Archive for the ‘Farnham’ Category

Blue Bear Bookshop opening launch party

November 16, 2019

Serendipity I was in Farnham passing by Blue Bear Bookshop during their opening launch party.

For the last week or more, dreadful weather, cold, raining, never sure what the weather will do as check the day before then within less than twelve hours the weather has changed again.

I have gone out when it looks like it is not about to rain.

This week and last week, I have popped into Farnham midweek, thus no need to visit today, but on the spur of the moment, I changed my mind, even though no need to visit Farnham.

Usually I alight from the bus and walk into Farnham along the River Wey and up Downing Street. I also cut through alleyways, avoiding The Borough.

The Borough is unpleasant, heavily congested, narrow pavement jostled-into the road, very heavily polluted.

Today though I was walking through The Borough.

I noted Oxfam had swapped shops, the bookshop now in The Borough. A very professional job, remove the Oxfam sign and would never know it was an Oxfam shop.

Past WHSmith, a dreadful store, a huge mistake relocating tho Post Office into WHSmith.

I then noticed a new bookshop, Blue Bear Bookshop, a new bookshop packed with people.

I looked in and happened upon the launch party of the Blue Bear Bookshop.

Food, cakes, flutes of Champagne or at least fizzy wine. In a corner a young lad knocking out poetry on demand on an old typewriter.

I went in search of the Big Issue seller, could not find her, by the time I got back, the food had all but gone.

Whoever did the catering did an excellent job the food and cakes excellent.

People, kids, dogs. Barely able to move.

The books aesthetically arranged on the shelves, though means fewer books.

Very much work in progress.

Currently a wider selection in the Oxfam Bookshop.

And therein lies the dilemma, stock best sellers which are the bread and butter, but in doing so will be undercut by Waterstone’s and the supermarkets, or stock more interesting titles which may not sell.

Worth a visit to P & G Wells in the backstreets of Winchester behind Winchester Cathedral, the bookshop Jane Austin used. Always interesting titles in the window, how bookshops used to be, books tempted to buy, not the best selling hyped rubbish the publishers dump on Waterstone’s.

Blue Bear Bookshop not only a bookshop, also a coffee shop. The coffee shop side very much unfinished business.

I ordered a cappuccino. My expectations were not high. To my surprise drinkable, on a par with Krema in Downing Street, thus now have two excellent coffee shops in Farnham.

The coffee Wogan Coffee I have never heard of, nor has anyone I have spoken to, a coffee roastery in Bristol.

The image on a box resembled a 1960s Soho gangster.

Coffee served in takeaway coffee cups not good. But I was assured a temporary measure for the opening and they will be serving coffee in ceramic.

The staff trained, but training a barista does not make, learn by employing a skilled head barista, who acts a mentor. Small changes make all the difference.

I did though note the coffee freshly ground, coffee carefully weighed.

The girl who served me had worked in a coffee shop in Finland.

I know not of Finland, but Sweden has a high reputation for coffee, as does the Baltic States.

Currently only from the espresso machine. Future maybe pour over. I strongly recommend source from Coffee Gems as local to Farnham and very high quality coffee.

I am reminded of Little Tree, a bohemian bookshop come coffee shop where sit drinking coffee under the shade of the trees, later in the evening craft beer.

At Little Tree, a far greater choice of books, philosophy, poetry, literature, politics. Not that I have ever seen anyone buy a book. Though I am told people buy books in the morning.

Having said that, I recently bought Walking in Athens, a collection of essays, little vignettes of Athens. And in the past have bought music.

Something Blue Bear Bookshop may wish to copy from Little Tree, bookmarks featuring writers, writers of literature not best sellers, the bill for the coffee, always brought with a glass of water, attached to the bookmark with a paper clip.

On the coffee counter by the cakes was a pile of a magazine I have never heard of, Chapter Catcher.

Chapter Catcher launched in June by John Bird, the guy behind Big Issue, a selection of reading, samplers to encourage people to read if not buy books. It cannot have gone beyond the launch issue as it was the launch issue on the counter.

But who is going to pay a fiver for a magazine never heard of that is sealed in an envelope and cannot browse the content?

I suggested they may wish to sell high end magazines, Standart, Drift, Ambrosia, Cereal, or at least dot around for people to browse.

In the centre a large communal table. Good for discussions, poetry reading, and they are planning events.

Possible future events Dhan Tamang UK latter art champion on latte art, a talk on The Alchemist.

A must for the large communal table, The World Atlas of Coffee.

Down wooden stairs a cellar. Appearance of a store room. More work in progress.

Opening an indie bookshop or even a coffee shop, is a risky business, especially in today’s failing High Street.

