London Coffee Festival 2019: Coffee Experiences

Three different types of cup: open (front), tulip (back left) and split (back right) at the La Cimbali Sensory Session at the 2019 London Coffee Festival. What impact do they have on your perception of taste?Welcome to the third of my detailed write-ups 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.

Continue reading

Surrey Hills Coffee Update

Details from the A-board outside the new home of Surrey Hills Coffee on Jeffries Passage in Guildford.Surrey Hills had a legitimate claim to be first speciality coffee shop in my home town of Guildford when it opened on Chapel Street in 2016. That shop is no more, Surrey Hills moving in the summer of 2018 to a much larger space a few streets over on Jeffries Passage. Since then, Surrey Hills has gone from strength to strength, including opening a second outlet in London Square.

When Surrey Hills moved into Jeffries Passage, it initially only occupied the downstairs, although even this was far bigger than the Chapel Street original. However, there is a bonus upstairs area which close to doubles the available space and which has been open for some time now. I popped in at the start of April to check it out before leaving on my latest trip. I also caught up with the latest developments in Surrey Hills’ on-going desire to reduce waste.

Continue reading

London Coffee Festival 2019: The Kit

An upgraded aergrind (left) and the new Feld47 handgrinders, both from Knock, at the 2019 London Coffee Festival.Welcome to the second of my detailed write-ups of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place three weeks ago at the Old Truman Brewery. Last week I wrote about the coffee, while this week my focus turns to the kit, those various bits and pieces of coffee-related equipment which you always find at the London Coffee Festival. You can find details about the festival itself in my Festival Round-up, published two weeks ago, while future write-ups include coffee experiences and reusable cups.

The London Coffee Festival has always seen more than its fair share of coffee-related equipment, with many manufacturers choosing to launch their latest products at the festival. This includes a lot of professional equipment, including the latest espresso machines, which, although interesting, are, sadly out of my price range. I’d also need a bigger kitchen!

Since I had limited time this year, only attending for two days, I focused on the home user, further narrowing my focus to some familiar names who were launching new versions of their products, along with some interesting new products from a company I’d not heard of before. This covered a wide range, from the simplicity of a manual grinder all the way up to an (almost fully) automated espresso machine.

Continue reading

London Coffee Festival 2019: Coffee

Detail from the stand of Qima Coffee, including a wooden relief map of Yemen, taken from the stand at the 2019 London Coffee Festival.Welcome to the first of my detailed write-ups of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place two weeks ago at the Old Truman Brewery. The focus of today’s write-up is the coffee itself, which I normally leave until last. However, since I’m travelling at the moment, I’m writing this one first, leaving the more detailed write-ups until later. These will include topics such as equipment, coffee experiences and reusable cups. For details about the festival itself, try my Festival Round-up, which I published last week.

This was my seventh London Coffee Festival and while I was more focused on the coffee in previous years, recently my interest has moved to other areas. This is partly because there’s only so much coffee I can drink in a few days and partly because my coffee knowledge has expanded over the years. Whereas I would, in years past, want to try as much coffee as possible, these days I’m more interested in chatting with the roasters!

That said, there was some interesting coffee to be had this year, from roasters both old and new. There were also two standouts, one featuring coffee from Yemen, where it all began, and the other an amazing Geisha.

Continue reading

Coffee@33 Update

An espresso shot extracting on the Mavam modular espresso system at Brighton's Coffee @33.Coffee@33 is one of Brighton’s hidden gems, a stone’s throw away from the station at No. 33, Trafalgar Street. I was originally put onto it Horsham Coffee Roaster back in 2013, not long after Coffee@33 had started using Horsham as a second roaster alongside Monmouth. Back then, Coffee@33 was so under the radar that it didn’t even have its name outside, but despite that potential drawback, it already had a fiercely loyal following.

Fast-forward five years and a rare excursion to Brighton, I finally managed to revisit Coffee@33, where I ran into Taras, who, along with his business partner, owns Coffee@33. In many ways, little had changed, with the coffee shop being instantly recognisable from my visit of five years ago. On the other hand, quite a lot has changed. There’s new equipment behind the counter, in the shape of a cutting-edge Mavam modular espresso system. Perhaps more importantly, Coffee@33 now roasts all its own coffee and has recently moved to using a new, modern Loring coffee roaster.

