Posts Tagged ‘coffee shops’

Workhouse Coffee Oxford Road

November 13, 2018

Workhouse Coffee has two coffee shops in Reading. I have never been impressed by Workhouse Coffee in the town centre, it is very overrated, the beans in open boxes, the coffee of poor quality.

I decided therefore to check out their other coffee shop on Oxford Road, which closes at 1-30.

Google maps tells me twenty two minutes walk from Reading Station. Maybe true if power walk. Thirty minutes walk.

Not difficult to find, head from Reading Station into Broad Street, walk to the end, then along Oxford Road.

A rough area of town, but then that is true of most of Reading.

The coffee shop grim. I have encountered better greasy spoon cafes. Art on the walls would be an improvement, especially if strip out the tacky plastic world map on the rear wall.

I ordered a cappuccino. Only one other customer.

If I was hoping for something better than the coffee shop in town, I was to be disappointed. It was not good, more or less undrinkable.

I ask of V60. The girl calls it paper filter coffee. I explain to her, V60 or pour over.

Swan neck kettle. No, she pours out of a normal kettle. Weigh water and coffee, time? No.

I learn why the coffee shop closes at 1-30. She opens at 7-30 and six hours is the maximum she is prepared to work. She runs it all on her own. It closes at 2-30 on a Saturday, she opens one hour later.

Most of the custom is takeaway, Reading West Station is a few minutes walk down the road. There are no chains nearby.

I am there as the coffee shop is closed. Does she clean the machine? No, only once a week. Same as town she tells me. Beans emptied out of the hopper? No. We do things different she tells me.

Takeaway coffee cups compostable. No. Why should we care about the environment, compostable cups cost more, she tells me.

At least she is honest.

I learn she is an artist.

I suggest she puts her art on the walls. Not her coffee shop. But at least she will think about it. It would at least be an improvement.


Four coffee trends that are not

September 8, 2018

Biggest load of bollocks I have read on coffee in a long time, from Morning Advertiser, aimed at, don’t laugh, failing pub industry.

Remind me again, how many pubs are closing every week?

Article talks of operators. WTF are operators?

Those of us who appreciate coffee, drink in speciality coffee shops, served by real baristas, not some one in a chain who knows how to press a few buttons, a job that could be done by a robot, only low paid McWorkers in chains are cheaper than robots.

When an article has bullshit marketing phrases like ‘maximise coffee sales in a saturated market’, ‘deliver a desirable experience as opposed to just a drink’, then you know what follows is going to be a load of bollocks.

iced coffee

Yes, cold brew coffee, summer of 2018, the hottest summer on record, 80 days above 25C, has been the year cold brew has taken off. Why, because a refreshing drink on a hot day. Not because of marketing hype.

Cold brew coffee, have to know how to make, has to be made with top quality speciality coffee.

Matthew Algie, suppliers of catering supply coffee. One of the chains using their poor quality coffee, Cafe W in a handful of Waterstone’s. Not coffee from a speciality coffee roastery. One reason why undrinkable coffee in Cafe W.

Consumers expect to see iced coffee and it damages their perception of establishment if not seen, is another example of marketing gibberish and simply not true.

But do not confuse cold brew, made with high quality coffee in either a cold brew drip tower or immersion, with hyped nitro cold brew served in a can or on tap nor with what I saw recently boxed cold brew the cold brew equivalent of wine in a box, served at room temperature with ice added.

fake milk

If wish to ruin a cappuccino use fake milk.

Fake milks are no substitute for real milk, impossible to make a cappuccino, looks disgusting and tastes disgusting.

If you have an aversion to milk, then ask for a pour over.

And if you really must serve fake milk, blend in the pouring jug, marginally better, but not great.

serving coffee

Yes, need best equipment, best coffee, top class baristas, and no not possible to train baristas, they learn from working with top class baristas who correct their mistakes.

Laughable the ‘insight’ from Jacobs Dowe Egberts on the need not only for top quality coffee but also how it is served.

It will not be Jacobs coffee then. One of the worst coffees I have ever come across was Jacobs coffee in a coffee shop in Cyprus. Undrinkable coffee, the coffee beans black and over-roasted, a stomach churning smell. In Athens, Jacobs coffee seen as a joke.

The only insight from Jacobs Dowe Egberts is that they are able to con ‘establishments’ their word not mine, into buying their poor qualty coffee.

