Drinking Coffee in Doha, Qatar

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged and trust me I’m very embarrassed.Sure I can give excuses like I’ve been mad busy but surely I should have given myself a bit of “coffee me” time to share my exploits and thoughts on my latest coffee adventures, so here we go.

I had the opportunity just 2 weeks back to have an 8 hour stop-over in Doha, Qatar on my way back from Kenya and took the chance to meet up with friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Naturally, before I set out on my journey I searched on the web for coffee shops in Doha and found one – Flat White (not related to the coffee shop on Berwick Street, London) – more about that later.

Karak Mqanes , La Croisette, Porto Arabia 23, The Pearl Qatar

On meeting my first friend, he suggested we visit the famous Pearl Island and have a Qatari breakfast and I thought “why not”. As we entered the first place, Karak Mqanes, I noticed a sign “Try our Specialty Coffee” with a picture of latte art.

At first I was dubious, as on many occasions I have seen coffee shops trying to trick customers with pictures of latte art. Neverthless, I thought, let’s see what they have. I allowed my friend to order for me and then when he insisted I have tea instead of coffee, I had to be a bit firm as I really wanted to try their coffee. So I asked for a cappuccino before my meal and here it was,

No lies about latte art as you can see, but what about the taste. I must confess with milk it had an intriguing taste, almost like burnt orange and caramel – I can sum it up as a cross between caramelised nuts with with citrus lining. All in all, I would recommend it. About the food it was a bit unusual for me; sweet egg dishes and their version of shakshuka (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) but a place favoured no doubt by the locals. If we had a bit more time, I would have tried their espresso to ascertain the taste profile. So, in summary, my first coffee experience was of to a good start.

Next, my friend asked, where else? Having used the free wifi at Karak Mqanes, I noticed that flat white was not too far away – almost 3-4 minutes walk, so off we went in 38C of heat.

Flat White Unit 346 , La Croisette 27 Porto Arabia – The Pearl Qatar

On entering Flat White, it was similar to the video on their website – a strong focus on coffee with all the gadgets – cool drip, Anfim coffee grinders, relaxed feel, dangling light bulbs, cakes on display, mix of concrete and wood and of course a La Marzocco Strada.

The serving set up was different – you order from the bar and they call you – something unusual for the locals of the richest country in the World. Naturally I ordered a flat white and walked around to check on the barista prep style. After a few minutes, I chatted to him about the place and after informing him that I wrote about coffee and started naming all their gadgets, he looked up intriguingly and gave me an espresso on the house to try – bright citrusy. I also enquired about their beans as it said on their website that they were roasting but apparently they had experienced a few hiccups and hadn’t started using/selling their beans yet – they were using Barn Berlin (a famous roaster from Berlin). My flat white;

I must confess, I’m not a huge fan of citrus based coffees mixed with milk but nevertheless I know it was well prepared. I noticed the place was mostly populated by expatriates – I detected a few Australian accents – this was in contrast to Karak Mqanes, which was populated by Qataris.

So, there we are – in just a few hours.

Before departing for the airport I had lunch with a good friend I hadn’t seen for about 15 years and found out that he is also into coffee. He knew about flat white but suggested that I should have tried out “sweet moments” another specialty coffee shop run by a husband and wife team, selling great sweets and coffee. I guess this will have to be for another time insha’allah but if you are reading this and are planning on visiting Doha for a few hours or more, try them out and let me know what you thought about sweet moments, located Sweet Moments The Boutique, Al Muntazah, Tamar Mall.

And here The Pearl Qatar from above

Drinking Coffee in Bath and Bristol, England

I just noticed that I hadn’t blogged in November, which has been a bit of a blur, having been on the road for about half the month. So, where were we, Bath Part 2. My previous post on Colonna and Smalls highlighted not just the “star” of Bath but also one of the starts of England and if you follow sports, you’ll notice some common threads – great players tend to inspire those around them to greatness too – take Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls NBA (basketball) in the late 1980s, Pele in the Brazilian national team of 1970 World Cup (football) and more – so it is with coffee in Bath. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of quality coffee shops in such a small town (city in England because of the Cathedral). To be honest if I visited Bath and there was only 1 or 2 shops of the quality I saw I would have been happy.

