KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Pulp by Singaporean-based coffee company Papa Palheta has been the epicentre of all things specialty coffee in Bangsar since opening a little over a year ago. From sourcing and roasting beans to serving coffee and selling espresso machines and brewing equipment in its café, Pulp does it all.
Yet few of Pulp’s customers, including diehard regulars, know of their spectacular coffee appreciation classes and workshops called C-Platform. After all, why would you need to learn to make your own coffee when the barista can make it for you?
According to Marcus Foo, the master coffee purveyor behind Pulp, “We believe that even the casual coffee drinker can benefit from learning more about what goes into every cup they enjoy, from the farming to the roasting. For the more interested coffee lover, making your own coffee means you can create a cup that satisfies your own unique palate. It’s also fun!”
With this in mind, I attended a home brewing class recently with a pair of partners-in-crime: Joan, who has begun brewing coffee recently at home, and CK, who has been making his own coffee at home and at the office for over a decade.
As for me: I’m hardly a novice, having first fallen in love with coffee a little over six years ago. At home, I brew with either a Clever Dripper or a French Press. These days though, I’m hard-pressed to find a reason to make my own cuppa when there is a profusion of cafés popping up in every neighbourhood. Would attending a C-Platform class change my mind?
There are four types of classes available under C-Platform. Espresso Redefined Level 1 is for the home barista or someone looking to enter the coffee industry. Using both the commercial Synesso and pro-sumer (“professional consumer”) Giotto machine, participants are taught the basics of proper espresso extraction and milk texturing.
For the more experienced home or café barista, Espresso Redefined Level 2 focuses on calibrating the taste of espresso via variables such as the grind size, dosage, tamp, and temperature. For lovers of “hearts” and “tulips”, the Latte Art Workshop offers students a solid foundation in free pour latte art and texturing.
The first three classes are all based on espresso coffee or pressurised brewing. What about those of us who don’t have an espresso machine at home, admittedly a hefty investment for most individuals? (The price of a decent machine is in the four-to-five digit range.)
This is where the Black Brew Deconstructed class comes in. By focusing on alternative, non-pressurized brewing methods such as the V60 drip, Aeropress, and the Clever Dripper, the class is perfect for the home barista who is interested in hand-brewing their cuppa.
Naturally, the Black Brew Deconstructed was the class we selected. Regardless of which you pick, all classes are limited to six students to every class in order to give everyone sufficient attention. Head barista and trainer Shane Tan said, “We don’t want the classes to be too big; otherwise it would be hard for everyone to get some quality one-on-one time with the instructor.”
For our class, Shane was the instructor in question. A former bartender, our affable teacher had a relaxed and easy-going way about him. Unlike some instructors who lecture endlessly, he was accessible and involved us in every activity and discussion. This was a big plus for us, for we had all attended classes where the instructor would drone on until every student has fallen asleep!
Shane started by explaining the objective of the course. “Basically we want to demystify coffee because we understand a lot of people are afraid of asking their barista questions. ‘Why should I drink this black, without sugar?’ ‘Why are there so many different brewing equipment?’ By sharing the basics with our customers, we believe most can make good cups of coffee at home without having to be too geeky or technical.”
That’s another pleasant surprise — the dearth of overly technical coffee terms. Joan later shared, “Shane really took away the element of jargon which can be scary for newbies to coffee. I love that this class proves that home brewing is not just for coffee snobs.”
This doesn’t mean that the course was superficial — there were plenty of interesting and useful nuggets. CK was delighted to learn that there was a resting period for the beans, after roasting. “There is even a curve of how long the beans have rested after roasting and how its freshness affects whether the resultant cup is at its peak, flavour-wise. I’ve never seen that curve before, and it’s got me thinking of making coffee daily to detect when the beans are at their best.”
In an orderly fashion, Shane took us through the entire spectrum of brewing coffee at home: from explaining physical factors such as water, coffee, and the type of brew equipment, to discussing procedural variables including grind size, dosage, temperature, steeping time, and the amount of turbulence introduced during the brewing process.
After the theoretical portion of the class, we underwent the practical part. This meant hands-on experience of brewing coffee ourselves instead of simply watching the instructor conduct a demonstration.
We all appreciated the structured flow of the class. Rather than jumping from one topic to the next, there was a meaningful stream of information. Our workspace was set up for us ahead of time so that we may all experiment with different brewing equipment such as the V60 and the Clever Dripper.
The best part of the class was the tasting, where we got to sample our own brews and those of our classmates. Our instructor guided us in understanding the coffee aroma and flavours better, and how adjusting the variables, such as the amount of water or the temperature, could make a startling difference.
“We are looking for a balance of aroma, taste, body, and colour,” said Shane. “It’s really a pursuit of a delicious cup of coffee.”
The true test of a successful class comes not during the class but afterwards. Shane had told me that many past participants would return and ask him further questions about home brewing. So I turned to my fellow classmates to see if they were as affected by Shane’s guidance.
“I used to be paranoid about all the factors such as the water and the temperature,” said Joan. “Now I know how to balance the different variables. In fact, it’s a bit like being a chef, learning to develop an instinct based on the techniques I learned.”
CK, on the other hand, had a more child-in-a-candy-store take on the class. “I’ve never played with a V60 dripper before because I always felt it was only for professional baristas. I believed the Clever Dripper and French press I use at home were more for amateurs like me. After Shane’s class, I know that I can brew with the V60 too... and that even professionals like Shane use the Clever Dripper!”
And that’s the sign of a good class, coffee or otherwise: the students leave feeling braver and more interested than before. Most importantly, they are brewing more coffee than before. What about me, you ask? Let’s just say I’ve been brewing coffee at home again... and enjoying every cup!
Pulp by Papa Palheta
29-01, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Open Tue-Fri 9am-7pm; Sat-Sun 9am-10pm; Mon closed