Coffee…and so much more

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487954_2108529352508_237997211_nIt has been over a year since my last post, partially because I was busy with PhD stuff, football, traveling, etc. Actually the real reason is probably because I was just not inspired to write anything in particular about. But in an effort to avoid doing any PhD work, I decided to write a new post, and the more I thought about what to write, and what I haven’t written yet, the more it made sense to write about something other than just which place has the best coffee, or how to make it. I wanted to write about what coffee means to me, and found out that while the taste of the coffee is very important, at the end of the day, it is about so much more than that.

I started drinking coffee when I was 13, and almost just as many years later, I’ve come to gather a great number of good and bad stories/memories involving coffee…could definitely have enough for a whole book (Note to self: if the whole law thing doesn’t work out, good idea for an actual book!). It’s true to say that coffee has in many countries become in a way a synonym for socializing. We invite someone for coffee not for the sole purpose of drinking coffee, but most often to catch up on things if we haven’t seen a person for a long period of time, or to get to know the person, if we’ve only just met them. In such cases, coffee becomes a secondary matter.

However, it is true that the coffee drinking culture is different in most countries of the world. Italians for example drink their coffee, usually an espresso, fairly quickly and go about their day, whereas we Slovenians like to take our time. And don’t get me started about the US, where the “to-go” culture is predominant.

Anyhow, so I don’t write a whole chapter here…

I still remember my first coffee,..I was 13, coming back on vacation to Slovenia for the first time after moving overseas, and met up with my former classmates to tell them what the US was like. There was four or five of us around a table at Berry café in Ljubljana, and I ordered the coffee solely because everyone else did..peer pressure I know. But anyways, the taste wasn’t anything special, in fact it was quite bad. But that’s how it started…

I remember having a chat over coffee about slovenian music and how much it means to slovenians living abroad with a famous slovenian musician, Vlado Kreslin, at the Slovenian Embassy in Washington DC…

I also remember last summer in Kenya when one morning at about 5am before leaving our camp to go back to Nairobi, myself, my sister and a Croatian guy (Damir) wanted a much stronger coffee than we usually got, so while Damir kept eye out for the cook, I sneaked in and doubled the usual dose of the coffee used for breakfast. It was still a bit weak, but that’s besides the point…

I guess the point is that while I do reallyyy enjoy a great cup of coffee, be it espresso, cappuccino or whatever, perhaps more importantly I enjoy the great memories and stories that sometimes come with the coffee drinking. And perhaps that’s why I like drinking coffee so much…

Anyways, I have tons of other stories and memories I could spend hours talking about. Feel free to share some of yours as well. 🙂

 Random coffee story: Apparently Voltaire used to drink 50 cups of coffee a day.

London Cafés

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About two weeks ago I made the trip to London to see the Chelsea-Juventus and visit a friend. Before my train back to Sheffield I had a few hours to kill so it was either go see a museum, or go try to discover some of Londonds hidden cafes. And let me say this, the city is indeed blessed with cafes that let you taste, savour and enjoy the richness of the worlds best coffee. For that day, I limited myself to the West End of the city.

Nude Espresso: located in the West side of the city on the edge of Soho Square, this 21st century espresso bar was my first stop. The warmth, smell of freshly baked almond croissants, and freshly grinded coffee hits your nostrils as soon as you walk in. On top of their own ‘East’ blend espresso, they also have a number of single origin coffees available, as well as a small selection of foods such as sandwiches and small pastries. But their motto ‘Respect the Bean’ is what exemplifies this cafe the best! A must visit for anyone with a love for coffee:) Oh, and they also happen to be the Winner of Independent Café of the year UK 2010 awarded by the Café Society;)
Tapped&Tucked: not too far away from Nude Espresso, just through Soho Square Park and across the street lies this cozy little cafe with that contemporary, rustic amalgam of timber boards, suede benches, a zinc counter,…the array of pastries at the front just asking to be eaten, and the number of single origin coffees to be savoured in a variety of ways (espresso, french press, drip filters,etc). For the non-coffee lovers, theres also a wide selection of teas, as well as some food options, which makes this place perfect both for a morning or mid-day coffee break or a light lunch. A second cafe was added recently, but I might visit that one another time (114 Tottenham Court Road).
WImagehat i’ve come to find out from the short morning espresso runs is that London’s coffee culture is far more extensive than I thought. And if you’re tired of museums and shops, going on to explore Londons cafes is a great way to not only taste some amazing coffee, but also to see the city in a different light and meet the locals. 🙂

