Finding un café, not so Parisian style

 

My feet are killing me and I’ve had Parisian visual overkill… Eiffel tower, La Seine, Louvre, Notre Dame, L’Orangerie

The Eiffel Tower against tree lined street

The Eiffel Tower… ahh… it’s hard not to act like a tourist in Paris.

– everything’s starting to melt into one and my head is spinning from very pretty but repetitive architecture. My fingers are tired from the 1000s of pictures I’ve taken and after having failed at finding a Kebab at either of Notre Dame’s corners and having succumbed to a tourist trap Bistro out of sheer hunger and desperation all I want is coffee. Good coffee.

We headed to Le Marais where according to Beanhunter terres de cafe is THE place for coffee. But they don’t do soy and the place is more of a super tiny roastery wholesale shop (very cute) than a comfortable café to sit down and relax for a bit. Not the moment of escape we had hoped for unfortunately.

We must have had disappointment written all over our faces, because the girl is very nice to us and recommends a place close by. Loustic does soy and is only 3 blocks away apparently. What are 3 blocks after 10 miles of walking? So, hopeful that we are not the butt of a French joke we make our way and aren’t disappointed.

Inside loustic

Inside loustic

A La Marzocca smiles at us when we walk through the door. The atmosphere is warm and very cosy, 70s wallpaper next to exposed brick walls. The front room consists of a long bar opposite a comfy long bench with small movable tables to share.

A French Flat White...

A French Flat White…

The back rooms are more intimate. The friendly barista recommends a ‘café crème’ which is  supposed to be the French equivalent of a flat white. Why not…. The little green coffee beans don’t disappoint. The coffee is incredibly mild and creamy with a lovely taste of coconut and chocolate.

Not bad, although slightly too weak for Luke’s liking. I am happy and can’t help but overhear yuppie/artie conversations by my neighbours next to me (I wasn’t trying to –  you do share close quarters here…) he’s working hard on impressing his friend with upcoming art shows and a move to London. I smile. Well, that’s Paris after all. We feel like we’ve finally arrived.

IN SUMMARY
It is cute, it is quirky and it is trying to be something different than the usual Parisian cafés. Loustic does coffee well for France and has a selection of lunch options as well. It has a whiff of modern Paris, so make sure to wear nothing but black and grey to blend in. 

loustic, 40 Rue Capon, 3eme, Paris, Métro stations near by: Étienne Marcel or Arts et Métier

Bath, coffee and spas

Rare to see this many grinders at once

Rare to see this many coffee grinders at once

After having experienced old spas the way Romans would never do (3 queues, audio guides and a ‘do not touch the water’ policy) we needed a break before plunging into a real spa.

Collona & Small’s seemed like the place to choose in Bath. As soon as you enter you feel the positive vibe – these guys are dead serious about coffee, except that they are not dead serious at all. They are super friendly and helpful. C&S ticks so many boxes that I feel dizzy. Not what I expected from our short stay in Bath.

blackboard with large selection of different coffee beans

Spoilt for choice

Bright interior, wooden natural feel, amazing coffee selection, lots of cake and pastry options (including gluten free options).

My Bonsoy flat white is good, but not the best I’ve ever had, however the Ethiopian espresso is simple perfection. I feel like I am in coffee heaven – how much do apartments in Bath cost?

View to the outside from the inside of the cafe

Inside of Colonna & Small’s

IN SUMMARY:
C&S really surprised us. Usually it’s hard to find a good coffee in the UK outside of London, but we were proven wrong. This place really knows how to do coffee. They use a La Marzocco Strada and offer ten changing specialty roasters from around the UK.

on the quest for london gold

long black from a top view

London's most golden long black

I can hear you loud and clear. What is this? All these promises about the best London cafés, but nothing in writing for months. Yes, I am guilty as charged. I have no idea how it suddenly got to November, and this post has been hanging over me like the sky over northern Germany (and Scotland as I have also found out recently).

So when it comes to gold in London, who wins the medal?

I must admit, it took me a while to write this.

I’ve been going over and over how to best set out this blog post. Having done the coffeelympics a little while back now I have learned a lot about London’s coffee culture. Interestingly there’s less variety than you’d think in terms of beans and machines used when comparing the top of the top.

