A week ago, I’d just arrived in Chicago for work, having flown in from Atlanta. While there were worries around COVID-19, and people were taking precautions, everything seemed very normal. I went for a walk around the city and visited some coffee shops. That weekend now feels a very, very long time ago.
The day after I arrived, Sunday, 15th March, the Governor of Illinois announced the closure of all bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes to all except takeaway customers, and I made the decision to return home. I flew to Boston the following day and on Tuesday, I flew from a near-empty airport on a near-empty flight back to Heathrow.
Since then, I’ve been trying to readjust to life at home and practice social distancing, while continuing to work (I’m fortunate that I work remotely anyway and, for now, work is carrying on as normal). I’m also trying to support my local coffee businesses as best I can and for as long as I can.
Am I taking unreasonable risks? I don’t know. Am even doing the right thing? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that I’m asking myself those questions every day, re-evaluating, every day.
Four weeks ago, I spent a very pleasant Tuesday evening at Amoret Speciality Coffee in Notting Hill, learning all about the properties of foam. Specifically, milk foam, in case you were wondering what this has to do with coffee. I was at the second Coffee & Science evening, organised by fellow coffee blogger, Bean Thinking, aka Karen, who (when not engaged in the important business of blogging about coffee) spends (some of) her time as a research physicist at Imperial College.
The Coffee & Science evenings are a series of informal events held on a (roughly) monthly basis, hosted by the lovely Sadiq of Amoret Coffee and organised by Bean Thinking. The next one is this Tuesday (22nd October) and is all about the science of espresso extraction. Karen is keen that the tag “science” doesn’t put anyone off: the events are fun, friendly, practical, and, most important of all, you don’t need a background in science to attend! Coffee & Science is open to anyone with an interest in coffee and science behind it.
In the meantime, if you’ve ever wanted to know why milk foams (or sometimes doesn’t), which milks foam the best, and how non-dairy milks compare, read on!
Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene is incredibly varied, ranging from international brands and traditional kissaten to small, home-grown coffee shop/roasters, absorbing global influences to forge their own identities. Yesterday’s Coffee Spot, Glitch Coffee & Roasters, definitely falls into the latter category and is one of the most innovative coffee shops that I’ve visited in Tokyo. Best of all, it’s served me some truly outstanding coffee, the subject of today’s Saturday Supplement.
Glitch roasts on a 5kg Probat, tucked away on the right-hand side of the coffee shop in full view of the customers. Concentrating on lightly-roasted single-origins, two of which are on espresso, the real star is the pour-over. There’s a row V60s along the front of the counter, each with a glass jar of beans and a card giving tasting notes and details of the origin.
While you can order by the cup, I was drawn to the tasting flights, which allow you to try two or three of the single-origin pour-overs (chosen by Glitch) side-by-side. So drawn, in fact, that today’s post is all about the two tasting flights I’ve had, the first in 2018 and the other last weekend at the end of my most recent trip.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the Maruyama Single Origin store in Aoyama, one of my favourite after-work haunts when I’m working in Tokyo. It’s a lovely coffee shop in its own right, offering the sort of high-end service that I’ve come to expect from visits to other Maruyama locations, such as Nishi Azabu and Nagano Station. However, the single origin store goes one step further, with the focus even more firmly on the coffee.
As well as only serving single-origins (a typical Maruyama will have seven different blends), there are delights such as an espresso and cappuccino set (effectively a split shot or one-and-one) and, a new one on me, the same espresso served in two different cups. About the only thing that Maruyama Single Origin doesn’t offer is a filter tasting flight, but since there are always four or five samples for you try on the downstairs counter, it’s almost the same thing.
Naturally, I had to indulge, and, over the span of several visits, I put these various coffee experiences through their paces. Rather than try to cram them all into my write-up of Maruyama Single Origin, I decided to dedicate this Saturday Supplement to my experiences.
Welcome to the third and final detailed write-up of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place last month at the Old Truman Brewery. Along with my overall Festival Round-up, so far I’ve written about the coffee and the coffee kit. Today’s the turn of one of my festival highlights, my coffee experiences.
But what do I mean by “coffee experiences”? These are the events that go around the coffee itself, such as coffee cuppings, roasting demos and coffee/food pairings. They’ve been very popular over recent years, with the festival running practical, skills-based events such as Latte Art Live and Home Barista Workshops. There have also been experiences such as The Tasting Room (with subjects ranging from tea to Vermouth) and The Flavour Discovery, a multi-sensory journey from Union Hand-roasted!
