JesSpoke

December 9, 2018

Lower Marsh, hidden behind Waterloo Station, is one of those up and coming places that has not yet arrived, but well worth exploring.

Lower Marsh has a street food market in the week, Saturday a craft market.

It was on the craft market whilst looking for a coffee shop I found JesSpoke.

In London a couple of weeks ago on a cold misty day in London, I encountered Four Corners serving coffee from a van outside Waterloo Station. Or at least they were serving coffee, when I found them they were packing up.

They suggested I try their coffee shop in Lower Marsh.

It was on my way to find their coffee shop in Lower Marsh that I came across Jessica Moscrop with her stall JesSpoke, her own designs.

She was looking stunning dressed with one of her own designs.

I had a chat, would have stayed longer, but it was raining and I had a coffee shop to find.

I regret I did not stay longer, ask her about her designs, and the materials used. I would recommend organic cotton and lambswool, both are soft to the touch and organic cotton far better for the environment.

The problem is we are drowning in consumer junk, pointless consumerism. typified by M&S plastering their shop windows with Must Have.

Stuff stays in our possession all of six months, a brief respite en route from extraction and manufacture, to incineration or landfill.

In The Winner Stands Alone, Paulo Coelho has a brilliant critique of fast fashion.

It is all about image, be it wearing the latest fashion or consuming a can of coke. We think we are in control of our own destiny, but we are not, we are being manipulated by con men.

Fashion. Whatever can people be thinking? Do they think fashion is something that changes according to the season of the year? Did they really come from all corners of the world to show off their dresses, their jewellery and their collection of shoes? They don’t understand. ‘Fashion’ is merely a way of saying: ‘I belong to your world. I’m wearing the same uniform as your army, so don’t shoot.’

Ever since groups of men and women first started living together in caves, fashion has been the only language everyone can understand, even complete strangers. ‘We dress in the same way. I belong to your tribe. Let’s gang up on the weaklings as a way of surviving.’

But some people believe that ‘fashion’ is everything. Every six months, they spend a fortune changing some tiny detail in order to keep up their membership of the very exclusive tribe of the rich. If they were to visit Silicon Valley, where the billionaires of the IT industry wear plastic watches and beat-up jeans, they would understand that the world has changed; everyone now seems to belong to the same social class; no one cares any more about the size of a diamond or the make of a tie or a leather briefcase. In fact, ties and leather briefcases don’t even exist in that part of the world; nearby, however, is Hollywood, a relatively more powerful machine – albeit in decline – which still manages to convince the innocent to believe in haute-couture dresses, emerald necklaces and stretch limos. And since this is what still appears in all the magazines, who would dare destroy a billion-dollar industry involving advertisements, the sale of useless objects, the invention of entirely unnecessary new trends, and the creation of identical face creams all bearing different labels?

How perverse! Just when everything seems to be in order and as families gather round the table to have supper, the phantom of the Superclass appears, selling impossible dreams: luxury, beauty, power. And the family falls apart.

The father works overtime to be able to buy his son the latest trainers because if his son doesn’t have a pair, he’ll be ostracised at school. The wife weeps in silence because her friends have designer clothes and she has no money. Their adolescent children, instead of learning the real values of faith and hope, dream only of becoming singers or movie stars. Girls in provincial towns lose any real sense of themselves and start to think of going to the big city, prepared to do anything, absolutely anything, to get a particular piece of jewellery. A world that should be directed towards justice begins instead to focus on material things, which, in six months’ time, will be worthless and have to be replaced, and that is how the whole circus ensures that the despicable creatures gathered together in Cannes remain at the top of the heap.

What are people buying into, what are they paying a high price for? It is not the designer on the label as the design will have been by a young designer who wants out to set up his or her own label. It will have not even have been made by the company, it will have come from some Third World sweatshop, a dollar or less at the factory gate, one hundred dollars or more retail. All that people are paying for is the label, the brand name.

Not to be confused with buying real luxury, quality, for example a Montegrappa pen made by craftsmen, for when we buy something of quality, we tend to cherish it and keep it for life.

