Just getting your head around single-estate artisan espresso? Well, wake up and smell the latest trend on the caffeine scene: cold brew. Euan Ferguson meets two pioneering Londoners who could change the way you drink coffee this summer.
‘How was my weekend?’ asks Hugh Duffie, co-founder of London coffee start-up Sandow’s. ‘What’s a weekend?’ Hugh and his business partner (and flatmate) Luke Suddards have been pretty busy recently. Despite only launching their new cold-brew coffee five weeks ago, in time off from their barista jobs, they’re already struggling to keep up with demand and have just had the cheering news that Selfridges wants to stock their stylish little bottles (priced at around £3.95 for a two-serving bottle). You can also find it in coffee shops around the city, including MacIntyre in Hoxton and all three branches of Tap in central London.
From a tiny basement lab below Vagabond café on Holloway Road, 22-year-old Australian Hugh and 25-year-old Essex-born Luke carry out every stage of their production process by hand, from brewing the very best coffee from boutique London roasters to bottling, screwing on caps and handwriting the beans’ origin and brew date on each smart label (the design’s inspired by Victorian strongman Eugen Sandow).
But what is cold brew? Just a fancy post-Starbucks term for an iced latte? Not quite: whereas those slushy frappés are made of conventional hot espresso cooled down and blended with ice and lots of sugar, cold brew involves infusing 12C to 18C water with ground beans over 14 to 18 hours before straining and bottling, to be served over ice. The pair give me an impressively detailed scientific explanation of why it’s better to make it this way, but basically, says Luke, ‘It’s sweeter, it’s lighter, it’s more refreshing. It’s a way of drinking cold coffee without compromising on quality or flavour.’ My first taste is one of surprise: it’s coffee without any of the acidity, mellow without milk and sweet enough without sugar.
Cold brew has already made a splash in coffee hotspots like Portland and New York, and this summer you’ll start spotting it in the best cafés across London. Make it your cool-me-down-pick-me-up of choice. It’s certainly no ordinary joe.
Photography by Rob Greig.