AROUND THE WORLD IN 8 WEEKS
For eight weeks I am curating a host of world coffees at Stone & Crow, starting in London. So far we started with Alchemy Coffee Roasters (available throughout the duration) featuring Nomad Coffee (Barcelona), Five Elephants (Berlin), Coffee Supreme Melbourne (Australia). Last weekend at my pop up café in Stone & Crow, I had something a little classy and scientific from Coutume Coffee Roasters in Paris.
Now for anyone who knows me personally, I like a bit of a French accent, so I enjoyed saying “Coutume” often. I’ll quite readily put on a french accent whenever I can, any excuse. Because to me it makes me feel a bit exotic and sophisticated - and that's what their coffee was.
I’ve been to Paris a number of times and must say that slowly the coffee culture is getting much better. There are now a couple of good roasteries, but one coffee roaster that is doing its bit toward the French Coffee culture movement is, Coutume Café. So I feel pretty chuffed I got to bring it to London and I wasn’t disappointed.
Coutume which translates in English to "Custom", is owned by Tom Clark and Antoine Netien, who opened their Roastery in 2010 and their Café on rue de Babylone in March of 2011. Tom is from Canberra, Australia and Antoine is French. But funnily enough, both have spent quite some time in the other’s prospective country in the coffee business. I guess it makes sense that there is a symmetry within their business partnership and now I’m beginning to see the influence of each other.
While Tom focus’s on the business side, Antoine looks after the coffee sourcing, roasting and new products. They seem to have a really nice small team with big international ambitions. One that has seen them open a Coutume Café in Japan!
Passionate about the ceremony of roasting and preparing great coffee, they were fascinated by the Japanese culture surrounding artisan crafts, precision and passion in achieving quality, so they jumped at the opportunity to open Coutume Japon. To carry on a nod to this ethos, you can see from their packaging that it references the periodic table and they also use beakers and science experiment equipment in their cafes too.
Being part of the third wave in coffee and educating a different market is a slow, sometimes painful but mainly rewarding task. I remember it well from my Melbourne days and my days at Flatwhite and Milkbar in London some years back. So I wasn’t surprised to hear that their experience educating the French market has been more complex than they expected when trying open the pre-conceived ideas the French have about what coffee is and how coffee should taste.
Barcelona was a little like that too. Berlin seemed to be quite quick off the mark, but from my experience, it is the older more traditional cities that seem take a little more time to introduce new concepts and requires persistence and passionate people like Coutume to nurture and grow this market.
What keeps inspiring Tom is meeting other entrepreneurs from various industries who too are passionate about what they do and how they pursue their dreams. Within the industry Coutume are inspired by Five Elephant (who I had at my pop up in week 3 from Berlin, Germany), Drop coffee (Stockholm, Sweden) and Blue Bottle (Oakland, California) - in terms of their development.
The Guatemalan espresso that I had in the hopper this weekend was delicate, bright, creamy and really sweet. I have to admit I got a little overly excited when I put some of their Ethiopian Kemgin through the batch brew. It was so clean and fragrant. The blueberry notes were strong and there were beautiful hints of wild strawberry. I couldn’t get enough and actually drank a little too much on one of the days… The Burundi was interesting also. I had quite a few coffee industry people interested in that origin. Coutume have been working closely with Burundi for about four years now and are collaborating on a honey process, which is exciting. So more of that to come!
Like any good science experiment (my pop up also being one), I found Coutume methodic, thorough and easy to work with. They were cooperative and super helpful. It was a classy and enjoyable affair. I really hope to taste more of them perhaps in London soon and I'll definitely be visiting them in Paris the next chance I get!
TGITC POP UP CAFE
STONE & CROW, LEYTONSTONE, LONDON
Open Friday / Saturday / Sunday 10am-7pm (until end of November)
590 High Street, Leytonstone, E113DA