It should no longer come as a surprise to you that whenever I get the opportunity to stop over in Dubai, I take it. So on the last occasion, my plan was to try another cafe that I had never been to. Calling my newly converted “to specialty coffee” friends in Dubai one afternoon and enquiring what they were up to, they mentioned that they wanted to try a new cafe out in Dubai and what do you know, coincidentally, praise God – it was one I had never been to – Brew Cafe, located in Jumeirah Road, Umm Suqeim 2. As I wasn’t that far away, another friend drop me by.
Upon entering I did my coffee geek thing – scout the cafe and ask the staff about the coffee on offer. In summary, they have an uber boiler and a special gadget, never seen before, for preparing filter coffee, a typical Swedish style glass counter, displaying some sweet treats and sandwiches. As you enter, there are some high chairs to your left and some lower seating on the right together with red tiled topped tables. Closer to the window on the left, where we sat, they have a low table with some chairs. To the far left near the brew counter, they have a shelf selling coffees and brewing gadgets. The pay point has a back drop of their logo.
However, the main scene stealer for me was the Kees van der Westen spirit two group coffee machine, which I haven’t seen for a while. A very fine looking machine that promises to deliver;
So, off to the coffee then. They have some unusual coffee menu items for the untrained eye, like the nitro (never tried) and the magic (I used to serve this at Escape in cape town but in summary it hails from Melbourne and mine was a triple shot cortado). I settled for a piccolo, knowing that later I couldn’t resist a filter brew.
On coffees, they have a strong bias for Barn Berlin – one of Berlin’s finest coffee roasters, offering for both espresso and filter brew, but I was wondering why they haven’t been loyal to the up and coming local coffee roasteries. However, I spotted a coffee bag from newly crowned world coffee roaster of the yearGardelli – a bag from Uganda – the Mzungu coffee project. Initially the barista, John, wanted to make this for me but when I went for it, he informed that there wasn’t enough to make my chemex, crying out loud. For my second brew, I chose a Costa Rican coffee, roasted by Barn Berlin. I shared some with my friends so that they could sample filter coffee not just from one of the consistently good coffee producing nations on earth, but more importantly to introduce their taste buds to a new way of tasting and drinking coffee.
Before I left I bought a bag of Barn Berlin Costa Rican Vulcan Azul coffee to take back to Vienna – perhaps I should have felt guilty from an environmental perspective – buying German roasted coffee, shipped to Dubai and then shipped back to Germany’s neighbour, Austria. Sorry!
In summary, another good Dubai coffee experience at a no frills place that might need more staff when it gets a bit busy. Nevertheless you are guaranteed some good coffee and if you have space, some sweet treats too.
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.
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.
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
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.
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;
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.
Rosetta Roastery, Woodstock Exchange, Woodstock
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).
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.
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.
It seems Vienna might be following, albeit slowly, the trend highlighted by London, whereby after the hosting of the World Barista Championships (WBC) , an explosion of new age/third wave coffee shops evolve. So, here we are at Coffee Pirates, located at 17 Spitalgasse in the 9th district of Vienna, where University Students aplenty gather together with trendy middle class apartments. There is no shortage of ambition here, with proprietors going for gusto with a Kees van der WestenSpirit Duette espresso machine, third wave gadgets like aeropress and Hario V60s and soon to be installed, a Diedrich IR-2 coffee roasting machine, all under one roof, Wow! Now that’s what I call home.
Newly opened, so somewhat undiscovered yet, Coffee Pirates are open during the week and on Saturdays too (great for me, as they are located nowhere near where I work). They also serve sandwiches, cakes, muffins and snacks, similar to your NY Style/London café.
The interior contrast very widely with the exterior, with beige wood floors and walls and other homely touches to make you feel relaxed, not to mention the very friendly owners
– here’s Werner smiling as he makes my cappuccino on his very flash machine.
They’ve also got a chalk board wall by the toilets and of course I had to write something
so, pop by & escape into a coffee hub that stands out in Vienna.
Not the ideal time to pop to London in the middle of winter 2012, but I was tempted by a few opportunities just a couple of weeks back to visit London again – my fave city and my fave city for coffee of course. If you know me by now, you won’t be surprised to learn that my first stop was at Prufrock Coffee Shop on Leather Lane again, – well ! I had to take a look at the new Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine and drink coffee from it didn’t I ? Sadly, I forgot my camera at the hotel, so no pics of this beauty from me, but I can say, surprise, surprise that the flat white I had was good as usual. After my staple of Prufrock coffee, I went almost around the corner to St Ali, Clerkenwell, for lunch and coffee (again). The beetroot salad was delicious but I decided to spoil myself by ordering the Colombian Gaitania on an aeropress – naturally sweet, medium acidity and very pleasant to drink.
I decided to finish my day with a place that I’d dreamed about visiting, Tapped and Packed on 26 Rathbone Place in Central London. The vibe was English cool and although there were only two staff at the time, Louise, the main barista, managed to handle the small crowd that was pouring in at about 4pm. I sat down on a bench inside the cafe, flicked through the British newspapers, dug into my double stacked very English Victorian Sandwich Cake, spilling icing sugar onto the floor, washed down with some water, before savouring my 3rd Wave coffee, an El Salvador Finca La Fany, prepared on the Hario V60, roasted by Has Bean Roasters. I enjoyed my caramel sweet coffee.
