Category Archives: World of Coffee

Drinking Coffee in Mauritius: 2018

Lucky me. I work for an organisation that tries to help people around the World using science and technology to help remove challenges we take for granted in the “richer” parts of the World. This means that sometimes I have to travel, as you have witnessed if you’ve been reading through my blog for a while, to some exotic places, usually in Africa. So, about 10 days ago I had to visit Mauritius, an African island state/country in the Indian Ocean. With lots of work ahead, I had to arrive one day early. However, this was not my first time on this beautiful island, because if you recall, I was in Mauritius about 9 years ago, read here – when lucky me again, praise God, due to the financial crisis, I was able to take my family on holiday to a dream holiday resort and of course got the opportunity to visit the island and check out the coffee. Back then the holiday and food were great but the coffee was not. So, what has happened since I last visited 9 years on ? Well, the good news and I like to see things progress – is that the coffee game has increased in terms of quality, with the launch of Mauritius first coffee chain, Cafe Lux, tied to the hotel chain LUX resorts. The coffee is roasted in Mauritius and apparently according to their website, their baristi are trained by Deluxe Coffeeworks in Cape Town – see here for more about them when I blogged about them in 2010.

Back to 2018 – on this occasion, we were placed at a hotel next to Bagatelle – Mauritius biggest mall. At first, I thought ah! mall coffee. Looking through the mall map, I saw that there were a couple of South African chains (Vida e Caffe and Mugg & Bean), but that didn’t excite me – sorry. As I walked through, I noticed this cafe, right in the centre, near another South African chain , Woolworths. I studied the menu and the environment got excited by what I saw – coffee beyond espresso – third wave coffee, as well as cold drip. As you might know by now, before I took the plunge and ordered, I circled like an eagle, spotting the La Marzocco GB5 machine, the grinders and then most important of all – the barista at work.

After watching the barista at work and convinced by the passion in which he pulled his shots and poured his latte art, I decided to take the plunge and ordered a piccolo aka a Cortado here.

Hmmm! I enjoyed the contrast of the espresso blend with the milk – hints of chocolate and roasted almonds. I asked about the blend – Island, which as advertised on their website is 45% GUATEMALAN, 45% BRAZILIAN, 10% ETHIOPIAN (typical safe espresso blend with a hint of acidity, berries, fruit, nuts and chocolate) and more intriguing so, roasted in Mauritius – impressive. I enquired about the barista – called Jim and whether they sold whole beans. After recalculating in my mind the conversion rate (about 900 Mauritian rupee, using a rate of 42 rupee to 1 Euro = 21.4 Euro), so, a bit similar to European prices, I told them I’d be back.

And I was, not just once, but five times in a week. Once for a daily cappuccino, which I must confess was not as good as the first time, due to the barista’s relaxed attitude to brewing coffee. – it wasn’t Jim.

Before a trip to the beach, I tried their cold drip…..

Blended right to accommodate a cold coffee drink. I explained to my colleagues who were intrigued by the concept of cold coffee about the drip method, which takes several hours, but more importantly that the coffee and roast have to be right, more fruity and lighter in roast to eradicate the bitterness that accompanies coffee when it gets cold.

For an espresso after dinner and yet another South African restaurant –

Easy to drink and smooth is how I described it to a colleague, who trusted my recommendation.

On my last day, I went back to buy a 500g bag of espresso beans and my fave barista there, Jim, gave me a complimentary cappuccino.

But I wasn’t done yet, as before I returned to the hotel to pack, I tried their “shot in the dark” a double espresso and an Americano combined – a bit similar to my “sleep suicide” from escape caffe, and also a caramel cheesecake.

I also spotted them at the airport, kitted out with a Vittoria Arduino Black Eagle V388 – impressive piece of equipment, but as my flight had been cancelled and I was trying to re-route, I wasn’t up to queuing up for another coffee. Nevertheless I could smile at myself, because I had some coffee, which I would be looking forward to brewing at home once I arrived God willing. If I had had the chance, I was wondering whether they would be up for the award of “best coffee at an airport” as to date I still haven’t had good coffee at any airport.

