In this guest blog, we are delighted to welcome Matthews McGarry to talk about the numerous benefits that coffee can have on your sporting performance.
AA Abbott is a British crime thriller writer and loves her coffee! Returning to guest blog for Coffee Birmingham, she pays a visit to Tilt and laps up its many treats.
Tilt is located in the beautiful, but under-loved, City Arcade off Union Street. It describes itself as a craft beer café and coffee shop, but it’s with pinball that it really scores. With a row of glowing, buzzing beasts by the door and more in the basement, it’s a great place to hang out with friends the old-fashioned way. There’s the obligatory free wi-fi to bring life back to the digital age, especially handy for freelance workers with their laptops.
Beer is served from midday until late. The current selection includes Belgian-style wheat beer and Wiper & True’s Milkshake Milk Stout, the ale that thinks it’s vanilla ice cream. It’s a good introduction to beery pleasure for those who don’t think they’ll like it – the closest craft beer gets to an alcopop.
But what of the coffee? There’s filter and espresso on offer, with bags of coffee to take away so you can replicate the taste at home. (Hint: in my experience, like holiday wine or a hairdresser’s creation, it’s never the same.) I had an unctuously creamy latte with a hint of bitterness: delicious, and ten times better than anything the international coffee shop chains could produce, but like the milk stout, it wouldn’t frighten the horses.
Tilt also serves tea, hot chocolate and a selection of home-made cakes. My carrot cake, spruced up with walnuts and buttery frosting, was the best I’ve ever had. Even better, the slice was so huge that it substituted for breakfast.
First thing in the morning, Tilt was quiet, hosting a few freelances and shoppers stopping for a coffee. It was easy to hear the background soundtrack of punchy eighties anthems. At noon, chat levels rose. The café was significantly busier as the lunchtime crowd drifted in to play pinball. I imagine the joint is jumping in the evening too. It deserves to be.
The café is simply decorated – perhaps too simply – but other than that, Tilt does the basics very well indeed. It offers carefully chosen coffee, cake and beer served without fuss, a chance to chill alone or with friends, and a side order of pinball. What more do you need?
Tilt website: http://tiltbrum.com/
Tilt Twitter: https://twitter.com/tilt_brum
Tilt Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tiltbrum/
AA Abbott website: http://aaabbott.co.uk/
AA Abbott Twitter: https://twitter.com/AAAbbottStories
AA Abbott Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AAAbbottStories/
We are delighted to welcome Lee Thomas from local business Urban Roast Coffee who has written a insightful blog piece about what it is work in a roastery!
So have you ever thought about where your coffee comes from, that beautiful cup of black magic with a comforting aroma.
Well for a start when it arrives at our roastery it is a small green bean that smells of grass.
Our hessian sacks come from faraway places and distant shores which give us a great starting point.
Coffee is a bit like wine, different regions and altitudes produce different flavours and characteristics, the art of the roaster is to bring these together and produce a beautiful coffee that showcases the best of that bean.
Some coffee is known for its light floral notes others for its deep dark chocolate taste so depending on the individuals personal preference there is an abundance of coffee out there waiting to be discovered.
When we profile a coffee we will put multiple batches through the roaster at different settings – Hot and fast, low and slow, we manipulate the roasting process in order to get a wide variety of taste results from that coffee.
When we are roasting coffee we log a number of settings off the roaster. These settings all affect the taste of the coffee. These settings are things like Starting Temperature, the air temperature and environment temperature in the drum of the roaster and most important we log the temperature of the beans. All of these readings are taken every 30 seconds so we end up with an in depth graph of that roast.
Once we are happy with the roast we then move onto the cupping stage, which is a bit like wine tasting but with a lot less spitting. We usually taste (or cup) up to 6 different versions of the same coffee so we are happy we have covered as many different settings for that coffee as possible.
We move slowly through our roasted samples where we taste and score the coffee. We do this in order to find the best results and at what settings we obtained those results at.
We often end up with several samples that we like, so at this point we will look at the roasting profile settings and merge those together to end up with the perfect roasting profile for that coffee.
We will do this process for every coffee we supply as each coffee has its own unique flavour and it gives us a blueprint to roast to so we always producing the best coffee we can.
So now you have a basic knowledge of what we the coffee roasters do. We may be the people behind the scenes, but when you are sitting enjoying your great tasting coffee you can be safe in the knowledge that a whole lot of care and passion was put into that little green bean to make it taste the way it does.
