Colonna & Small’s

The coffee menu at Colonna & Small's, with three beans on espresso and three on filter.So, finally, I made it to Bath and, naturally, had to make my first stop the legend that is Colonna & Small’s. I’d heard so much about it, and had so many people sing its praises, that I feared the reality would be a crushing disappointment. Fortunately Colonna & Small’s came through with flying colours.

The first thing that struck me is that it’s visually stunning with an unconventional layout (take a look at the gallery and the walk-through on Google Maps). It’s a lovely bright space (unsurprisingly, the building used to be an art gallery), with whitewashed walls and ceiling, pale blue tiles behind the counter, wooden floorboards and a wooden counter. Long and thin, its physical dimensions reminded me of TAP No 193, although the similarity ends there.

However, it’s the coffee that draws most people. Colonna & Small’s uses various roasters (Origin, Has Bean, Workshop, Extract and Round Hill Roastery to name a few), rotating the coffee regularly, often on a weekly basis. There are usually three options on espresso, three more on filter and a decaf on the espresso machine. Each is carefully chosen and presented so as to get the best from the bean.

March 2017: I’ve learnt that Colonna & Small’s now only serves coffee from Colonna Coffee.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Colonna & Small's in Bath. No exterior shot: it was pouring with rain, so you'll have to make do with this view from the interior
  • The door is recessed between two bay windows used for display purposes.
  • To either side of the door are these L-shaped bench seats.
  • A little further on is this fireplace. No, no-one's burning Caffeine Magazine! It's a book rack!
  • To either side are these glass cases of coffee-making kit.
  • You could spend a long time in here!
  • This is where I sat, just by the fireplace.
  • Although I could have sat at the bar opposite if I'd wanted to.
  • This picture of the original Colonna & Small's hangs nearby.
  • The view from my seat. That's Maxwell, hard at work!
  • Time to go up, I think.
  • Best not bother Maxwell right now. He looks busy!
  • The bench opposite the counter and steps leading temptingly down...
  • However, we'll stay up for now. Glasses and water jugs opposite the counter.
  • The main seating, four tables on the right, two on the left. Door is to the courtyard.
  • Nice, high ceiling with skylights.
  • The view the other way, from the back of Colonna & Small's.
  • You can learn a lot just by reading the walls!
  • Nice picture of a roaster over the stairs...
  • Talking of which, let's head down, shall we...?
  • This is the training room, as seen from the bottom of the stairs.
  • Espresso machine, scales, grinder, boiler, pouring kettle. Everything you need in fact!
  • Beyond the training room is this snug little space.
  • Complete with espresso machine. If you want an excuse to explore, the toilets are down here!
  • The training room as seen from the other side.
  • Time to go back up...
  • Nice fireplace at the top of the stairs with some of Colonna & Small's Awards.
  • So, to business. The grinders are at the front of the counter. Three, plus one for the decaf!
  • Next, a shiny La Marzocco Strada, complete with neat blue cups.
  • Cake! Lots of cake!
  • The Malhkonig EK43 grinder, mostly used for filter.
  • The EK43 in action, Maxwell at the controls!
  • And finally, the brew bar.
  • The brew bar in action: different methods (eg Clever Dripper, Aeropress) are used for different beans.
  • Talking of which, there are bags of coffee...
  • Bags and bags!
  • So, to business. The current selection, complete with tasting notes.
  • It was busy while I was there. Here a flat white is presented to its saucer.
  • And here it is in-situ. Despite being busy, there's still time for latte art.
  • The flat whites are multiplying!
  • My first coffee of the day: from Square Mile
  • Here it is, plus a very fine cup cake to keep it company.
  • Maxwell used this, from James Gourmet, to make my lungo.
  • I thought that the glass cup was a nice touch.
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On entering Colonna & Small’s you come into a small seating area, almost a corridor with benches on either side. A little further on is a fireplace with two glass cabinets full of coffee-brewing equipment on either side and, opposite that, a small bar.

