In-the-know coffee fans will probably already have heard of Nigel Green’s Dorset Coffee Company. Previously based in Maiden Newton, Nigel has upped sticks and relocated his business to the Duck Farm workshops at Puddletown, near Tincleton, where he has installed his 40-year-old, but ‘still working well’ roasting machine.
Self-taught enthusiast Nigel has a true passion for coffee and, as he says: ‘It took me eight years to get here.’ Nigel’s family have some West-Country roots. ‘We moved from London in 1973, my family background being from as far a field as Padstow, St Austell and Norfolk.’ Reading books, and learning from coffee experts all contributed – with some degree of personal experimentation – to a fair degree of expertise. ‘My Fair Trade licence is most important to me, as ethical business practice is paramount,’ he is proud to boast. ‘I like to open out the market to everyone – new areas of taste are coming on-line all the time, and we need to educate people.’
So I ask him what’s hot at the moment. Nigel maintains a varied stock line including usual suspects like Monsoon Malabar, a well-matured Indian-plantation bean that stores well, various Brazilian ‘base’ coffees that are useful for blending, and Ethiopian and south Sudan. A recent big arrival in commercial terms is from Vietnam. ‘The Vietnamese government is investing heavily in this crop,’ Nigel explains, ‘backing the industry to the point where the country is.’
I spied a decorated sack of rare Hawaiian beans from Kona Island that featured exotic hula-hula images. Mysore and Columbia are still huge with the notable name of Jamaica Blue Mountain going strong – although Nigel rates it as somewhat too mild for his personal taste, but recommends Kenyan peaberry and Tanzanian or New Guinea as an after-supper treat. And one to definitely look out for is Nigel’s new’ Dorset Smooth’ mix.
Coffee beans are rather like grapes. You have the intrinsic nature of the strain, but a lot of the character is from the terroir – the geography, the soil itself, and the weather. Nigel explains: ‘Different areas have differing acidities, so I have to vary supply and blends to get it right.’ This is down to his personal taste and skill and constant supervision of the roasting beans. After about half an hour the beans start to ‘pop’ and then need regular inspection every 30 seconds or so. This ‘slow’ finishing is crucial to the result – first at 215°C and then ‘off the heat’ at the end for four minutes or so. Beans are then quickly cooled to catch them at their peak. They then continue to ‘mature’ for another 24 hours ‘at rest’. Too fast a roast and the coffee becomes bitter and brittle – so a slow roast is best. Being a member of The Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, Nigel extols the courses it runs for trainee ‘baristas’, and the talks on coffee roasting and coffee making – for which I, for one, am grateful. Too many establishments use the ‘bean-to-cup’ machines for my liking – easy, (and big profit making) for untrained people to operate but lacking the flexibility and finesse for the true coffee aficionado.