Thanks @ Hackney Coffee Company for a Friendly Coffee

  

 Thanks to Jon Penn, co-founder of Hackney Coffee Company, located on 499 Hackney Road, London for reaching out to me through Instagram and sending me a bag of delicious Nicaragua Nuevo Segouia Catuai, natural dried arabica coffee.

About the coffee, the taste profile is advertised as rum, raisin and cascara tea. I can’t say for sure that I picked up those exact profiles, except for the cascara tea, when I tested it cold, leaving the coffee fro about 20 minutes. What I picked up was dried berries, like cherry, a fruity burst, medium acidity, well balanced and on calling dark chocolate.

   
  My colleague, an expert wine taster actually described it as a

Friendly coffee

By that, he meant, well balanced, pleasant to drink, raspberries, medium acidity and well balanced.

A pleasant cup.

On brewing method, I tried it out using an aeropress, but I must confess I loved it better using a Hario V60. This is where I was able to pick up a high tasting notes. In fact I liked this coffee so much, that I visited their website to try and order it, but form what I gather, they don’t have an online shop yet.

  
so, if ya down in East London, go grab a cuppa at Hackney Coffee Company, mate – sorry couldn’t help myself in putting a typical cockney accent.


The Sum of Us, Dubai: Revisited

  
I guess I kind of give the impression that I live in Dubai – well, my jealous daughter just told me “You stop-over there so often”, and my reply “don’t be a hater”. Anyway on yet another stop-over, just last weekend, I was naturally craving coffee, even though the curry fish I had the previous night didn’t provide relief but grief. It just so happened that on this occasion, the Sum of Us was the closest decent cafe to get to before rushing off to the airport.

On entering, I was pleasantly surprised. First up, when I visited in the summer, the cafe had only been opened about 4 weeks and hence was not on the radar yet, making it quite empty – read more here. So, on this occasion, the cafe was literally packed, both inside and outside (it was only about 24C). I only wanted a good cup of milk-based espresso a flat – a magic. 

  
After placing my order, I wandered around and went back to wait by their “take away” station. 

  
After downing my caffeine bliss, I was very intrigued by the expresso blend used – it was quite exceptional and so after discovering it was their house blend, aptly called “Tsunami”, I walked off to the roastery section to purchase my bag of beans.

  
Upon entering, there are gadgets (aeropress, Hario V60 and more) on the left-hand side of the wall, plus I was greeted very nicely by Kersti from Estonia. As we talked, she sensed I was not just another buff and mentioned that she was also holding a coffee tasting session later that day.

  
 I noticed two coffees from EspressoLab, Cape Town, chatted for a bit and ran out to meet my very patient cousin, who was driving around wondering why it was taking me 10 minutes just to drink a cup of coffee.

So, whats changed? More people, eclectic atmosphere, the smell of success and coffee tasting. By having your own roastery, you have access to multiple revenue streams – you gain control of your raw material and product line, coffee, you can sell coffee to other cafes and of course, you can hold coffee tasting sessions. On the latter, for the great value price of AED75 (Euros20), you can have an hour or more session on how to taste coffee – I did something similar at Escape Caffe in Cape Town, once a month. Hats off to the Sum of Us/Tom Arnel and Sergio.

But we’re not finished yet…

  
The coffee, which I brewed this morning, called the Tsunami or the Sum of Us house espresso blend.

   

I call it splitting the heart. Enough of the pedantic, what did it taste like? Hints of toffee and believe it or not caramelised cashews, yummy. Worth the price and transport from Dubai to Vienna in my baggage.

So, if you’re in Dubai and are reading this, pop down to the Sum of Us, enjoy some breakfast, coffee and atmosphere for me and buy some coffee to be brewed how you like.

Ma’assalama, as they say in the Emirates.

 


The Best Coffee Shop in a Mall: Common Grounds, Dubai

  
Usually, malls are dry places for creativity, where only the big chains can afford the exorbitant rental prices, stifling independent and artisan retailers, so when you see something different in a mall, it catches my eye, and no more so that coffee or/and food shops.

I recall about 7 years ago walking into a mall in Cairo and seeing the famous Venetian coffee shop, Caffe del Doge – sceptical, I went in and was really intrigued by the enthusiasm of the baristi – the coffee was typical Italian, dark roast, but prepared with care and lots of etching (not latte art, but using chocolate syrup to draws patterns). Back then, I thought that was the best coffee shop in a mall. Then about 3 years ago, I went into Westfield Stratford in London and was pleasantly surprised to have coffee at Grind. Attention to detail in preparation, coupled with great espresso machines, topped up with cakes, customer friendly staff in a very busy environment made for a very electable coffee shop environment and for me back then, the best coffee shop in a mall.

But now…. we have a new contender… drum roll…..

