Buying Coffee in London – Part 1

Just back from an exciting short trip to London, where I found two new places to buy coffee from. Thanks in part to breezing through the back of Hattie Ellis’ book on coffee, “Coffee – Discovering, Exploring, Enjoying“, I made a dash for HR Higgins (Coffee Man) on 79 Duke Street, by the posh end of Oxford Street, near the world famous Selfridges Store. Prior to visiting, I had e-mailed them, to ask about the freshness of their coffee, which they confirmed was roasted fresh by themselves and delivered twice a week to their shop. Their shop looks very traditional, but they do have one of those priced stickers on their coffee bags, which highlights that Her Majesty the Queen of England has given them her blessings, so I’m guessing that they know what they are talking about, having been in the business since 1942. Well ! it was refreshing to speak “bean talk” (a new term from moi on asking about what beans are good for different types of coffee brewing) with the two very helpful shop assistants, trying to catch them out on how well they knew their beans from their beanos (an old English comic). I often find that when you visit some coffee shops, staff don’t know what they are selling, which can be a bit frustrating to people like me wanting to broaden our coffee horizons. So, its refreshing when you meet people who know and can advise you on what to try, and as I am a variety type of man when it comes to food and coffee, I rarely try the same stuff –  Monmouth’s Organic Espresso Blend and Origins of Cape Town’s Organic Sidamo are the exceptions. After a bit of a tug of war, I settled for Indian Malabar, as I have been a bit reluctant to try an Indian arabica. I also wanted something with Costa Rica in it, so I got a Santiago Blend, which is made up of beans from Costa Rica Tarrazu and Colombia Supremo. I’ll let you know what it tastes like God willing !  

In Defense of the Bean

Thanks to my sister, I got a link to no less than CNN – yes the news channel and website – to an article (5 Foods that should have a place in your diet) which naturally has a guest appearance by “Coffee”. Its a short and sweet article highlighting the fact that although your average cup of coffee contains 100s of different chemical stuff, the good stuff outweighs the bad (if any). OK ! I know that I am a bit bias, after all I do have a website called “from coffee with love” but I’m just trying to highlight the “love” in the bean. Back to the article – a lot of recent research from both UK and USA show that drinking small amounts of coffee during the day, increases alertness including those that need hand-to-eye coordination (engineers and dress makers take note). There’s more – another study done in the USA and across some other countries in the World showed that those drinking about 4 to 6 cups a day of coffee had a 28% lower risk of getting diabetes.  Just a thought – I’ve noticed that over the past several months, making freshly ground espresso with my expensive coffee machine has lowered my appetite for sugar in coffee as I prefer to avoid any sugar to get the real intense taste from the coffee. Also, some coffees, especially those from Central America, tend to be sweetish if prepared properly and sugar just doesn’t help. Does this lower my risk of diabetes ? I don’t know, but ask your doctor.  In any case, just thought that I’d share some info on the good stuff in coffee.

Oh ! Sidamo

Sidamo – Coffee from the southern region of Ethiopia, and according to some the very spot where coffee was discovered. Sidamo coffee beans look a bit unusual, with a whiteish line going through the middle of the bean even after being roasted. I got my latest bag of freshly roasted organic Sidamo coffee beans from my favourite coffee shop, Origin Coffee Roasting in Cape Town, almost 10,000 miles away, during my last trip down to South Africa.

Origins Sidamo 

The way it was roasted and eventually prepared by me for my daily morning dose of Cappuccino reminded my lips and taste buds of caramel/chocolately overtones. That’s my impression and “true to the bone” (slang: for gut feel) feeling, however, I am aware that some experts and websites classify Sidamo as a coffee with a floral essence – who am I to argue ? However, lots of things come into play here just to make our lives more complicated – the type of milk, the water, the type of roast (Origin Coffee don’t dark roast their Sidamo beans until the oils begin to settle on the bean), plus when milk is frothed it becomes sweet and caramelly like. Enough ramblings and justification for my tongue. Anyway, it’s all over now as I just finished the 250g bag in under 2 weeks of course, but don’t know where and when I’ll get another lovely bag of organic Sidamo beans – Oh ! Sidamo, Oh ! Sidamo……… As you can guess, Sidamo comes highly recommended by moi. Look out for it in gourmet coffee shops. As with the majority of African Coffees (yes ! Ethiopia is in Africa for those who skipped geography lessons), which tend to be bold and “strong”, you will get a good taste using a French Press or Cafetiere. Enjoy !

Coming Soon – More on the Blog

Apologises to those who read this, but I’ve been a bit lazy of late – my last post was many weeks ago. Perhaps I can use the excuse of tons of work, but nowadays, everyone has lots of work. Anyway enough rambling. COMING SOON ! (i) a short piece on drinking coffee in Dubai (ii) Cape Town Coffee Scene, November 2007 and (iii) thoughts and tips.

