Improving Airline Coffee, Part II

An espresso from the British Airways north lounge in Heathrow's Terminal 5, made using coffee from Union Hand-roasted.Airline coffee has a pretty bad (and, frankly, often well-deserved) reputation, but around the industry, steps are being taken to rectify this, with British Airways and Union Hand-roasted leading the way. The two have teamed up to provide Union coffee at British Airways’ UK lounges and, on long-haul flights, in the First Class and Club World cabins. Last month, I flew to Tokyo and back in Club World, giving me a chance to sample the coffee both on the ground and in the air.

I wrote up my experiences of the coffee on my way out to Tokyo and, on the back of that article, got an invitation from Geoff Cliff, the man at Union responsible for the day-to-day management of the British Airways account. A week after I returned, I popped over to Union’s East London roastery, where Geoff and I talked about the considerable undertaking of providing not just coffee, but also the training that goes with it, across the entire British Airways long-haul fleet.

Today’s Saturday Supplement is a follow-up to my original piece, where you can discover what I made of the coffee on the way back from Tokyo and what I learnt from meeting Geoff.

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Woof Coffee

My espresso, a single-origin Honduras from Clifton Coffee Roasters, served in an over-sized yellow up on a blue saucer, with a bite-sized piece of chocolate brownie at Woof Coffee in Teddington.I came across Woof Coffee in October 2016, receiving an e-mail invitation to a party to celebrate its official opening. Sadly I couldn’t make it (the party was the day I arrived back from my first, and so far only, around the world trip) but I duly stuck a star on it in Google Maps and made a note to visit. Fast forward 22 months and I took a small excursion to southwest London that saw me call in on Beanberry Coffee in Kingston and The Press Room in Twickenham. And conveniently half way between the two (sort of) in Teddington, there’s Woof Coffee.

Woof has a simple, espresso-based coffee menu with the ubiquitous Redchurch blend from Allpress acting as the house blend, with a different guest roaster every month. Woof buys in a number of single-origins/blends, which are available as retail bags, with a different option as the guest espresso every day. If coffee’s not your thing, then Woof has plenty of tea, working with a local tea merchant who sources a range of loose-leaf tea exclusive to Woof. Finally, there’s food, with a simple all-day breakfast/lunch menu backed up by five sandwiches, all of which can be toasted.

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Firecreek Coffee Company

A Kenya AA in a diner-style mug, made with the Bonavita Dripper at Firecreek Coffee Company in Flagstaff, AZ.I came to Flagstaff in search of mountains, forests, canyons and deserts, but not expecting much in the way of good coffee. However, the one place that pretty much everyone recommended was Firecreek Coffee Company, right in the centre of town on the Historic Route 66, almost directly across from the train station (which now doubles as the tourist centre).

I’ve already written about Firecreek’s roastery, 111 Roasting Works, which is a few blocks to the south. When I visited, it operated as a tasting room on weekday mornings. Sadly I’ve just learnt that 111 Roasting Works has finished its coffee service, but the good news is that Firecreek, which opened in 2015, is still going strong, serving excellent espresso and filter coffee, plus a range of tea, from the Donahue Building, one of Flagstaff’s oldest, dating from 1888.

There’s an excellent breakfast menu, which is supplemented by a wide range of very tasty-looking (and indeed tasty) cakes. These are all served in the large, spacious front portion of Firecreek, while there’s a second area to the rear, which serves as theatre, function room, bar and overspill seating area. You can also sit out front at one of two tables.

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Beanberry Coffee

My single-origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a washed coffee from the Negele Gorbitu co-operative, roasted and served by Beanberry Coffee in an over-sized cup on a wooden tray, a glass of water on the side.I first came across Beanberry, a Woking-based roaster which specialises in organic coffee, when I visited G!RO Cycles in Esher in 2015. We then met in person at the 2017 London Coffee Festival, where I learnt about Beanberry’s then relatively new coffee shop in Kingston upon Thames, an area crying out for good coffee. Fast forward around 15 months, and I finally managed to get to Kingston, a curious mix of historic buildings and ugly concrete on the banks of the River Thames in west London.

If you’re in Kingston, Beanberry is as close as you’ll get to a must-visit when it comes to coffee. The shop itself is surprisingly large, particularly given the relatively small shop front, and it has one of the most impressive ranges of beans I’ve seen in a while. There are four options on espresso, including a house blend (Javascript), a seasonal blend (Wildcat), a single-origin and a decaf. When it comes to pour-over, through Chemex, Zero and Aeropress, there’s even more choice, with another blend (8AM Blues) and space on the board for six single-origins.

If you’re hungry, the breakfast/lunch menu is heavy on the bread/toast options, backed up by a decent cake selection.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Returning from Tokyo Haneda

The nose of one British Airways Boeing 777-300 looks very like another. This one is taking me back from Tokyo Haneda to London Heathrow, seen here on the stand at Haneda.Last week I wrote about my flight from Manchester to Tokyo’s Haneda airport via Heathrow. This week it’s the turn of my flight back, on Friday, 27th July, two weeks to the day after I flew out. As I mentioned in the previous Travel Spot, Tokyo has two international airports, Haneda and Narita, with British Airways having one flight per day to each. It’s perfectly possible, by the way, to fly into one airport and out of the other, but, as with my flights over, price dictated that I flew both into and out of Haneda.

