There's nothing worse than being faced with a watery brown liquid that only vaguely resembles coffee - unless it's something that would send you into a caffeine-crazed tiz after one sip. Such post-prandial disappointment distressed Victoria Reid so much she set up the Urban Espresso Training School.

"Who wants to pay pounds 2.50 for a cup of watery muck?" she asks. Chains such as Coffee Republic and Starbucks may have revised our takeaway expectations, but restaurant coffee is less reliable.

Urban Espresso, an offshoot of party planners Urban Productions, has been training staff from establishments such as the Ivy and the Savoy how to make the perfect espresso. The three- hour course, which is open to anyone, pour scorn on the idea of storing coffee beans in the freezer (it impedes the flavour), and remind you that you should only ever grind as much coffee as you are going to use, as it goes stale in three to four hours.

Students are taught the various stages of making espresso and espresso-based drinks, and, most importantly, how to clean the machine. "You can tell how the coffee is going to taste by just looking at how a restaurant maintains its machine," says Reid. Aoife O'Riordain

Urban Espresso, 63-65 Goldney Road, London W9 2AR (0171-286 1700). The course costs pounds 70 inclusive of VAT.

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