Buying Coffee in London – Part 2

After a wonderful flat white and espresso at Flat White coffee shop, London (more on that to follow on another post), I made my way to Monmouth Coffee shop, but on my way there, I stumbled across another coffee specialist store, Algerian Coffee Stores on 52 Old Compton Street, in the heart of Soho. They too feature in Hattie Ellis’s book. However, Algerian Coffee Stores have been in the business for 120 years and offer a choice of over 80 coffees – Wow ! that sounds impressive.  You can buy coffee, coffee equipment, a selection of over 120 teas and even drink coffee there too in their smallish but quaint shop. From what I saw, they tend to favour a full roast, i.e. dark to very dark, where you can see the oils on top of the coffee bean. As I was in a rush – had to meet the wife for some shopping – I quickly asked for a recommendation for espresso and bought their Cafe Torino blend of very dark Colombian and full roast Ethiopian. On my return to Vienna, I tried this first out of the 5 bags of coffee from other stores. I think it’s the first time since using my flashy espresso machine that my espresso has been bitter – almost with a tobacco flavour – the espresso is dark but the coffee works better with me for milk based drinks to hide a bit of the bitterness. I also had a bit of a problem with getting the grind right, moving the dial to a finer grind away from my normal setting for espresso, which meant some beans had to be sacrificed to get the right grind for an espresso pour.  I’m sure there’s an expert out there that can explain this unusual (for me) phenomenon. However, I am optimisitc of trying coffee from them again, especially with their history. I also found out from their website that they have 19 blends and what I bought was not the best type for espresso. You can also order coffee and other stuff from Algerian Coffee Stores through their internet shop (www.algcoffee.co.uk)  and I am tempted to try them once more. I suggest that if you have time, you should try them out. 

Buying Coffee in London – Part 1

Just back from an exciting short trip to London, where I found two new places to buy coffee from. Thanks in part to breezing through the back of Hattie Ellis’ book on coffee, “Coffee – Discovering, Exploring, Enjoying“, I made a dash for HR Higgins (Coffee Man) on 79 Duke Street, by the posh end of Oxford Street, near the world famous Selfridges Store. Prior to visiting, I had e-mailed them, to ask about the freshness of their coffee, which they confirmed was roasted fresh by themselves and delivered twice a week to their shop. Their shop looks very traditional, but they do have one of those priced stickers on their coffee bags, which highlights that Her Majesty the Queen of England has given them her blessings, so I’m guessing that they know what they are talking about, having been in the business since 1942. Well ! it was refreshing to speak “bean talk” (a new term from moi on asking about what beans are good for different types of coffee brewing) with the two very helpful shop assistants, trying to catch them out on how well they knew their beans from their beanos (an old English comic). I often find that when you visit some coffee shops, staff don’t know what they are selling, which can be a bit frustrating to people like me wanting to broaden our coffee horizons. So, its refreshing when you meet people who know and can advise you on what to try, and as I am a variety type of man when it comes to food and coffee, I rarely try the same stuff –  Monmouth’s Organic Espresso Blend and Origins of Cape Town’s Organic Sidamo are the exceptions. After a bit of a tug of war, I settled for Indian Malabar, as I have been a bit reluctant to try an Indian arabica. I also wanted something with Costa Rica in it, so I got a Santiago Blend, which is made up of beans from Costa Rica Tarrazu and Colombia Supremo. I’ll let you know what it tastes like God willing !  

Oh ! Sidamo

Sidamo – Coffee from the southern region of Ethiopia, and according to some the very spot where coffee was discovered. Sidamo coffee beans look a bit unusual, with a whiteish line going through the middle of the bean even after being roasted. I got my latest bag of freshly roasted organic Sidamo coffee beans from my favourite coffee shop, Origin Coffee Roasting in Cape Town, almost 10,000 miles away, during my last trip down to South Africa.

Origins Sidamo 

The way it was roasted and eventually prepared by me for my daily morning dose of Cappuccino reminded my lips and taste buds of caramel/chocolately overtones. That’s my impression and “true to the bone” (slang: for gut feel) feeling, however, I am aware that some experts and websites classify Sidamo as a coffee with a floral essence – who am I to argue ? However, lots of things come into play here just to make our lives more complicated – the type of milk, the water, the type of roast (Origin Coffee don’t dark roast their Sidamo beans until the oils begin to settle on the bean), plus when milk is frothed it becomes sweet and caramelly like. Enough ramblings and justification for my tongue. Anyway, it’s all over now as I just finished the 250g bag in under 2 weeks of course, but don’t know where and when I’ll get another lovely bag of organic Sidamo beans – Oh ! Sidamo, Oh ! Sidamo……… As you can guess, Sidamo comes highly recommended by moi. Look out for it in gourmet coffee shops. As with the majority of African Coffees (yes ! Ethiopia is in Africa for those who skipped geography lessons), which tend to be bold and “strong”, you will get a good taste using a French Press or Cafetiere. Enjoy !

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