Cultivate

December 10, 2019

Hidden down a side street off the top of the High Street.

Not open, though according to a sign positioned for dogs to read was open.

Lincoln Pier Café

December 9, 2019

From St Mark’s, tried to find Lincoln Pier Café on Lincoln University campus. The Students Union pointed me in the direction of a thin sliver of land between the railway line and Brayford.

Good view of Lincoln Cathedral across the Brayford and of Azuma passing by as pulled into Lincoln Central.

Too many universities take the easy option, grant corporate chains concessions serving disgusting coffee on the campus.

Lincoln University has opened its own independent coffee shop Lincoln Pier Café, invested in the equipment, employed skilled baristas, then let the whole show down by sourcing poor quality coffee.

My coffee was made by one of the best baristas in Lincoln, but it was not great, on a par with what I would find in 200 Degrees.

94 Degrees roasted by Roastology, Sheffield based and yet I have never come across in Sheffield.

Lincoln Pier Café a classic example of

Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar

The ambience was that of a morgue.

No takeaway coffee cups. Cuts down on litter, good for the environment. Bring own barista friendly cup or buy a takeaway cup. The cups are made from rice husks. Therein lies a potential problem. German research has shown ecoffee cups made from waste bamboo release toxins when filled with hot liquids and cannot be recycled. There needs to be a student research project to replicate the German research with ecoffee cups including these rice husk coffee cups.

In the meantime use glass KeepCup. But why in any case would the University wish to associate its name with an inferior product?

I would not buy a bag of coffee, not when excellent coffee available in the city centre from Coffee Aroma or Madame Waffle. Nor would I go out my way to the University for a coffee for the same reason.

Amazing what can get away with with a captive audience.

Absolutely no excuse these days for sourcing poor quality catering supply coffee from a food and drinks company when spoilt for choice of quality coffee roasteries. But this is what happens when outsource catering and corners are cut to maximise profit.

No excuse when Seven Districts roast locally.

Staff, students and visitors deserve better, though compared with tax-dodging corporate chains serving vile disgusting undrinkable coffee a step in the right direction. But need to try harder, showcase what good coffee should be like, have guest coffees, but please do not cut corners with cheap catering supply coffee from a food  and drinks company.

Seven Districts

December 8, 2019

I happened upon Seven Districts, a stall in the grounds of Lincoln Castle on the first day of the Lincoln Christmas Market. A rare example of a quality stall on a very tacky Christmas market. I stopped by and had a chat.

Seven Districts, a coffee roastery based in Lincolnshire, one of the few local traders on the Lincoln Christmas Market.

The coffee is in eye catching bags, but, and it is a very big but.

A classic example of capture by a marketing company and falling hook, line and sinker for their bullshit.

We’re proud to be from Lincolnshire, where we sipped our first coffee, burnt our first bean and celebrated our first roast, perfecting our craft as we grew; naturally we wanted our own coffee to be inspired by our home.

Many-a-great tale have been shared over a cup of the ‘dark brew’ and doubtless many more will still be told; to carry the heart of our homeland to the world, we want you to enjoy yourself a cup inspired by the folk-lores woven throughout these Seven Districts of Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire has seven districts, filled with ancient history, beautiful heritage and age-old folklores. We wanted to take some of these to the world and share their passion through the stories woven throughout our seven districts.

We’ve named each of our single origins after a folklore of the seven districts. We’ve then taken the uniqueness of each district and matched it with the profiles of the coffee roasts we produce.

For example Tiddy Mun is a fairy king  who used to inhabit the marshland around Boston until Charles I engaged Dutch civil engineers to drain the marshes. Which begs the question what has this to do with high altitude coffee grown in Rwanda? The simple answer is absolutely nothing. On the other hand could be one of the many tales associated with coffee in Ethiopia.

Gullible American tourists in a touristy shop on Steep Hill may fall for this bullshit but it is not doing the coffee any favours. Good coffee speaks for itself.

Ethically sourced meaningless. Fair Trade long past sell by date, marketing ploy to make Middle Class feel good. Fair Trade pays a tiny premium above commodity price, coffee is coffee, maintains farmers in poverty as no incentive to improve. Direct trade, coffee roasteries form long term partnerships with growers, help to improve quality quality, willing to pay a premium for quality. With Direct Trade everyone benefits, the farmers, the roastery, the coffee shop, the coffee drinker.

The bags Roman numerals, I to VII, seven districts of Lincolnshire. Each bag also has a name, and a little bit of local history. At least I thought each bag had a different Roman numeral, logical, but no, all VII, only the name is different.

Yes, well designed packaging, but if to be taken seriously the coffee has to have details of the coffee, not local history no matter how interesting that may be.

Coffee is seasonal. It does not help, different single origin packaged under the same name.

Every coffee bean has a story to tell, if telling a story, tell the story of the farm the coffee beans come from. This means a lot to the farmer.

Within the coffee industry have often discussed how much information to put on a bag, too much and turns people off, too little and not sufficient.

