back to article Nuts to your poncey hipster coffees, I want a TESLA ELECTRO-CAFE

Tales from Bohemia, Silicon Roundabout style: in which intrepid explorer Alistair Dabbs goes in search of a cup of coffee in London's Silicon Roundabout tech district traffic feature... Indie cafe 1: Large soya latte, please. Am told they don’t do them in large. They weren’t wrong – drink is served in a vessel smaller than a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get a decent grinder, a Rancilio pump machine and a regular posted coffee bean order from Dave coffee* and then lean how to extract a decent espresso and on demand caffeine shakes can be yours.

    Or drink tea.

    * name has been changed to prevent unauthorised advertising.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I can't stop myself here. I must really love downvotes (given the site I'm posting on)...

      I don't get this espresso thing. Perhaps I've just not drunk the right stuff, but I've drunk quite a bit of it and there only seem to be 3 flavours of espresso. Pathetically weak and watery, rancid or strong and quite nice.

      Since the beans have been roasted to buggery, I've yet to detect significant difference in the taste of different espressos. Although I've read that there's been a recent fashion for using medium roasted beans, in order to get a fruitier coffee flavour into it. Which many espresso fans don't apparently like.

      So you need a decent machine. Or possibly (so I've heard) one of those aeropress thingies? But you don't need to grind freshly, so long as you're not just shoving the ground stuff in the cupboard for several weeks.

      What's then truly disappointing is when you ask for coffee and get watered-down espresso. Which is Americano as I understand it. Mostly what I want to drink is coffee. Get some light/medium roasted beans, grind and place in hot water. Drink black. Savour flavour. If I can't have that, I'll take a cappucino or cafe au lait. Or black tea.

      Is a flat white more like a cafe au lait? I think we suffer from the collision of American and European terminology. So a latte doesn't seem to be the same as a cafe au lait, it's more like a coffee-ish milkshake.

      I'm happy to be educated about espresso, and pointed in the right direction to learn the 'error of my ways'.

      1. Swarthy

        I do believe that 'flat white' is cafe au lait, which is brewed coffee & milk. A latte is 1/3 espresso combined with 2/3 steamed milk (may or may not be frothed); a cappuccino is 1/2 espresso and 1/2 steamed and frothed milk.

        I personally have been experimenting with a light roast espresso, and have been quite happy so far.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Cappuccini vs Latte

        For a good espresso, the beans must be freshly ground (at least that day). Espresso sort of steams the surface of the grounds for a few seconds rather than soaking them through for 4 minutes. For this to work properly, the coffee must be ground very fine. Since the coffee is ground very fine all the volatile oils are exposed (which is the point) and will go rancid quite quickly.

        I don't know what 'flat white' is but assume it is (drip) coffee with milk. A basic latte is one shot of espresso and about 4 shots of steamed milk with a dab of froth on top for garnish. A basic capuccino is one shot of espresso, one shot of steamed milk and one shot of foamed milk. An Americano is one shot espresso, 4 shots hot water. Like at the bar, you can ask for any of those double (twice everything) or long (one shot, more mixer).

        Americano is arguably better than drip coffee with lower caffeine (less bitter) and more flavour. It also has the advantage that it is the freshest possible cup of coffee, no matter how much or how little coffee you sell, each cup can be made to order from whole beans in just a minute or two.

        All that said, if you want a good, large cup of drip-like coffee from a shishi espresso bar, try ordering a double americano with hot water on the side (so you can stretch it to taste).

        Before you think I'm a coffee snob, I've done my time behind a machine but most of my takeout cups have a yellow M on them these days (free wifi too).

        1. Frallan

          Re: Cappuccini vs Latte

          My (coffe) teacher always told me that more than 30 secondes between grinder and machine and more than 15 seconds (so be quick - these 15 seconds are with or without the steam flowing so put it in let it rest for 20 sec => waste bin + grind new coffe) in the machine would ruin the coffe for an espresso. I live by this rule and it serves me well.

          Just my 2 drops

      4. illiad

        If you want to get *proper* espresso..

        you need to go to Portugal .. spain or france may do it, but I dont know personally..

        And then DO NOT go to the big shops that sell 'english friendly water' :P :)

        find a small cafe outside town, where the Portuguese go to drink espresso!

    2. stu 4

      Soya latte !!!,!,

      Come and ask for that in Glasgow you big Jessie .

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Mostly what I want to drink is coffee. Get some light/medium roasted beans, grind and place in hot water. Drink black. Savour flavour."

        Your problem here is a case of definition, I suspect.

        Coffee - or rather, a coffee beverage is dependent on Ohhhh so many factors and so many ways of being made, there is no real bog standard.

