Cappuccino Quest: Two Cappuccinos And Two Flat Whites At The Twankey Bar, Cape Town, South Africa, Are Unexpectedly Disappointing

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 8 March 2016
Category: Reviews Comments View Comments


A team training exercise in cappuccino evaluation turned into a bit of a disaster after - by sheer bad luck once we managed to coordinate four schedules - we picked a day for the adventure when a skilled barista wasn't behind the bar to make great drinks.

The Twankey Bar is an oyster and champagne bar in Cape Town that, due to being part of a hotel group with an upmarket, intimidating presence and prices the average sane Capetonian can't afford, isn't really frequented by locals, except those of a certain ilk (or card flashing business proclivities).

Cappuccino Quest: Two Cappuccinos And Two Flat Whites At The Twankey Bar, Cape Town, South Africa, Are Unexpectedly Disappointing

I've been there once, in 2013 to help Glenfiddich celebrate its 125th birthday, which I really enjoyed (the whisky more than the people) so it was with a little bit of trepidation that I ended up there towards the end of last year for a lunch business meeting. It was an emergency choice due to being centrally located from our opposite directions and easy to find as it's on a pretty corner of two landmark roads near The Slave Lodge, The Company's Garden, and St George's Cathedral.

To my surprise the place ended up being almost empty during that lunch time and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. As an afterthought I ordered a cappuccino, which the waitress then reflected back to me as a flat white (more on that in a second but, in essence, it's not what I asked for), and it turned out to be one of the best flat whites I've ever had in Cape Town. It wasn't perfect but it was extremely close. As the bar serves coffee from Truth I assume this means that the barista was properly trained by the Truth team and upholds the brand's standards.

Cappuccino Quest: Two Cappuccinos And Two Flat Whites At The Twankey Bar, Cape Town, South Africa, Are Unexpectedly Disappointing

I wasn't there to evaluate the drink - the meeting was far too important for me to be distracted - but I spent days afterwards waxing lyrical to anyone who would listen about how I'd finally found a good one in an unexpected place after months of testing again in the city and finding the quality drifting between average and appalling (some of those reviews will be appearing on soon).

Therefore, I opted to return with the Cape Town team members to talk them through our Cappuccino Quest evaluation criteria and give them some guidance and training so that we're all aligned for future reviews. The quiet meant we would be able to talk and the service is swift enough that we could get there and get out in an hour.

Cappuccino Quest: Two Cappuccinos And Two Flat Whites At The Twankey Bar, Cape Town, South Africa, Are Unexpectedly Disappointing
Above: One of the cappuccinos.
It was on this occasion that I discovered that the bar offers both cappuccinos and flat whites so I asked the waitress what the difference is. She didn't know and became a bit ornery that I had asked but she went to find out and told us that the flat white is 175ml and the cappuccino is 160ml but I'm pretty sure that the cup capacity is larger (the same cups are used for both drinks) so I'm still unclear as to what she meant.

As there were four of us we decided to split the order and get two cappuccinos and two flat whites so that we could compare the differences directly and cover two drinks at once. The summary of both is below but, in short, we were quite surprised to discover that the drinks weren't very good. They barely met any of the criteria for a proper cappuccino or flat white and were problematic and badly made.

Cappuccino Quest: Two Cappuccinos And Two Flat Whites At The Twankey Bar, Cape Town, South Africa, Are Unexpectedly Disappointing
Above: One of the flat whites.
I couldn't understand how the coffee could be so different to what I'd had a week before but after I started asking the waitress more questions she told us that the professional barista, whose name is Freemantle, wasn't actually in that day - he was at Truth for training - and someone else was making the coffee. She suggested that we come back when he is there to ask him the questions as she couldn't answer what we needed to know and the barista who was on duty didn't seem to know the answers either (when we enquired as to which Truth coffee blend the establishment uses we were told it was robusta).

I will go back (again) sometime in order to write an evaluation of a well made drink but meanwhile here's the review of the coffee we had that day. My recommendation is to check that Freemantle is behind the bar before you order - otherwise you're wasting your money and will be missing out on a great cappuccino or flat white. Opinion

Order: Two Cappuccinos (R20 each) and two Flat Whites (R20 each). The usual price is R22 for both the cappuccino and the flat white but the bar had been running a special at R20. I don't know if we qualified or if we were just charged less because it wasn't the professional barista making the coffee.

Service: Both drink types were served in cups with saucers and spoons. The spoons were all placed on the saucer so that they could be served in a way that would allow for a right-handed person to lift the cup without knocking the spoon off the saucer but the drinks weren't placed on the table in that way. The waitress, unfortunately, wasn't very knowledgable about the drinks and while that's not a huge problem I didn't appreciate her apparent sense of annoyance that we were asking questions.

Size: Apparently the flat white is 175ml and the cappuccino is 160ml. I don't know what that means in terms of ratio - is there more milk? More espresso? The cup size, which was the same for all the drinks, appeared to be around 200ml. (It seemed hopeless to ask.) Either way it's within the required size for our evaluation, assuming the foam is correct.

Foam: All four drinks had what was an attempt at wet foam but it was very problematic. The two flat whites and one cappuccino had foam that was half a centimetre or less thick, whereas it should be at least one centimetre to meet the correct ratio requirements. My cappuccino had slightly thicker foam, at about eight millimetres. The light-dark balance of dark crema and white foam was off with all the drinks had they all had bubbly microfoam that was a little light in texture, microfoam that was degrading quickly, and large pouring holes. The foam didn't have a velvety sheen and didn't taste sweet (although it wasn't sour either) but that does mean that the fats and proteins were damaged when the foam was made, likely at too high a temperature.

Temperature: For everyone the temperature of the cup was such that it could be handled immediately and the coffee was slightly on the cool side but not problematically so. I would estimate it was in the 60°C range.

Coffee: The coffee tasted both slightly bitter and slightly sour. Neither was overpowering and therefore sugar wasn't necessary but they did mask any flavour. We made the mistake of sitting so that we couldn't see the barista working but we came to the conclusion that the portafilter probably wasn't cleaned between drinks. The correct amount of milk was added to the coffee. I had quite a few granulates at the bottom of my cup; the others had fewer but more than what is acceptable.

Rating: 5/10. My cappuccino was average at best and only just palatable, and that was pretty much the conclusion that everyone else came to with their drinks.

Date Visited: 11 November 2015

Cappuccino Quest: Two Cappuccinos And Two Flat Whites At The Twankey Bar, Cape Town, South Africa, Are Unexpectedly Disappointing

South Africa
The Twankey Bar
Address: The Taj Cape Town, 1 Wale Street (the bar's street entrance is on the corner of Wale Street and Adderley Street, opposite The Company's Garden), Cape Town, South Africa [ map ]
Phone: +27 (0)21 819 2000
Social Media: Twitter

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Tags: #cape_town, #cappuccino_quest

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