Hello Singapore!

I am sitting on the buss with butterflies in my stomach. The buss will drive me to the airport, where I will jump on a flight first to Copenhagen and then to Singapore. Normally I would not feel anxious, but this time I’m not going for a holiday or a winery visit – I am heading for Slush Singapore. I have been up since 3am to get used to the time zone change. Continue reading “Hello Singapore!”

107: Beneath the Chestnut Tree

Yes! Most of the moving boxes have now been emptied. I have found my camera equipment and all that is needed to resume a “normal life”. This Sunday I can publish some of my pictures from London as well as from the past weekend in Stockholm. M is in London, and I have been mainly cleaning. However I have made sure to have a few treats up my sleeve: a dinner at Le Nom restaurant with a dear friend and a cake-run to Under Kastanjen Cafe (Beneath the Chestnut Tree) in Old Town.

Continue reading “107: Beneath the Chestnut Tree”

Kahvila Siili (Helsinki): Relaxing summer cafe with pastries and brunch

This pleasant little summer cafe in a residential neighborhood of Helsinki is really a pleasant addition to an already good coffee scene. It is in the basement of a house and has a few tables inside and plenty of seats outside. It is perhaps not where one would expect to find a café and with public transport it is not that easy to reach it.

image

The coffee here varies from excellent to acceptable and much is dependent on who is making it and how busy they are. Occasionally the Finnish Barista Champion Kalle Freese is making the coffee and  then the coffee is great. When he is not there they do not offer hand brews and the coffee quality gets more shaky. The batch brew is still good but in order to be a proper coffee destination they would have to be more consistent.

image

The coffee served has been from Blue bottle in San Francisco but upon my last visits it was instead from Square Mile. Nice to see some variety in what is offered. They also have some wine on offer as well as perhaps the main reason to visit, the brunch. Superb brunch with perfect egg at 63 degrees (celsius that is) and yogurt with granola, avocado toast, apple juice and coffee of your choice. Pastries are also very nice.

image

The setting is very nice and relaxing and the service is pleasant albeit a bit slow. No free wifi and weekend crowds eyeing your table even before you have finished your brunch does not encourage lingering. A place well worth visiting before they close at the end of Summer (hopefully they open next summer again).

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4.5
Vs local competition: 3

Good coffee and great for brunch&breakfast: Kafé Orion, Stockholm

Just a few steps from Odenplan the people behind Kafe Esaias (named on NYT list of the best espresso in the world) have opened a small spot for coffee and light food. I do like the look of this small space with wooden tables and green walls. The staff are friendly but often busy as there is a steady stream of customers. Not really the place to sit for hours as no free wifi and for some reason my mobile barely gets a signal.

The coffee used is DaMatteo so the roast is good but the main draw back here is that unlike at Kafe Esaias they do not make any hand-brewed coffee. The espresso based beverages are all very good but to really be a good coffee spot I require hand-brewed coffee. This more falls into the category of place that I pick-up a coffee at if I am in the neighborhood but not worth a trip.

The food is however very good, nice sandwiches, great omelets and salads so a perfect place for breakfast and brunch.

So how does rate:
Coffee quality: 2.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 2.5

Coffee Bar Review: Cafe Dan, Shanghai

It is Monday again and time for a coffee related post here on the winecurious. I am however also introducing some news: having realized that we have so much coffee related things to post on we are also launching a seperate blog for that so head to the The Coffee Curious to see what is going there. The coffee Monday posts will appear on both blogs but in addition there will be a lot of other coffee stuff on the Coffee Curious.

In the Tianzifang market complex that is a huge mess of different touristy shops selling various levels of useless gadgets, art, design stuff and other stuff there are also some restaurants and cafes. Most if not all are severely overpriced but we still decided to try Cafe Dan as they brand themselves as a specialty coffee bar, wine bar, restaurant and coffee roasting institute.

