200 Degrees, Carrington Street

A piccolo in a glass and on a green saucer, made with the guest espresso at 200 Degrees, Carrington Street.Once-upon-a-time, there was a roaster in Nottingham called 200 Degrees. Then, after a little while, there was a coffee shop. And, that, it seemed, was that. Until this summer, when suddenly up sprang two more coffee shops, one in Birmingham and this one, on Carrington Street, next to Nottingham Station. Now, in fairness to 200 Degrees, I’ve known about the second Nottingham branch ever since I visited the original in the city centre last summer. It’s just that, as is so often the case with coffee shops in older buildings, everything took that little bit longer and summer last year slipped into autumn, then winter, before turning into spring and finally, summer this year!

However, it was definitely worth the wait: the new 200 Degrees is quite stunning. All three coffee shops are elegant, but this one even more so. Plus, with its glass front and side windows overlooking the canal, it’s easily the brightest of the three. The usual 200 Degrees elements are all there: plentiful seating, house-blend, guest and decaf on espresso, with a single-origin filter and another on nitro-cold brew. This is all backed up with some excellent breakfast and lunchtime options, with cake throughout the day.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Preview

A stylised outline of a white cup on a black background with letters cupnorth written above it (also in white).In two weeks’ time (Saturday/Sunday, 5th/6th November), Cup North will return, although this year it’s re-branded itself the Manchester Coffee Festival. Once again gracing the halls of the Victoria Warehouse in Stretford, where last year it spread itself out over a rabbit warren of interconnected spaces, you’re in for a real treat.

I’ve watched the Festival evolve over the last three years. Starting out as Cup North in 2014, it was a modest, relaxed affair in a pair of adjoining rooms in Manchester’s Artwork. Last year it expanded to Victoria Warehouse, occupying a number of rooms on the first floor, feeling more like a mini London Coffee Festival, although on a much more manageable scale. Even so, I still didn’t have time to get around all the stands I wanted to!

Whether it’s your first time or you’re wondering what this year’s festival will hold, this preview is for you. There’ll be plenty of speciality coffee and related kit, with numerous cafes, roasters and equipment suppliers amongst the exhibitors. Food, as always, will play a big role, with a range of local street food traders on hand. Finally, the Festival will once again host a series of Tamper Tantrum talks.

With weekend tickets for just £18, or £10 if you only want to do a single day, it really is a bargain. Get your tickets now!

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Ipsento 606

The silhouette of a coffee cup with a splash of coffee above it with the wording "Ipsento * * 606 * *" below it.Ipsento 606 is the second branch of Chicago veteran, Ipsento, which has been serving great coffee for 10 years now from its home on Western Avenue. Ipsento 606, in contrast, opened this summer and while just a few blocks away on Milwaukee Avenue, it takes its name from The 606, the elevated walkway which is just a few steps away from its front door.

Ipsento 606 is something of a rarity in American: coffee shop by day, cocktail bar by night. While this model has found a great deal of traction in the UK (think of Notes, Fernandez & Wells, Grind and Beany Green in London and the likes of Filter + Fox, The Attic and the Artigiano chain around the UK), I can only think of a few US examples (Philadelphia’s Double Knot springs to mind as an obvious example).

I can only speak to the coffee shop part of the operation, but anywhere with not one, but two Slayer espresso machines, plus a single-group Modbar dedicated to single-origin espresso must be doing something right! There’s also the obligatory bulk-brew, plus a range of single-origins on pour-over, all roasted in a dedicated facility just up the road.

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Café Integral, American Two Shot

A single-serve Kalita Wave filter at Cafe Integral, New York City, seen from above.Café Integral is not somewhere that you easily stumble upon. I found it thanks to several recommendations, not least from my friends Heather & Tim, who I stay with in New Jersey (the recommendation was specifically from Tim, who is a semi-regular there). It’s actually across the street from one of my New York favourites, Gasoline Alley, so I must have walked past it many times before my visit. In defence of my usually infallible coffee radar, it’s tucked away inside a clothing store, American Two Shot, with only an A-board outside to let you know it’s there.

Other than its location, Café Integral’s main claim to fame is that it only serves Nicaraguan coffee, its owners, the Vega family, having close ties with several farms in the country. There are now two coffee shops in New York, and another in Chicago [coming soon to the Coffee Spot], which makes it a national chain. Sort of. All the coffee is sourced in Nicaragua and roasted in a facility over on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. There’s a blend on espresso plus two single-origins, a pour-over using the Kalita Wave, with the other available on bulk-brew. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s a selection of cakes and cookies.

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Origin, Euston Road

Barista in action, pouring a Kalita Wave filter at Origin's Euston Road branch.Hot on the heels of Origin opening its coffee bar in the British Library foyer comes a full Origin coffee shop, located just outside the Library on the Euston Road. This is now the fourth Origin outlet in London, with the first, on Charlotte Road, opening only last year. These join the two long-standing shops and the roastery back in Cornwall.

Long and thin, the Euston Road branch offers more seating options than the foyer, plus it attracts the passing trade, whereas the coffee bar in foyer was only really known to Library visitors. As an added bonus, there’s a kitchen at the back, enabling Origin to offer expanded breakfast and lunch menus to go with the familiar doughnuts and cakes.

