Coffee Bar Review: Roots Coffee Roaster, Bangkok

So it is once again Monday. Being back in Sweden during the perhaps worst period of the year when it is grey, chilly, damp and often a mix of rain and snow makes me think back fondly of my visit to Bangkok. Therefore it is fitting to bring up one of the highlights of the visit there. I had heard a lot of good things about Roots before heading there so I was a little bit fearing disappointment, you know that feeling when you think can it really be that good.

Roots is one of the pioneers of specialty coffee in Bangkok and it was started by Varatt “Tae” Vichit-Vadakan, also Thai Barista Champion and he together with the others involved in Roots, run the restaurant Roast. Roots is located at Ekkamai Terrace #2-4 (at Sukhumvit Soi 63 between Ekkamai Soi 15 and 17). It is not a super convenient location with Skytrain but still, sort of, walkable from Ekkamai station (around 15-20 minutes) but a taxi is recommended. More of an issue than the location is however the opening hours, only weekends from 12 to 6pm. The rest of the time the space is used for trainings and work shops so it can tend to get packed with people.

People do however come here for a good reason. The coffee served here is by any measure fantastic. It is number one in Bangkok and to me they also beats the competition in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Tokyo and they are definitely at par with the better places in Europe and the US. The scene for coffee in Bangkok is really booming and while Roots lead the pack there are numerous others that do great things as well. The consistent quality and the great roasting is however what in my mind gives Roots the edge.

There is a rotating selection of coffee available and usually there are three to four different beans to choose from for the filter coffees and then two for espresso based coffees. The selection rotates roughly every 6 weeks so come back to find new things. For the filter coffees it is also possible to select the method (V60, aeropress etc) but they also make a recommendation for each different coffee and based on my experience it is fine to just trust them. Every single cup I have had here has been great or excellent. The execution as well as the roasting really impresses and it does not seem to matter that much who is making the coffee. The cold brews, in bottles, are also great. Especially in the hot Bangkok weather.

The training of the staff seem to be an area of focus at Roots (and Roast). From what I understood from one of the girls working there, all the baristas go through a 3-month training before, if passing, becoming a full-time employee. It is however not as if it stops there as they then provide continuous training to let people develop more. Tae believes that the people are crucial to making good coffee so in his work to provide the best coffee he has realized that it does not matter if he sources excellent coffee, roasts it to perfection if the people serving it are not as good. So trying to retain people by allowing them to develop, learn and have a career path is a way to serve good coffee.

The strategy seems to work as the coffee is just awesome. What is then even more surprising is the pricing model. There is no price list but rather one pays what one feels it is worth. They have an honesty box and it is up to people to put as much (or little) as they want there when they leave. It does seem to work well though as most people are amazed by the quality.

There is not a full kitchen at Roots but there are delicious pastries available. These are baked on site so just sitting there they bring out new and freshly baked pastries and I do at least find it difficult not to overindulge. The pastries are also great, some of the better I had in Bangkok and these also follow the same honesty pricing system.

Since the place tends to get a bit crowded I do not really feel comfortable sitting around for too long but the place looks nice and it is pleasant to sit and sip the coffee. There is no free wifi or such but this is not the place to come and work or study – the focus here is on great coffee (and pastries) so I am not really bothered by it. I also like the fact that it is clear that the space is not only a café but that they also roast, bake and hold courses here. It does give the space a different feel to many other over-designed cafés. Service is extremely knowledgeable, very friendly and it is clear that people like talking about coffee and they are happy to answer any questions you may have. My only regret is that I do not have such a place anywhere near where I live.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 5
Ambiance and Service: 4.5
Food: 3 (pastries are five star but there is not really any ‘real’ food)
Vs Local Average Competition: 5

Wine Review: Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs

These days I seldom find much of interest at airport duty free shops but occasionally there are some real bargains to be made so if I have the time I often at least browse what they have. I stumbled across the Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs at Schiphol airport where it was sold for around €45 which to me is a really great value for money.

Mumm is one of the old champagne houses. It was officially founded in 1827 but already in 1761 the family produced wine in Cologne under the name P.A. Mumm after its owner Peter Arnold Mumm. The family also had ownership of vineyards in the Rhine valley and as they were business minded they also realized that there was a great business opportunity in the excellent sparkling wines produced in the champagne region. They then decided to establish a branch of the company in Reims in 1827. The focus was decided to be on quality with the motto of Georges Hermann Mumm “Only the best”.

Mumm’s own vineyards cover an area of nearly 218 hectares and they are Pinot Noir heavy (78% is Pinot Noir). The Pinot Noir is mainly in and around Montagne de Reims with the Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant and Avize. They do however also have vineyards dedicated to Chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs and in the Vallée de la Marne Pinot Meunier prevails.

The prevalence of Pinot Noir makes the Mumm de Cramant sort of an oddity being 100% Chardonnay. Historically it was only made for friends of the family and was sent with a folded business card. This history can still be seen in the label that has integrated the folded part in the top right of the label and an old style bottle. The wine is made from a single Grand Cru vineyard that Mumm acquired in 1882. This champagne is actually only aged for two years on the lees. The idea is to preserve the fresh, citrus flavors of the Cramant Chardonnay, before disgorgement and not to give too much away but it works. This cuvée is bottled under lower pressure than normal (4.5 atmospheres of pressure vs the normal 6) and this creates a more delicate wine with tiny bubbles that sort of melt in the mouth.

