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Ultimate Hot Chocolate

7 Nov 2014 11:53:34

Making The Ultimate Hot Chocolate

From time to time, our customers ask for new recipes for seasonal drinks, mainly because consumers are becoming increasingly adventurous when they order their coffee or hot chocolate. While flavoured coffees are still extremely popular during the cold winter months, hot chocolate has recently been making a major comeback. This may be because the revolution in flavoured and speciality coffees started by the High Street coffee shop chains has started to run out of new ideas. Hot chocolate, neglected for so long, is expected to be next in line for a makeover.

Hot Chocolate

About this recipe: Although this drinking chocolate has a luxurious and velvety taste, it’s made using the very simplest of ingredients, so you don’t need to start ordering lots of new items to make it. Just make sure you use good quality ingredients to achieve the best results.

Ingredients (makes a 12oz drink)

Use a 28g (standard scoop) of the best quality hot chocolate powder you can get your hands on (our favourite and best seller is Zuma Original)

Mix with a little hot water, just enough to make a smooth paste, then add steamed milk (preferably whole milk), and stir together.

Add two shots of your favourite Routin or Monin syrup – this year’s favourites are Orange Curacao, Black Forest, Frosted Mint and Tiramisu. Avoid the temptation to add more shots, it could get too sweet when you add a few toppings……

For ultimate indulgence, top with some whipped cream, mini marshmallows (these melt better than the large ones) and a drizzle of chocolate sauce or a light dusting of cinnamon powder.

If that doesn’t keep your customers happy, then make sure you read our blog regularly, we’ll be adding more ideas soon. And don’t be scared to be creative – there are so many flavours of syrup available that work well in hot chocolate, you will never run out of new drinks to put on your menu.

A1 Coffee


0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

Science Finally Uncovers Coffee's Genetic Code

Scientists have finally managed to sequence the coffee bean genome, a significant technical breakthrough that, as well as giving us new insights into one of our favourite drinks, opens the door to genetic engineering.

GM Coffee

Around sixty international scientists and researchers worked on the project  to pinpoint all the genes that make up the Robusta coffee bean, the variety that makes up around 35 percent of the world’s coffee consumption. Other groups of researchers are still working on sequencing the more complex Arabica variety, which contains approximately twice the amount of genetic information as Robusta.

An unexpected discovery was made by the team in the process, however. The Robusta bean’s method of producing caffeine is completely different to the method used by the cocoa bean, implying that the two don’t have a common ancestor. It seems that pollinators like bees are more drawn to coffee plants than some other caffeine-bearing species, and it is the caffeine that draws these pollinators to keep coming back, ensuring the survival of the species. All clever stuff.

So what’s the point in sequencing the Robusta genome you may be asking? One reason is that if we know how the plants produces its’ caffeine in the first place, it could be possible to create a genetically modified bean containing no caffeine. This would mean that coffee beans wouldn’t have to go through the decaffeination process at all, they could just be grown to produce no caffeine, a bit like producing seedless grapes.

Of course, the very thought of growing GM coffee beans is bound to be unpopular with some, proven by the fact that a number of GMO coffee crops designed to be pest-resistant have already been vandalised or even destroyed in South America and Hawaii. However, the opposite argument is that genetically modified coffee bean crops, together with other plant-breeding technology may be the only realistic way for us to continue producing the volumes we need. Global warming, fungus and pests are causing increasing problems in some parts of the world, and diminishing crops in some parts of the world together with an expected continuation of the growth in consumption could ultimately lead to a shortage and therefore an increase in prices.

Starbucks (SBUX), Nestle (NESN:VX) and others are already taking precautions against such an eventuality, according to a recent article in Bloomberg Business Week. They have been involved in developing hardier varieties that are more resistant to pests and climatic extremes, and are aiming to distribute over 200 million plantlets to coffee growing regions within the next 6 years.

World Coffee Research is now attempting to decode the genome of nearly 1000 Arabica samples taken in the 50s and 60s to determine which strains can be crossbred to produce the hardiest plants. The hope is that the project with lead to the production of Arabica coffee plants that are more resistant to pests, rust, worms and disease and generate a yield of quality coffee beans without the risks of a failed crop.

So the sequencing of the Robusta genetic code is the first step in this process, as it’s a more simple type of the same basic plant, and is a huge leap forward in this particular field of research. The World Coffee Research blog post stated that having just half of the Arabica bean’s genome will accelerate their progress in breeding varieties that can withstand climate change and disease better than the crops we currently rely on.

One thing is certain – without the work of our scientists and researchers, we could be running short of coffee in the not-so-distant future. Not a future that bears thinking about!

A1 Coffee

0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

10 Reasons For Drinking Coffee Everyday

Our consumption of coffee has been steadily growing over the last few decades and is showing no signs of slowing down. High Street coffee chains are finding ever more innovative ways to keep our interest, and therefore, to keep drinking coffee more than ever before.

Countless articles have been written about the health benefits (or otherwise) of drinking coffee, so we thought we’d pull all this information together and see whether there really are good reasons to drink coffee on a daily basis.

It’s been shown that an amazing 54% of Americans drink coffee every day, usually as a way of kick-starting their day at breakfast times, and some countries (particularly in Scandinavia and Southern Europe) have even higher numbers than this. So here are our top 10 reasons for being a regular coffee drinker.

