Friday, July 24, 2009

The new black? A cafe/roastery in Melbourne

It seems all i've done since returning to Melbourne is visit cafes, some of them so often it's almost embarassing.

Apart from appreciating how good some of the coffee has bean, it dawned on me just how many cafe/roasteries have popped up in the last few years.

But don't expect a great coffee at all of them, the coffee offerings range from CoE to a budget blend.

In no particular order and not a complete list either:

St Ali 5kg & 15kg Renegade
Seven Seeds 5kg Renegade & 22kg Probat
Auction Rooms Vittoria Bologna
Atomica 12kg Probat
Brunswick East Project 10kg Has Garanti
Social Roasting Company 12kg Probat
Dukes 15kg Joper
Coffee Hit
Icoco 12kg Probat
Growers Espresso
Toby's Estate
Beans & Bagels
Caffe Romeo
Di Bella
Coffee Max

And with another 5 (that I know of) to open or add a roaster to their cafe shortly, it's an exciting time for fresh coffee in Melbourne - but how many is too many?

One of those about to install a roaster is my workplace, The Maling Room.
It's long overdue but it's about to arrive, might even have caught a flight with the Slayer...

I hope to take a more in depth look at some of the cafes mentioned soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

London - Mercanta

Off we went to Mercanta for a tour of their headquarters and a cupping session, not sure what to expect we were greeted by Stephen Hurst and Guy Bosley and shown to the cupping lab where they had prepared a coffee or two for us to cup.

We sampled some very interesting coffees including a Sidikalang Natural, a few standouts, some of which are about to land in Melbourne.

Tha facilities at Mercanta are excellent, there's a purpose built training room home to the London School of Coffee, several sample roasters and a custom built cupping table with an identical one at origin in Guatemala.

Special thanks not only to the team at Mercanta but also to Fleur of Melboune Coffee Merchants for arranging the tour.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

London - Square Mile Coffee Roasters

Nearing the end of our trip we managed to squeeze in a visit to Square Mile Coffee Roasters and spent a few hours with James Hoffmann, tasting and talking coffee.

If it hasn't become clear by now, most of the better cafes in London use Square Mile coffee, a new cafe about to open that i'm expecting to be one of the best will also use Square Mile.
Said cafe is The Espresso Room (Great Ormond St) and will open any day now by Ben Townsend, trainer at the London School of Coffee.
And to continue the apparent antipodeon pre-requisite of London cafes, he worked/trained with Andrew Lew here in Melbourne at his previous cafe, Maltitude and now owns The Maling Room.

That's my sis Annie, who's responsible for all the photos on the blog - except this one

Back to Square Mile, it's a compact space, one that James admits they have outgrown.
It's not what you'd call flashy, it's a roastery under a train line and it's all about the coffee - sourcing the best beans and precise roasting.
There are plenty of toys - the Über Boiler, Gwilym's WBC prize lever machine, an ebay sourced Linea that James was testing for a friend and assorted coffee equipment sharing shelf space with many trophies.

Square Mile take fresh coffee seriously, air-freighting some of their greens and offering seasonal espresso, as mentioned earlier, we were there during the change-over period and got to try the last of the Spring Espresso and the first of the Summer Espresso that some of you in Melbourne got to try.
They also offer several excellent single estate coffees, all available in the online shop.

From afar it may seem that Square Mile has a massive following, atleast it feels that way online. but in London most cafes would never have heard of them or care about barista competitions, that's if they even knew comps existed.

Both James and Stephen Morrissey admitted that winning the WBC didn't help grow the business locally, as Stephen put it
"We can't walk into a cafe and say; We're the best 2 baristas in the world, that's why you should use our coffee" .

James said had they said that cafe owners would most likely have replied with
"So, you won a competition making coffee in another country....why again should I use your coffee?"

