The trade’s tea and coffee brands have both done well in this year’s Great Taste Awards. While some of the bigger suppliers to the café-bar trades are represented with multi-star awards, several smaller suppliers have made a creditable appearance as well. There have also been unusual awards, including a 2-star prize for an all-robusta espresso.
In coffee, five 3-star gold prizes were awarded to: Grumpy Mule, Robert Roberts, Union Hand-Roasted, Whittard and World Coffee. Among the well-known coffee suppliers to the trade, Grumpy Mule appear to have scored ten prizes in total, Java Republic eleven, and Union Hand-Roasted have seven.
In tea, Twinings scored thirteen and Teapigs twelve including one 3-star award. Flora Teas of London and Glasgow got eleven, Daily Grind and Imporient both took six, and Suki five.
Some suppliers appeared in both the tea and coffee lists: Bewleys took nine overall, Whittard twelve, Clipper ten. Bewleys of Dublin and Bailies of Belfast both achieved awards for tea, coffee and hot chocolate entries.
Two features of this year’s award lists – a welcome number of stars for the less-than-giant suppliers, and a good sprinkling of unusual products.
In the coffee sector, there were appearances in the star winners’ lists by the Dorset Coffee Co, the Wicked Coffee Co, Sea Island, Kiss, the Coffee Factory, Reads, and Kopi. World Coffee of Haywards Heath took only one award – but it was a 3-star, for a coffee described as ‘a blend of Sumatra Lintong, Costa Rica Tarrazu and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe for espresso & espresso based drinks’.
Rwanda bourbon coffee did exceptionally well – one 3-star coffee award went to some entered by Grumpy Mule, which is produced by the Bollings roastery of Yorkshire, and another 3-star went to Union Hand-Roasted, which has long been a champion of Rwandan coffee. “We have been working with the Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa co-operative for a number of years now, and we think it just improves year on year,” remarked Union’s Alan Miller. “The winner of our Best Newcomer award at the barista championships, James Bailey, will be visiting Rwanda and meeting those involved with the co-operative on his prize trip early next year.”
The Whittard 3-star award was for a ‘uniquely refined’ Ethiopian Yirgacheffe with a clean floral character, achieved by a process of soaking and slight fermentation that is said to create complex, zesty notes and ‘a refinement reminiscent of tea’. The 3-star award for Robert Roberts is described just as an espresso.
Kopi took their first star with a Cuban coffee. “We’re basically a coffee club,” explained Philip Wilkinson. “Every month we create one amazing single-origin coffee from around the world, freshly roast it, write a lovely booklet to go alongside it about the tasting notes and provenance, then post it in a small packet through the letterbox. Every month is a different coffee – so the Cuban was just one coffee from one month.”
Bellissimo, an all-robusta espresso was one of two 2-star winners from the The Italian Connection.
“It puts a little bit of a light on the whole ‘Arabica good, Robusta bad’ mentality that seems to pervade our industry,” remarks the company’s Paul McDougall. “Many in the industry brand me as old school for this, but I believe Robusta beans play an equally important role to Arabica beans for quality espresso. We have a very interesting Vietnamese robusta that we have been drinking and selling for a couple of months now that is fruity, caramelly and bright.
“Call me old fashioned… but what tastes good tastes good!”
Rural roasteries in unusual locations also won out: such as Read’s 2-star winning entry, roasted on a farm near Sherborne, which is described as ‘smooth espresso roasted and blended by hand combining the body of Sumatra with the chocolate notes of Brazil Bourbon and added sweetness from Nicaraguan and Guatemalan beans’. Littles, whose roastery is at the end of a runway at Exeter airport, and who have a history in flavoured soluble coffee, also won a star with a slow-roasted Costa Rican Tarrazu.
Sea Island, the ‘exotic coffee’ specialist, took a star with their Jamaica Blue Mountain, and the Wicked Coffee Company, which has recently scored remarkable contract success with universities, won a star with its new Diavolo espresso.
An unexpected entry in the list was Caffe Society of Leeds, who tend to be reported more as a machine company than a coffee supplier, but they took a 2-star award for an espresso described as ‘having smokey, spicey, nutty notes from the Colombia and Java and a smooth mild finish from the Honduras’. The company has credited Masteroast of Peterborough with producing the coffee.
One coffee managed to win two different prizes this year. Java Republic did a lot of work with Haitian farmers after the earthquake there, and this year they won a star both for the Haitian Espresso and the Zombi espresso – which come from the same beans. One is a foodservice product, one is a retail pack.
All the 3-star prizes in the tea section went to relatively small companies, except that Teapigs, who took twelve prizes in total. They achieved a 3-star for a liquorice and peppermint tea which has also appeared in a recent list of fifty ‘top foods in Britain’ from the Guild of Fine Food.
“It’s the second year in a row one of our teas has won a 3-star award,” said the brand’s Nick Kilby. “Since we launched it three years ago, it has become one of our most popular teas. A sweet hit of liquorice with a refreshing peppermint aftertaste, great hot or over ice. Even those who say they don’t like liquorice love this tea.”
Another eye-catching mint tea was the one from Summerdown Farms, who say that their spearmint and camomile is made entirely from their own produce, grown on their own farm – they even distil their own spearmint oil.
There was a series of winning teas from Imporient included their unusual English breakfasts, made of Rwandan and Kenyan blends – the traditional English Breakfast mixes Indian, Ceylon and probably a little Africa, but these all-African ones have recently drawn interest at trade shows.
Flora teas won three separate prizes with teas in which flowers and leaves are pressed into wing shapes, angel shapes, and Christmas tree shapes.
This year’s Great taste Awards listings can be found at http://www.greattasteawards.co.uk/