But as a bare  minimum, where sourced from. altitude, processing of beans, tasting notes and roast date. Maybe a little summary of where sourced from. More information may be provided via a qr code.

I can think of several coffee shops that regularly have in stock and serve guest coffee. Would they stock this coffee? No. The reason why, there is not the information on the bags their discerning customers expect to find.

A coffee shop where Seven Districts tried to peddle their wares was singularly unimpressed by their lack of knowledge of coffee.

Excellent advice in Businesses for Punks, do not waste money on marketing, do not engage marketing consultants, invest the money in your product.

Seven Districts have ably demonstrated why that advice is so valuable. They have poured money down the drain.

An artistically designed booklet. Try reading in anything other than strong daylight.

Marketing bullshit to one side, what of the beans, the roasting?

A Q grade in excess of 85. The roaster no previous experience in coffee roasting.

On the stall it was possible in not ideal conditions to try a not very well poured V60. It was ok, not great, nothing to get excited about. I do not know which of the seven coffees on display I was served.

I took away two bags of coffee, an Ethiopian and a Rwandan.

I await an expert brewing.

As I write a beautiful aroma from the Ethiopian, nothing from the Rwandan.

Lincoln Christmas Market

December 5, 2019

Why is it that every town thinks dump a few sheds selling tat and junk food in a town centre and call it a Christmas Market?

One of the worst if not the worst is Lincoln Christmas Market, 90% crap, and that is being generous. The travelling circus masquerading as a street food market that is held occasionally in the High Street is bad but this is far far worse.

I had wandered through Monday as was being set up, not impressed by what I saw.

Visiting Thursday afternoon, far worse than I expected, and locals had warned me it was not worth visiting.

Plastic identical shrink-wrapped in plastic flavoured fake cheddar cheese, stomach churning junk food.

Not to say there were not quality stalls, for example local farm cheese, quality meat from Redhill Farm,  local craft beer, speciality coffee from Seven Districts, but very much the exception and could count on one hand.

Seven Districts I stopped by and had a chat.

Yes, well designed packaging, but if to be taken seriously the coffee has to have details of the coffee, not local history no matter how interesting that may be.

Coffee is seasonal. It  does it help,  different single origin packaged under the same name.

Only possible to try a not very well poured V60. OK but not great. It would be interesting to see in the hands of a skilled barista.

Not having encountered before, I picked up two bags of Seven Districts coffee, but the cheese, can obtain every third Saturday from the Lincoln farmers market and from The Cheese Society, Redhill Farm has an excellent farm shop in Bailgate, where later I picked up Lincolnshire sausages.

A stall claiming its coffee was specialty coffee. It was not, it was over-roasted coffee beans sticky with flavourings. This is not specialty coffee. The stall must be kicked off the market, a prosecution by local Trading Standards. Stallholder turned unpleasant when the scam was exposed.

Market patrolled by police bearing side arms and carrying semi-automatic weapons.

I feel sorry for those come from afar to this tacky market.

A claimed 250,000 visitors. How are they counted?

Lincoln is close to gridlock ever day. This is gridlock, roads closed, bus routes diverted, long queue to enter the railway station.

Look to Winchester for a quality Christmas market. Runs end of November until Christmas, does not overload the local infrastructure, includes a large ice rink, attracts quality.

Winchester Christmas Market attracts half a million visitors a year, is ranked as not only the top Christmas Market in UK, but one of the top ten in Europe.

In Lincoln, the car park by Lincoln Castle hosting a big wheel, could be a large ice rink.

The organisers of this appalling market need to think again.

For visitors, visit any time of the year and not be jostled, or if wish to come when an event do so over the August Bank Holiday Weekend for the Asylum Steampunk Festival when will enjoy a far more pleasant experience.

Cold December day in Sheffield

December 4, 2019

Train to Sheffield from Lincoln used to stop everywhere after Worksop.

During the summer it did not after Worksop or at least not everywhere, but no great advantage as would arrive at Sheffield Station several minutes early to sit outside the station for several minutes then arrive late.

Today, stopped at every single station after Worksop, then dropped to walking speed, held at signals. Finally pulled into Sheffield Station almost half an hour late.

Noticeably colder in Sheffield.

No time to stop at Motore Cafe other than for a brief chat.

Quick look in Sheffield BID, nowt of interest.

En route walked through Millennium Gallery and Winter Garden. In the Millennium Gallery an exhibition on time. Maybe for a future visit.

The unreliability of the Taiwanese pop up kitchen at Union St beggars belief. Once again not there. Changed from Wednesday to Monday. Is this temporary or permanent? I should have asked.

At least managed ed to pick up a copy of Now Then, which tends to be nigh impossible to find but well worth finding.

Why does every town centre dump a few wooden sheds in the town centre selling tat and junk food and call it a Christmas market?

Sheffield no exception, the junk food the stench turns stomach over as pass by. An example poor quality cheese.

To Marmadukes for lunch.

