“We believe specialty coffee is not about the grand gestures, but about small and beautiful things done well. Whether it is a heavy, sweet natural Brazilian, or a crisp, acidic washed Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia, we will always aim for brightness.”
These are the opening lines of a short film released last month by Danish roastery La Cabra Coffee Roasters to present their philosophy of roasting, “Brighter is Better.” I met Esben Piper, founder of the Danish company, and Mikkel Selmer, roaster, at the 2016 London Coffee Festival to learn more about their new Nordic coffee approach.
At their stand in The House of Coffee & Company section of the festival, the company presented four seasonal coffees from their roastery in Aarhus, Denmark, including their award-winning Cerro Azul from La Esperanza, Colombia. This Gesha variety was used by 2015 Austrian Barista Champion Sonja Zweidick, 2015 Australian Brewers Cup Winner Dane Oliver, and also by British barista Edward Anderson Brown in this year’s UK Brewers Cup Finals.
At the festival, Piper brewed the Cerro Azul coffee using the 3TEMP Hipster batch brewer. The Swedish machine allows baristas to retain control over various stages of the brewing process, an essential thing when brewing specialty coffees. The machine brews fresh water as it is connected directly to a water source, so different water temperatures can be set during the brewing. These are controlled through an app, together with the calibration and brew times.
At La Cabra, the focus is not only on sourcing, roasting, and brewing coffee, but most of all on flavors. Piper doesn’t like to talk about roasting profiles and recipes. “For everything that we do, the starting point is always the cupping table. Here is where we want our coffee to be as good as it can be,” says Piper. The aforementioned Cerro Azul I tried offered aromas of fresh strawberry jam and lemongrass; a body of clarified honey; and a blood orange aftertaste.
La Cabra’s roasting philosophy is all about purity, transparency, and brightness—”Brighter is better”, as the film says. It’s a natural approach that takes inspiration from the basic principles of raw winemaking: going back to simplicity and pushing the boundaries.
“By focusing too much on roasting profiles, we risk forgetting about the fruit, its natural flavors, its terroir,” continues Piper. “We shouldn't be afraid to drink something that tastes different. We should be deliberately curious and learn more.” An approach they hope to spread in the Nordic countries and Europe through collaborations with local cafes and roasters, starting from the London Coffee Festival.
La Cabra Coffee can be currently found in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, and in progressive specialty coffee shops across Europe.