James was having an even busier week than usual, moving house, his bike had suffered a puncture and he'd just started his video blog so we're grateful he made the time to meet with us, 3 people he'd never met that contacted him via email, he made us feel very welcome, made us coffee, gave us coffee to take home and wasn't rushing us so he could continue with his day - James, thanks for everything!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

London - Columbia Road Flower Market

We'd arranged to go to the market whilst chatting to Gwilym in Cologne and were looking forward to it as he told us he lets customers jump behind the machine, it frees him up to have a break or visit the little boys room.
After several beers I volunteered to pull some shots for him not knowing if he'd hold me to it, next day he mentioned it again so I guess that answered that.

Line on the left for great coffee,
on the right for tasty sausage, bacon and egg rolls

James Hoffmann has just posted his latest video blog and it's about the Columbia Road cart.
What you see in the video is what you get, Gwilym will happily chat to anyone that wants to chat to him, he'll let customers wait if he's in a conversation but that's what the sunday flower market is about, there's no stress, no rush, no need to be anywhere and even though it was fairly busy it was really fun and doesn't feel like work - and ended up being one of the highlights on my trip.

It's also a great way to meet those in the London coffee industry, several baristas, cafe owners and even roasters come for their sunday coffee - and some are just too impatient and visit another Square Mile account around the corner (hi James).

You'll notice on the menu a 'normal coffee' that was created for those that asked for a normal coffee, not knowing what a flat white, cappuccino, long black/americano etc was.
It's a long black with either hot or cold milk - I guess it's the closest thing to what they make at home, coffee with milk.

Kirby, Gwilym and I

For anyone visiting London, Gwilym's cart at the Columbia Road Flower Market is a must,
great coffee, great atmosphere, great people!

Please dont walk off if you've ordered, you're not making life any easier for Lou and if your coffee's not stolen it will be given away!

If you're lookng for another place to try in the area visit Taste of Bitter Love, unfortunately time got the better of us but it was recommended several times.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

London - other cafes we visited

Climpson & Sons
67 Broadway Market
E8 4PH

We'd been walking for a while and it was getting late on Saturday afternoon.
We spotted the market stalls packing up, the coffee stall was all but gone but they gave us directions to their shop a few steps up the road.

By this stage I think we'd had enough coffee and were rather looking forward to a beer at one of the local pubs.
It was great walking along the stalls, felt like the art market in Fizroy.

Climpsons roast their own and are doing a good job, didn't try any food but it looked great.

Fernadez & Wells
73 Beak Street
Soho, London

I skipped coffee altogether here as I just couldn't handle any more caffeine, just as well as they use 33 grams for every coffee....ouch!
Best case 30 shots per kg, that has to cost more than it's worth!?
After seeing the Synesso and twin Roburs, Annie my sister had a piccolo and said it was ok.

Fernandez & Wells use Monmouth whom we also paid a visit to.
27 Monmouth Street
Covent Garden
London WC2H 9EU

Beans on display as you enter to buy, tiny booths up the back and other brewing options with your choice of origin.

We had an espresso, flat white and filter coffee.
None really stood out but that doesn't mean it's not worth a try.

Taylor St Baristas
1A New Street,
London, EC2M 4TP

Very easy to find near Liverpool St station with 2 other locations.
They use Union Coffee

London - cafes worth trying

Tina we salute you
47 King Henry's Walk
N1 4NH

I never thought there was a typical style associated with Melbourne cafes but this one felt like a Melbourne cafe, quiet back street, good coffee and a relaxing vibe.

This is where we met Leigh, the barista from Melbourne - nice guy that got out the macbook to look up googlemaps to give us directions to other cafes on our list.
He's also a bit of a cafe whore, working at Dose and another cafe.

Tina we salute you is another of the growing list of cafes using Square Mile.

The cafe that is known for starting the antipodeon cafe surge is
Flat White
17 Berwick St
Soho, London

Probably one of the busier cafes of the good ones, good milk, good coffee in a central location with sister cafe, Milk Bar nearby.

Even more random than in the previous post where we met Ryan, when we lined up to order at Flat White, Erin Sampson was in the queue right in front of us.
Didn't try the espresso at Flat White but went back for a freshly squeezed OJ a few days later, good value at £1.50 ($3 AUD), you'll pay £2.50 ($5 AUD) for a coffee.

