How to Eat Cake and Drink Coffee (properly!)

northernmunkeebites.coffeepairingboxesAlthough I now reside on the dark side of the Pennines but I am a very proud Yorkshireman and I’m very proud of the fantastic food and drink that comes from God’s County. This post is a celebration of the coming together of two fine Yorkshire based brands: Grumpy Muleand The Yummy Yank.

The Afternoon Tea trend is now through adolescence and well onnorthernmunkeebites.grumpymulerange2 its way to being considered mature with post-modern, deconstructions and proliferations being the norm. Do you ever stop and wonder if we’re doing it right? Are we just gorging ourselves on towers of cakes and flagons of hot brown liquids without a thought or care to the taste? Are we just racing to finish the pile laid out in front of us? Surely there’s more to it right? Well that’s what I intend to prove with these two awesome Yorkshire businesses.

northernmunkeebites.theyummyyankrange2Now, I don’t profess to be an expert in flavour pairing but anything I have learned in the art I have gleaned from DGH Chocolatier.  Flavour pairing is clearly subjective so thankfully there isn’t a right or wrong answer; if you’re like me and you love Wensleydale cheese with Christmas cake then don’t let anyone tell you that’s wrong! Coffee is a fantastic medium for pairing as it is made up of more than 1000 chemical compounds; these compounds contribute to everything from flavour to aroma. The key to good coffee pairing is just a bit of forethought and experimentation.

So, one blustery afternoon in St Helens Mrs Munkee and I decided to sit down and harmonise two fantastic food and drink brands we’d been sent (it’s a hard life eh?); the results were incredible! I’m going to blow your coffee and cake consuming minds!

Now this is where the magic happens…

First thing’s first, and apologies if this is a little obvious, for the full flavour experience the order is CAKE then COFFEE not COFFEE then CAKE. All the flavours I’m about to walk you through work delightfully together but the power and potency of the coffee has the inclination to overpower some of the subtleties of the sweet treats ; therefore if you want to fully appreciate the journey then this order is a rule not a choice!

Just to be clear, this is not an appraisal of the coffee and cake brands – they’re phenomenal and don’t require further exploration. This post is about pairing two outstanding products to deliver a full flavour adventure so let’s take our lead from the Spice Girls and focus on when two become one…

Carrot Cake with Rwandan Musasa Co-Operative Coffee

Who doesn’t love a good carrot cake, right? This one is exceptional! Initially you getnorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairrwanda drawn into the ride by a light, fluffy and moist sponge and then the sweetly creamy topping and finally the texture is turned with the crunch of the walnuts. This coffee boosts the trip with a bright, citrus-fuelled brew that is deep and powerful. The cream from the cake lingers and is eventually swept away by the bold red fruits in the coffee.

 Butterscotch Caramel Bar with Organic Colombian Equidad Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepaircolombia2Here is masterclass in texture variation to induce excitement and intrigue in each bite. The butterscotch bar is smooth, sweet and almost naughty! So it needs a stiff shot in the arm from a powerful, nutty coffee with just a nod to the smooth caramel.

Raspberry Brownie with Organic Ethiopian Shakisso Coffee

Dark fruits and chocolate play together so nicely and this gooey brownie is the perfectnorthernmunkeebites.ethiopia2 platform for the combination. Pair this with a light, zesty coffee and you’ve got the recipe for a brilliant afternoon!

Cherry and White Chocolate Brownie with Organic Colombian Equidad Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepaircolombiaThe flavour depth here is complimented by the texture variances. This brownie delivers a beautiful blend of creamy, sweet and tart whilst delicately balancing soft, smooth and hard textures. The Colombian coffee extracts the cherry flavours and attaches it to the deep hazelnut notes for a smooth finish.

 Pecan Pie Bar with Organic Seasonal Decaf Coffee

Now for me you can keep your apple pie because there’s nothing more American thannorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairdecaf Pecan Pie – I love it! Here you begin with cheeky apple notes that are juxtaposed by full nutty flavours and held together by a sticky sweetness. The coffee rushes through with a smooth chocolate burst and a curiously acidic finish to bring us back to the fructose acidity of the apple notes.

Peanut Butter Brownie with Brasilian Deterra Sunrise Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepairbrasilThis flavour journey starts with the soft gooey brownie with decadent sweet notes that eventually make way for crunchy, earthy peanut flavours that linger on the palate. The coffee follows on with a smooth caramel entry that is quickly pursued by an echo of hazelnut flavours. A fantastical cyclical flavour flow.

