Lincoln Knights’ Reunion

September 20, 2017

The Lincoln Knights are back.

Having been removed from the streets at the beginning of September, much to everyone’s annoyance and disappointment, they are now lined up in Lincoln Castle.

All 36 knights are reunited at Lincoln Castle for one last time before being auctioned off for charity.

The Lincoln Knights will be sold at auction in Lincoln Cathedral to raise money for The Nomad Trust. A local charity which serves the homeless community of Lincoln and provides emergency accommodation for those who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.

 

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Afternoon in Lincoln

September 20, 2017

Hazy sun, cloudy, pleasantly warm.

The centre of Lincoln is allegedly pedestrianised. Only there is no enforcement. A car, a lorry followed by a  van, driving through the High Street at 1550.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, Stokes on High Bridge, beans not labelled with roast date, when I inquire of roast date, try to sell me beans roasted in April, six months old.

Today, helpful trainee, drew my attention to all beans now have roast date and when I look, I see roasted  September.

I trek up Steep Hill, not time for a coffee.

Walking through Lincoln Castle, I find the Lincoln Knights are back.

A cappuccino in Stokes Lawn Cafe.  I choose the guest Guatemalan. Not great, best I can say of it, not undrinkable as their house blrnd.  It is not of the standard that is the norm in Madame Waffle, The Little Tractor Coffee Shop or Makushi.

Stokes need as  a matter of urgency to improve the quality of their beans.  Their baristas try their best, but not a lot can be done with inferior quality beans

Cappuccino in Madame Waffle

September 19, 2017

Having been offered at Stokes on High Bridge Ethiopian coffee beans roasted in April, which I wisely declined, it was to Madame Waffle to buy coffee and a cappuccino.

Cappuccino in Madame Waffle is always excellent, consistently so, no matter who brews it, all that more curious as different depending on who brews it.

I also picked up a bag of single origin Kayon Mountain beans from Ethiopia roasted by Square Mile on 24 August 2017.

Madame Waffle has on sale The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide (in which they are featured), Standart, and Caffeine available free.

They also serve waffles.

On leaving, a chat with a girl from Lithuania who had been served a waffle with strawberries. It looked delicious, though I am not into waffles. She wanted to know what was the cream.

I suggested she explored all three floors and tried the coffee, and suggested other coffee shops she may wish to try.

Coffee beans from Stokes on High Bridge

September 19, 2017

Last week I had been recommended at The Lawn, try our Ethiopian beans.

Unfortunately, and somewhat perversely, roasted at The Lawn, but not on sale at The Lawn, have to trek down to Stokes on High Bridge which is a coffee shop in both senses of the word.

I looked through what was on offer, maybe half a dozen coffee beans.

I settled on Ethiopian Hunda Oli, which I think is what I had been recommended.

I asked of the roast date. The girl serving apologised and said she did not know, as she was only a trainee.

Not a problem, and I offered to explain why roast date was important.

We were rudely interrupted by a lady who said she does the training here.

She checked and told me April, I cannot recall was it 24 or 28 April.

I was astounded, especially when the lady who was in charge of training told me  that it was not a problem.

I could not be bothered arguing with her level of ignorance on coffee, and asked of a different Ethiopian coffee, not what I wanted, but on the other hand, I did not want old beans ether.

I settled for roasted in August, 18 August 2017, which the helpful trainee kindly wrote on the bag. Not ideal, but better than April.

I noticed they still had on sale the second edition of The Northern Independent Coffee Guide, not the latest third edition with the new title  The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, as now includes Wales.

I did not ask why they did not have the latest edition, when other coffee shops in Lincoln have the latest edition, but at a guess, Stokes is featured in the second edition, have been relegated to footnotes in the third edition.

Sadly it is all to easy to see why. Lack of knowledge of importance of roast date, best by is meaningless, does not bode well. Nor that the last time I had  cappuccino from their house blend it was undrinkable.

It was then to Madame Waffle where an excellent cappuccino and a bag of Keyon Mountain  beans from Square Mile Coffee roasted 28 August 2017.

