Espresso Station, Moor Street Station

A classic espresso, made with the Monsoon Estates' seasonal blend, and served in a classic cup at the Espresso Station in Moor Street Station, Birmingham.The Espresso Station has been around for a while, since I can remember it from the early days of the Coffee Spot. These days it’s grown to a sizeable operation, providing coffee around the West Midlands. There are to two outlets in stations (Dorridge and Moor Street), two in sports clubs (Aston Villa FC and Worcester Warriors Rugby) and two coffee shops (the Espresso Barn and Espresso Farm). Maybe one day we’ll see the Espresso Station at Edgbaston (hint, hint).

Today’s Coffee Spot is a two-for-the-price-of-one, with the Espresso Station at Birmingham’s Moor Street, where there’s a lovely station café on the main concourse and a smaller, mainly takeaway operation behind the ticket barriers by the platforms. Both serve a standard espresso-based menu using a seasonal espresso blend from nearby Monsoon Estates Coffee Company, along with limited breakfast and lunch menus, plus a selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches.

Obviously, the café, with a small amount of indoor seating, plus some “outdoor” tables, sheltered under the soaring glass roof of the station concourse, is the more accessible of the two, since you don’t need to buy a train ticket to visit it, so that’s the focus of today’s Coffee Spot.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying from Boston with Virgin Atlantic

Mademoiselle Rouge, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300, waiting on the stand at Boston Logan Airport to take me back to London Heathrow.Welcome to the second instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot covering my trip to/from Boston with Virgin Atlantic. In the first part, I wrote about my flight over from Heathrow, where I was unexpectedly upgraded to Upper Class. This post covers my flight back to Heathrow from Boston Logan, where I travelled in premium economy. I tend to fly either at the front of the plane (business class, when work is paying) or at the back of the plane (economy, when I’m paying), so this was a fairly unusual experience for me.

I also took the daytime flight from Boston to Heathrow, which leaves Boston in the morning and arrives in London in the evening, the perfect flight for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sleeping on planes. When I first started flying transatlantic in the late 1990s, this used to be my favoured flight, but after 9/11, they largely disappeared from the schedule, only to reappear a few years ago. This was probably the first time I’ve caught this flight or its equivalent in nearly 20 years! With my flight leaving at 08:15, this meant an (unreasonably, for me) early start, although my first problem was getting to the airport…

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Dudley’s

Dudley's in Walthamstow, with its door on the corner, open and welcoming you in.It really is a small world. Three weeks ago, I finally returned to Walthamstow to visit Wood St Coffee. Along the way, I popped in to see Froth & Rind, which, it turns out, is on Orford Road, next door to Wood St’s previous location. And then there’s the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Dudley’s, who I visited at the recommendation of Wood St’s baristas. And where is Dudley’s? On Wood Street, of course, just a little way down from Wood Street Market, the original home of Wood St Coffee. A small world indeed.

Dudley’s only opened in March, but has already established itself as a firm neighbourhood favourite and it’s easy to see why. There’s a friendly welcome from the staff, plus plenty of seating, including a cosy second room. The coffee is from old friends, Assembly, with its seasonal espresso joined by a single-origin on batch brew through the Moccamaster, all served from a concise coffee menu. Dudley’s also has an interesting brunch menu, which is served until 3pm, with everything prepared in the open kitchen behind the counter. Finally, if you want something sweet, a selection of pastries, muffins and banana bread is available all day long.

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Bean & Cole

A lovely flat white, made with the Jailbreak blend from Has Bean, served in a classic cup at Bean & Cole in Chester.Chester’s Bean & Cole has been on my radar since it opened in June 2018, but circumstances have always conspired against me. Until now, that is. Occupying a fairly small ground floor shop in a lovely old building on the semi-pedestrianised Frodsham Street, Bean & Cole is part of Chester’s growing speciality coffee scene, which has seen a flurry of openings in the last couple of years.

Bean & Cole serves Has Bean, with the ubiquitous Jailbreak Blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest. There are several filter options, including an Aeropress or V60 for one and a Chemex for two. The guest espresso and filter options are drawn from a wide variety of roasters and change every few weeks. There’s also a small selection of loose-leaf tea, a concise brunch menu with the likes of granola and various things on toast, plus a small range of cakes.

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Second Shot, Marylebone

A lovely decaf cortado, roasted by Square Mile, and served at the new Second Shot in Marylebone.Second Shot made its name as a coffee shop and social enterprise, tackling homelessness one espresso at a time. Plenty of coffee shops offer help with pay it forward schemes, but Second Shot’s founder, Julius Ibrahim, went one step further, employing people affected by homelessness, giving them jobs in the short-term and careers in the longer-term.

Second Shot opened its first branch in Bethnal Green in 2016, but I didn’t manage to visit until two months ago. Then, just over a month later, Second Shot opened its second location, this time in Marylebone, between the station and Edgeware road. This time I didn’t want to leave it as long, so when the England vs Ireland Test Match at the nearby Lords’ Cricket Ground finished early, I saw my opportunity and went along.

Like the original in Bethnal Green, Second Shot stands on its own two feet as a speciality, multi-roaster coffee shop, up there with some of the best in London. It offers a different roaster on espresso and filter, along with a small brunch menu and a selection of cake. While the shop’s quite small, it’s larger than the original, plus there’s a specious basement/training room.