In conclusion, when in Mauritius – a beautiful island with World class hotels/resorts, look out for this brand who have three branches or alternatively try their coffee if you are lucky enough to stay at the at their 5* hotel resort, Lux Belle Mare. Read more at http://www.cafelux.mu

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Drinking Coffee in Bath and Bristol, England

I just noticed that I hadn’t blogged in November, which has been a bit of a blur, having been on the road for about half the month. So, where were we, Bath Part 2. My previous post on Colonna and Smalls highlighted not just the “star” of Bath but also one of the starts of England and if you follow sports, you’ll notice some common threads – great players tend to inspire those around them to greatness too – take Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls NBA (basketball) in the late 1980s, Pele in the Brazilian national team of 1970 World Cup (football) and more – so it is with coffee in Bath. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of quality coffee shops in such a small town (city in England because of the Cathedral). To be honest if I visited Bath and there was only 1 or 2 shops of the quality I saw I would have been happy.

Cascara

So, first off, as soon as we got off the train and dumped our bags at the lovely boutique hotel we stayed at, I was already on the coffee hunt. Right at the top of Upper Borough Walls, was Cascara, a small unassuming place, decked with a La Marzocco linea, serving Bath based coffee roaster, Roundhill coffee together with many healthy food options, vegan based and more. I was craving milk-based espresso, so I ordered a flat white, had a quick chat with the owner and was off to catch up with the family, who had failed to see me pop in. I mentioned to the owner (a lady whose name I’ve sadly forgotten) if she knew of Colonna and Smalls and of course she had, lauded them and didn’t even rank her coffee anywhere near theirs. I assured her that her coffee was good, to which she was pleased and then I was off again. Afterwards I saw that on google she’s ranked 4.7 out of 5, so don’t just take it from me, visit Cascara.

Hunter and Sons
Almost around the corner from Cascara is Hunter and Sons – recommended by a retailer and some others in the city, located at 14/15 Milsom Place in a mini outdoor mall style setting with restaurants like Jamie and a steak house – very chic, but easy to miss.

I found out later that Maxwell, owner of Colonna actually started here before he decided to part company and start his own coffee emporium. Decked with a Synesso and very posh-hip looking with designer beers on offer at one end, it’s coffee corner is unassuming with a little menu for both coffee and food. It was empty when I visited in mid-morning but I’m sure on the weekends and evening it is packed. Being mid-morning, I ordered a flat white in a glossy green cup,

Fruity based but I forget the roaster and easy to drink for most coffee drinkers.

Society Coffee

When we were pushed for time, I accepted defeat in my quest to visit Colonna at least once a day, and quickly goggled coffee shops in Bath and realised I was next to Society Coffee at 19 High Street, very close to Cathedral and heart of the city. As it was late afternoon, I needed a pour over.

I quickly glanced over at the brew station and ordered some coffee and even had time to sit once I convinced my wife and daughter to order hot chocolates and a brownie. I found out later that Society have another coffee shop, which I just had to visit on our final and last hour in bath a couple of days later. On my second visit to the branch, I bought Roundhill coffees, had a chat with the barista as they poured this lovely cappuccino


Took a pic and literally rushed off to catch our train back to London.

Full Court Press, Bristol

I thought it opportune to mention that we took a day trip to Bristol as my daughter wanted to look at the university there. Located about 15 minutes train ride from Bath, it’s a much bigger city, where you can shop more and indulge in West England’s largest city, recently voted best place to live in the UK. As usual, I was thinking about my coffee fix and haven “goggled” best coffee in Bristol, this came up and lucky me, praise God, what do you know, it was on our path from the train station to the university. So I took the opportunity to pop in for a quick flat white.

The owner hails from Bristol, studied out of the city and was back to share his love of coffee with its residents – very generous. It’s quaint and with the grinders by simonelli and a La Marzocco strada for espresso, you can tell the focus is coffee with used coffee bags framed to decorate the wall.

