More than 30 London coffee professionals gathered at Square Mile Coffee Roasters headquarters in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London on Sunday evening for a rare cupping of some special El Salavdoran coffees stamped with the Aida Batlle Selection (ABS) seal-of-approval, and imported and up for offer throughout Europe by Café Imports. Aida works with the esteemed El Salvadoran mill, J. Hill y Cia, to make the program and the meticulous processing methods required work.
Aida was on hand in person to answer questions and offer insights about the different processing methods used at the J. Hill y Cia mill in Santa Ana, El Salvador, for these coffees. Also on the table were a selection of spot coffees offered by Café Imports from around the globe.
“I couldn’t be happier with how this event played out,” Aida said after the cupping, when the group was welcomed into Square Mile’s shipping bay for an impromptu barbecue complete with local microbrew beer. “It’s always fascinating to me to see peoples’ reactions to the ABS processes—we work hard throughout the year to insure that these processes are carried through meticulously, from picking and sorting though, of course, wet milling and drying, and all the way up to shipping.”
Aida’s coffees have been a favorite of baristas competing at the international level; 2012 United States Barista Champion Katie Carguilo used Aida’s coffee to win the U.S. competition and carry through to the World Barista Championship in Vienna; as did Greek Barista Champion Stefanos Domatiotis. “There’s no greater compliment than if a barista of that level chooses to use a coffee from either my family farms (as Katie did) or from the Aida Batlle Selection coffees (as Stefanos did),” says Aida. “These are the people leading the industry in trends and innovation.”
The story was no different at Square Mile Coffee as baristas—including reigning UK Barista Champion John Gordon of Square Mile, as well as third-place finisher in the UKBC, Estelle Bright of Caravan Coffee—as well as roasters gathered in the charming Shoreditch training space to cup the coffees.
Visitors were welcomed at the impressive Square Mile reception, where mountains of competition trophies from the World Barista Championship, the World Cup Taster’s Championship, roasting awards, national trophies, medals of coffee distinction, and more are displayed in the seating area. To the right is a spacious office area for the company’s 12 staffers. Beyond that is a charmingly appointed training room and cupping area (UKBC Champ John Gordon is, apparently, as handy with carpentry as he is with espresso, as he’s built out most of the area himself). Scores of maps adorn the walls, inviting appreciative gazes from cuppers as they wait for coffees to cool.
Anette gave me, Aida, and also Noah Namowicz of Café Imports—who oversees the U.S.-based importers’ international sales—a thorough tour of the entire workshop, including a warm and friendly roasting area with two big machines, operated most often by head roaster Jessica MacDonald. Green storage is packed to the gills, which is why, Anette told us, they will be breaking through the wall to the space next door in a matter of weeks.
The cupping itself was a serious affair. These are British coffee people, after all—not only are they extremely well-heeled in their coffee knowledge, they’re a bit reserved when it comes to throwing impressions out in open discussion. But the always charming Aida, whose affable and humble demeanor as she explained why and how she got into experimental processing put the crowd at ease.
The event was organized primarily by Gabriel Dunn of Café Imports, who works entirely with European roasters, as well as the team from Square Mile, primarily Jessica MacDonald and John Gordon.
If you missed the event but are at or headed to the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s World of Coffee event in Nice, France this week, there’s still an opportunity to taste these incredible coffees alongside Aida and the team from Café Imports: from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 27, at the Acropolis convention center where World of Coffee is taking place. To reserve your spot, email Gabe from Café Imports at firstname.lastname@example.org