Drunken Pig in the Mud Brownie with Organic Ethiopian Shakisso Coffee

Now, let me warn you – this one isn’t for the purists. This brownie contains vegetariannorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairethiopia bacon, salted caramel and a little whisky for good measure so prepare to be taken on a flavour rollercoaster with a sweet meat treat! The flavours are complex here so I needed to find something that would match these flavours rather than get lost amongst them. This Ethiopian blend delivers just that with a light citrus which picks out the whisky and the caramel to complete the adventure.

So that’s that! Mrs Munkee and I had a belting afternoon and were fully immersed in a self-inflicted, delirious food and drink coma!

Ultimately, there’s no snobbery in me and I’m in the camp that states that you should be able to enjoy your food and drink any way you see fit however I would urge you to give this a go. Just dare to try something a bit different and start your own food adventure!

Northern Munkee.

If you enjoyed my post (or even if you didn’t) please drop me a comment below because sharing is caring!

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Improve Your Workplace Coffee Game!

I wrote a post recently about how I was changing my coffee habits to stop punishing my taste buds and banish the bland freeze-dried rubbish in favour of proper coffee; and I’m pleased to say that I have made that change. However I’m still not coffee satisfied – I’m ashamed to admit that my coffee game at work is average to poor at best. So I need to make another stand.

When you think about a brew at work you think of a battered tea tray, chipped mugs and a shared tea spoon; not the kind of thing that’s going to make anyone leave their desk. If you’re lucky you might have a machine that was installed in the early 90s with some incompatible cartridges that produce a bitter, foamy sludge as opposed to anything that has ever been introduced to a coffee bean. Surely we don’t have to put up with this crappy coffee? Even Maccy D’s has a more impressive coffee craft than most busy workplaces.

northernmunkeebites.honestcoffee1This set me off on a mission. A mission to find a better brew. A mission to find something that would make me get up from my desk rather than bury my head in my laptop through the 3pm slump! Then I came across Honest Coffees.

Honest Coffees share my disgust (although they’re good people so probably wouldn’t use such a visceral word) at the workplace coffee scene and have made it their mission to place foamy smiles on the faces of middle management with a better quality coffee from their machines. I appreciate that there can be a stigma around a coffee fuelled day and I’m certainly not advocating creating an office environment in a caffeine frenzy but I do have a dream.

Imagine the scene: it’s month end and you’ve got a pile of ominous, looming invoices casting a shadow over your desk that need completing by yesterday; your boss has just sent you the third passive aggressive email reminding you of your inadequacies and that you haven’t realised your childhood dreams. So you push yourself back in your chair and slide over to a coffee machine that is beaming and northernmunkeebites.honestcoffeeshiny and not covered in dubious, aged stains. You push the button and wait for the unmistakable, sensual coffee aroma to envelop you as you take a few seconds to forget the world. You take the first sip of your brew and exhale as your boss’ email melts away from your memory. Going back to your desk doesn’t seem so bad now.

So finding solutions like Honest Coffees machines has given me some hope for the workplace and better still these guys pride themselves on ethical sourcing, meaning you can enjoy great-tasting coffee safe in the knowledge that it’s better for the farmers too. I’m a huge advocate of ethical sourcing to create a sustainable and realistic supply chain and this should be a big focus wherever you are.

For too long bland, unethical brews have ruled the roost in the workplace being favoured for convenience and expense amongst the overworked and underpaid. Join me in making a stand and banish the bland brew!

 

 

Coffee Pods Through Your Letterbox!

I don’t mind saying that I’m a bit of a coffee addict (not in a lock yourself away in a dark room with just a bucket and four tins of beans kind of way though). I really struggle to get up on a morning without one and I probably drink way too may cups throughout the day but I don’t care! I probably should add some form of disclaimer here warning of the dangerous effects of caffeine if consumed irresponsibly and I should also add: stay in school and look both ways when crossing the road and don’t run with scissors!

However one thing I don’t do enough with coffee is find the time to stop and enjoy a really great brew. The processed, freeze dried and flavour-drained cup of coffee that I usually endure intravenously is functional it’s not for enjoyment. But why am I doing this to myself? Yes it’s cheap as chips but you only get one set of taste buds and I don’t want to be burning mine away with crap coffee. So I decided to take a stand. No more crap coffee.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 8 years or so you’ll be fully aware that the formats available to a coffee connoisseur have vastly expanded and improved. You can now get your coffee fix from beans, ground beans, capsules, pods, bags or the freeze-dried monstrosity. So I decided that I should stop punishing myself and tickle the taste buds more often with a better quality of brew…

…enter The Pod Store!

