Coffee Lab, Auckland, New Zealand (May 9, 11, 12, 2012)
This cafe and roastery, tucked away in an industrial section north of Takapuna, is a must visit! Now these are serious coffee artists; people who know what they are doing. They experiment, use high quality green beans, have one of the best baristas in New Zealand I have encountered (that’s Ben) and are so pleased to share their knowledge. Thanks Ben, I learnt heaps watching you pull shots and letting me hear your strategies for pulling out the best possible flavours, extracting the ambrosia from each type of bean. The combination of roastery and cafe together (the cafe only opened four weeks ago) is beautifully designed, airy, spacious, without blaring music, is greatly appreciated and allows one to concentrate and muse on the complexity of tastes and aromas permeating one’s mind.
On the first day we visited this masterful emporium to coffee we carefully sipped Coffee Lab’s current espresso blend; a mix of Sumatran, Brazilian, Yergacheffe and El Salvadorian (very clean and crisp) beans—so well balanced, excellent for cafes. Then we went on to try some of Anna’s roasted single estates, such as a freshly roasted La Minta estate Costa Rican, Samambaia from Brazil, a Yergacheffe that won the New Zealand 2011-2012 Gold Award for Roasting, and the hand sorted (by the roaster!) Sumatran bean. That Yergacheffe was amazing, an Oh my God! coffee, never tasted an Ethiopian bean like it, a harmony/symphony of: almond extract, hazelnut, hints of marzipan, brown burnt sugar, a hint of anise, touch of grapefruit, some cherry, with a sweet lingering taste of chocolate. When I first tasted it in the current espresso blend, I was sure it was a Harrar, but was surprised to find out it was a Yergechaffe! By the way, Anna has a passion for roasting; one can feel it, just the way she handles the beans fresh from the roaster, checks the readings from the many probes, hand sorts green beans and talks about coffee, Both Anna and Rob, the owners were willing to share their experience of coffee, not shy to disagree and give their opinion; I had a great time witnessing a union of expert technique and artistry.