I fell in love with coffee back in 2005 and decided to read as much as possible about it and learn from top experts like WBC winners like James Hoffmann. After amassing a lot of knowledge I decided to start my own blog in 2007. In 2010, I showed my love, by moving to Cape Town (it looked nice) to open my coffee shop, Escape Caffe. It was tough to start but as soon as my wife persuaded me to let everyone one know one of my secrets, we broke even. why ? it was the only coffee shop in the World owned by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, which I won with my colleagues at the UN-IAEA in 2005, plus a food writer told everyone that I and the best cheesecake in Cape Town. I've now moved to Dubai to start my next coffee adventure, so let me know if you want to collaborate. Until then check my blog and instagram.
Craving specialty coffee during my recent trip to Marrakech i must confess I wasn’t that hopeful e when I google “specialty coffee Marrakech “ BUT I was pleasantly surprised to find that Japanese brand Arabica% had opened their second shop in Morocco ( I went to their first one in Casablanca last year).
I must confess I thought I had heard about their new shop but wasn’t sure if it was in Marrakech. So, when an acquaintance asked to meet briefly before my first meeting, I suggested this spot.
Newly opened in the fancy Dubaiesque M AVENUE, a hub of new shops, hip restaurants and the CR7 Hotel by Cristiano Ronaldo, Arabica% is set to attract those needing an escape into specialty coffee.. in a country that still doesn’t have a Starbucks.
As usual, there’s a lot of expense and creativity in the decor with a #chemex fountain (above) wide spaces and an escapism feel, decked with two slayer espresso machines.
I opted for a #cappuccino using their Brazil and Ethiopia blend. Hints of milk chocolate and almonds.
Also on offer are filter brews too. So, if you visit the magical city of Marrakech this summer and want a hint of specialty coffee, pop over to Arabica% Marrakech
Last month I was in London again, partly because our daughter graduated from her masters in sustainable development – proud parents, praise God. Naturally, the graduation was one day but of course I took advantage of staying in freezing London for at least 6 days before heading back to Dubai to spend time with family and friends and drink good coffee of course.
Brickwood Cafe, 21 Battersea Rise, Clapham
I stopped in here for my first coffee of my trip to meet with my sister briefly as she was about to fly back to the States, so I ordered a corn bread benedict and a flat white. Brickwood still use Ozone Coffee, so you know it’s going to satisfy not just your caffeine thirst but your taste buds too. I’ve been here a few times as it’s just around the corner from where I stay in London.
The Gentlemen Baristas, 162 Piccadilly, Green Park
After an early start, where I had to meet a client, I opted to meet my wife and daughter at this cafe, where I’ve been before. As you enter, it is quite busy but what I liked was the Italian style greeting by one of the staff, who took our order due to the long lunch time queue and served us as we seated by the window. I opted for a cappuccino and my daughter for an Americano – her new go to for coffee. Their coffee is more on the dark roasted side, so expect dark chocolate notes with milk based coffee. Prego.
Arome Bakery, 27 Duke Street – opposite Selfridges – West End
Hanging out with my daughter, a keen foodie, I gracefully accompanied her to a Japanese bakery on her list. Sadly most of the delicious pastries and cakes that grace their instagram feed had sold out, so whilst she opted for a Japanese chicken savoury croissant, I noted that they had a three group La Marzocco Linea at the back, asked them about their coffee and ordered a cortado. The Japanese tend to favour a darker roast for espresso based coffee so I knew it would be give me a milk chocolate vibe, which it did. Good for pastry and coffee.
Kafi Cafe, 20 Cleveland Street, West End
Last summer I stopped at their pop-up shop at Lush on Oxford Street and decided this time to visit their actually coffee shop, which is quite quaint (attractively unusual) and small that you could easily walk past it. Hanging out with my brother on yet another sub-zero day in London, we ordered a cortado for me and a flat white for him. Kafi brew espresso on a La Marzocco Strada and use HasBean coffees – one of the OGs of specialty coffee in the UK so you won’t be disappointed. They have a strong vegan feel and some small bites, so stop here to grab coffee as sitting will be difficult – they literally have space for about 6 people inside and bench outside (good for the summer and spring I guess).
