Category Archives: Great coffee

Sefton Park Food Festival 2012…

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Saturday 1st September

Sefton Park, Liverpool

Following the bean is turning me into a bit of a foodie. Drinks and food kinda go hand in hand hence coffee and cake. Following this rule I am starting to take note of food festivals which are cropping up all over the place.

My first of the year (I say first as I intend there to be more) was Sefton Park Food festival 2012. I first came across Sefton park a few months ago while dating someone who lived in close proximity to said park. Just out of Liverpool centre it is a lovely place to go walking, sit and while away the hours in the sun (when we get it!) or sit and hear a band playing in the band stand. On a weekend there is 2 little cafes open by the lake, today the fields behind were sectioned off and rife with people all ready for a day of eating and drinking in the sun.

There were stands from all kinds of eateries in the Liverpool area such as Bem Brazil and Jamie’s, mixed in with stands with wine, local produce and spirits, all with reasonable prices. Just shows the difference having your food served up on a paper plate makes! Samples of wine, chocolate, bread and oils, cheese and old school cordials were sampled with no arm twisting involved! The chocolates tasted as good as they looked. The detail on them was beautiful making them too nice to eat… but that’s what they’re there for!

A singer had no problem getting the crowd to sing along to classics from the likes of snow patrol. I think at this point in the day the wine and cider consumed was helping. Behind, a small central section was devoted to coffee houses. Back to back stands, anyone in the coffee culture was there. Our friends at Central Perk had their quirky personalised cups while Bold Street Coffee had their unique brownies.

As Bold Street Coffee is said to be THE place to get coffee in Liverpool I thought I would get my cappuccino there. While waiting I was intrigued by their selection of brownies on the counter- goats cheese, pistachio and even topped with bacon! Not appealing but Tannie wanted to try something new so opted for the goats cheese. The Barista informed me it was raspberry flavoured, this still did not tempt me and bacon on top, wrong!

I must say the fact my cappuccino came in a paper cup and was one of the best coffees I’ve ever had says a lot. The care was still there even down to the foam art. We sat in the sun amidst others enjoying their food and drinks and tucked into our purchased cakes and satisfying coffees. Discussing trying new foods Tannie told me of her experience with a truffle salad in Milan. Chocolate in salad? I asked. No- an expensive salad due to the fact the truffle is from inside a tree trunk which has to be sniffed out by dogs. I had never heard of this but eating bits of bark in my leaves was not something I would be trying. What I found out the next day is that truffle is a delicacy and is actually a fungus on trees and is sniffed out by a pig. I don’t know what sounds worse Tannie’s version of truffle or the real one!

The day drew to a close at 6pm. Not quite ready for evening food and not ready to call it a day there was only one thing to do…go for a coffee!

Single coffee snob…

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As my summer holidays draw to a close I’d like to say a big thank you to all the people who have supported my blog through viewing posts /recommending.  I am currently close to 1000 views which is amazing!

Something which started off as a means of passing my summer holidays has now become a kind of hobby as it  has  opened doors to a whole little coffee world out there.  I had no idea so many people are interested in coffee or coffee shops (they serve tea too!) So what should be drawing to an end is actually only really the start. The  list of coffee places to visit that I  write is ever growing, with more interesting places popping up all of the time. 

I have also become a coffee snob. 6 weeks ago a cappuccino consisted of 1/3 coffee,  the rest froth and topped with a sprinkling of chocolate. And I accepted this. Not now. Not now I have tasted real, delicious coffee, made by people who love making coffee. Do I get impatient if it takes a while to get my coffee? No, because I know that a decent cappuccino is on its way.

So far I have found out

  • chocolate spoils the taste of the coffee-a true barista won’t sprinkle chocolate on top            
  • a great cappuccino fills a cup
  • great coffees have interesting foam art
  • good baristas let the milk settle before adding to the coffee
  • barista is the name of a coffee bar tender.

We drink coffee

  • whilst reading-morning papers, 50 shades, chick lits, emails
  • as a rest bite
  • to pass time whilst waiting for someone
  • to wake up
  • to keep going
  • as a premis for a first date
  • while catching up with friends.

A while ago most cafes sold regular coffee, now a days most sell cappucinos and lattes. It seems that by doing so they can label themselves as a coffee house. Don’t be fooled by this! Some are great little cafes but they don’t sell truly great coffee. Some are not great cafes but have become glorified greasy spoons by the fact they sell cappuccinos and lattes. The real coffee houses are places that serve up great coffee and even specialised tea.  

