Friday, December 07, 2012

Coffee Week: How to Choose the Right Coffee

In the third part of our Coffee Week blog series, Edward Grace offers us some tips on how to select the right coffee.

Choosing Coffee Beans

How should one go about choosing coffee beans? Well, tastes differ and this makes it a slightly tricky question to answer, however, as it is often the case, whatever the taste, there are always some basic principles to observe if you are on a quest to find the most delicious coffee.

Your Coffee Must Be Fresh

First and foremost, your coffee must be fresh. If stored properly (see my previous post), roasted coffee beans are at their best for about a month after roasting. Again, if stored properly, the life of roasted coffee can be extended somewhat, but fading of taste and aroma will be increasingly noticeable with every new day. Any respectful speciality roaster puts the roasting date on the bag, if the roasting date cannot be found on the bag - this is usually not a good sign and suggests the roaster prioritises operational efficiencies (afforded by long sell by dates) above the quality of your coffee.

Ground coffee loses its freshness incredibly fast. Coarsely ground coffee (say ground for cafetiere) will lose most of its freshness in about three days. Fine ground coffee (e.g. ground for espresso) will lose half of its freshness in about 15 minutes! Whatever brewing method you choose, we recommend grinding coffee immediately before brewing. Even using the cheapest of blade grinders is immensely better than using ground coffee, however, if you are serious about your coffee, we recommend getting a burr grinder (my earlier post, how to brew the perfect cup of coffee, includes some inexpensive burr grinder recommendations). Burr grinders are designed to grinds coffee into particles that are significantly more uniform in shape and size than those achieved with a blade grinder – this in turn allows uniform extraction of coffee preventing excessive bitterness and allowing consistent control of brewing times.

Coffee is an agricultural product and as such its freshness is not limited by how recent the roasting date is. The green coffee used by the roaster should be seasonally fresh. Once harvested and processed, depending on the quality of processing and the method of storage green coffee is at its best for a period of up to nine months. It is the responsibility of the roaster to ensure that the coffee they roast is fresh. Very unfortunately some roasters often use green coffees that are well past their seasonal glory, usually hiding the unpleasant signs of green coffee age behind the darkness of its roast. It is much harder to hide the age of coffee in a lighter roast, so, generally, if you like your coffee and it is roasted in the light to medium-dark range, the chances are it is seasonally fresh.

Pay Attention to Varietals, Origin and Processing

There are dozens of varietals of Arabica coffee and, complemented by environmental and climatic factors, they all have different taste. In addition to varietals and environmental factors, the processing of coffee has a major impact on its taste. Washed coffees tend to have very clean taste, whilst natural processed coffees are often more earthy, sometimes gamey, sometimes overtly fruity or slightly (and sometimes not so slightly) fermented. Nothing beats tasting when choosing a coffee, but once you have paid attention to the cultivars, origin, altitudes and processing, you will find it immensely easier to select coffees that you really like.

Coffee Strength

Finally, what about your coffee strength? To be honest, "coffee strength" is as misleading a term as a sell by date. Coffee strength refers to the degree of roast, i.e. "stronger" coffee is a darker coffee. However, the darkness of coffee has nothing to do with how strong (in terms of coffee flavours or caffeine extraction) your beverage is. It is simply a reference to body resultant from the progressively increasing (with a degree of roast) presence of roasty flavours. Generally, a darker roast hides the subtleties present in the lighter roasts and this is precisely why the majority of most delicate and exquisite coffees are roasted light. This is not to say that a dark roast is necessarily bad; some coffees take a darker roast well, preserving their acidity and taking on a very interesting character, but most coffees, unless they have too many defects or show signs of age that need to be hidden, do better as a lighter roast.

Darker coffee does not contain more caffeine. The process of roasting does not add or remove caffeine from the coffee beans. True, as coffee is being roasted darker, everything else being equal, it loses more of its moisture content and by weight darker coffee will have slightly more caffeine, but this effect is marginal and generally it is negated by a plethora of other variables such as varietals, elevation (higher grown coffees are denser and lose less weight through roasting than lower grown ones) and so on.

Extraction of coffee, expressed as percentage of the final brew, is probably the only way to measure correctly how strong your coffee is. However, coffee, unlike tea, has a very narrow sweet spot – it does not taste great if it is under or over-extracted. This is precisely why most of the speciality coffee associations, and there are quite a few of them on both sides of the Atlantic, including SCAA (Speciality Coffee Association of America based in the US) and SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe based in the UK), recommend almost identical extraction ratios for brewed coffee. It really does not matter how light or dark your coffee is, to get the best taste of your coffee you need to consistently extract about 20% of coffee to achieve about 1.35% concentration of coffee in your ready brew. Needless to say, this is easier said than done and this is why coffee brewing is often considered to be nearly as much of a science as coffee roasting.

Don't forget - Coffee Tasting with The Beanberry Coffee Company - at Tastes Delicatessen, 92 High Street, Eton - on Sunday 9th December - between 11am and 3pm.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Coffee Week - How to store coffee

In the second part of our Coffee Week blog series, Edward Grace tells us how to store freshly roasted coffee beans.

There appears to be a lot of confusion among coffee drinkers as to how roasted coffee should be stored. Almost everybody heard or read that coffee should be stored in a cool dry place, but what does it actually mean?

Well, roasted coffee loses freshness incredibly fast. Contact with air, high temperature, moisture and exposure to light are all contributing to the loss of flavour and aroma. Good storage is nothing else but limiting these factors as much as possible and this is where key storage principles come into play.

Storage principles:

1. The lower the temperature, the slower the loss of freshness.

2. Humidity is a huge problem. Coffee beans are meant to be dry.

3. If humidity issue is addressed, fridge or freezer is good, freezer is better.

Generally, we do not recommend using fridge or freezer to keep the bag of coffee which is constantly being pulled out, opened, closed and put back. Condensation will start building up immediately upon retrieval from the fridge/freezer and that is not good.

If you have just bought enough coffee to last for a week, it is just best to keep it in a tight container or a bag somewhere in the larder, away from sources of light and heat. However, if you have more coffee than you can enjoy in a matter of days, you have to start thinking about how to retain freshness of the coffee that you will be having later on.

