The Difference Coffee Company
“My tastes are simple,” the great statesman and bon viveur Winston Churchill once declared. “I am easily satisfied with the best.”
Amir Gehl, founder of The Difference Coffee Company, has the same philosophy. Like Churchill, he is an aficionado of fine wine and cigars, but his professional life is dedicated solely to coffee: sourcing, roasting and packaging the finest coffee beans on the planet.
Gehl’s family background is in tobacco, not coffee, and he admits not even liking coffee until a few years ago, finding it too bitter. One good cup of coffee changed his mind, and he now talks about coffee with the evangelical zeal of the convert, treating each brew not as an everyday caffeine fix, but as an opportunity to sample something sublime. His mission in life is to persuade the rest of us to follow his example.
Like wine, there is a “quality pyramid” of coffee, with “specialty” coffee accounting for just 1% of global production; also like wine, the very best coffee comes from single estates, often in remote locations, and it is these precious corners of countries like Panama, Jamaica and Guatemala that Gehl scours for his beans.
Each year, specialty coffees are rigorously graded by panels of experts (“Q” graders), who - after “cupping” each coffee a multitude of times - award scores out of 100 to each one. Gehl buys only the highest scorers, the crème de la crème: “for instance, I recently bought beans from an estate in Panama that scored 94.66/100, a local record. “I paid $661 (585€) a pound for them: once they have lost 20% of their weight in roasting, that works out at around £8 (9.10€) per pod.”
The beans are purchased green at auction, then roasted by a master: The Difference Coffee Company’s Jonny England, one of only four licensed Q graders in Europe and also head judge for both the World Barista Championship and the World Brewers’ Cup.
Together, he and Gehl decide on the perfect way to roast each batch, coaxing the perfect balance of fruitiness and acidity from the beans and intensifying their unique flavours.
Patrons of Europe’s top restaurants may already have sampled Difference Coffee without knowing it: Gehl creates special roasts for many top chefs, including Anne-Sophie Pic, Guy Savoy and Alain Passard.
Clients like these, who own top-end coffee machines and employ professional baristas, usually buy beans and grind them to order, but Gehl has found an ingenious and practical solution for domestic clients. He roasts and grinds the world’s finest coffees, then puts a precise amount into a pod, flushes it with inert gas to prevent oxidation, and seals it. The pods are compatible with Nespressoâ machines, so anyone can make consistently superb coffee at home without an expensive machine or the skills of a barista.
Pods currently available - all 100% specialty grade arabica - include first-rate coffees from Panama, Hawaii, Indonesia, Jamaica and Brazil. Prices for a box of 10 pods start from just £22.50. To find out more, visit www.differencecoffee.com.