The Tea House Theatre is, as the name suggests, an old theatre (actually, it’s not, it’s an old pub) which serves tea (actually, it does; one out of two’s not bad). It’s somewhere I’ve been going, on-and-off, for the last year, and have always meant to write up for the Coffee Spot. I’ve just never had the excuse. Until now, that is.
During a recent visit by the esteemed Bristol Café Watcher to the fair city of London, I remembered one of Café Watcher’s rare faults: a penchant for drinking tea. I therefore decided upon the Tea House Theatre as the final destination of a day spent wandering around London in the sunshine. When it comes to tea, it doesn’t get better than this, with numerous (I ran out of fingers and toes while counting) loose-leaf tea offerings.
However, probably the most relevant thing about the Tea House Theatre, given that this is the Coffee Spot, is that it DOESN’T SERVE COFFEE! That’s right: after dallying with the “other stuff” in Cardiff, I’ve finally gone the whole hog and written about a place that only does tea. And superb cake. And food. But not coffee.
It’s lovely by the way.
Drink, Shop & Dash is the smaller sibling and speciality coffee outlet of next door neighbour, Drink, Shop & Do. Located on the Caledonian Road, just around the corner from King’s Cross Station, it joins a growing band of speciality coffee in the area, led by the (now venerable) Caravan.
There’s not a lot to Drink, Shop & Dash, the “dash” element of the name betraying its small size. However, despite the name, it’s more than just a takeaway joint, with enough space for a couple of two-person window-bars, one each side of the door. Opposite the large windows is a generous counter, with plenty of space for those who have opted for takeaway to wait for their coffee.
The output is also worthy of a much larger establishment, with coffee from south London’s Volcano powering a decent espresso-based menu (Volcano’s seasonal espresso blend or decaf), plus single-origins on bulk-brew filter and pour-over. There’s also loose-leaf tea and, while it’s still summer, iced coffee and tea to go with frozen yoghurt.
If it’s food you’re after, you’re also well catered for, with toast and muesli in the morning, sandwiches and soup at lunchtime. There’s also a small selection of cake.
Out in Chapel Allerton, in the leafy suburbs north of Leeds city centre, is the third of the eclectic local chain known as Opposite. The original Opposite (opposite Leeds University, hence the name) is nearly 10 years old, while the second, under the soaring stained-glass arcades of the Victoria Quarter shopping centre, opened five years ago. They were joined last year by the Chapel Allerton branch, which opened under the name “Cup & Saucer”. However, about a week after my visit, it was due to be re-branded as “Opposite Chapel Allerton”.
Several people in the Leeds coffee scene told me that it was their favourite spot, and I can see why. Just off the busy Harrogate Road, in a parade of local shops and restaurants (which includes a large Caffe Nero), it’s a lovely little spot, exuding charm all the way from the big windows at the front to the massive chalk drawing on the back wall.
Sandwiched between window and wall is some excellent food, a great range of cake and some wonderful coffee from London’s Square Mile, plus regular guests. There’s a fairly standard espresso menu plus single-origin pour-over through V60 or Aeropress. It’s well worth a detour!
Set in the soaring nave of Christopher Wren’s St Nicholas Cole Abbey, The Wren’s quite possibly the most delightful coffee shop setting I’ve had the pleasure to step into. The only relevant question is what took me so long, since it’s been on my list from the day it opened!
Situated between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames, the church is accessed via a flight of steps, leading up from the busy dual carriageway that is Queen Victoria Street. You can sit outside if you like, either at a small, shady cluster of tables, tucked away around a corner at the bottom of the steps, or on the large, sun-drenched terraced at the top. For me, however, the real pleasure is in the gloriously spacious interior.
The coffee is from London’s Workshop, with the seasonal Cult of Done blend on espresso and rotating single origin beans on the V60 filter. Loose-leaf tea is from Merseyside’s Brew Tea Co and there’s a range of soft drinks. At lunchtime, there’s a choice of quiche, salad, soup and sandwiches, while for breakfast there are pastries, toast and granola. The food offering is rounded off with a small but interesting cake range.
Faculty was set up towards the start of 2014 by the previous owners of Saint Caffe (now Saint Kitchen), one of the pioneers of Birmingham’s current coffee scene. It joins a geographically tight-knit group in the city centre, including 6/8 Kafé, Yorks Bakery Cafe, Brewsmiths Coffee & Tea and the Boston Tea Party, all of which are within a few minutes’ walk of each other.
Faculty forms the southern apex of this triangle of coffee-heaven (Saint Kitchen and the Tea Party being at the other apexes), literally a few steps away from the northern entrance to Birmingham’s New Street Station. It’s so close that you probably could rush out, get a takeaway coffee and be back in time to make your connection if you’re changing trains.
Faculty is at the southern end of the beautiful Piccadilly Arcade. If you’re coming from the station, walk past the front of the Caffé Nero on Stephenson Street, turn right into the arcade (which joins Stephenson Street with New Street to the north) and, a few doors up on your left, you’ll find Faculty!
