Don’t know your Arabica from your elbow? Try a coffee appreciation class!

Merlo coffee 1Do you appreciate coffee? Not just like it, I mean really appreciate it? I thought I did, but I learned a whole lot more by attending a coffee appreciation morning at Merlo’s Bowen Hills ‘torrefazione’ (or  ‘roasting house’) last week.   Coffee is the new wine now that the bearded hipsters are ruling youth culture, so if you want to converse with confidence at your next dinner party, it’s time you knew your Arabica from your elbow.

We arrived at 7.30am and were greeted swiftly with a coffee (of course) and a friendly welcome from our guide.  We were seated with a small group of coffee enthusiasts around a festive little table of sample products and informative brochures.   Our guide talked us through the history of coffee including:

  • Its origins in Ethiopia (not South America as many people might think);
  • The myths around the first examples of roasting, grinding and brewing (we have monks to thank for all that, apparently); and
  • The differences between the main coffee plants used in commercial coffees (the widespread and cheaper Robusta vs the more flavoursome Arabica).
How do we get from here...

How do we get from here…

Our guide then escorted us into the onsite roasting facility where we watched the coffee journey from earthy green beans in a hessian sack to the dark toasted nuggets we buy.   It was more interesting than I had expected to hear the very experienced roaster discuss the changes in technology that have occurred in the coffee roasting business; like almost every modern industry there’s debate around the pros and cons of the ‘new ways’ of doing things.  The Bowen Hills roasting facility services most of Merlo’s customers and suppliers, Australia-wide, so it’s a slick operation, but they still try to retain a little ‘heart’ within the busy production process. here?

…to here?

Once fully briefed on roasting, we got to the best bit – tasting!  Over a light breakfast of banana bread, fruit and a tasty muesli slice, we sampled three different coffees – two single origin beans (the ones that are sourced from a specific plantation) and a Merlo blend.  We learned how to ‘cup’ – the equivalent of all the swirling and sniffing that goes on at wine tastings – and had our questions answered about storage, grinding and brewing at home.  We left feeling both sated and educated!

Tastings and goodie bags

Tastings and goodie bags

In addition to spending a pleasant morning chatting to interesting people with a delicious coffee in hand, I enjoyed learning a little about the Merlo family.  The Merlo family are said to have brought the first espresso machine to Queensland in 1958 for their Brisbane restaurant, Milanos.  In the early 90s, Dean Merlo was at the forefront of establishing café culture in Brisbane with his Queen Street espresso bar and Fortitude Valley roasting facility.  The Merlo story is a great Brisbane story and the Merlo team are known to continue actively supporting their home town through charitable activities and community initiatives.  They also do all the right things as far as sourcing Rainforest Alliance beans from growers that don’t use child labour.  The coffee industry is one of the nastiest, most exploitative in the world, so it’s great to know you’re getting your hit of liquid gold from an all round ethical coffee crew.

Merlo coffee appreciation sessions take place once a month in each of the brand’s torrefaziones around Brisbane.    Group sessions can also be booked for birthdays or corporate events.  The cost of $25pp gets you the tour, tastings, breakfast and a goodie bag to take home.  You’ll never drink instant again!


15 comments for “Don’t know your Arabica from your elbow? Try a coffee appreciation class!

  1. January 23, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I do love coffee, but not sure I have the appreciation for it that others have. And you know I don’t consider myself a ‘real’ coffee drinker, you know why??? Because I have to have 2 sugars to take away the bitter taste that ‘real’ coffee lovers adore xxx

    • This Charming Mum
      January 23, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      My husband is a coffee lover, but when we’re out he’ll usually order a mocha, which is pretty much a big hot chocolate milkshake with coffee in it! I’m a ‘long black’ girl, so I do tend to notice the coffee flavour variations, although I still don’t dig that nasty bitterness when you come across it.

  2. January 22, 2014 at 7:20 am

    I’ve tried to like coffee..I really have but I just can’t. I do love the smell of it though and for someone who doesn’t drink coffee I can make a pretty good cup of it apparently.

    • This Charming Mum
      January 23, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      Making good coffee gives you hipster cred too! And your blood pressure will probably benefit from not actually drinking it 😉

  3. Sue
    January 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I love my coffee but am another Aldi pod machine addict. I had a workmate who used to try and talk me into getting a “real” one. Maybe I should do one of those courses..

    • This Charming Mum
      January 23, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      Yes, I can understand the appeal of the pods, but I also enjoy playing around with the other options. Especially after this little coffee adventure!

  4. January 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    When we first bought our super-dooper coffee machine we did a coffee appreciation class and then an actual coffee making course! Both were invaluable and only fuelled my love of coffee Josefa #teamIBOT

    • This Charming Mum
      January 23, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      I’d love to do a coffee making course next actually. At Merlo if you buy one of their machines, they can walk you through exactly what to do with it. Might have to put that on our list next.

  5. Me
    January 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Maybe I could organise this for my husband who does like coffee – me, I wouldn’t give you thank you for it or tea for that matter !!!! It sounds like it is really interesting for anyone interested in coffee.
    Have the best day !

    • This Charming Mum
      January 23, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      It was actually interesting in terms of the industry as a whole, even if you’re not a coffee drinker. But drinkers will of course enjoy it a little bit more!

  6. Tracey
    January 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Wow! Sounds fantastic, really want to try this now!

    • This Charming Mum
      January 21, 2014 at 8:01 am

      It was fun Tracey. And not at all kid oriented which is a bonus 😉

  7. January 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    That sounds like fun! I love coffee, and instant is banned in this house. My Aldi coffee pod machine is the most used appliance in my house! 🙂

    • This Charming Mum
      January 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      I can understand the appeal of those pod machines, especially when I’m in a hurry of a morning, but we’re all about learning to be amateur baristas at our place right now! I highly recommend these breakfast sessions to coffee lovers though. Even if you already know a lot about coffee, you’re bound to learn something. And the coffee was gooooood!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *