COFFEES TO PERK UP THE OFFICE

Reaching out to the best coffee retailers in the UK, we set out to find the perfect coffee to revitalise our team in the post-lockdown lull. And how better to achieve that, than by testing it out in our own office – assessing each one for its unique flavour, strength and effectiveness as an instant coffee alternative for the break room. For those days where a Costa coffee isn’t enough and the cost of coffee is never too much, here are the very best coffees to perk up the office.

Monday

Whether it’s blue Monday or just a typically grey drizzly one, there’s no denying that the winter blues set in hard when the weekend is a fleeting memory and summer sun is the phenomena of a bygone age. So, the Prestige team decided to start out big – why not go straight for one of the most revered brands in the world, casting our taste-buds out to the perennial tropical paradise of Hawaii.

Hawaii Kona

Retailer: Hayman Coffee

Price: £30.19 (per 85g)

Origin: Hawaii

Interesting Fact: Coffee plants weren’t introduced to Hawaii until 1828, by Samuel Reverend Ruggles

Hawaii Kona coffee is one of the world’s rarest and most valuable coffees. Kona owes its origins to Brazilian beans which were brought to the island in the 19th Century, Hawaii’s volcanic soils completely transforming the flavour of the bean. This coffee is now hugely prized by the international coffee community; though it is rare to find 100% pure Kona – US Law dictating that all Kona blends clearly label how much Kona is actually present in their mix.

Tasting Notes:

Strength: 6

Unique Flavour: 6

What they say: “Balanced and smooth, with a very ‘clean’ finish.”

What we say: The test of any good coffee is that it can still have a well-balanced flavour you can enjoy without additional sweeteners like milk or sugar. As one of the most expensive coffees in the world, you would hope that Hawaii Kona measures up – and with its delicate palate and subtle flavouring it most certainly does, delivering an exceptional, very moreish brew. One of the best things about this coffee is its lightness – easy on the palette, it is the perfect way to top up on caffeine before a big meeting without encountering the dreaded bitter coffee-breath partway through.

Tuesday

East Coast vs West Coast – it’s an argument that has been fought vehemently ever since LA decided to take up status as the spiritual capital of the United States. In this case though, we aren’t talking Biggie vs Tupac or LA vs New York, but islands as we pit Jamaican coffee against yesterday’s Hawaiian. It is flavour vs subtlety, balance vs robustness in a showdown to see if both are worthy of their esteemed reputation.

100% Grade 1 Jamaica Blue Mountain

Retailer: Hayman Coffee

Price: £29.30 (per 85g)

Origin: Jamaica

Interesting Fact: Blue Mountain beans are used as the base flavour for Tia Maria coffee liqueur.

Incredibly rare and always in high demand, Jamaica Blue Mountain is an extremely prestigious coffee brand. Taking its name from where it is grown, this coffee can only be called ‘Blue Mountain’ if it is grown at an elevation of between 900 and 1700 metres – anything else would be considered ‘Jamaica High Mountain’. Over 80% of all Jamaica Blue Mountain is exported to Japan.

Tasting Notes:

Strength: 8

Unique Flavour: 7

What they say: “Sweet, pleasant acidity, chocolate notes”

What we say: If Hawaii Kona is the coffee you would offer to a non-coffee drinker to win them over, then Jamaica Blue Mountain is the connoisseur’s choice. Highly robust and distinctive in flavour, it’s easy to see why this is one of the world’s most sought-after coffees. There is a definite distinguishing kick to this coffee, making it very handy for getting ahead on the rest of the week.

Wednesday

Hitting the mid-week hurdle, we decide to double up on our dose to get past the inevitable mountain of work as the week goes by! We started with the St. Helena Bamboo Hedge Estate Peaberry for our morning fix, before turning to the more elusive Panama Esmerelda Geisha (Grand Reserve) to get ahead on the hump-day workload. Opinions are split, flavours are disputed – but our team don’t crumble easily.

Bamboo Hedge Estate Peaberry

Retailer: Sea Island Coffee

Price: £15 (per 50g)

Origin: St. Helena

Interesting Fact: Napoleon Bonaparte once famously declared ‘The only good thing to come out of St. Helena is the coffee’.

Napoleon Bonaparte was not overly fond of food or alcohol, but had a particular affinity for drinking coffee and regarded it as an essential tool for refining the spirit and mind. It comes as extremely high praise then, that Bonaparte also declared that the St. Helena variant of coffee as his favourite. If it is good enough for one of the most revered military leaders in history, it is surely good enough for conquering the mid-week workload.

Tasting Notes:

Strength: 4

Unique Flavour: 7

What they say: “Beautifully balanced notes of citrus, honey, berry and stone fruits”

What we say: The Bamboo Hedge proved to be a bit more of a tricky challenge for our less discerning coffee drinkers – while our Art Director and resident office coffee enthusiast, Tim Nordan, detected notes of Rhubarb (possibly picking up the brand’s pre-mentioned notes of berry and stone fruit), other members of the team found the coffee to be so delicate they couldn’t give it a particular attribute. One thing’s for sure – the smooth balance of the coffee makes it ideal for drinking whilst on the go.