Top 5 things to do if you want to get into coffee

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Last week I had someone tell me that, as much as they tried to get into coffee, they simply could not get it to like it. This got me started to think first, how someone could possibly not like coffee, and second, what can I do to change that persons mind. So I decided to make a list of top 5 things to do, for anyone who wants to get into coffee, not to become like a coffee aficionado or anything, but at least to appreciate it,…and to understand my obsession with it 🙂 Anyways, here it is, in order of importance:

1. Stop drinking instant coffee

 While I know it can be tempting to just pick up a jar of nescafe, and in 10sec you have yourself a coffee in the morning, or during work. Yes you save those precious 4 minutes (see point #2 why), but you lose out on the 5 minutes or so of enjoyment. So basically you’re not doing yourself any favour, and you’re actually at a net loss. The only time one is allowed to drink instant coffee is on an airplane or train, where you know they won’t bother with espressos. So do yourself a favour and….

2. Buy a caffetiere, or french press as it is called in the US

 You can go into any Starbucks, or department store, to get one of these. It is probably the simplest way to make coffee. All you have to do is put 2 proper spoons of (and I can’t overstate the importance of this) fine-grined coffee into the caffetiere, for each cup (and don’t skim out on the coffee, because if you just use one, you lose on the strength and flavor – basically you’ll drink coffee flavoured water). Then, pour 1 cup of hot, not boiling, water into the caffetiere, stir a bit, and let it sit for 4 minutes! Then just press the lever down, and voila.

3. Don’t rush drinking your coffee

 When you do finally get the chance to make a proper cup of coffee, don’t rush it. Even if you have a job interview or an exam, sit down in your kitchen, and take those 5min to enjoy the coffee and make a mental plan how you’re going to ace that interview or the exam. If you rush it, you’re just increasing your stress level, and you run the risk of spilling your coffee on your shirt or something, and you don’t really want that to happen right? But the main point is, the whole point of coffee is to relax and enjoy those few minutes of you-time, unless you’re meeting a friend to catch up or something.

4. Learn about the history of coffee

 If you’re reallyyyy keen on getting into coffee, try learning about its history. Just go on Wikipedia, or do a youtube search (I love coffee, or something like that). Knowing where coffee actually comes from, how it is made, what are the different types, etc. is actually what makes coffee drinking quite fun, and a good hobby as well. A good book is also ‘Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed our World’ by Mark Pendergrast. There’s another one I read recently, but can’t remember the title right now, so I’ll post it in the comments when I get home.

5. Get a Nespresso machine

 Now, this one, I used to be really against as the whole capsules system  as I thought that it takes the fun out of making your own coffee, but actually it doesn’t. And it kills that excuse about being in a hurry and not making a proper cup. Yes, it might be a bit expensive (they start at about 100euros or so), but it is worth it. Capsules are about 0.25EUR, so really not that expensive if you think about it. If you go out to have an espresso you’ll pay at least 4x as much for it. In the last 3 months since I had my own Nespresso, I probably saved at least as much as the machine and the capsules cost. Not saying you should not get coffee when you’re out, as that just won’t work, BUT if you think about it, skipping that morning coffee on the go (saving 2EUR), might in those 3 months add up to a Nespresso machine….True story 😉

 

Coffee quote of the day: I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee. – Flash Rosenberg 

The list and the coffee postulate

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Every time I come back to my home city of Ljubljana, after seeing my family and friends I visit my favourite coffee spots. Call it a habit if you will.

