RED ES­PRESSO’S UNIQUE FARM-TO-CUP JOUR­NEY

Pete and Monique have left no stone un­turned in their quest for the per­fect cuppa…

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - The First Story -

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

C

A

E

D

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