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Speciality Coffee at Lord’s, 2019

Watching espresso extract for a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine in the Browns of Brockley mobile coffee van at Lord's cricket ground.Over the seven years I’ve been writing the Coffee Spot, I’ve seen speciality coffee spread from a handful of city centres to all sorts of interesting places. One of the most exciting is seeing speciality coffee appearing at major sporting events, in particular, at Lord’s, the home of cricket, where I’ve been going each summer for over 20 years.

It all started in 2011 when Kaffeine were asked to make coffee in the Harris Gardens behind the pavilion. It’s been slow going since that promising start, but last year, I noticed a change. Suddenly there were numerous speciality coffee outlets around the ground, with the likes of  Browns of Brockley and the Ground Coffee Society leading the way. There was even an in-house coffee shop, Portman’s Café, serving Union Hand-roasted!

This year I managed to get tickets for the first ever England vs Ireland Test Match, which took place two weeks ago (although sadly I’ve missed out on tickets for the Ashes Test next weekend, unless anyone has got any spares…). So I popped along to watch some cricket (England won, rather famously) and also brought my HuskeeCup, Therma Cup and Kaffeeform cup, to see what coffee I could find.

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Little Wolf Coffee

A lovely La Virgen Colombian single-origin espresso, roasted and served at Little Wolf Coffee in Ipswich, MA.This time last week I flew into Boston, then, the following day, drove up to Portland (Maine). The coastal area between the two cities is beautiful, full of historic towns and cities, including the likes of Newburyport and Portsmouth. What it lacks, however, is much in the way of speciality coffee. However, I’m indebted to Bex (of Double Skinny Macchiato fame) for the heads up about today’s Coffee Spot, Little Wolf Coffee, in the historic (New England) town of Ipswich.

Little Wolf is a roastery and coffee shop, located in an old car dealership, just north of the town centre. There’s a separate seating area off to one side, or you can sit in the main area with the counter, admiring the roastery at the back, where the 12kg Probat, which is in action on Monday and Wednesday each week, takes pride of place.

Little Wolf roasts a handful of seasonal single-origins, with a new coffee roughly once a month. The coffee shop has a simple menu, with one option on espresso and another on batch brew. These change every other day on average, batch brew changing more frequently than espresso. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes/pasties.

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Froth & Rind

A lovely espresso in a classic blue cup, made using the Curved Brick seasonal espresso blend, served at Froth & Rind in Walthamstow.In some ways, it’s a very small world. My only previous trip to Walthamstow was in 2014, to visit Wood St Coffee, then in its second incarnation on Orford Road. My next trip was two weeks ago, over five years later, again to visit Wood St Coffee, now in its permanent home in Blackhorse Workshop.

In 2014, Wood St was pretty much the only speciality coffee game in (Walthamstow) town, which is most definitely no longer the case, so this time I had a long list of places to visit, including today’s Coffee Spot, Froth & Rind. What I didn’t realised untilI walked down the familiar street, is that Froth & Rind is next door to Wood St’s old home on Orford Road. Small world indeed.

What sets Froth & Rind apart is that it’s (to my knowledge) the only shop to combine craft beer, fine cheese and speciality coffee, simultaneously acting as off-licence, cheesemonger and coffee shop, serving an espresso-based menu from local roaster, Curved Brick, a wide selection of cake and a menu of innovative cheese toasties. While I can’t speak to the beer, the cheese looked excellent, my toastie was awesome and my espresso very fine indeed.

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Coffee Addict

Coffee Addict on Vauxhall Bridge Road, occupying the site of the original Costa Coffee, which opened in 1978 (Coffee Addict, in contrast, opened in 2019)Once upon a time, there wasn’t much good coffee around Victoria station, particularly in the stretch between it and Westminster, where the Flat Cap Coffee Barrow stood alone for many years. Then came the likes of Iris & June and Rag & Bone Coffee and things started looking up. More recently, the Nova development brought Timmy Green, Crosstown Doughnuts and Notes. And now, if that wasn’t enough, there’s another crop of newcomers right next to the station itself, including Press Coffee, Hermanos and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Coffee Addict.

There’s not a great deal to Coffee Addict, with just enough room for a couple of tables outside and not much more inside. The main draw is the coffee, from old friends The Roasting Party, the Drake blend on espresso, backed up by batch brew and a small but tempting breakfast/sandwich menu, plus copious amounts of cakes and pastries.

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Wood St Coffee

The Wood St Coffee logo, taken from the sign outside Blackhorse Workshop in Walthamstow.It was five years ago that I first ventured to Walthamstow to seek out Wood St Coffee, at that point in its second incarnation on Orford Road in the heart of Walthamstow Village. Effectively a counter in a shop, Wood St shared the space with two other businesses, opening four days a week. Mind you, this was a step-up from the original, a Sunday pop-up in Wood Street Market which started in 2013 before moving to Orford Road in February 2014. However, in the autumn of 2014, not too long after my visit, Wood St Coffee moved again, this time to a permanent home, still in Walthamstow at the Blackhorse Workshop. And ever since, I’ve been promising to return…

When I finally made it, I found a thriving coffee shop, with plenty of seating inside and out. These days, the coffee’s roasted on-site, with a seasonal single-origin plus decaf on espresso, and a daily batch-brew option, the beans selected from the three or four single-origins in stock at the time. However, it’s not just coffee, with Wood St serving an excellent brunch menu at weekends and more traditional breakfast/lunch menus during the week, backed up by a small cake selection.

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