I’m Drinking the Sweetest Filter Coffee I ever had

I just got back from London and bought a few coffee bags from some London coffee roasters and first up on the filter was for Caravan Coffee Roasters. I selected a natural from Guatemala from their filter selection because I always find naturals more intriguing and especially more so from Central America, as naturals are quite rare from this part of the coffee growing world.

I brewed La Nueva Natural Guatemala on the Hario V60 as I have missed… yes, I had missed brewing coffee on a V60 for two weeks. Using a menu of

  • 15.3 g freshly ground coffee on my Wilfa Grinder
  • 94C on my fellow EKG kettle
  • First pour of 43ml
  • Wait for 40 seconds
  • Second pour all the way to 227ml of water

I decided to serve myself using a glass cup as opposed to a ceramic. I guess I thought I’d like to accentuate the sweetness of this cup as much as possible and yes I was comely taken aback.

My first sip just blew my taste buds away with the poignant sweetness, almost white sugar like, with hints of caramel. It was so sweet that I was just sitting down for a few seconds wandering if I had added something to the cup by mistake.

The bag mentions taste notes of brioche ( the classic sweet French bread, using lots of eggs and butter with sugar), flaked almonds and blueberry.

For me,

🔵 it was more like a sweeter berry (blueberries aren’t that sweet)

🔵 white sugar with hints of caramel 😋

On the second day, I served myself the coffee in a ceramic cup, and then the notes were more balanced, with cane type sugar and darker berries … perhaps blueberry 🫐

If you’re in the UK, I strongly encourage you to order this one of a kind sweet coffee (link above) as Caravan usually offer free delivery for orders over GBP20 and deliver very fast, based on when the UK was in the EU and I used to order to Vienna.

The Best Smelling Cortado I ever had

As soon as Ramadhan finished in May 2022, I rushed to meet a friend at one of my fave cafes in Dubai, Qahwaty at the Dubai International Financial Centre (known as DIFC), which hosts as many international companies you can think off. As I waited for a friend, the head barista , Dhani, hailing from Indonesia asked me what I thought about my cortado and I replied that it was fine. Unimpressed with my answer, I think, he then asked me what I love to taste in espresso based coffee with milk and I said… “well balanced, low-to-medium acidity, not too much fruit, hints of nuts and spices like vanilla (actually like my blend) and then he said, “okay I’m going to prepare something for you”

As I waited and sipped my cortado, he presented this…

Upon raising the cup to my mouth, I was hit by the smell of tropical fruits like mango and banana (now, these are one of my five favourite fruits – the rest are pineapple, strawberries and pear, in case you were wondering). Okay I digress.

BUT did you know that 80% of our taste buds come from our sense of smell ? If you don’t believe me, just google it here. It’s what I also learnt when I did the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Sensory Skills course in June last year.

So, you can imagine the anticipation of my taste buds when I smelt this tropical nirvana. As I tasted the coffee, I detected hints of pineapple acidity and although the coffee smelt like a topical paradise, the taste was a lot more subdued – I can’t imagine a banana, mango coffee milkshake with hot milk….

BUT I was not disappointed, as I rejected my earlier cortado in favour of this myriad of flavours in a cup. Wow, wow, wow – said thrice for excitement.

Of course I questioned Dhani about what he did as he was delighted with my response. In short he created a blend of coffee on the spot using Colombian coffee and Brazil from two different roasters based in Dubai.

Wow!

I just thank God for this experience which I won’t forget for the rest of my life.

Indeed the best smelling milk based espresso drink I have ever had. Here it is one more time

If you are ever in the DIFC area, look out for them – a small coffee shop located outside the gate village, first floor, in front off the Ritz Carlton, opposite Wild and Moon and not too far from ICD Brookfield.

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.

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.

 

Thanks @ Hackney Coffee Company for a Friendly Coffee

  

 Thanks to Jon Penn, co-founder of Hackney Coffee Company, located on 499 Hackney Road, London for reaching out to me through Instagram and sending me a bag of delicious Nicaragua Nuevo Segouia Catuai, natural dried arabica coffee.

