Category Archives: Bean There – Cafes

The Sum of Us, Dubai: Revisited

  
I guess I kind of give the impression that I live in Dubai – well, my jealous daughter just told me “You stop-over there so often”, and my reply “don’t be a hater”. Anyway on yet another stop-over, just last weekend, I was naturally craving coffee, even though the curry fish I had the previous night didn’t provide relief but grief. It just so happened that on this occasion, the Sum of Us was the closest decent cafe to get to before rushing off to the airport.

On entering, I was pleasantly surprised. First up, when I visited in the summer, the cafe had only been opened about 4 weeks and hence was not on the radar yet, making it quite empty – read more here. So, on this occasion, the cafe was literally packed, both inside and outside (it was only about 24C). I only wanted a good cup of milk-based espresso a flat – a magic. 

  
After placing my order, I wandered around and went back to wait by their “take away” station. 

  
After downing my caffeine bliss, I was very intrigued by the expresso blend used – it was quite exceptional and so after discovering it was their house blend, aptly called “Tsunami”, I walked off to the roastery section to purchase my bag of beans.

  
Upon entering, there are gadgets (aeropress, Hario V60 and more) on the left-hand side of the wall, plus I was greeted very nicely by Kersti from Estonia. As we talked, she sensed I was not just another buff and mentioned that she was also holding a coffee tasting session later that day.

  
 I noticed two coffees from EspressoLab, Cape Town, chatted for a bit and ran out to meet my very patient cousin, who was driving around wondering why it was taking me 10 minutes just to drink a cup of coffee.

So, whats changed? More people, eclectic atmosphere, the smell of success and coffee tasting. By having your own roastery, you have access to multiple revenue streams – you gain control of your raw material and product line, coffee, you can sell coffee to other cafes and of course, you can hold coffee tasting sessions. On the latter, for the great value price of AED75 (Euros20), you can have an hour or more session on how to taste coffee – I did something similar at Escape Caffe in Cape Town, once a month. Hats off to the Sum of Us/Tom Arnel and Sergio.

But we’re not finished yet…

  
The coffee, which I brewed this morning, called the Tsunami or the Sum of Us house espresso blend.

   

I call it splitting the heart. Enough of the pedantic, what did it taste like? Hints of toffee and believe it or not caramelised cashews, yummy. Worth the price and transport from Dubai to Vienna in my baggage.

So, if you’re in Dubai and are reading this, pop down to the Sum of Us, enjoy some breakfast, coffee and atmosphere for me and buy some coffee to be brewed how you like.

Ma’assalama, as they say in the Emirates.

 


The Best Coffee Shop in a Mall: Common Grounds, Dubai

  
Usually, malls are dry places for creativity, where only the big chains can afford the exorbitant rental prices, stifling independent and artisan retailers, so when you see something different in a mall, it catches my eye, and no more so that coffee or/and food shops.

I recall about 7 years ago walking into a mall in Cairo and seeing the famous Venetian coffee shop, Caffe del Doge – sceptical, I went in and was really intrigued by the enthusiasm of the baristi – the coffee was typical Italian, dark roast, but prepared with care and lots of etching (not latte art, but using chocolate syrup to draws patterns). Back then, I thought that was the best coffee shop in a mall. Then about 3 years ago, I went into Westfield Stratford in London and was pleasantly surprised to have coffee at Grind. Attention to detail in preparation, coupled with great espresso machines, topped up with cakes, customer friendly staff in a very busy environment made for a very electable coffee shop environment and for me back then, the best coffee shop in a mall.

But now…. we have a new contender… drum roll…..

With two Victoria Arduino Black Eagle two group machines (i.e. the most expensive espresso machine in the World, designed by Jim Hoffmann – see my last post), 

  
 a coffee menu, offering filter coffee especially brewed for you using a chemed, aeropress or Hario V60, coffee beans on sale, a very welcome spread of cakes, sweet bites, pastries and more, including a food menu with wide appeal, friendly staff, the brainchild of serious coffee fanatics and located in a the city of malls and more, comes…..

Common Grounds in the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.

  
The brainchild of Tom&Serg, Common Grounds is their third outlet in Dubai, after the Sum of Us. The latter location is now their coffee heaven location, where all their coffees are roasted and dispatched to their shops, with espresso blends and filter roasts  on offer.

