Saturday, 20 June 2009

This blog has moved

This blog has now moved to our website, LondiniumEspresso.com

Thank-you for visiting

Kind regards



Reiss.
LondiniumEspresso.com

Monday, 27 April 2009

NEW! Olympia steaming jug

Ahh! This jug makes life easy. A recent addition to the Olympia product line, this milk frothing jug is more appropriate for home use, having a capacity of just 500mL.

Furthermore it is tapered, such that the top of the jug is narrower than the base.

The outside of the jug is polished, while the inside has a satin finish.

I wasn't too taken with the shape of the handle, until I picked it up. It is shaped so that it fits very snugly in your hand and doesn't wobble around. Some thought has gone into this.

Finally it is made of very heavy gauge stainless steel. The downside is this drives the price up considerably. Just how much additional material has been used in the manufacture of the jug becomes evident as soon as you lift it... it is heavy! Heavier than jugs with a much larger capacity.

The payback is the thick walls of this jug act as a heat sink, keeping the milk cooler for much longer whilst you stretch the milk. Personally I found this a massive advantage & am now knocking out great frothy milk with ease for all those who insist on corrupting their coffee with it.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Visit to Olympia Express, Switzerland

I havent time to write a meaningful report right now, but I will at least make a start and post some images...

A flight to Milan & an extremely pleasant trip by car up into southern Switzerland where the people bring a winning combination of Swiss precision & Italian flair. No surprise then to find a large number of successful manufacturing companies based here.









The purpose of the images below is to demonstrate that the Cremina is a domestic machine built to a commercial standard. This is not the consumer grade junk that proliferates today, where you throw it away and buy another if something breaks. No, the simple sturdy Swiss engineering means these machines are easy and cost effective to service.

A relatively recent change in ownership of Olympia has seen heavy investment in developing the engineering excellence of the machine even further. A more precise thermostatic switch has been developed, along with a new pressure guage without a stop pin to ensure the needle of the guage is not damaged under the vacuum that occurs when the machine is turned off. Olympia have also changed the press tool for the top cowling on the boiler to allow you to warm your espresso cups on the top of the machine. In addition the piston has been changed to a twin seal design. Quality control programs have also beeen embedded in the production process to ensure all components meet the design specifications provided by Olympia. The design of the drainage tray has also been refined, and the pins on the lever are have reverted from machine screws with grub screw retainers to circlip retainers on each end to assist ease of correct reassembly when servicing the machine.

Left end elevation: Olympia Cremina with boiler housing & group removed. Old style thermostatic pressure switch clearly visible in brass housing. Now replaced with a much smaller & more accurate design.










Main elevation: group removed.



















Right end elevation with group removed. Clearly visible mounted to the top of the boiler are the over pressure release valve (mounted vertically), the feed for the pressure guage, the outlet pipe from the base of the boiler to feed water to the sight glass water level indicator, and the return feed from the sight glass to the boiler (top)














A new design of bronze piston with marine grade (316) stainless shaft with the two seal seats clearly visible












A collection of pistons fitted to shafts and ready for installation.














Externally I thought the shower screen was in good condition...













...but it wasn't! Coffee oils had formed a hard residue on the inside.














The key to staying young is to stay flexible! Both seals under pressure between forefinger and thumb; old seal (top), new seal (bottom). A new generation of silicone seals are currently under development.










What's the collective noun for espresso machines? A hiss of espresso machines, perhaps? Olympia Maximatic model almost ready to go to their new owners. These are selling like hot cakes.










Moca grinder showing off the engineering excellence for which it is renown. It took me a while to come around to agreeing with the design of this grinder, in particular the fixed box for the collection of grinds, but I am now an advocate.

This is due to the quality of the grind, the quiet operation, its very small footprint, and the fact the I no longer spread coffee grinds all over the kitchen as they are captured in the box very effectively.




And far too quickly it is time to make the return journey to Milan.













All in all a great day with great people. I personally learnt a lot about how the machines were manufactured, the history of the company, and the plans that the [relatively] new owners have for the company. In all aspects they are seeking to build on the fine history of Olympia, and expect to see some exciting new machines from Olympia in the not too distant future.

If you can appreciate the value in an espresso machine that will deliver espresso that is superior to what you will receive in any retail establishment, can be readily serviced, and will be in a fit condition to pass on to your children, then there really is only one choice. Olympia of Switzerland.


Saturday, 28 March 2009

fresh is best

it will seem obvious when it is pointed out, but people fail to make the connection that coffee is essentially a fruit, or at least the seed of a fruit.  as a result it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that fresh is best, just like any fruit.

next time you buy a bag of coffee have a look for the 'best before' date.  in almost all cases it will be 12mths after the roast date.  while it is true that coffee does go 'off' in the sense of making you ill, this practice is misleading and we have a problem with it.  perhaps less so if it is an inexpensive coffee, but a huge objection if you are buying a gourmet or premium coffee.

if you are buying pre-ground coffee it will be stale every time.  the information on the packet may try to persuade you that it is fresh as a result of some magical process, but this is at odds with reality, unfortunately.

one of the things you are paying for at Londinium Espresso is our commitment to stamp the roast date on every pack.  usually, but not always, this will be after you have placed your order.  we are not apologetic that we will sometimes ship coffee that was roasted a few days before your order as we are now firmly of the view that coffee needs at least 10 days in our unopened bags to reach its optimum, and seems to remain in such a condition until at least 3 weeks after roasting.  in our experience there is no significant drop off in quality until 6 to 8 weeks after roasting, assuming the bag remains unopened.  once opened the oxidation process accelerates rapidly and the coffee needs to be consumed in 7-10 days to be enjoyed in peak condition.  for this reason we sell our coffee in 250g bags.  in our experience 250g is about the amount of coffee that a moderate coffee drinker can get through in 7-10 days.

as always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask without obligating yourself in any way.  if we don't know the answer we will say so & endeavour to go away & find it & get back to you.

Daterra 3 weeks after roasting

just discovered a bag of Daterra in the pyramid of coffee that dominates the landscape here.  roasted 3 weeks ago to the day on 7 march 2009.  ran it through the machine & i must emphasise that it has improved further with a little time.  the flavours are smoother, rounder, and more full in the mouth.  still has the same basic profile as you would expect, but much more refined & enjoyable.  if you want to lower the cost i recommend you buy 5 x 250g bags at a time & enjoy the 20% discount.  only open one bag at a time and i think you'll find the last bag you have is more refined and enjoyable than the first bag you open only a few days after roasting.