A1 Coffee


1.   Coffee Could Lower The Chance of Developing Skin Cancer

A study conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School followed 112,897 men and women over a 20-year period and their findings appear to indicate that women who drink three or more cups of coffee each day are less likely to develop skin cancer than women who drink no coffee at all. The study didn’t mention any statistics for men though!

2.   Consumption of Coffee May Lower Suicide Levels

A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that drinking between two and four cups of coffee each day reduces the incidents of suicide among both men and women by nearly 50 percent. One of the reasons put forward to explain this is that coffee has been shown to act as an antidepressant by aiding in the production of the body’s neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline and serotonin. A number of other studies appear to concur with these findings.

3.   The Aroma of Coffee Can Reduce Stress

A group of researchers at Seoul University in South Korea looked at the brains of laboratory rats who were displaying signs of stress caused by deprivation and found that the rats exposed to the aroma of coffee displayed changes in the levels of brain proteins  linked to stress. The study only covered stress caused by lack of sleep rather than more general stress, though other studies have shown similar finding when looking at other specific causes of stress in humans.

4.   Coffee Could Reduce The Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

It was reported in ScienceDaily that drinking coffee may help people with Parkinson's disease control their movement.  The study author, Ronald Postuma MD said that studies have shown people who regularly drink appear to be at a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease. However, an additional study also found that caffeine can also assist  movement symptoms for people who already have Parkinson’s.

5.   Coffee Makes People Happy

Another study, this time carried out by the National Institute of Health concluded that people drinking a minimum of four cups of coffee each day were 10 percent less likely to show signs of depression than those who drink no coffee at all. This has been put down to the levels of antioxidants present  in coffee rather than a caffeine high (cocaine consumption can also give a caffeine high but actually increases the chances of depression).

6.   Coffee Can Increase Your Brainpower

Really? Well think about it, you normally go for a cup of coffee when you’re short of sleep or need to stay alert. That jolt not only helps to keep you from falling asleep, it really does mentally sharpen you up and improve your reactions. CNN reported that drinking coffee can allow the brain to function more efficiently. No matter what measure is used - reaction times, observation, attention span, logic, reasoning skills – all show an improvement after consuming coffee. So if you’re in need of something to keep you alert on a long journey, it really is true that there’s little that can beat a good cup of coffee.

7.   Coffee Keeps Your Liver Healthy (Especially If You Drink Alcohol)

A huge study involving over 120,000 people published in 2006 concluded that people drinking at least one cup of coffee daily were up to 20 percent less likely to develop  cirrhosis of the liver  - a serious disease caused by the excessive drinking of alcohol that can result in liver failure or the development of cancer. The head author of the study, Arthur Klatsky, reported that the consumption of coffee has a protective effect on the liver, particularly against alcoholic cirrhosis, and the higher the daily coffee consumption, the lower the risk appears to be of developing fatal cirrhosis of the liver.

Further studies carried out elsewhere have concluded that drinking coffee can assist in preventing people from developing NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). An international team of scientists discovered that drinking at least four cups of coffee a day can be beneficial in preventing the development of NAFLD.

8.   Coffee Can Improve Your Sporting Performance.

An article in New York Times reported that "Scientists and athletes alike have known for years that a cup of coffee prior to a workout jolts athletic performance, especially in endurance sports like distance running and cycling." The caffeine present in coffee can increase the levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream, which in turn allows athletes' muscles to absorb and burn fats for fuel, and therefore saving small reserves of carbohydrates for later on in the exercise. This is particularly useful for endurance athletes such as marathon runners and long distance cyclists.

9.   Coffee Can Lower The Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

As we mentioned in one of our coffee articles a few weeks ago, coffee reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A study carried out by researchers at the American Chemical Society concluded that  cases of type 2 diabetes are around 50 percent lower among people drinking a minimum of four cups of coffee a day. Subsequently, the risk drops by a further 7 percent for every additional daily cup of coffee consumed, though of course there are other health implications in doing this.

10. Coffee Can Keep Your Brain Healthy.

Studies carried out by the University of South Florida concluded that both men and women over 65 years of age with higher blood levels of caffeine developed Alzheimer's disease between two and four years later than those with lower levels of caffeine in their blood. They pointed out that coffee consumption cannot be shown to completely protect people from Alzheimer's, but that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce the risk of Alzheimer's or at least delay its onset.

We hope this article has been of interest, if you have anything to add to this, please let us know and we will include it in a future article.

A1 Coffee



0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

Cleaning Your Espresso Machine

5 Sep 2014 08:23:09

Cleaning Your Espresso Machine

Firstly, let’s clearify who this article is intended for. We’re talking about commercial espresso machines here, not domestic machines or fully automatic units. If you have a commercial machine with portafilters and group heads, then read on. Please bear in mind that you should always consult your manufacturer handbook in the first instance, this guide is simply to highlight the importance of keeping your kit clean and give you some hints and tips on how to go about it. 

Cleaning An Espresso Machine 

Why clean my equipment at all?

