When I started working in Sheldon Square, around the back of Paddington Station, in the summer of 2013, there was no decent coffee to be had. Anywhere. Then came Beany Green in 2014, followed by KuPP and Kioskafé in 2015. Then, in the very week my job came to an end, the works canteen was taken over by Baxter Storey, using coffee from Modern Standard. Talk about bad timing!
Since then Can Do Coffee has moved in, but all of these have been east of Sheldon Square. Until, that is, Store Street Espresso moved into the lobby of the office block on 2 Kingdom Street, literally around the corner from my old office. I made one attempt to visit a few weeks ago, but managed to pick the one day Store Street was closed for the installation of a new concrete counter-top. What was it I was saying about timing?
However, last week I was back, ironically in a new job, but working for four days in the basement of my old office. Fortunately we were occasionally let out for good behaviour, so I made the most of my opportunities to pay daily visits to the new Store Street Espresso…
Providence’s Blue State Coffee on Thayer Street is a curious mix of old-school second-wave coffee shop with third-wave sensibilities. In that respect it’s very similar to Washington DC’s Compass Coffee, with both serving similar markets. They also both roast their own coffee, although unlike Compass Coffee, Theyer Street doesn’t have a roaster in the back. Blue State has also been around a lot longer, having first opened its doors in 2004.
Theyer Street was the original store, although these days Blue State is based in South Windsor, Connecticut, where all the coffee is roasted, and there are eight stores across three states (two in Providence, two in Boston and four in Connecticut). Theyer Street is a bright, spacious, sunny spot, offering a traditional, espresso-based menu, bulk-brew filter and pour-over. This is supported by loose-leaf tea, a good cake selection and an extensive sandwich, salad and all-day breakfast offering.
Not to be confused with the Blue State Coffee in the Brown University Bookshop (also on Thayer Street), this branch has a community coffee shop feel. Scarily, even though I felt twice the age of the average customer, the staff described the bookshop branch as the one that draws the college-kid crowd!
Back in 2013, while the likes of 6/8 Kafé and the original Yorks Bakery Cafe were ploughing a relatively lonely furrow in the centre of Birmingham, out in Moseley, a short bus ride south of the city centre, Cafephilia first opened its doors. Very much a neighbourhood place, Cafephilia is rooted in the local community, providing good coffee, tea and food well into the evening. It’s a cosy place, with a sun-drenched front, particularly in the afternoon, and a more restrained seating area at the back, with subdued lighting and a very comfortable sofa. Like Thursday’s Coffee Spot, Forloren Espresso, Cafephilia is another L-shaped café.
The coffee is from Staffordshire’s finest, Has Bean, while the tea comes Joe’s Tea in London. Cafephilia’s uses the ubiquitous Jailbreak blend, with a fairly standard, espresso-based menu. Those looking for piccolos and pour-overs will be disappointed. There’s bread, from the local No. Thirteen Craft Bakers, which is available to buy and which also forms the basis of Cafephilia’s food menu. This includes toast, toast with various toppings, croissants and an extensive range of sandwiches, available on a choice of bread: white, focaccia and panini, and which can be had as is or toasted.
Liverpool’s 92 Degrees isn’t just an ordinary (speciality) coffee shop. Instead it also happens to be a roaster as well, and what’s more, it’s one that roasts on-site, akin to Manchester’s Ancoats Coffee Co. or Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. However, the uniqueness doesn’t stop there. Most roasters are usually set up by people with a strong background in coffee, whereas 92 Degrees is the brainchild of five friends from the software business, united by a love of coffee/coffee shops. What’s more, while most start small and grow with small steps, 92 Degrees went all in, roasting its own beans onsite from the outset.
92 Degrees, the coffee shop, has its own entry on the Coffee Spot. Today’s post, part of the occasional Meet the Roaster series, focuses on the roasting side of the business. As well as supplying the coffee shop, 92 Degrees has a growing retail customer-base, plus you can buy the beans, either in the store or on-line. 92 Degrees roasts a mix of blends for espresso and single-origin coffees for both espresso and filter. 92 Degrees has also been a champion of good decaf from the outset, always having a single-origin decaf on espresso.
Copenhagen has a small, but extremely high-standard speciality coffee scene. One of the relatively old hands is Forloren Espresso, which stands out partly because it doesn’t, like so many others in the Danish capital, roast its own beans. Instead it serves single-origin espresso and pour-overs through the Kalita Wave, using the UK’s Has Bean on espresso and filter, with Denmark’s La Cabra providing some of the filter options. Forloren also brings in an occasional guest roaster.
There are two options on espresso, three on filter. Each bean is priced differently and the options change every week or so. The main espresso option is designed for milk, with the second espresso usually served on its own or in cortados. There’s also a choice of tea, while a small snack menu offers breakfast and lunch options, plus there’s cake and pastries.