NEW in: Hawaiian Kona extra fancy

roasted a couple of days ago.  tried it this morning as an espresso & through the swissgold.  have to admit we have under-roasted this and as a result it tastes a little wooden.  we'll roast again this afternoon, this time a little darker.  all coffee produced in Hawaii is fairly traded, though not certified as such, as the US labour/employment laws are in effect.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Anyone for Cuban coffee?

I was reading last night about Cuban coffee & decided we needed to find out if it is even half as good as their cigars.

Having been told the only guy in the UK with any is in Ireland & he will only sell roasted beans I am pleased to announce that we have found some green beans.

I've not had the opportunity to buy from sample so its fingers crossed on this one.  I love this journey of discovery that coffee takes you on.  It is one of the last products in the world that is completely natural & the processing of which hasn't been reduced to a mathematical formula.

The gourmet roasting community is always picking up unusual coffees, often in tiny quantities & roasting them according to their unique in-house roasting style and often creating a taste quite different to another gourmet roaster using the same bean, or a bean from a similar region.

Fantastic!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Trafficcafe.tv

Go and check this website out & watch episode 27

This is a crazy story of coincidence & the power of the web & tools like twitter

A while ago i ran a search for 'Gunson', my surname on twitter, just for the fun of it really

It turned up this guy, Jonathan Gunson, who runs a website called trafficcafe.tv

He said on his show that he was in New Zealand & it is a fairly uncommon surname in that part of the world

So I asked a few a questions about his lineage & it turns out that we are related.  I lived in Auckland until I was 25 & never knew of Jonathan's existence

I have resided in London since 1998 & I get on twitter & find a relative & he ends up profiling me on episode 27

In return I must recommend the trafficcafe.tv to you

It is free & I tune in every weekday to pick up his latest traffic nugget & have found plenty of useful practical tips

As a guy trying to get a web business off the ground I have found it to be a valuable, practical resource & encouragement

Anyway, a big thank-you to you Jonathan, I never expected this kind of exposure

Reiss

Sunday, 8 March 2009

What is Londinium Espresso all about?

Please don't think we only care about espresso

Our mission is to re-introduce you to coffee.  Black coffee.  What other kind is there?

At the risk of upsetting you we dont regard latte as coffee, nor cappuccino, and certainly not a triple frappe grande mocha caramel lard arse whatever nightmare

You're welcome to enjoy them all.  We just don't think they should be confused with coffee.  They are coffee flavoured milk.  That's all.  And if you haven't figured it out for yourself already, they are calorie bombs, whilst coffee is calorie free.

You see the trouble is milk fat is a great masking agent.  When it comes to appreciating the subtle differences between two brazilian coffees, for example, you won't stand a chance.  Your taste buds will be smothered in a blanket of milk fat, rendering them useless.

Londinium Espresso is all about introducing you to coffee.  Black coffee.  Water.  Coffee. And, er, that's it.  There is no where for poor quality coffee or poorly roasted coffee to hide.

You, the consumer, have been served up coffee of continuously diminishing quality since World War II broke out.  We believe it's time to take you back.

Historically, believe it or not, coffee was known as a 'sweet' drink.  I bet you're thinking 'coffee is not sweet, its often bitter or burnt, or perhaps both.  Yes, that's true, but it doesn't have to be that way.

You're probably thinking, ah but, I dont have any fancy expensive coffee making equipment, i cant afford any, its out of my league.

Well, that's not true either.  All you need to acquire is an inexpensive blade grinder & a Swissgold filter.  You may even have a stovetop coffee maker, or plunger, or filter machine at home, in which case all you need to buy is a grinder.  Make sure you keep you equipment clean, ensuring no coffee residue forms in it.  You see it is all about accessing great coffee beans.

Forget ground coffee, it is a waste of money.  Ground coffee stales in half an hour or so of being ground & therefore you will never taste a fraction of the coffee's original, fresh roasted flavour.

Anyway, I think we have made our point.  Londinium is all about black coffee.  Great black coffee.  Filter, vacuum, espresso, stove-top, the method doesn't matter.  It's all about the coffee... not the additives.

We are also on hand to help you solve coffee problems and chew the fat when pondering where to spend your hard-earned cash on your next caffeine toy, all without obligation and as impartial as we can be for coffee zealots!

Grinders: blade & burr

This is a bit of a pedantic rant, but I am sick of people proclaiming that blade grinders are no good because they cut the beans and burr grinders are good because they grind the coffee.

Blade grinders have 'blades' but if you feel them you will notice they are not sharp.  They don't cut the coffee, they simply 'smash' the beans.  As a result the 'grinds' it produces are a vast array of sizes, and equally importantly, shapes.  Hopeless for espresso as the water simply takes the coarse of least resistance through the puck of coffee and it produces a curious mix of over & under extracted coffee.  Not nice.

Entry level burr grinders don't do a whole lot better either, some of them having plastic/composite burrs which wear smooth fairly quickly, unsurprisingly.

Good burr grinders, i.e. those selling for GBP200 and above in the UK actually have burrs that are quite sharp.  As a result they do 'cut' the coffee bean.  The correct term is probably 'mill'.  These sharp burrs, or teeth if you like, ensure the resulting grinds are very uniform in both size and shape.  This is what you are paying for in a top quality grinder.

The need to minimise the heating of the coffee if you are grinding any volume is addressed in three ways; 1) the use of highly conductive material (metal/metal alloy/ceramic) for the burrs to dissipate the heat away 2) larger diameter burrs so the working surface of the burr is increased, thereby spreading the thermal load over a wider area 3) reducing the revolutions at which the burr turns, which in turn requires gearing and usually a more powerful electric motor, all of which add to the cost.

All of the above needs to be mounted into a very rigid assembly otherwise the burrs would be able to flex/move as the resistance of beans stuck the working face of the burrs.  This obviously adds to the cost as robust engineering as described above is needed.  It demands high quality metals/metal alloys and plenty of them.

The upside is you aren't buying what I like to refer to as 'consumer grade junk'.  When the burrs eventually wear out in a high quality grinder (stated as every 400Kg in a Mazzer Super Jolly) you can simply replace the burrs and you have a new grinder essentially.  If you are bothered by such things this is the world our grandparents knew and it is a lot more environmentally friendly than throwing cheap, poorly made items out every year or so.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Bodum Antigua grinder at an amazing price

Trolling the web just now I found this incredible deal;

http://dbroth.amazonwebstore.com/Bodum-Antigua-Electric-Burr-Grinder-Black/M/B0018OQJ6G.htm?traffic_src=froogle&utm_medium=organic&utm_source=froogle-GB&id=uk

No the grinder isn't suitable for espresso production but it is superb for anything else

I had one for years to test and I was very impressed

Before you ask we are not affiliated to these guys in ANY way, I have not been asked to post this, I was simply checking out the current price, thinking it to be about GBP90 & found this.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

How to use a Swissgold filter

video

this is a very crude first attempt at adding video to this blog

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

New and improved checkout facility

Having tried the patience of many of our customers for longer than we had any right to, we have finally upgraded our checkout such that it is more intuitive for those who do not wish to pay by Paypal.