It’s pretty simple really, coffee beans contain oils which are what creates a lovely crema on the top of your espresso. Unfortunately, the same oil also leaves a residue on your filter basket, portafilter, group head - anything it comes into contact with. Brass surfaces are particularly prone to attracting a film of oil and therefore, this residue needs to be removed. 

What happens if I don’t clean my machine?

The first thing you’ll notice is that your coffee won’t taste very good. It will deteriorate to the point where it’s undrinkable, no matter how good your beans are or how good a barista you think you are. What goes into the cup should be the best coffee you can produce, and this won’t happen if old coffee oil residue is being dragged through the machine when brewing. Additionally, the holes in your filter baskets will block, and you could in time be storing up a major failure in your espresso machine.

How often do I need to clean the machine?

Before we cover the routine cleaning of the machine, let’s just make sure you’re looking after it while it’s in use. You should purge and wipe your steam wand off after every use to prevent milk bonding itself to the steam arm or solidifying inside the pipe. Milk is a breeding ground for bacteria and so the steam arm needs to be kept spotlessly clean at all times.

Cleaning Procedure

You should be cleaning your espresso machine at the end of each session. Again, ensure you read this in conjunction with your operating instructions.

  1. First, remove the filter basket from the portafilter and install a blind insert.
  2. Pour 1 level teaspoon of espresso cleaning powder into your portafilter and insert it back into the machine.
  3. Use the brewing switch and run the machine for approx 5 seconds. Stop the brewing cycle for a few seconds and then repeat it twice more (each time you stop the cycle, you will hear the cleaning solution backwashing the group head and pipe work).
  4. When the cleaning cycle has finished, remove the portafilter and rinse the powder from the machine by pressing for a double espresso.
  5. Rinse the portafilter thoroughly under the hot water tap before replacing back into the machine.
  6. Rinse the portafilters well under the hot water tap to remove all cleaner before replacing them back into the machine.
  7. Remove the filter baskets from your portafilters and place them into a container of warm water with 1 teaspoon of espresso cleaner powder and leave to soak overnight. Rinse well with cold water in the morning.

Equipment Troubleshooting


Shower plate/diffuser is blocked with ground coffee.


Replace the filter basket with a blank filter basket.

Wipe the group head diffuser with a wet cloth.

Place the basket-holder back into the group head and turn the coffee switch on.

After a few seconds, loosen the basket holder so that the water is allowed to run over the sides. Continue the process of loosening and tightening for around 15-20 seconds.

PLEASE NOTE: This process should be carried out after every 150 coffees per group head.



The internal system of the group head needs cleaning due to ground coffee and lime scale build-up.


Replace the filter basket with a blank filter, and add quarter a teaspoon of powder destainer into the basket.

Put the basket holder back into the group head and press the coffee switch on for approximately 10 seconds.

Press the coffee switch off and watch the residue dripping out of the valve, which is situated just behind the group head. Keep switching on and off until the residue from the valve is totally clear.

PLEASE NOTE: This process should be completed daily, generally at the close of business. Remember to run a coffee through each group head after cleaning in order to prime the machine ready for serving to guests.



Filter basket holes blocked due to lime scale and burnt coffee build-up.


Place the filter baskets in a bath of powder destainer overnight, and rinse thoroughly with boiling water before use.

Hold the basket up to the light and make sure the size of the holes is uniform.



Coffee may pour over the sides of the basket holder.


Remove the diffuser and shower holder with the aid of a screwdriver.

Pick out the gasket with the aid of a fine screwdriver. If the gasket has hardened or cracked it must be replaced.



The handle of the basket holder needs to be pushed too far to the right


Replace the gasket as instructed above.



Water coming out of the diffuser is dividing into separate jets.


Repeat the actions for problems 1 and 2.


Steam arm



Every time milk is frothed, the steam arm becomes covered in milk.


The steam arm should be wiped immediately with a wet cloth each time it is used.



A milk crush has formed on the steam arm.



Place the end of the steam arm in a cup of hot water.

Leave to soak for 10-15 minutes and wipe the residue off with a wet cloth.

Cover the spout with a thick cloth and open the steam knob to maximum.

Allow the steam to come out for five seconds, let any residue pour out then switch off the steam.

To recap, the following should be performed on a daily basis:

-          Strip down group handles and clean internally and externally (dishwasher safe).

-          Place a bank filter into the group handle.

-          Place the handle in the machine and flush for 15 seconds using the manual switch.

-          Remove and place ¼ teaspoon of espresso machine cleaner in the blank filter.

-          Insert in the group head and flush with the manual switch for 15 seconds.

-          Repeat the process.

-          Turn the machine on and off repeatedly watching the overflow pipe at the back behind the group head. Repeat the process until water runs clear.

-          Wipe the seal and shower plate with a soft cloth.

-          Repeat the process on the other group-heads daily.

-          Before service please ensure you pull off one shot of espresso from each group head to ensure all residue of powder is removed.

-          Outer Casing: Wipe over with a soft cloth and hot water then dry immediately with a paper towel. Do not use any chemicals on stainless steel surfaces.

-          Steam Wands: only use soft cloths. If solid milk is involved, soak in a cup of water (or soda) for ½ hour maximum and wipe off. NEVER USE A SCOURER OR KNIFE.

-          Drip trays: remove and clean in sink/dishwasher

-          Grinder: wipe over (as the machine).