Rosslyn Coffee, 118 London Wall, City of London
So, I’ve saved the best for last. I first heard of Rosslyn a few years back and made a coffee geek inspired journey to their first coffee shop a few years back – read here. Recently voted best independent coffee shop in Europe, they now have three shops, centred in the City of London – i.e. where all the top banks, law firms, hedge funds are located. So, if you are having a high powered meeting and trying to cut a deal in a friendly good coffee setting, try their branch at Moorgate Station or London Wall. My daughter and I ordered a Long Black and Flat White respectively.
For milk based it was deffo milk chocolate with hints of hazelnuts. I went over to the head barista, Miles, and after highlighting my coffee geekiness, he took me around the back to show me their newish La Marzocco KB90 and their work flow. The most intrigue g thing for me and for him too, was the Uber Milk machine, which can now froth milk to a very high barista standard automatically, lessen the work flow when they have a huge influx of customers at peak times – they already have like 2/3 baristi. I was glad for the tour, walked around a bit, shot a video and left.
There you have it, a quick tour guide of some new places to drink coffee when you’re out and about in London. Please share any new places in the comments below.
I can’t think of a wonderful way to start 2023 than attending a full-blown coffee event in my city, Dubai. This was the second edition of the World of Coffee (WOC) event in Dubai but there was no comparison to the 2022 edition, as the 2023 was on a much bigger scale.. perhaps about 6-7 times the size. Kudos to Khalid Mulla (president of SCA UAE) and the top brass of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), whose president Yannis Apostolopoulos, attended too.
However, it wasn’t just about the size of the venue but the buzz too, created by coffee geeks, like moi who crave learning, talking and speaking about coffee but to be usurped in an environment where you got to witness coffee professionals who work hard to ensure you enjoy your daily brew wherever you are in the World, share their passion and love for the bean. So, what else?
We had the latest tech on display from the espresso machine kings like La Marzocco, Victoria Arduino, Synesso, Slayer, Rocket and more –
We had other equipment highlighting the latest tech to roast, sort, filter brew and store coffee – we had coffee from coffee roasters not just from the GCC region but from India (Subko, Blue Tokai), Australia (Stitch Coffee) and Denmark (April) too.
We had the inventor of Cafec showing us how to brew coffee on his invention differently from what I had seen previously.
There were also talks on all aspects of coffee and I got to meet famous coffee podcaster, Lee Safar too. Dubai powerhouse, DMCC had a large booth showcasing their service offerings from a business perspective and their head, Saeed gave Naveed and I lovely gifts.
We had award winning coffee growers, coffee art, young baristi serving coffee from Panama, other coffee growing regions showcasing their coffee, UK and European coffee specialist – a special evening hosted by Garfield of Mokha 1450, where I met former WBC champ, Stephen Morrissey – I wrote about him here in 2008…
The list goes on and I met too many people that I won’t list so as not to offend anyone, BUT it was all about coffee, coffee, coffee – the title of my Instagram post that went viral. However, a major first was the UAE National Barista Championship, which was won by Mariam Erin, now of Cosmic Garden Coffee. I wrote about about her here when she was the UAE coffee brewers champ.
Organised across three days, I went twice with fellow coffee nerd, Naveed (blogger) and met other coffee geeks too – pic at the top.
Leaving my palate free for both days I ensured that I often started with an espresso-based milk drink – after all there were tons of people offering to make you free coffee using the Victoria Arduino Eagle One (I guess they sponsored the event). On my first day, I have to confess I lost count on how many coffees I tried – having been coffee fatigued on day One, I promised not to be drowned in coffee again on day Two but although I know I was a bit more reserved, I still lost count.
WOC was held in the venue of all Dubai venues, the World Trade Centre, which was apt for one of the first major events of the year. You could easily get lost and in fact there were few people I had wanted to meet and some booths that I wanted to visit that I found out were there after the event, but such is life.
