Category Archives: Bean There – Cafes

Brunch and Coffee @ Brew Cafe, Clapham, London

As many of you might know by now, if you sift through my Instagram page, you will know that I am not only passionate about coffee, but food and fashion too. In fact before coffee, it was food. When kids at school would be asked about their hobbies, I would always say art and food. So, in 2019, I’m going to be talking a bit more about food, especially my favourite meal of the day, BREAKFAST. For me, the ideal meal always involves good coffee and breakfast is so exciting because you start your day off with it.

Located on 45 Northcote Street, about 7 minutes walk away from Clapham Junction Railway Station, Brew Cafe is a very busy cafe, as there are not many cafes like it in this area. We arrived there around 1030am on a Sunday morning and luckily we didn’t have to queue for long – about 15 minutes. Typical of a London morning in March, it was a bit cold and cloudy, but as there were 4 of us and we didn’t want to wait an additional 15 minutes, we sat outside with blankets. Within a few minutes the queue started and it was obvious that it is very popular with young couples.

First up, I knew I wanted coffee and found out that they get their coffee from Allpress Espresso – one of New Zealand  premier coffee roasters, who opened up in London about 9 years ago in East London. Already familiar with their name, I could safely order coffee. So, I went for a cappuccino, brewed on their La Marzocco Linea machine;

As you approach their cafe, they have a placard outside, saying “best coffee in London”. I’m not sure about that but I may give them my “best coffee in Battersea” award. The coffee was well prepared and worth the wait. Now, whenever I stay with my brother, who lives about 7 minutes away, I know where to come and get a good cup of coffee before delving into London.

Now, to the food. This was confusing because they have so many nice things to order; Turkish eggs, which my daughter and brother went for; Sweetcorn fitters with tomato jam – tempting; folded eggs, which my son ordered; blueberry pancakes… and more. In the end, I went for Hake and Crab Fishcakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise with spinach under their “big plates” section;

Yum! See the full order below, with my side of smashed avocado. My son’s folded eggs must be the largest egg dish I have seen served at a cafe or restaurant and if you are really hungry, I would definitely recommend that – it must have been at least 4 eggs.

But there’s more. Based on their focus to order fresh and use very high quality producers, there are a lot more tempting things on their menu, which I would love to sample another day, especially their desserts and cakes – I ordered a take away New York blueberry cheesecake for my wife, but they have carrot cake, red velvet cake and even better you can order the whole cake to take home and you know I love desserts.

In summary, a great place to have brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner – for the latter, their branch in Chiswick (pronounced Chissik) have specials in conjunction with La Luna cinema and offer wood fired pizzas too. I’m really looking forward to visiting again and you know how much I love a place that is passionate about preparing coffee as well as food. Definitely, one of the type of places I would like to own in the future God willing, well done Brew Cafe.

Check them out on http://brew-cafe.com

 

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I was @ Kaldi Coffee, Lagos (Nigeria)

I first heard of Kaldi Coffee early in 2018, when they liked one of my coffee photos on Instagram and was so intrigued by their concept that I told everyone I knew in Nigeria to look out for their coffees, which can be bought at the duty free, supermarkets and of course at their shops. In any case, I promised to visit them when I visited Nigeria again, which happened in December 2018. So, on my last few hours in Lagos and with the mad traffic in Lagos, it was beginning to look extremely slim that I would make it, but due to the kindness of one of my cousins, who resonated with my coffee passion, she loaned me her car and driver and I headed off to Ilupeju – near Ikeja – the part of Lagos that the airport is located in.

As I finally arrived, I was met by a very enthusiastic Dr Nasra Ali – the main owner of Kaldi coffee. I presume she was excited to meet a fellow coffee geek. We headed over to have a coffee first – I was really looking forward to my first good cup of coffee in Nigeria after 10 days (most of it was spent in Abuja and the remaining 2 days in Lagos only). Prepared on a La Marzocco GB5, using of course Kaldi’s coffee beans.

So, what is the story behind Kaldi Africa. First of all, I presume everyone knows the story about Kaldi and if you don’t, click on my page – a Brew beginning (the story about how coffee started) at the top. In any case, Dr Nasra Ali is actually a doctor, formerly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations organisation in charge of health, where she was working until she met her husband to be, a businessman of Greek origin, who resided in Nigeria – you see the connection. In any case, coffee runs in Nasra’s family bloodline, as they were behind Kenya and perhaps Africa’s biggest coffee chain, Java House (see my post here). So, when presented with an idea of setting up a business in Nigeria, it was obvious. In her own right, she’s a trained barista and roaster and has the Nigerian license for distributing my favourite espresso coffee machine maker, La Marzocco and have SCAE recognition.