Excellent burger and chips, but the burger spoilt by relish side and the chips salty. Why? Excellent ground beef. Nothing wrong with the relish but let the ground beef speak for itself.

As always excellent coffee.

Also tried guest coffee from Tarasso as V60. It too excellent.

I just had, only just, time to walk to Steam Yard, grab a coffee, and dash back down to the station.

Their selection of bean to bar craft chocolate has been extended, previously only Bullion, now also Bare Bones.

No time to finish my cappuccino, reluctantly, pour into a takeaway cup.

Arrive Station with several minutes to spare.

My cappuccino now lukewarm. Rather than pour away, I wander back out of the station, hand to homeless guy. Apologise only luke warm. He tahnnks me

Many trains running late, including mine.

I flip through Now Then December issue during train journey.

I find an advertisement for Union St. It shows Taiwanese pop up kitchen as Wednesday.

Samsung A3 2016 would die half way through a day out, hence the need for a power bank.

Samsung A3 2017 which I picked up in Athens died as I reached the station. A whole day, though not used as much as would normally on a day out, fewer photos taken, less use of internet. I would, if taking proper note, charge when low when stop for a coffee.

The week before, Lifesaver 5,000 mAh power bank from a  kiosk at Waterloo Station, claimed two charges of mobile phone. Two hours ten minutes to charge phone, two lights lit down from five, assuming power bank fully charged when picked up the week before from Waterloo Station. For comparison, two hours when charged from a mains charger.  Lifesaver 2A output, usb mains charger 1A output.

TOMS

December 4, 2019

Passing through Mitropoleos Square I pop in TOMS overlooking the square.

TOMS a weird set up, a coffee shop that is sells shoes and glasses and claims to provide a week’s supply of water to third world need for each cup of coffee sold.

I am always wary of these claims. Far better to work with farmers, improve quality, fetch a higher price for the coffee beans.

The coffee shop, their flag ship store (not that I have encountered any others), was serving coffee in paper takeaway cups, thus damaging the environment of the very people they claim to be trying to help. Also on sale e-coffee cups.

E-coffee cups have recently been embroiled in scandal. Toxins released from the cups into hot liquids, thus best avoided.

A lovely black cat had bagged a seat. At first does not appear to be friendly from the warning meow, but was friendly. Lost in translation.

I have a brief conversation with a man sat outside, even though now I am running late. He says ask next time I pass by, UK still in EU. He makes the point EU makes impossible for countries to leave a one way system, Hotel California, can check out but cannot leave.

He tells me I am paying too much heed to Yanis Varoufakis. Interesting as until that point, neither of us had mentioned Yanis Varoufakis by name, though we were very much discussing his ideas.

Mitropoleos Square

December 4, 2019

I have often passed through Mitropoleos Square in the evening, if time look in the large church, this the first time in daylight.

I learn from a man sat outside TOMS where I stop and have a coffee the name of the square.

I also learn that the large church is a cathedral, and the small old church outside a very old church, built on a holy site using the stones from previous civilisations.

Mokka coffee shop

December 4, 2019

Having looked in their retail shop next door, which is also where the coffee is roasted, it is to Mokka for a coffee.

I watch Greek coffee brewed on a hot bed of sand.

Excellent cappuccino.

It is a pity the coffee shop does not at least have the single origin coffee on sale.

The retail shop closes early at 3-30 in the afternoon. I asked why so early? No demand later.

Located on a busy main road outside Athens Central Market in Omonia.

Very professional staff who take a pride in their coffee.

How many coffee shops visit where grinders dismantled and cleaned every two days, coffee vacuumed out every night, coffee beans put to bed and sealed every night.

Mokka fourth generation founded in the mid-1920s.

Mokka retail shop

December 4, 2019

Usually I am lucky to find Mokka coffee shop open.

As I am earlier than usual and find their retail shop is open, I first look in Mokka shop, it closes at 1530 and this is the only visit I find open.

Massive industrial grinders for their coffee fed from a large roasting machine above, also single origin on a smaller roaster though still large compared to most roasteries in England.

When I asked abut the single origin coffee, I found the staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful.

I chose a Costa Rican single origin coffee.

Then to Mokka coffee shop.

Mokka fourth generation founded in the mid-1920s.

Tricksters

December 4, 2019

Three boxes, one hides an object, move around very fast, punter has to bet where it is hiding.

It does not have to be three boxes, it could be upturned cups.

Trickster I had seen the previous weekend. On the Saturday a different trickster, there on the Sunday, when two tricksters with same trick.

What I noticed on the Sunday, the same people gathered around who I had seen on the Saturday, obviously part of the scam. One fat guy happily bets then loses three fifty euro notes, another when trickster not looking, points to where the hidden object.

As a child I used to see this trick being played in Petticoat Lane.

I encountered these tricksters as I was walking between Thiso and Monastiraki Metro stations alongside the track overlooking the Ancient Agora.

I am blocked when I try to take photos.