-          Reminder of coffee shelf life: Beans 7 days, Ground 1 hour

-          Bean hopper: clean with water and clean cloth. Ensure it is DRY before replacing beans.

-          Most of the accessories can be placed in the dishwasher (milk jugs, 7g scoops) but please do not place the thermometers in the dishwasher as they will become damaged. Rinse in warm, soapy water in the sink.

0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

Health Benefits of Decaf Coffee

3 Sep 2014 11:59:38

Possible Health Benefits of Drinking Decaf Coffee

We’ve noticed a definite shift towards decaf coffee in the last year or two as consumers are increasingly looking for healthier versions of their favourite foods and drinks. Of course it’s nothing new, decaffeinated coffee has been around for decades, but now you’ll see it right at the top of the drinks list at pretty much any coffee shop you care to visit.

Decaf Coffee

So are there real health benefits to drinking decaf? There are many studies published that say there are definite and measurable benefits, so we took at a look at one of the more prominent pieces of research. Studies conducted by Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, professor of neurology and psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City concentrated on how decaf coffee could potentially be used to treat or even prevent mental decline.

Coffee beans contain a number of different substances that contribute to its taste and aroma, some of which his team tested to determine if there were any identifiable positive health benefits. Caffeic acid, a phenol based chemical, has in particular been found to contain elements that have both anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties. Coffee also contains a substance called chlorogenic acid, which has already been proven to help minimise glucose production in the liver, which in turn prevents hyperglycemic peak after ingesting food and drinks with high sugar content.

So if coffee contains all of these positive elements, why is decaf the preferred healthy option? It’s simply because the caffeine present in coffee still poses a small potential risk of triggering heart diseases. Once removed, the full health benefits of coffee become more viable. Dr Pasinetti’s study also revealed that decaffeinated coffee can enhance the metabolism of sugar and help convert it to energy. This is particularly interesting because type 2 diabetes can lead to mental decline due to reduced sugar metabolism in the brain. Therefore, there is a strong and well published link between decaf coffee and the prevention of mental decline caused by diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

To be clear, the health benefits go beyond the absence of caffeine in decaf. The actual decaffeination process itself leaves behind a substance called cafestrol, which has been shown to enhance the body’s production of bile acid, as well as having anti inflammatory properties that are particularly beneficial to the brain. The process of decaffeination, however, does not reduce the level of antioxidants present in coffee.

So there are very few reasons to avoid decaf unless you particularly need it to kick start your day or keep you awake on a long drive. If you’re drinking coffee purely for the taste, then it’s definitely worth considering. Gone are the days when decaf had a nasty aftertaste or was viewed as somehow inferior to standard coffee. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but this is simply due to the cost of processing it.

In summary, Dr Pasinetti’s studies confirmed the findings from many other similar pieces of work, namely:

  • Decaf coffee can reduce the risk of developing diabetes

The anti-oxidant properties of decaf coffee can protect the cells from damage that can lead to diabetes. The decaf process doesn’t remove the chlorogenic acid content which is responsible for regulating blood glucose levels.

  • Cancer prevention

Decaffeinate coffee still contains high levels of the anti-oxidants that can prevent conditions associated with both the aging process and a number of cancers. A number of studies agree that regular drinkers of decaf display a reduced risk of developing colon cancer. For women, there is also a corresponding reduction in the risk of breast cancer.

  • Decreased risk of heart problems.

As mentioned, caffeine has been linked to number of heart conditions including irregular palpitations, heart attacks and strokes. The removal of the caffeine (without reducing the levels of antioxidants) can help reduce the risk of developing a wide variety of heart conditions.

  • Prevention of mental decline due to age and Alzheimer's.

The polyphenols found in coffee beans are still present after the decaffeination process, these being the substances responsible for increasing cognitive abilities with the brain, thus further improving memory.

Decaf Coffee

As we’ve said, we’ve used one study as an example, and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the benefits are real. This information is intended to be read in association with other studies and is not the results of any work carried out by us.

Have a look at the decaffeinated coffees now available and ask yourself if there is any good reason not to switch. If you can contribute any more to this, please feel free to email us.

A1 Coffee

0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

Choosing The Right Coffee Machine

From filter coffee makers to traditional espresso machines, the range of coffee equipment available can be overwhelming. However, if you have just a little essential knowledge, you can easily navigate the world of coffee machines and get the right machine for you.

Not so long ago, making a cup of coffee was no more complicated than deciding on your favourite brand of instant coffee and boiling a kettle. How things have changed! The proliferation of coffee shops throughout the world has made us all more particular in what we choose to drink. Not content with drinking lattes and cappuccinos in our local coffee shop, an incredible 20% of UK households now own a coffee machine so we can enjoy our favourite creation at home.

So here is our easy to follow guide on how to choose the right type of coffee machine for you.

There are a number of basic ways to make coffee, and depending on your own preference, some will be more suitable to you than others. Let’s take a look at the main types of coffee machine on the market.



Without doubt the cheapest way to make ‘proper’ coffee, a cafetiere is a glass or plastic jug with a plunger mechanism built in. You simply add boiling water to the ground coffee you’ve placed in the cafetiere, allow it to brew for a short time and then press down on the plunger to push all the coffee grounds to the bottom. Easy!