If coffee is just put away for a long time, and particularly if it is still in the sealed coffee bag, we recommend putting that bag into a couple of zipped plastic bag (to further increase impermeability) and store it in the freezer. Once retrieved from the freezer, we would leave it on the counter in all its wrappings until the temperatures have equalised before opening the coffee bag. We do not recommend putting the coffee bag back.

With this in mind, if you do not consume your coffee fast or you have ended buying more coffee than you can have in a week, we would recommend splitting your coffee into 7-day portions and keeping them in the freezer (properly wrapped and sealed) until their turn comes up. Once out, store the beans in a sealed jar somewhere in the larder and enjoy them before they get stale.

Another good way of storing coffee, once the sealed coffee pouch was opened or the coffee has been removed from the freezer, is in an old clean and dry wine bottle – we would use a rubber cork and a degassing hand pump set (most supermarkets carry those sets for about £3.50 or so). Coffee goes in, cork is inserted and all the air is pumped out. The bottle should be stashed away (into the larder) to keep coffee away from the light - this is a great method to keep it fresh.

Don't forget - Coffee Tasting with The Beanberry Coffee Company - at Tastes Delicatessen, 92 High Street, Eton - on Sunday 9th December - between 11am and 3pm.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Coffee Week - How to brew the perfect cup of coffee

In the first part of our Coffee Week blog series, Edward Grace tells us how to brew great coffee.

To brew great coffee is not difficult, but it does require some basic principles to be observed:


Use good fresh coffee. It is best to grind your coffee right before brewing. Burr grinders are the best.

Coffee to Water Ratio

Use 6 g of coffee for every 100 ml of water - this is a good starting point. Using simple kitchen scales for this is the best. You may want to upsize the water quantity slightly (up to 10%, not more), to allow for retention of water in the grinds at the end of the brewing process.

Brewing Water Temperatures

Ideal water temperature for brewing coffee is 92-93 degrees C. In most of hand brewing methods, the water is boiled and then left to cool. Using a kitchen thermometer will help you find the right point to start brewing your coffee. Allow for the fact that as your brew your coffee the temperature of your water will be gradually falling. Starting brewing when the water temperature just dropped below 94 degrees C should give you a great brewing temperature range.

Brewing Time

The ideal brewing time is between 3 and 5 minutes. Extending brewing time beyond 5 minutes will make your coffee taste increasingly bitter. Shortening the brewing time will result in under-extraction and coffee tasting thin. 4 to 4.5 minutes brewing time is ideal.

Whole Beans or Ground Coffee?

Whole beans. Ground coffee loses its freshness incredibly fast. Grind your coffee right before brewing. A decent electric powered burr grinder can be bought for as little as £40. We like the Krups Expert Grinder (£39.99 in kitchen capers in Windsor) and the more expensive Cuisinart Auto Burr Grinder (£60 at kitchen capers in Windsor).

Little hand grinders such as the iconic Skerton Grinder by Hario or its twin brother by Tiamo (available for £29.99 at Tastes) are even less expensive and, if you are prepared to work a little harder (physically, that is) for your perfect grind, are capable of beating anything electric with a price tag below £100. Blade grinders are not ideal, as they make it very difficult to control the size and the consistency of the grind.

Water Quality

Considering that the strongest cup of coffee is more than 98% water, the quality of water used for brewing is very important. Use fresh chlorine-free soft to medium-hard water with total dissolved solids value (tds) of one hundred and fifty or less. Ideally, the water used in brewing should be pH neutral (about 7 value). Acidic or alkaline water will interfere with the balance and flavour of your coffee. If you have to brew coffee using more alkaline water, it is best to use light roasted coffee, conversely, with more acidic water, darker roasted coffees perform better than the light roasted ones. Generally, if the tap water is of unacceptable quality (which is probably the case for most of South East England), consider using bottled water, but pay attention to it TDS and pH balance. Out of well known bottled water brands that are readily available in the UK we find Volvic and Stretton Hills to be of acceptable quality.

Putting Principles to Good Use

One of the most simple and elegant solutions to making a great coffee at home is using a Melitta style brewing cone and paper filters. Manual drip or a pour over method, as it is commonly known, is one of the simplest brewing methods preferred by many a connoisseur. Tiny droplets of water flow over the coffee grounds extracting all the oils and flavours that make a perfect brew. As with any brewing method, the key parameters should be observed: your water should be 92-93 deg C, you should allow 6 g of coffee per every 100 ml of water (perhaps allowing a little extra - not more than 10%), and the brewing time should not exceed 5 minutes. Follow the simple steps below to make your perfect cup of coffee:

1. Boil the water.

2. Put the paper filter in the dripper cone and pour some hot water through the paper filter (this will prevent any hints of paper taste in your coffee).

3. Discard the water used to pre-wet the paper filter.

4. Place the required amount of ground coffee into the filter.

5. Making sure that your boiled water is the right temperature (93 deg C), slowly pour the water over the grounds in a circular motion. Do not pour more water than is required to cover the grounds - let the coffee bloom and the resultant foam to rise and fall.

6. Pour more water to cover the grounds, repeat this step several times until you have poured the required amount of water.

7. Once all the water has dripped through the grounds, remove and discard the filter.

8. Stir the brew to ensure the even consistency of taste and serve.

9. Enjoy!

Tip #1: Using kitchen scales is a great way to control the amount of water used in brewing. Right before you start pouring water through the coffee grounds, place your brewer (with coffee grounds in the filter) on the scales, set weight to zero and start pouring. Continue pouring water until the indicator on the scales shows the required target weight.

Tip #2: Time your extraction (e.g. brewing) time. If it is too fast, grind your coffee finer, if it is too slow, grind your coffee coarser. Target 4 to 4.5 minutes brewing time and once you are in it, remember the setting on your grinder and keep it. Be prepared for different coffees to brew slightly differently, but, generally, if you are using a drip method, frequent changes of setting on your grinder are not necessary.

