First Flat White of 2015 @ the Ampersand Hotel

As a treat to the family to end our two week long holiday in London, I decided to take up an offer of two-for-three at a lovely looking boutique hotel in South Kensington called The Ampersand – in case you are wondering what that means an “ampersand” is the official name for the & sign. So that’s your English lesson for the year. Now to the coffee.

We checked in on the first day of the years, 1 January 2015 – obviously and I was kind of worried that to celebrate the beginning of 2015 I wouldn’t get a decent cup of coffee – others wanted champagne but for me it’s coffee of course, love. So after checking in I noticed a cafe like setting adjacent to the checking in lobby, a nice pretty place for English Tea and cakes, and spotted…. a La Marzocco Linea 2 group machine (ahhh!). I naturally got excited and after quizzing the poor young Australian waitress about if she knew how to make good cup of coffee, I decided to take the plunge – she kind of retorted with “I’m Australian, so I know a good cup of coffee”. I’m not sure if the pressure from moi (coffee snob) was too much but her colleague, a waiter, decided to make the coffee and I could see in the background that he was really taking his time, et voila

1st Flat White of 2015

1st Flat White of 2015

 

Naturally, I was impressed as I won’t be blogging about this experience and I told the waiter afterwards that it was  a good flat white and he was really happy. So, first lesson of the year “don’t misjudge people based on your own bad experiences and always give people a chance”.

So, I came to find out that their coffee beans are from a new London coffee roaster group, called “black sheep” and to top it off, the use pure robusta – they are supporting an Indian coffee farm to bring you the best. See here for more info http://www.leavetheherdbehind.com

I had a couple more tasteful experiences which showed me that the waiters/waitresses had been trained properly – very important.

IMG_4399

Also, it was a great hotel to stay at, very well located for the museums, near the South Kensington tube station and if you are stuck in this vicinity looking for good cup of coffee and a hearty avocado filled breakfast, pop into the Ampersand on 10 Harrington Road for a quick cup – they also have take away cups if you’re really in a rush.

 

 

2015/01/img_4343.jpg

2015/01/img_4401.jpg


From Coffee With Love: 2014 Web Stats review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


New York Coffee Scene

Culture Espresso

A Flat White @ Culture Espresso

 

New York Coffee Scene #1

So, you’re in the big apple for a week or so and you need a great coffee fix…. Notice the emphasis on “great” because in New York City (NYC) like all big cities, the locals tend to think they know what coffee is – after all the place is literally littered with Starbucks and other chain outlets, selling coffee, so don’t make the mistake to ask a local. In fact, New York was one of the markets Starbucks initially feared entering back in the 1980s because most New Yorkers didn’t believe in spending more than a $1 on coffee and with speciality coffee, that’s impossible.

So, first up, you could search for “New York coffee” on goggle, where there’s the www.newyorkcoffeeguide.com by Allegra, the same people who brought you the London Coffee Guide. You could trust your judgement (risky), ask on twitter or if you’re like me, you would have been following the ever changing coffee scene in New York for several years from the onset with the launch of Café Grumpy (probably the first well known artisan coffee shop in New York) and last but not least, read below. A proviso, my list is by no means exhaustive and is Manhattan biased – the coffee scene in NYC is changing very rapidly and even as I write, there might be a few new openings.

So here we go…

Drinking Coffee in Midtown Manhattan

As a lover of coffee, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too far from my “love” and so after scanning countless maps of Manhattan, I decided that the family should stay in mid-town Manhattan within walking distance to Culture Espresso, near Times Square, Joe’s at Grand Central, Bluebottle at Rockefeller Centre and about 15 minutes’ walk from Stumptown, near the famous Flat Iron Building fanatic or what !!!

Flat Iron Building

Flat Iron Building

So, now where to stay ? I curiously looked at Conde Nast Traveller’s Guide to New York Hotels and discovered a hotel, ranked in the top 20 hotels in NYC that served… you guessed it, Café Grumpy coffee – DONE, that’s where we’re staying, Andaz on Fifth ( A Hyatt hotel) – ok! It looked really nice, with a great location, opposite the NY Library on the corner East 41st Street and the famous Fifth Avenue too, but it also had the promise of serving good coffee at The Shop (their cafe). So that’s where we stayed.

