9 places to drink coffee in London in 2022

Drinking Coffee in London

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.

Dubai Coffee Pioneers: Mokha 1450

Mokha 1450, Palm Jumeirah

I’m blessed to live in a vibrant city that thrives on specialty coffee, not to mention, constant sunshine, beaches, great food that will make a foodie tire themselves out and an eclectic mix of cultures – a true city of the 21stcentury. For me, it’s been wonderful since I moved here in September 2020. Nevertheless, with the ever-growing coffee culture witnessed by almost a monthly opening of a new coffee shop, it’s easy to forget the ones who started the journey and paved the way, so here we are, Mokha 1450.

You may have heard me mention the name before as I did an experiment to debunk the myth of freshly roasted coffee last year and needless to say, a rare coffee, an Ethiopian Geisha, won my test, whereby a coffee roasted months before tasted even better when brewed using a Hario V60. This coffee was sourced by Mokha 1450.

Initially located at Wasl Road but now with a branch on the famous Palm Jumeriah – yes the man-made island shaped like a palm tree in the middle of the Arabian sea off Dubai’s coastline – now you see why Dubai has a lot to offer, indeed a city of dreams, BUT back to coffee….

Cortado at Wasl Branch

The origin of the name traces back to Arabia itself, Mokha being the seaport in Yemen that started trading coffee back in….. 1450 – get the hint. So, Garfield Kerr, the owner, I presume wanted to launch his coffee shop in homage to the first city of coffee. However, that wasn’t enough, as Garfield with roots in Jamaica, ensued that his was the first company in the UAE to import Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee from Jamaica’s Coffee Industry Board (now known by its new acronym JACRA). In this connection, Mokha 1450 have always sourced “rare and exceptional” coffees – this terminology features on their coffee bags. In fact during the EXPO2020 from October 2021 to March 2022, Mokha 1450 served the most expensive coffee there as Jamacia Blue Mountain coffee is usually if not the most expensive, one of them.

Wasl branch, San Remo machine

Mokha 1450 is called a boutique in that their service is akin to being served in a fashion boutique – attention to the coffee but more so to the customer.

Preparing my cortado

At their Palm Jumeirah branch, upon entering, you are given a menu that explains all the coffees on offer and if you are serious about coffee like me, you may take a while to go over the menu before placing your order. After which, they will offer further explanation if needed. At this branch, as they have more space, they will also prepare the coffee in front of you, just like in a boutique they will bring out the best clothes and explain the product, so too here.

Here we are

I’ve been thrice, twice to the Palm Jumeirah branch and once to the Wasl branch. On my second visit to Palm, we met with Garfield and he offered us another delectable coffee – see below.

At the first World of Coffee event, Mokha 1450 experimented with serving you espresso in an iced cup – the coffee cup was placed in a freezer and they pulled the espresso shot into the freezing cup – the idea was to display a different array of flavours, more on highlighting the acidity. 

So, why go? Well, if you love coffee and want to be served with attention to details by courteous staff and want to take your taste buds on a whirl, then visit. I must add that they have a delicious of array of cakes at their Palm branch and wife always orders the carrot cake, not to share…. Ha!

Visit them and read more on their website

Drinking Coffee in Riyadh

Decor at Equal, Riyadh

Yes, you read that right and before you get the geography books, Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia (aka KSA). About a year ago, I started a job there as a Director of a Think Tank, which I did for 9 months – now why wouldn’t you take a job entitled Director of Think and where you are asked to think about how to change the world leveraging AI and robotics to solve healthcare and environmental problems – well, I did. If you want to know more, check my LinkedIn profile here for all the other serious stuff I talk about.

Before I delve into coffee, you’d be amazed to learn that KSA has got fantastic scenery, with the famous “edge of the world” a few hours outside Riyadh, a must go see. Here I am at another location.