It’s only a small place, all wood and glass, with an interesting range of cakes and excellent Square Mile coffee.
This is another Saturday Update where the answer to the question “what’s changed?” is “not a lot”. Regular readers will know that Beany Green’s Paddington branch became my local while I was working in Sheldon Square. However, at the start of June, my contract expired and so my weekly visits abruptly ceased.
After an all-to-brief hiatus, I was offered another contract mid-way through July and so found myself back at Sheldon Square, this time for two or three days a week (which is a shock to the system, I can tell you!). The upside of this (other than getting paid, so I can continue to finance the Coffee Spot) is that I was able to renew my acquaintance with the lovely Beany Green.
During my six weeks absence, not a lot had changed at Beany Green. However, now that I’m back two or three days a week, I have the opportunity to sample more of the range of coffee on offer. Previously, I’d largely confined myself to a flat white to take back to the office, but since my return, I’ve made a concerted effort to get through more of the coffee menu. I’ve also started working through the cakes…
Birmingham’s city centre has a very compact coffee scene, with the likes of 6/8 Kafé, Yorks Bakery Cafe, Brewsmiths Coffee & Tea and Boston Tea Party all within a few minutes’ walk of each other. Saint Kitchen falls into this category, forming the cluster’s north-western outpost at St Paul’s Square.
Those with a long memory may recall Saint Kitchen as Saint Caffé, which it was until the start of 2014. That’s when new owner, Will, a chef, took over (the previous owners going on to found Faculty). His mission was to combine Saint Caffé’s already excellent coffee with equally great food. The good news is that, with the help of head-barista Liam, he has succeeded.
I visited twice, once in February, soon after the re-opening, and again in early August, to see how things had evolved. The coffee is from Bristol’s Extract, with the usual espresso-based range being supplemented on my return by pour-over (V60 or Aeropress). There’s also an extensive loose-leaf tea range and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate. The food was largely unchanged, with all-day breakfast, lunch and cake on the menu.
The biggest change was in the layout, with the seating reorganised to accommodate a new deli bar.
Situated one block over from Glasgow’s Queen Street station, right in the heart of the city, Laboratorio Espresso brings a slice of Milanese espresso bar culture to Scotland. It’s a small place, although not quite as small as New York City’s legendary I Am Coffee. For example, there’s enough room for a choice of seating: window bar, tables in the corner, or stools at the end of the counter. There’s even three sets of tables/benches on the pavement outside.
One thing it does share with I Am Coffee (other than a passion for coffee), is its height. For such a small shop, it goes a long way up and is easily taller than it is deep. This, coupled with the front wall essentially being one large window, gives it an enormous sense of space out of all keeping with its actual size.
The coffee offering is also one you would associate with a large store. With a bespoke espresso blend from nearby Dear Green Coffee and guest roasters from all around the world, Laboratorio Espresso serves up quite a choice, with the option of stove-top espresso for breakfast in the mornings. There’s also a range of cake, soup and sandwiches.
Today’s Saturday Supplement is another in the occasional Meet the Roaster series. Continuing with the Glasgow/Commonwealth Games theme, we’re at Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee, roasting high-quality coffee in the heart of the city since 2011. Dear Green roasts two main espresso blends, Goosedubbs and Treron (a seasonal blend), various bespoke blends and 16 single-origin beans. These are mostly for filter, which forms an ever-increasing percentage of Dear Green’s growing output.
I first discovered Dear Green Coffee when I visited the much-missed Razzo Coffee in Edinburgh. I met Dear Green’s founder and head roaster, Lisa Lawson, at the London Coffee Festival in 2013, when, against all the odds, she persuaded me to try her take on the traditional Italian caffè corretto. This was a single shot of the Treron blend, taken with a drop of whisky and honey. To my even greater surprise, I really liked it! Given that I can’t stand whisky and hate having sugar in my coffee, it’s high praise indeed!
I met up with Lisa again at this year’s London Coffee Festival, when we arranged for me to visit the Dear Green roastery as part of my trip to Glasgow on behalf of Caffeine Magazine.
Given my well-known aversion to all things paper when it comes to coffee cups, calling your coffee shop “Papercup” is not perhaps the best tactic to win me over… However, the only paper cups I saw were neatly stacked by the till, exclusively for takeaway customers, which was a relief. Other than slight misgivings over the name, I loved everything about Papercup. It’s a tiny place that packs in an impressive amount on Glasgow’s Great Western Road. Seating maybe 16 people at most, with maybe four more outside, Papercup offers a varied brunch menu, excellent cake and superb coffee. There’s even table service!
Papercup has the usual espresso-based offerings, with house blend and decaf, plus three single-origin beans, each paired to a specific preparation method (V60, Clever Dripper and Aeropress). There’s even cold brew! Best of all, the beans are all roasted right there in the back of the store.
Normally my timing is terrible since I rarely visit café/roasters when the roaster’s in operation (see, for example, TAP and House of Coffee) but in the case of Papercup, my luck was in! It was glorious to see the beans, freshly roasted, pouring into the cooling pan!