8 Jan 2011

Riding the gravy train?

So in my daily perusal of the Guardian website (because I am a white, middle-class intellectual and also not willing to actually buy a newspaper/leave the house) I spotted an article concerning Starbucks changing their logo;

While the section itself seems somewhat odd; as noted in the comments section, money is quite obviously not one of the company's main concerns, the remodelling itself is interesting. Starbucks already monopolises the 'second-wave' coffee sector but is it trying to make itself look less corporate by removing the name from its logo?

Anyone with an ounce of sense or more than a single tastebud knows that the company's self-proclaimed embrace of fair trade, organic and global coffee is an exercise in manipulation and really, who gives a fuck because the drinks suck and the franchise pushes out so many smaller businesses. Many of the coffee shops I frequent use plain take-out cups, or stamp their logo/name on the side which I find pretty cool but looking at the Starbucks simplified, anonymous logo makes me wonder if they are trying to rip this style off.

Starbucks is so under my give-a-fuck radar that this doesn't bother me as much as intrigues; I'd be interested to know their motivations behind this.


Ship St, Brighton

k Brighton, I get it. Honestly I do. I know your ways. You're so cool and cute and edgy and fun. You have the vegetarian shoe shop and a milkshake store and American Apparel and the most expensive Oxfam IN THE WORLD and everyone is white, middle class and too educated to get a useful job. Marwood is like...it's like a classier student union coffee shop. They sell 'fancy' ramen/Pot Noodle and call the extra 30p for soymilk a 'tax' and the walls have dumpstered 'art' on them.


But part of my mission is to try different things (ugh, make it stop) so I took my brothers there for coffee.

The 'barista' (let's be honest here, he hadn't earned that title) announced as we ordered that it was his last day so he didn't give a fuck. Great, awesome, please don't jerk off into my coffee, I will probably catch 5 million diseases. I got a flat white with soy.


Like really...really...what is that? I appreciate the effort but Tom gets a Nightmare Before Christmas-esque deviantArt heart and I get what my friend Eric later described as a 'white dwarf'. Perhaps it was interpretative foam art - I am definitely white and while not technically a dwarf, I am quite short.

It was ok coffee. Will not be going back. The fake cat was funny for five minutes but that sort of novelty will not win me over, Marwood.

7 Jan 2011

Sacred Cafe

Carnaby St/Covent Garden, London

Carnaby Street likes to think it's really cool because it has like, boutique shops and the Vans store is there but really it's just Oxford Street minus a few thousand people. Aka, still my own personal hell. Sometimes I wonder why I moved to London and then I remember it's because I thought I was too cool for Brighton (more fool me as I run back, tail between my legs). I have, however, perfected my own personal blend of industrial strength misanthropic vitriol which allows me to continue existing in a non-hermetic state. As a result, I braved central London to meet my friend James.

I hadn't heard of Sacred Cafe so it was on his recommendation (always appreciated as the internet can be a somewhat dubious resource and there's only so much you can gain from Time Out).

Turns out it's a really nice coffee shop and manages to trick you into thinking you're not in Cunt Central which is quite an achievement. Due to the location the queue was always pretty long but w/e I will wait 5 mins for something once I know it's worth it (5 mins is sometimes generous twss).

Larger coffees than places like Nude or Flat White but the taste wasn't particularly compromised. Very friendly baristas, nice food, reasonably priced. I made James order me a long soy macchiato which might even be worse than 'double shot mocha with soy and vegan chocolate'.

The day after I went to get my hair cut as part of my high-functioning emotional breakdown and went to the Covent Garden shop which was not as nice but the coffee was just as good. They use their own blend which I would probably buy to use at home if I didn't already have 4 bags of beans on the go (I have no life).

Bea's of Bloomsbury

Holborn, London

I know everyone still buttfucks cutesy cupcake culture but it's not something I am massively into. I don't have much of a sweet tooth and tend to think of cake as a pointless addition to life that will never make you feel anything more than regret for eating it. As of now, my only 'vice' is coffee and I am totally fine with that, why the fuck would I eat cake to make up for not drinking or smoking? Idiotic. This is why people get obese: cupcakes are a gateway drug. They're small so you think they don't count but therein lies your mistake, fatty. Have an apple.