        An espresso is considered by many to be the ultimate way to imbibe coffee, and when it is right it is SOOO right. Unfortunately, it isn't in most cases because of the lack of understanding by those making it. Just go to a starbucks in most places and ask for an espresso. Nasty isn't it? If you have a watery espresso, then that is NOT an espresso. It should almost have a slightly syrupy texture and taste, depending on the type of roast used, very smooth. Acidity and/or bitterness should be just the merest hints of suggestions

        I tend to drink Cappuccinos, espressos or a Long black/Americano. Technically Americano is water added to an espresso, whereas a long black is the espresso added to water - btw - cappuccinos are a third espresso, a third hot milk and a third Microfoamed milk Microfoam <> frothy btw. There is argument regarding a Latte and a flat white which is apparently from Australia, but could be considered a stronger latte, but a latte is simply an espresso with steamed milk added and a light layer of microfoamed milk on top where latte art is usually performed. A Cafe au lait is more your UK defined version of a coffee which is brewed in a percolator with milk added.

        If your Americano is weak, then you want to specify another shot. But the flavour this will produce is not the same as other methods of brewing coffee.

        I suspect that you would prefer, inferred from your post, a french press style of coffee. Using a coarser grind and same beans, you should get a slightly more rounded body, slightly less acidic or thin, than you would get with an Americano. You could certainly end up with a stronger brew that could be quite easy to drink, but the caffeine hit could be considerably higher than a double espresso content because you can easily have more coffee in there.

        Little experiment for those who regularly drink cappuccinos from the usual chains. Instead of ordering a medium or large, order the smallest one they do. If you normally have a double shot, then make sure they still do that double shot. I am fairly confident that the result will be far better than your usual. The problem also seems to be too much emphasis on quantity of water/milk in relation to the espresso base, in the case of chains.

        Coffee, like wine, is incredibly dependent on so many factors and the process of making it is a chemical explosion. Get it right and I promise you will never forget that experience. But it will tar you because you will require more out of any purchased drinks.

        If thos of you reading this don't see what the fuss is about please don't mock those of us who do enjoy searching for the best possible method to extract all the flavours possible of this amazing bean.

        1. SuccessCase


          Completely right. Personally though I recommend using the Aeropress coffee maker. It has geek credentials (designed by the Stamford University engineering professor who designed the Aerobie flying disk), is low cost, fast, convenient and makes awesome coffee. While it makes a great smooth, relatively acid free cup Americano or Latte, it doesn't make a true espresso. But having said that it does make a strong syrupy "espresso like" filter coffee drink that can best be described as it's own form of strong coffee. Like espresso it is an excellent base for Americano or Latte.

          Espresso has been around a long time and so has tradition behind it, but in all honesty I slightly prefer the Aeropress version. Perhaps due to the physics of the way the Aeropress works, it seems, for my taste, to produce a more consistent purer strong coffee. The Aeropress is basically like a big syringe plunger which ensures hot water gets pushed through the grounds under pressure, which means the coffee can be made with water at a lower temperature, can be made faster, while less acid and bitterness is released into the brew. Because the resulting brew is paper filtered it is very pure and the brew can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days just fine. Plus the Aeropress offers endless ways to tinker with the process and is far better than e.g. a French Press for avoiding the mess of sodden coffee grounds.

          If your into coffee I recommend getting one. Even if it doesn't turn out to be your coffee making device of choice, it's great fun to experiment with and at the price it's difficult to go wrong. At worst you will have the best highly portable coffee maker available for ensuring very good coffee brewing capability is always available to you when travelling.

          1. PhilBuk

            Americano is black piss. Make your coffee properly by infusion. Adding boiling water to a greasy expresso does not produce something that tastes of anything.


          2. Bsquared

            Aeropress for when you're far, far away from a barista

            What SuccessCase said. An Aeropress will cost you buggerall and make an excellent cup of coffee in less than 3mins, even when you're camping. You do have to clean the damn thing between cups, though. It doesn't do a great big pot for all your mates, so it's no good for dinner parties.

            And the disposable paper filters can be replaced with a stainless steel mesh one if you want to save the environment.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


          Nice post. You are correct that I go for a french press/cafetiere nowadays. I dumped my drip machine a while back, as it took up too much space and the hot plate seems to bugger up the second cup. So my nice stainless steel insulated jobbie comes and sits on the coffee table by my chair. It's so much easier.

          I probably need to do some investigation. To replicate tastes from my days living in Belgium, and trips to Spain/France. To repeat a good cafe au lait / cafe con leche is one job.

          At least I havve managed to copy the perfect mojito from the cuban bar I used to drink at in Brussels (they closed for a month in January to go home to Cuba, and August for a European holiday).

          I had a cheap-ish espresso machine with milk frother years ago, but it was too difficult to get consistent results. And I decided that I'd prefer the money in my pocket and do without. Plus the limescale in the South kills them.

