Tag Archives: Synesso

London Coffee Diary 2016

Cappuccino from Black Sheep

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

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@ Taylor St Baristas – Canary Wharf

Have you ever….

Been to a coffee shop that has two 3 group espresso machines

Been to a coffee shop that has a 2 group Synesso Cyncra espresso machine just for guest espresso

Been to a coffee shop where the staff interact with one another like they’re one happy family that they make you feel at home

Been to a coffee shop where the loyalty card rewards you for your custom by giving you your fifth cup free

WELL ! I have and lucky me and you could be just as lucky too, so just head down to Taylor St Baristas on the South Colonnade in grand Canary Wharf, London, the seventh branch of the company.

I had never been to a coffee shop owned by Taylor St Baristas (run by 3 siblings originating from a small town in Australia) before and this was one of two firsts, as it was also my first time in Canary Wharf (sorry! but it’s like the Dubai part of London) – all newish, well cut roads, clean with well groomed gentlemen and ladies walking about in a hurry, that is, until they walk into Taylor St Baristas. Ah! yes “finely crafted coffee for serious coffee drinkers”. Although only opened since early December 2011, it’s as if there was a petition by the inhabitants of Canary Wharf to only allow a serious coffee shop within their midst and they got one, making the shop one of the busiest coffee shop in London. Subsequently, the suits and posh skirts of Canary Wharf don’t seem that bothered waiting for a good cup of coffee, with millions of dosh to make back at work – that’s a great achievement because at my caffe in Cape Town, take-out customers tend to be in very much of a hurry, even though we position the espresso machine in a way that they can see that making a good espresso takes time. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the high flyers of London wait for a great cup of coffee. However, I do have to add, that common to their other busy spots (I went to 3, Canary Wharf, New Street and looked inside 125 Old Broad Street) Taylor St Baristas have scored a point with quick delivery service by (i) using at least 2 three group machines per shop, complimented with top of the range grinders (Mazzer Robur E, Anfim Super Camiano) in the ones I visited and (ii) having a dedicated staff member to take orders from customers whilst they queue, as opposed to waiting for them to get to the till to place their orders and wait even longer. Well! it has to be said, if you do sell more than 500 cups of coffee a day (and I have a sneaky feeling it’s much more than that), it’s great that the waiting time for the good stuff is reduced as much as possible, so thumbs up to Taylor St Baristas.

At Canary Wharf, space is at a minimum, because the shop is geared to serve the best – meaning that space has been allocated for staff to focus on preparing coffee, food and serving csutomers and for displaying a tantalising display of snacks, sandwiches, cakes and pastries. Plus, the inside space has been designed to make the decor more authentic than the surroundings outside with paintings, dark wood, writings on the espresso machine, hanging lights and blackboards and seventies style chairs.

I visited their Canary Wharf branch twice in 3 days and was lucky to have had both my flat whites made by Andrew Tolley (one of the owners).

Is this news ? Well, I thought so, as Andrew Tolley is also one of the UKs Barista Competition judges. Taylor St Baristas have a  bespoke Rogue Blend (roasted by Union Hand Roasted), but also offer coffee from the UKs top roasters, namely Square Mile Coffee and Has Bean. I had one guest espresso (roasted by Has Bean) prepared by Andrew using their Synesso machine at Canary Wharf and had another one roasted by Square Mile at their newly opened 8th coffee shop, about 10 minutes walk away at the Royal Exchange, where I met Laura Tolley (the second of three siblings that own Taylor St Baristas). I also stopped very briefly to meet older brother Nick Tolley at their New Street branch (opposite Liverpool Street Station), where I was tasted a very unusual aromatic filter brewed coffee – can’t remember the name, but I think it was roasted by Has Bean.

I still believe that in order for you to serve the best you need to serve it with heart and that’s why for me, Taylor St Baristas is one of the best coffee shop experiences I’ve ever had. They are really expanding fast, already on their 8th shop and are probably the highest quality “chain” like cafe in the World to by knowledge, with Andrew, the coffeegeek part of the team, visiting if not all, the vast majority of the shops everyday to ensure that quality is never compromised. I wish them the best of luck.

