Thursday, 26 April 2012

Taylor St Baristas, Shoreditch, East London, UK

This is my 2nd Taylor St Baristas review after covering Brighton previously I move onto their Shoreditch branch. The Brighton cup was top of the range so let us see how East London fairs.

It takes a little finding as this Taylor St. is inside a small light-industrial estate. Where is it exactly? Well it is in the little shed (quite a large shed really). This cute, homely looking venue is a modest setting for a brand well known for producing excellent, mouth watering coffee. 

Inside 3 staff were busy tiding up after the post lunch rush and quickly moved to serve me as I entered. There was a little room to sit but it felt cosy rather than cramped in here. The shed itself gave everything a pleasent Alpine feel. 

I took my coffee outside to enjoy the lovely spring sunshine and to sit on the attractive curved wooden benches. Before doing so I had a mishap of my own making; when trying to photograph the hut I poured some of my recently espressed purchase over my hand creating quite a burn. Not a good idea.

Alongside my poor throbbing mit the agency or magazine opposite was holding auditions. I'm not sure what was more agonising, probably the constant circulation of models through the area. Who am I kidding? sitting drinking coffee in the sunshine watching extraordinarily beautiful woman stream pass is of course my idea of heaven. 

Enough pre-amble, lets get onto the joe. Sitting down to enjoy my drink I found the coffee held a ripe fruity aroma, reminiscent of my fathers elderflower wine making.  

It was smooth and sweet to taste and the fruitiness brought notes of plumbs and other stone fruits to bare. It held a little bite but was well balanced and not overpowering in flavour. It was not overly strong, nor too weak and remained clean to the finish.

The actual coffee was brilliant but for some reason the cup seemed to permeate the taste near the end. It started to shroud the coffee in the taste of waxy card; I have chewed on a coffee cup or two in my time and recognised it instantly. 

I'm not sure if this was a technical issue with my specific cup or that batch but it created an unpleasant taste that was hard to remove but I firmly believe it was a random issue outside of the actual brewing.

  • Small Black Americano, take away
  • Medium Strength
  • Sweet & smooth with a plumb fruitiness
  • Light Crema
  • Small cup - 60z
  • £1.90
  • Beans: Union
  • Machine: Marzocco
  • Grinders: Anfim Super Caimano 
A very good coffee as one has come to expect with lots of fruity flavours and a unique venue to boot.

Note- They are not open at the weekend.

Get lost? Call them on 0207 929 2207

Friday, 20 April 2012

Ethiopian Harrar, Ozone Coffee Roasters, UK

Hailing from the Harra region of Ethiopia this East African coffee is both fair trade and organic. Like the sourcing of many independent roasters, this single origin coffee comes from a farming co-operative. In this case it is the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union.

The beans are largish and the medium roast gives them a fine chocolate brown colour. After giving my nostrils a good work out in the bag, the beans gave off a rich opulent aroma, a little acidity and something else; a hint of coco.

When ground the beans broke down evenly and helped the aroma blossom. This Ethiopian coffee smelt absolutely spot on; very fresh, & very much alive, wonderfully fruity and also a hint of spice and a pinch of pepper could be teased out. 

On brewing the aroma retained that lovely rich fruitiness. The taste was interesting and took some unpicking, the fruit was very much concentrated on the front of the pallet and that also gave it a little tartness that was barely perceptible. 

It was quite dry with an instant but slight metallic aftertaste. Then it developed into a sweeter flavour; conjuring up candied fruits, that hint of coco from before and even a little toffee. 

As things wrapped up the spicy, pepperyness just returned on the roof of the mouth adding a nice twist to the proceedings.

In general it was very light and clean throughout and managed to be refreshing and lifting in what it offered. The finish was both smooth and sweet

  • Region:           Harrar
  • Farm, CoOp: Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union
  • Variety:         Heirloom Ethiopian
  • Process:          Methos: Natural / Dry Process
  • Elevation:      1500ft
  • Cert:                Fair trade & Organic
  • Roast:              Medium

A great fresh and fruity bean with a wonderfull rich sweetness and lightness of touch without being bland. A perfect easy drinking coffee with plenty to savour.

How do we taste it? Go here. 

Supplier: Ozone Coffee Roasters

How do we taste it? Go here.

