Dubai Coffee Scene 2018: The Cafes

I got back not too long ago from a fantastic holiday in Dubai, made better spending time with loved ones and of course with many good cups of coffee. It seems like the specialty coffee bug has really hit Dubai in a massive way. although much smaller than London in size and population, the Dubai coffee scene reminds now of what I discovered in London about 6-7 years back – it was no longer possible to visit London and try out all the good coffee shops in 1 or 2 days because back then the good coffee shops had grown from 1-2 (Flat White on Berwick Street and Fernandez and Wells on Beak Street, all in Soho) to several. Leaving me with the task of visiting pockets of London just to sample good coffee –  enter Dubai in the Summer of 2018. Cafes are no longer harbouring in the most popular malls, but more neighbourhood ones and just little spots on the street, especially in Jumeirah (home of the Burj al Arab and the famous wave like Jumeirah Beach Hotel as well as many mansions), where I couldn’t even visit the 4-5 there – after all, there’s so much coffee I can take in 1-2 hours. It’s good for the locals and by that I don’t mean people living in Dubai or Jumeirah but the local Emirati, who are actually the driving force behind this mushrooming of specialty coffee in Dubai, as they own most of them and have now gone into roasting (my next post insha’allah).

%Arabica @ City Centre Mall, Mirdif

So, let’s start with the first contender. Part of the growing in popularity, Arabica Brand  and located in a mall, nowhere near the hustle and bustle of Dubai – about 10 minutes drive from the airport and in a very residential part of the city. It was my first stop because for the first part of the holiday we resided with my cousin who lives in Mirdif.

It’s like an Italian style cafe, no place to really sit, you order at the till, just get your coffee, drink it or take it away, but of course their dedication to detail in brewing is top with their slayer espresso machines

Although I think for coffee freaks like me, the idea of Arabica’s  extensive coffee menu is impressive, ranging from different types of espresso drinks (hot or cold) with a choice of two type of beans and a long list of coffees going to 90+ (i.e. the top notch coffee can cost almost $20 or more) for filter brew, I think this is a bit avant grade for the typical UAE customer. I witnessed the barista asking a customer what type of beans she wanted with her cold latte and she kept just saying a cold Spanish latte, and witnessing the very customer friendly barista still insisting, I had to interject and say “just give her the house blend “.

For coffee geeks like me, I ordered a Chemex selecting their house filter single origin from Ethiopia.

If you are not in hurry and want something different, then having coffee through the chemex method, which takes about 5-7 minutes, is a good option. Fruity and easy to drink and even if it was hot outside, the air-conditioned mall made you forget about it.

Depresso, Jumeirah

Depresso – the feeling you get when you haven’t had coffee

Hearing about this spot on instagram, where else nowadays, it was first on my list whilst I had access to a car. Not too far from the famous Burj al-Arab, you could easily drive past this coffee spot, especially on a Friday afternoon when its boiling hot outside, but as soon as you enter, with hanging plants, black interior you can smell the coffee (no pun intended).

One thing I noticed about the cafes I visited was the commonality of Synesso or Slayer Espresso machines in all except one. Obviously the Synesso distributor in Dubai is getting well paid. Okay, so I ordered a flat white, akin a bit to a cortado given the size of the cup and from the prep I could tell that the head barista, Neil, was keen on late art;

A short but an enjoyable experience and before I departed I asked Neil for other recommendations and he mentioned Chemex Lab (didn’t visit), Nostalgia (see below).  Apparently, Depresso gets busy when the locals are back from holidays in early September and during the cooler months (November to April).

%Arabica, The Dubai Mall – Various Visits

I blogged about this a while back – see here but in short this is where you go for coffee when you are in the largest mall in the World. As I follow three of their more famous baristi on instagram (one of them was a finalist at the 2017 UAE latte art championships) and that’s the one I met on my first visit – Dhan Ghale. We had met before and as soon as I walked in, he recognised me and told his colleagues that I was one of their best customers, although I only pop in a bout 3-4 times a year. As it was after 9pm, I decided to trust Dhan’s recommendation to try one of their 90+ coffee, an Ethiopian Kemgin, using the Chemex method again.

As he prepped I gathered that the beans had been lightly roasted and was brewed at a temperature below 90C – a shop secret but I haven’t divulged the exact temperature. I think it’s been a while since I had a 90+ coffee – at least one made for me. It was nice – what else can I say, smooth and gentle, delicate aromas with bergamot like tea flavours – perhaps my smile tells it all.

