Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Lisbon

The bright, yellow front of the Copenhagen Coffee La, with a green awning shading the windows either side of the door.If you’re looking for a slice of traditional Lisbon café culture with a dose of third-wave coffee attached, Copenhagen Coffee Lab is probably not the place to come. Unlike Porto, where the speciality coffee scene seems to be largely home-grown, led by the likes of Mesa 325, this is a slice Scandinavian coffee culture transported from Copenhagen to Lisbon. Even the cakes have a distinctly Scandi-feel to them, with not a single nata in sight, rather ruining my pet theory that Portuguese cafés were obliged to sell them by law…

Owned by a pair of Danish twins, the Copenhagen Coffee Lab imports all its coffee from the micro-roastery of the same name in Copenhagen. While it might not be home-grown, the coffee offering is certainly impressive. There’s a pair of single-origins on espresso, tailored to specific drinks, with three more on filter, through V60, Aeropress or cafetiere.

The coffee shop itself occupies a lovely, cool, low-ceiled spot, ideal for Lisbon’s warm, southern climate. The atmosphere’s relaxed, with plenty of seating options, including in the windows flanking the door, ideal for people-watching. Finally, a small, windowless room right at the back lets you get away from it all if you want.

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Roasted Brown

Light bulbs, hanging in glass lampshades, above the counter at Roasted Brown, Dublin.Roasted Brown is a relatively established player in Dublin’s speciality coffee scene, roasting its own coffee and serving it from a bright, spacious spot on the first floor of the Filmbase building in the heart of Dublin. It’s fairly easy to find once you know it’s there, although, being on the first floor, there’s no street-level presence other than the name on the door.

The space itself is amazing, effectively a light well in the centre of the building, reaching all the way to the top of the third floor, where a glass ceiling thankfully keeps the rain off. There’s plenty of seating, although Roasted Brown has sensibly not tried to pack too much in, retaining the sense of space afforded by the high ceiling and aided by one of the walls being almost entirely glass!

Roasted Brown only roasts single-origins, with one option on espresso and three on filter. These are changed every week or so and are all available through the Kalita Wave filter. There are also cold coffee options. This backed up with an interesting selection of sandwiches and cakes, while if you fancy something else, there’s loose leaf tea or, for the sweet(ish) tooth, hot chocolate.

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Caffè Culture 2016: Meet the Roasters

The Caffe Culture Show logo from this yearIt’s very much the season for shows/festivals. April saw the London Coffee Festival, while I’m writing this during the World of Coffee in Dublin. However, today’s Saturday Supplement is all about last month’s Caffè Culture show. I’ve already covered the Caffè Culture Awards, where I was judging the Best Drink Award. However, in between my judging duties, I did have time for a (brief) look around the show.

Caffè Culture’s a different beast from the London Coffee Festival: for starters, it’s trade only, so tends to have a more relaxed atmosphere, particularly compared to the Saturday/Sunday at the Festival, where people are in and out within three hours. Of course, the exhibitors are also different, with an emphasis on the café trade as a whole, not just speciality coffee.

That said, Caffè Culture has made a definite effort in the last two years to embrace the speciality end of the market, providing a platform for small roasters to exhibit their wares. This, it turned out, was the ideal opportunity to catch up with some people I’d missed at the London Coffee Festival, as well as meeting a few that I’d not come across before. And, of course, there was cake.

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Mesa 325

Mesa 325, written in white stencil on the grey concrete wall of Mesa 325.I went to Porto last month in search of Port and in the expectation of the excellent company of my friends, Dave, Ian and Lev. I did not expect to find any speciality coffee, except that which I had brought with me. However, Porto, it turns out, has a lot more speciality coffee than I had bargained for, led by the very excellent Mesa 325. The scene is still very new, though, with Mesa, in many ways the trailblazer, only having been open for just over two years.

Mesa uses a local roaster, Vernazza, offering a fairly standard espresso menu, plus “slow coffee” (which, it turns out, is filter coffee, a single-origin through the Chemex). There’s also Vietnamese coffee (with condensed milk) and affogato (espresso over ice cream). However, this is Portugal, so there’s not just coffee: Mesa has a wide range of cakes/pastries (some Portuguese and some less so) and there’s locally-brewed craft beer, whiskey, port (obviously) and loose-leaf tea.

The setting’s a lovely, cool, stone-lined room, firmly placing Mesa in third-wave coffee territory, rather than Portuguese café territory. Long and thin, Mesa is surprisingly bright, with windows at the front, counter at the back and seating in between.

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Jake’s Coffee Box

Jake's Coffee Box, occupying the left-hand of the two red telephone boxes, with a table out front, acting as a counter. Jake himself stands in the door, waiting his next customer.Once upon a time, in the summer of last year, I read an interesting article in the Birmingham Mail about a coffee shop that had opened in a phone box. It was the end of July and, as luck would have it, I was passing through Birmingham that week, so I took a wander along Colmore Row, where I found said telephone box. But no coffee shop. Somewhat dispirited, I wandered off again and the whole coffee-shop-in-phone-box thing rather slipped my mind. Unknown to me, the article had jumped the gun and the coffee-shop-in-phone-box, Jake’s Coffee Box, actually opened the following week…

Fast-forward to this summer and I was once again wandering along Colmore Row, looking for another coffee shop that hadn’t actually opened yet (the Birmingham branch of 200 Degrees). Glancing down Eden Place, I suddenly remembered the phone box, so I wandered down to see what was there…

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A saucer, seen above, with the outline of a cup drawn on the base of the saucer. The words "Coffee Under Pressure" are written around the circumference of the outline. In the centre is a black circle with "C.U.P." written in white in the very centre.Reading’s Coffee Under Pressure is better known by the acronym, C.U.P. A recent addition to the local scene, it opened in August last year, tucked away in a lovely setting behind the Reading Minster. It’s a sun-drenched, south-facing place, with sheltered outdoor seating and a warm welcome inside, which flows from C.U.P.’s Greek owners, Maria & Nasos.

