London Grind

The London Grind logo, taken from the wall outside.London Grind, at the southern end of London Bridge, was the first of London’s growing Grind chain to offer full restaurant service in addition to its tried and tested espresso bar by day/cocktail bar by night model. It’s also undergone a recent expansion which has added a large seating area at the back and more than trebled the size of the kitchen.

There are several seating options, largely depending on why you are at Grind. If you’re dining, then there’s the aforementioned seating area, while if you are here for the espresso bar (day) or cocktail bar (evening) then you can sit at the counter. As a half-way house, a range of tables with padded benches lines the front wall where you can sit sipping your coffee/cocktails or having a more informal dining experience. As well as breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, there are also cakes and, at lunch-time, sandwiches.

This was the first time I’d visited a Grind since the chain started roasting its own coffee in its new Shoreditch HQ. In keeping with the tried and trusted Grind model, there is both a house-blend (for milk-based drinks) and single-origin (espresso, Americano, etc) on espresso, as well as decaf.

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Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe

A one and one (otherwise known as a split shot), beautifully presented on a wooden tray with a glass of soda water at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe, Arizona.Along with Press Coffee, my chance discovery on my first visit to Phoenix, the other big name in Phoenix coffee is Cartel Coffee Lab. Another roaster/coffee shop chain, Cartel has six branches, including (like Press Coffee) one at the airport. In a departure from the Coffee Spot norm, my introduction to Cartel was a visit to its first ever branch, which is also the roastery, in downtown Tempe.

A large, sprawling spot, Cartel consists of multiple, connected spaces, which betrays its roots, since Cartel started in just one small part of its current home, slowly expanding to incorporate the additional spaces over the years. Further expansion is in the pipeline: the roastery (currently along the left-hand side in the front part of the store) will soon be shifted into the adjacent building at the back of the store.

Cartel, which never roasts blends, has six single-origins, including a decaf. All are available as filter through Aeropress, V60, Clever Dripper and Chemex, while one (plus the decaf) is available as espresso. There’s also a daily option on bulk-brew, cold brew and, if you’re hungry, a small selection of cake. If you don’t fancy coffee, there is a small tea selection too.

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Phoenix and the Grand Adventure

Making coffee with my Travel Press on the flight on the way to Phoenix, October 2016. Grinding by Knock.Welcome to the fifth of the occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series, where I attempt to document my various travels around the world. The first of these was back in 2015 when I did my coast-to-coast trip across the USA by train, followed by a return visit to the US this time last year. 2016 was a good year for travel, with a brief sojourn in Porto, followed by a round-the-world trip via Hong Kong, Shanghai and Chicago.

This, the first Travel Spot of 2017 sees me off on a Grand Adventure around the US, starting with a return to Phoenix. Since I’m actually writing this at the gate in Heathrow’s Terminal 3, I thought I’d kick this Travel Spot off with a brief recap of my first visit to Phoenix which took place at the end of October last year. So, while I jet off across the Atlantic, you can read all about what happened the last time I made this trip.

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The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street

Detail taken from The Gentlemen Baristas logo drawn on the wall upstairs at Union Street.The Gentlemen Baristas opened at the end of 2014 and is favoured by such luminaries as Bex (Double Skinny Macchiato) and Daniel (Cups of Coffee London). So quite why it’s taken me over two years to visit the original coffee shop on Union Street is a mystery. And, frankly, the loss is all mine. From the street, a modest multi-paned square window next to a solitary door hides an unexpectedly large and glorious interior, consisting of several interlinked spaces spread over two floors, including a sheltered roof-garden and cosy back room. I can see the appeal already.

The Gentlemen Baristas projects a fun image, reminding me of Victoriana and, more specifically, Steampunk, but not in an in-your-face sort of way. If you’re just coming for a cup of coffee, don’t let it put you off. Talking of which, while The Gentlemen Baristas may be about fun, it’s very serious when it comes to the coffee, which is private-label roasted by Wogan Coffee in Bristol under The Gentlemen Baristas brand. There are several blends and single-origins available on espresso, with more single-origins on filter (Aeropress, V60, Kalita Wave and Chemex), where they’re joined by a guest roaster, currently Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee.

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Third Rail Coffee, Greenwich Village

The front of Third Rail Coffee on Sullivan Street, New York City.Third Rail Coffee has been part of the New York speciality coffee scene for some time now. A chain of precisely two, this branch, in Greenwich Village, is the original, having opened seven years ago. It’s a small spot, not much bigger than Café Grumpy’s Lower East Side branch where I had started the day, with space inside for maybe 12.

The coffee’s from North Carolina’s Counter Culture, the Los Rosales single-origin Colombian on espresso, joined by a guest roaster. This guest spot focuses on East Coast roasters, exemplified by the choice during my visit, Boston’s George Howell. There’s a single-origin (sometimes blend) on bulk-brew, with a choice of four single-origins through the Chemex. These change every couple of months and are chalked up on boards next to the menu. As is often the case in the US, the focus is firmly on the coffee, with cookies if you’re hungry.