The Pod Store

northernmunkeebites.coffeepod2Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: coffee connoisseurs, morning drinkers, afternoon drinkers, evening drinkers, just hot drinkers

Packaging

The packaging is authentic and simple. It offers a point of difference versus the other brands on the market and the focal point of the branding is the coffee beans themselves.

Price

£1.99 (for 10 pods) – really?! £1.99? If you’re going to do a cup for cup comparison on these versus the freeze-dried devil then you’re going to go for the poorer cousin but 20p a brew doesn’t look bad at all to me!

Delivery

Fantastic! I won’t suggest that it’s the same experience as freshly roasted and ground beans but for a fraction of the price and effort it’s a pretty close second place.

These pods are leagues ahead of my normal every day brew and you can actually taste the coffee’s origins and the subtleties in the blends as opposed to a synthetic symphony of lower grade flavours. Each of the variants has a unique mix of earthy and fruity notes to give an excellent long finish.

Verdict – in a word, life-changing! My mind is made up; I’m giving up the bad brews in favour of pods. I’m not saying that I won’t have that extra special bag of beans for when I’m having a flaneur moment with time to appreciate the cup but I will stop punishing myself on a daily basis. If you haven’t made the jump yet you really should have a word with yourself!

Details: http://www.thepodstore.co.uk

Any comments, thoughts or questions? Or are you a coffee champion yourself and you want to offer me some tips? Leave a little comment below because sharing is caring!

Northern Munkee.

The Perfect Pair…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Cocoa & Roast Club

This is the final instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Cocoa and Roast Club with Coeur de Xocolat/Lulu Coffee

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters those who enjoy the finer things in life.

Packaging:

The packaging was simple and minimalist but it just built my expectation to tear my way into it!!

Price: 

£19.99 which is the perfect price for the experience that Cocoa and Roast Club is introducing.

Selection:

Coeur de Xocolat Milk Chocolate with Salted Toffee & Dark Chocolate with Peppermint

Lulu Coffee Guatemalan Single Origin

Cocoa and Roast Club have created more than a food subscription box here, they’ve created an ambience, an atmosphere and a moment in your life. Food pairing is an art not a science and there is no more perfect example of pairing than a hot drink with an indulgent treat. Most food subscription boxes on the market, whilst great, are simply a personal shopping and discovery service; Cocoa and Roast have gone one step further and have infiltrated 30mins of your weekend by asking you to grind the beans, boil the kettle and savour the rich cocoa and coffee.

This particular combination of cocoa and roast went together like green and grass so I need to take a moment to pause and walk you through it: I opened with a sip of the coffee which commences with rich caramel tones that morph into deep earthy flavours and a soft nutmeg finish. The salted toffee bar presented a delightful mirror of flavours starting with a velvety smooth cocoa and caramel blend and into a salted lift to close. The flavour journey presented sweet into earth into sweet into salt and I found myself queuing up for another go!

Verdict: in a word, sign-me-up (still just one word)! I’m a big fan of this breed of subscription box. I enjoy the forage and discovery in farm shops, markets and festivals but having an expert guide you through the flavour experience as a reassuring maitre de maison is fantastic.

Northern Munkee.

The Brothers Brew

Coffee Mini-Series: Bean Brothers Coffee Company

This is the final instalment in my three-part coffee mini series.

I love a good coffee. There’s nothing better than pressing pause, to recline in a chair sat outside a coffee roasters and watch the world whizz passed with the sun warming the side of your face. The smell that wafts from the door each time someone new ventures in is reminiscent of the cocoa plantation in a far off world. A coffee for me is more than just a drink, it’s an excuse to stop time and just relax.

Hot beverages was a category that I used to buy so I have a real passion for it and I find it fascinating the shift and improvement that the category has undergone. Britain is a nation of tea drinkers. Correction: Britain was a nation of tea drinkers. The hot beverages has seen a significant change with the rise of the coffee shop culture which has led to coffee overtaking tea in terms of value and frequency. Black tea has seen a dramatic decline and you can now pick up great quality black tea for about a penny a cup. Tea companies have had to react and focus on fruit teas, teas with inherent health benefits and teas with more focus on origin and provenance. Great! This is what we deserve! A hot beverage adventure!

Coffee, however, has stolen a march and is leading the way in the popularity of hot beverages. Like a lot of categories provenance and origins seems to be the dominant appeal for drinkers and people now know the difference between a good Arabica and a robusta. Now this opinion may not be universally agreed with but, for me, the surge in popularity for coffee can be attributable to Starbucks (and to a lesser degree Costa). Starbucks have found a way to charge £3 for a 15p product by creating a coffee occasion and giving a home to that excuse to stop time and relax. In turn, this has led to artisan coffee roasters emerging on high streets, in refurbished military trucks and even a reclaimed phone box (yes, it’s true http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-33755170).