          It is amazing how much you can get all trainspotter-y about food. And how far you can go, if you let yourself. My brother has started curing his own ham and bacon (and salmon). Next he wants to get into smoking. Then he'll be making sausages. That doesn't appeal to me. But I've already started making bread, and I want to do all my own cakes and biccies too. It's a question of experimenting and finding what's worth doing and what's too much trouble. I decided espresso was too much trouble. Perhaps I should try an air press though.

    3. Andrew Stevenson

      Espresso with milk

      As a person who puts a lot of milk in with the espresso, its been my understanding that the difference between a Rancillo and a Mokita isn't really noticeable after adding milk.

      If you drink it without milk then its worth the difference.

      Disclaimer: I put my Mokita and my grinder in a box about 2 years ago and have been using a Saeco X-Small since then. It takes a bit less space and I end up with a lot less coffee grounds on the counter.

  2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    What I want is a Tesla Café. I want it so powerfully wired up that all the teaspoons end up pointing north, migrating birds flying overhead get disorientated and there is a risk of any spike in the mains supply causing a puncture in the fabric of time itself.

    LOL - *love* it. As for Faraday cages, will that not actually provoke all the phones inside to switch to max transmission power?

    A worthy end to the week :).

  3. Dark haired lord of the undercliff


    Just take the espresso, or If you don't like coffee then drink tea. Enough with the ponsey coffee lightweight nonsence

    1. Kubla Cant

      Re: Espresso

      Not to mention the poncey lightweight coffee nonsense.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Espresso

      Yawn. I used to work with someone who used to tell me that the pizzas I liked weren't "real pizzas". Who gives a flying fuck? I'll eat what I like. I'll drink what I like.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's 2014! Doesn't everyone drink vodka now?

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: 2014

      Mine's a scotch. If you're getting them in, that is.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: 2014

      It's 2014! Doesn't everyone drink vodka now?

      Drink! Drink?

      It's 2014! One doesn't drink for heaven's sake. This is the future! One takes ones vodka in pill form. To do anything else would be terribly passe.

    3. tony2heads

      Re: 2014

      No - Irish coffee!

  5. Fading

    You think you have problems......

    Try getting a decently strong cup of black coffee anywhere.

    "did you want another shot of espresso in there?" No I did not want another shot of espresso, I wanted only espresso, up to the brim. And no, please no "Americano" watering down, I'd rather put ice in my whisky. Just fill the damn thing with espresso and begone from my sight.

    Some days it is only the caffeine induced shakes that keeps the blood flowing round.

    1. Dabooka

      Re: You think you have problems......

      A couple of months ago I met a colleague for a coffee in an independent coffee house in Sunderland (the End of the Earth). I was asked by the 'barista' if I wanted another shot.

      "Well that would depend on the size of the cup, how big is it?"

      "It doesn't make any difference, it only affects the strength"


      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: You think you have problems......

        They have their own compression algorithm

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: You think you have problems......

      Complaining they aren't a proper coffee-house because they won't sell you a cup of espresso is like complaining your Indian isn't a proper curry house because they don't sell vindaloo.

    3. Frallan

      Re: You think you have problems......

      My order is usually 2 espressos in one cup. And the do a Longo and I return it and say no pls 2 espressos one cup. After that i usually have to educate the barista about the difference of a ristretto, an espresso, a longo and (god forbid) an americano. I usually also have to ask about the bean blen since in this country everyonr seems to think that an espresso should be made using Arabica and not Robusta which offcource is BS.

      Just my 2 drops

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: You think you have problems......

        2 espressos in one cup. Is that a bit like a double espresso?

        You don't see ristretto that often but probably it's not very popular. My favourite would be espresso macchiato but that's not always available and often you'll get some frothy latte thing instead if you don't check.

  6. Milen

    Move to the US

    The land of big cups, free refills and abundant WiFi. Oh and customer service that depends on tips for their income and doesn't just shrug when asked for more (name will still be misspelled though).

    Judging by your article, I'd think you live in some third world country.

    1. Kubla Cant

      Re: Move to the US

      The US? The country that gave the world Starbucks?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Move to the US

        Or abundant free WI-FI because of the ridiculously priced home broadband connections that require your firstborn to be held as hostage should you wish to leave.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Move to the US

      Free refills? So that when you finally get the coffee/sugar/milk ratio right, and are halfway through your drink, some arsehole zooms past and brims it with coffee again?

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Move to the US

      Nobody does coffee like they do in Seattle.

    4. Dr_N

      Re: Move to the US

      The US is a possibility. Or just nip over The Channel to France....

    5. Flat Phillip

      Re: Move to the US

      I used to think that. A week and a half on the US west coast where my only goal (besides boring "work stuff") was to find decent coffee. No matter where I went the best coffee I found was to the level of "OK" and most was downright nasty. Basic things like overheating the milk, use beans that have taste and how about cleaning the machine every decade seemed to be overlooked.

      Arrived back in Sydney to the over-priced so-so coffee places in the airport (of all places) and had the best coffee for a week; only in a relative sense of course!