So, Nasra, doesn’t compromise on quality. Kaldi’s focus is on sourcing good coffee from Africa and they have started trying to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry – yes, there is one. This is very commendable, because she could easily just buy Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees from Eastern Africa and ignore West Africa, but she didn’t and also sources coffee from nearby Cameroon too. So, now for the tour;

Nasra showed me her coffee factory. First the tasting and barista room, where she has a few espresso machines (La Marzocco of course), grinders, brewing equipment and the Ikawa mini-roaster.

Then we went to the heart – the roasting room, which houses two Probat Coffee Roasters – wow!

If you view her Instagram Feed, you will see what she went through to get this factory from an empty dusty room to this gleaming roast factory – truly amazing and I was very impressed.

On the business side, Nasra has started roasting for hotels and restaurants – I visited Krispy Kreme Lagos, who are one of her customers –

Met with Edouard Sassine, who offered me the opportunity to start a coffee roasting company with him – extremely tempting, I must say. In any case, Nasra is so generous, that she is willing to develop a roast blend for each of her customers beyond her own trusted espresso blend. If you cannot visit, you can also buy their coffees on line – 250g starting for the equivalent of $7.8 and there’s even more – something I’ve never seen. You can order your coffee as greens or roasted in three different profiles of light, medium and dark. As a coffee geek, you could order the same coffee in three different roast profiles, even though I’d omit the “darker” version. They also sell chocolate and tea, gadgets, coffee cups, brewing equipment, grinders and espresso machines. Nasra offered me two coffee bags and hot chocolate and I grabbed the Nigerian and Cameroonian coffees, which I brewed as espresso.

On services, they have three different types of barista courses, so ideally, any serious retail outlet or business that wants to start a coffee business in Lagos – a city soon to be the largest in Africa with over 20 million people, there’s no real reason to serve substandard coffee. They can also be contacted to serve great coffee at events if needed. Read more about Kaldi on http://kaldiafrica.com

Nasra was so conscious of me missing my flight back to Abuja that my very intriguing visit was all over in less than an hour and as my wife knows, I can literally chat about coffee for hours. So, I reluctantly left, but guess what ? What should have been a 15 minutes ride to the airport, took a whopping 90 minutes and if my flight left on time, I would definitely have missed it – things I do for coffee.

I was really intrigued by my visit and seeing the passion in my eyes, Nasra, ever so giving, offered to help me start a coffee roasting business in Nigeria – I can’t even imagine anyone offering to train a competitor, but I think she’s so giving and I was really tempted – perhaps I’ll add that to my wish list or should I say dream list, plus I would really like to explore the possibility of helping Nigerian and other African coffee farmers get more recognised and up the quality of their coffee – anyone interested, please feel free to contact me.

Until then, if you ever visit Lagos, please stop by but not on your way to the airport and it’s probably best on the weekend or in the morning, when there’s less traffic.

Well done Nasra and here’s to working with you to help Nigerian and African coffee producers.


I was at Jonas Reindl Cafe & Roastery, Vienna

So, this is part two to my earlier post, where I wanted to expand more on Vienna’s latest in city coffee roaster, Jonas Reindl Cafe and Roastery, recently opened on Westbahnstrasse 13, in the 7th district. As I mentioned this is an unusual feat as the City of Vienna have very strict rules about roasting coffee in the city, especially near residences. In any case, as they say “never say impossible, but rather say, I’m possible”.

A bit about the roaster himself – Philip – who I had known for a while on the many occasions that I had visited their first shop, Jonas Reindl Cafe, located at Wahringerstrasse 2-4, opposite the Votivkirche. I asked him about their journey towards becoming a roastery, something they had hinted at for about a year on their instagram feed. I have been saying for a while, based on my experience of my one and only cafe that the real winners in the coffee supply chain are the coffee roasters – why? because if you have ambitions to open more than 2 cafes, then the coffee roaster is very happy – sorry, this isn’t a dig at coffee roasters, who I really appreciate and respect a lot in the coffee game (they are the ones that make the cherry taste great if brewed properly) but when you look at the figures, then if you can and want to really extend your survival then you have to enter the supply chain earlier. If you can guess, my next coffee dream is to get into he coffee supply chain and roast one of these days God willing. I just need to invest in my dream, so anyone reading that has any ideas we can work on together, contact me please.

