I have to admit I have never been a coffee connoisseur. As far as I’m concerned, a chocolate mousse and tea loaves win over tiramisu any day. I was firmly raised a tea drinker and even allowing for all those business meetings when tea wasn’t available and my distaste for chilled water prevailed on me to take the warmer caffeine option, I still reckon I’ve probably downed more cuppas than coffees.
My parents still start the day with a brew, make another after lunch and religiously again at “tea” time, an event which, when we were children, was accompanied (yes, really!) with sandwiches, cake and biscuits (we drank milk, I hasten to add!), until I was old enough to join the grown ups for dinner. Even now, they rarely, if ever, drink coffee more than once a day. My mother had two medical horror stories for us children as we grew up – one was how her compacted wisdom teeth had to be cut out of her jaw, the other was her attack of caffeine poisoning on the first day of a new job!
Not for me, the strong “stand a spoon up in it” black coffee that my Granny insisted on drinking with her burnt toast and Marmite at breakfast. No, when not slurping tea, I can be found savouring the less bitter, sweeter chicory taste of an occasional milky instant coffee/latte/café au lait/con leche, (depending on where I am). The sort my Nana made mid-morning. The sort of coffee I was given on my first trip to France. A large cup of warm, milky and slightly sweet coffee, the sort I thought I’d read about in Elinor M Brent Dyer’s Chalet School stories. The sort I fancied waking up to every morning please. Tea be damned. I have struggled to replicate the delight of that warm bowl of refreshment ever since.
I will admit that once my parents decided I was of an age where they felt it was OK to make me a cup of the “evil brew”, I probably did drink more than one a day at times. Mostly to help me stay awake long enough to pass my A-levels and get my degree. Then of course, I started work, where it was almost a negative career choice to ask for tea in a meeting. Then finally pregnancy saw me cut out caffeine altogether. So, yes, my coffee intake has varied, but I have never, not once ever, liked it enough to even consider drinking an espresso.
Liquid Evil, the Darth Vader of drinks, is pretty much how I viewed it. Until, that is, the big coffee shop chains came along with their cappuccino and latte, which of course, use espresso shots as a flavour base. To this day, I prefer one brand over the other, purely because their espresso is sweeter/less bitter than the others. Well, to my delicate palate at least.
It’s ok. I can hear you asking how on earth I came to be writing a review for Carte Noire’s Espresso Collective? Complete with tasting notes no less (don’t they only come with wine?)!
Well, when I was invited to take part, I was curious. Today, Carte Noire are launching their new range of espresso capsules compatible with *Nespresso machines in UK supermarkets and, given we currently blast through the ceiling of our weekly supermarket budget indulging Mayfair Dad’s coffee habit by buying capsules, rather than filter coffee; as mistress of the family budget, I was quite keen to find an alternative that he will drink happily for less.
It is probably now that I should say that although the rest of this review may make it sound as though Mayfair Dad mainlines neat caffeine from dawn to dusk, he really doesn’t! However, relative to me and my modest/naive coffee drinking habits and tastes, I need you to bear in mind that he is the definite consumer/connoisseur in our house, not me!
He drinks so much of the stuff, I don’t believe he still has a palate that could discern one strength from the next, but he begs to differ… so, post-anniversary marital tiffs about palate aside… Carte Noire sent me this delightful looking box of goodies last week.
Four boxes of capsules no less (ten in each). One box each of their four new flavours (strengths 3, 5, 7 and 9) together with tasting notes, press release and a couple of hi-tech looking Bodum espresso shot glasses, which I unwrapped from the sleek and beautiful black gift box very carefully – my usual connection with espresso in our house is the accidental dropping and smashing of the espresso cups in our collection of wedding crockery!
The new range of capsules features four distinct flavours and each espresso comes with its own special character. Some are accompanied by subtle fruity notes, whereas others offer a more complex chocolaty or nutty aftertaste. What’s more, there are a range of intensities so the higher the number, the higher the intensity, providing real choice whatever the mood or occasion:
- N°3 Élégant is an exceptional pure Arabica coffee with a smooth and subtle taste enhanced by cereal notes.
- N°5 Délicat is a pure Arabica coffee with fruity notes and a silky texture
- N°7 Aromatique is an aromatic pure Arabica coffee with delicate hints of cocoa
- N°9 Intense is a rich, intense blend of pure, darkly roasted Arabica coffee
I started with a latte using a N°3 pod. Please appreciate this is an unusual occurrence for me. I use no fancy machines, just warm milk in the microwave and add a shot of espresso from Mayfair Dad’s Nespresso machine (purchased pre-July 2013) all in the same mug.
The Carte Noire capsule slotted in to the machine with ease and worked a treat, falling neatly into the waste capsule collecting tray without a problem and produced a mild mannered, smooth and highly enjoyable cup of coffee. A quick note about the packaging. All by chic and classy but the capsules come wrapped in plastic foil wrappers inside the boxes. This means the boxes are rather large and you have more to dispose of/ recycle. If you prefer to dispose of the box and keep the capsules in a large jar as we do, the black wrappers are clearly marked so you can tell which coffee strength you have chosen, whereas the capsules all look identical. I would also be happier if the cardboard boxes could be made so they are easier to flatten for recycling. It wouldn’t stop me purchasing but it would make my life easier.
So, emboldened by the smooth and easy taste of N°3, I later tried a N°5. Maybe it is my uneducated coffee palate, but I noticed very little difference in the flavours. Possibly, I would describe it as “more intense” than the N°3 but only a little.
The next day, I made a N°7 latte. Now, it’s not as if the earth moved or anything but this heavenly brew was like the cafe au lait I had for breakfast, that first morning in France.
Meanwhile, as soon as he arrived home, Mayfair Dad was keen to try the stronger flavoured N°7 and N°9 pods too. He didn’t dislike either of them. In fact, I probably shouldn’t tell you how quickly he has managed to all but finish the box of N°7 capsules this weekend…! He did say that he wasn’t sure they tasted as strong as other capsules he had tasted that were at that end of the intensity yardstick, but I plucked up the courage to do the same and I have to say, they were, indeed, very palatable.
So I have learned one thing. That Arabica is my bean and (ok, two things) that Carte Noire espresso capsules N°7 , when topped up with a decent mug full of warm milk, latte-style, is as close to my idea of caffeine nirvana as I have ever been lucky enough to drink. They even went down a treat with my local coffee connoisseur. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make a tiramisu yet? Of course, that’s only if there’s any left!
This post is an entry in the Foodies100 Espresso Collective Challenge, sponsored by Carte Noire. Each box of Carte Noire Espresso capsules contain 10 single servings and are available in supermarkets at an RRP of £2.79 and are available in four intensities. To find out more about the new Carte Noire Collection Espresso click here.*Nespresso® is a registered trademark of a third party without any link with Mondelez International group. Compatible with all Nespresso®* machines bought before July 1, 2013. After that date, compatible with most Nespresso®* machines bought. For additional information regarding compatibility, please see UK: http://www.CARTENOIRE.co.uk/compatibility