For a long time, I had been seeing Blue Tokai ads on my Facebook. I love their peacock logo. Its very artistic and beautiful. But I didn’t know so much about coffee then. Coffee, was just coffee for me. I had a little knowledge of things because of the ‘Sensory evaluation of food items’ classes I took in college. Those classes were informative, and I owe my fundamental understanding of the sensory experience of consuming any food or beverage.
Sometime late last year, I found out about the coffee cupping workshops that Blue Tokai organizes at its roasteries. And needless to say, I ran to Mumbai, to attend one. It was very informative, and a super awesome learning experience.
Since then, I have closely followed them on social media, because that what we do for our favorite brands? And then I heard about their new launch – The Barrel Aged Coffee, made in collaboration with Sula Vineyards.
So, what do you think I did next? Ordered it, of course! As a Women’s Day gift to me. Incidentally, two friends of mine were vying for a small portion of it to be shared with them. However, thanks to Coronavirus, and the resultant lockdown, I got the entire packet to myself! And I am secretly very happy about that.
Blue Tokai has, in a way, revolutionized specialty coffee market in India. At a time, when still a large majority of the population relies on instant commercial coffee for their caffeine kick, introducing the market to specialty coffee, brewing techniques, and the wonderful world of coffee is amazing.
Barrel Aged Blend
In a first-of-its-kind process innovation, Blue Tokai partnered with the renowned Sula Vineyards, to introduce a cold coffee brew, the Barrel Aged Blend. As the name says, it is made from coffee beans aged in the Sula wine barrels, and intended for being served cold.
Globally, the coffee market is seeing an increasing popularity of barrel processed coffee where raw green beans are aged in rum or whiskey barrels. Sometimes, the flavor notes of these coffees can be highly dominated by the flavors of rum/whiskey. A popular coffee roastery in India too offers a barrel processed coffee that has been aged in barrels of Amrut Whiskey. However, ageing the beans in wine barrels has been unheard of. Until now.
Incidentally, both coffee and wine have quite some similarities in their processing. both of them need fermentation (to different extents though), both involve selective picking of the fruit to ensure a clean and perfect final product.
How is the blend created?
For the Barrel Aged blend, Blue Tokai has picked two of their most popular single estate coffees – from the Attikan estate and the Bibi plantation. The raw green Arabica beans are then stored in the wine barrels that were used by Sula Vineyards for their red wines. The beans are left in the barrels for about two months with fortnightly rotations. The pores of the green beans tend to open up due to the moisture in the barrels’ wood, and the beans then absorb the bold flavors of oak and rich red grapes. Blue Tokai never adds any flavorings to their coffee, so the coffee you get is as is, with no flavor additives. Thus, the flavors of the Barrel Aged Blend are entirely a result of the ageing process in the wine-stained barrels. It is important to note, the coffee is totally alcohol free.
The processing method for this coffee is washing. Washing generally helps create a much cleaner and brighter bean with an enhanced fruity acidic flavor. Washing implies that the coffee beans are washed with water to wash off the mucilage after the coffee has been fermented. This mucilage is responsible for a deep sweetness in the coffee. After the washing, the coffee is dried and roasted as usual.
The Barrel Aged Blend is a medium-dark roast. A medium-dark roast coffee has a richer, darker color, and a heavier body compared to lighter roasts. In this case, the medium-dark roast compliments the wine flavors of the Barrel Aged Blend beautifully.
One thing that I have always found attractive, is the way Blue Tokai packages its coffee. Their breathable coffee bags are awesome. It keeps the coffee fresh, lets the coffee breath, avoids moisture locking inside as well as prevents moisture to get in from outside air. Plus, there are these really pretty traditional art designs on the package, that make it look great, even if it just sitting on my shelf. Here, take a look –
How to brew the coffee?
When you order the coffee on the Blue Tokai website, you choose how you want it ground, depending on what equipment you would be using to brew. This is intended for consumption as a cold brew, so like me, you can choose a chhani grind. A chhani is the usual filter used in Indian households to filter out tea before pouring into the cup. A chhani grind would be coarse and close to a cold brew consistency. Coarse coffee makes the best cold brew, always remember that. If you have this coffee hot, you wouldn’t experience the amazing notes this coffee has. Also, keep it away from milk and sugar, if you really want to experience the flavors. This is not just a caffeine kick, it is one of the finest specialty coffees.
Since it is a cold brew, some advance planning would be needed to brew your cup. So, if you plan to drink the coffee tomorrow, you would need to begin the brewing today. Quite some planning, isn’t it? But that’s how cold brews work, and its all worth it for a good cup of coffee, I’d say.
Here’s how I brewed my cup of Barrel Aged Blend:
I take about 1-2 spoon coffee for every 100 ml water. This is my preferred ratio, not a binding standard. You can experiment with how strong you like your coffee to be, and figure out the ratio that works for you. Start light and work your way up.
Put the coffee in a container, pour the water over it. Use filtered water always. I keep the container in refrigerator then. If you don’t want a very strong brew, let it sit for about 12-16 hours. If like me, you prefer a stronger blend, let it sit for 24 hours. Then, filter out the brew. This brew can ideally be stored in the fridge for like a week. I wouldn’t recommend storing beyond it, it won’t spoil, but the flavor notes would be considerably lost.
Pour it over ice, or have it straight from the fridge, your choice. Your cold brew Barrel Aged Blend is ready.
How does it taste?
The Barrel Aged blend has a heavy body, is quite rich and is low on acidity. Of course, cold brews as is have lower acidity than hot brews. There is a typical winey red fruit sweetness to it, which is refreshing. In fact, there is a characteristic intense sweetness to this brew, which I am really enjoying. In this summer heat in Gujarat, I find it immensely refreshing to have. The aroma is fruity and winey.
The coffee has notes of dark chocolate, grapes, cherries and currants. The coffee from Attikan estate is known for its chocolate notes and sweetness with fruity overtones. I feel, these notes come out really beautifully in this coffee.
The coffee is really pleasant to have, has an amazing flavor profile, and is literally joy in a coffee cup.
My suggested variation:
I got a little experimentative once, and added a little bit of orange zest to the cold brew. Just a little, like half an orange. And then added a slice of orange did not crush or poke the slice, just let it sit in my cup. This became a great fresh drink to have on a Summer evening watching the deserted streets and frolicking birds.
I also plan to make something with this brew and a cherry or two, though I am yet to try this out. I haven’t found cherries in any store near me so far.
The key is not to lose the flavor notes of brew, but enhance it with flavors that would go with it.
Very important tip:
Have this coffee say within a month of opening the packet. With time, coffees tend to lose their flavor notes, and it ends up being ‘just coffee’ and not the amazing flavorful coffee it used to be when it was freshly roasted.
DEFINITELY MUST TRY!
For me this blend scores very high on flavor, body and aroma. I went by the grading parameters I learnt during the Blue Tokai Introduction to Coffee Cupping workshop. These parameters are recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and are internationally followed.
Due to the lockdown, Blue Tokai is not currently able to make this blend as Sula Vineyards is closed. However, they will start making this blend as soon as they are able to, keep an eye out for it. This is a blend coffee lovers must not miss.