Category Archives: Coffee abroad

Coffee tour in Antwerp

Antwerp is not only an important port in Europe but also the World’s Largest Coffee port. There are 45000 tons of green coffee in stock in the port at any given moment. Since this amount of coffee is not consumed in Belgium, Antwerp is an important point for transport of beans to the rest of Europe. So much coffee coming in and out has an effect on the city that has an increasing amount of baristas brewing the best coffees they can get their hands on. No more needs to be said: the Antwerp coffee scene deserves a tour on a sunny day in June!

Caffenation, the pioneers
Rob Berghmans and his Caffenation are pioneers in the Antwerp coffee scene. You may have seen their bright coloured bags in bars throughout Europe. He started in 2010 the first Belgian specialty micro roastery. Since then they have kept their focus on quality, origin and well trained collaborators. I visited the coffee bar next to the roastery that is located in the south of the city at walking distance from the train station Berchem. Unfortunately I was not able to visit the roastery itself. Having tasted very nice Caffenation coffees in different places in the Netherlands my expectations were high, very high. The personnel were friendly and talkative. The barista recommended me to have an espresso with bourbon washed beans from Rwanda Nyamasheke Macua although it was not his favourite coffee. That confused me but I ordered it anyway. To my surprise my espresso had almost no crema, eventhough I was waiting for it next to the barista and the espresso machine.  The barista worked by the book weighting the portafilter and ground coffee, extracting it in less than 30 seconds and serving it immediately. The coffee was roasted two weeks before so well, then still it must have been the brewing technique that killed the crema. The aroma floral and spicy was promising but I was not impressed with the flavour with a bitterness as from black tea and unpleasant cider acidity. The aftertaste was salty, as described by the tasting note next to my espresso, but it was bitter too.

Caffenation Bar Roastery and its nice bright bags

Cuperus, the legend
In the downtown I found Cuperus, the oldest coffee and tea bar in Antwerp. This former family business has been supplying the city with coffee for more than 190 years. Besides serving warm drinks and sweets, this is a proper coffee and tea store where you would have a hard time choosing what to bring home. Their old-style cans reminded me of their long tradition. Here too, the personnel was helpful and friendly. The espresso of the day was a Bourbon and Catuai from Serra do Cigano, Brazil. My cup had a good crema, fruity aroma and medium body. It tasted a bit sweet, hints of stone fruits and serious nutty flavour. I enjoyed it! Which was not a surprised since it was a natural processed bean roasted light from Latinamerica, more or less my type of coffee.

First stop in the downtown: Cuperus

Normo, the hipsters
A short walk from Cuperus I walked into Normo. This place felt more of a third-wave coffee place than the previous. Here I had a very professional yet stressed barista trying to cope with a queue of costumers waiting for their turn to order coffee combined with a constant flow of costumers returning empty cups. Maybe I was there on the wrong time. Nevertheless, my espresso was well extracted and served with a quick smile. The espresso blend had 70% Catuai natural from Agua Limpia, Brazil plus 30% Ethiopia Limu washed. Interesting combination that results in a medium body, clean cup with good balance between an apple acidity, hints of walnuts, sweetness and savoury notes.

Normo, a must in Antwerp

Teakoff, the hidden jewel
Between my necessary waffle break (I cannot be in Antwerp and go back without enjoying a good waffle) and the visit to the Museum Platin-Moretus (highly recommended) I realized that I was not going to be able to visit all the coffee places in my list. I was heading towards Viggo’s which was a must-visit in my list when a blackboard caught my attention. It announced a specialty coffee place that I was not aware of. Curiosity took the lead making me forget about the other places that I wanted to visit and I walked a block to find Teakoff, a cozy tea and espresso bar. I had a nice chat with the owner/barista Sofia. She served me an espresso brewed with coffee from Huehuetango, Guatemala. The blend of Bourbon, Catuai and Caturra washed beans was roasted by Cross Roast, an Antwerp roastery. It had more body than any other espresso I tasted that day. It was a balanced cup with hints of citrus fruits, slight bitterness and a sweet aftertaste. For me this was the best espresso of the day!!

Best espresso!

Antwerp has more places worth visit so I will have to come back. Stay tuned!