Coffee Week

This week, at Tastes, it's ..... week.
Admittedly, not National Coffee Week or anything like that, just something I made up as an excuse to celebrate brilliant coffee. Throughout the week Edward Grace from The Beanberry Coffee Company (that's him in the photo) will be writing guest posts on our blog, and on Sunday Edward will be in the shop offering tasters of his amazing coffees, answering your questions and generally talking about coffee. I hope you enjoy Edward's lessons in coffee (I'm hoping some of his knowledge infuses into me) and can come and meet him at the end of the week.

Coffee Tasting with The Beanberry Coffee Company - at Tastes Delicatessen, 92 High Street, Eton - on Sunday 9th December - between 11am and 3pm.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkeys - the repeat

In October 2010 I wrote a post about turkey. I'd spent a lot of time that summer learning about turkeys which culminated in Tastes Deli stocking Copas Turkeys for Christmas. Having sold these turkeys for the last two Christmases and received nothing but excellent customer feedback* I am more convinced than ever, that these birds are fantastic and for the third consecutive Christmas they will be available from Tastes Delicatessen. I thought it was about time I told you all about them again. So here is what I wrote way back in 2010!

Copas Turkeys, copyright Copas.While everyone else was planning for the BBQ summer, I was planning for Christmas; specifically what we were going to be stocking at Tastes. And while the BBQ summer didn't turn out to be as long or as summery as we'd hoped, I think Christmas is still on the cards.

One thing I learnt a lot about is turkey (the bird, not the place).
Did you know turkeys have a reputation for being dry and needing basting just because we eat immature birds with no fat?
Or that turkeys are game birds whose flavour and texture improves when they are left to hang?
Or that frozen birds are usually injected with water, which does nothing to improve the meat, but does make them heavier (and therefore more expensive)?
Or that "free-range" turkeys might only be outdoors for a few weeks towards the end of their lives?

Everything I've learnt points towards Copas turkeys being best for flavour, animal welfare and the environment, and those are the turkeys we will be selling this year.

The Copas family have been producing luxury turkeys in Cookham, Berkshire (less than 10 miles from Tastes) every year since 1957, when Tom Copas left school & raised his first flock for Christmas.

Nowadays Tom's three daughters & son are more involved in the family business on a day-to-day basis than he is, however the same care and artisan methods are still used and their turkeys have been acclaimed by TV celebrity chefs and discerning foodies alike; "fantastic" (The Hairy Bikers), "a king amongst turkeys" (Tom Parker-Bowles), "seriously pampered" (Daily Mail), "super & flavoursome" (Lydia Slater).

This year they have already scooped a national award for Health & Welfare in Poultry (Pig & Poultry Marketing Magazine Awards 2010), their Free Range Organic turkeys have been commended in the Organic Food Awards and their Free Range Bronze turkeys have been awarded Two Gold Stars in the Great Taste Awards. In the past, Rick Stein has listed the Copas family as one of his Food Heroes, Farmers Weekly named them Poultry Producer of the Year & their turkeys were short listed in the Daily Telegraph Best UK Food awards.

All Copas Turkey flocks are made up of naturally slow-growing breeds sourced from British hatcheries. Over twenty-five different varieties of traditional breeds have been selected for Christmas 2010 to provide both natural diversity and achieve a full range of beautifully finished adult birds, in all weight categories.

Turkeys are raised on a high quality cereal-based diet, rich in oats and free of growth promoters. Fully mature turkeys have the benefit of a deliciously dense meat, along with a natural fat layer under the skin which helps retain moisture whilst cooking - succulence without the need for basting!

In December, turkeys are dry-plucked by hand and hung like a game bird for two weeks in the old-fashioned way. This enables the rich, traditional flavours to develop fully, ensuring the finest taste and texture for Christmas day.

Each Copas turkey comes in its own carry-home box, complete with everything required to cook both the turkey (cooking instructions & a handy pop-up cooking timer) & the gravy (giblets, fresh rosemary & a traditional recipe) perfectly - no matter what your culinary experience.

* How amazing must the turkey be for customers to take a plate of Thanks Giving dinner (complete with pumpkin pie) to the deli they bought the bird from to say Thank You? How good must the turkey be for a customer to email the shop straight after Christmas lunch to tell them how happy they were? It probably helps that Tastes has the best customers a deli could hope for!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Pao de Queijo

Eve (aged 3) used Isabel's Dough Ball Mix to make scary eyeballs for her Halloween party. And Eve's Mummy took photos to show how much fun it was.

Thank you Eve (and Eve's Mum) for your beautiful photographs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is this our most energy efficient product?

Apparently, for every kilocalorie of energy the bees expend, they bring in 29 kilocalories! By the time the honey is processed and packed the energy efficiency falls, but even so honey production is generally regarded as 2.5 times more energy efficient than sugar production. Windsor honey, more so, as the extractor is powered by solar panels and the finished product delivered to us by bicycle (powered by Stephen, who is fueled by honey!). Thank you bees (and Stephen)!

The Windsor bees are now taking a well deserved break and have plenty of their own honey stored in the hive to feed on over the winter months. When spring comes, I am hoping Stephen will post guest articles on this blog to keep you up to date with all the action in and around the hive. It really is fascinating.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coffee Break!

Last week I met Edward Grace, from the new Beanberry Coffee Company. He eulogised about coffee; was passionate, knowledgeable and fascinating. So impressed was I with Edward, and his coffee, that this week I have started stocking the coffee Edward sources and roasts.

The Beanberry Coffee Company source organic arabica coffee from around the world. This is roasted in a traditional small batch drum roaster using Edward's skill and scientific knowledge to adjust the roast to suit the beans, resulting in coffee which captures the unique aromas and flavours.

All of the Beanberry coffees are organic, grown naturally in the shade of taller trees which offer protection and homes for migrating birds (who in turn see to the pests). The organic ecosystem works well and makes it economically viable for small growers to produce coffee.

What excites me most about the Beanberry Coffee is the freshness. Edward roasts to order to ensure the coffee I receive is at its very best. So insistent is Edward that the coffee must be fresh, that it won't be kept on the shelves here for more than a few weeks. To further ensure this freshness, the coffee is only available as whole beans. Apparently it takes only 15 minutes from grinding, for the flavour of the coffee to deteriorate. So we are also selling grinders! Edward has recommended a ceramic burr coffee grinder. A small but powerful hand grinder which will allow you to easily and cleanly grind up the beans whilst the kettle is boiling.

