Is this My Favourite Coffee Shop in the World? Prufrock Coffee, London

I often get asked, “So, Lameen what is your favourite coffee shop in the World?”. It’s a bit of a tricky question, because the modern age consumer doesn’t get easily satisfied with just the product – they want an experience. Sure, I’ve had great coffee in cafes, where I wished they had been a bit friendlier and the opposite holds sway too – good customer service but mediocre coffee. I often try and process that very quickly but I see that the questioner starts to get impatient – expecting me as a coffee lover to just pop out the answer. Furthermore, they get even more impatient when I start saying for espresso, it was…. and for filter, it has to be….. and I just really loved the concept and the staff at…… So, not to burden them with my complicated musings, I will default to Prufrock Coffee in London. And, you guessed it, “but why?”. Then I think to myself, if I have to start explaining the experience, that it was started by a former WBC Champion, that companies approach them to test new technology, that they started using reverse osmosis water, that they have a great barista academy, that they gave me a free barista tasting session, that I learnt a lot from chatting with them for hours, etc. Then they tune off.

So, I thought to myself, actually, when was the last time I visited Prufrock coffee and I realised shamefully that I hadn’t been back to Prufrock Coffee for about 6 years. After all, my post on my first visit in 2011 (read here) was so popular that the tweet advertising it, was retweeted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters and got me my most hits back then in one day – over 300. In addition, one of my pictures, when I used to use a Nikon Camera for all my coffee and food photos – was liked by Prufrock so much, they gave me a free tasting class – read here. So, I was well overdue a visit.

Located on 23-25 Leather Lane, Prufrock is on a busy week day market street. It is unusually big for a classic London specialty coffee shop and on their website, they even highlight that. I won’t go into the aesthetics, as you can read that in my original posts from 2011, however somethings have changed – more retail space to sell coffee, t-shirts and more and a stronger focus on food, without compromising on coffee of course. Prufrock are still very closely associated with Square Mile, so you can buy their coffees here too.

As you can see from above, they are very much still into the provision of both barista and specialised “coffee ” related training. Their website offers more options and if you recall from one of my earlier posts in 2019, I mentioned that they new coffee roasters in Vienna, Jonas Reindl, were trained by Prufrock. So a Coffee Lover’s Dream – Prufrock it still is. and I know that if I want to take my aspiring coffee career to the next level, it will start from Prufrock. In fact, even though I know it was lunchtime, it was quite busy and I just about got a space to sit. I noticed also, that a few tourist were visiting, buying souvenirs.

Now to the the coffee and my visit.

Visiting at lunchtime was probably not the best idea, but I needed great coffee as early as possible in the day. As you can guess, their fame has blossomed and not only was the cafe busy with what looked like regulars, but a few touristy looking customers were also paying homage. In fact I was lucky to get a sit, which was pleasantly opposite the brew bar, decked with the Victoria Arduino VA388 Black Eagle and accompanying Victoria Arduino coffee grinders.

 

For the coffee, they had two choices and if you have time and are serious, you can enquire which blend would be good for the type of coffee you desire – I was so excited to be “back” that I ordered two; the fruitier version as an espresso and the not so fruitier one as a piccolo.

 

Great of course. I started with the espresso and finished off with dessert – the piccolo.

After my coffees I wandered over for a chat to meet the baristi, Jake, who took my order and Aga, who prepared them. As Aga was busy making more great coffees, I had a chat with Jake, asking him about how long he had been working there and sharing with him my passion for coffee, etc. Very friendly, adding the experience of course. Before I left to rejoin the family, I noticed a delicious looking cake – I can’t remember now, but it had a rosemary and strawberry – very unique and the size of the slice was enough for two, so I bought that together with Square Mile’s Palestina Coffee for filter brewing.

Ah! so happy I went back and I pray it won’t be another 6 years before I visit. Still a great place for coffee and I think when I visit again, I’ll be doing more than just drinking coffee as I plan to start investigating adding the word “coffee” into my next career path, God willing.

