Category Archives: Bean Talk – Coffees

The Tasting Files: Coffee from a Tin


Sometimes you get so used to something, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone and drinking good coffee is no exception. So, I was thinking “does all good coffee taste the same” and dare I say it “good coffee tastes the same”. So, when I miscalculated my coffee ordering and buying regime, I popped into a shop and thought, may be I should try this coffee from a tin again that people (non-coffee connoisseurs) are always saying to me, “you should try this”, so I picked up coffee from a tin, aka Illy coffee. 


Before I share my experience, it must be said that I used to buy Illy coffee many years ago, both the espresso and filter versions. So how was my experience after about 9 years;

First up, the packaging is nice – it’s like a nice thing to give away as a present or decorate your kitchen with.

Second, once you open the tin for the first time, I have to confess, the aroma is actually breath taking – it kind of takes you back to a cafe in Italy – it’s literally “Italian caffe culture in a tin”.

Third, it looks good. By this, I mean the crema is reddish brown, which means that a properly extracted espresso will look great and a well crafted cappuccino will look good because it will be easy to pour properly frothed milk to make lovely looking patterns with a great contrast of dark reddish cream and silky white milk.


Fourthly, it is not that difficult to extract a perfect espresso. The Illy blend of apparently 9 coffees from around the World, mainly Brazil, is not complicated and for consistency sake, you won’t have to make any major adjustments to the grinder as the coffee gets older.


Now, how about the most important part… the taste. For the sake of not being sued, the taste won’t make your taste buds sing if like me, you have been used to ordering coffee from the top micro coffee roasters in the World – there you go, I missed my regular coffee roasters stash.

Illy coffee will smell nice, pull easily, look great as an espresso and a cappuccino but may not taste nice – no pun intended here.

As usual, I don’t regret things nor experiences as they only add to life’s experiences. I’m grateful for the experience of tasting Illy coffee again after so many years, using a great espresso machine.


Drinking Coffee in Leicester, England


I assume by now you know how to pronounce the word “Leicester”  as LESTER, because if you watch English football, the team that won the premiership, against all odds in what I call the year of the “underdogs” came from this city, which also happens to be the city from where I studied economics at undergraduate level, many moons ago at the University of Leicester. Assumptions aside, on our annual visit to London this summer, I decided to take my family to the city where I attended my first stage of university studies for a day out. As a coffee lover, prior to boarding the train from the gloriously renovated St Pancras train station; it was obvious that I had to research the best places to drink specialty coffee in Leicester, but of course.

 

As we toured my old university, with some of the buildings looking and feeling exactly the same, like the lecture halls and one of the catering halls, I was baffled that the old student union building was completely different, with glass exterior walls and wait for it, a Starbucks. You will be glad to know that I didn’t’ fall into temptation and succumb to satisfy my caffeine pangs for a cup of coffee from Starbucks, but decided to wait for our trip into the old city. I must confess, the pizza I had at the new, well to me at least, student union cafeteria, was one of the best I’ve had, taste and value wise. I had to fight off my wife and kids, who had boringly settled for burgers.

 

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the library, where I often used to hang out 


(notice, I didn’t say study all the time, but hang out), had been revamped and was opened by none other than Her Royal Highness, the Queen of England.

 

St Martin’s Coffee Roasters – St. Martins Square, 2-6 Saint Martins Walk, Leicester LE1 5DG, UK

 

After visiting the Leicester City Football Club – my son insisted – we headed into town. First stop was St. Martins Coffee, which I’m sure must be the most specialty coffee venue in the city, complete with two floors. As you enter from one side, you are greeted with a La Marzocco Linea and lots of coffee roasted on-site to choose from (more on that below). 


They’ve also got delicious looking English style cakes and other drinks on display for non-coffee drinkers, like specialty teas (well their full name is St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants) and soft drinks. The downstairs is decked with your usual comfy leather sofas, steel and wooden chairs together with some cosy spots on the other side of the stairs too. 


As it was a very sunny and warm day – the summer in England was tops this year – it was about 25C; there was also an abundant of chairs, European style, outside.
Heading upstairs, there are more sitting spaces, but the main focus is the roastery, with lots of sacks stuffed presumably with green beans, waiting to be roasted. 


I met the head roaster (I’ve forgotten his name… sorry!), who just graduated from Leeds University but decided to head back home to Leicester – a very young and impressionable chap – he wasn’t even born when I used to live here and visit this space – which was my favourite Italian restaurant in the city (Joe Rigatoni). He shared with me their philosophy to introduce his city to “real” coffee, not compromising on quality and his expansion plans – in fact they are beginning to grow out of their space and plans are to move the roaster to another space to roast more so that they can accommodate an ever increasing number of customers from the food industry too – great!

To test their milk frothing skills, I ordered a cortado – something I don’t usually do in the middle of the afternoon when its 25C outside, but on this occasion, it had to be done. It went quite well with my lemon drizzle cake. Impressed with their offerings, I took two bags of coffee to test at home on my return to Vienna.