The Shop @ the Andaz

The Shop @ the Andaz

Using the usual gadgets, La Marzocco GB5, etc, a choice of espresso blends, different brewing processes, plus a cold drip, the coffee prepared at the Andaz coffee shop, called the Shop is done with precision and complimented with freshly baked goods, a choice of healthy and hearty breakfast, great staff and joyful baristi and is accessible to all, non-hotel guests too.

Cappuccino @ The Shop

Cappuccino @ The Shop

To top it all, the real bonus was that Café Grumpy’s filter blend is available free to hotel guests anytime of the day, so after a long day walking the streets of Manhattan, what better than to have a night cap with some great filter brew #coffeeheaven in NYC – I’m not affected by caffeine at night.

So where next,

Culture Espresso

Culture Espresso

Next up and closer to where we stayed was no doubt one of my favourites, Culture Espresso, located at 72 West 38th Street on the corner of the Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue). The décor is almost like a typical London coffee shop, as you enter, there are displays of gadgets on the right and right in front of you before you place your order there are delectable sandwiches and sweet bites.

I found the coffee here consistently good and loved their commitment to using Heart Coffee Roasters. If you don’t know NYC, then this is the closest great coffee spot to Times Square – so suck up the glitter and lights of Broadway at Times Square with a well prepared cup of joe (NYC speak for coffee) in your hand.

OK! So rushing off to the glamour part, Rockefeller Centre, there’s the famed (at least by coffee connoisseurs) Blue Bottle branch, slightly north of Times Square but on your right. I must confess I never visited this branch but I visited their Chelsea branch, see below.

Drinking Coffee in Chelsea NYC

Well! of course you’ve got to go to Café Grumpy, at their first shop in Soho, corner 7th Avenue and 21st Street. I had a mini-lunch there, focaccia and lemon madeleine (I always read about these on twitter) with an espresso macchiato.

Cafe Grumpy

My sister bought me my lunch as well as a bag of Heartbreak Espresso (delicious).

Take a 10 minute stroll to Chelsea Market on the corner of ninth and tenth avenue and 15th and 16th Streets – located in the old National Biscuit Company factory, on Saturdays it celebrates food, with lots of stalls inside selling delicacies from cute cupcakes to lobsters. Inside however, is the aptly named Ninth Street Espresso, who have now embarked on the journey to roasting their own beans – their focus is more on a darker blend, at least that’s what I was told when I visited in 2013.

Ninth Street Flat white

The head barista was really friendly and when I told him who I was (pleasantly surprised that a barista in NYC knows about me) he gave me a bag of their espresso blend. So, head down there for great food but finish off with coffee from Ninth Street Espresso.

Literally around the corner is Blue Bottle’s other shop – I got a bit lost surprisingly, but it’s easier to find it if you use the front entrance of Chelsea Market, veering to your right, past the Apple Store on West 15th Street (you see, it’s next door). Ah, finally, I get to visit Blue Bottle after all these years.

Blue Bottle Coffees

It’s not very big and they have a coffee menu thing going on, showcasing the beans, so choose the one you want or ask them for which coffee goes best with which brewing style. Great! Nothing else to add.

Drinking Coffee in Soho

Not that far from Chelsea and near the flatiron building, in between 7th and 6th Avenues on West 21st Street is a haven for coffee pros, Joe Pro Shop and Headquarters. I stopped by there on a Saturday afternoon, dashing off from the wife and kids for my “coffeefix – it was quite quiet with the pros in the back conducting a barista or tasting school so that meant I had lots of time to “talk coffee” with the head barista there. Usually they show case different blends from different roasters not only from America but Europe too. Again, just ask for what goes best with what and let your palate delight in this coffee haven in NYC. I tried two coffees, one with milk and another just….

Espresso at Joe Pro

 

So this is what I missed:

Stumptown at Ace hotel on corner of Broadway and W 28th Street

Intelligentsia (iconic) at 180 10th Avenue

Gimme Coffee on 228 Mott Street in Nolita /Little Italy Neighbourhood

Prodigy Coffee on 33 Carmine Street in the West Village Neighbourhood

Ciao, NYC

Flat White NYC


Lick Me, LIKMI !!! – Don’t be deluded

Lick Me Espresso

Lick Me Espresso

So, what do you see ? A well prepared espresso by moi ? Well! To the best of my knowledge, ability and experience

A good picture of an espresso ?

