Jul 242015

having a beer at cafe les halles, zürich

we have been nearly 2 weeks now in zürich – and i am not sure where the time has gone!

we have really enjoyed cycling around here, oh that australia had a cycling culture like this, no stupid helmet laws, bike paths everywhere, motorists that are considerate of cyclists and lots of facilities for them. its such a wonderful way to explore a city, so much faster than walking so you can cover much more ground, but still with the ability to stop to take a coffee, or a photos, or explore an interesting shop.

zürich is all the more pleasant for having very little traffic on most of its roads, probably a consequence of a first class public transport system as well as being bike friendly, also you are never far from the water with the lake and rivers running through the city.

the weather has been beautiful and perfect for swimming in the river, we enjoyed a day there earlier in the week, its a bit hairy in the water because its flowing quite fast, kai and I were jumping in upstream, floating down and swimming across the current to climb out some steps on the opposite side of the river a couple of hundred metres downstream then walking back across a foot bridge, along the side of the river back to the starting point and then jumping back in again!

we had to get it right because there were pretty serious rapids just downstream of the steps so if we missed the steps it would have been a bit hairy!

sal and i also scored an amazing little vintage wooden cart the other night, we were walking down to have a beer at a local bar when we passed an expensive vintage shop that we had seen previously – i had warned sal that we wouldnt be able to afford anything in such a flash looking shop – but this night they had a collection of stuff outside with a sign saying “gratis for taking”.

the cart was the highlight, although we also took a nice glass bottle as well, we decided we couldnt pass it up so we passed up on the beer instead and i walked the cart home!

as always our visit has been as much about the people as the place, sal and i met a couple of guys up in a park overlooking the city when we went for an evening walk one night. we quite often take a couple of beers and ride or walk to somewhere nice for an evening drink and this night we ended up chatting to aidrian and fabian while having our beers.

they were very interested in australia – if slightly overawed by the wildlife! as we were all out of beer we invited them back to have a couple more at home – where kai quickly roped them into playing uno. hopefully we will have a chance to catch up with them again before we leave switzerland.

i also made contact with joanes, who is a zürich coffee fanatic like myself. he also owns a lovely lever machine, the londinium 1, i contacted him online looking for tips for cafes and coffee roasters in zürich and he kindly asked me to come around to his place for a coffee session.

joanes has a fantastic setup with an unusual versalab grinder – a grinder i have read a lot about but never used, as well as his primary grinder, a compak K10 and of course the beautiful Londinium. we have different tastes in coffee, joanes preferring single origins, lightly roasted and updosed for a bright, fruity and slightly acidic espresso where as i prefer a darker traditional italian roast with the caramel, chocolate, slightly smokey flavour.

none the less i was very impressed with the extraction he got from the lightly roasted single origin coffee from tanzania that he was using, it was good enough to have me considering having a play with this style of coffee when i get home. he managed to avoid the sourness and over-acidity that i usually find with this style of espresso.

we also enjoyed listening to some vinyl on his beautiful hi-fi system, he has a very nice high end tube amplifier and some lovely hand built speakers. good music and good coffee is a fine combination indeed!

it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and a reminder of the way the internet enables the connections of people with shared interests all over the world.




Dec 202014
piha  002

kai playing with kelp

I feel like there has been a significant shift since our arrival in piha, we always knew the first month was going to be a lead into the ‘gap year’, a month still in australia and a month staying with friends and family rather than on our own.

already, after only a couple of days we can feel the difference, its great to be just us in the house again, (as nice as it is seeing friends and family!!), we are also starting to find our way on this path of the gap year, we are becoming very relaxed, but also really enjoying just living.

its the little things – we have been going for big walks on the beach at piha and it crossed my mind that when i get home i must try and walk the beaches at home more – then it came to me that the reason we can do it so easily here is precisley because we are not working or going to school!