 

I found out later on their website that St. Martins are like the go-to-people for coffee in Leicester – by this I mean, they do everything from barista training to selling and leasing espresso machines. If you want to set up a coffee shop in Leicester or in the midlands, they are your guys. They can even develop a blend for your coffee shop if you want and assist with branding and packaging – wow! They are a small family business committed to serious coffee and if you want to find out more, check their website here http://www.stmartinscoffee.co.uk/

So, I’m going to commit myself and say this is probably the best place to get specialty coffee in Leicester with their focus on sourcing and roasting the best beans they can and just being a cool place to hang out too – it’s quite well located in terms of its location, but as it’s just off the main market, you might need google maps or a well-placed local to guide you.

Gourmet Coffee Bar and Kitchen, Leicester Railway Station

So, after my coffee exploits, we had to make a dash to catch our train. Arriving earlier than usual, I decided to test this little coffee spot with another La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, which I had noticed upon our arrival a few hours earlier. Placed right in front of the station exit and as my wife got distracted buying football magazines for our son, I made a dash for it and ordered an espresso to go. 


Not bad, slightly bright but I’m not sure if the paper cup had anything to do with it, but recommended for your way in or out from Leicester nevertheless.

 

So, there you have it, two coffee spots to check out in this smallish city (population of 330,000 based on 2011 census) – If you don’t know why the English call a place a city, then let me inform you thus – in England any place is automatically called a city if it has a cathedral in it – like a big church with an archbishop, no matter what the population or surface area is. For my postgraduate, I went to an even smaller place, Exeter (population of 124,000) but was baffled when it was referred to as a city and that’s when I learnt that it’s the cathedral that makes a city a city.

So, enough of cities for now, if you are feeling adventurous and want to pop out of London for a day trip – it’s only about an hour by train – then check this city out for some medieval landmarks, shopping that’s cheaper than London, Indian food and of course a good cup of coffee.


Drinking Coffee in Dubai: the coffee roasters edition 


So, I was completing a survey on Dubai a few weeks back and the final question was, “why would you advise anyone to visit Dubai”, So I started “if you love calm beaches, oceans where you can see your feet, stay in hotels with great value for money, eating food from different parts of the World, access to great shopping, a holiday that is great for both kids and parents alike….. and love coffee, then visit Dubai” Wait a minute “coffee”. Yes! It seems like every year I visit Dubai – can’t help it, the kids love it, plus I connect through there a lot – the coffee game has been raised. Before 2010, there was only one specialist roaster, Raw Coffee – read here. Then in 2014 two guys called Tom and Serg opened their Melbourne-esque style cafe with great coffee and world cuisine style menu with a strong focus on breakfast and brunches. Fast forward to 2016 and I couldn’t even visit all the specialist coffee roasters in Dubai alone. Tom and Serg now have 3 cafes (the original Tom&Serg, the sum of us and common grounds) – all featured on my website. In addition, they now roast their own coffee. There’s also Speciality Batch, Espresso Lab, Goldbox, which I couldn’t visit and Seven Fortunes, which I blogged about recently. Okay, so here’s a snapshot;

Speciality Batch/Espresso Lab

If you read my post on ratio’s coffee, Sharjah, you’ll know that I had already heard of Speciality Batch many moons ago. Specialty Batch roast in Dubai, focusing on roasting small batches of only single origin coffees.

Their coffees are favoured strongly by Espresso lab, located at the 100 Wellness centre – a very unassuming place, which I must confess, can easily be missed, as it’s located in a very residential area. Having just visited culinary boutique and being that it was like 40C outside, I popped in for a cold brew. The first thing that you notice is that this a no frills coffee place, manned by male and female baristi that seem very committed to coffee. 


I learnt afterwards that they are also a coffee school offering certified barista training too and that their owner, Ibrahim Al Mallouhi is the only Emirati certified by the American Barista & Coffee School, Barista Guild of America, SCAA and SCAE They don’t even serve any snack to go with your food and the only other drinks on offer are sparkling or still water. They have an innovative coffee menu, offering different type of beans with different brew options, coupled with expert advice on how to brew and of course they sell coffee. For the cold brew I wanted something not overtly fruity and they were served with these steel balls, which apparently have some kind of effect on the cold brew.

 

It looks gorgeous, doesn’t it ?

Speciality Batch are beginning to amass a large retail following, so you may start seeing their coffees at numerous speciality cafes opening up in Dubai now. Check speciality batch here and read more about Espresso Lab’s plans to roast their own coffees and expand here.

Leopolds of London

Located at the very Miami-esque part of Dubai, the Walk, is this newish restaurant – a franchise now only based in the UAE. In fact we just happened to enter this place by chance. As usual I was craving coffee at around 10pm and as we were walking through the Walk, decked out with flashy restaurants, like the Real Madrid Cafe, household retail outlets and of course the traditional coffee brands, I was close to giving up, when I saw a sign outside this facility about coffee. So, we popped in, egged on (English colloquialism for encouraged) by one of the staff. They were so delighted to hear that I loved coffee, that they took me upstairs to show me their roasting facility, surrounded by both green and recently roasted coffee beans. 