In any case, Philip mentioned that he has attended some coffee roasting classes but the crux for me, was that he also spent time with the guys at Prufrock Coffee (read about them here) still for me one of the best cafes in the World. Ironically, Prufrock are not coffee roasters (they get their coffee from one of my fave roasters, Square Mile Coffee) but they defiantly know what to look for in coffee. In short, I was impressed with Philip’s attention to detail.

On equipment, as you can see, they have the classic 12kg Probat Coffee Roaster, with all the digital gadgets and you can even witness them roasting on site if you are lucky too.

Now, the coffees. I really loved the packaging, which has the new age coffee bag housed in this lovely box, explaining on the side the origin of the coffee, etc – see below.

 

I already mentioned about my cafe experience in my previous post but what did it taste like at home… good.

However, the one thing that was really distinctive was the SMELL. When I opened the bags of their coffee, I was hot with this sumptuous aroma – it instantly took me back to the late noughties (2000-2009), when I started falling in love with coffee. So, that was the first tick for me.

On the taste I wasn’t let down as it lived up to my expectations – good coffee roasted well with attention should taste well if brewed properly. I bought espresso and filter coffees, which I enjoyed very much.

On the espresso, they were full bodied from Central America, and tasted milk chocolate with underlying notes of dark dried fruits.

The filters, from Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia) were very fruity with a good mouth feel with medium and not over powering acidity. I always like Kenyan coffees in the filter but must confess when I get a natural Ethiopian it is exciting because different cups and different brewing styles (Hario V60 or aeropress) can give different taste profiles.

I also started experimenting with different grinding styles – moving slight more coarser for the V60, which gave a much more fruity feel.

The good thing about their coffees is that you don’t have to live in Vienna to sample them, as they now have an online shop and offer wholesale, so check them out here http://www.jonasreindl.at

 

 


Drinking Coffee in Vienna: An Update

 

I’m glad to report that the specialty coffee scene is improving in Vienna, which is based on two key factors; an increase in people’s appreciation of good coffee and more coffee shops to meet that demand – the demand and supply of specialty coffee – I know it sounds very economist like, for which I confess my guilt of being trained as an economist.

so, let’s move on.

Café EL.AN, Werdertorgasse 4   •   1010 Wien

I start with a confession – this is actually not a new coffee shop, but one that’s been around for about 3-4 years but for which I never had the pleasure of trying out, as they only open from Monday to Fridays, which I find difficulty in visiting. In any any case as soon as the opportunity presented itself when I finally had a day off to wander around Vienna in late Autumn last year, I headed here. Cafe EL.AN is made up of a combination of the owners’ name; Elke and Anna. Coffee is sourced from Austria’s most famous barista and CafféCouture owner, Georg Branny.

It’s very simple in design and as you enter you are confronted with steel bars (see picture at the top) that lines that front of the brew bar and on your right where the magazines and italian style espresso stand up bar is located. Equipped with a La Marzocco GB5 and Mazzer grinders for espresso drinks and an Uber boiler to facilitate filter brews on a range of options; Hariov60, chemex, Syphon and aeropress.

As it was late afternoon and I wasn’t in a rush, I thought why not and ordered an ethiopian coffee brewed on a Hario Syphon. Elke was very relaxed despite a few customers as she was the only one working there. In between pouring latte art and making espressos, she calmly began making my Syphon filter brew. It took about 5-7 minutes to brew but it was worth the wait – a fruity brew, with medium acidity, at the right temperature and easy to consume.

 

The good thing about coffee made on this type of apparatus is that you get quite a bit. As the shop is quite small, a lady with a toddler sat opposite me and as I had quite a bit of coffee, I offered her some so that she could appreciate coffee brewed differently. She was pleasantly surprised and I advised her to try ordering that next time.