Find out more about them, their shops and their services at http://www.taylor-st.com/


London Coffee Scene 2011: Summary, PART II

 The West End (Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia)

And we start with the place with the best gadget, Yep ! the La Marzocco Strada OR Notes Music & Coffee, located at 31 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, almost opposite Trafalgar Square from the Charing Cross End (Londoners will know where I mean). I’d heard that there was a cafe which had been first off the mark to buy and install the most up to date and probably most expensive espresso machine in the World when reading through my tweeter feeds, so a mental note was made to head down here for coffee. Not being a totally mad gadget man in general, but when it comes to coffee, I’m a victim, so after having being treated to lunch on a sunny day at Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant in Covent Garden by my brother, we headed down the road to Notes Music & Coffee. From the outside, you are tempted by the lovely array of sandwiches and cakes, BUT I knew that I was here for one thing, an espresso on a Strada machine. Doesn’t it look beautiful…

Josh, the barista, was busy and introducing myself briefly, I asked if I could take a picture of this lovely machine….. Warning ! coffee geek inside. So, I snapped away and then obviously asked for a Strada made espresso, which he made, using Square Miles’s Capao, extracted at 93 C – a bit bright for me with such a bean, which I believe is best extracted at a higher temp to highlight the nutty caramel toffee flavours. From one coffee expert to a geek, Josh kindly declined to accept payment. There ! I had had my first LM Strada coffee, yipee !

Flat White & Milk Bar, Soho

Well ! How could I not resist, another almost “must-go destination” for coffee in London, Flat White – where it all began (for me in any case). Needless to say, I had a flat white and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Cameron, owner and barsita, was still pouring latte art, about 5 years since opening – now ! how’s that for consistency and commitment. A note to the pretenders – the major downfall of start ups, is a lack of consistency and for charming brands, the invisibility of the owner/charismatic face of the biz. Thumbs up to Cameron. Still on that consistency thing, Flat White, still serve take away flatties with a latte heart

And yes, it was still delicious and yes, Flat White are the only cafe that Sqaure Mile Coffee create a blend for.

I actually finished my London tour, hours before my flight back to Cape Town with a visit to Flat White’s sister (why don;t they say brother ?) shop, Milk Bar on Bateman Street in Soho, where I had a fantastic espresso experience. I mean, who takes 5-7 minutes to make you an espresso ? The chief barista (I forgot his name, shame on me) at Milk Bar does, especially if he sees someone come into the cafe, order espresso and then ask him how long he’s doing the pre-infusion for, whilst admiring the Robur E Mazzer Grinder (the daddy of all daddy grinders). The first shot, which he didn’t want me to drink, went right through my tongue like a rocket, with a nutty like taste and the second, kind off filled my mouth, wrapping itself around the edge of my tongue and then coming back in – wow ! No pic, as I was struggling with last minute shopping, but nevertheless, a great culinary experience.

Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia

Last but not least, it was a trip I had been planning even before I packed my suitcases for my trip, a trip to Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, London W1, winner of Europe’s best independent coffee shop and more recently, winner of Britain’s best sandwich and coffee shop.

I think I should mention this up front as it’s been on my mind but what is with Aussies and coffee and why are they ruling the London coffee scene ? I can only stand by and admire and wish they would come to Cape Town and help me out with converting the masses to a great brew, but lucky London. OK ! I digress, we are at Kaffeine, my first priority on my last leg in London, which I visited on Saturday morning in the area known in London as Fitzrovia, which means the space in between Regent’s Park and Oxford Street, parallel to Great Portland Street – a quick geography lesson for non-Londoners.

I really loved the simplicity and yet high quality finish of Kaffeine, which incidentally is small and cozy and was quiet when we arrived around 11am, but I was told on a normal day, 570 cups are the norm and on a quiet day, 200+ (Oh London ! should I have opened my cafe in you ?). As you enter Kaffeine, you are tempted by delights like strawberry friands (another great Aussie invention) and yes I was tempted and asked for one to go with my flat white.

I brought an old University friend with me and asked him to try a cappuccino – “wow ! coffee can taste like this, now I know why you are so crazy about coffee Lameen” was his reply after his first sip.

Kaffeine have a Synesso Cyncra, use a Robur E (but of course) and Square Mile Coffee and are led by top barista Cathy, who kindly gave us complimentary coffees, spotting the coffee geek in me. The staff were very attentive and one promised to visit Cape Town very soon – so watch this space if he does, as I might offer him a temp job, before he heads back to London. Go Kaffeine Go and well done on all your achievements. Can’t wait to visit again.

And there you have it….

That’s all I can say and well done London, Londoners for appreciating great coffee and I’m sorry, but I have to say this, Aussies for helping out with the quality, et al.