They’ve got cakes, sarnies (sandwiches for non-Brits) and menu options for coffee, espresso , filter and guest coffee roasters.

so if you’re smart enough to get into the University of Bristol check this cafe out and some others I didn’t have the time to check out.


I was @ Colonna and Smalls: One of the Best Cafes in the UK

I know that my title sounds a bit daring, committing myself to using labels like “best….” but life is too short and when you have these wonderful experiences God throws at you, don’t restrict yourself to holding back and waiting for some other moment that may never come. So, after my philosophical rant, what do I mean ? I don’t think I’ve been this excited about visiting a cafe since Prufrock – see here. A bit of background – as holiday planner in charge; I was asked to find a nice English city to visit with other family members this past summer and initially we thought about Cornwall and what sprung to my mind was cornish pasties (if you’re not English, these are like a specialty short crust pastry pies filled with meat or veggies) and scones with clotted cream ( a cream typical of only this part of England), but whilst I had no aversion to these classical English cuisine gems, I thought if we’re are going to a place for three days, where will I get a great cup of coffee from. After some searching together with some cute boutique hotels, I wasn’t impressed – sorry Cornwall. So, I thought where else would I love to go, Bath – we’ve always wanted to go there, so why not now and suddenly like a flash I recalled that one of the cafes that I’ve always wanted to go in the UK, but never got the chance, was located there – Colonna & Smalls. Sold to the coffee lover!

Before visiting, what did I know about Colonna and Smalls ? Owned by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, two times UK barista champion, I had many times about his contribution to the UK coffee science, having read about him many times, mentioned by the coffee celebrities many times over. when my brother visited many months ago, he asked me “where should I go for coffee” and I only had one answer; “Colonna and Smalls”. Before visiting I sent Maxwell a tweet and he replied very quickly mentioning that he was looking forward to me visiting.

We got into Bath on a late Sunday afternoon and I found out that their shop was already closed. I found another cafe, ordered my flat white, which was nice and asked them where else they would recommend – there was only one answer and they were like”that’s another type of level” even though I knew that on Monday my first visit would be Colonna & Smalls. And so it was.

As you enter, it’s like you’ve waiting many years to enter this emporium – a homage to coffee. I’m not going to go into details about the decor, but just the experience; I had to ask this at the back of my mind “do people in Bath know how lucky they are to have this cafe in their city?”. As you walk to the back of the shop, there are books authored by Maxwell, his UK barista championship trophies and other trophies awarded to his staff, who are also well decorated (see their website for more, UK latte art champion, etc).


As you walk towards the brightly lit back of the shop, where all the action is located – there’s this oozing calm and air of professionalism, rarely found in other cafes – they are not here just to sell coffee but to make sure you have a great experience too.

Now the techie part.

First I noticed that all their coffee beans were pre-weighed in little metal looking bowls


Then I noticed that there was no “typical” espresso grinder in place. What’s going on?

The Mahl Konig EK43 – something I have only really seen at cafes when they grind for filter coffee.

I must confess, it was until I got back to Vienna and delved into the story of the EK43 in James Hoffmann book about his blog,  did I know about the issue concerning using the EK43 for grinding for espresso. It was really talked up and propagated a few years back by espresso/coffee guru Ben Kaminsky and even Prufrock were very excited about it, read here

In summary the debate says that using the EK43 (not built for grinding for espresso but ideally for spices and perhaps for filter coffee) not only minimises waste because you grind per cup but also that it grinds very evenly with little differentiation in grind size – this means that you can even lower the amount of coffee you use – they use about 16.5g as opposed to the industry average of 18-20g (I usually ask) which should result in a better tasting espresso. After all, most coffee aficionado fell in love with coffee through the espresso. In any case, there’s a few top cafes who were converted to do this avant garde way of grinding and hence brewing coffee and of course Maxwell is one of them.