      The WiFi however, was very good.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Decent morning beverage?

    "First-world problems, eh? This is what it is like to ‘support your local independent coffee house’ – stumbling from one bunch of hopeless clowns to the next in an ultimately doomed hunt for a decent morning beverage."

    I don't see how the words 'decent morning beverage' and 'soya latte' belong in the same sentence, unless it's "Soya latte is the very definition of a product which is not a decent morning beverage."

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Decent morning beverage?

      In my experience Costa also does a better and more consistent double espresso (a proper morning beverage) than any of the indies who think that an espresso just means a small cup of weak coffee. Nero comes a distant second.

    2. dogged

      Re: Decent morning beverage?

      Our local Costa even serves caffe corretto, albeit with amaretto rather than grappà.

      It'll do.

  8. graeme leggett Silver badge

    meanwhile in the real world

    Majority of British small and medium business is fuelled on caffeine drawn from PG Tips and Nescafe Gold Blend - bought en masse from Macro (other wholesalers, and equivalent drinks, are available).

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: meanwhile in the real world

      > Nescafe Gold


      1. Shrimpling

        Re: meanwhile in the real world

        I wish we got Nescafe Gold... Our company only buys normal Nescafe for us.

        I buy my own instant coffee from Waitrose, currently drinking some Percol which is surprisingly good for instant coffee.

        1. Not That Andrew

          Re: meanwhile in the real world

          Luxury! We used to get some crappy chicory mix which tasted like dry cleaning fluid. So people started bringing their own coffee in or going to Costa

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: meanwhile in the real world

            Crappy chicory mix which tastes like dry cleaning fluid? Luxury! It could be Mellow Birds...

            1. Stoneshop

              Re: meanwhile in the real world

              Crappy chicory mix which tastes like dry cleaning fluid? Luxury! It could be Mellow Birds...

              And you have to lick it off the road from between the poisoned gravel and then work 26 hours a day?

      2. Neil Woolford

        Re: meanwhile in the real world

        And they always buy the catering size and *leave the lid off day and night* just to ensure that it is disgusting and nothing at all like coffee.

  9. Frankee Llonnygog

    Superb rant!

    First world problems indeed - but those are the best kind to have!

    Might I venture to suggest an addition to your Tesla Cafe? Along the lines of the vintage audio coffee shops in Japan, a pair of massive Western Electric horn speakers. Perfect for playing classical music with sudden VOLUME PEAKS to unsuspecting froth gurglers. My first encounter of such blasted the top off my flattie and left me having to prise my eardrums apart with a warm teaspoon.

  10. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    If you ask for soya 'milk'

    You deserve everything you get. Just ask yourself what process is used to turn a bright green bean into a white semi-opaque imitation of a cow's mammary excretions.

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: If you ask for soya 'milk'

      One that can be perfectly viable in ancient times, it seems.

      "The oldest evidence of soy milk production is from China where a kitchen scene proving use of soy milk was incised on a stone slab dated around AD 25–225."

      Not some modern hippy invention, as much as you'd love to believe.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: If you ask for soya 'milk'

        okay, so it's shit that's been around for yonks...

        still shit tho

        1. Piro Silver badge

          Re: If you ask for soya 'milk'

          Yeah, pretty much.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: If you ask for soya 'milk'

        I'm not trying to claim that there aren't any number of ingenious uses for soya beans, particularly in the Orient, from eating them boiled in their pods, to fermenting them to make sauces and miso, and processing to make tofu (evil though it is).

        Soya 'milk', however, would not historically have been used in China as a whitener for coffee - it's not only anachronistic, but geographically unlikely.

    2. Brenda McViking

      Re: If you ask for soya 'milk'

      Granted, soya milk may not be to everyones taste, but it has finally meant that I can go out for coffee with my lactose intolerant mum. As allergies and intolerances go, it's a rather rubbish one (though not the worst by far), as milk in the western world is in sooooo many products.

      Soya's image is really not helped when hipsters jump on the band wagon for animal rights and saving the planet purposes (which neither I nor Mum give a monkeys about) - but soya milk actually means she is able to drink something other than water, and even if I wouldn't drink it, the option is appreciated.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: If you ask for soya 'milk'

        You could drink coffee without milk in it.

        Or do what my wife does and carry these around in her purse...Lactofree portions

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Builders don't put up with this shit

    A proper cafe opens early, serves artery-hardening fried food all day, only lets you in with a high-viz jacket on, and has tea. The proper sort of tea. Tea that built an empire.

    There also might be a rat scurrying along the skirting board, but you can't have everything.

    There isn't any wi-fi either, but they do have a copy of the Sun.

    1. rhydian

      Re: Builders don't put up with this shit

      I remember stopping at an old style transport cafe near Swansea.