In a supermarket you will not see roast date. The reason why, old beans.  Which is why always buy coffee from either the roaster or a reputable indie coffee shop

Waitrose is the rare exception, beans from Union have a roast date, but all too often past their best.

A coffee shop may have old beans, they may miscalculate their turnover, though they should rotate to avoid selling old beans.

There is no excuse for a coffee roaster to have old beans either in stock or on sale.

As I write, the coffee is on the table, aroma wafting by, both bags are in a brown paper bag, the Stokes also wrapped in a plastic bag.

With the Square Mile, a heirloom variety, I am getting a subtle aroma of chocolate, toffee or fudge, maybe vanilla.

With the Stokes, an overpowering aroma of roast coffee, no subtly.

I would though hasten to add, aroma is no indication of taste, as I learnt a few weeks ago at a cupping session at Taylor St Roasted.

I will learn more when brewed over the next few weeks.

To put the roast dates in context.  Last week, from Madame Waffle a Red Brick espresso blend from Square Mile roasted 10 August, from Coffee Aroma Has Bean espresso blend roasted 5 September, from Makushi a single origin from Costa Rica roasted 9 September, from The Little Tractor Coffee Shop a Kenyan single origin roasted 7 August.

When coffee is roasted, leave for about a week for the oils to adjust, then at its optimum for the next three weeks. 

A reputable coffee roaster will generally roast to order, then ship either that day or the next. 

A reputable coffee shop will order to demand, try to rotate the stock in order that no old beans are sitting on the shelves. 

There can be absolutely no excuse for a coffee roaster to have old beans on the shelves for sale to customers. 

Old beans, lack of understanding of the importance of roast date, undrinkable house blend, it comes as no surprise to see Stokes relegated in the latest indie coffee guide to more good cups and more good roasters. 

Stokes are a fourth generation coffee business that has unfortunately lost its way. Are they suppliers of catering supply coffee in a race to the bottom with Lincoln Tea and Coffee (suppliers of bagged low grade commodity coffee)? Or are they suppliers of speciality coffee?

At the very least, Stokes need to form a separate speciality coffee division, Stokes Speciality Coffee, have on sale at The Lawn with its own unique branding, the coffee shop as their flagship coffee shop. They have the skilled baristas, have invested in top of the range equipment, a pleasant environment, pleasant staff, all they now need are quality beans, hand-roasted, with a Q-grade of at least 84.

Afternoon in Lincoln

September 19, 2017

Unlike Saturday afternoon when it poured with rain, and Sunday when it did the same with brief pauses, Tuesday afternoon a pleasant warm sunny afternoon.

Through Sincil Street to the High Street.

Walking past the closed Starbucks, strange how they have removed anything that identifies as Starbucks, the bad news is that it will reopen. At least whilst it is closed take the opportunity to find decent coffee, support the local economy, and then do not return. It will take more than a  lick of paint to hide that tax-dodging Starbucks serves undrinkable coffee.

Coffee beans from Stokes on High Bridge. At The Lawn last week, I was recommended try an Ethiopian roast. But, somewhat perverse though it may been roasted at The Lawn, have to walk down into the town to buy from Stokes on High Bridge a coffee shop in both sense of the word.

When was the roast date? April. You got to be joking. I settled for a  different Ethiopian, not the one I wanted, mainly because it had been roasted in August.

It was then to Madame Waffle, where I was guaranteed an excellent cappuccino. Always consistently excellent, no matter who makes it.

Up Steep Hill, into Castle Hill, through Lincoln Castle.

Over the weekend the Castle Grounds were a quagmire, partly the heavy rain, partly the travelling circus of a food and drinks festival. The grounds were not as badly churned up as I expected.

I just made it out the West Gate.

I had hoped to find Stokes at The Lawn open, but I was too late.

Around the Castle to Bailgate. I was surprised to Redhill Farm shop open, unlike almost everything in Bailgate which closes early.

For good food, need as short a journey as possible between farm and plate. ITV News has  a report on why.

 

The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide

September 18, 2017

I had popped into Madame Waffle and noticed that not only Standart on sale, they also had The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide on sale.

