This is an honest customer review of the UK coffee subscription service from Pact Coffee, one of the most popular and usually regarded among the best coffee subscriptions in the UK. At the time of writing I have absolutely no relationship with the company whatsoever, I haven’t announced that I’m reviewing them, I didn’t let them know at the time I signed up to them that I was going to be blogging about it, I’m just a normal customer reviewing a service I have just used for the first time.
So a few days ago I stumbled upon pact coffee, while Googling to try to find one of the best coffee subscription services in the UK, as I wanted to try various coffees and I wanted a good product, decent service and a fair price. Initially the pact website impressed me but I thought they were in the states for some reason, so I went to their FAQ page to see if they ship to the UK only to discover to my delight that they are based in the UK and freshly roast their coffee beans here! I usually buy my coffee from shops, I’ve never thought about ordering it via a subscription before, so this is a new experience for me.
So I entered my name and email address, and on the next screen it asked me to enter my pact coffee voucher code, which I didn’t have, so I skipped that step. (Pact have since offered coffeeblog readers a free coffee making kit including a V60! Click Here for more info.
On the next page I discovered that a bag of coffee is £6.99, which initially I thought was on the expensive side actually, but once I figured out that this is including delivery, it made it about right for 250g of decent coffee, in fact you can pay a lot more than this too of course. I’m not interested in cheap when it comes to proper coffee though, if I was buying based on price I’d buy the cheapest jar of instant and have done with it. When I put the effort in to freshly brew coffee, I’m doing it for the luxury of it, and I’m not going to quibble on a couple of quid on the price of a bag.
Next page – it asked me what coffee brewing equipment I wanted to use for the coffee: Cafetière, Drip, Aeropress, Espresso Machine, Stove Top. Next, i was asked do I want my beans whole so I can grind them myself, or do I want them ground? Then, I was asked how often I intend to drink it, daily or just weekends? They didn’t have an option for hourly, so I selected daily ;-).
Next I was asked do I want decaf? Erm, nooooo! (although since I’ve tried their Decaf and to my surprise, it tastes great!).
Finally I got to a page where I was given a suggested coffee to start with, telling me where the coffee is sourced, and a very descriptive guide to the flavours; I was sold on that one, so I didn’t bother looking at any of the others, I’ll try a different one each time.
The one I chose, by the way is called “Planalto Milk Chocolate Shake” – and the description (no I don’t have a photographic memory ;-), I just logged into my account and clicked on the link of the coffee I bought) : “Rich chocolate and malt flavours instantly flood your mouth on the first sip of thick, super creamy coffee. It has very light milky acidity which is dominated by milk chocolate sweetness and flavour.”
On the last page I sorted out the delivery info and payment, and that was that.
What I’d set up at that point is that I’ll buy a bag of coffee every seven days. When I log into my account, it tells me when the next bag is due to ship (they charge for it when it ships), and I can very easily change that shipment date – If I am running low on coffee I can bring the date forward, if I still have plenty left then I can push the date of my next order and shipment to whenever; I can always change it at a future date if I notice I’m running out.
Update August 2016: This post was written a while ago, and at the time there was a pact coffee £1 offer, which gave new customers their first bag for a quid. This offer has expired, but you can get an equally great offer, with the free coffee making kit including a brilliant V60 coffee brewer, here.
All good so far. Now what?
I then got an email from a member of the team at pact coffee, telling me that she is my “coffee wingman” and which welcomed me as a new customer. She thanked me for my business; told me that as they’re a small company, having me on board as a customer really means a lot, and let me know how to contact her by email or telephone if I need any help. The email also included a brew guide for cafetières, as I’d told them during the order process that this is my brewing method of choice. At this point, I’m very impressed I have to say!
This email also tells me that they don’t ever want me to end up with too much or too little coffee, and talks me through how to easily change my delivery settings, I didn’t have to look at that to be fair as I’d already looked and it was very straightforward, but it’s nice to know how helpful they are, and that they’re not wanting to overload their customers with coffee.
I ordered on Saturday, and got an email on the Monday morning telling me that my coffee had left the building, and it would be with me on Tuesday.
As promised on Tuesday morning – my first delivery of pact coffee was delivered! Here it is:
Even just opening the envelope I could smell the coffee, and given that the pouch was still sealed inside the envelope; this was a very good sign, and I couldn’t wait to get home later. What’s more, in the envelope with the coffee was a fridge magnet easy reference cafetière brewing guide, which is brilliant.
Also, there was a fact card in the envelope telling me everything I could wish to know about this coffee.
Both sides of the fact card.
This tells you what the coffee is called, how to pronounce it, the names of the farmers, what it tastes like, where it’s produced; it even tells you the altitude of where it’s grown! Also there’s a comment from the farmer about their plans for the farm, and there’s a description from Will the pact coffee expert, eloquently describing the taste.