      It seems the couple running were from the continent, and therefore they had a proper coffee machine and a price list for Capuccino/Latte/Espresso/Mocha... the bottom there were listed separately "Coffee" and "Tea" (presumably for less continental wagon drivers)

    2. Bob Wheeler

      Re: Builders don't put up with this shit

      There is a greasy-spoon cafe at the far end of my local high street.

      Great food, full blown fry up, tea the spoon stands up in, but the real draw is that people go there for the free insults from the owner.

    3. Fullbeem

      Re: Builders don't put up with this shit

      The Sun - anatomy on page 3. Therefore, could The Sun be refered to as a medical publication?? lolz

    4. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Builders don't put up with this shit

      >>Tea that built an empire.

      I think the people who built the empire drank delicate tea from fine china cups, not a mug of stewed floor sweepings.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Builders don't put up with this shit

        "I think the people who built the empire drank delicate tea from fine china cups"

        You're thinking of the people who *ran* the empire.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Builders don't put up with this shit

          "You're thinking of the people who *ran* the empire."

          No, they drank whisky. The Scots "ran" the empire.

  12. Franco

    Do what I do - buy coffee in Greggs. This has two advantages. One, it's cheap and I'm in Scotland so they are on every corner. Two, there is no danger of someone asking me what flavour I want and getting punched in the trachea.

    Seeing as any place I know of with free WiFi is populated by Hipster morons wearing "ironic" glasses, I'll happily pass on that "perk."

    1. JDX Gold badge

      If you just want OK coffee, no frills, McDonalds is surprising good and very cheap. Also Wetherspoon, though they object to you trying to take it with you.

      1. Eradicate all BB entrants

        I really have ....

        ..... to disagree with the McDonalds recommendation. It tastes like they ran the warm tap over a single bean right after running a gallon of chemicals through the system. Have found that for burger joints that Burger King is more flavoursome.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: I really have ....

          Never tried BK coffee. However since coffee became "a thing" in the last 10 years, you can now actually get freshly made coffee virtually everywhere. It's rather uncommon to find places serving instant coffee these days. So while one can be snobby about which bean they use, frankly it has to be a good thing when somewhere like McD or even SubWay can sell you a cup of coffee made from actual beans!

    2. TonyHoyle

      The local greggs has free wifi and continental style outside tables. They're the ideal breakfast/lunch destination.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But they require you to wear hi-vis jackets to sit outside ?

  13. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    You want...

    Dried ground beans in hot water? With the juice squirted out of another bean?


    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: You want...

      To you, sir, to you!

  14. plrndl

    The reason our High Streets are filled the same names pretty much everywhere, is that a small number of companies master the art of performing their function reasonably well, and prosper, while a large number cannot manage to put together the basics consistently, and perish.

  15. rhydian

    I Am the evil person who....

    Fixed my previously off-line rural pub's wifi so that the restaurant and bar areas both now have reasonable wifi coverage. Conversation has taken a nosedive since.

    What has to be remembered is that many pubs are very old buildings. Built when buildings were made to last centuries. Those thick stone walls were never designed to allow mobile signals in. Even if your in a modern (read "shite") pub building the chances that the wifi won't be overloaded by 20-30 people streaming video to their devices are slim.

    And as for soya latte? What the buggering hell is that? Tea (in a mug or thermos) is the only way to start the day.

  16. John 110
    IT Angle

    or you could go even more downmarket...

    The Tesco round the corner has a cafe offering free wifi with your clubcard, adequate coffee and a selection of cakey things sourced from their in-store bakery.

    I also have to confess an sneaky liking for MacDonald's coffee (also their free wifi). I wouldn't eat any of their "cakes" though. (and like I am guiltily fond of a Quarter pounder with cheese - a Royale, if you prefer...)

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: or you could go even more downmarket...

      John 110>> I also have to confess an sneaky liking for MacDonald's coffee

      It's certainly hard to beat for the price. I set up all day in a local MacD once - they arranged a power socket for me and provided waiter service. When I gave them a tip they put it in the charity box!

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: or you could go even more downmarket...

      The famously amazing Victorian Gothic Icknield St library in Brum does not have wifi, there is a notice directing readers to the Tesco Cafe in the modern complex that you can walk through to. Reasonable speeds.

      Upmarketish: Should anyone find themselves in Birmingham New St Station, look for the Coffee Lounge independent cafe just opposite the entrance. Fast wifi, no landing pages, wpa2 password is written in felt tip by the till, better than 1.5 Mbytes/sec mid morning when the hipsters are not in. I just do Americano, tastes fine, comes in a bucket, not too expensive. They do beans on toast as well as all the panini stuff.

      Free connections across Brum centre: Plenty of cafes, chain and independent. Central reference library and the ICC both have free wifi. No encryption but you have to negotiate a landing page and that needs noscript disabled for the initial connection. Speeds around 120 kbytes/sec. Mobile connections (G3 is my limit) are variable across the city centre. Some places are effectively Faraday cages, others its rocking.