So now hipsters, yummy mummies, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings and 50 somethings have somewhere to meet through the day rather than a Wetherspoons or waiting for a more credible pub to open!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: Bean Brothers Boozy Gladys, Derek and Bernard

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: coffee adventurers. There are some fantastic subtle flavours in these blends that may not be for the occasional coffee consumer but definitely appeal to a coffee connoisseur!

Packaging

The packaging is very basic but effective and includes helpful tasting notes for the aspiring coffee aficionado. I really like the branding. It’s simple but very on trend and will definitely appeal to the coffee shop culture and consumer.

Price

£4.50 to £5.50– this is a very reasonable price point for a hand roasted and blended coffee. No issue with the positioning here.

Delivery

Boozy Gladys

The first thing I noticed about all three blends as I ground the beans was how dry and light the mix was. I’m used to a deep, dark and moist powder as the beautiful coffee aroma fills my kitchen. However, the Bean Brothers blend was much more dry, light and almost sandy in colour.

Gladys is a seasonal blend produced by the Yorkshire-based brothers and is designed to encapsulate the Christmas season, and I think it achieves that objective! The initial aroma is light and citrus with a coffee undercurrent. The first flavour that welcomes your lips is a light, red fruit and the earthy undertones wait until the finish to make their entrance.

Derek

Derek is another light blend with a sweet almond smell when brewed. The coffee taste hits you right in the face at the start of the sip but slowly fades into a smooth, creamy caramel to finish with a lasting dark chocolate. The bitter – sweet – bitter journey in the cup is brilliant.

Bernard

This blend is my favourite of the three roasts with a familiar light and floral smell. This brew starts softer with a caramel introduction that is reinforced by crisp citrus notes. The coffee comes in late and strong like a reassuring backslap. This is a brilliant brew.

Verdict – in a word, adventurous! This is why I started my mini-series on coffee. I wanted to find and review different flavours and approaches in the same drink. The Bean Brothers have captured subtle nuances of the coffee bean to bring something different. OK, it may not be to everyone’s taste but if you’re adventurous, you’ll love it! Brew on Yorkshiremen!

Details: http://www.beanbrothers.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.

When we pour, we reign!

Coffee Mini-Series: Grumpy Mule Coffee

This is the second in my three-part coffee mini series.

I love a good coffee. There’s nothing better than pressing pause, to recline in a chair sat outside a coffee roasters and watch the world whizz passed with the sun warming the side of your face. The smell that wafts from the door each time someone new ventures in is reminiscent of the cocoa plantation in a far off world. A coffee for me is more than just a drink, it’s an excuse to stop time and just relax.

Hot beverages was a category that I used to buy so I have a real passion for it and I find it fascinating the shift and improvement that the category has undergone. Britain is a nation of tea drinkers. Correction: Britain was a nation of tea drinkers. The hot beverages has seen a significant change with the rise of the coffee shop culture which has led to coffee overtaking tea in terms of value and frequency. Black tea has seen a dramatic decline and you can now pick up great quality black tea for about a penny a cup. Tea companies have had to react and focus on fruit teas, teas with inherent health benefits and teas with more focus on origin and provenance. Great! This is what we deserve! A hot beverage adventure!

Coffee, however, has stolen a march and is leading the way in the popularity of hot beverages. Like a lot of categories provenance and origins seems to be the dominant appeal for drinkers and people now know the difference between a good Arabica and a robusta. Now this opinion may not be universally agreed with but, for me, the surge in popularity for coffee can be attributable to Starbucks (and to a lesser degree Costa). Starbucks have found a way to charge £3 for a 15p product by creating a coffee occasion and giving a home to that excuse to stop time and relax. In turn, this has led to artisan coffee roasters emerging on high streets, in refurbished military trucks and even a reclaimed phone box (yes, it’s true http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-33755170).

So now hipsters, yummy mummies, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings and 50 somethings have somewhere to meet through the day rather than a Wetherspoons or waiting for a more credible pub to open!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: Sumatra Ground Mighty

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: this is a coffee lovers drink! It’s rich, strong and will certainly bounce you out of bed in the morning!

Packaging

I think the branding is fantastic. It’s quirky, it’s tongue-in-cheek and it’s very Yorkshire and I know I’m biased but I love that! The branding is very personal and the messages that come through reinforce the coffee occasion which is great. However, if I’m honest I think they could make more of their packaging to bring the personality of the brand to life. There isn’t anything wrong with what they’ve done, in fact it’s right on theme for the coffee shelf, but I think it’s a little safe. The branding is great so I’d want to see more of it on-shelf. It is great to see a Great Taste Award and I think the prevalence and importance of these awards gets greater year-on-year and it’s something worth shouting about.