 

Wolfgang Coffee .  Zieglergasse 38, 1070 Wien
Opened by a former Balthasar coffee barista, Wolfgang Coffee, is fairly new, located in Vienna’s hip district, populated by the up and coming youth of Vienna. Wolfgang is actually located in Qwstion store, a non-brand concept store, selling hip designs and of course bespoke style perfume for both men and women. In fact when I first visited them on a  very hot day in August – it was 34C – I almost missed the shop. As you enter there’s a  display of their coffees, roasted by Sussmund – one of Vienna’s premier coffee roasters. They pull their espresso on the classic Faema E71 espresso machine and sell some snacks too.
I ordered a cortado as it was hot outside but still wanted a bit of milk.
On another day when I walked past going to another spot, it was crammed on a Saturday afternoon. One additional pull they have is that you can always elapse into the concept store and read magazines will you sip a beautifully crafted cup ion coffee.
Jonas Reindl Coffee Roasters, Westbahnstrasse 13, 1070 Vienna 
Literally around the corner from Wolfgang Coffee is for me the most exciting coffee opening in Vienna. Why? It’s the first time that a coffee roastery has been “allowed” to open in the heart of Vienna. Apparently, the City of Vienna, likened for bringing coffee to Western Europe does not like people to roast coffee in the city where dwellers are because the smell might irritate them – perplexing, especially as coffee has been ranked top three smells that humans love, even though I know that the beginning of the roasting process, the burning smell can be a bot off putting. anyway, many have tried and failed, but now we have a winner – Jonas Reindl Coffee Roasters – the main reason, Philip, the roast master, told me was that the spot was previously owned by a pizzeria that had an oven, enabling them to obtain the very hard to obtain license to roast in the city.
As you enter the shop, cum roastery, the roaster is on the left, giving the impression, righty implied, that some serious coffee business goes one  in here. So, what do we have here? A 12kg Probat Roaster, hooked up to a iMac and other bits, surrounded by baskets to store coffee before they are packed.
In front of you, is the brew bar, with their freshly roasted coffee packed and ready to be bought as the backdrop. To the right of that spot is their new Synresso S200 espresso machine.
If you want to know about this machine, let me let synesso tell you,

The goal with the S200 and S300 was to make an approachable, volumetric machine with the quality we are known for. All internal components are Synesso standard as found in our MVP and MVP Hydra machines. This includes group heads with no wear parts, individual brew boilers, digital shot timers, programmable temperature per group head, and cool touch steam wands.

Extraction is controlled by volumetric programming, with two user-defined programs per group.  The wired hand held display allows control of total water count and optional preinfusion duration, which can be saved across both group heads.

Additional settings include the programmable hot water tap with mix valve, arcade-inspired group purge buttons, and an auto back flush program. (extracted fork Synesso website)

My daughter and I ordered espresso milked coffees the  first time
On my second visit, I went full filter of a guatemalan finca la bella coffee.
They have all the other perks, gadgets, filter brew options, etc, but the definite pull for me is the roastery and beautiful packaging.
Also on offer are artisan teas and cakes and pastries. The spot isn’t too big and you may have to stand during busy hours. They’ve only been opened since late 2018 and I’ve been there thrice already and I’ve picked up three bags of their delicious smelling coffee. More on this next time God willing.
Remember 2019 should be a year of drinking better coffee.

Drinking Coffee in Brighton in 24 Hours

On our last annual trip to London and in the same vein as last year, when we went to Bath, we decided to visit another city closer to London for about 24 hours and Brighton, where I have not been for about 30 years (giving my age away), was chosen. Looking for a hotel was a bit of a challenge as we wanted something close to the seafront and main attractions and then I came across this funky design hotel, My Brighton, which had a specialty coffee chain, Small Batch Coffee located within it. Surprise, surprise, I guess you know where we stayed.

Small Batch Coffee, 17 Jubilee Street and various locations around Brighton

So, lets’s start here. Actually a few years back when I first heard of Small Batch I ordered coffee online from them. In any case, we arrived late afternoon on Sunday and as I was in need of coffee, I decided to try their batch brew – Blue Note Filter – a combination of Guatemalan and Burundi arabica coffees. Unusual, because it is very rare, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen a filter offered as a blend. In any case, it was so delicious that upon my return the next day, I bought a bag.

So the next day, I naturally decided to start my espresso based coffee experience here. However, I must confess, I was a bit disappointed.

Yes, it looked well prepared but when I pulled back the foam from the espresso base, it was very milky and I couldn’t finish it – sorry Small Batch. I’m sure their better baristi would have poured and prepared a really good cappuccino but I didn’t think the staff present that day were up to their best. I observed the way they welcomed me and the way they prepared their espresso on the La Marzocco Linea and to be honest I would have been very impressed if the coffee had tasted good.

In any case I bought their coffee and you can too, online – see here.

Bond Street Coffee 15 Bond St. Brighton, BN1 1RD – Best Cappuccino in Brighton

So, after a not so pleasant milk based espresso drink, I walked literally around the corner to Bond Street, which reviews said offered the best flat white in Brighton. The reception was completely different. No quills, friendly welcome and attention to detail in preparation. Snacks on display, La Marzocco Strada.

