Category Archives: The Art of Coffee

Cortado, Cortado…

Since I was served this Spanish version of an espresso milk based drink at Espresso Lab (Cape Town) in October 2009, it has become my favourite morning brew. In summary, it is half espresso and half milk/froth, almost like a smaller brother of a cappuccino but packs more punch because there’s more espresso in it, which means you get to taste the coffee more. So, to get a little technical, you’re looking at a 50-60ml double espresso extraction (depending on how many grammes you use) topped with about the same amount of liquid (frothed and steamed milk). It’s much easier if you have a 100-120 ml cup of course, but just play around with it, so that the coffee punches well through the milk. You should also be able to detect some different taste notes coming out such as milk chocolate and hazelnut, which appear to reveal themselves more distinctly when milk is added to the coffee/espresso equation. I’d strongly recommend it for espresso lovers, who don’t want as much milk and froth as you find in a cappuccino nor in a Flat White, but who nevertheless want to taste their espresso blended nicely with hot milk.

The other reason why I like a Cortado, is that I find it much easier to do latte art in a smaller cup – Well ! how else would I be able to share these nice pics with you because if I just talked and didn’t share these tasty pics to inspire you to try it at home, you’d skip my blog. Coffee is about art and science – a wonderful blend of the subjects of our age – OK ! enough of this philosophical dribble, just try this at home. Ciao ! or perhaps on this occasion I should say Adios (for those who don’t know, this is the Spanish way of saying bye bye). Adios Cortado ! until tomorrow morning.

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I’m Drinking a Grand Reserve Coffee

Yes ! A Grand Reserve coffee – a speciality from top coffee grower, Aida Battle, supposed to be a special blend of coffees from her farm in El Salvador. Fruity and intense, yet complex and medium balanced on the acidity. Have I lost you ? If you’re an expert, then you probably want more, but I’ll just keep it simple for now. This particular batch was roasted by top roasters, Square Mile Coffee Roasters (SMCR) no less and if you have been an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know that I used to be a regular customer of SMCR -that is until I moved to Cape Town. So, how did I get my hands on this special coffee ? Only God could have made this possible but here’s the story behind it. I walk into one of my favourite cafes in Cape Town, Espresso Lab in Woodstock, get chatting to owner/roaster, Renato and spot the famous label bag on the shelf and asked how he managed to get a bag down here in Cape Town – “ordered through the internet of course”. But having read about the coffee on SMCR website a few weeks bag, I knew that it was really special with a real special price too, at about £22 (or $33 or 242 Rands) per 350g bag. Probably spotting the delight in my eye, Renato offered me a precious 40g free of charge, enough to make one French Press and one double espresso portions – thank you God.

You can’t imagine the excitement when I got home – I read about this coffee, grown by one of the top coffee growers in the World, roasted by one of the best coffee roasters in the World, unable to order it all the way from London because of the costs and here it was in my kitchen, ready to be prepared the way I love coffee, French Press and double espresso. OK ! Let’s get to work but be warned, as this is so special, I was inspired to focus on trying to capture the coffee as best as I could on photo, so that I could share the experience with you. I’ve already described the taste profile at the top of this blog, so don’t expect too much emphasis on taste profile, just enjoy the pics and dream.

First up, Le French Press. OK ! with this type of preparation, the fruity elements tend to dominate – very balanced as an afternoon cup after a light lunch, going down smoothly.

I was tempted to just drink the coffee as a double espresso to really experience it as a concentrate but there was a part of me saying “what would it be like with milk?” So, I went for a Cortado – a what ? It’s currently my favourite milk based drink, a Spanish version of a cappuccino, but with less milk, so you use about the same portions of milk as espresso, using a 150ml cup – so strictly speaking, a double shot espresso at about 50-55ml with 50ml frothed milk, which would have a foam of about 20%.

Doesn’t it look yummy and inspirational ? with this type of extraction and preparation, I found the Grand Reserve not too acidic with a soft touch of milk chocolate coming through the milk. I wish I had done this blog sooner when the coffee was readily available and then I could have said buy it now from Square Mile Coffee Roasters but I just googled it and I think Sweet Maria’s in the USA roast it too, so if you are reading this in the US, try and get it before it runs out. Until then, dream and if it’s out again, I’ll try and let you know somehow.


Autumn Espresso… What Now !