We hope this meets with your approval & welcome any comments you may have.

Reiss.

can coffee be too fresh?

for me the answer is a resounding yes.  you will often hear it said that coffee needs 48hrs or thereabouts to de-gas and this is true enough.

but with the experience we have built up since 2004 when we started roasting i think the answer is more complicated, there seems to be more to it than simply waiting 48 hrs

the coffee seems to reach a higher 'optimum' if it is left in the sealed bag for about 10 days after the date on which it was roasted.  don't ask me why, i'm not an industrial chemist & i suspect a lot of them may not be able to account for the change in full, for if they were coffee would have been synthesised by the large multinational coffee roasters long ago

cut & go by all means when you first receive your Londinium coffee (i'll do this too if i'm out of coffee), but the coffee will taste thin, flat, and wooden relative to what it is capable of delivering to your taste buds.  not bad relative to most coffee on offer, but very much sub-optimal to what it is capable of

please dont take from this that coffee doesnt need to be fresh, it does, it is imperative.

the point is, like so often with coffee, that the optimum isnt at the extremes.  it is a complex balancing act of so many variables.  so next time you hear someone bragging about making an espresso from beans that are still warm out of the roaster, be a little sceptical.

anyway, try it for yourself, the difference isnt simply an academic one for the coffee cone heads, it really is quite noticeable once you are looking for it.

happy drinking!

Consider a lever espresso machine

I have been weighing up in my mind for ages whether or not to make this post as lever machines tend to divide the coffee community like a scythe. It is not a sly attempt to talk you into the superb Olympia Cremina we offer, but rather the result of my continual musings on the best machine to sink your hard earned cash into at the lower-mid market price points

If money is no object, or you have a sponsor who plies you with free espresso equipment to promote on their behalf then these considerations fall away obviously, but most people are not currently in that position.

I have come to the conclusion that lever machines cop a lot of unfair criticism. yes i know you can criticise the less expensive machines for poor thermal stability and so on, but are they any worse than electric pump machines at a similar price point?

I would also qualify my comments further i saying that i am thinking about the typical Londinium Espresso customer, i.e. one who is focused on espresso, doesn't need to turn out a large number of coffees in a short period of time, and only occasionally uses the steaming wand.

Yesterday I was in Harrods and it was interesting to see that they now sell primarily 2 types of machines; pod machines & bean to cup. Finito. The vast array of choice they used to offer has all been swept away. Both of these types of machine are pitching to the convenience market, so that obviously reflects what the bulk of the market wants.

I was offered the opportunity to sample the coffee from the bean to cup machines and i have to say i was very disappointed. Was the coffee offensive? No, not at all. In fact it was completely the opposite of the that; bland, primarily due to being underextracted. It was the same last time i tried a bean to cup machine. Despite the 'oh yes sir its 15bar all round on this machine' i remain unconvinced. I also suspect the grinders aren't even on nodding terms with what a Mazzer delivers. I find this unacceptable at this 'top of mkt' price point.

Was the machine easy to use? Certainly. Did it look nice? Yes, although the flimsy plastic cowlings and fake chrome on plastic isn't really acceptable at this price point in my opinion. These bean to cup machines are not inexpensive, and place you up into the Olympia price point for the top models. For me there was no comparison. The Olympia makes coffee as good as a commercial machine, and given the poor coffee and lack of care associated with almost all retail coffee offerings the coffee you make at home on an Olympia will be on a different planet to your local cafe and at a fraction of the cost once you have the machine.

Anyway, the point is that the entry level bean to cup models of this particular brand started at £650. While i dont doubt they are available on better terms elsewhere i started thinking that for a lot less money, assuming you are an espresso fanatic (i.e. not a milk fiend) and dont need to crank out a row of espressos in a hurry, then a lever machine like the La Pavoni really does make sense. A good friend of mine has owned his for many years now. He hammers the daylights out of it every day. Ok, sure he is a single guy & not catering to 10 supper guests at a time, and tends to drink espresso or macchiato.

During that time he has had to service the seals on the machine, but this is true of any espresso machine after 5 years of daily use. The espresso he makes from the La Pavoni leaves all the bean to cup machines i have tried for dead.

Sure, i am the first to admit that a bean to cup machine offers convenience, you dont get coffee grinds spread all over the kitchen, etc, etc.

But...Londinium Espresso really is a place for purists, people with a focus on ultimate quality over convenience. A perfect espresso made with care on a Saturday morning, or after lunch on a sunday.

if your espresso needs are as i describe above you should give the La Pavoni, and the other lever machines some serious consideration. Lever machines do take a little bit of effort to master, but it isnt that difficult & we are very happy to help, without obligating you.

Bella Barista also have a spring lever machine (Ponte Vecchio from memory) on their website, which i havent tried myself, but from what i can see it is very attractively priced. You also have the Elektra machines, and no doubt there are others which i am not aware of

At the price point a La Pavoni delivers far far better espresso than an electric pump machine. Put the money you save on the La Pavoni into a great grinder, at least a Rancillo Rocky, or step up to a Mini Mazzer if you can. The La Pavoni grinder is OK, but it is a bit flimsy in construction.

The trick to the lever machine is weighing the ground coffee until you are able to simply visualise what 8g (or whatever weight you want to go with) looks like in the portafilter before you tamp it. The other thing is to shift the lever so the piston is in the open position and allow the coffee puck to pre-infuse for around 8s before moving the lever to force the water through the coffee puck.

I readily concede that they are not the weapon of choice for lattes & cappuccinos, or rolling out 10 espressos in a hurry for a dinner party.

In addition to the performance considerations the lever machines are easily maintained, they are silent in operation (having no electric pump) & in my opinion they are a lot more attractive.

So in summary do give a lever machine some serious consideration, depending on what your needs are.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Coffee isn't Coke

What do we mean?

Well the primary attraction to coffee for me is it is one of the last non-homogenous products in our daily lives

It is a truly natural product and as a result it delivers a vast palette of variances that reflect all the external factors that the coffee has come into contact with on its journey from soil to cup, often from one side of the world to the other.