The actual counter and main seating is beyond this, up a couple of steps. Here the room widens and the ceiling is higher, rising in a V-shape with two pairs of skylights, flooding it with light. The counter is on the left, grinders first, then espresso machine, followed by cake and brew bar. Opposite is a long (table-less) bench, while a couple of stools let you sit at the brew-bar.  Beyond that is the main seating, four-person wooden tables with benches in two rows. You can sit outside (when it’s not pouring with rain) in a small courtyard at the back, while down the stairs opposite the counter is a training area and another semi-private room that can be used for meetings.

I’ve heard some say Colonna & Small’s is intimidating. I can only speak as I found it: a relaxed, friendly place, with a mix of locals and visitors. I suspect that most of the visitors already knew of its reputation, with folks coming from as far afield as Australia (a coffee roaster on a tour of Europe!). Certainly I found it less intimidating (visually) than I did Edinburgh’s Brew Lab although I’ve learnt a lot in the year since I was there.

I started off with a Square Mile Santa Gema made on the Clever Dripper. I was recommended to have it black and to leave it to cool, both of which I would have done anyway (in fairness, a year ago I definitely needed telling!). Unfortunately I was coming down with a cold, so my poor palate had no chance of picking out any subtle notes. However, it was lovely from the off, mellowing and growing in complexity as it cooled.

I paired this with a banana and pecan cupcake; a nice contrast. This had a very rich, dark, pecan cake with sweet banana buttercream icing on top and was every bit as good as the coffee.

I spent a while chatting with co-owner Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, who I found to be warm, friendly and completely unpretentious. He was one of four baristas on duty and we chatted between customers, who he also had plenty of time for. It was a pleasure to watch him enthuse coffee to the uninitiated, reminiscent of Mat at Bristol’s Full Court Press going to work on a customer (in fairness, Mat’s the first to acknowledge the huge influence that Colonna & Small’s has had on him and the wider coffee scene).

Maxwell also made me a lungo using a Rwandan bean from James Gourmet Coffee (I’d tried the same bean as a filter a few days before at Clifton Coffee Company). It was ground with the new Mahlkonig EK43 grinder, then extracted on the La Marzocco Strada at five bar of pressure (espresso is normally nine bar) with 19g coffee/70g water and a 20-second extraction. The resulting drink was far longer than an espresso, but much shorter than a filter. I need to try one when I don’t have a cold before I can pass any judgement though!

6 CHAPEL ROW • BATH • BA1 1HN
www.colonnaandsmalls.co.uk +44 (0) 7766 808 067
Monday 08:00 – 17:30 Roasters Colonna Coffee (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:30 Seating Tables, Benches, Bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:30 Food Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:30 – 17:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 23rd December 2013

You can read the opinions of fellow coffee-blogger Alison, which are on her excellent blog, with an update when she visited as part of her South West Coffee Tour. For an even more up-to-date perspective, try this from the Bean There At team.


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27 thoughts on “Colonna & Small’s

  1. Even though I live in Canada now, I’ve been to Bath. That was probably in my tea drinking days though. I still have no idea about all the technicalities of coffee making but I know a good cup when I rapidly consume it. Fine blog. If I’m ever back in Bath I’ll know where to go.

      • I’m currently in Mississauga, about to move to Waterdown which is West of Toronto (about an hour or so). I would say once you move into Quebec the quality of the coffee and coffee shops is greatly increased. In Ontario, chains such as Starbucks and Tim Hortons seem to be most popular but can be hideously bland (TH in particular). Second Cup is better IMHO. You can find the odd decent coffee shop but in Montreal, Quebec City etc. your selection is greatly increased and the people there really do seem to want to savour the flavour. Montreal is an excellent place for seeking out fine coffee houses.

          • When I first arrived in Canada for a vacation with Lovene, we had terrible coffee on the flight over. Once landed I asked my brother to take us somewhere to get a decent cup of coffee. He took us to Tim Hortons. My view of Canada dropped like a stone. It’s incredibly popular though. There are Tim Horton’s coffee shops ever few kms no matter which way you turn.

            Thankfully it’s taken about 10 years but my brother no longer considers Timmy’s to be the pinnacle of coffee here in Canada.

          • True, Lev has improved! I will keep working on him in your absence 🙂

            And yes, airline coffee is (in my experience) universally dreadful!

            Brian.

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