London Coffee Festival 2018 Part 2

Roasting Shed


I hadn’t met the Roasting Shed before, they’re from East London – which somehow seems appropriate – and they roast coffee, but without a shop space of their own to sell it through, a bit like how coffee roasters used to be. It’s not often you meet ‘local’ roasters at somewhere like London Coffee Festival, so it seemed appropriate to work my way through the three immediate filters they had available to try. Passed three cups, a washed San Roque, from Huila in Colombia, another washed Wegida Blue from Yigacheffe in Ethiopia and finally a third washed, the Ragati from Kibirigwi in Kenya, it was time to sample three seasonal, but somewhat archetypal coffees – they’re the kind of origins you become accustomed with early on in coffee. The Colombian had a fairly typical coffee flavour, easy going, the kind that works well when introducing newcomers to the world of specialty coffee and following on the Ethiopian was in direct contrast, a brighter more acidic coffee with distinct floral notes and a much lighter body, tasting very purple in flavour. Finally I was left with the Kenyan, a more complex darkly sweet coffee, with those winey like qualities you get from so many Kenyans, probably the best of the three, but at the same time the least accessible. No doubt a set of coffees that will be cropping up around cafes in the East London area now. Continue reading


London Coffee Festival 2018 Part 1


This years London Coffee Festival was bigger than ever, sprawling out across 3 full floors – 4 if you count the split level downstairs – making it hard to know what to do, where to do it and in what order, such was the variety and diversity of coffee related experiences on offer. There’s a guide, for sure, there’s even plenty of information in it, but with well in excess of 200 odd stands it can still be a little overwhelming. The only advice I could give is to go with the flow, on some occasions it will be your only option. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Philosophy of Coffee’ by Brian Williams


I’ll open by saying, I don’t write a lot of book reviews, I have a lot of coffee and chocolate books, but the majority are picture heavy reference guides and recipe books. They are with the exception of Allen M Young’s ‘The Chocolate Tree’ – a lengthy discussion of the genetic history of Cacao and its cultivation – mostly educational, on how to prepare coffee or chocolate, where it comes from or recipes for how to cook with them, factual, but in a very direct sense. Brian Williams’ ‘The Philosophy of Coffee’ is different, it’s a balanced and unbiased history of coffee as a global commodity and its connection to historical culture without agenda or romanticism. It is in many ways the most approachable and believable account of coffee’s history I’ve come across, since watching PBS’s 3 part series entitled ‘Black Coffee’, many years ago. What strikes you early on is the books simplicity, in a good sense, its accessible and relatable, much like most of Brian’s writing, easy to follow and informative the whole way. Continue reading

A Brief Tour of Italy: Specialty Coffee


Italy is a country of tradition, that much is clear visiting the long heralded espresso culture prevalent in Naples. There’s a love of coffee, but one that’s steeped in the nostalgic rituals of short pulled espresso shots and moka pots. That’s slowly changing and more and more single origin espresso and even filter coffee is beginning to peak through the menagerie of counter top standing espresso bars where coffees are drunk as quickly as they are made. A caffe e cornetto is certainly not disappearing anytime soon, but for those looking for a little something more there’s a bunch of passionate individuals willing to bridge that gap.  Continue reading

Cup North 2017 Part 2

Raw Materials


I’ve cupped with Raw Materials before, after discovering the taste sensation that was their Rwanda Kilimbi lot at London Coffee Festival. This time they were presenting their lots from El Fenix, Colombia, a project of theirs that goes beyond the usual green bean importing. In 2016 they ran a kickstarter to help fund the construction of a community wet mill in Quindío, Colombia in order to offer farmers that traditionally sold their coffee at market prices the opportunity to process their coffee at a central mill and engage in education to improve the quality of their coffee. Paying farmers above the market price for producing great coffee is one thing, but improving the quality of coffee in an area not traditionally producing specialty, so that farmers can charge more is another. You can read more about the project here

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Cup North 2017 Part 1

cup north

This year’s Cup North was slower and more relaxed than in previous years, less sirens, less amped up music and as Brian Williams pointed out it was warmer too. Warmer not just in ambient temperature, but in spirits and that oh so intangible of currencies, conversation. The coffee’s great, it’s almost always great at festivals these days, cups of excellence and bags of unusual microlots for showcasing the length and breadth of specialty coffee’s extremes and well it wouldn’t be a coffee festival without it, but to my mind as good as the coffee is, it’s not necessarily the most valuable thing on offer. Coffee, it seems to me, is somewhat of a vocational calling and it appears to attract some pretty passionate individuals, the kind who talk about hard work, difficulty and problem solving all through the encouraging smile on their face, they’re interested and interesting all at the same time. It’s these people that are the real gems of a coffee festival and so while I might mention the odd geisha or natural microlot from time to time, this article is dedicated to those people, those conversations and to those at Cup North who make this kind of thing possible. Continue reading

Best of Paris: Coffee & Chocolate Part 3

Chocolat Chapon


Selling more than just chocolate bars, Chocolat Chapon are also well known for their ice creams, their chocolates and above all their single origin chocolate mousses. Arriving a suitable time after breakfast we popped inside to pick up some chocolate bars from their healthy selection of single origins and also to try one of those fabled mousses.  Continue reading