The most popular combinations going around seem to be Square Mile’s Red Brick, Monmouth paired up with either Synesso or La Marzocco machines. And then there are the Australian/Kiwi mini syndicates taking over the city: The Coffeesmith Collective, nude espresso and Taylor St Baristas, to mention just some of the most thriving ones.

So although each of these cafés contribute to a better coffee culture there are also still a few gems to be found that are not afraid to experiment and boldly showcase their own roasts, such as newly opened Exmouth Coffee Company near Whitechapel in East London. And then nothing will save your café unless you employ friendly and skillful baristas.

But enough of it already, here are the winners of the 2012 coffeelympics, determined by quality of long black (btw that’s not an Americano and if the café didn’t know that it was automatically disqualified), atmosphere and friendliness of staff, separated into London areas:

North London

  1. Ginger & White, Belsize Park
  2. Ginger & White, Hampstead

Central London

  1. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, near Farringdon
  2. Milkbar, Soho

East London

  1. Exmouth Coffee Company, near Whitechapel
  2. The Liberty of Norton Folgate, near Shoreditch and Liverpool Street

South London

  1. Curators Coffee Studio, near Monument
  2. Federation Coffee, Brixton marke

And the overall gold for the best café in London goes to:

  1. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

More details on the winners to follow soon.

I would also like to thank the following cafés who unbeknownst to themselves participated in the coffeelympics:
the wetfish cafe, the kitchentable, prufrock, taylor st baristas liverpool st, the association of coffee, foxcroft and ginger, rock trade east cafe, nude espresso shoreditch, allpress, brick lane cafe, flat white, bicafé, look mum no hands, st ali, notes, coffee & music, monmouth borough market, flat cap stall borough market, speakeasy

West London anyone?

What happened to the west? To be honest I didn’t have a good enough reason to venture out there, but if I do, I will update this section to include west London. In the meantime, please feel free to leave some comments recommending your favourite cafés in west London and I will try to come up with an excuse to visit them soon.

I think I’ll have a tea now.

london coffeelympics are here

It turns out that I am pretty rubbish at running 42 miles (a bit of an understatement, I am really not capably of running anything more than 2miles) or of swimming more than 100 metres. Don’t get me wrong I like sport, but I prefer it when it is fun and social.

Who will win gold in the coffeelympics?

Who will win gold in the coffeelympics?

But I do enjoy watching sports! And I am pretty good at drinking coffee. So here is an idea: over the next two weeks I am going to do a marathon around London trying to find the best coffee in London – who will win gold? And how many coffees can I drink in a day?

I have had a bit of fair criticism that this blog is a bit soy cuppa heavy… Main reason for that is, that a soy flat white is one of the hardest coffees to make. Ask any Barista. If you get this one right, I can assure you anything else will also be of good quality. Plus, I can’t really drink anything with normal milk. But as I said, fair enough comment, so I will up the challenge:

Who makes the best long black in London?

I will keep a tab on twitter @goodcafecoffee and then will feature the best cafés of London by area. So there is plenty of gold to be won everywhere!

ON YOUR MARKS, READY, SET, GO…!

where to find the best coffee in the world.

Melbourne, Australia. You can stop reading now.

Now I know this title is extremely biased. But then anyone who has been to Melbourne will understand.

There are few, if any, cities as obsessed about coffee as Melbourne. It is quite normal to walk an extra 5 blocks, because your friend or colleague is not happy with the cafe around the corner. There is cafe ditching on a daily basis, because there’s simply no excuse for bad coffee in Melbourne.

Albert Park Lake, Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne at its best: sunny Albert Park Lake

On occasions I have gone as far as ditching entire restaurants for serving Coffex. If they skimp on the coffee, then their food ingredients can’t be of great quality either, right?

Well, having been back in Europe for over two years now has taught me that there’s more to life than just complaining about bad coffee. But hey, have I complained!

Fights with German cafe owners about what a latte is (and I still insist that it is NOT a latte macchiato), lots of returned coffee, lots of unfinished coffee, lots of burned coffee, the list goes on. But it has had its positives, I’ve learned a lot about black coffee in Portugal, I’ve done my best to convince anyone who’s been brave enough to go out for a coffee with me that there are better options out there then burnt milk with coffee flavour and three spoons of sugar.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

Inside of Monk Bodhi Dharma

Since my love for coffee started in Melbourne, I was very excited about being back in April and, not surprisingly, quite a few things had changed in the coffee scene. St Ali has been sold to a foreign investor and lots of new cafés have popped up everywhere.

