Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Lunch at Marmadukes

February 7, 2020

Most towns have two or three places worth eating.

For Sheffield, South Street Kitchen,  ShuJu Kitchen Taiwanese pop up kitchen at Union St and Marmadukes opposite Sheffield Cathedral.

South Street Kitchen coffee, cakes and vegetarian food at the foot of the Park Hill Flats, cross the tram lines out the back of Sheffield Railway Station and follow the path leading up the slope. Stunning views over Sheffield city centre.

Union St, not far from Winter Garden, a pop up kitchen, each day different. For ShuJu Kitchen advisable to check as may otherwise be disappointed.

Marmadukes, old Georgian town house opposite Sheffield Cathedral, excellent lunch and coffee.

Union St no Shuju Kitchen, therefore Marmadukes it was, head straight down the street, past Sheffield Town Hall, turn into side street Norfolk Row where Marmadukes is located in a beautiful old Georgian town house opposite Sheffield Cathedral.

Excellent burger and chips. Very filling. I struggled to finish.

Followed by an excellent cappuccino.

Marmadukes have recently opened a second coffee shop in Cambridge Street (near John Lewis).

Marmadukes is featured in Coffee Shop North.  Available to browse but not to buy.

Stray’s Newark

January 29, 2020

Serving the best coffee in Newark since 2003. — Stray’s Newark

The business is built on the mantra that we’ll make you “the best coffee you’ll have today” and we’ve been doing that since 2003.  — Stray’s Newark

When a coffee shop claims to be serving the best coffee in town, it as a rule means they are serving crap coffee. Good coffee speaks for itself. World class coffee shops never make such ludicrous claims.

What I found, a greasy spoon cafe serving very bad coffee.

I asked for burger, claimed to be homemade. Did not have. Offered chicken burger. Yuk, No thanks.

Luckily I had had excellent mushroom soup and a bread roll earlier at The Soup Dwagon in Chain Lane.

Menu says locally sourced, but without saying from where meaningless. Contrast with Stokes on High Bridge, locally sourced and they say who supplies.

I ordered a coffee. Service abysmal. A long wait.

When it arrived, looked disgusting, cappuccino carpet bombed with chocolate. A tiny sip, scalding hot, tasted disgusting.

I took it back. Then had an argument, told I should have said if I did not want chocolate, the till said chocolate.

Begs the question how was I to know what the till says?  It is not for me to contradict the till, it is for whoever is serving to ask. And a good coffee shop would never dream of offering chocolate. The only reason chocolate dumped on a cappuccino to mask that it is cheap crap coffee.

I asked of the coffee they use. No one knew. The bags of coffee on sale, appeared to be catering supply coffee, no roast date. If we take the best by date July 2020 which for coffee is meaningless the coffee was probably roasted July 2019. In other words old coffee long past its best.

And what does Rich Roast Beans mean? Absolutely nothing. Looking at the beans, dark over-roasted to hide that cheap rubbish coffee, a standardised product requires no skill of the person brewing the coffee.

The coffee supplied by Caffe Moko suppliers of catering supply coffee.

Note: I have asked of Caffe Moko suppliers of the catering supply coffee the roast date for coffee with a meaningless best before date of July 2020. They have lacked the courtesy to reply.

Note: Coffee is at its best within three weeks of roast date. Coffee shops that care about coffee, do not use beyond three weeks. Always check roast date.

Stray’s clueless on use of social media. I had asked from where they source their coffee. Lacked the courtesy of a reply.  But, if cheap catering supply coffee easy to see why Stray’s keep quiet.

Second cappuccino arrived a little quicker. It too looked disgusting, a quarter of an inch of froth and foam sitting above the cup. I dipped my spoon in. There may have been coffee somewhere in the bottom of my cup if plumbed the depths my spoon came back up with a slight brown tinge.

A tiny sip, scalding hot, tasted disgusting.

The cookie I had ordered came later. It was not good, sugary and sweet, cheap chocolate, sugar held together with starch with a few crumbs of cheap chocolate added. Not a quality cookie.