 

Coffee tour in Zagreb

This was my first time in Croatia and right away I was gladly impressed by its capital Zagreb. The city is cosy, elegant but modest, busy but still relaxed… pretty much as its inhabitants. While walking around the downtown I noticed that Zagreb is still an Illy territory. I also spotted Lavazza, Arabesca (Croatian company) and Bou Cafe (from Spain) coffee served in many places and these are all coffees that I am not impressed with. However, after reading about the coffee scene in the Croatian capital I found places that serve single origin coffees roasted by themselves or by some small artisan roaster. The friendly local baristas also advised me to visit new places that I was not aware of or to avoid the ones that are not serving good coffee anymore.

My tour started with a local legend: Cogito (Varsavska ulica 11)

I was curious about roaster and retailer Cogito because many reviews mention this as the best coffee in town. I first visited one of their coffee shops, a light place with minimalistic design and tables and chairs that resemble those of my elementary school. I ordered a flat white (for my first cup in the morning I prefer it to have milk) and an espresso both prepared with a blend of coffee from Rwanda and Costa Rica. With the first sip I felt some acidity but the finish was bitter. The smiley barista then told me that this blend was meant for drinks with milk, but for espresso I rather try the other coffee offered that day. I agreed but decided to try it at another Cogito coffee spot.

Espresso at Cogito

Next stop for a second chance: Cafe U Dvorištu (Ulica Jurja Žerjavica 7/2)

I felt I was going through a passage into somebody’s home when I found this nice terrace that belongs to Cafe U Dvorištu, decorated in the industrial hipstery style that is so much in fashion. Next to the cafe is the roastery of Cogito. The concept was developed by two Matijas. Matija Hrkac realized that there were not enough coffee roasteries in Zagreb and opened one in Jurja Žerjavica Street, right next to Cafe u Dvorištu that was opened by Matija Bekovic. Since they both shared a love of coffee they decided to team up. The result is a comfortable place to enjoy the sun, the view of the roastery and a great cup of coffee. This time I ordered the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe natural: balanced, full body with soft aftertaste. I enjoyed the floral aroma, the fruity acidity and light sweetness.

Looking at the roastery while enjoying their coffee

Where it all started: Eli’s cafe (Ilica 63)

Legend says that barista champion Nik Orosi was the first one to bring specialty coffee to Zagreb. He opened Eli’s caffe bar in 2005 and started roasting his own coffee in 2009. The bar, located in the most prominent street of Zagreb, is decorated in a simple, fashionable way with dark colours and only a few lamps. This is creates an intimate space which is not what I expect from a coffee place nowadays as we are used to open, light, minimalistic, Scandinavian decoration (or lack of it). I got my first espresso from the barista but I was not impressed. Nik was around and immediately brought me a second one extracted shorter than the first, thus better. Made from Peruvian, natural, organic coffee it had full body, light acidity like from grapes. A third espresso was even better, made from Ethiopian Yirgacheffe lavado: medium body, clean flavour, acidity as in mandarins. The best part of this visit was the service: making me a second shot so that I can enjoy it without me asking for it made me a fan. I was so happy to chat with Nik about coffee, origins, roasting and the changing coffee consumption of Croatians.

One cup after the other

Quahwa: the new kid in town (Ul. Nikole Tesle 9/1)

I know I have to visit a place when more than one barista in town recommend it, so I head to Quahwa, the new roaster in town. This is another coffee place located in the interior patio of a building, something that seems to be very common in Zagreb. The space is big, nicely decorated with coffee bags and espresso machines as a base for tables while the roasters are opposite to the bar. From the coffees offered here I chose a natural from Brazil, Monte Cristo. It was a nice shot with a good body, balanced and pleasant acidity as from berries and hints of chocolate. The next day I came back to try some different brewing with the same coffee. This is the only place in town to enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee. They prepared it in a traditional way heating the cezve (vessel) in hot sand; because the sand offers a more consistent heat. What a pleasure to see this ceremony! They do add sugar during the preparation so the taste of my coffee is hard to describe but this time I felt more and more chocolate flavour and dried fruits.

Quahwa offers a wide range of brewing techniques and beverages. If I would have stayed longer in Zagreb I would for sure tried more drinks here. They even prepare on the spot their own condensed milk!