London Coffee Scene 2011: Summary, PART I

Wow ! Wow ! That’s what I have to say about the London Coffee Scene in 2011. A few years back, whenever I went to London, I headed straight for SOHO, and to be precise, order a flat white at Flat White on Berwick Street, and stop for an espresso at its sister shop, Milk Bar on Bateman Street, also in Soho. If I wanted a little tasty snack to accompany an espresso or a piccolo, I would go to Fernandez and Wells on Beak Street, Soho. In fact, that’s what I did when I last visited London in July 2009 – head to Soho for great coffee. BUT, in the space of just 18 months, the speciality coffee scene in London has literally mushroomed, so that on my visit in April 2011, I had to carve out London just to check out the coffee scene. First up, I wandered into unknown territory for me, East London and more specifically Clerkenwell. I had lived in London for many years but I had never been to this part of London before – OK! I knew this is where Jamie Oliver’s famous Fifteen Restaurant was located, but that was it. Now to the coffee.

Clerkenwell, East of the Centre of London, Hangout for the Legal Types, etc – Get off at Chancery Lane Tube Station

This has to be the new hot spot for coffee with three choices, Prufrock Coffee, Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (the coolest name) and St Ali UK. I headed first for Prufrock Coffee on Leather Lane, 2009 WBC Champ, Gwilym Davies, spot. This is a must for all serious coffee lovers, with a brew bar hosting almost all forms for brewing coffee (hario woodneck, hario siphon, hario V60, aeropress, espresso machines, uber boiler, prototype grinder, a slow brewer and probably more). I had an espresso and a piccolo on my first trip and on my second (yes ! I had to go twice despite the distance) I had probably one of the best espressos of my life, using Square Mile roasted Colombian Pomorroso arabica beans.

I plan to do a separate post on Prufrock, so the above is just a taster.

Almost opposite Prufrock on Leather Lane too, is Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, which only opened in December 2010.

I went around lunchtime as it was rapidly getting packed with office workers looking for something tasty to eat to accompany their great cup of coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that for a cafe that had only been opened for about 4 months, there were streams of people coming in and out of the Department. Hmmm ! perhaps I should have opened up my cafe in London’s East End and not Cape Town, but better weather and better cost of living in Cape Town won the day. With the lovely display of sandwiches on display, I’m not surprised that people were pouring in for lunch to fill their tummies with these tasty delights;

I met with Chris and sensing that I wasn’t just a normal customer, all the way from South Africa and with a hint of coffee knowledge, he gave me a complimentary piccolo and Spanish anise biscuit.

I really loved the space, which reminded me off my own (they even had the same La Marzocco 3 group linear machine I have at escape caffe), but a little more rugged and with little spaces to work. I really liked their Globe bicycle, pic below.

So, finally, St Ali – UK. If you are an international coffee buff, raise your hands – me, me….. okay I’ve got to keep writing this, you’ll have heard of St Ali, who are one of the most famous coffee establishments in Melbourne, Australia. They are like crazy about coffee – a destination in their own right. So, when I heard they were opening a cafe in London, I kinda went berserk, especially as they were going to be open before my trip. They are located at 27 Clerkenwell Road, almost hidden, but as you enter, there’s a coffee roaster in the window and their signage is lit up, so you’ve got no excuse in missing it.

I really loved their decors, which was a bit similar to mine at escape caffe, with exposed brick, but a bit darker and hence cozier than mine. As you enter, there it is, the famous Slayer Espresso machine (see below) greets you – sort of letting you know that although they serve food, they are serious about coffee. If that wasn’t enough, once you pass the Slayer and wander tot he back of the cafe, they have a gigantic coffee roasting machine.

Also at the back and next to the coffee roaster, there’s a green plant wall and an atrium of about three floors (I promise a pic summary of the London coffee scene later). I met with Baptiste (a French barista who worked at their Melbourne establishment, but has been relocated to London) and Tim Styles, formerly of Intelligentsia and more recently Square Mile Coffee and who has been recruited to oversee their coffee roasting operation. I had a flat white with my brother, looked around and on my second visit, bought their Cult of Done espresso blend. From what I’ve been reading, St Ali is becoming extremely popular with the London fashionista, featuring in Vogue, with queues outside on Sundays and their hiring like crazy already as they prepare to operate from 2 floors, offering both coffee and food.

In summary, head down to this part of London for a great cuppa (very English lingo) and as I observed, all cafes had a Mazzer Robur E grinder, which hints that each one is making hundreds of cups of coffee per day, so expect a queue at busy times.

For PART II, I’ll take you to central London, so watch this space.


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.