Friday, 29 June 2012

St. David Coffee House, Forest Hill, South London, UK

Nearly a year ago I attempted to go to this café in Forest Hill, South London and found they were off on holiday. I was sad as I had heard great things and I vowed to return but was it worth the wait?

The sun was pouring through into the front of the café, it contained a small but light and open seated area here. The café becomes more dense as you made your way to the back with a great ramshackle collection of furniture and ornaments including a fine collection of vinyl.

There was a good array of cake and treats on offer alongside the coffee as one would expect. The friendly staff attended to me right away and soon I was back outside in the sunshine with my coffee.

My initial sip disappointed a little as it came across as quite watery but a few gulps later things had markedly improved. Although still lacking in explosive strength some lovely distinct flavours asserted themselves.

It was a lightly citrus cup with a gentle nuttiness filling out the middle tones. The acidity and natural sweetness gave it an almost sweet and sour sensation. Clean and crisp on the finish it left a pleasant cherry after taste ringing in my mouth.

  • Black Americano, take away
  • £2.00
  • Low strength
  • Small size
  • A little citrus, a little nuttiness
  • Trace of fine crema
  • Beans: Square mile
  • Machine: RancilioClasse 10 S
  • Grinder: Anfim
A great looking little coffee house with friendly service. A very nice coffee with light fruit sweet and citric flavours. Could be a little stronger.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Boulangerie Bon Matin, Finsbury Park, North London, UK

After visiting the excellent Vagabond in the morning, on the way back I spied Boulangerie Bon Matin. A traditional French style patisserie. The cakes in the window and the attractive sign had me quite excited, this could be the taste of France; delicate pastries with expertly brewed coffee.

I think I’m starting to gain a sixth sense on whether a place will be good or bad and as soon as I walked through the door my spider sense was tingling. Something about the atmosphere gave me a warning, the air didn't have enough coffee in it.

The decor was nice enough, white tiles, bare brick work, industrial style lighting, wood floors and a good amount of art all felt right but a little cold perhaps. The cakes had me drooling, just look at those lovelies.

As I watched the barista rather absently make the coffee I knew it would be poor. It was a big old take away cup which for a regular coffee I knew was going to weaken things so when I received my truly American cup of joe I was not surprised with the taste.

Watery and weak, overly bitter but with some redeeming sweetness and a dry tannin finish. I've read a few other reviews which praised the coffee so perhaps I was just unlucky this time and got a large over espressed serving.

In their favour the cakes did look great and had I not been a good boy I would have sampled one and let you know.

  • Regular Black Americano, take away
  • £2.50
  • Weak
  • Large size
  • Overly bitter with some sweetness.
  • Frothy crema

Not a good coffee, it tasted like a chain cup. Stick to the cakes.

Twitter: @B_BonMatin

Monday, 18 June 2012

Interview - Lauren Morris, Programme Manager for UK Coffee Week

At this years London Coffee Festival I had a chance to catch up with Lauren Morris the programme manager for UK Coffee Week to discuss the event and what it was all in aid of.
Joe: Hello. Who are you then?
Lauren:  Hi, I’m Lauren Morris the programme manager for UKCoffee Week, which is managed by the Allegra Foundation. UK Coffee Week is an annual national week long celebration of coffee, uniting coffee lovers and the coffee industry to raise money for Project Waterfall which funds clean water projects in African coffee-producing countries.

Joe: Why are you here today?
Lauren: The London Coffee Festival is UK Coffee Week’s flagship event. The Growing Community area within the is festival is run by the Allegra Foundation. 

Here we want to raise awareness of Project Waterfall and the need for water in coffee-growing countries. We are also we doing some fundraising and have lots of fantastic raffle prizes and demonstrations, cuppings and interesting talks. 

Joe: During UK Coffee Week what else has been going on?
Lauren: So throughout the week, the main mechanism is inviting coffee chains and independents to ask their customers to donate just five pence from every cup of coffee that they buy throughout the week. So many people in the UK love coffee – there is an enormous audience that we can reach out to and raise money for the cause.

Often it’s the coffee growing countries that don’t have access to clean water. We are working with WaterAid to deliver a project in the coffee-growing country of Tanzania, which WaterAid identified as having one of the greatest needs.   

