Typical: you wait ages for a Meet the Roaster Saturday Supplement, then two come along in the same month! Hot on the heels of North Star Micro Roasters comes, from the other side of the Pennines, Manchester’s Ancoats Coffee Company.
Back in August, as part of my Manchester tour for Caffeine Magazine, I popped in to see Jamie, the man behind Ancoats. Appropriately enough, you can find Jamie in the birth-place of Manchester’s industrial revolution, the Ancoats district, after which the company takes its name. Just to the east of the city centre, it’s a remarkably accessible part of town, although it does look like it’s come straight out of the famous Life on Mars TV series, which was set in Manchester in the 1970s.
Jamie set up Ancoats in October 2013 and began trading in January 2014, so he’s about to celebrate Ancoats first birthday. Roasting on a 6 kg Giesen, Ancoats produces a seasonal espresso blend (appropriately enough, called Warehouse City), an excellent decaf and a number of single-origin beans. You can learn about Ancoats’ coffee on the website, where you can also buy the beans. Alternatively pop in and say hello: Jamie would love to see you.
Almost a year after featuring Fernandez & Wells for the first time, with the delightful Exhibition Road branch, I thought it about time that I got around to writing up the Somerset House branch, where I’ve been a semi-regular visitor through the year. Set within Somerset House itself, with stunning views of the courtyard and, in the summer, copious outside seating, it’s one of the most physically appealing Coffee Spots that I’ve been to. Inside, high ceilings and large windows give it an immense sense of light and space, while multiple rooms, on a par with Paris’ La Caféothèque, means that there’s something for everyone.
A cross between wine-bar, deli and coffee shop, F&W’s food and coffee are as outstanding as the setting. Somerset House has a similar offering to Exhibition Road, with perhaps a slightly more extensive menu, which never fails to amaze and delight me. The coffee’s from Has Bean, with a bespoke house-blend on espresso. Open late into the evenings, it’s the perfect spot for an after-hours coffee or a bite to eat and while I haven’t tried it, the wine selection looks excellent. In the summer, it’s one of the best outdoor cafés in London.
In typical Coffee Spot fashion, I have visited the branches of Artigiano Espresso in reverse order, starting with the most recently opened in Exeter, at the start of this year, before moving onto the (now sadly closed) branch on New Oxford Street a month later. It then took me the rest of the year to get around to visiting the original Artigiano Espresso, located directly north of St Paul’s Cathedral on Paternoster Square in the heart of the City of London. And just in time too, since there’s another Artigiano opening in Reading on Wednesday!
If you’ve been to either of the other Artigiano Espressos, the original will look very familiar. It’s the smallest of the three, even taking into account that it’s split over two floors, with a lovely, cosy basement. Very much a coffee bar during the bar, catering to city workers, it turns into a wine bar in the evening, and a very successful one at that if the Friday night I went past was anything to go by (it was heaving!). I turned up the following Saturday morning for breakfast: again, timing was on my side, since Artigiano has only recently started opening at weekends.
There’s a first time for everything. The Attic, or to give it its full name, the Attic Gallery Coffee Bar, occupies the floor above Monday’s Coffee Spot, Harlequin Coffee and Tea House, making this the first time that I’ve done two Coffee Spots in the same building. The churlish might argue that since they’re owned by the same person, the lovely Gordon (who doubles as head barista), and even share a website, they’re actually one Coffee Spot, spread over two floors.
I beg to differ: Harlequin and The Attic are very different places and cater to very different customers. Both serve Has Bean coffee, but that’s where the similarity ends. While Harlequin is a speciality coffee shop masquerading as a traditional tearoom, The Attic employs no such subterfuge. In fact, I’d go as far as to describe it as coffee-geek paradise. Serving excellent food. And craft beer (and now gin & tonic too).
If you’re not really a coffee geek and are just looking for superb coffee in relaxing surroundings, then The Attic, with its comfortable sofas and lovely atmosphere, ticks those boxes too. However, just make sure you come on the right days: it’s only open Thursday to Saturday!
York is a city very close to my heart. I went to university there and have always had a soft spot for its tea rooms and coffee houses. Gentle, delicate and refined, they are wonderful places in many ways. In fact, some of my favourite spots are tea rooms. They’re just not necessarily places where you’d expect find top-notch coffee. Enter Harlequin, to challenge all your (my?) preconceptions and to bring speciality coffee to the good folks of York by stealth.
At first sight, everything about Harlequin is reassuring to the average tea room visitor (and slightly off-putting to the dedicated hunter of speciality coffee). The carefully arranged tables, the neat, white tablecloths, the net curtains at the windows and the gentle chink of tea pots. Even the coffee comes in cafetieres (although there is an espresso machine).
However, having lulled them into a false sense of security, Harlequin goes for the kill. All the coffee is from Has Bean, not exactly the choice of the average, run-of-the-mill coffee house. There’s also hot chocolate from those purveyors of fine, chocolaty goodness, Kokoa Collection.
And yet is still looks just like your typical tea room. Genius, I tell you, pure genius.