Cascara

So, first off, as soon as we got off the train and dumped our bags at the lovely boutique hotel we stayed at, I was already on the coffee hunt. Right at the top of Upper Borough Walls, was Cascara, a small unassuming place, decked with a La Marzocco linea, serving Bath based coffee roaster, Roundhill coffee together with many healthy food options, vegan based and more. I was craving milk-based espresso, so I ordered a flat white, had a quick chat with the owner and was off to catch up with the family, who had failed to see me pop in. I mentioned to the owner (a lady whose name I’ve sadly forgotten) if she knew of Colonna and Smalls and of course she had, lauded them and didn’t even rank her coffee anywhere near theirs. I assured her that her coffee was good, to which she was pleased and then I was off again. Afterwards I saw that on google she’s ranked 4.7 out of 5, so don’t just take it from me, visit Cascara.

Hunter and Sons
Almost around the corner from Cascara is Hunter and Sons – recommended by a retailer and some others in the city, located at 14/15 Milsom Place in a mini outdoor mall style setting with restaurants like Jamie and a steak house – very chic, but easy to miss.

I found out later that Maxwell, owner of Colonna actually started here before he decided to part company and start his own coffee emporium. Decked with a Synesso and very posh-hip looking with designer beers on offer at one end, it’s coffee corner is unassuming with a little menu for both coffee and food. It was empty when I visited in mid-morning but I’m sure on the weekends and evening it is packed. Being mid-morning, I ordered a flat white in a glossy green cup,

Fruity based but I forget the roaster and easy to drink for most coffee drinkers.

Society Coffee

When we were pushed for time, I accepted defeat in my quest to visit Colonna at least once a day, and quickly goggled coffee shops in Bath and realised I was next to Society Coffee at 19 High Street, very close to Cathedral and heart of the city. As it was late afternoon, I needed a pour over.

I quickly glanced over at the brew station and ordered some coffee and even had time to sit once I convinced my wife and daughter to order hot chocolates and a brownie. I found out later that Society have another coffee shop, which I just had to visit on our final and last hour in bath a couple of days later. On my second visit to the branch, I bought Roundhill coffees, had a chat with the barista as they poured this lovely cappuccino


Took a pic and literally rushed off to catch our train back to London.

Full Court Press, Bristol

I thought it opportune to mention that we took a day trip to Bristol as my daughter wanted to look at the university there. Located about 15 minutes train ride from Bath, it’s a much bigger city, where you can shop more and indulge in West England’s largest city, recently voted best place to live in the UK. As usual, I was thinking about my coffee fix and haven “goggled” best coffee in Bristol, this came up and lucky me, praise God, what do you know, it was on our path from the train station to the university. So I took the opportunity to pop in for a quick flat white.

The owner hails from Bristol, studied out of the city and was back to share his love of coffee with its residents – very generous. It’s quaint and with the grinders by simonelli and a La Marzocco strada for espresso, you can tell the focus is coffee with used coffee bags framed to decorate the wall.

They’ve got cakes, sarnies (sandwiches for non-Brits) and menu options for coffee, espresso , filter and guest coffee roasters.

so if you’re smart enough to get into the University of Bristol check this cafe out and some others I didn’t have the time to check out.

Cafe Le Marche: A New Coffee Shop in Vienna

 

Towards the end of last year, I was rushing to a charity event with my daughter opposite the Votivkirche, Schottentor, when I thought I walked past a new coffee shop. Of course I did a double take, walked back and went in, spotting a La Marzocco I said”I’ll be back….”.

and so I was, on that occasion to try out an espresso…

 

After downing this joy of an espresso, I was so thrilled to find another third wave style cafe in Vienna that I left without paying – my daughter was like “daddy did you pay?” With a quizzing gaze, I looked back at her and said”of course I did”. As I turned to look back before exiting I noticed the staff looking at me strangely with a bill in tier hadn’t. Embarrassingly, I apologised and paid.

