We are delighted to welcome Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, editor of Our Daily Cup, to guest blog for Coffee Birmingham and offer her insights and recommendations on the state of play of coffee in restaurants.
A Parting Shot by Hayley Campbell Gibbons
As a Brummie lass, born and bred, this great city will always hold a special place in my heart, but – as is true for most of those we hold dear – sometimes a bit of tough love is needed. So, it is with Birmingham’s best interests in mind that I have made the difficult decision to call in the caffeine police, because there are some serious coffee crimes going down.
Last month three of Birmingham’s restaurants featured in The Times’ top 100 eateries in Britain – something that a city once famed only for its balti should be proud of! But, what happens after the starters have been cleared, the mains are away and the dessert plates licked clean? We order a coffee of course. And that’s where it all falls down.
Chefs scour the country to unearth the finest ingredients known to man or beast, and sommeliers leave no stone unturned in their quest to seek out new world wines to tantalise the taste-buds. But, when it comes to the coffee – the culinary climax, if you like – there isn’t a barista to be found for love, nor money.
Instead you’re more likely to find a harassed waitress or browbeaten barman being let loose on a top grade espresso machine doing the best job they can, with little or no knowledge (save what they can recall from the machine engineer who came to plumb the thing in over a year ago). I’ll go out on a limb here and say that – in my experience – restaurant coffee is a load of tosh. If you look carefully, you may even see a little tear forming at the end of the steam wand as the machine quietly grieves for the life it should have had.
I want to make a plea – in fact, I’ll go the whole hog and start a campaign – for better restaurant coffee. My message to any eating establishment worth its salt is this: Coffee is part of the meal, so give it the same love and respect you would show to anything else on the menu. You have two choices:
1. Ditch the espresso machine and focus on serving one type of coffee and serving it well. Either perfect the art of French press (another method of brewing that is often done a disservice, but we’ll leave that for another time) or get to grips with Aeropress. This style of coffee will provide a fool proof and elegant end to any meal.
2. If you’re reluctant to abandon espresso, pay a visit to one of the city’s inspiring independent coffee houses (Yorks, Saints, 6/8, Urban – take your pick!) and see how it’s done. Observe the skill, knowledge and attention to detail required to make good coffee, and then ask if they’d be willing to run a barista course for you and your staff. It will be an investment that your customers will thank you for.
So, restaurants of Birmingham, here’s a chance to make your parting shot one that leaves a lasting impression for all the right reasons, rather than a bitter taste in the mouth.
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What do you think? Tell us about your restaurant coffee experience – good and bad using the hashtag #restaurantcoffee. We’d love to hear more from you.