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kai in silhouette

i think our thoughts and minds are becoming very peaceful too, not just from the no work, no school, but on top of that the tranquility of a little coastal surf village in NZ!

i feel like we are also having a cleansing of sorts, eating really well because of both the abundant (relative) supply of fresh produce, but also again because of the time we have on hand, and combined with daily real exercise its got us all buzzing! (excuse my purple patch).

even within the tiny confines of jeremy’s bach, we are finding our own individual enviromental spaces – which has always been important to all 3 of us.

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looking down from the loft bedroom

little things are great too! the morning coffee ritual continues because jeremy brought one of my Caravels and a Lido grinder and I brought a bag of our coffee with us – so I get up and put the caravel on, grind some coffee while i wait for it to get up to temperature and then pull a couple of shots of caffeine nectar!

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its also giving us a chance to consider some of the aspects of what life in retirement might look like, and I think over the next few months that will be an interesting insight – what will we fill our days with to replace the routine of ordinary life?

that also informs our choices for what we choose to do over the gap year – i get the sense already that as nice as it will be catching up with friends all over the world, having a series of bases like piha where we are in our own space and free to do as we choose, will be our preference.

i will sign off with a picture i took just on sunset last night down on the beach, a surfer and his girlfriend having a kiss, watching the sun slide away.

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love on the beach!

Feb 062014

holv6 (6)

thats the view from the steps of the thuc cafe, where i have just enjoyed an espresso on the way home from breakfast, its typical of the heart of this vibrant place, wide footpaths, tree lined streets, small parks, with all the buzz of an international city.

the longer we spend here, the more convinced we are to come back and live here for an extended time – like 6 months, it was always our loose plan to spend our retirement living somewhere overseas for 6 months and somewhere in australia for the other 6 months – saigon is the first place in our recent travels where I am really certain I wish to come back to and spend time actually living here.

breakfast today was at the i.d. Cafe, the first time we visited we sat downstairs where they have their coffee machine and a couple of little tables, and enjoyed an espresso, it wasnt until I asked where the toilet was and they directed me upstairs, that we discovered they have a large upstairs space with a small restaurant, funky decorations and a view out over the local streets.

so today sal & I went back for a leisurely breakfast, sal had an omelette with baguette and i had char grilled pork with vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, peanuts, thai basil, coriander and a typical vietnamese dressing. with a couple of short macchiatos the bill came to about $12 – which is not cheap in saigon but it was yummy and is at least half what a similar meal in a trendy cafe would cost in sydney.


Feb 042014

holv3 (14)

Bánh mì is the perfect fast food and/or hangover cure in Saigon. walk any street in Saigon and you’re likely to find at least one street food vendor smearing a small baguette with pâté, dropping in some cold cuts, pickled vegetables and fresh coriander squirting in some soy sauce (and adding a few chili peppers) … then wrapping it in a small sheet of paper and snapping a rubber band around the assembly. Off you go with a great hangover cure, midday or midnight sandwich snack.

Luckily you can usually find a street cart selling bánh mì right next to a cafe serving a great coffee so you could probably live on a diet of bánh mì and coffee indefinitely!

sal and i had a bánh mì and coffee to try to dispel the foggy head and lethargy that undoubtably had plenty to do with the excesses of last night, sal headed home but i decided to wander down town to the restaurant where we dined last night to pick up the jumper i had left there due to my early onset dementia.

as i was strolling along the shady boulevards of saigon i was assailed by a number of dodgy looking old men on motorbikes, slowing down so they could offer me ‘special massage with nice girl’, i suspect what they were offering was neither special nor a massage – and probably not a nice girl either!

it did occour to me they were missing their mark, had they offered me “special bánh mì or phở” – I probably would have taken them up on their kind offer and jumped on the back of their honda.

instead i gently declined their offer of “special massage” and continued my meanderings through the shady streets.

Dec 062012

after months of waiting, my pre-production ES-2 Espresso Machine has arrived from Espresso Strietman in Holland.