With two Victoria Arduino Black Eagle two group machines (i.e. the most expensive espresso machine in the World, designed by Jim Hoffmann – see my last post), 

  
 a coffee menu, offering filter coffee especially brewed for you using a chemed, aeropress or Hario V60, coffee beans on sale, a very welcome spread of cakes, sweet bites, pastries and more, including a food menu with wide appeal, friendly staff, the brainchild of serious coffee fanatics and located in a the city of malls and more, comes…..

Common Grounds in the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.

  
The brainchild of Tom&Serg, Common Grounds is their third outlet in Dubai, after the Sum of Us. The latter location is now their coffee heaven location, where all their coffees are roasted and dispatched to their shops, with espresso blends and filter roasts  on offer.

Located in a mall, Common Grounds had to be different – first off all, it’s in the Mall of the Emirates extension – this remains one of Dubai’s most popular malls and is famous for the one that has the ski slope, amongst other popular attraction and designer shops. The shop is not too far from the movie theater area in the corner. For this location, Tom&Serg had to offer more food and dessert and own 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I visited I had a burger, prior to my flat white of course 

  
and was really spoilt for choice on the desserts (almond and orange cake, mini-cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, pastries and more), I decided on the almond and orange cake.   

The staff from France and South Africa were really friendly and couldn’t do enough. The barista were available to offer coffee geeks like me a choice of coffee based on brew process – I settled for the chemex.

I could easily have been in a cafe in central London in terms of the attention to detail – with it’s laid back feel and no evidence of being a chain, Common Grounds has a unique and independent cafe appeal. As you know, I like shopping (mostly outside and not in malls, unless it’s for food) and visiting Dubai, but now I’m rest assured that no matter how much shopping I’m doing, not to mention, my wife and daughter are doing, I can always escape if I’m Dubai to a cafe to relax and drink great coffee.

A well deserved title from me “the best coffee in a Mall”, but let me know if there’s somewhere else, I’ve missed in the World of Coffee.


I was @ The Vienna Coffee Festival 2016

  
Things are changing in Vienna, one of the original European Coffee cities from way back. So, in 2016, they had the second ever coffee festival, running from 15-18 January 2016 at the Ottakringer Brauerie, which seemed well organised with a vast array of attendees from babies to 80 somethings, with free coffee on tap, lectures for nerds like me, top coffee machine suppliers and a brand new patented tamper from an Austrian manufacturer. so here’s a summary;

Hauck

  
 Probably the first revolution in tamping since the Espro tamper, way back over 10 years ago. So what’s special about it ? It’s made in Austria, using only Austrian materials, even the wood, but the most important thing is the built-in device that guarantees level tamping and hopefully a more consistent espresso shot.

Victoria Arduino Black Eagle

  
Well, I’ve already ranted on about this, after the last coffee event and during my visit to Kaffeine 2 in London. In short, it’s a very special machine – the most expensive espresso machine in the World, etc. I was happy to learn that Jonas Reindl in Vienna now have one and so does top roaster and coffee connoisseur extraordinare,  Jo Wechlesberger of Vienna School of Coffee. The main distributor, Christian Kaiserseder, was happy to learn that I knew of the machine, made me an espresso and also told me about their new revolutionary grinder, which maintains an extraction temperature using flat burrs. In short, the more you grind in a typical grinder, the warmer the machine becomes affecting the freshly ground coffee and hence taste.

La Marzocco

  
  Still on machines, glad to have met Espresso Solutions owner Reinhold and his team again, who had the Linea Mini-Home on offer for today only at the bargain price of EUR3,600. In any case, things have really changed as it’s been almost 10 years when I first met Reinhold and we lamented about how there were no cafes in Vienna with a La Marzocco machine. I hung out with Charlie Furth (Fuerthkaffee.eu), another Vienna based roaster, whom I’ve know for several years as our kids attended the same kindergarten – our kids are now teenagers. In any case, I waited to taste his latest offering, an Indonesian Coffee from Bali, which had a pineapple acidity and something mysterious.

Jo Wechlesberger aka Vienna School of Coffee

 Upon entry, you are greeted by Jo and her coffee jeep and caravan, which has been pimped up as mini cafe, offering very high quality coffee – probably the best mobile coffee cart in the World if you consider who’s running it – top barista, top coffee roaster, top SCAE judge – need I say more. She’s only one of the exhibitors selling coffee, coffee bags and crepes, but she’s raking it in, as also there were lots of coffee exhibitors using her coffee inside. Fro 2016, Jo plans to get back to basics, brewing coffee with love, yay!!!

Coffee Theatre

  
On the first level, there’s a coffee theatre, where pros share their knowledge with willing ears. I passerby quickly to hear a Brit from Falcon Coffee giving a lecture on coffee tasting and also met Mr Andreas Idl, CEO of Cropster, who develop “Software for coffee roasters, cuppers, traders, and producers to make consistently great coffee”  and work with Workshop Coffee and Square Mile Coffee (two of my fave UK based roasters).