      Outside centre: Midland Arts Centre (MAC) in Cannon Hill Park has free wifi again no encryption but (more sensible) landing page so you can agree terms &c. Around 800 kbytes/sec to 1 Meg bytes sec mid afternoon weekday. Holds up well at weekend. Nice place to sit outside within range.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: or you could go even more downmarket...

        Ah, now that's because Birmingham rocks big time. Seriously.

  17. Kubla Cant

    Scarcely relevant musing

    Does anyone know why 99% of the UK population pronounce latte as "lah-tay"? In Italian, the "a" is short. In English, most words containing "att" have a short "a" (hatter, batter, latter...).

    I can only assume that they think it's obligatory to pronounce foreign words in a special, non-English way. I believe people also say "basmah-tay" when talking about rice, though oddly I've never heard of anyone spreading "pah-tay" on toast.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Scarcely relevant musing

      "Does anyone know why 99% of the UK population pronounce latte as "lah-tay"?"

      Yes. It's because we don't give a fuck.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Scarcely relevant musing

      oddly I've never heard of anyone spreading "pah-tay" on toast.

      Sadly, I have.

      1. Thecowking

        Re: Scarcely relevant musing

        So you pronouce pâté as pate?

        How do you deal with fiancée? The accents aren't just decoration.

        1. dogged

          Re: Scarcely relevant musing

          > So you pronouce pâté as pate?

          Personally, I pronounce it as "paste". The circumflex denotes a missing "s" anyway and it's not like we don't have a perfectly decent English word to use.

    3. dogged

      Re: Scarcely relevant musing

      This just occurred to me -

      > Does anyone know why 99% of the UK population pronounce latte as "lah-tay"?

      I think it's because most people are bloody ignorant and being coffee related, they try to pronounce it in a pseudo-French way.

      La maggioranza dei britannici non parla italiano.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Scarcely relevant musing

        Maybe it's because being English, we can have our own pronunciation? Italians don't say "pizza" with the same inflection we do either.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Scarcely relevant musing

      "Does anyone know why 99% of the UK population pronounce latte as "lah-tay"?"

      Because they'd never heard of it before Friends came on TV.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Scarcely relevant musing

        We're watching Friends right now and I cannot recall anyone mentioning it except in passing. Cappuccino seems to be the beverage of choice.

  18. chivo243 Silver badge

    Always have at least one before leaving the house..

    This goes for tea, coffee, beer or scotch depending on time of the day. It's looking like pint o'clock to me!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WiFi and Tesla coils ? I think even a small one would knock out reception for a city block.

  20. Bob Wheeler

    Hi, have we met before?

    ".. of bonding with their fellow Johnny-no-mates and striking up conversations with potential stalkers and psychopaths"

    I have no idea why I get a warm fussy feeling of self-recognition......

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Hi, have we met before?

      Well, you could always start up a conversation with "is it me, or is the coffee here rubbish?"

      then segue into either remembering when all you could get was Mellow Birds, or when "all this" was factories/slums/field

  21. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Black coffee

    Reading this before I start the working day, with a cup of black, simple, real Costarrican coffee at my side, I suddenly realized something: I no longer look forward for a BOfH tale as my Friday's pick-me-up... now I come directly to Alistair's column, and seldom leave disappointed (God, that phrase sounds WRONG).

    In any case, thanks a lot for the laughs. They are definitely needed, as I'm still 10 hours from pub o' clock

    1. sandman

      Re: Black coffee

      Mmmm - way to go. Filter jug + four heaped scoops of finest Costa Rican and drink throughout the day (although two mugs before 10am helps with work rate).

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Black coffee

      To be fair, one BOFH is worth four SFTWS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Black coffee

        True, perhaps, but this one started off especially fine.

  22. Tanuki
    Thumb Up


    One of the benefits of living somewhere distinctly non-Inner-City is the ease-of-access to a rather conveniently civilised place calling itself 'Waitrose', and their free-coffee-for-regular-customers.

    [Claims that their car-parking spaces are also larger than Lidl's/Aldi's - to better accomodate clients' Range-Rovers - are unsubstantiated].

  23. Alistair

    Soya lattes. Really?

    C'mon Alistair.

    I get too much blood in my caffeine stream and I turn into nasty bear.

    Nice start to my Friday is a Timmie's. Real coffee.

    (icon as I'm in need of a coffee top off)

  24. JDX Gold badge

    If you want a proper coffee

    Why are you ordering a soya latte?

    My wife's lactose intolerant but the majority of people wanting a "soya latte" are not

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: If you want a proper coffee

      .. If you want a proper coffee, you don't add any milk or any of that shit to at all.

      What are you trying to taste, sweet syrup and mammary secretions, or coffee?

      Most people don't want lemonade in their beer, so why add crap to coffee?

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: If you want a proper coffee

        Why grind it up and pressurise water through it? I prefer my coffee as raw beans. Unroasted. Before they've even grown. Etc...

