Monthly Archives: December 2012

Travel warmers

One of the questionable beauties of the Festive season is the reunion with out friends and family. Why questionable? After all, more often than not, it requires travelling between cities and even countries, to make those reunions happen. Many of us will have to go through the ordeal of public transport this year, as all those years before; and I think you’ll agree it hardly gets worse than a cramped wagon with crying children and snoring old ladies – with a lousy cup of coffee that hardly gives any consolation, even in the form of warmth in the winter chill.

Having travelled a lot myself recently, I decided to test a few of the most popular coffee-providers on UK train stations to help you make your journey-brew choices more satisfying. Whatever you end up drinking, I hope it will keep you warm and merry this New Year’s!

Millie’s Cookies

Latte at Millie's Cookies

Coconut Latte at Millie’s Cookies

I had tried Millie’s previously and although the muffin I had (I know, profane, should have tried a cookie!) was great, the coffee I couldn’t drink – the mocha was so awfully sweet, I was munching the muffin to lessen the blow! This winter they introduced a whole array of Christmassy Cadburry’s Hot Chocolates, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and played it safe, opting for a coconut latte. It wasn’t too bad, actually, although it hinted slight bitterness from the milk; then again, you can’t expect miracles from a fully automated machine, that has a ‘Latte’ button on it…

Upper Crust

Mocha at Upper Crust

Mocha at Upper Crust

They do specialise in baguettes, I know; but there must be a reason why they have a manual espresso machine in the shop, no? I thought I was being reasonable expecting a decent coffee. Unfortunately, the mocha was bland, too frothy and forgettable. Stick to the sandwiches.

Delice de France

Latte at Delice de France

Latte at Delice de France

I admit, I’ve not seen too many of these, but with a coffee+croissant deal for £2.99 I wouldn’t have been able to miss it. The beauty of it was not only that you could chose an almond croissant as well as the classic one, but also received any drink of a medium size. Unfortunately, they didn’t do mochas, so a latte had to do. It was OK, but too milky for the size, and although at first it went well with the croissant, it quickly turned into a bland brew, that I only managed to drink up halfway. So-so.

Caffeine Rush

Mocha at Caffeine Rush

Mocha at Caffeine Rush

Now this one I remember from my college days, when making coffee was still some kind of wizardry and anything that was sweet and punchy was appreciated; it was with Rush that I developed my love for mochas as it made an amazing change to the coffee from an automated machine (yuk!). Since then I have seen the vans here and there, but they were always shut at rather curious, daytime hours; so, when I saw one open at a train station recently I didn’t think twice about it. Unfortunately, the reality did not stand up to my memories: the coffee was quite tasteless, and although I saw the guy squirt quite a lot of chocolate inside the cup, it still didn’t taste anything of chocolate, apart from the dusting on top. It also had the bitter taste of old coffee – the espresso did sit for a while before the milk was added to it; not mentioning the fact of dirty steam-wands being reused over and over again without being wiped. Oh, the happy, naive college days…

AMT Coffee

Cafe Maya at AMT Coffee

Cafe Maya at AMT Coffee

I remember years ago taking a train in London and stopping by one of those for a mocha; at that time, I changed my mind in the last minute to have a Coconut Milk instead… I regretted the decision, purely because it was so uneconomical in my view in those days. Maybe that was the reason why I never felt encouraged to stop by it once more. However, when recently I was dying for a coffee I saw the kiosk and one of their recommendations: Cafe Maya, with chocolate and cinnamon. I went for it full on, with a bit of whipped cream and – for the first time ever – marshmallows. Those could have swayed my opinion a little bit, as they probably contributed to a scrumptious cup of coffee: sweet, nicely spiced and strong enough… Although by the end of it, the power of cocoa and espresso got a bit too much. All-in-all, I would recommend this one.

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Yellow Bench

One of my last cafe visits had to take place on my home street – Leith Walk. I have abused this area in terms of sourcing my reviews, but like it or not, Leith Walk – and Leith itself – has a huge variety of coffee shops on offer, many of which are definitely worthwhile. I was glad to discover that the Yellow Bench was one of such spots.

The tiny place tucked away in the shadow of the neighbouring Gaia, the Bench got my attention from the first day it got opened, with hand-written posters in the window promising Polish delicacies (and crepes!). As with many other places, I intended to check it out many a time, but the day has come only after a whole morning and afternoon of cleaning the flat before moving out. I thought then that I deserved a coffee and a sweet treat, preferably of the Polish variety (sorry Brits, but our cakes are simply nicer!) and with only half an hour to spare between my chores, I ran to the Bench.

The place was as small as it looked from the outside: just one room and a few big tables leading to two small counters: with cakes and with a till; later I realised there was a kitchen in the back room as well as a pancake hob and an espresso machine behind the till. There were only two customers in when I got there, and I spotted a traditional schabowy (pork cutlet) on their table. It took a quick glance at the cake display to know that I’d be having cheesecake; the coffee was a problem, though, as they didn’t serve mochas, in which case I decided to go for a latte, quite preoccupied inside.

Latte and Cheesecake at Yellow Bench

Latte and Cheesecake at Yellow Bench

I took the table nearest to the cake display, which made my photo-documentation a bit more tricky. My order was served quickly and my heart rose when I saw the coffee: a lovely layered latte, as one should look like (I had been told and shown by a fellow Italian barista). With that little time to spare, I tucked in: and was left sinking in the tranquillity of the place and the divinity of the moment. The latte did not require sugar, it was lovely on its own; the foam was not too airy and did not collapse as it tends to with badly steamed milk, and the whole thing blended nicely, despite keeping its layering; whilst the cheesecake was the best I tried outside my mum’s kitchen. But the cherry on top was the price: the package cost… £3.60!

I know I might sound biased, since it is a Polish venue after all, but I’d like to assure you I am usually prejudiced against places like that away from home; until I tried the coffee I feared it would be of an inferior quality. And yet, this tiny spot has the charm and the menu to turn not-so-good a day into a brighter one. Believe me or not, that’s one you’d regret passing by without going in.

Coffee: £2.50

Verdict justification: A real shame they don’t do mochas – it could have been one of my favourites!

Categories: Cafes, Edinburgh, Local, UK | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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