And because the coffees are so good, and need to be brewed with the respect they deserve, I'm also selling manual drippers. Have I gotten a little carried away? These ceramic devices fit on top of your coffee cup and allow you to add water to the ground coffee beans, but rather than then pressing the grinds and pouring the coffee like a French press, the coffee drips through the filter into the cup below.

The range of coffee we carry will vary throughout the year, with Edward supplying beans from whichever regions are at their very best at the time. We are starting with these four:

Finca Valentin Coffee Beans – light to medium roast, sweet almonds and figs with a touch of spice and syrupy mouthfeel.

Grower, Valentín Choquehuanca is a three-time Cup of Excellence finalist, who bought his farm in the small village of Loayza in Caranavi province of La Paz department in Bolivia in 1990. The ten hectares of land were already planted out with two hectares of coffee, to which Valentín added a further hectare of Caturra trees. The farm extends over steep, fertile hillside in Caranavi region, north-east of La Paz, and is also planted with lime and mandarin trees.

Valentín works the farm with the help of his wife and, during the school holidays, their two children - Soledad and Kevin. Some 10,000 coffee trees grow in the shade of indigenous ‘Inga’ trees.

Harvest on the farm runs from June until September, when the ripe cherries are picked by hand. The coffee is fully washed at a local processing centre, and machine-dried until it reaches 12% humidity. It is then hand picked once again to remove any defects.

San Antonio Coffee Beans - light to medium roast, buttery with dark chocolate and mild orange citrus notes.

Finca San Antonio lies near Municipality of Villa Canales in the mountains of Central Guatemala. Coffee is planted out over 91.5 hectares - much of which is steep, mountainous terrain, meaning all work is carried out on the farm by hand.

The coffee grows in the shade of a diverse mix of native trees. Finca San Antonio has been organic certified since 1992. The farm produces its own organic fertilisers using vermiculture (worm farms) and left-over coffee pulp, leaves, remnants from pruning, cow dung etc. Finca San Antonio also operates its own organic weed control - based on a combination of shade cover, good plant density, weeding by hand and thick ground coverage with organic mulch.

San Antonio is haven for native flora and fauna, and is an excellent spot for bird watching thanks to its extensive natural forest and non-invasive organic farming practices.

All of the farm's permanent workers are provided with housing - equipped with drinking water, electricity and modern bathrooms. San Antonio also runs a school for its employees' children.

The main harvest on the farm runs from November until February. The coffee is picked by hand when it is fully ripe, pulped on the same day, fermented and fully washed. The wet parchment coffee is then moved to the farm's extensive patios where it dries in the sun until it reaches the optimum humidity level. All of the waste water from the wet mill is treated at the farm's three oxidation lakes, in order to keep its water courses free from pollution.

Sidamo Coffee Beans - medium roast, clean and sweet with subtle roasty notes, a hint of brioche and a bright lemon acidity.

Sidamo covers a large area in south western Ethiopia spreading through the fertile highlands south from Lake Awasa in the Rift Valley. Sidamo region is made of over twenty different administrative areas known as 'woredas' that are scattered over its territory at varying altitudes ranging from 1550 to 2200 metres above sea level. Each woreda has its own unique micro-climate resulting in a variety of grades and cup profiles of grown coffee.

Most of the growers are small farmers, organised in fifty or so cooperatives. For the farmers, coffee is the main source of income, usually covering from half to one and a half hectares. Coffee is usually planted alongside a second cash crop – usually enset plants, a large-leafed tree, which provides shade for coffee plants. Enset tree looks like a banana plant but it is not – instead, its thick stem is used to produce a nutritious flour and a fermented paste that are staple ingredients across southern Ethiopia.

This coffee comes from Kersha Inshe cooperative that is one of the members of Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. This coffee is Fairtrade Organic certified.

Yirgacheffe Coffee Beans - light to medium roast, tea like body with floral jasmine notes, a touch of apricot jam and milk chocolate in the aftertaste.

Yirgacheffe is one of the most prized Ethiopian coffees. Yirga Cheffe region is a lush, deep soiled area of high rolling hills in south western Ethiopia. Altitudes range from 1770 to 2200 metres above sea level. Coffee, grown in Yirga Cheffe, is famous for its extravagant, almost perfumed aromatics. Tracing the exact origin of Yirgacheffe coffees can be difficult, as it is what Ethiopians refer to as “garden coffee”, grown on small plots by villagers, often organised in tiny co-ops, using centuries old traditional methods. This coffee is sourced from Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU), which represents some 217 cooperatives with over 200,000 members. OCFCU aims to help small holder coffee farmers to take advantage of the Fair Trade market. OCFCU returns 70% of its net profit back to the cooperatives, and cooperatives back to their members. This coffee is Fairtrade Organic certified.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Almond & Citrus Olive Oil Cake

Great British Bake Off final tonight and I need cake to consume whilst viewing. Knowing I'll be cutting it fine to make it home in time tonight, here is one I prepared earlier! With the help of a recipe from Zaytoun, the producers of fair trade Palestinian olive oil (which we happen to stock at Tastes, in case you're interested)!.

You can find the recipe published as part of the Big Fair Bake on It's a delicious moist citrusy cake, and happens to be dairy free for anyone with an intolerance. Mine was a little squat, but only because I don't own a 9 inch cake tin.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Cheese Wedding Cake in "You & Your Wedding" Magazine

One of our cheese wedding cakes appeared in the September edition of You and Your Wedding magazine! (Which explains a few of the phone calls I've received this week!).

I couldn't find the magazine in the shops, but called the publisher who very kindly sent me a PDF of the article the cheese tower appeared in. You can read the entire Readers Wedding article or click on the photograph to enlarge the page showing the cheeses.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chocolate & Date Cake

Lots of the producers of the delicious products we stock here at Tastes develop recipes to give customers ideas for what to do with their products. We even have a selection of free recipe postcards available in the shop. I thought it was about time I blogged about some of the fine producer recipes. And with Tuesday night being Great British Bake Off night, I needed something baked to accompany yesterday evening's compulsive viewing.

