Pavement Coffeehouse is a chain of four shops, all in the Back Bay area of Boston. I was fortunate enough to visit the original, which is at the western end of Boylston Street, just beyond the junction with Massachusetts Avenue. I really liked it, finding it a curious mix of American coffee shop (front) and European coffee house (back). The coffee, from Counter Culture, is excellent, the food is good and the staff friendly. I was there twice, once for morning coffee and once for lunch; both times it was packed!
You can tell that Pavement is serious about its coffee: there are two espressos on offer, a single-origin (Buziraguhindwa from Burundi), served straight, and a blend (Rustico; a mix of 70% Guatemala and 30% Ethiopia) to be served with milk. There is also the choice of two more single-origins (a Rwandan and a Bolivian) on filter (generally called “hand-poured” in the US) in this case made using the Clever dripper, something I’ve not seen on offer since I was in Edinburgh’s Brew Lab. The coffee options were rounded off with the obligatory drip-filter (bulk brew), another single-origin (Baroida from Papua New Guinea).
I present the second of four Saturday Supplements, drawn from an extended version of my article in Issue 5 of Caffeine Magazine on the Newcastle coffee scene. In complete contrast to the subject of my previous article, Pumphrey’s, today it’s new-kid-on-the-block, Ouseburn Coffee Co.
OCC, as it’s known, has been around for less than two years, but has quickly established itself a reputation as a roaster of some of Newcastle’s finest coffee. Based in the sometimes-overlooked Ouseburn valley, just east of the city centre, Al, Simon, Pete and James, the men behind OCC, have created something special. All friends, who grew up in Newcastle, they gigged together in bands in their early years before going their separate ways. They returned to Newcastle two years ago and got back together, this time to create coffee rather than music.
Each of these Special Saturday Supplements can be read as a stand-alone article or the four can be read together as a coherent whole. The more astute amongst you will notice that in a radical departure from recent practice, this Saturday Supplement has come out on a Saturday! For more details, please see my recent State of the Nation(s) 2014 post.
As promised in my recent State of the Nation(s) 2014 post, I present the first of four Saturday Supplements taken from an extended version of my article in Issue 5 of Caffeine Magazine. This was my feature on the coffee scene in Newcastle, which, since Scott wouldn’t let me fill the entire magazine with one article, had to be cut down somewhat. This left me with lots of interesting things to say, but nowhere to say them.
Until now, that is…
We start, appropriately enough, with where it all began in Newcastle, and that’s Pumphrey’s, a venerable company which can trace its roots all the way back to 1750 when Leigh Smith established the company that was to become Pumphrey’s.
Each of these Special Saturday Supplements can be read as a stand-alone article or the four can be read together as a coherent whole. The more astute amongst you will appreciate that I’ve actually published this Saturday Supplement on a Thursday, but that’s just the way it is…
Here I am in Boston, Massachusetts, and so I thought to myself, what’s more appropriate than posting about The Boston Tea Party? Well, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s probably not very appropriate at all, but it suits my sense of humour, so there you go.
Today’s Boston Tea Party is, to date, the most northerly Tea Party. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s the Birmingham branch, which has been going just over a year. As a chain, the Boston Tea Party has the commendable habit of taking iconic buildings and turning them into excellent cafés. In Birmingham, it’s done it again and, what’s more, I think it’s surpassed itself this time with its most handsome branch so far. It’s also got the largest single-floor area of all the branches I’ve visited.
Being a Boston Tea Party, there’s the usual Tea Party offering, including a full range of food (with the all-important all-day breakfast menu), extensive cake selection and coffee from Bristol roasters, Extract, with espresso-based drinks and single-origin on the bulk filter. It also pulls off the usual Tea Party trick of simultaneously being a Boston Tea Party and yet being very much its own place.
This is my second State of the Nation(s) post, coinciding with my annual trip to North America. Readers with long memories may recall that I made a similar trip this time last year, taking in Boston, New York City and Montréal. This year’s itinerary is slightly different, starting in Boston and ending in New York, with a stop in Philadelphia to catch up with Greg Cohen of Coffee Guru App fame (still no Android version, Greg?). And, of course, I’ll be visiting lots of coffee shops along the way.
The purpose of this post is to let you know what will be happening to the Coffee Spot while I’m gone. In an ideal world, I’d be posting regularly about all the fantastic coffee spots I’ll be visiting, but the reality is that I won’t have time. This is, after all, supposed to be a holiday and while I do dearly love the Coffee Spot, I can’t spend all my time blogging or I won’t actually see anything!