Overall, a fantastic first transaction – twelve out of ten, at least! I mean that too, as they didn’t just provide a good service, they went the extra mile in terms of the discount voucher, the nicely written welcome email, the fridge magnet and the fact card, all which add to the experience.
OK so what about the coffee?
Well this is what they Will, their coffee expert, says about the coffee – on the fact card:
“Rich Chocolate and malt flavours instantly flood your mouth on the first sip of thick, super creamy coffee. It has very light milky acidity, which is dominated by milk chocolate sweetness and flavour.”
And this is what I say about it:
“What he said!” 😉 Literally, I couldn’t have said it better myself. No really, I couldn’t because I’m not an expert and I wouldn’t have a clue about how to describe how a coffee tastes…
Joking apart though, what I would say about this first coffee I’ve just had today from pact, is: “Bloody hell, that’s a nice coffee!!”
I couldn’t quite put my finger on what’s so good about it, not being a coffee tasting expert like Will, so in order to try to understand, I decided after very much enjoying this cup of Planalto coffee from pact, to make a coffee using my cafetière, with my usual ground coffee beans which were just a standard bag of ground cafetière coffee beans bought from a supermarket, and then immediately to make one using the exact same brewing technique, and to taste the two, side by side.
By the way the coffee I’m comparing with, I’m not sure of the brand; my wife isn’t a coffee drinker, but she very nicely picked a bag up for me last time she was shopping and I texted her to ask her to pick me some up. My wife is a bargain lover and will just have picked up for me whatever was on offer – and I love that, as it means I get to try something I might not have picked. I have a metal tin for storing coffee, and I emptied this bag into there which is why I can’t tell you what the brand is. Also just to add, without this new coffee to compare it to, I was more than happy with this coffee.
To make it fair, I was very careful to measure the same amount of coffee and the same amount of water, and I used the timer on my phone to ensure I used the exact same brewing time.
Just opening the bag of the new coffee from pact gave me the feeling of having just gulped a mouthful of coffee! Wow, incredible aroma. I don’t ever recall quite the same strength of aroma just from opening a bag of coffee. I think that this is mainly down to how freshly roasted it is, and also possibly how freshly ground it is, as this first coffee I received was pre-ground. I do realise of course that the best way to enjoy coffee is to grind it fresh, but this was ground only a couple of days ago, and the bag has obviously been properly sealed.
The aroma while brewing was lovely with this coffee too, the actual strength of the aromas while brewing I’d say were similar to other bags of coffee I’d picked up off a shelf, but the other coffee was a far more simple coffee smell which I’d say is very similar to the smell of any instant coffee, while the smell of this coffee is a lot more interesting and inviting.
Looking at this planalto coffee side by side, the other brand of coffee is very black; the Planalto coffee is a rich brown colour.
Tasting the two, there is just no comparison whatsoever. The other brand tasted like mildly coffee flavoured water compared to this, and at this point I’m glad I don’t know what the other brand is, so they can’t sue me; but honestly in comparison to this new coffee from pact, the other coffee which I was previously happy with, isn’t faring well at all. It’s far weaker, and just has no complexity to it at all.
The Planalto coffee is rich, has a heavy mouth feel, there’s sweetness to it but also other flavours which I’m sorry to say I’m just not able to properly describe, although I’ll try my best. It’s deep and strong yet mellow and smooth at the same time, which sounds like a contradiction but you’ll understand if you try it. It’s not at all a harsh flavour, it doesn’t hit you, it’s a flavour which develops in the mouth and is very satisfying. I tried drinking the other coffee again, and find that by contrast there is nothing there to describe, it just tastes of coffee.
Is this down to the quality of the beans, or because of how recently it was roasted? I’m not sure, but whatever the case may be, it’s delicious, and I can’t wait to try the next one they have suggested to me which is “Finca La Joyeria” from Columbia, which apparently tastes of poached pear and dark chocolate. How can coffee taste of poached pear? 😉 Can’t wait to try that!
So needless to say, yes I do genuinely very, very, very much recommend pact coffee in terms of their service and their product.
The Best Coffee You’ve Ever Made?
Actually, yes I do believe that this is among best coffees I’ve ever made to date! It is certainly on a completely different level to any of the shop bought / supermarket coffee beans I’ve ever used in the past.
The Best Coffee Subscription in The UK?
Best is one of those tricky words, as it’s subjective, what coffee subscription may be best for you depends on what is most important to you, and we all have different priorities. Also, I’ve not tried all of the other subscriptions and coffee clubs, so I can’t honestly rank them in comparison to others. All I can say is that I’m very impressed with the Pact coffee subscription. In particular by the user friendliness of their website, the flexibility and lack of any minimum terms or other obligations. I’m really impressed with the amount of information which is included with the coffee, and by the speed and friendliness of their customer support folk.
There’s something else which really impresses me about pact too (and the same is true of some of the other UK small batch roasters) which I read on their website and then read about in more detail on their blog, which is the relationship they have with the coffee producers. They state on their website that they pay their coffee farmers 25% more than the fair trade price. Not only that but they develop a long-term relationship with their farmers, and go back to the same farmers year after year, meaning that these farmers have a dependable source of income, at a higher rate than the fair trade agreed prices.
