Category Archives: Coffee News

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.

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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

 

 


London Coffee Report 2018

I cannot see the end of 2018 without sharing a brief report of my coffee experiences in my favourite coffee city, London. Although I spent the least amount of days in London in 2018 that I have done in the past few years, I tried my best to try at least two new spots, so lets’ start with these.

When in the City of London, try Rosslyn Coffee, 78 Queen Victoria St, London EC4N 4SJ 

By the City of London, I don’t mean the actually city. If you visit London and ask them how do I get to the city, they will direct you to the square mile area, which was originally the “city gate” of London. There’s actually a brick wall, mostly destroyed, around this square mile, which now hosts the financial area of London and perhaps Europe. It is also where most of money is made in London, according to some stats. To get to this coffee shop, take the northern or central line to Bank, the station next to the Bank of England – you couldn’t get more “city like” than this. From the station, I highly recommend using goggle maps to get tot he cafe like I did, as there are many streets in this vicinity. However, if you work in the city, then you’ll know how to get there – it’s not far from the Bloomberg HQ.

So now, time for coffee

 

This is actually a picture of a clock in the cafe. A small spot, designed to churn out coffee at high speed to a busy on the go crowd on their synesso espresso machine coupled with batch brew coffee on the go. There won’t be much time for any chit chat with the staff, order, wait, pick up and go. If you have a bit of time, facing the till, look to your right and you can buy some coffee to take home (roasted for them), which I did – their espresso blend to be precise. In any case, I ordered a cortado, being mid-afternoon – a milk chocolate taste – the standard, carefully prepared.

Also on offer, are pastries and brownie bars. If you have a bit of time, which you should always have for coffee – have your coffee in a porcelain cup (it taste much better) and sit on some high stools before that important meeting. If you are lucky and if they have time, chat with the staff, which I did, with one of the owners, James, formerly of Caravan Coffee (who opened this spot with Mat, also formerly of Caravan Coffee). Highly recommended if you are in the city and want some coffee well prepared with no frills.

The Best Coffee in Balham: Story Works, 31 St John’ s Hill vs  Birdhouse Coffee 123 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1SZ

Actually I didn’t give them that acclaim but it was awarded to them by a reviewer. The main reason I was here was because I stayed with my brother in Clapham and by default I just head into the city for my specialty coffee fix without checking if there’s anything worthy in this part of London. So, one Sunday morning, I decided to google and having scanned some reviews and pics of shops, I decided on two – Story works (the smaller version of Story coffee) and birdhouse. I must confess when I checked the pics, I was bias towards Story Coffee, with their bright looking shop and their Kees van der Westen Spirit machine. I thought they must know what they are doing, plus it was in much closer proximity to my brothers house.

At Story Works, opposite the Clapham Junction Railway Station, I’m not sure if they had a trainee by himself on Sunday but I already started getting nervous when I asked him some basic coffee questions like type of coffee and commented in the machine. I also timed the shot and heard the manner in which the milk was frothed and eventually poured – let’s just say I dint even bother to take a picture and after a few sips, I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t finish the coffee and left hanging with coffee withdrawal symptoms. That’s why I decided to take the other 6-7 minutes of walking up hill to birdhouse, where I passed by the original Story Coffee on 115 St John’s Hill, which was quite packed as they offer enticing looking food, but another time.

As you enter, I must say, there is absolutely no frills. It’s reminisce of a classic general shop, grey and hints of yellow, nothing special, but I wasn’t here to take pics of their decor, but to taste their coffee, prepared using one grinder and a La Marzocco Linea. After my not so amusing experience at Story Coffee, I was already sceptical, but it paid off and I must confess after this beautifully crafted cappuccino, I was thinking “the best coffee in Wandsworth” as one reviewer mentioned might not be off the mark.

Also on offer is food, so you can brunch and lunch too – check goggle for some enticing looking food to savour.

One proviso, to be fairer I plan to try Story Coffee next time when in this area, but for now Birdhouse wins.

Coffee and the Best Banana Bread – Saint Espresso Kentish Town and Baker Street

I know I went here last year but it is a good spot to meet family in this part of London. So you can probably guess how my family conversations go”where can we meet Lameen?” “a coffee shop but let me choose and tell you where”. If we are going to meet, let me take control and chit and chatter over good coffee and cakes, so we were back here again – family gathering over lots of coffee and some hot chocolate too.

Coffee was good but I must confess the banana bread was the best I’ve had and I let the chef know too.

On another occasion, I tried their coffee shop at Baker’s Street (located at 214 Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 5RT), which is smaller for my daily cappuccino fix.

As you enter, you can pick up gadgets and coffee and as you approach the counter, there’s lots of treats (cakes, pastries, etc) to choose from before your coffee is made on their customised black linea La Marzocco machine. I met their manager, Rustam Baratov, who was very hospitable and we exchanged contacts.