They do indeed have a large coffee selection, I counted more than 15 different beans to select from. All severely overpriced (a cup coming in at least at 70 yuan, approximately €11-12) but since we were there we still decided to go for some. We opted for some of the lighter roasts, the Kenyan and and Malawi Geisha coffee. Both came in very dark and clearly dosed in a way that no serious coffee place would make coffee. There were hints of nice flavors there but the coffee was so much to dark that it was not really that great. It still beats most of the coffee to be had in Shanghai but it has very little to do with specialty coffee. I am not sure how they roast their coffee here but I do think that there is some development potential. That said it was still drinkable and better than most regular places for coffee but at the price charged here it should be amazing to even consider coming back,

The food is however much better, it is more of a restaurant actually. The food is both decent value and good so would perhaps return for that instead of the coffee. Service was friendly, albeit a bit lacking in speed and English. That was perhaps not a big issue as the menu was still easy to understand and use (it was provided on an ipad). Free wifi was available and the place was rather nice to sit around in, spread over three floors and with a small outdoor terrace this place is a place that it would be possible to spend some time in.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 1.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 3

Coffee Bar Review: Seesaw Coffee (Réel location), Shanghai

Our recent travels have taken us to Shanghai and even in a country where tea is the ruling drink there is some decent coffee. Most of the coffee here verges on undrinkable so I was almost set on just having the coffee I brought with me. After doing some research I did however find some promising places. The first on my list was the mini-chain of Seesaw Coffee. From what I gathered online they had three branches but when stepping into the one at the Réel mall the staff informed me that they now have five locations. The location at Réel is on the fifth floor is often, as often is the case with upper floors in malls in Shanghai, calm and surprisingly empty. They have succeeded in making the cafe feel fairly cozy and nice despite being in a mall. They fit well with the shops on the fifth floor as well as there are several stores selling small design accessories and such there as well.

Looking at the coffee they serve an impressive array of different beans, when I visited there were six different beans to select from for hand brews. One could also select the method and they also offered three coffees as cold drips and of course espresso based beverages (two different blends to choose from). I have on different occasions sampled three of the beans made as filter (V60), some cold drip as well as espresso based coffees. The quality is consistent and while not world class they are very adapt at making coffee. The Ethiopian was the best I tried, while the Kenyan was slightly to dark and the Yunnan coffee more interesting than great. The cappuccino was very good and the Panama cold drip was also pleasant. They roast their own beans (at another location close to Jinan Temple) and the roasting is done fairly well but I would prefer it slightly lighter as I believe the main improvement in the quality would be if they picked up the roasting quality level a bit they would be even better.

The food selection is very limited, basically no proper food just pastries. For those who do not like cheesecake the selection is meager (it can vary from nothing to one or two different cookies). For the lover of cheesecakes it is however great, usually a large range of them and very good ones. I am not really a fan (of cheesecake) but some of them are really excellent.

Service was very friendly, eager to show the selection and while English was not superb it was good enough for us to communicate and get a lot of information on the coffee. There is free wifi but as often is the case in China it is a bit slow and a lot of services such as Google, Facebook, twitter and others are not accessible, still it is possible to sit and slack and lounge. All in all a very good place (perhaps the best) in a city that has an average quality of coffee almost as bad as in Italy.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3.5
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 2
Vs local competition: 5

Coffee Bar Review: Drop Coffee, Stockholm

This coffee Monday I turn to my home town of Stockholm and one of the most celebrated coffee bars in town, Drop Coffee. They are located just by the tube station Mariatorget in Stockholm, around 100 meters from Johan & Nyström the really early ones on the speciality coffee scene in Sweden and who, at least in my view, have done more for speciality coffee than anyone else. This used to be the real cluster to come to for high quality coffee and since both these places are still here it continues to be a good place to sample some of the third wave of coffee in Sweden.

