Original Coffee, Copenhagen – good alternative to other chains  

Time flies and it is Monday again so once again coffee focus on the Winecurious. If you feel a need for more coffee things do also check out the Coffee Curious here on wordpress and on twitter.

This week the focus is on Copenhagen, the coffee scene in Copenhagen is still dominated by Coffee Collective and they have to some  extent been so good that the competition has been stifled. They remain good but now there are several new good places as well. Original coffee is a small chain and this review is of their Bredgade location. The space is not huge but there are plenty of seats and it is very light and airy space so a perfect place to sit and relax. Free wifi and electricity available makes it ideal to sit for longer periods of time. Service is friendly and knowledgeable, no problem chatting a bit about the coffee. The nice attitude is also conveyed on their website where they happily recommend other good coffee places both in Copenhagen and in other cities.

The coffee is provided by local roasters Kontra Coffee and there are usually a few (when I visited three, normally between two and four) filter coffees to choose from as well as two espresso blends. The ‘normal’ is a blend of Brazilian, Kenyan and Ethiopian while the ‘modern’ one is only Ethiopian. It is nice to be able to do some sampling between the two – I found the Ethiopian more fun and interesting but I would expect the blend to be the big seller. The filter coffee can be ordered as batch brew or hand brew. The hand brew was very well executed and I also sampled some espresso based beverages that were nicely prepared. The coffee is good but perhaps not the most exciting. I was also visiting during a fairly slow time so would be interesting to see how the quality is when they are more busy.

There is a good selection of simpler breakfast and brunch dishes as well as sandwiches and some pastries. So while it is not a full restaurant one can definitely get some food here and it is also very good.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 3.5
Vs local competition: 4.5

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

Art and Afterwork at Magnolia

It is Thursday and I should be writing to you about cocktails. Well I hadn’t thought it as far as I should have, as I am all out of cocktail ideas. Or yes, I have many places on my mind that I could review, but I have no pictures to spice up the post. So perhaps I need to admit defeat and give up the cocktail Thursday tradition. For now. But no worries cocktail fans, I will still write about it, but just not as frequently as I have before. Today I thought about writing a small review about a place I visited recently, Magnolia Café in Södermalm (Stockholm)

It was just a small afterwork event. I was on my way to dinner with a friend, when we decided to stop by a Yelp Social for a pre-drink at Magnolia Café. For those of you who do not know Yelp it is a community with online reviews of mainly restaurants, bars etc but also a lot of local business. There is also a lot events being arranged. Agnes, the Yelp Community Manager in Stockholm, told me that this is a place she often comes to sit with the laptop and that they have small tapas and some cava on offer. There is also an art gallery in the other room and they sell some cool T-shirts and other artsy stuff.

The AW offer was four tapas accompanied by a glass of Jaume Serra Brut Nature cava for 100 SEK (12 Eur). Not bad at all here in Stockholm. The tapas were nothing special but they looked yummy and were made from good ingredients. That is really all you need. There were only three options of tapas, all slices of baguette with toppings. I chose two with chanterelles, one with chopped fresh olives and one with cream cheese. As anticipated the fresh chanterelles were the best. The cava was dry with a hint of minerals. It did not have much complexity and there was this metallic character to it. Nevertheless it was enjoyable as an AW drink with some salty finger food. I would not buy a bottle of it, but the glass was empty pretty fast (so I must have liked it a little bit at least).

The ambience is pleasant, slightly quirky, and the café is located just off Hornsgatan close to Mariatorget. Its a nice location with not too many tourists finding their way to the side street. The art on the wall gives character and the service is extremely friendly. I highly recommend stopping by for a tapas or two (or four and a glass of cava).

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: KuppA, Bangkok

Located a few minutes walk away from Asok (take exit 6 for the smoothest walk). They are in a really pleasant and airy space and I can just see myself lounging for hours here be it morning, afternoon or evening (if my phone had not gotten legs in Singapore there would have been some nice pictures here as well) and the free WiFi also encourages lingering. They are much more than a cafe so rather an all day restaurant serving both food, cocktails, wine and coffee. They have a roaster on-site and they at least want to give the impression coffee is in focus here.

Staff were friendly and English speaking but almost a bit shy or at least hesitant to chat. I did not manage to get a lot of information on the coffee but after a while settled for a french press on Kenyan beans. A bit disappointing presentation and execution, the French press arrived at my table, no instruction on how long to wait until to push down the press. A decent tasting coffee, not the best I had but not nearly the worst. No bitterness, but the other flavors a bit indistinct and blended together. I am looking for a cleaner cup and this was just ok not more. A macchiato was delivered and it was fairly well executed but not great. Would still opt for the milk based coffees here as it was better than the French press. No drip, Aeropress or such on offer which is a shame as it may have produced a better coffee from the variety of beans they had.

Wine list looks promising and decently priced (cava at THB 295 a glass) and an extensive food menu. Really appreciated the scrambled eggs, fresh and well made so I think this would be more of a brunch spot than just a coffee place.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 1.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 2.5

Coffee Bar Review: Revolution Coffee, Singapore

Revolution coffee was one of the places on my list that I was doubting if I had the energy to visit. It was a bit off the beaten path but When I decided to go I found a very nice and tranquil location in an office complex in west Singapore. It is not too easy to get to but possible with public transport (MRT and free shuttle bus) but so much easier with taxi and with the affordable prices (if travelling a the right time of day) in Singapore I tend to prefer the ‘lazy’ option. The cafe has outdoor as well as indoor seating. Despite it being in office complex they have really managed to make it both cozy and comfortable. The relaxed feeling combined with the very friendly service makes me want to visit again and again.