In fact if you look at their website, a snippet below;

As our coffees will often have vibrant, subtle and complex flavours, including natural sweetness, we recommend that you taste your coffee before adding sugar. 

To make our espresso we use bottomless portafilters with our Synesso Hydra espresso machine. This enables us to recognise when the espresso we’re making has extracted properly, thus enabling us to maximise the coffee’s unique flavour. This, however, means we can only serve our espresso or ristretto as a double shot. 

We serve our espresso in a large, un-warmed cup as this allows the coffee to have a thinner layer of cremé, making it taste sweeter, while also allowing the espresso to cool quicker making the drink instantly enjoyable.

All milk based espresso drinks are served with latte art. We use whole milk from Downsview Farm in East Sussex which we heat to 55-60 degrees to bring out the natural sweetness of the milk.

Sounds pretty serious and I must say I learnt a lot “unwarmed cups to have a thinner layer of creme…” – something to try at home God willing.

So, I ordered a cortado.

Great caramel taste winding around my front and side parts of my tongue.

In fact, my initial plan was to finish my Brighton coffee experience here by buying a bag of Horsham Coffee, their coffee, to take home, but being so used to London closing times, I missed them by a few minutes, as they closed by 6pm. Check them out here.

In any case, after this wonderful mouthfeel experience, I was ready to see Brighton with my family and off we went to BA I 360.

Twin Pines Coffee, 11 St James’s Street  – Best Pour Over Coffee

I must confess, initially I was going to go to another coffee establishment, Redroaster Coffee but when I asked the barista at Bond Street where I should try, he said Twin Pines, which I found out later was Brighton’s new kid on the block of Speciality Coffee.

So, after another traditional Brighton must do – Fish and Chips by the beach and gourmet ice cream, it was time for coffee again naturally. So, I kind of led my family back to the hotel via another route and as soon as my son said he needed the loo, I was like “let’s go into that coffee shop” oops, oh! it’s twin pines – another coffee shop on my list. “really dad, I’m sure you planned this” Guilty! Aha!

As you enter, on the left near the window, there’s a Three group Slayer machine – serious equipment in the house.

But as it was late afternoon, I opted for filter coffee, from James Gourmet’s Operation Red Cherry, prepared using a Hario V60.

I must confess it took a while to prepare, enough for me to go to the toilet and back, but it was definitely worth the wait. So good, that I bought a bag to take back to London and Vienna. I was really impressed with the attention to detail and the customer service and would highly recommend Twin Pines.

So, there we go 24 hours in Brighton drinking coffee and seeing the tourist bits too.


Dubai Coffee Scene 2018: The Cafes

I got back not too long ago from a fantastic holiday in Dubai, made better spending time with loved ones and of course with many good cups of coffee. It seems like the specialty coffee bug has really hit Dubai in a massive way. although much smaller than London in size and population, the Dubai coffee scene reminds now of what I discovered in London about 6-7 years back – it was no longer possible to visit London and try out all the good coffee shops in 1 or 2 days because back then the good coffee shops had grown from 1-2 (Flat White on Berwick Street and Fernandez and Wells on Beak Street, all in Soho) to several. Leaving me with the task of visiting pockets of London just to sample good coffee –  enter Dubai in the Summer of 2018. Cafes are no longer harbouring in the most popular malls, but more neighbourhood ones and just little spots on the street, especially in Jumeirah (home of the Burj al Arab and the famous wave like Jumeirah Beach Hotel as well as many mansions), where I couldn’t even visit the 4-5 there – after all, there’s so much coffee I can take in 1-2 hours. It’s good for the locals and by that I don’t mean people living in Dubai or Jumeirah but the local Emirati, who are actually the driving force behind this mushrooming of specialty coffee in Dubai, as they own most of them and have now gone into roasting (my next post insha’allah).

%Arabica @ City Centre Mall, Mirdif

So, let’s start with the first contender. Part of the growing in popularity, Arabica Brand  and located in a mall, nowhere near the hustle and bustle of Dubai – about 10 minutes drive from the airport and in a very residential part of the city. It was my first stop because for the first part of the holiday we resided with my cousin who lives in Mirdif.