The color is pale yellow and it has a wonderful aroma of brioche, lemon, fresh fruit and white flowers. The palate is creamy with fine texture and a pleasant acidity. The aromas present in the nose are also present in the flavor but there are also hints of almond, ginger and pleasant mineral note to it. A really excellent Blanc de blancs and to me by far the best that I have sampled from Mumm. Actually I have not been that impressed by what Mumm has produced in Champagne, I have even preferred Mumm Napa above the champagnes but this really changes all that.

For me it deserves a 4.5 in quality rating and when I bought it at €45 it deserves a 5 in value for money. That is perhaps not entirely fair as it was a sale on and normal price would between €70-90 (in Sweden it would cost 799 SEK approximately €85-90) and at that price the value for money rating would more be like 4. I am however glad I managed to pick up two bottles and will have a look next time I pass through Schiphol.

Wine Review: Cuvée Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

Guy Charlemagne is one of the more underestimated champagnes I have encountered. A grower champagne house situated in the village of Mesnil sur Oger. It is basically next door to the much more well-known Salon and Delamotte house and while it cannot brag with being in business for as long, they still do have a respectable history of having been in business since 1892. One of my favorite grower champagnes and looking at their current production ofapproximately 130 000 bottles per year they seem popular among others as well.

Their motto is ‘Quality is my truth’ and to me it often comes through in their wines. We had the pleasure of picking up seven bottles of the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs from the lovely vintage 2008. This specific cuvée is not made every year so only the best vintages will have it and it only uses grapes from Mesnil sur Oger and Oger with its limestone soil.

It is a 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. It is vinified in thermo regulated stainless steel and it has a small dosage of 6 grams per liter. Aging between 3 and 4 years in the chalk cellars of Guy Charlemagne.

The color is golden yellow and it has very fine and persistent bubbles. The nose of this wine just blew me away and it was, at least to me, very different from many other Blanc de Blancs I have tried. It has clear tones of candied fruits with notes of apple, oranges, pineapple as well as dried raisins and toastiness. The taste is full and creamy with brioche, bread, candied ginger and the finish is long with fresh acidity and mineral.

Lovely to drink now but should be even better if saved for some years. Not sure what the recommendation of the producer is but I would expect it to age very well for at least 7-10 more years. Enjoy it with some Jamón Ibérico or foie gras or just on its own.

I would rate it as a 4.5 in quality. It is truly a great Champagne and looking at value for money it is fantastic. I managed to secure these for 400 SEK (~€43) per bottle but these days you would end up paying at least €50 but to me that still means it deserves a 5 in value for money rating. So if you find this make sure to buy it and then decide whether to save it or drink now.

The Return to Matkonsulatet

I always thought it would be easy peasy to write about this restaurant. After all it’s my favorite, probably in the whole world. Ok, I have several favorites, but this one is special. I know the menu inside out, I have tried all their cavas, and I have been there enough times to high-five with the staff. But, it turns out it isn’t as easy to find the words as I thought, almost feels like writing about a family member. I have so much to say and I want every word to do justice to the object of the review. So I will try to go about this in a structured manner (like a proper structure junky) and see how it goes.

Matkonsulatet is a small cozy restaurant in Kungsholmen serving Catalan style tapas. The dishes at Matkonsulatet are nothing special (by special I mean complex), but they are wonderful in all their simplicity. The menu has some nice classical tapas: sliced meats, Pan con Tomate (bread rubbed with tomato, olive oil and salt) and my all time favorite the Bikini Toast (toast with cheese, ham and truffle-butter). And some more experimental dishes; for example: Fennel tempura with Romesco sauce and salmon sashimi with yogurt and truffle honey (omg. that’s good). The menu changes now and then, so there is always something new to try out. Not to take away any credit from the kitchen, but what makes many of these dishes wonderful are also the high quality ingredients. The olive oil at this restaurant is just amazing (P.S. you can buy a bottle to take home).

A Catalan meal would not be complete without some good wines, so a few words about the list (and after all, this is a wine-blog). There is a nice selection of Cavas; mostly by bottle, but more than one by glass. Anne-Marie by Castell D’age, the “house cava” is a nice fresh Reserva with notes of strawberry (sorbet) and green apple. Its very refreshing, but the taste is not that long. Definitely a good house cava though. There are also some other interesting cavas on the list, like an Agusti Torello Mata Brut Reserva and another cava from Castell D’age, Aurelia. Most of the bottles, and now I’m referring to all wines, are very reasonably priced (for being a Swedish restaurant), so its not really a problem to just order a bottle.  For other wines, I haven’t gone through the whole selection (for the cavas I have), but there are some interesting reds and whites and the trend seems to be ecological and bio-dynamical wines.

The desserts are not to be forgotten. My favorite is the passion fruit, white chocolate and cookie crumble pudding. I have had a bit of a sweet tooth lately. But what you really want to try (if you only settle for one) is the dark chocolate mousse with olive oil and sea salt. This is just such a wonderful and actually surprising combination. Or more in the lines of “Olive oil and chocolate – why didn’t I think of it” But the whole idea of tapas is sharing, so why settle for only one dessert? Have them all and share with friends.

The restaurant is great, you can tell that I adore it from my review! But this is also a place where we have made memories: nights out with friends and family, hugs with the staff, and hot summer Sundays at the terrace. Its more than a restaurant to me, its a part of the Stockholm that I call home.I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, but not that much that I will have a hard time getting a table in the future =).