Grossi Territory brings specialty coffee to fine dining

IMG_2848The prawns are Yamba, the beef Blackmore wagyu, the rabbit’s from Macleay Valley and the wallaby from Flinders Island, all given care and attention in the kitchen … but the coffee comes from a capsule at the push of a button, or from a bag of beans labelled “somewhere in Brazil”.

But not at chef Guy Grossi’s Melbourne restaurants Grossi Florentino, Merchant Osteria Veneta and Ombra Salumi Bar, where fine dining meets specialty coffee as Grossi, his head sommelier, Mark Protheroe, and Small Batch Roasting Co’s Andrew Kelly have spent nearly nine months developing the new Territory specialty coffee blend.

Grossi Territory takes restaurant coffee into new, um, territory

The blend, called Territory, has been in the grinders at Grossi’s Melbourne restaurants since mid-July, and the partnership is one of the first times a fine-dining restaurant in Australia has teamed up with a small specialty coffee roaster to produce a house blend.

“It started from a conversation about Guy wanting to be involved in the product and us welcoming that, because quite frankly we’ve never had a restaurant approach us with the idea that coffee is food, and needs to be treated seasonally with just as much care for provenance as everything else that restaurants do,” says Andrew Kelly.

 Guy Grossi says, “The learning curve has been fantastic. We’ve unravelled more about what coffee was all about. We knew we wanted to know, but we didn’t realise just how much we didn’t know. Now we see it through the whole group as a very different thing from what it was six months ago.”

Two top Colombians from Huila

The beans in the blend come from two small producers in Huila, Colombia – Alvero Pedermo (Finca Providencia) from Acevedo, and Jorge Alfonso Chavarro from Timana.

Kelly says seasonality and freshness of the coffee was important, but so was getting a consistent flavour profile throughout the year.

“We were confident that we could ride that wave and have some seasonal differences be appreciated but still have it be 75 per cent the same. It’s always going to have that caramel and toffee, the sugar browning that Guy wants,” he says.

“The particular producers that we’ve selected are different, but the roast levels are pretty much the same as we use for the best of our coffees. They came together really well. One had a slightly greater degree of sugar browning and balance and the other had a little bit more fruit. They just really married well.”

Roasting coffee like a winemaker

Mark Protheroe compares Small Batch’s roasting approach to a contemporary winemaker’s: “They know when to do things to the beans to enhance the overall experience, but also when to say, That’s enough. Much like winemaking in the ’90s used to be about adding more and more oak, if you use the coffee analogy it was about a lot more roasting. What Andrew and his team do at Small Batch is more in line with modern winemaking, and that’s standing back and just listening to what the product is saying.

“Another massive driver in this decision was to try to make sure that these growers get their product into cups where they have a chance to shine,” he says.

Andrew Kelly says, “This is probably the best espresso we’ve ever produced. It’s the crystallisation of six months’ worth of preparation.”

Hey – why is my coffee sour?

Regulars used to darker Italian roasts might find Territory a bit confronting: it’s brighter and cleaner than the more traditional Italian-style brews common in fine dining restaurants, with minimal roast flavours. There’s sweet apple fruit and an almost savoury molasses-like finish in a short black, and a delicious, bold nuttiness in milk.

“I guess it’s a case of evolution,” says Guy Grossi. “We can’t stand by and be serving coffee that was roasted nearly a year ago. Now we’re serving coffee that was roasted seven or eight days ago, and that makes a vast difference.

“We’ve chosen to go down a different path because we just want that flavour in your mouth as the last thing you taste after a big meal, and for your fix in the morning to be something that you learn to appreciate, just like you would a great bottle of wine or a great piece of meat.” #

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