We had just been up the tallest building in the World – Burj Khalifa and I needed coffee, so on my second visit, I had their single origin for my daily flat white – this time made by another keen latte artist, Prakash, hailing from Nepal. Initially, he seemed a bit nervous as when I entered some of the staff recognised me from two days earlier and greeted me, but Prakash was true to his art – he took time to brew my coffee and of course to pour it out.

On my third and last visit, which was actually my last Dubai coffee stop over before flying back to Vienna, I had another Chemex Ethiopian single origin coffee – this time made by Charles from Ghana, who was being teased by Jay not to mess up the prep for me – no pressure but he handled it well.

In conclusion , %Arabica was my go to place for coffee during my trip as I went 4 times in 11 days.

Salt by Grind Coffee (Burgers and Coffee), La Mer

One day, we thought we are in Dubai and we haven’t seen the beach, so let’s go early, before mid-day – ouch ! it was a tryst hot and sweaty experience – the humidity was unbearable and only my daughter and I braved it – my wife and son taking refuge in a fully air conditioned Japanese beach restaurant. Nevertheless, on one of my previous visits I had these really tasty burger sliders (mini-burgers) at a place called Salt and as I wanted my family to have the same experience, we trekked there – about 5 minutes in the very hot and humid weather, which seemed like a ghost town compared to when I came during the cooler climes (February). As we entered, the kind staff handed us refrigerated face cloths so that we could wipe ourselves down and cool of all at once. Again, when I came in February there was a long queue, which meant it took us about 30 minutes before we ate, but on this occasion we were one of only two customers. We placed our order and waited for about 5-6 minutes – perhaps you are wondering why I am talking so much about food, which I love too BUT there’s a coffee story too, but of course.

Anyway, I remembered that when I cam last time, I didn’t order coffee but noticed they sold Grind Coffee – a UAE based coffee roaster and had a nice looking La Marzocco Linea (I think the only one I saw in Dubai this time around). So I ordered an espresso.

Easy to drink based on what I think was a medium to light roast and it went down very well after my burgers (yes, I had two sliders, but that’s because that is how they serve it). A bias towards caramel and berries – you see there was a reason we came here – burgers and coffee – my recommendation if you visit the lively La Mer (at least in the cooler months).

In between desert safari, the exhilarating La Perle Show, enjoying our fantastic hotel – Grand Hyatt – beautiful architecture and regular cappuccinos prepared by the breakfast barista and complimentary cheesecake

– yum – I didn’t get to visit any speciality shops until the last couple of days and I went for gusto, visiting two within three hours, either side of lunch.

Nostalgia, Jumeirah

As recombined by Neil of Depresso, Nostalgia was first on my list after Friday prayers. It is a beautifully designed cafe – almost like a modern French patisserie – look at the display;

I was even beginning to get “nostalgic ” that they won’t be able to make coffee well as many times this much detail to food has resulted in lower than expected coffee prep and taste. After all their logo says “Where art meets chocolate”. So, and I apologise, I went into quizzical mode even though I knew from their Slayer Espresso machine they were sort of committed to coffee.

I walked up to the barista and started asking questions and surprisingly, the waitress behind me started answering them – like “where’s your coffee from and I don’t mean Dubai, I mean the origin” “what brew temperature do you use” – well she didn’t answer the last one but she knew a bit. Their coffee is roasted by a local one, called Grandmother – odd name. In any case I ordered a daily flat white, bought some cakes and bought one of their coffee bags, which are on display almost opposite where the espresso machine is – slightly hidden. A bit pricey – coffee was the equivalent of $6.50 and the delicious looking pistachio lemon slice too. What I was too weak to miss where these cold truffle balls – imagine a cold truffle that when you bite into it, there’s a soft centre – wow! In any case if you love chocolate, cakes, brownies and coffee, then go to Nostalgia – you won’t be disappointed.

Emirati Coffee, Dar Wasl Mall

I had many good coffee experiences but I have saved the best for last. I knew I had to try one more spot and it was between new kids on the block, Alchemy or Emirati Coffee Company – literally on the same road and almost opposite but fate, or should I say God led us to Emirati coffee. Located in a Dar Wasl Mall – a new and very plush mall complete with very expensive looking marble flooring and in all, just beautiful looking shops, which I found out is home to not one but FOUR speciality coffee shops and in a size this small – and I mean small even by European standards, this might be the smallest mall in the World with so many specialty coffee shops.

