March Coffee

An espresso in a glass, served on a blue saucer at March Coffee, Exeter.March Coffee is a relatively new name in Exeter’s small but growing speciality coffee scene, opening, appropriately enough, on 1st March 2017. All we really need is for the owner to be called David, but alas, he’s called John, a Devon lad who moved up to London, where he worked for the likes of TAP and Caravan King’s Cross, before returning to Exeter to open his own coffee shop.

March occupies a bright, open space on South Street, just behind the cathedral. The interior is beautifully uncluttered, with a variety of seating options. John, meanwhile, can be found behind the counter at the back, dispensing espresso-based drinks from a lovely three-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, complete with wooden side panels.

The coffee is usually from local roasters, Crankhouse Coffee, although John sometimes rings the changes and gets a different roaster in. The coffee is bought in small batches and when it’s gone, it’s onto something else. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s tea from Canton Tea Co, just up the road in Bristol, as well as soft drinks from Luscombe. If you’re hungry, there are sandwiches and an impressive selection of cake for you to choose from.

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Wrecking Ball, Union Street

A Kalita Wave filter just finishing brewing at Wrecking Ball in San FranciscoWrecking Ball started life as a coffee roaster in San Francisco around 10 years ago. However, the coffee shop is a relatively new venture, having only been open for a couple of years when I visited in February 2017. It’s in Cow Hollow, slightly off the beaten track for the average tourist, west of North Beach/Russian Hill. However, it’s easy enough to get to on one of the many bus routes that criss-cross the city.

The coffee shop is an interesting space, underneath an old townhouse in what, I believe, was the parking garage. This gives it very much a basement feel, although it is directly accessible from the street via a long, corridor-like passage that slopes slightly upwards. It’s easily the smallest of the speciality coffee shops I visited on that trip, with three benches and three chairs inside and three small tables on the pavement outside. I admire the consistency!

As you might expect from one of San Francisco’s leading roasters, there’s a range beans for sale or to try, with a blend on espresso, along with decaf, and several single-origins, two of which are available as pour-over (Kalita Wave), one on cold brew and another on bulk-brew.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying Business Class from Shanghai

My China Eastern Boeing 777 waiting to take me back to London Heathrow from Shanghai's Pudong Airport.Since I’m about to embark on my latest adventure (two weeks in Miami, followed by two weeks in Arizona), I thought I’d better finish writing up my final set of flights from last year. In the first part of this instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot, my occasional series documenting my increasing travel experiences, I told you about my experiences flying to Shanghai in business class with China Eastern. This one’s all about the flight back.

I spent a week in Shanghai for work before catching the world’s fastest inter-city train to Beijing, where I spent a few days, then caught the sleeper back to Shanghai, where I spent a few more days before flying back to London on the equivalent return flight with China Eastern (which has one flight a day between London and Shanghai, as do British Airways and Virgin).

As I had on the way out, I was flying business class, the big difference being that while I flew out overnight, I was returning on a day-time flight, leaving Shanghai at 13.00 local time and arriving in London almost 13 hours later at 17.45 in the evening. Rather than sleeping, my plan was to spend the flight working…

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The Pocket

An over-sized pocket-watch, part of the Alice in Wonderland theme, which hangs on the wall by the door at The Pocket in Belfast.The Pocket, in Belfast, is south of the city centre, down on University Road, opposite Queen’s University. It was one of the places that practically everyone said I should visit, a quirky little spot with some great outdoor seating and an Alice in Wonderland inspired theme, although it’s fairly subtle, so you could miss it if you’re not paying attention.

Although it’s relatively small, there’s a large kitchen tucked away down a corridor at the back which produces a concise but impressive brunch menu, served until four o’clock, while it’s joined by lunch from eleven in the morning. There are also a wide selection of cakes, including some awesome doughnuts, if you want something sweeter.

When it comes to coffee, The Pocket serves only single-origins. There are two options on espresso and one on bulk-brew, all of which change on a monthly basis or sooner if The Pocket runs out. The coffee mostly come from Dublin’s 3FE, although fellow Dublin roasters, Cloud Picker, occasionally makes an appearance on the second grinder. There’s a range of loose-leaf teas from Bristol’s Canton Tea Co served in individual infusers and an egg-timer so you know when it’s done.

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Exe Coffee Roasters

A lovely light-fitting from Exe Coffee Roasters in Exeter, made from an upcycled espresso boiler.Exe Coffee Roasters, just outside Exeter city centre, has a modest exterior behind which hides a surprisingly large coffee shop with a roastery in the basement and a brick-fired pizza oven in the back yard. Although it’s only been open since June 2015, in one form or another, Exe Coffee Roasters has been around for a long time. The owner, Steve, was the man behind Devon Coffee, still a fixture on Queen Street in the heart of Exeter, where it’s been for many years.