Two More Coffee Shops in Vienna (Part 2)

Newly opened as of February 2007, is Kaffe Kuche (coffee kitchen in English), located at the busiest metro station in Vienna, Schottentor. It is small with comforting dark interiors and dark wood with high stools, but with a location like this, you wouldn’t want anything bigger in any case. However, the key to this new coffee shop is their attention to detail in preparation of Italian based coffee drinks (something that is lacking in Vienna). Now, whilst you wait for your tram to arrive on a wet and cold morning, you can warm yourself up with a freshly ground and prepared cappuccino or caffe latte with, wait for it, latte art – yes ! latte art has arrived in Vienna. In fact, that was the main reason I rushed there in my tight lunch break to order a cappuccino with an apple heart (see intro page of the website for the image and bean there for a picture of the shop). Cut and paste didn’t work here.

The coffee is of course good – it went down smoothly – the sign of a well prepared coffee and well prepared frothed milk – you shouldn’t feel any type of indigestion. In fact, in Italy that is how a well prepared coffee is judged – any sign of indigestion and you’ve been conned. Anyway back to the shop, they use a Dalla Corte espresso machine, which I just found out boasts a DTCS system (Direct Temperature Control System) for the techies and for non-techies, it means that you can control each brewing unit (the part that dispenses your espresso shot). Something similar to what Synesso of Seattle, another top and very innovative espresso machine maker does. This means that if you really want to serve top espresso, then you can control the unit/temperature so that it is just right. Ok ! I’m beginning to get a little bit technical and that’s not the purpose of this message. To the point – the machine, with the help of a well trained barista can deliver good espresso shots. Kaffe Kuche also use a Mahl Konig grind on demand coffee grinder – very classy.

Other offerings include delicious mini-brioche rolls, croissants, smoothies, teas, other health drinks and snacks. Highly recommended when you visit Vienna or live in Vienna for that extra special feel.

Two More Coffee Shops in Vienna (Part 1)

Continuing with my coffee shop hunt in Vienna, I decided to visit the last of the top 3 coffee shops in Vienna (a recent Austrian magazine listed the Roast, Mocca Club and Alt Wien), the Roast on 21 Augasse, opposite the University in the 19th District.

Being in a prime location, I expected the place to be empty on a Saturday afternoon, which it was. In any case, I was impressed by the authenticity of the place. It’s got chairs and tables outside with an extensive list of items on offer. As you enter the shop, you have to climb some stairs, where you are greeted with a comforting interior, complete with brown interior and wooden furniture. To the left as you enter, they have what seemed like a Bagel Bar, where during the week and meal times, you can get fresh filled bagel sandwiches. However, as you enter the shop, the name “the Roast” lives up to its name, as you are greeted with an enormous commercial coffee roasting machine, often used to roast green beans. On the left of this awesome machine, naturally, they have freshly roasted coffee beans to buy and take away. The beans are primarily from Ethiopia and Kenya and they have some blends suitable for different types of coffee drinks; graded according to strength. I bought the 80:20 – ideal for espresso.

Of course, I had to try their coffee making skills and I ordered an espresso macchiato, extracted from their manual hand lever commercial grade espresso machine. A good shot ! I’ll try and go back sometime God willing during their busy period to get a real feel for the place.

Oh No ! Where am I going to get fresh coffee

Just back from fantastic holiday in Dubai and delighted to be back to my Isomac Espresso Machine, where I can make crema rich espresso and froth milk for my macchiatos and cappuccinos, but first I need to buy fresh coffee. As usual I head off to downtown Vienna to Mocca Club but what do I see… a coffee shop on holiday !!! You’ve got to be joking right ? No ! This is Vienna, where you are not supposed to be sick as doctors, dentists, etc go on holiday, but I didn’t think that baristas (or barsiti if you are Italian) would do such a thing, but they do in Vienna. So with mouth gasp, thinking I can’t buy coffee of the shelf, I plough into nearby tourist magnet, Naschmarkt. A few steps and I see my first commercial size coffee roasting machine at a market stall called Gegenbauer. With suspicion I begin to ask the one-man shopkeeper about the origin of the coffee they are selling.. “I don’t know… from many places” OK ! now I’m getting suspicious – you have this lovely roasting machine and you don’t know where your coffee comes from ? Next question “Erm… when was the coffee roasted ? one week ago, longer ?” No he says a bit delighted to share, “about 2 days ago” Ah ha, I’m on to a winner here, only a few days old. Next test ! “would you like to try an espresso or rsitretto ?” OK ! I say, moving back to check their espresso machine – on old looking Rancillo – Of course I check his preparation technique, he uses a tamper, phew and then I get my ristretto, I check for bubble, stir it viciously and the crema still returns tot he top and doesn’t fade away like at other places. So I try one of three coffees on offer – their espresso blend. Get home and voila, bellissimmo – a dark chocolate cream is the best description I can think off. Perhaps next time I will try their espresso blend for milk based drinks. Relieve ! I have found another place to buy freshly ground coffee.

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