Second, it was great to actually meet Maxwell himself. Usually when you visit emporiums of coffee, the owner or main driver is always not around, tending to some other business or on holiday – the one exception was Cameron of Flat White many moons ago. He was very welcoming and we talked about coffee (of course), their philosophy – they usually offer about three coffees per brew type; filter and espresso, where you can be guided by taste profiles. They try and source the best coffee that fits their preferences, so for example, surprise surprise for me, they roast for capsules – yes, you read that right. You can buy nespresso capsules roasted by one of the finest coffee roasters in the UK – I bought a box of 10 for my brother who has a nespresso machine. As they roast their own coffee in a town outside Bath, they can easily experiment with taste profiles for many styles – visit their “other” website for more about their coffee, see here. If you visit there are quite a lot of their coffees on sale and feel free to ask them for guidance. They even have a booklet on explaining their coffees and brewing methods.

and the coffee….

I opted for a flat white with a fruity profile – well balanced even with the milk, reminded me of hints of toffee like my coffee had evaporated milk added. On my second visit I went for a more “nutty” profile. I was really intrigued by their unique way of making Americanos but sadly I wasn’t able to make it – I thought it best to avoid the wrath of my mum and wife as my plan was to make colonna and smalls my last stop before catching the train back to London, but alas for next time God willing.

One more techie thing – the mod bar. I actually missed this new innovative way of brewing espresso because on my first visit I was so excited to meet with Maxwell, I didn’t go behind the bar to check what type of espresso brewing equipment they were using. On the second visit, as I had more time, I relaxed and had time to chat to the baristi and then I was introduced to the mod bar – short for modular brewing system.


In summary and borrowing from their website, it’s

espresso system consists of one espresso tap and one espresso module

Each Espresso Module controls one tap. Retailers have an opportunity to dial each Espresso Module to fit a different coffee. And they have options galore in how they fit the Modules to their retail set-up.

From what I saw, it looks fabulous – it’s like the next level of brewing espresso, where you can change the profiles using a button or touch screen per group head – state of the art – even though I am aware that the Slayer Espresso machine can do this provided that you are a very talented barista. At Colonna all the baristi have some kind of award so the skills are there but the fact that the mod bar group asked them to test it means something too.

As I left, I fell like a boy being dragged out of a toy shop, but I was after all in Bath to see other things and spend precious time with my family.

One more thing. It was really impressive to watch the barista prepare aeropress. He poured the freshly ground coffee into the aeropress capsule, poured a little bit of water, shook it around vigorously but carefully and as he did it, it bloomed and doubled in height, after which he poured more water, covered it and waited for it to complete the brewing process. I wished I filmed it so you can see what I meant, but it was really impressive.

Highly recommended – If you are looking for a beautiful city to visit in England and enjoy exceptional coffee and more, check them out at

Colonna & Smalls

6 Chapel Row, Bath,  UK.

My next post will be on drinking coffee in Bath – a beautiful city with tons of coffee culture.


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.


Breakfast in Dubai


A couple of months ago whilst passing through Dubai, I had to stay in a hotel, as my cousin was away and one question puzzled me and if you know me, you’d have guessed it by now. “where can I stay in Dubai that doesn’t cost too much but is within close distance to a good breakfast and coffee?” So, after having used google to search for best breakfast in Dubai, I found one close to a non-expensive hotel (by Dubai standards, close to $120 per night) and that was it. I booked in for 2 nights.

Bystro, al manara district – Winner best breakfast in Dubai 2016

About 15 minutes walk from the Metropolitan Hotel was Bystro. As I walked it I was hit by such an eclectic atmosphere, breaming mostly with European and Australian expatriates. 


I had a slight panic as I couldn’t see a spare seat but as I was solo, I didn’t have too long to wait. As I was seated and handed the menu, I took in the atmosphere and an Australian gentleman came by and asked if I was okay – I found out later that it was Josh, the owner. The walls are covered with lots to read – quotes that I have seen plastered on the walls of  other coffee shops around the World (witnessed on Instagram) and shelves stocked with imported Italian condiments like cantuccini, olive oil, biscuits and more. 


