The name of this relatively new cafe in Hammersmith/Fulham was intriguing on several levels. Kopi means coffee in both Malay and Indonesian and, having recently travelled back from SE Asia, it was interesting to see what the link to this cafe may be. Then there was the pun in the name. The website explains it as representative of a desire to make a consistently good coffee, each being a carbon copy of the other. So both the name, and the cafe’s symbol have appeals for a coffee-science website. And so it was that we wandered down Fulham Palace Road to finally arrive at Carbon Kopi a few Saturdays ago.
The cafe occupies a corner building and is much larger than you may expect it to be. It is also friendly, airy and light with large windows giving plenty of illumination to the space. Allergen information was clearly labelled on the cakes and edibles (with extra information in a folder), which is always great to see.
Coffee was by Square Mile with guest roasters on batch brew and so we had a long black and oat milk hot chocolate which came served in huskee cups. Huskee cups are produced by re-using the husks otherwise discarded during the coffee milling stage. A re-usable cup that reduces waste certainly, but does it reduce the carbon footprint? An answer that depends on how many times you use it. Continuing the environmental theme, near the door, there was a separate bin for compostable cups. This was excellent to see because if compostable cups do not get to an industrial composting facility, they can take an absolute age to break down in a conventional compost heap.
Across the road, the St Alban’s Church was made of brick. One row upon another, the set of bricks formed a layered structure. Where they met at corners or against the pavement they formed abrupt discontinuities, a sort of dislocation. Together with the small protrusion on the middle of the huskee cup saucer (to stop the cup slipping?), and the speaker above the door entertaining us with 80s music, the natural connection here was graphene.
Graphene is a form of carbon that is a single atomic layer thick. Each carbon atom is arranged into a flat hexagonal structure exactly like graphite but, unlike graphite, there is only one layer of these atoms in graphene. The strength and strange electrical properties of this material, together with its lightweight form, have made this material an intense subject of research for the past 15 years or so. A recent Physics World podcast tested a set of headphones with the vibrating membrane made of graphene. The idea being that the strength of the material combined with its relatively low mass, would enhance the way that we heard the sound coming through the speakers. You can listen to the review (though not the speakers) here.
But are there aspects of graphene that may be more applicable to the cafe and coffee industry? Various teams around the world have been working to make membranes of graphene work as single molecule detectors. The idea is that molecules adsorbed onto the surface of a graphene membrane change the electrical properties of the membrane to an extent that can be measured even in the case of single molecule adsorption. The sensitivity of the electrical properties of the graphene to different molecules could mean that graphene based devices would make very sensitive contamination detectors, including allergen detectors. Such sensors are the subject of a research collaboration at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington and could mean that, rather than be in any doubt as to whether a substance contains an allergen, it could be quickly tested by passing it through a graphene sensor.
All this is quite far from the coffee and cakes at Carbon Kopi. But if you are in the area, it is a lovely place to stop, enjoy a coffee and contemplate the bricks of the church opposite.
Carbon Kopi is at 11 Margravine Road, W6 8LS