Issue 14 of Caffeine Magazine hit the coffee shops of the UK last weekend (11th/12th April). As regular readers will know, I have a vested interest here since I’m Caffeine Magazine’s UK café correspondent. Since Issue 4, I’ve written the Neighbourhood Watch feature, in which I explore the coffee scene in towns and cities around the country. If you’re new to the Coffee Spot or you haven’t heard of Caffeine Magazine, then you’re missing out, since it’s long become established as one of the UK’s foremost coffee publications.
Caffeine publishes bi-monthly and is available for free in most good independent coffee shops around the country, with a particular emphasis on London. However, if you’re struggling to find a copy, it’s also available on-line for both Apple and other platforms (including Apple, Android, Kindle and Windows 8). Even better, there’s a postal subscription available; a year’s worth of Caffeine Magazine for just £20 (postage included, UK only; higher prices for Europe and worldwide). Given what some people are charging for other magazines about coffee, it’s a bargain! You can also order back issues, although Issues 1 to 3 of these have now sold out.
Bond Street Coffee is the latest venture for old friend of the Coffee Spot, Horsham Coffee Roaster. It was set up towards the end of 2014 with co-owner and manager, Chris, who I first met a couple of years ago when he worked at Coffee@33. I’ve also known Bradley, the man behind Horsham Coffee Roaster, for a similar length of time, so I confess to being slightly biased. However, several people, including the barista at my first stop of the day, Café Coho, and Mike, the manager of The Flying Coffee Bean in Guildford, told me good things about Bond Street Coffee, so I suspect it’s more than just bias on my part.
Bond Street, unsurprisingly, exclusively serves Horsham Coffee Roaster coffee, highlighting and showcasing Bradley’s output. There are two espresso and two filter options, all single-origins, which rotate on a regular basis. While I was there, there was an Ethiopian on both espresso and filter, with a Peruvian as the other espresso option, and a Rwandan on filter, all of which were washed (for the uninitiated, washing is the processing method, whereby the coffee bean is extracted from the coffee cherry). There’s also decaf, although it’s less well advertised.
When I first went to Brighton, I came across Nest, a lovely, cosy spot in Brighton’s North Laines. Back then I wrote that Nest was the “sort of place that put the lounge into coffee lounge: a relaxed, chilled-out space where you could easily end up spending all day without quite meaning to”. On my return last month, I was wandering the Laines, as you do, when I thought to myself, “ooh, Nest should be down there”. So down I went, only to discover that Nest was no more and, in its place, was Jolliffes.
The good news, for those of you who liked the original Nest, is that not much has changed from the original concept. It’s still a great place to come and spend time, lounging around with your coffee and cake. The roaster has been changed, from Has Bean to the local Redroaster [coming soon to the Coffee Spot], but the cakes are still both locally-sourced and excellent.
I was there only three weeks after the new owners took charge, so expect a few more changes to the décor as they spruce things up, but as far as I’m aware, there are no plans for any radical changes.
Café Coho is a chain in the strictest sense of the word (there are two of them). Queens Road is the second of the two, very handily placed just a stone’s throw from Brighton Station and around the corner/down the street from the likes of Coffee@33 and Taylor Street Baristas. Despite this stiff competition, it more than holds its own, being a lovely spot, the décor full of brick and wood. As a bonus, on the day I was there, it was flooded with sunshine.
The coffee is from Union Hand-roasted, with a decaf option, but unlike many places in Brighton, there’s no guest roasters or pour-over. This is, however, a comprehensive breakfast/brunch/lunch menu, with a lavish array of cake and pastries. I ‘d only come in for an early-morning coffee before starting a day of café-hopping, but I made the mistake of sitting in the sun-filled room at the back, which is by the stairs down to the kitchen… After a constant stream of breakfasts coming up the stairs (plus harassment on twitter), I finally cracked and ordered poached eggs on toast (I’d have had the Eggs Florentine, but I’d already had one breakfast that day before setting off!).
It’s that time of year again! How quickly it comes around… Three weeks from now I’ll be back at the London Coffee Festival for the third year running. Once again, the Festival will grace the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane this time from Thursday, 30th April to Sunday, 1st May.
For those who don’t know, the London Coffee Festival is the launch event of UK Coffee Week and is the UK’s leading coffee festival. Spread across a number of festival zones and with 18 areas of activity, there’s food, music, art and, of course, coffee! If you’ve been before, it should all be very familiar, with industry days on Thursday and Friday and three-hour consumer sessions on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. If you haven’t been, take a look at my round up of last year’s festival, where you’ll also find links to five themed posts I made on my experience with cups, kit, food, competitions and, finally, the coffee.
My first piece of advice is that if you want to go, get your ticket now since they are selling fast. With that caveat in mind, I present my preview of the London Coffee Festival 2015!
I haven’t been to the original Curators in the City. The closest I got was walking past while thinking “wow, that’s small!”. In contrast, the second Curators, Fitzrovia’s Curators Coffee Gallery, is palatial in size. This comparison holds when considering the other Coffee Spots in Fitzrovia, where it vies with the likes of the tiny Mother’s Milk, through the (fairly small) Kaffeine, all the way up to the (not very big) Attendant and Workshop. Curators is so (comparatively) big that there’s a basement, and you all know my opinion of that!
