Great Taste Awards show exotic coffees are a growing trend

Two remarkably different filter coffees have taken the top spots at the Great Taste awards – the only three-star gold prizes in that sector have gone to one traditional single-origin Ethiopian, and to one extremely unusual Indian/El Salvador blend.

This year’s Great Taste Awards, run by the Guild of Fine Food, have highlighted the emergence of a new market for very high-end and exotic coffees, but at the same time, have confirmed that British coffee roasters can come up with some exceptional award-winning espresso coffees at the kind of prices that the catering trade is likely to pay.

This year’s filter coffee section drew nearly a hundred entries, of which only three dozen were considered worthy of a star. Twelve of them went on to be re-judged and uprated to two stars, but only two reached the top grade, to be rated as three-star coffees.

These top two are extremely different coffees.

One is an Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Harfusa from Glenfinlas, of Edinburgh, described as ‘medium roast, a floral, sweet aroma and complex flavour with notes of citrus and chocolate
in the cup; outstanding acidity and full body, clean and lingering aftertaste’. A particular curiosity of this coffee is that it is not roasted in Britain – it is roasted by Alpen Sierra of California.

The other three-starred filter coffee was a far more powerful taste – an extremely unusual blend based on Indian Monsooned Malabar, by Ponair of Limerick. The composition of this blend is still a mystery – according to the notes given to the judges, it was Malabar with ‘intense dark roasted El Salvador beans’. However, the roaster’s own website says that the blend is Malabar and Utz-certified Colombian Supremo. We haven’t been able to raise the roaster to clear it up… but we can confirm it was a pretty powerful blend!

The market for exotic coffees is developing quickly, according to Guy Wilmot of Sea Island Coffees, who won one star for their Jamaica Blue Mountain filter coffee and another for their Hawaiian Kona. (Their Kopi Luwak very nearly ended up with a star, which would probably have been a first!)
Other companies who did well in the filter coffee section of the awards were Grumpy Mule, the Yorkshire brand which has recently work specifically to introduce high-end deli-quality coffees into foodservice, and which took three awards. Java Republic of Dublin took seven awards and has now won 104 in all; the London roasters Union Hand-Roasted took six. Gala scored three starred prizes, and two ‘ethical’ brands did well – FoodBrands, which owns Percol, won awards for four coffees, and Cafedirect won two.

Other starred winners in the filter section were Bewley’s (who did better in espresso, and very well indeed in tea), Ristretto (the Irish one), Exchange Coffee, Robert Roberts, and Taylors of Harrogate.
The espresso section was even more testing, with only twenty star winners, and just one of them achieving three stars.

That top espresso was a ‘lively espresso with a hint of spices and orange chocolate’ from Bewley’s. Two-star espressos were awarded to Java Republic, Exchange (twice), Glenfinlas (twice), and the Italian Connection.

A notable comment came from Tudor Tea and Coffee of Essex, who took one two-star and said the award proves that ‘great’ espresso coffees can be found in the mid-price range the British catering industry demands.

One-star espressos werew awarded to Robert Roberts (for two separate coffees) , Java Republic (also twice), Union Hand-Roasted (twice), NorthSouth (twice), Ecxhange, Bewley’s, Ponaire, and one went to Origin of Cornwall, which has only just this month installed one of the new Loring eco-roasters.

The tea section of the Great Taste awards was the most demanding of all – 237 entries, of which only fifty won stars, and only one three-star winner.

A surprise was the performance of the mainstream brands – Twinings scored seven starred products, including one from its new Tea Deli range, which is one of the newly-fashionable ‘premium tea-bag’ range – these are generally larger-than-usual tea-bags, which allow large leaves to brew properly. Twinings won a star for the gunpowder and mint blend from the new range. Elsewhere, Taylors of Harrogate (maker of Yorkshire Tea) won three stars, Newby of London got six, and Typhoo scored stars for two of its teas.

A full feature on the judging of this year’s Great Taste Awards will appear in the next printed issue of Coffee House magazine (beginning of August).

Boughton’s Coffee House is the UK’s main news source for the hot beverage trade.

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