Top 5 Worst Coffee Gifts

If you are a coffee snob then certainly you’ve received a coffee related gift that you were less than thrilled about. Of course it’s the thought that counts, and regular people just don’t know any better, but come on. Who thinks of some of this stuff?

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#1 The French Press Coffee Tips

Think you have to have a brewer that costs hundreds of dollars to make a quality cup of java? NO, you can produce a superior cup of coffee with the cheapest method going, they French Press. The underrated brewer is very inexpensive and easy to use.

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Chinese Teacups Review

Chinese Teacups Review - which cups are best?In this Chinese teacups review I’ll go over a few things I’ve discovered online.

Many Chinese people are meticulous in regards to tea wares, the reason being that tea wares (such as teacups and teapots) play an integral role in the preparation of tea. A proper Chinese tea ceremony would not be truly successful without the use of proper utensils. In fact, it has been said that the true essence of a Chinese tea ceremony could not be experienced if the tea utensils involved were not the right type or of the best standard.

One of key items in the typical Chinese tea set is the Chinese teacup. These days teacups come in different designs and forms, and vary depending on their intended use. This article will detail three of the best-known and most popular Chinese teacups currently available and which can be found online on many websites.

Filtering Tea Cups

As the name suggests, tea drinkers primarily use a filtering teacup or mug to filter the tea. This kind of Chinese teacup is usually designed and crafted with internal filters:

* Poet Filtering Teacup–a perfect companion for enjoying loose tea leaves, this Chinese teacup is actually a porcelain mug. It comes with an internal porcelain filter and its own lid, allowing room for tea leaves to expand and provide full infusion of the leaves. This variety of Chinese teacup commonly depicts a picture of a Tang dynasty poet inspired by outdoor beauty.

* Yixing Clay Filtering Mug–The Jiangsu province, an area situated 120 miles northwest of Shanghai China, is the home of this teacup. The Yixing wares have enjoyed a reputation as the best vessels for tea for centuries. They were made from purple clay and are said to absorb the flavors and aroma of the tea. This style of Chinese teacup also has the ability to withstand high temperatures and is slow to conduct heat. This allows the handle to remain comfortably cool to the touch even when the cup contains particularly hot tea. And, of course, this Chinese teacup has an internal filter.

Specialty Chinese Tea Cups

* Four-Season Character Teacup — With four-season calligraphy characters on all sides, this is an exquisite porcelain teacup which lives up to its name.

* Small Peony Flower Gaiwan — As implied by its name, a lovely peony flower design adorns this porcelain Gaiwan. Becoming popular during the Chine Dynasty in China, Gaiwan actually originated from Ming Dynasty. While small enough to be held comfortably for drinking, this Chinese teacup is large enough to accommodate tea brewing, as its origins would suggest.

Cast Iron Chinese Tea Cups

* Black Cast Iron Teacup–Having long been considered as perfect for enjoying tea, this teacup can serve as a great companion for any cast iron teapot. Being a classical teacup, it is made from sturdy iron and has enamel coating on the interior that prevents rusting. Worth noting is that this Chinese teacup now comes in different colors.

I hope this Chinese teacups review helps you form a better understanding of what’s available – and don’t forget – if you have someone in your life who loves tea, one or more of these different types of teacups could make a perfect gift :-)

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Whole Bean Coffee – My Review

Whole bean coffee tastes delicious!

Whole bean coffee tastes delicious!

Whole bean coffee is really the only way to go if you love your coffee.

If you are a bit of a coffee snob/evangelist like me, then you probably know that already. Whole bean coffee stays fresh much longer, and if you brew it right after grinding it, you get a flavor you simply can’t reproduce from pre-ground coffee that’s been sitting around for a short time. Even only mediocre whole bean coffee brands taste pretty good if brewed straight after grinding.

I’ve been told that you can find some of the best whole bean coffee in Costa Rica. As an area well-known for its coffee, my friend Karen was keen to try some genuine Costa Rican brews during her visit there last year and told me she was in love with it. If you visit Costa Rica you’ll no doubt want to make the experience last as long as possible, so do try to bring back as much coffee as will fit in your suitcase – but don’t forget to check the Customs requirements before you do so. You don’t want to have to leave your bags of coffee at the airport, do you?

Knowing for a fact that the freshness is much better preserved when the beans are yet to be ground, bring back whole bean coffee as it has a much longer shelf-life than ground coffee.. When you get home, put the bags into the freezer, and leave one out for immediate use. When you first grind your newly-purchased whole bean coffee, the aroma will  transport you back to Costa Rica, and you’ll be in a coffee-drinkers’ haven for as long as those packets last. If you bring back coffee that’s already been ground, it will have lost a lot of its unique flavor – so only bring back the beans.

