Category Archives: World of Coffee

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” 

 

 


The Culinary Boutique, Dubai: Wow!

 


The Culinary Boutique, Dubai, Wow! What can I say ?

I walk in with two of my friends and my two kids, tell the first employee, Hans, that I read about them in the emirates magazine, Portfolio and he greets me with such delight, tells me about the cafe, takes me on a  tour, introduces me to the head chef, who takes over, tells me about their philosophy (which I’m very impressed by), introduces me to his staff, shows me the prepping room for their signature lavender croissants, tells me about their cooking schools (which I’d love to try when I visit Dubai again on holiday), then after about 20 minutes, send these down for my party of 5:

Prawn on sweet potato mash

Okay, it’s not coffee, but I’m coming to that.  But when you get service beyond your imagination, you’ve got to commend, congratulate and tell all.

Okay, so  the place is gorgeous in decor, just look below;


I can’t add anymore. Attention to detail. Even if you just visited to look around, you’ll be forced out of sheer will to buy something and yes, I confess it’s expensive, but so is everything with quality – you get what you pay for. Look, a rose croissant;

Rose croissant

Rose croissant

I must confess, I initially visited because of the coffee but the other stuff just blew my mind.

Okay, so let’s get to the coffee. Before my tour, although dressed in typical emirati gear – custom made and designed by me – I exposed my strong coffee sense, naming their machine, a la marzocco GB5, the grinders, asking them about their coffee blend (Kenya and Colombia), roasted by newbie Dubai based roastery, Seven Fortunes. Initially I was a bit apprehensive with the type of blend, as Kenyan coffee beans tend to be very fruity and will take over when brewed as an espresso. I mentioned that most coffee aficionados tend to prefer fruity coffees, so before I could even place an order, Hans arranged for the Ugandan barista, Andrew, to make a single shot for me;


Yes, it was a bit fruity, but the acidity was mellow enough to consume without frowning. I mentioned that yes, people used to drinking coffee at your usual coffee chain will have their taste buds mesmerised by a fruity espresso blend and may frown. However, I recollect that when I tried such an experiment at my cafe in Cape Town (2010-2012), I had to offer free coffee tasting lessons so that people could appreciate what I was trying to do. Perhaps Culinary Boutique should try this. However, as a coffee lover, I won’t change the coffee – let people know that you are different and educate them about why your coffee tastes different. Stick to your guns Culinary Boutique.

So, of course I ordered a cortado – not on the menu, so that I could appreciate the fruity coffee with a bit of milk.


Delicious !!!

So impressed was I with the coffee, that I asked if I could buy some of the beans, which being as accommodating as they were, they obliged, yay! More on that in a later post on Dubai cafes and roasteries.

So thanks to Hans, Andrew, the Capetonian cafe manager and the head chef and of course the owner, whom I didn’t meet, but I was informed about her strong commitment to providing the best and it showed.

Looking forward to trying out their food next time insha’allah.

Check them out at :

AddressVilla #56,Jumeira Beach Rd,Jumeirah 1 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone+971 4 345 0023

 

 

 


Coffee: The rule is, there is no rule


I know that sounds like a paradox and I’m sure some of my followers are like “what is he talking about” For many years, Lameen, that’s my real name – has been saying adhere to the golden rules – measurement, temperature and volume, to name a few. BUT, the main reason I’m writing this, is that occasionally I’ve strutted into a place to dictate how my coffee should be made, and on more than one occasion this year, I’ve been pleasantly stunned by coffee served to me without the rules I hold dear.

Don’t teach an old dog new tricks with Espresso

That’s the pic at the top of the blog. So, after not having espresso for about 5 days, I strutted into the airport lounge and spotting an espresso machine, asked for one naturally. As soon as the barista started making the espresso, I said “la!” i.e. no in Arabic and asked if I could make it. So, I clean the very filthy group head, flush it and ask for the coffee. To my horror, it’s pre-ground espresso, stored in a drawer and although there’s air condition inside, it’s like 40C outside. For a coffee geek like me, my mind is “oh no the moisture, the crazy unstable temperature will affect the coffee, which has already been pre-ground and for how long has it been pre-ground”. Resigned, I’m like, okay, here’s how to tamp. I attempt to tamp with wait for it,  the bottom of the glass, because the tamper is not large enough to cover the porta filter “aargh!” – this means that although some of the coffee will be pressed, the coffee on the border will not. OK!, so I now attempt to make an espresso – flush the group head and place my porta filter inside the group head and brew – what a disaster – the coffee is all over the place and the coffee resembles…. I’d rather pass.

