Sunday, 14 October 2007

Journos vs the All Blacks

'Rugby is a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the center of the city' said Oscar Wilde'.

And that number doesn't count the journalists. Surely it must break some rule of grammar to include the word arrogant so many times in an article. And is it technically possible for a kick to be arrogant? ("I'll go into touch if and when I feel like it" sneered the overinflated rugby ball at the No. 10). This week British journalists from the Independent, Telegraph, Times, have been falling over themselves to gloat at the All Blacks' exit from the World Cup, all of which was 'just desserts' for a team that had been winning consistently, and playing open, running rugby. And now England are through to the final, Short Memory Syndrome will spread amongst all sports journalists, as they herald the greatest and most modest team ever to pick up the oval ball.

Thank God then, that I'm not interested in rugby. No really. I don't understand the rules - I wouldn't know a forward pass if I saw one, or an obstruction from a head high tackle. I don't think I'm alone.

Still, I'll be grateful to be in Madrid next weekend, particularly if the final shapes up to be South Africa vs England. In my Hierarchy-of-Teams-To-Support this would be a competition between the bottom two sides to take a rugby field. Who to cheer for? Let's hope Real Madrid are playing at home...

Monday, 10 September 2007

Latte results

Well, I've mostly done it. Over the last week or so, I've been runnng a taste-test of Lattes from the main Brockley cafes* in the name of research and um, something to do. In my Not-Especially-Scientific-And-Completely-Subjective study to sample and rate every latte for sale in Brockley's increasing number of cafes, I used the following methodology:

1. Buy a regular size latte. (Big sizes are just wrong - if I wanted a milkshake I'd go to McDonalds)

2. Look at it. (Is the top smooth, thick and creamy or are we talking bubble baths and full-fat oil slicks?)

3. Taste it. (Is it the rich, freshly-ground bean taste that makes you open your eyes and go 'ahhhh...', or is it that mug of bed-time hot milk with the barest hint of coffee at the bottom - if only you could've stayed awake to reach it)

4. Think about how happy it makes me feel.

5. Rate the overall experience out of 10.

For me, that perfect latte is one where rich, fresh espresso flavours melt and merge into warm (not-too-hot), smooth and creamy (not-too-frothy), milk. When the combination is right, nothing else matters and the world is beautiful. Too often what you get is weak in flavour and over-milky, topped with a few sorry bubbles that sink and disappear into the emerging slick of milk fat just seconds after you've handed over your cash. A good Barista will tell you that the ability to make that perfect latte is literally an art (or should that be l'arte?).

The findings follow, in order of drinking...

Toads Mouth Too: Too much froth and not enough of the coffee taste. 6/10

{Cafe}Neu: Bubbles galore and little coffee taste. £2. Why the {brackets}? 5/10

Broca: A wee bit heavy on the froth and coffee could do with a bit more grunt; but nice price and blended well.£1 (small cup). 7/10

Matchbox (Brockley station): Made with care - great blending. Better coffee beans could bring this up to a ten. Worth missing your train for. £1.55. 8/10

Ecosium: Served me a double but must have meant been double milk. Not even the view of the Post Office could make me drink past the third mouthful. £1.70. 3/10

Brockley Kitchen: No, No, No! A dispenser with a Latte button spitting out brown, white then muddy water, will not do! (But I'm going back to try the breakfast). £1.30. 4/10

Jam Circus: A nicely presented glass of sickly brown milk; I'm feeling really ill. ~£1.70 4/10

Moonbow Jakes: Made with care; sightly over frothed but blended nicely.~£1.25 7/10

Overall, I'd say my Brockley Coffee experience was positive. It really is great to see so many more cafes offering the full range of espresso drinks, and as Matchbox have shown best in this study, making the effort to create that quality drink. In every coffee sampled though, I think there is still room for improvement in the quality and flavour of the beans. The difference in taste when fresh roasted beans are used as they do at Monmouth is what will make that good coffee perfect.

*I know I have left a couple of places out of the test but in all honesty I can't stomach any more milk. I've think I'm becoming lactose intolerant (in addition to being just generally intolerant).

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

In search of the perfect latte... in Brockley

Good coffee and Kiwis go together like the English and their tea. And when you visit one of those precious cafes that understands that coffee is a taste not a colour and that heating milk is an art not a method of sterilisation, you're guaranteed to hear a good share of 'New Zullinnnd' accents asking for that Flat White with those flat vowels.

Having spent the past few weeks around home and unable to get my daily Latte fix from the Monmouth Coffee Company in London Bridge, I decided to Shop Local, and in the interests of withdrawal headaches and Brockley's property prices have subjected myself to a scientific experiment (as most Kiwis do) in which I sample a latte from every Brockley establishment, rating it according to a series of factors. The results are to follow...