Now, although I was unable to visit all of the new places, since we spent most of the time on the Mornington Peninsula, I caught up with Paul a friend of mine, who is a Melbourne Barista and who gave me his tips, as to the best cafés in Melbourne 2012.

So here it goes, very personal and biased, make sure to check them out for yourself, but this is Paul’s Top 9, in no order of preference:

  1. monk bodhi dharma
  2. the final step
  3. patricia
  4. auction rooms
  5. proud mary
  6. axil
  7. omar and the marvelous coffee bird
  8. hobba
  9. dead man espresso

After going through that list I decided to start with Monk Bodhi Dharma and this place certainly did not disappoint.

Tucked away on Carlisle Street next to the police station, this small but friendly place oozes with charm and you feel welcome right away. Very nice staff and happy to chat about their coffee.

Soy latte in hand

Monk Bodhi Dharma soy latte

At the time of drinking I was enjoying the house blend of the month, which technically was no blend at all, but a single origin from Papua New Guinea and tasted amazing.

The Synesso produced that fine rounded chocolaty drop I was looking for and the Muffins were great, too. Would I live in Melbourne again, I’d be a regular for sure!

Hopefully this page will keep you caffeinated in Melbourne for a while… If you feel there are other special places in Melbourne that I’ve left out, then feel free to add them in the comments section!

Location: Monk Bodhi Dharma, Carlisle Street, Melbourne, Australia

Visited: April 2012

IN SUMMARY:
Melbourne did not disappoint. Good coffee everywhere and Monk Bodhi Dharma has the right balance between a relaxed friendly atmosphere and simply excellent coffee.

 

an engel in helsinki

I am prejudiced when it comes to tourist guide recommendations.

Firstly, they are usually based on some historic or architectural reason rather than the quality of coffee or food, and secondly they cause tourist overflows and stressed out staff. Unfortunately tourist places are in most cases by nature designed to serve: well…, crappy quality.

Most local customers are less likely to put up with bad coffee, food and service at exorbitant prices just to see some old tiles and a chandelier.

Hence, I was rather sceptical when an Italian friend gave us café suggestions out of his lonely planet. But since my Finnish is non existent I thought it’s still worth a try since my usual Google research had proven rather unhelpful in Finland, due to language barriers and incredibly long words that even Google translate seemed to struggle with. I also wanted to try something else other than the Finnish version of Starbucks: Robert’s Coffee – granted it’s much better than Starbucks, if you are ever stuck for a coffee in Finland. Not surprising considering that Finland supposedly leads the per head coffee consumption in the world: 10kg in a year…

The first lonely planet suggestion the Lasipalatsi – mannerheimintie 22-24 confirmed all of my fears.

First rude staff experience in Finland, no hot breakfast and only frequented by tourists… my expectations were accordingly low when we decided to leave this place to find the next one: Café Engel.

Coffee at Cafe Engel

A decent cappucino at Cafe Engel

Despite the touristy spot (next to the senate, in the centre of Helsinki) the place oozed with warmth and relaxed coffee atmosphere right away. And they served a really nice big hot brekkie including coffee and fresh orange juice for 12€!

My cappucino (with soy) was served at the right temperature, with smooth crema foam. The taste was gentle but interesting and very smooth with very low acidity. The service was impeccable and long white candles added a nice cosy touch.

Senate in Helsinki, Finland

Senate in Helsinki - getting ready to become Design Capital 2012

Looking out of the tall windows we could watch Helsinki getting ready for their countdown as the world design capital 2012.

Location: Café Engel, Senaatintoori, Helsinki, Finland

Visited: Dec 2011

IN SUMMARY:

Café Engel is a welcome stop in Helsinki, nice atmosphere, good coffee and great breakfast in a very central location.

 

good café coffee reposted

Writing a blog is always very exciting when you first start.

The problem though is, that you have grand plans and then reality and lack of time catch up.

Having been to Finland at the end of 2011 (beautiful country), having shortly after that moved to London (great city), having visited family in back in Melbourne (another great city) in April, there’s been very little time to catch on updating this blog.