Nevertheless, it was good to hang out with Naveed, talk coffee and then veer off to learn more about coffee from other specialists. It got me thinking about how far the coffee industry has gotten in the last 10-15 years since I fell in love with it. Back then, the focus was on the God Shot of expresso brilliance – talk about filter coffee let alone single origin was completely alien as filter methods like the aeropress or Hario V60 were not either invented or ignored – it was all about espresso and batch brew machines.
Now in 2023, even I was completely blown away by the type of coffee equipment not just for commercial outfits but for the home too. There are now so many options that I must confess, would be very overwhelming for a newbie or even someone that wants to start. Perhaps next year they could hold on the first day, a guide to brewing coffee at home, where the manufacturers display some of the items to break you in gently into brewing coffee based of course on your budget.
Other topics worth venturing in may be to do with sustainability – where climate change will affect how coffee is grown and eventually coffee farmers and all those that depend on it, for their livelihoods. I’m really passionate about this and plan to get involved somehow, so anyone reading this that has ideas, please send me a message.
As I sign off, I was touched by how some visitors to Dubai and the GCC in general were amazed by the quality of coffee on offer in the region. Again, I recall coming to Dubai many times before I moved here in 2020 and it wasn’t until Raw Coffee started about 10 years back did specialty coffee start its momentum – to see it get adopted so quickly and to see how people have become passionate about it, obviously brings a smile to my face and a warm comfort for my palate as I’ve always wanted to live a in a coffee focused city.
So, don’t wait until WOC 2024, visit Dubai not just for the sun, beaches, shopping and amazing buildings, but for the coffee too.
I had the opportunity to visit Vienna (where I lived for over 14 years) again late last year and was pleasantly surprised to witness a slight surge in specialty coffee offerings, so here’s a quick guide on my top 6 from December 2022 comprising of the new and the classic ones.
Kaffein (newish) Stoss im Himmel
Researching Instagram prior to my trip I came across this coffee shop that I had never heard off before, but I could easily be forgiven as they opened just before the 2020 pandemic. Cruising through their feed I was impressed as soon as I saw that they had modbars (geek alert) I wrote about this extensively here when I visited Bath in 2018. With two locations already, I visited the site at because it was the only one open over the Christmas period plus it was around the corner from where my family and I used to visit the English cinema, Artis.
As you enter, there’s a long corridor dotted with seating before you enter the brewing bar to your left, decked with two modbars and a filter brewing station. The decor is wood throughout with quirky bits.
I went twice, first by myself and my daughter joined, where I tried a natural Peru made by the Greek barista and a second time with my sister, where we had a French Pear tart, met the roaster and enjoyed cappuccinos too.
From my observation, everything is done in-house from roasting their coffee, selling bags (I bought a bag) and of course brewing it with keen attention to detail – including their food, which tends to be homemade non-meat pasta and more together with a strong affinity for French style cakes and tarts – so you can really escape here as although you might be in Vienna you will be served with specialty coffee and French and Italian inspired cuisine.
So why go? Great coffee, French inspired desserts and good friendly customer service.
Fenster Café (newish) Greichengasse – 1st district
Prior to my trip, my brother had shared their Instagram profile with me and of course I raised an eyebrow when their tagline said “the best coffee in the World” as I personally think that is very subjective, given brewing styles, roasting styles, customer base, etc. Located about 2 minutes’ walk from Schwedenplatz underground station (take the Rotenturm Strasse exit and then turn left and walk up the stairs) – Fenster Café is literally a hole in the wall coffee stop – there’s likely to be a queue mainly of Tourist, based on their marketing so prepare yourself.
They mainly focus on espresso-based coffee with some house specialities which feature flavourings – their most famous one is the Fensterccino, labelled as the most expensive coffee in Vienna at 9.5 Euros – why? because they pour latte art into a cappuccino in an ice cream cone – you’ve got to give it to them for marketing. I had a flat white to go.
So why go? Instagram pic fensterccino an to get a quici coffee on the go
Caffe Couture (classic), Freyung 1st district
Rushing around the centre of Vienna I found myself craving espresso-based milk coffee and went to where I know I wouldn’t be disappointed, Caffe Couture. I’ve written about them a few times as they were one of the very first specialty coffee shops in Vienna upon my return in 2012. I was pleasantly surprised to see George Brany himself – the owner and former Austrian latte art champion in 2011, as I know he has been behind the scenes for a long while. Not losing his touch I see, I ordered a flat white on their Synesso espresso machine.
