Red Diamond Cafe seems to be the hottest Thai cafe in town. Lots of $$$ coffee gears that coffee enthusiasts ooh and aah and its positioning as the ultimate destination for “specialty coffee” are major draws for this cafe of the moment.This Central World branch is Red Diamond’s second branch right in the city center vs. the suburb location of its first shop which is hard to reach for both tourist and some local alike. At the time of this writing, Red Diamond’s third location is in the making.W
Red Diamond Cafe seems to be the hottest Thai cafe in town. Lots of $$$ coffee gears that coffee enthusiasts ooh and aah and its positioning as the ultimate destination for “specialty coffee” are major draws for this cafe of the moment.
This Central World branch is Red Diamond’s second branch right in the city center vs. the suburb location of its first shop which is hard to reach for both tourist and some local alike. At the time of this writing, Red Diamond’s third location is in the making.
What strikes me most is its barista training program. Notice that barista here wear black glove with no apron required that signifies their ‘graduation’ from Red Diamond’s 4-month training period (doing anything in the cafe except brewing coffee for the first two months) that ended with "Black Glove Ceremony", joined by various generations of black glove “graduates” to welcome these black glove “rookies” into the world of Red Diamond barista. Also, more gloves mean more seniority.
In the real life, the barista that worked on the day I visited were very enthusiastic and I felt they were so proud on what they were doing. The confident level is simply over the top and they have no qualm as a coffee expert in approaching and advising customers on anything coffee. I even saw a barista whipped out an aroma kit to some customers just to make his point. However, nobody offers me that kit; otherwise, I could learn a thing or two on that day.
Eccentric as it sounds to some coffee people, the proof on all these trainings that was celebrated on the company’s Facebook is really in the pudding i.e. whether these barista can deliver good cup of coffee. In my opinion, I had no complaint about the brew on that visit. Mind you all the coffee I had on that day is not at the tip top level of brewing, but passable. The brew seems to meet the basic requirement of brewing and let the coffee show itself, in my opinion. If the training program of this nature works, it is good no matter what others think about it. Whatever it takes...
My first order is the Steampunk of Guatemala SHB Huehuetenango - Washed. I chose the more simple coffee as I believe it allows the skill of roasting, brewing and green bean selection to shine better than a strong taste coffee like natural and honey. And this test the bottomline on the basic requirement of how good the coffee should be to be on Red Diamond coffee list.
Right away, there’s a hiccup for this order in that the barista told me to drink only after the timer rings. The timer was set to three minutes and I know that setting as the timer hasn’t yet been started when the coffee was served! I started the timer right away that I found out this glitch and hoped it fit Red Diamond’s protocol on how to drink this coffee...
The Steampunk coffee shows a superb clarity, which, to me, is the hallmark of Steampunk coffee. This is followed by some fruity tone that is close to berry. Colder, the coffee started to show some smoky and wood tones which buried all the tasting notes I had earlier. Later, I sense some savory, dryness and astringent tone in the cup. I don’t get caramel, bright and round as the tasting note said. Later, the coffee turned harsher when colder. Needless to say, I was underwhelmed by this cup.
I had better Guatamala than this I would say. I’m not talking about the fancy Guatemala like those from El Injerto farm but the basic one. The brew alone could not make this coffee come this “far” so, for me, I blame this strange and indescribable cup on the roaster and the green selection for this cup of coffee.
Next up is espresso of Red Diamond “Reserve” espresso blend of Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda beans. I got a tight cup of espresso and the cup has a dry and astringent tone with some salty plum, woody feel, making it difficult to sense all those tasting note provided in the tasting note card. The aftertaste is way too short, quite strange indeed. Notice that the harsh, astringent and woody tones of espresso reminisced those of Steampunk coffee I had earlier. This means it’s more of a roaster issue than a barista issue with the same tasting note on different coffee happening across different brew methods. I’m not too impressed at all espresso that came out of Mavam espresso machine which, to my understanding, has all the innards of Synesso, the coffee machine that I love.
I chose Cappuccino of the same Red Diamond “Reserve” espresso blend as the woody tone might work well under the milk. Nevertheless, this is not what I call delicious milk drink. My Capp is sour like unsweetened yogurt; my guess is that this Cappuccino uses less milk/too much coffee, likely double ristretto as coffee base. If I were to say something good on this Cappuccino, it seems to be some very fainted orange cream. Nevertheless, this is not enough to provide a cover up for other tasting notes and lift up the overall quality of this Cappuccino.
In all, Red Diamond did a good job on its barista; they seems to do their job well and help elevated the cup as much as they could but for my visit this time. However, I felt the roaster and the green bean selection are main issues for Red Diamond that needs urgent attention. I think its roaster tries too hard to be different, judging from the coffee I had.
In addition, it hits home for me when I saw the recommended coffee list of the week. All the coffee in the list are of natural processing. Unlike most washed coffee, such a strong taste coffee like natural and, to a lesser extent, honey process coffee allow more error in both roasting and brewing, ie whatever mistake you make in those steps, natural coffee should still come out tasty enough even with those errors.
The “84 Score from CQI” is another sticking point. Of all the years I have been drinking coffee, I’ve never seen any roaster, local or international, big or small, use this Q evaluation/Q coffees program on their roasted coffee. Quite a few of coffee people I talked to haven’t heard of this program and a recent Q grader told me he has never seen this program used by any roaster with his years in the coffee industry. I can see a point why Red Diamond uses this program for one out of 16 coffees on offering as Thai coffee remains less well known on quality vs major coffee producers in other countries. However, don’t get carried away when you see this. Think about it, if this Q evaluation/Q Coffees program is such an important element to the coffee, we should have seen and known about it, at least since 2013 when I found the reference to this program.