The coffee is from Winchester’s The Roasting Party. Unusually, there are two blends on espresso, plus decaf, as well as several single-origins available as individual filter coffees through the V60. As well as the usual offerings, there are some Greek specials, the Freddo Espresso & Freddo Cappuccino.

Not content with that, there’s also an impressive range of 16 different loose-leaf teas of various types, as befits C.U.P’s full name, Coffee Under Pressure, Speciality Coffee and Tea. All the tea is from Edinburgh’s Pekoe Tea and every bit as much care and attention goes into making it as goes into the coffee.

Finally, the small kitchen to the left of the counter turns out an impressive range food, mixing traditional(ish) British sandwiches, cookies and pastries with some interesting Greek dishes, such as the bougatsa, flaky pasties that can be either sweet or savoury.

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Flat Caps Coffee Kickstarter

An espresso in a classic white cup, plus a glass of water, on an oval wooden platter, separated by a tea spoon.I was in Newcastle a few weeks ago, visiting the likes of Hatch and Bunker, as well as catching up with some friends (such as Alison at BLK Coffee). Also on my list was Flat Caps Coffee, which I’d first visited over three years ago, immediately falling in love with it. My policy on the Coffee Spot is not to rank places or give them numerical ratings, but there’s no denying that Flat Caps is an all-time favourite, while I count its coffee as some of the best I’ve drunk (Flat Caps won the Coffee Spot’s Best Filter Coffee Award in 2013 and Best Espresso in 2015). However, I received a call from Joe Meagher, Flat Caps’ owner, who said he had a surprise for me, one that involved being somewhere (not the shop) at nine o’clock the following morning…

Those that know me will realise that 9 am rarely features in my vocabulary, much less in my consciousness. On the other hand, Joe’s as much a morning person as I am, so, reasoning it must be something special, I arranged for Joe to collect me at 8:40 the following day (a Monday morning!). This had better be good, Joe!

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Filter + Fox

The writing on the window: Filter + Fox | Cafe - Bar - HideoutIn the history of Liverpool’s (relatively) short speciality coffee scene, Filter + Fox, on Duke Street, plays an interesting role. Originally set up as Duke Street Espresso, an off-shoot of the famous Bold Street Coffee, it was reborn as Filter + Fox just over a year ago, when the current owners, Owain and Chris, took over. They had already made a name for themselves with their Bold Street Cold Brew, but they brought with them a background of many years in the bar industry, building on Duke Street Espresso’s reputation for good coffee and adding food through the day and cocktails in the evening.

Filter + Fox employs the coffee and cocktails model pioneered in London by the likes of Shoreditch Grind, but with the sort of elegance more normally associated with the likes of Notes or Fernandez & Wells. The result is unique, very much one of a kind in Liverpool, and in many ways ahead of the game. The coffee is from London’s Nude Espresso, with regularly-rotating guests on filter. There’s food (all-day breakfast, sandwiches, small plates and bar snacks) and a limited cake selection throughout the day, while the well-stocked bar serves right up until midnight.

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Pitch, Fulham Broadway

A flat white from Pitch in Fulham Broadway in my Therma Cup, a double-walled, thermally-insulated china cup which I take with me on my travels.Not long ago, there wasn’t much speciality coffee around Fulham, just the long-standing Chairs and Coffee (shamefully, I’ve still not been!). However, it’s a rapidly-changing scene, which now includes the latest arrival, Pitch, which opened last week inside Fulham Broadway shopping centre. Pitch made a name for itself when it cut the back off a Cadillac and turned it into an espresso bar in Westfield shopping centre out in Stratford.

Now it’s got a slightly more conventional pitch right in the middle of the main drag at Fulham Broadway, serving Allpress coffee from an espresso-based menu, with decaf on a second grinder. There’s also hot chocolate, tea, sandwiches and an impressive range of cakes. It doesn’t stop there: Pitch has an astonishing seven types of milk-substitute! For what is essentially a takeaway place, there’s also seating at the counter (including power!), which is a nice touch.

Having started life in Westfield, which is about as mainstream as it comes, Pitch isn’t afraid of a little competition from the chains, and so it is at Fulham Broadway. Pitch has set up directly opposite Starbucks and there’s a Pret one door down. Who says speciality coffee can’t compete with the big boys?

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Muni Coffee Co.

The Muni Coffee Co. logo from the wall behind the counter at the Fulham Road coffee shop.I came across Muni Coffee last year on Kickstarter. The brainchild of husband-and-wife team, Julian and Jena, the idea was to bring the Filipino specialty coffee to the British coffee-drinking public by working directly with farmers in the Philippines. The coffee’s imported to the UK, then roasted on behalf of Muni by north London’s, Campbell & Syme.

Intrigued, I backed the project, which was to help Jena and Julian establish a café in London where they could serve Muni’s coffee (you can also buy it on-line). That was in September and, after months of hard work, Muni’s imported its first container of green beans, roasted them and, on Saturday, the café opened on Fulham Road. Naturally, I had to visit…

It’s not a huge place, but has a simple, uncluttered layout with seating for about 15 inside and a few more at a couple of outside tables set back from the busy Fulham Road. Obviously the main draw’s the coffee, with an espresso-based menu offering the usual third-wave favourites. However, it’s not just about coffee, with Jena’s Filipino heritage shining through when it comes to the extensive food offering. There’s breakfast, lunch and cakes, fusing traditional British & Filipino cuisine.

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