The Corruption of Coffee, cont’d

Can somebody tell me where I can get a real cappuccino within walking distance of St. Paul’s in London? Or freaking anywhere besides Peets and Quebrada? Or what one might get, if lucky, by intercepting and patiently guiding the actions of a barista at the likes of Starbucks?

I mean… Jeez.

So i was just at the coffee counter at the office building where I’m working right now, where I asked for a “dry short double cappuccino”.

“Right. A cappuccino”, the barista said, and began to ring up the order. “One pound seventy five”.

“That’s for your shortest?”

“A cappuccino”.

“Can you make it dry?”


So he made it with skim milk. The result was yet another 12-ounce cup filled with a lot of milk topped by a tiny bit of foam and tanned by an ounce of espresso β€” roughly replicating every cappuccino I’ve had since I got here on Monday… from Starbucks, from Costa, from Paul… all too much milk and too little coffee.

So I tested my phone’s camera for the first time and produced the above.

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28 Responses to The Corruption of Coffee, cont’d

  1. JM says:

    Maybe try and get in touch with these guys:

    James is the World Barista champ and I think he’d have a good idea where to get a good capp in London

    Flat White in Soho is supposed to be wonderful –
    17 Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 0PT

  2. Steven says:

    Among the coffee chains you might stumble across in London, Caffe Nero does the closest thing to real coffee. HTH.

  3. Doc

    Flat White – not in walking distance of St Paul’s but stunning coffee. Ask them for a flat white and I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Coach and Horses is good for a pint too…you may find MacLeod hanging out there!

  4. Mark Wahl says:

    Try asking for an “Espresso Macchiato”.

  5. Sasha Drummond PHD says:

    Coffee puts the system under the strain of metabolizing a deadly acid-forming drug, depositing its insoluble cellulose, which cements the wall of the liver, causing this vital organ to swell to twice its proper size. In addition, coffee is heavily sprayed. (Ninety-two pesticides are applied to its leaves.) Diuretic properties of caffeine cause potassium and other minerals to be flushed from the body.

    All this fear went away when I quit, and it was a book that inspired me to do it called The Truth About Caffeine by Marina Kushner. There are five things I liked about this book:

    1) It details–thoroughly–the ways in which caffeine may damage your health.

    2) It reveals the damage that coffee does to the environment. Specifically, coffee was once grown in the shade, so that trees were left in place. Then sun coffee was introduced, allowing greater yields but contributing to the destruction of rain forests. I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere else.

    3) It explains how best to go off coffee. This is important. If you try cold turkey, as most people probably do, the withdrawal symptoms will likely drive you right back to coffee.

    4) Helped me find a great resource for the latest studies at

    5) Also, if you drink decaf you won’t want to miss this special free report on the dangers of decaf available at

  6. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks all, especially (at the moment) Einar. Because I see that Manon is a short walk up Fleet Street from here.

    [Later…] Well, I couldn’t find it. Too bad.

  7. Adriana says:

    I agree with Mark Wahl. It seems that machiatto might be closer to what you want. Even coffee chains should manage that. πŸ™‚

  8. Daithi says:

    Agreed re machiatto – especially in non-Starbucks places in this part of the world (UK/Ireland), this is served as a generous espresso sealed in by foam but not too much. Good luck and enjoy London!

  9. jambamkin says:

    in Starbucks they will serve you a latte machiatto and not an espresso machiatto, you can get the latter in Neros

  10. Doc Searls says:

    Well, there are many definitions of a macchiato. In my experience macchiatos are just as variable as cappuccinos.

    As for Nero’s, I gave it a try today, at the one by the St. Paul’s station in London. I asked for a small cappuccino. The girl stuck a shot glass under one side of the portafilter’s split channels, and my cup under the other, then pushed the button to begin the extraction process, which filled the glass shot glass to the brim (basically, close to two ounces), while channeling an equal sum of over-extracted coffe into my cup. I winced as I saw the machine extract clear water, far past the point where it was done extracting crema. She then filled my cup with foamed milk. It was terrible.

    As Nero himself might have said, Thumbs down.

  11. Bradley Allen says:

    You probably don’t remember me, but after my time at Technorati, I got into the ‘3rd wave of coffee’ roasting/barista scene. Guess what? We’re international, baby.

    I roast. I hot-rod espresso machines. Now trust me, okay? Enough with messing around at Nero’s, etc. and talk of ‘dry’ milk… this is not the 80’s. πŸ˜‰

    Get thee to Flat White Espresso Bar:

    7 Berwick Street (near Broadwick)
    London W1F OPT

    A bunch of Kiwi’s there. Lovely, wonderful people. Order a flat white, which is as close as you’re going to get to a left-coast cappuccino.

    You can also go to Monmouth Coffee House (where Flat White gets their beans):

    27 Monmouth St
    London WC2H 9DD

    There is a reason these two places are on my iPhone contacts. Have a good trip. Namaste.

  12. i have never had a decent cappuccino while being at a greater distance than 100km from rome, even in italy… πŸ™

  13. Doc Searls says:

    Daniele, I’m with ya.

    The best coffee (including espresso and cappuccino) I’ve ever had was in Rome, and I’ve been looking for that same quality and experience ever since.

  14. simon says:

    also, Progreso coffee tends to make a good coffee (depending on the barista). They have one shop in Covent Garden inside a small shopping mall just off of Earlham Street and another shop on Portobello road.

  15. A few years ago it took me several weeks to track down something resembling cappuccino near Victoria station:
    Cafe Rapallo, Fountain Square, 123 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria

    4 out of 5 cappuccinos were worth drinking – this is a very high score for the area.

  16. Reminds me a lot of the coffee here in Utah. Most places (especially the mainstream god Starbucks) just fill up a cup with milk, caramel, or whatever else they have in stock, and then put a tiny shot of espresso to top it off.

  17. Pingback: Doc Searls Weblog · Up and a way

  18. Ashok says:

    If you need one in future, Dose espresso is a short walk up from St Paul’s:

    Tiny, but good.

  19. Jacob Smith says:

    Sigh, tell me about it. Sometimes Starbucks really astounds me. They’re supposedly the biggest coffee chain in the world… Yet they can’t make a simple cup of coffee without overdoing it on the milk? I suppose the US’s recession hits everyone hard.

    Nice picture with your iPhone, though!

  20. lol… don’t the baristas in london get any professional training?

  21. Jesse Jacek says:

    If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a man and a dog. – Mark Twain 1835 – 1910

  22. Glenn says:

    2 years on from your first post and the scene has changed dramatically (for the better)

    There is now a hive of activity on the coffee scene within a short stroll of St Pauls and centering around the East End.

    West London however is another story, but plans are afoot to change that.

    The cappuccino has been overtaken by the Flat White as the drink of choice.

    When I first came to the UK (from NZ) 8 years ago you can imagine my dismay when they there was no decent coffee at all in London.

    Nowadays there is a lot of choice

  23. To be honest, I totally agree, none of the leading chains do anything close to real coffee – However, I do agree with Steven, Nero’s is the closest if you like espresso. ANYTHING else and it’s not that great. Good luck!

  24. Pingback: Doc Searls Weblog · How about making better coffee?

  25. Christopher says:

    That’s some great photoshop skills there πŸ˜‰

    But that’s true, the only good coffee I drink is imported from Latin America and made in a pot by my wife. I’m a lucky man.

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