It’s like an Italian style cafe, no place to really sit, you order at the till, just get your coffee, drink it or take it away, but of course their dedication to detail in brewing is top with their slayer espresso machines

Although I think for coffee freaks like me, the idea of Arabica’s  extensive coffee menu is impressive, ranging from different types of espresso drinks (hot or cold) with a choice of two type of beans and a long list of coffees going to 90+ (i.e. the top notch coffee can cost almost $20 or more) for filter brew, I think this is a bit avant grade for the typical UAE customer. I witnessed the barista asking a customer what type of beans she wanted with her cold latte and she kept just saying a cold Spanish latte, and witnessing the very customer friendly barista still insisting, I had to interject and say “just give her the house blend “.

For coffee geeks like me, I ordered a Chemex selecting their house filter single origin from Ethiopia.

If you are not in hurry and want something different, then having coffee through the chemex method, which takes about 5-7 minutes, is a good option. Fruity and easy to drink and even if it was hot outside, the air-conditioned mall made you forget about it.

Depresso, Jumeirah

Depresso – the feeling you get when you haven’t had coffee

Hearing about this spot on instagram, where else nowadays, it was first on my list whilst I had access to a car. Not too far from the famous Burj al-Arab, you could easily drive past this coffee spot, especially on a Friday afternoon when its boiling hot outside, but as soon as you enter, with hanging plants, black interior you can smell the coffee (no pun intended).

One thing I noticed about the cafes I visited was the commonality of Synesso or Slayer Espresso machines in all except one. Obviously the Synesso distributor in Dubai is getting well paid. Okay, so I ordered a flat white, akin a bit to a cortado given the size of the cup and from the prep I could tell that the head barista, Neil, was keen on late art;

A short but an enjoyable experience and before I departed I asked Neil for other recommendations and he mentioned Chemex Lab (didn’t visit), Nostalgia (see below).  Apparently, Depresso gets busy when the locals are back from holidays in early September and during the cooler months (November to April).

%Arabica, The Dubai Mall – Various Visits

I blogged about this a while back – see here but in short this is where you go for coffee when you are in the largest mall in the World. As I follow three of their more famous baristi on instagram (one of them was a finalist at the 2017 UAE latte art championships) and that’s the one I met on my first visit – Dhan Ghale. We had met before and as soon as I walked in, he recognised me and told his colleagues that I was one of their best customers, although I only pop in a bout 3-4 times a year. As it was after 9pm, I decided to trust Dhan’s recommendation to try one of their 90+ coffee, an Ethiopian Kemgin, using the Chemex method again.

As he prepped I gathered that the beans had been lightly roasted and was brewed at a temperature below 90C – a shop secret but I haven’t divulged the exact temperature. I think it’s been a while since I had a 90+ coffee – at least one made for me. It was nice – what else can I say, smooth and gentle, delicate aromas with bergamot like tea flavours – perhaps my smile tells it all.

We had just been up the tallest building in the World – Burj Khalifa and I needed coffee, so on my second visit, I had their single origin for my daily flat white – this time made by another keen latte artist, Prakash, hailing from Nepal. Initially, he seemed a bit nervous as when I entered some of the staff recognised me from two days earlier and greeted me, but Prakash was true to his art – he took time to brew my coffee and of course to pour it out.

On my third and last visit, which was actually my last Dubai coffee stop over before flying back to Vienna, I had another Chemex Ethiopian single origin coffee – this time made by Charles from Ghana, who was being teased by Jay not to mess up the prep for me – no pressure but he handled it well.

In conclusion , %Arabica was my go to place for coffee during my trip as I went 4 times in 11 days.

Salt by Grind Coffee (Burgers and Coffee), La Mer

One day, we thought we are in Dubai and we haven’t seen the beach, so let’s go early, before mid-day – ouch ! it was a tryst hot and sweaty experience – the humidity was unbearable and only my daughter and I braved it – my wife and son taking refuge in a fully air conditioned Japanese beach restaurant. Nevertheless, on one of my previous visits I had these really tasty burger sliders (mini-burgers) at a place called Salt and as I wanted my family to have the same experience, we trekked there – about 5 minutes in the very hot and humid weather, which seemed like a ghost town compared to when I came during the cooler climes (February). As we entered, the kind staff handed us refrigerated face cloths so that we could wipe ourselves down and cool of all at once. Again, when I came in February there was a long queue, which meant it took us about 30 minutes before we ate, but on this occasion we were one of only two customers. We placed our order and waited for about 5-6 minutes – perhaps you are wondering why I am talking so much about food, which I love too BUT there’s a coffee story too, but of course.

