Coffee Notes

A single-origin Guatemalan espresso extracting from a Fracino lever espresso machine and into my Kaffeeform cup at Coffee Notes in Hammersmith.Coffee Notes is a small coffee stand at the front of Ravenscourt Park Station on the District Line. A relatively new addition to Hammersmith, Coffee Notes set up shop in the summer of 2020, just as the area was reopening after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unusually for a station coffee stand, Coffee Notes is open seven days a week, serving both locals and commuters alike, although if you want to catch Harry, its charismatic owner, note that Sunday is his day off.

There’s not much to Coffee Notes, just a long, thin coffee stand with fold up sides, which means that the focus is firmly on the coffee, which Harry sources himself before having it toll roasted in London. There’s the usual espresso-based menu, with several iced options, plus tea, but otherwise that’s it. Unsurprisingly, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Meet the Roaster: Hundred House Coffee

The words Hundred House Coffee, surrounded by an irregular hexagon, carved in black on wood.I first came across Hundred House Coffee at the Manchester Coffee Festival in 2017 and, ever since, I’ve looked forward to meeting up with Annabelle and Matt, Hundred House’s founders, at festivals around the country. I’ve had a long-standing invitation to visit the roastery, but first my foreign travel and then the COVID-19 pandemic kept me from taking them up on the offer. That, and, of course, getting there: the roastery is an old farm building in rural Shropshire, literally miles from anywhere, including the nearest train station. However, at the end of last week, and with access to a car, I made a point of calling in.

Hundred House made its name by roasting some, quite frankly, amazing coffee, producing a small selection of seasonal blends and single-origins. Unusually for a coffee company, Hundred House’s focus is as much on design as it is on coffee, Matt and Annabelle having collaborated with a range of artists to produce some outstanding packaging. This remains a focus to this day through the Art & Industry project. Looking to the future, next year Hundred House is moving to a purpose-built redevelopment north of Ludlow, which includes plans for an onsite coffee shop.

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Eighty Six’d (COVID-19)

The first floor window of Eighty Six'd, overlooking the junction of Waterloo Street and Madeley Road.Eighty Six’d was a (semi-) chance discovery in Ironbridge, where I’d gone to visit The Green Wood Café. However, tipped off by Hundred House, who I’d visited the day before, I took a wander along the river front and past the eponymous Ironbridge to the eastern end of town, where I found Eighty Six’d, occupying the first floor of a narrow, wedge-shaped building.

In pre-COVID times, you could go inside Eighty Six’d, which has the intriguing tagline “Art • Coffee • Cake”. Unfortunately, until the next relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions which are due in mid-May, you’re limited to ordering something to go from the door, which you’ll find along the left-hand side of the building. There are various espresso-based drinks, with coffee from nearby Has Bean, loose-leaf tea, a selection of specialty drinks, light lunches, sandwiches and cakes.

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Guildford (Outdoor Update)

Guildford's famous Guildhall clock on the High Street with the Hog's Back in the background.Welcome to my third COVID-19 update on the state of speciality coffee in my hometown of Guildford. My first update was back in September 2020, which looked at how the town’s speciality coffee businesses, having survived the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, were opening back up. There was even a new coffee shop, Ceylon House of Coffee, to celebrate!

My second update came at the start of 2021, when it was back to serving takeaway only. However, despite all the problems that the hospitality industry was facing, there were two more new coffee shops to celebrate, although technically one of them, Lily London, is a telephone box, with the other, Open Grounds Café, part of Guildford Baptist Church.

Since then, Guildford’s speciality coffee businesses have weathered the dark days of winter and, with the coming of spring, have something to look forward to. Starting on Monday (12th April), coffee shops in England have been allowed to serve customers at outdoor tables. Unfortunately, due to their diverse locations, not all of Guildford’s speciality coffee shops have been able to take full advantage of the latest easing of restrictions, but the good news is that everyone’s open and serving again.

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

The Apache Trail in Arizona, crossing Fish Creek at the bottom of Fish Creek Canyon.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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