Esmerelda Geisha (Grand Reserve)

Retailer: Sea Island Coffee

Price: £20 (per 50g)

Origin: Panama

Interesting Fact: Esmerelda Geisha is generally sold via auction – in 2017 it earned a record $701 per pound at the ‘Best of Panama’ auction.

Considered to be the world’s most expensive coffee, the Esmerelda Geisha has earned an almost legendary status amongst learned connoisseurs (coffee-sseurs?). Grown at approximately 1,850 metres above sea level, the coffee is particularly resilient, with folklore suggesting that it was originally ‘discovered’ when it was the only surviving plant in that year’s Panama coffee crop. Myth or not, it’s certainly captured the imagination of coffee-drinkers worldwide.

Tasting Notes:

Strength: 4

Unique Flavour: 8

What they say: “Extremely complex aromatics and flavours including jasmine and stone fruit.”

What we say: The Grand Reserve Esmerelda Geisha is a unique and strange beast, its exotic aromas not necessarily reflected in the smooth and pleasant flavour of the coffee itself. While this might not lend itself fantastically to those who prefer their coffee strong enough to stand a spoon in, it’s perfect for the frenetic pace of the office, where its gentle flavours leave a long-lasting and fresh aftertaste.

Thursday:

The weekend looms large and deadlines are mounting for that all-important Friday sign-off – making it all the more important to find a coffee which can help us power through. For this, we can think of no better place to look than to Colombia, in particular the sugary sweetness of Origin’s San Fermin coffee.

San Fermin

Retailer: Origin

Price: £6.99 (per 250g)

Origin: Columbia

Interesting Fact: Small family farms dominate Colombia’s coffee industry with upwards of 500,000 families producing coffee across the country.

Other coffees may hold crown for historical value or robustness, but the San Fermin variety holds community value as it is the yield of collaborative practices by farmers in the area. Set in hill country between the dramatic sloping towns of Planadas and Gaitania in Colombia’s Tolima region, San Fermin is a contemporary coffee; its unique flavour developed for the modern palate to offer a coffee which can be enjoyed throughout the day.

Tasting Notes:

Strength: 7

Unique Flavour: 9

What they say: “A coffee that tastes rich and clean, something that is a crowd pleaser that stands as a nod to the classic idea of coffee with a beautiful, complex sweetness.”

What we say: This coffee beautifully balances flavour and acidity, offering a kick which is accompanied by a sweet and incredibly unique flavour. One of the newer breeds on our list, San Fermin feels like an exceptional office coffee – not least for its reasonable price and distinct flavour which differentiates it from everyday brands.

Friday:

If ever there was a day to go big or go home, it’d be Friday. The finishing line is in sight (all being well) and the stresses of the week ebb away as the weekend looms approaches, making it the perfect opportunity to go for a more… unique offering among our coffee selection.

Wild Kopi Luwak

Retailer: Sea Island Coffee

Price: £36 (per 125g)

Origin: Sumatra

Interesting Fact: Sea Island Coffee consulted the World Animal Protection organisation and food-certification experts to ensure that theirs was the most ethically-sourced Kopi Luwak on the market.

Kopi Luwak is one of the more notorious varieties of international luxury coffee, largely due to its harvesting method. Foraged from the droppings of palm civets in Sumatra, the coffee cherries eaten by the civets are changed on a molecular level, enhancing the bean’s natural properties and providing a highly unique flavour. This coffee is often cited as the most expensive variety in the world, its exotic nature meaning it is held in reverence and curiosity in equal measures.

Tasting Notes:

Strength: 9

Unique Flavour: 8

What they say: “A wonderfully balanced, velvety coffee with a caramel sweetness, hazelnut and dark cocoa tones with subtle acidity.”

What we say: The incredible aroma of this coffee certainly piqued our interest once the bag had been opened. Its flavour is one of the strongest in our selection, indisputably making it an unpopular choice for a day of meetings (or any kind of face-to-face interaction sans breath freshener for that matter!) but as a treat on a Friday afternoon, it’s the perfect way to usher in the weekend.

Verdict: Starting the week with the Hawaii Kona was probably a bad decision. Not because there is anything wrong with the Kona. Far from it. Rather, it set the standard so high that half the office deemed the competition over after just one sip! Despite this, the office still failed in its quest to deliver a unanimous verdict with some members of the team waxing lyrical over the bold flavours of the Blue Mountain while others were pleasantly surprised to discover that Kopi Luwak offers more than just a novel talking point. Either way, one thing we can all agree on is that we won’t be going back to instant coffee any time soon!

 

 

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