Anyway, baked-goods based rants aside, the coffee here is really quite good. They use Square Mile AND Bonsoy so that is 2 A+ before I've even tried it. I had 2 flat whites and both were great. The shop was cold as fuck though, and putting the heating on isn't gonna break the bank guys, obviously you make a pretty penny via frosting and if I wanted to freeze my ass off while I discussed disillusionment and possible future spinsterdom I would sit at home.

Fig. 1: return of the blob. Personally I think it resembles an infected vagina (vile gash?). Artfully rendered at least. Almost Picasso-esque but with less of the classical Cubism; the fluidity of the blobs suggests a move away from the harsh, boxed in quality of his earlier work.
Obviously Bea's coffee does not suffer from the shop's focus on food and cakes, which is nice and somewhat of a novelty. Unfortunately, and this is not their fault, I am like the antichrist of twee and objects like this <<< offend mine eyes greatly.

On the way home I bought a life-sized skull tealight holder. Fuck you, cakestand.

Redwood Coffee

Trafalgar Street, Brighton

Another new-ish shop by the sea. One downside of moving back there from London is that there are only really a few good places compared to the capital city. Taylor St is great but I am worried that they will think I am mental if I go in every day and start recognizing when I've had a haircut or compliment me on my new shoes. Actually that would make them more mental than me.

Redwood is biiiig and pretty cute/kitschy as you'd expect from being spitting distance from the Laines. Mostly Kiwi baristas and they play that godfuckingawful trippy chillout hip hop. It is cheap though (no Bonsoy but they don't charge any extra for soymilk) and last time I got a 3 shot soy flat white for the same price as a regular...pretty sure the barista was high as fuck though and I am not basing that on the fact he had dreadlocks as fucking TODDLERS have dreadlocks in Brighton. Fuck my life, this is why I don't go outside unless totally necessary, the world is actually disgusting.

The foam art seen here is a Monet-esque reinterpretation of a fern. I seriously think everyone who works there is high, you know those photos of when a spider weaves a web after it's been smoked out? >>>>>>>>>>

Taste of Bitter Love

Hackney Rd, London

I have the pleasure of currently residing a stones throw from the beautiful Hackney Road. It should really be a National Trust recognized area of natural beauty. Such divine visions accost you at every turn...the discount luggage store...the discount shoe store...the kebab shop...the travel inn...the National Front pub...Hackney City Farm and its 3 sheep and clinically depressed pigs.

I went to The Taste of Bitter Love after hearing a LOT of good things, expecting something really great that would make up for how soul crushingly awful Hackney Rd is. As it happens, I was massively disappointed to the point of being angry. My anger was more from the rudeness of the barista; I am not a chatty person and I have worked in the service industry - I know sometimes you just want to get on with it. But if I try and make your day less shit by being nice to you then for FUCKS SAKE don't be rude to me because next time, so help me, I will not be nice.

Luckily (lol) it was the last day before they closed, which may have had something to do with the poor service, but can't justify the shitty latte I got. Horrible cheap soymilk (I know the exact guilty culprit and there's no excuse on spending 50p less a carton, yes I can taste it), very weak espresso, lukewarm to the point of being cold.

Whatever. Over it.

Camden Coffee House

Camden (no shit), London

So far we have had the good. Time for the not so good. Anywhere that serves milkshakes and chai tea lattes (which is what my companion got...jesus fuck are you an 11 year old girl?) is probably not gonna be AMAZING for coffee but I find it in my heart some time to not judge a book by its cover without caressing its pages.

Sadly I was right. The shop uses Has Bean blends which I haven't had before and wouldn't try again in a hurry. The espresso base was ok but nothing on Square Mile. The milk was too hot which is a schoolboy error. The microfoam was good though and apparently the incoherent galaxy is their 'signature' foam art (LAZY).

