It’s one of those questions purist ponder on. Why? Because taste is king. If anything gets in the way of diluting that taste experience then get rid of it. However I think we should employ a middle ground. If something gets in the way of taste let’s try and understand it and make it better. So here are the steps to great #latteart milk based drinks;
Make great #espresso,
Froth great microfoam (the frothed milk with tiny bubbles you cannot really see)
A good latte artist ( I didn’t say a good barista for obvious reasons).
Easy? Well, a Purist may have another opinion. Does the bitter crema on top of great espresso affect the first taste?
Sometimes you can have a great cappuccino, latte or flat white with bad looking latte art (I confess). A middle ground would be to mix the espresso beforehand or what my previous barista used to do, pour a little bit of milk, stir it with the crema and continue pouring your latte art.
Before signing off, you should know that in marketing people fall in love with what they see first, so sight, smell and taste could influence your taste experience.
Yep! That’s it. It may seem a bit strange but a few months back I stumbled across this methodology. I was rushing out for work after my daily cappuccino and as I ran after the bus, I puffed up in exhaustion and I noticed, wow – that was a nice smell – it was like hot chocolate with caramel with some hints of black berries – so I puffed up again to delight my nose with those lovely aromas again – I love good smells. When I got home, I actually checked the taste profile on the coffee bag and none of the smells that I picked up as a I huffed and puffed earlier resembled the roasters profile. So, I thought, have I stumbled onto something new ? For this post, I used an espresso blend coffee from my fave Viennese cafe, Balthasar and brewed another cappuccino – the culprit below (taste profile was milk chocolate and red berries)
I must confess this time I picked up similar smells resembling the taste profile but with caramel on top too.
Actually, I’m not that full of myself (another English colloquial term for arrogant) to think this is new, because I’m sure that some other coffee connoisseurs have picked up on this before.
Strictly speaking it may not be another way to “taste” coffee, but rather another way to appreciate coffee through your nose, as after all, your nose is part of the tasting process before you actually taste the coffee with your mouth. It could also be another breakfast (if you cannot handle coffee at night) trick to impress your friends with like “I’m picking up some other taste profiles when I taste this coffee” and then you puff up through your nose and share what smells and aromas you’re picking up.
I encourage you to try out this method with other types of coffee like espresso and pour-over and delight your nose. Sniff and puff up away and enjoy.
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.
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
It seems that all good things come to those who wait and sometimes they kind of creep up on you. So, one fine sunny day in Vienna, after a fine lunch, I was rushing again and what did I notice, a La Marzocco Strada to my right in a shop – of course I stopped, walked in, saw a friendly guy behind the brew bar and state of the art espresso machine and said “wow! is this a new place…. you’ve got a La Marzocco Strada machine… erm… I’ll be back” And sure I was in 10 minutes and ever since then, several times, taking colleagues, the wife, the daughter, the son and more.
It also helps that Balthasar, is about 15 minutes walk from where I live and about 10 minutes on the underground (in Vienna it’s called the u-bahn) from where I work, so very easy access.
So, what else is there to know about Balthasar apart from the flashy machine.
Well, it’s run by Otto Bayer, a very friendly guy, whose family have been in the catering business for over a century, who gets his coffee from a specialist coffee roaster in Germany, who sources coffee “directly” and often visits the farmers themselves.
On one occasion coffee from the long mile coffee project in Burundi was on offer. In any case, all the gadgets are here, two Mazzer grinders, cold brew system,
V60 brew bar and semi-retired La Marzocco G3 (Otto trained on it, but as he spends all his time in his cafe, it might as well be in the cafe.
On offer also are cakes, brownies and some savouries, as well as tea and Otto’s other speciality, wine – he loves the relationship between wine and coffee and of course the tasting experience of both.
His customers usually order a coffee and then a glass of wine afterwards. Balthasar has been opened for a few months and is decked out with new age furniture like Kartel and palettes, topped with magazines and low hanging light bulbs.
You can also buy coffee and gadgets like V60, the filters, aeropress and other bits. The good thing is that it’s opened from 7:30am to 7pm everyday except Sundays, so visiting on Saturday are great even Otto though must be exhausted but he really loves his job and his cafe.
The coffee menu is not extensive but to the point like the top end cafes in London – cappuccino, flat white, espresso and cafe latte
and a new way of brewing an Americano – brewed for 45 seconds on 5 bar of pressure.
So, what else, just go visit and you won’t be disappointed.