Wouter Strietman has made a pre-production run of 20 machines and I was lucky enough to secure one of them, drawing inspiration from machines like the Arrarex Caravel from the 1960’s and incorporating modern electronic temperature control they are an amazing design.

The courier waved me down in Woolies car park this morning to tell me she had a box for me,

I whisked it home and unpacked the very well padded parcel to reveal the component parts of the ES-2, I have put it together with the drip tray holder inverted which allows it to sit upright on the table for pictures, the intent is to wall monut the machine.

as you can see, there is not actually much to it and assembly took a matter of minutes with no instructions required! everything is well built and very solid feeling, i love the industrial finish – its not a polished and glossy finish like my big Izzo lever but it really suits this machine I think.

you can see the nice detail on the control unit here, and finally the assembled machine. it will be a few days before I have it up and running as I dont have time to work out the mounting system and set it up but I am hugely excited to see just how good the extractions are from this timeless design of coffee porn! Wouter also kindly included a couple of nice porcelain cups bearing his name as well as 3 different portafilters to try.

in my excitement this morning I did forget to mention the relationship with Wouter through this process, he has been fantastic, communicating at every step of this unique process, adaptive to issues as they came up (he couldnt use wood handles and send it to australia easily), he has sent photos through as work progressed and generally been a pleasure to deal with. i am sure I will have even more positive feedback once i get to the point of pulling shots on this beauty!

Nov 232012

sorry for my lengthy absence from the pages of nhawi, my primary excuse is that I have been struck down with the scrouge of Ross River Virus.

to save you having to listen to a litany of whinging about aching joints and lethagy, i suggest those ignorant of, or with a morbid curiosity for, the details of RRV, do a google search and enlighten themselves.

i have been crook with it for about 2 months and can expect at least another month of feeling like an 85yo man, an insight I could easily have lived without.

anyway with no further ado i present you with proof that i am not completely overcome, a small video of a shot pulled on my Arrarex Caravel manual lever coffee machine with a new ‘naked’ or bottomless portafilter – which will mean absolutely nothing to all but the few coffee obsessed readers of my little blog. again readers, google is your friend.

and with that i shall return to the cricket and watch the skippies flog the saffies.

….back from the cricket, my friend Koffee Kosmo has requested a view of the extraction looking up into the portafilter so here is ‘nekkid2’

Jun 232012

i have become a little obsessed with vintage lever coffee machines, in particular the Arrarex Caravel – which is not the machine above! The Arrarex Caravel is a piece of inspired late ’50’s Italian design, beautiful, simple and incredibly effecient and reliable. There were thousands of them sold into Italian homes in the ’60’s and 70’s and in testament to their design, a surprising number still exist in pristine, working condition. In my search for one to buy, I was offered the little beauty above- a late ’50’s Baby Faemina. As you can see the condition is as new and the design is also beautiful and simple.

below is the Arrarex Caravel I eventually managed to purchase, its a very early one, in great condition and it should still make great coffee. I look forward to its arrival and the chance to put some coffee though it.

last night i lashed out and paid top price for another interesting machine, many australians will be familiar with the atomic stovetop coffee maker, thousands were sold in australia in the 60’s and they remain a popular item today, they are still being made by an australian company today so you can still buy a brand new one. Old ones in good condition from the sydney importer, Bon Trading, Woollahra fetch a premium on fleabay, more collectible are the early Italian labelled ones and particularly rare is the La Sorrentina version with green bakelite handles and knobs.

somehow and somewhere along the line i seem to have become a collector!

more coffee chat and stuff online at australia’s best coffee forum –


Apr 072012

i made this little video for the home barista website – a site that caters to coffee obsessed tragics like myself! I created it for a thread that showcases peoples routine with extracting a coffee from their lever coffee machines. warning – its probably totally boring to the majority of readers, only those infused with the passion of coffee will understand!