I spent last weekend in Dorset and had a wonderful time. The weekend was full of great food (dressed crab), sea views and country walks. I brought some of our new speciality coffee for my friend John to sample and enjoy “available next week online plug plug”. On the way back home having gone a whole hour without coffee I decided to stop off at a nice looking country café to refresh for the journey home.
I thought an interesting topic for this weeks blog would be to talk about the tell tale signs of a good or bad coffee shop. You need your caffeine fix but proceed with caution! There is no phone signal so no ability to consult social media or any other helpful website, here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
Never Judge a book but its cover, I am not so sure, if the place is clean and there is a convivial atmosphere it will generally mean that not just tourists are enjoying the place. Locals know best, not always, but it is a pretty good starting point.
On another trip I spent time in a small village in Ireland called Castledermot on stepping in to a Deli I noticed that they served Lavazza “not a good start in my opinion” but the coffee knowledge and presentation where excellent and it still sticks in my mind as a really good experience because it was made with love and skill. I also ended up buying the shop out of all of its homemade treats of jams and chutneys, delicious! If you are ever there, go!
Visual signs, the hopper (where the beans are kept in the top of the grinder) are probably the biggest give away about what a place is like. If it is filthy it means that they do not clean the oils that build up within the hopper over the course of time. These in turn transmit the bitter coffee oils onto the beans and will generally make your shots taste very bitter. A shop that cares will take time to steam clean the hopper each evening.
If you are in a queue waiting of a few people count yourself lucky you have a chance to look at the extraction process if the machine is pouring a nice slow espresso (like honey off the back of a spoon) for 20-25 second we are in reasonable territory. If however, the espresso pours out of the machine in a great torrent it will taste of nothing. It is time to go to option 2, a cup of builders tea.
Heating the milk, in London there is a real trend to make luke warm coffees to enhance the flavour of the coffee. Personally I think its nonsense, coffee does not only taste good but its aroma and warmth play a massive factor in its enjoyment, especially in Britain where more often than not we are trying to warm up. However, there is no greater crime than when you can hear the milk screaming! As it is being over heated and essentially burned which will lose all flavour from the beverage as well as taking the roof off your mouth. Listen to the pitch change milk makes as you heat it. Just after you hear it the milk will be hot enough any more than 5 seconds and you will be dealing with a volcanic latte!
Finally, if you are not happy with your coffee don’t be afraid to send it back, the UK’s coffee scene is unrecognisable from 10 years ago and it is because people want a better product/experience.
In my case, at the coffee shop in Dorset, I weighed up my options and thought it would probably be far safer to have a cup of tea. Coffee should be a treat not some kind of jungle style challenge. If you have one a day make sure it’s a good one!
If anything has been bugging you about the coffee industry or you would like us to go into more detail on a topic email me at:
All the best, Stuart