Located in a mall, Common Grounds had to be different – first off all, it’s in the Mall of the Emirates extension – this remains one of Dubai’s most popular malls and is famous for the one that has the ski slope, amongst other popular attraction and designer shops. The shop is not too far from the movie theater area in the corner. For this location, Tom&Serg had to offer more food and dessert and own 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I visited I had a burger, prior to my flat white of course 

  
and was really spoilt for choice on the desserts (almond and orange cake, mini-cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, pastries and more), I decided on the almond and orange cake.   

The staff from France and South Africa were really friendly and couldn’t do enough. The barista were available to offer coffee geeks like me a choice of coffee based on brew process – I settled for the chemex.

I could easily have been in a cafe in central London in terms of the attention to detail – with it’s laid back feel and no evidence of being a chain, Common Grounds has a unique and independent cafe appeal. As you know, I like shopping (mostly outside and not in malls, unless it’s for food) and visiting Dubai, but now I’m rest assured that no matter how much shopping I’m doing, not to mention, my wife and daughter are doing, I can always escape if I’m Dubai to a cafe to relax and drink great coffee.

A well deserved title from me “the best coffee in a Mall”, but let me know if there’s somewhere else, I’ve missed in the World of Coffee.


Vienna Coffee Diary: At Jonas Reindl – A Piece of NYC & London in Vienna

Cortado

Cortado

The first thing that hits you when you walk into this Vienna Coffee Shop, which sits opposite an iconic Viennese building – the Votivkirche (People’s Church) housed inside the Sigmund Freund Park in the 9th District, is that you could easily be inside a London or New York Third Wave Coffee Shop. From that, I mean the design – its classic Anglophone – with a fridge on the right hand-side stocking trendy looking soft drinks, a basket with goodies and a display of tools for coffee lovers.

As you move further towards the ordering counter, there’s a display – not of Austrian style cakes – but rather of Anglophone style goodies displayed in delectable glass dome cake stands – double layer chocolate cakes, carrot cake, banana bread, brownies, granola pots and sandwiches wrapped in organic looking brown paper – there’s even a counter behind, where sandwiches can be freshly made to order, together with the preparation of couscous bowls for a healthy lunch.

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If you want to “escape” to NYC, they even have Pastrami Nights every Thursdays. Furthermore, if that wasn’t enough, they open until 10pm every night, except Sundays, which possibly makes them the only new age style coffee shop in Vienna that stay open to 10pm and possibly in Europe. So, after a long day at work, shopping, visiting museums or if you want to meet up with friends to have a great cup f coffee, Jonas Reindl is open to satisfy your cravings.

If you visit the website you will get a full description of the amount of work that has gone into selecting their furniture – recycled Indonesian teak wood, 100 year old chairs – very vintage, but in summary, the décor is very cosy with homely brown leather chairs and sofas, natural wooden tables, high chairs with black metallic frames – in the summer, you can sit outside, get a tan or just people watch. In the winter, it’s cosier, with calming lighting and Frank Sinatra-esqe music. So, you can imagine – people come here to hang out, relax and enjoy the atmosphere with a good cup of coffee and cakes.

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Now to the coffee – on machines, they’ve got a Dalla Corte 2 group machine, top class espresso grinders, a brew station for filter coffee (V60, aeropress, chemex and more).  To compliment the tools, there’s a coffee menu, displayed on a blackboard style wall highlighting the espresso and filter blend coffees on offer, accompanied by mouth-watering taste profiles – coffees tend to be a house blend, from Süssmund Kaffee (a local Austrian roaster) and guest espresso and filter blend from top coffee roasters on Europe’s mainland.

BUT gadgets and coffee never maketh a café to be featured on this site, so you’ll be glad to know that well-trained and friendly baristi, who speak English are on hand too. The barisiti are always open to discuss what’s on offer and how it might go with your chosen coffee – on one occasion, I wanted a Cortado, using a 150ml glass and that wasn’t a problem – happy customer – see top of post for pic.


I love coming here, because I can get a nice slice of something sweet, accompanied with at least 2 good cups of coffee – usually a milk based one and to finish off with an espresso or filter brew – sometimes a very short Americano, made to order (gee! I’m fussy). On my first trip, being a little bit doubtful, I went straight for a filter blend to check out the skill of the barista (a half Austrian and half Australian guy), where my coffee was prepared using the kalita wave brew filter – see above for brew action and below for the end product – delicious !

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All in all, a great place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon with friends and family – my daughter keeps asking me when we can go back to have that chocolate cake.


I’ve also noticed that their clientele is not just increasing but is becoming more and more diverse with respect to ethnicity, age and culture.

