Category Archives: Coffee News

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.

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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.


Cafe Le Marche: A New Coffee Shop in Vienna

 

Towards the end of last year, I was rushing to a charity event with my daughter opposite the Votivkirche, Schottentor, when I thought I walked past a new coffee shop. Of course I did a double take, walked back and went in, spotting a La Marzocco I said”I’ll be back….”.

and so I was, on that occasion to try out an espresso…

 

After downing this joy of an espresso, I was so thrilled to find another third wave style cafe in Vienna that I left without paying – my daughter was like “daddy did you pay?” With a quizzing gaze, I looked back at her and said”of course I did”. As I turned to look back before exiting I noticed the staff looking at me strangely with a bill in tier hadn’t. Embarrassingly, I apologised and paid.

A few weeks back, I went to try out their coffee again and their latte art skills to accompany a light lunch of organic quiche and got the best table for this beautiful pic (above), which kind of captures a kind of “je ne sais quoi” in that you could be in a French bistro by the sea. The decor lends itself to darker colours with a black ceiling, grey patterned tiles on the floors, industrial lighting, white subway tiling on the back wall and coffee bar, decked with a La Marzocco Strada in customised black and exposed piping on top a black marble top, decked too with Scandinavian glass display and cake displays – but there’s so much light coming in from the shop front that if they opted for light colours it would be blinding in there.

 

It’s not very big with about 4/5 tables sitting no more than 10-12 people but on a nice sunny day like when I went they had a few chairs out front – very European and French.


Their menu is very French Bistro “light” with sandwiches and quiche and some exotic sweet breads like blueberry banana, which I hope to taste next time. I guess the latter was popular because I guy walked in and just ordered that to go. They also offer breakfast with the traditional avocado toasts topped with poached eggs, home made granola and more. If you visit Vienna and want the type of breakfast you’ll find in a typical London third wave cafe, then come here as the menu will be familiar and you can get good coffee to wash down your grub too.

I found out that they get their coffee from someone I know – Charlie Fuerth, whose kids and mine attended kindergarten together a few years back. On the taste it was fruity with a bit of plum and knowing Charlie I’m sure he insisted that if they wanted his coffee they not only had to be properly trained but had to get a la Marzocco espresso machine. They also have some tools like one the latest tampers , which was tempting to buy but I guess I only need one.

 

Check out Cafe Le Marche in off-centre Vienna at Wahringer Strasse 6-8 in the Ninth District (1090), Vienna.


I was @ %Arabica, Dubai Mall – Dubai


I always knew that using a name like “arabica” for a cafe in an area predominantly occupied by Arabs would be a winner. In fact when I was debating whether to open cafe in Cape Town or Dubai back in 2009, the name I had tried to approach potential investors for Dubai was… “Cafe Arabica”. I thought back then and it has proven now as you will see in a few lines below that people will resonate well with an establishment that recognises their identity and their pace in the World – in this case, the world of coffee. So, now we have here a new brand,  %Arabica, which incidentally is Japanese – with their first coffee shop in Kyoto and now expanding to the Gulf, venturing into the most avant grade venue of the Arab world, Dubai and more specifically in the largest mall in the World, Dubai Mall.

I had already heard of this brand about a year ago, when they liked one of my coffee pics on Instagram and then I found out that they were going to open a coffee shop at the Dubai Mall in May 2016 – this seemed to have been postponed until September 2016 and so I knew that once given the opportunity to visit Dubai again, then I would head there, which is what I did in early February.

Located downstairs, just around the corner from the aquarium in Dubai Mall – thus is important because the mall is huge, and on the way to the Souk, opposite Sacoor Brothers is Arabica%.

As you enter, they’ve tried to escape the typical chain mall coffee shop feeling with cold decor and dotted place with coffee bean sacks, brown communal tables and chairs to give you that kind of authentic feel, alluding to their artisanal vibe – we are serious about coffee and if you are looking for Starbuck, head right back out.