        1. Swarthy

          Re: If you want a proper coffee

          Raw beans smell like lentils.

          I wonder if how they'd be in a soup.

          1. kraut

            Re: If you want a proper coffee

            That'd be an energizing soup

          2. Stoneshop

            Re: If you want a proper coffee

            Raw beans smell like lentils.

            I wonder if how they'd be in a soup.

            There's this image in my head now where Neil is tasting his "lentil" dish where Vyvyan has replaced them with raw coffee beans.

  25. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Olfactory imagery

    "smells like someone set fire to squirrel shit"

    Excellent addition to the lexicon. Have a flat white. Er, brown.

    1. James 51

      Re: Olfactory imagery

      "smells like someone set fire to squirrel shit"

      That must have been some camping trip.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Olfactory imagery

        Yes, after years of being on the run from the greys, the Red Squirrel Liberation Front are fighting back and have escalated hostilities to a new level. It's neither a pretty sight not a pretty smell.

  26. Daedalus

    It's good not to be back

    Reading Dabbsy's tales of woe confirms that all the reasons I had for decamping 30 years ago are still in place. And they don't even speak English in central London anymore! Come visit any city in the northern half of the US, Al, and you can get a steaming cup of Joe with a smile (and free refills in some places). But don't forget to tip!

    1. Stuart Moore

      Re: It's good not to be back


      1. Daedalus

        Re: It's good not to be back


  27. Shark? what shark?
    Thumb Up

    Mmmm rusks

    I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

  28. phuzz Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    What's this coffee nonsense? Give me tea!

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Give me tea..

      Love the smell of Coffee, not so fond of the claggy-mouthed harridan it turns me into.

      Careful @phuzz you'll start a whole thread off on the appropriate tea, not to mention the debate on pre-, post- or non- addition of milk.


    Can't get good wiffy in Leeds?

    It must be the Leeds in Kent, because in the one in Yorkshire it's difficult to walk around because of the strength of the free wiffy.

  30. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Most of them don’t even open for breakfast until 8.30am

    I remember a cafe in Omagh that had closed for lunch.

  31. Tom 12

    Large soya latte?

    A great read as usual Mr. Dabbs- but let's face it, a Large soya latte is rather pretentious, non? You sir are part of the problem. Anyone else remember when you just had to ask for a coffee?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Large soya latte?

      A white one with no froth?

      I want a cup of coffee not wash me socks in it

  32. Chris G

    MMmmm roasted squirrel shit!

    The best place in Europe for coffee is Italy, they are (Italians) coffee crazy and will not tolerate crap coffee. Here in Spain when Italians are on holiday they will send one of their crowd into a cafe/restaurant and if the volunteer reports a decent coffee they will all go in. if not they'll look for somewhere else.

    I am basically a tea drinker but on 30 degree days like today, at lunchtimes in a Spanish restaurant a 'cafe con hielo' is a great way to round off a menu del dia, basically an espresso thick and syrupy in a shot glass with a larger glass full of ice. Stir sugar as required into the hot espresso till dissolved and then tip onto the ice and stir 'til enough of the ice has melted to make an enlivening, refreshing finish to the meal.

    By the way having had to feed my daughter soya milk since she was three weeks old, I hate the smell of the stuff, it is not remotely anything like milk and contains phytoestrogens which mimic female hormones. Drink enough of it and you could grow breasts.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel like I'm living in an alternative reality sometimes.

    I must be, given how I've read the nth article to the tune of "mobile data reception in Anglosaxon countries is so bad they have to resort to scrounging free WiFi whenever they can".

    Living in Poland - you know, the Third World country where you return from in a coffin (ask Sol Campbell) and where polar bears roam, i have no problems getting HDSPA in a village of circa 200 people, so far East you can clearly receive Belorussian radio.

    And that's only because I don't have an LTE-capable phone.

    I'm curious why this is the case. I'm thinking this is perhaps due to stronger anti-monopoly regulations, which is in place due to historical reasons, but surely this can't be the only explanation...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I feel like I'm living in an alternative reality sometimes.

      "I'm curious why this is the case."

      Most likely because the latest (or at least recent) kit was installed relatively recently and you're not stuck with 20 year old kit slowly being upgraded as and when time/money/profits allows. In 10 years time when the UK kit has finally FUBARed and been replaced with all new shiny, Poland will still be on the same kit, the owners scraping up every last bit of RoI they can.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I feel like I'm living in an alternative reality sometimes.

        Except that Poland had (theoretically) a liberally regulated market for circa 25 (TWENTY FIVE) YEARS. It was liberalized consequently, but this took place at about the time 2G emerged.

        When El Reg started to cover LTE, there were already mass advertising campaigns locally; I was wondering what the fuss was all about.

        My point: if your hypothesis (valid in other tech areas I'm sure!) were to hold, we'd be still going on 2G connections. There must be other factors at play here.