Anyhow, it was the second day of my two-week spring break and the first places on the list was Lolita, one of the newer additions to the Ljubljana café scene. It opened, I think, only just last summer, and is located right next to the three bridges (Tromostovje) as you cross the river from the Prešeren square. It did not take long before it became one of the places to see, and be seen. The high ceilings and the décor, an old man reading a newspaper and drinking his macchiato, the cobbled street in front of it, people on bicycles passing by, and if the name hasn’t given it away, it carries a sort of a Paris-like vibe with it. Now I’m just waiting for someone to pass by with a baguette in their hand,…:D Anyhow, so I don’t just talk about the character of this place,…the coffee (I ordered a cappuccino) is really good! Also, I’d suggest ordering something from their selection of cakes, which are really really good (try the panna cotta!!).

Second on the list was not too far away from Lolita, across the nearest bridge, to the left, about 100yards away, called Solist. I’ve heard loads about this place, good and bad things (i.e. overhyped, too expensive, poser-like, etc). It’s more like an outdoor bar rather than a café, but someone once mentioned that they have really good coffee as well, so I thought it’d be worth giving it a try at least. So the first impression is a more positive than negative. I guess on the negative is that there are not as many people as at other cafés, and the staff is a bit moody (but maybe that’s because the clouds just came over the city). As for the coffee, however, it is pretty decent (they use Illy), but nothing special. Although, I should probably account for the fact that I’ve already had three coffees today, so according to my coffee postulate (n-1), which basically states that the nth coffee (its flavor, and the whole experience) of the day will not be as good as if it was drunk as the one before (n-1). Ok maybe that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but you know what I mean…I hope 🙂

Last but not least, I went to Zvezda, located at the edge of Kongresni Trg (the original of the two Zvezda’s in the city center). When it’s sunny outside it’s definitely one of my favourite places to go to, as it’s perfect to do some people watching, plus the coffee is pretty good, though a bit overpriced (1,80eur for a cappuccino). It’s also the place to be on the weekends, when it gets pretty crowded, and you’ll often sit next to the mayor of Ljubljana or the former President of Slovenia, as well as other famous Slovenians.

And so I’m sitting at Cafetino, in the old part of Ljubljana, finishing up this post and bringing my break in Slovenia to an end…about to meet up with some friends for coffee (what a surprise I know), then back to the UK tomorrow…

Quote of the day:I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” – T.S. Eliot

Cafetino Kavarna, Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Last summer I’ve gone around the city of Ljubljana, before and after work, and ranked numerous (15) cafes, in order to determine which one was the best. The criteria included (obviously) the taste of the coffee, the price, atmosphere and the service. Out of all the cafes, only one managed to get a perfect score: Cafetino. Location: Stari Trg 5, 1000 Ljubljana.

Lets start with the coffee. Unlike majority of the cafes in Ljubljana, it offers a variety of different types of beans (10+), so it really satisfies everyones specific taste, from the heavy-aroma-low-caffeine, to more neutral, or strong body and lots of caffeine, you should find your favourite one. And if you get confused about all the different options, the staff are truly helpful in picking one for you. One advice however, if you really want to get the full experience of the coffee, order a macchiatto, as cappuccinos and lattes dilute the flavour of the coffee, so the differences are not that noticeable (note: you can also get it made the turkish way). If you have an hour or so to spare, and can handle your caffeine, just go and order a few and try them out. My favourite is still the Jamaica Blue Mountain (a bit overpriced though), or the Brazil Camano.

Can’t really say much about the price, as it is pretty reasonable, and even lower than most places in Ljubljana. In terms of the atmosphere and service however, it by far exceeds other cafes. The people working there are friendly, the they don’t rush you to pay as quickly as possible, etc. Atmosphere is also best in the mornings, or around lunch time, but as it is a small place, you might have to stand by the front window overlooking the street (which might actually be even better if you’re up for some people watching 🙂 ).

Anyhow, if you’re living in Ljubljana or just visiting, and are truly appreciative of a good cup of coffee, then definitely come here! P.S. order a chocolate brownie as well…yum! 🙂

Coffee Quote of the Week: “No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

NEXT: No, I’m not a coffee addict! Ok, maybe I am…

Remos Cafe, Sheffield, UK

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So it has been a while since my last blog,..again..i know! I guess I underestimated the workload of a PhD just a bit. Anyhow, I have just turned in a research proposal (or at least I think you could call it that way), and now I’ve decided to treat myself to a cappuccino at one of, if not THE best coffee places in Sheffield: REMOS.