Now in it third edition, what was the The Northern Independent Coffee Guide  now includes Wales, hence the change in  tittle.

Inclusion of Wales  a huge mistake. North Wales is not the North of England. Why not a guide for Wales?

A new editor, and I guess to justify her existence the format has changed.

Moot point whether for the better or not.

The maps are now associated  with their relevant entries, which is an improvement.

Gone the information about coffee, which is a great loss.  Instead, a brief sketch of key coffee people.

Noticeable by his absence, Bruce Whetton at Madame Waffle,  like Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, a pioneer of speciality coffee before it became trendy. Hopefully an omission to be corrected in the fourth edition.

A noticeable increase in the thickness. Whether due to an increase in the speciality coffee scene or being padded out with North Wales, I do not know.

Several entries, light text on a  dark background, not a good idea, as nigh unreadable.

A noticeable absence from the first edition, was Stokes, included in the second edition, now relegated to the footnotes, and deservedly so.

From Christmas to New Year, a noticeable loss of quality. Several months later their house blend undrinkable.

Stokes need to decide what they are.

Are they a supplier of catering supply coffee to greasy spoon cafes, bars and hotels, in a race to the bottom with local supplier Lincoln Tea and Coffee, that bag from bulk roasters low quality commodity coffee, over-roasted, defective beans with an unpleasant aroma? Or are they a supplier of speciality coffee? At the very least, form a separate and distinct division, Stokes Speciality Coffee, with its own distinct packaging, and show case at The Lawn.

A shame to see a fourth generation family coffee business fall by the wayside.

Stokes have recently relocated their roastery and offices to The Lawn, and opened Stokes Lawn Cafe at The Lawn, though Stokes at The Lawn would have been a better name. At The Lawn they have three excellent baristas, have invested in top quality equipment, the ambience is pleasant, as are the staff,  then let themselves down with poor quality beans.

I am pleased to see Madame Waffle has now been included, a noticeable omission from previous editions.

But why no inclusion of Makushi, a coffee shop and roastery half way up Steep Hill?

Another addition I would recommend The Little Tractor Coffee Shop, hidden within Bird’s Yard, a junk shop at the bottom of Steep Hill.

Coffee trails are new for this edition.

My suggestion for a Lincoln Coffee Trail (starting in the High Street where the River Witham flows through the town centre): Stokes on High Bridge,  Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle,  Stokes at The Collection, The Little Tractor Coffee Shop, Makushi, Stokes Lawn Cafe. [see Coffee culture in Lincoln]

Personally I would not use a guide, I prefer to see where my feet take me, wander around, discover for myself. I did though find interesting, the various coffee shops and if I was in one of these towns, then yes, I may be tempted to pop in.

The downside  of taking me where my feet take, may have the advantage of discovery, but too many bad coffee shops, too much bad coffee.

I have never understood why anyone opens a coffee shop to serve bad coffee, though too many do. If I wanted bad coffee I would frequent the chains.

There can though be no excuse for drinking that undrinkable yuk in Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks or Caffè Nero, when armed with a copy of The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide it is easy to find somewhere that serves coffee worthy of the name, and once tried, you will never go back.

Afternoon in Lincoln

September 17, 2017

Yesterday was cold, barely above ten degrees, heavy rain all afternoon. Today was several degrees warmer, it was forecast hazy sun afternoon, started warm and sunny, a pleasant change to yesterday, but no sooner had I set foot in Lincoln very heavy rain, and heavy rain on and off all afternoon.

Not far away Scampton, wettest place in the country 30.2 mm of rain, ie over an inch of rain.

Roast Sunday lunch, roast leg of pork with all the trimming, at Butcher and Beast in Heighington.  Excellent, good size portions, my only criticism, the potatoes cold and the restaurant somewhat grim, and with an outside door open, cold.

Then into Lincoln

A noticeable police present in the High Street.

A quick look in Waterstone’s, a mistake, as heavy rain, it eased off and I made Madame Waffle.

As always, excellent cappuccino in Madame Waffle.

I noticed the third edition of The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide on sale. I picked up two copies.