Price

£4.49– spot on, no issue with the pricing on this at all. It’s appropriate for its audience and its market.

Delivery

I think I’ve found a new favourite coffee, I love it! The tasting notes promised cocoa and dark chocolate which I could taste, if I screwed my face up and tried really hard, but it didn’t quite capture everything that was going on. The dark chocolate definitely came through on the smell test, it was exactly what I got, but the first taste that hit me with a coffee crack was a tingling aniseed that warmed my lips. This was swept away and replaced by a hazelnutty glow that developed on the front of the tongue that was lapped at by an undercurrent of earthy tones from the deep coffee and cocoa notes. This is a fantastic brew!

Verdict – in a word, amazing! I love the branding and I am in love with the taste. It’s Fairtrade too which, for a commoditised product, is very important. I can certainly imagine sitting down with this cup and a bar of intense dark chocolate to forget 30mins of an afternoon; but for now I’m going to add Grumpy Mule Coffee to my list of great thing to come out of Yorkshire!

Details: http://grumpymule.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.

Stir It Up

Coffee Mini-Series: Marley Coffee

This is the first in my three-part coffee mini series.

I love a good coffee. There’s nothing better than pressing pause, to recline in a chair sat outside a coffee roasters and watch the world whizz passed with the sun warming the side of your face. The smell that wafts from the door each time someone new ventures in is reminiscent of the cocoa plantation in a far off world. A coffee for me is more than just a drink, it’s an excuse to stop time and just relax.

Hot beverages was a category that I used to buy so I have a real passion for it and I find it fascinating the shift and improvement that the category has undergone. Britain is a nation of tea drinkers. Correction: Britain was a nation of tea drinkers. The hot beverages has seen a significant change with the rise of the coffee shop culture which has led to coffee overtaking tea in terms of value and frequency. Black tea has seen a dramatic decline and you can now pick up great quality black tea for about a penny a cup. Tea companies have had to react and focus on fruit teas, teas with inherent health benefits and teas with more focus on origin and provenance. Great! This is what we deserve! A hot beverage adventure!

Coffee, however, has stolen a march and is leading the way in the popularity of hot beverages. Like a lot of categories provenance and origins seems to be the dominant appeal for drinkers and people now know the difference between a good Arabica and a robusta. Now this opinion may not be universally agreed with but, for me, the surge in popularity for coffee can be attributable to Starbucks (and to a lesser degree Costa). Starbucks have found a way to charge £3 for a 15p product by creating a coffee occasion and giving a home to that excuse to stop time and relax. In turn, this has led to artisan coffee roasters emerging on high streets, in refurbished military trucks and even a reclaimed phone box (yes, it’s true http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-33755170).

So now hipsters, yummy mummies, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings and 50 somethings have somewhere to meet through the day rather than a Wetherspoons or waiting for a more credible pub to open!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: Marley Coffee One Love

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: just about any coffee lover, it’s very accessible and is a great introduction to great quality coffee.

Packaging

I love the packaging. It’s simple and adheres to expectations in terms of what a good premium coffee should look like. It’s sleek, black and adorned with awards. The Marley (note this is Rohan not Bob) element of the branding is perfect for the total coffee experience and has great connotations for a lazy weekend. A good coffee should also be ethical in my opinion so Marley Coffee ticks another couple of boxes here with Soil Association accreditation and a percentage of the sales being donated to Youth Football programmes worldwide.

Price

£4.99 – this is the potential barrier to making this coffee less accessible as an entry point to premium coffee. The price point is perfect for premium retailers and you will not be disappointed if you buy this coffee. A quality product demands a premium price point.

Delivery

This is an excellent coffee. The first thing that I enjoy about a good coffee is the beautiful and diverse aromas they emit. This particular brew had beautiful sweet notes that really set the tone for the rest of the drink. The first flavour to greet your lips is a sharp burst of pepper which is quickly washed through with a smooth and long caramel which sweetly moves through the mouth until it is replaced by a familiar bitter coffee flavour. What a great brew!

Verdict – in a word, smoooooooth! This is definitely a drink that all coffee drinkers can enjoy. It’s not harsh but it has strong flavours at the start and end of the drink. The branding is perfect and it’s exactly what you need to compliment the sunshine and some easy listening. One Love!

Details: http://www.marleycoffee.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.