Edition 19: Coffeecast

A cup of coffee

The Third Wave of Coffee is pouring its way in to Hackney. Cafes such as the Penny University, Mouse & De Lotz and the Counter Cafe pride themselves in their artisan beverages, meticulously measuring the temperature of the milk and the pressure of their carefully ground beans. But while this demand for the artisan cup might be a 21st-century phenomenon, coffee has a role in Hackney life that goes back to the age of the Enlightenment. Dr Matt Green takes us into the world of the 18th-century Hackney coffee house, a bustling social space but also a hub of news information. The substance they drank may have been served from cauldrons and tasted like soot, but this was the place for journalists to find stories on finance or religious dissent.

Ernesto Illy once said that it takes 55 prime beans to make the perfect espresso. The Hackney Podcast's resident philosopher Dr James Wilson ponders the question of taste, and what we might learn from both Illy and Scottish Enlightenment writer David Hume. Climpson & Sons of Broadway Market are clearly serious about their bean varietals; they even roast their own. We go behind the scenes to watch the process, and learn the art of latte preparation from staff at Wilton Way, Lemon Monkey and the Hackney Pearl. Meanwhile, two long-time residents of the borough remember the arrival in London during the 1950s of the Italian espresso bar, natural habitat to the British beatnik.

Our coffeecast ends with a specially recorded song by Rob Gallagher, former front man of Galliano. Also heard throughout the programme is Matthew Herbert's An Empire of Coffee, from the album Plat du Jour (Accidental Records), a project which tackles the "growing obsession with the international language of food and how almost every choice we are being asked to make about what we eat is laced with deadly compromises".

Historian: Dr Matt Green
Philosopher: Dr James Wilson
Bean roaster: Danny Davies of Climpson and Sons
Actor: Jonathan Hansler
Coffee shops featured: Climpson and Sons, Dalston Cafe, Hackney Pearl, Hoxton Cafe, Kingfisher Cafe, Lemon Monkey, Leos, Paulas, Towpath, Wilton Way
Interviews collected by Andrew Dickson, Joanna Lemonnier, Felix Carey and Francesca Panetta
Producers: Felix Carey and Francesca Panetta
Music by Matthew Herbert, Rob Gallagher and Felix Carey

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  1. Mark Stone
    Posted 12/08/2010 at 14:41 | Permalink

    Excellent podcast, well researched and presented. The only omission within the Hackney topic of the coffee world is the history of market's that have been so important to the culture, society and trade of the area.

    Historically, the coffee houses have been near by or within market areas. This has been intertwined with coffee presences in or around Ridley Road, Broadway Market, Columbia Road, Brick Lane and now the renaissance of Chatsworth Street market. Sometimes this manifests as a coffee shop, a cart or a stall. Whereas poor quality hot drinks dominate, there are a few anomalies.

    I'd say Merito Coffee stall http://twitter.com/meritocoffee on Broadway Market is a great example of a coffee specialist that creates world class coffee and engages with the community in a coffee-house style without the need for 4 walls. Even Time Out has rated them 4 stars and Metrotwin.com 'twinned' them with coffee-houses Stumptown in NYC. This is a rarity, but the search for quality coffee culture within a social space is alive and well on the streets of Hackney as well as indoors.

  2. George Carey
    Posted 12/08/2010 at 17:17 | Permalink

    I enjoyed this very much. Beautifully produced, pacey and interesting.

  3. Jeannie Sharpe
    Posted 12/08/2010 at 17:52 | Permalink

    I could almost smell the coffee. Very atmospheric and interestingly informative.

  4. Bob S
    Posted 14/08/2010 at 13:00 | Permalink

    Another superb podcast by the Hackney Podcast team. As always, the blend of background noises, this time in the coffee houses, accompanied by streamed music yields an excellent production. The philosophical tidbits were fun.

  5. Posted 15/08/2010 at 10:40 | Permalink

    Hi Mark - you're right, it would have been nice to include market coffee. It was only when we started recording that we realised what a huge area we were trying to cover in our coffeecast! Thanks for listening and commenting,

  6. Michael Brown
    Posted 23/08/2010 at 10:13 | Permalink

    This is superb. Brilliantly conceived,compiled and edited, beautifully presented social history, interesting ,informative and enjoyable. The BBC must surely want it ?

  7. Posted 23/08/2010 at 10:57 | Permalink

    Thank you Michael for your kind words. Isn't the Hackney Podcast a better home for this programme though than the BBC?! Francesca

  8. Lynne Fornieles
    Posted 14/09/2010 at 17:53 | Permalink

    Intelligence available with the brew...hmmmmm delicious.

  9. Mac-E.Arto
    Posted 15/09/2010 at 08:42 | Permalink

    What a splendid, professional podcast!

    Full bodied with “big ambition” but appropriately locally ground, I loved its fresh taste. I could detect high, bright notes at times, quite fruity as well as a wonderfully smokey, earthy feel, evoking curiosity of past times with a powerful, lingering presence which gave strong hints of good times to come (or to go) to Hackney.

    Thank you for this delightful shot of Café –Hackney!

  10. Posted 09/01/2011 at 20:32 | Permalink

    > I moved from London to a rural community a month before i had my first
    > child. I hardly knew anyone in the village. At that time and since radio and
    > podcasts have allowed me to exercise my imagination in a way i never thought
    > possible.
    > We live in a very basic National Trust house that was built in the 17th
    > century. It is heated by a wood burning stove; cold and remote in the
    > winter. I helped set up the village community shop and made friends with
    > villagers of all ages and different backgrounds. It sounds very different to
    > Hackney but the the stories of people who fill the village are probably
    > similar.
    > I decided that i would like to record some of the rural history of the
    > village, i bought a microphone that attached to the end of my i pod and made
    > a little podcast about our shop and how important it is to our community. I
    > got the bug and i have been recording peoples stories ever since. All i seem
    > to think about is new ideas for programmes.
    > Ordinary people offer a real history.
    > I love what Hackney podcast do.

  11. Posted 14/08/2011 at 01:19 | Permalink

    Wow, great article!

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