After years of running coffee events and Devon Coffee, Steve began roasting at the start of 2015, first with a hand-built roaster and now with the 12kg Probat you’ll find in the basement. Although still running coffee events, Devon Coffee was sold over the summer to allow Steve to concentrate on roasting.

Exe Coffee Roasters produces a seasonal espresso blend and two or three single-origins which are available through the V60 or Aeropress, with the option of a Chemex for groups. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and a small selection of local craft beers and cider. Finally, there’s a similarly small selection of cake, toast and a choice of two toasties.

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Reusable Cups, A Year On

A lovely flat white at Flat Cap Victoria in my Therma Cup, made with a single-origin Brazilian coffee, roasted by Notes.This time last year, I kicked off 2017 with a plea to stop using disposable coffee cups. In a piece of remarkably good timing, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published its report on disposable coffee cups yesterday, almost a year to the day after my piece. Now, I can’t take all (any?) of the credit for this: plenty of people, some of them a lot more influential than me, have been making the point for several years now, although seemingly with little effect.

According to the report, at least 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year, with ½ million coffee cups being dropped as litter each day. What’s worse is that a lot of these cups are put into recycling bins by well-meaning consumers who think that they are recyclable when in fact they are not. This potentially contaminates the whole load, which means that it’s worse than just throwing them away. As the report notes, a depressingly small 1 in 400 disposable coffee cups are recycled.

In response to this, the report’s proposed solution is a minimum 25p levy on each disposable cup, something which has met with mixed reactions within the speciality coffee industry.

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Providero, Llandudno Junction

A hand-drawn picture of Providero's old Citroen van from the wall of the store in Llandudno Junction.Providero started life as an old Citroën van, working the Colwyn Bay Sea Front. This, in Llandudno Junction, is Providero’s first bricks-and-mortar store, opening in February 2014, to be joined by a second, bigger store in Llandudno, opening in January 2017. Although I’m a regular visitor to my Dad’s in North Wales, he lives close to the border and I rarely have the time/opportunity to venture further west along the coast. However, after a brief visit to Providero in October, I found myself with both time and a car when I was back over Christmas, so made a beeline for Providero.

The Llandudno Junction branch occupies a compact, two-storey building on the top of a hill, just east of the railway station, so it’s fairly easy to access by public transport. Serving coffee from local roasters Heartland Coffi in nearby Llandudno, there’s a house-blend on espresso, which is joined by a single-origin guest, which changes every month, and decaf, again from Heartland. There’s also a daily batch-brew and, if you don’t want coffee, an impressive range of loose-leaf teas. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cake from Bristol’s Cakesmiths, plus toast, where you have a choice of breads.

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Half Cup

Details of the decoration on the walls of Half Cup in Judd Street, London.Half way down Judd Street, just south of King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, Half Cup has been on my radar for a long time now, probably for almost as long as it’s been open, which is three years. I visited on several occasions, but sadly, until now, I’ve never been in a position to write it up, either being in a hurry to move on (like when I had breakfast there before this year’s London Coffee Festival) or else I’ve been meeting someone (the preliminary meetings about The Philosophy of Coffee where held here) and hence not been able to take detailed notes.

Half Cup serves Nude Espresso as its house-blend on espresso which has recently been joined by a guest espresso. This was, during my visit, the Penny Rock seasonal espresso blend from Red Bank Coffee in Cumbria. If you’re dairy-free, there’s an excellent selection of non-dairy milk alternatives, including almond, coconut, soya, oat and hazelnut. If you don’t fancy coffee, then there’s organic loose-leaf tea and a range of alcohol from craft beer to wine. There’s also an excellent brunch menu, which is served until 15.45, plus sandwiches to go and an awesome selection of cake.

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Coffee Spot Awards 2017: Winners

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2018 underway, here are the winners of the sixth annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2017. 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.

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2017 Awards – Most Popular Coffee Spot

A shot of speciality coffee from an Nespresso-compatible capsule served by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood at a talk at Modern Society.So, here it is, the final Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2017, 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 2017.

Last year this was won last year by Speciality Coffee in Capsules? with 1,217 views. This year we have quite a few Coffee Spots which have broken the 1,000 views mark, which I’m quite excited by. Of the 12 most viewed Coffee Spots, six are about coffee shops, while the other six are Saturday Supplements, a record high!

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