RED ESPRESSO’S UNIQUE FARM-TO-CUP JOURNEY
Pete and Monique have left no stone unturned in their quest for the perfect cuppa…
1. IN THE TEALANDS In the same way that you can’t make good coffee from a bad bean, every shot of Red Espresso starts with premium raw material. • Red Espresso only sources tea from high-altitude, unirrigated farmlands where rooibos has to work harder to survive (plants send three-metrelong taproots in search of water), resulting in a richer, sweeter-tasting cup of tea. • Seedlings are planted in the cold, rainy season between June and August. Tea plants are interspersed with corridors of proteas, which encourages bees to cross- pollinate. • After their first year of growth, plants are ‘topped’ – a process that promotes fuller, healthier bushes. They are left to grow naturally for another year before harvest. • Thereafter, the plants are handharvested once a year for three years. After this, they are plowed back into the soil and the land is left fallow for three to five years to recover. • The shrubs are hand-harvested over a two-month period that usually falls between January and March. This allows for daily processing of the wet tea. 2. AT THE FARMYARD A few tweaks to the traditional process make a vital contribution to the end product. • Once it arrives at the processing facility down in the valley, the entire plant (stems, twigs, leaves and everything in between) is put through a shredding machine. • Although this machine looks a lot like your average garden mulcher, its blades are precisely calibrated to meet Red Espresso’s exacting grind requirements. • This fine green ‘mulch’ is then laid out in a long, narrow heap on a walled concrete tea court and sprayed with pure mountain water. • Almost immediately, heat builds up and the bright green tea starts to turn a dark reddish-brown. It is left to ferment overnight. • The following morning, a special tractor attachment sprays the tea, which has now turned a rich ochre, across the court. ( Watching is a messy but spectacular experience – I now understand why the tea court is walled!) • After sun- drying for a further seven hours, the tea is collected using a customised tractor attachment jimmied from an oldfashioned street-sweeping truck. • The red tea is then packed into 400 kg bags for steam pasteurising and quality control.
3. IN THE FACTORY
At Red Espresso HQ outside Paarl, Pete shared (some of) his secrets. • For the brand to be successful, Red Espresso’s grind had to work on existing coffee equipment. This caused all manner of difficulties: The fibrous Rooibos plant is a far cry from a roasted bean. Owing to these challenges, all of Red Espresso’s equipment has been heavily customised. • Working with daily 800 kg batches, the Red Espresso grind is a living concept that adapts to current crop conditions and has been continually tweaked and improved over the past 13 years. • Red Espresso produces specific grinds for appliances, ranging from French press plungers and moka pots to commercial espresso machines and capsule systems including Nespresso and Delta Q (a Portuguese brand). • A lot of science goes into the readyto-drink Red Cappuccino sachets, which contain Red Espresso rooibos extract, chicory root fibre (a natural thickener) and less than a teaspoon of sugar per serving – unlike most products in the category.
4. IN THE CAFE (OR AT HOME)
Product Development Manager Nic Reid showed us how to get the most out of Red Espresso.
‘I recommend using our custommade Red Crema Plus (RCP) portafilter basket if you want to make the perfect Red Espresso. The RCP basket has fewer holes than a typical coffee portafilter basket, which slows down the extraction and results in a richer, tastier shot of Red Espresso.’
STEP 1: DOSE Scoop 14 g Red Espresso into the RCP basket.
STEP 2: LEVEL Ensure Red Espresso is at an even level in the basket. Do not tamp!
STEP 3: BLESS Using your palm, wipe away any excess grounds from the rim of the filter basket.
STEP 4: EXTRACT Pull a double shot (60 ml). Wipe basket with a damp cloth afterwards if necessary.
STEP 5: MILK Depending on what you’re making, add steamed/ frothed milk of your choice (almond milk works great) and top with cinnamon and honey. The golden crema is perfect for latte art.
A. Kobus is one of the hardworking farmhands, all of whom play a vital role in the rooibos harvesting and production process. B. Here, farmer Sarel van der Merwe hand-feeds freshly harvested rooibos into a grinding machine, transforming the plant into a more usable form. C. 1 kg bags are hand-packed in the Red Espresso factory. D. Expressing Red Espresso – part of the red latte-making process. E. You’ll find the Red Espresso test cafe at the company’s headquarters in the Paarl Winelands. B