Friday, 26 August 2011

Garcia Coffee Company, Beckenham, UK - New Beckenham station

New Beckenham station. The train station of my child hood, my youth and the one that took me to school every day. Many memories I have of this station and here I was many years later trying out the coffee on offer.

Garcia Coffee seems to have a stall at Clock House station and Beckenham Junction as well but I found it hard to find much other information on them on the interweb. This review is for the New Beckenham stall found in a little hatch on the platform and also serving papers and other things you need early on in the day.

I took a double espresso. It was quite long, no crema and the aroma hard to find. The strength was good and the flavour relatively smooth. It had I fear been slightly over espressed giving it the length but also souring the taste. The after-taste started of pleasant but gave way to a low level bitterness also due to too much trying to be extracted from those beans.

  • Double shot espresso, take away
  • Strong
  • Relatively smooth with sour notes
  • No crema
  • size long
  • £1.50

Garcia Coffee provide a drinkable coffee but one that is not climbing the heights of flavour. Considering the location, availability and convenience it certainly has some benefits depending on your needs but I would wait till London Bridge.

Having said that I do love their bright blue cups.

New Beckenham: Map

Other locations:
Beckenham Junction
Clock House

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Barista Profile: Andrew Long, Ground

Hello. Who are you?
Andrew "big hair" Long

And what do you do?
Barista - Ground, Kemptown

And what is that in detail?
Someone with a flair for good quality coffee

When did you first discover real coffee?
I've always known about it, but was only exposed to it's true potential over a year ago. It was like this big secret in the UK where suddenly someone turned on the lights and went, "hang on why am I in Starbucks? I can drink better coffee from that lovely little place across the road with flowers in the window. I also get treated like a human being.

How did you get started in the coffee trade and learn your skills?
I've had to use a machine at some point in the majority of the jobs I've had whilst growing up. Some of the skills learned along the way have been exotic to say the least in method and madness. 

Being asked to pour instant granules into a grinder as a fresh faced 18 year old will never cease to amaze me. But the past 18 months have been a real eye opener and a privilege since moving to Brighton. 

What is the best thing about doing what you do?
The people you meet. Customers and colleagues alike. I'm not just a machine, and neither are you. Find me another job where you can be yourself and you'd be lying.

What drink do you make best?
I make a damn fine Cappuccino but my best drink is Espresso. I take great pride in trying to make it the best you've ever had.

What are the top 3 things you should you look out for from your neighbourhood barista

  • Someone who engages with you on a personal level. 
  • Not being afraid to voice their own opinion. 
  • Not baffling customers with your extensive and often boring knowledge of blends at 7am. It's dull and unnecessary, lets be honest. 

Working in a good cafe with good people you end up seeing how bad alot of other cafes are. Right from service to the drink. It's the snobbery that annoys me. How can you be a coffee snob when your coffee is about as exciting as being slapped around the face with a side of pork? Cafes are places where people go to every single day of their life. It's part of their routine which you end up being part of. Show some respect.

A home coffee brewing trick or technique?
Be good to your beans. Use a nice cup.

What do you look for in a good bean or blend?
Balance and honesty. If you like it, great. If you don't, stop pretending to be the blurb on the back and throw it away.

What do you drink yourself?
There's an "in" joke at work that I HAVE to have a sugar in my coffee because I'm not hardcore enough to take it straight. This is true to an extent. I only ever put sugar in milk based coffee because to me they resemble a cake. And cakes have sugar. 

However, my preference would be a strong small black coffee, either a single origin fresh filter or espresso based long black.

What is your favourite professional machine and grinder?La Marzocco, Compak K-10

What is the most important part of the coffee process- the growing, the roasting, the blending, the brewing or anything in between?
It's all important. mess one process up and it has a knock on effect.
How do you make coffee at home?
Aeropress. I'm currently experimenting with Turkish coffee.

Anything else you want to say?
I'm also very font of fine cheese and American country pop music. Don't hold it against me.

Andrew, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. 

Andrew in action unedited

Andrew works at Ground one of the premiere coffee houses in Brighton.
Map: here
Twitter: @Ground_Coffee
Original review:

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Le Traiteur, Beckenham, UK

It was a hot sunny day in the suburbs when I popped into Le Traiteru on Beckenham high street. As a food place I had heard good things and a friend even worked there in the past, she was an Aussie so I expected excellent coffee to boot.