One of the challenges for a roaster of coffee is to work with this variance in the coffee and consistently deliver coffee to the customer that tastes as close as possible to the previous batch

The same bag of coffee will also taste different on your taste buds at different times of day, and at the same time of day on different days

For espresso use coffee needs to be ground slightly more coarse on days with high humidity, and slightly less on days with less humidity, and so on

So the focus for Londinium Espresso is to demystify the diatribe of the coffee world where boffins and madmen lurk to a simple set of rules and advice that will place you in the right 'zone' with your coffee

From this point you will develop the confidence and experience to fine-tune your method for your unique set-up. It is highly unlikely that any two of our customers have exactly the same set up, and even if the machine and grinder are identical, with identical degrees of wear on the grinding burrs and so on, your technique will differ and you will produce slightly different results from the same coffee beans

It is not possible to set down a rigid set of rules, which if followed by two different people on two identical set-ups would produce identical espresso. Similar, yes, but still with differences.

For us this is a beauty of coffee, not a short coming. Large multinationals have spent, and continue to spend, millions to synthesise the unique taste of coffee in order to deliver a homogenous product to the market at a very low marginal cost of production. The fruits of some of these efforts can be seen in instant coffee, coffee powders, coffee pastes, and probably the most recent development, the Nespresso style pod technology.

We are the first to recognise that such products offer convenience. We would just ask that you don't confuse them with coffee, which is what Londinium Espresso offer you. Coffee by definition can never be a convenience product. Coffee is an affordable luxury.

Even the most straight forward of preparation methods (a grinder and a Swissgold filter) does not come close to a pod system for convenience, but the result is coffee, a fantastic respite from the daily rountine of life.

A taste which carries your imagination to far off plantations in exotic locations with a dense jungle canopy overhead to filter the beating sun with just the first sip. All this while your cursor sits on cell 'C12' of your Excel spreadsheet in some bland city office block. What a bargain!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

From the FT: Reaching for the Starbucks

We have decided to republish this article directly from the FT in full, as it says the same as what we have been saying ad nauseum. That is to say, Starbucks is not about espresso. We have placed the key paragraphs in bold and italics.


By Christopher Caldwell

Published: February 20 2009 19:17 | Last updated: February 20 2009 19:17

The decision of Starbucks to begin marketing Via, its own brand of instant coffee, is a powerful symbol of something – either of the unexpected resilience of innovative companies or the collapse of the whole logic of the consumer economy.

The struggles of Starbucks are well known. Its stock lost half its value last year, and store sales were off 9 per cent in the most recent quarter. The company announced in January that it would shed 6,700 jobs and close 300 more outlets, after shuttering 600 last year. Other espresso chains are nipping at its heels, some with better services (such as Caribou in the US, where high-speed internet is free), some with lower prices (such as Dunkin’ Donuts). Home-grown competitors are rising in important markets – for example Costa Coffee and Caffè Nero in Britain. People differ on whether Starbucks has expanded too fast – losing sight of the bohemian ambience that was its main selling point – or whether peddling coffee for several dollars, or pounds, a cup is a non-starter in this straitened economy.

Whatever the problem is, it is hard to see how instant coffee could be the way out of it. One prong in the Via marketing strategy is to sell it through the discount retailers Target and Costco for about $1 a sachet. That is a lot of money. While there is a logic in selling premium coffee at a premium, there seems to be little in selling so-so coffee at five times the price of other so-so coffee. The second prong is to sell it, starting in March, in Starbucks stores in three cities – Seattle, Chicago and London. That makes sense: 81 per cent of the coffee drunk in Britain is instant, and the world instant coffee market generates $17bn (€13.5bn, £11.9bn) in sales. So perhaps Starbucks can sell enough in prestige markets to convince shoppers elsewhere to buy it in bulk.

That would be in character. Ever since it began expanding, Starbucks has worked by paradox and misdirection. It is supposed to be a chain of espresso bars but, in the US at least, it has been years since most Starbucks have stocked proper espresso cups. A shot of espresso comes as a little puddle rolling back and forth at the bottom of a pint paper cup meant to hold some other concoction, most likely one with lots of steamed milk and syrup. Starbucks is basically a malt shop and this should not surprise us. Creamy foods are always popular in booms. The great food fad of the 1920s, the historian Frederick Lewis Allen tells us, was “Eskimo Pie”, and US ice cream production rose 45 per cent in the seven years to 1926. The genius of Starbucks is to keep its identity as a coffee shop, letting its customers feel more virtuous than if the place they habitually nip off to at 10:15am were called the Dairy Tub, or something like that.

This makes the shift to instant coffee easier. If you are selling milkshakes, the quality of the coffee is not that important, any more than the quality of scotch is important to someone whose favourite drink is scotch-and-coke. But there is a problem with instant, too. Part of what Starbucks founder Howard Schultz calls “the Starbucks experience” has always been a matter of class. Starbucks has managed to give its customers the feeling they are “in” in two ways.

The first is through its reputation as a “responsible corporate citizen”. Starbucks offers health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week or more and has been punctilious about trading only with ethical coffee growers. These choices are defrayed through higher retail prices. Since people who care about corporate responsibility tend to be well-educated, and hence well-paid, caring is a class marker. Corporate responsibility and conspicuous consumption are near relations. You can “feel good” about ordering Starbucks in more ways than one.

The second link to class is through real estate. This may hold the key to the company’s difficulties. Starbucks has had a genius for sizing up properties and picking locations. The company starts, according to the writer Taylor Clark with “a database ranking every US metropolitan area according to the qualities Starbucks found especially desirable – high income, high population and high education”. In plotting its expansion this way, Starbucks not only collected information but generated it. An up-and-coming neighbourhood would have a Starbucks: a superficially similar but stagnant one would not. In the very act of its site selection it became a sort of rating agency. One extraordinary side-effect of Starbucks’ retrenchment is that, as outlets have closed – particularly in struggling cities such as Newark, New Jersey – protests have arisen to “Save Our Starbucks”. Naturally! A closed Starbucks signals a downgrading of the neighbourhood. But picking real-estate winners is not as lucrative now as it was a couple years ago.

