Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Four Corners

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.

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.

At the far end of Lower Marsh I found Four Corners.

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.

In coffee shops it quite common to find books on coffee. In Four Corners 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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Lunch and cappuccino in Coffee at 33

November 25, 2018

On a cold misty mid-week in Brighton last week a little detour to Blend and Brew Brighton, then retrace my steps and down to the seafront.

It was then back to North Laine.

Infinity Foods Kitchen, I did not fancy, Iydea was not good either, and has not been good all year.

I looked in Magazine Brighton, then to Coffee at 33.

The filled rolls looked excellent, and as I was still hungry from my half eaten lunch at Iydea, it was a filled roll and a cappuccino.

Both were excellent.

My friend Georgia chose hot chocolate.

Coffee at 33 was where I would have eaten had I not walked down to and along the seafront.

Coffee at McDonald’s looks and tastes disgusting

November 24, 2018

This what is classed as news in Nottingham, takeaway coffee looks and tastes disgusting from McDonald’s.

For some perverse reason Nottingham Post decided to send one of their hacks out to taste the coffee at McDonald’s.

Column inch filling drivel which illustrates why our local papers are failing.

What did they expect to find, quality coffee?

Apart from being column inch filling drivel, this is little more than promotion for McDonald’s but without the obligatory warning at the top.

When a coffee shop adds syrups, it is to mask the taste of their awful coffee. When see a row of syrups, it is like flying a warning flag, we serve crap coffee.

Yuk: a large shot of delicious Arabica bean espresso, blended with a caramel biscuit flavour syrup and steamed organic milk from UK dairies. Topped with a swirl of chocolate cream and a caramel drizzle.

McDonald’s peddles junk food, we have an obesity crisis, which is why junk food adverts have been banned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan from the London Transport network. Nottingham should follow suit.

I would no more wish to eat at McDonald’s, let alone drink coffee. Nor would I wish to drink coffee in any of the corporate coffee chains. Nor would I wish to drink coffee out of a takeaway coffee cup.

What makes this article all the worse, is that it is possible to obtain great coffee in Nottingham from independent specialty coffee shops, local businesses that care about coffee, make a visit to Nottingham worth while, that give character and a sense of place, that recycle money within the local economy.

200 Degrees near Nottingham Station, roast their own coffee. Excellent for lunch. Coffee not great, but better than the corporate chains.

200 Degrees at Flying Horse Walk, dark and gloomy, lacking in ambience.

Cartwheel Coffee, roast their own coffee. Excellent cakes and coffee.

The Specialty Coffee Shop, excellent coffee, constantly rotating guest coffee.

Wired, excellent coffee and cakes, a wide ever changing selection of guest coffee.

Also visit Cobden Chambers opposite Wired, several independent businesses in a courtyard. A must visit Ideas on Paper.

Outpost Coffee, roast their own coffee. Excellent coffee and cakes.

Algerian Coffee Stores

November 22, 2018

Not a huge amount is known about its history, but we do know that the original owner was Mr Hassan in 1887. He had it until 1928 when he sold it to a Belgian man. Then, in 1946, he sold it to my grandad and it’s been in the family ever since. — Marisa Crocetta

Passing through Covent Garden and into Soho on a cold misty day in London, I am on my way to find Algerian Coffee Stores in Old Compton Street. Though first I stopped off for a coffee at The Espresso Room and a little detour to Bar Italia around the corner.

Algerian Coffee Stores is an Aladdin’s Cave of coffee and tea paraphernalia, loose leaf tea and coffee beans, oriental sweets, like something out of Arabian Nights or have been transported on a magic carpet to one of the bazaars in Istanbul, except the staff are English not Arabs or Turks.

Coffee is also served, though for me the beans too darkly roasted.

Mr Hassan, one of the first Algerians to arrive in London, opened the shop in 1887. He sold it to a Belgian gentleman in 1926, who in turn sold it to the grandfather of Marisa Crocetta in 1948. Marisa and her family still run the store.

The shop still retains some original features, the wooden shelves along the walls, the original wooden counter and display case.

Even if do not like coffee, worth a visit to see how Soho used to be.

Featured in 111 Coffee Shops in London That You Must Not Miss.

Special thanks to my lovely Russian friend Tatyana who told me of this coffee emporium and said I must visit.

The Espresso Room

November 22, 2018

Cutting through Covent Garden to Soho to find Algerian Coffee Stores I pass by The Espresso Room a tiny little coffee shop in New Row.

Coffee roasted by Caravan, coffee beans on sale. A small selection of cakes.

I decide to stay and I order a cappuccino.

I sit by the bar. I do not notice at first, on the tiles at the back, each tile a recipe for a coffee.

The cappuccino excellent.

A somewhat ignorant young man, no you cannot sit there, my girlfriend has popped out for a couple of minutes. No, she did not return, and other customers ignored his entreaties and sat in the seat. He was having loud conversation on a mobile phone and working on a laptop. Not done in a tiny busy coffee shop, and if wish to have a conversation on a phone, have the courtesy to go outside.

Knowledgeable, pleasant and helpful staff.

I picked up a bag of Caravan coffee. Purchase entitles me to a free coffee. One slight problem, no means to credit me for the coffee I had just bought.

The barista tells me of a shop similar to Magazine Brighton or Ideas on Paper. On leaving, I follow directions, head to Seven Dials, but I do not find.

The Espresso Room is a small chain of four coffee shops. The one I visited in Covent Garden located in New Row.

The Espresso Room in Great Ormond Street is featured in 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss.

Blend and Brew Brighton

November 21, 2018

An excursion from Brighton Station to Blend and Brew Brighton.

I have not found open on previous visits to Brighton. Barely little more than a kiosk.

Coffee not great, it was not worth the excursion.

They are going to move into opposite corner vacated by Trafalgar Books and open a coffee shop which will be open on weekends.

I assumed only open in the morning to catch commuters, but open until four o’clock.

Blend and Brew Brighton roast their own coffee in Italy which explains a lot as Italy infamous for bad coffee.

The row of syrups on the back wall says it all.

Featured in The Independent Brighton & Hove Coffee Guide.

Cappuccino at CUP

November 19, 2018

I would have had a V60 at CUP, but owner suggested I had a cappuccino as her barista had come seventh in recent UK latte art championships.

CUP is a Greek coffee shop hidden behind Reading Minster.