Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sampling coffee

A new team member has been treating me to a sample of different coffees this week.
So far we have tried out:

  • Guatemala 100% Maragogype
  • Costa Rica Reserva San Bosco
  • Zambia Chisoba Estate AAA

All pretty lovely.

Alfredo, Brighton, UK

Another new place, run by an Italian called Mike. The Spartan dressed shop had some great deli items on what few shelves they did have.  Their speciality is to make you a custom sandwich from their great selection of meats and cheeses. Lots of imports, freshly sliced ham, cured meats etc. It looked  the business.

I did not have high hopes from the coffee after the last Italian cafe but went in with an open mind. They were serving coffee from Lavazza beans a great solid brand. Alarm bells rang when I saw the size of the cup offered to me and the heat that it held. This could easily have been another station style cup but I was to be surprised. A relatively smooth coffee sadly hugely let down by being watered down. It had a sweet aftertaste and was not beset by burning or over expressing. So the worse crimes had not been committed and that is always half the battle.  

  • Black Americano
  • Medium Strength
  • A pretty smooth taste, not too bitter and ending on a sweet note
  • Far too watery
  • No Crema
  • Large cup
  • £1.40

Not that bad at all. With some instruction on the amount of water to suit personal taste this may become a solid coffee.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Côte, Brighton, UK

Sitting opposite the Brighton done is a grand old municipal building. It was recently the most exciting art venue in town where are was hung or put straight on the walls, the decaying elegance still shinning through. That faded wonder has been brought back to life as the newly refurbished Côte and perhaps it is close to the former glories it held.
The Neoclassic façade is painted the darkest green and combined with the low slung awnings it has a rich and heavy set look. Perhaps this is reflected in the food, but was is reflected in the coffee? Styling itself as a French Bistro serving food all day it has to be trialled.

The coffee came in a small cup and held a pleasant aroma with a light scattering of crema. The taste was good, rich but not burnt. There was perhaps a slight bitterness at first which gave way to a creamy sweetness.

  • Black Americano
  • Strong
  • Smooth and rich, full of flavour
  • A tinge of bitterness followed by sweetened cream
  • Light Crema
  • Small cup
  • £1.95

French coffee as it should be. Well worth regular patronage.

Cafe Italiano, Brighton, UK

A tempting looking cafe on the corner of a semi pedestrian part of Brighton. The inside was basic but the counter was full to the brim of great looking home made Italian food. The stuffed gnocchi and the feta cheese focaccia looked like some awesome eating but this mission is about coffee and the black stuff one and only.

This was a terrible but classic “station” coffee, the kind that I have tried to avoid by creating this blog and searching out the independents. Why do so many places put coffee house on their sign when they cannot make good coffee? I want to legislate against it. Pretty awful stuff.

  • Black Americano
  • Medium to Strong
  • Bitter and gritty
  • Good Crema
  • Large mug
  • £1.80

An Italian café should make great coffee this one did not by miles but I would go back to try the food.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Enemy

Police stand guard over Starbucks in Kemp Town Brighton. How the hell did that get built?

Taylor Street Baristas, Brighton, UK

I can’t wait to the end to say this is possibly the best coffee I’ve had in Brighton so far. Appearing on the world Baristas London map of coffee shops Taylor Street Baristas is known and respected. I had drunk one cup before but I was preoccupied and didn’t think too much of it. I was wrong to do this and I feel I have cheated myself.

Almost making the same mistake by eating a pear I  cleansed by mouth with water before beginning. It had smelt good on the way in and I had taken a few sips of lid spillage which were sweet and smooth.

When I truly began to drink I immediately knew that it was good. A robust well rounded flavour hitting all the right notes, a good strength and no weird aftertaste. Their website informs on the type of grinder and machine they use which is perhaps going too far but shows the love they have for coffee. The barristas were clearly well trained, fast and efficient in their service, precise and skilled in their coffee making. The beans were sourced from Union Coffee Roasters.

  • Small Black Americano
  • Strong
  • Smooth taste, a good balance of the sweet, bitter oil that should be coffee
  • A pleasant after taste, creamy
  • Good Crema
  • Small cup
  • £1.50

A superb coffee, superior to many in every way. This is a coffee for the man on the street and the coffee geeks.

Includes amusing home page text about good and bad coffee.

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Gathering, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

The gathering is I assume a chain and the one I visited was in Edinburgh Airport departure lounge. It was a disappointing coffee that looked and smelt the part. I had, perhaps due to travel dementia entered a fantasy where I had stumbled upon some well kept coffee secret. This could have been a coffee house with Monmoutheon proportions of quality. 

Sadly it was the same old story, over espressed, watery and overly bitter in after taste. The restaurant looked very attractive, modern, well lit and well designed. It was the coffee made large on their sign that drew me in and when it came out fast and hot with thick crema, I got excited. 

  • Black Americano
  • Strong
  • Water taste with bitter after taste
  • Good Crema
  • Medium cup but felt a little large (too much water).
  • £1.95

This Joe was deceptively strong and even had an oily gleam, I can't help but feel this was a coffee that had potential but the barista fell short and he fell poorly. Perhaps Nero's would have been better.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Reid’s, Perth, Scotland, UK

It took some finding in Perth but finally we found a couple of places that looked like quality establishments. Reid's was busy but it was only once we were seated we realised they had a huge turn around going on. People were moving through faster than in a burger chain but without feeling rushed. The speed of service was excellent, the staff friendly and the food top notch. 

Speed was certainly an aim of the place with the French onion soup being topped not by a flamed slab of cheese but cubes off cheese on toast popped in afterwards. This concession didn't take away from the taste, likewise the baristas were fast but well trained. They were careful in how they tampered the coffee and how they made it although it seemed they may have got a little carried away with he hot water pipe. The coffee was strong, smooth but perhaps a tiny touch burnt leading to a little bitterness.

Two cups off coffee, soup, a chicken roll and a slice of lemon meringue pie we felt pretty full. The coffee was good, it had strength, it had flavour. Oh and did I say they had cakes?

  • Black Americano
  • Medium strength
  • Smooth, good flavour, a slight tinge of over bitterness with the after taste
  • Good Crema
  • Medium cup
  • £1.85

With care taken over the coffee preparation, a more than solid effort in the final Joe and a super slice of lemon pie this coffee has to be rated highly.


A Scottish adventure

A long weekend in Scotland didn't lend itself to too much coffee tourism (cofourism?). Often the coffee I stumbled upon was functional rather than flavoursome which is a sad state of affairs.

Things started badly with a carelessly made coffee at Edinburgh Airport Costa. Amongst its many crimes, this cup was overfilled and subsequently spilt over my legs in the wild cab ride that followed. It was late and the coffee provided the hot caffeine that I needed. It served a function but no more, it was not a good cup.

My last coffee before returning to the airport was from Perth Hospital. It smelt very poor so before I had even had a drop I new that I would not be bowled over by this. My mother had shrewdly asked them to keep the water content down. That at least gave this low quality fare a kick. I won’t even start on her Cappuccino.

Alongside this we had some highly processed cakes and I was amazed how a little sweetness on the side really works so well with coffee. It made this drinkable and the view helped too.

Too much coffee is made as a fuel, the equivalent of Aftershock, a crying shame. Strong coffee like strong spirits can and should be a pleasure. Something to savour, something crafted at every stage and when it hits your throat it should be something that rewards and wows the drinker into silence.