In 2002 Campos Coffee opened the door to its tiny cafe in a Newtown backstreet with one thing in mind – serving consistently good coffee to its customers. This simple philosophy has made the business grow to the point at which it is today. Recently Campos opened a wholesale and retail store in Melbourne and a cafe in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley two yeas ago, plus many other cafe’s now serve up its life-giving beans to their own customers. Looks like a few people are getting the taste for it.
Sydney now has it’s second Campos outlet – Don Campos – taking a corner location in The Fountain, a yet to be completed mixed use development in Alexandria, not too far from the Newtown headquarters. I dropped by recently for a bit of a gander and was surprised to see a very different looking Campos compared to the one on Missenden Road. The old warehouse in which it sits has been gutted, its concrete floors polished and the sprawling ground floor is to be subdivided and leased out to a potential deli, a fruit & veg providore, a bakery and a retailer. It has a bit of a Danks Street vibe to it and the warehouses just behind will be converted into apartments, bringing more life to the area. I love the idea, yet at the moment Don Campos is the only place filling a small corner of this vast space.
Sydney’s first Siphon Bar can also be found here, somewhere you can sit and watch the coffee chemistry happen as you wait for your freshly made single origin cuppa. I’m yet to give it a go as I prefer my espresso with a bit of milk, done the old-fashioned way on a machine. The macchiato I had was a perfect jolt to the senses and nicely softened with a moist pear & polenta cake.
Being invited to partake in an activity only coffee buyers do on tasting and buying trips around the world was something I had keen interest in. The Cupping Room has opened above the Campos Cafe in Newtown, a very glamorous set-up compared to the ones where the coffee originates. Stepping into the dark room your eyes are instantly drawn to the long bench, illuminated from above like a fashion runway. Here, you have no choice but to focus on the coffee.
At the front sits a row of seven cups, each containing a different grind of bean. A Costa Rican light roast, a Costa Rican darker roast, Ethiopian Lekempte, Papua Marawaka, Indian Monsoon Malabar, Kenyan Tembo and finally a generic blend. Behind is a glass of water and spoon for each cup of coffee and in the centre is your own spittoon, a cup in which to spit after tasting each coffee.
As Will, the founder of Campos explains each of the seven ground beans laid before us, we smell each one individually before 92°C water is poured onto it. Bubbles of gas become trapped within the crust that forms on the surface and an important part of the evaluation process of coffee is to do the “break”. Dipping a spoon half-way into the coffee and moving it around slowly breaks the crust and releases the gasses as you gently inhale the vapour where each gives a different aroma. Will adds that when evaluating coffee at this point of the process 10% of the score is based on aroma, 3% is based on the dry aroma and 7% is based on the wet aroma.
The next part of the evaluation involves removing the crust, yet in the larger growing regions like Brazil and Colombia the crust is often left unimpared due to cupping up to 800 cups a day, sometimes 2000. Most cupping rooms are grotty places, unlike this Sydney mock-up, where a bunch of blokes stand around with their spoons, swearing and sniffing, sipping and spitting. Sounds like a real boys club.
Tasting is the next part of the evaluation and is as simple as filling your spoon with coffee and giving a short and sharp sip. Having seven varieties of coffee infront of us we quickly sip each one individually before spitting it out into a cup. In the real world of cupping there’s not much talking going on at this stage of the process but all I can say is the sound effects bouncing off the walls would put any Asian noodle joint to shame. I’m amazed when we get to the last cup (that generic blend we’ve all had on flights, one that I drink out of pure desperation) and how pathetic its flavour is compared to the other single origin beans. Pathetic is my choice of word, not one from the professionals.
If you find yourself saying “yeah the coffee was ok but it had a bitter after taste” then get on down to Campos and get a little education on how it’s chosen and where it comes from. Then you may be able to appreciate its complexities and flavours a bit better. The Cupping Session only runs for about 35 minutes, it’s well-informed and is a must for anyone that loves their coffee or is remotely interested in it.
Cupping Sessions cost $11
Times: Tues-Fri 7.30am, 9am & 1pm. Sat 8.30am, 1pm & 3pm
Call 9690 0294 for bookings