A few weeks back, I went to try out their coffee again and their latte art skills to accompany a light lunch of organic quiche and got the best table for this beautiful pic (above), which kind of captures a kind of “je ne sais quoi” in that you could be in a French bistro by the sea. The decor lends itself to darker colours with a black ceiling, grey patterned tiles on the floors, industrial lighting, white subway tiling on the back wall and coffee bar, decked with a La Marzocco Strada in customised black and exposed piping on top a black marble top, decked too with Scandinavian glass display and cake displays – but there’s so much light coming in from the shop front that if they opted for light colours it would be blinding in there.

 

It’s not very big with about 4/5 tables sitting no more than 10-12 people but on a nice sunny day like when I went they had a few chairs out front – very European and French.


Their menu is very French Bistro “light” with sandwiches and quiche and some exotic sweet breads like blueberry banana, which I hope to taste next time. I guess the latter was popular because I guy walked in and just ordered that to go. They also offer breakfast with the traditional avocado toasts topped with poached eggs, home made granola and more. If you visit Vienna and want the type of breakfast you’ll find in a typical London third wave cafe, then come here as the menu will be familiar and you can get good coffee to wash down your grub too.

I found out that they get their coffee from someone I know – Charlie Fuerth, whose kids and mine attended kindergarten together a few years back. On the taste it was fruity with a bit of plum and knowing Charlie I’m sure he insisted that if they wanted his coffee they not only had to be properly trained but had to get a la Marzocco espresso machine. They also have some tools like one the latest tampers , which was tempting to buy but I guess I only need one.

 

Check out Cafe Le Marche in off-centre Vienna at Wahringer Strasse 6-8 in the Ninth District (1090), Vienna.

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 London Coffee Diary 2: Curators Coffee II

 Not too far from Mother’s Milk, and actually the street before, is Margaret Street, where you’ll find Curators Coffee Gallery on 51 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SG. For a history of Curators Coffee, see my post here. In summary, Curators Coffee is the brainchild of Catherine, former head barista at Kaffeine. Curators Coffee Gallery is the second location, right in the heart of London’s shopping universe.

BUT, before I tell you about this spot, let’s look at the word, CURATOR.

It’s linked to curate or curated, which for those who don’t sleep with a Dictionary under their pillow or I guess these days, have the Dictionary app on their mobile phone, means:

Someone who looks after something special like in a museum or a piece of art or who selects something special for a medium, like a website.

So perhaps, we can say that at Curators Coffee, they have paid particular attention to selecting their coffees and an how to present them, whilst looking after you or your taste buds.

The Entrance

The décor

It’s quite easy to walk by this spot, primarily because the decor is quite sombre – there are no bright lights announcing that you’ve arrived at this top coffee spot in the West End, nor is the entrance dominated by a lively crowd and loud music, accompanied by happy customers chatting at the top of their voice. The mood has been dictated, perhaps by the name, a gallery – well, here we have a gallery of coffee – and downstairs the wall is now littered with art. In addition, they’ve gone for low level lighting, a blue black mood and even though the ceiling is white, the shop floor only really lightens up on sunny days, where the Sun can easily peep through the ceiling window. But, don’t be fooled, where the decor can be sombre, but soothing, easy for you to escape, the coffee and attention to detail will awaken your coffee senses.

Equipment and Coffee

First up, for espresso drink lovers,  there’s a burgundy enclaved La Marzocco Strada, with corresponding Mahl Konig coffee grinders.

