Review: Taylors of Harrogate Tim Peaks Coffee (Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England)

People from all walks of life are fond of their caffeinated beverages, but I feel like the most creatively inclined people I know have a disproportionate level of interest in the quality of their coffee and tea. Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard (work that’s rife with attention to detail!), perhaps musicians and artists are just groups prone to chasing sensory pleasures, but pick out someone that devotes their life to creating beauty and chances are, that person will go to some extra effort to seek out and create beauty in everyday moments, like in the coffee they drink.

I was introduced to the music of The Charlatans (or The Charlatans UK as I first encountered them) in 1992. On Sunday nights, I’d program our VCR to record MTV’s 120 Minutes and I have a clear memory of the video for “Weirdo,” mainly because of the joker/clown… I have a phobia of clowns, so this video scarred me! But, terrifying image aside, I still liked the song. 23 years later, in 2015, I was finally able to exorcise those demons when I saw The Charlatans perform at the Fun Fun Fun Festival in Austin, Texas. My lasting memory from that performance was the monster amount of stage presence and the infectious joy radiating from Tim Burgess during the whole set. He looked like he was having the time of his life, dancing like no one was watching. I might only be a casual fan of The Charlatans, but I have rarely had a more fun time at any show – I couldn’t stop grinning!

It’s hard for me to remember when Tim Peaks Coffee first came to my attention but I loved that its origin story began from Tim simply tweeting out, “coffee?” and his Twitter community responded, creating a virtual, surrealist coffee shop, which eventually led to the coffee becoming a real-life thing. In July 2017, I was wandering around Manchester one afternoon and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this logo:

This was in the window of Manchester Coffee Company on Oldham St., but unfortunately for me, they didn’t have any Tim Peaks Coffee for me to take home. When I later sought the beans out online, I found that the beans had limited availability and that they were only available pre-ground (at the time). I only buy whole bean coffee because I need to be able to change my grind size to suit my various brewing methods, so I assumed that this would be a coffee I’d never get to thoroughly experience.

Fast forward to this past May, and I received a tip from a Twitter friend (hello, Caroline!) that Tim Peaks was now available in whole bean form via Taylors of Harrogate. I was already familiar with Taylors of Harrogate as the producers of the popular Yorkshire Tea, but was pleasantly surprised to read about their passion for coffee. All of the coffee they purchase is either via direct trade with the farmers or is certified Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc., and they give back to the communities where the coffee is grown. As of 2018, Taylors of Harrogate has invested £834,000 into 48 projects in 12 countries! You can read more about their commitment to quality on their “Our Story” page.

I would have bought the Tim Peaks beans immediately if I could have. However, the beans are only available for purchase/shipping within the UK, and their website just said “Coming Back Soon.” I dutifully checked the website about twice a week for a month before finally emailing to ask if Taylors of Harrogate would have this coffee available during my scheduled mid-June trip to the UK. Miraculously, they said YES. I was able to time my order so that the freshly roasted coffee arrived just a day before I returned to the US (Thanks again for letting me ship the coffee to your place, Katie and Mark!).

Taylors of Harrogate designs their bags to be slim enough so that their packaging will fit through letterboxes, so the bags are smaller than typical for coffee companies. In the US, most companies sell their coffee in 12-ounce bags (340 grams). These bags of Tim Peaks are a scant 120 grams each, so I purchased two to ensure that I had enough coffee beans to go through all my testing methods.

Whole bean: Full of cocoa and blackcurrant aromas. Beautifully and evenly roasted, with no oil on the surface of the beans.

V60: This method, brewed for 3:35, brought out a strong bittersweet chocolate flavor with a slight citrus undertone. It reminded me of Valrhona 85% dark chocolate!

AeroPress: This was very fudgy and full of marshmallow flavor, with a hint of grapefruit brightness. This had the sweetness that I felt was lacking slightly in the Hario V60 cup, and since this blend appears to be designed for espresso, it gave me high hopes for how this coffee would taste pulled as espresso shots.

Chemex: I unintentionally brewed this for a mere 3:30 (set my grinder a little too coarsely to hit my usual 4:00 extraction time), but the result was fabulous; super smooth and sweet brew that was loaded with flavors of chocolate, citrus, and berries, with a powdered sugar flavor (and texture) on the finish. If you don’t have the option of making espresso at home, try these beans in a Chemex – it was my favorite method for this blend.

French press: Plush, rich texture, but this French press cup was tinged with a sour citrus flavor, which overwhelmed all of the other flavors in the coffee.

Espresso: I found these beans to be remarkably consistent from shot to shot; this is a forgiving blend! The shots had a lovely balance to them; deep chocolate richness with the brightness of blackcurrant to keep your taste buds awake. The flavor lingered for a good long while (20-25 seconds after swallowing), like listening to the last chord of a song slowly fading away. This was a very easy espresso to drink straight.

Favorite parameters for this blend: I tested this from 199-207 degrees Fahrenheit, and all the shots were quite consistently good even with the wide temperature variation. But, my favorite parameters were:

18 grams in, 204 degrees Fahrenheit, 25.6 grams out, 25-second extraction.

With milk: The AeroPress cup had hints of marshmallow flavor, and when I made an espresso shot into a flat white, that flavor was amplified – the cup was a decadent and almost obscenely sweet mixture of chocolate and marshmallow. I didn’t get any notes of blackcurrant or citrus in this preparation, but I didn’t miss them – who could complain about this cup of pure, unabashed sweetness and joy?? Drinking this made me feel like I was back in Auditorium Shores in Austin, beaming and grooving along with 50,000 other people to music that makes you feel good, deep down to your bones.

Summary: Tim Peaks may have started as a lark, as a clever bit of wordplay, but I am delighted that it has come to life as a coffee blend that mirrors my impression of the Charlatans’ music: classic and engaging with unique twists that keep you coming back, full of zest and energy and unapologetic pleasure. As a coffee, this was exceptional when brewed in a Chemex for its fruit-forward flavor and sweetness. As an espresso, it’s equally enjoyable straight and in milk, but I’ll say that this espresso + milk creates a taste that’s like the most life-affirming hug you’ve ever gotten. This coffee brings me the same pleasure that I get when I hear the first notes of my favorite songs, and I just want to say thanks to Tim Burgess and Taylors of Harrogate for making this formerly imaginary coffee into a beautiful reality.

From the roaster: Created with The Charlatans’ frontman, Tim Burgess, this beautiful Brazil-Kenya blend is fine-tuned to make a damn fine espresso. Served at Tim Peaks Diner (Tim’s festival coffee shop and music venue) it’s got a big, bold flavour profile that’s bursting with blackcurrant, chocolate, and citrus.

50p from each pack sold will go to Tim’s chosen charity, The David Lynch Foundation, whose mission is to change the lives of young people through Transcendental Meditation.

This coffee is only available for shipping to UK addresses; Taylors of Harrogate roasts once a week on Tuesdays. If you’re lucky enough to be attending the Kendal Calling Festival (July 25-28, 2019, Lake District, UK), perhaps you might be able to get your hands on this at the pop-up Tim Peaks Diner at the festival!

Taylors of Harrogate Tim Peaks Coffee

Review conducted 12 days post-roast.

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