This left me on the 08:50 flight from Haneda, an entirely unreasonable time to be at an airport, let alone to be taking off from one. Since we were heading west, this was a daytime flight, scheduled to arrive at Heathrow at 13:10 local time on the same day, 12 hours and 20 minutes later. From there I had a connecting flight to Manchester at 16:00, touching down in at 17:05, a mere 16 hours after I set off.

However, before any of that could happen, I had to get to the airport from my hotel in Nishi Azabu.

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Ropes & Twines

A Colombian single-origin espresso extracting on a Mavam espresso system at Ropes & Twines in Liverpool.Liverpool’s Bold Street is no stranger to great coffee, with the eponymous Bold Street Coffee leading the way for many years. More recently, it’s been joined by a host of others, including, on nearby Wood Street, Mother Espresso, and now, on Bold Street itself, Ropes & Twines, which describes itself as a “Coffee and Wine Room”. Perhaps taking the lead from the likes of Filter + Fox, Ropes & Twines offers coffee and wine in a high-class setting, including a rather awesome set of cellar rooms, along with sandwiches, cakes and charcuterie (the only other coffee shop I can think of offering coffee, wine and charcuterie is London’s Fernandez & Wells).

When it comes to the coffee, there are two single-origins, one on espresso, one on pour-over, both roasted for Ropes & Twines by Maude Coffee in Leeds. In keeping with the elegance of the setting, Ropes & Twines has dispensed with the usual bulk of the espresso machine, instead going with what I believe is the UK’s first Mavam espresso system outside of London. This modular system hides the boilers and pumps out of the way, just leaving the group heads and steam wands rising above the counter.

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Black Gold

A flat white, served in a classic black cup, at Amsterdam's Black Gold.I didn’t have very long to explore Amsterdam’s speciality coffee scene when I visited the city for the World of Coffee in June, but I noticed that the majority of places are outside of the centre, often to the south or west. In contrast, Black Gold, on a quiet, residential street, is just a short walk east of the red light district, making it one of the more easily-accessible speciality coffee shops for those on a more traditional tourist itinerary.

Black Gold is both a coffee shop and vinyl record shop, part of a small band of such establishments around the world. The front is given over the vinyl, although there is some seating and you are welcome to sit there with your coffee. Alternatively, there are a few more seats in the spacious rear of the shop. When it comes to coffee, Black Gold uses local roasters White Label Coffee, with a single-origin on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster. There are also three single-origins on filter through V60, Aeropress, cafetiere and batch-brew, with the same single-origin guest espresso also available as one of the filter options, an innovation which only started in June.

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Craving Coffee

The Craving Coffee logo, from the wall of the coffee shop in Tottenham.Craving Coffee celebrates its fourth birthday this year, a pioneering outpost of speciality coffee in northeast London, which is not somewhere I venture very often. While Craving Coffee has been on my list for a while, I am indebted (again!) to my friend, Daniel Stevens, who gave me the excuse to visit. A café, bar, community hub and evening social, Craving Coffee is also an art gallery, where different artists exhibit each month. And this month (August), exhibiting for the first time, is Daniel, who held his launch party on Friday, the excuse I finally needed to drag myself out to Tottenham and visit Craving Coffee.

When it comes to coffee, Craving Coffee uses Climpson and Sons, with the Baron blend on espresso, plus decaf and (usually) a single-origin on pour-over through the V60. During the day, there’s an extensive menu, including breakfast, lunch and cake, with all the meals cooked in the open kitchen behind the counter. This closes at 4pm, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, it re-opens in the evening as Craving Coffee hosts a different pop-up each week as the Tottenham Social. Finally, Craving Coffee is fully licenced, with a three-page menu feature beer, cider, wine and spirits.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to Tokyo Haneda

My British Airways Boeing 777-300 on the stand at Heathrow Terminal 5, ready to take me to Tokyo Haneda.This is my second trip to Tokyo, the first one being in April last year when I made a rather hastily cobbled together visit. This year, despite having had less notice (I only found out I was going at the start of June and only had confirmation four weeks before I flew on July 13th), I managed to do a little bit more planning, although the end result was a much less ambitious trip, where I stayed in Tokyo for the two weeks I was there.

Both times I flew with British Airways, last time in economy (World Traveller) and this time, since I had the money in the travel budget, in business class (Club World). As I’ve been doing the last few times I’ve travelled, I flew to and from Manchester so that I could visit my 85 year old Dad before/after the trip. This meant taking the short hop down to Heathrow and catching a direct flight to Tokyo from there.

It was also the first time I’d flown with British Airways since it started serving Union Hand-roasted coffee in its lounges and in Club World and First Class cabins, giving me the chance to try it out.

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Mother Espresso

My 6oz with milk at Mother Espresso in Liverpool.Coffee shop chains are strange things. Sometimes places expand quickly, adding shop after shop, building a strong brand name. Other times, a second branch is only added after long, careful consideration. And sometimes, that second branch is so far removed in look and feel from the original that, until the barista tells you about the connection, you are completely clueless.

So it is with Mother Espresso, the Liverpool outpost of Manchester’s finest, North Tea Power, which opened a mere eight years after its parent and is about as different as can be in terms of look and feel. In my defence, as soon as the barista told me, I remembered, having read about the opening at the end of 2017 on social media, but by the time I came to visit, I’d completely forgotten about the connection, the name “Mother Espresso” not exactly screaming “North Tea Power” at me.

Like its parent, Mother Espresso does many things, excelling at them all, from coffee through tea, craft beer, wine and cocktails to an impressive food menu. The coffee is from Has Bean, with a pair of single-origins on espresso (for milk and black drinks respectively), while there’s also pour-over and batch-brew.

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