Hooked you just to let you down. Sorry. OK, it's not that Mr Bean... but stay with me please, and I might convince you that it was worth taking my bait.
Stephen Leighton is my Mr Bean. I’ve publicly acknowledged some of the pleasure which Steve and his incredibly industrious, efficient and responsive company have given me for over a decade here and here. As if the human element of the business wasn’t enough, the products they sell are consistently top quality. So when I found out that Steve would be breaking off from trips around the globe to his growers and suppliers I jumped at the chance to shake hands with someone who is responsible for a chunk of delicious enjoyment in my life.
I’ll do that horrible thing of linking to the lovely event which I enjoyed so much and you’ve already missed. No real malice intended. Switch to Coffee Aroma’s main Facebook feed from that events page. Facebook is your best option for information since their Twitter page is all but abandoned.
My immediate reaction to seeing Steve in the flesh was mild disappointment. This disappointment dissipated distinctly and sensibly when I admitted to myself that it would be unfair to expect him to maintain the caffeine-crazed persona of the guy who has clobbered us with 488 episodes (as I write) of ‘In My Mug’. Let’s be clear. I consider being clobbered by a constant stream of education, entertainment and convincing slurping sounds in the face of excellent coffees to be a good thing. Watch one and see if you can resist viewing top-ups. No subscription needed for the videos but if you want to enjoy the main subject matter in your own home you could do much worse than signing up for regular bean delivery.
The observant among you will realise that I have broken my promise after writing this review of Coffee Aroma a while back. It must be said that my recent experience was much more positive. More great coffee and skilled and sympathetic attention from staff... but I didn't order cake this time!
Has Bean's coffee beans are in permanent residence at Coffee Aroma. I enjoyed a couple of them as I listened and chatted. Both brewed with a Chemex pour-over. The second, COSTA RICA FINCA LA PIRA RED HONEY CATURRA really shone with this brew style.
Talk about provision of coffee in Lincoln and the area was interspersed with Steve's enthusiastic accounts of the people who grow the product he is selling. He visits them, supports them and has developed lasting relationships which, when I consider them, bring a reassuring extra pleasure to my cup of coffee.
His book “Coffeeography: The Coffee Producers” documents many of those friendships which underpin a business where commercial gain is beautifully balanced by a love and respect for the people and communities which grow coffee worth drinking. The book perhaps gives more esoteric information than you need if you are simply wanting to enjoy delivery of superior beans. After eleven years I was ready to add that extra backdrop to my experience.
The following morning I reflected on the event with a slice of home-baked wholemeal bread and last summer’s red gooseberry jam. My breakfast cup contains a double shot of black tea, cherry blossom, lemon peel and pomegranate. From Has Bean? Erm… yes. Don't let those slightly 'Pseud's Corner' descriptions put you off either. The flavour profiles in so many beans are very different and distinct. And I still haven't drunk enough of them to do without a little expert help to consider and appreciate the glorious subtleties.
Steve's book would have been terrific without any personalisation but it is rather pleasing to have that reminder of a day I was able to get closer to the man who has been (#boomtish) a constant companion in my world of coffee enjoyment.
Oh, and placing my brew in left-handed mode strained my OCD to the limit. But, since Steve is also a world expert in red 'Sharpie'-drawn cup placement, I bow to his superior knowledge!
Below is the empty bag after the last beans for my morning brew had been ground. Leaving me with just one further bag. What followed could have been panic. It might be that the coffee had given me renewed strength to flex my online shopping muscle. Whichever it was, I had selected my next batch of beans and received order confirmation before Lorraine had introduced her first guest that morning.
Big thanks to Coffee Aroma and co-host, Keith Parkins. Do read his version of events here. Steve, of course, has my continued thanks for setting up his business eighteen years ago and for allowing me to discover him seven years later.
Just one more thing. Whether it's by email contact or if you're lucky enough to meet him, you should always ask for an update on Steve's beloved Sunderland AFC. You'll get lovely matching reds of his hair and his embarrassment every time!