Drop coffee started out as a cafe that served coffee from a variety of micro roasters from around the Nordic countries and that is how they built a reputation for serving excellent coffee. After a few years they did however decide to start roasting themselves and these days they only serve their own roasted coffee. They usually have between four and six different filter coffees to choose from and they are all hand-brewed. There is of course also espresso based beverages available.

All the hand brews are made as pour-overs and that is of course a bit more difficult to get consistent quality with compared to for example the Aeropress. That really shows here as the quality of the coffee can vary greatly depending on who is working, how busy they are and just plain how much effort they put into it. I have noticed that chatting about coffee a bit first in general results in a better cup as they realize that you are actually interested. The espresso based beverages have actually been more consistent, which is a bit surprising. S is usually the ordering a latte and she is happy with the quality but the size of the latte is a joke, it is more like half a cup of coffee. As you can hear I am not ecstatic but they are still good but the quality has in general deteriorated during the past years but I have noticed that they are once again picking it up in the past 6 months or so. They are however not good enough to compete with the best in Stockholm but it is well worth a visit.

They do serve some nice sandwiches, pastries and toasted sandwiches as well as soup. The food is in general high quality and while not a full meal there are good options for breakfast, brunch and light lunches as well as some nice options for sweets, including ice cream in the spring and summer.

The service is in general friendly, often a bit slow and there is occasional confusion with forgotten orders and such. That said the friendly and relaxed attitude makes it feel as if it is ok. That vibe from the staff also translates to the place itself, it feels relaxed, people are friendly and it feels totally fine to sit there and slack for a longer period of time. The free wifi also mean that a lot of people sit around with pads and computers and I have not once heard any complaints about it. Despite people sitting for long and the place being popular it is still often possible to find a spot. So all in all not the top of the list for Stockholm but a good solid option, not worth traveling far for but if you are in the area do stop by.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 3.5
Vs local competition: 3.5

Coffee Bar Review: Kahvila Sävy (Helsinki)

It is Monday again and time for another Coffee Monday and I am continuing a bit on the writing about the Helsinki coffee scene. One of the places I seldom visit but still really like is Kahvila Sävy. The reason for the visits being somewhat infrequent is the location. It is not really  city center location as it is in Kallio, and not the part closest to the center. It is a ‘lively’ area with a mix of shady massage places, dive bars and really cool hip cafes and bars. I do think the area as such is worth a visit as it feels much more alive than some other areas. I will also ensure to visit more often as, when I write this, I realize that Sävy are actually really good and one of the places that makes Helsinki a great coffee city.

Aeropress coffee
Aeropress coffee

Sävy has been here for a fairly long time but it has changed owners during that time. It is always a cause for concern when places change owners but in the case of Sävy I actually think the coffee quality has benefited from it. They serve a selection of mainly Finnish micro-roasters as well as the occasional other Nordic roaster and there is a range of methods to select from. I have tried pour over, aeropress and espresso based beverages here and the quality is in general very good. Especially the aeropress is usually good.

View of the cafe
View of the cafe

There is a limited selection of some café style food as well and while it may not be the main reason to visit one does not need to go hungry here. I would however still prefer the food in the small sandwich place, Street Gastro, around the corner. They serve some excellent sandwiches so I always pick something up there when in the area.

Sävy is a very relaxed place, the décor is a bit shabby and somehow reminds me of how it looked it student cafés I used to frequent when I was younger. Perhaps not really my style of place but it is comfortable to sit there and there is free wifi. Service is friendly but not overly chatty but still good.

So how does it rate:
Coffee Quality: 3.5
Service & Ambiance: 3.5
Food: 3
Vs local average: 4

Coffee Bar Review: Tamper & Co, Singapore

This cafe on Rangoon Road appears to be trying to jump the bandwagon of the trend of specialty coffee bars in Singapore in general and Rangoon road in particular. It looks very much like what you would expect one of these places to loo. Pretty sleek design, nice atmosphere and cool looking logotype outside.