I was pleased I did not have anything to eat. Not going by the coffee or the cookie.

I was also pleased I did not have anything to eat, the vile stomach churning stench emanating from the kitchen, I was tempted to ask but thought best not to know.

I asked for a bag for remnants of my cookie. To my surprise a brown paper carrier bag. Surprise turns to shock when I look inside and see my cookie sitting in a plastic box.

Care for the environment, plastic pollution, must have passed Stray’s by.

I walked out, my disgusting cappuccino left untouched. I should have demanded a refund.

I hold no great store with TripAdvisor trolls and fake reviews to ever consider as a reliable source, therefore I merely note in passing with no further comment that Stray’s is ranked at No 20 for Cafes, No 2 tea and coffee shops.

 

Stray’s claim to serve the best coffee in Newark, the board outside says so, the best coffee will drink all day. Putting to one side demonstrably not true, ranks as some of the worst coffee I have been served, with a service to match, and I have tried to some very bad coffee.

If this is the best coffee in Newark, how bad must be coffee in the other coffee shops?

It turns out, not only are Stray’s serving one of the worst coffees I have tried, served by clueless staff, I only had to walk a few metres down the street to find the claim demonstrably not true.

I popped in Balmforth & Co Coffee House housed in a beautiful old building. Ordered a cappuccino. It was reasonable, in another league to what I had been served at Stray’s.  I showed the staff what I had been served at Stray’s. They started laughing.

Stray’s are expanding. Opening in Oakham, Stamford and Lincoln.

Lincoln is saturated with greasy spoon cafes serving bad coffee and corporate coffee chains serving bad coffee.

What seems like a bad joke, Stray’s is offering barista training.

Newark lies half way between Lincoln and Nottingham, hop on a train and spoilt for choice. In Lincoln Coffee Aroma and Madame Waffle. In Nottingham, Cartwheel Coffee, Wired, Outpost Coffee and The Speciality Coffee Shop.

The following day a coffee at Madame Waffle served by a young lady who had only started a few days  previous in the month and still learning. She made a coffee that was in another league to what Stray’s are serving.

— to be continued —

Lincoln Pier Cafe revisited

January 27, 2020

One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best. — Goethe

It is not often I revisit a coffee shop where I have a bad experience, occasionally I do, maybe I am a glutton for punishment.

The last time I visited Lincoln Pier Cafe a month and half ago, it was not a good experience, it was like walking into a morgue and the coffee was not good.

Then it was early afternoon, today late morning.

It was still like walking into a morgue, today the sun shining through the windows improved the atmosphere a little.

And the coffee?

The coffee was worse than my previous visit, and then it was not good. A vile taste, and even worse it left a vile aftertaste.

I do not blame the baristas, far from it, it is the cheap catering supply coffee the baristas are being asked to work with. No matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The blame lies squarely with whoever is responsible for buying this cheap catering supply coffee. Either they are cutting corners and buying the cheapest coffee they can find or they have no sense of taste. Probably both.

There is absolutely no excuse these days for buying cheap catering supply coffee not when spoilt for choice with roasteries who deliver coffee to be proud of.

Dark Woods for example. I do not care for their basic blends, but even these are better than the rubbish currently buying, their singe origins are excellent. Then there is The Blending Room in Hull. Though do not even have to look that far, on their doorstep Seven Districts, support local businesses.

Ripping out the widescreen TVs would improve the ambience.

I would not wish to invite a guest to share a cup of coffee at Lincoln Pier Cafe as to do so would be to insult them.

For staff and students, venture off campus, take a walk to Coffee Aroma, it is not far, where you will be served excellent coffee, and they serve food.

Walk a little further, Madame Waffle. Also renowned locally for their Belgian waffles.

If wish to buy a bag of coffee beans, then either Coffee Aroma or Madame Waffle, Coffee Aroma has Has Bean, Madame Waffle Square Mile, two highly recommended coffee roasteries.