The location not good, a very polluted street which is best avoided, but may have been all that was available.

We hear much of the failing High Street, of towns turning into ghost towns, each week of another corporation chain gone into liquidation.

But chains have brought it upon themselves. They focused on expansion, not on profitability, paid ludicrous rents, and in doing so drove up rents for everyone and put local businesses out of businesses and are now paying the cost of their unsustainable businesses practices.

When chains collapse, we should welcomes the news, as it provides the opportunity for local small business.

I have seen too many good bookshops close, Thorpe’s in Guildford, Readers Rest in Lincoln, to name but two.

To see a new bookshop open is good news, and a double reason for celebration, a coffee shop too serving speciality coffee.

It is now for local people to support. If you see a book in Waterstone’s not discounted then buy from Blue Bear Bookshop. And unless you really enjoy drinking disgusting undrinkable coffee from tax dodging chains that have to be doused in syrups to make palatable, there are now two coffee shops serving excellent coffee in Farnham, Krema and Blue Bear Books.

Ichamara washed Kenyan

September 11, 2019

Three bags of coffee. An excellent espresso blend roasted for Refinery by Bonanza, single origin Kenyan roasted by Coffee Gems, and a Costa Rican roasted by Red Roaster.

Of the three, which to choose? The aroma was excellent. Not my choice, that of Mike head barista at Stokes at The Lawn.

No contest, he chose the Kenyan from Coffee Gems.

He made himself a black Americano, for me a V60. Although Mike chose an Americano for himself, an espresso based coffee, he said would not work as a cappuccino, wrong flavour profile.

He thought the Americano excellent, even I was impressed.

For me the real test was the V60. I had tried a Colombian brewed as V60 at Blackbird and it was excellent, a hard act to follow.

Wonderful colour, as was the Americano. And the taste? At first I thought not in the same league as the Colombian. But as it cooled, and every V60 improves as it cools, it was probably on a par with the Colombian.

Mike commented it was like red wine.

His comment was most apt, I agreed, we both agreed mulled red wine without the spices.

Worth noting coffee has more flavour notes than red wine. Something coffee drinkers are unaware of when are so used to the crap served by coffee chains, over-roasted coffee, over-roasted to hide the defects of cheap coffee, then the vile taste masked with sugar and syrups. Coffee does not should not taste like this, but so used are people used to drinking crap coffee that they identify it as the taste of coffee. Sadly nothing could be further from the truth.

What coffee drinkers also forget, the care to bring us quality coffee, that of the coffee pickers, the processing of the beans, the roasting, and finally the skill of the barista.

Ichamara fully washed Kenyan, var Batian, Rairu 11, SL28, SL 34, red volcanic soil, taste notes grapefruit, lime, creamy and sweet, roasted by head roaster Ricardo.

Afternoon in Farnham

August 17, 2019

On the way to Farnham popped into Aldershot.

Walking through Gostrey Meadow a rather sad pathetic VE/VJ Fete. little there and few people. Sad too because these people gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Why do idiots think ok to park on the double yellow lines in Downing Street?

Poor quality pork chops in the butcher. He apologised for the poor quality.

Lunch at Gail’s. Nothing left. Empty.and yet tables not cleared.

To Krema for a cappuccino.

A walk around Bishop’s Meadow. I was disappointed to find no cows. Then I spotted them, they had settled down for the evening.

Waitrose was almost empty. Served promptly, wonders will never cease.

Afternoon in Farnham

August 10, 2019

Very strong winds, cool compared with of late.

Alight from bus and walk along River Wey and up through Gostrey Meadow.

This used be an enjoyable pleasant walk, but since building of an ugly bridge to facilitate building of an unwanted shopping centre not so, but still better than walking through the narrow streets and enduring traffic fumes.

I looked in Okomoko zero waste shop, almost filled a jar with muesli, then topped off with dried apricots.

Why were the apricots dark brown? I have seen dried apricots like this before, but not in England, in Athens.

Girl said the orange coloured ones were dyed. Seemed odd.

I checked. No, treated with SO2 to retain their orange colour, the dark ones are not and turn a dark colour as dry naturally in the sun.

Gail’s the service has never been great, never see the same staff twice.

Tables covered in dirty dishes. Customers were having to clear.

When my order was brought, a sausage roll, the sausage pink and under-cooked, no attempt to clear my table.

Gail’s is not god for coffee.

As always cars parked outside Gail’s on the double yellow lines.

To Krema for a coffee.

I thought of going for walk around Bishop’s Meadow, dark clouds were not far away. I thought best to go to Waitrose.

Irony is lost on Waitrose. A notice where the shelves stacked with toilet rolls stating Waitrose going plastic free, the toilet rolls warped in plastic.

