Brian’s Travel Spot: The Apache Trail & Apache Lake

My Therma Cup and Travel Press look across Apache Lake, one of several reservoirs on the Salt River as it flows through the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.In 2018 and 2019 I made three visits to Arizona’s Apache Trail, an amazing road through the Superstition Mountains to the east of Phoenix, built in 1904 to provide access to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which was at that point under construction on the Salt River. The first two visits were during the same trip in January/February 2018, an initial taster drive to Canyon Lake and back, followed by driving the full length of the Apache Trail later on that week.

However, my love affair with the Apache Trail wasn’t over. On the second drive, I’d been over-ambitious, underestimating how long it would take to drive from end-to-end, which meant that I did the last part, from Apache Lake to the dam, in the dark. That left me with a sense of unfinished business, so on my return to Arizona in January the following year, I made driving the Apache Trail in daylight a priority.

As I had the previous year, I first spent a week in Phoenix for work, then hit the open road, this time on a week-long excursion through southern Arizona and New Mexico, starting with my drive along the Apache Trail.

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The Philosophy of Gin

The cover of The Philosophy of Gin, published by the British Library.Welcome to another in my series about the British Library’s The Philosophy Of… books. Today it’s the turn of The Philosophy of Gin by Jane Peyton, the second in the series, after The Philosophy of Wine, to feature alcohol. I’ve timed today’s piece to coincide (roughly) with the publication of the third book in the series to feature alcohol, The Philosophy of Beer, which actually comes out tomorrow (8th April) and is by none other than Jane Peyton!

Like the others in the series (The Philosophy of Wine, The Philosophy of Cheese, The Philosophy of Tea and my own book, The Philosophy of Coffee), The Philosophy of Gin is a compact volume, packed with interesting, entertaining facts. Indeed, its bite-sized chapters are just the right length to be read while sipping a Gin & Tonic (G & T).

More than any of the other books in the series, The Philosophy of Gin has a very British focus, gin being a quintessentially British drink, although there’s a nod to the Dutch (who introduced its forerunner, genever, to London) and the Americans (who popularised gin cocktails and, thanks to prohibition in the 1920s, sent all their best mixologists to Europe!).

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Apache Trail & The Big Loop

My Travel Press taking in the views on the Apache Trail, looking along the length of Canyon Lake from its eastern end.My second visit to Arizona’s Apache Trail came towards the end of the same trip in late January/early February 2018. My first visit had been a taster, a short drive to Canyon Lake and back on Monday evening. I’d just flown into Phoenix from Miami and, after two weeks in Florida, was desperate to see the mountains.

I spent the rest of the week in a work meeting, finally escaping on Friday evening. I’d planned to spend the following week in northern Arizona, basing myself in Flagstaff. As on my first visit to Phoenix in October 2016, I could have set off after work on Friday to drive straight up I-17. However, my appetite for the Apache Trail had been whetted, so I decided to stay overnight in Phoenix, giving myself Saturday for a leisurely drive to Flagstaff.

Since I wanted to drive the length of the Apache Trail, the logical route would have been to follow the Apache Trail to Theodore Roosevelt Lake, then take SR 188 and SR 87 north before either following the backroads to Flagstaff or cutting across to I-17 at Camp Verde. Instead, I came up with an ambitious route that I called the Big Loop.

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Taylors Discovery: As One Washed & Natural

The incredibly bright packaging for the "As One" coffee from the Kopakama cooperative in Rwanda, roasted by Taylors Discovery.Regular readers will know that I rarely write specifically about coffee, preferring to feature places where I drink coffee, while every now then coffee roasters appear in their own Meet the Roaster series. However, very occasionally a special coffee comes along which will grab my attention. This last happened at the start of the year, when I wrote about Chimney Fire Coffee’s direct trade El Salvador, a coffee which was processed three separate ways.

Today’s Saturday Supplement is inspired by a similar coffee, this time Taylors of Harrogate’s As One from Rwanda, which is available either naturally-processed or as a washed coffee (see my Coffee Series for more details about processing). I say Taylors of Harrogate, but it’s actually from Taylors Discovery, an independent micro-roastery operating within Taylors.

The coffee is from a women’s farming group known as Ejo Heza, which means Beautiful Tomorrow in Kinyarwandan. This is part of the Kopakama cooperative in the Lake Kivu region of Rwanda, which Taylors has been partnering with since 2016. This particular microlot was hand-selected from Ejo Heza’s demonstration plot, some of it undergoing the traditional washed processing method, with the remainder being naturally-processed, a first for the cooperative.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Apache Trail, Canyon Lake

The moon, rising above the side of a valley along the Apache Trail in Arizona, is momentarily suspended above a cactus.I’m not sure how much it comes across in my Travel Spots, but I’m not a great fan of driving. I drive when I must, but see it as a method of getting from A to B. Even on my big road trips, like 2017’s Grand Adventure, my week-long drive from Phoenix to San Francisco via Joshua Tree National Park, Los Angeles and the Californian coast, although I thoroughly enjoyed the drive, I can’t say I enjoyed the driving.

With that in mind, it says something when I actually recommend a drive. One such recommendation is Arizona’s Apache Trail, a steep, twisting road that follows an old stagecoach route through the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, a tortuous drive full of breathtakingly views. Sadly, in the summer of 2019, a massive wildfire, followed that September by floods, caused severe damage to the Apache Trail, forcing the closure of large sections of the road. When it will reopen is not clear.