For:  Make decent coffee from about £10 upwards, portable, no power supply needed (other than boiling water).

Against:  You can’t make espresso, latte or cappuccinos, similar to filter coffee makers.


Filter Coffee Machines

Available for both homes and businesses, all filter coffee machines work in the same way. Cold water is poured in the top, and it’s then heated and dripped through a filter paper containing your ground coffee. The finished jug of coffee sits on a hotplate, keeping it warm so you can keep coming back for refills.

For:  Easy to use, coffee can be kept hot for hours, low price of machines.

Against:  You can only make one type of coffee – no espressos, lattes or cappuccinos. Filter coffee flavoured with syrups are not to everyone’s taste.


Capsule Coffee Machines

Available from most High Street department stores, there is now a huge range of great little machines to choose from. The coffee is pre-measured and packed in foil capsules that you place into the machine, and the rest is usually done at the touch of a button. They’re normally a doddle to clean and the coffee is often very good quality, especially if you’ve gone with a branded coffee such as Lavazza.

For:  Wide range of machines, make most types of coffee from espresso to lattes, easy to clean.

Against:  You can only use your manufacturer’s pods, and so they tend to be expensive. 


Pump Espresso Machines

These are small, normally domestic, espresso machines that contain a high-pressure pump to produce an espresso which you can then use as the base for lots of other drinks including macchiatos, lattes and cappuccinos. Available in High Street stores from around £100, though at this price don’t expect a machine that will last for years.

For:  Make a wide range of espresso-based drinks, low price, not limited to a small range of coffee

Against:  Low priced machines can have short life spans, can be fiddly to clean


Traditional Espresso Machines

These are the larger commercial espresso machines you will recognise from High Street coffee houses such as Costa and Starbucks. Designed to be used all day long and give many years of service, they are expensive and bulky, making them unsuitable for domestic use. However, in recent years, some manufacturers have made smaller slimline units that could be used at home, provided your pockets are deep enough. And don’t forget you’ll need a grinder too.

For:  This is how coffee should be made, reliable and long lasting machines

Against:  Expensive, suitable for commercial use


Bean To Cup Coffee Machines

Bean to cup machines contain an integral grinder and espresso machine that are automated in such a way that you can pour your beans in the top, press a button and get an espresso straight into your cup. This means that no barista knowledge is needed and there’s no need for a separate grinder, making them space efficient too. However, having everything in one box means there’s more to go wrong, particularly in cheaper machines where some of the internal components are built down to a price.

For:  Freshly ground coffee from one piece of kit, no barista knowledge needed

Against:  More to go wrong, can be fiddly to clean, cheap machines can be unreliable



While we appreciate that there are many other ways of making coffee not covered in this article, we’ve tried to keep it simple. Some people we speak with are unaware of which type of machine best suits them, and without doubt many people have either made the wrong decision or been given poor advice, leaving them with a machine that’s not suitable for their needs.

When choosing a machine, don’t forget to also look at the ease of cleaning, the warranty cover you will get, and how easy they are to use. Review websites and online forums are a great source of opinion from people who already have the equipment you may be considering buying, so spend some time seeing what others before you have experienced.

0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

A1 Coffee and Clic Sargent

21 Jul 2014 15:33:42

A1 Coffee and Clic Sargent

July 2014

During July 2014, A1 Coffee teamed up with Clic Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for children with cancer. With immediate effect, we now make a 50p donation for every single box of our own Planet Java coffee that we sell, whether it’s coffee beans or cases of filter coffee.

Planet Java coffee is exclusive to us here at A1 Coffee, and is a range of coffee beans and ground coffee that includes a decaf, several Fairtrade varieties, an organic blend and many more. Of course, our existing customers will know that we take our community responsibilities seriously, and we have always strived to offer recyclable products and Fairtrade goods wherever possible, right across our range.

Clic Sargent is one of the most deserving charities we could possibly have chosen to support and we hope to raise a substantial amount towards their efforts. It’s a cause that is impossible not to have admiration for, and so we decided it was the right thing to do for so many reasons.

Clic Sargent

Today, 10 children and young people in the UK will hear the shocking news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Being diagnosed with cancer is a frightening experience and the emotional, practical and financial implications of treatment are intensely challenging for the whole family.

CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families. We provide clinical, practical, financial and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. We are there from diagnosis onwards and aim to help the whole family deal with the impact of cancer and its treatment, life after treatment and, in some cases, bereavement.

Please help A1 Coffee to support this excellent cause by sharing this article with your friends and colleagues. We will be providing updates throughout the year detailing our progress and we hope to be involved with further initiatives in the very near future. You can follow this on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and of course on our own blog. Our own blog also contains useful articles on how to make coffees and iced drinks, how to look after your coffee equipment, and information about new trends and what customers are looking for.

We’re open to writing articles for our customers on request, so if there is anything in particular you would like us to cover, we’re all ears. Don’t forget to join us on your chosen social networking site (we’re on all of them!) and get access to discount vouchers, special offers and some just plain funny stuff too.

Finally, we’d like to thank you all of our customers who have already given us positive feedback regarding our Clic Sargent campaign, and to thank you for helping us spread the word about their good work. It’s much appreciated.

Thank you for your support.