Starbucks may have come up against the limits of its model. The chain will have to serve a different function in the bust economy than in the boom. Maybe espresso bars could thrive as purveyors of “cheap luxury”, the way cinemas did in the 1930s. A lot of people thought that the collapse of phoney equity values would make people turn to healthy, high-value food. But, really, that almost never happens – the natural food craze of the late 1970s was a cultural coincidence, not an economic effect. As this paper has reported, people today are turning to fast food, fish and chips and other comfort foods. “The less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food,” George Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier. “When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’.” The taste for the kind of sweet drinks Starbucks serves is unlikely to wane any time soon.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The best coffee in town can be at your place

we've said it before, we'll say it again, most cafes buy the least expensive coffee they can find, and anything from italy must be good right, because everyone knows the best coffee comes from italy, right?

er, no, not necessarily at all. they're often the same people who think coffee is grown in italy, when not a single bean is!

lets be clear, we love going to italy & all things italian & some superb roasters practice their art there, but the bulk commercial roasters? tell us your next joke!

quite simply, if you find yourself tightening your fiscal belt at the moment, there is no need to reach for the instant coffee just yet.

for a very modest outlay you can acquire our starter pack and you will find you are serving a nicer cup of coffee at home than you ever had on the high street & staying within your budget at the same time.

come over to the dark side. try londinium.

New in: SWP Cascadia

Yes, another decaf coffee

Why? because a customer demanded a decaf, but it HAD to be organic & fairtrade

All we could find right at the moment that fitted the criteria was this or a single origin Sumatran

We decided this was the safer bet as dry processed Sumatran can be rather over bearing as an espresso

This is a blend which we will detail when we load it up on the site

Anyway, we will most likely take delivery on Tuesday

This is a relatively expensive coffee so we have high expectations, particularly as the SWP Costa has set the bar so high

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Send us a coffee question...

and we will answer it here for you.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Its not all doom & gloom. It's time to deliver value for money, that's all.

Despite the dire predictions of the newspapers, it isn't all doom and gloom out there.

I'm not a pushy marketing man with an axe to grind, I'm not about to tell you that houses are gaining value and the world is all returning to normal. What I am about to write is based on what I have personally observed as I beat the streets of London visiting the cafes we serve and the cafes we would like to serve in the future.

There is a near perfect correlation between the cafes that appreciate the quality of the products and services we offer, and success. I can hear you saying, "ah yes, well he would say that", and while I am a hard bitten cynic too, it is the truth.

The businesses who are struggling are those who like to blame external factors for their troubles, for example, "oh we can't change from Illy because we need an international brand to compete with the Starbucks next door". On this particular occasion I then paid for a cup of their Illy coffee to try it. Lets be quite clear, I may think Illy is over-priced, but correctly treated it can make an acceptable cup of coffee; i.e. I am not an 'Illy-basher'. But this coffee was terrible! Why? Nothing to do with Illy! They had paid a premium for the brand, but they were lazy. So neither the machine nor grinder had been maintained, they skimped and used the tiniest amount of coffee ('b/c we are struggling we have to cut corners runs the logic'), it was prepared by someone who didn't want to be there, and so on. They still firmly believe they are struggling b/c of the Starbucks next door, the economy, etc.

As an outsider who had not visited the cafe before I saw things differently. I have driven past the cafe many times, and the daft thing is no Illy branding is visible so they are paying for a premium brand yet it is not visible until you are in the shop. The shop looks attractive as you pass by, it looks inviting enough. Yet the Starbucks next door is full and this cafe is empty. Why? Well it cant be the economy can it? I mean if people really didn't have any money they wouldn't be in Starbucks either.

The money exists, it hasn't gone anywhere. All that has happened is that it has been redistributed (typically from young (buying prop)to old(selling prop)) and people's expectations have changed. So people might not be throwing their money around with gay abandon as they did when they didn't care if they lost their job as they would quickly find another, possibly on better pay, or when their house was appreciating at 15%pa.

They are still spending, albeit more cautiously. So the competition has increased. You just need to ensure they spend their £ with you, not your competition.

Example: Eating in a cafe is no longer inexpensive; today I had a citron tart on a take-out basis for which I was charged GBP3.20, which I thought was rather a lot, but you know I have had them numerous times before from this particular cafe and I really like them. I am still thinking that it was rather extravagant, which it was, but if you really enjoy it you feel you have received value for money & next time you pass that shop there is a good chance you will almost subliminally find yourself opening your wallet again, perhaps not even on the citron tart, you might think oh the citron tart was so good, the raspberry whatever looks good, I'll try that instead this time. and so it goes. Conversely, if the citron tart was disappointing it is a long time before you go back again, especially in the current environment.

The favourite game in the London cafe scene is to sell crap to the passing tourist trade. 'Its crap' you say. 'We know' they respond, 'but who cares b/c they have gone to Heathrow another 1,300 plane loads of tourists arrive from Heathrow tomorrow'. Well that attitude really grates with me and I see no reason why you shouldn't go out of business if you live by that mantra.

People talk. With new methods of instant communication like twitter they talk a lot, and quickly, to many people, all over the globe.

OK, so they mightn't remember the name of the awful places that screwed them as they made their way across Europe, but you will be surprised how they note down and remember the places where they had a good time and left feeling that they had received value for money.

For me 'value for money' is a phrase that we should start thinking about a lot more if we intend to get through this recession. It doesn't mean cheap. Something can be very expensive (i.e. have a very high price) yet be perceived as value for money. Obviously the higher the price the higher the customer's expectations for the product(service) before they consider to have received 'value for money'.

For me value for money is a concept of 'fairness'. You leave feeling you have received fair value in return for the consideration you paid. The colloquial antonym is 'ripped-off' and there are businesses all over London still deploying this approach and wondering why life is becoming more difficult.

Businesses who are prepared to take an honest look at themselves and decide if they are really delivering their customers 'value for money' will survive this downtime. Those who really put their back into it may even thrive. This is not a fanciful notion. We supply a very well run cafe who is in the process of opening another location because they have so many customers they are turning them away, even on a Monday. How? Why? What!

Well they have operated in their current location for a number of years and built up a loyal clientele. They have a very focused menu and do what they do extremely efficiently. Efficiently here doesn't mean 'low quality', it simply means the process has been refined and refined to eliminate wastage and inefficiency, hence the 'focused' menu.

The current economic climate has meant that previously inflexible landlords and their agents have modified their expectations. As a result premises that were previously priced out of reach are now a viable proposition. It will give our customer a second location in a prime retail location with much more foot traffic. It will almost certainly be a success because the owner is 'sticking to the knitting', not diversifying into something he knows nothing about. In addition the owner is hands on. He doesn't pop in for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. He is always there, driving the business forward. At the same time he is gradually adding the systems and controls that will allow him to manage two locations, and refining continually to minimise the negative events.

I have almost come to the conclusion that the retail food business has become overly focused on certification yet still failing to deliver quality. A certified apple doesn't mean it doesn't go stale or that it doesn't bruise. You can have organic this and UK5 that, and fair trade this, and rainforest that, but if the food doesn't taste any good and you try to charge people a daft premium for it in a downturn, don't be surprised if the business is a bit quiet.