The coffee offering, meanwhile, is very similar, although the Kalita Wave has supplanted the Aeropress as the filter method of choice, while a gorgeous-looking three-group Kees van der Westen provides the espresso. Here there’s a choice of the Pathfinder seasonal house-blend plus a single-origin, with another single-origin on batch-brew and two more on pour-over. Although both branches usually offer the same beans, switch-over can occasionally vary. This is all backed up by an impressive retail range, featuring numerous single-origins.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Chicago

The Willis (was Sears) Tower, Chicago's tallest building.Welcome to fourth and final instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot series, which started with my flight out to Hong Kong, continued with my adventures in Hong Kong itself and then moved onto Shanghai, where I was spent a week on business before having the weekend to explore. This instalment covers the final leg of the trip, Chicago, where I spent 10 days staying with friends before flying home, completing my first round-the-world trip in the process.

The more observant amongst you will notice that I haven’t actually finished my Hong Kong or Shanghai posts, but I wanted to get this post on the Coffee Spot before I actually completed my travels. It’s been a weird trip for me: because I was working in Shanghai and then staying with friends in Chicago, I’ve had very little spare time, so between keeping the Coffee Spot up-to-date, doing the day job, and socialising with my colleagues (Shanghai) and friends (Chicago), I’ve had very little time to do these Travel Spot posts. As a result, you can expect to see regular updates coming along for all three posts between now and the end of year!

A quick word about Chicago: although I say I was staying in “Chicago”, my friends live in Chicago in the same sense that I live in London (the point being that I actually live in Guildford). With that out of the way, let’s get on with the Travel Spot.

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Intelligentsia, Old Town

A shot of the Black Cat seasonal espresso at Intelligentsia's Old Town branch in Chicago.Intelligentsia has been part of my journey towards speciality coffee, long before the Coffee Spot came to be. In particular, I’ve been a semi-regular visitor to the Intelligentsia in the Monadnock Building, on Jackson Boulevard. Having written about it on my previous visit to Chicago last summer, I thought it was about time I visited another branch. Ideally, it would have been the original Intelligentsia in Lake View, but fate had other plans, so instead I found myself a few blocks away from the Old Town branch.

This is a relatively new addition to the Intelligentsia stable, having opened in 2013, the fifth of six Chicago branches. It was also the first Intelligentsia to share premises with another business, a model that was followed with the High Line Hotel in NYC. In the case of the Old Town branch, it shares with plum market, an upmarket grocery store which occupies the north end of the space, Intelligentsia tagged on at the southern end, a long, table-lined corridor connecting the two.  As well as the usual Intelligentsia offering of espresso-based drinks, bulk-brew and pour-over, you can get food from plum market and bring it over to eat with your coffee.

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Urban Larder

A flat white in a blue cup, with some excellent fern-leaf latte art from the Urban Larder in Cambridge.I’ve been consistently surprised at the size of Cambridge’s speciality coffee shops, such as Thursday’s Coffee Spot, The Espresso Library. To put it bluntly, they’re huge. Urban Larder, in contrast, redresses the balance, size-wise: a lovely, compact, cosy, friendly little shop. It’s a little way out of the centre, in a small parade of shops on The Broadway.

The coffee’s from Bury St Edmund’s Butterworth & Son, with its award-winning four-bean seasonal blend on espresso, plus decaf on a second grinder. Since my visit (starting from today in fact), the Urban Larder is also serving a single-origin as a pour-over using the V60. There’s also a range of Butterworth & Son loose-leaf teas.

However, that’s not all there is to the Urban Larder. Its other speciality is the cheese toastie, with a variety of interesting fillings to choose from. If only I was still doing the Coffee Spot’s Best Cheese Toastie Award… The larder part of the name is well served by rows of groceries on the shelves by the counter and against the left-hand wall, where you can pick up eggs, flour and an array of sauces and chutneys, reminding me of a smaller version of No 12 Easton.

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The Espresso Library

A bike, hanging on the wall of the Espresso Library in Cambridge.The Espresso Library was, perhaps, one of the country’s most anticipated coffee shops. Announced on social media, it then took 18 months before it could finally open its doors at the start of 2015 on Cambridge’s East Road. It then took me another 18 months to get around to visiting it. However, I’m here to tell you that it’s well worth the wait!

A large, uncluttered, light-filled space, The Espresso Library combines excellent coffee with made-from-scratch food, cycling and art, the latter two reflecting the twin interests of owners, John (cycling) and Malgo (art). Malgo also brought the initial coffee expertise, having worked at the original Hot Numbers, where she met John, who was a customer. John quit his day job as a teacher and together they set up the Espresso Library.

The coffee is from fellow start-up, The Coffee Officina, who roast just over the border in northern Essex. The Coffee Officina supplies the house-blend and a single-origin guest on espresso, plus decaf, as well as up to eight single-origins for pour-over, although sometimes a few of these are provided by guest roasters. The espresso is made on a custom Slayer, while pour-over can be V60, Chemex or Aeropress.

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Manner Coffee

The word "Manner" written partly across an inverted triangle.Manner Coffee was a recommendation from Anna, my barista at Monday’s Coffee Spot, Sumerian Coffee. Handily placed just a few streets away from Sumerian Coffee on the quiet Nanyang Road, I was very grateful for the tip since I’m not sure I’d have found it by myself, particularly since it doesn’t show up on any on-line maps that I know of and has no social media presence.

I’m not even sure I’d have noticed it if I was just walking past since Manner Coffee is literally a hole-in-the-wall operation (for the pedants out there, technically it’s a window-in-the-wall operation). However, the crowd of people standing outside, waiting to order their coffee, might have drawn my attention.

And what coffee! Despite its size, Manner offers espresso (house-blend) & pour-over (various single-origins) from a selection of beans, all roasted in-house. It’s takeaway cups only though, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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