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Thread: A Travelers tale / warning ..

  1. #1
    blend52
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    A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Having just returned from another sojourn to the UK & Europe, i thought it worthwhile to relate my coffee experiences whilst there.
    Despite an ever increasing growth in the number of Cafe /coffee shops in the UK..( every other building in central London seems to be a cafe now !) ... they have managed to maintain an amazing consistency of coffee quality...unfortunately that standard is appallingly bad !
    Happily, Starbucks are now well outnumbered by coffee chains such as "Cafe Nero", Costas", and "Pauls" who all seem to have reasonable commercial equipment ( manual / auto espresso machines, pro grinders etc ), ..but few seemed to have a Barista /operator who knew how to use it properly.
    Often a request for a "piccolo" or a "long black" were met with confused stares, or a .. "sorry, we dont do that" ,..comments. Even simple lattes or flat whites were rendered barely drinkable by over extracted shots and thin , untextured milk ( sometimes even "long life" sterilised milk !)
    After 2 weeks of trying , we never found a satisfactory brew in London or any of the other towns visited . I guess they just have not developed a taste for a better coffee ?
    Europe ( Belgium) was little better, with most cafes seeming to focus on speed rather than quality, which seems odd in a society with a tradition of well established independent cafes and quality restaurants.
    Strangely, the best coffee experience came from a small "hole in the wall" ..AMT vending booth in a rail station where the barista produces a memorable "strong latte" in a take away paper cup !
    To cap off a dismal coffee travel experience, whilst grimacing over a glass of warm sterilized milk masquerading as a latte,.... i was relieved of a backpack full of valuables , cameras laptop, etc etc, by a talented group of thieves who managed the hoiste in seconds without me noticing, despite my being on high alert for just such an event !.
    .. So, in summary if you are planning a trip to these areas, dont expect a satisfying cup very often, and DO expect to be robbed,..no matter how careful you think you are being

  2. #2
    claraflo
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Sounds like a weekend in Sydney! Honestly most cafes selling coffee dont do it well, regardless of where they are. Because most cafes are flat keeping staff on $10 ph pay rates. They just take whomever comes along, show them how to push the buttons and hope for the best. :o Cafes who do invest in barista training often lose their trained and skilled baristas to more exciting gigs. Its a catch 22.

    I know here in Sydney the cafes with the best coffee are often owned by the barista/\/roaster whos set themselves to earn more money than working for someone else could.

    The whole impetus for me to spend a few thousand on a coffee setup at home was the difficulty in finding decent coffee out there at any price. I guess the UK is no different.

    At least your gear was taken without violence or the threat of it. If I was going to lose my stuff Id prefer it at the skilled hands of a pickpocket than a thug. Small consolation I know.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Yes, London is pretty ordinary, but less bad than a decade ago. There are some excellent small places, however, just a smattering of which you can find on Gwilyms Disloyalty card (youll need to google it...not sure whether Im allowed to post a link).

    I used to live above the Espresso Room on Great Ormond St....truly some of the nicests and most consistent coffee Ive drunk (they have a regular clientele of Antipodean doctors/nurses from the hospital over the road). Outside London...drink tea. Although there a couple of nice places in Bristol.

  4. #4
    blend52
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Quote Originally Posted by 4D424F5C4F4842412E0 link=1336521817/1#1 date=1336522750
    ...At least your gear was taken without violence or the threat of it. If I was going to lose my stuff Id prefer it at the skilled hands of a pickpocket than a thug. Small consolation I know.
    In retrospect, yes it could have been much worse ..( passports, travel docs, credit cards etc were not lost) ..as well as potential violence ( especially if i had noticed it happening ! ;D)
    ..but at the time its a huge shock when it happens to you. ..and i dont need to mention the inconvenience of lost data, photos, insurance claims etc etc.
    I now realize how smart those guys were,... they chose a place ..departure area of an international train station , where people will be waiting with ALL their luggage and valuables on them ready to travel. Then they chose a time ( just before departure) and opportunity a small group of people where one person may be left "minding" the luggage whilst others do last minute shopping /toilet visits, then they use a distraction ploy whilst a "runner" deftly lifts a small bag,.. ( where do you pack your passports, valuables, cameras , ipads, etc ?) ..and makes a bolt for the nearest exit /car park to a waiting "drop" spot . Meanwhile, even if "joe muggins" has noticed the theft and sees the "runner" making a getaway,..he cannot give chase since there is still a pile of luggage which would be left unguarded !! >:( >:( >:(
    Literally a few seconds distraction of a stranger calling "hello" to you from 5 mts away, is all it took..cunning b*st*rds !
    To cap it all, the local police ( office only 20 mts away !) wanted nothing to do with it !
    .." Too busy, no body hurt, it will take hours to generate a report" etc, and all the time we are under time pressure to make our departure !

    Sydney coffee ... well i guess a little local experience is a big advantage, but there are some very good baristas around. You would have to be very unlucky to spend a week in Sydney and not find a good cup.

    One further note: ..I spent some time checking out the stores for coffee equipment, but surprisingly there was little/no "quality" espresso m/cs available.
    Brevilles 820 / 860 were about the best i could see in amoungst the offerings from DeLongi, Saeco, and low end Gaggia. no sign of a BDB, or Silvia, or even a 6910 !..let alone any HX type kit.