As this is about coffee and love, you’d be amazed to know that the coffee scene is thriving in the heart of Arabia – after all, the Arabs named the best coffee variety “arabica” after themselves. Reportedly, the Saudi population spent an estimated US$300m in cafes alone in the first half of 2021 – now, that’s a lot of coffee – US$1.6m per day in a city of over 8m people – you could have lots of fun with these facts. Before I move on, I should add that Saudi Arabia have their own coffee culture too. After all, the first officially recognised coffee shop in the World was in Mecca. Now, here’s a summary of what I saw for myself based on what I should say “third wave” coffee;

  • there’s a coffee shop almost on every corner or shop cluster
  • people queue for coffee shops even at 10pm at night
  • people go to cafes to drink coffee even at midnight and beyond
  • the La Marzocco distributor must be happy as these machines are in the majority of coffee shops
  • there are many speciality coffee shops, serving hard to get Yemeni coffee
  • Saudi’s love Ethiopian coffee, importing three times more than the UAE (industry insight)
  • Even one of the local chains pays a great attention to detail in preparation
  • Yes, cold coffees are very popular, after all in the summer, 45C is normal for weeks
  • I visited one of the largest coffee shops in the World

So, here’s a quick summary of my coffee shop experience – drink on….

BREW 92

Brew 92 Riyadh

I’m starting with probably my favourite. You may easily get distracted by the impressive muriel but the coffee on offer is also quite impressive. First up, you can order their normal selection of coffees, which range from espresso based, cold brew and filter too, BUT upon close inspection at the till, you will be ecstatic to learn that they offer Cup of Excellence (CoE) coffees too. Yes, CoE are highly rated by world experts and naturally these coffees cost a lot more but if you want to treat yourself, you can pick up a really special coffee for about $65 for a 250g bag of coffee.

I, on the other hand, opted a for a special Yemeni coffee for about $24 for a 250g. Also on offer is food but the main reason that Brew 92 is one of my faves is the quality of coffee on offer and their attention to selecting coffees and preparation.

CAMEL STEP

Camel step entrance

Another one of my faves, recommended by my former colleague, as it’s his fave is Camel Step. They have a few locations but I only went to one – it was after dinner and I really wanted my after dinner coffee, so I opted for a V60 Ethiopian. To continue the experience at home, I bought a bag of coffee for my travels and to take back with me. Wow! I really enjoyed brewing this coffee at my hotel room every night during Ramadhan and upon my return to Dubai, where I shared it with my friend, Naveed. In short, the coffee was roasted in a way that really showed their attention to detail in their selection process and their roasting profile.

SULALAT

A bit difficult to pronounce but before I arrived in Riyadh, this was top of my list as a friend of mine had visited and said I had to go there. It was a bit far from my hotel but worth the wait and I’m grateful for my friend who took us there at night. As I entered, I couldn’t believe the size of the place, not to mention the number of La Marzocco espresso machines they had, including the latest, LEVA – see below.

It was like a factory. I’m sure if they were in the middle of any major city like London or NYC, they would be able to serve an espresso based drink very quickly with a lot of baristi to work the machines like clockwork. Watch video below to grasp the size of this place.

As soon as you pass the la marzocco gallery, you can spot a very large Loring coffee roaster to your right – definitely the biggest coffee roasting machine I’ve seen in my life. As you walk to the back, there’s tons of tools galore, right from the entrance on your left, all the way to the back with la marzocco linea machines, brewing gadgets and of course coffee. There’s also a little sitting area at the top. Again, definitely the largest coffee space I’ve ever been and a must if you visit Riyadh.

8OZ

Now, this is unusual for me, as I hardly ever feature a coffee chain BUT this was my go to every morning or at lunch time, as one of their shops was located within my work vicinity at the digital city. Of course, the first time I went, I was skeptical but once I tasted the depth of the coffee flavours packed with cocoa, berry, caramel and a long lasting finish, not to mention exquisitely poured latte art, I thought, “this is actually good”. It is no wonder that I went there often not just for my daily cortado or flat white fix even in 45C but to hang out with my former colleagues too – and yes they too used a La Marzocco Strada machine. I have to say, 8OZ may be my fave coffee chain in the World to date.

