Posts Tagged ‘coffee shop’

Espresso-based coffee

May 6, 2021

Excellent guide by European Coffee Trip to espresso-based coffee.

Walk into a coffee shop and two things will possibly catch your eye, an espresso machine and all too often a bewildering array of different espresso-based coffee to choose from, and to add to that confusion no consistency on how made or even on what they are called.

But first, what is espresso, what does it mean?

An espresso is finely ground coffee, water forced through the coffee at high pressure, nominally nine bars.

If thinking of home espresso, think again, a lot of work for a mug of coffee, not unless wish to have as a time consuming hobby. There are easier ways to make coffee at home.

If do wish to brew espresso at home, then look to a semi-professional machine, Rocket, Olympia Cremina, La Marzocco Linea Mini. An alternative is the 9Barista. Forget cheap domestic machines.

Espresso drinks explained

April 11, 2021

Walk into an indie coffee shop and we are faced with a confusing array of different coffee drinks.

There are espresso-based drinks, starting with a single shot or double shot espresso. Milk-based espresso drinks. Pour over filter coffee, V60, Chemex or Origami. And these are only the hot coffee drinks. We then have served cold espresso-based drinks, freddo espresso, freddo cappuccino. Cold brew coffee, immersion and cold drip. Japanese cold drip coffee.

To add further complexity, for the pour over filter coffee, we may be offered a choice of different coffee beans from different farms, different processing, different countries. My solution, I ask the barista to choose, and to explain their choice.

European Coffee Trip have provided a helpful overview of espresso-based coffees. But heed their warning, names can differ.

Personally, a cappuccino, occasionally an espresso if exceptional coffee. If not a cappuccino, a V60 pour over or in hot weather a cold brew coffee. There is also a choice of single shot or double shot.

Try espresso flight – single shot espresso – single shot cappuccino – glass of water – in line.

An espresso, fine ground coffee, extracted under 9 bars of pressure, typical dose 18g dose in the basket, 36g of espresso, 27–29 seconds, 12% extraction.

An espresso or cold brew can also be used as a base for elixirs, and cocktails.

When next in a coffee shop and asked what size cappuccino, respond the correct size. Too often, clueless on coffee, no idea how to serve a cappuccino. And no, cappuccino does not have chocolate dumped on top. The only reason chocolate dumped on top, to hide being served bad coffee.

Two excellent books with illustrated guides to espresso based drinks:

  • London Coffee
  • The World Atlas of Coffee

Follow your dreams

March 4, 2021

But be careful what you wish for…

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In The Alchemist Santiago follows his dreams.

Federico Bolaños had a dream.

Federico Bolaños did not like coffee. Not that is until he had a coffee at a friend’s house. He could not believe how good it was. He decided to open a coffee shop serving quality coffee that tasted like his friend’s coffee.

Together with business partners Federico Bolaños opened three coffee shops, Viva Espresso, in El Salvador.

Alejandro Mendez did not like coffee. When he applied for a job at Viva Espresso he knew nothing about coffee, he did not even like coffee.

Federico Bolaños saw he had potential and offered him a job. Alejandro Mendez thought he would be waiting on tables, maybe grinding coffee beans, he learnt to be a barista, found he liked coffee.

Federico Bolaños had a dream. His dream was that El Salvador would win the World Coffee Championship. No producer country had ever won the coffee champions. Alejandro Mendez would win the world championship for El Salvador.

Alejandro Mendez entered and he won. He was World Champion barista in 2011.

Federico Bolaños did not stop there. He saw the hunger in the eyes of his young baristas. They begged him to let them enter. Once again, his barista won, this time coming third place.

But all this exacted a heavy toll on his business. Entering championships cost money. On their return they found the businesses was close to collapse, injection of new capital was needed. New investors were brought in and their first act was to oust Federico Bolaños.

But like Santiago in The Alchemist he did not accept defeat, he did not give up on his dreams, it was the start of a new adventure.

