Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Part III

A flat white from Carvetii in my Therma Cup at the Manchester Coffee Festival, 2016.Welcome to the third and final part of my round up of this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival. In Part I, I took a look at the venue itself, and also my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, won this year by Freda Yuan from Caravan. Then, in Part II, I focused on all the coffee roasters who were there in force this year. Today I’m going to finish things off with a look at the non-coffee stuff (equipment, reusable cups, milk, cake, tea…), although there’s also one coffee-related item that got missed out last week… Oops.

I had a chance to look at the Conti 60th Anniversary espresso machine which I’d first seen at World of Coffee in Dublin earlier this year, plus there was a chance to catch up with some reusable cup manufacturers. As usual, there was lots of food at the Manchester Coffee Festival, including three street food stalls, a bakery, and my friends from Cakesmiths (which now has its own café, Bakesmiths). Then there was milk and I even had a look at some tea, before rounding things off with a coffee cupping…

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Brixton Blend

The front of Brixton Blend, with the downstairs clearly visible through the glass door and windows.Brixton Blend is the slightly-more-minimalist younger sibling of Brockwell Blend, which opened last month just across the road from Brixton Tube Station. Occupying two floors of a narrow building directly across street from the David Bowie mural, it’s a welcome addition to the centre of Brixton, joining stalwarts Federation and Balance. When you consider that roasters Volcano Coffee Works/Assembly have also just moved in around the corner on Ferndale Road, you have the makings of a real speciality coffee hub in south London.

Brixton Blend is aiming for the takeaway market for the moment, even though it has plenty of space. This accounts for the minimalist nature of the seating (just two tables in the spacious downstairs, five upstairs) and the lack of proper cups, although there are tentative plans to give it a more permanent feel. Don’t let that put you off sitting in though, since the interior’s lovely and relaxed.

True to its name, Brixton Blend serves two espresso blends, one from the local Volcano and the other from Nude Espresso. These are joined by a decaf on the third grinder, while there’s a single-origin on bulk-brew. A small selection of excellent cakes is available for the hungry.

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The 2017 Coffee Spot Calendars

My Therma Cup reusable cup and my Travel Press enjoy the view at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.The Coffee Spot Calendar is now an annual event: this is the fourth year I’ve produced one. As before, the calendars are A4 in size and professionally-printed on glossy paper. Each month has a landscape, full-sized picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months, although this year my friend Keith has helped by choosing some of the pictures. As an added bonus, I’m also producing the Coffee Spot Lighting Calendar, something which I started last year with the help of my friend Sharon Reed, who has once again chosen most of the pictures.

Calendars cost £12.00 with a flat £2.00 postage and packing charge, regardless of how many you order. There are also discounts for multiple purchases. If you think we’re likely to meet up in the near future, I’ll even waive the postage and hand your calendar over in person! This is particularly relevant if you are going to La Marzocco’s Out of the Box on this Saturday (3rd December) since I’ll be there!

If you’re ordering from outside of the UK, then I’m afraid I have to charge more for postage and can’t offer any discounts for multiple purchases (unfortunately the charges increase rapidly with the weight of the package, unlike postage within the UK). For orders for Europe, postage and packing is £4.00 for one or two calendars, while for the rest of the world, it’s £6.00. If you want more than two, please get in touch regarding postage.

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Detail from the wooden board outside the ManCoCo coffee bar and roastery in Manchester.The concept of the railway arch as home to a coffee shop (The Fields Beneath or Doctor Espresso  – Mama V’s spring to mind), roastery (Neighbourhood Coffee), or, indeed, bakery (Hart’s Bakery), is well-established. For the last couple of years, their ranks have been swelled by Manchester’s ManCoCo, which is, as far as I know, the only combined coffee bar/roastery in a railway arch. Tucked away on Hewitt Street behind Manchester’s Deansgate, ManCoCo takes a little bit of finding, but once you find Hewitt Street itself, ManCoCo is pretty obvious, on the north side of the street.

ManCoCo is both roastery (established five years ago) and coffee bar (18 months). Occupying a single arch, the roastery’s to your left, while the coffee bar’s on the right, the two separated by a fairly heavy-duty wooden partition. The coffee bar is no afterthought, by the way. A substantial operation in its own right, there’s plenty of seating, a decent selection of coffee, including a blend and single-origin on espresso, while you can have any of ManCoCo’s range of single-origins as a pour-over through the V60. While I was there, the choice extended to 11 different beans. If you’re hungry, there’s sandwiches and cake.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Part II – Meet the Roasters

A flat white in my Therma Cup in front of the Carvetii logo at this year's Manchester Coffee Festival.Welcome to Part II of my round up of this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival (the festival previously known as Cup North). In Part I, I took a look at the venue itself, and also my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, won this year by Freda Yuan from Caravan. This time I want to focus on the coffee, looking at the various roasters who were there in force this year. I’ll finish things off in Part III with a look at the non-coffee related material (equipment, reusable cups, milk, cake, tea…)

I tried to focus on people I don’t often get to see, so while I stopped by to say hello to the likes of Origin (which I’ve written about three times this year) and my friends at Allpress, I didn’t linger too long. I also ran into Glasgow’s Avenue Coffee and Dear Green Coffee who were visiting but not exhibiting. Talking of Scotland, I failed utterly to visit Artisan Roast, which had come all the way down from Edinburgh. And Union Hand-roasted, although at least I caught up with Union at the London Coffee Festival this year, so I don’t feel too bad.