They’ve got the kind of brew bar you would find in serious coffee shops in London, New York or Melbourne; 2 x two group slayer espresso machines, matching 2 group mazzer grinders, uber boiler and all the brew options of chemed, V60, etc.


You are prompted to order with a coffee menu, which impatient customers ignore and just ask for “a Latte”. There menu is impressive – they have their house blends but also some special 90+ beans, which will set you back $20 or more for a cup. However, although I think the is great for coffee lovers like me, it may be wise if they had more experienced staff on hand to explain why this latte or filter brew costs $5 and this one costs upwards of $20. I know “geisha” and 90+ coffees are expensive due to their taste profiles, rarity and relatively low production, but for someone just making the conversion from mass style chains to speciality coffee, they need to know that this isn’t just another gimmick.

On that last point, when I placed my order, I decided to go off the list and ask for a Cortado, coupled with some questions on bean origin. I hasten to add a proviso – if someone like me walks into a speciality coffee shop and see all the gadgets and understand all the coffee language, then my expectations are raised in that I expect the staff to be able to handle some basic questions. I did hesitate however on asking them to adjust the brew and pressure gauges like I usually do at Balthasar (Vienna), but that was only because the place was quite busy – my point about the word “Arabica”. On hearing that I wasn’t the typical customer, the head barista,Yash (who I found out later was formerly of Common Grounds, Mall of Emirates and UAE aeropress champion) decided that he would attend to me. During which time we briefly chatted about their focus and about his background and mine.

Ah! one cortado.

On the clientele, it was predominantly locals, Emiratis, dotted with passer byes and coffee aficionados judging by their orders.

After my cup, I decided to walk over and ask some more questions about their coffee, roast profiles etc (I’m sure if my wife was with me, her eyes would have rolled up, followed by a  sigh), but yet again it was Yash to the rescue. After convincing me to buy their house blend which is dark roasted (I am usually not a fan of dark roasted oily beans) and offering me a 90+ espresso shot, I bought a bag of beans, exchanged instagram addresses and was on my way.

In summary, Arabica is a welcome addition to Dubai Mall, which although gigantic, I’ve managed to become accustomed to getting around it without too much difficulty. I’m loving the concept that people are taking their coffee seriously and that even though their many customers might not know it up front, this is a small step in changing peoples perception of coffee. You no longer have to drive out into industrial complexes to get coffee and for tourists like me who don’t have easy access to road transportation, it is great to know that by using the Dubai Metro to the largest mall in the World, you don’t have to suffer with chain coffee but can get a good cuppa, even up till midnight – yes! they close at midnight – now this has to be one of the very few places in the World you can get speciality coffee at close to midnight. The jury might still be out on my “best coffee shop in a mall” award, recently given to Common Grounds (Mall of Emirates – see here), but I think Arabica could be a good contender and will fall in second for now. Nevertheless they are planning a massive expansion in 2017, with new shops planned for the whole Gulf area, Germany, France, USA and even England, so watch out for them.

Well done Arabica for the name and concept and I look forward to visiting many times when I visit Dubai insha’allah.


London Coffee Diary 2016

Cappuccino from Black Sheep

If you follow me on instagram and can flick through all the fashion posts, you’ll see that I was in London last August to visit family, eat, shop and of course drink coffee. The main difference between this trip and last years, to keep things fresh, is that I went out of my way to visit cafes that I’ve heard off, but never visited, so prepare yourself for another coffeelinary (perhaps I should claim this word) journey.

 

Store Street Espresso (formerly Continental Stores) 54 Tavistock Place Bloomsbury (Russell Square)

A sister shop to another one of London’s greats, Store Street Espresso, Continental Stores, now known as Store Street Espresso 2, is in the heart land of London student city, Bloomsbury, i.e. Russell Square and its surroundings. In fact their shop is opposite where my brother lives but when I visited during the Christmas period they were shut because all the students were gone. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were opened this time around in mid-summer. It’s designed with simple yet very Londonish decor and I’m sure there’s a story to do with the coffee bar with it’s large trunk style wooden edifice. 