So, why go? One of the first specialty coffee shops in Vienna, so they won’t disappoint – they also serve filter coffee and sell their coffee too.
Jonas Reindl (Classic fave) schonttenor
I’ve been here many times and I must confess although I was in Vienna for two weeks and lived very far from the centre I came here, not once, but thrice – great for meetings and also because they didn’t close during the Christmas break – opening even on Christmas day itself. They roast their own coffee, source exciting coffee, have a very non-Viennese setup think NYC or London, offering Anglo-Saxon inspired cakes too (Cheesecake, etc) plus it’s where the university and solopreneurs tend to hang out – so it has a kind of col vibe appealing a lot to the youth and older ones too – so don’t be shocked if you can’t find a seat.
About the coffee – it’s always good, brewed on a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle (the first in Vienna I think) – had a cortado the first time and a great filter the second time and a cappuccino the last time. I also bought coffee for my fellow coffee geek in Dubai and had to hold myself back from buying more.
So, why go? Lots of reasons, cool vibe, cakes and of course great coffee in Vienna prepared with detail
Balthasar (classic fave) Prater Strasse 2nd district next to nestroyplatz
Well, I couldn’t come to Vienna and not stop here. I actually went by twice but on the first occasion it was so packed I had to leave as I don’t like drinking my coffee standing up in the middle of a shop like a sour thumb. The second time I met a friend and we just found seats. He went for a cappuccino, and I had a filter brew poured by their filter brew maestro. Most of the barista expect one have left so I was pleased to have a brief chat with Owen but pleased to see that the place was buzzing.
So, why go? Coffee focused staff serving their own coffee that you can buy too. They also sell gadgets and filter accessories.
Offerl Bakery (newish) Wollzeile 31, 1st district
I actually happened to stop by this place as I was craving a snack to eat with my daughter. It is famous as a bakery offering a slightly different twist on their baked goods than the traditional Viennese versions, so expect English style doughnuts and French inspired quiche together with sandwiches.
There is a place to sit down inside along their concrete inspired décor with their open bakery on the left too. I tied their organic focused coffee, opting for a cortado, which satisfied my craving – more on the dark roasted bias but it did the job. They also sell their coffee.
So, why go? Grab great bread and pastries with a cup of coffee on the go.
One of the great things about being in a coffee enthusiastic city like Dubai is that there’s always something happening from opening new coffee shops with fantastic architectural design coupled with meeting new people in the coffee business that want to share their passion with you.
One such person was Vishnu of Al Saqr trading some I met over instagram in 2020 and in person when I moved to Dubai – credit to him for spotting me in a cafe way back in October 2020.
Fast forward to 2022 and Visnhu has managed to pursue one of his dreams within his company to set up a credible coffee importing specialty division called Harvest Belt. Their focus is to source traceable good quality lots of coffee to entice coffee conscious customers. In short they would love to work with cafes and restaurants who want to offer unusual and high quality coffees to their customers. This could be in parallel with them whereby you channel your desires in terms of getting a great bag of coffee from an unusual place that will make your customers go “wow!” can I have more of that.
So earlier this month Vishnu invited a few coffee experts from the Dubai coffee scene together with myself to visit their space, cup coffee and of course chat coffee.
Located in Dubai Investment Park, Harvest Belt is housed within one of many warehouses there, almost like a hole in the wall. With clean white spaces, it would also play the role of a no frills coffee shop decorated with coffee artefacts.
The room is welcoming with their colours representing the continents that grow coffee. The harvest belt name itself is derived from the belt across the world of the coffee growing regions… clever eh!
So off to the coffees, where we cupped a wide range of newly harvested coffee from 2022 lots ranging from Ethiopia to Brazil , Guatemala and other Central American lots.
We cupped coffees roasted for both filter and espresso using their sample roaster BUT it’s important to highlight that Harvest Belt aren’t coffee roasters.. rather they source and sell coffee green beans.
An apt end to the year, enjoying coffee with friends in a coffee space.