It's also a tiny shop but as far as I know, Camden isn't crawling with great places to get coffee. What it is crawling with are throwbacks from every music and style scene known to man so if you haven't been to see the weird and wonderful freaks...don't go. The town makes my skin crawl, every time I step off the subway I want to throw up everywhere. And I have spent a fair amount of time at the Underworld seeing hardcore bands of varying talent and eating thai vegan buffet.

Fuck Camden.

On a plus note, I got the opportunity to discuss the philosophy of war with my good friend Jack who is not only a writer but a BJJ instructor and general nihilistic asshole like myself. Here I am reading his first novel and pretending I am as smart as he is...

Prufrock @ Present

Ok, bear with me, I am listening to NON in my dark bedroom so I may or may not trans/descend into some form of higher/sub consciousness.

My roommate told me about Prufrock when I told him about this 'project' so we went along one day. Bear in mind that he doesn't actually LIKE coffee...he drinks it for a buzz, not for the taste. Which is the opposite for me; caffeine has very little effect on me and I drink coffee purely for the taste.

The clothes store that houses Prufrock is pretty fuckin' Shoreditch but don't be put off. The menu is as follows:
-4oz espresso with milk
-6oz espresso with milk
-8oz espresso with milk

Basically that is espresso, macchiato, flat white, latte. But why write that when you can look extra cunty? I love it.

It's a pop-up coffee bar run by 2009 World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies. The coffee itself is impeccable, totally blew me away. Best I've had since Intellegentsia (sigh...). 8oz espresso with soymilk (which the awkward barista told me smelled like 'custard'...k buddy) makes me so happy.
But can we take a second here... both times I've got coffee I have had the same blobby not even half-assed attempt at presentation, while other customers get foam art. I am not an idiot, I drink coffee whatever it looks like, but I can't help feeling like I am getting unfair treatment. I have low enough self esteem without being denied my pointless and pretentious heart or rosetta or fern GOD FUCKING DAMNIT.

I think I am having a minor Boyd Rice-induced meltdown. Go to Prufrock, don't be put off by how it appears from the outside.

Milk Bar

Soho, London

Flat White's big sister. Apparently a 'milk bar' is an Australian thing but to me it sounds like some creepy, Clockwork Orange-esque establishment which would involve drinking the aforementioned non-vegan beverage direct from a swollen nipple attached to a distressed cow perhaps sporting some kind of latex.

I digress. It's roomier than FW but still retains the atmosphere and I like how high the bar is. Also, they do food and RUMOR HAS IT that there is vegan french toast to be had. Usually I am too excited about coffee for food but breakfast for dinner is one of my favorite things to do because I am 5 years old.

This is grumpy birthday me (seductive bags under eyes? rain-greased hair? dejected glare?) mid-way through a soy macchiato which was AMAZING. I could have a bath in those, I don't give a fuck, I want to douse myself in sweet, sweet espresso and stay awake forever (like Lady Bathory and virgins blood, see?)

Also, it stays open until 7pm which is late by London standards (oh England when will you learn to embrace coffee culture as equivalent to that of alcohol?).

Flat White

Soho, London.

Picture the scene: my 24th birthday, I am in a DARK PLACE (unfortunately unrelated in any way to Garth Marenghi) and the streets run amok with tourist shit cunts, xmas shopping like their lives mean nothing beyond materialistic offerings and getting in my way. My parents selfishly timed my birth exactly one week before xmas and every year the charade of excitement slips further and further away.

So my mum is in town and all I want to do is drink coffee and gaze broodingly through a rain splattered window so I made her go to Flat White with me.

It's great. My #1 coffee shop in London. Antipodean *check*; cute baristas *check*; impeccable flat white (would have to be as it is the shop's namesake) *check*; Square Mile specially designed blend *check* etc = when I can move in pls?
I went in recently with my friend Stu and they forgot our coffees (twice lol oh what are you guys like, fucking Kiwis...just kidding) but did try and bribe us with cake to apologize. Regretfully I am vegan and he's on a diet.
SEE? SEE THESE? This is foam art.