Anyway, I remembered that when I cam last time, I didn’t order coffee but noticed they sold Grind Coffee – a UAE based coffee roaster and had a nice looking La Marzocco Linea (I think the only one I saw in Dubai this time around). So I ordered an espresso.

Easy to drink based on what I think was a medium to light roast and it went down very well after my burgers (yes, I had two sliders, but that’s because that is how they serve it). A bias towards caramel and berries – you see there was a reason we came here – burgers and coffee – my recommendation if you visit the lively La Mer (at least in the cooler months).

In between desert safari, the exhilarating La Perle Show, enjoying our fantastic hotel – Grand Hyatt – beautiful architecture and regular cappuccinos prepared by the breakfast barista and complimentary cheesecake

– yum – I didn’t get to visit any speciality shops until the last couple of days and I went for gusto, visiting two within three hours, either side of lunch.

Nostalgia, Jumeirah

As recombined by Neil of Depresso, Nostalgia was first on my list after Friday prayers. It is a beautifully designed cafe – almost like a modern French patisserie – look at the display;

I was even beginning to get “nostalgic ” that they won’t be able to make coffee well as many times this much detail to food has resulted in lower than expected coffee prep and taste. After all their logo says “Where art meets chocolate”. So, and I apologise, I went into quizzical mode even though I knew from their Slayer Espresso machine they were sort of committed to coffee.

I walked up to the barista and started asking questions and surprisingly, the waitress behind me started answering them – like “where’s your coffee from and I don’t mean Dubai, I mean the origin” “what brew temperature do you use” – well she didn’t answer the last one but she knew a bit. Their coffee is roasted by a local one, called Grandmother – odd name. In any case I ordered a daily flat white, bought some cakes and bought one of their coffee bags, which are on display almost opposite where the espresso machine is – slightly hidden. A bit pricey – coffee was the equivalent of $6.50 and the delicious looking pistachio lemon slice too. What I was too weak to miss where these cold truffle balls – imagine a cold truffle that when you bite into it, there’s a soft centre – wow! In any case if you love chocolate, cakes, brownies and coffee, then go to Nostalgia – you won’t be disappointed.

Emirati Coffee, Dar Wasl Mall

I had many good coffee experiences but I have saved the best for last. I knew I had to try one more spot and it was between new kids on the block, Alchemy or Emirati Coffee Company – literally on the same road and almost opposite but fate, or should I say God led us to Emirati coffee. Located in a Dar Wasl Mall – a new and very plush mall complete with very expensive looking marble flooring and in all, just beautiful looking shops, which I found out is home to not one but FOUR speciality coffee shops and in a size this small – and I mean small even by European standards, this might be the smallest mall in the World with so many specialty coffee shops.

In any case Emirati, a coffee roaster, who roast at Al Quoz – an industrial estate have a shared space – very innovative – where there are about 4 eateries in one place. so you can order coffee, eat and rink non-coffee drinks in one spot belonging to 4 different brands. Emirate occupy the coffee spot and it gives them the opportunity to share their coffee with visitors to the mall, which will probably be the launch pad for future shops. Upon entering, they have their Slayer Espresso machine (yes another slayer espresso machine) at the far left near the window, flanked by cakes, bites and other bits. Almost opposite the brew bar on the far side, they have  shelf for coffee accessories and their coffees for sale. I walked over to the baristi, whom I found out later was the UAE Aeropress champion, just after six months working in coffee – a very modest lady, named Elle and one who could go far.

As I started asking “coffee geek” questions, the head barisiti, Louie Palacio, excited by a coffee enthusiast amongst their midst approached me – after exchanging about coffee (company origin, roasting strategy, history, coffee pricing, customers, etc), we sat down and then it began – it was like Louie said “just sit and let me entertain you with coffee”. One espresso after another (two in total) featuring their single origin and house blend; and then when I thought it was all over – one of the baristi brought another – this time a filter brew, prepared using the Chemex. Louie wanted me to taste their coffees and offer my opinion – the Guatemalan espresso was fruity and the house blend was just right with a balance between chocolate, nuts and a bit of fruit.

By the time the Chemex came I was a bit full of water but the smoothness of the coffee complimented the previous espressos – I offered a taste to my daughter and cousin, so that they could appreciate a different taste of coffee – truly spectacular. Afterwards, Louie came over and I gave him my verdicts on the coffees, which were on the house. I was so excited by the last coffee – an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (Edido) that I knew that I couldn’t leave the shop without a bag and there’s more of that to come in a later post. As a true coffee enthusiast, Louie recommended one or two of the coffee shops in the mall to try but I was truly caffeinated and didn’t want to spoil my exhilarating taste bud experience and called it a day after 2 espresso, a chemex and a flat white in 3 hours.

