With the London Coffee Festival over, it would have been remiss of us not to go on and enjoy some of the best chocolate and coffee that London has to offer. With plenty of time before we had to get the train back to Leeds, we endeavoured to go on a short tour picking up some of our personal favourites, old and new.
It was 10:30pm and we’d been wandering around Soho drinking red wine after eating dinner at Yauatcha, which was pretty spectacular, when we were walking past SAID and noticed it was still open and serving.
Entering into SAID for my third time, I knew what to order without even looking at a menu, it’s the same thing I order every time I come here, a regular dark hot chocolate. I’ve said it a few times before, but Italians make a great hot chocolate, not the milky over sweetened hot chocolate that you’ll have come to expect from your average cafe, but a thick, molten and most importantly chocolatey cup of hot chocolate. How it should be if you’re drinking hot chocolate. Perfect enough to start any day or finish one, which is what we were doing, with the rain tapping on the window pane this made me warm and happy on the inside in a way that nothing else could. Prepared for the outside world again we left in the knowledge that we had a bag of their hot chocolate waiting for us at home.
Down in Bermondsey on Druid Street, St. John’s bakery have a reputation for producing some of the best doughnuts in London, something we planned to take advantage of. Having walked a fair way to get there we were pretty hungry by this point, which meant the first round of chocolate and rhubarb cream doughnuts disappeared before there was chance to take any photos of them.
Fortunately they were so good, we ordered another to share, the rhubarb jam. The doughnuts justify their reputation, classical style doughnuts that are wonderfully soft, bouncy and squidgy with a good sugar coating, the fillings are well balanced and flavoursome. Needless to say we weren’t disappointed making our long walk worth it.
Allpress’s roastery cafe on Redchurch Street was closed this weekend, no doubt due to the London Coffee Festival being on, but it was perfectly ok, because the Allpress garage cafe next door was open. Intending on picking up some pastries from Pump Street Bakery across the road, it would be silly to have had these without coffee and Allpress do some great coffee. Browsing the menu, we opted for the Peruvian Cafe Feminino as a chemex, so named because it is grown exclusively by women.
The coffee arrived with the aromas of caramel and citrus cream, with some notes of sweet roasted almonds. To taste there was cream and citrus peel developing into a blackberry vanilla sponge, before cooling to a sort of blueberry cream. With a creamy full bodied mouthfeel this coffee was eminently drinkable, I could have drunk numerous cups of this in a day and not got bored of it. We’d bought this to team up with our pastries from across the road and so that is where we headed.
Having walked past the day before after breakfast at Leila’s Shop, we quickly popped in to pick up a Pain au Chocolat filled with Pump Street Bakery’s 60% Ecuadorian chocolate and I’m glad we did because there was none left this time. This was Pump Street Bakery’s last day at their pop shop on Redchuch street, the following day they’d be headed back to their bakery in Orford. The Pain au Chocolat we’d had the day previous was probably the best I’ve ever had, owing to the quality and flavour of the chocolate inside, a rich slightly sweet milk chocolate with a good depth of flavour. This time however we opted to indulge solely in their baking quality, opting for one of their fine croissants. Heading out into the sunshine to enjoy our coffee and croissant together, we took a seat on their bench by the window.
While Pump Street are a bakery and produce some great baked goods, I had come here for another reason, their chocolate. They were on Redchurch Street showcasing their new Rye Crumb, Milk and Sea Salt, being the first of its kind, it was delicious and while I enjoyed the combination of chocolate and bread a lot, this isn’t what I was here for. I’d come to add another Venezuelan to my collection, their limited run of 72% Carenero Superior from Casa Franceschi, a farm im very fond of. I would have picked up their 75% Patanemo too, if I hadn’t of already bought it from Cocoa Runners. Fortunately for any of you who missed their pop up at Redchurch Street and live too far from Orford to pop in, all their bars are available online from their store with free postage and packing.
Pump Street Bakery were great to talk to and were really passionate about the chocolate and baked goods they produce, whats more they were super friendly too. Now I just have to find an easy way of getting to Orford and back.
Having visited Mast Brothers before on our trip to New York, we thought we knew what to expect when walking into their Redchurch Street store, however things had changed, Mast Brothers had been busy innovating again. Having already puchased some of their chocolate bars, we were here for different reasons, this time we were here to see how they’d been getting on brewing chocolate.
Having tried their tea bag style brewed cacao nibs in New York and being unsure of the final results, we’d come to see how they’d adapted their recipe for brewed chocolate. Mast Brothers had obviously been influenced by the changing trends in coffee and had decided to take a coffee style approach, rather than a tea style approach to brewing their cacao nibs. What they had opted for was still an immersion style brewing process but one with some added pressure for a fuller extraction, while still managing to retain some tea like qualities. For those of you that are fans of coffee, you’ll have guessed the change already, they were brewing on the Hario Syphon.
This already felt more appealing to me, I expected, before even tasting the brewed chocolate that it was bound to have more body due to its potential for fuller extraction, something the cacao nib tea had suffered from a lack of. If anything, this time I was excited rather than just merely curious. They were brewing the chocolate with their Madagascan cacao nibs, a good choice given the distinctive fruity flavours present, it would be easy to gauge the extraction. The beans are ground using a HG one grinder to somewhere near a filter grind, just like coffee, before being added to the syphon.
The syphon works by heating the lower chamber, which expands the air and forces the water up into the top chamber. What is interesting about the extraction method is that the syphon continues to heat as it brews, rather than pour over methods where the water is constantly cooling after it is poured. This makes timing crucial for reducing the heat and then removing the heat completely. Once the heat is removed the gas in the lower chamber contracts, drawing the liquid back into the lower chamber through a filter, leaving the ground cacao nibs in the upper chamber. Giving you your cup of brewed chocolate. You can read more about the syphon brew method in Issue 14 of Caffeine Magazine.
So, to the important question, how is syphon brewed chocolate? Well, the short answer is really good, it’s much more to my liking that cacao nib tea, this is a drink that competes with good hot chocolate and good coffee. In the cup it has aromas of honest chocolate with hints of musk. To taste it was bittersweet, it is worth remembering this is effectively a 100% cacao drink, over time as it cools it becomes sweeter with flavours of orange and distant red fruit. The texture is somewhere between tea and coffee, having a dense but light body with a lightly juicy mouthfeel.
Having enjoyed the brewed chocolate and having drunk good cold brew coffee for the first time that weekend, it made perfect sense to give their cold brewed chocolate a try while we were at it. Another success, tasting like a sweet limey iced tea it was lightly sherberty with a grapefruit acidity and some sweet hazelnuts in the finish. I hadn’t really expected to like this either but it was tasty and ultimately refreshing. Mast Brothers are always experimenting and innovating, this time it all seems to be heading in the right direction too.
With our tour over we headed for our train back to Leeds. Taking a detour via Sourced Market in St Pancras Station to pick up our second Crosstown Doughnut of the weekend, a Peanut Butter & Berry version to enjoy on the train. Which made us feel better about leaving all the good chocolate, coffee and doughtnuts London had to offer behind us.