About the coffee, the taste profile is advertised as rum, raisin and cascara tea. I can’t say for sure that I picked up those exact profiles, except for the cascara tea, when I tested it cold, leaving the coffee fro about 20 minutes. What I picked up was dried berries, like cherry, a fruity burst, medium acidity, well balanced and on calling dark chocolate.

   
  My colleague, an expert wine taster actually described it as a

Friendly coffee

By that, he meant, well balanced, pleasant to drink, raspberries, medium acidity and well balanced.

A pleasant cup.

On brewing method, I tried it out using an aeropress, but I must confess I loved it better using a Hario V60. This is where I was able to pick up a high tasting notes. In fact I liked this coffee so much, that I visited their website to try and order it, but form what I gather, they don’t have an online shop yet.

  
so, if ya down in East London, go grab a cuppa at Hackney Coffee Company, mate – sorry couldn’t help myself in putting a typical cockney accent.

I’m Drinking a Cup of Crema

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I know, look at that crema and although I can’t capture the depth of it in the cup, trust me, the cream is literally half of the coffee in the cup. Curious ? Of course you are, that’s why you’re still reading. In short, this is a pure robusta espresso blend. If you look through my pages on types of coffee, you will know that there are two main types of coffee, arabica and robusta. The latter is a cheaper variety of coffee with a much higher caffeine content, inferior in taste and used mostly for the ghastly stuff called “instant coffee” Sorry! but I’m a self-confessed coffee snob and drinking instant coffee is like saying you’re eating fresh fruit that has been somehow preserved for many months and years and looks like fruit – I’d rather drink water. Ok! I digress, but I’m coming to the good bit.

Traditionally, robusta is not used for speciality coffee because amongst other things, it is inferior in taste and for coffee connoisseurs, taste is king. Even when it is used, it is blended with its much more superior cousin, arabica, to give it some colour and a more profound caffeine kick. The Italians tend to prefer a bit of robusta in their blends because the other key quality of robusta is….. wait for it, crema, plus it looks good with a brown reddish vibe and we all know the Italians love what things look like. So, if you want crema and a good looking espresso or ristretto with a caffeine kick, then head to Italy or search for one of the rare coffee roasters that uses robusta in their blends. But, I know you’re asking “what about taste ?”

Yes, taste is king. My previous experience with robusta blends was a caffeine kick, where literally the back of my head by my neck hurt. However when I visited the cafe at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington, London (see my post before last), I was pleasantly surprised by what I had and even more so to discover that the espresso coffee was 100% robusta, roasted by the company Leave the Herd Behind – a very apt name denoting that they are going against the grain, having discovered how to work with coffee growers in India to grow robusta coffee in a way that can be roasted with a good taste profile for espresso based coffee – they call it black sheep coffee, read more about them on www.leavetheherdbehind.com

In any case, the robusta comes from the Sethuraman Estate – the first specialty grade robusta farm in the World

So impressed was I with their coffee that I made a special order of two espresso blends and two Ethiopian single estate coffee for filter, Yirgacheffe Dumerso, grown at over 2,000 metres, naturally processed, very fruity and sublime, when brewed on a hario V60.

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The espresso Robusta blend was literally a cup of crema, dark chocolate and very full bodied and you could literally scoop the crema out with a spoon. Using the sugar test – a spoon of sugar took about 10 seconds before it fell through the crema cloud, wow! now that’s what I call a full bodied crema. When blended with milk, literally hot chocolate came to mind – I even paused and looked at the pack again to check they hadn’t sent me hot chocolate.

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I know the picture looks weird but honestly there’s no photoshop nor manipulation of the picture – it’s like the crema blends weirdly with milk giving it this dreamy like effect. Well, if you dream of chocolate then this is the blends for you. If you can’t buy and brew beans at home, then when you’re in London visit them, as they have two shops:

63 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PG London

Inside Urban Outsiders on 469 Oxford Street, W1C 2PY London

So, if you’re nearby, leave the herd behind on Oxford Street and grab a good looking cup of crema, yum!

