Category Archives: World of Coffee

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.


I was @ %Arabica, Dubai Mall – Dubai


I always knew that using a name like “arabica” for a cafe in an area predominantly occupied by Arabs would be a winner. In fact when I was debating whether to open cafe in Cape Town or Dubai back in 2009, the name I had tried to approach potential investors for Dubai was… “Cafe Arabica”. I thought back then and it has proven now as you will see in a few lines below that people will resonate well with an establishment that recognises their identity and their pace in the World – in this case, the world of coffee. So, now we have here a new brand,  %Arabica, which incidentally is Japanese – with their first coffee shop in Kyoto and now expanding to the Gulf, venturing into the most avant grade venue of the Arab world, Dubai and more specifically in the largest mall in the World, Dubai Mall.

I had already heard of this brand about a year ago, when they liked one of my coffee pics on Instagram and then I found out that they were going to open a coffee shop at the Dubai Mall in May 2016 – this seemed to have been postponed until September 2016 and so I knew that once given the opportunity to visit Dubai again, then I would head there, which is what I did in early February.

Located downstairs, just around the corner from the aquarium in Dubai Mall – thus is important because the mall is huge, and on the way to the Souk, opposite Sacoor Brothers is Arabica%.

As you enter, they’ve tried to escape the typical chain mall coffee shop feeling with cold decor and dotted place with coffee bean sacks, brown communal tables and chairs to give you that kind of authentic feel, alluding to their artisanal vibe – we are serious about coffee and if you are looking for Starbuck, head right back out.


They’ve got the kind of brew bar you would find in serious coffee shops in London, New York or Melbourne; 2 x two group slayer espresso machines, matching 2 group mazzer grinders, uber boiler and all the brew options of chemed, V60, etc.


You are prompted to order with a coffee menu, which impatient customers ignore and just ask for “a Latte”. There menu is impressive – they have their house blends but also some special 90+ beans, which will set you back $20 or more for a cup. However, although I think the is great for coffee lovers like me, it may be wise if they had more experienced staff on hand to explain why this latte or filter brew costs $5 and this one costs upwards of $20. I know “geisha” and 90+ coffees are expensive due to their taste profiles, rarity and relatively low production, but for someone just making the conversion from mass style chains to speciality coffee, they need to know that this isn’t just another gimmick.

On that last point, when I placed my order, I decided to go off the list and ask for a Cortado, coupled with some questions on bean origin. I hasten to add a proviso – if someone like me walks into a speciality coffee shop and see all the gadgets and understand all the coffee language, then my expectations are raised in that I expect the staff to be able to handle some basic questions. I did hesitate however on asking them to adjust the brew and pressure gauges like I usually do at Balthasar (Vienna), but that was only because the place was quite busy – my point about the word “Arabica”. On hearing that I wasn’t the typical customer, the head barista,Yash (who I found out later was formerly of Common Grounds, Mall of Emirates and UAE aeropress champion) decided that he would attend to me. During which time we briefly chatted about their focus and about his background and mine.

Ah! one cortado.

On the clientele, it was predominantly locals, Emiratis, dotted with passer byes and coffee aficionados judging by their orders.

After my cup, I decided to walk over and ask some more questions about their coffee, roast profiles etc (I’m sure if my wife was with me, her eyes would have rolled up, followed by a  sigh), but yet again it was Yash to the rescue. After convincing me to buy their house blend which is dark roasted (I am usually not a fan of dark roasted oily beans) and offering me a 90+ espresso shot, I bought a bag of beans, exchanged instagram addresses and was on my way.

In summary, Arabica is a welcome addition to Dubai Mall, which although gigantic, I’ve managed to become accustomed to getting around it without too much difficulty. I’m loving the concept that people are taking their coffee seriously and that even though their many customers might not know it up front, this is a small step in changing peoples perception of coffee. You no longer have to drive out into industrial complexes to get coffee and for tourists like me who don’t have easy access to road transportation, it is great to know that by using the Dubai Metro to the largest mall in the World, you don’t have to suffer with chain coffee but can get a good cuppa, even up till midnight – yes! they close at midnight – now this has to be one of the very few places in the World you can get speciality coffee at close to midnight. The jury might still be out on my “best coffee shop in a mall” award, recently given to Common Grounds (Mall of Emirates – see here), but I think Arabica could be a good contender and will fall in second for now. Nevertheless they are planning a massive expansion in 2017, with new shops planned for the whole Gulf area, Germany, France, USA and even England, so watch out for them.