More about Urban Roast Coffee Company
The Urban Roast Coffee Company is an Independent artisan coffee roastery based in the midlands. Roasting in small quantities allows them to offer truly fresh roasted coffee direct to our customers doorstep. They roast on a daily basis so their coffee is always the freshest it can be when you receive it.
I am delighted to welcome Jessica Rose to guest write about Icelandic coffee culture. As someone who has been to Iceland and experienced their fantastic coffee culture first hand, it is great to have Jess offering some fantastic insights and comparisons between their coffee culture and what us Brummies experience!
Coming from Birmingham, the most striking thing about Reykjavik’s coffee culture is what’s missing. The big corporate coffee brands aren’t to be found here. The nearest thing you can find to a Starbucks or Costa is Te & Kaffi, an Icelandic chain with just 8 locations across the county that opened in the 80s and helped launch Iceland’s love affair with great coffee.
What both Birmingham and Reykjavik do share are a growing number of independent coffee houses with incredibly loyal fanbases.
While Brummies hotly debate the merits of Urban Coffee over 6/8 etc., our Icelandic counterparts declare their loyalty to Tui Dropar or Kaffitar (ed: a personal favourite). With only 120,000 people in the city, Reykjavik still sports over a dozen independent coffee shops, each drawing its own loyalists. Icelandic coffee houses fill an important social niche, staying open as late as 1 am throughout the week and serving beer, sweets and light meals alongside coffees and mocha. Even outside of the dedicated coffee shops, locally roasted coffee can be purchased in almost any cafe, restaurant or gas station.
In a food culture where vegetarian options are few and far between, Reykjavik’s coffee shops often provide casual vegetarian options, such as Tiu Dropar’s cheese and vegetable sandwiches.
Cafe Loki, just before the Hallgrímskirkja Church supplies tourists and the faithful with coffee as well as its famous rye bread ice cream and Iceland’s infamous fermented shark.
Icelanders are the third largest consumers of coffee by capita and this level of demand has resulted in a network of high quality coffee houses. These coffee shops have begun working together to build an overarching cafe culture through shared supply chains, education and events. Reykjavik recently hosted the 2013 Nordic Barista Cup and hold regular workshops and events to help develop the Icelandic coffee scene.
Jessica is an American transplant, living in Birmingham. She blogs about tech and programming at www.closetoclever.com and has collected a list of Icelandic vegetarian dining options at : http://closetoclever.com/vegetarian-options-iceland/
So what do you think we can learn or even benefit from other country’s coffee cultures? Join the conversation at @coffeebrum.
We are delighted to welcome Paul Parkin aka Jinxy Art as a guest blogger to Coffee Birmingham. He is currently exhibiting art at his studio based at the Custard Factory which he has created using coffee grounds. He explains more in his guest blog.
Painting may not be one of the most obvious uses for coffee but I stumbled across its effects several years ago and have never looked back!
It all started one day whilst painting, I clumsily knocked over the last few remaining drops of my espresso but before reaching for a cloth, I caught the running droplets with my brush and began to paint. The coffee had run in several different directions which after a few flicks became the perfect hand on the portrait I was working on. From that point on I began using coffee to create artwork and so my coffee collection was born.
As a medium, coffee is versatile to work with; it involves a process of building layers upon layers of coffee to create textures. I make various strengths of coffee, concentrating and diluting in order to create the different shades I need for each piece. After trial and error I find using the coffee cold rather than hot works best as the solution is less fluid and more malleable. I’ve experimented with different types of coffee from French Roast to Sumatra and, dare I say it, instant! I rotate the brands I use but whether painting with it or consuming it I’d argue quality coffeereaps the best results. I have a few cups whilst working but make I try to make sure I don’t drink my materials.
The works are created entirely with coffee but when it comes to the subject matter the pieces are varied. My collection includes celebrity icons such as Bob Marley and Audrey Hepburn, a herd of elephants, ballet dancers, zebras and a raging bull (homage to Brum). People seem surprised when they realise the artwork is created with coffee, often touching or smelling the paintings for reassurance! My coffee collection is something different and the work has had a positive reaction from the public, with customers dubbing me anything from “mocha-langelo” to an “espressonist”
My gallery is at the Custard Factory, Digbeth, come along.
