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Hoxton Mini Press x London Coffee: SEEN Reviews

SEEN is a huge consumer of caffeine, but had not quite appreciated the history and variety of coffee in the world, let alone in London. This sumptuously produced book by Lani Kingston and published by Hoxton Mini Press Is a mine of technical info and gorgeous photos by David Post that induced a sudden craving for caffeine and cascara in this reviewer.

The indies are well-represented, from Monmouth Coffee Company to Look Mum No Hands! (they do coffee, beer and cycles). There is Mercanto, the green coffee bean hunters, an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Kew Gardens Coffee Research… I could go on, but you get the picture. This book is a comprehensive examination of everything that goes into your daily espresso.

The hardworking owners somehow manage to sustain their passion in the face of the chains and rocketing overheads. SEEN imagines that a bit like the film world, the mainstream coffee scene of Costa Starbucks et all must keep a sharp eye on the indies, for it is there that consumer trends are most swiftly represented.

The recent history of coffee was divided into three waves, but of course coffee has occupied a place on the high street for hundred of years before that, being the beverage of choice for the capital’s literary denizens. Not always favourably, it must be said. The war between coffee and tea continues to this day.

There is much talk in the book about ‘cupping’: the way in which the quality of the beans are assessed, elevating the status of the coffee bean to that of the grape or the olive. SEEN is curious to try cascara (the hull of the bean after roasting and grinding, which itself makes a beverage). Sustainability was also a hot topic: how do we as consumers connect what we drink to the lives of the producers, often in third world countries? Fair trade has the potential to change lives, in coffee as well as fashion.

The book featured indie roasters who concentrate mainly on African and South American beans. SEEN’s only cavil: I would have liked to know more about Vietnamese coffee and its availability in London, having sampled it in Thailand. Perhaps that will be in the next volume…

This is the perfect book for coffee addicts and anyone who wants to know about where to sample different coffees and participate in coffee-related rituals. It’s also for those who want to shop responsibly. SEEN is looking forward to more publications from the excellent Hoxton Mini Press.