Naturally at that time, the roasting facility was shut, but after quizzing them about their focus and spotting their La Marzocco GB5, I decided to order a double espresso to accompany my triple layer red velvet cake. Before I carry on, they really have delectable cakes (carrot cakes, cheesecake, which my wife loved, chocolate fudge cake, etc) and a mouth watering menu here and for Dubai, I must confess, the value for money is great – shhh! keep it a secret.

 

So, it’s never too late for an espresso, even at close to midnight, yummy!. We went back twice and although I didn’t buy any coffee to take home, I’m willing to say, this was the best coffee at the JBR – the Walk. Visit their website.

 

So where else….

Seven Fortunes – affiliated with a company in Canada, these guys are really serious about coffee. I wrote a bit about them on my visit to Culinary Boutique but you can read about them here. A welcome addition to the speciality coffee roasting scene. So impressed was I with my visit to Culinary Boutique that I bough a large bag of espresso beans, which I really enjoyed on my return to Vienna.

 

Fruity and caramel like and great with milk too. Highly recommended and if you live in Dubai, they have an online shop too.

 

Goldbox Roastery – Again, I had heard of this specialist roaster a few months ago through instagram and actually wanted to visit them, but sadly they are closed on weekends. In any case I had the opportunity to taste their coffee when I visited Sharjah in May 2016, but most of the roasters I visited, had a lot of respect for them and recommended that I visit if I get another opportunity.

%arabica, Dubai Mall

This is really fresh news as this cafe just opened in Dubai in mid-September 2016, located at the World’s largest Mall, the Dubai Mall. Decked out with two very expensive Slayer Espresso machines, it;s definitely one to check out when I visit Dubai again insha’allah. For those of you reading this and located in Dubai, go there now and let me know what you think.

Signing off with this pic, so “where’s the good coffee in this place Dubai?” Well, there are too many man.

 

 


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’m Drinking a Special Coffee: JB Kaffee

JB Kaffee Espresso

A couple of years ago I went into a coffee shop in London and on the menu they had a guest espresso from “Jb Kaffee“. Puzzled, I asked if I could have the guest espresso as an espresso. He replied “sadly, we’re out and we won;t be getting anymore either, but I think this roaster is one of the best in the World”. Okay, I was curious – that was quite a profound statement and accolade. I forgot about this company for a while and then last year when I was looking for some new cafes to try in London, I saw Mother’s Milk, now located on 22-23 Little Portland St, London W1W 8BJ,  advertised that they were serving Jb Kaffee. To quote them:

We only offer JB because we think it’s the cremé-de-la-creme and so tasty it’s actually nice.

JB Kaffee is Johannes Bayer and Johannes Bayer is a top notch coffee roaster in Schwabhausen, Schwabhausen was recently voted the “nicest smelling place in Germany”.

And I’m sure the coffee roasted there is one of the reasons for this.

Luckily for me, Mother’s Milk were selling bags and I quickly purchased an Ethiopian Kochere bag. In any case, my curiosity didn’t stop there – I started searching for them and hey presto!, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could purchaser their coffee online. Since late 2015, I’ve ordered at least three times and for Ramadhan, my treat was to order 1kg of their coffees; 500g of espresso and 2 filter blends.

My coffee

So what do I like about them:

  • Easy to order online even though their website is in German
  • Delivery is fast with DHL, usually within a few days
  • But what about the coffee:
  • Wow! the aroma
  • Wow! the taste
  • Okay they roast pretty light, but my current brew at night is using the Colombian Antioquia san pascual with 16g with 240ml 90C on the hario V60 was, wait for it smooth like butter. Yes, there were other tastes but that sums it up.
  • you can order by size, 250g, 500g and up
  • And Wow! the price – not sure if I should say this, but definitely the best value for money for coffee of this quality in the World – check the prices yourself and gawp!
  • And most of all, its delectable and different


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So head to http://www.jbkaffee.de  and if you’re struggling, consult a German friend you have.

I can’t say more, but, you’ve got to try this coffee.

 


Making Espresso @ Home: The Video

So, I’ve been asked many times “how do you make ….. coffee” and then when I start explaining and for the who know me, I get kind of all geeky. The next question is “do you have a video on how to make this ?”And of course, I’m like “erm! no!” – looking all embarrassed. So, here’s a time lapse video of how to make espresso, BUT, I’ve got to go over the geeky bits first. What is espresso ? For this I’m going to revise my definition of espresso, which is;

In general, nine grammes of freshly ground Arabica coffee, tamped with 30 pounds or pressure, ground to a precision and brewed around 93-94.5C between 8 and 10 bars of pressure on an espresso machine that allows about 45ml (1.5 US fl ounce) of coffee to drip through into a cup in about 23-25 seconds, resulting in dark coffee with crema on top.

SOUNDS COMPLICATED DOESN’T IT ? The most important thing however, concerns the preparation; such as the type of coffee, the grind and the machine – if any of the essential elements are missing then you won’t get espresso but some mutant of it, which unfortunately you will get in most coffee shops.

So for my video, I used JB’s Kaffee espresso blend, with about 18.5 grammes of coffee for a double espresso, brewed at 93C. Enough talking, watch the vid;


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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