Ground Control

A shot of the Ethiopian Coffee Company's seasonal blend in a beautiful blue cup at its Islington cafe, Ground Control.I first became aware of the Ethiopian Coffee Company not long after starting the Coffee Spot, when I discovered its stall at the Southbank Centre Food Market (which I’ve still not written up, despite visiting the market last weekend!). Back then the Ethiopian Coffee Company had a coffee shop which, if memory serves, was in Bow, but was in the process of moving to new premises in Islington. Since then I’ve enjoyed the Ethiopian Coffee Company’s coffee in Liverpool, for example, at Coffee & Fandisha, but I’ve never made it to the “new” coffee shop.

Four years on, and the new coffee shop, which goes by the name Ground Control, is not so new anymore, but I’ve finally managed to pay a belated visit. As the name suggests, the Ethiopian Coffee Company only roasts coffee from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. There’s a monthly blend on espresso, a single-origin on pour-over, plus a wide selection of tea from Cardiff’s Waterloo Tea. If you’re hungry there are toasties and cake, all served in a delightful, compact spot with almost as many seats outside as in. It’s so lovely, in fact, that you’d be justified in asking what took me so long…

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For the Good of the People Coffee (Bean About Town South Bank Update)

A shot of espresso from For the Good of the People at the Southbank Centre Food Market in my Kaffeeform cupA long time ago (at least, it feels that way) when I regularly visited London, I’d often wander past the Southbank Centre Food Market. Conveniently on the route from Waterloo Station to Hungerford Bridge (as I stubbornly still call the Golden Jubilee Bridges) it was made even better by the presence, at the foot of the stairs, of the Bean About Town coffee van, a lovely, old Citroen, run by the equally lovely, but not so old, Claire (who shares, by the way, her nationality with the van, both being French). It was one of the first places I wrote about on the Coffee Spot.

However, things change, I ceased to be such a regular visitor, and I didn’t notice when the van disappeared from the bottom of the stairs. Then, last Sunday, with an hour to spare, I decided to wander out of Waterloo and have a nose around the market, whereupon I stumbled upon a big sign saying “Coffee” at the far end of the market.

That’s new, I thought to myself. Only it wasn’t. It was the old Citroen van, with Claire still there, pulling shots. “What’s going on?” you might well ask. What’s going on indeed!

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London Coffee Festival 2017: Coffee Experiences

Four different coffees, four different flavour groups. Just match them in the Union Coffee Flavour Challenge at the 2017 London Coffee Festival. How difficult can that be?Welcome to the third of my detailed London Coffee Festival write-ups, covering individual aspects of the festival, ranging around subjects such as sustainability, kit & cups, and the coffee itself. If you want to know what I made of the festival as a whole, you need my festival round-up. Today it’s the turn of my coffee experiences, always a highlight of my London Coffee Festival.

But what do I mean by “coffee experiences”? These are the things that go around the coffee itself, things like coffee cuppings, roasting demos and coffee/food pairings. As I mentioned in my festival preview, the festival really went to town on coffee experiences this year. There were eight in all, ranging from practical, skills-based events such as Latte Art Live and Home Barista Workshops to pairing events, such as the Tasting Room, where you could pair coffee with chocolate, for example. There was also a Coffee & Food Pairing, consisting of a full three-course meal hosted by Grind!

Unfortunately, most of these events were pre-ticketed, and, by the time I got around to organising my festival, most of them had sold out. Fortunately, there were still some free events, including Union Hand-roasted’s ever-popular roasting demonstrations.

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Caravan Exmouth Market

The Caravan logo from the sign outside the original Exmouth Market branch.Caravan is a rather successful chain of three coffee shop/restaurants, with a significant in-house roastery, supplying coffee shops all around the country with a variety of blends and single-origins. However, this is where it all started back in 2010 on the corner of London’s Exmouth Market. This is the original Caravan, which is still going strong, coffee shop by day, restaurant by night, serving excellent coffee and food throughout the day. Unlike others of its ilk, such as Notes and Grind, both of which now roast their own coffee, Caravan was a roaster from the start and, indeed, the original roaster is still down in the basement at Exmouth Market.

Caravan sits on a sunny, south-facing corner, windows on two sides, outside seating spilling out on Exmouth Market itself. Inside, coffee excellence is taken as standard, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, two more on pour-over and a third on batch-brew. However, Caravan is also about food, with table service to match. There’s an excellent, extensive breakfast menu until 11.30, with an all-day menu of small/large plates from noon. At weekends, brunch takes over from 10 until four. There’s also beer, cider, cocktails, spirits and a massive wine list.

