The Electric Coffee Bean Experience

The search for kickass coffee

The crema of the crop

This post was first published in NZ News UK on 17 November, 2010.

Despite my passion for New Zealand and the breakthroughs that New Zealanders are making in the London coffee scene, I am reminded that good coffee has been available here in London for some time.

Those that truly care about the beans with a belt will be well aware of Monmouth Coffee – a London institution for the past 30 years. Indeed, I love heading down to their space in Borough Market just to drool (respectfully and within the UK’s health and safety regulations, of course) in front of their coffee bean shrine. Once I discovered Monmouth, I abruptly ended my fractious relationship with supermaket blends – alas, I needed more than the vacuum selaed bags could give.

I was eight years old when Monmouth went into business and living on the other side of the world in a country that had not yet looked beyond a teaspoon of instant and two sugars. They were using old fashioned UNO roasters and then moved on to a Whitmee. Now, they’re using Petroncinis, from Italy and have expanded from their original Covent Garden site to Borough Market and Bermondsey.

The beans are top class and if you’re willing to wait in a queue at Borough Market (a great testament to their quality), then you’ll be served with an outstanding cup of coffee. Equally as important, at least to me, are their tasting notes.

Coffee is a seasonal crop – it comes from Central and South America, Africa, South East Asia and elsewhere – and like wine can have good and bad years. Wine educates its lovers whenever possible and yet coffee has not learned to do this to the same extent. Chains like Starbucks give it a good try and yet to me it feels like only a marketing ploy. At Monmouth, coffee education grows organically with the product.

Perhaps it’s because Monmouth are roasters. Their principal sales come from the beans themselves, not a combination of food and beverage. Enter into a coffee house that roasts its own beans and you’ll quickly find someone with a high coffee knowledge explaining the pros and cons of wet processing versus dry processing. Too much information for some but satisfying to know that someone is passionate about the product.

So my hat is off to Monmouth Coffee. In an age of greasy spoons and then chain stores, they have kept the torch burning for quality coffee. I hope that as London reemerges as a coffee power, Monmouth will reap the benefits. I’ll be in the queue.


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