Balthasar Coffee

  
As you know, one of my fave coffee shops in Vienna, were serving high quality championship filter coffee using the chemex, aeropress and Hario V60 methods, as well as selling coffee, which seemed to be flying of the shelf too.

Also on show was the Austrian barista and latte art championships and some other events.

After 3 espressos, 1 filter brewed coffee and a cappuccino I was caffeined up and ready to go, but I was glad to visit what I hope will become a prominent event on the coffee scene in Vienna.

  

   
 

 


Fashion & Coffee in London

   
 If you follow me regularly on Instagram, then you’ll know that I’m also into fashion. In fact I’ve even toyed with the idea of setting up a purely dedicated blog on fashion but time does not permit. Nevertheless, although I know far more about coffee than I do about fashion, the first career path I wanted to choose after being a pilot, was a men’s fashion designer. I digress a bit, but when I visit London, I find it to be if not the best, then one of the best cities to combine my passions for coffee and fashion.

Before and after treading up and down, checking out the latest fashion and sartorial stuff on offer, I’m always looking for coffee. So, if you visit the epicentre of fashion shopping in London, Oxford Street, during the Retail Sale season there’s plenty of coffee spots. My favourites are:

Workshop Coffee Fitzrovia, located in St Christopher’s Place – located parallel to Oxford Street and near Bond Street Tube Station on the Central and Jubilee Lines. I’ve written about Workshop before but, in essence they are one of the premier London-based coffee roasters with a few locations dotted around London. On offer is great coffee (espresso, filter), teas, hospitality and small bites.

  
Origins at Selfridges – Voted the best store in the World, I’m pleased to report that Selfridges now have a great coffee roaster, originally from the South West End of England, who roast and prepare coffee the artisan way.

  

 They’ve got all the gadgets

  

  And a special blend for both espresso and filter on offer. So, when shopping in the best store in the World, you can also grab a great cup of coffee – life’s good.

Still in the Oxford Street area, walk down or take the tube to Oxford Circus, and head to Carnaby Street to check out the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs spot in Lowndes Place. Delectable cakes, sandwiches, filter coffee and well-pulled espresso shots await the Soho shopper. There’s lots of space downstairs, so you can bring the kids too.

  
At the end of Carnaby Street, by Boots the chemist, turn right onto Kingly Street to be greeted by Soho Grind. Complimentary wi-fi is on offer in a dimly lit, but cosy looking funky coffee spot with seating downstairs too.

  
If it’s raining, then there’s only spot to go to in Central London, Westfield Shopping Centre, located at Shepherds Bush Central Line tube station. There’s tons of the famous shopping brands and in the section called the Village, all the premier brands await you too from Louis Vuitton, Boss, Hacket and Mui Mui. In other parts, there’s  Zara, Top Shop, Apple, as well as a multiplex cinema and huge food court, but where’s the coffee ? Head to the ground floor for Sacred, located next to Apostrophe, also with a La Marzocco Linea. Sacred are stocked with female baristas, who pull a chocolate based espresso shot, which goes well with milk.

   
 So, that’s it from me for 2015, here’s to a more pleasant and fulfilling 2016 with more coffee discoveries on the horizon.

  


Vienna Coffee Diary: At Jonas Reindl – A Piece of NYC & London in Vienna

Cortado

Cortado

The first thing that hits you when you walk into this Vienna Coffee Shop, which sits opposite an iconic Viennese building – the Votivkirche (People’s Church) housed inside the Sigmund Freund Park in the 9th District, is that you could easily be inside a London or New York Third Wave Coffee Shop. From that, I mean the design – its classic Anglophone – with a fridge on the right hand-side stocking trendy looking soft drinks, a basket with goodies and a display of tools for coffee lovers.

As you move further towards the ordering counter, there’s a display – not of Austrian style cakes – but rather of Anglophone style goodies displayed in delectable glass dome cake stands – double layer chocolate cakes, carrot cake, banana bread, brownies, granola pots and sandwiches wrapped in organic looking brown paper – there’s even a counter behind, where sandwiches can be freshly made to order, together with the preparation of couscous bowls for a healthy lunch.

IMG_5226

If you want to “escape” to NYC, they even have Pastrami Nights every Thursdays. Furthermore, if that wasn’t enough, they open until 10pm every night, except Sundays, which possibly makes them the only new age style coffee shop in Vienna that stay open to 10pm and possibly in Europe. So, after a long day at work, shopping, visiting museums or if you want to meet up with friends to have a great cup f coffee, Jonas Reindl is open to satisfy your cravings.