While grinding whole bean coffee means that you may need to buy a coffee grinder, you may be thinking it could be a pain to clean, but if you think of it as an essential step to the best cup of coffee you can make, you won’t find it such a big task. Think of it like the Japanese Tea Ceremony – each small step is required to create the ultimate cup of fresh coffee with an aroma to die for.

On the other hand, the majority of coffee drinkers I know don’t even have a coffee grinder; their biggest effort is scooping out coffee powder into a machine and pushing a button – that’s the extent of their coffee making experience, and that’s ok too. It just depends on the experience you want to have for yourself.

Of course, there is something nice about just being able to add some already ground coffee in a machine and having a pot brewed in just a couple of minutes with not much effort. For this reason, I usually keep both whole bean coffee and already ground coffee on hand (in the freezer). Whenever I’m in a rush, I can use the ground coffee, and if I’ve got time to relax I’ll grind up some fresh whole bean coffee to enjoy the whole process and then to savor its taste.

So if you can, grab a bag of whole bean coffee next time you go shopping (or travelling to places like Costa Rica!), you won’t regret it – I promise :-)

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Luscious Latte at Adrian Zumbo Patisserie, Rozelle

Adrian Zumbo Patisserie

I had an early appointment this morning, so only managed a few bites of a small apple for breakfast as I dashed out the door. When the meeting was over and I was driving home, I remembered a Patisserie I’d been meaning to investigate, so I turned into Darling Street, Rozelle and ducked down a side street, hoping my memory would serve me correctly … and it did – there was Adrian Zumbo Patisserie.

The Adrian Zumbo Patisserie is on a corner behind Darling Street, in an inner west Sydney suburb called Rozelle. Unprepossessing from the outside, it was a yummy nose-tingling aromatic adventure once I stepped inside the door.

In the glass counter I could see perfect rows of beautifully coloured French-inspired macaroons, a veritable rainbow with flavours like: Milk With Tea, Sticky Date Pudding and even Chocolate Coated.

On the counter top were gorgeous little clear boxes filled with a variety of heart-shaped macaroons, tempting me as they sparkled in the morning light. Sam, the Barista, told me they will last for approximately 4 days if kept in the fridge, so not to buy them till ready to give as a gift or eat.

While Sam made me my first Adrian Zumbo latte, I took in the decor – not really a café where one can sit at a table and relax, but there is a bright red counter-top below plate glass windows looking into the kitchen where a multitude of chefs prepared all these yummy delicacies.

A tall baking stand on wheels was propped by the counter tip and was filled with all the well-known French pastries, and then some :-)

I opted for the Pain au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissant) and a plain Croissant, which were served on a little wooden chopping board. When the latte arrived, it was sheer bliss – strong enough, creamy enough, crema perfect, design on top GORGEOUS … and the taste-test proved that this was an excellent latte, made by an excellent Barista – Sam – who obviously loves his job and makes his coffees with all the due care and respect they deserve.

Adrian Zumbo Patisserie: Update February 2012

I’ve been back to Adrian Zumbo Patisserie several times since this first visit, and each visit is less than rewarding. The croissants have been second rate, and very disappointing. No tell-tale crunchiness (which I equate to freshness, although I’m sure these are baked the same day) – there’s something missing – could it be the skilled hands of crafted patissieres? I’m not sure what it is, but on opening the bag on arrival at home and eating the croissants with my own home-made latte, I feel sad and wistful as though I expect too much. But no. This patissiere has a well-known reputation. Something’s not quite right, and the quality of the croissants has been suffering for some time.

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Piccolo Padre Cafe in Rozelle

Enjoying my cafe latte at Piccolo Padre Cafe in Leichhardt, Sydney

My favourite local café is Piccolo Padre café in Rozelle (a suburb of Sydney, Australia).

I hadn’t been recently, so when I woke up this morning I knew exactly what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to have :-)

I headed up to Darling Street, Rozelle on the eastern side of Victoria Road, and I knew parking could be tricky as the weekend market is always a hive of activities … the search for parking is always a challenge.

I finally found a spot in one of the two free parking areas, collected my mail from my P.O. box, and stepped inside Piccolo Padre cafe.  Depending on the time of day and the mood of the staff, the music might be jumpin’ or laid back, and the clientele tends to have the toddlers with them in the mornings rather than the afternoons.

I arrived around 10:30am, so your guess would be as good as mine as to what the mood would be inside. There were a couple of tables with little folk (under school age kids), and it sounded like there was plenty going on out in the back courtyard, so I opted to sit at the big table at the plateglass window and watch the world go by. I decided not to take the laptop today so I could have a break from technology :-)

John the Barista yelled out a hearty hello and what-have-you-been-up-to from behind the coffee machine, and commented that he hadn’t seen me for a while. It’s this friendliness (as well as the coffee) and the sense of community which keeps me coming back. It had been a few weeks since my last visit, and I’d missed the vibe. The aromas of coffee and cooking were wafting on the breeze on this gorgeous spring morning amid the hubub of happy conversations, and I was mighty hungry by now — I ordered the Big Breakfast (and requested “no baked beans” – that’s just going a bit too far).

