Tag Archives: Kenyan coffee

Coffee in Amsterdam Part: 8

After a few bummers on the coffee front over the last few days in the capital of cloggs and tulips, I found my way to Hartenstraat 12 and Screaming Beans. Just the name is enough to make you want to go there, but what coffee! It is a place well worthy being called a coffee fanatics mecca in Amsterdam. An easy five minute walk from the Dam Square, past the Royal Palace, and you’ll find this little gem of a place on one of the short, busy sidestreets off Keizersgracht.

Screaming Beans uses beans from Bocca, a small roastery situated in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. Mainly sourcing their beans from organic farmers in Ethiopia and Kenya, they buy small exclusive batches of beans to keep the quality high. Just how I like it. It is also possible to buy their beans at Screaming Beans for you to take home. I mean, if you hadn’t had enough of coffeey goodiness for one day. Have to do that next time I’m around.

I kicked off with a macchiato which was a smooth concoction, well balanced espresso versus milk froth. No bitterness in the aftertaste. Perfect. When I asked for something more “original” I was served a cup of pour over on a freshly ground Ethiopian blend called HailesLassie. It was one of the last cups since the blend is now finished (it was created for a barista championship in Maastricht, the nice barista informed me, but in the last minute the barista competing changed his mind and created another blend whereby this came on the market for Screaming Beans to grab. For that feat I can only congratulate them) but they have plenty others which I’m sure are equally as good. This blend had a very deep fruity tone, some surprising papaya tint to it, and though not overly strong and dark, which is usually how I like it, it was a great pour.

Good coffee is hard to come by in the Netherlands. Even in the multi international capital. It is said to be getting better, but I guess I haven’t been here long enough to really tell. At times I am still chocked over the quality at some places who gives them self out to be “the real thing”. I can only say beware and be warned. Screaming Beans though is a place to visit when you’re around in Amsterdam as a coffee connoisseur.  Or coffee junkie for that matter. It is good. Very good. Can’t put it any simpler than that. My only critique would be that they close very early, at 5pm every day (which is a shame) so check the opening hours before you go. To their defense they are open on Sundays, which is rare over here. Maybe there’s a good reason for it all, I didn’t ask, but hopefully they’ll do something about that soon and stay open longer for us all to enjoy.

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Filed under Amsterdam, Barista, Coffe Houses, Coffee, Screaming Beans

Coffee in London: part 3

London Review Cake Shop. Yep, that’s where I ended up today. How? God only knows. But I’m glad I did.

Admittedly this isn’t as much a coffee connaiseur’s place as the other ones I’ve recently visited and written about. Don’t get me wrong, the coffee is good. Not just good, it’s miles better than what you get at the normal coffee-chain / corner-shop kind of place. And, once again, it’s the famous London based roastery (I’m not even going to mention their name this time, scared for you guys thinking I’m sponsored by M*******. Unfortunately that’s not the case) that’s providing the beans.  The cappuccino I ordered arrived promptly and at the standard you can expect. However, the little extra “something” was missing. The foam wasn’t the way I prefer it. Not as smooth and clean on the palate as I’m used to when a very good barista makes it. Not that I want to be overly fussy or anything. No, I just want the best there is. Is that too much to ask? The espresso base was very good though so all in all I was happy with my drink. Just not ecstatic.
The carrot cupcake was heaven though. Unfortunately they’d run out of the famous lavender one I really wanted to try, but if they are better than this one, well… I just have to go back and try at a later stage I guess. What a pity.

What really makes this place such a nice haunt is that it is what it is in it self.  No excuses. Since it’s adjacent  or immediately attached rather, to the London Review Book Shop on 14 Bury Place, it creates a very nice and relaxed atmosphere. When I was there it wasn’t particularly busy so those of us there were basically just sitting reading and drinking coffee. Since Bury Place is one of the streets just off Great Russell Street, where British Museum is situated, you get a lot of regular Londoners who enjoy a peaceful coffee and want to read a paper or magazine instead of the buzzing student crowd. This makes it a nice place for some relaxed down time with any kind of written medium, really.

The Cake Shop’s interior is different from the other places I’ve written about over the last few days as well. When you’ve found your way in via the History section in the book shop you’re met by a very contemporary till made of light faux wood of indescribable origin. On the side of the till is a glass display full of lush cakes, pies and sandwiches. The cupboards behind the till are almost IKEAesque in their plainness. But it doesn’t look bad. Not bad at all. It works well for this kind of place. It isn’t trying desperately hard like so many other London coffee houses are right now. They give you what you need, neither more nor less. For a place where you want a good coffee and some time to think, as well as the possibility to browse among books galore, this is where you should go. It is bright thanks to the big windows facing Bury Place and a fairly high ceiling. It’s also got a big outside sitting area during the summer.

For a Sunday afternoon like today, this was the ideal place to go. And in top of it all, I got to spend time among an abundance of new hardback titles which is always divine in this paperback infested world.

London Review Cake Shop on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Art, Coffe Houses, Food and Drink, Italy, Literature, London, poetry

Coffee in London

Well, the theme continues. After yesterdays over day trip to Amsterdam I decided to take a day in London doing what I did most of yesterday: looking for and enjoying great coffee. With that as my main purpose for the day, I just had to go to one of my absolute favourite places, Monmouth Coffee by Borough Market.
Monmouth’s London roasted coffee is among the best you can get in the Big Smoke. I first came across it a couple of years ago when regularly frequenting a little coffee stall on Whitecross Street, close to the Barbican in the City. Before that I always had had to suffer the putrid liquids from Costa, Nero and other similar places. Not good, neither for heart nor soul. Now though, Monmouth Coffee is what I crave while in London.

The company started out on Monmouth Street, Covent Garden in 1978 and have ever since devoted as much time to fair trading and own sourcing as to the quality which the customers gets in the end. This, the care for coffee farmers in places like Colombia, Brazil, Kenya and Guatemala is what I find really great. If only other companies did the same. I know the big companies say they make an effort, but really, how personal can the guys from Starbucks really be when they visit Kenya to look for coffee beans?  I can only guess.

So, when you’re in London I can’t  stress strongly enough how much I think you should pay a visit to Monmouth for some great coffee. Take the Tube to London Bridge, walk out of the entrance and turn left in the direction of Borough Market. When you’re by the main entrance to the market you’ll find Monmouth Coffee opposite. It’s not even five minutes on foot from the station.  They have really made the place cosy with the big till, lots of efficient and really nice staff and lush artisan bread and pastries which are so popular in London at the moment (and has been so for some time now, so I wonder what the next big thing will be. I have noticed an increasing interest for Afternoon tea among the people-who-count, so, might that be it?). The bare brick wall behind the till and deep forest green colour of the panelling and metal lamp shades create a wonderful, homely feel to the place regardless of the big opening towards the street outside. It fills a purpose in the summer though. With the marquee out it’s nice to stand out on the street and look at people as well as sit inside. And with a bit of luck you might catch a whiff from the sausage stall further up the road, serving up fresh and just-recently-grilled British sausages. If that can’t trigger your appetite and make for a great start for the rest of your day, nothing can.

Monmouth Coffee Company (London Bridge) on Urbanspoon


Filed under Coffe Houses, Food and Drink, Italy, London