Coffee shops have taken over our high streets, supported by a never-ending supply of connoisseur addicts. Jay Rayner meets some of the major players taking the revered bean to even greater heights, and asks whether they are ruining his favourite espresso
It is September 2012 and I am sitting in a restaurant on London’s King’s Road staring unhappily at an espresso. The colour is right. It’s coal black and across the surface is a fine, seashore foam of copper-coloured froth, the all important “crema”. The taste, however, is wrong. Very wrong. It’s fiercely acidic, a sour hit that makes my lips pucker up like a cat’s bum. I wanted the familiar dark, bitter chocolate and caramel tones; I got something akin to lemon juice. Over the next few months the same thing keeps happening in restaurants and cafés: I order espresso; I am served a cup of something sharp and unpleasant.
Fast forward to the spring of 2014 and I am sipping yet another sour espresso in Workshop Coffee in London’s Clerkenwell. With its wood tables and industrial-scale girders and working roaster it’s bang on trend. We came here on an old red Routemaster double decker bus, hired by the organisers of the nearby London Coffee Festival to take a group of us on a tour of a few top coffee places, so here we are, drinking sour espresso.