Serra do bone @ home… why ? It’s our number one coffee at Escape Caffe, but always wanting to test parametres, I decided to take some spare beans home to use on my Isomac espresso machine and lets say, not as expensive conical grinder at home. After all, it was at home that I honed my barista skills, studying the bean and writing about different coffees and roaster profiles. At Escape Caffe, we have a La Marzocco 3 group Linea with a built in PID set at 93.6C and we use the becoming popular Anfim Super Camiano grinders – machines way superior to what I have at home, BUT nevertheless I’m thrown back to what Mark Prince (Coffeegeek extraordinaire for those who don’t know) said about preparing espresso “if you follow the rules, you can make a really good espresso at home using a great home grinder and semi-pro espresso machine” (not exact quote but along those lines). In any case, if you follow the rules, you can make better espresso based drinks at home than the vast majority of cafes in the World. I’m not going to get dragged down into the detail of the rules, but in summary they are (i) fairly freshly roasted arabica coffee beans, i.e. within 10-20 days (ii) a decent burr grinder, costing at least US$250 (iii) a semi-pro espresso machine with E61 group head, with lots of brass and heavy metal – this will cost around US$600 (iv) ability to tamp at around 30 pounds of pressure and (v) a very good idea of how to be a home barista, so that you know for example what grind to use so that you get about 25ml of espresso in 25 seconds when you extract coffee, etc, etc.
OK ! so how was Serra do Bone at home ? Pretty nice but with different taste profiles. First up, a bit about the bean – it’s an organic arabica coffee bean, winner of the Cup of Excellence in Brazil, used by Intelligentsia as their organic espresso, displaying taste profiles such as candied apple, cocoa, raspberry, cherry with a medium body and soft acidity. Secondly, don’t be misled by all the taste notes as you are unlikely to taste everything in one cup, because different brewing techniques, as well as temperature and moisture affect the eventual taste of the coffee, but that’s another blog. So in summary, was I disappointed ? NO ! because I stuck to the hard and fast rules. So, at the caffe, we kind of pick up the cherry cocoa elements and when mixed with milk, you get a chocolate berry taste with a hint of caramel, but at home I got a sweeter cocoa caramel taste, which is still very yummy. One reason for the slight difference could be environment, a hihger brewing temperature as my Isomac doesn’t have a PID, as well as the obvious, my Isomac is no La Marzocco, BUT if we follow the “rules” the main taste parameters remain the same. I would love to run a home barista course one of these days, so that people don’t get scared by the prospect of investing in a decent espresso machine and good grinder.
So Serra do Bone at home last week got me to practice my latte art skills, as well as sample a very tasty coffee, and get a good pic of my cappuccino, YUM !
Before I go, apologises for the long delay in blogging – I promise to be more frequent in 2011 – also this is officially my 100th post, yipee !
I was lucky enough to go on our family holiday this year to beautiful Mauritius. With the current financial crisis all over the “richer” part of the World, there are deals galore to dream destinations and Mauritius is definitely one of them. OK ! my second job is not a tour operation so I’m going to get to the bottom of the cup on this – what coffee experiences did I have, because you know that wherever I go I’ve got to have some sort of coffee experience. We stayed at this really nice hotel called Le Touessrok and all coffee served at this top hotel happens to be sourced from Illy.
So every breakfast and every dinner I had Illy coffee. Now to be fair to Illy, sometimes it’s not about the coffee, it’s about how it’s served and sometimes it’s about the type of machine, which for a hotel that was voted the 7th best in the World, should be the best. However, to avoid libel (or being sued), I’m not going to comment on the machine below, as I don’t know what it is.
From my current experience, lots of top hotels and restaurants boast about providing you with the best food, etc, but when it comes to coffee, there’s a bit of compromise. OK ! it was good to be asked what coffee you would like every morning.
OK ! this is a bit exaggerated on the foam, but on another occasion the froth was a bit flatter.
However with views like this from the breakfast table, you can forgive the barista.
Not to be confined to the hotel, we did manage to explore a bit of the Island and headed up to the north-west of the Island to Grand Baie, where I managed to find Cafe La Fournaise on “Sunset Boulevard” named I guess because it is one of the best places to watch the sun set. The location of this cafe is right on sunset Boulevard and has a very French Riviera feel to it – you can easily think you are in a fancy European beach side resort. In any case I ordered an espresso, snapped away and gulped it down before our ride back to our hotel, some 1 hours drive away.
Coffee was okay, but the location is a real people watching place, so I can imagine it being a popular place with rich locals and tourist alike. So, that’s my bit of sharing my coffee experiences in Mauritius, au revoir.
I’m pleased to report that when it comes to customer service, america does not have the monopoly, judging by my second experience of buying coffee from Andronicas. My first experience was when I visited their coffee shop in the World famous department store, Harrods in London. I ordered a double espresso macchiato, which I wasn’t charged for and then they even gave my son a free mini hot chocolate. OK ! now for my second experience. Not to be defeated in my quest to try more of their coffees, I decided to persevere when reading through their website they state that coffees will be delivered anywhere, but of course on trying to order, it was not recognizing my Vienna address, so I wrote once and then again and again until they said “sure we can send coffee to you in Austria”. I think due to the financial crisis, where the exchange rate has moved in favour of buying stuff from England, lots of companies are more than willing to sell stuff to continental Europe and I for one, am doing that with a passion – I’ve been ordering my coffee from abroad since January this year. So, enough of the economics (my main subject at University I hasten to add) and marketing, how about the customer service and the coffee.