The guy running the place is very knowledgeable about coffee, willing to talk about it and generous with recommendations for other places. I am always skeptical of people who can never say anything good about any competitors so it is refreshing with someone who is confident enough in what they are doing to also recommend others. The fact that there is also free wifi and the relaxed environment really invites for lounging here.

The food served is almost worth the trip in itself, lovely salads, pastas and sandwiches as well as some sweets as well. The kitchen really knows their stuff and the food is not that expensive either. The spicy stuff is however not very spicy so no need to ask them to hold back. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and they have a rotating selection of coffee, mainly from Singapore based roasters but occasionally one can also find other interesting stuff. When I was there they also had a lot from the US (Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, SightGlass and a few others) in addition to coffee from the Tiny Roaster. The coffee served was very nicely prepared and out of the ones I tried one was excellent and the other was good. I had been ‘warned’ that the Colombian I was trying was a bit darker in the roast and that was true. It was still not bad but it had a bit more fullness than I would have liked and it overpowered some of the other flavors.

So how does it rate:
Ambiance/service: 4.5
Coffee quality: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local average: 4

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

Coffee Bar Review: Old Hen Coffee Bar, Singapore

The whole area around Rangoon Road feels as if it is very up and coming and Old Hen Coffee Bar is one of the places really worth a visit. In the same building there are several cafes that all look fairly good but this is the place to go to. The place itself is not huge but there are seats for around 20 people inside and a few people outside. The seats may not be the most comfortable but the place looks very nice so perhaps makes up for it. As there is also no free wifi available it may not be the place to lounge for hours but it was still a nice place to hang out and chat at.

The place is run by three siblings (twins Ivan and Terry and younger brother Mason) and they keep the service both friendly and fast. They are knowledgeable when it comes to coffee and no problem to chat a bit about it either. They offer espresso based beverages, filter coffee (hand-brewed) as well as cold brew (bottled, both black and white). The selection of filter coffee varies depending on what they have in at the moment. I sampled a few different things when I was there: had a nice Rwandan coffee (believe it was from Papa Palheta but not 100% sure) and also sampled an excellent Colombian Geisha from the Cupping Room HK as well as some Ethiopian from Bangkok’s Roast. They have also recently had other nice roasters like London’s Square Mile Coffee, Melbourne’s Small Batch Roasting Co, Coffee Libre from Seoul and several other Bangkok roasters (Brave and Phil’s). I personally would be ecstatic to have such a nice place in my neighborhood. They do also know how to make the coffee so really good at that as well.

The cold-brew was also sampled and it was excellent as well. Nice balance to it and I would easily select the black one as there is no bitterness at all in it so no need for milk. The espresso based beverages also pulled nicely so the guys know their things.They also offer nice teas and some other beverages for the non-coffee drinkers.

The food menu is fairly short but a lot of things sound very nice.The grilled sandwich was very nice, fresh ingredients and nice flavor to it. The pastries were also well worth to stuff down. One of my real favorites in Singapore.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4.5
Ambiance and Service: 4
Food: 4
Vs Local Average Competition: 5

Coffee Bar review: Casa Lapin (Bangkok)

Casa Lapin is clearly part of the ongoing coffee revolution in Bangkok. They have now have four locations in their mini empire, all in carefully selected areas in Bangkok where their style fits. This review is of the the x26 location (that is on Sukhumvit 26) but they also have locations on Sukhumvit 49, Thonglor 17-19 and Phahon Yothin (next to Ari BTS station).

The space is really nicely designed and I like the look of it. When looking around the cool cafe I am however struck by that this easily could have been a cafe in NYC, London, Melbourne, Stockholm or Berlin. The hip design and the coffee, beer (they serve BrewDog on tap) and the food (a mix of brunch/breakfast favorites and pasta and steaks) does not in any way really give away that this is in Bangkok. While I like what they made of it I am missing the connection to the local. The crowd it attracts is also a mix of international travelers (myself included), what appears like affluent young Thais and groups of Japanese women (appearing to be at least somewhat local in that I get the impression they live in Bangkok). Even if I am somewhat disappointed at the lack of bringing out the specific Thai influences it is still a great design and atmosphere here and free wifi makes it easy to just spend a few hours hanging around here.

Service is however another matter, while friendly it brings the word slow to a new level. They serve their hand brewed coffees from what they call a slow bar. I thought they called it slow bar because they hand brew the coffees but maybe it was an idnication that they try to make sloths looking like they are faster than light. The speed of it actually brought new meaning to the word slow. We ordered two hand brewed coffees and there was no one else being served at that time and we still had to wait over 30 minutes for the coffees. No apologies for it taking long or anything and it was not a lack of staff (four people behind the counter doing nothing).

Coffee wise they had four different beans to select from. We tried one Honduras from a local roaster and one Brazilian from another local roaster. Neither was spectacular. They were fairly well made but the beans did not really excite. The Brazilian also suffered from a hint of bitterness, possibly due to over-extraction. Other coffee based drinks were dedent as wel but this is in no way a place that anyone interested in specialty coffee really needs to seek out but if you want a nice place to hang out that can also serve a good cup of coffee it is an option.

Food looked fairly decent but it felt very western inspired but large variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner so no one would need to go hungry here. They serve up some very nice cold beverages as well. It seemed like a place where people really lounge for a long time. It is also connected to a florist, a trendier hostel and office hotel of sorts/share work space (one can rent a desk for a few hours, a day or longer term) as well as a flower shop. All of these are designed in a similar way so seamlessly blend into each other and strengthening the feel of being in a modern urban metropolis that could be anywhere and is being populated by hipsters.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2.5
Ambiance and Service: 3 (Service 2 and Ambiance 4)
Food: 4
Vs Local Average Competition: 3.5