Servicing my coffee addiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the coffee drinking experience at motorway services leaves a lot to be desired. More often then not, I will avoid buying coffee at service stations. Sometimes they get it just wrong. Even with the big chains the quality of the coffee and service can be very different to that of the high street. The environment is often busy and messy, usually I need to clear the table myself!

Having said all that I did have a really nice coffee drinking experience at the independent Gloucester services. I think part of the reason was the fact it was sunny.

Servicing my coffee addiction

For those that don’t know about the new(ish) Gloucester services between junctions 11a and 12 on the M5. Unlike any other motorway service area, they don’t have franchises. They use local produce and have a huge farm shop selling a range of delicious looking food and drink (and crafts). They also have a eatery, called the “Kitchen” where food and drink can be purchased.

I ordered a flat white and enjoyed drinking it outside on the terrace by the lake in the sun.

Now that was a nice coffee drinking experience.

It was supposed to be a macchiato…

espresso macchiato

So what do you think that was?

That is a small espresso cup by the way.

It was supposed to be an espresso macchiato.

From my understanding, an espresso macchiato, is simply a shot of espresso with some foamed milk. This was a single shot of espresso with a dollup of hot milk!

I have had a decent espresso macchiato from the Pumpkin Cafe chain at railway stations before, so was unimpressed with this effort. I was going to complain, but ran out of time as I was heading for a train.

Now checking the wikipedia, I can see that globally there is a fair amount of varation in how people interpret the macchiato, in some cases it appears to be more like a flat white than a small espresso based coffee.

Next time, I will be more explicit about what I want when I order.

The Cortado

Back in 2009 I was in New Zealand for a conference and was introduced to the Flat White.

According to Wikipedia:

Originating from Australia and New Zealand, a Flat White is a coffee beverage prepared by pouring steamed milk from the bottom of steaming pitcher over a single shot or double shot of espresso. As with many other espresso-based drinks the Flat White is interpreted in a number of ways. In Australia it is commonly served as a single shot of espresso, whereas in New Zealand it is more commonly served using a double shot.

Back in 2010 I started to notice that many coffee places, including the major chains were now selling the Flat White. I said back then

I have had it a few times now in the UK, from Costas and Starbucks and though nice, it’s not quite the same as a Flat White from New Zealand.

Having been a while since I was in New Zealand I have lost track of the true flat white experience.

Meeting up with Thom from New Zealand at a recent conference he confirmed that the Costa version of the Flat White was lacking, it was too big and wasn’t strong enough. When he tried to order a “proper” flat white, smaller cup, another shot, the barista couldn’t quite understand what he wanted, but did recommend the Cortado.

Cortado #altc #coffee #photo365

The Cortado originates from Spanish speaking countries and the word cortado is the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar (to cut).

The Costa version of the Cortado is not quite what a classic Cortado should be, but as a result is more like a Flat White from New Zealand.

Not sure if putting the drink in a glass adds anything, I would much prefer a cup, but despite that I did enjoy the coffee and would certainly order it again.

The Green Coffee Machine in Cheltenham

The Green Coffee Machine

A colleague at work had recommended that I visit The Green Coffee Machine, an independent coffee place quite close to Cheltenham Railway Station. I had seen it a fair few times as I travelled to and from work by train, but until recently had never had the chance or the time to pop in.

I much prefer independent coffee shops to the high street chains, I find that they have more personality, the staff care about the coffee and the food is usually better and more tasty.

Having arrived much earlier into Cheltenham than I normally do, I took the opportunity to give The Green Coffee Machine a try. I was pleased to find that it opened early, it was 7:45 which isn’t that early, but I know other places that don’t open until 9:00am or even later. I was on the Gloucester Road in Bristol the other morning and I wanted a coffee, the local independents were closed, so I had to go to Costa for a coffee. The other morning in Gloucester I was going to grab a quick espresso at the Portivo Lounge in the Quays, but it didn’t open until 9am. So to be honest I was expecting The Green Coffee Machine to be closed, so was pleased to find it was open.

I received a friendly greeting and I ordered a flat white and some toast. I had considered ordering an Americano, which is usually my way of comparing coffee from different places, but I really felt like drinking a flat white. What was really nice was after ordering I didn’t need to wait around, I was told I could sit down and my coffee and toast would be brought to my table.

Sitting down I was able to take in the asthetics and design of the environment. It’s quite eclectic in terms of furnishing and decoration. It in my mind mashes together two different styles that doesn’t quite work. There is a design asthetic that takes slate with (usually lime green) plastic. If you have ever been to the Tea Monkey in Bath you will know what I am talking about and it works quite well, modern, clean and ever so slightly futuristic. The other design style is what you find in somewhere like Coffee#1, wooden floors, reclaimed wooden furniture, comfortable relaxing sofas (preferably weathered leather). What The Green Coffee Machine has done has mashed those two styles together, so you have the modern fresh slate floor complete with lime green plastic chairs, alongside really nice leather Chesterfield sofas and weirdly cable drums as tables.

The Green Coffee Machine

As a result, for me, it doesn’t work. I think a slate and lime green look would have worked really well, likewise a retro wooden design would have worked equally well.

They are not alone in mashing styles together, Portivo Lounge in the Gloucester Quays has done something similar, wooden inside, and green (and also orange) plastic chairs outside. That doesn’t work either!

So what about the real stuff, the main reason for going, the coffee?

Flat White at The Green Coffee Machine

Well I really enjoyed the Flat White, it was great coffee and the milk was exactly the right consistency, not too foamy and not too milky. There was no feather, but let’s be honest that’s just trying to be flash. I really enjoyed the coffee and it tasted of coffee.

Toast at The Green Coffee Machine

The toast, though nice and hot, with generous portions of butter and jam (and no little packs of butter either, which I do prefer) I was slightly disappointed that they were using a standard loaf of Hovis. They had just bought it from the Tesco next door! Okay, so toast is toast, but some proper artisan bread would have been so much more preferable than sliced bread from the supermarket. It looked like they were using rustic French bread on the menu, so not totally out of the question. In a traditional British cafe (as in caff) you expect them to use sliced bread, but in a place like The Green Coffee Machine I had expectations, especially as it was Cheltenham, that they would use proper bread.

Overall I did quite like the atmosphere, the service was excellent, the coffee was great, if you don’t mind a slighty confused design and decor and avoid the toast, then it’s a really nice place to spend time drinking coffee.

Flat White

Ever since visiting New Zealand I have had a fondness for the Flat White. It can be challenging to find a decent Flat White in the UK, despite the widespread adoption by coffee chains of the Flat White; unless the barista knows what they are doing, you may think you are getting a flat white, but you get a disappointing cappuccino instead.

Drinking coffee #366photosI was pleased the other day to order a Flat White in my local Costa and I got a really good Flat White, perfect.

The coffee was good, the milk was steamed to the right creamy consistency and even the pattern on the top was sharp and remained as I drank the coffee.

Hopefully the next time I get a Flat White just as good.