BREW BAR

Located at the bottom of the Panorama Mall, I first heard about the place from Dubai as the owner of this space called HUNA (it means here in Arabic), also owns one of my fave cafes in Dubai, Qahwaty. However for Brew Bar, he invited Huda, who was already famous in Saudi for developing a unique secret recipe for her home made cold brew coffee. Ahmed invited Huda to open up a cafe in Riyadh, serving coffee from Cypher of Dubai as well as other roasters. What you have here, is an unusual arty and intimate spot, stacked with Arabic literature, coffee, history and self help books. I went a few times and met friends here because I knew that the coffee would be good.

MID-SAJJ

Newly opened in June 2021 but with a keen attention to detail, is this new spot, near the new King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). My friend took me here as I was craving specialty coffee all day and we just beat the crowd, as literally once we entered, a queue of about 10 people formed. Now, I knew that people queued for coffee in Riyadh but at that time of the day I was lucky that I didn’t have to, as I was literally “coffee” starved.

Other spots I visited and worth mentioning

ELIXIR

Very well respected with coffee lovers and winner of some awards is Elixir. They’ve got many locations too and I bought a really good but rare to find Democratic Republic of Congo arabica coffee here, which I brewed at home to the delight of my taste buds.

EQUAL

Situated opposite the very popular U-Walk, is Equal, where they serve Sulalat coffee, have a selfie mirror that attracts instagrammers and cool decor (top of the page).

THOUGHTS

Yes, I know that the name doesn’t sound very creative, but if you happen to visit U-Walk, which hosts some international restaurant brands, and you are craving coffee, then here’s my to-go- spot – I usually avoid chains. For coffee machine enthusiasts, you’ll be glad to see that they’ve got one of the most advanced espresso machines ever made, the San Marco OPERA along with other cool gadgets for brewing coffee.They also roast onsite and have ample seating area.

HJEEN ROASTERS

Another coffee spot that roasts it’s own coffee, with a great selection of coffee to take home.

THAT CAFE

I never got to visit this shop as it recently opened but the owner is a World Ibrik Turkish coffee champion and she will offer Turkish coffee as well as Third wave coffee too.

This list is by far not exhaustive and I’m sure since I was last in Riyadh (October 2021), more high end, speciality coffee shops have opened, where queues are forming even at midnight, but I’ve tried to give you a summary, so that when you are craving speciality coffee, you have options.

To find the locations, check instagram and google maps.

Drinking coffee with Champions: Michaela Ruazol-Recera and Mon Alpas

The champs

As promised from my last post, where I mentioned “how often do you walk into a cafe and a champion offers to make you coffee”… well it happened to me twice and here, I was served by Champions – yes that’s the plural of champion – Michaela Ruazol-Recera, UAE Barista Champion and Mon Alpas, UAE Latte Art Champion. Scrolling through Instagram, I couldn’t believe when I saw on Goldbox Roastery (one of my faves) page that both champions would be at their roastery serving coffee. I promptly informed Naveed and off we went.

To be honest I was surprised that upon arriving around 1pm, that there wasn’t a queue – definitely if this was in London, Melbourne or New York, there would have been a long queue BUT I wasn’t complaining – more time to talk to the champions and enjoy my coffee. We even had a front row seat as Michaela explained the special process of her winning coffee, la Esperanza Mandela, stored in barrels for 30 hours – which was served – listen below;

Michaela in action

Fresh from competing at the World Barista Championship and the UAE Barista Championship, which she won again, Michaela seemed excited about trying to innovate the coffee industry and during the week I was there, it was also being served at her cafe, Typica in Jumeirah (yes, I went there a few days later to have it – let’s just say it tasted like vanilla ice cream). BUT we’re not finished yet.

Two creatures

Yes, that looks amazing but have you heard of “distilled milk”? Well, I recall Naveed mentioning it to me but I had never tasted it before – in short, it’s milk that is frozen and then in this case defrosted with 50% of the water removed making it a lot creamier and sweeter. This isn’t an easy feat as I have tried to froth cream before – yes, many years ago during my inexperienced wide eye years and no, it didn’t work. So, all I can say is “hat’s off” (English colloquialism for well done) to Mon Alpas for not only frothing the milk but pouring such wonderful latte art.