How about simplifying it. Take a clean sheet of paper and consider item by item what you are going to sell. Don't add a single item that you dont personally love. Don't add a single thing that you are not prepared to personally enthuse about to your customer at length. When all around is grim it is a delight to speak with someone who really loves the product they are selling. Then work out what it is going to cost, add in all your variable & fixed, direct & indirect costs, add on a premium that you consider a fair and reasonable reward for you effort and see what you end up with.

If you are an existing business and things are tough go back to the Landlord and spell it out. Not in a threatening manner, but perhaps take some accounts or at least key figures for the last say 3 years with you and demonstrate how things have deteriorated. Explain that you want to continue the business, but the current level of rent is strangling the business and if you are unable to make significant reductions you will have to relocate or possibly close the business. Negotiate. An intelligent landlord will much prefer to reduce the rent than take a bet on how long it might take to find another tenant who is willing to pay the same amount as you are currently paying.

A classic mistake that I see so often is shops that stock far too many things. This is doomed to fail in my view. You are not a supermarket. It is especially problematic if you are dealing in perishable items. You must identify a theme or a niche. This doesn't mean tacky, it means specialisation. It means becoming famous for something. One thing. As already mentioned, news spreads fast these days, good or bad. If you are in London and you become famous for something, don't be surprised if you have people from all corners of the globe coming to experience your take on 'value for money' for themselves. Set your sights high. Lead by example as the owner.

Oh, and another thing I almost forgot. If you pay your staff the minimum wage, with absolutely no form of incentive scheme, don't be surprised if they seem a lot less enthusiastic than you about your goals and objectives. The English may sniff at the Americans, and sure the commission based retail model can produce some pretty obnoxious scenes when executed poorly, but on the whole I think it is preferable. I firmly believe that people who work hard, shoulder more than their share of the burden, go the extra mile if you like, need to be rewarded, and why not some filthy lucre?

If someone has gone beyond the call of duty and furthered your global reputation for excellence in whatever it is you want to become famous for, then give them a share of the spoils. I fully appreciate that it can be difficult to get the balance right, but I do not accept this as an excuse for simply doing nothing. In its crudest form you may simply declare that it is a discretionary bonus that will be paid weekly in whatever way you see fit. Some weeks it might all be paid to one person, other weeks it might be split equally, and so on. Some weeks nothing may be paid at all, whatever, its your scheme, just make the rules clear and abide by them. It may not even be money, but it needs to be something of value to the person concerned that clearly conveys that their additional contribution is valued.

Leaving cafes aside for a minute, there are businesses like our own that still need goods and services to survive. Sure, we may buy in smaller more frequent lots, or spend more time looking for the best deal, but there are a lot of things that we still need. Life goes on as the saying goes.

Let's ignore the media & the politicians, they won't get us out of this mess. Most likely small businesses will. How? By knuckling down and ensuring their customers perceive that they are receiving 'value for money'. Just remember that approximately 95% of employees in the UK work for a firm that employs 5 or fewer people. Small firms (10-50 employees) generate more than half of the UK's GDP. Most people don't receive huge bonuses. Most people are remarkably like you and I, so let's roll up our sleeves and make a difference by creating 'activity' which creates demand for goods and services. The money hasn't gone anywhere, it has just stopped circulating because people's expectations are fragile at the moment.

If you operate a small business and would like to bounce ideas around feel free to get in touch....we're real people.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Chimney sweep blends

Cooking food at high temperatures, for example grilling or barbecuing meats, can lead to the formation of minute quantities of many potent carcinogens that are comparable to those found in cigarette smoke (i.e., benzopyrene). Charring of food resembles coking and tobacco pyrolysis, and produces similar carcinogens. There are several carcinogenic pyrolysis products, such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, which are converted by human enzymes into epoxides, which attach permanently to DNA.

The above statement applies equally to coffee that has been roasted very dark, which is generally pursued when you are using very low grade coffee and the sooty taste is deemed preferable to being able to taste the coffee itself.

We're not health fanatics at Londinium, but we think this issue has been given scant attention to date, whilst caffeine seems to have received a disproportionate amount of coverage and if you believed even half of it you would have thought it would have exterminated the human race long ago.

All things in moderation we say, and if you seek out high quality coffee beans and roast them with care there should be no need to roast them very dark to the point where the bean is beginning to carbonise/turn to charcoal, even if they are intended for espresso use.

The myth that espresso beans must be roasted very dark must not be allowed to perpetuate.

Espresso doesn't need to be burnt or bitter. It can be sweet and delicate.

Try a Londinium roast.

(the only exception to this is our SWP decaffeinated roast where the green beans have already been turned to a dark brown colour by the decaffeination process before we commence roasting). They also seem to require dark roasting to optimise the taste. Otherwise all our roasts are light.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Espresso standardisation, or reducing the witchcraft factor

In an effort to help you enjoy your Londinium coffee in the way we envisaged we now use Volvic water for all our taste tests.

This isn't a plug for Volvic or that Volvic is better than any other water, it is simply a water with key attributes that are all 'in range' for espresso use (and there aren't many bottled waters that are) and Volvic is readily available as a result of an extensive distribution network.

We hope this standardisation removes one more variable from your espresso equation.

As a reminder; 8g of coffee per shot, grind fine, tamp light, and target an extraction time of around 22s.  We could also add water temp measured at the group head of 92C.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

If you think espresso beans should be jet black....

....then you probably won't like Londinium Espresso

We believe that coffee should be all about the 'terrior', similar to wine.

The concept of terroir developed through centuries of French wine making based on observation of what made wines from different regions, vineyards, or even different sections of the same vineyard so different from each other. The French began to crystallise the concept of terroir as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the wine made from it.

Long before the French, the wine making regions of the ancient world already developed a concept of different regions having the potential to create very different and distinct wines, even from the same grapes. The Ancient Greeks would stamp amphorae with the seal of the region they came from and soon different regions established reputations based on the quality of their wines.

If you only roast coffee just enough to caramelise the sucrose in the bean, which off sets the natural acidity in the bean, it is possible to preserve the natural characteristics of the bean that reflect the terroir of the coffee and produce a excellent, albeit unique, espresso

As far as we can tell the practice of roasting the beans very dark is associated with using inferior beans whose unique characteristics are not particularly desirable and therefore you seek to minimise their presence in the cup by roasting the daylights out of the bean. The only exception is decaffeinated coffee where the green beans have already been turned a very dark brown colour by the decaffeination process, and end up being very dark after roasting.