We’ve had fundraising events throughout the week, held by coffee shops across the country. Cuppings, music events, and coffee talks are raising money and awareness, and then to complete the week there is the London Coffee Festival.

We launched a new fundraiser this year, called “Coffee at Work”.  This brings UK Coffee Week in workplaces. A lot of people drink coffee and tea at work which fuels their days – we wanted to expand our reach to his audience and give the opportunity for people to give back to those coffee communities that don’t have such luxuries.  

We also had a sponsored walk that took place on 15th April for Project Waterfall. The Big Challenge is a 10K sponsored walk along the River Thames. It started off outside the Mayor’s office and is a big loop. Half way along the walk participants had to pick up, up to 10 litres of water and then carry it to the finish line. 

This walk is symbolic of the daily task of fetching water in the area we are raising money for, in Tanzania.  Fetching water is predominately done by women and children who have to travel for up to two hours a day carrying up to twenty litres- double the amount we were carrying - and they may have to do that more than once a day.    

Joe: So in summary what is Project Waterfall exactly?
Lauren: Project Waterfall is raising money for clean water projects in coffee growing countries and it is a moveable feast. At the moment it is funding a 3 year project in Tanzania in partnership with our service delivery partner WaterAid which is now in the second year. 100% of consumer donations go to Project Waterfall which goes directly to Tanzania.

Joe: Is this a world wide initiative?
Lauren: For this first 3 years we are funding a clean water project in Tanzania but once we have fulfilled this agreement we will find another worthy project.

Joe: Why is it important?
Lauren: Water is the most basic human necessity.  Without clean water, people get ill, can die and miss out on school or work.  Without water, communities cannot develop and improve.  More people die from water diseases than malaria, HIV and TB combined and something can be done to improve the situation.  

The water is there, it just needs to be extracted, which is where the wells and pumps come in.  UK Coffee Week is a way of raising awareness and asking people for a small donation to give something back and allows people to make a big difference.

Joe: What is the practical aid? What does the money go towards?
Lauren: The money is going to Nbulu District which is in Northern Tanzania. There we work with WaterAid who are our service delivery partner. So far we have helped over 3,638 people through building wells and water pumps and training the villagers on how to use and maintain them.  

Every 6 months we get a report on project progress, and we keep the website updated with news and send regular newsletters, so supporters can see how their donations are being spent.

Joe: How did you get involved?
Lauren: I was online one day and came across UK Coffee Week and thought it was a great idea. I got in touch with the Allegra Foundation to see if there were any positions available and here we are.

Joe: What coffee do you like to drink?
Lauren: <laughing> ooh I like Tanzanian coffee me. Well I like a variety of coffee and I do love the little independent coffee shops and London has plenty of those. I went recently to Caravan and their coffee is out of this world. Having brunch at St Ali (Now Workshop Coffee Co.) is to die for.

Joe: And how do you take it?
Lauren: I do like a flat white. However I have been around a lot of coffee experts recently and doing a lot of cuppings and found the serious coffee drinkers have it black but I’m a little way off from that now.

Joe: How can people get involved?
Lauren: There are lots of ways. Coming down to the festival helps as 50% of the ticket sales go to Project Waterfall. Other ways to support the cause are to donate, either online or via text and visit a coffee shop participating in UK Coffee Week.  Many people have suggested their local coffee shop to get involved this year, some getting them signed up on our behalf which is a fantastic way to support us.  

There are a host of events happening across the country which are all fundraising for the cause and well worth a visit.   The best way to find out more is to sign up to our newsletter via the website. 

Joe: After this week has finished the work continues?
Lauren: Absolutely, now we start planning for next year and talking to the industry on how they can be involved. We are going to start working on putting on a variety of new events to keep the momentum going into year 3.

Thanks to Lauren for taking the time to speak on such a busy day. If you think Project Waterfall is a worthwhile cause and next year you would like to get involved then please support UK Coffee Week. Check out the links below for more information about the project and affiliates.

Next week I will be reviewing a Tanzanian single origin coffee from the Small Batch Coffee Company. If you want to see why Tanzania is important for coffee you can buy a little and have a taste.