Although just a few steps away from Copenhagen’s tourist-central at the top of the Nyhavn Canal, and on the well-trodden route to the magnificent Frederiks Kirke, Forloren Espresso is surprisingly off the beaten track. A good sign that it doesn’t rely on the tourist trade is that it shuts at four o’clock every day and doesn’t open at all on Sundays.
Walking along Brooklyn’s Havemeyer Street, on my way from Northerly Coffee to Gimme! Coffee [coming soon to the Coffee Spot], something caught my eye at the street’s northern end. It looked like an old-fashioned barbershop, but a sign in the window, plus an A-board outside, proclaimed it to be the home of Parlor Coffee. A little bell rang in the back of my mind. Hadn’t my friend, Greg, of CoffeeGuru App fame, told me about somewhere in the back of a barbershop? Intrigued, I headed inside.
Persons of Interest is the name of the barbershop in question and Parlor Coffee is indeed a lovely little coffee shop, tucked away at the back in what may have been an old storeroom. There’s room enough for a one-group Kees van der Westen Speedster espresso machine (plus a single grinder), serving single-origin coffee roasted in-house by Parlor. An unexpected bonus is that your coffee comes in a proper cup!
Artigiano is a chain that seems to be slowly colonising the west and southwest, anywhere, in fact, served by the old Great Western Railway out of Paddington. Starting with the original at St Paul’s in London (admittedly not served by any railway out of Paddington), there are now three more branches: Exeter, Cardiff and now this one in Reading, occupying a prime spot on Broad Street, right in the heart of the town.
Of all the Artigianos, this might be the most elegant, which is saying something since Artigiano prides itself on the elegance of its branches. It’s also the only one (so far) with an upstairs (although the now-defunct New Oxford Street branch in London and the equally defunct Queen Street branch in Cardiff both had a mezzanine levels) where the elegance is really taken to a new level with its sumptuous sofas and lounge area at the back.
Artigiano offers the same tried-and-trusted formula: speciality coffee by day (a bespoke house-blend and a seasonal single-origin on espresso) with craft beer and wine by night, Artigiano staying open late into the evening. A limited food offering is available throughout the day, backed up by a small range of cake.
Compass Coffee was the final stop (of three) on my latest (very brief) visit to Washington DC back in February. Located on 7th Street in the north west quadrant, Compass is near the likes of La Colombe [coming soon to the Coffee Spot] and just to the east of Peregrine Espresso and Slipstream over on 14th Street. It’s also a relative newcomer, having opened towards the end of 2014.
From the outside, the low, single-storey, brick-built building looks fairly small, but stepping inside, it’s surprisingly large, going a long way back and feeling much wider than it looked from the street. The interior is big enough to house a large counter, an even larger seating area and, right at the back, a spacious roastery [coming soon to the Coffee Spot], home to a 30kg Loring roaster.
Compass is a curious mix of old and new, catering to a wide customer-base, including plenty of students. On the one hand, there are lots of blends, a wide variety of bulk-brew options and menu items such as gingerbread latte and peppermint mocha. On the other hand, there’s a fully-equipped Modbar and a choice of three single-origin pour-overs through Chemex or French Press. Naturally you can buy retail bags (or tins) of all Compass’ considerable output.
Set up by Alfie and Harry in November 2015, Rag & Bone Coffee is a welcome addition to the area between Victoria Station and Westminster. The patch, home to the venerable Flat Cap Coffee Cart at Strutton Ground Market (where Alfie worked for five years, learning the trade of making coffee outdoors), is now slowly gaining more decent coffee, Rag & Bone joining Iris & June, which opened in 2014.
Rag & Bone is a coffee cart which has its home in front of St Matthew’s Church on Great Peter Street, serving single-origin espresso from south London social enterprise, Old Spike Roastery. The coffee changes on a monthly basis, Rag & Bone receiving “whatever’s good” from the Roastery, plus there are retail bags of beans for sale. In the summer months, iced coffee joins the usual espresso-based options on the menu, all served with a friendly smile and warm welcome.
Despite the name, Another Pop Up in Digbeth (Pop Up Digbeth for short) isn’t a pop-up, although it is in Digbeth, so I suppose one out of two’s not bad. Digbeth, for those not in the know, is an old, industrial area, immediately southeast of Birmingham city centre, about a 20-minute walk from New Street Station. Both Digbeth’s history and regeneration can be neatly symbolised by the Custard Factory, where Bird’s once made its famous custard powder, and where Pop Up Digbeth now makes its home, along with a host of start-ups and other small businesses.
Having opened at the start of the year, Pop Digbeth is here to stay, serving healthy food to go at breakfast and lunch, backed up by a rotating offer on espresso from the local Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. There’s also a selection of home-made cakes for those looking for a sweet-treat with their coffee. Seating is provided in a spacious adjacent unit, with more seating outside overlooking the pool in the Custard Factory’s central courtyard. Mostly serving the offices that call the Custard Factory home, Pop Up Digbeth’s opening hours reflect this with a closing time of 3.30 and very limited weekend opening.