The A1 Coffee Team

July 2014

0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

What’s So Special About Arabica Coffee?

Have you ever wondered why it is that Arabica coffee is mentioned as a selling point on some coffees and why it seems to attract a higher price as well? A quick online search will return hundreds of results for coffees boasting ‘100% pure Arabica beans’ or ‘blended using Arabica coffee’. 

The answer is a lot more simple than you might think. Most coffee blends are made using either Arabica or Robusta, and most of the time, a mixture of the two in varying ratios. Robusta cherries contain, on average, just over twice the caffeine of Arabica cherries (which you might think is a good thing!) and more caffeine that almost any other major coffee type. Caffeine itself has a slightly bitter taste, and this shows up in the blending process when Robusta is used, resulting in a bitter and slightly burnt taste. Arabica, by contrast, contains far less caffeine and therefore results in a smoother and less bitter flavour. 

Of course, the blending and roasting processes can correct much of this, and so there’s no need to be put off drinking coffee that is primarily made using Robusta beans, unless it’s cheap and nasty coffee anyway. Generally speaking, the more Arabica that is used in a given blend, the smoother and less bitter it will taste (assuming it has been made properly of course), with 100% Arabica coffee being particularly sought after by many coffee drinkers. 

Another factor that makes Arabica coffee more desirable than other types is that the plants it comes from are less hardy than Robusta coffee plants, and therefore they are more expensive to source. In some years with adverse weather conditions, the price will increase more than other types of coffee simply because the plants haven’t produced the same sized crop as normal. Arabica is also more susceptible to pests and needs very specific climactic conditions including soil with low acidity levels, an evenly distributed amount of regular rainfall and a temperature averaging around 20 C.  

Arabica Beans

All of these factor contribute to a higher price, which in turn means it’s not used as much in cheaper coffee blends. 

Robusta plants, on the other hand, can grow at lower altitudes and don’t require the same precise weather conditions to thrive. The are less vulnerable to pests and each tree can produce as much as double the crop of a similar Arabica tree. That’s not to say that Robustas are always inferior - like anything else, there is varying quality and the very best can produce an outstanding espresso for example, and there are also Arabicas that are of below average quality too. However, taken as a whole, Arabica is generally reckoned to be of superior quality. 

Ultimately of course, all of this is irrelevant if you prefer the taste of something else. Try a 100% Arabica blend and then try a few with more Robusta and see if you can tell the difference - it should be quite noticeable. Most instant coffee (unless it states otherwise), together with supermarket own-brand ground coffee will be made up predominantly, or exclusively, of Robusta beans.  

As with most things, you get what you pay for. So next time you see a coffee being advertised as 100% Arabica, you’ll know why you’re having to pay that little bit more for it. 

A1 Coffee

0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

Coffee Cultures From Around The World

Here in the UK, we’ve developed a taste in recent years for cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and mochas that just a few decades ago, were completely absent from the High Street. As a result, many people assume this is how the rest of the world drink their coffee and some get a real shock when they travel abroad to find that their request for their favourite skinny caramel latte is met with a blank expression!

So how is coffee consumed in other countries around the world? We’ve taken some countries at random where coffee is taken seriously, and compared them to ourselves. Take a look and see how varied some of these coffee cultures are, and feel free to let us know about your own experiences when travelling overseas.

1.   France Café au Lait

This famous drink (simply coffee served with hot milk in a mug or large cup) made it to the shores of the UK some time ago. This is consumed at breakfast time, and is traditionally served in a cup wide enough to allow a croissant to be dunked in. Available pretty much anywhere and about as basic as a coffee recipe can be (except for the croissant of course). They have joined the rest of the world in recent years, with the familiar Starbucks outlets in every major town.

2.   Italy Cappuccino, Latte, Mocha, Ristretto, Macchiato

It’s fair to say that the Italians know a bit about coffee, and are responsible for many of the Italian-sounding concoctions you’ll see in any branch of Costa. Not that you’ll find a branch of Costa in Italy though, they don’t do chains of coffee shops, preferring family run bars and cafes instead. They don’t actually drink latte (which literally just means ‘milk’) and rarely add syrups, whipped cream and other such flavourings, preferring instead to drink mostly espressos.

Most of the best known brands of coffee beans are Italian, such as Lavazza, Segafredo and Illy.

Italy Coffee

And don’t order a cappuccino after midday unless you want the barista to roll his eyes or just point-blank refuse – it’s considered to be something only drunk at breakfast time, usually with a sweet croissant or pastry. After midday, it’s espresso or macchiato unless you’re a tourist. Italians drinks around 14 billion espressos each year!

3.   Turkey

Turkish coffee is rarely seen in the UK, mainly because it’s so far removed from what we here would call a cup of coffee. It’s usually served from a long-handled copperpot in small cups about the size of an espresso, and is thick, black and extremely sweet. Turkish citizens who come here to live or work in the UK won’t find any coffee widely available that will remind them of home, and so they often drink espresso or ristretto with lots of sugar, or simply make traditional Turkish coffee themselves at home.

4.   Cuba

Another nation that prefers its coffee thick and strong is Cuba. Here though, it’s very much a social event consumed in a similar way to alcoholic shots, but in no way limited to the evenings. Many Cubans enjoy their coffee first thing in the morning, throughout the day and particularly after meals. It’s not quite as strong as the Turkish brew however, and is quite acceptable to Europeans palates.