Zabu Coffee Competition

It has been some time since Damn Fine Joe ran a competition and we have so much to celebrate. London Coffee Week is starting on the 23rd and culminating in the excellent London Coffee Festival ending on the 29th April.  

Coffee fans unite.

To celebrate Damn Fine Joe is teaming up with our friends at Zabu Coffee & giving away 3 bags of their wonderful House Blend .

All people need to do is follow Damn Fine Joe on Twitter and Retweet one of Joe’s competition tweets. As easy as plunging an Aeropress.

Here are a few rules:
  • All followers no matter how old who RETWEET will be included in the prize draw
  • To take part you must FOLLOW and RETWEET
  • People will only be counted in the prize draw once, no matter how many times they Retweet (feel free to do it lots)
  • The competition will end on the first second of the 30th April 2012
  • Prize draw for all RETWEETERS will take place on the 30th April 2012
  • The lucky winners will be contacted and can choose whole bean or any grind they like and will have the coffee send to their door.


Show your love of Coffee and LIKE  DFJ on Facebook:

Flat Whites, Soho, Central London, UK

A well known London coffee bar, Flat White has been around since 2005 serving the good people of Soho. It is a tiny strip style bar with the counter on one side and narrow seating alone the other. Quite darkly lit and well styled with plenty of black, red and cool bespoke light bulbs it was pleasant to sit in although a little cramped.

They have their blend made by Square Mile for sale along with a couple of other beans and some nice equipment indicating this is a place for serious coffee people.

The London’s Best Coffee app states that they are “renowned for their questionable service and incredible coffee” and I can see why. The guy who took my order was a massive tool but please don't let that put you off, the coffee is brilliant.

However another barista, an antipodean who made and served the drinks, was most gracious, fun and approachable. Not only did he serve the drinks with a little quip; when we started to talk about coffee, we had a good old chin wag, & he was helpful and informative. So things are looking up from a service point of view.


The Long black had a smooth, rich and sweet aroma. The first mouthful was like having a sock full of cherries forced into your mouth and then explode, suffice to say it had a tart tang and you could immediately taste the Guatemalan in the blend. 

It filled the mouth with flavour and the acidity was well balanced against the more medium rounded flavours, providing a sexily smooth and not at all bitter taste.

Nearing the end the coffee sweetened and left a pleasent lightly creamy after taste in the mouth. This finish was a little messy, slightly marred with a touchy of ashy bitterness.

That Guatemalan flavour was so strong I enquired about the blend, on asking I was told that it was 60%. The current blend was 20% El Diamante (Guatemalan), 40% Finea De Dios (Guatemalan) 40% Sierra Nevada (El Salvador) but was going to be changed soon. 

They seasonally update their espresso blend which is good to see and gives you something to come back for. They also had a handy break down showing beans types, variety, process and altitude if you are into that kind of thing.

My friends enjoyed a Flat White and a Cappuccino respectively and enjoyed them very much. stating they were indeed amongst the best they had ever drunk.

  • Long Black, drink in.
  • £2.90 ( need to check this as I wrote 3.90 which must be wrong)
  • Medium strength
  • Tart cherries, sweet and smooth.
  • Light Crema
  • Medium size
  • Beans: Square Mile – Flat White Blend.
  • Machine: Synesso
  • Grinder: Mazzer

A great coffee overall with a well balanced flavour of fruity tartness and a medium body. With their changing blends it will be a cafe I will come back to sample again.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Indian Plantation A Mysore, Zabu

We now reach the end of this round of Zabu Coffee reviews with this Indian Plantation A Mysore. 

This coffee comes from one of the 3 badra estates in the Karnatak region of South West India and is grown at a height of 1-1.4 thousand meters above sea level. The "Plantation A" refers to it being the highest grade of wet-processed India coffee. The grading being based on the bean size and the visual quality of the beans.

The Zabu coffee notes inform us that the estate uses the Central Cofee Research Station to analyse their soil every year to make sure it is up to standard. The fruits go through a rigorous process; picked when ripe, fermented for 36 hours, then a process called aqua washing and finally once drained and dried they are bagged and rested for 40 days.

The beans have an appealing light brown colour to them and the aroma was rich but still had a fragrant lightness to it.

On brewing the aroma softened a little. The flavour had a subtle zestyness to it, the light acidity giving it a little zing. 

As I continued to savour the cup there was a pinch of spice to catch the tongue and a gentle perfumed floweriness could be perceived. It was tangy but smooth and a tiny bit sweet with perhaps a hint on vanilla. The finish was clean.