In Cyprus, con coffee shops with the coffee machine scam, lease our machine and buy our coffee. Free machine, then pay more for low quality Jacobs coffee, than would for coffee from speciality roaster in England including the shipping costs. And like the tied pub racket, cannot use any other coffee in the machine, cannot serve guest coffee, if do the espresso machine will be removed as in breach of contract.

the coffee consumer

Yes, there are various reasons to visit a coffee shop, it is a social activity as well as drinking coffee.

Reasons not mentioned, art exhibitions, poetry, live music, excellent cakes and food, even waffles.

Not mentioned, coffee chains opposed the latte levy, their business practices predicated on grab it and go takeaway coffee.

The only way to enjoy speciality coffee is to relax with a coffee served in glass or ceramic, as would a good wine. If enjoyed in convivial company all the better.


In a pub you will get awful coffee, served by someone who knows nothing about coffee.

Wetherspoon, will get decent real ale, the food not good, the coffee LavAzza from a machine.

Fake 1930s bar Cosy Club, output of chemical factories masquerading as beer and lager, real ale if you are lucky on a single hand pump, no craft beer, and corporate food menu. The coffee should be good, as supplied by Clifton but with those serving clueless on coffee, will get a bad coffee, which is not doing the reputation of Clifton any good, but maybe they do not care.

The average pub, and they are a dying sector, the landlord screwed by a pubco, serving poor selection of beer, let alone decent coffee. Not only screwed by the pubco on rent, also screwed on what they pay for their beer. A brewer recently told me the price they sell their beer to a Free House, and what a tied pub pays when forced to buy via the pubco approved distributor, a massive mark up in price, leaving little or no margin for the tied landlord.

Over the last ten years, we have seen a rise in coffee consumption, due to the massive expansion of coffee chains serving undrinkable coffee. The market has saturated. And any indie coffee shop opening to serve catering supply coffee with unskilled baristas is on a hiding to nothing.

Never move into an existing market, create a new market, as Brew Dog did with craft beer, biggest fish in the pond as the only fish in the pond, then grow the market.

The growth in the coffee sector, as with craft beer, is speciality coffee shops, serving high quality coffee in a pleasant environment. The baristas, time permitting, only too happy to converse with the coffee drinker, their enthusiasm contagious.

As with craft beer, the market grows as people discover what beer and coffee should taste like.

One speciality coffee shop opens in town, then another. They are not in competition, between them they expand the market.

When Krema opened in Guildford, they were busy from the day they opened.

In Winchester, first one, then two, then three Coffee Lab coffee shops opened, in parallel, Flat Whites opened a kiosk, then a coffee shop. All are busy.

In Hull Old Town, three excellent speciality coffee shops. Thieving Harry’s, Two Gingers, Caffeinated. They are not in competition, between them they expand the market for high quality coffee.

Same in Lincoln three coffee shops, Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle, Makushi aka Base camp.

Same again in Nottingham, The Speciality Coffee Shop, Wired, Outpost Coffee.

And again in York, Spring Espresso, Attic, Kiosk.

Not only England. Paralimni in Cyprus, Robustos speciality coffee shop, the owner George has this summer helped set up a speciality coffee shop in nearby Protaras.

The sector has grown because people passionate about good coffee not operators, have opened coffee shops to share that passion with their customers.

And one of life’s ironies, not only are the speciality coffee shops expanding whilst pubs are dying, not only guaranteed to find quality coffee in a speciality coffee shop than in a pub, are also more likely to find quality craft beer in a speciality coffee shop than a pub.

The source for the information in the article has come from buying companies, chains, suppliers of catering supply coffee, consultancies, not from speciality coffee shops, which explains why the article is a load of bollocks. And probably written by someone who knows nothing about coffee.


July 8, 2018

Waitrose had their own reusable cup on sale at £3, now the rCup at £12.

Claimed to be made from a dozen recycled coffee cups,  which makes the point, plastic is not recycled, it is down cycled.

Designed by Dan Dicker a former designer for Dyson. Maybe should stick to vacuum cleaners as not barista friendly, something fairly basic for a reusable coffee cup.

Will not be popular if walk into a coffee shop with rCup and many baristas will quite rightly refuse to serve.

It is opened by pressing the top, then press again to seal.

Why though would anyone wish to drink a coffee as though a baby or an invalid?

Yet another inferior KeepCup clone.

If wish for a reusable cup, buy a KeepCup from a coffee shop, where they will also give a discount if used.

Sale of rCup should be seen for what it is,  greenwash by Waitrose to distract from fresh produce in plastic.

Nor are reusable coffee cups the answer, they are addressing the symptom rather than the underlying problem of grab it and go takeaway throw away culture, pointless consumerism.