Cafe latte, thick and creamy, just the way I like it at Piccolo Padre cafe Leichhardt, SydneyBefore I even ask for it, John usually has a latte delivered to my table – just the way I like it – which adds to that special feeling of dropping in to your ‘local’. I guess it’s what blokes enjoy about visiting their ‘local’ – the pub – and the bar person knows their usual drink. Yes, I really like that feel-good feeling.

I savoured my latte and started reading a newspaper left on the table, grabbed the Travel section (I’ve got an eagle eye for spotting anything and everything about the city I love – Paris), and settled down amongst the plethora of cushions on the banquette seating at the big table.

Crowds came and went, as did latte #1 and #2, and the brekkie, and when I felt suitably relaxed and ready to face the world, I ambled out 2 hours later, knowing I wouldn’t need to eat again until dinner time (and maybe not even then).

I love Sundays … sometimes I meet friends in my local cafés and sometimes I visit solo, every visit is a memorable event of some kind in my joy of experiencing and drinking coffee.

Have a fabulous week wherever you are! I know I’m going to  :-)

Ciao for now,

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Cafe Mount St, North Sydney

I’ve been visiting Cafe Mount St in North Sydney a lot recently and grabbing a take-away coffee (or coffee-to-go), and on Tuesday I met up with Tony Hollingsworth in the chill of the morning.

We sat outside in the brisk wintry morning’s air and it was lovley to also meet JJ for the first time, a software developer.

I had contacted Tony to find out about the North Sydney Coffee Mornings as I wasn’t able to make it to my usual venue in Leichhardt for the Wednesday Inner West Sydney Coffee Morning – on Twitter as #wscm

It’s a funny story about how I got to find out this Nth Sydney meeting was in this particular cafe. One day last week I grabbed my “Sydney Coffee Morning” keep cup and popped it in my briefcase on my way to see a client.

When I got to the cafe and pulled it out, the Barista commented that I wasn’t the first one to bring this same coffee cup to his cafe. I was intrigued and found out it was Tony Hollingsworth who brought his “keep cup” along and hosted the North Sydney version of my favourite weekly meetings. I thought this was a pretty cool ‘6 degrees of separation’ story :-)

In fact I first found out about the Leichhardt group when I was searching online locally and came across – Tony Cosetino. I met up with Tony C in Leichhardt back in January, and have been part of the group ever since.

So the cafe – whose name escapes me (and who isn’t on Google Maps – yikes!) – is on Mount Street, south-side corner of Little Arthur Street in North Sydney.

They have toasted Turkish bread (with vegemite etc) and latte for the great price of $4.70 (together). The staff are friendly and the coffee’s great.

If you get a chance, pop in to say hello :-)


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Catherine & Piper Cafe Lilyfield

Catherine Piper cafe (Catherine & Piper) Lilyfield (Sydney)My review of Catherine Piper cafe in Sydney’s inner west

I recently came across the Catherine & Piper Cafe in Lilyfield, and today was my 2nd visit.

I’d been telling a friend about the Croque Monsieur, and she was eager to meet me there and check it out.

The Croque Monsieur arrives all alone on a large white plate, pierced through the heart with a green pimento olive on a long bamboo skewer.

First time I saw it, I thought, “Gee, is that it? Not much to eat …”

… and then I tasted it, and was so surprised – it tasted fantastic! A French Croque Monsieur traditionally has the cheese grilled on the outside – this has the cheese on the inside – but don’t let that fool you. There’s delicious ham inside, with a hint of mustard blended beautifully with the rich and yummy emmenthal cheese. No salad or frippery, but if you’re just looking for a yummy sandwich, this is delish.

Of course the next test is the coffee – so when the latte arrived, I gently breathed in the aroma and it smelled delicious. I slowly sipped – and got a shock of bitter crema – oh no! I tried another sip, and this time I tasted the creamy latte and all was right with the world.

A good reminder to not be put off on the first taste – perhaps it’s something you had just eaten beforehand. Give it a second chance, and it may turn out to be something truly delish.

Ahhh … two great sensations in the one cafe :-) My friend and I chatted for about three hours, talked about our website projects, our individual plans to create online products for our sites, how we’re going to go about that, and even came up with some great solutions :-)

A perfect end-of-winter day in Sydney’s inner west.

Have a great week!

Map for Catherine Piper Cafe

360 Catherine St, Lilyfield – Sydney’s inner west:,+360+catherine+st,+lilyfield+nsw&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=28.805654,64.863281&ie=UTF8&hq=catherine+and+piper+cafe,&hnear=360+Catherine+St,+Lilyfield+New+South+Wales+2040,+Australia&ll=-33.876324,151.164519&spn=0.007767,0.016243&z=16

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