Well done Arabica for the name and concept and I look forward to visiting many times when I visit Dubai insha’allah.


Drinking Coffee in Cape Town 2016

Flat White at Rosetta

Flat White at Rosetta

If you remember, I used to own a cafe in Cape Town – the time when I pursued my dream to earn from my passion, between 2010 and 2012, with the aptly called Escape Caffe – based on two things – I saw and still see coffee as the drink of the escapist – and secondly, when I used to doddle at work, I broke down the word escape into three things – ES for espresso, CAP for cappuccino and E for eat – okay, so don’t steal my idea because one of these days God willing, I plan to continue my dream – just waiting for the right moment and investor.

Okay, so I had the opportunity to visit Cape Town again for longer than one day (last time was April 2013) and made sure that this time I tried as many cafes as possible. I need to mention that upon my return, it seemed like every corner or space had flourished into some sort of spot offering coffee, some even claiming to be the best – I won’t mention any names. Nevertheless, my list below is by far from exhaustive and there are some that I didn’t really have the opportunity to visit this time, but are still worth mentioning like Loading Bay and Origin Coffee in De Waterkant – Truth Coffee on Buitekant Street and Deluxe Coffeeworks, who now have an additional two coffee shops at 6 Roodehek, in Gardens and 8 Kloof Street to go with their original base at 25 Church Street.

Issi (formerly Escape Caffe), 130 Bree Street, CBD

Okay, so I thought I should start with the place where my cafe used to be. Now under the third owners, Gerald and Jeremy plus one (the last two have left now) the cafe has gone under a vast transformation. Sure, some of the colours were there, as well as the La Marzocco Linea and anfim grinders, but otherwise it’s very different. There are a lot more chairs, more cooked food offerings and my previous office is now a bakery. They get their coffee from a newish roastery and their blend is Isabella, a medium to dark roast. I ordered a double espresso.

Espresso at Issi

Espresso at Issi

Not bad, with lots of crema.

If you’re driving in this vicinity stop by for some coffee. Nearby, there are lots of other cafes, like Honest Cafe, famed for their premium raw chocolate bars, who have now ventured into coffee too. I was already full of coffee by the time I went there. so I just bought chocolate, which I have to confess was one for the best chocolates I’ve ever had. Also, nearby are Bean There, which opened before I left in 2012.

 

Evil Twin/The House of Machines, 84 Shortmarket Street, CBD 

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I must confess, the main reason for stopping at this cafe, was the pic above, which I saw in Conde Nast Traveler’s guide to eating and shopping in Cape Town. I thought it was cool and by the time I stopped here, I was literally panting for coffee on what was a hot day in Cape Town at 27C. House of Machines (HoM) is like a bring your bike and drink coffee place, which I learnt buzzes at night as it moonlights as a biker bar. As it states on their website, it is “fusion of coffee, café, craft beer, cocktails, live music, menswear and custom bikes — the quintessential fine purveyor for the modern man”.

They have 2 organic arabica organic blends, roasted by their master roaster. I ordered a cappuccino due to the confidence of the barista, who promised me I would really like their blend. As they only have large cups for take away, I had to suggest that he cuts the milk as I’m not a big sized cappuccino person.

large cappuccino

large cappuccino

Visit if you like drinking your coffee with loud rock music and harley davidson bikes outside, yeah!

 

Espresso Lab, the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock

I first visited Espresso Lab in October 2009, just before I moved to Cape Town to open Escape Caffe see here. I loved their strict adherence to sourcing and roasting the Nordic way, hence the title, “lab”, which indicates that no mistakes can be made, taking their job very seriously. When I first started my cafe, I used to order coffee from them before I changed to another roaster. Upon my return in 4 years, it’s still as busy as ever, especially on a Saturday at the Neighbourgoods market, where you can taste the World with fresh fruit, juices, smoothies, artisanal bread, sandwiches, eastern fare, burgers and more.