In any case Emirati, a coffee roaster, who roast at Al Quoz – an industrial estate have a shared space – very innovative – where there are about 4 eateries in one place. so you can order coffee, eat and rink non-coffee drinks in one spot belonging to 4 different brands. Emirate occupy the coffee spot and it gives them the opportunity to share their coffee with visitors to the mall, which will probably be the launch pad for future shops. Upon entering, they have their Slayer Espresso machine (yes another slayer espresso machine) at the far left near the window, flanked by cakes, bites and other bits. Almost opposite the brew bar on the far side, they have  shelf for coffee accessories and their coffees for sale. I walked over to the baristi, whom I found out later was the UAE Aeropress champion, just after six months working in coffee – a very modest lady, named Elle and one who could go far.

As I started asking “coffee geek” questions, the head barisiti, Louie Palacio, excited by a coffee enthusiast amongst their midst approached me – after exchanging about coffee (company origin, roasting strategy, history, coffee pricing, customers, etc), we sat down and then it began – it was like Louie said “just sit and let me entertain you with coffee”. One espresso after another (two in total) featuring their single origin and house blend; and then when I thought it was all over – one of the baristi brought another – this time a filter brew, prepared using the Chemex. Louie wanted me to taste their coffees and offer my opinion – the Guatemalan espresso was fruity and the house blend was just right with a balance between chocolate, nuts and a bit of fruit.

By the time the Chemex came I was a bit full of water but the smoothness of the coffee complimented the previous espressos – I offered a taste to my daughter and cousin, so that they could appreciate a different taste of coffee – truly spectacular. Afterwards, Louie came over and I gave him my verdicts on the coffees, which were on the house. I was so excited by the last coffee – an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (Edido) that I knew that I couldn’t leave the shop without a bag and there’s more of that to come in a later post. As a true coffee enthusiast, Louie recommended one or two of the coffee shops in the mall to try but I was truly caffeinated and didn’t want to spoil my exhilarating taste bud experience and called it a day after 2 espresso, a chemex and a flat white in 3 hours.

I quizzed a few of the baristi during my trip as to why the explosion of specialty coffee in Dubai and especially in the Jumeirah area but there was no clear answer – people fed up with the global chains, people wanting a different experience , people wanting to taste coffee properly – perhaps the neighbourhood feel. when I though about setting ups  cafe in Dubai back in 2009, I thought I cannot compete with the coffee chains and I think perhaps I was 8 years ahead. My cousin concluded that by the manner I approach coffee and sound so excited talking about it, I should definitely be working in coffee, but let’s see – don’t give up on the dream.

Whatever the case, it is definitely an exciting time to be drinking coffee in Dubai – a global city for drinking coffee like an escapist – my original logo line.

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A New Way to Taste Coffee: The Video

Yep! That’s it. It may seem a bit strange but a few months back I stumbled across this methodology. I was rushing out for work after my daily cappuccino and as I ran after the bus, I puffed up in exhaustion and I noticed, wow – that was a nice smell – it was like hot chocolate with caramel with some hints of black berries – so I puffed up again to delight my nose with those lovely aromas again – I love good smells. When I got home, I actually checked the taste profile on the coffee bag and none of the smells that I picked up as a I huffed and puffed earlier resembled the roasters profile. So, I thought, have I stumbled onto something new ? For this post, I used an espresso blend coffee from my fave Viennese cafe, Balthasar and brewed another cappuccino – the culprit below (taste profile was milk chocolate and red berries)

I must confess this time I picked up similar smells resembling the taste profile but with caramel on top too.

Actually, I’m not that full of myself (another English colloquial term for arrogant) to think this is new, because I’m sure that some other coffee connoisseurs have picked up on this before.

Strictly speaking it may not be another way to “taste” coffee, but rather another way to appreciate coffee through your nose, as after all, your nose is part of the tasting process before you actually taste the coffee with your mouth. It could also be another breakfast (if you cannot handle coffee at night) trick to impress your friends with like “I’m picking up some other taste profiles when I taste this coffee” and then you puff up through your nose and share what smells and aromas you’re picking up.

I encourage you to try out this method with other types of coffee like espresso and pour-over and delight your nose. Sniff and puff up away and enjoy.


Drinking Coffee in Doha, Qatar

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged and trust me I’m very embarrassed.Sure I can give excuses like I’ve been mad busy but surely I should have given myself a bit of “coffee me” time to share my exploits and thoughts on my latest coffee adventures, so here we go.

