Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts brings his culinary expertise to his new enterprise, Artisan Coffee Co, offering perfectly blended coffee and fine chocolate pairings
The UK consumes around 100 million cups of coffee per day, but how many of us really know what we are drinking? Many coffee producers swamp the consumer with details about varietal, provenance, altitude and process, for much of which you need to have a fairly good knowledge about coffee. For most, this information does not give the consumer the ability to make an informed choice on how something will taste. This is something renowned chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, co-founder of Artisan Coffee Co, is keen to address.
“There are coffee enthusiasts, but most people might not always understand what is being said to them by the coffee brands,” says Ashley. Thinking back to his 20 years working alongside Heston Blumenthal in the kitchen at The Fat Duck, he noticed this was a recurring theme in the food and beverages industry. “It reminded me of the sommelier who brings a massive wine list to a table. You can see when a customer is intimidated and self-conscious, so ultimately sticks with what they know. A good sommelier can understand a customer’s preferences within 30 seconds and helps them discover a new wine that suits their taste. I wanted to do that with coffee; to simplify it. Most importantly, I wanted to bring the care and expertise of a restaurant kitchen to something we drink every day.”
Ashley did this by formulating six “characters” – Heroine, Big Shot, Smart Cookie, Genius, Enigma and Dreamer – that represented six distinct coffee flavours, blended and roasted with the world’s finest ethically sourced beans. “Each coffee is thoughtfully blended to give a specific taste experience. For example, Genius has pecan and raisin notes running through it for a livelier edge, while Dreamer is our mellow decaf coffee purified through the [chemical-free] Swiss Water Process.”
Most manufacturers produce single bean coffee but, inspired by Laurent-Perrier’s approach to blending champagne, Ashley knew that, with his culinary expertise, he could create the ideal blend of coffee for each “character” by combining flavours just as he would in a kitchen. He then crafted a selection of fine chocolates to accompany the coffees. “The chocolate elevates the coffee and vice versa,” explains Ashley. “It unlocks the ability to taste. Each chocolate has a texture and flavour that is very similar to what the coffee is telling our brain, so it’s a harmonious pairing that is mutually complementary.”
Artisan Coffee Co has finely tuned its blends and roast profiles for all brew methods – filter, espresso, pod, coffee bags – so that its speciality coffee is accessible to everyone. Ashley and his team are passionate about flavour and freshness, which is why, after consulting with a coffee scientist in Zurich, they introduced a unique aroma optimisation process, Aromax50, to ensure the coffee is at its optimum, capturing more aroma molecules than any other coffee, before being packed into nitrogen-sealed bags. “We’ve gone that extra mile; from optimising aroma to preportioning our ground coffee into single serve sachets, we will do everything to ensure our coffee is the freshest and best tasting you’ve every had.”
Artisan’s coffee is available UK-wide and abroad, in venues such as The Hurlingham Club, Fuller, Smith & Turner pubs and hotels, and Michelin-starred restaurants. “By making taste and flavour relatable, we want people to make an informed choice,” says Ashley. “A lot of people don’t know where to start their coffee journey, so they don’t take the risk and just fix their brew to make it palatable. We want to break that barrier down and bring better coffee to homes.”