Tag Archives: hot chocolate

Grahamstown’s special blend

Hand Made Coffees in Grahamstown is hands down the best coffee shop in town. It is probably the smallest, but they have the best staff, a cute and convenient location, and they focus on what’s important: the coffee.Garvey McConnell, the owner, explained how his addiction to coffee has benefited the students and citizens of Grahamstown, and much of the rest of the Eastern Cape.

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Garvey himself has travelled the world, living and working in big cities from America to Europe, to Hong Kong, and finally decided to settle down in the small dorp of Hamburg. The assumption that the nearby city of East London would be able to the coffee needs he developed in his First World life, was futile, as many may have guessed – it is better to never expect Slummies to have much, that way you can be pleasantly surprised when they do.

Garvey needed freshly roasted beans in order to get his true fix. Anything less was a waste of his time. He started his little private roastary in his home, sourcing small bags of beans that he could prepare as he needed. Locals heard (smelled too, perhaps?) of his amazing blends, and he became the supplier for the area. This put a lot of pressure on his personal roaster, which eventually gave in, and Garvey was permitted (by the missus) to invest in a commercial roaster to support his booming business.

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Hand Made Coffees was started because Garvey believes there is no point in having a roastary if you don’t get to taste the product you are buying, an error that other roastaries in the Eastern Cape have apparently made. The Grahamstown branch is located in a nook under the arch in front of the clock tower on Rhodes campus, which makes it perfectly situated for the students, and also easily accessible to the rest of the Grahamstown community.

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They offer a good selection of brewed beverages, from cappuccinos to mochas, but their ultimate has got to be their iced coffee. They use a “secret ingredient” – which Sisa, the barista, unfortunately refused to divulge with me – and it makes for a refreshing Grahamstown Summer caffeine hit.

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The coffee itself is also always an experience. Garvey likes to experiment with different flavours and bean combinations (blends) in his roasting, and if you’re a real coffee fundi, you will be able to taste the subtle differences. Incredibly, Garvey always gets that flavour right, so you will always get an incredible coffee flavour. He bases his coffee flavour on what he likes to drink. Most of his patrons would agree that he has good taste.

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On a good day, and if you’re nice enough to Sisa, you will be able to buy chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat), hot out of the oven. If you’re mean, you may only be able to buy a normal croissant (which is delicious too, but if you know me, you know you can’t EVER beat chocolate…)

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Hand Made Coffees is a real character in Grahamstown, and it takes after the character that is Garvey. If you don’t like coffee, they offer hot chocolate too. If you still feel like being difficult, go to Hand Made Coffees just for the awesome company and interesting conversation – you might be inspired to travel the big cities of the world, or it may make you fall in love with Grahamstown and develop an even deeper fondness for small towns.

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A bright idea – Revelations Grahamstown

It’s amazing what new management can do. In my first year at Grahamstown there was this random little coffee shop at the only shopping centre in town. Sometimes you’d hear of people going there, but mostly it felt like walking past some long-forgotten church, or the University library at the start of the New Year (when people have forgotten how much work they could actually be getting done in there). Now, Revelations Café is a go-to food-spot, especially if you like your cakes.

eat coffee tea signageThey had a great revamp and gained popularity again in 2012, with all sorts of wonderful specials to draw in the crowds. Not only were the prices reasonable and competitive, but also the quality of the food was really above the common Grahamstown standard.

Cake

Their cakes would be one of their major draw factors: they are made perfectly every time and they have a really nice wide variety. I was disappointed to learn that they don’t actually make these on site, however. The cakes are supplied by Chateaux Gateaux. Since learning this, it appears that a huge number of coffee shops have their cakes supplied by them too. So Revelations’ cakes aren’t all that special, though they are really delicious (and you can’t beat mass-produced consistency sometimes, can you?).

Breakfast specials are great on a student budget, but a real omelette is a nice and wholesome break away from res food

Breakfast specials are great on a student budget, but a real omelette is a nice and wholesome break away from res food

Their breakfasts are definitely winners. Sometimes they offer a breakfast special, though their breakfast menu options are worth spending the extra money on. They are generous with their portions, particularly in their omelettes.

Waffles are good for breakfast too... Revelations knows how to maximise on the Bar One too, which is great!

Waffles are good for breakfast too… Revelations knows how to maximise on the Bar One too, which is great!

Revelations offers lunch and dinner options as well. On a student budget a lot of the dinner choices are a bit excessive, though they are around the same price as you would expect to pay in other larger towns and cities, and the quality is good (think café burgers rather than steakhouse burgers though). Their wide range can cater for a number of dietary requirements (healthier options and vegetarian options, for example), but it does make decisions really hard.

Chicken and bacon wrap with a berry smoothie, a wholesome healthy lunch (that is also delicious)

Chicken and bacon wrap with a berry smoothie, a wholesome healthy lunch (that is also delicious)

Chicken , bacon, apple and blue cheese salad with a Mango smoothie. This was a half portion too, so they are really generous

Chicken , bacon, apple and blue cheese salad with a Mango smoothie. This was a half portion too, so they are really generous

You can enjoy their delicious smoothies out under the trees or you can cuddle up under cover on the couch with a decadent hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows, whipped cream and a flake), which makes it ideal for summer or winter treats.

Banana and almond smoothie and a vanilla milkshake. The smoothie was delicious, but it could have done well with a bigger straw because the nuts were not too finely chopped

Banana and almond smoothie and a vanilla milkshake. The smoothie was delicious, but it could have done well with a bigger straw because the nuts were not too finely chopped

Generally their service is very friendly, though relaxed enough that you remember you are not in a large town where waiters are there to pander immediately to your every whim.

