Category Archives: Coffee News

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.

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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


Drinking Coffee in Lagos and Abuja (Nigeria)


Drinking coffee in Lagos or for that matter Abuja – and where’s that ? Nigeria. Africa’s most populous and largest economy and I’ll let you on another secret, my ancestral home. So, this summer, I decided to venture to my ancestral home with the family to show them where I grew up, at least until I was 12 years old. After all the visits and endless dinners, and even though I took some coffee with me to brew on my aeropress, I still had the pangs for espresso based coffee or at least to see what was on offer.

Hans and Rene, Radisson  Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos

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We ventured into this cool, really, I mean it, cool establishment, apparently frequented by celebrities, located at one of Lagos more plush hotels to try their gelato, informally given the title of the best gelato in Africa. It’s rather hip with a well thought out decor – even the toilets are decked with Molton Brown hand wash and great for taking selfies, ask my daughter.


After downing my gelato, I noticed – okay, I lie, that’s the first thing I noticed, a La Marzocco GB5 2 group machine with matching La Marzocco double grinders behind the gelato counter. A bit sceptical, like I always am, I quizzed the barista about the machine and his skills – family looking away in embarrassment – and decided to take the plunge and order an espresso. I’m not sure if my inquisitiveness made the barista nervous or whether he was very dedicated to puling  a great shot, but after about 1 or was it 2 shots, he wasn’t happy and kept on trying to get a great shot, and voila, here it is again:

Even before I tell you about the other places I visited, this was definitely the best espresso coffee I had in Nigeria, so well done Hans and Rene. I didn’t get the chance to try out his milk frothing techniques as I ran out of time, but if they are as good as his espresso shots, then we might be in for a winner here with a good flat white or cappuccino. If you’re reading this and live in Lagos, Nigeria, please check it out and send me a pic.

Read more about the establishment here

 

Cafe Neo, 6 Agoro Odiyan Street,Victoria Island

Still on Victoria Island and not too far from Hans and Rene, is Lagos’ answer to a coffee chain. Started by two brothers who initially wanted to sell off a Rwandan coffee plantation and at the last minute thought “Hey! we like coffee, let’s rescue this joint and set up a coffee chain and introduce Rwandan coffee to this city of 15m, Lagos. It’s got your typical coffee chain vibe with cakes, muffins, excited baristi and free wifi. I met with one of the owners at their flagship cafe and chatted coffee and expansion ideas for close to 2 hours.

On the horizon, expect a coffee roasters section, a more diverse coffee offering and more – don’t want to give too much away. In any case, pay them a visit for a different vibe. Check out their website here http://www.mycafeneo.com 

The Orchid Bistro, 58 Isaac John St, Ikeja

 

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Okay, so we’re rushing to the airport Lagos style and I’m like, “I need to eat”, which for me, means coffee too. So, after this delicious oven roasted salmon, I check out the barista skills and bravely order an americano – I had a bad stomach ache and so just black coffee would do. I’m only writing about this cafe because the americano wasn’t bad – another pleasant surprise for me at least.

Classic Rock Cafe, 12b Ajesa Street, off by LG Showroom,Wuse 2, Aminu Kano Cres, Abuja, Nigeria, Abuja

Well, we had a very short stay in Lagos – 4 days to be precise and an even shorter one here, 3 days each way. So, on our last full day, I started frantically searching through google looking for a reputable place to try and one popped up, literally around the corner from where we were staying. The pictures were bit grey but when I spotted on their coffee menu, a cortado – I thought, okay, this looks promising. So, again I ventured. On entering, I was pleasantly surprised to see, …… drum roll…. a La Marzocco Strada – in case you’ve missed most of my posts on this wonderful machine, introduced to the World around 2010, it’s one of the best espresso machines in the World.


So, I walk up and start naming their gear – family cringe and head for the chairs. After the barista notices that I know a thing or two about coffee, he takes me on a tour – shows me their Probat coffee roaster – again, a really good coffee roasting machine to have and the rest of the place. It turns out, it’s a franchise from the USA, owned by a local business woman and that their shop actually featured on CNN recently. After some weird coincedences like his father has the same name as me and his wife comes from the same place I do, he excitedly makes me a cortado. He then let’s me pour my own milk, which I did and he got very excited. I’m definitely not a pro at latte art but he was so excited he called his colleague – wait until he sees what some of the guys do in London, Tokyo and NYC – he’ll probably pass out with delight.

In any case, check them out if you visit Abuja. http://classicrockcoffee.com/abuja-nigeria/

So, there we are, drinking coffee in Nigeria – I never thought that I’d write something like this, but there. Welcome to the World of Coffee and its expanding empire and I end with the quote;

 

“given enough coffee, I could rule the World” 

 

 


I was at Ratios Coffee, Sharjah, UAE


I know, back in the UAE again – I can’t help it, if Emirates offer the most competitive routes to the countries I travel in Africa, at least currently, and let’s face it, A 48 hour stopover in Dubai is too tempting to pass off. Okay, so sifting through Instagram, my eyes were caught by the introduction of the UAEs first or at least one of the first Synesso espresso machine at a shop in Sharjah – the next emirate to Dubai. So, when I visited just last week and I was tole we had to attend a wedding feast in Sharjah, I quickly opened up Instagram to try and find out which cafe it was, so that I won’t miss the opportunity to check out another specialty cafe. By chance, I actually found them through another committed coffee geek centre, Speciality Batch, (Espresso Lab, Hundred Wellness Centre, Dubai) whom I’ve never visited, but who seem to have the exclusive rights to Synesso in the UAE.

