Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Afternoon in Reading

November 20, 2017

What a difference a week makes. Last week in Reading freezing cold, today mild and damp with occasional light drizzle.

I had intended to look in Workhouse then pop back later. But decided to stay and have a cappuccino.

Ethiopian, better than I had off Tamp kiosk last week, weak and insipid, which I poured down the drain. Not though as good as from Ethiopian Coffee Roasters.

I was asked did I want sugar, but had to intervene to stop chocolate, I assume cocoa, from being dumped on top.

No information on the beans, but staff knowledgeable and will explain if asked.

It would though be useful to have information, for example as in Small Batch in Brighton.

I learnt why the silly names for several of the beans. These are blends and it is an attempt to give some idea of the flavour profile.

The system is very much as Monmouth in Covent Garden, choose the beans you want, these are then weighed and bagged. They will grind if asked.

Perceived wisdom is to leave beans for a week after roasting before used. Workhouse leave for two weeks.

I think, but not sure, I could have picked any of the beans for a V60, though it may have only been what was illustrated on a  sign.

The rear of Workhorse the walls used to exhibit art.

Workhouse is surrounded by dreadful places to drink coffee, opposite Costa and tax-dodging Starbucks, adjacent down the street Patisserie Valerie and Pret a Manger.

In the centre of Reading, indeed even before leaving Reading Station, I have never seen so many coffee shops, but unlike Brighton, where at least indie coffee shops, these are chains. Like a Medieval plague of rats, Reading is infested with tax-dodging Starbucks.

MangoBean closed. This does not surprise me. It is a franchise scam, relies on mugs who know nothing about coffee, as the old adage goes fools and their money are easily parted.

The only surprise is that MangoBean in Aldershot has not closed long ago.

Next door to MangoBean, Artigiano.

Artigiano a  trendy coffee ship, serving craft beer, multiple levels, very much in the style of The Underdog in Athens. A sign indicated they used Origin. Sadly though a chain, albeit a small chain.

I had wished to go back, but spent the rest of the afternoon until early evening at CUP speciality coffee and tea.

Lunch at Cup spinach and feta pie.

Artigiano and Workhorse almost empty, CUP packed. It quietened down a little mid-afternoon, then late afternoon, it fills up again.

Usually in a coffee shop, people drink coffee, in CUP, maybe half drinking tea.

A selection of 18 different teas, with an unusual method of brewing the tea.

The tea and water carefully measured and timed, boiling hot water poured onto the tea, then released through a gauze into a glass carafe with a cork in the top.

The brewing method I have seen only once before, in Just Made 33, the method of serving only seen in CUP.

The teas are for sale, they will weigh and bag.

I had wished to leave earlier than last week to miss the commuter rush hour, but left an hour later, just made it in time for a train, which I found was non-stop. The next train, ten minutes later, was ten minutes late.  Packed in like sardines.  Most of the train emptied at the first stop.

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Farnham Christmas Market

November 18, 2017

Alighting off the bus in Farnham, walking along the riverside walk, I found a Christmas Market in Gostrey Meadow.

Very muddy. I hate to think what like later when it rained.

Unlike the Aldershot Christmas Market, Farnham Christmas Market was busy with lots of stalls.

The Christmas Market was for turning on the Christmas lights.

Why so early, why not wait until early December?

I like what they did in Winchester, instead of wasting money on a so-called celebrity, they had the local Big Issue seller turn on the Christmas lights.

 

Afternoon in Guildford

November 17, 2017

A very cold day, sunny but cold.

Waterstone’s has a reasonable, though not great, selection of coffee books.

O2 has the new One Plus Five. At £500 expensive. Though half the ludicrous £1000 for an iPhone X.

An ice ring at The Village.

Not as it may seem innovation, many towns are now doing this.

Something I did not learn until later, Guildford has an ice ring (I should have known this as I used to see people carrying ice skates), so why does it need one at The Village?

Not a single person on the ice ring.

The Village opened in the summer. It has never been a success. If not a success in the summer, it was unlikely to succeed once it turned cold and dark.

September, most of the businesses had pulled out.

A couple of weeks ago, more new businesses.

Looking today, I do not know whether these new businesses have already puled out, but few of the units were open.