We have to introduce a latte levy, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop serving speciality coffee in glass or ceramic.

Are coffee grounds good for the garden?

July 4, 2018

One of the waste products from coffee shops are the spent coffee grounds.

What to do with the coffee grounds?

A few coffee shops, Surrey Hills Coffee is a good example, put outside the shop for passers by to collect for the garden. A pity more do not follow this example.

But what to do with in the garden?

Claimed to be a slug repellent, use as a mulch around plants, add to the compost heap.

Only one way to find out, pick up a bag.

I was quite surprised and not happy, to find in a zip lock plastic bag.

I assume because wet. Only not wet, a little moist maybe.

Cakes rather than loose grounds.

I have spread around a couple of tomato plants.

I will have to obtain more, as omitted runner beans.

To spread organic matter around plants not a good idea, best to compost.

But what impact on the compost heap? Will it kill it dead, act as an accelerant, or merely act as organic matter?

Half way down the garden I can now smell coffee.

The compost heap is now the site of two experiments, compostable coffee cups and coffee grounds.

As a slug repellent a nonstarter. This evening a slug was on the coffee grounds by the tomato plants. Though it did not live to tell the tale.

Krema Artisan Coffee Shop

May 11, 2018

A few weeks ago, Krema opened a coffee shop at the end of Tunsgate next to Ben’s Record Shop.

Open and airy ambience.

Tables made from recycled wood, as is the counter, wood from old ships, topped with marble.

I was late in the afternoon, not too busy, and was worried I would find about to close.

Word is getting around, a coffee shop worth visiting.

An excellent cappuccino.

Coffee is sourced from Horsham Coffee Roasters, an espresso blend and a choice of single origin for pour over. For the summer there will be cold brew.

A large picture window overlooking the Castle grounds.

At the moment road works outside. Roadworks that are taking far too long, and little progress from six months ago. But to be fair, the work competed an excellent job and it will create a pedestrian street when complete.

Let us hope Guildford Council follow the example of North Laine in Brighton and allow seating in the street.

John the owner has done an excellent job of which he can be justifiably proud.

This is an example of what indie coffee shops should be like, high quality, professional and consistency in delivery and service.

Krema have jumped straight to No 1 coffee shop in Guildford. The only coffee outlet anywhere near is FCB kiosk on Guildford Station (but it depends on who is serving).

These two indie coffee shops are in another league to anything else in Guildford. They are setting the standard.

This is the second Krema, they opened their first coffee shop in Downing Street in Farnham a couple of years ago.

There is now absolutely no excuse for stallholders on the farmers market supping disgusting coffee from the chains when all they have to do is walk down Tunsgate and support a local indie coffee shop.

Krema is open until 5-30. The hours may be extended in the summer if the demand justifies it.


April 6, 2018

We’re quirky, we’re truly independent, we’ve got a La Marzocco… and we’re not afraid to use it! — Wired

As I excited Cobden Chambers in Reading, I noticed opposite, I did not notice before, Wired.

Appearances can be very deceptive. Wired looks like a greasy spoon cafe and I wondered what I was doing there, until I noticed serving Allpress, on display Standart, Drift, and London Coffee as reading material.

I had not had Allpress since Jimmy Bean vanished from Winchester.

Good reasons to stay.

I found a window seat and ordered a cappuccino. A sprinkling of chocolate, not enough to bother me and send it back.

Excellent, far better than the house blend at 200 Degrees (I have yet to try their guest espresso).

Down below a basement, better described as a basement lounge, as completely different in character to the ground floor.

A handful of seats outside.

I could, if ordered a takeaway, returned to Cobden Chambers.

In addition to Allpress,  guest single origin coffee for pour over, Craft House Coffee (Colombia and Costa Rica) and Pharmacia.

Craft House Coffee is based in Sussex, though I have never come across them in Brighton.

All the coffee was available to buy as coffee beans.

I was kindly given a sample of CHC Burundi for coffee cupping.

Synchronicty: I opened Standart an early edition of which I had not seen before. It opened at an article about Martin Hudak, who I met last year at the Union Summer Carnival.

The Drift, was an early edition, volume 3 the Havana edition.

The very first time I have seen Drift in the UK, apart from Magazine Brighton.

I was advised, try Ideas on Paper, it is from where all the coffee books and magazines came, they may have a copy, they keep back copies.

I did and found the Havana edition. I did not think to inquire of earlier editions or of earlier editions of Standart.

