Tag Archives: london

A Flat White, An Espresso and An Espresso Macchiato in London

As some of you know, my real job, working for one of the United Nations (UN) Agencies, gives me the opportunity to visit different parts of the World a few times a year, and usually I’m lucky enough to connect through London, which means a day visiting cafes and shopping. So, just last week (21 April 2014), I was in London again and decided to try a couple of different cafes that I had never been before, so here goes a summary of my experience.

A Flat White

A Flat White

A Flat White

Nominated for the 2013 European Coffee Shop of the year, I had to visit New Row Coffee, located on 24 New Row, London, WC2N 4LA, in the Covent Garden neighbourhood. It was a bit of a trek from nearby Leicester Square underground station, as I was dragging my hand luggage, but it was worth the wait. I was early enough to avoid any queues, gape at the array of delicious cakes on show, but sadly I had just stuffed myself with food at the BA arrival lounge and can’t wait to visit again to taste some of these treats.

 

Treats @ New Row Coffee

Treats @ New Row Coffee

Anyway, back to the coffee. Their espresso blend hails from Union Roasted and unlike most of the reputable coffee shops in London, have a darker roast. I ordered a flat white as I hadn’t had an espresso milk based drink for a week.

It had hints of caramel, which turned out to be more pronounced for at least 30 minutes after I left the shop, developing into dark cocoa and toffee syrup, YUM! especially on a brisk Friday morning manouevring through the theatre land of London. So, if you visit London and happen to be in the theatre district and need a great coffee fix before your show and prior to eating out, where most probably they won’t serve great coffee, then check our New Row Coffee.

An Espresso

When you’ve only got a few hours in London to drink coffee and shop (my new past time, but one of my previous career dream was to be a fashion designer for men’s clothes), then you know that you may be pushed for time to sit down and divulge your taste buds in London’s exciting and very diverse culinary delights. So, when I entered Foxcroft and Ginger at 3 Berwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DR, off Oxford Street in the West End, I initially wanted to have a quick lunch, but looking at my time, just after 2pm, knowing I had to be at Heathrow Airport at 5pm, I decided a delectable lemon syrup cake and of course a double espresso.

An Espresso

An Espresso

It took longer than I expected, almost 10 minutes before my cake and coffee, so I didn’t waste time “being Italian” gulping my cake down (sugar rush to help speed around the shops) and an espresso (because I like coffee). Now back to that “Italian” thing. An espresso – this was probably the best “Italian” style espresso I’ve had, like how they should make espresso in Italian restaurants and why do I say this ? Because, it looked like a typical Italian espresso, using darkly roasted beans but on this occasion, the espresso had the right consistency of crema and had a sumptuous nutty syrup taste, which lasted long after I had left the shop – not bitter at all and a right digestive and pick me up for the afternoon, well done Foxcroft and Ginger. On the location, don’t get intimidated as the shop is located on a busy vegetable and fruit market part of Berwick Street, not far from a few famous restaurants like Polpette (an up and coming Italian restaurant) and famous restauranteur, Alan Yau’s Yauatcha. The good thing is that they are opened until 10pm every night, except Sunday and Monday, so again if you have a great meal in the area and want to finish with a great espresso, visit Foxcroft and Ginger.

 

An Espresso Macchiato

I was rushing to the airport and thought, I’ve got to make a stop at my favourite coffee shop in West End London, Workshop Coffee, located at 75 Wigmore Street, around the corner from the World famous Selfridges Department Store. I thought, would I prefer to get to the airport 2 hours before departure, as opposed to visiting Workshop, drinking coffee and buying a bag of expertly roasted coffee too – hmm ! well, you guessed – of course coffee won. I was truly rewarded with probably the best espresso macchiato I’ve ever had, wow.

An Espresso Macchiato

An Espresso Macchiato

a little heart that packs a punch – silky, syrupy, buttery sweet caramel, toffee macchiato – the milk was just little enough to lift the other elements front he espresso. An of course I got a bag of coffee too.

That was me done for the day. Three great coffees at 3 must-visit coffee shops in London.

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London Stopover: A Flat White & A Double Espresso

The final leg of our journey was in London and as soon as I could, I rushed over to Flat White Cafe in Soho, flying through the door and spotting Cameron, the main owner of Flat White, I practically belted out, “A flat white please…” For me, it was like – I haven’t had really good coffee for almost 2 weeks and I need it now and wow ! wasn’t it worth waiting for – almost too good looking to drink.

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A beautifully poured “rosetta” on my flat white. Even Cameron was impressed by the very kind lady who poured this beautiful rosetta (I’m so embarrassed I didn’t get her name so that I could have mentioned it on this post, sorry !), and here it is one more time, up close and personal, so that you can almost taste it.

