresso was made specifically during the session and made for the session participants. The coffees ordered outside the session itself were paid by yours truly.
Although this post was written with up-to-date information, the contents of the masterclass may and can be changed by Costa Coffee Malta. I make no assurances of any kind (expressed or implied) about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability of any information, products, services or related graphics contained within this post. Nor am I giving any legal, medical and/or professional advice.