My taxi driver had been driving around a dodgy looking east London block for ten minutes, without being able to reach our destination. He finally gave up, telling me it was at the end of the alleyway. I asked ‘what is at the end of the alleyway?‘. In fact, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking for. The taxi had been organised by the lovely ladies at Weber Shandwick and I only knew the destination was ‘somewhere in Dalston’. Dalston is, to me, as exotic as it gets. I confess, I rarely venture outside zone 1, especially if I cannot reach a place with my 12 years old scooter. Yet here I was. Walking up to the end of this graffiti covered, bright enough dead end street, I begun to hear Latin music playing, people laughing and I saw a number of taxi dishing out other confused visitors, including my friend and fellow blogger Tiffany. We gave our names to the bouncer and we left the daylight to enter a large space, which is going to be quite impossible to describe with the credit it deserves, so incredible it was.
A tattered, battered and bruised London space (a garage? a derelict building?) had been colourfully transformed into a Cuban street scene: a man cutting someone’s hair on a vintage looking barber chair, a crafty looking individual in a white fedora shouting and singing, a group of men playing domino by a rusty 50s American car… Immediately I knew I was in for a treat. For the launch of their limited edition Cubanía blend, Nespresso really did things on a major scale.
The blend is dedicated to Cuba, but it is not made using the island’s coffee (as there is not enough being produced). Instead, using a blend of robusta and arabica from India (which gives it structure), Brazilian, Colombian and Ethiopian beans, blended to create a high intensity (13 on the Nespresso scale). It is recommended to enjoy it the Cuban way: mixing brown sugar straight into the coffee as it pours out of the machine. Rich, creamy, intense.
There were a lot of guests for this event, and not just bloggers like us: looking at the tweets, loads of people from all over Europe (including Italy) had come for the occasion, mostly professional journalists. After a coffee (of course) and the introduction to the evening by a few senior Nespresso managers, we were given a wrist band and divided into groups. The next couple of hours we would have taken turns to experience a different aspect of the Cubanía blend, and while on paper some of these could seem a bit far fetched (music and coffee?), it all made perfect sense and it was put together with such balance, the evening flew by.
THE SALSA ROOM
My first room was the one that nearly got me emotional. A dark living room, with comfy leather chairs, a piano and a bunch of musicians: we were in Havana Vieja, when the coolness of the old walls shuts away the bright light of the Caribbean sun. Eric Hansen, a salsa expert and Alexis Rodriguez, Nespresso Green Coffee Quality & Development Manager, talked about how the Cubans enjoy their coffee and how rhythm can be matched to different coffees; for example a slower tempo in music can mirror a heavier bodied, more intense coffee. Eric pointed out that Cubans use the word sabroso (flavoursome) when they drink coffee and when they enjoy a particular dance with someone.
|Alexis Rodriguez (left) and Eric Hansen in conversation|
When Eric talked about Cuba, I was immediately transported to our days in Havana, and dear me, how much am I longing to go back! I found this opening section very interesting and thought provoking.
THE JELLY ROOM
|Jellied St Paul’s|
We then moved on to the most crazy room of the evening when we had the pleasure of meeting Sam of Bompas and Parr fame. I admit, I am now a bit jelly struck, he was so lovely and friendly to everyone and was great fun not only to chat to him but to make some jelly of course! We blended a vanilla cream jelly with Cubanía coffee jelly into moulds that represented some Cuban landmarks. I picked the Basilica dome purely as I figured it might give better chances of the jelly actually holding. Time with Sam also flew by really quickly and we were ushered into the main areas where the actors were playing dominos, painting a mural or doing some dance moves. Mojtos were whizzing past and I am proud to say I touched none!
|Not looking that good (yet!)|
|Weird looking jelly machine|
THE COCKTAIL ROOM
Our third experience was with Karsten Ranitzsch, Nespresso Head of Coffee and here he demo’ed two cocktails made using, of course, Cubanía blend. A mojito with coffee? Just like everything else, yes it works really well! We all tried our hands at making it and we also made the Cubaccino, which was delicious and I could properly drink as it had no alcohol (and yeah, no calories, of course). Great fun, yet again, in a detailed set which included Hemingway’s words scrolling on the wall.
|Pouring Cubania onto a mojito!|
|Alleyway in Cuba.. or is it Dalston?|
THE TASTING ROOM
Finally, we went to another area where a tasting room had been set up for us (with the most massive wall mirror I have ever seen) where Edouard Thomas (Sensory Manager) and Michal Pivrnec (Senior Sensory Technician) from the Nespresso sensory lab let us taste yet more Cubanía, first made with a french press, then with a Marzocco and finally from a Nespresso machine and it was so surprisingly different not only in texture but in taste as well. Here we learned more about how Nespresso create their blends, and how.
A very interesting final workshop for sure.
|Edouard (left) and Michal explain the differences in tasting coffee|
We then all circled back to the main space, where tables had been laid out for a three course meal inspired by Cuba of course, live salsa music, and images of the island projected on the walls. The meal itself was great too, especially the chicken starter (chicken stuffed with rabbit ragout). I sadly had to leave before the dessert but I went to pick up my jelly dome, and while it did not quite make it home in one piece, I do have a photo to prove that it did look the part! Sam ‘jelly man’ Bompas would have been proud.
This was a phenomenal event, incredibly well thought through and organised, with details and clearly research, and the Cubanía coffee is definitely one of my favourites, as it is a blend of robusta and arabica, is smooth and really rich, and reminds me of the coffee we drink in my hometown of Napoli. it permeated all aspects of a varied evening, a perfect fil rouge with the beautiful Cuba in mind.
Cubanía Limited Edition will be available in September on the UK market.
Disclaimer: I no longer endorse Nespresso products due to the impact the capsules have on the environment; I am now more informed and no longer buy aluminium pods, preferring compostable compatible pods by independent coffee roasters. I am however grateful to Nespresso for inviting me to their events in the past and introducing me to the brand.
Thank you Nespresso and Weber Shandwick for inviting me to this event. Opinions are my own.