The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
In my latest coffee chat I talk with Louisa, a self-proclaimed coffee snob, about her blog, Coffee Snob Blog. We chat about Louisa's inspiration, how she feels cafes can elevate your mood, and how much time she spends working on her blog. The interview is below.
What is Coffee Snob Blog? Why did you decide to start a coffee blog?
Coffee Snob Blog started as a love letter to all the coffee shops I took an obsession to. I work as an actor and musician so a lot of my job requires me to tour round the UK and for years - whenever I arrived at a theatre or gig in a new town my first bit of research was ‘nearest specialty coffee shop’. And over the years I would say to my cast mates ‘god, we should write a blog’.
It took me a while to realise that no one was quite as obsessed and committed as I was, so when I embarked on the UK tour of Fame in 2018 I realised it was time. We would visit a new town every week, so it was an amazing education into the specialty coffee scene over the UK, and also a great opportunity not just to visit the coffee shops there, but to get to know the owners and baristas, since I’d be there for a week at a time.
Coffee Snob Blog is only positive reviews, so I only write about the shops I particularly loved. Since lockdown, it has taken on a more wide-ranging role, as writing about coffee shops was no longer possible (as they were all closed in lockdown 1).
You write about a lot of different aspects of coffee, from cafes to interviews. How do you come up with ideas for your posts?
Lockdown has been a great education, as it has taught me to write about what is useful. What do my readers need? OK, in lockdown they need good coffee to make at home - so let’s do a blog on that. Also, I get a lot of questions from friends about different aspects of coffee, and sometimes it might spring up a good idea for a post.
Right now, being in a Tier 2 London I’m treasuring the fact you can meet up with a friend and have a coffee outside, so I wrote a blog on all the greatest specialty coffee shops next to fantastic London walks. I always believe that when your box gets smaller, it’s an opportunity to get more creative, so I’ve enjoyed the challenges lockdown has posed.
How do you go from having an idea to writing a post?
I tend to write down thoughts in my Notes app on my iPhone, and when I think I have enough material I copy and paste it to a Wordpress document. The idea of an empty Wordpress document is admittedly too scary for me, so I always have to go in with ‘pasted’ material... Sometimes the idea never transforms into a post and it’s good to know when to hit the delete button on that.
What factors do you consider when you are reviewing a cafe?
Ultimately, it’s the experience. It’s the person you were in before you entered the coffee shop compared to the person you are once you leave. Although I will try and write about the contributing factors - the ambience, the atmosphere, the quality of taste, the level of service and the welcome - I cannot ever quite put my finger on the magic that transforms you into such a go-getting lover of life with a spring in their step after a good coffee shop visit.
The coffee is obviously important. That comes as a pre-requisite. The food and sweet treats on offer are important. The music is important and, for me, how loud/intrusive it is. Is there a community there? I love knowing that there are locals there who come all the time, and that the coffee shop embraces that.
Can I spend a long time in there after I’ve finished my coffee to finish the chapter of my book? I hate that feeling of knowing you should go, even though there are lots of other spare seats. But most importantly for me, it’s the staff. Relationships are everything, and when you’re far away from home, to get to know the staff in the coffee shop in the week you are there, and learn about their coffee and their values - that’s incredible, and I’ll never take that granted.
Most of your articles are accompanied by some photographs. What role do photographs play on your coffee blog?
I guess for me every blog has to tell a story. It tells the reader of my experience as vividly as possible, so that they are informed or inspired as much as they could be from reading a screen. The photos are part and parcel of that. I don’t really think of them as a different thing - they are as important as the words in capturing the essence of the story.
I’m always getting told I need to include more of myself in my photos...I guess people like a face they can trust and attach the words to...so I’m working on that...(although it doesn’t feel as natural right now..!)
How much time do you devote to Coffee Snob? Do you visit cafes specifically for the blog or do you just write when you visit one you like?
Not enough time! I see myself as an avid enthusiast of coffee and from this position I hope I can help other people get to grips with approaching specialty coffee. I see the fact I am not working in the coffee industry as a good thing for my blog, but it does mean I never put out as much stuff as my churning mind would like to!
I always have a list of coffee shops in the back burner to visit if I have a free afternoon, but it never means I will write a blog about it - only if it is really special. Coffee Snob is like a hobby on crack, so I’d be going to these coffee shops anyway. I think that’s why the whole thing happened rather naturally. I am, in essence, a self-proclaimed coffee snob.
You've written about cafes all over the UK, and even in other countries. What is your favorite city for getting a cup of coffee?
Oooh, great question. Probably Berlin. I was there for the World of Coffee Expo last year and it was bloody brilliant. I got to know some of their finest coffee roasters over there, including The Barn, Five Elephant and Fjord Coffee - the latter of which was served in Father Carpenter. I managed to get an interview with the owner of Father Carpenter - it was such a fascinating coffee shop I did a blog on it. It really is a perfect city for a coffee lover. Hop on a bike, explore the different areas, and you’re never too far from a really excellent cup of coffee. I’ve seen a few of Berlin’s roasters served over here in London coffee shops - it’s amazing to see the wonderful local world of the specialty coffee movement and for me, Berlin sits at the core of it, among a few of others. Istanbul as well - that was a total education.
What is your favorite region for coffee, if you have one?
Probably South America - that’s the starting point for most of my favourite blends.
When you are out at a cafe, what is your go-to order?
Flat white, 1 shot (I’ve cut down to one shot, after realising I didn’t need as much caffeine during lockdown.)