I had the opportunity just 2 weeks back to have an 8 hour stop-over in Doha, Qatar on my way back from Kenya and took the chance to meet up with friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Naturally, before I set out on my journey I searched on the web for coffee shops in Doha and found one – Flat White (not related to the coffee shop on Berwick Street, London) – more about that later.

Karak Mqanes , La Croisette, Porto Arabia 23, The Pearl Qatar

On meeting my first friend, he suggested we visit the famous Pearl Island and have a Qatari breakfast and I thought “why not”. As we entered the first place, Karak Mqanes, I noticed a sign “Try our Specialty Coffee” with a picture of latte art.

At first I was dubious, as on many occasions I have seen coffee shops trying to trick customers with pictures of latte art. Neverthless, I thought, let’s see what they have. I allowed my friend to order for me and then when he insisted I have tea instead of coffee, I had to be a bit firm as I really wanted to try their coffee. So I asked for a cappuccino before my meal and here it was,

No lies about latte art as you can see, but what about the taste. I must confess with milk it had an intriguing taste, almost like burnt orange and caramel – I can sum it up as a cross between caramelised nuts with with citrus lining. All in all, I would recommend it. About the food it was a bit unusual for me; sweet egg dishes and their version of shakshuka (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) but a place favoured no doubt by the locals. If we had a bit more time, I would have tried their espresso to ascertain the taste profile. So, in summary, my first coffee experience was of to a good start.

Next, my friend asked, where else? Having used the free wifi at Karak Mqanes, I noticed that flat white was not too far away – almost 3-4 minutes walk, so off we went in 38C of heat.

Flat White Unit 346 , La Croisette 27 Porto Arabia – The Pearl Qatar

On entering Flat White, it was similar to the video on their website – a strong focus on coffee with all the gadgets – cool drip, Anfim coffee grinders, relaxed feel, dangling light bulbs, cakes on display, mix of concrete and wood and of course a La Marzocco Strada.

The serving set up was different – you order from the bar and they call you – something unusual for the locals of the richest country in the World. Naturally I ordered a flat white and walked around to check on the barista prep style. After a few minutes, I chatted to him about the place and after informing him that I wrote about coffee and started naming all their gadgets, he looked up intriguingly and gave me an espresso on the house to try – bright citrusy. I also enquired about their beans as it said on their website that they were roasting but apparently they had experienced a few hiccups and hadn’t started using/selling their beans yet – they were using Barn Berlin (a famous roaster from Berlin). My flat white;

I must confess, I’m not a huge fan of citrus based coffees mixed with milk but nevertheless I know it was well prepared. I noticed the place was mostly populated by expatriates – I detected a few Australian accents – this was in contrast to Karak Mqanes, which was populated by Qataris.

So, there we are – in just a few hours.

Before departing for the airport I had lunch with a good friend I hadn’t seen for about 15 years and found out that he is also into coffee. He knew about flat white but suggested that I should have tried out “sweet moments” another specialty coffee shop run by a husband and wife team, selling great sweets and coffee. I guess this will have to be for another time insha’allah but if you are reading this and are planning on visiting Doha for a few hours or more, try them out and let me know what you thought about sweet moments, located Sweet Moments The Boutique, Al Muntazah, Tamar Mall.

And here The Pearl Qatar from above


I was @ Java House, Kenya: Perhaps, Africa’s best coffee chain?

Actually, I’m a bit embarrassed by the lateness of this post, because last year I had one of my most surprising coffee experiences in the eclectic city of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and main hub. As per usual, I had to attend a five day meeting in the city and of course I was on the hunt for coffee. Prior to my departure, I visited lonely planet’s helpful guide to cafes and restaurants to visit in Nairobi – also a major tourist destination and springboard to visit the vast wildlife and safaris across the country; and found 2-3 interesting ones. You may wish to know too that Nairobi is the only capital city in the World where there’s actually a natural safari park, near the airport, which we visited on our penultimate day – pics at the end.

So how about the coffee ? After all I was visiting one of the premier coffee countries in the World – not just a coffee growing country but a country that reputably has one of the best arabica varieties in the World (SL28 and SL32 but let’s not go there with deep coffee neurosis), sought after by coffee connoisseurs all over. Due to the location of our meeting and hence hotel, we were placed right bang in the middle of the city. I had initially wanted to check out another brand, the Artcaffe Coffee & Bakery, which looked very “European/American” in design, but all their locations were too far to get to during my busy week, so Java House it was – located on Mama Ngina Street, Transnational Plaza, about 5 minutes walk from the Hilton Hotel.