Best Coffee Moments of 2014

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I just wanted to share with you some of my top coffee moments of 2014 (yeah, I know we are already approaching the mid half of the second month) but this site is about sharing the love.

First up, was my first Chemex experience, which my palate witnessed at Curators Coffee new shop on Margaret Street, just off Regent’s Street, Oxford Circus, London. As I had a bit of time to burn (i.e. I wasn’t in a rush) I decided to try a non-espresso based coffee and have my coffee expertly “curated”, selecting their top coffee to be brewed on the chemex. I wasn’t really expecting anything out of the ordinary as I’ve only really had a few exhilarating experiences when having filter brews outside my home or office. But wow! the flavours of the Kenyan coffee were at one point refreshing then, fruity with a balanced acidity pic at the top of this post. OK, I know the coffee plays a really important part but I think on this time, the brew process was able to extract some really precious delicate flavours, making this one of my key coffee moments of twenty 14.

 

OK, let’s move to where the coffee was the “star”. Fresh after making coffee for Tom Cruise and team on the set of Mission Impossible 5 in Vienna, Jo Wechlesberger (Vienna School of Coffee) asked me to help her lift a very heavy La Marzocco Strada 2 group into her shop. A few bloodshot marks later, she invited me to taste a very exquisite coffee she had just roasted.

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After a very delectable palate experience, I was like “wow!” that was great – wild berries and a fruit bomb in your mouth – what s that ? An Ethiopian Sidamo, scoring over 90 and known as Nekisse N2, mixed heirloom varieties and naturally dried in the sun. Jo’s taste profile was wild strawberries, peaches, passionfruit, rhubarb, creamy with a long lasting clean finish. But it gets better – I was actually on the verge of buying what undoubtedly would be my most expensive coffee at 100 Euros a kilogram – yep, that’s right, instead Jo gave me a 150g bag for free, for helping her and another gentleman lift the espresso machine inside her shop. I was more than ecstatic, even declining the offer, preferring to pay to support the artisan coffee trade, but Jo insisted and I could see my wife in the background, winking just take the gift, so I did. Of course I enjoyed every little bit of this coffee, sharing it on one occasion with a colleague who loves wine and has been schooled how to taste – naturally he was very excited.

 

I don’t have a picture for this next experience but having a cold brew coffee served in a tall wine glass was another wow experience courtesy of Otto from Balthasar Coffee, Vienna. To emphasise the point, Otto gave  me a trial in a typical porcelan cup and most of it in a tall wine glass – again another fruit bomb but with a delicate cocoa and long lasting finish, proving that how you serve it is very important.

 

 

Lick Me, LIKMI !!! – Don’t be deluded

Lick Me Espresso
Lick Me Espresso

So, what do you see ? A well prepared espresso by moi ? Well! To the best of my knowledge, ability and experience

A good picture of an espresso ?

Well, almost but sometimes it’s not about looks, sorry guys and gals who spend time perfecting their looks and espresso shots, BUT ultimately it’s about taste. I’m passionate about the “real” deal. So many times I taste stuff, especially cakes, that look fabulous, but when you bite into it, you’re like screaming, Why!!!!!!!! I prefer something to taste better than it looks, but of course the ultimate culinary experience is for something to look and taste great simultaneously.

So, how about what you don’t see where were we… what do you see….

Great beans and roast ? A bit difficult

BUT! Let’s build on that last point.

First up the facts. It’s an espresso blend, called LIKMI (lick me), roasted by Jo Wechlesberger, of Vienna School of Coffee Master Roaster extraordinaire, to get an espresso roast so delicious and sweet, that you just want to….. yep. you guessed it, “lick it”. In it, are coffees from Brazil and Rwanda with a roast profile of dried fruits, molasses – see the bag below.