Its all about coffee
Turkish coffee

Outside the downtown: Teneo (Treshnjevachki Trg 2)

I included Teneo in my tour after I saw it mentioned in the European Coffee Tour webpage even though it is outside the downtown, a bit too far to walk. The chat with Christian Cviljak was worth the trip by tram. Trams work wonderfully in Zagreb, they’re cheap and efficient and so ok, I did enjoy the ride there too. Christian roasts his own coffee and runs this cute self-standing coffee bar with a few tables inside and a terrace. I loved the Joe Frex glasses! My espresso was made with a blend of coffee from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ethiopia and a small percentage of coffee from India. However, for my taste the coffee is a bit overroasted which, I have heard during this trip, is still more in the taste of Croatians.

Love the glass

Walking along a small street in the downtown: Najgora Kava u Gradu (P Sestara Bakovic 3)

While walking through a quiet, yet still lively, alleyway in the centre of Zagreb I saw this tiny coffee place. The drawing of Frida Kahlo (a 20th century Mexican artist) in the window caught my attention, together with the sign below saying “worst coffee in town”.  Unfortunately, I also find this Ethiopia Sidamo overroasted. The fragrance was interesting with some citrus hints but the low acidity and some peanut flavour was overruled by a smoky, bitter taste.

Frida Kahlo caught my attention

The best espresso at: Express bar (Petrinjska 4)

Safe the best for last is said. True. Express bar is a few steps from the main square in Zagreb thus it was the closest to my hotel. I went there as my final stop when I felt the deepest need of a good espresso. The place has a serious Scandinavian influence: light wood, simple deco, a coffee flavour wheel in chalk in the wall. I had an espresso with Caturra White Honey beans from Costa Rica roasted by Square Mile (UK). I love it! It was balanced, full bodied, nice acidity as from cherries, a chocolate hint too and a good fruity aftertaste. I enjoy every sip!

Next day, my last in Croatia, I came back for more. Lucky me I run into the owner Ivan Leko, who told me that at Express bar they rotate their coffees frequently. They have used beans from Cogito, the Barn from Berlin and now from UK. They use good beans and they do know how to extract espressos.

Best espresso in my coffee tour in Zagreb

During my visit to Croatia and my coffee tour around Zagreb I run into super friendly people willing to share their time and coffee experience with me.  I learned that Croatians enjoy Turkish coffee at home. When going out they rather enjoy other coffee beverage which is why it is not so easy to find Turkish coffee served in the city. For decades the coffee supply was dominated by dark, bitter, industrial coffee but that is changing fast with more artisan roasters and dedicated baristas.

Yes, I do like coffee tonic

Confession: I like to drink a coffee tonic.

Why? Because I enjoy coffee. I like to roast it, smell it, taste it and I do drink many beverages based on coffee as long as I can taste the magic black liquid. My choice for a warm and sunny summer like the one we have this year in Europe is a coffee tonic.

The recipe is very easy: Espresso, tonic water, ice and if you like it also a twist of lemon. The proportion of the ingredients depends on you and your taste. I like to use one part espresso (one espresso) and two parts tonic water. To prepare it first pour the tonic water and ice into the glass. Then pour the espresso. Finally add the lemon zest.

Espresso+Tonic Water+Lemon
Pour espresso over tonic water and ice cubes
Keep the espresso/water ratio that you like
Add zest from lemon or other fruit

Coffee from different types of beans will make the drink taste different logically. A fruity coffee bean such as those from Ethiopia matches well with the citrusy taste of the quinine. However, a nuttier coffee bean (as the Manabi coffee from Engrano) or beans with more chocolate taste (as the Coatepec coffee from Engrano) will add depth to the drink. So, when I use my Latin American beans I add the twist of lemon to balance the acidity and sweetness. If lemon is too acidic for you then better use zest of mandarins, sweet oranges, cherries (natural or extract) or extract of pomegranate.  You could play around with the flavour of the coffee and the intensity of the fruit. Adjust the coffee to tonic water ratio accordingly.

Coffee tonic can be also prepared with cold brew coffee. In Mexico at the famous Cafe Avellaneda I enjoyed a delicious drink with cold brew (called by them cafe reposado), tonic water and the lemon twist. Very refreshing!

