It must be one of the most distinctive and evocative fragrances in the world: a cup of strong, fresh-brewed coffee. Even more powerful is the smell of roasting coffee, more difficult to encounter nowadays but still a treat in cities in which there are still shops that roast their own beans.
Coffee has been around for quite a while now, since the 15th century in Arabia, the 16th century in Europe, and the 17th century in North America. But it still comes as a surprise to find that many luxury hotels still seem to find it impossible to provide their guests with good, hot coffee at breakfast. By the time the waiter has arrived with the little white pot, the temperature of the liquid inside is at best luke-warm. There ought to be a guide to ‘hotels capable of serving hot coffee.’ After all, it’s not rocket science. Even the tiniest bar in Italy has an espresso machine that produces fresh, hot coffee, served in cups that are pre-warmed simply by being stored on the top of the espresso machine.
There are lots of types of coffee, and lots of ways of making it. There are a few tips that are good for whatever the beans and machine. For example, keep the coffee maker clean, to ensure that the flavour of the brew is that of the fresh coffee alone. Purchase fresh-roasted beans regularly: flavour is best when beans were recently roasted, and are fresh-ground. Use cold filtered tapwater, if your tapwater tastes alright. Otherwise, mineral water can be used. Use a quality grinder, in which beans are ground (burr grinder) and not chopped.
The grind fineness depends on the method used to brew coffee. Coarse grinding is used for percolators (best avoided if you like good coffee) and cold brewing. The latter system is rather unusual in that the ground coffee is left in cold water for up to 12 hours, gradually filtering down through a felt filter and into a recipient. The resulting brew is less acidic and has a different taste when compared to hot-brewed coffee. It can be heated, or used for iced coffee. Medium ground coffee is used for French press pots and filter coffee systems. Fine-ground coffee is used for the traditional Neapolitan pot, in which water is heated to boiling, and then the pot is turned over so that the water filters through the coffee into the receptacle underneath. Extra fine grind is used for espresso machines and moka pots.
If it’s cappuccino, the milk should be fresh and unskimmed.
Here are some suggestions on where to get great coffee in some of the LUXOS cities:
Best coffee in London:
Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7QJ, tel. +44 207 5806 755. Tube station Oxford Circus. Open every day.
Best coffee in Paris:
Télescope, 5 rue Villedo, 75001 Paris. Open every day. Close to the Palais Royal gardens.
Best coffee in Milan:
Peck, Via Spadari 9, 20123 Milano, tel. +39 02 8023 161. This tea-room is above the Peck delicatessen. It’s the only place in Milan that understands what you want when you ask for a Barbagliata, an old Milanese blend of cocoa and espresso coffee topped with whipped cream.
Best coffee in Florence:
Caffé Serafini, Via Gioberti 168r, 50121 Firenze, tel. +39 055 2476 214. As well as the usual Italian range of coffees, you could try their Fornacino, in a small glass espresso cup with a little milk froth and chocolate flakes.
Best coffee in Rome:
Caffè Sant’Eustachio, Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82, 00186 Roma, tel. +39 06 6880 2048. Open every day until late.
Best coffee in Venice:
Torrefazione Marchi, Cannaregio 1337, Venezia, tel. +39 041 710 471. A small shop that roasts their own coffee.
Best coffee in Madrid:
Toma Café, Calle La Palma 49, 28004 Madrid, tel. + 34 917 025 620. Open every day, not far from Gran Via. Excellent coffee, good pastries.
Best coffee in Berlin:
Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Oderberger Straße 35, 10435 Berlin, tel. +49(0)171 5630 795. Open Mon-Fri 8.30 a.m.-7.00 p.m., Sat and Sun 10.00 a.m.-7.00 p.m. One of the few places in Berlin that roast their own coffee. Great coffee, good croissants.
Best coffee in Geneva:
Boréal Coffee Shop, Rue du Stand 60, CH-1204 Genève, tel. 022.310.69.60. Open Mon-Fri 7.00 a.m.-8.00 p.m., Sat and Sun 9.00 a.m.-8.00 p.m. Small, excellent coffee, free Wi-Fi, good music, good pastries.
Best coffee in Zurich:
Teecafe Schwarzenbach, Münstergasse 17, Zurich, Switzerland, tel. + 044 2611 380. Open Mon-Fri 8.00 a.m.-7.00 p.m., Sat 9.00 a.m.-5.00 p.m. Closed Sun. Established in 1864, they are still roasting and serving good coffee. Also good for hot chocolate and cheesecake.
Best coffee in Abu Dhabi:
Cafe Arabia, 15th Street between 2nd/Airport Road and 24th/Karamah, Abu Dhabi, tel. +971 2 6439 699. A community café, with books you can borrow, book clubs, writers’ groups, art exhibitions, talks and more, in an informal atmosphere on three floors, and a terrace with great views.
Best coffee in Dubai:
Armani-Peck, Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa, tel. 04 8883 444. Open every day 11 a.m.-11.00 p.m. Great coffee in cooperation with Peck (see under Milan above). Even the sugar-cubes are branded Armani!
Best coffee in Hong Kong:
Knockbox Coffee Company, 21 Hak Po Street, MongKok, Hong Kong. Open every day, 10.00 a.m.-10.00 p.m. They’ve just moved to these larger premises after their previous location in Central. Coffee quality is as high as ever.
Best coffee in Beijing:
Fisheye Café, S1-18, 1/F Sanlitun Village, 19 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District. Open 10.00 a.m.-10.00 p.m. Great coffee made from beans sourced from a number of countries. Lots of Lomo photography, free Wi-Fi.
Best coffee in Shanghai:
Amokka Café, Anfu Lu 201, 200040 Shanghai, tel. +86 21 5404 0998. Open every day, 7.00 a.m.-midnight. Located in the old French concession, a range of coffee and drinks, breakfast in the morning, right through to lunch and dinner.