I started this blog to find interesting cafes/places to have coffee and catch ups. This has changed without me even realising it to finding places which serve great coffee. So because of this I have put 2 categories on my blog-

  1. Recommended- this is for great little cafes/coffee shops

Teacup, NQ, Manchester/Ivy Deli, Monton/Central Perk, Liverpool

  1. Great coffee- this is for places which serve great coffee

HomeSweetHome, NQ, Manchester/ Laynes Espresso, Leeds/ Franco’s Saltaire/North Tea power, NQ, Manchester

There are places I visited that I would not recommend so they did not make it on my blog.

So far top of my list is North tea Power in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. It has a loft apartment feel to it with the stripped floor boards and steel beams. People sip coffee at leisure while chatting, meeting, using lap tops or admiring the latest art gracing the walls. I met my mum and niece in the week and took them there for a brew stop pre shopping spree. My niece’s hot chocolate didn’t last long, the florentine met all of our approval and as always the coffee made me say ‘that’s a great coffee’. My mum liked the place (it was busy inside and out ) and asked me  ‘Have you not pulled here ?’ Even my mum noticed the amount of men who frequent here!

So,  it seems find yourself a great coffee place and men appreciate it too. I’m  thinking drinking coffee while perving over men may be added to the above list soon…who’s joining me?

You’ve been dumped…

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Sunday 26th August

Edge Street Party, Northern Quarter, Manchester.

Joining me-Catherine

I woke to a text from a friend asking if I fancied coffee, cake and a catch up. As if I was going to say no. I knew there was a street party happening in the Northern Quarter Manchester and considering they have great cafes this seemed a good place to meet. A quick stop for food at Simple (fry up) and then into Tib Street. Luckily at this point the rain had stopped and people had began to surface. Gazebos, tables, benches, buskers, buntin, bars, food stalls and dj’s were all out in force. The NQ was not going to be beaten by the rain!

The clouds clearedhref=”https://coffeecakeandme.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/img_0866.jpg”> the roads dried and the sound of funk, soul and dance classics coming from various dj stands dominated the streets. Taking advantage of the sun we sat amongst the crowd and opted for cold fruit cider. It’s through my new venture in the cafe world that I have found out about things going on in cities. You would never think that the places we pop in for a coffee are part of a sub culture of events, art, music and gatherings. I have decided I am part of the foodie/coffee group and it tastes good! With only one week of my holidays left so far following the bean has taken me to cities, street parties, spending time with friends, finding new places and a few dates. It has also turned me into a coffee snob!

Being with someone who doesn’t drink hot drinks places such as Home Sweet Home are perfect. Having a bar in a cafe/coffee shop is a perfect idea. While Catherine opted for a wine I managed to get my coffee fix. Due to the set up of the day cakes were limited. Having spotted someone on another table with what looked like small cakes on a chopping board I thought I’d have what they’re having.

A great coffee arrived and a wooden board, on it a glass of milk and 5 freshly made to order choc chip cookies. Random sized they looked and smelled delicious. They did not disappoint. Warm with crunchy edges and soft moist centres they went down a treat! Milkshakes were popular and looked thick and tasty.

Both being single our meets always involve a catch up on the dating front and familiar situations always crop up. The mobile phone generation has made texting the most common way of communicating. It also makes things very easy. Like rejecting someone. It avoids confrontation or even having to verbally say it to someone or having to get into a conversation about it. But that’s if you’re lucky.

I say this because despite the fact texting makes difficult situations very easy it is growing ever more common to suddenly hear nothing. One minute you’re planning when you’re next seeing them or a first date, the next you send a text and in return you get nothing. Not a cancellation, let’s rearrange or a sorry but I’ve changed my mind. All of those things easy to do over a text or so you’d think but, apparantly not. Or is it? I think it is if you’ve got manners. Ignoring texts is rude and leaves someone on the other end wondering what is going on. This type of behaviour goes on from men despite their age. Not something exclusive to young guys and boys, surely you would expect better from a man in his 40’s? Infact it appears the older the man the worse the problem. This usually is the case when some sort of ‘situation’ is going on at their end. Instead of communicating this with you the contact stops. So, if one minute you’re getting lovely texts but the next you don’t hear from them consider yourself ‘dumped’!