They call themselves Brew Bar Tamper & Co Handcrafted Coffee so imagine my surprise when they do not do any hand brewed coffees. While I do no actively dislike espresso based beverages I do in general find them more boring and when a place includes brew bar in the name I would at least expect them to do one filter coffee. This was not the case here but to be fair they seemed a bit embarrassed about it and they claimed that they were planning to start with hand brewing. I also tried to order the cold brew listed on the menu but that was sold out (not sure if it has ever been available) so in terms of the selection they did not fully impress.

The lack of appealing options made my consider whether to leave and head to Old Hen Coffee Bar next door or Jewel down the road I opted to give them a chance and ordered an iced latte. It is a fairly forgiving drink as the milk can be used to mask some failures in coffee quality. The friendly staff quickly made sure it was made, checked if we wanted any sugar in it (of course not but really appreciate them checking). In general the staff were super friendly and worked fast.

The iced latte arrive quickly and first impression was that it looked nice. Flavor-wise it was however a bit of a disappointment. It lacked interesting flavors, no real bitterness but also a bit bland. It is of course a risk when using this much milk. I would say it qualifies as ok and by far better than what you would get at a chain like Costa, Nero or Starbucks but still not good enough to be specialty coffee. I also sampled an espresso and it was nicely pulled, nice crema and while not exciting in any way it was made with fairly good skill and decent beans. They do however need to work on their coffee offering and potentially also a bit on their skills. Food is on offer here and the few things I sampled suggests that it is perhaps a much better choice.

They were very friendly so I hope they can fine tune their operations in the months to come as I would otherwise be a bit surprised if this would fly. The competition in the area is pretty sharp so if they are to make it I think they need to up their game considerably. The area is up and coming but there are not a lot of people just walking past so it is necessary to also have something that pulls in the crowd.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 2.5

Coffee Bar Review: Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters, Singapore

Pacamara is one of several places to open up in the Upper Thomson Road area a North of central Singapore. The whole area seems to be buzzing with cool new places. Visiting on a Sunday it was also packed with people in search of a good brunch spot. Pacamara had a pretty nifty system for managing the queuing. One enters a phone number on a screen and how many people are in the group and then Pacamara calls when a table is available. The table will be held for 10 minutes after receiving the message, so you can browse around in the neighborhood while waiting.

The service was however severely impacted by the place being full. They were slow to give out menus, things were sold out and they did not inform about it upfront. Food came out slowly and orders were mixed up. All in all not a great experience. Some of the people working there also seemed to have a little bit of the attitude that they are slightly too cool to actually work at a cafe and we were actually on one visit asked if we would mind to speed up a bit as they have many guests waiting – that was especially annoying since we then had just gotten the last of our food after a very long wait.

The space is however very nice and bright, in a corner with big windows. There are mainly communal tables but it works fairly well and I must say that it looks really nice. There are a lot of seats, and while not super-comfy it is fine to sit for some time. There is also free wifi so on weekdays it may be a better bet if one wants to sit for long.

The coffee was pretty disappointing. Not at all that bad but looking at a place that at least markets itself as a top roaster I was expecting more. The filter coffees sampled were a bit bland but no bitterness and smooth, but they had not managed to bring out the best in the coffees. I got much better results when brewing the same at home so perhaps more a flaw in the brewing. Still a good cup compare to the average cafe but nowhere near the better ones in Singapore. They were also out of several of the coffees that they had up on the board so that was also slightly disappointing. The espresso based coffees where however very nicely prepared.

The food was however excellent. The truffled eggs Benedict is perhaps the best Eggs Benedict I have had. The pastries were tasty so the Kitchen know their stuff. It is a shame about the service and that the coffee quality is not top notch as the space is really nice and if they could up their game it would be a place I would visit again and again.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3
Ambiance and service: 3 (2 for service and 4 for ambiance)
Food: 4.5
Vs local competition: 3.5