WBC London Coffee Map

Just a very quick post to let you know that if you are coming to London for the WBC and want suggestions of somewhere to go then I’d recommend checking out the WBC/Coffee Kids London Coffee Map.

Not only will you get delicious coffee, but the participating shops are also raising money for Coffee Kids, which is two good things for the price of one!

London Coffee Map

Opting In

Restaurants have a complex set of rituals, etiquette and laws governing the interaction between the establishment and the guest. Jeffrey Steingarten (and I wish I could quote it but my copy is out on loan) talks about how the best waiters are so good that they become invisible. Plates arrive, glasses are filled and the table is cleaned without any unnecessary interuption. This idea being that people come to restaurants for two reasons: for food and for company. If making sure each of these is as enjoyable as possible is the goal then you can work back and justify the seemingly curious rules and laws laid out in fine dining. Continue reading “Opting In”

Italian coffee culture in the UK

This morning I spoke to a journalist on the phone who is writing about coffee in London, as well as the antipodean influence on our coffee scene.

One of the questions he asked was about the influence of Italian populations on coffee cultures.  In Australia a good chunk of credit for the early rise of coffee culture there stems from the high standards of the Italian communities that quickly spread to a relatively small population and increased expectation.

Continue reading “Italian coffee culture in the UK”

The Marco Über Boiler

This will probably end up being quite a long post, and sorry for being a bit cryptic on here the other day.  I want to explain the history of this little project, and give credit where it is due.

This morning I got up early to fly over to Dublin, to the CatEx show there.  Apart from catching up with Stephen, and lots of other lovely coffee people, and catching a little of the Irish Barista Championship, I was really there to see the guys at Marco and the new machine they had on their stand.

Continue reading “The Marco Über Boiler”

Who is to blame for bad coffee?

I’ve written a lot recently with an industry readership in mind.  This post I write with the consumer firmly in mind.  This isn’t about exonerating lazy cafe owners and baristas, or excusing the chains or making allowances for restaurant coffee.  Anyone who loves or even likes coffee will often complain about how bad a lot of it is, how hard it is to get a good cup.

You, the consumers, are to blame. 1

Now you certainly can’t take all the blame but consumers have an enormous power over the people making the coffee.  After all – you’re paying for it.  You are staggeringly tolerant of incredibly poor product.  You can do something very simple that would have a huge effect on the quality of coffee served:  when it is bad – take it back.

Continue reading “Who is to blame for bad coffee?”

  1. I ought to make it clear at this point that obviously consumers are not really to blame, but to start a discussion about the power of the consumer and also – heaven forbid – have a little fun with this topic!  ↩︎

The failings of English Cafes

This isn’t meant to be a righteous diatribe, coupled with a smug detailing of how I think cafes ought to be. This is really just a rant that has been building for a little while now.

I have been extremely lucky in the last few years when it comes to travel. I’ve sat in many different cafes and coffee houses around the world and had a varied set of experiences therein.

By and large the cafe experience in England is disappointing. I am not talking about the small number of quality focused cafes in and out of London, and I am not picking on anyone in particular, but there is something a bit depressing about sitting down in the average independent cafe.

Continue reading “The failings of English Cafes”

UK Coffee Map

I started this map back in February last year, and then pretty much forgot about it until some folks at TMC brought it back to my attention.

Since then the same idea has been done in a bigger and better way in the US by EspressoMap but I wouldn’t mind too much if people wanted to add a few more things to the UK one which can be found here:

UK Coffee Map

The Danish Barista Championship 2007

This will probably be a long post.

So on Friday night Anette and I flew into Copenhagen. Its the third time I’ve been there in the past couple of years and I’ve probably already said that I really love this city. I was looking forward to a little time to explore because on previous occasions I haven’t had the chance. Was pretty late by the time we got in so had to wait til Saturday to start exploring.

Met Stephen Morrissey for pastries and coffee at Europa just as it was opening. Interesting to see they are still using the Teflon portafilters for their coffee service there.

Wandered from there straight to the competition. The venue building was lovely, though the exhibition on there seemed a little contrasting to coffee – I think it was called Female Vision. It was also a little frustrating to have to pay KR95 each day to get in. Regardless of this it was still very well attended. On the Saturday it was the semi-final for the region and oddly the six entrants had dropped to only four. With three going through it meant only one person competing wasn’t going to go through to Sunday. You had to feel a little sorry for Daniel who competed first but didn’t make it through.

(I’ll go through the other competitors in further down).

It was nice to see lots of coffee people at the event. It was great to see Klaus and Sigga Dora again, as well as Bjorg, Troels and Morten from Kontra. The Danish competition is fairly unusual. I can’t imagine barista coming in from other countries to meet up and watch the competition in the UK (yet). I met Silvia who is the Brazilian champion – she was also in Denmark to train for Tokyo – as well as Lukasz who is the Polish champion (he was there with Asia who all you Barista Magazine subscribers will know). On the Sunday Einar (the Norwegian Champion) also appeared – I think it’s great

In between the end of the heats and the announcements Klaus, Stephen and I snuck out to Estate for a mini tasting from his Clover (I took some of the Counter Culture Rwandan coffee – it was great), as well as some espressos pulled by him and Caspar (another Estate barista). Interestingly both had different styles of pulling shots and whilst the shots had obvious similarities they were also distinctly different in body, sweetness and balance – whilst both being excellent.

