The Story of Stable
Like I said in the primer article a few days ago, all of our blends are deeply rooted in story and sensory memory. In essence, I’m trying to recreate memories as coffees when I create a blend. Stable blend is designed to be the best daily espresso we can achieve. It’s my attempt to recreate one of my favourite espresso experiences of all time.
First off, I should say that the name of our Stable blend is a short but poignant story. It’s named in honor of the stableyard where we started Skylark 3 years ago… This lovely rural setting at the foot of Chanctonbury Ring was part of the inspiration for the name of Skylark Coffee. The location also dovetails nicely with the poem we have on our coffee bags from Robert Macfarlane, who once spent the night at the top of Chanctonbury Ring and heard unearthly screeching reminiscent of the druidic past of that hallowed location (read The Old Way-it’s magnificent). It’s also named to indicate our intention to keep a consistent, stable taste profile for it no matter the time of year.
For the inspiration of what the blend tastes like, feels like, and is designed to be, we have to go further back to the summer of 2012. I had a rare sunny day off, and I cranked open the sunroof on my 1981 Volvo 242 and headed 3 hours down the road to Atlanta on a purely solo trip. It was one of those brilliant day trips where you have no agenda, and no one to please but yourself. The car was running well for once, and I even could hit 85mph on the downhill sections of highway. Cue Miriam Stockley’s “Perfect Day”.
I got to Grant Park area, and pulled in at Octane which was well known to be one of the better Atlanta shops at the time. It’s since sadly been bought up and subsequently closed down by Revelator, but corporate consolidation in coffee is a topic for another blog post.
I ordered an espresso, as you did when you were a baby barista trying to be cool. They only had a house blend on espresso, which disappointed me initially as single origin espressos were the hot thing. There was none of the usual dial in faffing about when a customer orders a spro. No pouring shots down the drain and re-pulling them. The barista just pulled the shot and served it, and the coffee blew my mind. Sweet. Balanced. Body for days. There were notes of a dark cherry, a peeled almond, and a shortbread cookie. And it was so danged consistent. I tested the barista by ordering 3 in a row, and they all tasted just as perfect. I ordered a traditional cappuccino to try it in milk: Just as amazing. Sweet cream, shortbread cookie, cherry yoghurt. I then stuck around a few more hours to sip vermouth and counteract the caffeination. Even 4 years or so into working in coffee at the time, this was an eye-opening experience. That level of consistency, and such a fulsome experience in the cup. If you were the barista with cats eye glasses working at the Grant Park Octane in 2012, thank you for teaching me what a perfect house blend espresso tastes like.
When we set up Skylark, I set out to recreate this experience for our first, main house blend, which we named Stable. I like to think that all of the force of story and memory that went into creating this blend carries through in the cup. That’s more nostalgic than I usually permit myself to be, but I also believe it. Especially with an espresso that’s designed to be so easy to work with. The amount of residual sugar in the Stable (due to being made with 3 natural coffees) makes it easier for baristas to get closer to that target of an exceptional house espresso with less muss and fuss, dialling in, or dumping shots… And it gives a genuinely huge range of dial-ins that result in a tasty spro. Pull it at 20 seconds and you get a juicy cup of juice. Pull it at 28-32 and you can get that syrupy, cherry cookie goodness that I remember from Atlanta in 2012.