The Electric Coffee Bean Experience

The search for kickass coffee

A ristreto, please

This post first appeared in NZ News UK, 17 November 2010

Since moving to the UK from Singapore, coffee and I have had a change in relationship. There are a couple of reasons for this but the foremost is the surprising fact that I now live in a coffee savvy country. Or at least a coffee savvy city: London.

Three years ago, if I’d asked for a flat white in London, I would have been greeted with blank stares or a “what” from some East European student working their way through university. Now, flat whites are de rigeur. In fact the Guardian would have us believe that a flat white is the epitome of coffee culture. And maybe it is.

But I find my tastes have moved back to straight espresso.

In Singapore, one had to add milk to the coffee to make it palatable – with one or two notable exceptions. I feared the same would hold for London coffee and yet I was delighted to discover a growing number of cafes around town not only producing a decent coffee but roasting their own beans.

Monmouth and Square Mile have long been the leaders as quality roasters in the UK but their position has been usurped by a growing number of New Zealand coffee roasters. Bullet, Caravan, nude espresso have now been joined by Auckland staple Allpress.

I find myself in caffeine nirvana. Even the standard long black has fallen from my graces, such is the power that these new roasters having on my palate. Make mine an espresso, thanks. Make it a ristretto – and a double at that. Treacle, dark chocolate, burnt cocoa, red stone fruit: that’s what is tantalising my palate when I’m sipping my new found coffee. It’s coffee I’d expect from New Zealand or Australia but not London, and it’s making life so much more enjoyable.

Silly, isn’t it, that something so small as a well made cup of espresso could bring a measure of joy to someone but that’s what it does for me. It’s not just the actual coffee, though. It’s the memories of good friends gathered in a cafe for Sunday brunch, chatting over a cup or three about life, books, politics and holidays; gathered because we knew the coffee would be good.

Good coffee is as much about your social life and nostalgia as it is about caffeine intake. Perhaps more so. So well done to all the roasters out there around London for welcoming me with a small taste of home.


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