Cape Town - It’s flattering the rest of the world thinks so highly of Cape Town.
Our Mother City consistently tops the charts as a travel destination and the Telegraph (UK) ranks our very own Truth Coffee Roastery as its number one.
“There are few cafes in the world as stunning as Truth, a steampunk-inspired artisan coffee shop filled from top to bottom with metal piping and quirky old machinery,” it says.
Coffee is taken seriously, from the roasting of the beans to what arrives in your cup. It can be enough simply to go there for the perfectly brewed espresso or flat white - no sugar required - but aficionados can take it one step further with a guided “cupping” with owner David Donde.
“Cupping is the basic building block of roasting,” he told me.
Donde asked me what I thought light roast and dark roast mean and frankly, I haven’t a clue, exactly. I’ve known Donde for years and it always feels as if I cause him great personal pain with my ignorance.
Floundering, I said I imagined a dark roast would be a stronger coffee, and a light one would be weaker. “Yes, that is the consensus,” he said. Thank heavens. Not a complete imbecile then.
Wrong. “That’s the bulls**t,” said Donde bluntly. He explained the coffee flavour comes from a process called caramelisation; the longer it is roasted the more it browns and the more flavour it gets. But eventually it will burn, get bitter, and lose its flavour. If in turn the beans are not roasted sufficiently, they will not be fully developed and will taste sour or be astringent. The happy medium is roasting to perfection and to determine this, it must be tasted.
Enter the cupping. It’s the world’s simplest system says Donde: 15g of ground coffee, 190ml hot water (70ºC), stand for four minutes. Just like that - no machinery involved. The elimination of brewing, filtration, milk and sugar - which confuse everything - this is how a standard cupping is done.
There is a process of smelling the coffee before and after breaking the bubbles on top of the coffee. This followed by scooping some in a special cupping spoon and slurping it noisily. “We score the coffee - flavour, sweetness, body, mouth feel, all these kinds of things - and then we go one further. We use TDS,” said Donde. “Total dissolved solids.”
This is measured with a refractometer, which is something to do with light bending through the coffee and determines comparative solubility which in turn affects how well flavours are extracted. The more soluble, the better.
* Truth Coffee Roastery, 36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town is open daily, and hosts events from vintage markets to live music. Call 021 200 0440 or see www.truthcoffee.com.