Secret Rooftop Cafe in Saigon

KépIt is a fact that it’s hard to find specialty quality coffee in South East Asia, especially if you are coming from a city where you can drop into one on every corner. If you are working in coffee you might be familiar with the name of Will Frith (if not here is a good source to familiarize: who surprised me with his beautiful minimalist brew bar which overlooks the always busy city of Saigon and gives you a peaceful time with your cup- and peace is something you want in a crowded place like Vietnam.

Will’s bar, known as the Secret Cafe, was situated on the rooftop of Rice Creative, an award winning design studio ( Sadly it is no longer in operation as Will moved to Singapore for a very interesting coffee job. Good luck, Will!

Even though the Sicret Cafe is history now, I still felt like I wanted to write about it as it meant a lot to me during my travels in Asia. While the time I have arrived to the beautifully simple place to brew coffee with good friends, I have spent a few months in Cambodia, without the satisfaction to find specialty coffee there (although I have not forgotten the dear people at Feel Good, which was close). Given that, this rooftop bar was everything I had been missing for so long, with green beans from Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Vietnam and such, roasted by Will himself, ground with a Hario Skerton or a small electric burr grinder, brewed with Kalita. It was possible to buy beans and it ran on donations (or it was free), and you could even find one of the founders of Marou chocolate here some days, too. Good coffee spreads well, and the Secret Cafe was proof for that. It was burning hot outside, sunny and moist, but it was one of the happiest days of my Asia trip.

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Pink Lane Coffee, Newcastle

Pink Lane CoffeeI guess I should have written this post several months ago as there was rarely a day I didn’t visit Pink Lane Coffee in Newcastle. If there would be a competition for the title of “my favorite coffee spot” Pink Lane would be in the top 3. Opened by husband and wife Anth and Jen Atkinson in May, 2012, the place quickly became “the One” for baristas, coffee specialists, coffee lovers and “average” cool people. In PLC, everything is about coffee. And it has a spot for everybody: you can sit at the espresso bar (like I always did) If you are fancy a coffee talk with the barista, (even if it was expert-owner Anth, super-friendly Chris, left-to-London James, or not-newbie-anymore Allison) who always have time for you even If a coffee-hungry crowd surrounded the place. Or you can just relax in a corner reading a book, working on your new music, design, artistic or not so artistic, important (or not so important) project.

Now let’s talk about the coffee: Anthony is not only a barista but a roaster! While the time I was there the place had a Diedrich roasting machine at the back of the place. If I am right, it was moved to a place where it will be  in operation very soon (UPDATE: Anth started roasting under the name of Colour Coffee recently)! But until then (and since the grand opening), PL is a multi-roaster coffee shop, which means there are different beans in the grinder as soon as the recent order runs out (and that depends on how quickly the crowd drinks it). The roasters represented in PL are the best of the UK and sometimes the World (including Extract, Workshop, Alchemy, Roundhill, Origin, Square Mile, Has Bean, Tim Wendelboe and more) and carefully chosen by Anthony. They usually have two different coffees for espresso based drinks (blends or single origins or both in the same time) and a couple of different choices for filter (which can be Kalita Wave, Syphon or AeroPress). If you find too many choices there, (which happens quite often and it is super cool) I suggest asking the barista to help you. While the time you see the selection on their huge blackboard, they already tasted all the coffees and I am sure they have a favorite! (It might vary depending on personal barista-taste, though).

Pink Lane also does quite a lot for the Newcastle coffee community. They are organizing events to get the Newcastle baristas together, such as cuppings (I was there once and I strongly recommend it to you) and recently a Latte Art Throwdown (which I missed as I am in Cambodia now but I am sure was fun). Since I left Newcastle there might be some things changed (the decoration or they might move a few tables, who knows?) But what will never change is the professionalism and enthusiasm behind the blue door.