If you visit the website you will get a full description of the amount of work that has gone into selecting their furniture – recycled Indonesian teak wood, 100 year old chairs – very vintage, but in summary, the décor is very cosy with homely brown leather chairs and sofas, natural wooden tables, high chairs with black metallic frames – in the summer, you can sit outside, get a tan or just people watch. In the winter, it’s cosier, with calming lighting and Frank Sinatra-esqe music. So, you can imagine – people come here to hang out, relax and enjoy the atmosphere with a good cup of coffee and cakes.

img_5740

Now to the coffee – on machines, they’ve got a Dalla Corte 2 group machine, top class espresso grinders, a brew station for filter coffee (V60, aeropress, chemex and more).  To compliment the tools, there’s a coffee menu, displayed on a blackboard style wall highlighting the espresso and filter blend coffees on offer, accompanied by mouth-watering taste profiles – coffees tend to be a house blend, from Süssmund Kaffee (a local Austrian roaster) and guest espresso and filter blend from top coffee roasters on Europe’s mainland.

BUT gadgets and coffee never maketh a café to be featured on this site, so you’ll be glad to know that well-trained and friendly baristi, who speak English are on hand too. The barisiti are always open to discuss what’s on offer and how it might go with your chosen coffee – on one occasion, I wanted a Cortado, using a 150ml glass and that wasn’t a problem – happy customer – see top of post for pic.


I love coming here, because I can get a nice slice of something sweet, accompanied with at least 2 good cups of coffee – usually a milk based one and to finish off with an espresso or filter brew – sometimes a very short Americano, made to order (gee! I’m fussy). On my first trip, being a little bit doubtful, I went straight for a filter blend to check out the skill of the barista (a half Austrian and half Australian guy), where my coffee was prepared using the kalita wave brew filter – see above for brew action and below for the end product – delicious !

IMG_5231

All in all, a great place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon with friends and family – my daughter keeps asking me when we can go back to have that chocolate cake.


I’ve also noticed that their clientele is not just increasing but is becoming more and more diverse with respect to ethnicity, age and culture.

So, if you want to ”escape”, come here and well done Jonas Reindl and staff.

Jonas Reindl

Währingerstraße 2-4, 1090 Wien

http://www.jonasreindl.at/the-cafe/


Making Espresso: Take 2, The Serious Edit

  
Ok, so, let’s go into more detail on making espresso – let’s slow it down and take it step by step. For this, I’m going back to the origins of espresso. As espresso is an Italian mainstay, let’s check out what they say about making espresso. In summary, the Italians refer to  the 5 Ms when making espresso –

Mescla (coffee type or blend),

Machina (the type of coffee machine),

Machinadosatore (the grinder that grinds the coffee),

Mesura (the grammes of coffee used per espresso shot) and

Mano (the hand of the barista)

So, for me this means…

Mescla – I’m using an espresso blend from a recent Colombia Cup of Excellence lot, so it’s expensive, but the most important point is that it should be a coffee roasted for brewing espresso. Some professionals, brew using different blends, but for the vast majority, an espresso blend is used.

Machina – I’m using my newish espresso prosumer (a merge between professional and consumer) machine, a Profitec700, dual boiler machine with a rotary pump and a PID (i.e. I can change the temperature of the espresso boiler) and a whole lot more, but let’s say it costs more than $2,000.

Machinadosatore – I’m using a top of the range prosumer espresso grinder, a Macap M4D, yes, a grinder just for espresso

Mesura – I’m using approximately 18 grammes of freshly ground coffee for a double espresso. Most experts recommend always brewing a double shot – a single just doesn’t taste the same.

Mano – Well, mine of course – I will never participate in a Barista competition, but I’ve been making espresso, practically almost everyday since 2007, so I think I have a good idea how to make espresso.

Next, the process;

  1. Make sure your espresso machine is warm enough – mine’s is set to 93C and takes about 7 minutes to warm up.
  2. Pour your beans into the bean hopper of your espresso grinder and grind away.
  3. Make sure the setting is correct, whereby previously you checked that when you grind the beans, approximately 45ml of coffee comes out in 20-28 seconds – if it doesn’t, then keep playing around, trying not to waste too much coffee.
  4. Grind your beans right into the portafilter
  5. Flatten the ground coffee. Tamp with about 30 pounds or pressure
  6. Let water run through the espresso machine for about 5-9 seconds
  7. Then place into the portafilter into brew holder
  8. Extract your espresso
  9. And hopefully what comes out, is espresso. Too watery and coming out after 2 seconds, the grind is too loose, tighten it, so that if your grinder is set on 8, move it closer to 7, like on mine and try again
  10. If the coffee starts coming out after 10 seconds, the grind is too fine and coffee will be over extracted, bitterness.
  11. So keep playing around until you get that sweet spot – I must confess it is a lot of hit and miss, and can be quite expensive, excluding the cost of the machine and grinder (together over Euro2,000), but the beans, especially if you’re like me and buy really expensive stuff.

and here’s the video…


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