Alessandro Carciotto, owner of Nu Noir (French for “naked black”) in the well-heeled Perth suburb of Mount Hawthorn, is serious about coffee.
And so are his customers – the one who bought one of his $100 specialty cuppas last week was not the first to enjoy one.
Nu Noir takes no shortcuts. Credit:Nu Noir cafe, Perth
Carciotto had his first barista job on Fremantle’s cappuccino strip aged 15, and grew up to work for the country’s biggest coffee wholesalers before setting out to offer Perth punters something different.
“Our motto was to bring back the beauty of espresso,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t drink it – it’s been tarnished by astringent, low quality coffees.”
The international Q grading program certifies professionals such as quality controllers, roasters, buyers, and exporters in the sensory evaluation of green coffee through a training and evaluation process, with about 7000 Q graders in the world.
They grade coffee out of 100, marking it down for defects. No coffee has ever received 100.
The beans for $100 cup came second in last year’s 26th Best of Panama in which growers compete their Geishas, a rare, ancient Ethiopian variety rediscovered in the country.
Carciotto’s choice, the Black Jaguar, was graded at 93.25, and sold at auction to a Taiwanese roaster for almost $US280 a pound.
To put this in perspective, Carciotto said most cafe blends were around the 75-80 mark. “Specialty” cafes sold coffees graded 82-plus.
Nu Noir’s La Marzocco Leva X coffee machine reinvents the classic level lever machine design. Credit:Nu Noir cafe, Perth
Nu Noir’s house blend, 2 Keys, is an 84-point blend sold for around $5 a cup.
The cafe has many price points, be it that or $7-$8 or $50-$60. Carciotto said many chose the house blend for a daily cup and might treat themselves to something special once a week, just as a wine drinker would, or a whiskey or gin aficionado at a specialty bar.
The man who recently dropped the C-note was part of a group of what Carciotto affectionately calls “coffee nerds”.
They get together in Perth for “cupping” tasting events and this particular nerd heard of Nu Noir through Carciotto’s business partner, a well known coffee specialist.
He came in, tasted a few of Nu Noir’s offerings and then said he wanted to taste the Geisha from the cafe’s rare vintage lever-style machine.
Carciotto said the customer was “extremely satisfied” and came back within days.
“From a business perspective I knew we’d have to do well with everyday coffee and it will be a slow thing with the specialty coffee,” he said.
“But we have actually had people catch on quick and be curious about why, and that’s the question everybody’s asking, why is it worth so much, how do you justify it?”
The cafe has a flavour wheel showing all the flavours you could get in coffee, such as cherry, pomegranate, cinnamon, nutmeg and jasmine, and the higher the grade, the clearer and more identifiable those flavours are, Carciotto said.
There are plenty of budget-friendly options for the coffee curious. Credit:Nu Noir cafe, Perth
“You’re getting super-sweet beautiful flavours and you can sip and enjoy the aftertaste that is as good as the initial taste,” he said.
“Recently we had one with a coconut culture introduced in the fermentation phase that tasted just like a pina colada, and we made it for a customer, it was $9 and they said it was the best coffee they ever had.”
Asked if flat white drinkers are scorned, Carciotto says no. He will only try to make them the best flat white possible.
He says coffee needs to be approachable and while everyone has an opinion on price, he thinks consumers need education on value.
“The equipment, the procedures; we spend quite a lot compared to others charging the same price with a third of the expense,” he said.
“I think our $5 coffee is worth $7 or $8, but $5 is what the public is prepared to pay.
“We freshly grind our decaf which a lot of people don’t do. I have a $4000 grinder for decaf. That’s respecting your beverage.”
Great things come in small batches and that was Carciotto’s last cup of Black Jaguar for sale.
But there is more in store.
Tools of the trade. Credit:Nu Noir cafe, Perth
Another offering is the coffee Columbia’s barista champion is rumoured to have chosen for use in approaching world titles. A tasting on September 17 will use the beans featured at the Australian championships, made as short macchiatos with frozen distilled milk, a serving technique used in the last world titles and in October the cafe will receive new coffees awarded in the Best of Panama 2022.
But their best cup of all is not for sale: Nuguo Fermented, which placed first at the Best in Panama 2021, with only 45 kilograms produced, bought by a Chinese company for more than $US2500 a pound.
“That one I’m saving for my coffee partner’s child being born,” Carciotto said.
I joke his partner will probably need the caffeine, but he doesn’t laugh.
“It’s for a celebration,” he said. “I don’t want coffee to be a medicine or an energy drink. It’s for the beauty it can give you.”
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