I popped into my neighbourhood coffee roasters for an afternoon coffee and enjoyed watching it brew in this beautiful machine, along with a very tasty sweet treat.
Omotesandō is a boulevard of high-end luxury fashion shops running through the Harajuku area of Tokyo. It is possibly the highest concentration of such shops, and the busiest area of this type, I have ever seen—although that may be related to its function as a transport artery rather than the retail establishments!
I would describe Omotesandō itself as of fairly niche interest but the grid of narrow streets which lead from it are full of surprising and delightful gems—the sort of area where turning a block too early is not a mistake but a voyage of discovery. Even the most unpromising street invariably yields tiny designer boutiques, art galleries and specialist cafés such as Higuma Doughnuts or the stationery-themed, cocktail serving, Bunbougu Café.
There is an abundance of good coffee too. Bread, Espresso & serves a latte that is almost short enough to be a flat white. The drip coffee of the day at the aforementioned Higuma Doughtnuts was excellent, and LATTEST Espresso Bar was a laptop-friendly hangout that, according to their website, aims to have the world’s best female baristas.
Despite there being so much fine choice, the small size of the establishments means that every eatery seems to be busy all the time. Large queues forming at peak times on sunny weekends is perhaps expected, but we had to wait for a table for breakfast at Bread, Espresso & even at 9am on an unremarkable Tuesday. Plan ahead if you intend to visit!
In my review of the Blue Coffee Box I observed:
In addition to the quality of the coffee, important considerations include the ability to control the frequency of delivery since even a well-sealed bag will only keep coffee properly fresh for a few weeks. Another factor is how much choice is there over the style of coffee delivered? Does the service allow for some flexibility and choice around that?
To review these aspects of the service I signed up for a subscription. The first decision as whether I would like Light, Medium, or Dark roast, or there was an option to “surprise me” with each bag. Although I had sampled three bags of their coffee already, these had not been categorised in this way so I was unsure which I would prefer and plumped for the Medium option.
The next decision was frequency of delivery: fortnightly, monthly or every two months. Finally, I could choose to pay monthly, or pre-pay for 3, 6 or 12 months. Prepaying for 3 months saves 50p per bag, for 6 months it is £1 per bag. If you go for fortnightly deliveries then prepayment options are 8 and 16 weeks for a 50p and £1 discount accordingly. I placed my order on a Saturday, it was dispatched on the Tuesday and arrived two days later on Thursday. The coffee was again excellent.
The medium roast was exactly as you would expect a medium roast, rich but well-balanced and not over-powering but I remained undecided: am I a light roast or a medium roast subscriber? I decided that the only way to check was to change to a light roast for my next bag. I duly emailed the team at Blue Coffee Box, explained that I was still on the fence, and they were very happy to switch my subscription for my next bag. Their IT systems were not quite as obliging as it inadvertently generated a new order for me and charged my card again, but another email to them saw that swiftly corrected.
Once your subscription is live you can view it on their website and make some amendments, such as switching the pre-pay period, skip your next renewal (the date of which is clearly shown), cancel and add a new subscription. Cancellation seems to be the only way to change the frequency, having first cancelled the existing subscription, hence I had to email them to change from medium to light roast.
Blue Coffee Box offer a great subscription product which is simple and easy to use. The variety of coffee is supplemented by the different roasters used, so every delivery is going to feel like a mini-surprise present to yourself. The downside is that the coffee is only posted to you on a fixed schedule (2, 4 or 8 weeks) so if your coffee consumption does not fit one of those patterns then you will find yourself accumulating a surplus or running short and needing to “top up” from other sources.
The need for flexibility and low-stress stock management is something I think Pact Coffee have solved. I have been using them since 2013 and while their product started off as a weekly or monthly subscription service, their website has evolved to include precise scheduling and handy features like “choose my subscription frequency in days” (mine is 21), and buttons for “skip this delivery” and “ship today” (or “tomorrow” if it is after 1pm). Thus my routine is: realise while making coffee that I have only a few days supply remaining, pull up website on phone while waiting for it to brew, request coffee be posted that afternoon and it generally arrives within two days. Pact also requires you to choose your coffee from a rotating menu of around 6 or 7 they have in stock on any particular day—great if you like a particular coffee and want more of the same—but there is enough turnover that you can probably have something different every time if you prefer too.