All in all, this one  is a true third wave specialty coffee shop, in every angle: from its design to the high class equipment (LaMarzocco, Mazzer, Anfim) through the skilled baristas and carefully chosen beans. I cannot say much more I guess, but people: If you go to Newcastle, don’t miss Pink Lane Coffee (or count with the consequences)…

And now, time for the “what to”…in Pink Lane Coffee:

What to…
…order: My favorite choice was an espresso and a piccolo together (splitting the shot). But definitely try a brewed coffee, too!
…ask: From Anthony, anything from growing to brewing (and I mean anything). From Chris, geeky things like tampers, machines, latte art questions (and some fingerboarding tips). From Allison, she is a filter coffee expert with a great taste (plus  I would suggest a sophisticated conversation on literature).
…eat: The goat cheese artichoke sandwich is great plus anything baked by Jen is a miracle
…do: Have fun, enjoy the great coffee and definitely sit at the bar once!
twitter: @PinkLaneCoffee
where: 1 Pink Ln, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5DW
pl map

2nd thoughts on AeroPress

Yes, I do love the AeroPress…although I had a very tough two months reinventing my technique based on a very tasty and different cup from @nothteapower and I almost gave it up when I run into this interesting post at

I’ve got the post from @zsuzsa_zicho a barista at Workshop Coffee Co., London. And additionally I’ve seen something interesting in this video too:

(good thing at 1:40)

Bek’s idea is based on the brew ratio used for cupping coffee converted for brewing coffee. And I said: why not? I reduced the grams I used before (17 grams) to 12 grams. I had some things developed from before, for example using a longer bloom (50secs). Why it is good to use the cupping ratio? Read the Bek Freeman article. I don’ want to repeat.

Basically what I did was  to build some interesting new information into a frame I had built from my own experiences. My blooming part and pouring worked well but something was missing. I stuck to 17 grams and used a finer grind. Now I gave up the 17 grams, reduced the water amount and I am using a coarser grind as well. These things really came together well with my previous results of blooming, stirring and timing experiences. I do not share my technique here, though. Not because I don’t want people to try it. Just because it will change soon as I just simply cannot stop experimenting. Coffee is sooo good!

Coffees I used for developing: Has Bean Wote Natural, Has Bean Burundi Ngozi, Square Mile Musasa Ruli, Square Mile La Buitrera Huila

North Tea Power


I had to go to Manchester a couple of weeks ago and I asked around on twitter which independent coffee shop I must visit. One name came from several sources: North Tea Power.

We (with @HD41117) arrived between 4-5 PM and it was very busy that time! More than one barista was working on the La Marzocco espresso machine. I started with an espresso and a piccolo from North Tea Power’s own blend called the Deer hunter, roasted by Has Bean.

My Piccolo

My Piccolo



Macchiato under tasting

Macchiato under tasting

Every drink was made carefully and was very tasty and well-presented. I also had  the best AeroPress of my life made by Wayne from Square Mile’s Musasa Ruli (I bought a bag from it, tasty tasty). Thank you, Wayne! You made me rethink my AeroPress technique after all!

Wrkshop Fazenda Passeio V60 LeftMusasa Ruli AeroPress Right

Wrkshop Fazenda Passeio V60 Left
Musasa Ruli AeroPress Right

We all really enjoyed our coffee trip to the winner of the 2012 MFDA Best Independent Coffee Shop title. Too bad we didn’t try the teas and the food (coffee took all of our attention) but I’m sure they are super tasty too. Here is an interview with owner Wayne Lew:

Always have a friendly chat with the barista!

Always have a friendly chat with the barista!

I really like this V60 set up!

I really like this V60 set up!


Owners Wayne and his wife Jane

We had a lovely time in Manchester and I hope we can go back soon, taste more and have a nice chat about coffee, of course!

twitter: @northteapower

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Pink Lane Coffee

Pink Lane Coffee

I am suddenly occured in a post on a pic about my favorite Newcastle coffee shop. Pink Lane is just near Central Station and a must visit. I will write about it later in a longer post if I’ll got a bit more time!

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Coffee Circle

A nice vid about coffee making from Coffee Circle!