I turned to a recipe for Chocolate and Date Pudding/Cake from The Mortimer Chocolate Company; Makers of fine chocolate powder, perfect for drinking and for baking.

The recipe does require a tiny bit of preparation – soaking of dates for 30 minutes. I did that whilst preparing dinner, then while dinner I cooked prepared the pudding, and put that in the oven whilst we ate dinner. It worked perfectly, and mine was ready 10 minutes ahead of schedule (30 minutes in the fan assisted oven at 160).

I served this as a warm pudding last night and will have it cold as a cake tonight. Can't wait!
If you haven't baked with chocolate powder before you should give it a try. Mortimer Chocolate Powder is rich and high in cocoa solids. It melts very easily. The powder is also dairy, gluten and soya free so much easier to substitute into a free-from recipe than some bars of chocolate.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Thank you Bees

I'm incredibly pleased to be able to offer a third "local honey" at Tastes. I think we have the shop pretty much surrounded now with an apiary in Iver (5 miles NE), Wargrave (13 miles W) and now in Windsor (2 miles SW). Getting a steady supply of honey is still a problem. Sadly, we don't have Iver honey at the moment due to the wet spring, but hopefully the hives will recover soon.

The Windsor hives are the closest to our shop in Eton (less than 2 miles as the bee flies). But while we are keeping the food miles down, those bees aren't!

Apparently, to make 1 kg of honey the bees have to fly 96 000 kilometers (see "Energy Efficiency of. Honey Production by Bees." E. E. Southwick and D. Pimentel. Bioscience (1981) 31, 10; 370 – 732). So for each 380g jar of honey the bees have flown 22 000 miles (36 000 km) which is the equivalent of flying from London to Auckland (NZ) and back! Well done bees! You amaze me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Smoked salmon on olive bread with pesto and salsa

Whilst I was (briefly) enjoying the sunshine in Devon over the bank holiday weekend, my wonderful customers were inventing recipes using their Saturday purchases. Doesn't this sound (and look) like a lovely lunch:

Ingredients (to serve 4):

Fresh Olive bread
2 Tablespoons Seggiano Basil Pesto
4 Tablespoons Stokes Real Mayonnaise
A squeeze of lemon juice
Green leaves
Mike's Smokehouse Smoked salmon

2 Tomatoes (skinned, seeded and chopped)
1/2 Onion (chopped)
Fresh Coriander (2 Tablespoons, chopped)
Drop of Dragon's blood
12 Grapes (sliced)
Juice of 1/2 a lime

  1. Combine the salsa ingredients.
  2. Split the olive bread horizontally.
  3. Toast the top of the olive bread.
  4. Combine the pesto and the mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon.
  5. Spread the pesto/mayonnaise mixture on the bread.
  6. Sprinkle green leaves on the bread and cover with the salmon.
  7. Top the salmon with the salsa.
Thank you Graham!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Christmas is coming!

The end of a busy week of paperwork! Most of our Christmas stock has now been ordered. If there is anything you want to see here, do let me know.

And if anyone else is fighting with Picasa and wants to know why it only shows 60 pictures in a folder when you know there are more than 80, try selecting "view" and ticking the box next to "show small images". If I'd known that earlier, I would have had a far more productive afternoon! You live and learn!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Twitter Cookies

An unexpected advantage of using twitter is the little recipe tweets I keep finding! Just when we don't need any more biscuits at home, and I would never have looked for a biscuit recipe, one appears right in front of me. And looks really nice. And uses things I have to hand. It would have been foolish not to have a go!

So I made these from a Delicious Magazine recipe.

My mixture was a bit dry, possibly the lovely Meridian peanut butter was too crunchy and not oily enough. The cookies were fine, but I couldn't roll the spare dough into a sausage to freeze, so just had to bake them all. Which was fortunate as they are quite moreish.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Stock AND Special Offer

Calista Mediterranean Vegetables are a new range of delicious sun ripened vegetables blended with tasty herbs and spices all sourced in the Mediterranean region. They make fantastic additions to any summer salad, as a pre-dinner snack/starter, or nibble with drinks. Many can also be used as a base for soups and casseroles.

We are now stocking:

Tricolore - A delicious selection of roasted aubergines & peppers full of Mediterranean flavours & colour.

Cheesy Mushrooms - Filled with a soft cheese these mushrooms can be used as an accompaniment to cold meats & barbecues or as a succulent starter.

Aubergine in Adjika - A strong, spicy salsa sauce similar to pesto used as a base for a range of warm dishes. Mix with minced beef or spread on pork or chicken or simply use your imagination.

Mixed Cheesy Assorti - A selection of delicious vegetables stuffed with soft cheese, perfect as an appetiser, with salad or for adding colour & variety to cold or barbecued meat.

Aubergine Medley - Aubergine with sweet peppers & tomato. Use as a base for a range of dishes & casseroles or simply as a vegetable accompaniment for hot or cold meats.

Throughout August (while stocks last) we have a special offer - buy any three for £12 (Usual price £4.95 each). They aren't on the web site yet, but you can order them via the form on our site and still take advantage of the offer.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Beautiful Eton # 6 - The Adam & Eve

While digging around in historical archives for interesting Eton history I have found a lot of pubs. At the moment there are three pubs and a hotel bar on the high street. I know of at least 15 former locations on the high street and 7 on other roads in Eton. The old newspapers have great articles about the goings-on in these establishments and I need to look at them further. The nearest former pub to Tastes was the Adam and Eve (at 51 High Street, Eton). Fifteen of my steps from the front door of the deli, would have taken me inside the ale house 110 years ago. The metal bracket suspended from the front of the building may well have held the old Pub sign.

The building is timber framed believed to date from 1398. If you look at the roof you can see how numbers 47 to 51 were all built together. They now have very different frontages, having understandably been altered over the past 600 years! According to the listed buildings register the red brick frontage to number 51 is 18th century and the shop front is neo-georgian.