Mon in action

So, we had our coffee prep and brewed on the this wonderful Modbar by the UAE Barista champion and had our milk for our cortado prep and poured by the UAE National Latteeart champion – how often do you get to experience or say that ? Online Dubai.

The taste ???

Well, here’s my reaction – need I say more.

Excited me

Okay just a little – sublime in that usually when I’ve had any kind of macerated or anaberoic coffee, it’s been filtered and you can experience this unusual fruity caramel taste but in a milk based espresso coffee, it was Wow! sometimes words are not needed – just enjoy the experience.

And I’m not finished – I so enjoyed the experience that I asked for the cappuccino version – yes, it had more milk but also more coffee….. Yummy!

Pegasus

Needless to say It was great meeting Barbara Croce, owner of Gold Box too as she was in Dubai for a few days, so I got to talk coffee geek stuff too.

Feeling jealous ? Don’t be, because this coffee will be made available at Typica if not now, then very soon as Michaela can’t wait to INSPIRE others with her new creation.

Drinking Coffee with Champions: Mariam Erin

Mariam Erin and I

A few weeks back I decided to re-visit my favourite coffee spots in Dubai and Espresso Lab was of course on the list. This time however, I went to TEL.Roastery (i.e. their roastery) and when I got there, who greeted me with a smile, Mariam Erin – the current UAE Cup Brewers Cup Champion – she won the award for making the best filter coffee – I was lucky enough to watch her compete earlier in the year. So, imagine my delight when I entered and saw her and even more so, when she offered to make me coffee – how could I say no to that.

The champ in action

On the brew was a special – it’s always special at Espresso Lab – coffee from Panama – a Geisha of course. Her recipe was 16g using 240ml of water with a brewing time of approximately 2 minutes.

The smell was unbelievably fruity with citrus high notes, which made my eyes and tongue water and so was the taste.

Then she offered to make me a cortado – again I could’t resist using an Ethiopian Hambela bean. Again another fab experience.

I have to say that only is Mariam great at making coffee, but she makes it with ease in a cool and collected manner. I recall that when I watched her on her way to be crowned champion, she spoke very clearly and articulated her passion, drawing you into the experience of the coffee she selected whilst brewing the coffee. I have to add too that she’s a great artist – check her on instagram.

All in all, I could say was, Thank God, as how often do you walk into a cafe and a champion offers to make you not one but two cups of coffee – well it happened again, but to read about that, wait for the next post.

I was at Cypher Urban Roastery, Dubai

Before I delve into this new post and just in case you were wondering…. Yes! I’ve moved to Dubai, UAE. Over the last few weeks, if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you would have noticed under my stories that I’ve been visiting many cafes and roasteries. On the latter, you would be pleased and coffee fixated to know that Dubai has many coffee roasteries – in fact I think someone should do an analysis of the amount of coffee froasteries per square mile/km within this bustling coffee fixated city.

One one such trip, I decided to visit Cypher Urban Roastery, after seeing a price on them on CNN, where they talked about the challenges during the pandemic of 2020.

On entering their roastery, situated in the coffee roastery district of them all, Al Qouz District, my fellow coffee nerd, Naveed and I were approached by a gentleman, who came out of his office and greeted us calmly. He then proceeded to offer to make is a coffee, for which we naturally went for a cortado, which he brewed using a Ugandan arabica.

Latte art on cortado

Hints of sour cherry caramel came to my taste buds.

After that, he showered us with extensive coffee knowledge, nit just about Dubai but also about roasting and sourcing beans, which led to another culinary experience, where he brewed not just one, but two very special coffees from an extraordinary lot from Colombia using the Hario V60 method. If my memory serves me correctly, they were rated number 1 and 2 respectively in Colombia. Both were naturally from Cypher’s Nobility line, which means they are highly rated, cupping over 90.

The first, my favourite, had hints of guava, see above

The second one was still very special and was very fruity.

After that he gave us a tour of their roastery, from bag storage, to roasters, packing station and distribution outlet.

Roastery at Cypher

He also showed us a special Probat roaster that he designed with the owner.

All in all, a fantastic coffee experience, made extra special by Milo Sekulovic, a very modest gentleman indeed hailing from Serbia and of course, a Q grader and specialist coffee roaster.

