Since my last visit to America, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Beany Green in Paddington, where many flat whites have been consumed. So, after a week in America without a decent flat white (and, in general, without even a sniff of one), I finally had to admit defeat. So, one snowy Saturday morning, I headed downtown to very nearly the tip of Manhattan, to seek out Bluestone Lane, a self-professed Aussie coffee shop.
The first task was to find Bluestone Lane, since while the address is 30 Broad Street, the actual entrance is on New Street, a narrow lane south of Wall Street, squeezed between Broad Street and the even broader Broadway. However, once you’ve found it and gone through the correct set of (three) doors, you find yourself in a little slice (with the emphasis on little) of Australian coffee heaven.
There are flat whites and long blacks on the menu (plus bulk-brew for American sensibilities), with the likes of avocado on toast, banana bread and toast with vegemite, plus Lamingtons in the cake selection. The coffee’s all the way from San Francisco’s Sightglass, which I guess is at least on the way to Australia!
On Thursday last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a cupping being held by Brighton roaster, Small Batch, although rather than having to go all the way down to the south coast, I just had to pop along to Seven Dials and surf shop, Finisterre. While this may seem a strange location for a coffee cupping, it makes more sense than you think, since Finisterre, as well as being a surf shop, also has a lovely little coffee shop, serving Small Batch (although you’d probably already guessed that at this point).
The guys from Small Batch (head-roaster, Al; barista trainer, Laura; and Dan) were joined by Cory from green-bean importers, Falcon. Cory was there due to his experience in Africa, where he’s been working on building links with local farmers, helping them grow sustainable coffee businesses. Cory’s presence was important because this was no ordinary cupping. Instead, Small Batch was showing-casing its range of coffee from Rwanda, with six coffees in all, each from a different washing station (all the coffees are named after the washing station which processed them). There was also a seventh coffee, a Shembati Buziraguindwa from neighbouring Burundi, to provide some contrast.
Located between Cambridge Heath and London Fields stations on the suburban line out of Liverpool Street, and just a stone’s through from the Climpson and Sons roastery (at Climpson’s Arch), the Climpson and Sons Café on Broadway Market is a lovely little spot. The most sensible approach is from London Fields Station, from where you can head directly across the open, green space that is London Fields, heading south until you hit Broadway Market, a delightful street of local shops, cafes and restaurants, several of which spill out onto the pavements. Trust me, this is a much more picturesque approach than wandering the streets from Cambridge Heath…
Coming from London Fields, you’ll find Climpson and Sons a few doors down on the right. It’s not a huge spot, roughly square in layout, with the counter taking up the back third of the store, the front two-thirds given over to seating. Unsurprisingly serving Climpson and Sons beans on espresso and filter, there’s also a comprehensive range of beans for sale. A decent cake selection is joined by breakfast and lunch menus until three o’clock. Impressively, given how busy it is, Climpson and Sons still manages to serve food at the weekends.
On my first visit to Philadelphia in 2014, I missed Rival Bros who, back then, were a roastery with a growing reputation and a coffee truck that wasn’t open at weekends. Naturally, I was there for the weekend. Two months later, having waited until I was safely out of town, Rival Bros opened its first (and so far only) shop on the corner of 24th and Lombard Streets.
It’s a brick-built building in a residential part of south Philadelphia, on the end of a row of two-/three-storey terrace houses. In many ways the setting, on a sunny March afternoon, couldn’t be lovelier. The exterior brickwork is painted grey and white, while the interior has white-washed walls with dark grey woodwork and ceiling. Windows, glass doors and plenty of lights make it a wonderful, bright spot.
The focus is firmly on the coffee, allowing Rival Bros to showcase its output. There’s a blend (Whistle & Cuss), single-origin (Ethiopian) and decaf on espresso, the Revolver blend (which I’ve previously had as espresso) on bulk-brew and a choice of four single-origins through the Chemex. If you’re hungry, there’s a small range of bread-based goodies, including toast and toasted sandwiches, plus cake, of course.
Noble Espresso has become a fixture in Battle Bridge Place outside London’s King’s Cross Station, occupying a pitch that was once graced by the likes of Weanie Beans and Bean & Gone. However, for just over a year, Noble Espresso has been in occupation, regardless of the weather, serving excellent espresso-based drinks, plus tasty pastries, to all-comers.
Even more impressive, given that the two baristas, Shaun and Jonny, operate from a simple wooden counter, with little shelter from the elements, is the dedication to quality. Noble Espresso regularly rotates the beans on offer, which can make dialling in the new beans on a cold winter’s morning a particular challenge!
As I watched Shaun and Jonny serve a steady stream of customers, my admiration grew. There were no quick extractions here, no skimping on the steaming of the milk, with each flat white, latte and cappuccino carefully crafted and exquisitely poured.
