One of the great pleasures of travelling is exploring local food and drink; for obvious reasons my focus tends to be more on the drink than the food!
Local beer is always top on my list, but often there will be local wines, spirits and – increasingly – coffee to be explored too. Our trip to Ontario last year gave me the chance to try various local craft breweries, to explore the excellent vineyards in the area and even pay a visit to Toronto’s very own sake distillery.
We also spent a few days in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, much to the bemusement of the locals who respond to the idea in the same kind of tone you’d get from an London local if you suggested you were looking forward to a few days vacation in Stevenage.
Despite their reservations, Ottawa turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable city to visit, and has the added benefit of being home to an excellent coffee roastery in the form of Bridgehead. Their main roastery is an impressive space and, of course, has whatever the coffee equivalent of a brewery tap is attached to it – giving us the opportunity to admire all the shiny equipment and heavenly aromas over a cup or two of coffee that can only be fairly described as the pinnacle of ‘freshly roasted’.
The great thing about coffee is that, unlike beers or wines or spirits, it’s a lot easier to stow a generous quantity in your checked-in luggage when returning from foreign cities, without fear of coming home with a suitcase full of broken glass, soggy clothes and disappointment.
So, a bag of Bytown Boom beans came home with us, described as a “classic dark profile with a strong smooth and robust character” which… doesn’t really tell us much, to be honest.
(The name, by the way, harks back to the history of Ottawa. Originally called Bytown after being founded by John By, it was very much a boom town, driven by the vast tracts of lumber in the surrounding area)
The grounds are certainly dark, with an initial aroma of old, hot wood. Over time, black cherries start to come through, along with just a little citrus acidity.
Brewed, the aroma becomes richer, fruitier and with a little more sweetness to it, while in the background is just a hint of woodsmoke.
In the mouth there’s a nice body to it, but the flavours are a little muted. There’s a pleasingly restrained, slightly tannic bitterness that lingers nicely, and there’s definitely some gentle red berry fruit but it’s not strong.
This is a coffee which is a little tricky to sum up; in terms of flavour it’s fairly average, but the balance of body and bitterness makes it a good, refreshing morning coffee. 3 stars, and worth seeking out if you find yourself in Ottawa!
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