Continue reading

London Coffee Festival 2019: Round-up

The 2017 London Coffee Festival LogoLast weekend saw the 2019 London Coffee Festival return to the Old Truman Brewer. As usual, I was there, for my seventh festival, although this year, due to other commitments, I limited my attendance to just two days, rather than my usual three or all four. Although that meant I didn’t see as much as in previous years, I found that I was more focused on what I wanted to see and a lot less knackered as a result! I was quite fortune to be able to attend at all, since it was my only free weekend in the country for about 2½ months. The previous weekend I’d arrived back from a month in China, while the following weekend, I flew to New Orleans to start a five-week trip in the USA.

With that in mind, let me present my festival round-up. As in previous years, this is the first in a series of posts on this year’s festival, and is a general round-up, including what differed from last year, what I made of the festival, finishing up with the pluses and minuses. Each subsequent post, to be published over the coming weeks, will cover different aspects of the festival, including the coffee itself, coffee kit, coffee experiences and reusable cups. .

Continue reading

Stoney Point (Mr Wolfe Update)

The logo / name of Stoney Point, written on the black board behind the counter.When is a Coffee Spot Update not a Coffee Spot Update? While it’s a question that probably only I care about, it arises in the case of Stoney Point, tucked away on Brighton’s Montpelier Place. Readers with long memories will recall that this was once home to Mr Wolfe, a delightful coffee shop specialising in homemade cake, which I visited in 2015.

Shortly after my visit, Mr Wolfe’s owner, Travis, returned to Australia, selling the business to the current owner, who, aside from the name change, has kept things much as they were, something I discovered when I finally returned to Brighton at the end of last year.

Like Mr Wolfe, Stoney Point serves a concise espresso-based menu using coffee from veteran roasters, Monmouth. Best of all, it’s kept the friendly, neighbourhood atmosphere that made Mr Wolfe so welcoming. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes, and that’s about it.

Continue reading

London Coffee Festival 2019: Preview

The 2017 London Coffee Festival LogoIt’s that’s time of the year again! Yes, that’s right, in just two weeks’ time, London Coffee Festival will be in full swing, returning to the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. It’s a little earlier in the year than usual, running from Thursday, 28th March to Sunday, 31st March. If it’s your first London Coffee Festival, take a look at my round up of last year’s festival. Alternatively, if you’ve been before, there’s much that will be familiar, with a few new things to keep you interested, all of which I’ll cover in this preview.

The festival kicks off with industry days on Thursday/Friday, followed by an extended consumer session on Friday evening and three three-hour consumer sessions on Saturday/Sunday (Brunch, Lunch and Teatime). If you’re thinking of coming, my usual advice applies: get your ticket now. For starters, you get a significant discount on the on-the-door price (at least £6.50, with the discounts adding up for the more expensive tickets). What’s more, if you leave it to the day of the festival, your slot could easily be sold out. You can buy tickets for individual sessions/industry days, or there are VIP tickets covering the whole day on Saturday/Sunday.

Continue reading

Fortitude Update

The logo from the door at Fortitude in Edinburgh: Espresso & Brew Bar, plus Coffee Merchant.When I first visited, at the end of April 2014, Edinburgh’s Fortitude was the new kid on the block, having been open for all of four weeks. When I returned, at the end of last year, it had been going a bit long than that, but at first glance, not much had changed, particularly not when viewed from the street. Even when you go inside, the layout and décor is much the same, a small, high-ceilinged space, single window at the front, counter at the back, with the espresso machine tucked away around the corner.

However, look more closely and you’ll start to see the differences. The shelves on the right-hand wall, once lined with retail bags from the likes of London’s Workshop and Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee, the bags now say “Fortitude”. That’s right, Fortitude started roasting. In 2017… That’s what I get for not visiting Edinburgh for over three years…

Continue reading

Host Café

A lovely flat white made with the Up Hill espresso blend from Mission Coffee Works at Host Cafe in St Mary Aldermary Church, LondonNot that long after the Coffee Spot began, a speciality coffee shop, The Wren, opened inside an old church in the heart of the City of London. I was (and am) extremely fond of it and therefore am rather annoyed with myself that I’ve overlooked another coffee shop in a church, Host Café, which predates The Wren.

That I discovered it was purely by chance. Looking for the newly-opened Rosslyn Coffee last summer, I stumbled across the church, St Mary Aldermary, home to Host Café and just around the corner from Rosslyn. I vowed to return, but such has been my hectic travel schedule that I wasn’t able to keep my promise until just before Christmas.

Whereas the Wren feels like a church given over to a coffee shop, Host Café feels like a coffee shop in the back of the church. It makes for a magnificent setting, putting the church right in the heart of the community. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a blend plus decaf from Mission Coffee Works (another unsung hero of London’s speciality coffee scene), served from a standard espresso menu, along with an Aeropress option, plus sandwiches, soup and a selection of cakes.

Continue reading