The walls are wooden, what else. There’s a long glass display centre piece, hosting mini cakes, pastries, tarts and fresh exotic juices.


About the food – after all that was one of the main reasons I came by – I was glad to see that they use organic products, especially organic eggs. But wow! the menu check this link out bystromenu . I was literally confused and overwhelmed , but when I searched google for this place, I noticed that their star breakfast dish was the Bistro Brisket Hash – slow brisket, patatas bravas, avocado, cilantro pesto and fried eggs, although I asked for poached eggs.


It was delicious and I must confess I was thinking I’m coming here tomorrow to try more. In fact, when I got home to Vienna and knowing my kids are breakfast lovers like moi, I said “who would like to go to Dubai for a foodie trip” and I don’t think a second passed, when the unanimous reply was “me daddy” Cute for mid-teens but when it comes to food, they don’t joke with food.

Now the coffee. I found out that they use Raw coffee beans, which I’ve blogged about a couple of times before, but in summary they were probably the first micro-roastery in Dubai, starting way back before 2010. I walked around to see the barista area, Nuova Simonelli and Mahl Konig grinders and although the coffee was served rather nice in this yellow acme branded cup, Josh sensing I was a coffee afiocinado mentioned that they just got the espresso machine in last night, meaning it was the first time the poor barista was using the machine, which on such a busy day, Friday morning, was like a baptism of fire – poor female barista. Needless to say, it wasn’t bad for such a stressful morning – tad hot for a cappuccino, but I look forward to visiting again to eat and drink coffee God willing.


Before I left I had to try something sweet and Josh suggested the lemon tart – delicate and complimented with a delicious scoop of ice cream. Dessert for breakfast… , but why not eh?


Highly recommended and I have to say as informed by Tom of Tom&Serg, whom I met the day after, that Bystro knocked Tom&Serg off their position as Best Cafe in Dubai for 2017 – no small feat and if you check trip advisor, you’ll see lots of positive reviews. Tom didn’t have any bad feelings, because Josh, a fellow Aussie, is one of his friends.

Dean & Deluca, Mall of Emirates – A taste of New York in Dubai


Being a little adventurous and to be honest having witnessed the most rainy and stormy time in Dubai ever, my plans to go back the next day to Bystro were squashed as a brisk walk to the venue in blistering rain was not an option. So, I caught the complimentary bus shuttle to the metro station and headed to Mall of Emirates.

I think after the first time I went back in 2009, I always wanted to visit Dean & Deluca and I headed straight for there in the newish extension of the mall. however, as I approached, I noticed that they were saying no more breakfast. Horrified I mentioned I had trekked all the way just to have breakfast and the very friendly manager said, provided I ordered within 2-3 minutes, it’ll be okay. I opened the menu and knew instantly I was going to order eggs benedict. Whilst I waited I wanted to try their espresso milk skills and ordered an espresso macchiato;

 

Pleasant to drink and later I walked to the back to view the barista arena, aptly named Espresso Bar and saw it was housed by a La Marzocco 4 group lines machine and that they were using Orbis coffee, another local roaster, which I saw was being sold at the airport too.


For breakfast….

I have to say this is probably the best value eggs benedict I’ve ever ordered, because for the equivalent of US$13 you get THREE poached eggs and side order of a fresh salad. They had run out of smoked salmon, so they gave me beef bacon with crispy bread. I really enjoyed dipping the crispy breadsticks in the runny yolk.

For both spots I have to highlight that what really stood out for me wasn’t just the delicious food on offer but the dedication of the staff and the customer service. I even asked the Dean&Deluca manager for the customer feedback card so I could give him and them a rave review.


So what about that foodie trip to Dubai ? Hmmm! lets see if they have any offers on Emirates this year, because this summer we didn’t book for Dubai like we’ve done the last 3 years.


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.