But, what has now happened, sheds have been dumped on site selling junk food. What are they trying to do, turn Guildford into Aldershot? It is also unfair to the existing businesses who have stuck it out.

I walk by a stall on the market that sells coffee beans. I have yet to ever see anyone buy from this stall. The beans therefore must be old. I looked today. Anonymous plastic sacks, no information on the beans, no roast date. There are better places in Guildford from where to buy coffee beans.

Always buy coffee beans from a reputable indy coffee shop or from a reputable coffee roaster.

The stall also sells tea. This I did not check out, but if I wanted tea, I would buy from Bamboo Shoots in Jeffries Passage where the guy is an expert on tea.

It was Bamboo Shoots where I was headed for lunch.

No honey crunch chicken. I had prawns with brown rice. Excellent.

Top of High Street, Steamer Trading, up market expensive kitchen shop.

Did they have coffee making gear? Not that I could see, Nespresso machines, and surprising, domestic espresso machines. I would not recommend either

A lady asked could she help me. Yes we do have, She took me to a corner, where V60, aeropress, though not Chemex or Japanese syphon.

 

I may have just made a train, but decided cappuccino at Harris + Hoole. High staff turnover since being taken over by tax-dodging Caffe Nero. Death by a thousand cuts. Today, once again new faces I have not seen before. Caffe Nero has now managed to lose all their good staff.

Where to Drink Coffee

November 11, 2017

A guide to coffee shops of the world, somewhat ambitious and faintly ludicrous.

The description for each coffee shop is about the size of a large postage stamp, with text so small it needs a magnifying glass to read, and most of that is taken up with address and whether or not takes credit cards. Useful information is entirely missing, for example who roasts the coffee beans.

For UK, noticeable more for what is missing than what is included.

For Greece, all of two coffee shops, Tailor Made and The Underdog, and the entry on this page is shared with Serbia.  For Athens alone, I could add several other coffee shops worthy of note: Just Made 33, Taf, Mr BeanDuo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies aka Δυο γουλιές & δυο μπουκιέςTaressoLittle Tree Books and Coffee.

Who is going lug around this heavy book when it is devoid of information and maybe has all of two coffee shops for the country you are thinking of visiting?

Where to Drink Coffee is part of a series, Where Bartenders Drink and Where Chefs Eat, with the same format would be equally useless.

Where to Drink Coffee is is the one guide you do not need. It would be difficult to imagine a guide less useful.

It is always best to use your feet, wander around and find coffee shops yourself, you then have the pleasure of discovery. And once you find one good coffee shop, ask for recommendations of other places to try.

If you need a coffee shop guide for Northern England, which also covers roasteries, cannot go far wrong with The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide.

Standart has a guide in each issue to a town or city and coffee shops worth visiting.

Drift each issue is devoted to one city.

On-line The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop occasionally features coffee shops and coffee culture in towns and cities.

Afternoon in Winchester

November 8, 2017

Last night, knowing there was to be a two day rail strike, I decided not to travel down to Winchester and did not get to bed until early hours of the morning, had I decided otherwise, I would have had an early night.

This morning, I decided why not, I will travel down to Winchester, if I do not make the train, I will not bother.

I was reluctant for another reason, train strike, I would be crossing a picket line.

No picket line, barriers open, train of twelve coaches, empty.

Bizarre strike. The new Chinese owners have not said they will not get rid of the guards, on the other hand they have not said they will get rid of the guards.

A strike simply alternates the travelling public.

Train down to Alton, only one an hour, not two, I check I can get a train back.

Alight off bus and walk down Magdalen Hill into Winchester.

Sunny but very cold. Winchester acts as a frost trap, cold air rolls off the hills into the valley.

I find return bus is still operating from the street, though now opposite side of the street, work on bus station appears to be finished

Pasta off the Sicilian guys. Sadly they have still not reverted to their original menu even though far better.

I warn them their business will now drop off until warm weather in the spring. They will be lucky to break even.

I suggest why they do not offer lessons in Italian cooking or offer home cooking.

I decided to go home, too cold, but will visit Coffee Lab first.

Look in Coffee Lab Academy no sign of Dhan, I check Coffee Lab, no sign of Dhan, I return to Coffee Lab Academy where it is warmer.

Both are empty.

I guess the cold weather. In the summer coffee shops should be open late, in the winter five o’clock as more than late enough. People wish to get home, cold and dark.