Thanks to technology though, I have been taking notes all along the way and I am determined to share all of my experiences in the coming weeks.

Having been to so many different places in a short period of time, has also given us the opportunity to compare different cultures and coffee standards from around the world – as Luke likes to put it: after having tasted coffee in Melbourne again, he noticeably dislikes his own home made coffee, he has been enjoying at home for the last two years…

coffee break is over

coffee break is over

Anyway, I am resolved to improve my future posting skills. I will do my best to put up all of our insights and new posts as quickly as I can. But I will also catch up on places we have been to in the past few months and will note down the approximate time as to when the place was reviewed, just in case your experience is less enjoyable!  I will be posting on a weekly basis, so make sure to come back soon – one of the posts I have been looking forward to writing is a comparison between St. Ali London and St. Ali Melboure, what used to be my favourite café – but is it still?

austrian-portuguese anyone?

There’s something really special about finding that right place.
I suppose it is a bit like finding a good book to read.

In most cases, you have to work through a lot of rubbish to get there. A lot of excited moments of discovery, only to be followed by severe disappointment.

When we got to Lisboa, we were very excited about the coffee. It was black, it was strong, it was everywhere.

Combined with beautiful pastries, Portugal most definitely has developed its own distinct coffee culture. Unlike the Germans, who often insist on 100% Arabica beans, the Portuguese like a fair dash of Robusta in their coffee mix, based on their strong ties to Brasil, I read somewhere. Coming from Australian coffee culture, I believe it can really add depth to a coffee.

Putting the entire Arabica snobness to one side, coffee is all about taste. And tastes always differs. I happen to enjoy a really good blend – coffee or wine.

inside the kaffeehaus

Kaffeehaus Cafe, Rua Anchieta, Lisbon

As much as we liked the classic Portuguese culture with traditionally dressed waiters, pastellarias combined with great weather and happy people, you can imagine, that it’s not really the place to openly confess your lactose intolerance. Everyone drinks espresso anyway. But after a few days of tasting bicas and duplos through all sorts of pastellarias, I must say a serious craving for a good soy latte was starting to creep in.

When we told our friends in Lisboa that we really like coffee, they right away had a few suggestions. One of which was the Kaffeehaus in Bairro Alto. Ironically, a café run by Austrians. The first week we struggled to find it. After we finally did, it turned out that the owners were on holiday and would only open a few days before we were due to leave. Fun fact about Portugal: in summer everyone’s at the Algarve, which makes Lisboa a really relaxed place to visit.

So, full of anticipation we arrived for a late breakfast on the day it reopened. A beautiful sunny morning, and you could tell that the locals had really missed the place. It was buzzing, the ever changing lunch menu looked very appetizing.

The interior is bright, a mix of modern and classic, with enough space to go round and some plastered walls with contemporary Austrian art posters. Most of the staff are Portuguese, but the second day we met one of the owners, who cheerfully noted, that his scrambled eggs on toast must be really good, if I was taking photos of it…

scrambled eggs for breakfast

looks simple, but tastes great!

The café had been running for seven years. Having worked in gastronomy for many years, he had come with his partner and opened this café to live and surf in Lisboa. Sounded like a great plan to me, that he obviously didn’t seem to regret in the slightest…

We pretty much tested half the menu over two visits (we HAD to come back the next day): amazing crumbly sour tarty cakes, always with a creative twist to traditional meals such as scrambled eggs and sausages with mash, made to perfection.

After having tasted the delicious items on the menu, the biggest question of course was: what about the coffee?

Sticking with Portuguese tradition, soy was not an option, so I ordered a café duplo (elongated double espresso, in Australia we call it a long black), which hands down was probably the best cup of black coffee I have ever tasted. Well balanced, smooth, not too bitter and with the perfect amount of crema, it left you wanting for more.

cafe duplo

This cafe duplo is a must try.

Luke’s first order was a café com leite. This turned out to be a big mistake. Coffee and milk do not mix well in Portugal. We rectified it immediately by ordering a second duplo and so we both enjoyed an amazing cup of coffee.