 

When in the West End again – Notes Coffee, Bond Street Station and Grind Soho, 19 Beak St, Soho, London W1F 9RP but of course

But of course…. I’ve got to add the to go places. My first stop since 2017 has been Notes coffee located at Bond street underground station because it is just where we always end up as soon as we arrive in London – the West end. You are guaranteed a good cup of coffee, whether espresso based or batch brew and there’s always tempting sweet bites and friendly staff for a more pleasant experience.

 

Another place in the heart of the West End is soho and for coffee, Soho Grind. During the summer they were celebrating their tenth anniversary, which meant a fantastic batch brew and by fantastic, I mean juicy mouthfeel, balanced acidity, fruity – so good I went back not twice but thrice. In fact it was so good I wanted to buy a bag or tin (Grind sell their coffees in tins) but it was so special that if they had a price, it would have been one I would  have had to hide from my wife, ha!. In any case it wasn’t for sale, just for their customers to enjoy over and over again, until it ran out – lucky me and my taste buds.

So there we are my London coffee report just in time before we hit 2019 God willing.

All the best for the new year; don’t drink too much…. coffee and here’s to more great coffee shops opening in London in 2019, enjoy!

 

 


I was @ Brew Cafe, Dubai

It should no longer come as a surprise to you that whenever I get the opportunity to stop over in Dubai, I take it. So on the last occasion, my plan was to try another cafe that I had never been to. Calling my newly converted “to specialty coffee” friends in Dubai one afternoon and enquiring what they were up to, they mentioned that they wanted to try a new cafe out in Dubai and what do you know, coincidentally, praise God – it was one I had never been to – Brew Cafe, located in Jumeirah Road, Umm Suqeim 2. As I wasn’t that far away, another friend drop me by.

Upon entering I did my coffee geek thing – scout the cafe and ask the staff about the coffee on offer. In summary, they have an uber boiler and a special gadget, never seen before, for preparing filter coffee, a typical Swedish style glass counter, displaying some sweet treats and sandwiches. As you enter, there are some high chairs to your left and some lower seating on the right together with red tiled topped tables. Closer to the window on the left, where we sat, they have a low table with some chairs. To the far left near the brew counter, they have a shelf selling coffees and brewing gadgets. The pay point has a back drop of their logo.

However, the main scene stealer for me was the Kees van der Westen spirit two group coffee machine, which I haven’t seen for a while. A very fine looking machine that promises to deliver;

So, off to the coffee then. They have some unusual coffee menu items for the untrained eye, like the nitro (never tried) and the magic (I used to serve this at Escape in cape town but in summary it hails from Melbourne and mine was a triple shot cortado). I settled for a piccolo, knowing that later I couldn’t resist a filter brew.

On coffees, they have a strong bias for Barn Berlin – one of Berlin’s finest coffee roasters, offering for both espresso and filter brew, but I was wondering why they haven’t been loyal to the up and coming local coffee roasteries. However, I spotted a coffee bag from newly crowned world coffee roaster of the year Gardelli – a bag from Uganda – the Mzungu coffee project. Initially the barista, John, wanted to make this for me but when I went for it, he informed that there wasn’t enough to make my chemex, crying out loud. For my second brew, I chose a Costa Rican coffee, roasted by Barn Berlin. I shared some with my friends so that they could sample filter coffee not just from one of the consistently good coffee producing nations on earth, but more importantly to introduce their taste buds to a new way of tasting and drinking coffee.

Before I left I bought a bag of Barn Berlin Costa Rican Vulcan Azul coffee to take back to Vienna – perhaps I should have felt guilty from an environmental perspective – buying German roasted coffee, shipped to Dubai and then shipped back to Germany’s neighbour, Austria. Sorry!

In summary, another good Dubai coffee experience at a no frills place that might need more staff when it gets a bit busy. Nevertheless you are guaranteed some good coffee and if you have space, some sweet treats too.


A New Way to Taste Coffee: The Video

Yep! That’s it. It may seem a bit strange but a few months back I stumbled across this methodology. I was rushing out for work after my daily cappuccino and as I ran after the bus, I puffed up in exhaustion and I noticed, wow – that was a nice smell – it was like hot chocolate with caramel with some hints of black berries – so I puffed up again to delight my nose with those lovely aromas again – I love good smells. When I got home, I actually checked the taste profile on the coffee bag and none of the smells that I picked up as a I huffed and puffed earlier resembled the roasters profile. So, I thought, have I stumbled onto something new ? For this post, I used an espresso blend coffee from my fave Viennese cafe, Balthasar and brewed another cappuccino – the culprit below (taste profile was milk chocolate and red berries)

I must confess this time I picked up similar smells resembling the taste profile but with caramel on top too.

Actually, I’m not that full of myself (another English colloquial term for arrogant) to think this is new, because I’m sure that some other coffee connoisseurs have picked up on this before.

Strictly speaking it may not be another way to “taste” coffee, but rather another way to appreciate coffee through your nose, as after all, your nose is part of the tasting process before you actually taste the coffee with your mouth. It could also be another breakfast (if you cannot handle coffee at night) trick to impress your friends with like “I’m picking up some other taste profiles when I taste this coffee” and then you puff up through your nose and share what smells and aromas you’re picking up.