Upon entering their cafe, you won’t notice anything special in terms of decor; no exposed bricks, Scandinavian clean white washed floors and serving bar, because this is no frills per say – you could easily be in a typical local restaurant, apart from the smell of coffee and for geeks like me – the La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine. I looked around, the clientele was mainly Kenyan but there were a few what looked like backpackers as they had free wifi for customers too. I checked their menu – typical espresso menu, even with an offer for double as well as triple shots. I enquired about their coffee – roasted in small batches every day, primarily from Kenya but also from the region, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. I checked out the barista and his skills as he prepared other drinks and not to seem to geeky in front of my colleague, recommend that we both try a double espresso each. I must confess I wasn’t expecting much – I could hear my wife echoing her usual verdict of “coffee snob” into my ear from 1,000 of kilometres away in Vienna.

Hmm! Espresso served with a biscuit

So impressed with the extraction and of course the taste, my colleague immediately went over to ask about buying their coffees. Initially I was reluctant, but bought a Kenyan AA filter blend 500g of arabica coffee beans. The bill, for 2 double espressos and a 375g of Kenyan AA bag of coffee – wait for it US$10 – now that’s a great all round experience.

Of course I went back but must confess that on one occasion I was the victim of the plague of inconsistency that sometimes hampers African businesses, as on my second visit, the espresso lacked vigour – no crema and bitter. Needless to say, the other 1/2 visits did not disappoint. In a way I got the impression that their roasting skills would not disappoint and bought another bag of coffee, but this time from their speciality offering of a Rwandan arabica to take home with me and try on my French press. My colleague bought about 3-4 bags – I lost count.

Java House, I came to find out have about 40 branches in Nairobi alone. They seem quite popular and were always busy when I visited, perhaps because they also have an extensive food menu, including red velvet cake closing late, around 10pm everyday.

They also have a branch at the airport and saw their beans being sold in a duty free shop, but be warned, the coffee was not as freshly roasted as the ones in the city and were more expensive – I smiled to myself as I left the bags of months old roasted coffee at the airport duty free, informing the shop keeper that the coffee costs more at duty free but in town.

In summary I was quite happy to see that Java House, Kenyan created and currently still owned is an African coffee chain that is built on using locally produced coffee, roasted in small batches and successful in terms of its wide range and number of outlets in the city and beyond – It was also gratifying to see that Kenyans were enjoying one of their most prized exports in their own country and that the best stuff hadn’t been siphoned off to the European US and beyond – proud to be African is what comes to mind.


Drinking Coffee in Mauritius: 2018

Lucky me. I work for an organisation that tries to help people around the World using science and technology to help remove challenges we take for granted in the “richer” parts of the World. This means that sometimes I have to travel, as you have witnessed if you’ve been reading through my blog for a while, to some exotic places, usually in Africa. So, about 10 days ago I had to visit Mauritius, an African island state/country in the Indian Ocean. With lots of work ahead, I had to arrive one day early. However, this was not my first time on this beautiful island, because if you recall, I was in Mauritius about 9 years ago, read here – when lucky me again, praise God, due to the financial crisis, I was able to take my family on holiday to a dream holiday resort and of course got the opportunity to visit the island and check out the coffee. Back then the holiday and food were great but the coffee was not. So, what has happened since I last visited 9 years on ? Well, the good news and I like to see things progress – is that the coffee game has increased in terms of quality, with the launch of Mauritius first coffee chain, Cafe Lux, tied to the hotel chain LUX resorts. The coffee is roasted in Mauritius and apparently according to their website, their baristi are trained by Deluxe Coffeeworks in Cape Town – see here for more about them when I blogged about them in 2010.

Back to 2018 – on this occasion, we were placed at a hotel next to Bagatelle – Mauritius biggest mall. At first, I thought ah! mall coffee. Looking through the mall map, I saw that there were a couple of South African chains (Vida e Caffe and Mugg & Bean), but that didn’t excite me – sorry. As I walked through, I noticed this cafe, right in the centre, near another South African chain , Woolworths. I studied the menu and the environment got excited by what I saw – coffee beyond espresso – third wave coffee, as well as cold drip. As you might know by now, before I took the plunge and ordered, I circled like an eagle, spotting the La Marzocco GB5 machine, the grinders and then most important of all – the barista at work.