Again, this is becoming predictable, they use Square Mile

Saturday, July 11, 2009

London - Dose Espresso

We arrived in London with a list of must visit cafes but no map and when our first appointment didn't eventuate we didn't know where we were in London or in which direction to go.
We eventually made it to:

69 Long Lane

First impression was how small this place was, seats about 10 inside and a couple outside with the kitchen, FB80 and register taking up the rest of the expensive London real estate.
We soon found out how much the rent is in a small sized cafe in somewhere like Soho, $2-3k a week!

I was lucky enough to try both the last of the Spring and first of the Summer Espresso blend from Square Mile at Dose.

I dont like to judge or review cafes, there's too much emphasis on ratings in Australia, especially in Melbourne and a single coffee can hurt a business.
Knowing how many variables there are in the coffee making process i'm not prepared to hurt someone's livelihood for the sake of a few dollars (or pounds).

Not that James at Dose has anything to worry about, we visited him 3 times during our short stay, we had our first and last coffees in London at Dose and all 20 or so of them were great, the food was excellent and surprisignly cheap for London and if you're homesick you're bound to run into an Aussie along the way...Ryan, or if you're a Kiwi, so is James.

Without making claims about which cafe is the best, Dose is definitely one of them and a must visit cafe in London.

Another thing about London cafes in general, they all promote each other freely.
Without a map on the first day we were given directions and tips where to go for good coffees, there's a real community feel about the industry.
They all know each other and encourage each other and are currently planning the Ultimate Barista Fighting League, a regular smackdown/barista jam - the London coffee scene feels like Melbourne used to be before politics/profits got in the way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Copenhagen = The Coffee Collective = Coffee Utopia

We fell in love with the city and the coffee and didn't want to leave.

Unfortunatley we only had a few days here but managed to visit The Coffee Collective 3 times within 24 hours.

For some reason I expected it to be much bigger than it is but the coffee was as good if not better than expected.

When we arrived in the morning we were shocked to see the footpath had disappeared overnight, we couldn't get in for our coffee!
We could see Klaus sitting inside an empty cafe and were stuck with other customers trying to figure out how to get in, soon enough the roadworks crew built us a bridge.

Over the 2 days we worked our way through the entire coffee menu, they might even offer Siphon soon as Kirby gave them her two.
The Shakerato's were refreshing on a hot summer's day.

Here Klaus is aeropressing it up for us - new crop Panama La Esmeralda!

Casper roasting two days after he lost his World Cup Tasting title but as he pointed out, he's still the fastest!

There's plenty more to Copenhagen and the best way to fit in is to hire a bike or use the city's free bikes in summer.

We made it to Estate Coffee for more great coffee including clover where you could choose from several singles on offer.
For espresso they offered 2 blends (black & white) and 1 single origin.

On the last day we made it to Risteriet for one last coffee.
They had an excellent range of coffee machinery and accessories but after such great coffee's at TCC and Estate they couldn't match it.

We've had it pretty tough finding good coffee in Europe but Copenhagen lived up to, and exceeded all expectations, i'm sure those of you that attended the 2008 WBC agree.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

SCAE Cologne - away from the comp

It almost felt like the competition got in the way of everything else there was to do in Cologne.
I attended several workshops at the show including profile roasting techniques, got to cup the soon to be auctioned Guatemala CoE lot with Ben Bicknell and Scottie Callaghan, Annie my sister got to cup with Ben Kaminsky the US cupping champion and we all got competition tips from the last two world champions, Gwilym Davies and Stephen Morrissey.

Whenever I wasn't in a workshop or watching the aussies compete I was checking out the show floor.

My favourite would have to be the the Marco Über Boiler, such a well thought out piece of equipment.
The shared their stand with Mahlkonig, whom we owe many thanks to.
Sven was kind enough to lend Kirby a grinder for the comp even though he'd never met us.
It was all organised through Greg at Appliance Maintenance Company, the Australian distributor.
And to prove what a nice guy Sven was he agreed to let Erin and Fiefy use the grinder after Kirby asked him.

The show was actually rather small and somewhat disappointing.
There were only a few espresso machine manufacturers in attendance, several roasters and lots of local businesses but nothing new or interesting.
I was lucky enough to play with the Giesen roaster in a workshop and that was about as hands on as the show got.