After my “flat white experience”, I rushed off to have a quick lunch and of course I needed a good espresso to finish off my lunch experience and no place better than Milk Bar (Flat White’s second shop), still in Soho. As there wasn’t much time to catch our flight, I ordered a double espresso in 25C heat outside, took a picture to share the experience and gulped it down.

To finish off, I took a picture of their custom made Black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine. What a nice stop over in London to satisfy my espresso cravings.

Ciao !


I’m Drinking a Berry Nice Coffee

No! this isn’t spelt wrong. This really is a berry, berry nice coffee. The origin, from Kenya, with the name Ngunguru – don’t get your tongue twisted. If you’re a fan of my blog, then you’ll know that I actually first encountered this coffee back in April, when I got a free bag from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. However, when I saw this coffee for sale on Square Mile Coffee Roasters website, I thought “why not, let me try this again” and promptly ordered it again. However, the second time around and hats off (well done) to the roasters at Square Mile Coffee Roasters because when I extracted this coffee using a French Press, I got to smell as well as taste different tones that I didn’t experience the first time. At first, I thought, this is strange – am I really smelling a fruity coffee with berry tones and rosehip…. ??? Yes ! I think I am and to verify this, I invited colleagues into my room, which was filled with a very unusual aroma – fruity coffee ad they almost started smiling, whilst I was just laughing – I mean how can coffee be so overwhelmed with fruit that it overtakes the strong coffee aroma that we know coffee has.

So, here it is a truly fruity cup of coffee. Wonderful fruity aroma, light in taste, slightly tart/citrus in taste – a really good coffee in the afternoon and to share with friends. Trust me, you’ve got to try this coffee out and well done Square Mile Coffee Roasters for roasting this coffee so well that it brought out these wonderful tastes. What would you expect from a world renowned coffee roaster and a former WBC Champion duo.


I’m Drinking….

Flat White and Finca Kilimanjaro coffees, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London. This is like part 2 of my previous post as on my visit to Flat White, Soho in London, I picked up these two bags to take home with me. I had already tried the Flat White version when I was in London in December 2008, but I was really drawn to the Finca Kilimanjaro, as I had read about this on Square Mile’s website and was really intrigued about how a Kenyan peaberry tree, planted in El Salvador, would taste- it’s called a Bourbon and Kenyan Varietal and Square Mile seem to pack their really special coffees in these nice white bags. I thought “that’s really original, taking a coffee plant from one country and planting it in another to get a really good mix of soils, air, etc… for a coffee”. Apparently, the lady who thought this up, Aida Batle, is famous for this and is one of the World’s renowned coffee growers, so who am I to question her logic.

So, what does it taste like ? Fruity, spicy, earthy, sweetish and with a “real” coffee aroma is what comes to mind, or should I say to my tongue. I didn’t try this as an espresso, as I just didn’t think these type of characteristics together with the Kenyan mix would work as an espresso, so it was the French Press or Cafetiere for me, where I definitely had no regrets – a truly beautiful cup indeed. I also give it my “very versatile” coffee award in that although it was roasted on 9 March 2009, three weeks afterwards it was still tasting nice and not bland. This coffee is offered for a limited period only, so log onto Square Mile’s website (their website is on my blog roll) and buy a 350g bag quick.

For the Flat White coffee blend, I still think this works better with properly frothed milk with its chocolate undertones and of course every morning was like a throw back to Flat White in London. With all this inspiration from my triple ristretto day in London, I tried out some of my latte art skills, extracting a double ristretto for my morning cup – still wanting with the latte art, but I thought looked nice in my “love” cappuccino cup, so I sign off with this pic to wish you “from coffee with love”,

Ciao !


A Day of Triple Espressos….. Hmmm !

I was on my travels again, which usually means in most cases, no espressos for at least a week. So, you won’t be surprised to learn, if you have been an avid reader of my blog, that as I had the opportunity to pass through London for the day on my way back to Vienna, I made a beeline (an English slang for “going straight/directly for…”) for Flat White in Soho. I bust inside, gasping for a flat white of course and thought, “I really need espresso”, so I ordered a triple espresso flat white, made with a bottomless portafilter. The barista looked impressed and went to work and as there was no queue at 10am on a Friday morning, I didn’t have to wait long. I got my camera out so that I can share the experience with you, at least a pic.

 

Caution: Triple Espresso Flat White

Caution: Triple Espresso Flat White

Before heading out, I snapped up a couple of bags of coffee beans (Flat White blend made by Square Mile Roasters of course) – what else can you ask for when you visit a cafe, triple espresso and some good bag of beans to take home – more about tasting these in the next post God willing.  

