I love reading cafe reviews and so I was thrilled to discover Double Skinny Macchiato, a site that often reviews coffee shops around the U.K.. I recently got the chance to speak with Bex, the author of Double Skinny Macchiato, about her blog, how she came up with the name Double Skinny Macchiato, and more. The interview is below.
Could you tell my readers about your blog? What is Double Skinny Macchiato?
Double Skinny Macchiato is a blog where I share my favourite coffee and travel experiences, and my coffee experiences while travelling the world (well, most years, anyway). There are many great stories to tell about the coffee industry and the talented people who work in coffee, and I love to share them with my readers.
I’ve been blogging since 2007, and have written about coffee, my explorations of London and travelling from the start — my first, very brief, London speciality coffee shortlist was in 2009, soon after I moved there — along with various other topics. But over time, I’ve focused on coffee and travel, particularly on coffee shop write-ups and city guides.
Where did the name for your blog come from?
As the speciality coffee industry began to grow in London and beyond, I began to write more about coffee, and I introduced my ‘caffeine chronicles’ series of coffee shop write-ups in 2012, before relaunching my blog under the Double Skinny Macchiato name the following year. I’ve never been fond of long, milky drinks and my blog is named for what was at the time my standard order. Piccolos were harder to find in London at the time, but these days, I tend to drink them or hand-brewed filter coffee rather than macchiatos, but the name has stuck.
Why did you decide to start writing about coffee?
I got into coffee while working in a sandwich shop and espresso bar in Oxford in my last year of school. Thank goodness this was long before the rise of latte art! Gradually, I fell down the coffee rabbit hole, and my own tastes evolved along with the industry, as I documented in my coffee journey through the 2010s.
You write about coffee, travel, books, and movies. Do you have a schedule for writing about each topic?
At present, I mainly post about coffee, food and travel, with occasional book reviews when there are books I particularly want to recommend. I have a big archive of film reviews, but unfortunately, I rarely get to the cinema very much any more.
I try to balance posts about coffee shops, food and travel, but as I have a very hectic full-time day job — I work in communications at a scientific publisher — what I write about tends to vary depending on how much free time I’ve had in London, and how much I’ve been travelling.
Of course, this year has been very different with the COVID-19 pandemic, and apart from a very caffeinated trip to Seattle in February, I’ve been based almost exclusively in London. Given that running a financially sustainable coffee shop is a challenge even in normal times, I’ve really felt for everyone working within the industry this year, and have been inspired by how well people have adapted in the face of constantly changing laws and guidelines. It’s more important than ever to support these small businesses and I’ve been trying to do that both with my custom, and by highlighting them on my blog and on my social media accounts.
How do you decide what posts to write on your blog?
I keep lists of coffee shops, restaurants and other places I want to visit in a Google Map, and often write about my visits after I’ve visited at least once, and ideally twice.
It’s extremely rare for me to have a bad experience but if I do, I don’t write a negative post — such reviews can be very damaging to small businesses, and my negative experience may not be representative — but try to provide constructive feedback directly. I try to publish one or two posts per week, but I never write posts for the sake of having new content, instead only posting when I feel I have something to say that is worth sharing.
Do you edit posts for your blog or publish them straight after you’ve written them?
For coffee shop write-ups, I first select which of my photos to post and then do a light edit on them. I try to include enough photos for readers to get the feel of a coffee shop, without documenting every detail — if I visit a coffee shop I’ve read about before, part of the fun is making new discoveries.
Going through my photos first helps me to structure my post, and I usually write the text immediately afterwards — this is the part of the process I enjoy most. I then edit the post and do the more administrative tasks, such as uploading photos and scheduling social media posts, at another time, before scheduling the post to go live.
Do you follow a format for your blog posts? If so, could you tell me more?
It varies a lot depending on the type of post, but also depending on the experience I’ve had. For instance, if I’ve visited a coffee shop when it’s not very busy and I’ve spent a lot of time talking with the barista(s), that more personal story may become the main focus. A good example of that was my visit to Melbourne in Lichfield. Sitting at the coffee bar and experiencing the amazing sense of community owner Deb Pease created was a real pleasure.
What is your most memorable coffee experience to date, whether it’s at home brewing or in a cafe?
Great question! There have been so many over the years, but if I had to pick just one it would be the Third Wave Coffee Tour I took with Lora Woodruff in Portland, Oregon. Dubbed ‘a streetcar named delicious’, the tour stopped at five of Portland’s finest speciality coffee spots, with a different experience at each, from a cupping at Ristretto Roasters, to sampling both speciality coffee and single-origin chocolate at Cup and Bar. Lora is extremely knowledgeable about coffee and about Portland, and the tour was a lot of fun.
What other coffee blogs do you read?
Despite the rise of Instagram and other social networks, I still love to read blogs and closely follow dozens of coffee, food and travel blogs. For coffee shop and coffee kit reviews, my go-to blogs are Brian’s Coffee Spot, and BeanThere.at. As my day job is in science communications, I also enjoy Bean Thinking’s observations at the interface between science and coffee, while The Pourover has great features and weekly coffee news round-ups, and Cafespaces offers insights into cafe culture from a more academic perspective.
You can read Double Skinny Macchiato at www.doubleskinnymacchiato.com.