Thanks Milo and Cypher for an extraordinary coffee experience.

I was at Gold Box Coffee Roastery in Dubai

Finally!

Ever since I heard about Gold Box Roastery in 2016, I have been trying effortlessly to visit them. However, the main reason I was unable to visit them in the past 3 years was because although they open for 6 days a week, they are always closed  Fridays and whenever I used to stopover in Dubai for 48 hours, the only full day I had was, Friday. So, on this occasion, as my stopover was from Saturday to Sunday and when asked by my friend where I wanted to go, I naturally said, “let’s try Gold box roastery”.

Situated in Warehouse #7, Building: SMARK 3, Umm Suqeim Rd. East, Near Mall of Emirates Next to Warehouse Gym Al Quoz Industrial Third, the industrial but arty district of Dubai, you could easily miss Gold Box roastery, like we almost did – google maps isn’t always the best for this part of Dubai. Luckily as determined as we were, we found it. As you enter, you could be excused for thinking you’ve walked into a coffee warehouse – right in front of you is a custom made purple La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine – giving the indication that pouring 100s of cups of coffee per day is not their focus. Behind the barista station, also decked out with filter brewing options and a mahl konig grinder, is where the action is, as you can just glimpse the coffee roasters – yes, there’s more than one – this is a coffee roastery. To the left of you, you will see bags and bags of coffee sacks, containing waiting to be roasted green coffee from al over the World, selected carefully by the owner.

The sitting area is small, decked with their theme, purple. Whilst visiting, the customers that stopped by, were regulars, stopping over on their way to somewhere, sitting briefly to drink their “black gold” or buying lots of bags of wholesome coffee to take home.

On the right is an impressive array of coffees on sale with an enticing logo to accompany the delicious coffee beans inside. If you just edge your eyes atop of the coffee bag rows you will see a placard – owner, Barbara Croce awarded as a Q Arabica Grader by the Coffee Quality Institute – now if you don’t know what that it is, here a short explanation

The certification is useful for purchasing coffee, selecting roast profiles and production/processing methods, understanding coffee origins, and more. It allows (them) to communicate objectively about quality throughout the entire coffee supply chain. (source: perfectlydailygrind.com)

In short, Q-graders are like the superheroes of the coffee industry. It allows them, once qualified to detect quality right through the coffee process, enabling them to know how to choose coffee and grade it for its quality, let alone, know how to get the best out of the coffee.a custom made purple La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine – giving the indication that pouring 100s of cups of coffee per day is not their focus. In short, Barbara is really serious about her coffee

But wait, there’s more.

I walk over to a lady and exclaim, finally I have found this place after many years of trying – I noticed that the lady had an air about her, relaxed but confident. To my pleasant surprise it was none other than Barbara herself. Great! first of all we just about find the place and secondly, I get to meet the owner herself.

In fact, to the detriment of my friend, even though he was very polite about it, Barbara and I spend the next 1-2 hours talking about coffee – I learn about there commitment, her vision to make the Dubai roastery world class (her first one is in Newcastle, north England), her family history in coffee, her commitment to understanding coffee by living on an actual farm for a few months, her expansion plans, right opposite their current site, which will become a training school too, the expertise of her staff (one of them Lyndon Recera was UAE barista champion for 3 years in a row until last year – see my previous post on Typica) and much, much more.

It’s only after chatting for a while, that I noticed that I hand’t even had my cup of gold.

I chose a fruity blend as I actually like fruity blends in my milk based coffee. Afterwards, I looked at the impressive display of coffee and was totally spoilt for choice, so of course I ask Barbara to advise me, as I wanted a coffee that would be great for espresso and filter, so I selected the Bolivian Caranavi with tasting notes of fig, dark chocolate and nougat to name a few.

Just before we left, Barbara kindly gave me the invite only to the opening of Typica (previous post), as I presume she had detected a real coffee nerd in me.

Definitely one of my best coffee experiences and looking forward to hearing more from them and their new barista academy.

Read more and order coffee from them on their website https://www.goldboxroastery.com/uae/roastery

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

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

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