Always on the look out for buying coffee wherever I am, I went back to a cafe in central Vienna, just off the Naschmarkt, Alt Wien Kaffee on 23 Schleifmuhlgasse, A-1040, Vienna. It doesn’t look too exciting when you walk in, but on your left there’s a massive Probat Coffee Roasting machine, which was roasting green coffee at the rate of 12 kilogrammes per 12-15 minutes. During my visit around lunchtime, the machine stopped and all this lovely freshly roasted coffee poured out and the air was awash with freshly roasted coffee beans, ahhh !!!! Back to the shop, coffee beans are displayed in metal-like boxes, offering a choice of 19 different types of coffees, mainly house blends but for the eco-friendly and trade conscious amongst us, there’s also a selection of 6 fairtrade and bio/organic single estate coffees. There’s also a small place to drink coffee round the back and up some stairs, where your coffee can be made on a La Spaziale espresso machine. At the shop front, they also sell some minor coffee equipment like French presses, moka pots and drinking glasses as well as fancy chocolate and something unusual, used green coffee bags, which are more like sacks, and can be used for decoration. Now for the real stuff, I tried an espresso, which they can offer you in 3 strengths as mild, medium or Italian strong – well, I had to try the strong stuff naturally. I checked the techniques, and although a tamper was used, my crema wasn’t dark reddish and caramel like and didn’t last minutes before disappearing – I therefore think their strength is in selling coffee beans. Now ! time to buy coffee. As a bit of a purist, I headed straight for their organic Fairtrade Papua New Guinea coffee for my dosage of afternoon coffee. I tend to drink cafetiere (French press) coffee in the afternoon and so favour either bold African coffees or flavoursome Central American coffee. However, on this occasion I decided to try something from the Pacific Ocean – just in case you are wondering where Papua New Guinea is – right above Australia. I still wanted something different for my daily espresso and cappuccino fixes and was persuaded to try their Scarlatti blend, advertised as ideal for an Italian espresso, consisting of 85% arabica and 15% robusta beans – I am a bit fussy about finding the source of things and tend to shy away from blends that do not offer the full listing and percentages of the origins of the coffee beans used in a blend, but again on this occasion I decided to bend my rules. On first impressions, the Scarlatti blend has a bitter and woody taste and does look like an Italian espresso. The Papua New Guinea coffee is just what I expected, a bit light, but flavoursome nevertheless. Alt Wien roast their coffee weekly and so promise freshly roasted coffee beans and their prices are quite reasonable, where the average 250g bag cost less than 5 Euros ($7). They have also opened another cafe on 32 Josefstadter Strasse, A-1080, Vienna.
I call this Haute Couture Cappuccino, because as you sip the cappuccino, the proximity of the star anise to your nose sends a lovely smell up your nose into your taste buds without you actually drinking the star anise itself. One for my cafe if I ever open one God willing. Also, I made this silky smooth frothed milk using a Bodum milk frother for all those who doubt you can’t get microfoam with a basic milk frother. Enjoy the pic.
Did you hear the one about “coffee protects female memory” ? I guess you’re thinking OK ! this guy is really on a different planet, but no ! it’s true. French researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research conducted a study over 4 years using about 7,000 women aged 65 years and over and noticed that those who drank more than 3 cups of coffee per day as opposed to those who only drank 1 cup of coffee per day showed less decline in memory tests. Apparently, caffeine is a known psycho-stimulant (i.e it stimulates the mind and hence memory) however, no one knows why it does not have the same effect on men – one theory is that caffeine affects women more than men – so sorry guys, perhaps you’ve got to drink a lot more to remember stuff, just kidding – I don’t want to be sued. In any case, as with all research of this nature, don’t go rushing to conclusions like trying to give women less coffee so they don’t remember stuff like wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc – it’s not going to work. Nevertheless, the study does show that caffeine might slow down dementia, but a longer study is needed before caffeine is prescribed for things like Alzheimer disease. For more reading, consult the BBC News Website.
Finally ! I have managed to sort out a way to share my pictures celebrating coffee with you. Just click on
and you can view my “From Coffee with Love” pics. If you are so impressed with them (well ! I can dream can’t I) and you want to use any, please let me know as stealing photos isn’t a nice thing to do. Enjoy !