We need to move to Slow Fashion, emphasis on quality and style, clothes and other possessions we value, look after. The exact opposite of fast fashion, jumping to the diktat of fashionistas, cheap crap from sweatshops. Cheap crap that is worn a couple of times then thrown away.

On display at JesSpoke was as I would find on the autonomous street market in Athens, quality, and far better than the overpriced tat on the occasional craft market on Guildford High Street and at the markets at Farnham Maltings.

It was a miserable day, Lower Marsh empty, and no one appeared to be doing very well.

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Saturday in London

December 9, 2018

Saturday in London in December not the best time to visit London.

Many people waiting for train. Train only five coaches, overcrowded, passenger standing. Come January when the rail fares go up, the rail companies will tell us the rise is justified due to improving train services.

Arrive Waterloo Station 2-30 early afternoon, time to wander into Lower Marsh, have a coffee, maybe look at South Bank Street Food Market then on to Covent Garden, lunch in Home Slice in Neal’s Yard, then maybe visit a coffee shop or two, then on to City of My Mind album launch party in Old Street, or so I thought. Though I would have preferred to have arrived lunchtime better still midday, but got up late.

Lower Marsh has a street food market in the week, today a craft market.

Lower Marsh, hidden behind Waterloo Station, is one of those up and coming places that has not yet arrived, but well worth exploring.

Long chat with Jessica Moscrop with her stall JesSpoke, her own designs, though I wish I had asked her more about her work. Far better than the overpriced tat I see in Guildford High Street or at the Farnham Maltings markets.

Then to find Four Corners.

I look in Balance, a new coffee, maybe look in later.

I do not see Love & Scandal. Maybe no more, I see a new building going up.

I pass Colman Coffe. I have never found open.

Four Corners have a van outside Waterloo Station. I have a feeling I have looked in their coffee shop before, as looks vaguely familiar. It was through encountering their van that I was looking for their coffee shop.

I order a cappuccino. Blended with cocoa. Why, why use Ozone coffee, then ruin with cocoa? I cannot be bothered sending back.

On the way I encountered drunken idiots in Santa costumes, more and more and kept turning up. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Impossible walk down the street. Eventually coffee shop door is locked to prevent then walking in to use the toilet. Not a singe one buys a coffee, not even a takeaway coffee. They are also sitting on the coffee shops seats outside, leaning on the window. When they finally leave the street is covered in rubbish. They have managed to kill trade for the day or the street market. Whoever was responsible for this charade should be made to pay to clean up the street.

Four Corners has a long bookshelf lined with travel books hence the name. They also supply Four Corners passports, mugs, little notebooks and sweatshirts.

Amazing poster hidden in the toilet.

Finally the drunken idiots depart leaving a trail of rubbish.

I still could not find Love & Scandal. Maybe it is no more.

Note: I check later, Love & Scandal has closed. A pity as lovely coffee shop that at night was a bistro.

Mushroom and chestnut soup in Balance sounded good when I looked in earlier. I double check it is still available and that it is mushroom and chestnut, not chestnut mushrooms. Sounds good. Sadly when served weak and watery and lukewarm almost cold. The toasted bread soggy, as they had already put the butter on the toast.

I ordered a cappuccino. Served too hot. The menu says we do not serve coffee hot, thus absolutely no excuse.

The salad looked enticing except it looked no different to when I looked in much earlier. Not therefore so enticing.

Moronic music playing in the background, fortunately not too loud.

A coffee shop trying to be trendy and failing miserably.

Leaving Lower Marsh, now six o’clock.

Too late to walk over Hungerford Bridge. I decide against back way into Waterloo Station, and go in the side entrance, straight down into the Tube, only then walk for miles.

Exit Covent Garden, change at Leicester Square.

I go on a detour to The Espresso Room, which I find open, open until seven.

I abandon all hope of eating at Home Slice, as there will be a long wait.

They remember me, I get a free coffee, as bought a bag of coffee on my last visit.

A Lithuanian girl makes me V60 using Kemyan coffee. Excellent. Best coffee all day. Very fruity.

We chat long gone closing time.

Available free Clipper. An example of a free magazine of quality. Comparable with Independent Life, a free magazine in Leeds and York.

On my last visit I was given direction to a shop selling Standart, Drift. I could not find. I followed directions, head down Monmouth Street to Seven Dials.