Well, almost but sometimes it’s not about looks, sorry guys and gals who spend time perfecting their looks and espresso shots, BUT ultimately it’s about taste. I’m passionate about the “real” deal. So many times I taste stuff, especially cakes, that look fabulous, but when you bite into it, you’re like screaming, Why!!!!!!!! I prefer something to taste better than it looks, but of course the ultimate culinary experience is for something to look and taste great simultaneously.

So, how about what you don’t see where were we… what do you see….

Great beans and roast ? A bit difficult

BUT! Let’s build on that last point.

First up the facts. It’s an espresso blend, called LIKMI (lick me), roasted by Jo Wechlesberger, of Vienna School of Coffee Master Roaster extraordinaire, to get an espresso roast so delicious and sweet, that you just want to….. yep. you guessed it, “lick it”. In it, are coffees from Brazil and Rwanda with a roast profile of dried fruits, molasses – see the bag below.

Secondly, we know that it’s just not about the beans and roast profile – if it was, anyone could learn how to roast coffee like a pro, and we know that’s not true, if not, I’ll be on the waiting list to do so pronto. It’s takes guts, experience and something you can’t buy, a gift or skill – God given and some may argue on that point.

But, that’s not all. When I went in to buy this special coffee, Jo told me that she had started using burlap bags to pack her coffee and had noticed that it seemed to preserve the coffee taste for longer and of course it is also better for the environment.

LIKMI

LIKMI

So, upon buying the coffee, I raised concern saying”it was roasted about a month ago, are you sure its fresh enough for espresso?” Of course, she said. So, when I got home, and pulled my first shot, I was pleasantly surprised, but more so, after another few days of pulling shots, I realised that the coffee still tasted great, sweet and caramel like. I DRANK THIS COFFEE IN MARCH 2014.

LIKMI Latte Art

LIKMI Latte Art

With milk (excuse my latte art), it was really sweet – caramel and raisin sweet, yummy.

So, what’s this post about – if I’ve lost you in all my jargon

The picture at the top is an espresso shot following all the rules but using coffee that was roasted over a month ago and still with a great taste (I usually don’t use espresso blends over 2 weeks old) – it’s the first time on this blog that I’ve shown a picture of an espresso shot using coffee roasted over a month ago.

So, once you’ve mastered the skill of roasting, taking care of your beans by packing them in environmental friendly packaging could preserve the taste and your reputation far and beyond, especially if you are in the online coffee selling business. It also helps if you have a roast profile that’s sweet like dried fruits, which tend to develop into complex tastes profiles, giving you the joy that different cups will give you different tastes.


Vienna’s New Coffee Guys: KaffeMik and Zamm Good Coffee

Cortado at Zamm Coffee

Cortado at Zamm Coffee

Kaffemik

To change a culture, you need passion and commitment and you can quote me on that, so when I heard that some guys who were fed up with drinking bad coffee during their coffee breaks/lunchtime decided to open up a small café near their office, so, that they could at least have a decent cup of coffee during their breaks, I was impressed. This is the story behind Kaffemik, located on Zollergasse 5, of Mariahilfer Strasse – one of the main thoroughfares in Vienna. Craving the thought of experiencing their coffee and concept, I passed by for a flying visit one lunchtime. It’s small, reminiscent of a place where you know the focus is coffee, pure and simple, so it’s dominated by a La Marzocco Linea 2 group and an unassuming brewing station.

Kaffeemik this way

Kaffeemik this way

Also available are light pastries to accompany your coffee and a shelf displaying coffees on sale as well as other coffee geek gadgets, like aeropress and Hario V60s and accessories.

La Marzocco Linea

La Marzocco Linea

On offer, they have a house blend espresso, roasted by Rosterin (i.e. Vienna School of Coffee) and every month have a guest espresso and filter to sample or purchase on-line.