A coffee tonic in Mexico at Cafe Avellaneda

Vietnamese coffee

Last week a dear friend from Colombia invited me to her house for a cup of coffee, and what a cup it was going to be! Nope, it was not some fruity, floral, smooth Colombian coffee, no.  Last year she visited Viet Nam, where she drank coffee almost every day and she liked it so much that she brought back some coffee together with the necessary items to prepare Vietnamese coffee. I was curious!

But first a little bit of history….
Viet Nam has produced and consumed coffees for decades and it all started around 1857 when Viet Nam was still a French protectorate. People started growing coffee in both the Central Highland and Coastal area as well as in the south east region. The production grew until the Civil war (1954-1975) after which it was collectivized as government owned leading to a decline in production. Things changed again in 1986 with the reforms called Do Moi that reintroduced private ownership. Coffee production now grew again, and to such a level that by the year 2000 it had doubled. That over-production had a devastating effect on the global price of coffee due to oversupply and so a massive price crash followed.
Nowadays Viet Nam is the second largest coffee producer in the world (after Brazil) with around 2 million tons per year. And eventhough 97% of their production is Robusta, production of Arabica is increasing.
The French not only introduced coffee to Viet Nam as a crop but also its consumption. During the colonial times French wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee with milk as they were used to. Unfortunately fresh diary product were hard to find in Viet Nam and a solution was fount in using condensed milk, which is produced and canned since the mid 19th century. And so traditional Vietnamese coffee is prepared with sweet condensed milk.

Vietnamese coffee is brew as a single serving using a phin. This is a gravity-based filter than is easily placed on top of a cup. The phin has a saucer (with holes), a cup to place the coffee in, a filter and a lid. But for instance in my phin the saucer and the cup are one piece. The recommended ground is medium to coarse but it is better to check the holes in the saucer and filter and accordingly decide how to grind the coffee. As you can see in the picture below, my saucer has rather big holes so I grind my coffee coarse as for french press.

Phin cup and saucer

Phin cup and saucer

How to prepare Vietnamese coffee
1. Preheat the phin and the cup by placing the phin on top of the cup and pour some hot water through. Then discard the water from the cup.
2. Scoop two teaspoons of sweet condensed milk in the cup. If you are not into sweet coffee then replace the condensed milk with regular milk (any kind you like) or nothing.

Condensed milk in the cup
Sweet condensed milk in the cup

3. Add ground coffee in phin cup and shake the phin to distribute the coffee evenly. I use 7 gr of coffee for 100 ml water.
4. Now place the filter on top of the coffee and level the grounds some more by twisting the filter while applying a little bit of pressure.Coarse ground coffee in the phin

Coarse ground coffee in the phin

Filter on top of coffee
Filter on top of coffee

5. Gently pour a third of the hot water in the filter. Allow the coffee to swell for about a minute.

6. Add the remaining the water in the filter and place the lid of the phin on top to retain the heat. For the next 4 to 5 minutes you can see the coffee brewing.Brewing

Brewing

Once ready, just take the phin off, mix the coffee and milk and enjoy!

When prepared dark the coffee is called Ca Phe Nau. Considering that in Vietnamese language words have only one syllable. This three words when said together may remind you of the french origin.. Cafe Noire.
When prepare with condensed milk it is called Ca Phe Sua. Other interesting variation is Sua Chua Ca Phe which is coffee brewed over yogurt. And even more interesting is Ca Phe Trung which is prepared with egg: egg yolk is whipped and mixed with condensed milk and then poured into already brewed coffee. This tradition started in the 1940’s when milk was scarce: egg was the replacement for milk. To be honest, I have never tried this.

As Viet Nam is a country with warm weather it is not strange that cold coffee is very popular. Ca Phe Sua Da is prepared in the same way as described above, just add ice cubes together with the condensed milk. The result is a diluted coffee, but sweet, creamy and fresh.

Now I will stop writing and enjoy my Ca Phe Sua!

