Coffee, The New Coffee: Part 1


The Tea Man Leaveth:

Who’d a thought it? A couple years back I was a die hard tea man. Yes, the great British drink, loved by all, drunk by hardy builder, shop floor worker and shelf stacker to Lord, Lady, loon and everybody in-between (no link between those last three I assure you). I felt proud to declare my love of tea, a mid morning cuppa, an afternoon sip with (dare I? oh go on then) a couple of biscuits or even (double dare I) a cake or three – nectar, bliss and joy rolled into one. And relax.

Coffee LoveThen something happened, well a few things happened, along came baby Stirling – cut sleep, free time and ability to function in half. Work picked up somewhat, increased need to sleep, relax within free time and function at double rate. Er, hold on, something doesn’t add up there. Tea, my love, suddenly became very inadequate – can you see the tears starting to well up, my eyes beginning to glisten – no matter how many cups I drank it wouldn’t cut through the tiredness nibbling at the edges of my working day.

So what to do? “Anyone for coffee?”, someone said – go on then, I’ll drink a cup-a-Joe, what’ve I got to lose, my British-ness perhaps? My dignity, oh no, that was lost somewhere in Soho back in the 90s. Perhaps the couple of quid that each one costs – I can live with that.

So there it was, sat in front of me, almost winking its intent from the steaming hole in the lid, from Pret-a-Manger, not the classiest or most obvious of coffee shops but coffee nonetheless. A sip. Another sip, a slurp, a guzzle then THE RUSH! All hints of tiredness vanish in an instant, the project specification I’m working on practically writes itself and time expands before me as if I’ve been plugged into a Flux Capacitor. VICTORY IS MINE!

It was that simple. And quick. From tea to coffee in one fell swoop. Not being one to take the first coffee to come along, I’d soon tried Starbucks (poor), Nero (not bad), Costa (OK +1), Coffee Republic (again just OK). Pret as it turned out made a very respectable coffee, at least the one on Wardour Street near the old Intrepid Fox, there is a massive difference in the quality and result from Pret to Pret, which is both annoying and disappointing.

BeansSo then I popped into a local coffee shop called Flat White on Berwick Street W1, and ordered a, well, a flat white. Oh glorious Lord upon high, Her Majesty’s crown jewels and the Webb Ellis Cup all rolled into one – now this is coffee. Smooth, clean, a great flavour with only a hint of bitterness, some kind of modern art created from the foam on top, and less than three quid. Who are these masters of the coffee bean, where did they come from? What the hell are they doing here, and, is that an antipodean accent I hear?

Thus began my love of the coffee bean, Flat White and flat whites, coffee in general and is that a magic or science behind it, or a bit of both? Next I’ll be looking at some other top coffee shops, a proper review of Flat White, the best beans around and just how far people are prepared to go for a top cup of black gold.

Coming Soon: Part 2 – The Quest for the Holy Grail Grind



  1. Mr Precipice on

    I noted with some puzzlement that this writer had survived so long without the need for coffee as a regular part of his diet. The arrival of the mini-me (not ‘me’ I hasten to add, I hardly know the girl) and the increase of workload were the catalyst for the seeking of solace in the humble coffee bean, hoorah and welcome to the club!
    It’s a drug I have used for many years, from nasty instant coffee forced upon me by a fellow worker who thought nothing of heaping 3 teaspoons of nescafe into a cup (he was Dutch, bless him), through the trendy but awful Starbucks to the pleasant buzz of the Costa and Nero safe-harbours.
    I have to confess (immodestly) that the best coffee I have tasted is the one that comes from my espresso maker early on a Sunday morning after an over indulgent Saturday evening. The aroma fills the house and helps me force the eyes open to greet the new day and the best of all – it costs me hardly the price of a bean!
    Keep up the good work!

  2. C. S. Stirling on

    It’s a fair cop governor – I have indeed drunk coffee in the past, but never with such gay abandon or passion. An espresso at the end of the meal (almost always Illy) or a quick cup with a bun on a Saturday, always from a chain, never anything special. Today however I’m hoping for very special. Research for ‘The Holy grind’ starts this AM, my list is long but my travel card is full! Onwards, onwards to the perfect cup… and Gwilym Davies if I can find the man! Cheers, Stirling.

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