The Espresso Stuff
The Espresso Stuff
For coffee purists, the filter brew centre is dominated by copper designed Hario kettles, accompanied by a coffee menu sheet, where you can choose your coffee and style of preparation – chemex, hario V60 and aeropress.

The Brew Bar
The Brew Bar
The backdrop is dominated by coffees on offer and brew equipment to purchase. Curators tend to favour Nude Espresso Coffee Roasters (London based) as their in-house espresso blend but this is complimented, at least for the filter brew, with coffee from different English coffee roasters.

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Food and other Drinks

By curated, they have selected, tried and also offer coffee inspired cocktails – a strawberry one during the summer, which regularly sells out – trust me.


 On the food, there are sandwiches and salads, using exotic recipes, where the generous plates, reminiscent of Otto Lenghi cookbooks, are topped with colourful leaves, pomegranates, cranberries, various nuts, pulses and vegetables like sweet potato. Let’s not forget one of my faves, delectable cakes – I’m usually spoilt for choice on the sweet stuff as my tastebuds are lit up with excitement – banana and nut bread, carrot cake, brownies, pastries – ok, I’m getting carried away.

So why go..

Well for a start, the staff are friendly, know what they’re doing as one of the barista is a contestant for the latte art championships;

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Go girl!!!

I love coming here because I’m guaranteed well “curated” coffee and accompanying tasty delights in a relaxing atmosphere, where I can “escape”. I also use it as my primary meeting point to catch up with friends because the mood is so relaxed, especially downstairs, where you can easily spend hours just chatting.
 The staff aren’t going to hassle you to order every five minutes, but they don’t have to – once you pass by the till and see all that colourful food and smell the coffee, you’ll be heading downstairs, waiting for your order to be delivered to you.
So go get curated….

Brew Bar

  

Drinking Coffee in Dubai: The Sum of Us and more….

 

The Sum of Us

I could easily have done one post on this cafe, which comes from the team behind Tom&Serg (click here for my post on them) because the space and what’s on offer here is quite extensive. Located at the top end of the famous Shaykh Zayed Road (the road lined with all the skyscrapers, The Emirates Towers, et all and famous 5 star hotels), The Sum of Us is just behind the new Sheraton Hotel and easily located at Burj al Salma Centre, 6th Street, Trade Centre. During the cooler months, it would be ideal to sit outside, but we visited a few weeks back, when it was 40C outside and sanely sat inside. It was a bit quiet when we visited as it had just opened a few weeks back but that gave my kids and I the leisure to stroll around and take lots of pics and for me to specifically chat with the staff and head barista, Fiona, from Ukraine, but more recently of Nude Coffee in Soho, London.


First up what’s different ? The Roastery – I strongly believe that in developing markets, the tide rests with the supplier and in this case, the roaster. In developed markets, it’s fine for a busy cafe, pumping out 600 to 1,000 cups of coffee a day to order from a reputable roaster, because the investment financially and time wise is huge. However, when you’re in an economy like the Middle East or Africa, then roasting and selling your own opens up “multiple revenue streams” – the buzz word for spreading your opportunities with just one capital investment. Ok!, enough of my economic baffle, but I speak from experience with escape caffe and just my observation of the huge margins when you roast greens into drinkable coffee. So, in summary, as hinted to Tom and Serg, roasting your own is great. However, not to steal their thunder (a British term), Raw Coffee Roasters, (read my post on them here) the current premium roaster in Dubai, suppliers of Tom and Serg, are also helping the Sum of Us with setting up their roastery. In fact I spotted their van outside the cafe when we were there. It’s very magnanimous of Raw to help what would potentially be a competitor, well done to Kim and her team.

Sharing the space downstairs with the roastery, is their in-house bakery, displaying recently baked goods and famous for their sourdough bread. In addition, there’s a coffee bar with a La Marzocco Strada and some seating and a take away booth.


 Upstairs, there’s a lot more seating with an airy feel and some subtle decor and fine touches, open plan kitchen, complete with another brew bar and La Marzocco Linea, naturally.