Plucking where at Teacup?…

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August 17th 2012

Thomas Teacup.

Joining me-Tannie and Becky.

A quick walk round the corner and we were at Teacup. My last visit was at the Jubilee party and although it was quiet indoors it was manic outside. The service was shocking -getting our drinks (after asking for them 3 times) after we had eaten and a carrot cake that was dry and crumbled so much it was difficult to eat. But it comes highly recommended and so I was open to try again on an average day.

The large counter adorned with cakes on stands is a feast for the eyes. My picture only shows half of the counter! They even have a cake menu-yes a menu just with cakes, even more than on the counter. No wonder cake lovers love it here.

The service was immediate and helpful. Only serving a one sized cup, which is large, I needed something smaller ie less caffeine. The waitress recommended a one shot flat white. Standard is 2 shots in a small glass with a layer of foamy milk. Ordered with pear cake.

It was just what I needed. Served in a small glass was like a cross between a latte and an americano. To be honest it didn’t taste much different from a latte but I’m sure it would with the standard 2 shots in it. One to try earlier in the day. The pear cake didn’t last long . You know when something is good, it goes quiet. Tannie was happy. I was much more impressed this time now Teacup goes into my recommended category.

Becky joined us and somehow the conversation got onto the subject of murderers. I should have known mixing someone studying forensic psychology and someone with an obsession of notorious murderers was going to lead to table talk delving in sexual depravity. How could I not ? This conversation went on a while (we needed to eat again so moved to an eatery down the road). What was worrying was the fact the obsessive knew more than the one studying. She even proudly spoke of how she has visited areas linked to some murders. Thankfully she went on to discuss her fascination was with why people do these horrific crimes. O.k she did also talk knowledgeably about what they did, but I’m not feeling scared in her presence , just yet. From the conversation what I did realise about my friend is that 1) she knows what not to do (so you don’t get caught) 2) she’d plea mentally insane and 3) she reads some twisted articles before she goes to sleep.

From murderers the conversation shifted to the topic of hair removal. Becky explained the procedure she’s recently had for permanent hair removal. Tears to eyes springs to mind, apparently it’s sensitive on the shin area. I didn’t like the sound of having to pluck the dying hairs. Sorry but the thought of tweezers in the nether regions does not appeal to me. Becky had a simpler solution, sellotape. Easier to find than masking tape but not as harsh. I suppose it’s waxing with sellotape. Like de fuzzing clothes but de fluffing the body.

As the numbers start to rise you want to keep yourself nice and neat and not just for the obvious reasons,. Keeping on top of your game, being prepared is paramount. Hair goes grey everywhere. ”I’m not putting nice and easy there” and with that we all nodded. Well what can you say?

And that is the beauty of women’s conversations-the ability to one minute be talking about murderers and the next be talking bikini waxing!

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Florentine heaven at North Tea Power…

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August 17th 2012

Joining me-Tannie

North Tea Power, Northern Quarter, Manchester

Friday coffee and cake is becoming the new friday club. It used to consist of 4 of us meeting for tea and then ending up in a late one and a bad head the following morning. Now it’s become a civilised affair with a love of feeling ‘normal’ the next day, that’s not to say wine won’t be involved again. Tonight North Tea Power was on the agenda to try.

A comfortably sized coffee shop with an urban feel of steel posts and large wooden tables. I really like the feel of the place as although it wasn’t busy you could imagine it as a great place to get chatting to people due to its sociable layout-benches, large central wooden table and outdoor seating. The previous night it had showcased an artist’s pictures ( I found this out through following NTP on twitter) which tells me this is not just your run of the mill 9-5 coffee shop.

To Tannie’s disappointment the cake options were very slim, just the remains of the day on the counter. I on the other hand was not ,large florentines were staring right at me! A choice of alcoholic drinks also available and a light bites chalk board. I ordered my usual (cappuccino) and a florentine and Tannie opted for a sandwich and a small latte. She needed to re fuel after an afternoon exam (psychology, so not so easy-going). The drinks took a short while to arrive which was a good sign as the longer it takes to make a drink the better it tastes. I realised I had not said I didn’t want chocolate on but when the coffee came none had been put on, again a good sign.