I learn a vital piece of information was missing, in Shorts Gardens.

Leicester Square is nearby, but I decide to try and find the shop, then catch train at Covent Garden.

I catch MagMa before they close. Magazines are in the basement. A grave disappointment compared with Magazine Brighton or Ideas on Paper. No, not latest edition of Standart, not sure of new edition of Drift. As with everyone else, up against the bad distribution of Standart. They have Om Nom. Earlier editions? No, no room for back issues. They too have no idea what the name means. Quality print is not dead. They receive half a dozen new titles every week, or was it day, with requests to stock.

I find Covent Garden Station closed. I head back to Leicester Square, an hour wasted.

People are queuing in the street to get into the station.

I head to Old Street. Find what I am looking for, where Jewelia is holding a launch party for City of My Mind, her debut album.

A queue to get in, bouncers on the door. I walk to the front of the queue, show I am invited, they usher me in. Through a bar, down into an airless basement.

Jewelia welcomes me.

I was not going to stay late, maybe leave at latest by nine, in time to get to Lower Marsh and eat at Maria’s Cafe. But, I have arrived late, Jewelia does not play until late. I decide to stay. I will leave at 10-30 very latest.

She doe not finish playing until gone 10-30.

A brief chat, I feel guilt leaving, but do not know when last train.

A nightmare getting to Waterloo Station, I know there os a train at 2312, which is why I would have have left at 2230. I leave at 2245.

By mistake I get off at Bank, thinking London Bridge. Baffled why London and City Line, not Jubilee Line. I think will it be open. Miles to walk, I am thinking would have been quicker to have changed to train to Waterloo East. No trains shown on display. No trains or display not working. No one about.

I walk back, realising I should have got off at London Bridge.

At Waterloo signs for Way Out, Waterloo East. I follow signs to Way Out finding it literally is the way out. Head to Waterloo East. Exit way along a platform. Why were there no signs to Waterloo Station?

Five minutes to catch a train at 2335 a fast train.

Pick up a roll from Upper Crust. They used to be good, not any more. Stale.

12-coach train, packed.

Afternoon in Farnham

December 7, 2018

A cold wintry afternoon in Farnham.

Carrot and coriander soup with toasted bread followed by a cappuccino in Krema.

I cannot recall when was the last time, if ever Krema empty. Lovely and peaceful.

I looked in Robert Dyas. Two weeks ago, 4000 mAh power banks. I inquired last week, not in stock. I inquired again today, yes in stock, hidden out the back.

A quick shop in Waitrose.

In Starbucks, latte levy of 5p. I cannot see this would make a jot of difference. It needs to be at least 25p. 5p is less than the difference of a cup of coffee across coffee shops. It would be useful to see hard evidence.

There has been an increase in the use of disposable coffee cups. It was the chains that blocked the introduction of a 25p latte levy.

The Boston Tea Party introduced a ban on takeaway coffee cups six months ago. This has seen their takeaway trade drop by a quarter. But was this translated to relaxing with a coffee served in glass or ceramic? Again lack of hard data.

In addition to a pork chop, I had two rashers of un-smoked back bacon from the local butcher. Grilled bacon sandwich for tea. Excellent bacon.

Guildford farmers market

December 4, 2018

Hazy sun, frost first thing, a cold day around 7C.

Market very busy but also a lot of overpriced tat.

Celtic Baker had sold out of most bread.

Apple stall sold out of small apples, and brought extra lot.

The stall that occupies where once Secretts Farm had a stall, I learnt was the former head grower at Secretts Farm. He had managed to find a plot of land and has started up his own business. The quality of the produce always high.

A cake stall got shirty when I took a picture of the stall, wanted to know what I was doing. I would have thought obvious. I wish people would learn, it is ok to take pictures in public space.

The market is due to go plastic free next year. No information on this and news to the stall holders.

Interesting conversation with Riverford, suppliers of veg boxes, on their moves to go plastic free by 2020.

Ever wondered why never see any Police? Half a dozen Police at the Experience Guildford stall, who now have a presence to try and justify their squandering of public funds, like for example offering free car parking on the lead up to Christmas, the one time of the year the car parks full to overflowing and delivering a one sheet newsletter devoid of content that is treated as junk mail and goes straight in the bin.