So, is Prufrock my favourite coffee shop in the World? If I wanted to ask anyone or start a serious coffee career, they will top my list no doubt because I know that they are completely dedicated to coffee.

For more on offer at Prufrock, I defiantly recommend visiting their website; https://www.prufrockcoffee.com

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I was @ OR Coffee Roastery, Brussels

This is like part two of my previous post, when I visited Brussels to attend the ICO SDG Coffee Symposium. Prior to visiting for the day, I obviously checked out the speciality coffee scene in Brussels and although few came up, the one called OR Roastery stood out. In any case from what I could deduce from the map, there was one centrally located but I wasn’t sure if it would be near the symposium. As I had not been to Brussels in like ages (my memory puts me visiting there around 1987 and that was a long time ago) I was looking forward to visiting again, albeit for a day.

Although there was coffee during the coffee break, my fussy palate was not satisfied with what was on offer. Having arrived late and after spending my lunch break networking with the coffee aristocrats, I decided that during the next coffee break, I would wander not too far to look for OR Coffee and wow! It was like God wanted me to visit, because would you believe it, right outside the Sofitel Hotel where the afternoon sessions were taking place, was the OR Coffee shop I was looking for – located on the corner of Place Jourdan and Rue de Cornet.

As I walked in, it had that air of Anglo-Saxon and by that I mean you could be in London,  New York or perhaps Australia, with green tiles, wood and exposed brick and copper pipes overhead – a relaxed atmosphere, with displays of their coffees, gadgets, etc. to the right hand side – see pic at the top. It was quietish but not empty. In fact it was a bit too relaxed for me as I was eager not to miss any of the sessions and waiting about 10 minutes for my coffee, made me a bit impatient even though I was second in the queue but I didn’t know that people sitting down were still waiting for their coffee. In short, don’t come here rushing for coffee, at least not at 3pm in the afternoon, but I’m sure that they can handle crowds during rush hour. In any case, it gave me the opportunity to walk around to stretch my legs and soak up the atmosphere, browsing their menu, which reminded me more of a London cafe especially when I saw their cakes, cheesecake, red velvet, etc – oh! how I wished I had come here for lunch instead. Walking over to their coffees, I was pleasantly surprised , after having just mentioned to someone that I haven’t seen Tanzanian coffee for years, to see a Tanzanian espresso blend, which I grabbed very quickly with a smile.

 

Eventually I got my coffee, brewed on a  La Marzocco GB5, served by amiable staff a flat white, with two shots, using their house blend – just what I needed.

 

I did some more research on OR Roastery, which you can view here

In short, they are the first specialty coffee power house of Belgium – they roast, they teach you how to roast, set up a coffee business, provide coffee to your office, have a few locations and more.

Upon my return home I was happy to have purchase their Tanzanian Espresso Blend.

The bag says rhubarb and high acidity, but for me it was the aftertaste even with milk, coating the outside of your tongue with a berry like acidity – delicious and something I haven’t had in a while – tempting for me to order for delivery to Vienna in the not so distant future.

So, in summary, if you visit Brussels, try and visit OR coffee along with the other speciality coffee shops you may find on your list.

 

 

 


I was at the SDG Coffee Symposium on 6 June 2019

 

Organised by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) on 6 June to discuss the challenges of the coffee value chain during historically low coffee prices. I was invited by Gerardo Patacconi, Director of Operations. I know some of my readers are wondering is there such an organisation, yes there is and….

The ICO is the main intergovernmental organization for coffee, bringing together exporting and importing Governments to tackle the challenges facing the world coffee sector through international cooperation. Its Member Governments represent 98% of world coffee production and 67% of world consumption.

The ICO sounds like the kind of place that for me, as a development economist who loves coffee would like to work in and yes I confess that it is one of the places I would love to work in, especially located in my fave coffee capital in the World, London. Anyway I digress.