However, last year I hardly posted anything while I was gone and I think that the Coffee Spot suffered for it. So, this year I do intend on posting on a regular basis…
Ironically I seem to be visiting the various Artigiano Espresso branches in reverse order of opening. First I went to the Exeter branch (opened just before Christmas). Then, three weeks later, I was in London’s New Oxford Street, where Artigiano opened about a month before it did in Exeter. All that’s left for me now is to visit the original branch at St Paul’s. Which has been open a year or more…
Regular readers will know that I really liked the Exeter branch and I have to say that I like the New Oxford Road branch even better! It’s very similar to Exeter, only more so, with the added bonus of a really lovely mezzanine level. Overall it’s about half the size, which, coupled with the layout, gives it a more intimate feel.
It has the same Artigiano offerings of food, cake, coffee (from Cornwall’s Origin), beer/wine/cocktails, friendly staff and late evening opening which make the chain as a whole such a winner. Add to that the wonderful surroundings and the only thing that puzzles me is why it’s not packed out every day. So, do yourself a favour and get down to New Oxford Street right now!
It feels harsh calling Store Street Espresso a chain, but technically, with the opening of the second branch of the Store Street Espresso empire, it is. The new outlet, Continental Stores, on Tavistock Place, is less than 15 minutes’ walk northeast of Store Street, home of the original Store Street Espresso, but it’s a totally different part of London.
Although it’s half the size of the original, resulting in a more intimate atmosphere, Continental Stores sticks to the same formula that has made Store Street such a success. The house-blend on the espresso machine is Square Mile’s Red Brick seasonal blend, while there’s also a guest espresso (from various roasters; Nude Espresso’s Guatemalan was on while I was there) and a decaf option. Finally, there’s a single-original pour-over filter coffee via the V60 (a washed Bolivian from Square Mile during my visit), with bulk-brew coming soon. Add to that Store Street staples of cake, sandwiches, soup, toast and very friendly staff and you’re onto a winner.
Grinder-geeks, by the way, will be fascinated by the Mahlkonig EK43 grinder which deals with the guest coffees and the decaf. It certainly cuts an interesting figure on the counter!
I celebrated my birthday last weekend by inviting a group of friends down to the closest thing I have to a local, Guildford’s Bar des Arts, for a coffee tasting. I’d originally been given the idea by Lee Hall of Matthew Algie when he did a similar demo at the Caffé Culture Show. There he put two different coffees through a V60 and a Chemex and I was astounded by how different they tasted.
So, when thinking about how I wanted to celebrate my birthday, I could think of nothing better than surrounding myself with some friends and replicating this experiment. I approached Bradley of Horsham Coffee Roaster, who supplies Bar des Arts, and he provided three very different coffees for us to try. Meanwhile, I brought along my trusty Aeropress (and one of the guests, Richard, brought his down) to go with Bar des Arts pour-over filters and cafetiere.
So, the scene was set for an afternoon of good company, coffee tasting and cake (although, very disappointingly, I seem to have taken exactly no pictures of the cake!).
Association Coffee, on Creechurch Lane in the heart of the City of London, joins a very select list of L-shaped coffee shops (from memory, Le Lapin Pressé, The Borough Barista and Darkhorse Espresso), although in fairness to the others, Association actually looks like two shops with the dividing wall knocked through. In theory, that should leave us with a square, but the back half of the second shop has been walled off by a large mirror behind the counter, thus creating the L-shape.
Serving up a variety of Square Mile coffee on espresso and Aeropress, Association is one of those places that I’ve visited a couple of times without ever having the time/opportunity to write it up for the Coffee Spot. So, when I had a couple of hours to kill on the day of the tube strike, I thought it was high time that I rectified this oversight.
Association is also a place I associate with fellow coffee blogger, Kate Beard (aka A Southern Belle in London), since the previous two times I was there, it was to meet up with her. So it was no great surprise when, completely unannounced, she walked in halfway through my visit!
Café at 36 was the last stop on my mini coffee-tour of Exeter. It’s somewhere I’ve been aware of for a long while and have long wanted to visit. The other side of the River Ex from the city centre, and a stone’s throw away from Exeter St Thomas station (first stop south of Exeter St David’s on the line to Plymouth), it’s an easy, if not particularly pretty, 15 minute walk from the centre.
However, it’s definitely worth the walk (or the short train ride). Best described as a neighbourhood greasy spoon with excellent coffee, Café at 36 is worth a visit for the food, the cake or for the coffee (or any combination of the three). The menu is typical café fare: cooked breakfasts, panini, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, plus flans and various platters. One of the things that helps Café at 36 stand out from the crowd is a commitment to local sourcing wherever possible. The other, is, of course, the speciality coffee, which comes from Cornish roasters, Origin.
It’s a friendly, down-to-earth sort of place. You’re not going to find the latest single-origin pour-over filters on the menu, but that doesn’t stop it being an excellent spot.