The Friday Feature 021

Winning, Writing, Water…

Last week, I ‘announced’ that The Friday Feature would pause on proceedings until further notice, while I squeeze my way through the pipeline to see if I can push some other ideas through. This is still the case, so consider this week’s feature an encore. A bonus track on the tail-end of a stellar album, thanks to the time and effort invested by those featured.

Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, a coffee giant that needs little introduction, takes the Q&A this week! Among his interesting answers, he shares his coffee preferences and experiences of life competing in coffee championships- somethings he’s rather good at, having competed at the highest level with great success. These days, Maxwell is busy as the M.D of Colonna Coffee, writing incredible books and materialising Peak Water, which aims to provide us all with perfect water to brew coffee with!


Q- Who Is Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood?
A- A coffee person, who likes drinking, exploring and talking about coffee. I write books sometimes and in my spare time, wear lycra and lift heavy things. I am highly competitive.

Q- Preferred coffee drink?
A- I am awful at favourites, favourite film, favourite colour; I just can’t commit to one! I generally drink coffee black but enjoy it when a coffee really showcases character with milk. I drink a lot of filter coffee but always love a great espresso. In recent years I have become rather fond of mid strength coffee between espresso and filter. We call this a lung in our store, we grind coarser, lower the pressure and brew it to around 5% strength.

Q- Favourite film?

Q- Favourite colour?

Q- Preferred brew method?
A- I enjoy drinking exceptional coffee at varying strengths and in varying styles. One thing I am big on is not applying too much attribution of flavour to the method, whilst also recognising it does have an impact. Give me good coffee, good water and a decent grinder and I’m happy with most methods. Right now I am enjoying the Kompreso by Cafflano which achieves real espresso manually, its a super cool design.

Q- Tell us about your last coffee.
A- I fall in the pro Geisha camp. Of course they are not always exceptional but when they are I am captivated by them. I love very aromatic coffee. This morning I have been enjoying a Geisha from Costa Rica, not where we typically source Geisha from. We tend to love the Panama and Colombia Geisha. The Candelilla lot is a natural process coffee and has lots of fresh fruit and violet notes.

Q- Do you have a favourite coffee producing country, particular farm or varietal?
A- Oooh, like I said before, I hate having to choose favourites. I think part of what I love is variety and exploration of flavour in coffee. Saying that, I definitely lean towards the aromatic, complex and fruity coffees, typically Ethiopian and varieties like Geisha and Pacamara grown in Central America. I had the most incredible Sudan Rume lot from La Cabre recently that was just like oolong tea, I would definitely like to taste more of this variety and others with these unique flavour profiles. I am also a huge fan of Rwanda and Burundi that manage to have deeper and heavier complex profiles but without having the things I dont normally like about heavier coffees. They are aromatic and complex and deep at the same time.

Q- Share a coffee highlight so far; where everything from the drink to the setting was just perfect!
A- Oh wow, theres so many.

Q- Have in or to go?
A- Well, I never drink in a takeaway cup but I often like drinking coffee outside, it seems to open up the senses.

Q- What makes a great coffee shop?
A- Understanding and careful consideration of the experience you want to offer.

Q- What’s your must-have coffee companion?
A- People. To share my excitement and appreciation with.

Q- Most important coffee tool?
A- Deduction.

Q- Why speciality coffee?
A- Engagement.

Q- How did you go from a coffee enthusiast to the creator of a worldwide brand?
A- I started with a passion for the product, a love of a challenge, a bit of bloody mindedness, and along the way I’ve hopefully made the most of working with great people and pursuing opportunities. Plus a sprinkling of luck for good measure. But in all honesty it doesnt feel like we are a “worldwide brand” or that we are done. We just keep working hard on our projects and feel we have lots more to achieve.

Q- Can you share how it felt to win the UK Barista Championship three times and what it’s like to to compete in the World Championships?
A- The barista competitions were definitely the most intense thing I have ever done. I got used to it towards the end though, and enjoyed being on stage more and more as opposed to just being terrified. Even now its easy to forget just how much goes into a competition season and how all-consuming it is to go all the way to the world final. I gained so much from these competitions; they are incredible platforms and their ability to create opportunities with like minded people around the world in coffee is unrivalled.

Q- The Coffee Dictionary and Water For Coffee are truly brilliant books. What was the driving force behind writing these?
A- They both kind of just happened. I had enjoyed writing for my blog and articles for a while. But to be honest the water book is not that kind of writing. With the Water book, it was amazing that the paper had been published, but that paper was only a small part of the topic. We were very keen on making sure that the paper was not misleading and we wanted to provide the whole story, thus the origins of the book were founded. We have been working on version two with revised and updated content. The Dictionary excited me, as the format (200 words per entry) meant I could talk about all the interesting and intriguing elements without fear of inaccessibility. That book was an opportunity to do the opposite of ‘Water’, to focus on accessibility and tell little stories.

Q- Can you briefly share your thoughts on the relationship between science and art within coffee preparation?
A- There’s very little actual science in coffee. There are so many variables that scientists look at coffee and recoil, especially because ultimately, the key is whether we think it tastes good or not and scientifically, the variance in opinion means lots of questions end up having inconclusive answers. However, at the same time it helps us move forward, it’s just about realising the reach and lack of reach. Someone had a nice analogy the other day. These days coffee has so many doors to open, too many, and science helps close some of those doors and makes the journey more manageable.

Q- How can we try your coffee?!
A- Jump on to our site, stop by our shop or keep an eye out for Colonna in great coffee shops around the world.

Q- What should we look out for from you in the future?
A- Oh wow, well to be honest, I have never had a 5 year plan, I am keen to be involved in things that I am passionate about and to take opportunities to collaborate with great people on projects and see where that takes me. If you haven’t seen our latest project, its called Peak Water and we have just funded it on Kickstarter. The inspiration was to get industry quality filtration into an accessible counter top jug to make water better for making coffee around the world.


Photo credit- Ash James Photography. @ashjamesphotography.

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