Lever & Bloom

My flat white in my Ecoffee Cup on a lovely patterned tile at Lever & Bloom.Lever & Bloom is a coffee cart on the corner of Byng Place in Bloomsbury, London, with the magnificent Church of Christ the King as its backdrop. Come rain or shine, Lever & Bloom is open throughout the year from eight to five, five days a week, serving top-quality espresso, the shots pulled on a lovely lever machine.

Lever & Bloom has been on my radar for a couple of years now, ever since it moved onto its new pitch in fact, but it wasn’t until yesterday, on my way to Euston Station, that I was able to actually stop by and say hello to Mounir, the owner. Serving Climpson and Sons’ Baron on espresso, there’s also decaf, a range of Birchall teas and a small selection of cakes, all made by Mounir’s wife. Needless to say, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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London Coffee Festival 2017: Kit & Cups

The Ottomatic automatic Chemex pour-over maker at this year's London Coffee FestivalWelcome to the second of my detailed write-ups from this year’s London Coffee Festival, where I cover individual aspects of the festival, ranging around subjects such as sustainability, my coffee experiences and the coffee itself. Conversely, if you want to know what I made of the festival as a whole, take a look at my festival round-up.

For previous London Coffee Festivals, I’ve dedicated entire write-ups to the subject of cups, particularly re-usable cups. I’ve also devoted entire write-ups to coffee-related kit, while last year, automatic filter machines got a post of their own. This year, however, the pickings have been a bit slimmer, not because there isn’t the kit around, but because a lot of it is stuff I’ve covered before.

I’ve therefore chosen to bring kit and cups together in one post for this year’s festival. There are innovations such as the automated milk steamer (there were two this year), another automated filter machine, a top-end hand-grinder, my favourite personal hobby horse, reusable cups, finishing with a quick round-up of what else I found at the festival.  As always, I never did get to see all the stands, so if I missed anything out, please accept my apologies.

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Luckie Beans, Glasgow Queen Street

Detail from the front of the Luckie Beans coffee cart on the concourse of Glasgow's Queen Street Station.When I ran into Jamie, owner of Luckie Beans, at the Glasgow Coffee Festival, I learnt all about the coffee cart which had opened, at rather short notice, the previous summer. Invited in by the management at Glasgow Queen Street Station, Jamie had all of two weeks to set everything up, including sourcing the cart and all the equipment.

The result is quite impressive and a welcome addition to the station. Although there are plenty of options nearby in Glasgow city centre, there’s nothing quite like having speciality coffee on the station concourse, especially if you’re waiting for a train.

The Luckie Beans cart serves a blend and single-origin on espresso, with the option to buy the beans. There are also various sweet treats and savoury offerings, including porridge and sandwiches. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a small seating area, perfect if you have a few minutes to spare.

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Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017 Part I

The Glasgow Coffee Festival LogoWelcome to the first of my detailed write-ups from the third Glasgow Coffee Festival, which took place earlier this month. The festival was last held in October 2015 and skipped 2016 while it was moved from the cold, autumn months to the warmth of a Glasgow spring. The first two Glasgow Coffee Festivals were one-day events, both of which sold out, so this year the festival expanded to two days, taking place over the weekend of 6th/7th May.

I had originally intended to attend both days, but a series of unfortunate events meant that I could only make it for the Sunday in the end. This meant that I was unable to see absolutely everything/everyone at the festival, missing out on the competitions and all of the presentations, masterclasses and cuppings (except the one I did!).

As I did last year, I’m going to split my report into two parts, although there’s no particular theme to either part, more of a random walk through who I met and what I got up to.  So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy Part I of my Glasgow Coffee Festival write up. If you’re interested, Part II should be out in two weeks’ time.

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London Coffee Festival 2017: Sustainability

It's milk all round at the London Coffee Festival in 2017. Top row, The Estate Dairy. Bottom row, Allan Reeder Ltd's Brades Farm barista milk.Welcome to the first of my detailed write-ups of this year’s London Coffee Festival. If you want to know what I made of the festival as a whole, take a look at my round-up. Here I’ll be covering individual aspects of the festival, such as kit & cups, my coffee experiences and the coffee itself. However, I’m going to kick things off with a look at something that I’ve not covered explicitly before: sustainability.

Of course, one small facet of sustainability is re-usable cups, which I have covered in previous years, and will look at again this year. I have even produced a page on the Coffee Spot, dedicated to re-usable cups. Today I want to look at two more small facets of sustainability. One is a company which is dedicated to a zero-waste approach to coffee and the other is milk.

You might not immediately think of milk under the category of “sustainability”, but I would argue that just as speciality coffee goes to great lengths to ensure coffee farming is a sustainable business, so it is with the UK dairy industry. While coffee can’t single-handedly save the dairy industry, it has a role to play.