On my way down I learn from Guildford Tourist Information that today is National Cappuccino Day. No one is aware of this, and neither was I.

The coffee shop they show is not somewhere I would recommend. Not unless you enjoy bad coffee and cigarette smoke blown in your face.  A cafe serving coffee masquerading as coffee shop.

Lucky for me, cappuccino in Coffee Lab, though sadly no Dhan.

Both Coffee Lab and Coffee lab Academy have had a makeover, forced by change of logo. I like the new look.

Charming lady who I often chat with is pleased to see me.

I am surprised when she makes my coffee. I did not know she was a barista. She is very good.

I have a brief look at Coffee Art, a book by Dhan released a month ago. It looks worth having. None are signed.

A flapjack as well. I learn made in the Salisbury coffee shop.  Excellent.

Then to catch the bus. Far later than I wished.

I decided catch 1720, catch a  little before it leaves, then not hanging around in the cold. Bus is late, ten minutes waiting the cold.

As a result of bus being late, miss train at Alton.

Luckily Alton Station Cafe open. Bikers night. Every Wednesday in the summer, usually once a month in the winter. Empty.

When they prepare their own food it is excellent. Tonight chicken Kiev, bought in crap.

I leave, they prepare me breakfast. I leave most of that too, as now not hungry.

Train again twelve coaches, empty.

The race to save coffee

November 8, 2017

Coffee can only adapt by moving higher up the mountain, and in doing so moves into an ever more inaccessible, fragile and hostile environment.

The Devil’s Cup documents that in Europe when coffee was first introduced, it was  the drink of the rich.  Coffee will revert to what it once was, the drink of the very rich, ironically the very people who are accruing wealth through destroying the planet.

Coffee resides on a very narrow genetic base.

One reason why the work by Kew Gardens and Union  in Yayu Forest is so important, not only important in helping to safeguard an important forest but help safeguard the wild coffee trees which are a vital genetic reservoir.

But if we are serious, we have to support coffee roasters like Union who engage in direct trade, money goes back to farmers, encouragement to protect the trees and work on reafforestation.

But even more important, we have to deal with climate chaos.

This year, not yet ended, is likely to be one of the warmest on record.

As I write, yet another round of climate talks, corrupt politicians fiddling whilst the planet burns.

Polar bears dying, polar caps melting, a succession of hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, bleaching and die back of coral reefs, projections of the near future of coastal cities under water, it all has no effect, there is a disconnection from our lifestyle.

Could it be denial of coffee, will be the jolt that makes us finally act?

Cappuccino by candlelight at Just Made 33

October 31, 2017

Coffee has not only to be good, it has to be consistently good.

Just Made 33 achieves that consistency. Whenever I have had a coffee, no matter who has served me, it has been excellent.

Aristokratikon

October 31, 2017

Mouth watering chocolate at mouth watering prices.

Cappuccino at Just Made 33

October 28, 2017

Morning pleasant and sunny and warm.  Afternoon cool and cloudy. Evening rain and cold.

I made Just Made 33 as it started to rain. The temperature dropped. Even inside it turned cold.

For me a cappuccino and chocolate bar.

Cappuccino excellent.

I watched an Ibrik being brewed, Greek coffee.

I am used to a small copper pot. This a different shape.

And a different method.

Brought to the boil, rises to the top, then removed from the flame, but nor reatedly brought to the boil.

The coffee ground very fine, almost like powder.

Then green tea being made in a vessel I have only seen in Athens.

The tea allowed to brew, then dropped into a carafe below.

I knew Just Made 33 made excellent sandwiches and cakes, but not hot dishes, but then I have never looked at the menu, nor am I there lunchtime or in the evening.

Interesting conversation with barista and waitress, both knowledgeable on coffee.

Cappuccino at Taresso artisan coffee roasters

October 27, 2017

I decided as yesterday, to once again try to find Warehouse Specialty Blends, then if open Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies.

Passing by Taresso, as yesterday, an excellent cappuccino. If anything better than yesterday.

I checked Warehouse Specialty Blends to find closed at three. As not far from Lycabettus Hill and a pleasant sunny day, I thought maybe climb to the top, but decided to keep to original plan, try once again to find Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies, even though it was going to be close to closing time.