While it is true that many coffees are not particularly suitable for use as single origin espresso, many others are. With single origin espresso there is nowhere for the roaster to hide. The margin for error is much smaller, as it can not be masked by subsequent blending. The demand on the roaster for accuracy and precision is much greater. As is the need for good, clean, green coffee, with low defect rates and well graded to ensure all the beans are of a similar size. Otherwise the small beans end up burnt and the large beans end up under cooked and a poor cup of coffee results (a classic case of two wrongs not making a right)

Sunday, 25 January 2009

How to make Turkish coffee

The Turkish coffee maker, called "cezve", "jezve", "briki", "mbiki", "toorka" or "ibrik", has a wide bottom, a narrow neck, and a long handle. The traditional copper or brass design is preferred. It works best to use a pot to its full capacity, so you may want to own several sizes.

How to make Turkish Coffee
Ingredients:Start by adding to the ibrik 1 tsp of powder-grind coffee and 1 tsp of sugar (traditional but optional) to every 2 oz of water (assuming you will be using 2 oz servings). Add an extra oz of water to the mixture. The combined ingredients should fit just below the neck of the pot.

Brewing: Traditionally, and for the best taste, expect the brewing process to take 10-15 minutes. Slowly bring the mixture to a frothing boil on the stovetop. As the froth gets close to the top, just before it boils over, remove the Cezve from the fire, allow the froth to go down. Serve the froth in equal portions into each cup, then serve.

Serving:Fill each cup a bit at a time repeatedly, so that all cups have an even amount. Advise your guests to allow about a minute for the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom of the cup before gently sipping. Don't drinking the grounds. The result can be a magnificent beverage.

i also remember reading a different variant whereby the water is boiled off, then topped up & boiled off again, then topped up a third time and poured once up to temperature. Comments welcome on the most 'authentic' method

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The best water for your espresso machine

We have been researching the impact of different bottled waters on (i) the taste of coffee, and (ii) its impact on espresso machines.

We discovered that like many things in life it is a trade-off between the two objectives, i.e. the kind of water you need for great coffee is at odds with the kind you need to ensure no limescale forms in your espresso machine.

Using a water with the lowest 'dry residue' value (expressed in mg/L) you can find will indeed ensure you never see scale in your machine, but unfortunately it will also make your coffee taste overly 'bright' and 'harsh'.

It is complicated by the fact that the bottled waters on the market tend to fall into one of two extremes; mineral waters with very high TDS values, and typically very hard, and the 'arctic' waters with very low TDS values, very low alkalinity and typically a pH of less than 7 (i.e. acidic).

The key parameters and their target values are:

pH = 7.0

Total dissolved solids(TDS), often stated as 'dry residue@180C' = 120-130 mg/L

Hardness = 70-80 mg/L

Alkalinity = 50mg/L

You will soon find yourself saying; "great, most helpful, but I can not find all of these values on the side of the bottle".

This will always be the case for the 'Hardness' and 'Alkalinity' values as they need to be derived and we will show you how to do that below, can frequently be the case for 'pH', and is sometimes the case for the 'dry residue' value. If necessary visit the manufacturer's website, or drop them an email asking for the data.

The next step is to understand why these values are important to coffee preparation

pH
A value from 1 (strong acid) to 14 (strong alkali), with a value of 7 being 'neutral'. It is not a linear scale, but a logarithmic one, like the Richter scale for seismic activity, so even small movements away from the neutral value of 7 quickly become quite acidic or alkali.

Alkaline water can result in dull, chalky, flat coffee. Acidic water creates bright, imbalanced coffee. You want to use water that is 'neutral' for the preparation of coffee.

TDS
As the name implies it measures the solids dissolved in the water. If too many solids are already dissolved in the water it becomes a weaker solvent and will not extract enough solubles from your coffee. Coffee made with water that has a very high TDS value will taste dull and cloudy. Conversely, water with a very low TDS value produces coffee with edgy, unrefined flavours and exaggerated brightness as the water is a very strong solvent.

Hardness
The formation of limescale in your espresso machine is primarily due to the presence of calcium and magnesium ions in the water, measured as 'hardness'. For this reason it is possible to have a high TDS value, combined with a low 'hardness' value, and limescale will not readily form in your espresso machine.

Hard water does not result in a poor cup of coffee, but it will scale your boiler quickly. Water with a hardness above 90mg/L will always be reduced to a hardness of about 90mg/L as any hardness above this value precipitates out upon boiling and deposits on the inside of your boiler.

Alkalinity
Alkalinity measures a solution's ability to buffer an acid, or its ability to resist becoming more acidic.

It is important to understand that it is quite different to 'alkaline' which is a solution with a pH between 7.01 and 14.

Water with high alkalinity neutralises coffee acids, resulting in less acidic coffee. If alkalinity is too low the coffee will be overly bright and acidic.

How to calculate the alkalinity and hardness values
Bottled waters typically disclose their minerals as mg/L or ppm, rather than mg/L CaCO3 equivalents.

To calculate the alkalinity, multiply the bicarbonate mg/L value stated on the bottle by 0.82.

To calculate the hardness, multiply the calcium mg/L value stated on the bottle by 2.5, and the magnesium mg/L value stated on the bottle by 4.2, then add the two resultants together.

Note: boiler corrosion
Acidic water with low alkalinity can potentially cause corrosion in the boiler of your espresso machine.

Worked example:
Brand: Volvic
pH: 7.0
Dry residue @ 180C: 130mg/L
Chlorides: 13.5mg/L
Calcium: 11.5mg/L
Nitrates: 6.3mg/L
Magnesium: 8.0mg/L
Sulphates: 8.1mg/L
Sodium: 11.6mg/L
Bicarbonates: 71.0mg/L
Potassium: 6.2mg/L
Silica: 31.7mg/L

So, pH = 7, good
TDS/dry residue = 130, good
Hardness = (Calcium x 2.5) + (Magnesium x 4.2) = (11.5 x 2.5) + (8.0 x 4.2) = 28.75 + 33.60 = 62.35, about right
Alkalinity = (Bicarbonate x 0.82) = (71.0 x 0.82) = 58.22, about right

Finding a bottled water that is suitable is surprisingly difficult, as detailed in the table below;


PLEASE click on the above table to enlarge it, so that it becomes legible

I trust this blog has assisted you in your pursuit for espresso nirvana and the protection of your espresso machine.

If you have any questions please get in touch & we will do our best to find the answer for you.

Biscuits 'key' to clinching business deals

source:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7432092.stm

Can this really help firms do business?

About four out of five UK businesses believe the type of biscuit they serve to potential clients could clinch the deal or make it crumble, a survey says.
The outcome of a meeting could be influenced by the range and quality of biscuits, according to 1,000 business professionals quizzed by Holiday Inn.
The chocolate digestive was deemed to make the best impression followed by shortbread and Hob Nobs.
Lawyers were most impressed by good boardroom biccies, the survey added.