Armed with about 10 staff, stack s of great coffee, 2 two-group La Marzocco GB5, there’s often a queue to order your high quality “caffeine” fix. I went for my fave, Cortado, where you get an even combination of double espresso and well frothed milk;

Cortado at Espressolab

Cortado at Espressolab

Also on offer to go with their well roasted coffee, of which I bought a bag of fruity Ethiopia Sasaba Guji; are coffee tools too. Highly recommended for your coffee fix if and when you visit the Neighbourgoods market – a must if you are ever in Cape Town on a Saturday.

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Rosetta Roastery, Woodstock Exchange, Woodstock

Pretty woman at Rosetta

Pretty woman at Rosetta

So I’ve saved the best for last….

Just as I was about to leave Cape Town and sell off Escape Caffe, Rosetta Roastery were just opening. However, being as busy I was , I didn’t really have any time to visit. After I left, their location was completely brought down and remodelled into the very arty and modern Woodstock Exchange – home to a creative community, where you can buy very trendy furniture, artefacts and more. I had contacted a former and very loyal customer of mine, where to meet for the best coffee in Cape Town and he suggested Rosetta. As you enter Woodstock Exchange, there’s a very trendy foodie bar, Suprette on your left and as you walk a few more metres on your right is Rosetta Roastery, with wooden decors complemented with black tones, but not in an overwhelming way, so that it is cosy but not intimidating. As you enter Rosetta, to your left there’s an array of coffees and coffee brewing equipment to buy and the brew bar greets you with a Kees van der Westen Spirit Duette machine (i.e. a two group fancy machine).

kees van der westen spirit

kees van der westen spirit

Brew Bar @ Rosetta

Brew Bar @ Rosetta

What I liked about their coffee menu was that you can have all their single origin coffees brewed as an espresso – they don’t offer a blend. This is kind of in line with some new thinking in coffee roasting, where roasters are beginning to question the validity of the “espresso” roast, rather than just roasting a coffee to the best of its potential and then brewing it how you like. I must confess, my fave coffee of 2010 was a Brazilian Coffee roasted by Square Mile Coffee, London – see here. It managed to cross all the brewing boundaries and was excellent in at least 4 ways (espresso, cappuccino, americano and even French Press). I digress.

So, I tried one of their Central American blends as a Cortado, mindful that I would be heading to Espresso Lab next. Well brewed and presented as you can see.

yummy

yummy

After which, I picked up a bag of their Colombian single origin arabica coffee to brew at home as an espresso as recommended by one of the staff.

I think the main reason why I really liked Rosetta, is that not only are they seriously committed to roasting and serving you the best coffee they can get hold off, but that the atmosphere is one where you can escape – it’s kind of cosy but in a relaxing way, where you are not intimated – even if you look out of the window, there’s a bit of green in this very concrete mass of a place. The creative atmosphere energy outside seems to have nestled in Rosetta too. I can imagine all the creatives popping in there to chat about new ideas or just day dream about their next venture. Okay, Rosetta is high on my list of cafe to be visited ever.

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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.


London Coffee Diary 2016

Cappuccino from Black Sheep

If you follow me on instagram and can flick through all the fashion posts, you’ll see that I was in London last August to visit family, eat, shop and of course drink coffee. The main difference between this trip and last years, to keep things fresh, is that I went out of my way to visit cafes that I’ve heard off, but never visited, so prepare yourself for another coffeelinary (perhaps I should claim this word) journey.

 

Store Street Espresso (formerly Continental Stores) 54 Tavistock Place Bloomsbury (Russell Square)

A sister shop to another one of London’s greats, Store Street Espresso, Continental Stores, now known as Store Street Espresso 2, is in the heart land of London student city, Bloomsbury, i.e. Russell Square and its surroundings. In fact their shop is opposite where my brother lives but when I visited during the Christmas period they were shut because all the students were gone. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were opened this time around in mid-summer. It’s designed with simple yet very Londonish decor and I’m sure there’s a story to do with the coffee bar with it’s large trunk style wooden edifice. 