The coffee didn't look too bad with a light frothy crema floating on top but it was over-ridingly bitter in flavour. To its credit it had real knock your socks off strength and even a little sweetness but that can't avoid the fact that the taste was pretty foul. 

There was one final bright moment to my visit, a large coffee costs £2.00, they charged me £1.50 for a short double so either I was lucky, they were generous or you have have to pay 50 pence for hot water.

  • Double shot black americano, drink in
  • Strong
  • Bitter
  • Frothy crema
  • size medium
  • £1.50 

A pretty poor tasting coffee.  I don't see much hope for Beckenham but I will persevere.


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Mad Hatter Cafe, Brighton, UK

This was the coffee I had before speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton. I was nervous so it was a bit of a risk going somewhere new but The Mad Hatter Cafe looked popular and more importantly was where I had got off on the bus. 

After trying to score some bacon (I was low carbing it) I found it was a vegetarian establishment. Although I'm fairly certain the man did then try to offer me ham. I declined the under counter chacuterie and went for a mushroom and cheese omelette. Fluffy with a gooey heart and plenty of it; this protein feast was just what I needed to power we through my talk. I very much enjoyed demolishing my plate and had need to wash it down.

As is usual I opted for a black americano. When it first arrived it was so hot I could not get near it. There was n0t much going for it in terms or aroma and there was no crema to think of so I had to bide my time and wait for it to cool. Cool it did and I was rewarded with a good, above average coffee. Although a little weak for me it shone with regards to flavour. It was full and flavoursome and smooth all the way through. There were no sour notes and at the end a little sweetness shined through. 

  • Double shot black americano, drink in
  • Medium to weak strength
  • A good robust flavour
  • No crema
  • Size medium
  • £2.00

A really nice coffee that by not going for gusto has ended up with a lovely smooth taste. They are not at the top table yet but this is undoubtedly good and leaves a large gap between them and those behind.


Friday, 5 August 2011

Brindisa, Borough Market, London, UK

Year round this is an incredibly popular Tapas bar right on the corner of Borough Market. Luckily Brindisa also run an excellent store in the market where you can get your hands on all the wonderful ingredients they cook up here

To complete the facts they also have two other restuarants, one in Soho and the other in South Kensington. I have tried to get into this eatery but quite late many a time but if you are not prepared to wait (hours) then you won't get in. This time we went early and found it is popular for a reason.

This is not a food blog but the food was great so I have to list what we devoured. We consumed divine manchego, succulent olives, crusty bread, little deep fried parcels of Monte Enebro cheese with honey. 

We demolished an Iberico selection of sliced meats, tortilla and an anchovy salad. The salad was the least green salad I have ever had but it was pitch perfect. This was all washed down with a lovely bottle of  Blanc Planell, a Macabeo Sauvignon Blanc, yums.

After such a great meal you want to have a little digestive or a coffee. I opted for coffee, an espresso to be precise. It came in a shot glass and was short, hot, sealed with a layer of crema and like the meal the coffee was simply excellent. 

No bitterness, not overly espressed and so it was silky smooth and hit me with sweetness when it was done.

  • Double shot espresso, drink in
  • Strong
  • Smooth and sweet
  • Thick crema
  • Size small
  • £1.90

A lovely short espresso, velvety smooth and honey sweet. A perfect end to a rich, satisfying dining experience.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Sherriffs Coffee, Penge, London, UK

Situated outside Penge West Station, Sherriff's is another of these mini coffee vans kited out with a single machine. They were serving up Fair Trade Columbian beans and at the time of posting have been around for about a year. The coffee was served in large bugs but the barista was carfull not to overfill them for the train journey ahead.

Once I got my coffee I sat on the platform and took a good sniff, there was right away a wiff of station coffee* about it and unfortunately the taste confirmed it. It was a coffee that was overly bitter and suffered from a claggy after taste so I was not a happy bunny.

Although he was a friendly guy, put the coffee top on and sources his coffee ethically I can't give a good review to Sherriff's. Not the worst but really not very good.

  • Double Black Americano, take away
  • Medium strength
  • Bitter taste
  • Frothy crema
  • Large
  • £1.20

Sadly a pretty bad coffee from an independent stall. Skip it, wait and go to Monmouth when you hit town.


*That general poor tasting coffees found on stations across the UK