More on the jargon – the SDG stands for “sustainable development goals” and are sometimes known as the Global Goals. In any case they were initiated through the United Nation (UN) and are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

So, this Symposium was organised together with the European Coffee Federation and hosted by the European Commission (EC) bringing together coffee sector stakeholders (buyers, farmers, academia, civil society, partners) and is part of ICOs sector wide consultation that will lead hopefully to a roadmap with concrete actions to address the coffee price crisis and volatility, which has resulted in affecting coffee farmers livelihoods and which will eventually, if left unchecked, affect the sustainability of the coffee industry.

In summary, coffee prices are very low at the moment, whereby you can buy a pound (.453kg) bag of coffee greens for about US$1 at the world commodity price. Price varies with quality and with type (robusta/arabica), but a few years back it was double that (in 2010 it was three times this around US$3 per pound), which means that coffee farmers have seen a 50% drop in their income depending on other factors. Initially, you may be thinking like I did, hold on; “my specialty coffee roaster sells a kilo for about US$30 but only pays US$1 or up to US$3, so the roaster is king”. In fact, in a recent Financial Times article it was calculated that for each US$3 (UKGBP2.50) for a cappuccino, the roaster got 10p and the roaster 1p – yikes.

 

This seems very unfair and unsustainable, but there are other factors and as I mentioned on my linkedIn article on “coffee and economics”;

Perhaps the big players should consider diverting some of the profits to;

  • coffee research into new varieties to address climate change
  • investment for the local communities such as centralised washing stations and hence clean water, like Stumptown did – see “A Film about Coffee”
  • investment in transport access,
  • promotion of the crop in the local communities especially with the youth, which are running away from coffee farming. Use social media,etc.
  • educating the communities in life skills, even entrepreneurial skills.

On point (i) and (ii), Starbucks highlighted that they work with 450,000 coffee farmers and have supported research to create 400 varietals of which 5 have been released on farm trials.

On the point (v) and in general, I really believe, that the more you give the more you will get back. It runs through some of the points I have raised under my #honestmanagement series, if you show respect to your employees (and in this case we can say coffee farmers), you will foster loyalty and they will go the extra mile to grow the best coffee.  Whoever in the coffee chain has the most and in any industry they will know who they are, should really think about how the coffee industry can be sustainable for future generations – after all there is no doubt that the demand for coffee is constantly growing, so there will always be a market for it.

In summary, for coffee lovers we want everyone to get a fair deal for the best of our planet. We know that low coffee prices “never” translate to lower prices for our daily cappuccinos or flat whites, pour overs, etc, but at least those at the source, the farmers should benefit somehow, if not we will all loose out.

In short it was a very interring symposium for me, looking at the other side – away from my traditional view (cafes and quality) to the upstream side, where it all starts from the farm. That’s my take for now, but I’m working on this as a side project, so I’m welcome to any more ideas.

Sources

FT Article

http://www.ico.org

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coffee-economics-lameen-abdul-malik/?published=t


A Beautiful Coffee Shop: Alchemy Coffee, Dubai

Sometimes you just drop into a coffee shop and think Wow! what a space, and that’s what happened when I visited Alchemy Coffee in Dubai last month. I had heard about this coffee shop since last summer when we visited but we ran out of time and I missed the opportunity. As they say, good things or should I say, good coffee, comes to those who wait. As you enter, you know, as they articulated on their website that they wanted you to enter a space that feels like home. Alchemy have progressed from the so called Starbucks “home away from home” space, as you feel like you are home. It helps that this coffee shop is definitely a converted Miami style house with very clean lines, including a plunge swimming pool outside (not for coffee drinkers), but it adds to the ambience.

As you enter the front door, on the right is this beautiful info graphic;

which is actually their drinks menu – the only thing missing is the price for each drink.

To the left is the brew bar, with all the filter options (hario V60, aeropress, chemex, kalita, etc) and of course a Synesso Espresso machine with Anfim grinder and Victoria Arduino Mythos grinder. Interesting enough, two baristi hailed from Uganda.

On the day we arrived, it was their first year anniversary – 6 April and they had a camera crew taking pictures and videos of their space plus a giveaway competition with first price a trip to an Ethiopian coffee farm for two (that would be ideal for me). It was also a bit busy so we had to wait for about 5 minutes before placing our order. My cousin went for something with milk – a beautifully poured cappuccino;

Latte art!