 On offer is coffee, of course, together with small but filling, no frills food, celebrating the eclectic culture of Dubai, which means carefully chosen street food from around the World. For the not so adventurous, there are burgers, and for the hardcore brekkie fans, like me, there’s breakfast served well into the afternoon. I must admit I was tempted to order of the breakfast menu but decided to try the Chicken Katsu Bowl instead, as I’ve never heard of it.


On coffee, first off was the flat white


and after my meal, I asked Fiona to make me an Ethiopian using a Hario V60.


Coffee fix done, I was glad to visit the Sum of Us and look forward to reading more about it in the future and of course visiting it again God willing. Before I leave, I should add that another major difference between tom andsErg and the Sum of Us, is that the latter are also offering dinner. For me that means one thing as a coffee geek; finally a place to get great coffee in the night when in Dubai, yay! Read more about their focus on http://thesumofusdubai.com

 

Kaffeine Projekt @DubaiMall

So, you’re in the largest shopping mall under one roof in the World and after walking around for hours googling (nothing to do with the internet but the original English word for looking at something) at the World’s top retail brands from Louis Vuitton, Rolex, to Zara, Topshop, Hamleys et al, you need coffee right ? Well, I did mine in reverse, as we traversed the valet parking with Bentleys, Ferraris and more into the main entrance of Dubai Mall, I was already looking for coffee and stumbled at Kaffeine Projekt. After quizzing the barista, Ren, about how long he pulls an espresso shot and I asked him where he was trained, I decided to try their coffee and went for a cappuccino, which I often do, when I want to try both their espresso and milk frothing/pouring skills.


So impressed was I with him, that the next time we visited Dubai Mall before the end of the holiday, I stopped there again and posted pics onto my instagram (fromcoffeewithlove). I’m not sure why they spell project the German way, but there. So, when you visit Dubai Mall, check them out at the main entrance, where al, the posh shops are and right behind the information desk.

 

Plato’s Cafe @Atlantisthepalm

Ok! I confess, we stayed at a real icon hotel in Dubai, Atlantis the Palm on the Palm Jumeirah. My daily coffee fix consisted of coffee using my aeropress, brought from Balthasar Cafe in Vienna but on one occasion I was really craving espresso based coffee. I decided to take the plunge and visit Plato’s Cafe in the West Wing. After quizzing the barista about how long she pulled an espresso shot, we decided to not agree on her 30 second shot. Next was the milk frothing and pouring interrogation – gee! I’m really a coffee snob – my wife and daughter quickly ran to sit down, rather than be associated with this coffee fanatic.So, I asked her if she could pour a tulip and she said yes and then I took the plunge.

Using illy coffee, like all the restaurants at the Atlantis, the coffee was fine but it satisfied my fix with a carefully poured cappuccino using posh villery and boch crockery – very posh indeed. Ok, so if you do visit or stay at the Atlantis, try the coffee at Platos Cafe in the West Wing.

So, that’s my take on cafes in Dubai, but I have heard that Speciality Batch will be opening a cafe very soon in Dubai, so search out for them if you live in Dubai.


Best Coffee Moments of 2014

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I just wanted to share with you some of my top coffee moments of 2014 (yeah, I know we are already approaching the mid half of the second month) but this site is about sharing the love.

First up, was my first Chemex experience, which my palate witnessed at Curators Coffee new shop on Margaret Street, just off Regent’s Street, Oxford Circus, London. As I had a bit of time to burn (i.e. I wasn’t in a rush) I decided to try a non-espresso based coffee and have my coffee expertly “curated”, selecting their top coffee to be brewed on the chemex. I wasn’t really expecting anything out of the ordinary as I’ve only really had a few exhilarating experiences when having filter brews outside my home or office. But wow! the flavours of the Kenyan coffee were at one point refreshing then, fruity with a balanced acidity pic at the top of this post. OK, I know the coffee plays a really important part but I think on this time, the brew process was able to extract some really precious delicate flavours, making this one of my key coffee moments of twenty 14.