They have a larger than average tea selection, and great options for teatime accompaniments

They have a larger than average tea selection, and great options for teatime accompaniments

This café is definitely worth a visit when in Grahamstown, and also good for regular treats with friends (just not on a Sunday, unfortunately).

Added bonus: they have free wifi.

Jay Bay for a Day

Although I am not a huge fan of staying in the remote isolation that is Grahamstown, staying in the Eastern Cape does have a few perks. It can be especially beautiful, and staying in G’Town means I’m not too far away from places that offer much in the way of aesthetics (well, until I go back to Gauteng, which happens to be this coming weekend).

One weekend, we casually decided to pop on over to Jeffrey’s Bay. It’s less than two hours away, so it is perfect for a day visit (or a night over, if you have the time). Unfortunately, we went on a day that was particularly dull, so we didn’t get to see J-Bay in its true glory.

Let's go to the beach, beach, let's go get - oh wait...

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get – oh wait…

Obviously, I was most excited to have new foods to try. I was in my element, and I nearly bought a brownie at every place we stopped. But that is why we have budgets. It was a charming and new culinary experience, and J-Bay certainly had a bit to offer.

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don't cater for gluten intolerant folk

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don’t cater for gluten intolerant folk

The motivation for going to this beach town, known to me for its surfing reputation, was the factory shopping. RVCA, billabong, and other cool outlet stores were calling (after all, summer was meant to arrive soon, which means bikini season!). I am almost as obsessed with bikinis as I am with brownies and food, so endless cheap bikinis was like a tiny slice of heaven. Bikinis tend to be more expensive than brownies, which is unfortunate, but not too much so when you’re in J-Bay! Though, you can’t have both at the same time with maximum effectiveness, if you know what I mean. Why can’t we have our cake and eat it? Because there are only so many hours in a day that one can spend exercising.

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

I love to shop, but I never buy anything. I think I have a fear of the commitment to the clothing, because I just love to look at it all, but I am scared to try new things. So I didn’t buy anything, but that doesn’t mean that the retail therapy didn’t work.

We were also fortunate enough to see a little bit of a surfing competition, but by this stage the weather was really rubbish, so we returned to our backwards little G’Town.

Junior Surfing competition

Junior Surfing competition

Classiest treats in Grahamstown

Haricot’s deli and bistro is definitely one of the classiest little cafés in town. Situated very near campus, right across the road from The Rat & Parrot, a local drinking hangout that makes truly fabulous pizza, Haricot’s provides the quaintest little treats and meals. However, for “sophistication” such as this, you really do pay rather heftily in some cases. I went there for a “first date” last year, and (apart from the school children who were out with their families) it was a really romantic venue to take someone for that kind of thing (where it really is a treat) It’s not all expensive, though, so a student can really make it work out for them.

Their cookies are delicious: chocolate and white chocolate chip. They go really well with the hot chocolate

Their cookies are delicious: chocolate and white chocolate chip. They go really well with the hot chocolate

Haricot’s makes the best hot chocolate in town, as far as I’ve had (and I have had quite a few). It’s really cosy in there, and I’ve decided that that’s where I like to get work done, if I feel like working in a coffee shop (which I do, of course). It is also a competitively priced hot chocolate.

I could really sit there all day working, so long as I had a steady stream of that fluffy, creamy goodness

I could really sit there all day working, so long as I had a steady stream of that fluffy, creamy goodness

I went there for breakfast with a friend of mine over the weekend. I had French toast, she had a croissant with jam and cheese. While her croissant was a fair bit smaller than my meal, it was about a third of the price.

More hot chocolate as we try decide from the numerous great options

More hot chocolate as we try decide from the numerous great options

Croissant with jam and cheese - note: it is smaller than it looks in the photo, but big enough

Croissant with jam and cheese – note: it is smaller than it looks in the photo, but big enough

They are also makers of wonderful different breads, which explains the unusual choice of bread in this French toast meal. It was also the first time I had maple syrup: I can't say I'm a fan as it tasted too much like plant (like tree bark or something)

They are also makers of wonderful different breads, which explains the unusual choice of bread in this French toast meal. It was also the first time I had maple syrup: I can’t say I’m a fan as it tasted too much like plant (like tree bark or something)

They do cake, of course. The cakes are pretty, sometimes they are extravagant, but all the time they are  really pricey. Granted, they are large slices, so maybe it works out well if you go there and share a slice with a friend. But when you’re paying the same price for one piece of cake as you are for a full take-away burger with large chips and a drink, you have to question your sweet tooth. I tend to stick to their cupcakes, which are more reasonably priced, and which are also really delicious.

Cutest and fluffiest little chocolate cupcakes

Cutest and fluffiest little chocolate cupcakes

The cupcake they have a solid reputation for, of course, is the red velvet cupcake, and it really is amazing. Make sure you get it fresh, otherwise the buttercream frosting (it tasted like buttercream more than cream cheese frosting, but I could possibly be wrong) will go a bit too hard, and their fresh frosting is light and fluffy and delicious, so don’t miss out.

This cupcake cheered me up after a very bleak morning today. Thank you, Red Velvet Cupcake, I love your fluffy sweetness

This cupcake cheered me up after a very bleak morning today. Thank you, Red Velvet Cupcake, I love your fluffy sweetness