IN SUMMARY
If you are fortunate enough, the book you take along on your trip will be just as good as the food and the café duplo at the Kaffeehaus. If you travel to, or if you live in Lisboa, this place is a MUST visit.

two points for pois café

Could I be happier? Sitting on a 25 degree day in pois, café in Alfama. The picturesque pinnacle of the enchanting city of Lisbon, Portugal. My mind is turning to questions of cost of living, average rental payments and could we really live here? But of course it is just a holiday dream.

Pois Café, Rua de São João da Praça, Lisboa, Portugal

It’s been an eon since I last strolled into a cafe and felt so at home. The couches surround a large buckled chest and rows of books on shelves to the left and the right. The menu looks appealing – too bad we have just eaten.

So I order a double espresso and Julia requests a soy latte. And they have soy! Are we in coffee paradise? Leider nicht (unfortunately not).

Julia’s latte is obviously a latte machiatto (coffee poured in after the milk) and just doesn’t quite cut it.

chocolate coconut cake

The Portuguese Austrian version of a lamington

But my double espresso is adequate – it does the job  together with a coconut chocolate cake that reminds me of the one and only Aussie speciality, the lamington. I may not be in coffee paradise, but I am in cafe bliss!

IN SUMMARY:

Come for the ambience, the German book and magazine selection and enjoy Alfama!

due baristi – two are better than one

So, is there a good coffee place in Hamburg???

After having found many great cafés in many cities, finding the perfect place in Hamburg has turned out to be far more difficult than expected. So far, I have lost count of the amount of arguments I have had with café staff on what the difference is between a café latte and a latté macchiato. For those of you who have not heard of what a latte macchiato is, don’t worry, I hadn’t either.

Basically it is a latte, but you pour in the coffee last that makes for a nicely looking coffee. Unfortunately in terms of taste it is not much to rave about. It tastes very milky and the crema does not rise to the top. And then there is the issue with the poorly trained baristas, who tend to to overheat the milk and refuse to understand how it is different to a café latte. So makes for 80% of my café experiences in Hamburg.

But when I thought that all hope was lost of finding a good café along came Due Baristi at Langenfelder Damm 2-4 in Eimsbüttel.

chocolate cake at Due Baristi

Sweet gooey chocolate cake at Due Baristi, Langenfelder Damm 2-4, Eimsbüttel, Hamburg

It’s a quiet residential area with leafy trees and a few small boutiques, close to Osterstraße but tucked away in an unspectacular but cosy corner.

On arrival the café looked promising with its large outdoor seating area packed with people sipping coffee. It also passed my usual first table check: seeing whether everyone had finished their coffee or whether the new coffees looked like something I would like to order.

The name of the place seems to be derived from the fact that there are two baristas preparing the coffe. Two owners it seems, passionate about coffee. But so far, I have not had a chance to speak with them. I will try to find out more about it and let you know in a future post.

Entering the inside was another nice surprise. Marble and wooden tables, the place conveys a light and bright whitish feel without being cold. It’s spacious and inviting with a lot of different seating places, mixed through between small and large tables with plenty of different areas to hide or to prominently place yourself in everyones’s sight. On the wall are a few plaques on display confirming the participation in German barrista competitions suggesting that attention is given to latte art.

You need to place your order at the counter and then all food and drink is brought to your table. In addition to the selection of different coffees, there is also a nice selection of wines, cakes and food. Some nights you can come for a large buffet consisting of what appeared to be home cooked authentic Italian food.

All in all this place feels like it’s run by a nice italian or italian influenced family that simply enjoy good coffee and food. Not much that can go wrong.

So, having ordered a slice of the chocolate cake and a latte with soy milk Luke and I were anticipating whether the coffee would live up to our initial impressions.

Possibly the best coffee in Hamburg…

And it did! So, if anyone is still wondering whether there is good coffee in Hamburg, the answer is: yes! This is the place if you are looking for true attention to detail and good coffee. The coffee is smooth, creamy, good latte art and has nice finish on the pallate.

Due Baristi: Thank you for putting some passion into making your coffee. Thank you for understanding café culture. Thank you for getting it right.

This is hands down my favourite coffee place in Hamburg. Now, it’s over to you: What’s your favourite café? I would love to hear about your favourite coffee places in Germany or other European cities.

IN SUMMARY

 My favourite coffee in Hamburg. Good coffee, nice and bright atmosphere, a great place for a lazy Sunday morning.