And what were the Police doing, a farmer branching out into illicit poppies? I have no idea.

Last market everyone thought the turkey stall had been kicked off the market. Sadly not, they are back, with turkeys siting on their stall, plus their usual turkey sausages. At least not covered in flies. And who buys turkeys three weeks before Christmas?

Fresh meat and poultry should be kept in a fridge at  between 0-5C. Today, although a cold day, 7C. Last few days not far off 15C. Next few days hovering above and below 10C. Or in other words not the temperature inside a fridge.

During the summer poultry sat on their stall at plus 25C if not above 30C.

And where were Environmental Heath? They claim to regularly patrol the market. Strange how no one ever sees them. Maybe they would care to give dates and times, stalls inspected, and why the turkey stall is still on the market.

Why would anyone wish to buy turkeys three weeks before Christmas?

If wish to buy a turkey, buy from a reputable local butcher.

Excellent local butcher in Downing Street in Farnham.

Mushroom stall had oyster mushrooms growing. I commented could grow on coffee grounds. He said no, alien species could grow. He uses a mix of sawdust and straw. Those using coffee grounds would beg to differ, they also add straw. Coffee grounds are sterilised but could subsequently become contaminated.

One thing one learns from coffee roasteries, even if nothing else, is respect for the coffee bean. Not so Cupsmith. During the hot summer, roasted coffee beans in open hessian sacks. Cold damp winter days, roasted coffee beans in open hessian sacks.

There are two places to obtain quality coffee beans in Guildford, and two places only. FCB Coffee kiosk on Guildford Station has occasional guest coffee on sale. Krema in Tungate has coffee from Horsham Coffee Roasters on sale.

When buying cheese, things to look for, rare breed cows, cows pastured on grass, unpasteurised milk, traditional cheesemaking. What you do not want is pasteurised milk from black and white bulk milk producers, and cheese made on the farm where  simply replicating an industrialised process on a smaller scale including adding cultures. And never vacuum packed adulterated fake Cheddar in 17 flavours or waxed cheese with a picture of a Lancaster bomber.

But do not take my word for it, heed what Bronwen Percival has to say on buying cheese in an Appendix to Reinventing the Wheel:

Buy unadulterated cheese … if a cheesemaker hides behind added ingredients, whether smoke, added fruits or spices … it is either a tragedy … or a sign their milk was devoid of character in the first place … Buy raw-milk cheese … Buy complex cheese … Buy from a cheesemonger … good cheesemongers are curators of good cheese.

Adulterating cheese is akin to adding syrups to coffee. Don’t. It either ruins a good coffee or is used to hide bad coffee.

For quality cheese in Guildford spoilt for choice in the cheesemonger end of Chapel Street.

Farmers markets are synonymous with quality, or so they would like us to think, but do not be fooled, that something is produced locally, does not make it quality.

I will buy bread off Celtic Bakers, eat a dosa off the dosa stall, fresh produce off the stall that has taken the place of Secretts Farm, apples and apple juice off the apple stall, meat from the farm cooking the roast pork.

I noticed many of the stalls were stickered with little black Great Taste Awards maybe half, maybe more than half. Do not be fooled, these stickers mean absolutely nothing, and are certainly no indication of quality.

A dosa off the Indian stall, as always excellent.

Excellent honey crunch chicken with brown rice in Bamboo Shoots.

Passing Surrey Hills Coffee to and from Bamboo Shoots, as always empty, ok one customer. On my second pass, a girl I have not seen before. Pleasant and helpful. I commented that one of the bags of coffee grounds sat outside had been picked up. Did I want she asked, more behind the counter. No, as wrong time of year.

As always, excellent coffee at Krema.

I was greeted by an ex-barista from Harris + Hoole. Since the takeover by caffe Nero and death by a thousand cuts, Harris + Hoole have lost all their good staff.

There will be an extra market in two weeks time, a special Christmas market. If there was any information or publicity, I did not see. I only know thanks to a  couple of the stalls telling me.

The market needs to up its game, better environmental standards, emphasis on quality having priority over local, though ideally both.