The usual poor service in Waitrose. Only two tills manned.

No 1 Bus from Aldershot going on a diversion. Nothing at the bus station to inform passengers.

Afternoon in Farnham

July 27, 2019

On the bus, any bus, there is a sign instructing do not stand in front of this line and distract the driver.

Why do Stagecoach staff who should know better think it does not apply to them?

En route to Farnham, Stagecoach staff member stood chatting to the driver, distracting the driver, obstructing view of the road, putting passengers at risk.

Why did the driver not instruct him to sit down?

Alight and walk along the River Wey, through Gostrey Meadow and into Farnham.

Made butcher before closed. I always forget to ask the butcher to score my pork chop. I think I will give standing instruction. Maybe he will remember even if I never do.

It was only when walking to Gail’s to see what there was to eat I remembered I had forget to bring container to pick up muesli from Okomono zero waste shop. I did think of seeing what they had I may use. A moot point, as by the time I passed by later already closed.

A weeny teeny bread roll with smoked salmon at Gail’s. Table outside dirty. Not cleaned until I was about to leave. And even then only the dirty crockery taken away, the table not cleaned. Poor service the norm for Gail’s. That and poor quality coffee.

If I sit outside, I hate to sit inside, all too often cars park in the disabled bay. Today, car parked, disabled badge displayed in the window, able bodied driver walks off down the road.

Cappuccino at Krema. Gone five and busy.

I had not intended to walked all the way around Bishop’s Mewadow.

The path leading into the next field overgrown as was the field. There can no longer be horses kept there as usually a grassy field. I am surprised the farmer has not cut the hay.

On my way meet half a dozen cattle grazing.

On my way back, long conversation with a man about the management of Bishops Meadow.

By the time I reach the the churchyard, tired.

To Waitrose, then two buses to catch.

Afternoon in Farnham

July 20, 2019

A warmish afternoon in Farnham.

Alighting from the bus and walking along the River Wey I could hear music, but it was not coming from Gostrey Meadow.

I headed down a side street to the William Cobbett.

Several years ago I found a music festival in the back yard of the pub. A hog roast and excellent music. Never to be repeated, pub changed hands and has probably has several times since.

I slipped though a fence into the back of the pub. An impromptu stage, dreadful singer playing a guitar, no hog roast, burgers and hot dogs.

I slipped into the pub, could not see a thing, dark and gloomy. When my eyes adjusted, the same crap beer as in every pub across the country, even on the hand pumps, though I did find one lone brewery on a hand pump, it was ok, but not in the same league craft beers in Growlers & Cans, the usual bores blocking access to the bar, an old pub ruined by a massive widescreen TV on one wall. Easy to see why pubs are closing.

I took my half pint, sat outside for a while, but could not stand the noise from the singer.

Made the butcher as about to close. An idiot in an expensive Porsche, parked on double yellow lines, engine running, whilst did a soot of shopping.

Cappuccino at Krema.

A walk around Manor Field and a small section of Bishop’s Meadow

Afternoon in Farnham

July 13, 2019

Morning cool, afternoon hot, evening cool. Strange weather.

Alighted from the bus before Farnham, visited Bells Place Fete.

A mistake. It was not very good last year, nor this year.

Then walked through Farnham Park. Climbed to the top of the ridge, walked along, then down into the centre of Farnham through Castle Street.

Dropped in The Nelson Arms and had a half.

Once again reminded why I do not frequent pubs. Idiots blocking access to the bar, idiots stood between door and the bar. Entire pub to occupy, which was other wise empty, but they block access to the bar.

My beer was not that great either.

Once again, far better craft beer available in coffee shops and in Growlwrs & Cans, and do not have idiots blocking access to the counter.

I then visited Krema. Not seen owner for several months. We were chatting but if someone came in to order a coffee, I moved out of the way, I did not block their access.

I suggested what several coffee shops offer, a rotating selection of guest coffee, and gave a few suggestions.

Earlier I had popped in the vegan restaurant cum zero waste shop, obtained muesli and apricots.

Walked through the churchyard but too lazy to walk around Bishop’s Meadow.

To Waitrose. Appalled to see Cupsmith tea on the shelves in Waitrose. Massive fail by their buyers. Cupsmith coffee is crap, their tea little better.

Once again Lion and Lamb Cafe and Restaurant closed. It appears to have closed down as each time I pass by it is closed. I did though notice that the dirty cups I saw last time I passed by and looked in the window had been removed. Power to the espresso machine still on.

No surprise if it has closed. It was always empty, and although the menu always looked enticing, the couple of times I have eaten there the food was not good.