As in previous years, most of these events were pre-ticketed, with limited numbers at each event. As a result, I only attended one, the annual La Cimbali Sensory Series, which I only managed to attend thanks to a kind invitation from La Cimbali! Hosted by the fabulous Rob Ward, he manages, year after year, to invent with some new way to challenge the senses and educate at the same time.
I want to tackle a subject that is, to some speciality coffee people, anathema. No, not decaf, I did that already. Today, I’m talking about storing coffee, long-term, in the freezer.
There’s a wide consensus on how coffee should be ideally stored: as whole beans, in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. Never store ground coffee (ie always grind just before you use it) and never store your coffee in the refrigerator. But what about the freezer?
You see, I have a problem. These days, I’m never short of coffee, with people regularly send me things to try. More often than not, though, the bulk of my coffee is given to me at festivals, where I usually return with two or three kg of coffee, many times more than I can drink in a reasonable timescale. Some I will use immediately, some I will give away, but the question is, what to do with the rest?
Since I can’t face letting it go to waste, my solution has been to store it in the freezer, something that’s created a bit of storm on twitter, if the impromptu poll I put up last night is anything to go by…
My trip to Rome at the start of the month was, as might be expected given Rome’s espresso culture, dominated by espresso. I also didn’t help myself, visiting the likes of Tazza D’Oro and near-neighbour, Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè. That said, if you look hard enough, you can find pour-over, usually hand-in-hand with speciality coffee. Most prominent of the places I visited was Faro, the self-proclaimed first speciality coffee shop in Rome. Pour-over was also on offer at The Tram Depot, although when we ordered some one evening we were told that the barista who knew how to do pour-over had gone home. To the staff’s credit, they didn’t want to serve us badly-made coffee, so politely declined (we had espresso instead).
Perhaps the most surprising find was Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria. A few minutes’ walk from the hotel my friend Amanda and I were staying at, we became daily visitors, enjoying single-origin espressos from Laboratorio Di Torrefazione Giamaica Caffè, along with some excellent patisserie. It was only on our fourth visit that I noticed V60s nestling alongside the bags of coffee, which is when I realised that Roscioli serves pour-over too. That evening we naturally popped back to order some…
I’ve just returned from 10 days in Rome, five for work, followed by five days of sight-seeing. It’s a city that I adore, but I must confess that I approached the trip with more than a little trepidation, looking forward to the sight-seeing far more than I was the coffee. I last went to Rome almost 10 years ago, long before the Coffee Spot, back when I thought that Italian espresso (and Italian espresso culture) was the pinnacle of coffee. It’s also the city, where, almost 20 years ago, I first gained my love for espresso.
Since then, many things have changed, including my taste in coffee and my opinions of it. I feared that I wouldn’t enjoy the coffee, which in turn might spoil my memories of Rome. Coffee in Rome, and Italian coffee more widely, divides opinion. There are those who dismiss it, saying that Italy has not moved on, that the coffee is rubbish, while at the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty who still hold Italian espresso as the pinnacle of coffee culture.
As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.
Airline coffee has a pretty bad (and, frankly, often well-deserved) reputation, but around the industry, steps are being taken to rectify this, with British Airways and Union Hand-roasted leading the way. The two have teamed up to provide Union coffee at British Airways’ UK lounges and, on long-haul flights, in the First Class and Club World cabins. Last month, I flew to Tokyo and back in Club World, giving me a chance to sample the coffee both on the ground and in the air.
I wrote up my experiences of the coffee on my way out to Tokyo and, on the back of that article, got an invitation from Geoff Cliff, the man at Union responsible for the day-to-day management of the British Airways account. A week after I returned, I popped over to Union’s East London roastery, where Geoff and I talked about the considerable undertaking of providing not just coffee, but also the training that goes with it, across the entire British Airways long-haul fleet.
Today’s Saturday Supplement is a follow-up to my original piece, where you can discover what I made of the coffee on the way back from Tokyo and what I learnt from meeting Geoff.
Yesterday, I wrote about About Life Coffee Brewers, a lovely coffee stand in Shibuya, next door to both my office and my hotel for the week I was working in the area. Using the rear entrance to Shibuya’s Mark City (my hotel was on top of this long, thin shopping mall) and turning right, the office was a two minute walk down the hill. However, left, if I turned left, About Life was two minutes up the hill. So, naturally, I started my day by going to About Life for coffee…
One of the frustrations of being a coffee blogger is that I rarely go back to places on a regular basis, nor do I get to sample the full range of coffee on offer, particularly somewhere like About Life, which has six single-origins available as either pour-over or espresso. However, it struck me as I ordered my two-shot latte on the first morning that there were no other decent coffee options near the office and, with two or three long breaks each day, there was every chance I could actually sample all the coffee.
So, I set myself a challenge: to try all six single-origin coffees in a week…