Well, I ordered about 750 grammes of coffee, comprising of their 1849 Espresso Blend, Brazilian Bourbon and of course Yemeni Mocha (which I loved, see previous post). I didn’t know that Andronicas only sell coffee in batches of 500g a time, but when I ordered it so happened that one of the main guys, James was visiting Vienna and decided to bring my order with him, saving me postage expenses. On top of what I ordered, he added an extra 1 kilo of coffee, notably their Signature Blend and doubles of what I ordered for FREE. Wow ! I even felt guilty and wanted to pay for the extra bags, but my request was turned down. Now ! that’s what I call customer service. Well, it paid off, because as soon as this first batch finished, I of course ordered more, with one colleague even placing an order, so during these hard items, never forget the customer even more – my one lesson for getting through the financial crisis for retail outfits.
Gee ! I almost forgot about the coffee itself. So, first up was the 1849 Espresso blend, which I thought had a chocolate and nutty taste. Again, I find these type of coffees are best served as espresso milk based drink, so the type of coffee that you need to start your day off with.
Second up, it just got better, the Brazilian Yellow Bourbon, which apparently is a Cup of Excellence coffee. I’ve always thought that espresso with some sort of Brazilian arabica thrown in does it for me. I recall that my best espresso to date was from Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Espresso blend, which constituted some Brazilian arabica. So for this coffee, roasted darkish, whereby the oils begin to seep out of the bean and cover the bean, I detected a sweetish espresso – ideal for after dinner and Yes ! I do drink espresso after dinner and it doesn’t keep me awake – yipee !
And finally, the Signature Blend. Very versatile as both an espresso, full of crema and an espresso based milk drink, with dark chocolate tones, vanilla and hazelnut aroma and hazelnut/intense milk chocolate taste – the kind of cappuccino that brings a smile to your face before jumping into the rat race in the morning.
I also liked it after dinner with it’s full crema qualiities. For one shot, the crema was so inviting that I had to take it through the sugar test, in which it socred very highly, taking 12 seconds for white sugar to drop below the crema cloud and about 6 seconds for dark brown sugar to drop through.
I already told you about the Yemeni Mocha, which I had to blog about separately because it tasted so good. For my next order, I ordered 1 kg of Signature blend for espresso drinks and 1kg of Yemeni Mocha for French Press, so I’ll still be drinking Andronicas coffees for a while yet and guess what, the customer service was still great.
I haven’t really ventured into sharing any type of recipe on this blog yet, because I assume that all those visiting have read through the main website (wishful thinking) or are pros. So in order to stop embarrassing myself and having a barrage of criticism, which would be good for raising the profile of my blog, I’ve avoided this, of course until now, so I’m taking the plunge from this day forth…. wish me luck.
In most cafes, whenever you get served a cappuccino there is always a tendency to sprinkle chocolate powder on top of an exaggerated dense air foam. However, in the top cafes, where they know what they are doing, they avoid these type of gimmicks and just give you the real stuff, espresso and well frothed milk, without heaps of foam. So one day I was thinking, if I had a cafe (one of my dreams) and wanted my customers to still get their kick of chocolate sprinkled cappuccino, how would I serve it. This may not be original, but then I thought, “I wonder if I sprinkle some chocolate powder on top of my espresso before I poured my micro-foam frothed milk on top” and so that is exactly what I did last Sunday, so here is what I call “New Age Cappy“.
New Age because it relates to serving coffee well and Cappy, well as a short trendy name for Cappuccino of course.
Step One: Make sure you extract a thick crema espresso, because when you sprinkle the hot chocolate powder on top, it will have to sit quite comfortable on top without a threat of falling through the crema cloud to the bottom of the cup.
Step Two: Froth your milk properly so that you have micro-foam qualities if not as soon as you pour the frothed milk on top, it will just move the chocolate powder away to the side of the cup with no real design to impress your friends…. hmmm ! Again, I am assuming that you have been practising milk frothing techniques for over two years like me or are a trained pro.
Step Three: Pour the frothed milk into the cup, tilting the cup slightly and making sure the beginning of the pour goes below the crema cloud, before finishing off over the top. I can’t show a picture of this, as I only have two hands and didn’t trust my daughter with my $750 camera, but I plan to do a short video on this God willing sometime in the future. What you should get in any case at the end, is nicely poured cappuccino but with the chocolate sprinkles sitting on top, meshed into the coffee and the frothed milk, so that every sip will end up being unique no less. The final version should look like the picture at the top, but just to give you a closer look, see this one up close and personal.
You see, it wasn’t that difficult after all. I don’t have a patent on this, but if you try this after reading my blog, think of me and tell your customers about my blog – that will do.