As it was later in the day, I wanted to try a filter coffee and wow! was I in for a real treat. Yes, almost like the elusive red sulphur – I had to do a double take – Did I see Yemeni coffee (the first country after Ethiopia to grow coffee and for which the coffee variety arabica comes from) on the menu, in front of me in a  very apt golden coffee bag. I was so stunned to see Yemeni coffee that I quizzed them as to where they got it from – their coffee comes from a local roaster, Cypher. In fact I wanted to buy a bag but as it was a special edition to coincide with their 1 year anniversary, it wasn’t for sale. In any case I chose for it to be brewed on a kalita, which I don’t usually have.

 

The flavour profile was typical Yemeni; spicy, with hints of dark chocolate and medium acidity. After a while I managed to persuade my cousin – not a coffee drinker – to try.

To accompany our coffees, we ordered scrumptious looking tarts and cakes – mine was Swiss almond (yes, typical me, I told the barista, chuckling that Switzerland don’t have almonds) and my cousin an orange polenta cake – but very yummy.

Their space is very clean – perhaps too clean for a normal house, unless you have guest coming over – which Alchemy have all the time, obviously.

In summary, a very nice space, with attention paid to detail in presentation , preparation and hospitality. Looking forward to my next visit insha’Allah.

visit their website on Alchemy


Brunch and Coffee @ Brew Cafe, Clapham, London

As many of you might know by now, if you sift through my Instagram page, you will know that I am not only passionate about coffee, but food and fashion too. In fact before coffee, it was food. When kids at school would be asked about their hobbies, I would always say art and food. So, in 2019, I’m going to be talking a bit more about food, especially my favourite meal of the day, BREAKFAST. For me, the ideal meal always involves good coffee and breakfast is so exciting because you start your day off with it.

Located on 45 Northcote Street, about 7 minutes walk away from Clapham Junction Railway Station, Brew Cafe is a very busy cafe, as there are not many cafes like it in this area. We arrived there around 1030am on a Sunday morning and luckily we didn’t have to queue for long – about 15 minutes. Typical of a London morning in March, it was a bit cold and cloudy, but as there were 4 of us and we didn’t want to wait an additional 15 minutes, we sat outside with blankets. Within a few minutes the queue started and it was obvious that it is very popular with young couples.

First up, I knew I wanted coffee and found out that they get their coffee from Allpress Espresso – one of New Zealand  premier coffee roasters, who opened up in London about 9 years ago in East London. Already familiar with their name, I could safely order coffee. So, I went for a cappuccino, brewed on their La Marzocco Linea machine;

As you approach their cafe, they have a placard outside, saying “best coffee in London”. I’m not sure about that but I may give them my “best coffee in Battersea” award. The coffee was well prepared and worth the wait. Now, whenever I stay with my brother, who lives about 7 minutes away, I know where to come and get a good cup of coffee before delving into London.

Now, to the food. This was confusing because they have so many nice things to order; Turkish eggs, which my daughter and brother went for; Sweetcorn fitters with tomato jam – tempting; folded eggs, which my son ordered; blueberry pancakes… and more. In the end, I went for Hake and Crab Fishcakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise with spinach under their “big plates” section;

Yum! See the full order below, with my side of smashed avocado. My son’s folded eggs must be the largest egg dish I have seen served at a cafe or restaurant and if you are really hungry, I would definitely recommend that – it must have been at least 4 eggs.

But there’s more. Based on their focus to order fresh and use very high quality producers, there are a lot more tempting things on their menu, which I would love to sample another day, especially their desserts and cakes – I ordered a take away New York blueberry cheesecake for my wife, but they have carrot cake, red velvet cake and even better you can order the whole cake to take home and you know I love desserts.

In summary, a great place to have brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner – for the latter, their branch in Chiswick (pronounced Chissik) have specials in conjunction with La Luna cinema and offer wood fired pizzas too. I’m really looking forward to visiting again and you know how much I love a place that is passionate about preparing coffee as well as food. Definitely, one of the type of places I would like to own in the future God willing, well done Brew Cafe.