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Laneway & Co

A V60 of a Costa Rican coffee from Caravan which I had at Laneway & Co, Newcastle.Laneway & Co is part of the recent surge of speciality coffee shops in Newcastle. Opening in July last year, I missed it by just a couple of months, having been up in May to check out the likes of Hatch Coffee. Instead I had to settle for catching up with it on my return on a dark, December day, at which point it had been open for five months.

Laneway & Co is, perhaps, the most London-like of all Newcastle’s speciality coffee shops, with a somewhat austere, tiled interior that is reminiscent of many a coffee shop in the likes of, say, Fitzrovia. This London connection is reinforced by the coffee, with the Allpress Redchurch blend on espresso, while the guests, while I was there at least, were from Caravan and, before that, Square Mile.

Although there is a small selection of cake and a couple of sandwiches, the focus is firmly on the coffee. As well as Allpress on espresso, the two or three guest beans are available as filter, each matched to a specific method, either Aeropress or V60. If you’re looking for alternatives, there’s tea from Brew Tea Co and single-origin hot chocolate from Kokoa Collection.

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Reusable Cups

A flat white from Pitch in Fulham Broadway in my Therma Cup, a double-walled, thermally-insulated china cup which I take with me on my travels.I was inspired to write this Saturday Supplement after reading an article earlier this week by Ashley Tomlinson on The Little Black Coffee Cup about the issues surrounding disposable coffee cups. If you have been following the Coffee Spot for a while, you will know that I really, really dislike disposable cups, although I’ve come at it from a very different direction. While I don’t like the waste that comes with disposable cups, my primary motivation is one of taste. Put simply, I can’t stand the way most coffee tastes when drunk from disposable cups.

This has led me to adopt a somewhat evangelical attitude to reusable coffee cups and, while I’ve been championing them for some time now, I realise that I’ve been doing it in a rather haphazard fashion, writing about cups as I’ve come across them (usually at coffee festivals). I’ve also been making the argument for them (and hence against disposable cups) in a similarly piecemeal fashion. This Saturday Supplement attempts to rectify that by bringing everything together into one place in the form of a new Reusable Cups section of the Coffee Spot where I can add new cups as and when I find them.

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Little Victories

Detail from the A-board outside Little Victories in Bristol, explaining the concept and pointing the way to the door...Small St Espresso, which opened in 2012, was one of Bristol’s first speciality coffee shops and is still one of my favourites, a masterclass on how to run a coffee shop in a small, intimate space. When I visited at the start of 2016, there were rumours of a second Small St, and then, at the very end of the summer, it opened. Going by the name Little Victories and describing itself as a sister venue to Small St, it was a must-visit on my return to Bristol at the end of last year.

Located on the wonderfully-named Spike Island, south of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, Little Victories is part of the Wapping Wharf development, sitting at the bottom (northern) end of Gaol Ferry Steps. Occupying a ground floor corner unit, it’s a big, open space with enormously high ceilings.

Operating as a speciality coffee shop by day, it morphs into a casual bar in the evening (Wednesday to Saturday), bringing craft beer, small plates and coffee-based cocktails to Bristol. All the coffee is from local roasters, Clifton Coffee Roasters, with two options on espresso and two more on available as pour-overs through the Chemex, while bread comes from Hart’s Bakery.

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And Coffee

Detail taken from the top of the menu outside And Coffee in Shanghai.And Coffee is a small, almost cubic space on the busy Wulumuqi Middle Road, the door on the left and a solitary window on the right. I found it completely by chance, something about it setting off my Coffee Spot radar. I’m not quite sure what, but I’ve learnt to trust my radar over the years.

There’s not much to And Coffee. The counter occupies the back of the room and there’s just enough space for an eight-person communal table in the centre, plus a four-person window-bar at the front. And that’s it. The décor is similarly plain, verging on the austere, with white-painted walls and ceiling, punctuated by a wooden counter-front and wooden table.

Coffee-wise, there are espresso-based drinks, single-origin pour-overs (with a choice of four beans) and cold brew, all using beans from the local Moon Coffee Roaster. There’s also tea, detox smoothies and, if you’re hungry, cake.

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Stir

The double doors of Stir, facing the corner of Chesterton Road and Hawthorn Way.Stir is part of a slow expansion of Cambridge’s speciality coffee scene, coming along after the trend-setters of Hot Numbers and The Espresso Library. Occupying a very large spot at the far end of Chesterton Road to the northeast of the centre, it has quickly built itself a loyal local following as well as starting to attract visitors from the wider area, including cyclists and rowers. The extra space afforded by Stir’s out-of-centre location allows it greater latitude, including a function room at the back that hosts a wide variety of clubs and a massive outdoor terrace where you can catch the sun, or just enjoy some fresh air. Dogs are also welcome and, indeed, encouraged (outside).

At the heart of the operation is coffee from local(ish) roasters, Butterworth & Son, from just over the border in Suffolk. Butterworth’s award-winning four-bean seasonal espresso blend is in the main hopper, with a single-origin espresso, which changes every month, in the second hopper. This is also available as bulk-brew filter if you are in a hurry. Food is an equally important part of the Stir offering, with an extensive breakfast (until noon), brunch (until 3pm) and lunch (noon until 4pm) menus.

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