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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: 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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London Coffee Festival 2017: Round-up

The 2017 London Coffee Festival LogoSo there we have it, another year and yet another London Coffee Festival come and gone, my fifth in all. After attending all four days of last year’s festival, I scaled things back this year and only went on Friday (the industry day), and on the two consumer days (Saturday and Sunday).

Once again, I’ll be following my tried-and-trusted method of writing a series of themed Saturday Supplements, each covering a different aspect of the festival. Today’s Saturday Supplement is a general round-up, including what I made of the festival, the highs and lows, and what differed from last year. The remainder in the series, to be published over the coming weeks, will cover sustainability, kit & cups, my coffee experiences and the coffee itself.

I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now, but it’s worth repeating: the London Coffee Festival organisers do seem to learn from experience and listen to feedback. Each year, several issues from previous festivals have been addressed and, while the festival is still not perfect, it keeps on going from strength-to-strength, while still continuing to grow. Next year the festival returns to the Old Truman Brewery, this time from 12th to 15th April.

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Workshop Coffee, Marylebone

The front of Workshop Coffee, Marylebone, tucked away in St Christopher's Place.Workshop Coffee is one of London’s better-known (and original) roaster/café chains. Starting from its flagship branch in Clerkenwell, where, until recently, all the roasting was done, it’s slowly expanded, now with a total of four London coffee shops. I first really came across it (other than as a roaster) when it opened its Fitzrovia coffee bar in 2014, but I’ve taken my sweet time in popping into the other branches, finally making to the Marylebone branch last week. At some point I’ll have to drag myself over to Holborn and Clerkenwell, which has seen a few changes since the roaster moved out.

The Marylebone branch is on St Christopher’s Place, just a stone’s throw from the busy Oxford Street. Tucked away in the eastern arm (St Christopher’s Place is cross-shaped), it’s an oasis of calm, which is also open until seven in the evening. Simple in layout, there’s a bench along the wall providing most of the seating. The coffee offering is excellent, with two single-origins and decaf on espresso, plus two or three single-origins available through the Aeropress, with one of them on bulk-brew. If you’re hungry, there’s a wide selection of cake and a limited range of sandwiches.

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Flat Cap Borough

A bag of Cachoeirinha Espresso, roasted by Notes and in the hopper at Flat Cap Borough during my visit in January 2017.Having finally paid a visit to Flat Cap Victoria in last week’s Saturday Short, I thought it was high-time that the Coffee Spot got around to the other Flat Cap, which is tucked away south of the river in London’s Borough Market. Once part of a small fleet of Notes Barrows, Flat Cap Borough is now a standalone operation and, despite the similarities, Flat Cap Borough is independent of Flat Cap Victoria.

There are, however, still close ties to Notes, with all the coffee coming from the Notes Roastery. There are a range of single-origin beans that you can buy, with one of them in the hopper. During my visit, this was a Brazilian Cachoeirinha, a naturally-processed coffee. All the usual espresso-based drinks are there, but otherwise that’s it. If you’re after something to eat with your coffee, never fear. You’re in Borough Market and spoilt for choice!

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Made by Hand Coffee Pop-up, UniQlo

One of Made by [H]and Coffee's handmade Kalita Wave filters brewing away at it's pop-up in UniQlo on Oxford Street in March 2017.Normally, I’m reluctant to feature a pop-up on the Coffee Spot. However, when that pop-up is by renowned roasters, Has Bean, and it’s the first Has Bean coffee shop in 14 years, I’ll make an exception. I also wouldn’t normally visit a shop two days after it had opened, but when it’s only open for 72 days, time is of the essence.

So it was that on Monday, I popped down to Oxford Street to visit Made by Hand Coffee ([H]AND for short). Located on the third floor of the UniQlo clothing store, [H]AND is tucked away at the back, but easy enough to find. There’s a simple coffee bar, grinders at either end, a row of four Kalita Wave filters between them. Personally, in that sort of setting, I prefer standing up at the bar to drink my coffee, but if you want to sit down, there’s a cluster of four sumptuous armchairs around a coffee table (with USB power sockets).

However, the coffee’s the star, with a choice of four single-origin pour-overs. You can pick one or have a tasting flight of three. Similarly there are four teas, with the same offer on the table. And that’s it.

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