Redefining the Barista: Back to the Future


I remember when I started getting really into espresso coffee and reading all the stuff about the importance of making good espresso as captured in the importance of the espresso blend, the espresso machine, the grinder and finally…. the BARISTA. Even if you got everything right and the barista failed to tamp with the right amount of pressure, prep the machine and maintain it during and after the day, the espresso would still come out bad. I still get people saying to me, “oh! don’t worry, we are using a really good coffee” and worringly they may add “I’m not really good at making coffee but the coffee is good” – like the most important thing is the coffee – it’s a lot more than that.


So, when I started visiting really good coffee shops way back when – over 10 years ago, I was not just excited to be ordering coffee, but I would always be excited to chat to the barista and ask them about their day, the coffee, what temperature they were brewing at, etc. The barista was the star of the coffee shop – the leading actor – everything started and ended with him/her serving you a great cup of coffee. Okay, I confess, these things still get me excited and may be I even go further like “if it’s fruity, can you increase the brew temperature so that it isn’t too bright” and “which coffee is best for milk, espresso or filter brew” which leads to me to the main reason why I’m writing this piece.


I found out lately that most baristi (plural for barista) I quiz tend to give me a slightly puzzled look. I’ve noticed too that even though the game has been upped in espresso, most people still go to a really good cafe and just order a latte and pour sugar into it. Great! good coffee is in vogue but I’m not so sure if the onus on taste has been successfully transferred to the masses.

Am I loosing you?

The barista is an expert – an expert at making good coffee and all experts should be familiar with their tool and provide a service in a professional manner.

I accept that not everyone that walks into a cafe will be like me or the others who have way more expertise than me, but I kind of expect that the barista should be able to answer some basic questions about the coffee and to advise me on what would be best.


Coffee is now big business, after all McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts wouldn’t have focused on coffee if it wasn’t and you wouldn’t have the likes of Starbucks offering flat whites (the drink of the espresso milk based connoisseur).

Just the other week Perfect Daily Grind conducted a poll on twitter about what we want to see in 2017 and I wrote…. “I’d like to see baristas more versed in coffee knowledge”.

I hope I don’t come across as a coffee snub as my wife jokingly describes me – well! I think she says it jokingly. It’s just that I want the service that I used to get when I started my coffee journey many moons ago, as usually things develop for the better. I recall a quote from Seth Godin;

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

My understanding of which is that some of your customers want more and you shouldn’t shun them but attend to them to. I wouldn’t go to the extreme like some cafes who snub you if you don’t know anything about coffee, order a cappuccino in the afternoon (in some cafes in Italy, they’ll say no) and scream at you if you put sugar in your coffee. In fact one cafe, doesn’t even have sugar.

Even though I’m in my 40s (no shame), I still want to learn and thats what got me excited about coffee – there was so much to learn and I’m sure there’s still more to learn, so teach me barista…. I’m not saying each barista should be like former US barista champion, Pete Licata, who visited the coffee farms to learn which coffee to choose for the WBC, which he finally won in 2013.

The situation is further exacerbated where attention to detail in making a great espresso has been compromised in favour of a milk based drink. Again, the basis for a good cappuccino, flat white of latte is a great espresso but that has been sidelined, so much so, that I rarely order espresso out of my home, but there are exceptions


So, what next?

Back to the future or the basics – teaching the barista to focus on the essential elements coupled with great customer service based on good knowledge of the coffee they are brewing and how to adjust the brew parameters during the course of the day. When I had a coffee shop, I used too ask the barista to check the espresso machine and time the shot about 4-5 times a day. We weren’t as busy as your typical London cafe, which I presume would need checking a lot more times during the day.

I think when you look at all those lovely bags of coffee and the way they describe the coffee; caramel, blackcurrant, grapefruit acidity, lemon curd, etc the main reason we don’t taste them is the barista – harsh, but I guess it’s also down to your palate too. 


I’d like to see the time when you enter a coffee shop and those taste profiles are displayed on a coffee menu, so that you are tempted to taste something different and escape with your taste buds to another world – ah! the drink of the escapist and the non-compromiser of taste.