Twitter: @UKCoffeeWeek

Friday, 15 June 2012

Ciclista Espresso Blend, Terrone & Co.

The second review of Terrone & Co. offers an espresso blend made entirely of quality single origin Arabica beans. The Ciclista blend I believe translates as the cyclists blend and has been doing a good job of propping me up before a run. 

On opening I was rewarded with the sight of healthy looking medium roasted beans which carried a fruity acidity on the nose. In the grind those aromas were further propagated releasing a lovely zesty, flowery scent. My grinder smelled remarkably like sweet lemons by the end.

When stirring the brew a good thick crema arose, a  little even got through the aero press filter. I was left with an oily, fruity espresso which continued to exude sweet sticky notes. 

The first sip provided a real burst of flavour. Waxy citrus fruits with a tart after taste dominated proceedings. 

As the drink began to mellow one could appreciate a little more complexity in the flavour, citrus fruit remained but supported with some richer, deeper tones. The natural sweet fruit flavours stuck cleanly on till the finish.

  • Region:             Blend - See below
  • Farm, CoOp:    Blend - See below
  • Process:            Blend - See below
  • Elevation:         Blend - See below
  • Certification:   Blend - See below
  • Roast:                Medium
  • Roaster:            "Vittoria" 1950's Italian roaster


45% Santo Domingo Carmen AA fFq & C. lot 82
  • Variety: Arabica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Elevation: Low, island coffee

20% Brazil Peregamino sul del Minas
  • Variety: Arabica
  • Minas state
  • Process: Ripe cherries, hand picked, depulped, sun dried for days
  • Elevation: 800-900

20% Mexico Altura Marago La Concordia
  • Variety: Arabica
  • Vera CruzMexico
  • Elevation: 800-1000
  • Altura -  high altitude, Marago - large bean cultivation, La Concordia -  harmony

15% Sumatra Lingtong Raja Batak
  • Variety: Arabica
  • North Sumatra, west of lake Toba
  • Process: Semi washed, hand pulped
  • Elevation: 1000-1600
  • Raja Batak means ‘King of Batak’ - Batak are the ethnic groups in the area

A sweet citrus fruit espresso blend with a developing complexity. Ideal for someone looking for something a little fresher in their shot.

How do we taste it? Go here. 

Supplier: Terrone & Co.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Vagabond, Finsbury Park, North London

I don't really venture North that much but today I had a photo shoot at the London School of Capoeira in Finsbury Park. Having left early and bereft of coffee I was on the hunt for some joe and stumbled upon Vagabond along the route.

On stepping inside the cosy and warmly lit interior the fantastic smell of fresh coffee (brewed and just ground) hits you. The cafe has what it needs for a good experience, cakes, robust wooden tables and plenty of coffee.

It was refreshing to see coffee on sale and in use from a number of independent roasters including Nude Espresso, Has Bean and Square Mile. To me this meant they were getting the best coffee for the job and keeping a rolling menu for the single origin filter lovers out there. Top marks for that.

The coffee has a good dark layer of crema and had a beautifully rich aroma with subtle tones of cocoa. The taste was rounded, strong but not overbearing. 

The chocolatey aroma carried through into the flavour and a gentle cherry tartness developed alongside this without being too acidic. It was a little muddied and unclear at times but proceedings finished with a sweet lick of cherry.

Another winning factor in favour of this tasty little cafe were the take away cups being biodegradable from Planet Harmony

  • Black Americano, take away
  • £2.00
  • Strong
  • Small 8oz
  • Hints of coco and a mild cherry tartness
  • Thick dark crema
  • Beans: Nude Espresso - But serve other beans for other drinks e.g. Has Bean
  • Machine: La Marzocco Linea 
  • Grinder: Mazzer, Mahlkonig

A very good coffee with broad appeal served with care from a cosy coffee house.

Friday, 8 June 2012

notes, Trafalgar Square, Central London, UK

On a particularly wet London day I made my way out of Charring Cross tube and moved up from the exit by the majestic Trafalgar Square to one of the two notes coffee shops (the other being in Covent garden). 

notes is unique; not in that it sells music, films and wine but it does so alongside a dedication to making brilliant coffee. Don't let the tourist heavy location or the spread of focus fool you, this is a true house of coffee. 