A coffee subscription allows you to enjoy, with minimal effort, high quality freshly roasted coffees that you will never find for sale in your local supermarket. As with most subscription products, there are discounts available to tempt new customers so I recommend you try them both using the offers below and decide which style of subscription works best for you. Cheers!
This is a review of the Blue Coffee Box I received a few weeks ago. To be completely transparent, I was given a free review box by Blue Coffee Box, I had not heard of their subscription club until their offer popped into my inbox. They are also offering £5 off your first order using code TBTO5.
As I wrote about in my previous post, this is a well put-together package that exudes class and quality. As someone who enjoys the range of flavours and tastes that coffee offers, I really liked that there were three different varieties to drink. Each bag has a good resealing mechanism so it is easy to keep fresh in the bag once opened—a good thing when you get excited about having to compare and contrast three different bags of coffee for a review and decide to open all three on the same day! Each bag is 155g, a little bit smaller than a standard 227g supermarket bag, but with three in the box that adds up to about the same amount of coffee as two supermarket bags.
My first opportunity to sample the coffee was for a cup of mid-morning pick-me-up. Using the flavour notes I decided that the occasion called for something a little bit lively, so went with the Finca La Bastilla, which was described as “notes of apple, pear, citrus, caramel.” This produced a drink that was smooth and natural tasting, with a rounded mouth-feel and was a little bit more-ish. Subsequent tastings showed it to be a really good all-rounder that could be drunk black or with a drop of milk, perhaps a little middle-of-the road but there is definitely room for that in my cupboard.
The second coffee I tasted was Bosque Lya. The flavour notes of milk chocolate and praline suggested this would be a little darker than the Finca La Bastilla and indeed it was. The chocolate flavour definitely came through but without any bitterness. The description of “milk chocolate” was very apt and I found it to be a very agreeable mellow coffee: perfect for after-dinner, but highly enjoyable at any time of day.
The final bag was Aldea Capucas. I was not sure what to expect from flavour notes of golden syrup, caramel and lemon since they are not flavours I would normally associate with a coffee. However it was another delicious cup of coffee, mild and rich-bodied with subtle flavours, and surprisingly sweet—milky coffee without any milk!
After tasting all three, I am happy to report this box contained three different, truly excellent, high quality coffees. Combined with the luxury presentation I have no hesitation in recommending this box as a gift for someone who claims to be a coffee aficionado, they will not be disappointed. This would also be a great present for someone who has yet to discover the joys of gourmet coffee, or coffee subscriptions, and would appreciate an introduction.
Having established this is superb coffee that no one could be disappointed to receive, what about the subscription service itself? In addition to the quality of the coffee, important considerations include the ability to control the frequency of delivery since even a well-sealed bag will only keep coffee properly fresh for a few weeks. Another factor is how much choice is there over the style of coffee delivered? My three bags were all at the lighter, subtle, mellow and mild end of the roast spectrum which is serendipitously my preference, but I do know people who prefer a strong big mouth-feel dark roast so does the service allow for some flexibility and choice around that? These are important questions require a little more research so will be answered in a future post.
Since moving to suburbia, a Saturday morning run to Monmouth Coffee’s near-by roasting house to taste their current selection has required a lot more effort and travel. The best alternative I have found is a coffee subscription: I am unable to taste a selection of coffees before purchase but it does ensure I have a constant supply of fresh and delicious beans available at home.
The good news for me and my fellow suburban dwellers is that there are an increasing number of home delivery options available and the nice people at Blue Coffee Box have just sent me one of their signature boxes containing three 155g bags of beans to try. The box is beautifully presented with a card describing the farm where the coffee was grown, and a few words to describe the flavours you might notice.
My box contains three coffees, two roasted by the same boutique team, Gentlemen Baristas in East London, and another by a small two-person roaster in Yorkshire. The post was unable to get it through our standard-sized letterbox but he was happy to leave it in a safe place so there was no hassle receiving it. When I tested the parcel in the letterbox I could just about get it through, but it was a tight fit and required some wiggling—your mileage may vary, as they say.
A full review of the coffees will follow when I have had chance to fully enjoy them, but if any reader would like to try a box for themselves then the company have generously provided a £5 discount code for you—enter TBTO5 at checkout to claim.