 

OK, let’s move to where the coffee was the “star”. Fresh after making coffee for Tom Cruise and team on the set of Mission Impossible 5 in Vienna, Jo Wechlesberger (Vienna School of Coffee) asked me to help her lift a very heavy La Marzocco Strada 2 group into her shop. A few bloodshot marks later, she invited me to taste a very exquisite coffee she had just roasted.

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After a very delectable palate experience, I was like “wow!” that was great – wild berries and a fruit bomb in your mouth – what s that ? An Ethiopian Sidamo, scoring over 90 and known as Nekisse N2, mixed heirloom varieties and naturally dried in the sun. Jo’s taste profile was wild strawberries, peaches, passionfruit, rhubarb, creamy with a long lasting clean finish. But it gets better – I was actually on the verge of buying what undoubtedly would be my most expensive coffee at 100 Euros a kilogram – yep, that’s right, instead Jo gave me a 150g bag for free, for helping her and another gentleman lift the espresso machine inside her shop. I was more than ecstatic, even declining the offer, preferring to pay to support the artisan coffee trade, but Jo insisted and I could see my wife in the background, winking just take the gift, so I did. Of course I enjoyed every little bit of this coffee, sharing it on one occasion with a colleague who loves wine and has been schooled how to taste – naturally he was very excited.

 

I don’t have a picture for this next experience but having a cold brew coffee served in a tall wine glass was another wow experience courtesy of Otto from Balthasar Coffee, Vienna. To emphasise the point, Otto gave  me a trial in a typical porcelan cup and most of it in a tall wine glass – again another fruit bomb but with a delicate cocoa and long lasting finish, proving that how you serve it is very important.

 

 

My Fave Cafe in Vienna: Balthasar

Balthasar Espresso
Balthasar Espresso

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.

Balthasar Entry

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.

side view

 

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,

Cold Brew - great for a hot day
Cold Brew – great for a hot day

 

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.

brownies

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.

hanging out

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

Americano

and a new way of brewing an Americano – brewed for 45 seconds on 5 bar of pressure.

Balthasar Flat White
Balthasar Flat White

So, what else, just go visit and you won’t be disappointed.

Balthasar

Praterstrasse 38

Vienna 1020

http://www.balthasar.at

 

I was @ TomAndSerg, Dubai

tomandserg collage
tomandserg collage

It seems the coffee scene is vastly improving in Dubai. It was only about a year ago that I was excited when I visited Dubai and visited RAW Coffee – see my blog here. Now, just a few months later, two guys called Sergio (from Spain) and Tom (from Australia) team up and open up Tom&Serg – a post-modern Aussie style cafe, dedicated to offering artisan prepared coffee using the state of the art La Marzocco La Strada, hearty well prepared food in a no frills atmosphere – exposed brick, blackboard walls, open plan kitchen with noise to create a homely feel.

The Entrance
The Entrance

Most of us visiting from NY, Melbourne and London will instantly feel at home here. For me it is reminiscence of Workshop Coffee (Clerkenwell, London), cum St.Ali (Melbourne). In fact its a style I very much like, because it was not long ago that the it was very difficult to get artisan coffee and well prepared food under one roof. I remember my trips to London, where I had to eat in one place and then trek to find good coffee in another and vice versa, but that’s changing now. So, to Tom and Serg, Dubai and to my freshest post ever, as I just got back from Dubai yesterday (12 April 2014), that’s how excited I am.