For example, I have just recently tweeted about research from the University of Birmingham, which suggests that coffee hydrates as well as water (click here).
In this guest blog by Peter from CoffeeBuyerUK, the issue of how much to drink when pregnant is one of those important topic areas which is discussed.
Should You Drink Coffee While Pregnant?
During pregnancy, you have to be mindful that whatever you are putting into your body you are also putting into your unborn child. One of the concerns many have with coffee, is that it contains a large amount of caffeine and therefore there is a question of what this does to the child.
Effectively, this means that your body’s nervous and physiological activity is raised; so processes such as your metabolism are sped up, this improves your energy levels and alertness. This may help you feel better on tired spells that your pregnancy is causing you however it may not be overly beneficial for your child.
NHS guidelines suggest that the limit for caffeine intake during pregnancy is 200mg. This is to ensure that your child doesn’t have an overload of caffeine and therefore to prevent any harm in the child’s development. Research has shown that regularly surpassing the daily recommended limit of caffeine intake, can result in underweight babies.
In terms of caffeine content there is much more in a freshly ground cup of coffee than instant coffee, with instant thought to have 100mg per cup whereas a filter coffee has roughly 140mg per cup.
Equally, in terms of taste and quality, freshly ground coffee is by far the better option. It is healthier too.
If you go for an organic coffee bean then it is free of the additives that are used in the process of freeze drying the instant coffee. Alongside this, the antioxidant properties of coffee are greatly reduced when it comes instant coffee, as when the bean is split, oxygen gets to it which has a derogatory effect on the antioxidant parts of the coffee and also this has an effect on the taste and there is a clear difference between fresh and instant.
Although guidelines suggest that a limited amount of caffeine is not a problem during pregnancy, should you wish to be ultra safe then there is the decaf option to allow you the opportunity to still enjoy a cup of coffee with all the taste but without the risk factor.
Yet if you still want to keep the full joys of a cup of coffee then you can, however you need to know what the recommended limits are, in order to not to potentially risk your child. Having either one cup of freshly ground coffee at the very most per day will keep you within the 200mg limit, and therefore should not cause any risk to your child.
What do you think about coffee drinking whilst pregnant or any other important caffeine related health areas? Let us know your thoughts at @coffeebrum.
Peter works for CoffeeBuyerUK (www.coffeebuyer.co.uk), a UK wide Wholesale Coffee retailers with often stock branded coffees and equipment available to buy online. Follow them on twitter (@coffeebuyeruk), facebook (/
Our first guest blog for 2014 and we are delighted to welcome to professional cricketer Paul Best to Coffee Birmingham to account for his glowing experiences of Urban Coffee Company’s Church Street emporium.
After a busy week and a tough day of training, I was in much need of a bite to eat, a relaxing space and a flat white to take the edge off. I ventured to Church Street to the Urban Coffee Company, where I had often driven past, and been impressed from the outside by the seemingly trendy vibe within.
I was immediately struck by the smart and well-furnished interior. Had I come in a few hours earlier I could have indulged in the porridge that would have been on offer with many different toppings available. However, as it was almost two o’clock and I had not yet had lunch, I decided to go for a festive looking ‘Roast Chicken and Chestnut Stuffing’ sandwich, which I decided to have toasted. It went down a treat especially when accompanied by an excellent Flat White. The Urban Coffee Company advertised their use of a combination of Brazilian and Guatemalan beans and my friend Tom said he picked up on the nutty, almost fruity aspect of the blend as a coffee connoisseur (get him – the big showoff).
I was reading recently that this type of relaxation and idleness was experienced in many of the coffee houses of Europe in the 17th century. However, people were sitting back and watching the world go by one afternoon too many it seems because in England in 1676 Charles II, the king of the day, issued ‘a proclamation for the Suppression of Coffee-Houses’. In it, he banned coffee houses since they had become places of idleness and neglect.
In Constantinople, at a similar time in history, coffee houses were also banned as it was thought they would create a laidback atmosphere during a time of war. Anyone who was seen drinking coffee was sewn into a leather bag and thrown into the Bosphorus! How glad I was that Tom or myself weren’t thrown into the Birmingham Canal for enjoying our coffees this afternoon? Very. That’s how glad.
I would definitely recommend the Urban Coffee Company for anyone who wants to experience some great quality coffee and food while doing so in a relaxed and quirky space. The next time I come I might have to treat myself to one of their muffins, which looked particularly tempting!