One thing I love about Dubai is that it never fails to deliver on experiences. Now, I’m very aware that there’s a lot of media, some good and some suspect about Dubai but a city dating centuries with over 4.5m residents is a lot more diverse than the glitz and glam of what the media wants to portray.
So, off we went to the Al Fahidi district in old Dubai and yes, there is such a thing – it’s the place where it all started -where old building were built to capture cool air, where abrar (water taxis) transported people across the creek to trade in spices, cloths, carpets, gold, pearls and more – and where the old shops/merchants that built Dubai and foreign embassies are housed too.
In fact, I’d heard about the Coffee Museum for years but never ventured there and I must confess stumbled across it when my family and I were discovering the old city a few weeks back – we initially found it on a Friday but it was closed – so never visit on a Friday. That day, we went to another famous old city hub, the Arabian Tea House, just a minute away – another must go for traditional Emirate/Lebanese food and of course tea and Emirati style coffee (qahwa in Arabic).
Still craving that experience and when asked what should we do today… I replied, “let’s got to the coffee museum, which is also close to some shops for you babe (my wife)”. So, off we went last Sunday but we got there a bit late, just after 4pm – they close at 5pm.
Opening in 2014, the owner and purveyor of the Coffee Museum, Khalid al Mulla, had been collecting coffee related trinkets for years and decided to open up what is now the largest coffee museum in the Middle East – there are only 16 in the World. We paid an entry fee of AED10 (just over $3), which included complimentary qahwa (arabic coffee) with dates and another cup of coffee made the Ethiopian way using the Jebba. The museum is housed in a traditional Emirati home with low ceilings and narrow walkways, so mind your head as you enter.
Split into many rooms across two floors, housing international antiques (mostly from Germany ), coffee origins room, middle east antiques, a literature room, a majlis (traditional Emirati room for drinking coffee and talking), as well as a kids corner and media room, you will have time to satisfy your curiosity. In short, the rooms host anything from old coffee grinding machines, dating centuries to the first ever roasting devices as well as beans and posters too. Luckily for us, we met Kay, whom I had met at an event promoting the UAE Aeropress championship, gave us a personal tour.
For speciality coffee, head upstairs to their mini shop, which houses a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine and of course filter brewing options. I couldn’t help myself and went for two options, a cortado
and a filter coffee using THREE Coffee (Dubai based roaster) Colombian filter beans prepared by Kay.
As we were walking down we saw this…
The Victoria Arduino Venus – yes it looks very plush but the great thing about this machine is that although it looks very antique from the outside, inside is a modern take on espresso machinery. This was their espresso machine before they recently introduced the Black Eagle.
As a tribute to all the coffee growing countries in the World they have these flags but they now have to add more (Nigeria grows coffee too).
All in all, a wonderful experience, which I highly recommend when you visit Dubai. Sure, you’ll want to visit the tallest building in the World , Burj Khalifa and the largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall but take time out to visit the old district, which houses traditional souks (that’s why my wife likes coming here… LOL), the Seef district with quaint hotels/restaurants and a murder mystery hunt, the museum of illusions, the Arabian Tea House, old
style mosques and of course the coffee museum. After all, after all that walking and eating you’d want to finish off with some good coffee right?
Sometimes you get to enjoy a thing too much and forget to acknowledge it and for that I’m guilty of having never written a post about one of my fave coffee and food hangouts in Dubai, HEAL – breakfast, lunch and dinner + wellness space, located on al Manara Road in Jumeirah. In fact I went there today with my wife and then it suddenly dawned on me that I have never posted about them ….. sigh as my daughter would say.
For me, as you know by now, anywhere that serves good coffee and food that you can enjoy is always a go-to-place for me as it ticks the main boxes for me when it comes to delighting my taste buds and just meeting people. So, when I was working on one of my new ventures last year post-September, I needed to meet quite a few people and guess what my answer always was, when asked “where should we meet?”… Heal on al Manara Road.
Not only is Heal conveniently located about 15 minutes’ drive from where I stay, but it also offers breakfast until 2pm (yes, all my meetings were before 2pm to avail of the brekkie menu), good coffee of course, outside seating (great between November and March in Dubai), keen staff and not to mention an all-day menu offering delicious fluffy pancakes, which we had for lunch today 😋 – see below.
