The Internet is a wonderful thing. It is opening markets for small businesses but also creating communities of supportive and inspiring individuals who share a passion or an experience. Kathryn Pentland lives in County Durham and has spent the last couple of years at home with her son, Jack. An Internet business allows her to combine childcare and business in a way that suits her. It sounds so easy, but it isn’t. It takes a lot of hard work and involves long and odd hours. Passion is the motivator: Kathryn’s passion is tea and coffee and her company is Coffee to a Tea.
Having Jack was a watershed in Kathryn’s life. She went from a busy and hard-working professional to full time mum. As Jack got older and more independent, she found that she needed something to focus on. She had met a coffee roaster near her and became fascinated by the process of roasting and flavouring coffee. It was the perfect product for Kathryn who has a long love affair with coffee. Research convinced her that there was a market for flavoured coffee. But Kathryn has standards. She wanted to sell the very best products she could possibly find. Quality, not price, was her motivator.
The first flavoured range that she carried was Little’s flavoured instant coffees. Little’s is a family run business of specialist coffee roasters. They use quality ingredients and are very knowledgeable about their products. the next step was finding a supplier of good beans.
It took a while, but Kathryn eventually found a roaster that produced flavoured beans and ground coffees of the quality she wanted. The process of making flavoured coffee is involved: Arabica beans are toasted before being marinates in natural flavour oils. When they have taken in the flavour the beans are air dried after which they are ready and can be ground or sold whole. Because the beans are marinated in oils to give them their flavour, you’ll see a shimmer of oil on the black coffee. When choosing which flavours to sell, Kathryn tastes the coffee black and with hot milk so she gets the different aspects of the flavour. The flavours have to work with the flavour of coffee and taste clean and pleasant.
Working from home, storing stock and working to find suppliers and customers, can be lonely. The Internet didn’t just provide Kathryn with the store front she needed but has, through Twitter, given her access to a group of women who also run their own companies in situations similar to hers. It is a virtual but very real support group.
Kathryn was kind enough to send a number of tasting packs of flavoured coffee to Edinburgh Foody. Flavoured coffee is great for people like me who sometimes find coffee too bitter. Not all hardcore coffee enthusiasts will like flavoured coffee. People who like coffee but screw their face up and go “ugh” when downing an espresso will. These flavoured coffees have the real coffee kick but the bitterness is tempered by the flavours. Far superior to coffees with added flavoured syrups you get in well known coffee chains.
I take tea in the morning but enjoy a flavoured Americano in the afternoon. Black, of course.
- Orange mocha: Terry’s dark chocolate orange on the nose, a refreshing acidity on the tongue, fresh coffee flavour and a lingering orange flavour with a hint of chocolate. This coffee has a depth that works nicely after dinner with a square of dark chocolate.
- Strawberries and cream: faint strawberry on the nose which gives way to a flesh strawberry flavour and coffee with a good acidity on the palate. Add a little sugar to bring out the strawberry and shake with ice and you have a summery iced coffe.
- Rich hazelnut: a soft hint of roasted hazelnut promises more nut on the palate, a promise that is carried through and balanced by good acidity. This is lovely with granary toast. (This is my favorite.)
- Almond cream: as you’d expect, this has marzipan and amaretto on the nose; a hint of sweet almond on the palate, light yet luxurious and carefully avoiding being cloying as a too heavy almond flavour can be. (This is Kathryn’s favorite.)
- Irish cream: the nose offers rich roast coffee with a warm background of whisky which comes through more on the toungue with a soft warmth. Add a teaspoon of brown sugar and a dollop of softly whipped cream and you have a virgin Irish coffee.
- Cinammon: gorgeous smell of coffee with spicy tones. The flavour is subtle, perfect for an afternoon drink!
Let’s not forget that Coffee to a Tea sells tea as well as coffee. Black coffees, plain and flavoured, as well as a number of tisanes are on offer. All are selected with the same care.