I am delighted to welcome Farooq from Ihya Magazine who goes back in time to discuss the history and characteristics behind what makes a great cafe.
The growth of independent coffee houses in Birmingham is a good sign that the city is developing as a cultural social hub. Creativity and cafes are synonymous with each other ever since coffee was first discovered both for its delicious taste and ability to keep one awake back in Yemen around the 15th Century, to the impact of coffeehouses upon the Enlightenment; something Steven Johnson explores in his book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation’. Since then coffee houses have evolved as a social lubricant and developed into the vibrant café culture we experience today. However it has taken some time for café culture to really take root in Birmingham as experienced in cities and countries who have centuries of café culture to speak of. Cities like Venice, Paris, Cairo, Istanbul and London have developed their own café culture identity over centuries, and in recent times countries like the US and Australia have also come to develop their own distinct café culture.
What distinguishes each of these places is their history of café culture and how they’ve come to influence the coffee experience, whether it is in the types of coffee made to the whole aesthetic and social experience. However we are now living in a time when we increasingly see cultural boundaries blur as people adopt from different cultures to either make it their own and create something new, or abandon their own café culture and adopt the dominant culture, thereby leaving their café culture indistinguishable.
This is a danger that faces many independent cafes in Birmingham. Style and the aesthetic experience is an important part of the coffee experience, however if the coffee is of a poor standard then it defeats the whole purpose of the café. Style over substance seems to be the scourge of our times and quality of product is often trumped by style. However when the aesthetic style and social experience of a café is built around the coffee then we have the foundations upon which to build a strong coffee culture.
Knowledge of coffee, as in everything, is essential to being the best. This is one reason why I find Java Lounge in Moseley, Birmingham so refreshing because the owner and its star barista really know coffee. What is particularly exciting is how they are actually coming to define a café culture that could not only come to define Birmingham but could also potentially come to define British café culture as a whole. As they draw upon their Yemeni roots from where coffee originated, they are aiming to fuse East and West café cultures together to create something quite unique. Consequently if you want to know what makes a good café, a good starting point is to speak with the owners of coffee independents, and if they exhibit the depth of knowledge and passion that can only be matched by delicious coffee then know you have found something truly special.
At Coffee Birmingham, we are delighted to welcome Iona Burchell, a freelance writer and mum, to guest blog about her favourite family-friendly coffee spots in Birmingham. After reading this, we’d love to know what your family favourite independent coffee spaces are and why? Drop us a tweet and let us know and we’ll pass on your comments too. Enjoy!
Kings Heath High Street is flourishing and showing the way forward for other high streets across the UK. It’s busy, bustling and bountiful. As a mum of two young children, and because it’s such a busy place, more often than not a trip to the shops on the high street needs to be accompanied by an ‘incentive’ otherwise it just becomes a stressful moaning session.
The incentive usually involves the children choosing which of the lovely coffee shops we will stop at for a drink and a cake each time. There’s a big choice too. Usually it ends up though with plenty of humming and hawing between the Kitchen Garden Cafe or Loco Lounge. Both offer great spots to enjoy a coffee (although clearly not for the children, even if my son insists he likes coffee-at 3 he’s a little bit too young to have anything more than a sip.)
Both offer activities for the children to play with whilst inside. Both offer free wi-fi. My favourite though is Loco Lounge. It’s light, spacious and has plenty of comfy sofas in which to sink whilst taking a break. It’s also got a lovely range of customers, from fellow parents to those having work meetings, to those on office outings and everything in between. The other reason it’s fab-they do a Babyccino of chocolate and milk. Perfect.
My children love the croissants, I love the plastic cups and straws. The children love the games, I love to sit for a moment and watch them playing (destroying) Jenga or Connect Four. I’d love to sneak a peak at the complimentary papers, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. But I enjoy not feeling hassled to move on once our drinks have had their final slurp.
I recommend the hot chocolate topped with marshmallows-a small meal in itself. My husband recommends the Macchiato for coffee lovers. And you have the added bonus of knowing that Loco Lounge supports www.coffeekids.org too.
There’s food as well as plenty of choice to drink. May I heartily recommend the eggy bread or pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. For an extra special treat you can add bacon to the mix too … absolutely gorgeous!
Which are your favourite family coffee places to go in Brum and why? Join in the conversation. Let us know @coffeebrum.