Friday, 25 May 2012

The Coffee Hatch, Bermondsey, South London, UK

Another gem found thanks to the London's Best Coffee app however it took me 4 attempts to buy a coffee from The Hatch in London's Bermondsey street. The first two times I couldn't find it, the third it was shut but the forth time I got my man, I mean coffee.

It literally is a hatch on the corner of Bemondsey and St. Thomas' street and is open only in the mornings and will close at various times. This slender opening window makes it ideal for commuters or die hard coffee fans.

I had been warned that the coffee from here could take its time to arrive (see below) but I found it took no longer than I expected for a quality brew.

As a take away only venue I was disappointed not to see any heat protection (extra sleeve, double cup) so walked to my office switching hands along the way to avoid burning. 

By the time I arrived, it being quite out of my way, I found the coffee to be at a good gulping temperature. 

There was not a strong aroma coming from the cup with its fine yellowish crema. However on tasting my immediate positive reaction was to the smoothness of the coffee, beyond silky.

It was generally sweet and each sip had a little cheeky cherry tang at the end. It also had some warmer tannin notes that dried the palette and over all had a good rounded flavour. 

It was sweet and clean throughout the finish and always remained smooth. This Americano wasn't packing that much strength but not too little either, just the right amount to let the beans sing. 

I was not at all disappointed. 

  • Black Americano, take away
  • £2.00
  • Medium strength
  • Sweet and smooth with a cherry bite
  • Fine light crema
  • Small size - 8oz
  • Beans: Square mile
  • Machine La Marzocco Linea
  • Grinder: Anfim

Sometimes there is not much to say about a great coffee. This is a great coffee and well worth the time trying to get it. Of medium strength, a lovely smooth and sweet flavoured beverage with the gentlest of sharp cherry nibbles.

Dedication to real coffee from The Coffee Hatch -

Thursday, 24 May 2012

London Coffee Festival Write Up - Part 2

Following on from the London Coffee Festival Write Up - Part 1

The UK Barista Championships (UKBC) were fascinating to watch and it would have been very easy to sink the whole weekend into this alone. 

Well organised, with a good audio visual set up, crowds watched the barista contestants create espresso, a milk based drink and a speciality drink. These drinks were then presented to a range of technical and taste judges. 

It felt somewhere between Masterchef and the DMC’s in terms of excitement, creativity and tension. The event drew a strong audience throughout the day and I'm sure throughout the rest of the weekend. 

James Bailey in action

I particularly enjoyed watching James Bailey from Prufrock who went on to take 2nd place in the UKBC 2012 and win the Brewer's cup. He also claimed best espresso and best speciality drink. Well done James. 

For lunch I wandered the food hall and literally followed my nose. It took me to Wallahwallah, who were swerving Indian inspired street food. There were two types of curry wraps on offer; I opted for the chicken and enjoyed watching it being constructed; a meticulous process. 

Along with the curry core; on went a couple of sauces; on went pickled beetroot; various pulses, seeds and puffed grains. 

It looked a treat before it was all firmly wrapped in a flat bread and devoured by me. It was a good value, large, tasty lunch. If you see these guys at a market near you then I thoroughly recommend.

Near the end of the day I attended a session in The Lab on espresso style coffee making, but no one turned up. This lead me to have a unique opportunity, a one on one session with Vic Frankowski of Dunne-Frankowski café ( over at the Cimbali stand. 

Vic showing the ropes.

We went through tuning the grinder, testing the shots, dosing the portafilter, tamping it down, making a shot of espresso and finally making a latte. It was a fantastic demonstration of the subtitles of coffee making. 

Using the same machine, same grinder, same beans and under expert tuition throughout Vic's coffee still blew mine away. I walked away with his in my hand, not mine, but having said that for a first go, it wasn't that bad.

Half drunk Latte. I made this!

I had a chance to conduct a couple of interviews on the day which will be posted on the blog in the near future. I caught up with Callum Hale Thomson the Young Barrista and thoroughly nice chap who filled me in with his thoughts on brewing, competing & making the best coffee in his household.

I also spoke to the enthusiastic and day brightening Lauren Morris, Programme manager for UK Coffee Week, we spoke a bit about the purpose of the week, what they had been doing and what Project Waterfall , the charity linked to the event, was all about. 

In summary "It aims to raise more than £1 million to deliver safe drinking water and sanitation projects for up to 100,000 people, specifically in Africa." A worthy course to support.

Edmund Buston with his signature martini.

The artisan café was a double bar set up, providing a rolling roster of top baristas. On the day I enjoyed drinks from many baristas including Allpress Espresso, a delicious and potent coffee martini from Edmund Buston from Clifton Coffee and a good old double mac from Alan Tomlins from the Small Batch Coffee Company

There really was a wealth of talent floating about and making great coffee all day.

