Posts filed under ‘scoop’
So in London, the peeps over at Which? have finally worked out that chains like Starbucks have been offering the consumer ‘inferior coffee at inflated prices‘. Now tell us something we didn’t know.
I admit to having fallen for Starbucks’ clever marketing strategies when they first arrived in Hong Kong – for a time, I’d drink nothing but caramel macchiatos and frappucinos, I’d never tasted a real espresso before in my life, and for my undeveloped palate, the sweet milky “coffees” served by Starbucks suited me just fine. I was never raised on coffee, but tea (that much is obvious), so the strong bitterness of espresso was never something that attracted me.
Somehow, somewhere along the line I began to appreciate the brew a lot more. Maybe it was from working at the student union bar at my university – oddly, they didn’t make it compulsory for all staff to attend barista training (only about 6-7 of us went) – where I first learned the basics of making coffee. The trainer, a seasoned barista herself, was dead serious about coffee. We had an hour long seminar on the history of coffee, the do’s and don’ts of coffee making, and finally we spent another few hours getting to grips with the espresso machine and coffee grinder. At the end of the day, I’d made the perfect cappuccino that garnered a round of applause from our trainer and the rest of the group. Since then, I’ve never been able to forgive anyone for a poorly made cappuccino – it seems like most people think that its the same thing as a latte.
L: Don’t do it! I still get sucked in by the ‘red cups’.
Another thing I can’t stand about Starbucks is their ‘caramel macchiato’, which is basically a milk drink with oodles of caramel and about a drop of espresso. ‘Macchiato’, meaning ‘marked’ in Italian, the most common usage being in the drink ‘caffe macchiato’ – an espresso with a drop of milk or foam. It’s hilarious how Starbucks turns this right around and marks the milk with very little coffee and a mountain of caramel (if it were a ‘caramel macchiato’, surely it means to be marked with a bit of caramel, not an entire half-bottle?). I still stop by Starbucks occasionally for a quick drink, but it’s never on the merits of its coffee – I go when I suddenly need a sugar fix. I’m going to kick the habit this year, because thinking about how much milk and sugar are in its drinks makes me ill.
So to offset the bitter tone of this entry, here are some places where I’ve had some pretty decent cuppas:
1. Flat White
Located in Soho (right across from Yauatcha), Flat White is one of the best destinations for a decent coffee. Care is given to both making it, and serving to the customer – the first time I went there I was momentarily baffled by the friendliness of the staff, who asked me for my name so they could write it on the cup. Somehow it seems so much nicer when they’ve prepared you your coffee and say, ‘Here you go, Charmaine!’ with a smile. I haven’t tried the signature flat white yet, but their latte was so decadent, creamy, and full of zing.
Flat White, 17 Berwick St, Soho, W1F 0PT, London (020 7734 0370/ www.flat-white.co.uk)
Located just off Carnaby Street, Sacred is one of my favourite places for a drink and a natter around the area. It’s particularly good in the summer, when you can lounge on the sofas on the ground floor, or the alfreso seating outside of the cafe, soaking up the sun. Their cappucinos may not be up to scratch (still too much milk, too little foam), but the coffee is acceptable and they’ve got a fabulous range for tea-lovers as well. The aboriginal/tribal artefacts that decorate Sacred are fun and give the place its very unique kind of atmosphere.
Sacred, 13 Ganton St (off Carnaby St), W1F 9BL, London (020 7734 1415/ www.sacredcafe.co.uk)
3. Ca Phe VN
(photo credit: Ca Phe VN website)
A lovely couple, Rob and Thuyen, bring their love of Vietnamese coffee to the East London community. They set up stall every week at Broadway Market, selling classic Vietnamese brews as well as more unusual drinks such as artichoke tea (which I haven’t had the courage to try yet). Vietnamese coffee is a result of French colonial rule, and so uses French coffee beans. Ground and placed into a unique metal coffee filter, where the espresso drips slowly through – the resulting espresso is extremely strong, though the strength is offset by sweet and creamy condensed milk. A perfect pick-me-up, especially in the winter cold. I bought one of their single-cup coffee filters (extremely cheap!) and a bag of ground coffee (from Buon Ma Thuot) so my dad and I have been enjoying many a Vietnamese coffee here in Hong Kong. You can find their wares at the Algerian Coffee Store in Soho, or can order online at the Ca Phe VN website, alternatively there are many other stores listed in their stockists page.
Ca Phe VN, Broadway Market, E8, London. Open every Saturday 9am-5pm.
It has been nearly a month since that fateful day when an email from DailyCandy.com arrived in my inbox, boasting of London’s next best gelataria. Having been confined to getting my gelato fix exclusively from Cafe Ciao on Charing Cross road, I was eager to sample Scoop’s authentic Italian gelato, made with the best Italian ingredients. So after an afternoon of mooching around the Tate Britain, I finally made a visit.
