As regular attendees to any sporting event will know, getting good quality coffee can be a bit of a struggle. However, over the past few years, the London cricket grounds of the Oval and, in particular, Lord’s, have been leading the way for Test matches. Sadly the rest of the grounds around the country haven’t followed suit, but at Lord’s good quality coffee has now become the norm rather than a pleasant surprise (or forlorn hope).
That said, there’s still a long way to go, although I’m pleased to report that in 2011 Lord’s took another massive step in the right direction when London coffee legends Kaffeine were invited to provide the coffee in the prestigious Harris Gardens behind the pavilion. I first came across them last year during the tours by the coffee-mad Kiwis and Aussies and was relieved to see that Kaffeine had been invited to return for this year’s visits by Sri Lanka and India, better known for their tea than their coffee.
I was fortunate to be at Lord’s for the first three days of the First Test Match (England vs Sri Lanka) and, following an invitation from Peter of Kaffeine, I had a behind-the-scenes tour on the third day (Saturday, 14th June).
You can find out how I got on after the gallery.
Before we start, a word about the regular coffee stalls at Lord’s. For the last few years, speciality coffee stalls have become the norm, serving espresso-based drinks to the cricket-loving crowds. On the whole, they serve good coffee, although it’s roasted on the dark side for palettes used to third-wave. However, quality can be variable, since you are reliant on the individual barista. The two main failings are poor (usually far too quick) extraction and badly-foamed milk.
The first coffee I had at Lord’s was disappointing, the second, from the same stall, but made by a different barista, far better. On the second and third days, I took JOCO Cup with me, partly for the day out and partly because I believe that coffee tastes better out of a proper (in this case glass) cup. It might have been psychological, but the coffee I had one the second day did taste better. On the third day, I switched coffee-stall allegiance and had two superbly-made lattes (by different baristas; check out the latte-art in the gallery).
Of course, once you’ve got a good barista, the limiting factor is always going to be the coffee. This is where it fell down in comparison to Kaffeine. Having completely forgotten that it was there on the first day (major coffee blogger fail!), I was reminded on twitter and sought Kaffeine out before the start of play on the second day.
Kaffeine serves a fairly standard espresso-based menu, plus iced-coffee, using Square Mile’s Red Brick blend (plus decaf), from the Harris Gardens, behind the pavilion at Lord’s. To get to Kaffeine, go through the gardens and turn left (there’s another counter to the right, but this doesn’t serve espresso-based drinks). Kaffeine’s open to the public until just after the start of play, when it goes over to serving coffee exclusively for the Harris Garden’s lunch customers (although you can still order the filter coffee from the other counter).
The flat whites I had were excellent, every bit as good as those I’ve had in-store. The difference compared to the coffee in the rest of the ground was immediately apparent, Red Brick’s sweetness cutting through the milk and providing a nice contrast to the more bitter offerings I’d been having.
Peter from Kaffeine got in touch during play on the second day and, when I turned up next morning, I was instantly recognised and whisked off for a behind-the-scenes tour. I hadn’t realised, but a big part of the operation is filter coffee, brewed in two big boilers (provided by Lord’s) and available on tap. To keep things simple, Kaffeine uses Red Brick for this, while to keep the coffee fresh, the brewers are run at half capacity.
The counter itself is a model of efficiency, with the two baristas, Bianca and Grace, working flat out for two hours before the start of play. Things quieten down a little before the lunch-time rush, then it’s back to the grindstone. Peter and I talked about Kaffeine doing more at Lord’s but, as ever, the issue is having the baristas available to staff any extra stalls. So, for now, you’ll have to be satisfied with your Kaffeine-fix before the start of play.
Kaffeine will be at Lord’s for all the major international matches of the summer, except the 20/20 games.
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