This is absolutely disgraceful – 8 weeks without blogging – I hold my head in shame but I do have a great excuse… I’ve moved to Cape Town, one of my favourite foodie city to open a coffee (but of course) and cake/sandwich shop. It’s been challenging trying to settle in without easy access to communication like internet. In any case I’ve been really busy with checking out the coffee and cafe scene and it is quite exciting. However more on that next time, as this is supposed to be about Autumn Espresso.

Yes ! It is a bit strange to talk about autumn, as it’s mid-winter in the northern hemisphere and mid-summer in the southern hemisphere – it’s like 25C outside as I write. So, I guess to compromise for my readers in both hemispheres so that no one gets left out, it is apt that I should talk about a coffee that was roasted and blended to typify the season in between, Autumn of course. OK ! I got this bag of Autumn Espresso during the northern hemisphere season, back in late October/early November but didn’t get the chance to share my experience.

It’s roasted by Square Mile Coffee in London and reminds you of the Autumn mainly because of the roasted hazlenut and caramel and toffee tastes that dominate. There is a hint of chocolate of course, but this comes out more when you make it as an espresso milk based drink like a Cappuccino or Caffe Latte.

Just love the pics of these coffees as I was really getting into studying my digital SLR and playing around with different concepts like Aperture, so that I could use the camera to bring out the best of the coffee, especially as these were taken on wet, windy and cloudy Autumn days. I must confess I cannot remember where the coffees were sourced from, but being a fan of Square Mile since they started in 2008 I can almost say for certain that there was some Central American arabica thrown in, probably from Guatemala and/or Ecuador. You’ll have to wait another 9 months for this to be available again on the market and if you can get your hands on some, go for it.


Espresso Cream

No ! that isn’t spelt wrong… it is cream this time and not crema, but you need crema first. Confusing ! I thought so, so let me explain. I was drinking Square Mile Coffee Roasters latest addition “Progresso” I love the way it sounds. It’s like a new espresso drink should be created with that name. In any case, Progresso is advertised as a cremay cup, with lingering sweetness, if brewed properly of course. So, looking into my fridge, I noticed a carton of full cream inside and thought “I’ve never tried espresso with cream before, well there’s always a first time”. The main reason for this of course, is that I thought “how can someone destroy an espresso by putting cream inside” and the very thought cold easily make me scream, BUT on this occasion, my culinary curiosity got the better of me, because I thought cream added to sweet things usually enhances it. So first up, extract a beautiful espresso with a good dose of crema visible on top like below;

Then of course, just pour a little bit of cream on top, but it should be enough to make the drink rise just a little bit – say about 2 teaspoons worth.

In the picture below, this is more evident, as I used an espresso shot glass, which when extracting a single espresso should rise to the line, but there was enough cream to just push it above the line.

This adventure just wasn’t about the taste, but about the art of coffee, because I really wanted to see how the colours would display with a shot of cream poured inside an espresso crema – would the crema disappear, or would it rise to the top like real cream is supposed to, and so there was a bit of the scientific too. Just look at all those colours.

On taste, I was correct, the sweetness in the espresso was enhanced, making it a truly tasty experience. So next time, break with the conventional and try something different. Is this progress with drinking espresso ? I don’t know but just one more time, say PROGRESSO like an Italian would.

Ciao, Espresso Cream Crema……


I’m Drinking …. Summer Espresso

Hmmm ! Courtesy of Square Mile Coffee Roasters (London), who produce a blend for each season. The summer version is made using 80% Finca Las Nubes from Guatemala and 20% La Carol from Colombia. Incidentally, as far as I can remember, the Finca Las Nubes arabica bean was roasted by Square Mile Coffee and used by Gwilm Davies to win the World Barista Championship this year. So this is really a special bean and if I was a crass advertising agent for Square Mile Coffee, I would say “buy your special championship bean from us, used only by champions, so be a champion and buy this bean…now !” But, I’m not, so just buy it anyway, but oops, too late, summer is over. Until next year then, God willing, but honestly visit their website (link on my blogroll to the left) and they may have some more left. In any case, what I like about Square Mile Coffee Roasters (SMCR) is that they actually tell you what their blend consists off – this is unusual trust me, as I’ve asked many a roaster what their special in-store blend consists off and they give me that, like I’m going to tell you my secret smirk. Even more props to SMCR, they give you an indication of what the coffee should taste like if you’ve got the right tools of course and know what you’re doing. So, for the Summer Espresso, it should be…