I’ve driven some/all of the Apache Trail three times, twice on the same trip in January/February 2018 and again when I returned to Arizona the following January. Today’s Travel Spot is all about my first visit to the Apache Trail.

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My Travelling Coffee Kit: Collapsible Coffee Filter

My collapsible silicone coffee filter.My original travelling coffee kit was a pretty simple affair (by my standards, at least), consisting of my AeroPress, a ceramic hand grinder and a cheap set of scales. Over the years, I added to it, with the likes of my Travel Press, Aergrind hand grinder, a metal jug and, occasionally, an electric kettle joining the ranks. It got to the point that, four years ago, I even wrote an article about it.

The one thing my set-up lacked was the ability to do pour-over. This was rectified first by the gift of a collapsible metal filter cone, and then, on a trip to China two years ago, the purchase of a small (360ml) gooseneck jug. Suddenly, I could do pour-over on the go!  However, while I was enamoured with my jug, I had my struggles with the filter cone, so when Amanda gave me another collapsible filter cone as a present at the start of last year, I immediately pressed it into use, keen to see how it compared to my existing metal filter.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Goodbye to the Grand Canyon

My coffee, in the shape of my Travel Press and Therma Cup, takes in the views from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon near the start of the Trail of Time.Welcome to the final instalment of the latest Travel Spot, looking back to October 2016 and my first visit to the Grand Canyon. I’d started exactly a week before, arriving in Phoenix for the first time for work. Then, at the weekend I drove up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, acclimatising myself with a half-day hike along the Rim Trail to Hermits Rest before spending Sunday on a day-long down-and-back hike into the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail.

On Monday morning, it was time to end my all-too-brief visit to the Grand Canyon. After breakfast at the South Rim, I took an hour and a half’s stroll along the Rim Trail, this time heading east to Yavapai Point, following the Trail of Time. Then it was back to my car for the return drive to Phoenix. Rather than retrace my route, I drove east out of the National Park along Desert View Drive, stopping on multiple occasions to admire the view. From there, I carried on east to Cameron, picking up Route 89 for long drive south to the airport, where I caught my flight back to the UK that evening.

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Making Coffee at Home: Clever Dripper (Revisited)

A Clever Dripper, sitting on top of a glass carafe, the brewed coffee draining through the bottom of the filter.One of the earliest pieces I wrote for my (then new) Coffee at Home series at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was about the Clever Dripper. Although there are plenty of excellent filter methods, the Clever Dripper is, in my opinion, the easiest one for somebody taking their first steps into home coffee brewing. Like the humble cafetiere, it doesn’t require any fancy equipment, other than the Clever Dripper itself and some filter papers. It also shares other important characteristics with the cafetiere: it’s simple, reliable and, above all, very forgiving.

I’ve been using my Clever Dripper throughout the last year: it’s my go-to method for filter coffee during the day, mostly for the reasons I’ve stated above. However, I’ve a confession to make: I no longer use the method I published in April last year. As regular readers will know, I’ve become a devotee of James Hoffman’s YouTube channel, and, in early December, James published his Ultimate Clever Dripper Guide. This gives a surprisingly different way of using the Clever Dripper and, having tried it, I was immediately converted. I’ve been using the new method ever since, so thought it was about time I updated my own guide.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Bright Angel Trail

Descending in the Grand Canyon from the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse along the Bright Angel Trail.Welcome to the third instalment of the latest Travel Spot, which takes us back to October 2016 and my first visit to the Grand Canyon, part of a wider trip which took me to Phoenix for the first time for work. With a spare weekend at the end, and knowing nothing about Phoenix (a city I’ve since come to know very well), I decided to visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. This post covers my day-long hike down into the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail, before I retraced my steps back to the rim.

I was staying in Tusayan, a small town just outside the southern edge the Grand Canyon National Park, having driven there from Williams on Saturday morning. That afternoon, I drove into the National Park for my first look at the Grand Canyon. To help get my bearings, and to acclimatise for my main hike on the following day, I took a leisurely 4½ hour, 13 km hike along the Rim Trail to Hermits Rest. Then, on Sunday morning, I drove back to the Grand Canyon to tackle the Bright Angel Trail.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: The Grand Canyon

Rain over the Grand Canyon, seen looking north from Mohave Point on the Rim Trail, with the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.Welcome to the second instalment of the latest Travel Spot, which takes us back to 2016 and my first trip to Phoenix. It’s somewhere I’ve since come to know very well but back then, knowing nothing about the city and being short on time, I gave it a miss. Instead, I used my spare weekend for another first: a visit to the Grand Canyon. Or, to be more precise, a visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, which is easily accessible from Phoenix. The North Rim, in contrast, is another three hours’ drive, since you have to get around and over the canyon! Alternatively, you can hike between the two, given a couple of days!

The first instalment of this Travel Spot covered my flight out, my first impressions of Phoenix and the drive to the Grand Canyon, where I arrived on Saturday morning, having split my journey overnight at the town of Williams. The Grand Canyon is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit and, as you will see, even though I only had 48 hours there, I was not disappointed, either with the canyon itself or with the two hikes I managed to get in.

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