Rain eased off. I made it to Makushi.

Excellent cappuccino in Makushi.

Then made it to Lincoln Castle, before it poured.  En route, more miniature Knights found

The lawn a quagmire, from what I could see of a Food and Drink Festival,  junk food, little evidence of quality, for which an entrance fee of ten pounds.

A completely over the top security presence. And why were private security directing traffic in Castle Hill?

Inside, then outside, armed police.

Roast Sunday lunch at Butcher and Beast

September 17, 2017

I have occasionally eaten mid-week at the Butcher and Beast in Heighington, this the first time Sunday roast dinner.

Necessary to book.

As far as I could see, times staggered for each table, I assume to make it easier for serving.

Ushered into a rather grim restaurant at the bank completely lacking in character. I had always thought the gloomy back room was the restaurant. I asked to sit in the pub itself but no, reserved for regulars.

Excellent roast leg of pork with all the trimmings, as was the roast beef.  Portion size generous. The boiled potatoes though were cold.

Sitting in the restaurant it was cold due to an outside door being propped open with a plant pot.

At the tiny bar, half a dozen real ales.

The meal had arrived, rather than go and choose and my dinner get cold, I ordered their local Batemans.

I noticed from the pictures on the wall, an interest in aviation. I offered to bring in signed limited edition prints but no one came to discuss.

Heighington is a Lincolnshire village of stone cottages, not far from Lincoln. Its only tea shop closed a couple of years ago. The Post Office has also closed. There is now a tiny Post Office counter in the local Spar shop. Also hidden at the back of the Spar shop is the local butcher, one of the best in the country. It is worth a visit, for his Lincolnshire sausages.

Lincoln Castle Food and Drink Festival

September 17, 2017

Sadly yet another excuse to charge for access to Lincoln Castle, access that is normally free.

I was there when vehicles arrived Friday. A convoy in Castle Hill, others blocking nearby streets as no idea where to go. Engines left running.  From what I could see, too many vendors of junk food.

Saturday afternoon it poured with rain.

More or less the same Sunday afternoon.

By the time I arrived the Castle Grounds turned into a quagmire and stalls packing up.

Walking into one marquee, and this was inside the marquee not outside, the mud oozed over the top of my sandals.

My initial reservations of Friday were more than confirmed. A travelling circus of mainly junk food, and they had the gall to charge a ten pound entrance fee.

Stallholders, based on a complex formula, were paying several hundred pounds, some a thousand pounds, to exhibit.

A coffee vendor, a franchise. No, I did not have a coffee. I asked why waste money on a franchise? Learn about coffee by working at a speciality coffee shop, then set up with quality coffee, but do not waste money on a franchise to sell poor quality coffee.

Another coffee stall, I asked where was their coffee from. They refused to say, rivals may steal their coffee.

What complete and utter garbage.

Speciality coffee shops make a point of where their coffee is sourced from, right down to the farm, it is all about transparency and traceability.

Whilst waiting for the rain to ease off, I just made it from one end to the other before the rain came down, a man with quality cakes, and lovely painted bowls. Very much Spanish influenced.

I contrast with others, cakes from a  factory frozen.

Chunky chips, burgers. Yuk.

If to repeat a food festival, hold an annual street food market in Castle Hill, as it grows extend into Bailgate, invite quality food stalls, wood-fired pizzas, vineyards, real ale, bread, cakes.

There are sufficient good examples from around the country, and they are free, but please do not insult people who appreciate good food and coffee with a repeat of this travelling circus.

Armed police were patrolling inside and outside the Castle Grounds.  An over-the-top security presence to gain access to the Castle. And why were private security directing traffic on Castle Hill?

Cappuccino in Makushi

September 17, 2017

In between the very heavy showers, with water running down Steep Hill, I made it to Makushi without getting wet.

As always, an excellent cappuccino.

Two baristas have left, I was therefore wary. I was pleased to see, still high quality coffee.

Having just picked up The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide on sale in Madame Waffle, I was surprised to find Makushi not listed. A major omission by the contributors. Something they need to correct for the next edition.