Synchronicty:  Next day reading the Havana edition, a tweet of the strange yellow taxis featured in Drift.

Very knowledgeable, pleasant and helpful barista, the manager, not the owner, the owner I did not meet.


The Bath Coffee Trail

February 19, 2018

One way to explore a city is through its coffee shops, indie coffee shops, not chains.

Find one coffee shop serving excellent coffee, ask, and they will direct you to others.

That is what I did in Athens, in Just Made 33 I asked of other coffee shops. Wending my way from one coffee shop to the next, I explored parts of Athens I had not explored before, away from my well trod path through Plaka and Monastiraki via archaeological sites.

This is what Marianna Chrzanowska-Hunt has done with Bath.  First stop Society Cafe, then through a series of tweets, she has explored the city one tweet at a time.

Where next, Bristol is not far away.

Are compostable coffee cups compostable?

February 14, 2018

The proposed 25p latte levy appears to have focused minds.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year. These cups cannot be recycled due to a plastic liner in what at first glance appears to be a simple paper cup. 

An environmental disaster, deadly for for marine life.

Something has to be done. Hence the proposed latte levy.

Indie coffee shops as always are taking the lead, are starting to offer on sale compostable paper cups, reusable KeepCups, discounts if bring back cups for a refill.

If I am on my way home, have picked up fruit and vegetables, I can pop my compostable cup in with my fruit and vegetables, then when home, deposit my compostable coffee cup on the compost heap.

But what if not on my way home, what if not a convenient compost heap, what then with my compostable coffee cup? And therein lies the dilemma, what to do with the compostable coffee cup? It will find its way into the general waste stream.

The underlying assumption, is that my compostable cup will do what it says, actually compost.

Only one way to find out, drop a couple of cups on the compost heap, sit back and wait. That was a few weeks ago. Nothing has happened. They are siting there. Though to be fair, it is winter.

If I am at Infinity Foods in Brighton or at the farmers market in Guildford, I will often pick up a biodegradable plastic bag, these are made of plant-based cellulose.

I will fill with kitchen waste, throw on the compost heap, or at least I used to.

What I found was, everything rotted down, the bag still there, even after several cycles through the compost heap.

For comparison, yogurt pots, those made of waxed paper, do rot down, leaving behind the plastic liner.

The plastic bag is very thin compared with the compostable paper coffee cup.

We need more people to do as I have done, deposit these compostable paper cups on their compost heaps and monitor what happens.

KeepCup and clones thereof are refillable, but from observation the take up and usage is low.  Easy to see why, expensive, bulky, often heavy, a pain to carry around.

This may though change, with 25p latte levy helping to focus minds and indie coffee shops reporting an increase in interest.

In Australia, or least Melbourne, Abigail Forsyth co-founder of KeepCup reports reuse rate has risen from 1% to 30%. Still low, but 30% a lot better than 1%.

The demographics to aim KeepCup at office workers popping out for a coffee, coupled with substantial discount when used.

Compostable coffee cups, KeepCup, are addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture, typified by the chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Do we not value good coffee? Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served from glass or ceramic, the only way to appreciate a good coffee.

We need dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Could the latte levy kill your local?

February 13, 2018

The latest issue of Caffeine, has a lead article Could the latte levy kill your local?  It is nonsense and shows a lack of understanding of either the proposed latte levy, its impact or why it is necessary.

The simple answer to the question posed is no.

We have a simple principle, the polluter shall pay.

It is not acceptable that coffee shops externalise their costs onto the rest of society, which is what they are doing with plastic-lined coffee cups.

The 25p latte levy is not to penalise coffee shops, it is to make them pay their externalised costs, but more importantly, to change behaviour.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. These coffee cups cannot be recycled. Although they appear to be paper, they are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem, these plastic lined coffee cups cannot be recycled and are adding to the growing problem of waste.

The planet is being smothered in plastic, sea life is being destroyed by plastic.

Compostable paper cups are a step in the right direction, but they are not the answer. If I have a coffee in a compostable cup, I am on my way home, I can drop on the compost heap. But if not what then? Therein lies the dilemma. It will join the general waste stream.

How long to decompose? I dropped a couple on the compost heap a few weeks ago. Not a lot a happening. It is though winter.

I would like to see a few people carry out this experiment. After use, drop compostable cups on a compost heap, monitor what happens.

Reusable coffee cups are not the answer either. Bulky, expensive and a pain to carry around.

I have yet to see anyone buy a KeepCup or clones thereof, let alone see anyone walk in a coffee shop and use one.