After watching the barista at work and convinced by the passion in which he pulled his shots and poured his latte art, I decided to take the plunge and ordered a piccolo aka a Cortado here.

Hmmm! I enjoyed the contrast of the espresso blend with the milk – hints of chocolate and roasted almonds. I asked about the blend – Island, which as advertised on their website is 45% GUATEMALAN, 45% BRAZILIAN, 10% ETHIOPIAN (typical safe espresso blend with a hint of acidity, berries, fruit, nuts and chocolate) and more intriguing so, roasted in Mauritius – impressive. I enquired about the barista – called Jim and whether they sold whole beans. After recalculating in my mind the conversion rate (about 900 Mauritian rupee, using a rate of 42 rupee to 1 Euro = 21.4 Euro), so, a bit similar to European prices, I told them I’d be back.

And I was, not just once, but five times in a week. Once for a daily cappuccino, which I must confess was not as good as the first time, due to the barista’s relaxed attitude to brewing coffee. – it wasn’t Jim.

Before a trip to the beach, I tried their cold drip…..

Blended right to accommodate a cold coffee drink. I explained to my colleagues who were intrigued by the concept of cold coffee about the drip method, which takes several hours, but more importantly that the coffee and roast have to be right, more fruity and lighter in roast to eradicate the bitterness that accompanies coffee when it gets cold.

For an espresso after dinner and yet another South African restaurant –

Easy to drink and smooth is how I described it to a colleague, who trusted my recommendation.

On my last day, I went back to buy a 500g bag of espresso beans and my fave barista there, Jim, gave me a complimentary cappuccino.

But I wasn’t done yet, as before I returned to the hotel to pack, I tried their “shot in the dark” a double espresso and an Americano combined – a bit similar to my “sleep suicide” from escape caffe, and also a caramel cheesecake.

I also spotted them at the airport, kitted out with a Vittoria Arduino Black Eagle V388 – impressive piece of equipment, but as my flight had been cancelled and I was trying to re-route, I wasn’t up to queuing up for another coffee. Nevertheless I could smile at myself, because I had some coffee, which I would be looking forward to brewing at home once I arrived God willing. If I had had the chance, I was wondering whether they would be up for the award of “best coffee at an airport” as to date I still haven’t had good coffee at any airport.

In conclusion, when in Mauritius – a beautiful island with World class hotels/resorts, look out for this brand who have three branches or alternatively try their coffee if you are lucky enough to stay at the at their 5* hotel resort, Lux Belle Mare. Read more at http://www.cafelux.mu


I’m Trying out a new Aeropress Recipe

I’m the type of person that needs change and ever so often I’m looking for new ways to experience things with food and drink. Sometimes I think that my taste buds are so used to good coffee that I wonder what I’m tasting and if all coffee doesn’t taste the same. Well! that misconception is usually short lived until I go to a “typical” coffee shop or spot and they offer me coffee and I think “how can they get this so wrong”. I’m still intrigued by the on-going debate about how world class restaurants serve you fantastic food but when you ask for that espresso at the end of a great meal, you think “why did you get this wrong?”.

Ok, I digress. I was looking through the flipboard (apple app for news update), which naturally I subscribe to coffee news and came upon this recipe on thecoffeecompass by Michael Butterworth, who is a coffee educator, who cofounded the Coffee Compass and is a two-time USBC Competitor, licensed Q Grader, and was once the 4th best Aeropresser in America (source: the coffee compass). Since finding the recipe I’ve tried it thrice – once verbatim, second, when I didn’t break the crust but took it out to give a cleaner cup and today with a slight adjustment on temperature and steep time.

In summary, it is;

15g freshly ground coffee

225ml of 95C hot water

Using two filter papers

Pour almost boiling water into the aeropress and place plunger on – this will create a vacuum

Steep for one minute

Take plunger off and break crust but giving it a quick stir

cover again and steep/leave for about 4 minutes, then plunge.

For my slight variation today; I used 15g of coffee but about 240ml of 91C hot water. Followed the same plunge and break the crust, but for the final steep, I left for about 2 minutes.

What did I notice taste wise using Kenya AA Plus Gicherori, SL28-SL34 Ruiru 11 ? For Michael’s version, definitely more fruity. I was excited by this new recipe and fruitiness and medium acidity tickling my tongue.

