Admist the morning rush, you line up, place your usual order, stand aside until your order is called and leave with your warm coffee. This process is so incredibly straightforward that it’s easy to forget the complexities and procedures that come with a good cup of coffee
On a quaint street in Ultimo stands The Q on Harris, a cosy café on the corner of Harris Street and MacArthur Street. With the tranquillity of the street and the terrace houses neatly lined up side by side, it’s easy to forget that the dusty, bustling roads of Sydney are
only a few streets away. This café not only supplies its hungry patrons with delectable food, but it also imparts invaluable knowledge on Indonesian and specialty coffee. The Q on Harris has recently started running coffee cupping events that enlighten coffee enthusiasts on the importance of the origins and production of green coffee beans, as well as, allowing you to taste specialty Indonesian coffee. This is a great opportunity for people, like me, who want to take their relationship with coffee one step further.
Stumble into the café and you are immediately greeted with warm smiles. Head upstairs into a room bathed in hazy, afternoon sunlight and there you will meet Benji Salim, the owner of the café and The Q Coffee Trading. Benji runs the cupping events every Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.
You settle into the group of your fellow coffee cuppers with introductions floating around. Benji begins by introducing essential knowledge needed in identifying decent coffee beans. A good cup of coffee starts from the seed. The ability to visually distinguish good quality coffee beans from not so great beans is crucial. Benji talks us through the history of the Indonesian coffee industry and the standards and processes of the industry today.
The event focuses on coffee beans from three different regions in Indonesia that produce the country’s finest coffee; Sualwesi, West Java and Solok. As the fourth largest producer of coffee worldwide, Benji believes that Indonesia has the ability to increase the international standard of coffee by exporting consistently quality coffee beans. As a result, the palate of coffee drinkers around the world will become more sophisticated and the demand for speciality coffee will increase. As the demand increases, this will encourage coffee producers worldwide to produce finer quality coffee beans.
However, producing speciality coffee comes at aprice that some coffee farmers may not be willing to pay. Speciality coffee is an investment that requires money and time as well as great skill. In order to have your coffee beans be considered as specialty coffee, expert coffee critics run strict tests on the beans. These tests determine whether the quality of the coffee beans is sufficient to be considered as speciality coffee. But if your coffee beans make the cut, the results are tremendously rewarding not only for the producers, but also for coffee drinkers.
Fellow Sydney-siders would rejoice in knowing that Benji believes that Sydney-siders have a refined taste in coffee. This is due to the vastness and accessibility of high quality coffee in cafes around the city. But even though we are able to differentiate a good cup of coffee from one that we would pour down the drain, most of us haven’t refined our senses to pick up the characteristics and aromas of the coffee we drink so dearly. This cupping session helps you become more aware of the coffee you are drinking and of the stories behind it.
The practice of coffee cupping begins with sniffing the freshly grinded coffee beans. This allows you to pick up the aromas of the coffee beans before it is brewed. The scent of the grinded beans reminded me of listening to the coffee grinders in a café as the sweet, smoky scent of the freshly grinded coffee wafts towards you. Afterwards the coffee grinds are brewed. The next step is to break the crust that is coffee grinds that have floated to top. Whilst you break the crust, sniff the coffee to detect the fragrances characteristic of the beans.
Then comes the slurping. I didn’t quite get used to slurping ramen in Japan, so when it came to slurping coffee, I had a few difficulties. The proper method to cup coffee is to collect some coffee onto your spoon and slurping it in a way that turns the coffee into a spray that reaches the back of your tongue. This allows you to identify the aromas, acidity and aftertaste of the coffee. Like ramen, the faster and louder you slurp it, the better. Afterwards, you choose your favourite coffee that you have slurped and you receive a complimentary 250 grams bag of the coffee beans.
This cupping experience has completely changed my perspective of coffee. We are incredibly lucky to live in a city that has such a vibrant and rich coffee culture. More often than not, we take for granted the quality and work that goes into producing our coffee. When you leave the cupping, you will never taste coffee the same way you did before. Just be careful not to slurp your coffee too loudly in public.
The Q on Harris
597 Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 8317 4360