Relax and Eat
Relax and Eat

I didn’t hesitate upon entering to let the waitress know that I’m here because of the coffee and persisted to let her know that when I owned Escape Caffe, my Magic was made with a triple shot of espresso in a 150ml glass. In any case, that’s what I ordered and then I asked who was in charge of coffee and she directed me to Jamie, who hails from Melbourne and has done a stint of jobs at Melbourne’s finest cafes such as Proud Mary, Auction Rooms, Sensory Lab (St Ali’s sister shop) and Seven Seeds, so in summary, a well-trained barista that knows what he’s talking and drinking about. My wife looked at me and was like “you know you want to, so go and talk to the chief barista”, so, I walked by for a chat to talk all things coffee, blend, taste profile, market preferences, etc. I was glad to know that they get their coffee from RAW, but the blend is made specifically for them under Jamie’s guidance. In summary, it hails from Central and South America with medium acidity, roasted just after second crack (where the oils begin to sip out) – ok, I’m getting a bit geeky here, so I’ll stop. In any case, ti goes well with milk, with chocolatey and caramel overtones with not in your face sweetness.

A Magic
A Magic

 

For me however, what blew my mind was the cold brew, offered to me by Jamie and his description as on point – it’s very unusual in that you need to take several sips to try and pin point the taste and so that’s what I did and I have to confess it wasn’t easy.

Cold Brew
Cold Brew

 

All I know is that the first couple of sips sent flavour profiles literally through my whole body. In fact it puzzled me so much that I ignored my lunchand then realising that I hate cold food, had to succumb and indulge in my burger and fries.

IMG_2575

I washed my palate with more water and went back to the coffee. After that I took a stroll around the shop, which is fairly big as there’s also an upstairs area, a black board describing the coffee.

So what coffee do you like
So what coffee do you like

a library area and another La Marzocco Strada, supported by another barista from Australia – this time from Brisbane – wow! two under one roof – baristi from Australia and La Marzocco Strada that is. As we literally got there 30 minutes before they close on a Friday – 4:30pm I rushed through the place and tried to take some original pics and on our way out, I met another lady, Michaela, from Melbourne, who used to live in London but never had a chance to try out some of the top cafes there. I reassured her that if she ever visited London again that she would be wowed by the quality of cafes there, who could rival those in Melbourne too, encouraging her that London’s acceleration to the top of the World coffee drinking cities was partly due to the influx of baristi from Melbourne itself – she was happy with that confirmation.

All in all, a great place to visit and from what I read (the owners were in the Esquire Middle East Magazine for their dress sense), there’s more to come from Tom and Serg, perhaps more shops, definitely more publicity and similar concepts. Please try Vienna, Austria, where I live.

Lots of seating space
Lots of seating space

For more info, see http://www.tomandserg.com

Open from 8am to 4pm (4:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays)

A Branded Bottle
A Branded Bottle

 

 

Coffee Tasting in London – October 2012

Seems natural to me…. Give me 2 days of work and I’m off to London to meet family, friends and COFFEE of course. The highlight of this trip was therefore my 3 hour coffee tasting marathon at the laboratory of coffee itself, Prufrock Coffee on Leather Lane.

We were hosted by Jeremy – don’t ask me where he’s from, because I’m still trying to figure out his accent – down at the dungeon or their BRAT or Barista Resource And Training centre. On show, were bags of coffee from non-other than Square Mile Coffee Roasters and two other specialists (I forget their names). There were literally bags of information (excuse the pun), but in summary, here’s a list of the extra stuff I learnt;

ONE. pH balance in water makes a big difference – In short if it’s around 7 then the water is quite pure and if its below 7, its acidic (the bad stuff not the coffee related acidity of course) and if it is heading towards 10 it’s alkaline based. This is very important for when you are tasting coffee because, as we all know a cup of coffee is basically 90% of water, so bad water equals bad coffee, no matter what type of coffee it is or machine or barista, etc. The real eye opener however was that London’s tap water was closer to 7 than some of the bottled stuff they sell off at a premium.

TWO. Coffee roasted in small batches like on a sample roaster will rarely give you a full profile of the coffee, as opposed to roasting a batch on a 12kg roaster for example.