A must for the Christmas market, Hidden Curiosities Gin and Chimney Fire Coffee, local producers of exceptional quality.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss

December 3, 2018

Why 111 coffee shops, why not 100, why not 120?

That is what I hate about these series of books, an artificial list, someone hired to fill the list, rather than someone writes and publishes a guide to London coffee shops.

Having said that, 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss exceeds expectations, excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Each coffee shop occupies two pages, a page of text, a picture.  What to expect, the coffee, roaster used.

At the back, a couple of pages of maps. The largest concentration of coffee shops Soho, north of Oxford Street second. Strange therefore Bar Italia, located in Soho, one of the oldest, if not the oldest coffee shop in London, a Soho icon, Soho as once was, does not merit a mention.  Nor Monmouth Coffee in nearby Covent Garden, one of the first artisan coffee shops in London, well before they became trendy places to be.

A couple of coffee shops I am familiar with, if not visited. Pufrock I am told I should visit, but have not, Taylor Street Baristas I have not visited in London, I have the one in Brighton, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, the excellent Curio Cabal the only coffee shop listed that I have visited.

I would have liked to see as with The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, telephone number, web address, twitter and facebook.

I like the hot tips. A place of interest nearby worth a visit.

How to get there, nearest station.

Coffee roasteries are not included, and no guide is complete without. All the more surprising when often mentioned in the description of the coffee shops.

Noticeable by their absence, Bar Italia, Ethiopian Coffee Roasters on the South Bank street food market, little coffee kiosk at foot of Hungerford Bridge on London South Bank, Monmouth Coffee.

At the back, a useful glossary of coffee terms. One term that was new to me, espresso flight, a single-shot espresso,  a single shot cappuccino, served side by side. Only one coffee shop have I been served this though not given a name and not side by side, in a line, was Coffee Aroma, an espresso, a cappuccino and a glass of water, served in a line on a hollowed out wooden board.

A QR code to pull up an interactive map. At least I assume it was, but is not. At least can see where the coffee shops are. It would though have been better if each pin had pulled up information on Google Maps. There is a menu, which takes through to a list of all 111 coffee shops. Click on any entry, and that does take through to Google Maps. A somewhat indirect route.

The problem with any guide, even on-line, is dated as soon as writ, if not before.

Taylor St Baristas no longer use Union-Hand Roasted, they roast their own beans at Taylor St Roasted and their excellent Brighton coffee shop has closed.

An indication of how things date, as I wrote this review, I learnt Taylor St Baristas were returning to Brighton. I miss the one that closed, I will look forward to their new coffee shop.  Or at least that was what I initially thought. Actually they will be supplying the coffee. Maybe one day.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss puts to shame the utterly useless Where to Drink Coffee.

An excellent well researched guide, a must if visiting London and appreciate good coffee.

I prefer to wander and discover, if not, reservations aside 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss is an excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Although I prefer to wander and take me where my feet take me, I have to admit, several of the coffee shops intrigue me and I am tempted to visit next time I am in London.

Also check out London Coffee, an account of London coffee culture rather than a guide to coffee shops.

Book in hand, I did attempt to visit one cold misty day in London at least a couple of the listed coffee shops. I managed all of one, Algerian Coffee Stores, and that only because my lovely Russian friend Tatyana told me it was a must to visit if I ever found myself in London.

I was not that I did not visit any other coffee shops, it is that I tend to go where my feet take me.

I found Four Corners a kiosk outside Waterloo Station. They told me they have a coffee shop in Lower Marsh. Beany a kiosk at the foot of Hungerford Bridge, excellent coffee but no time to stop. Grind in Covent Garden I looked in did not like and walked out. The Espresso Room, a tiny coffee shop in Covent Garden serving excellent coffee. I looked in Bar Italia in Soho, excellent coffee, but no time to stop. Jacob the Angel an English Coffee House, a new coffee shop in Neal’s Yard, serving Square Mile which is a good sign, but about to close. Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden I stopped for a cappuccino.

Afternoon in Farnham

December 1, 2018

Heavy rain overnight, afternoon wet but not raining.

Last week I had found 4000 mAh power banks in Robert Dyas. I could not find today, and store too busy to ask.