Nude Espresso

Bethnal Green, London

I love Nude for several reasons, not connected to the act of being nude, which whilst being brilliant for certain activities is not neccesarily a state I like to be in while around hot liquids (twss?)

One, it is 20 mins walk from my apartment. Two, everyone that works there is really nice. Three, they use the Holy Bonsoy, milked from the finest Australian soybean nipples. Four, it is probably the only thing I like about Brick Lane which is a massive sea of cunts.

And obviously the coffee is awesome. Consistently awesome. I usually get a three shot flat white which is always impeccably made and presented. Nude is tied top 3 of my favorite places to get coffee in London.

They also sell their own blends for a very reasonable £6ish and if you are partial to food what has got cheese and meats in it then I believe they do a good sandwich too.

TOURIST TIP: The street the shop is on was where Jack the Ripper committed one of his first murders. I like to roll around on the sidewalk in imaginary evisceration after my coffee.

Taylor Street Baristas, Brighton

l-r: macchiato with soy, 16oz latte with soy

I lived in Brighton for 5 years as a non-coffee drinker (dark, dark days) and now, on the (metaphorical) eve of my reintegration there is this little beacon of light on the gross street by the station. Aussie/Kiwi run antipodean style coffee made with BONFUCKINGSOY aka greatest soymilk for the dairy-free coffee snob. I will pay the 60p ($1) extra with a shit eating grin on my face because it is so good.

First time I went I got the above order. Macchiato was ok, not the best I have had but still very good. The latte was a mistake, but mine not theirs. I can't deal with that milk-to-coffee ratio anymore.

Now I get a 'double' (four) shot flat white with bonsoy. Hasn't failed me yet. Only peeve is that they don't serve 'large' (16oz) coffees in ceramic cups, only takeout cups. So do what every other decent coffee shop does and don't go above 12oz, simple. Smaller is better (that's not what she said).

Downside: due to location, it's usually full of Brighton yummy mummies and daddies with screaming whelps who think they shit gold because they've mastered the fine art of procreation.

4 shot flat white (fallen down a bit, and they always put the lid on before serving, guys it makes your foam art look shit, jfyi)


Chicago: Millennium Park/Broadway
Whilst I was staying in Chicago it became a ritual on a Sunday to go to Intellegentsia on Broadway and then to Reckless Records across the street. Pretty perfect day if you ask me. I got the same thing every time I went: large mocha with soy milk and vegan chocolate (probably THE cuntiest sounding coffee request). It is, however, a fucking delicious coffee, more akin to a dessert.
Intellegentsia is one of those great companies that revels in its snobbery while at the same time remaining accessible. The baristas are very friendly and accomodating and for $5 and change you get a coffee that shits all over the burnt excretion you’d get for the same price at Starbucks.


In this photo is a cop who hit on me in the Millennium Park shop once, cuz a gal can’t get caffeinated without members of the emergency services creeping on her. Seriously though, I am ACAB enough without this sort of behavior. Sadly, as a non-US national I have an inbuilt fear of deportation and just awkwardly backed away as he complimented my 'art' (think you mean tattoos, mate), all the while internally lolling at the irony of an officer of the law believing he had anything in common whatsoever with a bratty little punk kid.

That is me holding a bag of crack.
To be more precise, it is their Black Cat Espresso blend (more about the company). Maybe it’s the happy memories I have attached to their coffee but I have yet to find a blend I like as much. That particular bag I had flown in from ATX by my friend Tsouni because I am pathetic and desperate.


This blog was started on my facebook but because I keep that private in order to avoid internet creepers I have decided to duplicate it on here.

After what I like to refer to as an 'emotional disturbance' that was totally out of my control, I decided I needed to keep busy and started exploring the so-called 'best' coffee shops in London with friends so that I wasn't spending all of my time in my blacked-out bedroom listening to the entire recorded output of Nirvana. Now I only spend 6-8 hours doing this.

It is a pure exercise in snobbery. I truly believe that if you care about something enough then you are perfectly entitled to be an asshole about it.