Apparently, the ale house was originally located a few doors away at number 47, but outgrew the premises (which are now The Tiger Garden) and by 1597 had moved to number 51. Looking at its history, the landlords of the ale house include Thomas Goddard (1830 Pigots Directory), Samuel Rahey (1839 Robsons Directory), William Cooley (1842 Pigots Directory), Henry Harding (1863 Duttons Directory), Henry Pardoe (1899 Kellys Directory). In September 1890 the license was provisionally transferred from Edward Couter to Joseph Dominey (of Datchet) and then from James Coster to Joseph Domeney in November 1890 (Slough Observer). After 2 years Joseph Dominie transferred the license back to Henry Pardow (of Clewer). Henry Pardoe held the license for a further 14 years and in September 1906 transferred it to George Thomas Williams (Slough Observer). George transferred it back just a few weeks later. Henry was still the landlord in the 1907 edition of the Kelly's Directory. But in February 1907 at the annual licensing sessions, magistrates were in favour of renewing all licenses in the region except the Adam and Eve, on which a decision was deferred. In March Messrs Nevile Reid and Co made a formal application for the renewal of their license. The bench at the Slough Police courts referred the matter to the Quarter Sessions on the grounds that the license was not required. The license renewal was not granted. By January 1908, the ale house had closed, after more than 400 years. Which saw the end of the press reporting news items such as the recovery of stolen books from a bag found in the Adam and Eve (Windsor & Maidenhead Observer, August 1892), and the arrest of a man in the Adam and Even with 8lb of Stolen pork (Windsor & Maidenhead Observer, October 1895).

The building became a shop, and since 2006 has been the home of, Eton Design who have lovingly restored, and beautifully decorated the premises.

UPDATE: I have found an old photograph of the Adam & Eve and the bracket is indeed the one used to hold the pub sign.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Tastes Tweets

I've gone and done it. I have joined Twitter. Apparently it's going to be great for business. Reluctant as I was, I'm finding it really interesting! My "handle" is @TastesDeli if you want to follow. I've even added a selection of "follow us" logos to our website. And I've bookmarked some great recipes which other people have tweeted. And been kept up to date on all the Olympics news. That wasn't really why I joined, was it?

Monday, August 06, 2012

The list goes on

Still plenty of Great Taste Awards to mention....

Our new supplier Bim's Kitchen received a Gold Star for each of their African Bean & Nut Curry Sauce, Baobab Chilli Jam and Spicy African Ketchup. Mike's smokehouse's brand new smoked tomatoes were also awarded a gold star.

Bessant and Drury were given gold awards for both their lemon and strawberry frozen desserts, when blind tasted with dairy ice creams. An amazing achievement for a dairy free ice-cream.

Susie's Preserves' Raspberry Jam, Henshelwoods' Raspberry and Orange Jam, and seville marmalade with whiskey won gold stars.

Teapigs were awarded a collection of stars, including one each for Darjeeling Earl Grey, Jasmine Pearl Green Tea, Mao Feng Green Tea and Chamomile Flowers. Yogi Tea's Choco Tea also won an award. As did a number of teas from Pukka Herbs, and Campbell's Perfect Tea, again! The coffee award winners included another coffee from Grumpy Mule (who also won a three star award and about half a dozen two stars!).

Gold star were also give to Oliflix Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Anila's Hot Mango Pickle, Stokes Real Tomato Ketchup, Tracklements apricot & ginger chutney, and their fabulous onion marmalade.

Pipers Crisps were awarded a gold star for both their sea salt crisps and sweet chilli crisps. Olives Et Al also won awards for lots of their olives and their Dukkah.

A collection of awards went to local chocolateir L' Auberge du Chocolat and local flour mill Wessex Mill.

Our roast ham from Dorset Farms Ham received a gold star. As did Midfields Granola and Chocolate Peppermint Creams from Summerdown.

Lewis & Cooper's Handmade Luxury Fruit Cake again won a gold star, and again will be stocked by us at Christmas. As will the Copas Sage and Onion stuffing which also won an award (to accompany their 3 star winning turkeys)

I think that is everyone, if I've missed you out, do let me know. This year's list of winners didn't include the product names, so its been a lengthy process checking producer names and product descriptions to try to work out what has won. Please forgive any errors or omissions.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Great Taste Awards 2012

It's time for the Olympics of the food world! The Great Taste Awards results have been announced and yet again, the products available at Tastes Delicatessen have collected lots of awards!

This year 8,807 food and drink products (from more than 2500 producers) were blind-tasted over the course of 45 days by 350 experts. 123 products were awarded three stars, and 50 of those were selected as the Top 50 Foods and Drinks available in Great Britain.

You can read about who won awards in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 in my previous blog posts.

And here are this year's winners.

*** 3 Stars, "Wow you must taste this"
Barkham Blue Cheese, Teapigs' Liquorice and Mint tea and Tracklements' Strong Horseradish & Cream were all awarded three stars and included in the Top 50 Foods list.

Wessex Mill Flour and Copas Turkey were also awarded three stars.

** 2 Stars, "Faultless"
631 products were awarded two stars and included Teapigs Peppermint Leaves and Pure Lemongrass tea, along with Imporient's earl grey.

Oro Bailen Extra Virgin Olive Oil was awarded two stars, continuing their success of gold at The Mario Solinas Extra Virgin Olive Oil Quality Awards.

Tracklements' added to their collection of awards with two stars for their Fig Relish as did Olives et al with their Pistou Olives. Peppersmith won their first award, for their delicious Lemon Peppermints.

Two stars were also award to Salcombe diary Rum and Raisin Ice Cream and Mike's Smokehouse Smoked Salmon Pate - Hot roasted smoked salmon mixed with yoghurt and creme fraiche to maintain a 'homemade' feel to the result.

I'll be back next week with the results of the one star awards!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Top 50 Foods in Britain

The annual Great Taste Awards are the biggest independent award scheme for local, regional and speciality foods in Britain and has been since 1994. Over 350 professional foodies take part in 45 days of judging, deciding which foods deserve one-star, two-star or the ultimate three-star awards. This year, for the first time, the results include a list of top 50 greatest food and drink available in Britain.

