General MacArthur stood with his back to the mantelpiece. He pulled at his little white moustache. That had been a damned good dinner! His spirits were rising. Lombard turned over the pages of Punch that lay with other papers on a table by the wall. Rogers went round with the coffee tray. The coffee was good, really black and very hot.
The whole party had dined well. They were satisfied with themselves and with life.
– From “And then there were none”, by Agatha Christie.
Sundays are for quiet, slow, comforting lunches, occasionally finishing with an astoundingly solid coffee—meaning a really strong and really black one, and I don’t know how Mrs. Christie’s characters brewed their coffee, but for me that means espresso.
But I normally buy lighter, floral and aromatic beans which are more suitable for cafetière, v60s, etc, and it’s a bit of a waste to torture them with the Bialetti pressure.
Enter Algerian Coffee Stores. Like, literally enter the shop, because it has a big selection of brutally strong coffees (in various degrees of blackness).
There’s a veritable cornucopia of coffee, tea, brewing equipment and sweet bites to accompany your hot drink of choice. It reminded me to traditional grocery shops, and I was super excited.
This being a Saturday afternoon in Soho, there was also an incredible amount of people. It was not clearly obvious who was being served, who was taking pictures for their instagrammage, and who was just standing there, whatsapping the hell out of their trip while waiting for their colleague to be served (or just instagramming 💁🏻).
I sort of stood in the door, and looked left and right several times, trying to discern if there was a queue at all. Then someone entered the shop and
pushed shoved me inside, and almost simultaneously a member of staff emerged from behind a display of chocolate things in the counter, and asked if anyone needed serving, while looking at me.
In my frustration, I almost cried that yes, I needed serving, but I didn’t know if there was anyone before me. Since I was the only one that answered to her call, she decided to choose me as the next person to be served. So I didn’t need to actually cry in front of all those strangers (phew).
Not having been there before, I was not sure of which beans or blend to choose. She was very helpful, and recommended two types, one strong and the other one a bit more flavourful.
Unable to decide in a rush, I got the two. The minimum weight is 125g, at £4.90. A 250g packet would be £9.8 which is slightly cheaper than the usual bag of ‘third wave beans’, at about £12.50. But then, you use 7-8 grams of coffee per shot on espresso versus 6-7 grams on a cafetiere or other ‘gentle’ brewing methods, so the savings can be quite small.
I also got a very tempting chocolate bar with coffee beans that was right by the till. That was actually a quick decision 😆
Truth be told, we couldn’t really wait until Sunday to try the coffees out. We just had a go right after I arrived home with the beans 😃
We had it in small cups, and it was just like in the book: really black, and very hot!
It went well with the moderately sweet chocolate. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend you have one square or two of dark chocolate with your espresso coffee.
And of course, we also had coffee after Sunday lunch 🤓
Algerian Coffee Stores
52 Old Compton Street, London W1V 6PB
Update: I found there’s a 1956 documentary at the BFI titled Sunshine in Soho… and Algerian Coffee Stores is already there! 😀
Here’s a 4 minutes Twitter clip, if you’re impatient. Full documentary is 20 minutes.
— BFI (@BFI) March 19, 2017