A great place to get a good coffee when shopping on Mariahilfer Strasse and I’m glad to report that they’re open on Saturday too.

https://www.kaffemik.at

 

Zamm Coffee

Welcome to Zamm

Welcome to Zamm

About a quick 10 minute walk towards the Burgasse end of Zollergasse  and a few streets over is another place driven by passion, Zamm Coffee on Kirchengasse 35, owned and run by Max. A pleasant young and talented guy – his café also poses as a mini-art gallery, which also displays very hard to get creative magazines like Folk, Cereal, Caffeine and Longberry – if you’ve never heard of these magazines, then you’re either not a serious caffeine lover or a graphic designer – if you’re curious, then head down to drink great coffee and read trendy magazines. In any case, Max gets his coffee from different roasters in Europe and has a simple menu, recognisant of the original Prufrock Menu by Gwilym Davies many years back. So there an espresso, espresso with some milk (i.e.Cortado) and with more milk (i.e. Cappuccino) but if you really want more milk, then he can make you a classic cafe latte too. Also on offer are various pour overs methods, aeropress, copper encrusted Hario V60 and Syphon, especially on Fridays. Ask Max for which filter coffees are best brewed on what.

Gadgets to droll over

Gadgets to droll over

I’m not entirely sure what drew Max into coffee – I was rushing as his café is not near my office at all, but he just got back from a “barista bootcamp” in Europe with leading figures like Jim Hoffmann of Squaremile. I expect he learnt a lot and must now be breaming with new brewing ideas. Check this Zamm “good” Coffee, where you can buy coffee gadgets, coffee, magazines and art.

https://www.facebook.com/zammcoffee

Well done Vienna – I don’t have to hold my coffee breath anymore for trips to London to taste and appreciate great coffee, made with passion.


My Fave Cafe in Vienna: Balthasar

Balthasar Espresso

Balthasar Espresso

It seems that all good things come to those who wait and sometimes they kind of creep up on you. So, one fine sunny day in Vienna, after a fine lunch, I was rushing again and what did I notice, a La Marzocco Strada to my right in a shop – of course I stopped, walked in, saw a friendly guy behind the brew bar and state of the art espresso machine and said “wow! is this a new place…. you’ve got a La Marzocco Strada machine… erm… I’ll be back” And sure I was in 10 minutes and ever since then, several times, taking colleagues, the wife, the daughter, the son and more.

Balthasar Entry

It also helps that Balthasar, is about 15 minutes walk from where I live and about 10 minutes on the underground (in Vienna it’s called the u-bahn) from where I work, so very easy access.

So, what else is there to know about Balthasar apart from the flashy machine.

Well, it’s run by Otto Bayer, a very friendly guy, whose family have been in the catering business for over a century, who gets his coffee from a specialist coffee roaster in Germany, who sources coffee “directly” and often visits the farmers themselves.

side view

 

On one occasion coffee from the long mile coffee project in Burundi was on offer. In any case, all the gadgets are here, two Mazzer grinders, cold brew system,

Cold Brew - great for a hot day

Cold Brew – great for a hot day

 

V60 brew bar and semi-retired La Marzocco G3 (Otto trained on it, but as he spends all his time in his cafe, it might as well be in the cafe.

On offer also are cakes, brownies and some savouries, as well as tea and Otto’s other speciality, wine – he loves the relationship between wine and coffee and of course the tasting experience of both.

brownies

His customers usually order a coffee and then a glass of wine afterwards. Balthasar has been opened for a few months and is decked out with new age furniture like Kartel and palettes, topped with magazines and low hanging light bulbs.

hanging out

You can also buy coffee and gadgets like V60, the filters, aeropress and other bits. The good thing is that it’s opened from 7:30am to 7pm everyday except Sundays, so visiting on Saturday are great even Otto though must be exhausted but he really loves his job and his cafe.

The coffee menu is not extensive but to the point like the top end cafes in London – cappuccino, flat white, espresso and cafe latte

Americano

and a new way of brewing an Americano – brewed for 45 seconds on 5 bar of pressure.

Balthasar Flat White

Balthasar Flat White

So, what else, just go visit and you won’t be disappointed.

Balthasar

Praterstrasse 38

Vienna 1020

http://www.balthasar.at

 


Breakfast, Lunch & Coffee in Cape Town

You’ve got a few hours to spend in the Mother City (so called, because being a seaside city, the pun is that it takes 9 months to get anything done here) and you want something good to eat and of course some coffee too, so here’s my tip, from my previous abode of 2.5 years.

