Jika Jika, Euston Square

A flat white in the sun, seen from directly above, at Jika Jika on Euston Square.Jika Jika started life in Bath about five years ago. It’s recently moved premises there, downsizing to a smaller outlet by the station. About a year ago it also opened a second branch. In London. As you do.

Close enough to Euston station to be worth visiting if you’re en route to catch a train, it’s just around the corner from the northern exit of Euston Square tube station (turn right, away from Euston itself, and ignore the branch of Costa). It’s somewhere I kept going past, thinking, “Is that the same Jika Jika as in Bath?” and “I must go in there one day”. So, eventually, I did. Twice.

There’s not a lot to Jika Jika, which occupies a corner of the Euston Square hotel (which, ironically, also houses the aforementioned Costa). However, it packs a lot in, including decent breakfast and lunch offerings. There’s a solid espresso menu, based around a bespoke espresso blend (plus decaf) from Cornwall’s Origin, using a two-group La Marzocco which dominates the counter at the back of the small space. If you have time to linger, the décor is interesting, including plenty of pictures and amusing coffee-related quotations.

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Notes, Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf

A lovely flat white in a classic white cup, complete with impressive latte-art at Notes at Crossrail Place.For the longest time, Canary Wharf, and the area around it, was a desert when it came to quality coffee. Then along came Taylor Street Baristas, with a second branch in nearby South Quay. Also expanding east is Notes, the coffee-and-wine outfit which now roasts its own coffee and boasts five outlets, including King’s Cross, Moorgate and a branch in Canary Wharf tube station [coming soon to the Coffee Spot].

The latest Notes is also at Canary Wharf, this time in Crossrail Place, the new station for the Crossrail line. It doubles as a shopping centre, which opened in May 2015, despite Crossrail itself being several years from completion. Notes is on the ground floor and, in an area where businesses tend to keep to office hours and shut at the weekends, it refreshingly stays open late into the evening, as well as at weekends, serving Notes’ familiar mix of speciality coffee, wine, craft beer and small plates.

The newer Notes have outstanding designs and Crossrail Place is no exception. Even though it lacks the mezzanine level of King’s Cross, Crossrail Place might well be my favourite, squeezing itself into a weird space with some aplomb. Needless to say, the coffee is very good as well!

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Cup North 2015 Part II

The label on Grumpy Mule's Costa Rica Las Lajas Semi Washed: Epic. Seasonal. Crafted.Welcome to Part II of what’s become my annual visit to Manchester for self-styled two-day Northern Coffee Party, Cup North. Last year, the inaugural Cup North was my favourite coffee festival: small, friendly and intimate. This year, having moved to a new venue, it felt more like a mini-London Coffee Festival, with multiple spaces and more buzz.

In Part I, I looked at the new venue, some of the exciting kit on display (including new manual coffee maker, Oomph, which launched its Kickstarter yesterday) and the competitions: the Tasters Cup, my favourite barista competition, and the (in)famous coffee-throwing championships! This week, in Part II, I’ll be focusing exclusively on coffee, while Part III will look at the rest of the coffee & food.

We start with a long-overdue catch up with Coopers Coffee, when I got a demo of The Dragon, a manual syphon method. I also got to play on a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle, while the wonderful folks at Origin let me have a go on a La Marzocco Strada. Finally, I set myself a challenge to convert some friends to the wonders of not putting milk or sugar in their coffee with some help from Grumpy Mule.

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G!RO Cycles

Giro Cycles won the 2015 "Best Coffee Shop for Cyclists" at this year's 2015 UK Coffee Stop Awards.It’s ironic that I travel around the country, seeking out great coffee shops, but I can’t manage to visit one that’s practically on my doorstep. However, I have finally rectified this oversight with a long overdue visit to the award-winning Giro (or G!RO Cycles, to use its full name) in Esher.

Giro follows that by now well-established tradition of combining coffee and cycling, pioneered by the likes of Look Mum No Hands! and Zappi’s Bike Café. However, in the case of Giro, it feels to me more focused on the coffee than the cycles. There’s no workshop, for example, and the cycling gear is to be found at the back of the shop. Make no mistake though; Giro is as passionate about its cycling as it is about its coffee and regularly attracts crowds (swarms?) of cyclists, especially on its weekend organised cycle rides. There are also regular evening events.

Talking of coffee, Giro uses Beanberry Coffee, roasted in nearby Woking. Beanberry specialises in roasting organic coffee, with a number of single-origins and a bespoke espresso blend for Giro, while forging close links with the coffee farmers. Giro itself has four filter options (all V60) to go with the espresso.

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Lemana Coffee & Kitchen Update

A Has Bean coffee sack hanging from the counter at Lemana Coffee & Kitchen.Lemana, in Lymington, just outside the New Forest, has been a favourite of mine since my first visit in November 2013. A friendly, family-run, community-based café in a small town, it had excellent food and outstanding cakes, plus one of the warmest welcomes you’ll find. The only thing I didn’t rave about was the coffee.

However, when I heard on twitter that Lemana had started serving coffee from Staffordshire legends, Has Bean, my ears perked up. A return visit was quickly pencilled in as part of my annual trip to Naish, just along the coast from Lymington (which, contrary to my initial belief, is in Hampshire, not Dorset).

The switch to Has Bean is the most obvious of the changes, which have included taking a range of loose-leaf tea from Dorchester’s Gilded Teapot. Fortunately the warm welcome, excellent food and outstanding cakes remain, while other changes have been more subtle.

