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In London, there are some gorgeous areas that are reserved for small, independent shops. The beauty of this is that you get areas where various concepts can be explored with the same vigor and imagination as in pop-up shop format. Now, before bicycles, vinyl and thick-rimmed glasses, coffee was associated with books, bookworms and academics with a voracious appetite for both books and food! A stone’s throw from the British Museum is a book/coffee shop that seeks to revive the sacrosanct connection between reading and caffeine.

The London Review Bookshop is worth an article in of itself, but unfortunately this is not within my remit. Needless to say, the marriage of words and beverage is a welcome one to a student and coffee fiend. The London Review Cake Shop is actually an oasis for both tea and coffee lovers alike, with a wonderful selection of different teas that I wish I knew more about than I do. The food is simple, and yet originally thought out, with simple lunch options, as well as indulgent cakes, which are produced for occasions as well as eaten by casual diners. My lunch consisted of a bacon baguette with salad and a maple mayonnaise. The crispy bacon and crispy lettuce balanced the chewy baguette well, and the flavours were sweet, sour and salty all at once. But I wasn’t about to leave the London Review Cake Shop without trying the cake! To follow my baguette, I enjoyed a rather lovely carrot cake (with plenty of icing to let you forget you’re eating vegetables). It was moist, sweet with just the slightest hint of crunch that you expect from a quality carrot cake.

The room itself is quite cramped, especially as this is a real destination for small groups looking to lunch together. However, the bright and wood-bedecked interior makes up for this, and the close quarters don’t encroach too much on the experience. Slightly confusing is whether it’s table service or not, but we were assured by the waitress that it was table service. However, I did get up a couple of times to ask for things because it felt easier.

The coffees are all written on a blackboard, and there was no flat white, so I opted for a latte. It was well-made, and I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. Monmouth espresso was being used, and I think that’s the natural choice for this coffee shop. The Monmouth espresso in milk is very sweet and compliments cake well. The likelihood is that their customers have a sweet tooth, and Monmouth cater well to that. The coffee I had started slightly bitter, which had me worried, but it was followed up by the full flowing taste of a Monmouth coffee. Plenty of body, and plenty of flavour. The Monmouth blend is not shy, but nor is it obnoxious.

Many coffee shops are cool to come to on your own. But this is certainly a place to catch up with friends. It’s ironic that even though the London Review Cake Shop is attached to the London Review Book Shop, I would probably not find it congenial to studying. But somehow that’s besides the point. The focus of the London Review Cake Shop is not on coffee, but they certainly make a good one. They understand coffee as something that can accentuate the experience of books, or the experience of cakes, and that’s okay. Conversely, I pair my coffee with cake, but the coffee always comes first. And that’s okay too.

 

Notes
London Review Cake Shop
@lrbshop
Monmouth

 

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As part of a new series of blogs, I want to take a brew method that I feel I have really got the hang of (the Aeropress), and use this blog as a way of experimenting, and, at the same time showing other people how to experiment and provide artisan-level coffee at home, with relatively basic equipment. Whilst being educational, the posts will also provide a basic exposition of the wealth of flavours that can be found in high quality coffee beans. This post will look at Limu Kaffa, Square Mile’s latest offering.

limukaffa

The Basics

First off, I’ll run through the process of making an aeropress coffee. For those of you that just want to see how to make it, follow these instructions. At every point where there is room for experimenting I’ll highlight in a different colour. Take a look at the correspondingly coloured paragraph to read about ways I experimented to get everything out of the coffee.

Before you do anything else, switch on the kettle. You want the water to have boiled and be cooling by the time you pour it in the aeropress. Set up the aeropress upside down (as in photo 1) and then move on to your beans. You’ll need to measure out 17g for the Limu Kaffa and I would recommend you weigh it with scales for max effect. Then grind, using whatever grinder you have at your disposal (a hand grinder is perfect, and cheap), on a very coarse grind. You should be able to see the detail of the coffee, with many different shades of brown. Add this to Aeropress and try not to lose any, this is expensive coffee! Finally, pour the water from the kettle over until it bubbles to the top of the Aeropress. Lock your filter over the top: the filter paper should be wetted and clinging to the filter. Wait for one minute thirty (don’t guess) and then place your mug over the top of the filter, upside down. Flip it all together and it shouldn’t spill, then plunge for roughly thirty seconds.

 

And you’re done! The Limu Kaffa is a very complex coffee, and you should find that each cup you enjoy has different tones. Square Mile say that it tastes like Coco Pops. Must say I didn’t get this, but I did get the kiwi-like acidity they talk about, as well as a spicy kick as well. Let me know if you have any questions about this method. Otherwise we’ll move on to….

 

The Experimentation

17g is just a guideline. Try 16g, and try 18g if you’re really rock and roll. I found that raising the weight, whilst decreasing brew time was worthwhile, and helped me get more chocolatey tones, whilst giving a bit more of an overextraction.

Grinding can be the most difficult factor to take into account, as the effects of changing the coarseness have to be measured in conjunction with water:coffee ratio. Generally though, increasing the surface area will lead to quicker extraction. With the Limu Kaffa, I found it responded best with the coarser grinds.

You can at this point give different ‘bloom times’ where you pour half the water into the Aeropress, wait and stir, and then pour the other half. The trend at the moment is away from this, and letting the flow of the water do its work.

Timing is everything. The Limu Kaffa was very temperamental for me when I was as little as five seconds out, and immediately led to both under- and over- extraction in different cups. Any attempt at changing the sit time had to be matched with alterations to grind and weight, but the more time I was able to leave it for, the closer I got to ‘Coco Pops’. Unfortunately Coco Pops also led to overextraction.

Notes
Square Mile
Aeropress

I made the resolution to try out some of the other Tapped and Packed shops after leaving the Rathbone shop with a good impression. This is very belated, but there was another good reason for returning to TAP — they’ve now dropped Has Bean in favour of their own roast. Bold move.

The Tottenham Court Road shop is natural. A trunk of a tree sits in the middle of the room (acting as a table for sugar and napkins, and other things that a coffee drinker doesn’t concern themselves with). Weathered wood plays a big role in the shop, and making you forget that one of London’s busiest roads is bustling outside. An oasis of coffee, a sea of calm in the heart of the city.

The filter coffee served is all through V60. The first one I tried was a Kenya. A wonderfully sweet and bright Kenya, fresh and fruity. The finish to the coffee is slightly salty, but otherwise very clean. It’s not a complex cup, as the barista admitted, but it has some nice flavour, and leaves you with an overall easy swill. I was definitely impressed by this first try of the new TAP roasting. It’s a difficult venture to master, especially when there are so many good roasters already in London, but TAP are making an admirable charge into the roasting industry. Without wanting to make an undue judgement on their quality though, I tried a second cup.

The second cup was a Guatamalen coffee (that I got for free through TAP’s marvellous loyalty cards) was not as flavourful as the first, but it was complex and presented a significant challenge to the taste buds. The marmelade tones in particular were difficult to find in the depth of the cup, but rewarding when I did. This was definitely a coffee which improved as it cooled. The cooling effect is variable with coffees, but often it’s worth leaving a coffee for a few minutes to see how the flavour improves with time.

I can only see TAP’s own roasted coffee improving over time, and their first batch made me want to try it again. The shop itself is a wonderful example of how speciality coffee can sit opposite high street stores and flourish.

Notes

Tapped and Packed

@Tapcoffee
My review of TAP Rathbone Place