Anyone who knows me will know I'm a huge fan of Starbucks (yeah, yeah, I know). Their coffee is 98% of the time completely reliable across the globe. The problem I have with a lot of coffee places is that their standards change constantly. I'm sure when you've got the quality of an espresso machine as afforded by Starbucks then it is perhaps more difficult to draw a bad shot of espresso, but most places I've been would be well advised to ship their baristas off for a bit of training. When I go somewhere for a cup of coffee, I expect the barista to be able to replicate the same flavour as the last time I was in that same shop. I cringe when I see a shot of espresso drawn in just 10 seconds, or a shot that was drawn ten minutes ago being used in the next latte order. I'm no barista myself, but I do have some standards (which is why I've always stuck with the seemingly, but not really, reliable Starbucks).
A few months ago a friend tried to take me Monmouth Coffee on Monmouth Street in London, only it was closed. I'd forgotten about it for awhile, despite the great things I'd heard about this coffee. A few weeks later I was with some different friends in London and it became necessary that we ingest some caffeine. Remembering Monmouth, we found our way to the Monmouth Street branch once again and embarked upon a coffee experience I could only describe as perfection. I have since had the coffee at the Borough branch (equally as great) and decided to purchase some ground espresso to try out at home in my Baby Gaggia.
A member of staff recommended the Monmouth Espresso Blend, which I happily purchased (and which made my bag smell delightfully of coffee for the rest of the day). Monmouth describes this blend as follows on their website:
MONMOUTH ESPRESSO BLEND
Smooth and nutty with balanced fruit and acidity
We constantly taste and re-taste our espresso blend, making slight adjustments to the blend components and ratio, always looking to improve the balance and complexity. We are currently using Fazenda Rodomunho (Brasil) as the base of the blend, adding Cooperativa Quebradon (Colombia) for high notes and complexity, Finca San Francisco (Guatemala) for caramel notes, and Bibi Plantation (India) for dark-sugar sweetness.
Surprisingly, at home I was able to come close to what was served up in shop (only a little less strong). Perhaps this is in part due to the quality of the coffee? I can make a fair espresso, but I'm certainly no trained barista. At any rate, I'll certainly be returning to Monmouth for future beans and future brews (this stuff is on par with Iceland's espresso abilities, and that's saying a lot coming from someone who's still determined that Icelandic people are naturally gifted with the barista touch)!