His help was ought by a South Korean coffee company. He won again, this time with a female barista, only the second female baristas in the history of the world championships. Federico Bolaños had trained three world champions.

Our modern day alchemists take coffee beans, use fire, and turn it into an elixir.

Many of the baristas of Viva Espresso, now ex-baristas, have moved on to open coffee shops with their colleagues.

Federico Bolaños has established Alquimia Coffee, Alejandro Mendez established 4 Monkeys Coffee Roasters.

The story of Federico Bolaños and Alejandro Mendez following their dreams is now a Duolingo podcast.

James Harper is host and producer of Filter Stories, a documentary-style podcast revealing the often dark reality but with glimmers of hope of the world of coffee. The untold stories hidden in your cup of coffee. He has also produced Adventures in Coffee, a Caffeine Magazine podcast (hosted by Jools Walker and Caffeine founder Scott Bailey).

A longer version of this post has been published by The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop on Medium.  [see Follow your dreams]

James & James: Five Elixirs

February 6, 2021

Stories and elixirs inspired by James Baldwin and The Book of James. 

When James Hoffmann decided to hand February over to guest creators I thought ‘nah James, a bad idea’. How wrong could I be. But happily proven wrong with the first video, James & James: Five Elixirs.

Gilly Brewing Co, a coffee shop, a cocktail bar? Neither, Gilly Brewing Co are story tellers, creators of coffee-based elixirs.

Each season they create five elixirs. The winter season 2020 five elixirs based on James, James Baldwin novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, activist and The Book of James.

Stunning cinematography, a moving story, the readings, I was moved to tears watching.

Pretentious, but pretentious in a good way not a bad way.

The James & James Winter 2020 recipes can be found on the Gilly Brewing Co website and available to download an e-book.

I have though a criticism, anyone can use their recipes, but if a coffee shop or cocktail bar required to obtain a  licence. When I have shared what others have shown me, for example Yuzu signature drink which I was shown at The Barn Hackescher Markt I make the point, do not pass off as your own creation, credit the creators.

Speciality coffee is pushing the boundaries, it is also sharing, a philosophy James Hoffman has always been keen to encourage. An example would be leading baristas invited to 90 Plus estate in Ethiopia to work with their super-pickers, to create and share, one of who was Stefanos Domatiotis. Or James Hoffmann inviting guest videos.

Watching brought back to me a visit to The Third Room in Larnaca, two brothers,  a boutique hotel, a coffee shop that at night becomes a cocktail bar.  The coffee not quite up to scratch, I think the coffee beans used, James would have been able to hit the nail on the head.  Sourcing locally commendable and to be encouraged, but not at the expense of quality. I promised to source coffee supplies. Maybe James would care to send them samples.

The barista apologised, he was not really a barista, he had sought help from local coffee shops, Paul’s Coffee Roasters, Kaffea, Nick’s Coffee Bike, was a  cocktail maestro. He then offered to make me the most amazing cold brew coffee cocktail. But it was not only the cocktail, all the ingredients and concoctions he  had created, often from what they had grown, they own a vineyard and a distillery up in the mountains. All he lacked was quality coffee beans. With his level of sensory skills, this guy is going to brew amazing coffee. I see a future world champion Coffee in Good Spirits in the making.

Also came to mind The Alchemist, a novel by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. We are seeing alchemy in action, heat and fire used to turn coffee beans into an elixir. Gilly founders base their art on literature, let us see the two use The Alchemist for their next inspiration.

I would love to see a season of elixirs based on The Alchemist,  coupled  with readings from The Alchemist.

Coffee tells a story. Coffee has never been a mere beverage. It travelled into the Middle East from Yemen in mid-15th century, carried by Sufis as part of their religious devotions, not a drink for taste or to quench thirst, a psychoactive substance for use in religious ceremonies to bring closer to God. It spread into coffee houses, was subject to legal treatise and opinion, fatwas were issued. Coffee then spread across Europe.

With Gilly Brewing Co we are seeing another chapter open, alchemists practicing their arts.