Alan from Small Batch Coffee.

The festival seemed to be more lively this year with a greater degree of interactivity on the stalls. It was a great chance to meet people from all over the world of coffee including; growers, big chain representatives, manufactures, inventors, independent cafe owners, roasters and champion baristas. 

I drank a staggering amount of coffee which was almost without exception fantastic to taste. 

Aside from Lizzie of Ozone Coffee noting everyone was "really wired" by 4.30 and watching Keith from Union almost blew up a syphon with a panicked "Quick stand back" barked to the customer, my stand out part of the festival have to be Jeremy from UNION’s talk on roasting and the tutelage for Vic Frankowski. 

Two sessions that taught me a whole lot about the drink I love.

If you enjoy coffee and find yourself getting excited about how it is made, the kit, the raw ingredients & also enjoy the experience of wondering through markets then this event is perfect for you. 

Each year a proportion of the ticket price goes to support UK Coffee Week and Project Waterfall so you are doing something good just by turning up. 

For more information about this event please visit Hope to see you there next year.

If you like Damn Fine Joe's thoughts on coffee then please Like us on facebook: or follow on Twitter @damnfinejoe

Monday, 21 May 2012

Dark Fluid Coffee, Brockley Market, Brockley, South London, UK

I first stumbled across Dark Fluid at the Brighton Food Festival and after some ex-Monmouth Coffee recognition & conversation I was treated to a lovely black Americano.  

Roll forward a bit and I'm in Brockely Market on a wet Saturday morning in May. I've heard that they are here and they are indeed, tucked into the corner with a subtly branded stall, serving coffee and selling beans.

The market is what we have come to expect from a city market, offering a good mix of produce and food to eat on the hoof. It started to rain so sadly we didn't get to explore in depth but it seemed like a good spread and I particularly liked the central benches for gorging and resting.  

As well as purchasing a bit of seasonal asparagus I sampled some outrageous honey roasted ham, now that was worth a revisit alone.

After a bit of banta with the baristas and a quick chat on how the little one wanted her bambinoccino we traversed the long but quick moving queue and waited to one side. The coffee arrived shortly after.

They had a good system of service on the stall and the baristas seemed genuinely into what they were doing even in the rain and early on a Saturday. 

The black americano looked good, it had a creamy light layer of crema and gave off a good strong aroma in the cold air. It had a great kick, it was a strong coffee but not overly bitter to taste. It was quite sweet and this was balanced against a good cheewy nuttiness. 

The coffee was clean and smooth throughout.

  • Black Americano, take away
  • £2.00
  • Strong
  • Sweet and nutty flavour
  • Fine but thick crema
  • Small size - 8oz
  • Beans: Dark Fluid

Great tasting coffee, served up well; sweet, nutty, strong, hot Joe.

Brockley Market is every Saturday.


Friday, 18 May 2012

London Coffee Festival Write Up - Part 1

On Friday the 27th April 2012 I attended the London Coffee Festival trade day. Arriving in Brick Lane at 10.30 on a dreary drizzling day the next 7 hours would be a jubilant journey through the world of coffee and café culture. 

I knew I had to have a plan in place as things could go quickly awry as the caffeine levels racked up. Taking my timetable I sat in the fake lawn of the Picnic area and carefully marked out what I wanted to see and do. This initial plan lasted just under an hour.

As in previous festivals the show was broken into 3 main areas; Hyde Park, Soho and Shoreditch. Hyde park contained some of the bigger stands including the lawn, the tea and chocolate sellers and the live music stage. 

Shoreditch contained the food area along with a mix of coffee, food and beverage stalls as well as the Lab area. Soho contained more stalls along with the true Artisan Café which had a rolling staff of baristas through the weekend. 

Like last year, UK Coffee Week take up an area dubbed “The Growing Community” between Hyde and Shoreditch. Here you can learn about the process of growing coffee and about the communities that do.  

This year there was a fifth area; the Showroom, which along with a few stands mainly played host to the UK Barista Championships.

After a quick look round I kicked things off with a lecture & demonstration by UNION’s Jeremy Torz. Jeremy is Director of & roast master at UNION and he gave a quite fascinating talk all about the art of roasting. 

Using a mini roaster to demonstrate, and taking beans all the way through the process he explained many of the subtleties of the art along the way. 

He showed us how smell, sight and sound are all  used to get the perfect roast. The talk finished with a short round of tasting and a discussion on how to compare the different coffees  on offer.

This talk was part of the VIP experience which punters were supposed to book out slots on. The reality was people just turned up and joined in, the whole concept of slots and special passes seemed to fall to the wayside once the day got going. 