Today’s Saturday Supplement is another in the occasional Meet the Roaster series. Today we’re in Leeds, at North Star Micro Roasters, who have been going for just over a year now. I went to see Krag and Ellis, the guys behind North Star, back in the summer as part of my Coffee Spot tour of Leeds.
Roasting with a 5 kg Toper in an industrial estate just north of Leeds, North Star is that city’s first micro-roaster, which is a quite a surprise considering the strong coffee scene in the city and in the nearby Harrogate and York, which, together with Leeds, make up the Yorkshire Coffee Triangle. There’s also a strong roasting presence with the likes of Holmfirth’s Grumpy Mule, while in Harrogate, Falcon Speciality is one of the country’s leading green bean importers.
However, Leeds’ wait for a speciality coffee roaster to call its very own ended last October when North Star started production. There are two espresso blends, the seasonal Czar Street, which changes three to four times a year, and the Dark Arches blend. Added to this are around eight single-origins, roasted primarily for filter, but with some roasted for espresso.
I first discovered Steampunk as a roaster when I visited Machina Espresso in Edinburgh in April 2014.
I tried the Tiger Stripes blend and was so impressed that I bought a bag to take home with me. Back then I only knew of Steampunk as a roaster and didn’t realise that it had recently opened The Warehouse, a large café in its home town of North Berwick, just along the coast from Edinburgh.
So, on my next trip to Edinburgh, I made a point of heading east to North Berwick. I’m pleased to report that I was as delighted by The Warehouse as I was by that first espresso that I had at Machina Espresso!
Spread over two floors of a lovely old building, which retains many of its original features, The Warehouse is an ideal space for a roaster-cum-café (I’ll cover the roasting side of Steampunk in a future Saturday Supplement). There’s a large, exterior courtyard, which, on the sunny day I was there, saw good use, while downstairs you share space with both roastery and counter. Upstairs, there’s table service and a full food menu, which is all prepared in the kitchen in the corner.
Continuing my theme of visiting Edinburgh and calling in on a coffee shop shortly after it opened, I present Cult Espresso. Unlike my previous victim, Fortitude, which opened four weeks prior to my visit, Cult Espresso opened on Monday and I was there on Thursday! I was already aware of Cult Espresso from social media, and when I heard on twitter that it had opened, I pencilled it in as a must-visit on my first day.
Run by father-and-son team, Kevin & Gary, Cult Espresso is, I think, the first to bring coffee from Bath’s Round Hill Roastery to Edinburgh on a permanent basis. Before setting up Cult, Gary ran a coffee kiosk on Dalmeny station. Originally using Lavazza coffee, it wasn’t long before Gary progressed to Round Hill, so was natural to continue the relationship when Cult opened.
I’ve been to several coffee shops that are corridor-like in layout (Goodge St Espresso and, in particular, NYC’s Gasoline Alley spring to mind). However, Cult takes this one step further by seeming to actually be built inside the corridor between two tenement buildings! While this sounds an unpromising set-up, it results in a lovely space, full of multiple, intimate little areas.
2014 is the year of the Coffee Festival and it looks to be ending as strongly as it started. Things kicked off in April with the annual fixture that is the London Coffee Festival, soon followed by the inaugural Amsterdam Coffee Festival (which I’d have gone to, had it not been so close to the London Coffee Festival!). Not to be outdone, there was the first ever Dublin Coffee and Tea Festival (September) which, alas, I also couldn’t attend, and Manchester’s Cup North on the first weekend in November, which I did attend.
The end of the year sees two back-to-back events in Glasgow. The first, happening today (29th November) is the inaugural Scottish Coffee Festival, while exactly a week later comes the subject of today’s Saturday Supplement, the inaugural Glasgow Coffee Festival!
In a fit of bad timing, conflicting commitments and an expiring free train ticket, I’d already arranged to go to Edinburgh/Glasgow this weekend. That was before I even knew that the Glasgow Coffee Festival was taking place. Such is its strong line-up that I’ve seriously considering returning next weekend just to attend. Sadly things haven’t worked out, but that’s no reason for you not to go!
Printworks Coffee on Leith’s Constitution Street vies for my attention with the famous Mimi’s Bakehouse, itself just a couple of streets away. In terms of character, the two are miles apart, but you know a place has to be pretty decent to drag me away from my beloved Mimi’s!
In many ways, Printworks is the sort of neighbourhood café that you can find on any street in any town or city in the country. However, by serving Monmouth coffee (from London) and loose-leaf tea from Pekoe Tea (all the way from Edinburgh!) and by doing it well, Printworks proves that you don’t have to be a speciality coffee (tea) shop to serve decent coffee (tea). It also goes to show that there’s no good reason why this sort of friendly, neighbour café can’t do decent tea and coffee, although judging by the numbers, far too many fail.
Printworks has great food too, using local, independent suppliers. There is a limited, but excellent, breakfast menu, served until 11.30 (it includes porridge and a scrambled egg breakfast bap, so I’m happy) plus a wide-ranging lunch menu from noon onwards. At weekends there’s a separate brunch-menu until three. Plus cake, of course.