Enjoy through the day when looking for something  that won't come on too strong but still has some flavours to explore.

Supplier: Zabu Coffee
Twitter: @zabucoffee
Zabu on Facebook

How do we taste it? Go here.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Village East, Bermondsey, South London, UK

Village East is one of the relatively new restaurants that have sprung up along Bermondsey Street in South London. Often full, a pleasant vibe and nice decor what sets this place apart is the staff and the management of that staff.

Every single staff member will say hello as you walk through. Everyone is friendly and jovial to talk to. Whoever takes your order does not matter as the person who serves you will know exactly what you ordered. They don't hover but wine and water will be kept well stocked. 

It lifts a good evening into a great one and makes the food and drink just that little more enjoyable.

We worked our way through the Prawn risotto, mint and pea ravioli, pan fried mullet and a pork fillet. The food was great and we washed it down with one of the cheaper (£20) bottles of wine on the menu, a Spanish Verdejo Nair. The food was great and actually quite reasonably priced at £7/8 for a starter £18 for a main special.

This was all then swiftly followed by a couple of glasses of deliciously sweet and fruity Masia Pairal dessert wine and then of course the coffee.

A smoothly scented, rich sweet aroma emanated from the cup that had just a light wisp of crema covering the surface. On drinking a pleasing cherry tart tang was discovered, it filled the front and middle of the mouth without dominating too strongly. 

This was then accompanied by a medium bodied, well balanced flavour. It was sweet and lightly creamy as the coffee neared the end.

Although smooth throughout the finish was a little fuzzy, a touch of ash and bitterness was left over here but not enough to despoil the experience.

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £2.90
  • Medium strength
  • Medium bodied with a little cherry 
  • Light Crema
  • Medium size

A good easy drinking black coffee which had a dearth of flavours to enjoy without being overly complex or overpowering.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Damn Fine Joe t-shirts

Joking around with Rex we agreed that Baristas were the new cocktail barmen. Cool, skilled and possibly woman want to throw themselves at them when hyped up on a pair of double macs?

That being the case my pal Dan helped me make my Cocktail inspired t-shirt and then threw in a Norwegian Black Metal inspired one.

I couldn't get anyone to model them for free so I did it rather cringingly myself. I tried to pull as little blue steel as possible. I am not a model and posing is actually quite hard so please go easy on me.

Casey Fulton scouted out some locations and took some lovely shots. I've had to select my favourite 4.

Coffee heads enjoy.

Coffee Cocktail & Black Coffee

Photos: Casey Fulton

Designs: Daniel Nilsen

DFJ logos: Cait RussellDaniel Nilsen

Printed at: It's Your T-shirt

Columbian Medellin Excelso, Zabu Coffee

This coffee comes from the foothills of the Andes and gets its name from the town the coffee is distributed through, Medellin and the bean size or grade Excelso, meaning elevated or exalted.

Three natural factors give Columbian coffee its mild balanced flavour. The high altitude, the rich volcanic soil and the moist but temperate climate. The Zabu Columbian Medellin Excelso carries all those classic South American traits.

Looking at the beans they are certainly pretty with a medium roast giving them the colour of milk chocolate. They were oily to the touch and there was a little acidity to the aroma.

On brewing a rich golden tasting coffee was discovered. It was a flavour of little sweetness but it was rounded and earthy in abundance. There was a gentle, teasing bite to the proceedings from a small amount of acidity that brought with it notes of soured cherries and helped lighten the mood overall. 

The tanginess was balanced well against those muted, warmer elements and finally we were left with those rich flavours, a satisfying finish.

This Columbian Medellin Excelso was coffee that grew on me as it went down. The golden roasting comes through with all the richness and elegance it should have, shored up by the large heavier body flavours on one side and a light cheeky fruitiness on the other. 

This is the medium of mediums with nothing too sharp, too dark or too bombastic to get in the way of anyone’s enjoyment.

Supplier: Zabu Coffee

Twitter: @zabucoffee

Zabu on Facebook

How do we taste it? Go here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Shoreditch Grind, Shoreditch, East London, UK

Set right on the Old Street round about Shoreditch Grind takes residence in a striking black brick turret of a building with a large cinema style sign. Getting inside they carry through the nice design but counter balance the heavy bold exterior with a light interior of white walls, large windows and light wood.