So, if you want to ”escape”, come here and well done Jonas Reindl and staff.

Jonas Reindl

Währingerstraße 2-4, 1090 Wien

http://www.jonasreindl.at/the-cafe/


The London Coffee Diary 2: Curators Coffee II

 Not too far from Mother’s Milk, and actually the street before, is Margaret Street, where you’ll find Curators Coffee Gallery on 51 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SG. For a history of Curators Coffee, see my post here. In summary, Curators Coffee is the brainchild of Catherine, former head barista at Kaffeine. Curators Coffee Gallery is the second location, right in the heart of London’s shopping universe.

BUT, before I tell you about this spot, let’s look at the word, CURATOR.

It’s linked to curate or curated, which for those who don’t sleep with a Dictionary under their pillow or I guess these days, have the Dictionary app on their mobile phone, means:

Someone who looks after something special like in a museum or a piece of art or who selects something special for a medium, like a website.

So perhaps, we can say that at Curators Coffee, they have paid particular attention to selecting their coffees and an how to present them, whilst looking after you or your taste buds.

The Entrance

The décor

It’s quite easy to walk by this spot, primarily because the decor is quite sombre – there are no bright lights announcing that you’ve arrived at this top coffee spot in the West End, nor is the entrance dominated by a lively crowd and loud music, accompanied by happy customers chatting at the top of their voice. The mood has been dictated, perhaps by the name, a gallery – well, here we have a gallery of coffee – and downstairs the wall is now littered with art. In addition, they’ve gone for low level lighting, a blue black mood and even though the ceiling is white, the shop floor only really lightens up on sunny days, where the Sun can easily peep through the ceiling window. But, don’t be fooled, where the decor can be sombre, but soothing, easy for you to escape, the coffee and attention to detail will awaken your coffee senses.

Equipment and Coffee

First up, for espresso drink lovers,  there’s a burgundy enclaved La Marzocco Strada, with corresponding Mahl Konig coffee grinders.

The Espresso Stuff

The Espresso Stuff

For coffee purists, the filter brew centre is dominated by copper designed Hario kettles, accompanied by a coffee menu sheet, where you can choose your coffee and style of preparation – chemex, hario V60 and aeropress.

The Brew Bar

The Brew Bar

The backdrop is dominated by coffees on offer and brew equipment to purchase. Curators tend to favour Nude Espresso Coffee Roasters (London based) as their in-house espresso blend but this is complimented, at least for the filter brew, with coffee from different English coffee roasters.

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Food and other Drinks

By curated, they have selected, tried and also offer coffee inspired cocktails – a strawberry one during the summer, which regularly sells out – trust me.


 On the food, there are sandwiches and salads, using exotic recipes, where the generous plates, reminiscent of Otto Lenghi cookbooks, are topped with colourful leaves, pomegranates, cranberries, various nuts, pulses and vegetables like sweet potato. Let’s not forget one of my faves, delectable cakes – I’m usually spoilt for choice on the sweet stuff as my tastebuds are lit up with excitement – banana and nut bread, carrot cake, brownies, pastries – ok, I’m getting carried away.

So why go..

Well for a start, the staff are friendly, know what they’re doing as one of the barista is a contestant for the latte art championships;

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Go girl!!!

I love coming here because I’m guaranteed well “curated” coffee and accompanying tasty delights in a relaxing atmosphere, where I can “escape”. I also use it as my primary meeting point to catch up with friends because the mood is so relaxed, especially downstairs, where you can easily spend hours just chatting.
 The staff aren’t going to hassle you to order every five minutes, but they don’t have to – once you pass by the till and see all that colourful food and smell the coffee, you’ll be heading downstairs, waiting for your order to be delivered to you.
So go get curated….

Brew Bar

  


The London Coffee Diary 1: Mother’s Milk

Milk Frothing
It seems like every year I’ve got to do an update on the London Coffee Scene, so here’s my 2015 version, part 1. Let’s start with the funnily named tongue in cheek, Mother’s Milk. I’m not sure where they got the name from, but our first culinary love, tends to be our mother’s milk, but perhaps here they meant, the first milk we fall in love as adults is a well frothed milk, used for a milk based espresso coffee drink.

It’s like a hole in the wall, and almost easy to miss, just off the Regent’s Street end closer to Regent’s Park – so, if you’re at Oxford Circus, with the Nike Store on your right, go around the corner and walk down and it’s the third street on the right, Little Portland Street. When I visited they were at number 12, but from 19 October 2015, they’ll be on 22-23 Little Portland Street.