5.   Ethiopia

The Ethiopians should know a bit about coffee – their country is the birthplace of the stuff. They do take it pretty seriously too, with the traditional brewing process of ‘Buna’ as it’s known, taking anything up to 2 hours. It’s a social thing here, drunk with guests and friends and served with salt or butter instead of milk (which isn’t always available).

Many other countries drink their coffee in forms that would seem strange to us here in the UK. In Japan for instance, coffee in cans is extremely popular and has been for decades. It’s available from vending machines in both hot and cold forms, allowing busy commuters the chance to grab one on the go.

In Saudi Arabia and other Arabic cultures, coffee ceremonies follow many rules of etiquette, including always serving the elders first. It is also a common custom to serve this a cardamom-spiced coffee with dried fruit such as dates, partly to compensate for the bitterness of the coffee.

In Mexico, Café de olla is a spiced coffee brewed with cinnamon sticks in earthenware pots. Not to everyone’s taste, the Mexicans say it brings out the taste of the coffee. Each to their own of course!

Mexican Coffee

In Vietnam, they have been drinking iced coffee for years. Unlike us, however, they like theirs made with very dark roasted beans and sweetened using condensed milk.   

Australia. Ever since an influx of Italian immigrants after World War 2, Australians have been drinking coffee like the Italians and enjoying a real café culture of their own. The now world famous flat white originated here (see our article on how to make one), though don’t mention this if you are visiting New Zealand – they also claim to have invented it!

Last but not least, our cousins in the US are prolific coffee drinkers thanks to chains such as Starbucks. While the menu in a US branch of Starbucks is little different to one here, they do like filter coffee more than we do, and take their frappes and iced drinks with far more cream, sugar and chocolate sauce than many European countries.

Starbucks Frappuccino

It seems that no two countries have exactly the same taste when it comes to coffee, and this should be considered a good thing. We have absorbed a wide variety coffee drinks from Italy, France, Australia and the USA, and if we hadn’t, we might still all be drinking instant!  



0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett

Lavazza Coffee Buying Guide

25 Jun 2014 13:51:38

Lavazza Coffee Guide

A1 Coffee, June 2014

Lavazza Coffee

Shopping for espresso coffee beans can be a baffling experience unless you already know what you’re looking for. We only stock one major brand of coffee beans – Lavazza – and there are still a large number of different blends to choose from.

We therefore decided to put together this easy-to-follow guide to help you choose the right Lavazza coffee for you. Please note this isn’t an advert or a buyers’ guide, simply an explanation of the origins, flavour and suitability of the range of Lavazza coffee beans.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether you are buying coffee beans for use in your coffee shop or just to enjoy at home, the principal is the same – if it tastes good to you, it should taste good to your customers too. The only thing to factor in is the price – you may be prepared to pay that little bit more for what you drink at home, for obvious reasons.

Another point to make before we describe these great Lavazza coffees is that taste can’t be measured. We are often asked whether one blend tastes better than another, and the answer always has to be that taste is a subjective thing, what one person loves another may dislike and vice versa. We can of course use quality as a guide, but as an example, my personal favourite and the blend often recommended by Lavazza is not the most expensive in their range. We’ll therefore stick with the facts rather than try to tell you how great we think it tastes to us.

Lavazza coffee beans are broadly split into two different categories, those in red bags and those in blue bags. Lavazza red tends to be found more in cash and carries, supermarkets and high street shops. Lavazza blue is a more premium range aimed at coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and so on. We only sell the Lavazza blue range so we’ll only be talking about those in this article.

Lavazza Super Crema

Super Crema has always been our best selling coffee beans as it offers the best balance between price and quality. It’s also a bit of an all-rounder in that you can make pretty much any type of coffee with it and it will still work. Make an espresso with it and you’ll get a thick crema (as the name would suggest), but try a long latte with two sugars and a shot of caramel syrup and it will still taste of coffee, unlike some other blends that get overpowered.

Super Crema is blended from washed Brazilian coffee beans to give it depth, and other varieties from Central America and Indonesia, to give it the creamy texture it’s known for. It’s medium roasted as you’d expect, so it’s neither too mild nor burnt and bitter. If you’re looking for Lavazza coffee beans, we would always recommend this blend unless you have a specific reason to be using anything else.


Lavazza Grand Espresso

This is one of the best sellers here in the UK. It’s blended from Central American, Highland South American and Asian beans to give it a balanced flavour and is medium roasted to produce a coffee that has a stronger than average taste. There are hints of spice and chocolate, brought out by the roasting process. Like all Lavazza blue coffee beans, it’s suitable for making pretty much all espresso-based coffee drinks, but is particularly suited to straight espresso or macchiatos. 


Lavazza Tierra

Lavazza don’t have a Fairtrade coffee in their range, preferring instead to have control over where the money is going and doing it their own way. Lavazza Tierra is a sustainable development project combining product quality with improved living conditions for the three small-scale coffee growing communities involved.