Check them out on http://brew-cafe.com

 


I was @ Kaldi Coffee, Lagos (Nigeria)

I first heard of Kaldi Coffee early in 2018, when they liked one of my coffee photos on Instagram and was so intrigued by their concept that I told everyone I knew in Nigeria to look out for their coffees, which can be bought at the duty free, supermarkets and of course at their shops. In any case, I promised to visit them when I visited Nigeria again, which happened in December 2018. So, on my last few hours in Lagos and with the mad traffic in Lagos, it was beginning to look extremely slim that I would make it, but due to the kindness of one of my cousins, who resonated with my coffee passion, she loaned me her car and driver and I headed off to Ilupeju – near Ikeja – the part of Lagos that the airport is located in.

As I finally arrived, I was met by a very enthusiastic Dr Nasra Ali – the main owner of Kaldi coffee. I presume she was excited to meet a fellow coffee geek. We headed over to have a coffee first – I was really looking forward to my first good cup of coffee in Nigeria after 10 days (most of it was spent in Abuja and the remaining 2 days in Lagos only). Prepared on a La Marzocco GB5, using of course Kaldi’s coffee beans.

So, what is the story behind Kaldi Africa. First of all, I presume everyone knows the story about Kaldi and if you don’t, click on my page – a Brew beginning (the story about how coffee started) at the top. In any case, Dr Nasra Ali is actually a doctor, formerly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations organisation in charge of health, where she was working until she met her husband to be, a businessman of Greek origin, who resided in Nigeria – you see the connection. In any case, coffee runs in Nasra’s family bloodline, as they were behind Kenya and perhaps Africa’s biggest coffee chain, Java House (see my post here). So, when presented with an idea of setting up a business in Nigeria, it was obvious. In her own right, she’s a trained barista and roaster and has the Nigerian license for distributing my favourite espresso coffee machine maker, La Marzocco and have SCAE recognition.

So, Nasra, doesn’t compromise on quality. Kaldi’s focus is on sourcing good coffee from Africa and they have started trying to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry – yes, there is one. This is very commendable, because she could easily just buy Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees from Eastern Africa and ignore West Africa, but she didn’t and also sources coffee from nearby Cameroon too. So, now for the tour;

Nasra showed me her coffee factory. First the tasting and barista room, where she has a few espresso machines (La Marzocco of course), grinders, brewing equipment and the Ikawa mini-roaster.

Then we went to the heart – the roasting room, which houses two Probat Coffee Roasters – wow!

If you view her Instagram Feed, you will see what she went through to get this factory from an empty dusty room to this gleaming roast factory – truly amazing and I was very impressed.

On the business side, Nasra has started roasting for hotels and restaurants – I visited Krispy Kreme Lagos, who are one of her customers –

Met with Edouard Sassine, who offered me the opportunity to start a coffee roasting company with him – extremely tempting, I must say. In any case, Nasra is so generous, that she is willing to develop a roast blend for each of her customers beyond her own trusted espresso blend. If you cannot visit, you can also buy their coffees on line – 250g starting for the equivalent of $7.8 and there’s even more – something I’ve never seen. You can order your coffee as greens or roasted in three different profiles of light, medium and dark. As a coffee geek, you could order the same coffee in three different roast profiles, even though I’d omit the “darker” version. They also sell chocolate and tea, gadgets, coffee cups, brewing equipment, grinders and espresso machines. Nasra offered me two coffee bags and hot chocolate and I grabbed the Nigerian and Cameroonian coffees, which I brewed as espresso.

On services, they have three different types of barista courses, so ideally, any serious retail outlet or business that wants to start a coffee business in Lagos – a city soon to be the largest in Africa with over 20 million people, there’s no real reason to serve substandard coffee. They can also be contacted to serve great coffee at events if needed. Read more about Kaldi on http://kaldiafrica.com

Nasra was so conscious of me missing my flight back to Abuja that my very intriguing visit was all over in less than an hour and as my wife knows, I can literally chat about coffee for hours. So, I reluctantly left, but guess what ? What should have been a 15 minutes ride to the airport, took a whopping 90 minutes and if my flight left on time, I would definitely have missed it – things I do for coffee.