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Japanese Coffee Cupping

The seven coffees which I brought back from Japan for a cupping at the Glasgow Coffee Festival.So there I was, minding my own business at the London Coffee Festival, when I ran into Lisa of Dear Green Coffee, organiser of the Glasgow Coffee Festival. Rather foolishly, I mentioned that I was flying to Japan that week, returning just in time for the festival. Well, said Lisa, in that case, why not bring back some Japanese coffee and we can have a cupping? Why not indeed…

Fast-forward two weeks and there I am in Tokyo, thinking that I really should get do something about my rather spur-of-the-moment agreement to Lisa’s proposal. Fortunately, I’d just embarked on a week’s travelling around Japan, so was able to pick up a rather eclectic mix of Japanese-roasted coffee.

Like my trip, there was no great planning involved in my purchasing, which might explain why I brought back with three Kenyans, two Ethiopians and a pair from Costa Rica. Typically I either bought something I’d tried (such as the Ethiopian I picked up from Kaido Books And Coffee) or I asked for recommendations. With hindsight, I rather wished I’d got some of the aged Kenyan coffee I had at Café de L’Ambre, but alas that thought only came to me five minutes ago…

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Weekender Coffee

A small notice on the floor at Weekenders Coffee in Kyoto tells you that you've come to the right place.Tucked away in the back of a car park (something it shares with the Acme Coffee Roasting Company, of Seaside, California), Weekenders Coffee is Kyoto’s hidden gem. It’s definitely in the “you don’t need to find my coffee shop do you?” school, typified by the original (and now closed) Flat Caps Coffee in Newcastle.

However, it would be a shame if you let any difficulty finding Weekenders put you off, since it really is a gem. Roasting all its own coffee, which it serves from a ground-floor counter in a beautiful, wooden building, there’s a choice of house-blend or single-origin on espresso, plus multiple single-origins on pour-over, all supplemented with a small collection of excellent cake. You can also buy the beans.

There’s seating, in the shape of a two-person bench at the front. Unusually for this sort of operation, proper cups are available for those who aren’t going anywhere.

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% Arabica, Fujii Daimaru

The % Arabica logo for the wall of the store in the Fujii Daimaru Department Store, Kyoto.% Aribica is a Kyoto-based roaster/coffee shop chain which was one of Caffeine Magazine’s top recommendations. However, I couldn’t make it to either of its main stores. Instead, I’m indebted to Commodities Connoisseur for the heads-up about the branch inside the Fujii Daimaru Department Store, which, for my purposes, had the advantage of being open until eight o’clock in the evening.

Serving the house-blend and a single-origin on espresso from a very limited menu, it’s a surprisingly pleasant environment in which to sit down and rest your weary legs between sight-seeing stops. You can also buy beans and a small range of merchandising, including branded cups and containers, while if you’re hungry, there’s no problem picking something up from the food hall in the basement and munching it at % Arabica with your coffee. A word to the wise: it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own!

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Tokyo

A quiet, narrow Tokyo street 10 minutes' walk from the madness of Shibuya but feeling a million miles away.It’s almost been two weeks since I set off from Heathrow to fly, for first the time, to Japan. You can read about my (lack of) preparation for the trip and my thoughts about it in the previous Travel Spot. Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of my trip, including where I went and what I did, I’m taking a different approach with this Travel Spot, concentrating on my general impressions of Tokyo and, in another post, Japan (at least, those bits that I visited).

My trip’s been split into three parts. Part I involved three nights in Tokyo where I was pretty much getting over my jet-lag and gentling exploring random parts of the city. Part II was work, a Monday to Friday meeting that was ostensibly the purpose of the trip and involved moving to a swanky hotel in Shibuya (think Piccadilly Circus/Oxford Street or Times Square). Part III, the bit I’m on now, sees me exploring Japan by train for a week and will be covered in another Travel Spot.

Back to this Travel Spot, where I will kick off with some general observations about Tokyo, before moving on to talk about coffee shops and other matters.

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Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017 Preview

The Glasgow Coffee Festival LogoIt’s that time of year again. No sooner has one festival finished, than another looms on the horizon. And, in my case, as soon as I get back from Japan, I’ll be heading up to Glasgow for the third Glasgow Coffee Festival. Unfortunately, I had to miss the first festival, which was back in 2014, but I made it to the second festival, which took place in 2015. Sadly, it then skipped a year in 2016 in order to move from the distinctly chilly months of October/November to warmer (we hope) times in May (the weekend of 6th/7th).

Although called the Glasgow Coffee Festival (it’s held in Glasgow, after all), it’s more a celebration of Scotland’s growing specialty coffee scene, with lots of contributors from further afield as well. After the first two years, when it was sold out, the festival has expanded from a single day to occupy the entire weekend, from Saturday morning to Sunday evening, putting it on a par with the likes of the Manchester Coffee Festival, a festival which it closely resembles in scale and atmosphere (compared to, say, the London Coffee Festival).

So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy my Glasgow Coffee Festival preview.

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