With a busy cafe in the midst of the lunch time rush the baristas seemed calm and on top of the proceedings as Jazz tootled out of the speakers and bounced around the nicely lit cream interior. The coffee came quickly and with a polite but not stuffy transaction. 

Checking out out my Long Black I found there was a light bubbly layer of crema and a good oily layer on top. The aroma was pleasantly rounded with a little citric fruit to tickle the nasal passages. 

It was a punchy fruity cup of coffee with strong hints of plumbs and stone fruit to savour. It had surprisingly little acidity and the citric notes that did exist were well balanced with the honeyed sweetness. The fruit perhaps soured a little in the middle and the flavour developed a dryer tone at this point.

The drink was clean and crisp throughout without being sharp or bitter and with a pleasant fruity finish.

  • Long Black, take away
  • £2.40
  • Medium strength
  • Lots of fruit, clean & sweet
  • Light bubbly crema
  • Small size
  • Beans: Square Mile
  • Machine: La Marzocco’s - La Strada

A playful and light coffee that really sings. Well put together by a team that knows their craft.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Terrone espresso blend, Terrone & Co.

Established in 2011, Terrone & Co. is a unique two man company, with the roaster based in Southern Italy and the trader based in West London. 

Yes with Terrone you to can have real Italian style roasted beans for breakfast, a taste of holiday. They have kindly supplied a couple of sample blends to review and enjoy at Damn fine Joe. 

First up is the Terrone Espresso blend, a complicated make up of 5 different coffee's, 3 Arabica and 2 Robusta with the lion's share being a Brazil Caerrado Dulce. 

They roast the beans in a 1950's "Vittoria" Italian roaster all in small batches. For this blend they roast the beans separately then bring them together using a traditional recipe.

Terrone supply their coffee's with some well designed tasting notes which include technical brewing suggestions, plus a badge, which always wins me over.

On opening the black foil sealed bag I was greeted by a strong aroma. There was liquorice and chocolate, a little acidity and even notes of tobacco. 

These were oily beans, the sheen glistened under the lights. Some of the beans in the blend were incredibly large and their colour was a beautiful dark brown, quite dark for a medium.

On brewing the crema was bubbly and a yellow gold colour and the aroma lost some of its darker characteristics and gave off more floral ones. 

The first few sips met with a good rounded body, a full flavour which expanded to fill the mouth. This coffee had some meaty flavours but was not found to be overpowering and was generally low in acidity. 

Bitter chocolate and a good sweetness with some flowery notes were all there through the heart of this cup.

The finish was still sweet and slightly creamy with a fragrant, pleasant bitter taste that was left on the pallet long after the drink was gone.

  • Region:             Blend - See below
  • Farm, CoOp:    Blend - See below
  • Process:            Blend - See below
  • Elevation:         Blend - See below
  • Certification:   Blend - See below
  • Roast:                Medium
  • Roaster:            "Vittoria" 1950's Italian roaster

50% Brazil Cerrado Dulce -
  • Variety: Arabica 
  • Cerrado region
  • Source likely to be Cooperativa de Caficultores e Agropecuarists
  • Rainforest Alliance certification (if above)

10% Nicaragua Matagalpa Cavallino -
  • Variety: Arabica  
  • Matagalpa highlands
  • Process: Likely wet processed

10% Ethiopia sidamo Grade 2 Washed -
  • Variety: Arabica  
  • Sidamo region
  • Ethiopia Coffee Exchange means beans are lumped together and graded rather than marked from a particular farm or district.
  • Grade 2 is a high quality grade 
  • Process: Washed

20% Java Blue Bromo -
  • Variety: Robusta
  • Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

10% India Parchment Kappi Royal AAA Washed -
  • Variety: Robusta
  • The AAA is a grading
  • Process: Washed

A well rounded coffee blend with strong chocolate notes, a little sweetness and a full body providing plenty of flavour to get the tongue round.

How do we taste it? Go here. 

Supplier: Terrone & Co.