Posts Tagged ‘coffee’


Why is it so difficult for me to be served with a coffee I like, the way that I like it? Especially in the U.K. (I have no such problems when travelling elsewhere in Europe).

IMG_6411I gave up on the big chains many years ago, their flavours are often thin and bitter; their portion sizes – too large.

Yet, many of the boutique, independent coffee shops springing up around my locality also often fail to please.

A few years back, one of the apprentices I looked after, worked in one such independent coffee shop and during one of my visits, the owner ‘treat’ me to the ‘best’ coffee he imported from Italy. 

To me, the flavour was bitter and had a sharp, petrol taste to it. He however, was delighted with it and said that his customers enjoyed it very much.

Me?  Not so much, and sadly, this sort of flavour is what I am served in most places – in the U.K.


There are some local cafes that serve strong, well flavoured, but smooth coffees, but not so many.  And, why do the ‘baristas’ always fail to hear what I ask for?  I used to ask for exactly what I want (“small Americano, slightly less water than normal, with hot milk“), but often noted an inability to remember (an inability to listen!).  So now, I ask for a small Americano with hot milk on the side. It seems to work well in most cases – but today I had to ask three times; each of the first two times I got increasingly larger portions of cold milk!

Is it me?

European Coffees:

  • In Spain I ask for “Cortado“, which is a rich, dark coffee topped off with just a tiny bit of hot milk.
  • In France I ask for “un grand café“, then wait until that has registered before adding “avec un petit pichet du lait chaud, a coté” (although Google Translate suggests that I try “avec un petit pichet de lait chaid sur le côté)



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I feel that I have to say this in the defence of coffee itself and of future coffee drinkers: ‘Why do we have to put up with paying £2.60 for a ‘bean’ coffee that is vended from a machine?’ Why?

In France it would cost half that and taste twice as good!

I stopped at a motorway service station the other day and decided on impulse to have a coffee. To be fair, it was the machine (by Costa) that attracted me. When I saw that there wasn’t a ‘small’ option and that the ‘regular’ was £2.60 I was repelled. I was so angry at the price Costa was charging that I walked across to another ‘unbranded’ machine and put £1.60 in to buy a similar product.

And that’s really where I got stuffed!

Once my money was in, it told me that all of the fresh ‘bean’ coffee options were ‘off’. I could have instant coffee: Not a chance – I’d rather walk away and leave my £1.60 in the machine, which I almost had to do because the reject button didn’t work. Sadly I fell back on upbringing (I am a Yorkshireman!) and chose hot chocolate, rather than lose the £1.60.

I should be taken out and shot for doing this – it was even worse than you could imagine. I was cross with me for being so stupid, with Costa for charging so much for machine vended coffee and for Knutsford Service Station for being so old fashioned, unwelcoming and well – just for being there!

But seriously – £2.60 and there’s no ‘barista’ to pay. Really?

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Coffee Beans

As I’ve said before, many times – I like coffee. Really I’m a tea drinker, but coffee, when made properly from a good brand – is a delightful drink.

I’ve previously identified Vienna as my coffee homeland and just recently had my best ever coffee in France (the best French coffee that I’ve actually drunk in France) but neither venue is conveniently placed for my daily cup.

Gail, my sister in law in Tulsa, makes a good brew too – but she too is too far away to call on.

Given the generally dire taste of coffee to be found in much of the UK, I have to rely on my own resources.

I’ve tried many coffee brands over the years (each time my American, Austrian and French grounds are finished) and I finally settled on the Co-op’s Italian and After Dinner blends. Both featured a fearsome number 5 on the Co-op’s strength rating until recently, when the Italian blend was relegated to 4! I’m not sure what happened there, but both are worth drinking.

I’ve also recently tried the Co-op’s new (is it new?) Italian Blend Beans because there is a certain satisfaction to grinding your own coffee:

It’s almost being like a hunter-gatherer.

I take two heaped dessert spoons of the freshly ground coffee (I keep any that is left over in an airtight bag, in the fridge) and place it into a size 4 filter, over a medium sized mug.

  1. I grind the coffee
  2. I warm the mug with freshly boiled water and set it aside
  3. I prepare the filter and add the coffee (see above)
  4. I empty the mug and set the filter on top
  5. I pour a little of the (now not freshly boiled) water onto the ground – just to dampen them
  6. I get about an egg-cup full of milk ready in a small plastic bowl and set it in the microwave for 50 seconds on full power (warms without boiling)
  7. I pour a little more hot water on the coffee – slightly more this time – and continue to add until I know that there’s enough to ‘fill’ my mug. This is the tricky bit – get it wrong and it’s messy! (and too weak)
  8. I then set everything aside, add my warm milk to the fresh coffee and begin to enjoy the flavour.

My grinder leaves a slightly coarser ‘ground’ than the ready-ground version, so the hot water has to be added slightly slower, but it is still good practice to wet your grounds first, before adding the bulk of the water.


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