Mother’s Milk is no frills, but what stands out in the left hand corner is the manual, hand lever 2 group Victoria Arduino espresso machine. It sits in the corner like a museum piece but comes alive when attended to by the barista, on this occasion, Will, one of two owners.

Naturally I ordered a milk based drink resembling a mini cappuccino, aka, a cortado – cuter version with a double shot of espresso and less milk. Well, you can’t come to a cafe called Mother’s Milk and not test out their milk frothing skills. A cute little love heart latte art to top it off.

 Anyway, another bonus on offer is the coffee used at this sweet spot, JB Kaffee from Germany. I had heard of them from another cafe in London, who thought they were one of the best coffee roasters in the World, so naturally I was excited to finally taste coffee from this roaster. In addition, I was tempted to buy one of the bags on offer – a wait for it, Costa Rica natural – this may not make sense, but I promise a separate post on it. In summary, this small spot packs a big punch – just before I left, a couple from Malaysia dropped by and from what I gathered whenever they are in London, they visit Mother’s Milk. Highly recommended whenever you’re in Central London and to buy great coffee too.

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Drinking Coffee in Dubai: The Sum of Us and more….

 

The Sum of Us

I could easily have done one post on this cafe, which comes from the team behind Tom&Serg (click here for my post on them) because the space and what’s on offer here is quite extensive. Located at the top end of the famous Shaykh Zayed Road (the road lined with all the skyscrapers, The Emirates Towers, et all and famous 5 star hotels), The Sum of Us is just behind the new Sheraton Hotel and easily located at Burj al Salma Centre, 6th Street, Trade Centre. During the cooler months, it would be ideal to sit outside, but we visited a few weeks back, when it was 40C outside and sanely sat inside. It was a bit quiet when we visited as it had just opened a few weeks back but that gave my kids and I the leisure to stroll around and take lots of pics and for me to specifically chat with the staff and head barista, Fiona, from Ukraine, but more recently of Nude Coffee in Soho, London.


First up what’s different ? The Roastery – I strongly believe that in developing markets, the tide rests with the supplier and in this case, the roaster. In developed markets, it’s fine for a busy cafe, pumping out 600 to 1,000 cups of coffee a day to order from a reputable roaster, because the investment financially and time wise is huge. However, when you’re in an economy like the Middle East or Africa, then roasting and selling your own opens up “multiple revenue streams” – the buzz word for spreading your opportunities with just one capital investment. Ok!, enough of my economic baffle, but I speak from experience with escape caffe and just my observation of the huge margins when you roast greens into drinkable coffee. So, in summary, as hinted to Tom and Serg, roasting your own is great. However, not to steal their thunder (a British term), Raw Coffee Roasters, (read my post on them here) the current premium roaster in Dubai, suppliers of Tom and Serg, are also helping the Sum of Us with setting up their roastery. In fact I spotted their van outside the cafe when we were there. It’s very magnanimous of Raw to help what would potentially be a competitor, well done to Kim and her team.

Sharing the space downstairs with the roastery, is their in-house bakery, displaying recently baked goods and famous for their sourdough bread. In addition, there’s a coffee bar with a La Marzocco Strada and some seating and a take away booth.


 Upstairs, there’s a lot more seating with an airy feel and some subtle decor and fine touches, open plan kitchen, complete with another brew bar and La Marzocco Linea, naturally.


 On offer is coffee, of course, together with small but filling, no frills food, celebrating the eclectic culture of Dubai, which means carefully chosen street food from around the World. For the not so adventurous, there are burgers, and for the hardcore brekkie fans, like me, there’s breakfast served well into the afternoon. I must admit I was tempted to order of the breakfast menu but decided to try the Chicken Katsu Bowl instead, as I’ve never heard of it.


On coffee, first off was the flat white


and after my meal, I asked Fiona to make me an Ethiopian using a Hario V60.


