Stewart’s – Coffee – Nottingham
I had the pleasure today of taking up the offer of a visit to Stewart’s of Trent Bridge, which came off the back of the coffee review articles I have posted over the last few months. I couldn’t be sure whether this was a throwing down of the gauntlet in response to some of my picky critiques; the worst case scenario in my head involved me producing a tepid cappuccino to mocking laughter and time-to-eat-your-words looks. However, a brief email correspondence with Mark Whittaker, one of the three chaps holding the day-to-day reins of the operation, seemed cheerfully open to meeting up so, armed with chilli and chocolate cakes to help my cause, I trotted down to their inauspicious base just off the Trent Embankment.
Stewart’s (their dropped apostrophe, not mine) started life with Stewart himself asking some Italians their advice on what to do with a coffee roaster he had bought (as you do). Thirty odd years on, Stewart is still involved and the roaster in question is still in operation; you can see a lovely photograph of it on the homepage of their website (http://www.stewartscoffees.co.uk/). Green coffee beans sit fresh and happy in the roasting room, waiting for their twelve minutes of whirling around at 200 degrees before being ground and possibly blended with other varieties. As well as some staple varietals, Stewarts have beans of less frequent origin, not as a gimmick but in order to provide a spectrum of tastes to suit various palates and machinery.
Stewart’s supply to the trade, and they train the staff who will be serving their coffee. Mark and I talked about our shared frustration of how coffee can be a sorely overlooked and frequently disappointing element in restaurants and pubs. Even if a venue buys good quality coffee, if the staff have not had the opportunity to properly learn to use the coffee machine, the end product will not be up to scratch; Mark drew the parallel of giving a man who has never used an oven a 28-day-hung steak or a lobster and then telling him to make dinner. For Stewart’s, they want to make sure that any venue that serves their product will be serving it well.
On that note, I did get to have a go at making a coffee, and it wasn’t a disaster. However Mark did a much better job, and I got to taste two of their coffees as espressos as well as a silky latte made with their espresso blend, a wonderfully smooth Italian coffee with no bitterness whatsoever. He gave me some of their Mexican Terruno Nayarita Reserva to try, which strongly reminds me of Mr Kipling Almond Finger cakes, with something of the frangipane about it. It is a fairly mild brew, which is a good job, because five espressos in one afternoon has rendered me as twitchy and kinetically sporadic as a pheasant, but with the eyes of a great horned owl.
If you want to try a Stewarts coffee or have a meal with the promise of a decent espresso at the end, Stewarts are the suppliers for the Riverbank chain and pubs such as The Ram in Newark or The Martins Arms in Colston Bassett.
This is an unusual piece for the Frusher on Food website, being something seemingly promotional rather than a review. I have no vested interests in promoting Stewarts; I write this more to promote good dinerly consideration of the quality of coffee, as well as urging you to think about the local as well as international origins of your brew. If you knew you were spending £2.50 on a cappuccino made from a carefully selected, locally roasted blend by someone with barista training, would you not feel much happier than spending £2.50 on beans from Makro hamfistedly boiled and topped with tepid milk? I rest my case. And now, I will try and rest my eyes.
You can get 20% online orders at Stewarts with the Great Food Club