For breakfast, you’ve got to try DEAR ME, situated on 165 Long Market Street, just off the main artery of the CBD, Long Street. They’ve got a cool decor, an award winning chef, a good and cheerful barista, home made condiments in a well stocked pantry and a commitment to sourcing top ingredients, as witnessed on their menu, so why not go. I was kind of spoilt for choice on looking through the menu – there was Turkish Eggs, Truffled Scramble Eggs, Eggs Benedict and more, so I just asked the chef, Vanessa Marx, and she recommended the Eggs Benedict with smoked trout…

delicious brekkie

delicious brekkie

 

and yes, it looks and tasted delicious – a great choice to warm up my tummy as it was a cloudy and cold day in CT (that’s what the locals call Cape Town). After having a chat with the cheerful barista, Nash, of course, I went for a Cortado – the signature drink of Espresso Lab, where they get their coffee from.

Cortado @ Dear Me

Cortado @ Dear Me

Dear Me Larder

Dear Me Larder

It may seem strange but although I’ve known about Dear Me for ages – they opened about a year after I opened Escape Caffe, I never had the luxury of time to eat there as they only open on Monday to Fridays from 8am to 3:30pm, but I kind of knew that on my 24 hour visit thus time around, I wasn’t going to miss out, so here.

 

No for lunch and keeping it simple with another eatery that stays true to classical well-sourced ingredients, I tried Birds Boutique Cafe and no! it has nothing to do with birds. The name has been kept by the new owner as the previous ones, hailing from nearby Namibia, have left and had a thing with birds, even serving you on crockery painted with birds, etc. anyway, again, I was looking for somewhere that wouldn’t disappoint and soaking up the very relaxed decor with wooden benches and an exposed and lively but not noisy kitchen, I went for the specials of the day – sweet potato soup and a cute feta and tomato quiche.

Quiche Delish

Quiche Delish

 

For a stop over, knowing that you will be flying for over 11 hours (journey time from CT to London) later in the evening, a light well prepared quiche does the job for me. You don’t want anything too heavy, but just right, using fresh ingredients served in a relaxed atmosphere, where you can catch up using their free wi-fi and relax. So, whether you’ve got days or hours to burn in CT, I recommend stopping over at Bird Boutique Cafe on 127 Bree Street for a quick, light and well prepared lunch.

 

Well, to finish off, and as you know, coffee has to play a role, so where better than the self-styled and hyped up, Truth Coffee, situated at their “HQ” on 36 Buitenkant Street. They proudly boast that they were called “the best coffee shop in the World” by a recent Condenast Traveller writer. OK! I have my reservations about this as I think being called the best depends on what drives you to drink coffee in the first place. That said, it may be one of the mosh unusual places to drink coffee anywhere in the World. Co-owned and the brainchild of David Donde, who, if you’ve been reading my blog since 2007, was behind the first artisan coffee roaster in Africa at Origins, also in CT. In any case the new “Truth Coffee” looks like no money was spared in turning this old warehouse into a steam punk haven for coffee, together with staff uniforms – expect waitresses to be dressed in shorts, leather waistcoats and natural afros and waiters to have top hats, with feathers protruding and all that fanfare.

Funky Cafe = Truth CT

Funky Cafe = Truth CT

The back of the cafe is like a warehouse dominated by a massive coffee roaster – perhaps a 60kg version with coffee bags strewn all over, whilst the front of the cafe has baroque style dark leather couches and two or was it three espresso machines.

Big bad roaster

Big bad roaster

IMG_2786

It definitely has a buzz and was unusually packed for a Friday afternoon – trust me, eateries are not packed anywhere in CT on a Friday afternoon, whether its winter (too cold to go out) or summer (hey dude, where’s the beach?). Now, to the coffee – as it was after lunch and I had literally 20 minutes before my ride to the airport – naturally went for an espresso to test the barista skills.

Pricey Espresso

Pricey Espresso

 

an espresso well-prepared with fruity notes underlying your tongue but and I have to say this, that relatively speaking (yes, I’m an economist) at R25 this is probably the most expensive espresso I’ve paid for in a cafe – you expect this at a restaurant but not at a cafe. Would I recommend another visit ? Yes, in that you’ve got to see it to believe it, but brace yourself for an expensive coffee experience, but nevertheless an experience… well done David Donde for adding another uniqueness to Cape Town.


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