Included in the list you will find our most local, and much loved, cheese; the Barkham Blue from Two Hoots Cheese, Berkshire, along with Strong Horseradish & Cream from The Tracklement Company and Liquorice & Peppermint Tea from Teapigs. Well done everyone!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Beautiful Eton # 5 - Eton and The Olympics

Pretty much everyone around here knows the Olympic Rowing and Canoe Sprint and Paralympic Rowing will take place at the Eton-Dorney Rowing Lake. Many people will know the Olympic torch was carried down Eton High Street in 1948, but there is more...

Did you know Eton High Street has the only 1908 marathon route marker still in existence?

Just above head height on the building next to Baldwin's Bridge; between the Post Office and Eton College gift shop. The sign reads "Marathon Route, 25 miles, 40.2 kilos".

Apparently, Eton College would have been the starting point had the marathon been the standard 24.85 miles, but it was lengthened to just over 26 miles to start a bit further out at Windsor Castle, and then a bit more was added at the end to get the runners to the Royal Box at the Olympic stadium in White City. So for those running marathons who find the last mile the hardest - you can blame the first London Olympics!

If you want to come and see the marker for yourself, I'd suggest walking from the Windsor-Eton bridge. You can then wander the length of Eton High Street taking in its other sights, and of course the wonderful shops. Within a couple of minutes from the bridge you'll reach Tastes Deli, where if the weather is anywhere near as beautiful as today, you can pick up an ice cream. Continue along the High Street for a third of a mile and you'll find the marathon route marker. Google maps estimates the walk to be 5 minutes, but with all the wonderful browsing opportunities en-route, you should allow a bit longer!

For the sake of accuracy I should mention that I have read that this marker was from the 1924 Empire Games held at Wembley. But I've seen more citations referring to the 1908 Olympics and it is in the right place for the route of that marathon, so I am running with the Olympics theory (pun completely intentional - sorry!).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Range from Bim's Kitchen

This week we took delivery of a new range from Bim's Kitchen. James "Bim" and Nicola Adedeji produce a unique range of African-inspired products, including hot lemony piri piri sauce, baobab pepper jam, chilli coconut relish, bean and nut curry sauce, and spicy African ketchup.

Last night I sampled the Smoky Baobab BBQ Sauce which we used to marinade some chicken before grilling it. It was delicious! It was also getting dark by the time I took the photo so it is a little grainy!

This week's Beautiful Eton post is an Olympic Special! So will be delayed until the official start of the Olympics tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beautiful Eton # 4 - Turks Head

98 High Street, Eton is "The Turks Head". The original building dates from 1520. It was an alehouse from when records began in 1753. Graham, whose family have lived in Eton for centuries believes his ancestor (Mary Pickman) was landlady there 1800ish, possibly with her husband Richard.

According to the listed buildings register, the building you see today has an exposed 17th century timber framework with red brick nogging on the ground floor and plaster infilling on the first floor. The front ground floor wall and oriel windows are believed to be in the location of the original wall, and were built in the 1950s to replace an earlier addition which had stood in front of the original wall line. The recessed ground floor wall exposes the joists of the floor above. There are three pairs of carved figures under the overhanging jetty. These were apparently added in the 1950s.

The alehouse interior was the scene of an Edmund Bristow painting in 1845. Apparently Edmund Bristow lived in the house next door (number 97) in 1863. In 1878 the alehouse was turned into The Three Lilies, a coffee tavern with low-cost accommodation; aimed at a more respectable clientèle without the temptations of alcohol. I'm not sure what (if anything else) it was between 1912 and when it became Turks Head Antiques. Since 2009 it has been the studio of couturist Hardy & Hooper.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scotch Eggs

Rita, the hands behind our hand-made Scotch Eggs, is back from her holidays (and has a surprising tan despite not leaving the UK). She has collected fresh eggs and is currently scotching* them. They'll be re-appearing in our deli counter this afternoon.

* I think that may be grammatically correct. The name "Scotch Egg" apparently comes from "Scotched" or "Minced" so there must be a verb "To Scotch" mustn't there? Maybe not.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Beautiful Eton # 3 - Stamp Vend

The stamp vending machine outside the old Post Office on the corner of Sun Close, 126 High Street Eton. The building now houses Shaw Gifts, the Post Office having relocated to much larger premises by Barnes Pool Bridge.

Steve from the Colne Valley Postal History Museum tells me the case is a Type K Mk 2. It could hold one or two machines. When these machines are built into the wall as the one in Eton was, the coin tubes usually ran down behind the machine and into the shop. The case is most probably by Carron Company in the period 1960-1970.

Steve tells me the machine on the left is a B4, 1d or 1p coil vending. On the right is a Not in Use closure plate (covering the hole where a second machine could be sited). The B4 mechanism was by Associated Automation and looking at the flap it could pre-date the case - possibly 1940/50s (all of the mechanisms were designed to fit in the same mounting plates and cases so could be swapped over). You can find out more about stamp vending machines on the Postal History Museum's web site.

I love how the "post box red" colour has aged to a beautiful matte terracotta.

A quick google search showed me this photograph of the post office (with vending machine) from the 1960s.

This shows another Type E mounting plate with another coil dispenser to the left of the case we can still see today. Thanks Steve!

And whilst I'm on the subject of Post Offices, before moving to 126 High Street, the Post Office was at 102 High Street from 1899, and before that at 113 High Street (from 1871). Now it is number 137.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Teas Please

I've added another new tea to our selection here at Tastes Delicatessen; a smooth, creamy blend of black tea leaves, coconut, cashews and vanilla. It is from Vitalife, the people who make our popular "Energising Tea"; a refreshing combination of green tea, guarana, lemon, and liquorice.