Set in a converted villa, the décor is white with ecru and hints of a Spanish style villa vibe, so its relaxing and a bit noisy sometimes but you can easily chill here for hours – witness the many peeps on their laptops making the space their work-from-home coffee shop. You have two options to enter the main shop from the main road, with the right side dedicated to a more relaxing vibe where they have a small shop offering scented candles and little bits for the home.
The rest of the shop is focused on eating, working and drinking coffee and more. Weekends get quite busy especially for their hearty breakfast menu with both local Emirati and expats mainly from England. During the cooler months there’s ample seating outside, right from the front of the shop all the way down the left-hand side to the back (there’s free parking at the back too).
My fave brekkie item is the eggs benedict with spinach but of course you know that the coffee is my main attraction.
Featuring the classic Synesso Espresso machine with attentive staff, I often order a FLAT WHITE because I think they make one of the best I’ve had in Dubai, Why? Yes, sometimes baristi (plural for barista) often make mistakes pouring a cappuccino and calling it a flat white but here they do it well and if I go in the morning I’ll default to their flat white.
Hint: the milk on top of the flat white should move easily and shouldn’t be too firm (cappuccino) and there should also be a thinnish layer on top, if not it’s a latte. Sounds fussy, BUT hey when it comes to coffee, you’ve got to get it right.
I’ll confess that Heal have been using the same blend for over a year now – Brazil with chocolate and almonds (classic) and Ethiopian Hambela (fruity with red berries and medium acidity) but at least when they make it, they make it right. I usually have Brazil with espresso milk based and of course the Ethiopia for filter options but I have to confess on one occasion I was asked to try the Brazil as a filter using the Hario V6o and I was pleasantly surprised.
Gone were the chocolate tones but what ensued was the light caramel tones with hints of dark berries.
I’ve been for dinner once, but I’d say their breakfast offerings and lunchtime menu is where they shine best.
If you visit Dubai and can make it to Jumeirah, then check this place for breakfast, brunch before 2pm and lunch and of course coffee in a Spanish style villa setting.
You’re probably thinking “where the h**l is this?”. In short, Khorfakkan is a sleepy beach town in Sharjah (a UAE emirate, next to Dubai), but a stone throw away from Dibba in Fujairah (another UAE emirate).
So, why was I here? We had a family staycation (a vacation that takes place in the same country that you live in) at a fantastic beach resort in Fujairah in late August. I’ve posted my coffee experience at the beach resort on instagram, which got almost 10,000 views but in summary, it still bothers me how hotels and restaurants spend so much time and training in sourcing the best ingredients but when it comes to coffee, they literally fall apart – sourcing coffee from big commercial brands, where taste has been sacrificed just to make as much money as possible. I digress.
So, in my quest not to sacrifice my taste buds even for 3 days for well prepared speciality coffee, I announced to the family “lets go over to Khorfakkan Beach and see what’s there”.
Now, if you know me, you’d kind of guess that I already done some research on speciality coffee in Khorfakkan. But I’m not that bad, as last year we also went there but it was a lot busier and I got to go on a jet-ski for the first time in my life, twice. However, this year and perhaps because it was on the weekday…. it was completely dead silent – not a soul on the beach. So, we decided to leave our beach gear in the car and look for somewhere to sit….
“I think there’s specialty coffee somewhere near”….. I smell a rat…. no, I smell coffee. LOL!
Upon entering the very empty coffee shop, named Medellin (yes, Colombia comes to mind), I noticed their espresso machine – a Synesso, quizzed the barista and saw that the coffee shop already had an award. As soon as I was informed that they stock Espresso Lab coffee (one of my faves in Dubai), I was convinced, as I know that Espresso Lab won’t sell their coffee to anyone without intensive training. I opted for the Indonesian as a Cortado.
Oh wow! the hints of cherry and caramel with subtle hints of vanilla completely blew me away. It was indeed such a pleasant experience (if not I won’t be bothering wasting my time writing about this here). I sipped it gently….