Coffee tour in Barcelona

My own latest coffee tour in Barcelona had the best possible starting point: Nomad Coffee! Started and run by Jordi Mester, they have three spots in Barcelona and on top of that plenty of places also serve their coffee. But I was lucky enough that my hotel was just two blocks from the location where they in fact roast coffee: Roasters Home. So there I enjoyed a double espresso from Colombia while I watched them roast a new batch. This coffee was grown by Juan Pablo Penagos at Finca Santa Helena (1670 masl), a washed coffee varietal Castillo Naranjal. It has a good body, fruity sweetness, a hint of almonds in the aftertaste. I do appreciate acidity in my espresso, but i think it was a bit too acid. Talking to the barista, she agreed that the batch from which I was drinking was roasted a bit too light.

Colombian coffee at Nomad

Colombian coffee at Nomad

I then head to the downtown to buy one of my favorite cookies: alfajores. These are not traditional from Barcelona, but the best known brand (Havanna) from Argentina does have stores in Barcelona. Unfortunately as good as the cookies are at Havana, the espresso is not as remarkable. It was bitter and had almost no crema.

My next stop is Cometa: a cozy lunchroom and coffee place south from the downtown. Funny enough, I was not aware that they serve Nomad’s coffee. So well, instead of asking for an espresso to taste the coffee I had a cortado, my favourite coffee drink, and some cake. The menu said it was the same Santa Helena coffee that I had in the morning, but this time I didn’t feel the acidity nor the fruity sweetness. So, to clear up any doubt I ordered an espresso and I confirmed with the waiter that it was indeed the Santa Helena. But different barista, different taste: I think the espresso machine here is set to a too high temperature or the barista is just overextracting the coffee because it was not the same as directly from Nomad.

Cortado and cake at Cometa

Cortado and cake at Cometa

One more place in my list was Satan’s Coffee at Gran Via. I heard about Satan’s as being one of the first specialty coffee bars in Barcelona set up by Marcos Bartolomé. They serve coffee roasted by Right side coffee. Satan’s Coffee is located inside the design hotel Casa Bonay. The space is nice, open and light and it reminds me of places in Australia, actually. The day I was there they were serving Colombian coffee from La Victoria in the Huila region. Grown at 1900 masl this Caturra was grown and washed by Yisela Piso and roasted one week ago. The espresso blew me away! It was very nicely balanced; it had acidity as from cider, a herbal flavour in the mouth and an aftertaste like pears and caramel.

 

Brew bar at Satan's coffee corner
Brew bar at Satan’s coffee corner
This espresso blew me away!
This espresso blew me away!

Pretty high on caffeine by now I moved on to another legendary coffee place in Barcelona: Cafes El Magnifico in the Gothic neighborhood of downtown Barcelona. When I entered this coffee temple I ran into Salvador Sans, the current owner. He is the third generation now in charge of this place that was founded in 1919. The baristas were busy with a short queue and so there was not much time to chat. I ordered first an espresso: the coffee served that day was Red Bourbon from Montecristo, Nicaragua. This coffee is grown by Jaime Jose Molina Fiallos, at 1300 to 1450 masl and the process is honey. It was strong and had a full body but a bit on the bitter side for my taste. As the small sitting area emptied I take my chance to taste something else so I ordered an Aeropress with coffee from the farms Himalaya and Divisadero from El Salvador. Their coffee menu is extensive. After a few minutes I decided to taste this coffee grown by Mauricio Salaverria at 1500 masl. The varietals are Red Caturra and Pacamara and the process is honey. I followed the barista next door, literally, to enjoy the ritual that you can see in the video.

 

A legendary place in Barcelona
A legendary place in Barcelona
The barista guiding me to enjoy the aroma
The barista guiding me to enjoy the aroma

Served in a wine glass, I enjoyed the chocolate and praline fragrance. In the mouth it has a medium body and low acidity. The first taste was silky followed by sweet with hints of candied fruit, caramel and a spicy finish. While drinking I have the opportunity to chat with Mr. Sans, a coffee connaisseur.

Every time I come to Barcelona I discover new places, or traditional places with new coffee offers. Time always come short, see you soon Barcelona!

Barcelona coffee culture

It is simply not possible to walk around Barcelona and not stop for a cup of coffee. Whether this is your first visit and you want to see everything in a short period of time or this is just one more visit to your friends that are lucky enough to live here at the “Ciudad Condal”. Either way, there are just too many attractive coffee places where customers enjoy beverages and life that you can only fill the need to join them and discover why coffee culture in Barcelona is so appealing.