An amalgamation (i.e. lots of) of taste, however the prominent ones I detected were caramel and the berry juice finish. The berry juice finish is really freaky, because what happens is that you’re drinking the coffee, tasting the nutty and caramel taste and then as you finish each gulp, a berry tastes whirls through to the back of your throat…BERRY FINISH. almost scary, but fun for the taste buds. With milk based espresso drinks, I found the toffee more prominent with “honey sweet”

Anyway, I was so impressed with this blend that not only did I tell SMCR about it, I’ve just ordered 2 more bags before summer runs out and if you know me, you’ll know that I hardly order the same thing twice, especially in one pack. Watch this space for the Autumn blend


London Stopover: A Flat White & A Double Espresso

The final leg of our journey was in London and as soon as I could, I rushed over to Flat White Cafe in Soho, flying through the door and spotting Cameron, the main owner of Flat White, I practically belted out, “A flat white please…” For me, it was like – I haven’t had really good coffee for almost 2 weeks and I need it now and wow ! wasn’t it worth waiting for – almost too good looking to drink.

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A beautifully poured “rosetta” on my flat white. Even Cameron was impressed by the very kind lady who poured this beautiful rosetta (I’m so embarrassed I didn’t get her name so that I could have mentioned it on this post, sorry !), and here it is one more time, up close and personal, so that you can almost taste it.

After my “flat white experience”, I rushed off to have a quick lunch and of course I needed a good espresso to finish off my lunch experience and no place better than Milk Bar (Flat White’s second shop), still in Soho. As there wasn’t much time to catch our flight, I ordered a double espresso in 25C heat outside, took a picture to share the experience and gulped it down.

To finish off, I took a picture of their custom made Black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine. What a nice stop over in London to satisfy my espresso cravings.

Ciao !


Espresso French Toast

This is for those who want to have their espresso and eat it – it might sound strange, and I must confess it does, but I’ve thinking for a while, “there must be something I can eat, apart form coffee cake, that I can use espresso as a key ingredient”. So here it is, merging my passion for coffee and cooking together for what I call a “tasty” experiment, I wish to introduce Espresso French Toast. Before taking you on this journey of sensual pleasure, what exactly is French Toast, for those of you not into cooking and baking. In short, French Toast is actually the posh word for bread dipped in mixed egg and fried until well done. It is usually topped with something sweet like strawberry jam, maple syrup or honey. I’m also guessing it was devised in a French kitchen many years ago.

So, to work then. The good thing is that this is a really simple recipe if you know how to use a frying pan, extract good espresso and fry eggs of course. So you need;

Fresh arabica coffee

Good espresso machine

Frying pan

One egg

Two bowls

Fork to mix the eggs

3 slices of small brioche (measuring 7cm by 6cm)

Two spoons of caster sugar

Sliced strawberries, mascarpone and honey/maple syrup (optional)

An appetite, but of course.

Luckily, I’ve managed to capture the whole experiment visually to make it easy for you to follow. First up, break one large, preferably organic egg into a bowl, mix and set aside. Extract one double espresso into a shallow bowl and put two spoons of caster sugar inside and mix to dissolve. It is crucial that you extract good espresso – as you can see from the pic below, the crema is ever present, and after all this is a blog about coffee and there is no compromising when it comes to coffee. I used my Andronicas Signature Blend arabica coffee, which has nut and chocolate like qualities with a vanilla twist – this is important as you’ll see later.

Get your slices of brioche and place very quickly into the espresso mixture as you don’t want the slices drenched in coffee.

Quickly take it out and place straight away into the egg mixture, making sure it is nicely coated in egg.

Place into a hot frying pan with a knob of butter and fry each side for about 2 minutes each.

Take out and place on a plate, top with something sweet like honey or jam, or if you are flashy like me and love sweet fattening things, top with a dollop of mascarpone, slices of strawberries and maple syrup.

So what does it taste like then ? Well ! you’ll be pleased to know that the coffee elements have not been drenched out because of egg and butter. It actually had a vanilla and chocolate taste, almost like a dessert. Note that if you are going to drench your bread into coffee, the coffee should be good, displaying as much of the good qualities of a well extracted espresso as possible, so that the lovely taste is captured in the bread. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised, if not, let’s face it, I won’t be blogging about it.

Don’t tell too many people about this recipe as I would love to serve it in my trendy cafe, if I ever get the opportunity to open one up before I die.

Enjoy !