Staff, students and visitors deserve better, though compared with tax-dodging corporate chains serving vile disgusting undrinkable coffee a small step in the right direction. But need to try harder, showcase what good coffee should be like, have guest coffees, but please do not cut corners with cheap catering supply coffee from a food and drinks company.

What is depressing, is that this could be an excellent coffee shop, employ skilled baristas invested in quality equipment, then cut corners sourcing poor quality commodity coffee.

Blend

January 17, 2020

Blend coffee shop located in Steinton Market is the retail arm of coffee roastery Stewarts of Trent Bridge which is also located at Steinton Market.

And so it was to Steinton Market, an area of Nottingham I had never visited before.

Sneinton Market fairly easy to find, head off straight down the street from Wired. The further I walked down the street the seedier it became.

Google Maps says five minutes, more like ten minutes. Though I did pop in Bookwise on the way. Never miss up the opportunity to look in a second hand bookshop.

Steinton Market something of a disappointment. I was expecting a vibrant market like Trinity Market in Hull. I was also expecting fruit and vegetable stalls. But no, revamped units, now let to small businesses and start ups by the local council. A good idea. Though nearly everything appeared to be closed. And the area was dead, literally no one about.

I then happened upon Luisa’s bean-to-bar craft chocolate, the jewel in the crown of Sneinton Market.

I popped in, but at a delicate process. I am asked can I pop back? No problem. I am off to Blend coffee shop, I will return a little later.

Sneinton Market is three rows of long low outbuildings. In the second row I find a craft brewery. I pop in. Not open to visitors, but I walk in anyway. I buy a can of expensive IPA, only a choice of two. I don’t like cans, I prefer beer in bottles.

In the third row I find Stewarts of Trent Bridge, a coffee roastery. Again I pop in. I am kindly shown around, not that there is a lot to see apart from a Probat coffee roaster.

Then to Blend, a coffee shop, the retail outlet for the coffee roastery.

Open and airy, like a warehouse, but smell of frying bacon not so good, nor the loud unpleasant music, too loud. I was surprised how busy.

For an outlet for a coffee roastery not exactly showcasing their coffee, a single origin, not at all obvious, appears to be a blend that changes monthly and the house blend.

I asked for a cappuccino. As far as I could tell, no pour over on offer, or if there was not obvious as I did not see.

I was asked what size? Show me the cups. I asked for the correct size. Then a silly conservation ensues, told it is personal preference. No, there is only one size for a cappuccino, the correct size. It is always best to keep quiet than display ones ignorance. And if do not know, do not wish to know, then get out of coffee.

My coffee is brought blended with chocolate.

No, a cappuccino does not have chocolate, ether blended or dumped on top.

I take it back, ask for a cappuccino with no chocolate. I should not have to ask. I should be asked. And a good coffee shop would not ask as they would not dream of insulting clientele with chocolate.

What is brought is not good. OK, but not good. Lukewarm, mediocre at best. Marginally better than 200 Degrees, which is a very low bar to exceed.

It was then back to Luisa’s where an interesting conversation on chocolate ensued.

In essence Blend a greasy spoon cafe serving mediocre coffee. The food I did not try, and if I wished to eat from what I saw there are better places to eat Taste and Ugly Bread Bakery which are nearby heading back into the centre of Nottingham.

The coffee for a greasy spoon cafe better than would expect but not to the standard of a coffee shop, especially one showcasing what a roastery has to offer. Not in the same league as Outpost Coffee, Wired, Cartwheel Coffee or The Specialty Coffee Shop.

Carluccio’s

December 27, 2019

A chain eatery, thus my expectations were low, and they were not exceeded.

I was only there because Madame Waffle opposite closed and a friend had said the coffee was good (I think she was taking the piss).

Soulless as would expect from a chain eatery.

Cappuccino ordered. Served with chocolate on top.

Why oh why does no one know do not put chocolate on top of a cappuccino? Not unless trying to disguise that is crap coffee. At the very least ask. And a good coffee shop would not dream of asking as would not wish to insult their clientele.

Cappuccino taken back.

Next attempt, oddly in a different cup, not good, cheap catering supply coffee.

