Having read about mobile specialty coffee services, I have always felt that they are a great way to expose more people to what coffee can be. This different customer segment would enjoy trying specialty coffee, but might not have it readily accessible to them. o this spring when I saw brief tweets of a trailer being transformed by Matthew Taylor, former Mercury Espresso co-owner and one of the top Toronto baristas, I got very excited that we might be getting a quality mobile coffee service. A few weeks ago, I confirmed that indeed Manual Labour Coffee was fully operational, and would be starting at the Oakville Food Market on Saturdays, as well as doing private events on demand. Although Oakville is a long drive for me, I was considering trying to squeeze in a visit at one point, but great chance was on my side last week.

The Chance Encounter

I was diligently working away at my desk, when a colleague comes by my desk and asks me if I had heard of Manual Labour Coffee. Yes, and how come the question? Because it was out front! I jumped from my desk, and went downstairs into the turning circle. Indeed, there was Matthew and his wife Katie serving coffee for a corporate employee appreciation event. I couldn’t resist checking it out and chatting with Matthew.

The Setup

An old camping trailer has been gutted and transformed with big windows into welcoming coffee service reflecting the style of its owners. With a very quiet Honda generator providing electricity for the coffee service, it is equipped with a hot water tower, a Baratza Preciso grinder, and a pourover station for drip coffee, and for espresso, it has a Mazzer Super Jolly paired with a La Marzocco GS3. Solid equipment for sure, but nothing over the top. After tasting the coffee, I was smugly reaffirmed in my belief that great coffee depends so much on the coffee being served and the skills of the barista.

As for the coffee, Manual Labour is working with Detour Coffee as its principal roaster, as it showcases some of their highlight selections. During our chance encounter the two drip selections were an Ethiopian Kochere and Guatemalan from El Limonar. Both well reputed green sources that many top roasters source. For espresso, Matthew requested a custom blend that ended up being a combination of these two nice coffees.

The Coffee Tasting

As a starter, I thought it would be befitting to try a pour over coffee, and so I was offered the Ethiopian Kochere. The ease and fluidity of the preparation of the cup was quick and the well-extracted cup was very pleasant, but having tried to do the pourover myself, I know it is not as easy as it looks. The nose had subtle citrus notes on top of a rich dark caramels and dark chocolate. The cup had big flavor and the tasting notes were similar to the nose. It had an overall comforting feel with nice sweetness, clarity and light subtle orange acidity that balanced with light creaminess.

Next I was hoping for an espresso, but I thought it better to wait until the next encounter as a long line of eager coffee drinkers were waiting as they had heard about the great coffee.

Conclusions

When I got back upstairs to the office, I mentioned the service to some members of our social committee, and they went down later for a coffee. When they came back up, the first thing they mentioned was how great their coffee and cappuccinos tasted, and then how approachable Matthew and Katie are.

With MatthewTaylor starting up Manual Labour Coffee, Toronto couldn’t have gotten much luckier for somebody to run a quality mobile coffee service. Having been instrumental in developing the procedures at Mercury for great coffee, the same knowledge is showcased with Manual Labour. Furthermore, each time that I drink coffee with Matthew, I am reminded of the approachability he brings to coffee. Each time I have had the chance to taste coffee and talk about coffee with Matthew, I admire the way he is able to make things so approachable while imparting knowledge and perspective in a way that makes you think it was self discovery. If you happen to be at an event where Manual Labour is serving coffee, be sure to try a cup.

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