Espresso before sightseeing
Espresso before sightseeing

Coffee consumption in Spain can be traced back to the 18th century, a bit later than for other European countries. Eventhough, some stories mentioned that Emperor Charles I (1500-1558) tried coffee and found it energizing. By drinking some of this black medicine he was able to stay awake and work extensive hours. But as this magic potion was considered an evil drink by the religious authority its consumption didn’t spread. Only after it was cleared from its unholy reputation it was the nobles who started drinking it first before the rest of the population gained access to it.

Coffee culture in Barcelona nowadays means that on the way to work people stop first at the local coffee corner for a cortado and a croissant or “bocadillo” (a salty snack) while after work they again first go for a cafe con leche – espresso and milk – or cafe solo – espresso – before heading home. Around 18:00 many coffee places are filled up with families returning from picking up the kids from school. There the kids have their “merienda” (snack before dinner) while the parents have some coffee. But on top of that coffee is also consumed after lunch or during a morning break. And obviously, with such a demand the offer is extensive. In most of the places the quality of coffee is good and improving to even excellent while the prices are considerably lower than in the northern European countries: 1€ to 2€ for an espresso.  Cafe con leche are almost cappuccinos, the main difference is that here cappuccinos have always cocoa powder.

IMAG2842_1
Cappuccino here has cocoa powder

A relic from the past, but less and less common, are places serving cafe torrefacto. Torrefacto is the process where sugar is added to coffee during it last roasting stage. The common practice is to add 15% sugar by weight. When the sugar is added the temperature in the roasting chamber is around 200°C and so the sugar caramelizes forming a shiny layer around the coffee bean. This layer will make the coffee look uniform but it also make the taste uniform, deep, bitter and uniform. Additionally it covers up the aroma (too bad!). The main reason that people did this to coffee is need! Torrefacto started during the 1940s when coffee, among other goods, was in short supply. By partially replacing the coffee with sugar during roasting and making it more bitter, less coffee was necessary to prepare the beverage. But as mentioned, the torrefacto process makes the coffee bitter and destroys any good aroma and therefore cafe torrefacto is nowadays considered a bad habbit.

In my next post I will tell you about my coffee tour in this beautiful city, stay tuned!

Lupita

IMAG2773
Not forget to visit the iconic places in Barcelona

 

Cafe Bombon

In my continuing list of guilty pleasures this one is on my top 10. Cafe Bombon is originally from Valencia, Spain but it has gained huge popularity in Latin America and from my own experience it can at least be found in any coffee place in Ecuador.

It is simple to prepare: pour condensed milk into a transparent espresso glass and then brew your espresso on top. The transparent glass is just because it is fun to see the 2 layers: creamy and heavy in the bottom and black and thin on top.

Cafe Bombon
Cafe Bombon

Mix the milk and the espresso gently with a small spoon and then enjoy the voluptuous texture and silky sweet flavour of this beverage. Some recipes say that the ratio between milk and coffee should be 1 to 1, thus the same amount of condensed milk as espresso, but it is up to you on how sweet or milky you want your drink.

This preparation may sound similar to Ca Phe Sua Nong, also known as Vietnamese coffee, but the extraction method is different. For Vietnamese coffee one pours 120 ml of coffee extracted with a Phin or filter pour-over method, and then add 2 tablespoons of condensed milk. This results in a creamy and sweet drink, yet less strong on the coffee.

Some interesting variations of Cafe Bombon include adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract for an extra flavour, or during summer, to pour the Cafe Bombon in the blender with added ices cubes and blend for a fresh yet sweet drink. The cold version of Vietnamese coffee, called Ca Phe Sua Da, is prepared by adding ice cubes to the warm version. No blender is used.

I like to replace the condensed milk with another Latin American wonder: dulce de leche. This gives a more decadent version: thicker, sweeter, deeper and almost-dessert beverage. Known as dulce de leche in Argentina, manjar in Ecuador and Chile, arequipe in Colombia this delight is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk.

