The Swedish Coffee Catalyst

The coffee industry has changed immeasurably in the last 20 years. Whilst the west coast of America and Australia can take a lot of credit for this, a big Swede with an even bigger moustache, played a huge part.

A self-taught roaster from Gothenburg he was co-founder of the World Barista Championships. It’s been the industry’s standard setter since its inception at the turn of the millennium and is in a large part responsible for the burgeoning coffee festival scene and the trend for celebrating coffee in a similar way to beer or wine.

When I visited Matts in Gothenburg he was too modest to big himself up, so I’ve done it for him in Fresh Cup magazine

Petra, Jewel of Jordan

It’s a tough time for the wonders of the world. In an age where everyone’s been everywhere, seen everything and got the t-shirt, how do you stand out? You’ve got great weather, beguiling scenery and unique architecture, but you need something extra. How about a film role, a vehicle to show off your best assets? I’m thinking Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Mummy Returns and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen…. Step forward Petra, star of all of the above and a hell of a lot more. The ancient site in South West Jordan is a darling of film and TV location scouts and it’s not hard to see why…. To read on, this is the full article in TNT magazine



Caffeine-fuelled careers

You won’t be earning an investment banker’s salary but making – or rather crafting the perfect coffee can be a career . I interviewed baristas around Fitzrovia in London for this BBC Capital piece and they were really positive about the coffee making scene.

coffee two

Is coffee the new beer in Prague?

Prague is best known for stag do’s and beer guzzling but in the last few years a more civilised beverage based past time has arrived in the Czech Republic’s capital. Coffee. Prague, like other ex-communist countries has witnessed the march of capitalism and the consequent demand for the little luxuries in life. Coffee shops have been a major beneficiary.  Take a stroll through the city and you’ll see Starbucks and Costas dotted around, but the real buzz is around independents.

Specifically the kind of lab equipment filled high-end establishments ruling the roost in London and New York.

As you can hear from my BBC World Service report I found a sophisticated scene replete with speciality outlets, tastings and menus as long as a wine list.

During communism coffee shops were seen as an unnecessary decadence and beer was king. But before this, was a thriving cafe culture of intellectualism and philosophy. It seemed fitting therefore that the first place on my itinerary was Cafe Louvre, where Einstein, Max Brod and Franz Kafka engaged in caffeine-fuelled contemplation. The style of coffee was strong, dark, old school Viennese, in keeping with the setting.


In stark contrast was the next venue on my list, La Boheme. Head barista Martin led me through a tasting session – or ‘cupping’ as the pros call it. The floral, aromatic Ethiopian beans really stood out. Finally I visited Kavarna Pod Lipami, co-owned by another Martin, Martin Basus who told me how his business, incorporating several shops and a roastery started. He ended our conversation by emphasising the individuality of the business, “We don’t want to be another McDonalds or KFC.”

Prague’s coffee scene has carved a niche for itself and is becoming a European hub for caffeine connoisseurs. I’m already looking forward to visiting again for the coffee festival in October.

The man who grows chairs

It’s not every day you come across a man who grows chairs. And lampshades. And mirrors. But that’s exactly what Gavin Munro does in an idyllic plot deep in the Derbyshire Dales. I visited Gavin in May, keen to see for myself this quirky bit of agriculture. The piece was originally commissioned for radio 4’s PM programme  where it ran a couple of weeks ago. Then the BBC website got in on the act which gave me chance to wax lyrical for this online piece; it was a joy to write about.

line of chairs

Memories from Paris 2014

In Summer 2014 I travelled to Paris to record a piece for BBC World Service. It was about baguettes. Cue cliched picture. Here’s the audio including the inevitable taste test….


In order to fortify myself for watching this week’s Last Tango in Halifax I pulled open the cupboards & slung together a pretend trifle….It’s pannetone, quark, liqueur cherries & smashed up chocolate bar. Tastes quite nice but feel dreadful about not making the sponge. Should’ve been a repressed 1950s housewife.


A truly international meal. Remember next time you’re at the ‘exotic & other’ section of a buffet restaurant, the fish finger and Bajan chilli open sandwich was invented by me.


My name above a drain cover. A bit of Hollywood sparkle in Kings Cross.

My name above a drain cover. A bit of Hollywood sparkle in Kings Cross.

About to eat something called Tropical Taffy. Looks radioactive but I’m desperate.