With bar stools and patio like space at the back of the shop, there’s plenty to choose from;  cakes, salads, sandwiches and of course coffee, backed up with good service. Using Square Mile coffee on a Synesso espresso machine, I couldn’t help but order my daily flat white.

 

I should emphasise that their flat white is in sticking with the strict volume proportion guidelines, where the focus is on tasting the coffee and not flavoured milk, so don’t expect a 330ml cup, just enjoy the coffee.

 

The Attendant, 27a Foley Street, Fitzrovia

If you’re an avid follower of new cafes and unusual places to visit in London, then you may already have heard of the attendant. In short, it used to be an underground public toilet in the heart of Fitzrovia (area between Oxford Street and Regents Park) and was converted into a cafe a few years back. Don’t worry, as I re-assured my wife, the hygiene specialist – my wife that is – the place doesn’t smell of human waste, just coffee and cakes. It’s dark lit with the old urinals separate sitting areas with a barstool. 


I actually visited three times because I wanted to buy the Kenyan coffee they used to brew my aeropress on my first visit – I triumphed on the third visit. The carrot cake as well as the banana bread with poppy seeds are also highly recommended.


The attendant with its lead baristafrom Germany , also seems quite popular with tourists as every time I visited it was quite obvious that people were visiting to take pictures and order coffee, so join either the tourist or coffee fanatic trail and visit when you want a break from shopping on nearby Oxford Street.

 

Black Sheep Coffee, 5-7 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia

Not that far from the Attendant if you know your way around Fitzrovia, is black sheep coffee. 


I’ve known about this company for over 2 years since I was exposed to their coffee at the Ampersand Hotel. One of their unique points if their dedication to getting the best out of robusta coffee – the inferior coffee bean to arabica – but they seem to be doing a good job as I witnessed for myself a few months back when I ordered and brewed their coffee in the comfort of my home, see here. However, I had never been to their cafe, located near Goodge Street. With a dark and cosy interior and la marzocco GB5, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to creative savoury and sweet delights, but of course as I was in a rush, I just came for the coffee and as it turned out an inspiring chat with one of the staff, Ben, about international development. 


My daughter got a bit carried away snapping away as I sipped one of their blends with love see pic above at the top of the post. Also on sale are their bottles of cold brew;

Holborn Grind, 199 High Holborn, Bloomsbury

Back to Bloomsbury and closer to the city and law den of London, you’ll find one of the outposts of “the grind” portfolio, Holborn Grind;


They already have soho grind, london grind and shoreditch grind. The decor is bright and great for taking instagram pics of coffee and food – see their instagram page, mainly because the bright red cups surrounded by lots of natural light. They focus not just on savoury and sweet bites but in the evening they transform into a bar. Here for my daily espresso milk based fix, I went straight for a flat white to accompany my toasted ciabatta sandwich.


It’s not as relaxed as the Soho Grind version, where I’ve been many times perhaps because of the clientele but if in the area, worth a visit nevertheless for a good cuppa ‘ coffee.

So, where else?

If you’re rushing out of Soho and want something sweet to got with your coffee, try Crosstown Doughnut and Coffee, located on 4 Broadwick Street, who serve Caravan Coffee.


If you happen to be in Camden Town, near the Regent’s Park end and need a caffeine fix, then stop by at the Coffee Jar on 83 Parkway, who serve renowned Monmouth Coffee in a cute urban hideaway serving cakes and savoury delights too.


Although known to many, I also dropped by at Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (formerly Speakeasy) located at Lowndes Court, just off Caranaby Street for my daily fix and to grab two bags of coffee (Kaldi gate for espresso and Kenyan Black Othaya for filter).


With so much to see and places to get a great cup of coffee, London’s is still my fave coffee and shopping city, good on ya mate!!!! Mind the gap