By Lalage Wordsworth
I’m not one to blindly skewer any effort made by chains of coffee shops. The charms of a thimbleful of syrupy espresso from Caffè Nero regularly revive me after braving Churchill Square, and I might just add a dash of their hazelnut syrup if I’m feeling decadent. However, after witnessing a failed campaign to stop Starbucks from opening a branch on St James’ Street in Brighton, I can’t help but applaud the sudden mushrooming of Small Batch Coffee joints across town.
Small Batch started out as a tiny roastery in Hove but is now trading in five locations, and ticks plenty of sustainability boxes so close to Brighton and Hovites’ hearts. Paying producers more than fair trade prices? Check. Supporting the local economy? Check. Raising money for clean water projects? Oh, yeah, check.
The pièce de résistance in the Jubilee branch is the syphon bar. I had been eyeing it up for a while, and last weekend, I finally got my greasy little paws on some of their black gold.
The bar looks like a science geeks wet-dream, with snazzy Japanese halogen heaters sitting below two stacked glass chambers. However, despite the futuristic-looking equipment, the technique was invented by Leoff of Berlin in 1830. Technically, it’s also a fairly simple process, using a basic vacuum technique to suck the water up through a small tube and filter it back through once the liquid has cooled a little.
So, is it worth the faff, you may ask. The short answer is yes. Theatricality aside, the coffee is clear and smooth, and much more delicate than the robust sort of brew I make at home. As a result, you don’t really need any milk or sugar to sweeten the cup. There’s also a wine-tasting vibe to the experience, as the flavours change as the coffee cools. It’s something I haven’t noticed before with coffee: from bright and grapefuity, the aromas of my Honduran beans mellowed to somthing more earthy.
Starting at a very reasonable £2.95 per cup, this is probably some of the best coffee you’ll ever have. No wonder Small Batch is doing so well…