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Farm Girl Café

Thumbnail - Farm Girl Cafe (DSC_3484t)Down an interesting passageway, just off London’s Portobello Road, you’ll find a small, high-walled courtyard and, tucked away on the left-hand side, the wonderful Farm Girl Café. Occupying an amazing space, Farm Girl Café is a real delight. You can sit outside in the courtyard, where the only downside is that, due to the high walls, it doesn’t get the sun. While this means it can be wonderfully cool and shady on the occasional day that the summer decides to turn up, it can also be decidedly chilly. That said, I sat outside on my second visit in November and was fine.

Alternatively, sit inside, either in the main body of the café, or, if there’s a crowd of you, upstairs on the delightful mezzanine above the kitchen at the long communal table. The only downside of the interior is that it can get a bit loud, the beautifully-tiled walls acting as something of an echo chamber.

Farm Girl serves a substantial all-day breakfast menu, joined by a lunch menu from 11 o’clock. The coffee’s from old friends, The Roasting Party, using the standard Party Blend, decaf on the second grinder. Best of all, Farm Girl offers full table service.

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Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary

The Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary logoI have a confession to make. I don’t like (watching) barista competitions. The UKBC, Latte Art Championships, Brewers Cup, Coffee in Good Spirits… I just don’t enjoy watching them, although I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed the Tasters Cup at Cup North. I think this was because, unlike all the other competitions, there’s no subjective element, no judging. The contestants either got it right or wrong. End of story.

It’s not just coffee, by the way. I’m the same with everything else. Dancing? I’m a tango dancer, I love it. Strictly Come Dancing? No thanks. I love to bake, particularly cakes. Watching the Great British Bake Off? Never seen a single episode. It just doesn’t appeal.

That said, I enjoy watching baristas at work in coffee shops. I’ve learnt so much just by standing behind or in front of a counter, observing, asking questions, interacting. Unfortunately, I find I don’t get that much enjoyment from watching the competitions.

So, bearing all this in mind, when Gary from Beyond the Bean asked me to take part in judging a barista bursary, with the view of finding a competitor for the UKBCs, I… jumped at the chance!

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Filament Coffee

A cup of filter coffee, seen from above, next to a handleless jug, on a white, round table at Filament Coffee.Filament Coffee is another of the new places that have opened in Edinburgh in 2015 (May, to be precise). Originally a pop-up that appeared on Victoria Street in 2014, it has now found a permanent home on Clerk Street, not far from Cult Espresso, helping the slow spread of speciality coffee southwards from the city centre.

Housed in an old fishmongers, Filament is long and thin, with an eclectic range of benches and tables along both walls. The focus is firmly on the coffee, where there are various single-origins from an interesting cast of roasters (during my visit, an El Salvador from Has Bean, with a Guatemalan from Square Mile and an Ethiopian from new roasters, Obadiah, on filter).

If it’s food you’re after, Filament has a selection of cake and a very comprehensive bagel menu, perhaps one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen. Like toast, you can’t really go wrong with a good bagel.

And finally, with a name like Filament, you’re really holding yourself hostage to fortune unless you have some seriously good light bulbs on display. Fortunately, Filament does not disappoint! Coffee Spot Calendar anyone? Although this year’s is already at the printers, so can’t feature Filament…

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Artisan Roast, Stockbridge

Some lovely latte art in my flat white at Artisan Roast in Stockbridge, Edinburgh.One of my early posts on the Coffee Spot was Edinburgh’s Artisan Roast (the original on Broughton Street). It therefore seems only fitting that my 500th post (depending on exactly how you count them) should be the latest Artisan Roast. This one opened in March this year on the north side of Raeburn Place in Stockbridge, in Edinburgh’s New Town. It was, in some ways, unplanned: I was told that when the space came up, sharing with a florists (The White Petal Company) which no longer needed all the space, it was too good an opportunity to miss. Thus the fourth Artisan Roast was born.

Artisan Roast has a habit of occupying interesting spaces. Of the three Edinburgh Artisan Roasts, it’s easily the biggest, second only to Glasgow’s Gibson Street. However, that’s not hard since both the original, and the second in Bruntsfield, are very much on the small side.  However, it shares a common feature with both those in that it has a cosy back room.

In keeping with all four stores, the coffee’s all from Artisan Roast, with multiple options on filter, plus the house-blend on espresso. There’s also a decent selection of cake and soup/sandwiches for lunch.

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Cup North 2015 Part I

Sonali Tailor, who finished third in this year's Tasters Cup, in action at the final in Cup North.Last weekend, saw my annual visit to  Manchester for self-styled two-day Northern Coffee Party, Cup North. Regular readers will be pleased to learn that, true to form, it rained almost constantly, stopping for brief intervals so that I could pop outside to visit the excellent food stalls. The rain also obligingly held off for the first-ever UK Coffee Throwing Championships (more of which later).

Last year, Cup North was my favourite coffee festival, small, friendly and intimate. This year, it’s taken things up a notch, with a new venue and a significant increase in size. While retaining its friendly nature, it felt, with its multiple spaces, more like a mini-London Coffee Festival. Having come from the smaller, more intimate Glasgow Coffee Festival just a few weeks earlier, it took a while to get my head around the change of scale.

There was, of course, that much more to see and, sadly, I didn’t make it to everyone, so please accept my apologies if I didn’t catch up with you. For now, let’s kick-off with this, Part I of my round-up, with a look at the venue, kit and competitions. Parts II and III will focus on the coffee & food.

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