Secondly, we know that it’s just not about the beans and roast profile – if it was, anyone could learn how to roast coffee like a pro, and we know that’s not true, if not, I’ll be on the waiting list to do so pronto. It’s takes guts, experience and something you can’t buy, a gift or skill – God given and some may argue on that point.

But, that’s not all. When I went in to buy this special coffee, Jo told me that she had started using burlap bags to pack her coffee and had noticed that it seemed to preserve the coffee taste for longer and of course it is also better for the environment.

LIKMI
LIKMI

So, upon buying the coffee, I raised concern saying”it was roasted about a month ago, are you sure its fresh enough for espresso?” Of course, she said. So, when I got home, and pulled my first shot, I was pleasantly surprised, but more so, after another few days of pulling shots, I realised that the coffee still tasted great, sweet and caramel like. I DRANK THIS COFFEE IN MARCH 2014.

LIKMI Latte Art
LIKMI Latte Art

With milk (excuse my latte art), it was really sweet – caramel and raisin sweet, yummy.

So, what’s this post about – if I’ve lost you in all my jargon

The picture at the top is an espresso shot following all the rules but using coffee that was roasted over a month ago and still with a great taste (I usually don’t use espresso blends over 2 weeks old) – it’s the first time on this blog that I’ve shown a picture of an espresso shot using coffee roasted over a month ago.

So, once you’ve mastered the skill of roasting, taking care of your beans by packing them in environmental friendly packaging could preserve the taste and your reputation far and beyond, especially if you are in the online coffee selling business. It also helps if you have a roast profile that’s sweet like dried fruits, which tend to develop into complex tastes profiles, giving you the joy that different cups will give you different tastes.

I was @ TomAndSerg, Dubai

tomandserg collage
tomandserg collage

It seems the coffee scene is vastly improving in Dubai. It was only about a year ago that I was excited when I visited Dubai and visited RAW Coffee – see my blog here. Now, just a few months later, two guys called Sergio (from Spain) and Tom (from Australia) team up and open up Tom&Serg – a post-modern Aussie style cafe, dedicated to offering artisan prepared coffee using the state of the art La Marzocco La Strada, hearty well prepared food in a no frills atmosphere – exposed brick, blackboard walls, open plan kitchen with noise to create a homely feel.

The Entrance
The Entrance

Most of us visiting from NY, Melbourne and London will instantly feel at home here. For me it is reminiscence of Workshop Coffee (Clerkenwell, London), cum St.Ali (Melbourne). In fact its a style I very much like, because it was not long ago that the it was very difficult to get artisan coffee and well prepared food under one roof. I remember my trips to London, where I had to eat in one place and then trek to find good coffee in another and vice versa, but that’s changing now. So, to Tom and Serg, Dubai and to my freshest post ever, as I just got back from Dubai yesterday (12 April 2014), that’s how excited I am.

Relax and Eat
Relax and Eat

I didn’t hesitate upon entering to let the waitress know that I’m here because of the coffee and persisted to let her know that when I owned Escape Caffe, my Magic was made with a triple shot of espresso in a 150ml glass. In any case, that’s what I ordered and then I asked who was in charge of coffee and she directed me to Jamie, who hails from Melbourne and has done a stint of jobs at Melbourne’s finest cafes such as Proud Mary, Auction Rooms, Sensory Lab (St Ali’s sister shop) and Seven Seeds, so in summary, a well-trained barista that knows what he’s talking and drinking about. My wife looked at me and was like “you know you want to, so go and talk to the chief barista”, so, I walked by for a chat to talk all things coffee, blend, taste profile, market preferences, etc. I was glad to know that they get their coffee from RAW, but the blend is made specifically for them under Jamie’s guidance. In summary, it hails from Central and South America with medium acidity, roasted just after second crack (where the oils begin to sip out) – ok, I’m getting a bit geeky here, so I’ll stop. In any case, ti goes well with milk, with chocolatey and caramel overtones with not in your face sweetness.