Conversations in coffee shops bear this out. Even when substantial discounts are on offer, take up is low.  Though this may be about to change.

I was in a coffee shop, where Frank Green cups were on sale. Ugly,  inelegant and made of plastic. I asked how much did they cost, what discount if any if used? No one knew. They did not know because no one could ever recall one being sold let alone used. They could not even find it on the till.

Where reusable coffee cups come into their own, is if targeting office workers popping out for a coffee, and only then if coupled with a substantial discount.

Compostable cups, reusable cups, are addressing the symptoms not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture.

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass, make takeaway coffee socially unacceptable.

Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

Those who will lose out will be the chains, not the indie coffee shops. Their businesses model is built on grab it and go undrinkable coffee.

The 25p latte levy will not be absorbed any more than the 5p plastic bag charge is absorbed. To believe otherwise is to entirely miss the point of the levy. It is there as a deterrent to change behaviour, not to penalise coffee shops or coffee drinkers.

All the indie coffee shops I have spoken to welcome the 25p latte levy, they see it to their benefit, plus they see the environmental damage caused by disposable coffee cups.

Since the policy has been proposed, it appears to have focused minds.

One coffee shop I spoke to had had KeepCups on sale for a couple of weeks, more to see how they sold, than anything else. They sold like hot cakes. The day I was there, three had been sold that day.

Another coffee shop has already changed to compostable coffee cups and will have KeepCups on sale soon.

Other coffee shops have told me they are looking into both compostable cups and KeepCups.

Four Boroughs offer a substantial discount which is a good idea, more should follow their excellent example, though I prefer the elegance of KeepCup.

Or is it simply a clever PR gimmick rather like Pret a Manger offering organic filter coffee at 49p a cup, with no reusable  cups on sale? Four Boroughs are not offering a discount if you bring in a reusable cup for a refill.

Research has shown, need to both offer KeepCup or clone thereof and a substantial discount to make any impact on reducing use of disposable cups. Either one on its own has little impact.

I recommended to a coffee shop about to open, buy in KeepCup, sell at cost as a promotion during first week, offer a discount for a refill. They are an integral part of a new bus station. Bus passengers would have been tempted and intrigued by their fellow passengers. Sadly my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Even worse they stuck up a poster telling bus passengers the coffee shop was not a waiting room, in other words bus passengers not welcome.

No one will be paying a latte levy, not if they use a compostable cup, not if they bring a cup for a refill, not if they sit and relax with a coffee served in ceramic or glass.

What we need is dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Rather than writing nonsense and showing lack of understanding of the issues, even worse asking readers to lobby Members of Parliament to oppose the latte levy, Caffeine should be urging its readers to lobby hard for the latte levy to be brought in at the next Budget.

By calling for no latte levy, Caffeine is not helping either indie coffee shops or the planet, they are working hand in glove with the chains who behind the scenes are lobbying hard to block the latte levy.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

The Underdog team

February 10, 2018

New season starts at The Underdog. 

The Underdog, one of my favourite coffee shops in Athens.

Wonderful atmosphere, fantastic coffee, people who know their coffee.

Saturday and Sunday, a pedestrian street running past The Acropolis is turned into a  street market, The Underdog is just off this street.

Now four world champion baristas. Manos Mamatis, Coffee in Good Spirits World Championship No 2 2017.

  • 2008 Tasos Delichristos
  • 2015 George Koustoumparais
  • 2016 Michalis Dimitratopolos
  • 2017 Manos Mamatis second place

Not bad for one coffee shop.

I had the honour and privilege of being served by Manos Mamatis. I learnt a lot from our conversations.

Like Taylor Made, ultra trendy. I later learnt same designer.

Avoid Sunday if wish to relax, very busy and the noise on entering deafening.

Multi level, a roastery below, serving area, various brew methods, railway sleepers as table. Standart and Drift available to browse, though not on sale.

The Underdog supply coffee to other coffee shops, but as with Square Mile in London,  exact high standards if you wish to use their coffee.

At the weekend from Acropoli Metro Station, stroll along Dionysiou Areopagitou, it runs between the Museum and The Acropolis. Do not visit The Acropolis at weekends, too crowded. Then turn around to the right along Apostolou Pavlou. At weekends lined with stalls and musicians. It also leads a back way into Agora of Athens. Past a few cafes and bars, then more stalls. Eventually a Metro station reached. Backtrack to the bars and restaurants, and take a turning to the right for The Underdog. Easily missed as a fairly nondescript building on the outside.