That brings the total number of teas available in the shop to more than fifty! It's a good job they sell so well! But I do need to add some more to our online tea shop.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Beautiful Eton # 2 - Victorian Post Box

Eton's iconic Victorian postbox is one of the oldest in England, designed just 15 years after the first postage stamps. The vertical slot 'pillar' box is apparently an 1856 design and one of only ten survivors. It is also less than 30 m from tastes deli, so if you come and see it, do pop in! (I am told the others are in Banbury, Birkenhead, Gravesend, Oxton, Milford on Sea, Warwick and three more places...)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beautiful Eton # 1 - Parish Church Tower

I've been taking a lot of photographs of Eton recently. In the mornings, when I take our Internet shopping orders to the post office before opening the shop, the light has been lovely. I thought I would share a few high lights of our high street. Starting with the Church. Or a little bit of it anyway.
The foundation stone of the present neo-Gothic building was laid on October 21st 1852, by Prince Albert. The church tower shown in the photo, was apparently built in 1954 to replace an earlier spire. The magnificent spire having been removed in the 1940s after a series of cycles of damage and repairs. Looking at the tower over the roof tops, the church is assumed to be much smaller than it actually is. Looking from ground level, where you can see the building itself reveals it to b about 2/3 of the size of the college chapel. Far larger than perhaps was ever necessary for a town the size of Eton.

The nave is now the Eton College Sanatorium, and the tower provides accommodation for staff. The ground floor of what was the Sanctuary and Cancel is now the town's GP surgery, and above this is the present church of St John the Evangelist. What a fantastic example of a building being adapted to suit the needs of the town's people.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Anniversary Anila

It's 20 years since Anila Vaghela sold her first jar of homemade curry sauce at an Easter fair in Weybridge, Surrey. Now a supplier of award-winning curry sauces, chutneys and pickles to top delis, speciality stores and farm shops across the UK, Anila's Authentic Sauces is unveiling a new product to mark the occasion.

The spicy Indian salsa is handmade with fresh ingredients; a delicious blend of tomatoes, red peppers, green chillies and spices, the salsa is the perfect accompaniment to Anila's range of eight authentic curry sauces.

"I started by using old traditional family recipes and I still use them today as the basis of my products, 20 years on," said Anila Vaghela. "We continue to make our curry sauces and accompaniments in small batches. The new spicy Indian salsa is also based on a family recipe, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with our customers."

Growing up as the eldest child and grandchild in the family, Anila learnt to cook alongside her mother, her grandmothers and her great grandmother while they were living in Zimbabwe. Years later, as a busy mum living in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, Anila would make large batches of curry sauce for convenience. Her cooking had always been popular with friends and family, and in the early 1990s she began selling jars of curry sauce on a very small scale in her local community. She sold all 80 jars at her first fair at Easter in Weybridge in 1992. Phone calls from very satisfied customers followed, and Anila began fulfilling small orders.

In 1997 she was made redundant from her job as a PA and decided to seize the opportunity to form her own company to develop Anila's Authentic Sauces. Before long Anila's curry sauces were on the shelves of a range of health stores, delicatessens and independent specialist shops.

Anila outgrew her kitchen at home and moved to a catering kitchen in Surbiton in 2002. A year later the business needed larger premises once more, and Anila's re-located to a 1400 sq ft unit in Hounslow. In 2006, husband Dan also joined the team as operations manager and is in charge of production, whilst Anila takes care of sales & marketing.

"It's amazing to think that it's been 20 years since I made my first proper sale," said Anila. "At the time, Indian food wasn’t anywhere near as popular as it is today, and there were very few small producers like myself, only large manufacturers supplying the supermarkets. I started with four flavours of curry sauce – additional sauces and the chutneys and pickles came later as a result of demand from customers."

"I was 40 when I was made redundant, and having set up my own business, I haven’t looked back. Since I was a child I have had a great love of food and of cooking, and it's been a dream come true to run Anila's."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Web Site Update

I spent some time this weekend checking over our web site to make sure it complies with the new EU legislation. As far as I can tell it does, but the legislation is very new and includes quite a few "probably"s which don't give me a lot of confidence. Whilst I was at it, I decided to change the home page. I wanted to add our video to the front page, which of course meant moving everything around, so I changed the photographs as well, and the words. I think it looks far more bright and summery. Now if only the weather would do the same...

Friday, June 08, 2012

Mario Solinas Winners Announced

Yet again one of our most popular olive oils, Oro Bailen, has scooped Gold at one of the world's most important olive oil competitions; The Mario Solinas Extra Virgin Olive Oil Quality Award. You can read all about the prestigious competition in the Olive Oil Times.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


The businesses and residents of Eton have been cleaning and decorating frantically for the past couple of weeks. The Windsor and Eton Facelift project encouraged us all to smarten up at the same time. The incessant rain in April postponed lots of the planned external painting but the jubilee deadline wasn't going to move. So "wet paint" signs have adorned most of the buildings for the past two weeks and now it is all coming together. Flags are being erected, plants planted, bunting strung across the street and everything looking spick and span for the jubilee weekend. Its great to see the community pulling together.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Look

In case you haven't noticed I have (accidentally) changed the look of the Tastes Delicatessen blog. It really wasn't the plan. What I was meant to be doing is adding the topic labels you can see to the right and tidying them up a bit so there weren't so many. But there was this button on the admin screen to "update to new blogger" and I sort of clicked it to see what would happen. There were some new templates to choose. I clicked on one to see how it would look. But then I was stuck! No way to go back to my old template (which I'd spent hours making five years ago). So onwards it had to be, and three hours later I'd managed to get the new template looking almost how I want it. Not sure what those white boxes are though (some sort of missing image?). I can't get rid of them (yet). The only thing which seems to work is to post an empty entry which they seem to attach to. Hopefully they aren't too distracting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tastes Delicatessen - The Movie

If you popped into the deli over the past few days will probably have noticed Mark and his camera (if you didn't notice him, then you may well have a walk on part!). Corporate Photographer Mark Earthy has been here for many hours, filming what should be a movie, but in reality will be a short promotional video. It's been great fun (or it was until filming me was mentioned). What I've seen so far looks amazing and I can't wait to see the finished product. Watch this space (and YouTube!).

Friday, April 06, 2012

Going Viral!

I've been using pinterest for a few months now; to collect recipe ideas. Imagine my surprise at logging in yesterday and seeing a photograph of a cheese wedding cake which I made last summer right there on the homepage!

It was a photograph taken by Chloe Browne, pinned by a lady in California, from a blog article by 100 layer cake. I'm not sure if the total number of re-pins is recorded anywhere, but by the end of the day it felt like the cheese wedding cake photograph was everywhere. It's lovely to see it capturing so many people's imagination and being added to their wedding mood boards. The feedback has been great!