A Magic
A Magic

 

For me however, what blew my mind was the cold brew, offered to me by Jamie and his description as on point – it’s very unusual in that you need to take several sips to try and pin point the taste and so that’s what I did and I have to confess it wasn’t easy.

Cold Brew
Cold Brew

 

All I know is that the first couple of sips sent flavour profiles literally through my whole body. In fact it puzzled me so much that I ignored my lunchand then realising that I hate cold food, had to succumb and indulge in my burger and fries.

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I washed my palate with more water and went back to the coffee. After that I took a stroll around the shop, which is fairly big as there’s also an upstairs area, a black board describing the coffee.

So what coffee do you like
So what coffee do you like

a library area and another La Marzocco Strada, supported by another barista from Australia – this time from Brisbane – wow! two under one roof – baristi from Australia and La Marzocco Strada that is. As we literally got there 30 minutes before they close on a Friday – 4:30pm I rushed through the place and tried to take some original pics and on our way out, I met another lady, Michaela, from Melbourne, who used to live in London but never had a chance to try out some of the top cafes there. I reassured her that if she ever visited London again that she would be wowed by the quality of cafes there, who could rival those in Melbourne too, encouraging her that London’s acceleration to the top of the World coffee drinking cities was partly due to the influx of baristi from Melbourne itself – she was happy with that confirmation.

All in all, a great place to visit and from what I read (the owners were in the Esquire Middle East Magazine for their dress sense), there’s more to come from Tom and Serg, perhaps more shops, definitely more publicity and similar concepts. Please try Vienna, Austria, where I live.

Lots of seating space
Lots of seating space

For more info, see http://www.tomandserg.com

Open from 8am to 4pm (4:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays)

A Branded Bottle
A Branded Bottle

 

 

Salt Caramel Espresso ?

This year – yes, disgracefully so – it’s my first blog of 2013 – I’m into feeling, which means that if I feel like doing something related to pushing my taste buds further, then I’m going to do it.

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So, here we are. Salted Caramel Espresso ??? Did I arrive at this because I found this wonderfully unusual coffee, roasted by a supremo and brewed it in an unusual way ? NO! Simply, I manipulated one of the major elements of the espresso brewing process. BUT, first up, a little about the raw ingredient – the coffee itself – Shakisso from the Sidamo Region of Ethiopia, from the 2011-2012 season, grown at 1800m above sea level, organically grown and sun-dried on raised beds, shipped in grain pro bags (???). Who was the roaster ? Espresso Lab, Cape Town and how did the roaster describe the taste ? floral, silky body, soft chocolate, honey, jasmine, stone fruit, sweet lemonade and tangerine – quite a mouthful and quite a wide range of tastes. Now! that might seem delectable to some readers, but the main reason I bought the coffee was because I trusted the roaster and not because of the taste profile, because based on past experience, if you don’t have a very developed palate and extra-ordinary attention to detail in preparing coffee, using the best – yep! the best tools, then there’s no way you are going to experience some of those wonderful taste profiles described by this or any other skilled roaster.

Where am I going with this ? Well! What do I feel like tasting when I buy coffee – something special all the time. I never buy coffee for the sake of buying coffee. I buy coffee from trusted roasters and I don’t mean Illy or Lavazza. I mean people who spend time roasting with passion. BUT, I do have some taste preference when it comes to coffee – I love caramel, cocoa, dark chocolate, hints of milk chocolate, toffee, butter toffee (typical of Square Mile Coffee) , silky smooth wrap around yout tongue, vanilla, maple syrup, honey, pecan, praline, roasted cashew (organic Ugandan I once had), grapefruit acidity and probably more that I haven’t developed yet and of course SALTED CARAMEL.

So what did I manipulate ? Just the water. I added a few drops (say quarter of a teaspoon) of Himalayan Pink Salt into the water tank before I brewed my espresso – that’s it and wow, what a delight for my taste buds.

If you like something and people always tell you, don’t do it, it’s not right, at least give a shot once and you may not regret it and if you do, at least you experience something different, right ?

Good luck.

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