        PS. Please excuse any typos on my part, unfortunately Morpheus (not of the Fishburne variety) beacons...

    2. TonyHoyle

      Re: I feel like I'm living in an alternative reality sometimes.

      It's mostly press exaggeration... gets hits. The only place I haven't been able to get HSDPA is in the middle of wales, and apparently that was just O2 being shit (three have better coverage there).

      In villages like the one I'm currently sat in there's nowhere that doesn't get plenty of signal.

      OTOH one of the reasons to use free wifi is it doesn't come off your allowance - I pay £2/mo plus data, but that data is quite pricey, so free wifi is a net win.

    3. Stoneshop

      Re: I feel like I'm living in an alternative reality sometimes.

      so far East you can clearly receive Belorussian radio.

      You mean those broadcasts that you can listen to anywhere in the world, using only the fillings in your teeth?

  34. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Free WiFi?

    I recently discovered, while waiting for my order at the local pizza emporium, that the adjacent Barclays Bank branche offer free WiFi. And it appears to genuinely be free. No sign up, no giving them personal details, just connect and go. You browser will re-direct to their page where you tick the T&Cs then off you go.

    If I was in the market to change banks, Barclays would be high on the list for that reason alone. Most places seem to want a lien on your firstborn before offing you crappy WiFi and then spam whatever email address you gave them seemingly till the heat death of the universe.

    So, try to find a good indi coffee shop next door to a Barclays branch and you're quids in!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Free WiFi?

      Is it actually a customer service or is their security just crap?

  35. thx1138v2

    After the words "Large soya latte, please." are emitted, you are due whatever you get. If you don't like their response try, "A large cup of Folgers, please." and watch their heads explode. Works particularly well in Starbucks.

    But you have given me a good idea - I can take my largest Tesla coil to the loathed Starbucks and fire it up just to get that wonderful smell of the magic smoke.

    "Almost, but not quite, the exact opposite of tea." comes to mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Ha ha ha ha

      I'm going to try to convince my significant other's 16yo to try that the next time she's at a starBucks with her friends.

  36. Denarius Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    more proof of the decline of the West

    Alistair, soy ? in food or beverage ? Sad, sad. Food based medication for women at menopause perhaps. However, for the first time, drum roll please! The one good feature of Canberra as an IT bunker to earn a crust in is that most of the baristas are clued, some highly and all vendors of the important brew succeed in a decent drink with an adequate to good size representative of the volume requested. In short a large usually is not medium or small. The little hole in wall places generally do best as they are run by coffee enthusiasts who make a living doing what they like.

    In Belconnen is the best place of all, lurking invisibly in a large departments set of buildings. They have good competition around them so quality should not drop. Hint, name is same as one of the alphabet soup TLAs. Maccas in Oz were surprisingly good for two years. I suspect about 9 months ago a beancounter (literally) decided to cut costs and it is now, IMHO, undrinkable. Pity, as for a while I could travel without dragging the thermos with me. Since truth is not a defence in Oz I can't use your delightful comparison. Though how one would know what that smells like I do not want to know. Well done sir, on an excellent tirade.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: more proof of the decline of the West

      Since all Australian bar-persons moved to London obviosuly all the coffee makers stayed at home.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: more proof of the decline of the West

      Soya? Bah! We should drink REAL coffee made without milk. Or sugar. Or coffee.

      Sofa? Bah! We should sit on REAL chairs made of raw oak with upturned nails on the seat.

      Matress? Bah! We should sleep in a REAL bed made of a paper bag in t' middle o' road.

  37. SoaG

    To paraphrase Ron Swanson

    Soya is the food that my food eats.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTF is a large soya latte?

    I thought this was about coffee?

  39. Tom 7

    Blue Mountain

    Drunk in its place of origin. Anything else is just a melted icecream.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soya = Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad

    That is all.

  41. Benjol

    Coffee 'goes off' in a way that can be difficult for a nation of tea-drinkers to realise. There's no point having 'freshly ground' beans if those beans have been oxidising for weeks.

    I once worked for a few months in a coffee factory. The bog-standard automated coffee dispenser was stocked directly with freshly roasted beans. The coffee was delicious, full-bodied and 'round': closer to hot chocolate than the acrid stuff that we are supposed to delight in.

    Totally spoiled me.

  42. jzlondon

    What happened to a good old cup of tea?

    And when did shop assistants start being called "barristas"? What is this, America?

  43. Nick Pettefar

    I always ask for a normal coffee, with milk. It always works. As for the rest of the drinks they offer - who knows? I once tried a drinking chocolate but it was too sweet.

    WiFi needs to be available to all, not dependent on individual businesses/people. It is a basic requirement of modern life.


  44. Lt.Kije

    Tesla Cafe? Hell yes!

    Start with old PO Tower, it not been doing much recently.

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