“It’s terrible. It tastes like dishwater,” was the response to the first ever cup of coffee he ever made. Today, he is renowned across the city and beyond as a coffee guru, credited for the single-origin beauties at places like The Sum of Us and Common Grounds.
Meet Jamie Elfman, a kung fu teacher turned dishwasher turned barista extraordinaire from Australia whose love for all things caffeine stems from the culture and camaraderie that surrounds it – coffee lovers gathering at all hours of the day to exchange ideas and experiences about this beverage staple. Elfman brings with him nearly 20 years of experience, having started out at a time when specialty coffee in Melbourne was virtually nonexistent.
A stint alongside the brains behind the iconic Vue de Monde restaurant, plenty of experimentation, and a series of unexpected events eventually brought him to Dubai to help Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez with the set-up of Tom & Serg, their first venture. The rest, as they say, is history.
This week sees Elfman return to our shores, where he will be teaching classes covering everything from brewing methods and cupping to latte art and more, much to the delight of anyone who considers him/herself a coffee snob – and is completely unapologetic about it. So what does he think are the seven biggest deadly sins of coffee? Keep scrolling to see if you are guilty of committing #coffeeblasphemy.
Beat the Heat
“People tend to order super hot coffee – what happens during this process is that the milk changes composition due to overheating, resulting in a rancid flavor. I’d recommend either drinking coffee that is under 65°C or two separate cups.”
Do You Have to Let It Linger?
“If you’ve ordered a milk-based coffee, drink it straight away. Letting it sit will cause it to separate and its texture to lose integrity.”
Let There be Light
“Drinking really dark-roasted coffee is like eating a steak that is well done – it’s burnt, it’s bitter, and it’s bad. Opt for specialty coffee, which tends to be a lighter roast than commercial-grade coffee.”
“Adding syrups or flavorings becomes a necessity to improve a coffee’s flavor when the milk hits above 65°C and its naturally occurring sugars change composition. Instead, steam the milk to about 60°C, which will help your coffee taste sweet without the need for extras such as hazelnut or caramel syrup.”
All Things Decaf
“I don’t understand the point of decaf coffee. I was allergic to orange juice for a period of time, but I didn’t go to a juice shop and ask them to take the citrus out of it. Order something else – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. It’s very bad from an economic standpoint as well; a decaf coffee machine costs roughly AED 9,000 and has to be purchased just to grind beans that have been chemically treated to extract the caffeine out. It’s crazy and doesn’t even taste like coffee.”
“They’re deliberately made in a way that the milk’s proteins have already split, creating a separate meringue, so they’re dry, flavorless, and wasteful. The alternative is to drink ‘wet’ cappuccino, which has much better texture and flavor.”
“Using skimmed milk is a no-no. When you take fat out of a product, you have to add sugar. I believe everything should be as close to its natural state as possible. The closer something is to its original form, the better. I suggest full-cream milk or no milk at all.”
Guilty as Charged?
Whether reading the above has you feeling a flush of embarrassment or smug about never taking a single misstep, there’s still plenty more to learn. Make this Friday, April 21st, your ultimate caffeine crash course with the following classes: ‘Brewing Methods’ (9 a.m.) followed by ‘Cupping Class’ (10:30 a.m.), ‘Latte Art’ (2:30 p.m.), and ‘All Things Coffee’ (4 p.m.). Each will be held at Encounter Coffee Roastery inside The Sum Of Us and spots are limited, so book yours by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.