  5. #5
    blend52
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Barry, I am sure there are some good coffees hiden over there some where, but not readily obvious to the visitor. ( and hey* , i used to live there !)
    * 2 examples were particularly disappointing :-
    One was Fortnam & Masons* ( purveyors of quality foods to the Royals ..yada, yada, ) breakfast* bar where the immaculate service and surroundings were a poor cover for crap (cold) coffee. ..
    ...and the other being* the infamous* Heston Blumenthals* "Fat Duck" restaurant ( best in the UK ?),... where the $15 coffee ( in addition to an outrageous meal bill) was truly unspectacular !* :( :(

    I never really thought of myself as a "coffee snob" since i can happily drink instant or even Nespresso, but i guess my standards for "cafe coffee" have been set at a higher level than i realized.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Quote Originally Posted by 6D636A616B3A3D0F0 link=1336521817/4#4 date=1336526047
    Barry, I am sure there are some good coffees hiden over there some where, but not readily obvious to the visitor. ( and hey , i used to live there !)
    2 examples were particularly disappointing :-
    One was Fortnam & Masons ( purveyors of quality foods to the Royals ..yada, yada, ) breakfast bar where the immaculate service and surroundings were a poor cover for crap (cold) coffee. ..
    ...and the other being the infamous Heston Blumenthals "Fat Duck" restaurant ( best in the UK ?),... where the $15 coffee ( in addition to an outrageous meal bill) was truly unspectacular ! Cry Cry
    No disagreement that they arent easy to find (particularly near tourist attractions). And not surprised re F&Ms (coffee isnt really their claim to fame...nice stilton though). If you were in the Sydney CBD and looking for a good coffee would you go to DJs cafeteria (OK not exactly a fair comparison)? God knows what Heston did to the coffee....probably synthesised it from sand and cat dandruff or something.

  7. #7
    Member cosmicfluff's Avatar
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    St. Ali of Melbourne has set up shop in London. Flat White in Soho and theres more around. A bit of research before heading there should help with your next travels. ^^

  8. #8
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Quote Originally Posted by 303E373C366760520 link=1336521817/0#0 date=1336521817
    i was relieved of a backpack full of valuables
    Looks like you had an expensive “coffee” in London, with the loss of your valuables. When I was there 7 years ago I found one café near a train station (I forget which) with the only good coffee I could find in London. I also found one good coffee shop in Dublin. Their main barista was from Holland.

    While coffee can be variable in Sydney, It has improved a lot in the past 10 to 20 years. The worst undrinkable stuff called coffee I have had recently was near the Opera House and at Central Railway Station. There is a continual supply of new customers, so they can serve up dishwater.

    I find much better coffee among the high rise office blocks where they are trying to encourage people to come back regularly for more.

    Barry.

  9. #9
    blend52
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    The "Expensive" coffee experience was actually at the Eurostar terminal in Brussels, but it could equally have happened in London. Paris, Berlin, Madrid, etc etc, since there is a definite high crime risk in any of those main European centers these days compared to my experiences there 10+ yrs ago.
    Really, its a different world these days in Europe, since i lived and worked in most of those countries from the 70s up to 2000 with never a problem of this sort . you have to be really alert and aware of the risk. Its a real contrast to the relaxed atmosphere in Sydney ( Redfern, bikie wars, drive by shootings etc etc ;D ;D)

    Next trip , any valuables ...cameras etc,..will be distributed between the heaviest luggage ( bag thieves dont like to run with a large bag ) , documents will all be copied and distributed between bags and passengers and cash/credit cards will not be kept in one wallet.
    Note: Passports are particularly prized in Europe so great care should be taken to hide and secure these as apparently it is not uncommon for tourists with passports visible to be violently robbed just for the documents.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Quote Originally Posted by 000E070C065750620 link=1336521817/8#8 date=1336609087
    The "Expensive" coffee experience was actually at the Eurostar terminal in Brussels, but it could equally have happened in London. Paris, Berlin, Madrid, etc etc, since there is a definite high crime risk in any of those main European centers these days compared to my experiences there 10+ yrs ago.
    Unfortunately very true. Some bloke tried emptying my other-halfs handbag at an outdoor cafe at the Grote Market in Brussels. I managed to convince the culprit that putting the stuff back would be good for his health. Pretty stupid of me actually...no idea how many mates he had around.

  11. #11
    Whiteman
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Visitors to Australia must think our coffee is rubbish as I find THEIR coffee rubbish!

    Seattle is the classic - supposively the home of great US coffee (yep, I know about where Starbucks started) - most of the coffee shops have really expensive espresso machines in pristine condition but they NEVER use them except maybe to get some hot water to top up drip coffee jugs. I always feel like jumping the counter to show them how to use them and get me the coffee I want - until I start thinking about where age and origin of the beans ... tea please!

  12. #12
    Senior Member trentski's Avatar
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    Re: A Travelers tale / warning ..

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    I had good coffee in Seattle (walked past the first *$s though), but just like Melbourne if I dont know the place, I watch how the Barista works before I order



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