Coffee Bean Review: Dandelion, and Driftwood

Last Saturday, given a spare couple of hours and a hankering for breakfast/brunch outside the house, my wife and I decided to head over to Dandelion and Driftwood to try out their food menu. On previous visits we’d stuck squarely to the coffee. That’s what Dandelion and Driftwood are building their reputation on (contrary to some reviews you may have read in the Courier Mail today – seriously, I know Alison Cotes, I spent a few days with her, spread over a few visits, in Townsville. She’s nice. But this review is a little ridiculous. Why would you not start off at a place that prides itself on tea and coffee by drinking the tea and coffee? And why go for the fancy and expensive stuff if you’re just going to bag it for being fancy and expensive).

Anyway. Here are some obligatory photos of the food – because this is ancillary at best to what we’re talking about here.

That’s my toasted man-wich – bacon, egg, cheese, man sauce and potato chips.

Robyn chose the toad-in-the-hole. A triumph of hyphens.

Both were pleasant. But really, like I said. The coffee is the star attraction.

The latte art on this coffee lasted all the way to the bottom of the cup:

This Kenyan was particularly good.

And Robyn tried the tea – which came served in this sensational tea set. Tea isn’t my cup of, well, tea. But it was pleasant enough to drink.

That’s a really long prelude to the actual point of this post (especially at 1,000 words per picture). We left the cafe with two little brown paper bags in hand (and one, empty bag in my pocket – I highly recommend hitting up the lolly cart while you’re at D&D).

The coffee bags, like everything else these guys do, came with a unique touch of class. Bags are sewn shut with an old school cotton spooled sewing machine. At least that’s how I’d describe it. This isn’t even their preferred method of selling beans, because storage is important they suggest what is essentially the coffee bean equivalent of a grab and go system – with specially designed coffee storage jars.

Here are the bags on my kitchen table and ready for testing. I’ve just finished off the Driftwood – having polished off the Dandelion in a couple of days. I’d say the Dandelion is definitely my favourite. It works heaps better in milk.

The Driftwood packs a punch – and when I gave a cup to my mum today she said “it is very rounded and reaches the back of the mouth nicely.” But the Dandelion. Oh. The Dandelion. It’s apparently the more feminine of the two – but wow, as an espresso it’s pleasant, but somehow, when you add milk, it’s magical.


I took this shot from down low because I stuffed up my attempt at latte art…

I whipped up a batch of syphon for each of them – and while I know it’s meant to be a tool for playing with single origins – I’d have to say the Dandelion was the standout syphon option too. The Driftwood was great as a slow poured espresso, and sadly, my last shot (just then) was a little bit of a failure – I think my machine, which had sat turned on all day, was a little too hot. It was tasty and full bodied, but it didn’t have the pizazz that its counterpart offers. So you’d have to choose between flair and substance.

The Dandelion, which was almost as good at home as it is in store. The way it works with milk is a little like alchemy. I can’t stop raving about the coffee from this place – and I’ll continue to send my friends there knowing they’ll be looked after despite what some so called “coffee snobs” might write in the newspaper.

Coffee Bean Review: Five Senses Coffee

I’m kicking off a new column (on a new blog) today – reviewing coffee beans. Reviewing coffee in cafes is one thing – but if you want to make coffee at home – and you don’t want to buy from the St. Eutychus coffee shop (and why wouldn’t you) – then this is the column for you.

Here’s the kit I’m using for the review – my compact ex-commercial Expobar…

And my Macap M4 grinder.

I’m weighing my dosing too – to ensure a scientific comparison between beans. 21 grams is my standard dose.

First cab off the rank was Five Senses Coffee. I’ve been following their blog for a while. It’s pretty excellent. They roast in Western Australia and Victoria, so when I ordered the beans on Monday morning I was not expecting to see them until today. But they arrived on Tuesday. What service. My only regret is not asking for a drawing of a bear fighting a unicorn. Which a recent customer did (inspired by a recent incident with a Dominos pizza order).

I ordered two 250g bags – one batch of their 24/7 blend, and the other a bag of their Dark Horse.

Five Senses have a beautiful typographic logo, and their zip locked one way valve bags are a visual delight.

I put both bags of coffee through their paces – as an espresso, a piccolo latte, a double shot flat white, and through the syphon (perhaps my syphon results need to be taken with a grain of salt for a little while – until I master properly).

It took me a little while to dial the grinder in properly, but both blends were pretty drinkable in all the above forms.

Dark Horse

This blend stood up best as a double shot espresso (it was even better as a slow-poured espresso – sometimes I like to tighten up the grind a little bit and pour the shot for a lot longer you get a rich oily shot as a result). The tasting notes for the beans suggest you’ll get “red capsicum and slight savoury overtones” – which might describe part of the taste – and was particularly noticable when milk was added. The milk seemed to neutralise some of the more acidic fruity flavours. The notes also suggest a “cherry” flavour – and while I’ve only ever really picked up the exact same flavours as professional tasters once (an Ethiopian Harrar – where it’s almost impossible not to taste blueberry once you know it’s there) – there was certainly a pleasant fruitiness to the short black, and a savoury twang that wasn’t unpleasant.

Here’s a video (using the iPhone Super 8 app) of the first shot.

The syphon accentuated both the fruit and vegetable flavours. It was a bit like standing in the middle of a good greengrocer and drinking the air (with a dash of “generic coffee” flavour thrown in – it did still taste like coffee).

24/7 Blend

This “flagship blend” promises to be a ripper with “everything you could want in a coffee”. Unfortunately drinking it didn’t make me rich or more handsome. But it did taste nice. The beans are sourced, direct trade, from PNG, where it appears they are pre-blended.

Here’s the back story:

“Made with the finest beans from a small collective of individual growers in Papua New Guinea, this is an exceptionally high grade coffee. And it’s a world exclusive to 5 Senses. Because the beans are not grown on a single plantation, we consider this a blend. It’s just blended at home in PNG, not here in Australia. These beans are grown by small groups of farmers who are passionate about their crop … just as passionate about great coffee as we are!”

I probably enjoyed this more than the Dark Horse, it was better balanced and closer to my preferred taste (I think at the moment I lean towards the chocolaty end of the spectrum rather than the fruity). It was really pleasant as an espresso but it worked better in milk. My wife preferred this one too. She said it was better balanced and less tart than the Dark Horse but that it didn’t have the same standout flavours. I agree.

Conclusions

Once you get over the weirdness of a coffee that tastes like veggies – both of these produce great cuppas with their own selling points. The service and attention to design detail mark Five Senses out as a quality operator and the commitment to direct trade coffee for their signature blend is admirable. If I was going to order again I’d probably go with the 24/7 – but they do have a batch of other blends and a host of single origins to choose from.

Five Senses sell 250gm bags of these coffees at $11 (plus postage) and mail them out super fast – a great solution to any coffee shortage – and admittedly a much quicker turn around than I can manage with St. Eutychus Coffee (because I roast to order).

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