A special thank you to James Hoffmann whose generosity made this video possible.

For more coffee stories please check out two podcasts: Filter Stories and Adventures in Coffee.

Ceylon House of Coffee revisited

December 11, 2020

Ceylon House of Coffee is owned by London House of Coffee in Sri Lanka. Designed to look like a tarditional Ceylon coffee house, it only serves Ceylon coffee.

I visited Monday, today paid a return visit.

I looked in on my way to lunch, then returned later.

Ceylon House of Coffee

December 7, 2020

Once upon a time, a century ago, coffee spread from Ethiopia to Ceylon, Ceylon was a major exporter of coffee. Then disease struck, the coffee trees were wiped out and had to be destroyed to stop, in vein, to try and halt the disease from spreading. Coffee was replaced by tea.

There is now an effort to establish the island’s coffee heritage, old trees located, new trees grown.

Coffee needs a coffee shop.

Ceylon House of Coffee is owned by the owner of a Ceylon coffee planation. High altitude arabica.

It was with trepidation I visited, my expectations low.

Ceylon House of Coffee is to recreate a traditional coffee house. Never having visited one, I would not know, but on walking in, I was transported to what in my mind’s eye I would expect, with the exception of modern espresso machine and a grinder.

I was introduced to the manager and head barista Rohan Pitumpe and spent the rest of the day talking all things coffee until well after the coffee shop had closed.

The coffee is roasted in Sri Lanka then shipped to England. As a general rule, added value in the source country is always a good idea, but for coffee no. Roasted coffee beans do not travel well, there is a risk of contamination, risk of delay, and with UK leaving EU this can only get worse with chaos at the borders. Already companies are stockpiling in anticipation of chaos in the New Year.

The coffee beans must be shipped to UK as green beans, then roasted locally by a skilled coffee roaster. Supply the green beans from Ceylon to a local roastery in UK, then supply the roasted beans to the coffee shop in Guildford.

If coffee is roasted locally, it will suit local palates, local water, and will not encounter supply delay.

Around the walls, information on the farm and history of coffee in Ceylon.

Very elegant coffee cups, equally elegant tea cups. Again reminiscent of what would expect of a traditional tea or coffee house.

The only time I have seen cups like this was in Ben Rahim, an Arabic coffee shop in Berlin.

A long time opening,  Problems with the builders, then covid-19 lockdown.

Open space in the middle, wooden floor, it could be a cabaret dance floor, tables and chairs arranged around the periphery.  Difficult to see what could be done with this open space. If tables and chairs, would be an obstruction to the bar. It could be one large old table, a communal table.

Large floor to ceiling windows which makes open and airy in daylight hours.

A coffee shop needs outdoor seating for the summer. This Ceylon House of Coffee lacks though has applied for permission. It would though be difficult as on a slope and not pleasant with passing traffic.

With changing coronavirus situation, opening hours are in flux, currently open until six thirty in the evening. Too late in the winter cold and dark and folk wish to get home. In the summer could be later.

In the future they hope to offer coffee related events.

And the coffee?

For a change, I chose an espresso. Not harsh, but could be better.

Followed by a cappuccino.

I did not have to send the cappuccino back, I did not have to say no chocolate. I was not asked did I want chocolate? I was served a cappuccino with no chocolate dumped on top. Why do so many coffee shops get it wrong?

The cappuccino, a little weak.

But the beans are roasted in Ceylon, then shipped to UK, far from ideal.

I looked forward to a shipment of green beans, roasted locally.

Currently it is not possible to purchase the coffee beans, but hopefully this will change when coffee is roasted locally.

Ceylon House of Coffee has on sale, of course, Ceylon tea.

For reasons unknown, Ceylon House of Coffee has been targeted by trolls and very unpleasant  fake reviews. Please ignore. Pay a visit and be pleasantly surprised.

I came way from Ceylon House of Coffee pleasantly surprised. It was a pleasure to visit. Sadly not often I feel that way, therefore always a pleasant surprise to find a coffee shop where they care about coffee. Such coffee shops do exist, but it is finding them, too many people open coffee shops, and roasteries, caring nothing about coffee and knowing even less.

