In the UK, we guzzle around 95 million cups of coffee a day and worldwide, it is thought to be the most popular drink. Who can blame us? There’s nothing quite like the tantalising aroma and first sip of a freshly made coffee.
But with life becoming busier and many of us constantly on the go, it is never the most convenient beverage to knock up.
With not enough time to grind our own beans at home or wait in the queue at the local cafe, the drinks market was shouting out for a convenient alternative for a barista-style cup. And now, there is finally a new and easy way to score your caffeine fix – coffee bags.
What is that? I hear you asking. Could we really make a decent cup of coffee without an elaborate machine or faffing with a cafetiere, simply with a square-shaped sachet of coffee grounds? And we’re not talking the often weak and tasteless instant, this is proper roasted and ground coffee.
Just like the ease of making a cup of tea, you dunk your coffee bag into a mug, pour on boiling water and leave to brew – the longer you leave it, the stronger it tastes. A little squeeze, a little shake, pop the bag in the bin and – voila!
Something similar to coffee bags was a short-lived trend brought in during the Seventies but back then, it never caught on. Now though, the biggest brands, as well as some brilliant independent retailers, have mastered it and are offering up a delicious, convenient and sustainable way to deliver a barista-style coffee.
When testing out our coffee bags, we made sure we left them to brew for the time suggested on the box, which ranged from two to five minutes, similar to brewing a tea bag. For all of the coffees, we drank our cup black without milk or sugar to ensure we experienced the full flavour.
We were looking for an instant, tantalising aroma to take our breath away even before the first sip and a strong but not overpowerful or bitter taste.
So, whether you’re in a rush or simply bored of complicated coffee nonsense – just boil the kettle and off you go.
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Paddy & Scott’s craft coffee brew bags
Perhaps the most efficiently packaged, these sweet-smelling brew bags come in an easy to serve narrow box, which slots discreetly next to your kettle. Paddy & Scott’s bags are compostable and the packaging is recyclable, and, taking the brand’s ethical stance even further, have launched its own coffee farm in Kenya and champion sustainable coffee making.
The regular blend uses Arabica and Robusta coffee and there’s also a decaf option, too. With taste notes of chocolate, salted caramel and cherry, both the smell and taste was spot-on. It had a good kick too, with a double shot per bag, and in the brands’ own words claiming to herald a “smooth and natural high” took the words right out of our mouth.
Lyons go-Joe compostable coffee, box of 10 bags
Instant coffee experts, Lyons, have dipped its spoon into coffee bags and are now offering four different blends – Go-Joe (named after the brand’s founder Sir Joseph Lyons), perkadilly No.4, rockadero No.5 and decaf dreams. Ethics is at the top of its priority list, teaming up with Tipa – a sustainable packaging specialist – to make sure its bags and sachets are 100 per cent compostable. The brand are also making a donation to Project Waterfall – a charity working towards safe drinking water, sanitation and education in coffee growing communities.
We first tried out rockadero No.5 and by the time the water had hit the bag, the aroma was somewhat overpowering and slightly Marmitey, but the taste made up for it with its smooth, caramel aftertaste. Our favourite blend was Go-Joe and would be a great group-pleaser to take along in a flask to a picnic.
Taylors of Harrogate Italian coffee, box of 10 bags
A firm favourite for coffee aficionados, Taylors of Harrogate have now also pressed its precious granules into bags. The brand have a range of four different flavours – flying start (dark chocolate and hazelnut flavours), hot lava java (a powerful dark roast), rich Italian (dark chocolate and almonds) and decaf. Each bag has been individually wrapped and the boxes are now widely available from a number of different supermarkets.
The rich Italian was our favourite of the selection and its full-bodied, European-style flavour was a perfect way to kick our senses into gear in the morning. However, hot lava java perhaps didn’t provide the punch it promised.
New Kings Coffee medium roast organic, 10 bags
New Kings Coffee is a really cool brand and we loved its compact, easy-to-store boxes and ethical stance, with bags being both fairtrade and organic. But these features come at a price, with £6.99 for just 10 bags seeming awfully steep.
You can choose from four different flavours. You’ve got dark roast from Sumatra in Indonesia which is rich, indulgent and full-bodied and then its most popular option, the medium roast from Guatemala. We agreed with the consensus on this one – a great, nutty flavour with a smooth finish and just the right amount of kick. We’d definitely pick this one again. Its light roast from Sidamo, Ethiopia, is fruitier than the rest and a good choice for an afternoon beverage. There’s a decaf option too.