Coffee fix done, I was glad to visit the Sum of Us and look forward to reading more about it in the future and of course visiting it again God willing. Before I leave, I should add that another major difference between tom andsErg and the Sum of Us, is that the latter are also offering dinner. For me that means one thing as a coffee geek; finally a place to get great coffee in the night when in Dubai, yay! Read more about their focus on http://thesumofusdubai.com

 

Kaffeine Projekt @DubaiMall

So, you’re in the largest shopping mall under one roof in the World and after walking around for hours googling (nothing to do with the internet but the original English word for looking at something) at the World’s top retail brands from Louis Vuitton, Rolex, to Zara, Topshop, Hamleys et al, you need coffee right ? Well, I did mine in reverse, as we traversed the valet parking with Bentleys, Ferraris and more into the main entrance of Dubai Mall, I was already looking for coffee and stumbled at Kaffeine Projekt. After quizzing the barista, Ren, about how long he pulls an espresso shot and I asked him where he was trained, I decided to try their coffee and went for a cappuccino, which I often do, when I want to try both their espresso and milk frothing/pouring skills.


So impressed was I with him, that the next time we visited Dubai Mall before the end of the holiday, I stopped there again and posted pics onto my instagram (fromcoffeewithlove). I’m not sure why they spell project the German way, but there. So, when you visit Dubai Mall, check them out at the main entrance, where al, the posh shops are and right behind the information desk.

 

Plato’s Cafe @Atlantisthepalm

Ok! I confess, we stayed at a real icon hotel in Dubai, Atlantis the Palm on the Palm Jumeirah. My daily coffee fix consisted of coffee using my aeropress, brought from Balthasar Cafe in Vienna but on one occasion I was really craving espresso based coffee. I decided to take the plunge and visit Plato’s Cafe in the West Wing. After quizzing the barista about how long she pulled an espresso shot, we decided to not agree on her 30 second shot. Next was the milk frothing and pouring interrogation – gee! I’m really a coffee snob – my wife and daughter quickly ran to sit down, rather than be associated with this coffee fanatic.So, I asked her if she could pour a tulip and she said yes and then I took the plunge.

Using illy coffee, like all the restaurants at the Atlantis, the coffee was fine but it satisfied my fix with a carefully poured cappuccino using posh villery and boch crockery – very posh indeed. Ok, so if you do visit or stay at the Atlantis, try the coffee at Platos Cafe in the West Wing.

So, that’s my take on cafes in Dubai, but I have heard that Speciality Batch will be opening a cafe very soon in Dubai, so search out for them if you live in Dubai.



Drinking Coffee in Oxford

 So, it’s the holiday season again , yay! Time to explore new cities, experience new food, explore history, learn a new language, soak up another culture and of course check out new cafes. So, if you’re off to England and the most visited city in the World, London, and it gets a bit hectic and hot – then I recommend you pop over to one of the most traditional and historic cities in England, Oxford. Famous for its World Class university and cappuccino brown traditional buildings, Oxford is about a 40 minute train ride or 1.5 hours bus ride away from London, with buses running almost every 15 minutes from Victoria Station, you can easily visit Oxford in a day.

Zappis Bike Cafe

So, after you’ve soaked up the Oxford sites, and want to relax your feet,  then it’s time for a great cup of coffee to finish off the experience. Lucky for you, I’ve done some research and I start with the best, just a stone throw away from the bus station, Zappi’s, which is actually located on the first floor of a bike shop with the same name on 28-32 St Michael’s St, Oxford.


 It’s not posh looking but the owner (I forgot his name) was very welcoming. He doesn’t confine himself to one roaster and when I visited, he had just got a batch of coffee from Caravan in London, which was eager to try out. He focuses on getting the best from each coffee and wants customers to have a tasteful experience when they visit. They’ve got a la marzocco Linea and I had to get a flat white, see pic above, yummy. There are cakes, sandwiches and some chairs to relax and of course bikes to ogle at.

 

 

The Missing Bean

It prides itself as the first independent antipodean cafe in Oxford, so it’s soaked in Oxford independent caffe culture tradition. Located not to far from Zappis, on 14 Turl Street, Oxford, The Missing Bean also roasts their own coffee and have opened a second shop in Oxford city too. Check out their website www.themissingbean.co.uk for more info. As for me, I visited for my milk free espresso experience on the way to catch the bus back to London, a double espresso.

It was a bit quiet and low key but I can imagine this cafe being the “it” spot with students during term time. They’ve got the gadgets and from what I saw of the menu, food and treats to get you by and accompany your caffeine shot.

So, there, two places to have tasteful coffee if and when you visit Oxford.


 That’s it from me, as I’m off to Dubai tomorrow, God willing, for sun, relaxation, great hotels, great food and coffee, yes, coffee – see my post on Tom&Serg, who now have a new place, The Sum of Us, which I pray to try when there and of course blog about.

Wherever you go this summer, I wish you a safe journey, an unforgettable pleasant experience, great food and of course great coffee, ciao.