With bar stools and patio like space at the back of the shop, there’s plenty to choose from;  cakes, salads, sandwiches and of course coffee, backed up with good service. Using Square Mile coffee on a Synesso espresso machine, I couldn’t help but order my daily flat white.

 

I should emphasise that their flat white is in sticking with the strict volume proportion guidelines, where the focus is on tasting the coffee and not flavoured milk, so don’t expect a 330ml cup, just enjoy the coffee.

 

The Attendant, 27a Foley Street, Fitzrovia

If you’re an avid follower of new cafes and unusual places to visit in London, then you may already have heard of the attendant. In short, it used to be an underground public toilet in the heart of Fitzrovia (area between Oxford Street and Regents Park) and was converted into a cafe a few years back. Don’t worry, as I re-assured my wife, the hygiene specialist – my wife that is – the place doesn’t smell of human waste, just coffee and cakes. It’s dark lit with the old urinals separate sitting areas with a barstool. 


I actually visited three times because I wanted to buy the Kenyan coffee they used to brew my aeropress on my first visit – I triumphed on the third visit. The carrot cake as well as the banana bread with poppy seeds are also highly recommended.


The attendant with its lead baristafrom Germany , also seems quite popular with tourists as every time I visited it was quite obvious that people were visiting to take pictures and order coffee, so join either the tourist or coffee fanatic trail and visit when you want a break from shopping on nearby Oxford Street.

 

Black Sheep Coffee, 5-7 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia

Not that far from the Attendant if you know your way around Fitzrovia, is black sheep coffee. 


I’ve known about this company for over 2 years since I was exposed to their coffee at the Ampersand Hotel. One of their unique points if their dedication to getting the best out of robusta coffee – the inferior coffee bean to arabica – but they seem to be doing a good job as I witnessed for myself a few months back when I ordered and brewed their coffee in the comfort of my home, see here. However, I had never been to their cafe, located near Goodge Street. With a dark and cosy interior and la marzocco GB5, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to creative savoury and sweet delights, but of course as I was in a rush, I just came for the coffee and as it turned out an inspiring chat with one of the staff, Ben, about international development. 


My daughter got a bit carried away snapping away as I sipped one of their blends with love see pic above at the top of the post. Also on sale are their bottles of cold brew;

Holborn Grind, 199 High Holborn, Bloomsbury

Back to Bloomsbury and closer to the city and law den of London, you’ll find one of the outposts of “the grind” portfolio, Holborn Grind;


They already have soho grind, london grind and shoreditch grind. The decor is bright and great for taking instagram pics of coffee and food – see their instagram page, mainly because the bright red cups surrounded by lots of natural light. They focus not just on savoury and sweet bites but in the evening they transform into a bar. Here for my daily espresso milk based fix, I went straight for a flat white to accompany my toasted ciabatta sandwich.


It’s not as relaxed as the Soho Grind version, where I’ve been many times perhaps because of the clientele but if in the area, worth a visit nevertheless for a good cuppa ‘ coffee.

So, where else?

If you’re rushing out of Soho and want something sweet to got with your coffee, try Crosstown Doughnut and Coffee, located on 4 Broadwick Street, who serve Caravan Coffee.


If you happen to be in Camden Town, near the Regent’s Park end and need a caffeine fix, then stop by at the Coffee Jar on 83 Parkway, who serve renowned Monmouth Coffee in a cute urban hideaway serving cakes and savoury delights too.


Although known to many, I also dropped by at Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (formerly Speakeasy) located at Lowndes Court, just off Caranaby Street for my daily fix and to grab two bags of coffee (Kaldi gate for espresso and Kenyan Black Othaya for filter).


With so much to see and places to get a great cup of coffee, London’s is still my fave coffee and shopping city, good on ya mate!!!! Mind the gap


Drinking Coffee in Lagos and Abuja (Nigeria)


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

Hans and Rene, Radisson  Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos

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


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

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

Read more about the establishment here

 

Cafe Neo, 6 Agoro Odiyan Street,Victoria Island

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

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

The Orchid Bistro, 58 Isaac John St, Ikeja

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

“given enough coffee, I could rule the World”