On Bath’s High Street, just a few steps from the Cathedral, opposite the Guildhall and with High Street chains Caffé Nero and Patisserie Valerie to one side, Starbucks to the other, this is an unlikely, but welcome, location for an independent speciality coffee shop. This prime spot, at the eastern end of the Corridor, Bath’s Georgian shopping arcade, is home to the second of Bath’s two branches of Society Café. It’s a wonderful location, probably the loveliest setting out of all the coffee spots that I’ve visited in Bath.
During my visit, most of the coffee was from locals, Round Hill Roastery, with two single-origin espressos (Round Hill’s house single-origin Guatemalan, plus a guest) and two single-origin filters, one through the Aeropress, the other through the Clever Dripper. There was also a guest filter, a single-origin Kenyan from Workshop, while Society Café regularly rotates all the coffees, including the house espresso (which is always from Round Hill) and the guests.
If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s always a selection of loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate from old friends Kokoa Collection, as well as Willie’s Cacao. Add to that sandwiches and a great selection of cakes and you’re spoilt for choice!
My first stop in Washington DC was the original branch of the Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar, currently a chain of two coffee shops (the second is in Foggy Bottom) although there should be a third within the next couple of months. The original is tucked away in a basement on 20th Street, just north of Dupont Circle, in a predominantly residential part of DC. In a fit of completely bad timing, I arrived precisely one day before Filter celebrated its fifth birthday. Go me…
To look at, with its steps down to a basement in a terrace of brick-built buildings, it instantly reminded me of Boston’s Wired Puppy. Filter has a small courtyard at the bottom of the steps while the door gives access to a long, thin basement space which, rather disconcertingly, runs off at about 30 degrees to the door! All the coffee is from nearby Ceremony Coffee Roasters, while there is also tea and, if you’re hungry, a small selection of cake.
This being the FILTER Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar, there’s an emphasis on filter coffee, with five single-origin beans available through the V60. If that doesn’t appeal, there’s the usual espresso range available as well.
My friend Greg, of Coffee Guru App fame, and my number one source of all things coffee-related in Philadelphia, described Shot Tower Coffee as “one of the best” in Philly. No pressure then. Fortunately I loved it from the moment we drove past along Christian Street on our way to the 9th Street Italian Market. Greg had to do his shopping then head home, leaving me free to wander back to Shot Tower at my leisure, which I did.
Sitting on the corner of Christian and South 6th Streets, Shot Tower is perhaps twice as long as it is deep, and ever so slightly wedge-shaped. Windows run the length of both sides, which, coupled with a high ceiling, give it a bright and airy feel. Well-spaced seating adds to the sense of space.
The coffee is from Counter Culture, with a fairly standard espresso-based menu, the obligatory bulk-brew drip coffee and hand-brew pour-over, with a choice (while I was there) of a Rosales from Columbia, a Kinyara from Kenya or decaf. There’s also decaf available for the espresso and a wide selection of loose-leaf tea and iced drinks. Pastries and oatmeal provide food options if you’re hungry.
The Coffee Spot has finally made it to Brooklyn and where better to start than today’s Coffee Spot, Daily Press Coffee? Conveniently located on Havemeyer Street near the foot of Williamsburg Bridge, this is the second outpost of Daily Press Coffee, a chain of precisely two. The original, also in Brooklyn, on Franklin Avenue, opened five years ago, with the current location joining it three years later.
It’s a delightful little spot, offering a simple menu of coffee, cakes and pastries, plus an all-day breakfast menu in the shape of breakfast burritos made on demand. The coffee is from New York roasters, Irving Farm, with a concise espresso menu, bulk-brew filter and the house speciality, with a nod to the Latin neighbourhood, Café con Leche.
Although fairly narrow, it’s not quite arms-outstretched-touch-both-sides narrow (it is, perhaps, twice that wide) and since it’s fairly long, with a high, white-washed ceiling, this leads to sense of space that belies its small size. The interior is beautifully laid out, with wooden floor, bare-brick or whitewashed walls, a sumptuous wooden counter and wooden furniture. The result is very pleasing on the eye, making for a lovely, relaxing place to sit and drink your coffee.
Today’s Saturday Supplement is a blatant piece of self-publicity if ever there was one. As some of you may know, my friend Paul, wearer of many hats, possessor of too many first names (and, consequentially, too few surnames) and all-round-good-egg, has a podcast called Espressno (and no, I don’t know why he called it that either).
What you may not realise is that last month, while I was in Sheffield on Coffee Spot business, I made a sneaky day-trip to Leeds where I met Paul, who, somewhat foolishly, sat me down, handed me a microphone and then pressed record. The result is Episode C of Espressno, half-an-hour of me talking and occasionally letting Paul get a word in edgeways (It’s only fair, it is his podcast after all).
I would encourage you to listen to it, not least because Paul needs another listener…