OK ! so the title of this post is “A Day of Triple Espressos….Hmmm !”, so I’m not finished, however, there was an exception, and that was on my visit to Milk Bar (Flat White number two). Well ! I had to have another espresso (actually a double ristretto) after snacking on a delicious roasted falafel sandwich from my favourite sandwich shop in London, Pret-a-manger. I digress, but I headed to Milk Bar, had a chat with the supervisor, Max, about the lovely black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine and the grinders (tekky talk), ordered an espresso and walked round the back to take a pic of the other barista pouring a latte.

Anyway, whilst talking to Max, he told me that there was a new Fernandez & Wells coffee shop, around the corner at St. Anne’s Court, so I was off, at least to look. St. Anne’s Court is in Soho, sandwiched between Wardour Street and Dean Street on a little pedestrian alley way.

Initially, I just went in to chat and see the new concept – Italian style, without chairs and a minimal coffee menu – but I was intrigued when I saw the menu board and said “What is a Stumpy ?” “it’s like a triple espresso mini macchiato…” Well ! I had just had an espresso at Milk Bar, so I decided to break my “no-milk espresso drinks in the afternoon rule” and went for one, or should I say three. BUT, hang on a minute – it’s actually not a triple espresso, but a triple ristretto – Wow! and if you look carefully at the board, all espresso drinks at this new shop are triple ristretto – now that’s what I call an espresso lovers dream. Anyway the Stumpy was nice, worth a try.

Still on a tekky drive, I was lucky to meet with Jorge Fernandez himself – one half of the Fernandez and Wells company. Jorge is really into his coffee and he shared with me that they were trying out a new Monmouth Guatemala espresso blend for 2 weeks at the new shop, took me round to the back of the Synesso Cyncra machine and pulled another triple ristretto. There was tons of crema, but being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to pictures, my small digital camera (my D60 was at home) couldn’t handle the light, so I just snapped the extraction instead.

After 68 grammes of fresh coffee (i.e 1 triple shot of 21 grammes, 1 Fernandez and Wells triple shot of 33 grammes and 1 double shot of 14 grammes) I went straight to the airport, before I got carried away on more caffeine and instead fly to Vienna on Caffeine Air. In any case, I am so glad that there is another new quality cafe in Soho/London and please visit when you get the chance.


Spilling the Beans

Spilling the beans – that’s right – I want to “spill” the beans on some coffee bean secrets, known to the experts but not to us minions (i.e those who do not know) but of course until now.

First, don’t be deceived by size – size matters but not in the way you think – La Rosa Costa Rica beans are advertised as low in acidity and are tiny in relation to your normal coffee bean, BUT I was puzzled, when I grounded these beans using the same timer setting on my coffee grinder when more coffee came out.

Usually with normal beans, I have to grind two and half times, but with this bean, two times was more than enough. Still puzzled, I tried crushing the beans between my finger tips and found it a bit tough – it was dense all the way through, which means that there was no air – the beans were “full of beans”, tee hee..

Second, still on size, smaller beans like the La Rosa above actually have lower acidity and surprise, surprise, these beans were tagged as “low acidity”. Now in coffee, acidity is actually what you are looking for and these are typical of much prized Central American and Kenyan coffee beans. So, in summary, smaller beans usually have a lower acidity than bigger ones, but of course, there are exceptions.

Third, coffee beans even from the same farm don’t necessarily have to be the same size – WHAT !!! Yes ! I just found this out when I bought Los Luchadores Pacamara beans from El Salvador, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London.

I was studying the beans like one does before they grind them and thought, “that’s odd, why are some beans bigger than others ? Have they mixed another set of beans with what I ordered – that’s it I’m calling them to sort this out…”. So I quizzed the roaster, Anette from Square Mile Coffee, and she explained to me that this is normal and one way to test this, is to actually painstakingly separate the larger beans from the smaller ones and take a tasting test – they will taste the same. As she is a WBC Judge, who am I to argue, but to learn.

Fourth, and perhaps not that exciting for some of you caffeine junkies, is that when making coffee that needs a longer contact with water, like filter coffee (4 minutes and more) or French Press (4 minutes), you should ideally get a stronger coffee so that you get the real taste, rather then a watered down one. I also have to point out for those of you who have not visited the main website – shame on you – that the longer the bean has contact with water the higher the caffeine content. What does this mean ? Making coffee using a cafetiere/French press or a filter system means more caffeine than for instance making espresso. I just wanted to mention this again, because whenever people see you drinking espresso, they always say “isn’t that really strong ?” But of course I am always glad to explain that it isn’t and they look at me like “really ! are you really into coffee ?” Only if they knew.

Beans, beans, beans – there’s so much more to know about you.


