Mid-2014 London Coffee Update

It’s an undeniably exciting time for London coffee. New shops are popping up like daisies as enterprising coffee lovers take the leap into business ownership; already established cafes are taking their first steps towards expansion, or adding another location to a quickly growing roster.

It’s a Sisyphean task, trying to keep on top of London coffee news. Just as soon as you think you’ve heard all the latest, something else happens. What’s that? You managed to visit 2 of the new places on your list this weekend? That’s cool. Here are 4 more that opened.

As I write this post, I feel a bit of a thrill that we’re so spoiled for choice; I also feel a bit of despair to know that by the time I return to London in October, I’ll be so completely out of the loop and behind on things that it’ll be pointless to try and catch up. So while I’m gone, you’ll all have to keep up for me and let me know what the “must visit” places are when I get back.

But enough waffling. On to the interesting stuff.

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Birmingham Two Ways: Part 2, BLOC Hotel & York’s Bakery

If Hotel du Vin isn’t your thing, or you’d like a cheaper alternative for your stay in Birmingham, then BLOC Hotel might be the answer you’re looking for. Might. Ah, what to say about BLOC? It’s a very interesting concept: adapting ideas from the best design in hotels around the world, and distilling down into a more cost-effective option. BLOC seeks to offer pared-down chic at great prices.

When Chloe and I went to book our rooms for the SCAE superheat, it was very last minute. Checking price comparison websites for hotels in Birmingham turned up a pretty scary spread – most of the hotels were over £70 at this point, even the Travelodge. I’ve stayed in Travelodges before and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I’m not paying £70 for the “privilege”. I was pointed in the direction of BLOC Hotel and to my surprise, their rooms were much cheaper than almost anywhere else we could have stayed that didn’t look totally run down and scary, or was 30 minutes outside of town. I booked it, told Chloe our rooms were sorted, and prepared myself for 4 intense days of photos.

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M1lk, Balham

Food on social media is a double-edged sword. It can tantalize and inspire, like when Clerkenwell Boy posts endless montages of picture-perfect brunches or THOSE donuts; or it can be a sad, washed out train wreck of ill-lit food, which may or may not have looked appetizing before it was attacked with an iPhone – we may never know. In both cases it can be equally as torturous to take in such images. Personally, I had been waking every weekend to such torture in the form of M1lk’s Instagram feed, filled with mouthwatering descriptions and carefully styled photos of their pancakes. Never the same from week to week, I watched a parade of these beauties pass before my eyes:  “buckwheat pancakes with bananas, caramel, toasted almonds, Nesquick mascarpone”; “buckwheat pancakes with blood orange jam, hazelnut popcorn brittle, vanilla bean mascarpone”; “buckwheat pancakes with banana, Oreo mascarpone, almond macadamia brittle, Nutella caramel”; “buckwheat pancakes with burnt apple, milk marshmallow, lemon verbena, lavender”. Clearly, there’s a mad genius locked away down there in Balham, churning out these pancake combos like no one else in London. My will power failed me last weekend and I decided it was high time to go check out what was going on all the way out in Zone 3.

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O, Canada(ian coffee)!

On Wednesday I went to an impromptu coffee cupping at Talkhouse Coffee in Notting Hill. One of their baristas, Elyse Bouvier, recently made a pilgrimage home to Canada, and brought back a generous selection of coffees from three top Western Canadian coffee roasters. We cupped eight coffees hailing from all over the world: El Salvador, Kenya, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and more. When all the crusts were broken and the slurping was done, two coffees stood heads and shoulders above the rest, picked by every single person at the cupping. Personally, I was partial to one more that the others didn’t seem to like as much. Read on to see which Canadian coffees are deserving of your attention, no matter where you live. View Post

The London Coffee Festival: What to Expect

If you’re heading down to Brick Lane for the London Coffee Festival this weekend, there’s a lot for you to check out. Here’s a little preview of what happened today, what you can expect to find the rest of the festival, and what I think is worth checking out.

First off: you’re going to be drinking a lot of coffee. A LOT. At least I hope you are, because the quality of the coffee at the festival is, of course, very high. As any longtime coffee drinker will tell you, you’ll need to have some food in your stomach before you hit the hard stuff. I’d recommend going to Nude Espresso on Hanbury Street, just across from the entrance to the London Coffee Festival. I’ve always heard good things about their menu, but this morning I tried it for myself. I’m glad I did – I had one of the best eggs benedict in London. And believe me, I eat a lot of eggs benedict.

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After Hours Coffee and Dessert

There are few things better in life than having an unhurried evening meal, followed by a hot cup of coffee, a nibble of something sweet, and good conversation over candlelight late into the night. The only way I can think of improving on that is skipping on the dinner altogether and making the coffee and dessert the main event. Thanks to a joint effort by Store Street Espresso and Live and Let Dine, now you can do just that.

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