I notice they have Cambridge bamboo eco mug. Are these the same as ecoffee cup which are also bamboo and look the same marketed under a different name or a clone thereof? The main difference, apart from name, not in a box and much cheaper. Horrible silicone rubbery lid and and holder.

I notice this year ecoffee cups seem to have taken off as everywhere and appear to have replaced Keep Cup, for example FCB Coffee kiosk on Guildford Station. Though personally I prefer a glass Keep Cup or better still relax in an indie coffee shop with specialty coffee served in glass or ceramic.

I am also seeing, most indie coffee shops have on sale reusable cups, offering a discount if bring own cup, though many quite rightly state must be clean and barista friendly, and have moved to compostable cups. As always the indie coffee shops leading the way.

Therefore quite shocking to read a report from last month in The Mail that sales of disposable coffee cups have soared. All the more shocking in light of the massive negative press against disposable coffee cups.

It is long overdue the introduction of a 25p latte levy on takeaway coffee and that coffee drinkers are encouraged to relax with specialty coffee in an indie coffee shop served in glass or ceramic.

Leak and potato soup served with toasted sourdough bread in Krema followed by a cappuccino and flapjack.

If someone calls looking for a job in an indie coffee shop based on they have worked at any of the coffee chains do you offer them a job? No, show them the door. On the other hand if they say they wish to leave a corporate chain because they wish to learn more about coffee, then yes, offer them a job.

I catch Robert Dyas before they close. No, no 4000 mAh powerbanks, at least not what I found last week. I suspect a special buy for Black Friday to claim a price reduction.

I should have popped back last week, but I assumed they were closed.

In Waitrose, bananas rotting on the shelves.

Something I have not seen before, overpriced muesli in a plastic jar.

We are going backwards.

I speak with a member of staff. No one cares.

Afternoon in Guildford

November 30, 2018

Cold in the shade, pleasantly warm in the sun.

Adding insult to injury, former head of Network Fail awarded CBE, train companies try to justify a hike in rail fares in January.

What looks like a disgusting concoction on offer at Harris + Hoole, a Christmas filter coffee. Caffe Nero doing their best to destroy a once excellent coffee shop.

Organised crime, what appear to be Albanian beggars on the street, all with the same badly written card, please help me I am hungry. They are not the local homeless.

Lunch at Bamboo Shoots. Honey crunch chicken with brown rice. As always excellent. Today busy, but then I did arrive lunchtime, usually I am early afternoon.

I was tempted to try tea, but instead decide on coffee at Krema.

Guildford Rangers handing out a newsletters strictly speaking a news sheet, a single A4 page of zilch content. One in four kids have mental health problems, Experience Guildford encouraging taking of selfies. Car parks full to overflowing at Christmas, Experience Guildford offering free car parking. These are some of the many scams Experience Guildford dream up to waste public money.

Surrey Hills Coffee as always empty as I walk past. Literally no customers. I cannot see how they survive, always empty. Coffee not good, vegan cakes disgusting.

Caracoli surprisingly busy. I ask when are they closing? They look quite shocked when I say not time of day, when is the store closing? Appalling staff kept in the dark. Another member of staff, surprised I know, no one is supposed to know, admits they are closing some time in the New Year.

I am talking to a lady, and let her know closing sometime in the New Year. Whilst we are talking, what I assume to be a cappuccino passes us by on the way to a table. Cup size too large, looked disgusting, chocolate dumped on top.

That is one of their problems, poor quality coffee. Another is not knowing what they are. Are they a deli, a coffee shop? Exasperated by Vulture Capitalist wanting a return on their investment. It is not possible to creates a coffee chain, not unles aping Starbucks.

Sticking a large A-board outside obstructing the High Street falsely claiming serving best coffee in Guildford is asking for trouble, at the very least opening up to ridicule.

V60 at Krema.

Krema busy, I am hard pushed to find a table.

Each time I visit Krema, there are more people.

Instead of walking down the High Street or cutting through Tunsgate Quarter, I head off down Castle Street to the cheesemonger end of Chapel Street. They are gobsmacked when I tell then of a shop recently opened selling plastic wrapped cheese laced with ginger.