Is this another one of those subscription things I will forget to cancel??
No! I was thinking exactly the same while I was signing up: “Oh here we go, I’m falling for a subscription based on an an initial offer, and I won’t want the product after that but will forget to unsubscribe and I’ll keep buying it for years before I get around to cancelling it…” This isn’t one of those situations. It’s a really flexible subscription, you can pause it at any time, change the delivery date, cancel all together, just from your account page.
Also, they email you a reminder a few days before, letting you know that they are getting ready to send your coffee, and giving you the opportunity at that stage to pause, change the shipping date, or cancel all together, so there’s no worries about being trapped into spending money you didn’t want to at any particular time.
Don’t forget if you’re going to try them out use this discount voucher to get your free coffee making kit.
Not only did pact email me to tell me they’d sent me my coffee, they also sent me an email to check I received it OK and that I was happy with it, and today I got a Text from Pact, from a member of the team, to let me know that they had tried to call me earlier but I’d missed their call, and they were just wanting to double check with me that I had received my coffee OK, and that I was happy with my first transaction with them, and to see if I had any questions. Wow, talk about going the extra mile! I replied to the text to say yes I’d received it fine and to tell them how much I like the coffee and how impressed I am with their service; I wasn’t really expecting a reply as I was thinking it was probably an automated marketing SMS thing, but I got a really nice reply a few minutes later saying they were happy to hear I was happy with the coffee, and thanking me for my kind words. I then replied to this to ask them a question (I was wondering if their new coffee pods that they’re working on will be compatible with Nespresso machines, I got a reply straight away saying “Yes they absolutely will be :)”
Wow, where did that year go!?
I’m still enjoying pact coffee, they’re still impressing me just as much as they did a year ago, with their service and their coffee. They now have Nespresso compatible pods and a new Decaf range.
Update 18/06/2017 – Over 18 months with Pact Coffee
So I’ve now been a pact coffee subscription customer for over a year and a half. I think anyone interested in the pact subscription may be interested in knowing not just what someone who’d just signed up thought about the service, but what someone who’d been with them for a much longer period.
The simple answer is that I’m still really, really impressed with pact coffee. In fact I think I’m even more impressed now to a certain degree than I was initially. I was aware initially that when pact started out, they were in partnership with another small batch roaster, so they were in effect re-selling coffee rather than this being a direct roaster to customer relationship. Since then they have moved their roasting in house, and are small batch roasting their own coffee beans, so it now is a coffee subscription directly with the roaster.
If I have to nitpick and come up with one criticism, the only thing I can say that I’ve not been hugely impressed with, was the recommendation setting that is offered – but that’s just me, some people may be really happy with that. What I’m referring to, is that you can choose whether to have coffee recommended by pact coffee each time (if you don’t log in and select the coffee), or you can choose to have a coffee picked at random. I set it to recommend, but to begin with I would log in each time and see what the latest coffee is, and choose what I think looks interesting. If I forget to do that though, as I had it set to recommendation, they would choose for me – and I came to realise that every time pact coffee pick for me, they had picked the exact same coffee.
Like I say, some people might prefer this, but personally I don’t want the same coffee each time, I want to try different coffees, so the random setting is the one for me. But like I say, I am nit picking, and it only takes 30 seconds to log in each time and look at what coffee they have to offer at the time anyway.
Pact have developed such a slick operation when it comes to how well this subscription service works, and their ability to perform in terms of getting orders out on time, I think a lot of companies in different markets could learn from pact coffee.
Still after all this time with pact coffee, they’ve never let me down – the coffee is dispatched like clockwork. There was just one time where I thought they’d made a mistake, the coffee didn’t turn up, so I contacted them, they responded immediately to say sorry, and a couple of days later I ended up with two bags, and I could see by the post date that they had sent the first bag when they should have, and it had simply got delayed for some reason. I was honest, in case you’re wondering ;-), and I contact pact customer services team to let them know I now had two bags but had only paid for the one, and they very kindly thanked me for my honesty and told me to keep the second bag free of charge, very kind!!
Best Coffee Subscription?
I’m in a better position to answer this now after 18 months and having used other coffee subscriptions. I still can’t honestly rank the coffee subscriptions as I’ve not tried them all, and it depends on your perspective. All I can say is that 18 months on, I’m still a happy customer of the pact subscription. I have other subscriptions too, and there are some other very good coffee subscriptions in the UK now, we’re spoiled for choice really. But if you’re a fist time coffee subscriber, and you’re looking to set up a subscription with a roaster who will send you very nice freshly roasted coffee beans, which is easy to set up, flexible, and doesn’t tie you in to obligatory purchases, then I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with pact coffee.
Don’t forget if you do try them out, to use this offer, which gives you three bags of coffee and a V60 pourover kit for just £6.