A young fellow asked how was my drink? I said not good, very poor compared with Madame Waffle where can get an excellent cup of coffee. He scowled and walked off. Why ask if do not wish to be told the truth?

It was then to Coffee Aroma for a decent cup of coffee.

Pino

December 27, 2019

A greasy spoon cafe with pleasant decor.

Location is wrong for two reasons.

  • On a corner of a busy junction, no outside seating, if there was too polluted.
  • Within spitting distance of two greasy spoon cafes, two corporate chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Bread sourced from Iceland.

Coffee sourced from LavAzza. .

Layout poor, too much space devoted to their serving counter reducing the seating area.

Ambience not pleasant, mainly due to poor layout and hard surfaces, very noisy, impossible to relax.

LavAzza therefore my expectations were low, and they were not exceeded. Cappuccino with chocolate dumped on top sent back, second coffee undrinkable. All the classic mistakes, including coffee scalding hot.

Why oh why does no one know do not put chocolate on top of a cappuccino? Not unless trying to disguise that is crap coffee. At the very least ask. And a good coffee shop would not dream of asking as would not wish to insult their clientele.

No water brought to the table, nor could I see water on display to help oneself to.

The norm in Athens, as soon as sit down, ice cold water brought to the table. It is called service.

Ibriks on display. For show? To my surprise they served Turkish coffee. Though the bed of sand not large enough. I did not try.

Poor use of social media. Facebook, a message box pops up even though may have no wish to post a message. If do, lack the courtesy to reply.

Maybe would have got away with opening a greasy spoon cafe serving undrinkable coffee ten years ago, not now, the world has moved on, and if wish to drink undrinkable coffee have the corporate chains, two of which Caffe Nero and Costa are located nearby.

The market is saturated. If opening these days have to serve quality coffee, quality food, otherwise on a hiding to nothing. Source coffee from local roasteries Stokes or Seven Districts but God forbid not from Lincoln Tea and Coffee, cakes and bread from a local bakery.

Bricked-up windows opened up have improved a red-brick Victorian building, but why the grief and hassle by the local council, three months delay for a resolution? If going to give grief give for the garish entrance out of character with the building not the windows. The same council with not a clue what constitutes good town centre design, the town centre trashed, ugly buildings, binge drinking bars.

La Pila de Guatemala

December 17, 2019

La Pila a honey process coffee from Guatemala roasted by The Underdog.

Try different baristas, different coffee shops.

Stokes at The Lawn, as always I let Mike choose brewing method, I chose cappuccino and V60, Mike decided on French press.

My reason for trying a cappuccino, had been roasted to suit espresso,

At first I thought cafetiere, but as cooled easily the V60. The cappuccino not so good.

Beautiful colour the V60. Taste of fruits and wine.

All agreed, Nick, Mike and myself, excellent coffee.

Almost a month on, retry La Pila at Stokes at The Lawn. Usually I let Mike choose, today, as roasted for espresso, I chose, cappuccino and V60. Mike chose a flat white.

The classic cappuccino, rarely achieved, smooth and creamy. Not so, but nevertheless interesting fruity notes making the cappuccino an interesting drink. I was very much reminded of cappuccino at Makushi with their own light roast.

The V60 a disappointment, OK hot but not good as it cooled.

Mike said his flat white excellent.

Next, a few days later, The Specialty Coffee Shop. Again I chose, a cappuccino.

Not the classic smooth creamy, nevertheless interesting with fruity notes.

What was now left of the bag of coffee beans I gave as a gift to Michelangelo.

Special thanks to Mike barista at Stokes at The Lawn and Mohammad barista at The Speciality Coffee Shop.

Rodolfo and Reina are the proud owners of the La Pila farm. Rodolfo has basically been in coffee for his whole life. When he was young, he used to work on farms as a coffee picker to earn money. And when he was 25 years old, he inherited a plot of land from his father, so that he could start his own farm business.

Little by little he managed to make steps ahead, increase the volume of his coffee, and invest in another plot of land. He names his farm ‘La Pila’, which is a tank for water in this context, as he found a small water source on his farm. He made a small cement tank and decided to use this as a reference for his farm. Water is very scarce and precious in this region.