Black Insomnia coffee pour-over bags, 16 bags
Although we were slightly intimidated by the claims of this being the “world’s strongest coffee” – it conjured up images of us bouncing off the walls within seconds of the fist sip – we were pleasantly surprised by this. We were expecting bitter, but we received smooth and we still got a buzz, but a tasty one!
The Black Insomnia Coffee Company roasts its coffee using a traditional Italian method which gives the drink a nutty aroma and a dark chocolate aftertaste. With 1105mg of caffeine per 12oz mug (more than four times the average strength of other high-street brands) those looking for an extra kick have been sampling Black Insomnia’s products for a while, but its brand new coffee drip bags are something new for the collection.
Slightly different from the rest of our bags being reviewed here, the coffee drip bags have a snazzy piece of apparatus to hang the coffee bag into the cup. It looked a little complex as we pulled it out the packaging but actually, it’s easy to use and means a lot less mess than the normal bags. A little expensive perhaps, but it might just be worth the extra pennies for a mess-less and buzz-filled brew.
Ueshima Coffee Company Fuji mountain coffee bags, box of 10
If you’re looking for something pretty unique, this is worth a try. Established in Kobe in Japan in 1033, Ueshima has now travelled 5,000 miles to the UK. As well as beans, roast and ground coffee and capsules, it’s now launched coffee bags in three flavours – Tokyo roast, house blend and Fuji mountain. Every one of the brands products has 100 per cent recyclable packaging through local waste streams or via its partnership with TerraCycle.
We tried the Tokyo roast to start with and although the smell was pretty underwhelming, our taste buds definitely perked up with the initial sip. A smooth pick-me-up for those sleepy 3pm moments at the desk. Our favourite turned out to be the darkest roast, the Fuji mountain, which was full-bodied and bold and a couple of cups kept us going all day.
Farrer’s Columbian coffee bags, pack of 15
The UK’s oldest coffee roaster, Farrer’s, has modernised its historic collection and introduced coffee bags. Offering an assortment of different blends for its ground coffee but for the coffee bags, the brand’s keeping it simple – and affordable – with just the Columbian blend.
Unlike most of the other products we have reviewed, Farrer’s bags are all in together in one big pack, rather than individually wrapped, which makes them more convenient to file away in the cupboard. Despite a lot of the brands claiming the individual wrappers keep in freshness, we didn’t notice a remarkable difference with these ones. It didn’t pack the biggest punch but we enjoyed this as an afternoon beverage rather than a pick-me-up in the morning. The bags smelt amazing and the dark and creamy flavour with a chocolatey finish had us craving another.
Presto smooth Italian coffee bags, pack of 40
Presto Coffee have packed its delicious Espresso blend into bags and the result is a great all-rounded coffee. Coffee bags are a new offering for them, alongside its beans, ground and even instant coffee, but the brand are keen to point out its bags are nothing like instant. Presto was one of the last bags we tried but a strong and flavoursome cup and one we’d definitely have again.
These bags are worth the five minute brew time for a strong, caramel-infused flavour and although nice with a little milk, it works black too. Its compostable coffee bags come in a 100 per cent recyclable package and like Farrer’s, it’s all in one pot ready to go. Presto offers a subscription service for all of its products and a rewards scheme to entice friends to join you on your coffee journey.
Frontline Latin American coffee bags, pack of 15
These guys are not just about coffee. Frontline have a fantastic ethos too. Founded by a group of generous firefighters and now, it’s are donating all of its profits to the NHS, RNLI and Emergency Service Charities across the nation, from the sale of its freshly roasted coffees. The brand also give you an opportunity to donate cups of coffee to hospitals and emergency service stations around the country.
We tried both the Latin American coffee bag and Yirgacheffe and loved both. The Yirgacheffe, a blend of Sumatran, Brazilian and Indian beans was dark and chocolatey whereas the Latin American was the frothiest of all the bags we’d tried and was perfect with a splash of milk. The latter could have slightly stronger flavours but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
The verdict: Coffee bags
We think Paddy & Scott’s brew bags were the best of the bunch for a number of reasons. The compact box, the brand’s progressive views on sustainability and of course, the taste. Unlike some of the others, there’s just one flavour but we like that they’re keeping it simple. We hope to see these widely available in the shops as soon as possible.
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