Yes, that controversial new coffee shop in Brighton. As much as it pains me to write the word Coffe, I felt a little investigation was needed.
As someone who has worked in the coffee industry, I’m naturally very dubious of brands claiming to produce “barista style” coffee for so little. And what does that really mean anyway?
I’ve been trying to find out a bit more about Coffefix for a while, but they’re not giving too much away on their website.
“We roast our high altitude organic green beans on site and also offer bags of our free roasted coffee. Our secret and unique blend of African beans is infamous for its rich taste, whilst our Brazilian blend is sought after for its precise strength. The Coffefix blend is built around beautiful and freshly roasted coffee, at only £1 a cup.” – Coffeefix
A brand new coffee shop with an already infamous blend of coffee? What type of coffee beans are we talking – Arabica? Robusta? Where are these beans sourced from exactly, and do Coffefix have a relationship with the farm they originate from? For a coffee shop that roasts their own beans, it’s surprising they don’t want to share more.
A visit to Coffeefix
The bright red £1 branding is certainly OTT, although it did seem to start up conversation with passers by. Step inside, and the red is toned down remarkably so. The place does look more like the sort of coffee shop you’d expect, except it’s rather bare. It’s a huge space and feels a bit wasted, with two benches slapped in the middle and a few stools around the edges. .
I moseyed over to the chillers to see whether the food and drinks were a pound as advertised. Yes they are, although I can’t say it looked particularly tempting, and they’d managed to spell chicken wrong on one of the labels.
I stepped up to the counter and ordered a flat white. The barista asked if I wanted it in or to takeaway, but explained that to sit in it’s an extra 50p. Bear in mind we’re talking about just drinks here, and one served in a paper cup at all times. So I took it outside for examination.
First thing was first, it was way too hot. At a guess I would say around 80°, which is way over the optimum serving temperature. Not only does it mean burnt milk, the natural sweetness from the milk is lost. This is where the burnt or bitter taste that so many associate with coffee can come from. Another possibility is that the water temperature itself was too hot, meaning that the espresso is over extracted. However, judging by the milk quality (see below), I’m thinking this was the biggest issue.
This is not a flat white. The thick peaks of foam do not belong here (nor arguably in any coffee…) and the surface was covered in large air bubbles.
Not quite as it seems
About two thirds in I called it quits, but decided to investigate some more and asked the barista to tell me about their on-site roasting and unique blends. According to the barista*, there isn’t actually an on-site roastery yet, and they weren’t too sure on when there would be. Currently, their espresso beans come in already roasted from another supplier.
So, I asked, once the roastery was up and running, would they be forming relationships with the coffee farms the beans come from? The barista didn’t seem to think so – although perhaps they just didn’t know.
I’m not fooled, and I don’t think a lot of others will be. We are so lucky for the abundance of great coffee in Brighton, that newcomers have to do a lot more to catch most consumers’ attention. For me, there is nothing premium or extraordinary (their own words) about Coffefix. Paper cups, non-recyclable lids, extra charges here and there… it’s clear the costs are being kept as low as possible.
Whether the on-site roasting happens or not, the current information out there is misleading. Transparency is key for many establishments today, particularly as it’s become more important to us as consumers.
Have you checked them out yet? I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts!
*I just want to point out that this information is based on a conversation with a member of staff, thus I cannot guarantee how much they know for certain.