I query the seats outside. They tell me they now serve toasties.

Look in M&S. Olive oil spread healthy? Think again. Bulked out with palm oil, bad for planet, bad for health, high in saturated fats. Vegetables oils, including palm oil, highest content. Begs the question why not called palm oil spread or vegetable oil spread?

M&S not the only ones conning the public.

Bertolli olive oil spread, heavily promoted as healthy alternative, bulked out with palm oil.

Why are they allowed to advertise and yet Iceland Palm oil Christmas commercial banned?

To the Station.

FCB Coffee kiosk, guest coffee Costa Rica from Hundred House Coffee.

Empty Christmas boxes on FCB Coffee kiosk Guildford Station wrapped in red ribbon. Why not fill with bags of guest coffee, drop loyalty cards with e-mail address in a pot for a Christmas draw?

1730 Guildford to Ascot via Aldershot only running as far as Aldershot, where safety checks will be carried out on the train. The train then cancelled. No train until 1800. Yet another example of the failing rail network.

Cold damp misty Friday afternoon in Guildford

November 28, 2018

Last week, cold, damp and misty Friday in Guildford.

Excellent lunch at Bamboo Shoots in Jeffries Passage. Hot, freshly prepared, good service, far better than Pho in Tunsgate.

Surrey Hills Coffee as always deserted. Well ok two customers. 10% off everything not pulling the punters in, if have Guildford book of offers. A different person serving the coffee. At least she was not stood there looking bored stiff. Once have a poor reputation for coffee, nigh impossible to recover.

Cappuccino, hot chocolate in Krema.

Walking through Tunsgate Quarter, as always deserted,

Failing tea and coffee shops in Lincoln

November 27, 2018

What could be a microcosm of anywhere, a tale of failing, closed and for sale tea and coffee shops in Lincoln.

Tickleberry Lane Bakery & Tea House opened over 18 months ago. It was doomed to failure as did everything possible that could be done wrong.

Poor quality tea and coffee. When prominently display serving teapigs, may as well run up a flag stating we know nothing about tea. The coffee over-roasted catering supply commodity coffee. On the other side of the street Coffee Aroma serving high quality tea and coffee.

The serving of lunch was upstairs via narrow steep stairs, but no menu on display outside the shop. No one is going to walk up steep narrow stairs with no idea what is on offer when they arrive.

Rather late in the day, a few months before they closed, they placed a couple of tables and chairs in the window. Too little, too late.

The writing was on the wall, firstly claimed closed as not busy, then claimed illness, finally a To Let sign. Other businesses that were ordering bread and cakes complained of unreliable delivery. The staff walked out complaining they had not been paid.

Two weeks or more after the To Let sign went up the useless local press reported it had closed, it had actually closed many months before, and regurgitated as news what had been written on facebook.

The Angel Coffee House is up for sale. A couple of years ago, it would have put some squats to shame. A major refit and yes has improved, but not the coffee.

The owner will give advice, if sold, but hopefully not on coffee. And has ideas on expansion. Which begs the question, why, if these are such good ideas, why were they not implemented?

Increasing takeaway, especially if using Deliveroo, is a retrograde step, not unless do not care about the environment, or exploitation of serfs working for an app.

We must reduce the grab it and go takeaway culture part of pointless consumerism, encourage relax with specialty coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Pimento Tea Rooms half way up Steep Hill has closed. Once excellent for tea and cakes, new owners took over and destroyed the business.

Steep Hill Tea Rooms, a tea shop at the top of Steep Hill one of many tea shops on Steep Hill has closed. When I passed by in September, the premises gutted, the name still on the window.

New tea shops have opened on The Strait and in Bailgate. All chasing the same tourist pound. When there is money to be made, for example AsylumX the recent steampunk festival, they still close early.

Coffee by the Arch is for sale. Catering supply coffee, service poor, tea supplied by tea pigs. Again one of many tea and coffee shops in Bailgate, Steep Hill and The Strait chasing the same tourist pound.

Coffee by the Arch was for sale, but the sale fell through early November when the buyer pulled out at the eleventh hour. Not clear if it is still on the market. At the time of writing it is still listed as cafe lease for sale. Owner has complained on their facebook page of inaccurate reporting by the media.

