By Debbie Rogers
Double B Coffee and Tea
“When you get used to a great product (Specialty Coffee) it’s difficult to go back” – Anna Tsfasman, Founder, Double B Coffee
The largest Specialty coffee chain you’ve never heard of – until now
I’m sat sipping some great single origin coffee, from Costa Rica and am casually chatting to Anna Tsfasman, founder of Double B Coffee, which has just opened in City Walk. Double B is an international coffee shop chain, that to be honest I’ve never heard of. Perhaps I need to start going to some of the World Coffee Championships which has been a dream of mine for a while now! But I digress, Double B was founded in Russia and has over eighty shops across Russia as well as in Prague, Barcelona, and Tbilisi (I wish I knew that when I was in Georgia!). The Double B Team come with high credentials and have won multiple Russian coffee brewing champions and achieved the vice champion of the world in coffee roasting.
Anna Tsfasman – turned a passion into a business
Anna developed a passion for Specialty Coffee in a previous role and started out on her own in 2012. When she started, her concept was all about Speciality Coffee shops rather than a coffee shop with having food. It was early days for the Speciality Coffee scene in Russia, and the market in Russia was not ready for her concept. Friends told her she would go bankrupt as people needed food as well as coffee, but she was undeterred by their feedback and started Double B which has grown ever since.
What makes Double B special?
Double B start their coffee journey from the beginning of the Specialty Coffee process. Building relationships with small farms ensures they can buy small lots of good quality Speciality Coffee. It hasn’t been an easy journey, Anna explained. At first the farmers were not interested in the quality of their coffee as they had been used to selling lower quality coffee to Government exchanges for lower prices. Part of the learning process was for them was to understand that they could demand higher prices for higher quality coffee. This is where the Double B journey started, helping the farmers to understand the worthy of their crop and what they needed to do to grow and harvest quality coffee. Areas covered included areas such as:
- Training the coffee pickers to pick only the ripe cherries, which takes longer and is a more difficult job
- Double checking & sorting the cherries after picking to ensure only the ripe cherries are used
- Working with the framers to show them how to ferment coffee, and to depulp
- How to grow the coffee effectively and nurture the soil etc
The result pays off, as Double B have high quality coffee provided to them from twelve different countries which is no mean feat. Double B baristas also visit the coffee farms to understand and appreciate the process and amount of work that goes into producing the coffee beans which allows the baristas to respect the coffee bean when they are working with it.
As an example of how Double B work with the farms Anna told me about a Columbian farm which was on one mountain, with their washing station on another mountain. Although you could see the washing station across the valley, it took six hours to transport the beans on mules, from one mountain to the other. Double B invested in building a funicular meaning it now takes twenty minutes to transfer the beans instead of six hours which adds to efficiency and quality of the beans.
Where’s the Coffee Roasted?
Initially I’m slightly disappointed to hear that the beans are not roasted in Dubai, they are roasted in Russia and Prague. The Prague roasters supplies to Dubai. However when I check out the bags of coffee on display in the shop they were roasted just a few weeks before in Prague and are virtually as fresh as they would be if they were Dubai roasted.
Most of the coffee they roast is served as single origin, but there’s some blending going on for their Espresso blend.
The Barista Magic
As we all know, growing, harvesting, sourcing and roasting Speciality Coffee is only part of the process. The skills and talents of the barista is the part that the public get to see and the bit where we get to enjoy all of the processes that have gone before them.
The team at Double B were initially handpicked by Anna and since then she has worked hard to ensure that her baristas are fully trained and skilled in the art of being a barista. Double B have their own Barista academy and they are SCA premium accredited. Training takes almost two months on an intensive basis which gives time for full and precise training to the baristas before they start brewing coffee for customers.
At the time of my visit, I am extremely happy to chat to the team about the coffee beans, brewing methods and milk. They take time to ask me what sort of coffee I like and eventually we settle on a Costa Rican single origin which is brewed in a Hario V60 – one of my favourite extraction methods. I’m happy to see they have information cards with details about the beans, their providence and tasting notes etc.
Pssst Congratulations to the Sergei and Vlad from the Double B team who took first and second place in the Dubai International Brewing Championships in December 2017. During the competition they prepared three beverages utilizing whole bean coffee whilst talking about the profile of the coffee, tasting notes etc. Sergei Mitrofanov won the Russian Barista Championships in 2016 and won first place whilst Vlad Komarov won second place.
Coffee your way
With the skills and knowledge of coffee and brewing, you might think that the baristas are a little ‘snobby’ about how you should drink your coffee, after all it’s their passion and something they have studied a lot. That’s not the case at Double B. The baristas are great at helping to determine what you want to drink and how you want to drink it. Sugar is fine, if that’s your thing (note : some places do not serve/allow sugar as they believe the coffee is sweet enough etc). So whilst the menu gives plenty of choice in brewing methods, there are also some house specialities which are unique to Special B and are really good, all of them contain Specialty Coffee as an added bonus – no cheaper coffee used here, as frankly they don’t stock it!
A signature drink – The Raf
Named after a regular customer called Rafael who wanted milk and cream to be mixed together and then steamed. The baristas were happy to do this for him and eventually the Raf, as it is now called, became a signature drink for Double B. The Lavender Raf is the signature drink which I tried and was really impressed with it. The Lavender is specially sourced and is of a high quality and really delicate so that it doesn’t leave the perfume after taste that sometimes lingers. Quality ingredients are key and after a trip to France to source Lavender, they actually ended up sourcing lavender from Yorkshire in the UK (it won on the blind tasting test).
The Raf and some of the signature drinks are now served as an alternative to Desserts since desserts are difficult to make in Russia, but the availability of fresh cream allows them some freedom to make different things. They also make their own syrups and caramel on site, plus almond and coconut milk etc – no chemical syrups here!
As a final treat I was brought the most instagrammed coffee from Double B – the cloud! A fluffy white (sugar spun candy floss) cloud which hovered above my cup of espresso. The heat from the expresso rises and slowly melts the sugar which drips like rain into your cup whilst revealing a sweet caramel fed cookie hidden in cloud. Quirky and fun, this one caused a bit of a stir on my Instagram feed, some loved it, some thought it was unnecessary and not good. What do you think? I loved it, as it was different and unusual, fun to watch and really good to drink too!
More than just a cup of coffee
There are plans for cupping sessions, tasting sessions, brewing sessions etc which will be open to the public. Watch Double B social media pages for information.
Double B Coffee & Tea, City Walk – with three more locations being built and a plan to have ten soon. Other regions to follow.
Facebook & Instagram: DoubleB.CityWalk
[Images & Video by Debbie Rogers]
The story of the Raf
Chatting to Anna I ask her about some of the menu items which I haven’t heard of before, in particular there’s a whole suite of drinks with the word Raf in the title. It turns out that Raf isn’t a untranslatable word as I had first thought, but in fact it refers to a customer called Rafael, who inspired the drink.
Lavander Raf (cold version)
- 30 gr of lavander sugar syrup
- Single espresso
- 150 gr of milk
Take a glass and add ice into it. Start to stir the ice, to cool down the glass for 20-30 seconds. Throw away the ice, add syrup and milk, start to mix well in order to dissolve the syrup. Then add fresh portion of ice, single espresso.
Lavander sugar syrup:
- 150 gr lavander raf sugar
- 100 gr hot water
Blend ingredients together, then strain through the sieve and hario paper filter (usually 2 times).