For such a tiny space they do incredibly well to seat as many as they do. A serving counter at the back take prominence with simple wooden tables and chairs filling the central space in front. The trick is their window bars and stools which turn every available edge into somewhere to sit. 

These edge bars are thin, more of a ledge but just enough for a laptop. Combined with a regular supply of plug sockets along the wall  and free wifi you are set up for a meeting, mobile office or just hanging out and drinking coffee. 

The staff were friendly and well on top of the lunch time rush as they took orders and made joe promptly and efficiently. The stamped mugs were a nice touch and the "Black Card", a credit card loyalty system were really smart and not something to get mashed up in your wallet like all the others. 

The coffee came quickly in a small shiny monochrome cup and saucer. A fine crema was just dissipating around the spots of oil on the surface and it was giving of a sweet gentle aroma that tantalised my olfactory nerve endings no end. 

The initial taste was quite full and strong but immediately became a bit flat. It broadened out on the pallet as I carried on drinking but pulling out the flavour was a little hard. It was certainly smooth and I would say a soft understated coffee in general.

It did have a little too much bitterness but there were also some pleasant tones of citrus on the finish. The biggest issue was that after the initial sip I found the coffee to be a bit bland, not weak nor watery but lacking in flavour overall.

They are famously secretive about their beans, that are available for purchase.  An independent roaster makes a blend of their choosing and sends them regular supplies. Brighton has been mentioned so I'm going to guess at the excellent Small Batch Coffee Company. I've asked them to confirm but am waiting for comment.

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £1.95
  • Medium strength
  • Smooth but a little bland
  • Fine Crema
  • Small cup
  • Beans: Shoreditch Grind blend 
  • Machine: La Marzocco
  • Grinder: Mazzer

A well above average coffee but with the whole set up  being so well thought out, functional (and pretty darn cool)  to taste something a little bland as the ultimate point of existence was sadly a let down.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Ozone Coffee Roasters, Shoreditch, East London, UK

On a rather epic day of coffee hunting I stumbled upon Ozone Coffee and all because I was eating a horrific coronation turkey sandwich from Pret. I stopped to gag, looked up and there they were; with the white letters spelling out  C O F F E E with an arrow painted directly on the brick work. I approached, I went in.

Only 3 weeks old and at the time of review not yet on the excellent London's Best Coffee App by Blue Crow Media finding Ozone was meant to be.

Ozone Coffee Roasters are a brand from New Zealand and as their name suggests are a cafe and roastery. I have to say from walking in there was something I liked about the place and my hopes were that the coffee would match my excitement.

A large space set over a ground and basement floor with the cafe up and the roastery down. The cafe area is divided  up by a large central all around bar with a single long "bar" space to drink at the front and a set of traditional booths at the back. 

They have the coffees on display to drink and buy as well as some slow drip set ups. A high ceiling, plenty of wood, brushed metal and attractive well turned out staff buzzing around made it a relaxing place to sit and enjoy.

Down in the roastery you had the big roaster, a training area, additional seating and some pretty cool toilets. The training area is a nice area that you can have open or closed and would be good for a meeting if you wanted to hire it out.

When you go down stairs your eye will be drawn to the micro roaster, go check it out. Man I want one of those.


As well as their espresso blend they also have a guest shot on, this is a lovely idea and normally a pleasure reserved for the filter drinkers out there. As ever I went for an Americano, the house blend this time and it was a dark one. 

The joe was shrouded in a thin layer of dark crema which with the oils in layers was traversing the surface like a demented weather pattern on an alien world. It came small and in a smart branded mug.

The taste was smooth and strong. A real bitter bite on the first sip but as my mouth acclimatized it brought forward some warm woody tones. The middle was a steady dry sweetness with low acidity. 

The strong deep flavours with that slight bitterness lasted through with just enough sweetness to make it sing. On the finish that low lying deep coffee, clean, dry tannin  flavour remained with me for some time.

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • £2.00
  • Strong
  • Dry, sweet with warm woody notes
  • Light but dark crema
  • Small cup
  • Beans: Ozone espresso blend
  • Machine: Synesso
  • Grinder: Mazer

A lovely well made coffee with good balance in flavour, size and strength. The best coffee I had all day from several established coffee houses. This new kid on the block is exciting, making premier coffee with all the trimmings. Give them a visit.