Well, actually, I had previously made two unsuccessful attempts to seek out Scoop this month, attempts of which were foiled only because I never noted down the address and just knew it was in the general vicinity of Covent Garden… So this time, I sketched a rough map in my diary to make sure I would find it.
Once you’re inside the door you’ll be greeted by a massive display of at least 15 flavours of gelato, all heaving and rolling (well, not actively, but you can almost see the movement) majestically in their containers; some drizzled with rich dark chocolate, some dotted with little crunchy biscuits. The interior is bright and cheery, decked out in orange walls and bright blue tables at the back (thought there are only three tables for seating. It’s a shame that there isn’t any al fresco seating!).
As the girl in front of me hummed and ahhed over her choices, I hovered around the glass case, eyes a-darting from gelato to gelato. I knew I had to get pistachio, my absolute favourite. But what else? Soon the woman behind the counter (who looked slightly frazzled) asked what I wanted. Going with the medium chocolate-nut cone, I chose pistachio, tiramisu, and Arabic coffee. It’s worth noting that the large cone will get you FIVE scoops! I had the medium one, which was 4 pounds (eep). A little word of advice: pick your favourite flavour last! My poor pistachio was buried deep within the cone, smooshed by the other two scoops; when in reality that was the first flavour I wanted to try. Indeed, think ahead, my friends…
The chocolate nut cone was scrumptious, but I think I will stick to a cup next time as I didn’t like how the sweetness of the cone interfered with the natural flavours of the gelato – as a result, while the entire thing was tasty, it was just err-ing on the side of being too sweet. I blame the chocolate (but it was so good…). The Arabic coffee flavour was amazing – earthy yet light at the same time, a world apart from regular coffee, which I assume is due to the flavour of cardamom (which I’ve never tasted before). Very good. The tiramisu in comparison was a little weak, which is probably my fault for choosing two flavours that share the coffee element. The Arabic coffee was stronger and so washed out the flavour of the tiramisu. Finally, after wolfing down the first two scoops, I finally reached my pistachio. I knew when it happened because that deliciously smooth, fragrant buttery nuttiness hit my tastebuds. Mmmmmmm, I sure do love pistachio. It was as great as I’d expected it to be – the pistachio gelato is, according to the website:
…uniquely made with pure pistachios from Bronte, a tiny Sicilian village known world wide for its limited pistachios production (once every two years). The volcanic soil of Sicily gives the pistachios a unique and delicious toasted flavour.
After smacking my lips with satisfaction, I decided that my visit wouldn’t be complete without a classic Italian cappucino – and I was particularly interested in how well it would be made. I’ve rarely ever had a truly GOOD cappucino in London – the coffee shops usually think that they can get away with a pitiful slick of airy foam on top of what is otherwise just a latte, what with all the milk added (read: all the milk that wasn’t bubbled into foam). So I went up to the counter and ordered one, also taking the opportunity to chat to Matteo. And he took the opportunity to proudly tell me that their gelato is freshly made each day, with the finest ingredients. I asked him what his favourite flavour was: “It changes, depending on my mood!”. In the meantime, his friend (who he has known forever from Tuscany) got to work preparing my cappucino.
My coffee though, was surprisingly underwhelming. It was no different from the pretend-cappucinos many cafes in London serve – the foam too airy, and it wasn’t even a centimetre thick. I’d drank most of the foam off even before I’d reached the halfway point! Shrugging and getting back to my newspaper, I thought, “at least the gelato was stellar…”
At this point Matteo came out from behind the bar and came over to my table and amicably started chatting to me. I can’t even remember how it started, but it was such a friendly gesture. He came over and pointed to the freezer to my left (filled with sundaes, cakes and puddings) and started telling me about the fantastic tasty things he was planning for Scoop – such as introducing more classic Italian desserts, as well as offering mini semifreddos, tiramisus, and so on. He really has a passion for Italian desserts, and clearly wants the whole of London to know more about them and eat them ;) Anyways, I just couldn’t leave without telling him about the mediocre cappucino – how would any self-respecting Italian allow the memory of a badly made coffee stay with a patron? Indeed, he looked slightly appalled and quickly spoke in rapid Italian to his mate, and before I could protest, they whipped me up another one, free of charge. Matteo said he was surprised that the first one turned out the way it did, because his friend owns a coffee shop in Italy. Every barista has his day I suppose!
The next cup was truly magnificent. Dense, creamy foam with little, even microscopic, air bubbles. Sitting haughtily, rising just slightly above the rim of the cup. Perfect. And the final mark of a great cappucino? When there’s still a layer of creamy foam sitting at the bottom of the cup after you’ve drained all the espresso. I was satisfied. I thanked the both of them, feeling just slightly embarassed that I’d made myself seem like such a demanding customer.
After more shop chat with Matteo, I took a few pictures and off I went, smiling. This is definitely going to be one of my usual haunts now. The fact that Matteo is so passionate about what he does, is dedicated to educating Londoners about Italian dessert, and genuinely cares about what his customers think and chats to you like an old friend, is truly commendable.
40 Shorts Gardens
Phone: 0207 2407 086