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Coffee Lab, Winchester

Two flat whites from Coffee Lab, Winchester, seen from front on and from above.The Coffee Lab is a rapidly-growing chain of coffee shops covering, for now, Winchester (where it all started), Salisbury and Chichester. I’ve been told that there are further shops in the pipeline, which is all the more impressive when you consider that the first Coffee Lab opened less than a year ago. Bucking all established Coffee Spot trends (which usually sees me visiting the most recently opened shop in a chain rather than the first), I started at the original Coffee Lab, a lovely little spot in the narrow lanes of Winchester, just west of the Cathedral and south of the High Street. Be careful though, since the Coffee Lab’s second branch is just around the corner on Little Minster Street and Kings Head Yard. It’s literally a minute’s walk away!

The Coffee Lab serves coffee from local roasters, The Roasting Party, with a blend (Einstein) on the main grinder and a guest blend (Heisenberg) on the second grinder. There’s also a decaf from Costa Rica, plus a Kenyan AA Ndeki on filter through the V60. If you don’t fancy coffee, there is tea from the local WAA Teas, while if you’re feeling hungry, there are sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

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Gimme! Coffee, Roebling Street

The Gimme! Coffee logo, taken from the awning above the shop on Roebling Street in Brooklyn.I discovered Gimme! Coffee on my first Coffee Spot visit to New York in 2013, when I visited the Mott Street branch in Manhattan. However, it took me another three years before I explored Gimme! Coffee’s Brooklyn heritage, when I visited Roebling Street in Williamsburg. Ironically, this is the newest of three New York City branches, having only opened in 2011, while the first (and other) Brooklyn branch has been around since 2003, the company itself starting in upstate New York in 2000.

Roebling Street has a simple, rectangular layout, with the door at the right, the counter at the back and a smattering of tables in the space between the two. Resisting the urge to cram too much in, it’s a quiet, friendly spot with a sense of space. There’s also some outdoor seating on the (relatively) quiet street.

Gimme! Coffee roasts all its own beans with a house-blend (Leftist), single-origin guest (Colombian) and decaf (another single-origin Colombian) on espresso. These are joined by two more single-origins on bulk-brew and third as a pour-over using the Kalita Wave. There’s also a range of teas from Metolius in Oregon and a selection of cakes and pastries if you are hungry.

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The Speciality Coffee Shop

Michelangelo, joint-owner of The Speciality Coffee Shop, in the mirror above one of the tables.The Speciality Coffee Shop is one of a new crop of Nottingham coffee shops which sprang up this summer, having opened a mere two months before my visit in August. Occupying a corner spot at the western end of Friar Lane in the heart of the city, the Speciality Coffee Shop does what it says on the tin, except it doesn’t actually say it on the tin, the name appearing nowhere on the shop’s considerable façade.

Inside, the layout’s a masterpiece of simplicity, with the sun-drenched front home to some very comfortable-looking armchairs and a sofa. The counter is on the right, a row of tables mirroring it to the left, while at the back, two comfy chairs round things off. The whole place breathes an atmosphere of relaxed, uncluttered calm.

The brainchild of Italian couple, Michelangelo and Lucy, The Speciality Coffee Shop serves espresso-based drinks and a variety of filter options, with coffee from London’s Alchemy joined by occasional guests from around the country. There’s food in the shape of breakfast and lunch menus, with everything prepared in the kitchen in the basement, all of which is joined by a small but select range of cakes, all made by Lucy’s Grandmother.

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Detail taken from the A board outside Novi on Cambridge's Regent Street. Just to the east of Cambridge’s historic centre, on the busy Regent’s Road, you’ll find Novi, coffee shop and brunch spot by day, bar (and cocktail bar) by night. In keeping with the likes of Notes in London or Liverpool’s Filter + Fox, Novi combines speciality coffee and beer/wine/cocktails, but with the sort of food output you’d get from somewhere like Villiers Coffee Co.

A surprisingly large place, in a lovely, 1930s building, Novi occupies the ground floor, although there are plans to open the upstairs areas on a more permanent basis. There’s generous seating opposite the counter at the front, more seating towards the rear by the kitchen, and a small, enclosed courtyard out the back. With windows front and back, as well as down one side, it’s a bright, airy, uncluttered space.

The coffee is from Bury St Edmunds’ Frank and Earnest, with a single-origin on both espresso and pour-over through the V60. Coffee is served well into the evening, while there is beer, wine and cocktails until 3am! There’s food, with a full brunch menu served until four o’clock, plus a bar menu in the evening. And, of course, cake.

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Stir Coffee Brixton

A lovely decaf Brazilian Cortado in a blue espresso cup at Stir Coffee BrixtonStir Coffee Brixton is a relative newcomer to the area, having only opened at the start of the year. I first became aware of it when I ran into one of the owners at Rag & Bone Coffee (he lived across the road at the time) when I was struck by his enthusiasm and dedication. Fast forward six months, and I finally found myself in Brixton for the Volcano Coffee Works/Assembly launch, so I made a point of taking the 15 minute walk south along Brixton Hill (surely the world’s flattest hill) to Stir.

Stir isn’t quite a multi-roaster, but it mixes up its coffee on a regular basis. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Mission Coffee Works, plus a second espresso from Assembly, which is joined by a decaf on the third grinder. There are also two or three choices on filter, through either the Aeropress or V60, while if you ask nicely, there’s also the Chemex, even though it’s not on the menu. All the coffee choices, except the house-blend, change regularly. There’s also loose-leaf tea, beer (bottles or cans) and various soft drinks, plus a small, but excellent range of food, including a decent selection of cake.

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