Coffee Gems

July 11, 2019

I had learnt of Coffee Gems from two different sources. Time to pay a visit.

Head roaster Ricardo. Background in coffee, had grown up on the family coffee farm in Colombia, had worked across Latin America as an agricultural adviser to farms helping to improve their coffee to enable them to secure a better price, direct trade not the FairTrade scam that maintains farmers in poverty. Now he was at the other end, roasting high quality coffee beans, nothing less than Q grade 94.

Whilst we were chatting he made me a cappuccino. Excellent.

I would have stayed and had a V60, but time was not on our side and he still had an order to process and deliver.

He gave me a bag of coffee he had literally just roasted, I could smell the roasting as I arrived, and invited me to return.

Highly tempting when I learnt he has Cup of Excellence from Colombia and Panama.

I made a number of suggestions:

  • Follow the example of Pharmacie in Brighton, open on a Saturday as a pop up coffee shop.
  • Hold coffee cupping.
  • In the summer have a stall on the Guildford farmers market.

I also suggested a number of outlets for his coffee.

Note: I revisited the following week. I left with a bag of freshly roasted Colombian coffee. This I tried a few days later at Blackbird in Brighton. We agreed it was excellent.

Coffee Diem

June 20, 2019

Last year Caracoli collapsed.

No surprise, a chain of half a dozen coffee shops serving at best mediocre coffee. What was it, a deli, a coffee shop, they did not know what they were.

One of these coffee shops cum deli was in Lion and Lamb Walk in Farnham.

Caracoli in Lion and Lamb Walk has reopened as Coffee Diem.

Today I tried a cappuccino.

When the coffee is Cupsmith, expectations are low. And yes, expectations were not exceeded, it was not a pleasant coffee, what came across was that it was cheap crap coffee.

First I had to reject a cappuccino served with chocolate. Why does no one know how to make a cappuccino? It is not made with chocolate, though when the coffee is Cupsmith then maybe understandable to hide that it is cheap crap coffee.

My flapjack bore little resemblance to a flapjack. Maybe it wasn’t a flapjack.

Whilst it is commendable to buy local, it is false economy when it means sacrificing quality.

Nor is there any excuse these days when spoilt for choice for coffee.

Locally there is Chimney Fire Coffee in the Surrey Hills, The Roasting Party in Winchester several coffee raosteries to choose from in Brighton and Sussex.

Gail’s bakery, with useless baristas are able to make a better coffee with Union coffee.

Coffee Diem is more a greasy spoon cafe serving coffee than a coffee shop.

The location is good, outside seating, passing trade. The surprise is that Krema did not snap it up, either as a second coffee shop in Farnham or to relocate from Downing Street.

Once again I am baffled by the logic of opening a coffee shop in a saturated market with no experience or understanding of coffee. Not unless employ a highly skilled head barista.


December 15, 2018

Passing by vegan cafe Okomoko I noticed a board saying zero waste and on display in the window an ecoffee bamboo coffee cup.

I walked in to inquire, I was curious to learn how they achieved zero waste. Whilst waiting, I noticed a sign pointing upstairs to a zero waste shop. Curious and curiouser. I climbed the stairs. I was expecting to maybe find a counter selling off old stock.

What I found was a little shop in a room, an Aladdin’s cave of delights.

Keep, a tiny version of Hisbe in Brighton. Two pleasant and helpful young women. They told me they rented the room.

Quite a clever idea and not the first time I have come across this arrangement, Anonymous Coffee in Reading, down an alley leading from Broad Street to Reading Minster, has a similar arrangement, rent space in a wine shop.

By renting space, in this case a room, overheads are low, for Okomoko, assuming they are not busy, it helps share the rent and puts to use unused space.

What is the alternative, a pop up shop, a market stall?

On offer, grains, cereals, nuts, dried fruit weigh and buy what you want. At the back, large containers of liquids, for example detergents, buy what you need.

Even ecoffee bamboo coffee cups on sale.

What would be a clever idea if Okomoko and Keep crowdfunded a joint glass KeepCup.

As I explained, a similar concept to Hisbe in Brighton. I recommended they visit.

If we are to aim for zero waste, there is much that coffee shops and restaurants can do.

  • eliminaate takeaway coffee
  • on sale reusable coffee cups and offer discount for use
  • compostable takeaway coffee cups
  • leave coffee grounds to be taken away
  • use food waste in cakes and soups
  • compost food waste

Reusable coffee cups and compostable coffee cup are a step in the right direction but what we must do, is eliminate grab it and go takeaway, encourage relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Keep is open Monday to Friday morning to lunchtime, Saturday until five, Sunday morning.


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