After stuffing my self with all kinds of food, I encouraged my friend, another keen coffee guy, to search and try out Ratios coffee. After driving around for close to 30 minutes – committed – we found the shop, which is like a goldmine in terms of speciality coffee in this region.
Overlooking the Sharjah Creek by an area called the Corniche, connecting both Souq Al Arsah and Souq Saqr, Ratio prides itself on keeping things simple. It works with speciality micro-coffee roasters from the region, which in this case is Speciality Batch, located in Dubai.

Khalid Faisal Al Qassemi, Vice Chairman of Al Qasimi Group and Owner of Ratios, said: “We opened Ratios to offer our guests perfectly brewed coffee unlike what is served in branded shops amidst a vibrant atmosphere and supported with exceptional customer service (source: Khaleej Times)

and I can’t complain about that…. although it was busy, you could tel that when busy, there’s a really relaxed vibe here, the kind you find in your typical neighbourhood cafe in New York or London.

Upon entering, it’s quite obvious that coffee is the champ here – okay they’ve got some sandwiches, pastries and sweets on display but the coffee stuff outweighs the others; there’s an uber boiler, a chemex, bags of specialty batch coffee everywhere, other coffee tools and of course the Synesso in customised colours.


I decided to place an order for a piccolo – a mini-latte but stronger in terms of coffee – double shot coffee with a lot less milk, because the drink is made in a 120ml cup.


I couldn’t however resist the cheesecake topped chocolate brownie – forgive me, but there wasn’t any dessert at the wedding, so I was craving something sweet and wow! Nothing like a great dessert to accompany a great coffee.
I took pics and sent them to my daughter to taunt her – it worked – “daddy can you please bring me a slice” Erm! not sure how that will work on a 5 hour flight.


The barista, Ronald, is really into his latte art, very easy to talk to and give advice.


On the latter, before leaving for Dubai, Ronald asked us to check out Cremolata, located in the University City of Sharjah, apparently awarded the best gelato in the Middle East but more importantly for me, they serve coffee from another new and top micro-roaster, gold box – another place to check sometime soon insha’allah. On this occasion we had an espresso – medium acidity and smooth, with hints of caramel.


So, if you’re tired of Dubai and wants o explore another Emirate not too far away, I highly recommend Ratios Coffee. If you can’t ask make it before Ramadhan, i.e. before 6 June, then check them out after and cool off with some gelato at Cremolata too, who also have a branch in Dubai.For more, see ratioscoffee


I was @ The Vienna Coffee Festival 2016

  
Things are changing in Vienna, one of the original European Coffee cities from way back. So, in 2016, they had the second ever coffee festival, running from 15-18 January 2016 at the Ottakringer Brauerie, which seemed well organised with a vast array of attendees from babies to 80 somethings, with free coffee on tap, lectures for nerds like me, top coffee machine suppliers and a brand new patented tamper from an Austrian manufacturer. so here’s a summary;

Hauck

  
 Probably the first revolution in tamping since the Espro tamper, way back over 10 years ago. So what’s special about it ? It’s made in Austria, using only Austrian materials, even the wood, but the most important thing is the built-in device that guarantees level tamping and hopefully a more consistent espresso shot.

Victoria Arduino Black Eagle

  
Well, I’ve already ranted on about this, after the last coffee event and during my visit to Kaffeine 2 in London. In short, it’s a very special machine – the most expensive espresso machine in the World, etc. I was happy to learn that Jonas Reindl in Vienna now have one and so does top roaster and coffee connoisseur extraordinare,  Jo Wechlesberger of Vienna School of Coffee. The main distributor, Christian Kaiserseder, was happy to learn that I knew of the machine, made me an espresso and also told me about their new revolutionary grinder, which maintains an extraction temperature using flat burrs. In short, the more you grind in a typical grinder, the warmer the machine becomes affecting the freshly ground coffee and hence taste.

La Marzocco

  
  Still on machines, glad to have met Espresso Solutions owner Reinhold and his team again, who had the Linea Mini-Home on offer for today only at the bargain price of EUR3,600. In any case, things have really changed as it’s been almost 10 years when I first met Reinhold and we lamented about how there were no cafes in Vienna with a La Marzocco machine. I hung out with Charlie Furth (Fuerthkaffee.eu), another Vienna based roaster, whom I’ve know for several years as our kids attended the same kindergarten – our kids are now teenagers. In any case, I waited to taste his latest offering, an Indonesian Coffee from Bali, which had a pineapple acidity and something mysterious.

Jo Wechlesberger aka Vienna School of Coffee

 Upon entry, you are greeted by Jo and her coffee jeep and caravan, which has been pimped up as mini cafe, offering very high quality coffee – probably the best mobile coffee cart in the World if you consider who’s running it – top barista, top coffee roaster, top SCAE judge – need I say more. She’s only one of the exhibitors selling coffee, coffee bags and crepes, but she’s raking it in, as also there were lots of coffee exhibitors using her coffee inside. Fro 2016, Jo plans to get back to basics, brewing coffee with love, yay!!!

Coffee Theatre

  
On the first level, there’s a coffee theatre, where pros share their knowledge with willing ears. I passerby quickly to hear a Brit from Falcon Coffee giving a lecture on coffee tasting and also met Mr Andreas Idl, CEO of Cropster, who develop “Software for coffee roasters, cuppers, traders, and producers to make consistently great coffee”  and work with Workshop Coffee and Square Mile Coffee (two of my fave UK based roasters).

Balthasar Coffee

  
As you know, one of my fave coffee shops in Vienna, were serving high quality championship filter coffee using the chemex, aeropress and Hario V60 methods, as well as selling coffee, which seemed to be flying of the shelf too.

Also on show was the Austrian barista and latte art championships and some other events.

After 3 espressos, 1 filter brewed coffee and a cappuccino I was caffeined up and ready to go, but I was glad to visit what I hope will become a prominent event on the coffee scene in Vienna.