Caffe Del Doge – the famous cafe from Venice now franchises and a new store recently opened in Cairo at the City Stars Mall (2 Aly Rashed Street, Heliopolis West, Cairo). After wandering endlessly looking for good espresso in the mall, I stumbled across this cafe almost by mistake. I walked in curiously, especially as all the staff where wearing SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe) black t-shirts – so did this mean that they were all trained baristas ? Anyway, I ordered an espresso and observed the barista – he followed the rules, even cleaning the machine thoroughly before pulling a shot – looked at it, poured it away and pulled another shot on their La Spaziale coffee machine (the company that WBC Champion, James Hoffman of the UK works for). Ok ! so I was impressed by the barista’s attention to detail and search for perfection – it was worth it, a glorious crema filled espresso, dark reddish brown. The barista, Mustafa, didn’t speak much English, but he knew about “crema”, pointing at the dark reddish cloud in my cup with a smile. I was so impressed, that I thought, I’ve got to come back for more after some more shopping, which I did. I went back to Caffe Del Doge 2 more times before I left Cairo and my last was amazing, being served the best latte art cappuccino I have had – the milk was so smooth, I couldn’t even see the bubbles. The first time, the barista poured an apple heart and seeing that I was impressed, took my cup away and did some more stuff with chocolate syrup, whereby he squeezes chocolate sauce onto the milk froth cloud and draws circles, etc. I watched him with great concentration as I am trying to learn latte art myself. As I didn’t have my lovely Nikon Camera with me, I took 2 pictures on my phone. I discovered too that one of the baristi – the one that served me latte art, was ranked 3rd during the Egyptian national barista championships.
I was also tempted to buy some coffee beans, which I did, their Doge Rosso arabica blend, which I tried recently but, sadly it wasn’t as fresh as the stuff they serve. In any case, you can also buy stuff like moka pots, biscotti, cups and other memorablia – and food is of course served along with desserts. For me in any case, the espresso served in Caffe Del Doge is the best I have been served in any mall I’ve been to in the World, because sadly most malls are dominated by chains whose main focus is to serve coffee quickly with little attention to detail.
I love being pleasantly surprised and that’s what happened to me during my short trip to Cairo recently. If you’ve been to Cairo, you will know that apart from all the history in the place with pharonic stuff, the pyramids, the Islamic Museum, the 1000’s of mosques, dinner on the Nile, etc, one thing distinguishes the place, traffic jams. This means that wherever you stay in Cairo, determines what you do ad have time for, as spending hours in traffic is not ideal if you only have a few days to visit. On what was my second trip to Cairo, I had to stay on the outskirts, in Heliopolis, which didn’t really bother me as I had previously done the tourist stuff on my first trip almost 2 years ago. However, I wasn’t too saddened, as I learnt that there was an American style mall (City Stars Mall) not too far from where I was staying and that even with traffic, it would still take me about 10-15 minutes to get there. So, off I went, thinking, for espresso, it’s all going to be about the image – selling espresso, lattes and cappuccino without much preparation and just to escape from the hustle and bustle and think you are in New York drinking coffee.
I did some prior research – there’s Cilantro (strange name for a cafe, as it’s what Americans call the World’s most popular herb, coriander – the main herb used in Indian and Chinese cooking). Anyway, Cilantro is like the Egyptian equivalent of Starbucks, similar in decor, with dark brown, comfy chairs, bookcase style centre piece, but with smoking and no-smoking sitting areas. As it was still morning, I ordered a cappuccino, which came with a small biscotti. I checked the barista area and spotted a La Cimbali machine, but noticed that it was being used only for frothing milk – I couldn’t see what machine was used to make the espresso part of my drink – Shame ! Anyway, the drink was like your typical mega chain espresso drink. I was nevertheless impressed with their wide variety of coffee cocktails and their choice of different types of coffee blends.
So my suspicions were confirmed, but not for long. After lunch at an indoor version of a corner Parisian/Italian style cafe bistro, Casper and Gamibini’s, what do I see in the corner – a La Marzocco coffee machine – could it be that one of the best coffee machines was situated here in Cairo. Yes ! So I ordered an espresso and went to watch the barista do his stuff and got chatting to another barista that was intrigued by my curiosity. After a while he started talking about the WBC (World Barista Championships) and how La Marzocco sponsors the event. The preparation for my espresso followed the normal rules, but I don’t think their coffee beans was either ground right or fresh enough, as my crema disappeared under 1 minute. In any case, I got an espresso.
However, thinking that all was lost and heading back to my hotel, I took a wrong turn and entered into the “posh” part of the Mall, which is expanding by the month and what do I see, Caffe Del Doge – the famous caffe from Venice, who I learnt previously where now franchising their brand to other parts of the World. Anyway in summary, the espresso was so good that I came back twice in 2 hours for more. See next post for more details on Caffe Del Doge, Cairo.
Another cafe worth trying too in the City Stars Mall is Caffe Alfredo, where they have a La Marzocco machine and produce adequate espresso. Also, Starbucks have 2 cafes in that Mall – their first 2 on the African continent and there’s a Costa Caffe and another Egyptian chain called Beanos, but with Caffe Del Doge I was satisfied and didn’t venture to any others – once you’ve found the real thing, settling for anything less is difficult or at least wasting money and trying something you are not sure off, is risky. I also learnt that Cafe Supreme – a Canadian Coffee Shop Franchise – is due to open soon at the same mall. For now, I think Caffe Del Doge in Cairo’s City Stars Mall serves the best espresso drinks in a mall that I have been to. Highly recommended ! Ma’assalam as they say in Cairo.