Coffee-wise, Curators more than holds its own, the space giving it the freedom to offer a wide range of coffee. There’s a La Marzocco Strada dispensing the house espresso from Nude, alongside a regularly-rotating guest from various roasters (Nude included). At the other end of the counter, a neat row of Chemex (assuming the plural of Chemex is Chemex) awaits the call, each with its own scales and brass pouring kettle. There’s a choice of two filters, again from various roasters, with Nude and Square Mile predominating, ground by an EK-43, modestly kept in a purpose-built niche amongst the shelves of coffee kit on the wall behind the counter.
In the grand scheme of Philadelphia’s suddenly booming speciality coffee scene, Ant’s Pants is something of a wizened old establishment, having been around since 2004 (although even that pales into insignificance compared to the likes of Anthony’s Coffee House [coming soon to the Coffee Spot]). It proudly states its Aussie inspiration, going as far as to use Toby’s Estate coffee (Aussie-owned, Brooklyn roasted).
The Aussie heritage also shines through in the emphasis on food; breakfast is served all day (well, until closing time, which is four o’clock) and there’s table service, a novelty in American coffee shops. This puts it more on a par with an American diner, particularly with the emphasis on the food, albeit with better coffee than your average diner.
If all this is too much for you, Ants Pants is conveniently split into two, the front part being much more traditional coffee shop, with a four-seat window bar and the counter down the right-hand side. The second part is at the back, down a short corridor past the kitchen, where you’ll find all the tables (notwithstanding the pair out on the sidewalk).
Except that by the time you read this, there’ll also be an outdoor greenhouse at the back with more seating…
Sharp-eared readers will remember that this time last month, I appeared on Episode C of the wonderful Espressno podcast. At the end of Episode C, the lovely Paul, the man behind Espressno, mentioned that there was a second part, which would be known as Episode C+ (if you don’t get it, don’t worry, it’s a rather geeky computer in-joke).
The good news (or bad news, depending on what you thought of Episode C) is that Episode C+ is out on Easter Monday. If you heard Episode C, you should know roughly what to expect since this is very much more of the same, only covering slightly different topics.
On the other hand, if you didn’t listen to Episode C, then it’s basically me and Paul (okay, mostly me) blathering on for half an hour about coffee, with the occasional diversion into social media. It’s probably akin to going to your favourite coffee shop and getting stuck next to two blokes having a long conversation about coffee. But without the benefit of being in a coffee shop. Unless, of course, you’re listening to it in a coffee shop…
On my first visit to Brighton, I made it all the way to Hove to visit its branch of Ground, the second branch of this local chain (if chain is the correct term for somewhere with just two branches). However, I failed to get east of the centre and so it was only on my return that I finally managed to track down the original Ground in the delightful Kemp Town. After all that, I’m pleased to say it was well worth the wait!
Compared to the Hove branch, the original Ground is quite a bit smaller, and, as a result, much more intimate. It also benefits from being on a south-facing corner, so, unlike its Hove counterpart, it’s flooded with light on a sunny day.
There’s a relatively straight-forward espresso-based menu, complimented by bulk-brew filter and tea from Canton Tea Co. A decent range of cake is joined by toast and a selection of three sandwiches for the more savoury-minded. Currently the coffee is from Union, with North Star guesting on filter, but all that is about to change, with Ground due to move over to North Star for all its coffee as a prelude to roasting its own.
Since my last visit to America, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Beany Green in Paddington, where many flat whites have been consumed. So, after a week in America without a decent flat white (and, in general, without even a sniff of one), I finally had to admit defeat. So, one snowy Saturday morning, I headed downtown to very nearly the tip of Manhattan, to seek out Bluestone Lane, a self-professed Aussie coffee shop.
The first task was to find Bluestone Lane, since while the address is 30 Broad Street, the actual entrance is on New Street, a narrow lane south of Wall Street, squeezed between Broad Street and the even broader Broadway. However, once you’ve found it and gone through the correct set of (three) doors, you find yourself in a little slice (with the emphasis on little) of Australian coffee heaven.
There are flat whites and long blacks on the menu (plus bulk-brew for American sensibilities), with the likes of avocado on toast, banana bread and toast with vegemite, plus Lamingtons in the cake selection. The coffee’s all the way from San Francisco’s Sightglass, which I guess is at least on the way to Australia!
On Thursday last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a cupping being held by Brighton roaster, Small Batch, although rather than having to go all the way down to the south coast, I just had to pop along to Seven Dials and surf shop, Finisterre. While this may seem a strange location for a coffee cupping, it makes more sense than you think, since Finisterre, as well as being a surf shop, also has a lovely little coffee shop, serving Small Batch (although you’d probably already guessed that at this point).
The guys from Small Batch (head-roaster, Al; barista trainer, Laura; and Dan) were joined by Cory from green-bean importers, Falcon. Cory was there due to his experience in Africa, where he’s been working on building links with local farmers, helping them grow sustainable coffee businesses. Cory’s presence was important because this was no ordinary cupping. Instead, Small Batch was showing-casing its range of coffee from Rwanda, with six coffees in all, each from a different washing station (all the coffees are named after the washing station which processed them). There was also a seventh coffee, a Shembati Buziraguindwa from neighbouring Burundi, to provide some contrast.