I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up owning a tandem. A friend and I decided we would cycle to Southern France and our pub logic dictated that it would be cheaper to buy one bike than two.
Turns out it was, and we did.
Then we found there were other advantages like no splitting up or waiting at the top of a hill, always being able to chat to each other but most of all it was fun.
When somebody sees us passing on tandem, it invokes one of two emotions - sheer joy or utter confusion. The former normally from children, the latter from old men (and both are just as funny to watch).
Having been on a few solo cycling tours, and after years of promising, it was time to (literally) take my girlfriend Brooke along for the ride. Cycling for me is the only way to see a country properly. I’m not normally a ‘quoter’ but there’s one from Ernest Hemingway that says:
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
I can confirm that this is doubly true on a tandem.
Greatest of all though, cycling means you get to eat (and drink) as much as you like (it’s fuel after all) and what better place to be fuelled than Italy.
We didn’t do too much planning for the trip. We were flying into Genoa and back from Rome 15 days later. Other than that, all we had on our to-do list were a few pretty towns, gelato, cheese, pasta and vino. We couldn’t go far wrong really.
Our first destination was Cinque Terre - five colourful coastal towns surrounded by mountains and connected by a train cutting through the cliffs. Unfortunately for us, tandems weren’t allowed on the train so it was the one road in (down) and one road out (up) for us. After three of the five towns and lots of pushing, we managed to beg our way onto the ferry - much easier.
From the coast we headed inland to the heart of Tuscany; Lucca, Montecatini, Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti, each town more stunning than the last. We quickly fell into the Italian pace of life, winding our way down through the countryside, stopping for swims and gelato when we fancied.
Everything we needed, we carried. Tent, food, clothes, water, wine, beer, cheese - all the essentials. The problem with one bike between two is that it means half the bags. We therefore had to be particularly strict when it came to packing. An AeroPress, some Workshop Coffee and a Porlex grinder ended up taking priority over an pair of pants.
Lugging coffee and a grinder may seem like an unnecessary luxury (especially when in Italy), but this trip wasn’t about speed. Camping, cooking and brewing were just as much part of the experience as the pedalling.
Though the landscapes, views and roads change daily and a daily routine quickly took hold and coffee always came first.
Laying in your sleeping bag, looking out onto a new view each morning, we'd go through the AeroPress routine and it was pure perfection. Along with a breakfast of banana porridge and local honey (or if we were having a lazy morning, scrambled eggs), our coffee tasted even better outdoors.
Riding through the stunning Italian countryside, your mind would wander to all sorts of places but quickly settle on food. Cycling became the thing we did in between eating; set off: café stop with pastries; a bit of riding; lunch of fresh bread, local cheese and ripe tomatoes; a little more pedalling; gelato time.
We got used to it pretty quickly.
Italy was everything we hoped for. The Tuscan landscape was as beautiful as imagined, the gelato as smooth as promised and the wine - well, tasted of wine (I’m more of a beer man).
Doing it all on a tandem made the whole trip even more fun, for us and the locals. People would genuinely smile, laugh and point as we passed. And the answer to the question that everyone asked and you’re probably thinking: yes, I do know if she’s pedalling (or not as the case might be).
Last month we opened the doors of our Holborn Coffeebar to a throng of competitors and coffee lovers, playing host to the 2014 UK Aeropress Championships. For the uninitiated, the Aeropress is a single serve coffee brewer that is escalating in popularity dramatically of late. Invented by Alan Adler (of the Aerobie Flying Ring fame), the Aeropress is the method that we use for by-the-cup coffee brewing in our stores, and we were subsequently very happy to co-host this year’s competition to find the best of the ‘Pressers in the UK, alongside our friends from Square Mile Coffee and CoffeeHit.
A whopping forty-two competitors, and as many onlookers again, showed up to an afternoon of disco, Kernel Brewery beer and Aeropress mayhem, all tightly scheduled and operated by a team of our retail managers and supervisors. Bags of a blend of African coffees from ourselves and Square Mile were waiting for competitors to collect and serve to judges James Bailey, James Hoffmann and special guest Klaus Thomsen.
Some took the challenge of brewing a blend of two coffees to heart, separating out the components and pairing each with a distinct grind size, before blending again to achieve a more uniform extraction when brewed. Others selectively picked and ditched one component entirely, defaulting to what they are more used to working with, not really entering into the spirit of the competition.
Excessive cooling of the brewed coffee didn’t generally pay off. Some competitors iced their cups, or decanted and aerated for a significant portion of their brewing time. Most of these suffered from flattened aromatics and murkiness. Several bowls were barely recognisable due to the choice of brewing water, especially in the case of a magnesium rich water which altered the aromatics and the acidity of the coffees entirely. There was a wide range of degrees of clarification, with some competitors intending to increase suspended solids, emphasising the length and weight of the brewed coffee. Others opted for more clarity, using cloth, multiple Aeropress filters, or thicker bond paper filters for better clarity and definition. Broadly speaking, the less ‘murky’ bowls cupped better.
After many rounds, and far too much coffee tasting for a Saturday afternoon, Gabrielle of Square Mile Coffee won 1st place, Oli of Workshop Coffee Co. placed 2nd, and Pete (also of Square Mile) placed 3rd.
- - - - - - -
For more information on the World Aeropress Championships, visit www.worldaeropresschampionship.com
** Tickets on sale 9:00am Thursday, May 1st through CoffeeHit **
Good news, lovers of coffee,
The team at Workshop Coffee Co. are very pleased to be hosting this year’s UK Aeropress Championship, alongside our friends from Square Mile Coffee Roasters and CoffeeHit. We’ll be opening up our new Holborn Coffeebar to host the event on May 24th, starting at 3:00pm, with spectators welcome to attend.
Bigger and badder than last year’s competition, the 2014 event will be open to 36 competitors, vying for the chance to represent the United Kingdom at the World Aeropress Championships being held in Rimini, Italy during the World of Coffee event in June.
This year’s event will see the introduction of a competition coffee that all competitors must use for their brews. Half will be roasted by Workshop Coffee Co. in Clerkenwell, the other half will be roasted by Square Mile in Bethnal Green and the roasters will meet somewhere in the middle to blend the roasts together. Maybe on the Old Street roundabout, we’re not sure yet.
At the judging table will be Workshop Coffee Co. Head of Quality, James Bailey, Square Mile Coffee Roasters Managing Director, James Hoffmannn and, special guest judge all the way from Copenhagen’s venerable The Coffee Collective, Klaus Thomsen. Sweet funk tunes all evening long from DJ Wet Process, and compere duties from the incomparable, Ross Brownsofbrockley will ensure it’s an unmissable event.
Our first place winner will receive return flights to Italy to represent the UK in the World Aeropress Championships, with accommodation and a little spending money for Aperol spritzes and Caprese salads by the beach. Second place will receive a twelve month coffee subscription from both Workshop Coffee Co. and Square Mile, while third place will take a six month coffee subscription from both the roasters. All three place winners will also receive prizes from CoffeeHit and trophies from Aerobie.
Tickets for competitors cost £10 with the entire amount being donated to CoffeeKids. Tickets will go on sale May 1st through the CoffeeHit website (www.coffeehit.co.uk). Competitors will be furnished with more detailed rules, practice coffee and a competition schedule closer to the event date.
- - - -
May 24th, 2014 @ 3pm
Brought to you by:
Workshop Coffee Co.
Square Mile Coffee Roasters