Rodolfo is very eager to improve the practices on his farm, to keep learning and innovating. He’d like to have a soil analysis done at his farm, so to optimize the root and foliar systems of his plants with adequate nutrition. He also plans to keep investing in the processing area. He came up with a genius system to depulp the coffee with a bicycle! Since 2017 we are working with him on honey and natural processing and are thrilled by the results.

La Pila single origin honey process, location Santa Ana la Montaña, Fraijanes, farmer Rodolfo Garcia, var yellow catuai, altitude 1750m, taste notes molasses, maple syrup, blackcurrant, roasted at The Underdog.

Lincoln Pier Café

December 9, 2019

From St Mark’s, tried to find Lincoln Pier Café on Lincoln University campus. A helpful young lady in the Students Union kindly pointed me in right the direction of a thin sliver of land between the railway line and Brayford.

Good view of Lincoln Cathedral across the Brayford and of Azuma passing by as pulled into Lincoln Central.

Too many universities take the easy option, grant corporate chains concessions serving disgusting coffee on the campus.

Lincoln University has opened its own independent coffee shop Lincoln Pier Café, invested in the equipment, employed skilled baristas, then let the whole show down by sourcing poor quality coffee.

My coffee was made by one of the best baristas in Lincoln, but it was not great, on a par with what I would find in 200 Degrees.

94 Degrees roasted by Roastology, Sheffield based and yet I have never come across in Sheffield.

Lincoln Pier Café a classic example of

Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar

The ambience was that of a morgue.

No takeaway coffee cups. Cuts down on litter, good for the environment. Bring own barista friendly cup or buy a takeaway cup. The cups are made from rice husks. Therein lies a potential problem. German research has shown ecoffee cups made from waste bamboo release toxins when filled with hot liquids and cannot be recycled. There needs to be a student research project to replicate the German research with ecoffee cups including these rice husk coffee cups.

In the meantime use glass KeepCup. But why in any case would the University wish to associate its name with an inferior product?

I would not buy a bag of coffee, not when excellent coffee available in the city centre from Coffee Aroma or Madame Waffle. Nor would I go out my way to the University for a coffee for the same reason.

Amazing what can get away with with a captive audience.

Absolutely no excuse these days for sourcing poor quality catering supply coffee from a food and drinks company when spoilt for choice of quality coffee roasteries. But this is what happens when outsource catering and corners are cut to maximise profit. Moot point if university outsourcing but typical of corner cutting when outsource catering or any facility that can be handled in house, for example cleaning.

No excuse when Seven Districts roast locally.

Staff, students and visitors deserve better, though compared with tax-dodging corporate chains serving vile disgusting undrinkable coffee a step in the right direction. But need to try harder, showcase what good coffee should be like, have guest coffees, but please do not cut corners with cheap catering supply coffee from a food  and drinks company.

Seven Districts

December 8, 2019

I happened upon Seven Districts, a stall in the grounds of Lincoln Castle on the first day of the Lincoln Christmas Market. A rare example of a quality stall on a very tacky Christmas market. I stopped by and had a chat.

Seven Districts, a coffee roastery based in Lincolnshire, one of the few local traders on the Lincoln Christmas Market.

The coffee is in eye catching bags, but, and it is a very big but.

A classic example of capture by a marketing company and falling hook, line and sinker for their bullshit.

We’re proud to be from Lincolnshire, where we sipped our first coffee, burnt our first bean and celebrated our first roast, perfecting our craft as we grew; naturally we wanted our own coffee to be inspired by our home.

Many-a-great tale have been shared over a cup of the ‘dark brew’ and doubtless many more will still be told; to carry the heart of our homeland to the world, we want you to enjoy yourself a cup inspired by the folk-lores woven throughout these Seven Districts of Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire has seven districts, filled with ancient history, beautiful heritage and age-old folklores. We wanted to take some of these to the world and share their passion through the stories woven throughout our seven districts.