The coffees were lush, falling into my great coffee category, which fills the criteria of no bitter afer taste, dense foam like topping and a full cup. The florentine was the best I’ve ever tasted and plenty of it. There are a number of people who choose to sit outdoors so, being checked on by staff could tempt people to have more than the one cup.

We had one small problem. Tannie hadn’t had her cake fix and considering she had just finished her exams she deserved a little of what she wanted. I agreed to give Teacup another try.

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A little taste of Italy…

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Sunday 12th August

Joining me-Lisa and family

Franco’s, Saltaire

Tip-say no to the chocolate sprinkles,  the kids won’t be interested in your drink and will harass the person who has!

This is a little deli frequented by my friend’s family for the past 6 years. It comes recommended by my friend, her parents and her children. Owned by an authentic half Italian /half polish gent it caters for both cultures by selling Polish and Italian food staples and meals. Considering it was a Sunday afternoon it was a buzz with a mixed clientel,  from families to groups of young people,  sat around the small round tables. Despite this there was a relaxed atmosphere with a random soundtrack in the background, that somehow fit.

Franco’s is open day and evening serving quality home-made food such as meatballs or pasta for under £5.oo. Its value for money is second to none-no wonder it is a hit any day of the week and with families. A choice of 3 drink sizes with a large coming in just under £2.00 (bargain).  Or if you fancy a beer they sell alcoholic drinks. Gelato and homemade cakes and scones were the offerings for our afters. Saying no to the chocolate sprinkles our coffee and generous sized home-made carrot cake arrived. This is a classic of don’t judge a book by its cover.

As you can see from the picture the cake looks dark and a tad crispy on the edges and the coffees look less than perfect. The coffee once again had the creamy foam topping as opposed to the usual  air bubbled froth and the cake lasted a couple of minutes if that. It was delicious. The orange zest lifted the flavour with a hint of ginger whilst the sponge was moist , sweetened by the thin layer of cream. Loved by young and old.

I asked the man how he got the creaminess on top of the cup. When in a coffee que you notice them steaming the milk etc but of late I have been drinking in places where they bring it to you. He explained that when you steam the milk it foams with lots of air bubbles to start, at this point you leave the milk to settle in the jug rather than in the cup (this is why your cappuccino shrinks to a third of the cup very quickly). Once the milk has settled in the jug spoon it onto the coffee. Walla…dense foamy cappuccino and a full cup!

So it seems the people who really know how to make coffee treat the milk with a little more patience than others , resulting in the best coffee. Now you don’t get that in a ‘coffee for the masses’ shop.

I am becoming a coffee snob!

Coffee and eye candy at Laynes Espresso..

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Saturday 11th August 2012

Joining me-Lisa

Laynes Espresso, Leeds

One of the things which became apparent very quickly once starting this, is that I am supporting the independent coffee shop/cafe which is being swamped by the surplus coffee chains which serve coffee to the masses. Loved by many but lacking any originality. I want something more…. handmade/homemade cake.

I came across Laynes through my friend who calls regularly for her wake up call on the way to work and on an internet search as one of the coffee places listed on a Leeds coffee crawl. Being round the corner of the railway station it meant we didn’t have to walk far before we got a coffee fix. ”The only problem is that I’m wired by the time I get to work” was Lisa’s confession. Caffeine affects her the same as it does me. With this in mind I used my new-found knowledge and enlightened my friend to the one shot cappuccino. ”I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not as now I’ll be able to drink more, ” she said after.

Laynes is a small espresso bar you could easily walk past if you’re rushing for the train, work or don’t know it’s there. This would be a shame as it is a delightful little place which serves a cracking cuppa. Modern with tall bars to sit or stand at (typically Italian) and a choice of cakes and pastries. I believe there is also some choice of food available. To top it off Dave also comes highly recommended!

My coffee was excellent, the second of its type with the creamy foam that mixes seamlessly with the coffee below. How do they do this? Whilst we were sat at the window bar a mixture of clientel passed through its doors. One person asked ”Can I have one of your amazing coffees?” It’s obviously getting a good reputation. Lisa wanted us to talk to Dave about coffee, I wasn’t sure if she was trying to get me some coffee tips, be a good wing man or working on building her own repoire with Dave ha.

I didn’t enhance the ambience by playing a voice mail a friend had left on speaker, a blast from the past-hardcore uproar. Get to Office for your Kicker boots (yes they are on sale there) and root out your puffa jacket!