We now have two excellent coffee shops in Guildford, Krema in Tunsgate and Ceylon House of Coffee at the bottom of the High Street.

Coronavirus biosecurity excellent.  Open and airy, high ceiling, table and chairs well spaced apart, hand sanitiser as walk in.


Takeaway coffee Mind the Cup

November 29, 2020

Friday three weeks ago, a cool day, no sun, a gale blowing, a day for the Metro and the suburbs. Last day of freedom, Saturday lockdown and would not be possible a trip on the Metro as only permitted exercise locally.

After a trip out to Eat Me and Kudu, passed back through Syntagma and headed out to Peristeri.

Peristeri full of life, an orderly queue for a book shops, contrast with Plaka deserted.

I look in Cashew which I had not seen before, coffee shop with nuts and druid fruit, I headed to Mind the Cup.

To Mind the Cup, a takeaway coffee and a bag of coffee.

As with The Underdog last year and now Kudu, Mind the Cup also coffee in Nespresso capsules.

Crop Roastery

November 27, 2020

Three weeks ago Wednesday I chanced up Crop Roastery, a little kiosk I had not seen before down a side street off Ermou.

I stop and have a long chat with the guy serving. I do not have a coffee but tell him I will pop back another day and have a coffee.

I pick up Athens in a Cup, not as I think a guide to coffee shops in Athens, a flyer for an app that is a guide.

The following day, walking through Ermou, having found Just Made 33 and Peek a Bloom closed, I decide to stop by, have a coffee and continue our conversation.

Disappointed to find the knowledgeable guy his day off, nevertheless I stop and have a coffee.

Disappointed, a not very good coffee.

Being a kiosk, not affected by closure of bars, restaurants and coffee shops earlier in the week. When I pass by a few days later, Athens in lockdown, I find Ermou deserted and Crop closed.

Cultivos Coffee

November 25, 2020

I was lost, or at least I was in an unfamiliar street and that was how I chanced upon Cultivos.

A sign outside Elida Estate Panama Coffee of the week, a single estate coffee. The chase on as Sherlock Holmes would have said to Dr Watson.

The coffee was supplied by Taf, impressive equipment, even had the pour over designed by Stefanos which I have only seen at Taf, not though ever in use.

Did I want a coffee?


Partly I lacked the time but mainly due to the location.

Ambience inside pleasing, but lockdown, canot sit inside.

It would be difficulty to imagine a worse location for a specialty coffee shop, where sit and relax with hopefully excellent coffee served in glass or ceramic, a narrow uphill street, narrow footpath, traffic nose to tail belching out obnoxious fumes, and very noisy.

Looked on-line to learn a franchise, inspired by Taf, whatever that means. Marketing bullshit, little lese. A chain of maybe a dozen coffee shops.

I was not sure where I was, I was lots, but checking on line, I think I was at the coffee shop listed as Syntagma.


November 22, 2020

On a visit to Infinity Foods Saturday of last week I noticed on the shelves a coffee I had not encountered before, Wolfox. Not that I would buy coffee from Infinity Foods, not when spoilt for choice in Brighton and the coffee will be freshly roasted.

Sunday the following day I passed by their coffee shop.

Wolfox Coffee. New. I have never noticed before. I saw their coffee in nearby Infinity Foods on Saturday. Claimed to be specialty coffee. Girl did not know q grade. But she brewed an excellent coffee.

I picked up a bag of coffee. A criticism, coffee when the coffee roastery, should be freshly roasted. Most of the coffee on sale was roasted in October. No excuse for this, the coffee should be rotated.

I picked up a bag roasted November.

The walnut coffee cake looked good. It was not. I should have known better. It was vegan and vegan cakes are nearly always disgusting.

A couple of days later I revisited Wolfox and had take away vegetable soup. Not hot, warm. but tasty. Not the weather for sitting in the street with a takeaway.

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