Day 2 was a bit of a disaster on the coffee side, as after almost 4 hours of 1 interview, I didn’t get to taste coffee until 4pm – ahhhh ! now that’s a long time for me, but my coffee pangs were satisfied with a 150ml flat white at Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar, Coffee Smiths second shop, on 3 Lowndes Court, just off Carnaby Street in Central London. I also had the pleasure of having a nice Brazilian coffee (forgot the name), using the Filtro Brewer offered by the owners, Chris and Tim – thanks! Speakeasy decor is similar to most of the new coffee shops, but they’ve tried to arrange the seating in a manner that allows you to “speak easy – ily”, so most of the customers appear to be having meetings in hush hush tones – for a quieter meeting, there’s a downstairs seating area in the basement, airy and not stuffy at all. As with all the new age cafes, they’ve got a selection of coffees for you try to go with a handsome selection of cakes and pastries – all the lunch sarnies had gone.
From then on, I was kind off free to visit and sample coffees from different cafes, but I must confess, I confined myself to places that I had missed on my last coffee tour in April 2011.
Day 3, I headed off to unknown territory, Canary Wharf – Yes! after so many years of living and visiting London, I had never been to Canary Wharf. I must admit,it seemed a bit surreal – like Dubai in a way – new and straight roads with new buildings and skyscapers, BUT tucked in there was a superb coffee shop, who never compromise on quality and who seem to be raising the standard, in a tough city like London, for the expansion of high quality coffee and this can only be….
That is long for Taylor Street Baristas and NOT Taylor Saint Baristas (I thought it was the latter when I first saw the name). A very short history – Taylor St Baristas is made up off siblings, Nick, Laura and Andrew and have been operational for 7 years. Their first shop was in Richmond and they have just have opened their 8th shop (Exchange Tower in South Quays, about 10 minutes walk from their 7th shop in Canary Wharf). I was lucky enough to meet all three of them and I must say they were really friendly and warm – naturals. I think their characters together with their knack (English for talent/gift) for getting excellent locations, serving great coffee and their vision means that they have a long way to go on the road to more success. I promise a separate post on their Canary Wharf branch, which I went to twice.
I finished off Day 3 with a visit to Notes, Music & Coffee second shop, 36 Wellington Street in Covent Garden (I went to shop 1 in April 2011). The decor and ambience was reminiscent of a Parisian cafe and I told the owner Fabio that, whom I met for the first time – call it Continental cool. Well, they’ve been consistent with the gear here as they also have a La Marzocco Strada together with all the other stuff you’d expect as well as a selection of coffees. I could resist the temptation to order the Brazilian Capao (my favourite coffee of 2010), roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters, prepared on the V60. Although I enjoyed my coffee, I detected that this seasons’ harvest (probably from 2011), wasn’t on the same level as the 2009/2010 one, which completely blew my mind. I got an added bonus by bumping into Mr London Coffee Celebrity himself, James Hoffmann (Square Mile Coffee) after meeting with the UK operators of New Zealand outift, Ozone Coffee Roasters (Liz Bain and James). Slight digression, but Ozone Coffee Roasters are quite big in New Zealand and are planning on opening their first international shop this March in London, located at Leonard Street, just off the Old Street Circus bordering Shoreditch/Clerkenwell/the City.
For Day 4, it was off to the West End in Central London to do some shopping for the family and for my palate, so I stopped off at newbie Sensory Lab – sister shop of St Ali. Sensory Lab is on 75 Wigmore Street, just off St Christophers Place in the direction of Selfridges Department Store.
Sensory Lab is well kitted out with a Synesso Cyncra espresso machine, Uber Bolier to help accurately prepare aeropress, V60 coffees et al. They have a coffee menu with a selection of coffees. It is easy to be intimated by the decor as you enter the coffee shop with the rows of coffees, coffee equipment and blue grey walls, but all this will be softened by the attendant, friendly and knowledgeable staff. I went for my usual milk based morning drink, Cappuccino, made with St Ali’s Cult of Done Espresso.
With a nicely laid out stash of coffees, I couldn’t but, grab a bag of the Colombian Gaitania, that I had had earlier in the week.
took some pics and left for lunch on Australia Day at…
Kaffeine – where I enjoyed my scrumptious lunch “bufala mozzarella, spinach and chimichurri retro baguette (this was my second attempt, as it was sold out the day before), finished off with my best espresso of my trip, Square Mile Coffee Red Brick Espresso Blend – yum, full on. I really wanted to take a pic but Kaffeine was so packed, I barely got enough arm room to eat my sandwich. The staff, including Peter Dore-Smith (the owner), were completely swamped with customers queing and pouring in and out of the cafe.
After all the pics I’ve seen of the place, I had to make the trek to finish off my London cafe expedition with a visit to finally meet, Sang Ho (aka Korean Barista) at Tapped and Packed 114 Tottenham Court Road. Full as ever, from what I read, there was no space to sit down. The decor is brown, with a mirror used to list their coffees and prices. As you enter, all the seating area is along the windows dotted like a square shape. Next to the till, they have a coffee recipe for third wave coffee, where I was treated to an “on the house” Brazilian Capim Branco prepared on the Hario V60 by Sang Ho himself (a day before he was crowned barista champion in the South East England heats).
Next to the V60 station, there’s the uber cool, copper water tank, where regulars know this is where you get your water from. The pic at the top of this post is located just outside their shop, but I couldn’t resist snapping away at these flat whites, waiting on the side, prepared by their custom made Nuova Simonelli, with wooden porta-filters and trimmings.
After a brief chat with Sang Ho about coffee I realised that it was the end of my coffee tour. As I walked down Tottenham Court Road towards Oxford Street, I noticed lots of coffee shops, but if people knew about Tapped and Packed, near Warren Street Station, I don’t think they’ll compromise on their taste buds to buy coffee at the coffee chains and pretenders nearby.