For my second variation (removal of crust for a cleaner cup) – medium acidity with a light citrus taste. For my third variation (lower temperature and reduced brew time) – whilst not as fruity as version one, but more balanced.

What did I learn also ? Using 95C hot water and pouring in straight away creates a vacuum – I actually thought that coffee would start dripping straight away but it didn’t. I was also fascinated by the breaking of the crust concept. I tried this coffee on the Hario V60, but it wasn’t as fruity as on the aeropress.

I’m quite excited by this new version and I’ll probably use it until I am intrigued by another simple to use recipe. Please share any aeropress recipes with me and perhaps I’ll feature them too.

Enjoy!


London Coffee Report 2017

I can’t believe it’s already 2018. Wow! time really flies. I was reviewing my blog for 2017 and it dawned on me that I didn’t do London coffee scene post for 2017, so here it is, a mix of the new, a fave and convenient, the classic and going back.

The Classic – Store Street Espresso – 40 Store St, Fitzrovia, London WC1E 7DB, UK

In fact it is quite baffling as to why since this London “classic” opened in 2010, around the time the World Barista Championships (WBC) were held in London, I have never been here. I first heard of them as they were one of the first coffee shops to use Square Mile Coffee way back then and they still use them. Sure I’ve been to their “sister” shop, Continental Stores, but not to the big brother. So one rainy August I trekked to Store Street where the shop is located – yes, the shop is named after the street it is located on.

When I finally got there, it was late afternoon and I was really panting for coffee. The place was fairly empty but you could tell that it was the sort of place that would have been very busy earlier in the day. As you walk in, all the action is on your left, Vittoria Arduino espresso machine, grinders, etc, fronted by grab me pastries and and cakes, even though most of them had gone already. As you walk past the brew station and before you approach the sitting area, just on your right they have coffee on sale and gadgets too. The place looks quite bright as they have a sun roof, similar to Colonna and Smalls in Bath. The staff look liked they had just finished a battle, but relaxed and still smiling. To test their milk based skills I went for a cortado using Square Miles Red Brick and some sugar, pasties de nata;

A tasty brew but I wasn’t finished. Before my new coffee, I took a walk around and started chatting to one of the staff, Toby. Taken aback by my questions, he offered me a special brew using the V60 and of course I trusted him – later on, he even refused to charge me for this cuppa – very kind indeed. I must confess I have forgotten the roaster, which I think was nordic based. It was just what you wanted from a filter brew, delicious mouth feel with fruit at the front with a  caramel underlying tone outside your tongue walls.

From my short stay there, I could smell the dedication to quality at this shop and definitely rate it as one of my top coffee shops in an already very high standard of coffee in London. Once again, thanks to Toby, Natalya and the barista girl for  great experience.

Going Back – Fernandez and Wells, 55 Duke Street, W1K 5NR

If you’ve been an avid follower of my blog you’ll know that when I used to visit London a lot during the noughties (2000-2009) I basically only trusted two brands for great coffee, Flat White on Berwick Street and its sister shop, Milk Bar during the time of Cameron and Fernandez & Wells located at Beak Street and St Anne’s Court back then. Since then Fernandez & Wells have expanded and now have 4 locations. In the summer, as I tried to dodge shoppers on Oxford Street, I walked down Duke Street, adjacent to the corner of Selfridges on Oxford Street and saw that located inside British Fashion shop, Jigsaw, there was a Fernandez & Wells neon sign. As it was time for one of my coffee fixes, I dragged my son in with me to check what was on offer. I was very pleased to see, I must say, that their signature drink, the Stumpy, was still on offer. In summary it is a triple shot cortado style drink – read about it’s origins here.

They have lots of tasty snack options too, which is captured in their recently launched cookbook, Rustic, available on amazon (no, I’m not sponsored by amazon). It’s actually on my wish list as Fernandez & Wells was one of the first London eateries I used to go for both good coffee and food.

Something new – Ludenwic 45 Aldwych, London WC2B 4DW, UK

Just like 2017 flew by with a mad busy work schedule, so did life, because just this past summer, our daughter is already looking at University. As we were waiting to visit Kings College on the Strand, I was looking for somewhere to get my daily espresso milk based fix and I recalled that a few months ago a cafe at Aldwych liked one of my instagram pics and I thought I’d like to check them out. Another busy hub, where most of London’s lawyers work, Lundenwic is well located in a very bustling work area of London, in between London School of Economics and Kings College. It is quite a small shop with a Nordic touch, clean lines, delicious looking pastries, cakes and salads. Luckily, I was also hungry, so I grabbed a nice looking salad to go with my coffee.