Located on Fulwood Road, in the Broomhill area, it is one of the hidden gems of Sheffield. Even people who have been around for years (i.e. Jessica) have yet to discover it,..its charm, and most of all its amazing coffee. But what makes it so special to make it the best café in Sheffield? Well, I’m not where to start, or if I have enough battery on my laptop as I’m writing this post…

Anyhow, I’ll start with the coffee. Remos uses perhaps one of the best coffee beans you can get (and yes, even better than Illy, Lavazza, etc), called Caffee Vero. As I’m sure you know it is not only about the beans, but also how you make the coffee, steam the milk, etc. Being a regular at Remos for nearly a year, I have come to know all of the staff and they are all very highly trained (taught by the best: Remo – also the owner). Whatever your preferred coffee is, whether it be a cappuccino, latter, macchiatto (my favorite), or an americano, I guarantee you that you wont be able to taste a better one anywhere. Or also, if you don’t fancy a coffee, but want to spoil yourself with a cup of hot cocoa, head over (and get a biscotti or one of their cakes while you’re at it 😉 )

Apart from the coffee, another thing I love most about this place is the atmosphere. As soon as you walk in, it has that proper Italian café feel to it,,..Verdi or Eros Ramazzotti playing in the background, clinking of the coffee cups, someone speaking Italian, etc. J just visit  and you’ll know what I mean!

Note: the best time to come is on a Saturday, around noon or lunch time. Always busy, and that’s when you will often see all the local “regulars”, including myself. Even if you come by yourself, don’t be afraid to get into a conversation, which revolve around everything from football, to politics and recent events. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the spot by the main window, so you can also do some people watching. In any case, you’ll like it. It’s kind of like that tv show ‘Cheers,’ not sure about the actual lyrics of the theme song, but Remos is a place where you’re always welcome, and (sooner or later) everyone knows your name!

 

 

 

 

NEXT POST: Favorite café in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

 

Starbucks

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Sorry for the delay in this post, but I have been extremely busy with work and other things. Ok maybe not that busy, but I did end up spilling a few drops of coffee on my laptop, so I had to have it turned off for a few days, and thankfully now it works fine:) No worries, I am still a coffee lover as I used to be…though I must admit I wasn’t too happy about those few drops on my keyboard. Anyhow, as mentioned in my last post, this one will be about Starbucks, and why I am no longer a fan. To make it a bit ironic, I was first going to go there, get a “coffee” and write this blog, but I just couldn’t be bothered to waste my precious morning coffee:)

If you remember in my last post, I used a quote about how Starbucks is not really making or selling coffee, but instead a lifestyle. I couldn’t agree with the statement more! I do admit, I used to be obsessed with Starbucks. Everywhere I traveled to, be it from DC to New York, I would have to stop at a Starbucks along the way; at every airport as soon as I got off the plane; at the Starbucks right by my department here in Sheffield; etc. My point being, it was really the convenience of the Starbucks locations, more than the coffee itself, that brought me to it. Ok, I have to admit again, that the christmas atmosphere in a Starbucks is still great, but their coffee really isn’t. Which brings me to my point again, that they are selling a lifestyle and not coffee.

To be fair though, I am still a hugeee fan of their summer Iced Passion or Green Tea, combined with a lemon pound cake (YUM!), but that’s not really for a coffee blog. I guess if there was anything I like about coffee and Starbucks is their Coffee Frappucinos, but I’ve gotten really good ones, and horrible, over-sweetened ones, that I had to throw away. I may sound like a hypocrite, but in the end I will still go to Starbucks, but not nearly as often as I used to. I did criticise their coffee, but to be fair again, a lotttttt depends on how the barista makes the coffee for your, whether they’ve cleaned the machine often, how they prepare the milk (a lot of times they make it too hot, which destroys the coffee, and gives it a burned taste), etc. Every now and then, you might actually get a decent cup of coffee, cappuccino, machiatto, etc, but when you do, appreciate it because it won’t come around often. Also, you have a better chance of getting a good cup of coffee, when the line is not that long, which means the barista might take more time to prepare your coffee. If there is a long line….RUN!!

Next Post: Rating my favourite cafe in Sheffield.