It’s with unexpected pleasure that I find myself writing about a new coffee shop (although pedants might argue with the use of the word “shop” here) when we’re right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the problems that 2020 brought to the hospitality industry, speciality coffee has been doing rather well here in Guildford, with several new openings, including the Ceylon House of Coffee.
The subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Lily London, is on a slightly smaller scale, occupying one of two old telephone boxes at the High Street end of Tunsgate, nestling around the back of the grand edifice that is Tunsgate Arch. Serving its own coffee, imported from Brazil by the owner, and roasted by Plot Roasting, Lily London offers a standard espresso-based menu, along with retail bags of the coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Welcome to the next instalment of The Grand Adventure, part of a series of Travel Spot posts covering my trip to America in January/February 2017. The Grand Adventure itself is the week-long drive I took from Phoenix to San Francisco via Joshua Tree National Park and Los Angeles, a total of 1,2000 miles.
In Part I, I left Phoenix, driving via Wickenburg, Arizona, to Joshua Tree, California, where I arrived in time for a short hike in the park at sunset. In this, Part II, I spend a day in the park and then continue my drive to the west, arriving in Los Angeles after nightfall.
The remaining parts of The Grand Adventure detail my drive up the Californian coast to San Francisco, while the rest of the posts will cover the remainder of the trip, where I flew from San Francisco to Chicago, Miami and Providence before flying home from Boston.
I started 2021 with a new Meet the Roaster, featuring the lovely folk at Chimney Fire Coffee. I ended that post with a promise to tell you more about Chimney Fire’s coffee, and specifically the El Salvador Three Ways, a direct trade coffee from the Don Tomas Estate in El Salvador, where the same coffee has been processed three different ways: natural, washed and honey processed.
This post is mostly about the El Salvador, but I did want to briefly mention the rest of Chimney Fire’s excellent range. There’s the Ranmore signature espresso blend, plus a classic espresso from Peru and a sugar cane decaf from Colombia. Added to that is a selection of around five single-origins which, depending on the coffee, are roasted with espresso or filter in mind, or, if it works for the coffee, an omni-roast which means that it should work equally well as espresso or filter.
Finally, if you want something more challenging, there’s the Discovery Range. This has a different, limited-edition coffee each month, but Chimney Fire won’t tell you where it’s from ahead of time, just providing tasting notes, the idea being that you should focus more on the flavour than the origin!
This time last year, I was already in San Jose, having flown out there on 3rd January. The year before that, I was in Phoenix, having been upgraded to First Class on my flight out. In 2018, I was getting ready to head to Miami, while in 2017, I was preparing to fly to Phoenix. This year, I’m going nowhere, the first time in five years that I haven’t boarded a plane in January to fly to a warm, sunny part of America. I’m not going to lie: I miss it, although as I sit here writing this with one eye on the news, a large part of me is glad that I’m not in the USA right now.
The reason for my enforced stay at home is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which abruptly cut short my last trip to America in March 2020. Unfortunately, with infection rates, hospital admissions and, sadly, deaths, all skyrocketing in the UK, the start of 2021 feels much like March 2020. This raises the question of what I should write about in the Coffee Spot. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty minor problem, but it’s one that I’ll address in this post.
Let’s get 2021 underway with a new Meet the Roaster and Chimney Fire Coffee. Started in his garden shed by Dan Webber in 2016, Chimney Fire moved to its current home in Ranmore Manor in the Surrey Hills in the summer of 2017. In theory, I could walk there and back in a day (as I did with Surrey Hills Coffee last May), but laziness/poor planning got the better of me, so I ended up driving over the week before Christmas when I unexpectedly found myself with a car and nowhere to go.
Like many roasters, Chimney Fire had its business model turned on its head by COVID-19, but is thriving despite this, expanding over the summer and recently employing two additional staff. Its Ranmore signature espresso is joined by a various single-origins with a variety of roasts: espresso, filter and onmi.
I’ve been enjoying Chimney Fire’s coffee for several years, often at Canopy Coffee (where it was a regular guest) and at home, with Chimney Fire being one of the first roasters I ordered from at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was therefore with great pleasure that I caught up with Dan and the team just before Christmas.
Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2021 underway, here are the winners of the ninth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2020. The shortlists for all 20 Awards were announced between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and now we have the winners!
Before we go on, I know I’ve said this before, but a big thank you to everyone who’s visited the Coffee Spot, followed me on Twitter, liked my Facebook page and looked at my pictures on Instagram. While I do this for the love of coffee, it means a lot to me that so many of you take the time to read and comment on my writing. Without you, it really would be pointless.
So, here it is, the final Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2020, the only one that you, my readers, decide. It’s the “Most Popular Coffee Spot” Award, which is based on the total number of views received by each Coffee Spot in 2020.
Last year this was won last year by Omotesando Koffee, London with 806 views. This year’s shortlist features the 10 most viewed Coffee Spots, four of which are from my hometown of Guildford, with two more from Caversham. Only five are what could be described as classic Coffee Spot write ups, with two COVID-19 updates, a Meet the Roaster and two Saturday Supplements (one of which is really about travel).
Welcome to the penultimate Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2020, the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award, which was won last year by Kafi. In past year’s, this has been a special award for those Coffee Spots which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which nonetheless I absolutely love… It’s also a chance for me to recognise and reward those wonderful Coffee Spots that I come across during the year and which mean something special to me.
This year’s Award is slightly different in that I’ve narrowed the criteria to be those Coffee Spots whose response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been outstanding in some way.
Welcome to the next Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2020, the “Most Passionate About Coffee” Award, which was won in 2019 by Coffee Curiosity. For me, this is one of the most important awards, and also one of the hardest to judge, which is why I’ve left it to the last day.
It’s not just about the coffee, it’s also about people who love and care about coffee. Everyone who I’ve covered in the Coffee Spot is passionate about coffee and one of the great things is how much love there is out there, both for the coffee and for those who make it. However, those shortlisted for this award stand out from the crowd.
We enter the final day of the 2020 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists with the “Best Breakfast” Award, which in 2019 went to SLOW Café. Along with cake, breakfast has a special place in my heart.
It used to be that I rarely got up and out of the house early enough to get to places before they stop serving breakfast. However, in recent years I’ve been travelling so much that this is usually a healthy shortlist.
This year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve had fewer breakfasts than usual, but, helped by those wonderful places that serve all-day breakfasts, I’ve managed to get a decent shortlist together. In fact, given how often I have things from the breakfast menu for lunch, I wonder if I should rename this award “Best Brunch”…