After all make the good stuff last.
We took pictures of the cafe, chilled for a bit and then headed back to our plush beach resort for a late evening swim.
I was so fascinated by the taste that upon my return to Dubai, I went to Espresso Lab and ordered the same Indonesian arabica beans as a Cortado or should I say their 3 ounce.
Still just as delicious.
So, if you are craving well prepared specialty coffee and are within 15-25 minutes away from Khorfakkan Beach, please drive there and you won’t be disappointed believe you me.
Medellin is at Khorfakkan Beach, near the second entrance for paid parking – not too far from Baskin Robbins. It usually gets busy between 6-10pm and is open until 1am daily (whoa!)
Last month I had the pleasure of my palate and my inquisitiveness to visit London and naturally took the opportunity to visit as many cafes as I could, whilst visiting some tried and tested ones too in the process. Despite having scorching temperatures with the hottest day ever recorded in London at 40C, I wasn’t discouraged on drinking my coffee hot nevertheless. One proviso – I was in around the West End a lot, so most of these cafes are near Oxford Street. So here we go.
Omotesando, 8 Newman Street, off Oxford Street (new)
Famous in Japan and not with an outlet in London, Omotesando has a very Japanese minimalist design. As you enter you are greeted with their loge in a kind of lobby space before you turn right into the cafe, decorated with wood and clean lines, decked with a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. The coffee is more on the darkly roasted style, so probably best with milk, which is what I had – a flat white.
Hints of chocolate and caramel if my taste buds memory serves me well.
Workshop, St Christopher’s Place, off Oxford Street (classic)
I’ve been here many times since they opened several years ago and on this very hot day – it was 38C, I knew I needed “hot” coffee after wandering the streets of London looking for a birthday card for my mum (hint: it is now very difficult to buy a physical birthday card in London). I opted for a filter cup using Ethiopian beans as I wanted something fruity to refuel my body before my search. To be honest the barista wasn’t very attentive – perhaps he was suffering from the heat but luckily I knew that the coffee would be roasted and their non-committed method – using the toddy, wouldn’t extract too much effort in preparing my delicious tasting coffee.
Blank Street, Charlotte Street, off Oxford Street (new)
A taste of Brooklyn, NYC in London is how I would start this report. In short, Blank Street are quite famous in New York and have landed in London in a big way, with plans to open a few shops – they have a few in London already and I later found out that my son’s friend works for them. I was drawn to the colours of the brand I must confess and upon entering and not spotting a manual espresso machine I was about to leave, when the very friendly barista offered to serve me. After sharing that I was thinking of not ordering because of my snobbish preference for manually brewed coffee, he convinced me to try an espresso on their unique automatic machine for FREE – how could I say no.
I must confess this is probably the best looking and tasting espresso I have had on an automatic machine. I’m guessing they manually pour their milk and they have a few healthy options on their menu to tempt the trendy healthy types to make this their main to-go.
Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, off Oxford Street (classic)
A classic mainstay on the London specialty coffee scene, Kaffeine won best European coffee shop during their honeymoon years. Nevertheless , they still serve Squaremile coffee and prepare coffee properly. Again. it was a very busy hot day – this was the 40C day and we no air conditioner in cafes in London generally, the staff were a bit frazzled, making me a bit nervous when I placed my order for a cortado.
Glad that the heat and the business of the cafe didn’t disappoint and I’m glad that I satisfied my coffee craving that day here.
Kiss the Hippo, Canal Square, near Kings Cross (new)
Moving away from the West End now as our daughter wanted to show us another “happening” enclave in London, Canal Square in Kings Cross is an enclave of restaurants, a food market serving exotic foods and the future home of FaceBook HQ, London. On our way to discovering, I spotted this little pop-up cafe and instantly noticed the name, which I have known for a few years now. I went for a cortado – it was 37C
Nice and creamy with hints of milk chocolate and recommended if you are visiting Kings Cross, which also has Caravan – see next post.
Caravan, Granary Square, (classic)
I must confess, I didn’t have coffee here as I had just had coffee at kiss the hippo but nevertheless having coffee here will not disappoint. They have a huge space which incorporates a roastery (the inspiration for many coffee shops in London and beyond) a full restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had brunch and then I went in to look around and bought two bags of coffee (see previous post for my experience ).