THREE. Aida Batle’s Kilimanjaro Washed (El Salvador), roasted by Square Mile is a killer – fantastic coffee but some of you already knew that. I bought a bag to take home of course.

FOUR. The more coffee you taste the more you can develop your taste buds – naturally, so taste away.

FIVE. A taste wheel really helps novices like me to describe coffee like grassy, earthy, etc. It helps you to focus on what you are really tasting and helps to accurately describe all those sensations on your tongue.

SIX. I learnt the purpose of blooming your coffee when preparing it on a Hario V60. In short, C02 (or carbon dioxide) doesn’t like water getting through. So, when preparing a V60, you pour a bit of water (say 50ml) to wet the grounds and you see it bloom with all these colourful bubbles – by doing this, you are making it easier for water to pass through when you finally complete your pour. The cup we had tasted of dry strawberries – now that’s unusual.

I’ve been to few coffee tasting session and even ran one at my caffe in Cape Town (Escape Caffe) BUT a 3 hour session at Prufrock takes the prize. Highly recommended and great value for money, but don’t get intimidated by Jeremy – if he goes to fast and gets too technical, stop him and ask him lots of questions.

So, where else did I go…

To the City and the East End.

Espresso at Association Coffee, 10-12 Creechurch Lane, London EC3A

Nice spot, owned by Sam (a man) with head barista, David Robson, formerly of Prufrock, Association have a strong focus on both espresso and third wave style coffee with all the gadgets to play with – so, don’t expect to have a slap up meal or heavy laden sandwiches and sweets. This is a city spot to grab a great cup of coffee and “real” snack to bite on. Although located in the city, Creechurch Lane, has a quiet feel about it, and Association seem to have captured this serenity with their decor, warm lights and wooden floors – a real great spot to hold “real” coffee meetings.

Curators Coffee @ 9a Cullum Street, EC3M

Just around the corner literally (say 3 minutes walk) is Catherine Seay’s new spot, Curators Coffee. For those who don’t know, Catherine is the former head barista at Kaffeine. She ceremoniously left Kaffeine last year and most people thought she’d never go back into coffee, including her, but she said, like one of those specialist “I didn’t want to go back to cofee, but I was dragged back in”. Well! we are happier for it. She really welcomed me to her place, prepared a piccolo for me and rushed back to serve customers in a personal style that ensures you want to return. I asked her about her choice of colours on her La Marzocco Strada and she said Turquiose gives it a difference – I must say, it blends in really well with the decor and adds colour to your life, especially when it’s grey in good ole’ London.

Grind Coffee Bar, Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford – really East London

And the prize for probably the best place to drink coffee inside a mall, goes to Grind Coffee Bar, located next to Waitrose in Westfield – Stratford City, right next to the London Olympic Stadium. I was really impressed with their set up and boy, were they really busy. So much so, that even at 2pm, they were sold out of non-meat sarnies and 2 hours later, the only food they had were pastries – I missed out on their tasty looking lemon polenta cake, but settled for a croissant instead. In any case, I had heard so much about Grind, that I made sure that during this trip, it was on my list. With my brother staying not too far and with the latest James Bond Movie, Skyfall, on at the mall, it was an opportunity not to be missed. Highly recommended for anyone going to the Westfield shopping centre (they have 2 other locations at Putney and Battersea – see their website, www.grindcoffeebar.co.uk

Workshop Coffee, Marylebone, 75 Wigmore Street, W1U

BUT, of course I can’t leave London without visiting some old faves. My first cup of my trip was a short black (short Americano) at Flat White on Berwick Street and my second and last literally was at Workshop Coffee, on Wigmore Street, where I had my best espresso milk-based coffee of my trip, a flat white – the silky caramel wrapping around your tongue right at the end. As usual the staff were friendly and my brother, friend and I were really relaxed, just sitting enjoying our coffees. This was the only place on this trip that I went to twice, so well done on those flatties.

Goodbye London, Londra, Londre…

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