Lundenwic use Workshop coffee, so expect a fruity bias, brewed on a La Marzocco Linea. One our last day of our summer holiday, we had to visit a pop-up macaroon ice cream sandwich shop, Yolkin and I was surprised to learn that Lundenwic were open on a Sunday, which with their location is very quiet, but I was very happy to visit them again. So, if you work in that area or are studying at one of London’s best universities, LSE or Kings College, or need a quick great cup of coffee whilst visiting Covent Garden/Theatre Land, then I highly recommend Lundenwic.

Something New Too – Saint Espresso & Kitchen, 296 Kentish Town Rd, London 

On the same trip as above, last summer, we rushed off to Kentish Town to see my cousin and as I waited for the rest of my family to catch up, I saw this little new spot, Saint Espresso & Kitchen.

I walked in briefly and took a quick look around and promised to be back and I was. Walking in, you could tell it was something this type of middle class neighbourhood had missed. Exposed brick, reticent of  New York Urban Retro, wooden stools with sone steel thrown in, offering breakfast, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and more and decked out with a La Marzocco Linea as the finishing touch to a classy spot. I found out that they also roast their own coffee but as our luggage was already on its way to Heathrow and my hand baggage was heavy, I resisted the temptation to buy more coffee.

I had a brief chat with the barista and mentioned that I write about coffee. Upon hearing that and I’m not sure if it was testament to his dedication, he pulled three shots of espresso, before he gave me my order, adding that it might be a bit bright. I must confess that of late whenever I walk into a cafe and mention I write about coffee, some baristi seem to up their game, especially if I’m ordering espresso – a plus for me and I ain’t complaining.

Sure it was a bit bright and flowery, perhaps due to the lower brewing temperature, their espresso menu or coffee but it was sparkly and gave me a lift as we headed down back to the tube to catch the taxing journey to Heathrow Airport. Saint Espresso & Kitchen are very well located, with literally under a minute from Kentish Town tube station on the Northern Line, so if you need that quick coffee rush or coffee on the go, I recommend you pop in before your morning journey to work. I found out afterwards that Saint Espresso have two other shops, one located on 214 Baker’s Street, quite close to the West End, and one at Angel on 26 Pentoville Road, so I am looking forward to checking these out too.

Convenient – Notes Bond Street Station

When my wife and I visited London to celebrate our 20 years wedding anniversary, we headed to Oxford Street via Bond Street tube station and as I walked out, I couldn’t believe what I saw – Notes of Covent Garden now had a small branch at Bond Street Station. Wow! how convenient – before, whenever I came to this end of Oxford Street, I used to head straight to Workshop Coffee at St Christopher’s Place, about 3 minutes walk away, but this is super convenient. When we visited in December, it was my first stop on many occasions.

It’s like a pop-up shop but of course with a strong focus on quality coffee, complimented with a selections of sweets and cakes. They also sell their coffee, which I bought on my last visit to a London coffee shop of 2017. They’ve got the gadgets, friendly and good baristi and offer more than coffee, like hot chocolate and teas.

Soho Favourites – Soho Grind (19 Beak Street, Soho) and Department of Coffee & Social Affairs (3 Lowndes Court, off Carnaby Street)

Occasionally, I find myself near the Soho part of the West End, just off Regents Street and as I wave through the crowds trying to avoid people congestion traffic, I dot through Soho’s side streets and usually stop over at Soho Grind for either filter brew or milk based coffee, where you can be met with a slightly more trendy crowd and friendly baristi. They have seating downstairs if it gets more crowded at the top.

If I’m closer to the Oxford Street end, I pop into Department of Coffee & Social Affairs, which is closer to the top end of Carnaby Street. It’s a lot busier here, with a few tourists around and more seating downstairs. If you want take out, let them know first, otherwise take a seat and wait to be served, which I must confess can be a bit slow. They have a menu for food and some delicious looking cakes too. As they are one of London’s coffee roasters, they sell their coffee too, and now roast for nespresso machines. I bought the latter for my bro, as he owns one.

Luck Londoners with all these high quality coffee shops, phew!

As busy as ever with more quality coffee shops to visit than ever, still makes London, I believe, probably the best coffee city in the World. I look forward to trying out new ones in 2018 or re-visting some old faves to check out if they have maintained their standards.