I quizzed a few of the baristi during my trip as to why the explosion of specialty coffee in Dubai and especially in the Jumeirah area but there was no clear answer – people fed up with the global chains, people wanting a different experience , people wanting to taste coffee properly – perhaps the neighbourhood feel. when I though about setting ups  cafe in Dubai back in 2009, I thought I cannot compete with the coffee chains and I think perhaps I was 8 years ahead. My cousin concluded that by the manner I approach coffee and sound so excited talking about it, I should definitely be working in coffee, but let’s see – don’t give up on the dream.

Whatever the case, it is definitely an exciting time to be drinking coffee in Dubai – a global city for drinking coffee like an escapist – my original logo line.


Drinking Coffee in Doha, Qatar

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged and trust me I’m very embarrassed.Sure I can give excuses like I’ve been mad busy but surely I should have given myself a bit of “coffee me” time to share my exploits and thoughts on my latest coffee adventures, so here we go.

I had the opportunity just 2 weeks back to have an 8 hour stop-over in Doha, Qatar on my way back from Kenya and took the chance to meet up with friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Naturally, before I set out on my journey I searched on the web for coffee shops in Doha and found one – Flat White (not related to the coffee shop on Berwick Street, London) – more about that later.

Karak Mqanes , La Croisette, Porto Arabia 23, The Pearl Qatar

On meeting my first friend, he suggested we visit the famous Pearl Island and have a Qatari breakfast and I thought “why not”. As we entered the first place, Karak Mqanes, I noticed a sign “Try our Specialty Coffee” with a picture of latte art.

At first I was dubious, as on many occasions I have seen coffee shops trying to trick customers with pictures of latte art. Neverthless, I thought, let’s see what they have. I allowed my friend to order for me and then when he insisted I have tea instead of coffee, I had to be a bit firm as I really wanted to try their coffee. So I asked for a cappuccino before my meal and here it was,

No lies about latte art as you can see, but what about the taste. I must confess with milk it had an intriguing taste, almost like burnt orange and caramel – I can sum it up as a cross between caramelised nuts with with citrus lining. All in all, I would recommend it. About the food it was a bit unusual for me; sweet egg dishes and their version of shakshuka (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) but a place favoured no doubt by the locals. If we had a bit more time, I would have tried their espresso to ascertain the taste profile. So, in summary, my first coffee experience was of to a good start.

Next, my friend asked, where else? Having used the free wifi at Karak Mqanes, I noticed that flat white was not too far away – almost 3-4 minutes walk, so off we went in 38C of heat.

Flat White Unit 346 , La Croisette 27 Porto Arabia – The Pearl Qatar

On entering Flat White, it was similar to the video on their website – a strong focus on coffee with all the gadgets – cool drip, Anfim coffee grinders, relaxed feel, dangling light bulbs, cakes on display, mix of concrete and wood and of course a La Marzocco Strada.

The serving set up was different – you order from the bar and they call you – something unusual for the locals of the richest country in the World. Naturally I ordered a flat white and walked around to check on the barista prep style. After a few minutes, I chatted to him about the place and after informing him that I wrote about coffee and started naming all their gadgets, he looked up intriguingly and gave me an espresso on the house to try – bright citrusy. I also enquired about their beans as it said on their website that they were roasting but apparently they had experienced a few hiccups and hadn’t started using/selling their beans yet – they were using Barn Berlin (a famous roaster from Berlin). My flat white;

I must confess, I’m not a huge fan of citrus based coffees mixed with milk but nevertheless I know it was well prepared. I noticed the place was mostly populated by expatriates – I detected a few Australian accents – this was in contrast to Karak Mqanes, which was populated by Qataris.

So, there we are – in just a few hours.

Before departing for the airport I had lunch with a good friend I hadn’t seen for about 15 years and found out that he is also into coffee. He knew about flat white but suggested that I should have tried out “sweet moments” another specialty coffee shop run by a husband and wife team, selling great sweets and coffee. I guess this will have to be for another time insha’allah but if you are reading this and are planning on visiting Doha for a few hours or more, try them out and let me know what you thought about sweet moments, located Sweet Moments The Boutique, Al Muntazah, Tamar Mall.

And here The Pearl Qatar from above