The best night out in Cologne was on the friday, Sven gave me an invite to a party at Natuzzi Cafe.
The cafe is part of the Natuzzi leather furniture store next door and had atleast 6 of Kees' machines on display.
It's where we first met Stephen and Gwilym and over several beers we discussed many things about coffee, in my slightly tipsy state I offered to work Gwilym's cart on sunday!

It also showed us what it takes to be a world champ when some random guy approched Stephen and asked if he could show him how he makes coffee, we all looked at each other and wondered what he meant, I think he thought he would see what made him the best.
It was a rather awkward situation, Stephen trying to please the crowd using coffee that he knew nothing about and the manager dosing the shots for him (dirty basket, no tamp etc).
Eventually it turned into a mini latte art smackdown with Kirby.

The best part of Cologne was what we did away from the comp, we made some new friends, learnt alot, had alot of beer and found out Stephen's plays the piano quite well.

Friday, July 3, 2009

SCAE Cologne - competition part 2

Saturday had finally arrived and Kirby Berlin was relaxed and well prepared for the Coffee in Good Spirits comp, whereas I felt more nervous than when I competed at the Australian comp and I wasn't even competing.

Kirby was doing very well but had a few hiccups, her siphon took longer to brew than expected though not a major issue but the espresso shots for her designer beverage only poured from one side, even though her tamp was level, grind was right etc etc.
This meant Kirby had to pull another shot and subsequently finish over time.
She finished in 11th (out of 24) with a score of 19.5 (21 minus the time penalty) and would've been very close to making the finals without the time penalty.
The feedback from the judges Kirby received was great with head judge Paul telling her it was the best tasting designer beverage of the day (will post the recipe if Kirby lets me).

The experience gained by both Kirby and I is immeasurable and i'm sure it will help us for future competitions, if I decide to compete again.

Also competiting for Australia was Ben Bicknell in the cup tasting championship, in a very tough field he finished 21st.
Rob Forsyth and Fiefy were last minute entrants into the Cezve/Ibrik Championship finishing in 9th position - by entering Australia became eligible for the SCAE World Coffee Championships Best nation, we finished 5th.

Congrats to all competitors, it was great being part of it, hope to see you in London!

SCAE Cologne - competition part 1

So we've finally arrived in Cologne, the excuse for our European trip.

It was a very busy 5 days in Cologne that included lots of Kölsch (the local beer), almost as many sausages, learnt alot, met many great people in the industry and somewhere in all that there was a competition.

One of the first cafe's we went to was Espresso Perfetto, they had a great range of supplies and equipment including many vintage machines and grinders that they unfortunately refused to sell.

On our first day we arranged to meet up with Fiefy the 2009 South Australian barista champion the Thailand latte art competitor - she only found out 2 weeks before she would be competiting!
We spent the day shopping for supplies for Kirby and Fiefy and ended up at a cafe we'd been to earlier where the barista was proud of the rosetta he poured for us, thinking we'd never seen such a thing.
We brought with us several types of milk and as their doser was full we ground off some of our coffee on the deli grinder in the supermarket next door.
Kirby made us many coffees and ended up giving the cafe's staff and owner some latte art training, it was priceless seeing their faces when she showed them how to pour double rosettas, tulips and a swan after they'd earlier explained to us how to pour a rosetta.

The first Australian competitor to hit the stage was Erin Sampson, at times she looked very nervous on stage but it didn't get to her and she did very well.
Placing 3rd in the world with visual scores of 256 just behind the winner, Peter Hernou of Belgium who scored of 257.
Some might wonder why Erin didn't finish higher than 3rd, especially with such high visual scores, unfortunately her taste score was 14.5 points behind and that's the reason for not placing higher.

I'm sure they'll be discussions about the winners sig drink design, I liked it and thought it was unique but i've never been a fan of etching.

My favourite competitor was 4th placed compeitor Kenji Kushihama of Japan, his quad rosetta under competition pressure was great as was his double with hearts.
I had the chance to tell him that when we bumped into him in Copenhagen a few days later.