Cortado @Printa

@tiborbarista makes a delicious cortado at Printa (since then they opened a new shop called Espresso Embassy)
Just for fun!

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Quick note on the AeroPress

The AeroPress is my favourite brewing method so far. There are plenty of different methods you can choose from. I guess a barista’s AeroPress technique is almost a personal thing! Mine is including a timer, 16 grams of coffee (finer than Cafetiere grind), cooler than boiling water (approx. 90-92) and an upside down (or inverted) AeroPress. There are a few things everybody must do but otherwise it’s pretty flexible. So starting with the musts:

1. Place a filter paper into the plastic holder and rinse water throughout it!

Why? Because paper has taste (yes, the best quality filter papers too) and you want your coffee without it! If you use the upside down, it also helps the paper stick into the holder so it makes easier to place it on the top.

2. Wait until your water cools down a bit!

Why? Because boiling water burns coffee.

3. Make sure your AeroPress is patched together securely (upside down)

You don’t want to splash the whole thing around you. If you are able to hold it and turn it by one hand you can pour water into it securely.

4. Try to attach all of the grinds in the same time and pour slowly with circles. It’s good to stir as well.

5. Don’t press to hard!

6. Last but not least, have fun!

Here are some videos you can start practicing with and then you can have your own method!

This guide is from Steven Leighton master roaster of Has Bean (great coffee, check it!)

One non-inverted from Gwilym Davies, 2009 World Barista Champ

And one from Doubleshot, the great roastery from CZ (thats quite similar to the way I make AeroPress coffee!)


And the last one from Market Lane coffee. I quite like this one. He explains things well.


Yes, there are more about the inverted…It’s because I like it better. But everything ends up with personal taste so try both ways with different methods and then have your own opinion!

strong coffee?

If you work in a coffee shop you often hear this sentence: “just give me something strong…” and then these questions are flowing in my brain: “right, strong…in flavour? in caffein? Or bitter? Dark roasted, bitter-ish coffees are often described as strong by customers. For me, a medium roasted, fruity espresso can be extremely strong in flavours. So I think because of our differing tastes (and personalities) we all describe something else as strong. And what about that caffein-kick, that wakes you up? It’s a big misunderstanding that it comes with flavours. Caffein has no taste or smell. But it dissolves in water so that watery, no-taste filter machine coffee in the office can be a killer amount ’cause it took long minutes for it to drip down…while an espresso only extracts at around 25-28 secs which means you have less caffein in it. So why we describe it strong then? Because it’s more concentrated. A nice, creamy concentrate of flavours. While in filter coffees you’ve got much much more water (It doesn’t mean filter coffees can’t be tasty, indeed! We will get back to this later). So according to my expressions, I mark three different strength-type:

1. Highly caffeinated strength

It means you will die. Well, not now, I’m just kidding…be careful drinking a huge dose from this at a time. If you need that extra bang get a French press or another tasty filter (pour overs etc) but make sure you use it properly! And don’t leave the coffee in the pot after you pressed (or don’t drink it if you left it there). Drink it immediately OR pour into another jug because If not it will extract and extract more and more until…

2. Flavour-strength

It doesn’t mean it is dark or bitter or anything like that. It means you have loads of flavours and you can sense them clearly. It can be fruity or anything tasty.

3. Bitter-ish strong

The common described strength by people. But it doesn’t mean it is the good strong. It can be the bad strong if it’s burnt too much or the shot was pulled on a barely cleaned equipment. I don’t say dark roast can’t be good. For me it makes the beans too much common because they loose some interesting things with is (sure, some others are added). Yet again, personal taste plays. But try different beans and lighter, fruity ones- yes, it will be different. Yes, it can be weird at firs. But damn it’s so good!

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syphon video

Let’ s start the brewing guides with something cool and geeky! This guy called Jeremy, amazing barista and co- director of Prufrock (one of London’ s best coffee shops)…He describes us how the Syphon works! Try it and enjoy!

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