Manjar: sweet, soft, thick madness
Dulce de leche: sweet, soft, thick madness

As with the traditional Cafe Bombon, put some dulce de leche in a glass and then brew an espresso on top, then stir and enjoy. In case the “Dulce de leche” version is too sweet or heavy I add a bit of orange zest to add some freshness and acidity. It is already more a dessert than a coffee any way.

Cafe Dulce de Leche
Cafe Dulce de Leche
Stirred not shaken
Stirred not shaken

At a French Cafe

It is for a reason that there are so many “Cafes” in France. The word that means both the beverage and the place to drink it is seriously part of french culture. During the last weeks I was in the North of France for holidays and I did enjoy the coffee together with the baguettes, pains-au-chocolat, quiche lorraine and many other wonders of French cuisine. And to compensate all those calories I walked a section of the European route E2 or GR5 (after its French name Grande Randonnée) that goes from Hoek-van-Holland (NL) to Nice (France). I started walking it with my husband in 2013 and this summer we continued in Lorraine and Alsace in the North of France.
I may have been on holidays but coffee is part of my life so while camping we prepare first thing in the morning a cup of coffee with our beloved Bialetti.

Bialetti is a perfect for coffee in the camping
Bialetti is a perfect for coffee in the camping

But then, without a fridge in our tent to store milk, I could not have my morning lactose intake that i so much need and I mentioned in a previous blog (http://www.engrano.nl/blog/2015/07/10/italy-the-coffee-paradise/). Every now and then, we walked to the local cafe for me to get some morning cappuccino. The problem is that I keep forgetting what cappuccino implies in France. In case you have not made the same mistake that I have, this is what they serve as cappuccino: black coffee (not necessary an espresso) and whipped cream!

French cappuccino
French cappuccino

Ok. The bill said cappuccino Chantilly. Thus, I should just ask for a cappuccino sans Chantilly (without whipped cream), easy solution. So I did the next time and then I got this:

French cappuccino sans chantilly
French cappuccino sans chantilly

A cafe-au-lait, cafe con leche in Spanish, Koffie verkeerd in Dutch, you got it: black coffee and milk and a bit of milk foam on top. It was warm but too milky, not so nice.

I learned my lesson and didnt ask for more coffee with milk. Coffee is the heart of breakfast in France. The big cup in the center of your place mat is enough indication. They usually prepare it as filter coffee but in many places in the north of France we had espressos. And in the morning they do like milk with coffee. But it was just too much milk for my taste. The Cafe as a meeting place is especially in small towns as the once we visited a strong french tradition. In many towns it may be the only economical activity we saw. Cafes open early and were usually packed from 6 to 8. After that they got less and less customers and around 14:00 they are closed. People enjoy their drink without hurry. Neighbours great each other, they discuss the news, the weather, politics.

I didn’t really got my lactose intake every morning the way I like it but I truly enjoyed being part of this relaxed Cafe tradition!

Espresso in Alsace
Espresso in Alsace

Italy, the coffee paradise

As a coffee roaster and coffee passionate I had to visit Italy, and finally last November I did so.
I have a dear Italian friend and visiting him gave me the perfect excuse for a short yet super fun holiday in Italy. He lives and works in the North, in the Emilia-Romagna region. Since I arrived on Thursday evening my coffee cravings had to wait until next morning.
In Italy your day begins with a coffee, most likely at home, together with something sweet: a cookie or a piece of fruit tarte. And so we did. Then we headed to our first tourist destination: Florence! At a caffetteria at the Piazza del Duomo with a great view over the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Fiore we had to sit down for our second coffee of the day. I love that in Italy coffee is coffee, meaning coffee is an espresso. Life as it should be. At this point I have to confess a small sin, I asked for a macchiato as I like to start my day with coffee and some milk. My preferred morning drink is cappuccino or cortado but since I was in Italy I was going to have something Italian, hence a macchiato. The look from my friend when I ordered it was priceless. He asked me: are you sure you want something with milk after 10 am?
Ah, then I remembered reading about Italian coffee habits. The tradition is to have just one cappuccino, or any other coffee-with-milk drink: in the morning, and then drink only espressos for the rest of the day. I don’t really know the exact reason for this habit and probably neither do they. I read once that it could be related to lactose-intolerance which is more common in southern Europe. Someone intolerant can indeed drink a small amount of milk in the morning as in that one daily cappuccino, but only one. So, it has become a small cultural taboo to keep drinking milk with your coffee through the day and after 10 am is already a disgrace, apparently. Since the girl in the counter is used to funny tourists she didn’t find it a problem. My friend, though, was a bit ashamed.
The rest of the day I behaved and only drank espressos.