Highly recommended for specialty coffee and dining, plus they have a great online store (I ordered many times when I lived in Europe).
Lantana, 13 Charlotte Street, off Goodge Street and near Oxford Street (classic)
Another one of London’s mainstay in the speciality coffee scene but one I never visited due to logistical reasons. They are famous for their breakfast and brunches and of course Aussie style coffees. This was literally my last experience on speciality coffee in London on my trip. As it was a nice summer’s day, we sat outside but inside is very cosy and I can imagine queues forming on a cold and windy day, as I had initially wanted to come here for breakfast but that’s another story. I decided to order a coffee and cake.
I must confess I sent my first cortado back as I didn’t like the infusion between the milk and espresso, but the second one was worth the fussiness.
Kafi Cafe inside LUSH, Oxford Street (new)
I heard about this cafe when scrolling through HasBean instagram feed and was shocked to know that there was actually speciality coffee shop on Oxford Street itself (the rents are crazy). In short, HasBean is one of the most respected coffee roasters in England, haling from the very northern part, Huddersfield so I was excited to taste their coffees after several years (I used to order online several years ago). Located on the first floor of LUSH – a very smelly soap shop – you will be greeted at the top of the stirs with an array of coffee to your left and a lime green Black Eagle espresso machine. I ordered a cortado as usual (this is the main coffee I order if I’m craving milk based but want a higher proportion of coffee in the afternoon).
Nice cup of coffee using Ethiopian beans with hints of fruit and caramel. Kafi actually have a bigger shop located a few minutes away at 20 Cleveland Street. Highly recommended.
Grind at Soho, 19 Beak Street, off Carnaby Street (classic)
I’ve been here many times when I’ve been in the area craving specialty coffee and so this time was the same. Again I went for a cortado or as it a short cortado
The barista wasn’t the friendliest – I’m not sure if Brexit and the service based industry is doing well with grumpy baristi and n general service staff. I digress but back to the coffee. Yes it was nice and once the barista saw that I was enjoying it, she was a bit more receptive, asking what I thought. Luckily for me I prioritise substance over fluffiness.
In summary, you will be spoilt for choice when you visit London, which host tons of specialty coffee shops. They may not be the friendliest, as I have become accustomed to very friendly baristi customer service in cafes in Dubai but they will be passionate about preparing your cup of coffee – just don’t film them without permission nor expect to chat with them about the coffee and more.
I just got back from London and bought a few coffee bags from some London coffee roasters and first up on the filter was for Caravan Coffee Roasters. I selected a natural from Guatemala from their filter selection because I always find naturals more intriguing and especially more so from Central America, as naturals are quite rare from this part of the coffee growing world.
I brewed La Nueva Natural Guatemala on the Hario V60 as I have missed… yes, I had missed brewing coffee on a V60 for two weeks. Using a menu of
15.3 g freshly ground coffee on my Wilfa Grinder
94C on my fellow EKG kettle
First pour of 43ml
Wait for 40 seconds
Second pour all the way to 227ml of water
I decided to serve myself using a glass cup as opposed to a ceramic. I guess I thought I’d like to accentuate the sweetness of this cup as much as possible and yes I was comely taken aback.
My first sip just blew my taste buds away with the poignant sweetness, almost white sugar like, with hints of caramel. It was so sweet that I was just sitting down for a few seconds wandering if I had added something to the cup by mistake.
The bag mentions taste notes of brioche ( the classic sweet French bread, using lots of eggs and butter with sugar), flaked almonds and blueberry.
🔵 it was more like a sweeter berry (blueberries aren’t that sweet)
🔵 white sugar with hints of caramel 😋
On the second day, I served myself the coffee in a ceramic cup, and then the notes were more balanced, with cane type sugar and darker berries … perhaps blueberry 🫐
If you’re in the UK, I strongly encourage you to order this one of a kind sweet coffee (link above) as Caravan usually offer free delivery for orders over GBP20 and deliver very fast, based on when the UK was in the EU and I used to order to Vienna.