I was really intrigued by my visit and seeing the passion in my eyes, Nasra, ever so giving, offered to help me start a coffee roasting business in Nigeria – I can’t even imagine anyone offering to train a competitor, but I think she’s so giving and I was really tempted – perhaps I’ll add that to my wish list or should I say dream list, plus I would really like to explore the possibility of helping Nigerian and other African coffee farmers get more recognised and up the quality of their coffee – anyone interested, please feel free to contact me.

Until then, if you ever visit Lagos, please stop by but not on your way to the airport and it’s probably best on the weekend or in the morning, when there’s less traffic.

Well done Nasra and here’s to working with you to help Nigerian and African coffee producers.


I was at Jonas Reindl Cafe & Roastery, Vienna

So, this is part two to my earlier post, where I wanted to expand more on Vienna’s latest in city coffee roaster, Jonas Reindl Cafe and Roastery, recently opened on Westbahnstrasse 13, in the 7th district. As I mentioned this is an unusual feat as the City of Vienna have very strict rules about roasting coffee in the city, especially near residences. In any case, as they say “never say impossible, but rather say, I’m possible”.

A bit about the roaster himself – Philip – who I had known for a while on the many occasions that I had visited their first shop, Jonas Reindl Cafe, located at Wahringerstrasse 2-4, opposite the Votivkirche. I asked him about their journey towards becoming a roastery, something they had hinted at for about a year on their instagram feed. I have been saying for a while, based on my experience of my one and only cafe that the real winners in the coffee supply chain are the coffee roasters – why? because if you have ambitions to open more than 2 cafes, then the coffee roaster is very happy – sorry, this isn’t a dig at coffee roasters, who I really appreciate and respect a lot in the coffee game (they are the ones that make the cherry taste great if brewed properly) but when you look at the figures, then if you can and want to really extend your survival then you have to enter the supply chain earlier. If you can guess, my next coffee dream is to get into he coffee supply chain and roast one of these days God willing. I just need to invest in my dream, so anyone reading that has any ideas we can work on together, contact me please.

In any case, Philip mentioned that he has attended some coffee roasting classes but the crux for me, was that he also spent time with the guys at Prufrock Coffee (read about them here) still for me one of the best cafes in the World. Ironically, Prufrock are not coffee roasters (they get their coffee from one of my fave roasters, Square Mile Coffee) but they defiantly know what to look for in coffee. In short, I was impressed with Philip’s attention to detail.

On equipment, as you can see, they have the classic 12kg Probat Coffee Roaster, with all the digital gadgets and you can even witness them roasting on site if you are lucky too.

Now, the coffees. I really loved the packaging, which has the new age coffee bag housed in this lovely box, explaining on the side the origin of the coffee, etc – see below.

 

I already mentioned about my cafe experience in my previous post but what did it taste like at home… good.

However, the one thing that was really distinctive was the SMELL. When I opened the bags of their coffee, I was hot with this sumptuous aroma – it instantly took me back to the late noughties (2000-2009), when I started falling in love with coffee. So, that was the first tick for me.

On the taste I wasn’t let down as it lived up to my expectations – good coffee roasted well with attention should taste well if brewed properly. I bought espresso and filter coffees, which I enjoyed very much.

On the espresso, they were full bodied from Central America, and tasted milk chocolate with underlying notes of dark dried fruits.

The filters, from Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia) were very fruity with a good mouth feel with medium and not over powering acidity. I always like Kenyan coffees in the filter but must confess when I get a natural Ethiopian it is exciting because different cups and different brewing styles (Hario V60 or aeropress) can give different taste profiles.

I also started experimenting with different grinding styles – moving slight more coarser for the V60, which gave a much more fruity feel.

The good thing about their coffees is that you don’t have to live in Vienna to sample them, as they now have an online shop and offer wholesale, so check them out here http://www.jonasreindl.at