We’ve named each of our single origins after a folklore of the seven districts. We’ve then taken the uniqueness of each district and matched it with the profiles of the coffee roasts we produce.

For example Tiddy Mun is a fairy king  who used to inhabit the marshland around Boston until Charles I engaged Dutch civil engineers to drain the marshes. Which begs the question what has this to do with high altitude coffee grown in Rwanda? The simple answer is absolutely nothing. On the other hand could be one of the many tales associated with coffee in Ethiopia.

Gullible American tourists in a touristy shop on Steep Hill may fall for this bullshit but it is not doing the coffee any favours. Good coffee speaks for itself.

Ethically sourced meaningless. Fair Trade long past sell by date, marketing ploy to make Middle Class feel good. Fair Trade pays a tiny premium above commodity price, coffee is coffee, maintains farmers in poverty as no incentive to improve. Direct trade, coffee roasteries form long term partnerships with growers, help to improve quality quality, willing to pay a premium for quality. With Direct Trade everyone benefits, the farmers, the roastery, the coffee shop, the coffee drinker.

The bags Roman numerals, I to VII, seven districts of Lincolnshire. Each bag also has a name, and a little bit of local history. At least I thought each bag had a different Roman numeral, logical, but no, all VII, only the name is different.

Yes, well designed packaging, but if to be taken seriously the coffee has to have details of the coffee, not local history no matter how interesting that may be.

Coffee is seasonal. It does not help, different single origin packaged under the same name.

Every coffee bean has a story to tell, if telling a story, tell the story of the farm the coffee beans come from. This means a lot to the farmer.

Within the coffee industry have often discussed how much information to put on a bag, too much and turns people off, too little and not sufficient.

But as a bare  minimum, where sourced from. altitude, processing of beans, tasting notes and roast date. Maybe a little summary of where sourced from. More information may be provided via a qr code.

I can think of several coffee shops that regularly have in stock and serve guest coffee. Would they stock this coffee? No. The reason why, there is not the information on the bags their discerning customers expect to find.

A coffee shop where Seven Districts tried to peddle their wares was singularly unimpressed by their lack of knowledge of coffee.

Excellent advice in Businesses for Punks, do not waste money on marketing, do not engage marketing consultants, invest the money in your product.

Seven Districts have ably demonstrated why that advice is so valuable. They have poured money down the drain.

An artistically designed booklet. Try reading in anything other than strong daylight.

Marketing bullshit to one side, what of the beans, the roasting?

A Q grade in excess of 85. The roaster no previous experience in coffee roasting.

On the stall it was possible in not ideal conditions to try a not very well poured V60. It was ok, not great, nothing to get excited about. I do not know which of the seven coffees on display I was served.

I took away two bags of coffee, an Ethiopian and a Rwandan.

I await an expert brewing.

As I write a beautiful aroma from the Ethiopian, nothing from the Rwandan.

TOMS

December 4, 2019

Passing through Mitropoleos Square I pop in TOMS overlooking the square.

TOMS a weird set up, a coffee shop that is sells shoes and glasses and claims to provide a week’s supply of water to third world need for each cup of coffee sold.

I am always wary of these claims. Far better to work with farmers, improve quality, fetch a higher price for the coffee beans.

The coffee shop, their flag ship store (not that I have encountered any others), was serving coffee in paper takeaway cups, thus damaging the environment of the very people they claim to be trying to help. Also on sale e-coffee cups.

E-coffee cups have recently been embroiled in scandal. Toxins released from the cups into hot liquids, thus best avoided.

A lovely black cat had bagged a seat. At first does not appear to be friendly from the warning meow, but was friendly. Lost in translation.

I have a brief conversation with a man sat outside, even though now I am running late. He says ask next time I pass by, UK still in EU. He makes the point EU makes impossible for countries to leave a one way system, Hotel California, can check out but cannot leave.

He tells me I am paying too much heed to Yanis Varoufakis. Interesting as until that point, neither of us had mentioned Yanis Varoufakis by name, though we were very much discussing his ideas.


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