I encourage you to try out this method with other types of coffee like espresso and pour-over and delight your nose. Sniff and puff up away and enjoy.


Drinking Coffee in Mauritius: 2018

Lucky me. I work for an organisation that tries to help people around the World using science and technology to help remove challenges we take for granted in the “richer” parts of the World. This means that sometimes I have to travel, as you have witnessed if you’ve been reading through my blog for a while, to some exotic places, usually in Africa. So, about 10 days ago I had to visit Mauritius, an African island state/country in the Indian Ocean. With lots of work ahead, I had to arrive one day early. However, this was not my first time on this beautiful island, because if you recall, I was in Mauritius about 9 years ago, read here – when lucky me again, praise God, due to the financial crisis, I was able to take my family on holiday to a dream holiday resort and of course got the opportunity to visit the island and check out the coffee. Back then the holiday and food were great but the coffee was not. So, what has happened since I last visited 9 years on ? Well, the good news and I like to see things progress – is that the coffee game has increased in terms of quality, with the launch of Mauritius first coffee chain, Cafe Lux, tied to the hotel chain LUX resorts. The coffee is roasted in Mauritius and apparently according to their website, their baristi are trained by Deluxe Coffeeworks in Cape Town – see here for more about them when I blogged about them in 2010.

Back to 2018 – on this occasion, we were placed at a hotel next to Bagatelle – Mauritius biggest mall. At first, I thought ah! mall coffee. Looking through the mall map, I saw that there were a couple of South African chains (Vida e Caffe and Mugg & Bean), but that didn’t excite me – sorry. As I walked through, I noticed this cafe, right in the centre, near another South African chain , Woolworths. I studied the menu and the environment got excited by what I saw – coffee beyond espresso – third wave coffee, as well as cold drip. As you might know by now, before I took the plunge and ordered, I circled like an eagle, spotting the La Marzocco GB5 machine, the grinders and then most important of all – the barista at work.

After watching the barista at work and convinced by the passion in which he pulled his shots and poured his latte art, I decided to take the plunge and ordered a piccolo aka a Cortado here.

Hmmm! I enjoyed the contrast of the espresso blend with the milk – hints of chocolate and roasted almonds. I asked about the blend – Island, which as advertised on their website is 45% GUATEMALAN, 45% BRAZILIAN, 10% ETHIOPIAN (typical safe espresso blend with a hint of acidity, berries, fruit, nuts and chocolate) and more intriguing so, roasted in Mauritius – impressive. I enquired about the barista – called Jim and whether they sold whole beans. After recalculating in my mind the conversion rate (about 900 Mauritian rupee, using a rate of 42 rupee to 1 Euro = 21.4 Euro), so, a bit similar to European prices, I told them I’d be back.

And I was, not just once, but five times in a week. Once for a daily cappuccino, which I must confess was not as good as the first time, due to the barista’s relaxed attitude to brewing coffee. – it wasn’t Jim.

Before a trip to the beach, I tried their cold drip…..

Blended right to accommodate a cold coffee drink. I explained to my colleagues who were intrigued by the concept of cold coffee about the drip method, which takes several hours, but more importantly that the coffee and roast have to be right, more fruity and lighter in roast to eradicate the bitterness that accompanies coffee when it gets cold.

For an espresso after dinner and yet another South African restaurant –

Easy to drink and smooth is how I described it to a colleague, who trusted my recommendation.

On my last day, I went back to buy a 500g bag of espresso beans and my fave barista there, Jim, gave me a complimentary cappuccino.

But I wasn’t done yet, as before I returned to the hotel to pack, I tried their “shot in the dark” a double espresso and an Americano combined – a bit similar to my “sleep suicide” from escape caffe, and also a caramel cheesecake.

I also spotted them at the airport, kitted out with a Vittoria Arduino Black Eagle V388 – impressive piece of equipment, but as my flight had been cancelled and I was trying to re-route, I wasn’t up to queuing up for another coffee. Nevertheless I could smile at myself, because I had some coffee, which I would be looking forward to brewing at home once I arrived God willing. If I had had the chance, I was wondering whether they would be up for the award of “best coffee at an airport” as to date I still haven’t had good coffee at any airport.

In conclusion, when in Mauritius – a beautiful island with World class hotels/resorts, look out for this brand who have three branches or alternatively try their coffee if you are lucky enough to stay at the at their 5* hotel resort, Lux Belle Mare. Read more at http://www.cafelux.mu


10 Year Anniversary Giveaway

Yes, it’s here. My first blog post was on 30 August 2007 and so in about 7 days I’ll be celebrating my 10 year anniversary of writing about coffee – exciting? Yes, it is and I can’t believe how fast time has flown when you’re drinking 1000s of cups of coffee. So what’s on offer ? Coffee from one of my favourite coffee roaster, shipped to you, the lucky winner. To enter with a chance;

Tell me who my favourite coffee roaster is and explain in about 2 lines (140 characters like twitter) what you LOVE about drinking coffee.

The winner will be announced on 30 August 2o17. Good luck.