Other “experiences” included Ethiopian coffee tasting from Grumpy Mule and their suppliers. This included the sampling of a solar kiln dried coffee which had the unbelievable taste compared to the same bean dried with another method. 

Another enjoyable session was the Brewers & Union Beer tasting; the unpasterised beers were a taste revelation and well worth a purchase.

The Make Decent Coffee team were showing people step by step how to use all the common house hold coffee tools such as the Aero-Press, V60 & the Chemex.

The most disappointing was an over subscribed “sensory experience” session with Cart Noir. They had run a number of focus tests using music, aromas, colours and materials to make the perfect drinking environment. Some of it was common sense (death metal is bad) but other aspects were quite insightful.

The use of added aromas to manipulate the customer was starting to tip over to the more sinister side of selling but the biggest issue was what they were serving.  

No matter if you have jazz tooting out of the speaker, silk pillows scattered across dark leather sofas, creamy drapes, a wood finish, and the smell of strawberries in the air. If you are serving Cart Noir rather than real fresh coffee then  your coffee is still going to taste bad. Sorry Cart Noir.

Of the many stalls there were a few products that caught my eye and some I hope to return to at a later date in separate reviews. 

These included a number of travel solutions for drinking decent coffee, the most interesting ones being the Growers Cup Coffeebrewer, an all in one travel filter bag that made a solid brew. 

Then there was the Handpresso Wild ESE Portable Espresso Machine, essentially a bike pump come coffee maker. The pump is used to make the pressure and off you go, the shot I had was smooth and sweet. 

Can the take away coffee lid be improved? Progressive Supplies seem to think so with their FoamAroma® lid, they promise less spill and a better drinking experience. I have a bunch of lids on which to test (not with scalding fluid) so I will let you know how it goes.

A little coffee plant.

I don't normally cover non coffee drinks but Orzo Coffee's substitute tickled my fancy. Roasted Barley, ground and prepared in a cafetiere is a an interesting, naturally caffeine free alternative. It is the norm in Italy and perhaps it is something that will catch on over here. 

These are just some of the items seen on my visit to the show and the dizzying array of stalls on offer. I didn't have time to check out many of the food, tea and chocolate stalls that were also exhibiting but there was only so much time.

More to follow in part 2 including the UKBC's and further exciting coffee experiences.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Rwanda Buf Cafe, Ozone Coffee Roasters, UK

The Rwanda Buf Café coffee crop is gathered from the Buf Café co-operative plus a large amount of small holders in the Bufundu area. 

It is a coffee with a great story behind it, that of owner Epiphanie Mukashyaka. She was made a widow during the terrible time of the Rwandan genocide but rather than leaving, Epiphaine made the decision to stay on her small family coffee farm. 

Back in 2000 with a loan from  the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the PEARL programme she set up Buf Café and through much hard work she has turned it into a thriving business. A true African success story.

The coffee variety being used here is the Red Bourbon. The beans have a dark green brown colour and have a light pockmarked skin which I found reminiscent of the face of the actor Robert Davi (the markings not the colour). 

The aroma of the whole bean is rich and strong with a deepness overlayed with clear tones of citrus fruit and accompanying acidity.

Little bits of dried out fruit left on the beans created a woody looking set of grounds, the dark beans when ground were highlighted with flecks of the whitish flesh. 

As the water bloomed the grounds, a rich and strong aroma was divulged which contained some clear tones of citrus type fruits.

The initial gulp has plenty of zing and a good strong bosh of flavour. The gently sour citrus notes gave it the zing. The bosh came from the rich golden tasting rounded body. 

This couplet of flavour worked in harmony on the pallet as the sharpness twanged the roof of the mouth and the deeper, rounded & grounded flavour filled and coated everywhere else. 

Although slightly darker than some medium roasts it stayed on the right side whilst benefiting from some of the deeper flavours. 

The Rwanda  Buf Café developed clarity in its smooth citrus flavours, as sweetened lemons and unripe peach came through. These sharp notes it held right the way through to the finish.

  • Region:                Bufundu, Nyamagabe district, Southern Province
  • Farm, CoOp:      Buf Café & smallholders
  • Variety:              100% Red Bourbon
  • Process:              Fully washed & sun-dried on raised beds
  • Elevation:          1600-1950m
  • Roast:                  Medium

The Rwanda Buf Cafe is a well bodied cup of sharp citrus fruit and sweetness with a nice rounded golden flavour underlying the proceedings. The balance of tastes make this a great introduction to the sharper coffees.

How do we taste it? Go here. 

Supplier: Ozone Coffee Roasters