What they’ve done is single out three disadvantaged coffee producing communities in Honduras, Colombia and Peru and then provides technical assistance to help make their farms sustainable. The communities are in medium to high altitude areas and produce only Arabica beans, resulting in a blend that, on paper at least, is about as good as it gets. The Tierra beans instead of being Fairtrade still have that feel-good factor thanks to this initiative, and this is reinforced by their use of 30% Rainforest Alliance certified beans in the Tierra blend.

Lavazza’s own description of this blend is that it’s composed of Central and South American Arabica mild beans with the aroma and intense, liquorish flavours of Central American coffee beans combined with the delicate acidic aroma of South American beans. Mellow and thick crema.

Most opinion out there on coffee forums and social media seems to agree that it’s got a dark and high-roasted taste to it that suits drinks like macchiatos, flat whites and cortados in particular. If you’re looking for an espresso, the Super Crema will do the job just as well but at a lower price, unless of course its ethical credentials are more important to you. It’s a seriously good coffee but has split opinion amongst coffee drinkers over its taste, so we’d recommend you try it first before committing to larger quantities in case it’s not your cup of tea (apologies).  


Lavazza Pienaroma

Pienaroma is the most expensive blend of Lavazza coffee beans that we have at A1 Coffee and it’s certainly something pretty special. What they’ve done with this one is blend together just two varieties – Arabica beans from the very best high altitude Brazilian plantations, and more fragrant and mild Arabicas from the highlands of Central America. This satisfies those who only want 100% Arabica beans in their coffee, and also results in a blend that is really velvety smooth and quite mild with very low acidity.

According to our customers and to what is said on coffee forums, Lavazza Pienaroma is best suited to milky coffee drinks rather than espressos and short coffees. This is of course a matter of personal taste as we have used it to make espresso and found it to be at least as good as the Super Crema. It does work very well with milk though, so if you want to make a really outstanding latte, it’s definitely one to consider.

Lavazza Coffee

Lavazza Crema e Aroma

This is broadly similar in taste and price to Super Crema with a slightly lighter and fruitier aftertaste. Like many blends, it’s made using Robusta and Arabica beans. Unlike some other blends however, the Robusta beans are of a very high quality while the Arabicas are a mix of both washed and unwashed beans.

We’ve found this to be the nearest to Super Crema in the Lavazza range with a really classy flavour that you’d expect from a far more expensive blend. It’s got quite a heavy taste, presumably due to the presence of the Robusta, and is therefore a good choice for coffees served with flavouring syrups, and also for iced coffee. Again, this one is medium roasted.


Lavazza Gold Selection

In coffee terms, Gold Selection is something pretty special. We’ve used this many times and found it to be the best quality coffee in the Lavazza range. Common opinion out there online seems to back this up, and we know that Lavazza themselves recommend this coffee highly and with good reason. Like the Super Crema, you can do pretty much anything to it and it will still come out tasting of good coffee – even if you’re loading it with lots of milk and sugar, flavouring syrups and so on, the flavour of the coffee is never overpowered. The great balance with this one is that it also tastes good as an espresso, though it does work particularly well with milk.

The beans themselves are a mixture of natural and washed coffee beans grown on selected plantations in Brazil, Central America and Asia. These plantations have been selected for their production of sweet coffees, resulting in a rounded and well balanced flavour. Lavazza say there is a chocolaty aftertaste with this which doesn’t really do it justice – the slight taste of chocolate is there but it’s one of those that you really have to try to appreciate it. Not the most expensive in the range, but as a result, it could well be the best value.

Not such a heavy body as the Crema e Aroma or Tierra, and again, medium roasted like most Lavazza blends.


Lavazza Top Class

This one has a flavour that we’ve found to be about halfway between the Tierra and the Gold Selection, in that it has a chocolaty aftertaste along with a heavier body and stronger taste than the Super Crema. It’s what a lot of people describe as a ‘continental flavour’ (whatever that is!) and is definitely one of the strongest in the Lavazza range.

The beans are sourced from far and wide with this one, with sweeter beans coming from Asia and the milds coming from both Central America and Brazil. It’s medium roasted and seems to be best suited to shorter coffee drinks including ristretto, espresso, flat white, cortado and macchiato. We have a lot of customers who have spent time in Italy, Spain and Greece in the past who insist on Top Class as it’s nearer to the taste that they’ve become used to overseas.


Lavazza Dek Beans

Always left until last in any list of coffee descriptions, this is a little unfair in the case of Lavazza Dek as, despite being a decaf and brushed aside by coffee enthusiasts, is a genuinely great coffee in its’ own right.

Lavazza Dek is a water-processed decaffeinated coffee, meaning it’s not been through a decaf process that uses nasty chemicals, and it’s therefore not got the unpleasant aftertaste that used to give decaf such a bad name. It’s also made using 100% Arabica coffee beans, so it produces a good crema and has the aroma and taste that goes with a premium brand coffee. The Arabica content means it’s particularly well suited for espresso-based drinks with a high milk content such as lattes and cappuccino, and also works well with flavouring syrups.

Lavazza Coffee

We hope this list of descriptions goes some way to helping you choose the right Lavazza coffee beans for you. Remember you can always call us if you want more information, and feel free to read this in conjunction with other guides published online to help you build us a balanced picture. We hope you’ll soon be enjoying Lavazza coffee!

David Huggett



0 Comments | Posted By David Huggett
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