My shameful macchiato after 10 am
My shameful macchiato after 10 am

The fact that espresso is called coffee and thus not considered anything special should already be enough to love Italy. But I am also crazy about the fact that you can be sure to get a good beverage everywhere. Coffee quality is assured, no matter how small or modest the place looks like or how cheap the coffee is. I was blown away, espressos for 1 Euro!! But please note that you will pay more money if you want to enjoy your coffee while sitting outside in the nice terrace that if you have it inside in the bar.

It is surprising for some people to find out that Italy is not the bigger coffee consumer in the world; three Nordic countries are in the lead, followed by the Netherlands. The year consumption in Italy was estimated to be 3.4 kg per capita (in 2013) which places Italy at number 18. The number one consumer is Finland with 9.6 kg per capita per year (in 2013). However, according to Datahero.com Italy is after Japan the second country to pay the most money for their coffee. So clearly Italy is into quality and not quantity. It is a paradise for coffee lovers.

Kiwi coffee

I can simply not believe we are in April 2015 now and since August last year I didnt write a blog! Somehow time just went fast without me having time to sit down and write. We have been happily busy with new costumers, a new retailer and some trips.

So, this first post after a long absence is about one fantastic trip to New Zealand that I was lucky to do last October.

New Zealand nowadays has a great coffee scene. I was truly impressed especially considering that this was not the case in 2005 when I was there for the first time.
At the end of 2013 in Australia, where I went back after 8 years, I was surprised to see how much the coffee consumption had increased and the coffee culture had developed in all those years. New Zealand was not different in that respect.

Nothing more kiwi than a pavlova

I visited the 2 main islands, North and South, the capital Wellington, the biggest city Auckland and smaller places such as Greymouth or Geraldine. I can say, without risk of mistake, that you can find a good cup of coffee in any town in NZ. The bigger the town the more options, true. Wellington, the capital, has become famous for its coffee culture. A walk around the CBD and you would notice all the small proud cafes serving either their own roasted coffee or indicating the roaster and additionally the type and origin of the coffee. I wish we can have that in the Netherlands! So many times we can taste a nice coffee in a place and we have no idea of the origin of that coffee, and neither has the owner of the place!

Street espressos, I love it!

As in Australia, I noticed that in New Zealand they prefer acidity in their coffees. But this was a bit of a mystery to me considering that for retail the biggest coffee offer comes from “the neighbouring” countries: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, but we have seen more exotic coffees like from the Solomon Islands, for instance. These countries grow Robusta coffee or not-acidic Arabica coffee. So where and how do they manage to serve coffees with high acidity?
Apparently the bigger coffee roaster companies prepare blends from coffees of Latin America and Kenya, Ethiopia and some neighboring countries. From Latin America, they mainly choose Colombia to add acidity and body or Brazil to add body and sweetness to their coffees.

Big coffee companies can assure a constant flow of coffee from Latin America for their blends, but since there is no direct shipping routes between Latin America and New Zealand and Australia, smaller coffee companies cannot easily get their hands on Latin American coffee and therefor look for coffee in the nearby countries.

Kiwis are crazy about latte art in their flat whites
Kiwis are crazy about latte art in their flat whites

The most characteristic way of drinking coffee in New Zealand is the flat white. Strictly speaking a flat white consist of 40 ml of double shot espresso and 110 ml of lightly textured milk (the texture of the milk is slightly thinner, more silky that for a latte). In reality most of the time the espresso shot is single and you end up with a weak milky drink. To solve the problem just make sure that you always ask for a double-shot flat white. And if you see that the cups used at a coffee place are bigger than 150 ml then ask for a triple shot!

I drank my favorite flat white at a nice cozy restaurant in Nelson called Ford’s.

The nature in New Zealand is amazing, the people are truly friendly and the new coffee culture just make New Zealand a paradise!

Cheers,
Lupita