The barista and his colleagues detecting deep disappointment on my face, then resorts to pull an espresso for me – I watch him and the only thing he does differently, which makes me feel happy, is that he cleans and flushes the grouphead before he pulls the shot and guess what – it looked a lot better than my attempt. So, how did he break the rules;

  • he used pre-ground espresso, as opposed to grinding on the spot
  • he didn’t measure the coffee, as opposed to using about 18-22 g for a double
  • he didn’t really tamp, as opposed to the rule of 30 pounds of pressure
  • the espresso machine was really hot – I’d guess close to 100C, as opposed to about 93-94.5 C

And that’s what I could see. So how did it taste. Not bad and above my expectations given the rule breakers. So, to conclude, the rules were broken but a decent shot ensured.

 

Never buy pre-ground coffee

Okay, on this occasion, the coffee was bought for me. Whenever my colleagues travel and buy coffee, they bring it back for me to brew and serve them, which I try and do every Friday when I’m not busy – a rare scenario of late. If ever they ask me “whole beans or ground” I always answer, “whole beans”. On this occasion, a colleague brought me this bag from Kenya, apologising for having not brought back beans. I casually looked at the bag, Java House , Kenyan AA arabica, which looked well presented and was even more taken aback by the tasting notes of grapefruit, blackcurrant and lively. Again, sceptical I brewed it using my french press recipe of 60g to one litre of 95C water. Wow! guess what? There was a bloom on top of the coffee (a sign of fairly fresh coffee) and more importantly of all, I tasted a grapefruit acidity with a hint of blackcurrant. 


Okay, so that rule was broken.

 

Espresso is always brewed at 9 bar pressure for about 22-25 seconds

So, just this week, after Ramadan, I headed to my fave cafe in Vienna, Balthasar to check out their new espresso machine a Slayer Espresso machine. Otto, the owner, had been telling me for months that it was coming and he was so excited. In fact when I met him on Wednesday, I should have interviewed him as he relayed to me for about 4 minutes what the slayer could do. The gist was that you can brew at different bar pressures and for as long as you want, so I ordered a fruity espresso. In short to get a fruity espresso, it is brewed at 3, then 9 and then 3 bars of pressure over about a minute !!! what ? Usually, espresso is brewed at 9 bars of pressure for about 22-25 seconds with about 18-22 grammes of freshly ground coffee yielding about 25-30ml of espresso.

 So, what has changed ? The whole game with this type of espresso machine – the rule is, there is no rule, because you can now brew espresso how you like, like a recipe ordered to your preference “fruity, nutty, low acidity, high acidity….?” carry on.


 A really fruity cup with over medium acidity.

 

Just one more thing

Well! I’ve got to redeem myself somehow – we can’t just give up on the rules, ion not there’ll be anarchy.

So, as a prelude to my first experience, way back in January this year. I ordered a cappuccino at a top hotel in Zimbabwe (Meikles) because I spotted a La Marzocco GB5 machine, BUT. Watching the barista, I saw he used pre-ground espresso coffee, didn’t flush the group head, didn’t clean the group head, didn’t tamp with any real pressure, didn’t measure the coffee systematically, frothed a foam mountain and didn’t appreciate the kind of machine he was using. So, I stepped in and he was so willing to learn but on this occasion I didn’t touch the machine – I just guided him from across the counter. In the end, I got a good cup, with thick crema and although no latte art was present, it was along the lines.

 

To top it off, the barista was excited by what he had just learned, he was going to access youtube to learn more skills and watch latte art being poured. Yay! a job well done.

So, yes sometimes the rules can be broken and you may succeed but in general, adhere to and know the rules before you tamper (sic) with them.