I’m Drinking Square Mile Coffees

Yes ! It’s finally here, after several months of waiting, Square Mile Coffee Roasters have now started roasting specials coffees for sale. OK ! a brief history as to why I’m excited by this particular coffee roasters – the 2007 and 2008 World Barista Champions, James Hoffmann and Stephen Morrissey respectively together with another lady – I think her name is Anette – teamed up and because of their love of coffee, I guess, decided to take this to the next level and opened up a coffee roaster in London. They do mail order all over the World, which suits me fine, because with the current currency crisis, it is now about the same price for me to order coffee from London, including postage and packaging as it is for me to buy my current 1.2 kg monthly consumption of coffee in Vienna. On coffee sizes, Square Mile sell a minimum of 350g sizes and on my first order, I was able to order my monthly supply in 3 bags, which took a very impressive 3 days to arrive.

They also roast twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, so try and place an order about one week before you want to drink it, so that when it arrives, it has “de-gassed” for a recommended one week before you start extracting it. For more about Square Mile Coffee Roasters, please visit their website on http://shop.squaremilecoffee.com/ or just click on my blogroll to the left.

Now to the coffee. I’m not going to go into too much detail but I will just give you a taster of my experience and in a move away from tradition, use some wonderful shots of the stuff to reflect my tasting experience. My first experience was actually at Flat White in December 2008 during my last visit to London, as Square Mile now supply the coffee for Flat White. I bought a 350g bag for me to take back to Vienna, which I think contained some Central American coffee (secret blend, which Square Mile were not disclosing when I asked naturally). Why Central America ? Well ! from my experience I find Central American coffees really blend with well poured milk based espresso drinks.

Still with blends, Square Mile naturally have their Winter Espresso blend, but not wanting to hide anything and I must confess, this is the first time I have seen a roaster disclose the composition of their blends, they show you right on the packet what’s in their blend.

 

Winter Espresso Blend

Winter Espresso Blend

Naturally, it’s nice, clean, sweet, dark and rich espresso, with complex tones for me, and during the last big snowfall, I was inspired to rush out and take this pic, naturally called Winter Espresso “Blue” – the blue is for the wonderful blue sky that reflected on the snow white of the cup and the snow.

Now, a coffee that features rather little in the Winter Espresso blend is the Muchoki Peaberry from Kenya, which had a tart cherry taste for me when brewed as an espresso. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and recommend this coffee for filter or Cafetiere style coffee as the strength can be minimised by having a longer contact with water. In any case, to show off the lovely dark colours of this coffee, I took this pic in my new Bodum cup.

Now, off to the other part of the World, Central America, which by going through the coffees on sale at Square Mile, is their favourite pat of the World to get coffee. I’ll start with a mouthful, which I love saying to myself, El Molino de Santa Rita El Salvador. A “nutty” taste for a cappuccino. Still in Central America, we move to Costa Rica, for some the best coffee resides here with high acidity, a clean taste and with complex flavours. I tried two from Square Mile, the first, La Rosa, which unusually has low acidity and one I favoured for cafetiere style coffee after lunch at work.

However, in following with a family tradition, one which my daughter seems to have picked up when eating her favourite food, I’ve saved the best for last and it is…. El Portillo Cup of Excellence – wow !

I haven’t been this excited about a type of coffee for for a while. So, in order to get a really good feel for this coffee, I cleaned out my grinder, studied the beans, which look lovely close up.

 

El Portillo Beans

El Portillo Beans

Got out my La Marzocco Bottomless filter not to miss a moment

 

El Portillo Naked

El Portillo Naked

OK! I’m beginning to sound a little bit OTT here, but life is short and sometimes you’ve just got to be bothered and committed to going all out. I extracted it into my espresso love cup, newly bought for me by my darling wife, just to capture the love of this very special bean.

El Portillo Espresso Love

El Portillo Espresso Love

I liked it so much that as someone that tries to share lovely experiences, took it to work and shared it with colleagues. What was amazing, was that one of my colleagues, who doesn’t really drink speciality coffee, but tastes wine, described the coffee almost to a “T” as described by Square Mile on the package, toffee, caramel, heavy mouth feel and complex. It’s really versatile as a coffee and I mixed it with another Square Mile coffee, Los Luchadores Espresso Pacamara– El Salvador, which made a nice cappuccino and inspired me to pour this little flower.

El Portillo Cappuccino

El Portillo Cappuccino

For me, no doubt it is really special brewed in a cafetiere, which is what I’m doing with it now, after every lunch time. I noticed that it smells like toffee and tastes like caramel and the aroma just permeates my room so much so that any of my colleagues coming into the room notices the lovely aroma. I’ve just checked on Square Mile’s website, but this lovely bean is no more…. all good things must come to an end boo hoo, but I trust that the guys will find a suitable replacement. Buying coffee from Square Mile is highly recommended by moi.