After the heat a bunch of us got in a few taxis and headed four lakes over to see Kontra Coffee. The shop has everything you could ever want to make coffee. The retail coffee occupies one side whilst on the other is a wall of machinery and other toys. I struggled to keep the wallet in the pocket as there were so many things I wanted.

The Probat L12 and a three barrel sample roaster left me jealous of Morten, though he is insanely busy at the moment. Popped next door for a late lunch and then headed across to a newly opened cafe called Coffee Plantation. Weirdly I bumped into a barista called Trine who I had last seen when I was in Trondheim at her leaving party at the Dromedar. They had a problem with their machine so Klaus and Casper jumped behind the bar to try and fix it.

Casper seems hopeful!

Klaus hiding behind the grinders.

We were taken out for dinner that night with all of the judges by Fritz Storm. Really enjoyed chatting to him, though I was forced to relive the spilling story yet again. I fear I have become a cautionary tale you tell competing baristas if you want them to practise hard and be good.

The rest of the evening was spent drinking and talking about things that aren’t coffee over at Bjorg’s place, which was really lovely.

Sunday started extremely well. I met Stephen at Estate, and Klaus and Sigga Dora met us there a little later. One small capp, a Clover of Las Nubes (I really liked this coffee) and two more espressos set me up nicely for the day (you never get to taste any coffee whilst watching competition so it made sense to me to get caffieinated in advance!).

I had high expectations for the competition, not only because Denmark produces an absurd amount of WBC winners but also because I had seen the heats the day before. The competition was really well attended and there was no real seating so every just crowded around the workstations. This meant I got muscled out of getting some pictures of a few of the contestants (luckily I got a few from the three in the heats). This was especially annoying when the results became clear – I have no good pictures of Lene competing.

I think there were three baristas who really stood out in different ways. Søren won the heats on the Saturday and his set-up was really beautiful. All his equipment looked great and he had some great custom made stuff – especially for the signature drink.

He was the only one of the finalists not using Estate Coffee, instead using a blend created with Kontra Coffee. His signature drink involved brewing a small amount of tea, then espresso went on top of that and then a foamed syrup of blueberries, orange juice, vanilla and coffee beans (he prepared a syrup onstage to show the process and to share the aromas with the judges, though used a preprepared syrup for the actual drink that was already in a charged whipper – you can see it in the jacket above). He brewed the tea in little metals balls, and then poured it through a custom tea strainer and then the foamed syrup dripped through that.

At the front of the sig drink tray you can see a selection of the ingredients. His latte art was also the best I saw on the day:

Lene also stood out from the others in her presentation. The setup wasn’t as lavish as Søren’s but it was very nicely put together. I had been relegated to watching her performance on the tv screens but I enjoyed listening to her talk. I didn’t catch all of her signature drink though I recall it had passion fruit, chocolate, cane sugar, ginger (I think!?) in it. Speaking to the judges afterwards it was clearly a hit on the taste front. In the end her performance put her her 50 points clear.

The other barista who really made an impression was Mikkel Otto. I had enjoyed his performance on the Saturday and I was pleased I had hyped him up to Einar who I was talking to as he came on. He was just a lot of fun to watch. He whistled and sang along to his music (which was very funny stuff, though I am told that if I spoke Danish it was even more amusing). He claimed he was using milk that he had milked from a cow called Ophelia the night before, whilst also giving up a wealth of information about the cow and her pastures, and how they keep the horns as they are part of the digestive system apparently. All was done with a sense of fun, not with a lecturing tone. His signature drink was a cube of gelatin flavoured with rhubarb and rosemary stirred into the espresso – but for his signature drink the espresso blend had been cold smoked for three hours over juniper. Awesome, very funny and a welcome contrast to most performances.

There was quite a spread of points on the day, and I was surprised that Lene was so far ahead but there is only so much you can tell from watching. I think everyone knew who would be the top two but weren’t sure which way round they would be.

Full results here.

After the event the coffee people that were hanging around got some food and then headed up to Estate. Childishly a few of us ended up behind the bar in game of latte art one-up-manship. Klaus, Stephen, Lukasz, Einar and I all had to step up and pour something. I am rubbish when it comes to this sort of thing. I really liked Klaus’ pour:

Wisely Anette, Sigga Dora, Asia and Morten looked on and remained dignified. It was great to be able to mess around in Estate for a bit though, until the real baristas moved us along so they could get on with serving proper customers. A clover of La Minita kept me going for the rest of the evening.

I really do like Copenhagen and look forward to coming back (I am sure we’ll find a legitimate reason).

Massive thank yous to Bjorg, Morten, Fritz, Sigga Dora and especially Klaus and everyone else.