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The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.  ~Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case, 1995

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Oooh! Strong words but you have to admit he has a point. I love my coffee and not much happens in the morning before I’ve had at least 2. And by that I mean two perfect cups of coffee made just the way I like them right down to which cup they are served in. At the risk of sounding like the subject of a documentary on OCD I like the first one with hot milk served in a tea cup. The second one I like as a straight up espresso served in the same cup so that it gets a whiff of the milk from the first. If I get this all is well in the world, if not, lets just say you take the rough with the smooth.

Until recently I’ve never thought of myself as a coffee snob. I am addicted yes, but my addiction is nothing if not all inclusive. I’ll drink just about anything thats on offer if my preferred ritual cannot be observed. I would even go so far as to say I like the frappes you get in every Greek taverna that are nothing more than Nescafe whipped to within an inch of it’s freeze dried life with ice cubes, sugar and milk. The association is not with how horrid the coffee is but with the fact that it’s being served to you with the hot Greek sun on your back by a swarthy extra from Shirley Valentine. Come to think of it I have been introduced to quite a few Greek traditions over the years after a wee bit too much sun. Retsina being just one of them.

There’s no doubt about it we have become a nation of coffee converts. You only have see the proliferation of high street coffee shops to see that with your own eyes. Words like “Tall, Grande and Vente’ have become common parlance to a whole generation who, unlike me, cannot remember L.B.C ( Life Before Cuppuccino) But, if like me you are lucky enough to be surrounded by decent independent coffee shops you can taste for yourself the difference between mass produced coffee beans and the kind rosted and blended in small quantities with love, care and just a smattering of obsession.

One company doing just that is The Small Batch Coffee Company in Brighton who import beans in small quantities from all over the world changing the selection to suit the growing seasons of the producing countries. The house espresso blend is currently made up of three coffees from Nicaragua, India and Ethiopia and like all the other blends they create are ethically sourced from sustainable estates. I bought some the other day for no better reason than I like to support small local businesses and it wasn’t my money I was spending. And I am so, so glad I did. We go through a lot of coffee in my place of work and I had been buying whole beans from Lavazza. A good work horse of a brand if ever there was one but after trying out my new beans Lavazza is, not to put too finer point on it, dead to me. Even the colour of the Small Batch beans spoke of richness and quality and as I poured them into the grinder I swear I could feel the beginnings of a coffee buzz. The difference between the end product made from commercial beans and freshly roasted ones is crystal clear and has left me worrying what I’m going to do if I get caught short without a supply of my new favourite beans. Maybe I’ll have another espresso and think about it.

If you want to experience the difference for yourself you can visit the Small Batch Coffee Company’s roastery at 68 Goldstone Villas, Hove, east Sussex BN3 3RU ( 01273 220 246) or visit them at www.smallbatchcoffee.co.uk to buy beans on line.

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