It is not helped by a tea shop of very similar name in Bailgate. Someone failed to do their homework.

For any new business the odds are stacked against success. 80% of new businesses fail within the first 18 months. And even if make it past 18 months it is not plain sailing, the chance of becoming a sustainable business is only 1 in 20.

Where once, maybe up to five years ago, could open a tea or coffee shop serving low quality tea in tea bags, catering supply coffee, not employ skilled baristas, not be prepared to invest in the required equipment, not any more. To do so is to be on a hiding to nothing.

For low quality tea and coffee, we have the corporate chains, why therefore open up in direct competition? This is like the fools and their money easily parted who take on the tenancy of a tied pub, the pubcos see you coming, another mug to relieve of their redundancy money or life savings.

Lincoln has three quality coffee shops, Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle and Base Camp. Any one of these failing, failed or for sale businesses has the potential to be a quality coffee shop, serving specialty coffee in glass or ceramic. They will not be in competition, specialty coffee shops never are, they help to expand the market by introducing coffee drinkers to how coffee should be served, what it should look like, taste like.

There is never any point in entering a crowded market. Create the market, be the big fish in the pond because you have created the pond, then expand the pond.

In addition the focus has to be on quality, being the best. To try to compete on price, to lower quality, is to engage in a race to the bottom, as there will always be someone who can undercut you.

In Winchester, two years ago, Coffee Lab opened, spread by word of mouth, followed by Coffee Lab Academy, followed by The Square. In the meantime Flat White kiosk, followed by Flat White coffee shop. They are not in competition, they have grown the market for specialty coffee.

In Guildford, Krema serving specialty coffee, busy since it opened. Coffee shops serving poor quality coffee, pretentious coffee shops where the owner talks bollocks on focus groups, brands and marketing, are either empty or closed.

It is like a tied pub serving what masquerades as beer from a corporate chemical plant, competing in a shrinking market where pubs are closing every week. Open a coffee ship serving undrinkable catering supply coffee, in competition with the corporate coffee chains in a stagnant if not shrinking market.

The irony, far more likely to find quality craft beer, even decent wine, in a coffee shop than a pub, and far more convivial company. Little Tree, half a dozen craft beers from different Greek Islands. The Underdog, over twenty different craft beers. Warehouse, over 200 different wines.

And yet no one learns.

Ye Olde Mouse House, proclaimed to be a cheese cum coffee shop, a weird combination, has opened in the former Steep Hill Tea Rooms at the top of Steep Hill.

The name says it all. Maybe a better name, Ye Olde Tourist Trap.

They talk of cheese as a brand. Cheese is not a brand not unless talking of plastic wrapped Kraft plastic cheese.

And yes, their adulterated cheese is sold prepackaged in plastic, other cheese coated in wax.

In an Appendix to Reinventing the Wheel excellent advice by Bronwen Percival on buying cheese:

Buy unadulterated cheese … if a cheesemaker hides behind added ingredients, whether smoke, added fruits or spices … it is either a tragedy … or a sign their milk was devoid of character in the first place … Buy raw-milk cheese … Buy complex cheese … Buy from a cheesemonger … good cheesemongers are curators of good cheese.

Adulterating cheese is akin to adding syrups to coffee. Don’t. It either ruins a good coffee or is used to hide bad coffee.

And their use of social media to say the least perverse. A badly filmed video of their coffee shop located in a cellar. A picture of a dog tied up outside in the cold and wet(since deleted). Questions posted on their cheese and coffee, not only lack the courtesy to answer, the questions are deleted.

Footfall on Steep Hill has in recent years dramatically fallen. The only way to attract business, to offer quality, word of mouth.

For quality cheese in Lincoln, The Cheese Society, top of the High Street, bottom of The Strait. Or if in Bailgate next to the Post Office try Redhill Farm Shop which has a small selection of quality local cheeses. There is also local cheese on the monthly farmers market in Castle Square.

Cappuccino at CUP Reading Minster

November 26, 2018

CUP hidden behind Reading Minster is worth finding as always excellent coffee in a pleasant environment.

Today, a cold wintry afternoon in Reading was no exception, an excellent cappuccino.