Dunking Do-Nots
Jammie Dodgers and Bourbons were also among the biscuit types thought to help sweet-talk customers.
However crumbly biscuits are a big no-no in the meeting environment, the questionnaire found, with 30% frowning on a regular digestive in the work environment.
And when it comes to helping yourself to biscuits from a communal plate, the most acceptable number to take is two, the research concluded.
However more than half of respondents looked down on dunking biscuits in tea or coffee during a meeting.
A survey released last year, which quizzed 7,000 people, suggested that the custard cream is the nation's favourite biscuit.

We would love to see the results of a survey that compared the outcomes of business meetings that served instant coffee versus freshly brewed gourmet coffee or gourmet espresso based drinks. We expect the results would be just as dramatic. Make your first impression a profitable one with Londinium Espresso in 2009.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

A short note to wish everyone (not just our customers, but also our suppliers, contractors, friends and associates) who has supported Londinium Espresso in 2008 a very happy New Year & thank you again for your contribution in 2008.

We have made a lot of new friends in 2008 and now have a strong network to help us significantly expand the business in 2009.  We look forward to working with you in 2009 to make it a lot less grim than the experts tell us it will be.  At Londinium we firmly believe that you make your own luck; blaming the Government doesn't get you very far.

Get 2009 off to a clean crisp start tomorrow morning with a cup of Londinium.  Make it your New Year's resolution to dump the milk & come over to the dark side!  Milk simply suppresses the gag reflex when you drink low grade, stale, poorly roasted, coffee!  Ok, it's hyperbole, but you get the idea.  Without milk inferior coffee has no where to hide, it really is that simple.  It might take 6 weeks to get used to, but after that you will never turn back, and if you are currently a member of the latte/frappuccino with extra cream & caramel club you can look forward to significantly reducing your calorie intake at the same time.

By the feel of things outside it is shaping up to be the coldest New Year's in London in the last ten years, so wrap up & enjoy it!

Ciao,


Reiss.


Monday, 3 November 2008

Wake up and smell the coffee – tea is for morons, by Jeremy Clarkson

From The Sunday Times
November 2, 2008

Jeremy Clarkson
I quite understand why people choose to be communists or Australians or tattooed. I may not share your opinions, but I know why you have them and I would fight for you to be able to express them in public.

Obviously not to the death, though. There’s no way I am going to die so that a green person can climb up a chimney and write “Gordon” on it, for instance.

However, while I understand why people want to drive an electric car or cut the Queen’s head off, and even why some people decide to emigrate to Spain, I do not understand why people continue to drink tea.

Recent figures show tea consumption is shrinking, especially among young people, yet Britain is still by far the largest consumer in the world per capita, with each person in the land drinking, on average, four cups a day. This is baffling.

I quite like a cup at around 5pm because this is “tea time”, but the figures suggest that many people are drinking it at “coffee time” as well. Some, since there is such a thing as “breakfast tea”, must also be drinking it first thing in the morning. This is as mad as starting the day with a prawn cocktail – and it all has to stop.

First of all, asking for tea in someone’s house is extremely antisocial because, if you take it with milk and sugar, this is a complicated, four-ingredient request. It’s exactly the same as being offered a biscuit and saying, “Ooh, thanks, but actually I’d prefer a Sunday roast.”

Seriously. That means meat, potatoes and two veg. And there is no difference between this and tea, milk, sugar and boiled water. In fact, it’s worse, because your host will have to find a teapot that hasn’t been used since their wedding day and is at the back of a cupboard behind the equally dusty fondue set.

In fact, the only thing I hate more than people asking for tea is people who ask for a gin and tonic. Why can’t you just have a beer like everyone else? Because now I’ve got to hunt down not just the gin and the tonic, but also the lemon and some ice.

At least with coffee most people have a machine that can deliver a refreshing and invigorating brew at the touch of a button.

Furthermore, coffee drinkers, being more travelled and therefore intelligent, will take it in the European style. Black with nothing added.

Of course, you may say that coffee causes your teeth to go brown and your heart to explode. But tea, if we’re honest, is as healthy as sucking on the pointy end of a machinegun.

Eight per cent of a tea leaf is toxic, around 25% is irrelevant, 2% is nutritious caffeine and most of the rest is acids, arsenic, chlorophyll, salts and tannins – which are useful only if you want to give your stomach lining the texture of a horse’s saddle.

If I were to use the model dreamt up by environmentalists when discussing climate change, I could very easily argue that tea will cause you to lose control of your limbs and that you will have to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair. Which could happen, for all I know.

Herbal varieties, however, are even more dangerous because if you come round to my house and ask for peppermint tea I will punch you in the mouth. Herbal tea is for nonces. At best, it is pointless. At worst, it is an affected piece of Hyacinth Bucket snobbery designed for the sort of people who spend half an hour deciding whether the wine they’ve been given is all right.

And chai tea? Have you tried that? Well, don’t – because you can achieve exactly the same effect, for a lot less, by drinking your own urine.

Of course, I dare say that some of you at this point are wondering why I am writing about tea in these troubled times. And thinking that, surely, with Peter Mantelpiece back on the front line and the financial markets in disarray, there are more important things to worry about.

Not so. Because when you stop and think about it, how many French or Italian banks have gone bust? And while we wobble, Spain’s Santander bank is stalking the globe like one of the country’s gigantic trawlers, sucking up the broken minnows.

This is because they are all coffee drinkers. They wake up, have an espresso; then, invigorated, they go to work quite literally full of beans.

We, on the other hand, expect to be able to operate on a stomach full of wet leaves. Tea, in actual fact, caused our banking crisis.

And before you point out that America is in a mess and they drink coffee, I should explain that they don’t. They put half a granule in a Styrofoam bucket and call it coffee.

But it’s not. It’s just a cup of warm water, and you can’t operate on that either.

The most popular tea in Britain is the sort favoured by workmen. They like it because it takes an age to make and is far too hot to drink when it’s ready. It is, in short, nothing more than an excuse for not doing any actual work.

That’s why it was so popular with empire-builders. They needed something time-consuming to fill the long, yawning hours. For the same reason, they played endless games of cricket.

Today, tea drinkers are clinging onto a way of life that’s gone. Tea break. Tea time. Tea clippers. It’s got to stop.

Tea should be viewed in the same way as we view coal. Something from the past. Something that is no longer relevant. Something for those who see the world in monochrome, through the eyes of Terry and June.

In an espresso MTV world, tea no longer has any place.