The Keen Bean Coffee Club

The light blue and cream Crema Caffe Elektra espresso machine, complete with dog, at The Keen Bean Coffee Club, Oxford.The Keen Bean Coffee Club (aside from possibly having the best-ever name for a Coffee Shop) is just short stroll along Oxford’s Cowley Road from Monday’s Coffee Spot, Quarter Horse Coffee. As well as this close physical proximity, the two coffee shops almost share a birthday, Keen Bean having opened just two weeks before its near neighbour in 2012.

Typical, isn’t it? You wait ages for a decent coffee shop, then two come along at once! A lot like buses…

Keen Bean is one of that new breed, a coffee shop sharing premises with another business, a model pioneered by bookshops. In this respect, it’s like Zappi’s Bike Café, another star of the Oxford coffee scene, although Keen Bean’s inside a record store rather than a bike shop. Whereas Zappi’s was always planned as an integral part of the bike shop, Keen Bean approached the record shop, Truck Store, which was already well-established on the Cowley Road.

Serving coffee from local roasters, Ue Coffee, Keen Bean manages to pack a lot into a relatively small space, with a comprehensive espresso menu, individual pour-over coffee, tea and hot chocolate! Kean Bean is owned by the same people behind the recently-opened Brew.

September 2015: It’s all change on the Cowley Road. I’m aware that Brew no longer owns Kean Bean, which, I believe, is now operated by the Truck Record store itself. I’m hoping to get back for an update before 2017 is out.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Keen Bean Coffee Club inside Truck Store on the corner of Rectory & Cowley Roads.
  • It occupies the left-hand quarter of the store and you can sit outside too!
  • Good idea!
  • Coffee credentials.
  • You get to Keen Bean through Truck Store itself.
  • The view from the counter towards the front of Keen Bean.
  • One of the square tables that line the side of the store.
  • You can also perch at the counter on one of these neat bar chairs.
  • The Elektra espresso machine, and the dog, are worth a closer look...
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • Nice light shades. Don't see many of those these days.
  • So, to business. Keen Bean, despite its size, has a comprehensive coffee menu.
  • Nice touch: regulars get their own mug/cup which are kept behind the counter.
  • As well as espresso, there's a choice of three single-origin beans on V60.
  • This Yirgacheffe was being prepared for another customer...
  • I, on the other hand, put Trenton, the barista, to work on the Elektra...
  • A behind-the-scenes look at Trenton in acton.
  • Nice extraction.
  • My espresso, in a glass.
  • And, from my visit before Christmas, another espresso, this time in a cup.
  • I'd taken a tea drinker with me before Christmas. She pronounced herself very satisfied.
Keen Bean Coffee Club inside Truck Store on the corner of Rectory & Cowley Roads.1 It occupies the left-hand quarter of the store and you can sit outside too!2 Good idea!3 Coffee credentials.4 You get to Keen Bean through Truck Store itself.5 The view from the counter towards the front of Keen Bean.6 One of the square tables that line the side of the store.7 You can also perch at the counter on one of these neat bar chairs.8 The Elektra espresso machine, and the dog, are worth a closer look...9 Obligatory light-fitting shot.10 Nice light shades. Don't see many of those these days.11 So, to business. Keen Bean, despite its size, has a comprehensive coffee menu.12 Nice touch: regulars get their own mug/cup which are kept behind the counter.13 As well as espresso, there's a choice of three single-origin beans on V60.14 This Yirgacheffe was being prepared for another customer...15 I, on the other hand, put Trenton, the barista, to work on the Elektra...16 A behind-the-scenes look at Trenton in acton.17 Nice extraction.18 My espresso, in a glass.19 And, from my visit before Christmas, another espresso, this time in a cup.20 I'd taken a tea drinker with me before Christmas. She pronounced herself very satisfied.21
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Despite the similarity in ages and location, The Keen Bean Coffee Club and Quarter Horse Coffee are in many respects like chalk and cheese. While they both serve great coffee, in terms of look and feel, they’re very different places.

Keen Bean occupies the left-hand quarter of Truck Store and the only way of getting into the coffee shop is through the record store. However, Truck’s not exactly huge, so it’s more a case of stepping inside and almost immediately turning left into Keen Bean. While this means that Keen Bean, a quarter of not-very-much-to-start-with, is pretty small, it doesn’t feel that way since the layout is fairly open plan. It also helps that Truck occupies a corner spot and Keen Bean has got itself the side with all the windows! Despite this open-plan feel, Keen Bean is enough of its own place that you don’t feel you are sitting in a record store, the two spaces feeling quite separate.

Keen Bean occupies a long, thin space. The counter, holding its lovely, light-blue and cream Elektra Crema Caffé espresso machine, is at the back of the shop. There’s a row of four two-person square tables along the left-hand side, two per window. At the opposite end from the counter is a small, raised area with a couple more tables. This occupies the spot on the corner of Cowley and Rectory Roads and, with a generous window that curves partly around the corner, it forms a bright, airy spot to sit and take your coffee. If you don’t fancy any of that, there are three small, green tables out on the pavement on the (busy) Cowley Road. Alternatively, you can perch on one of two bar chairs at the counter and watch the barista in action. Guess where I ended up…

For somewhere effectively so small, Keen Bean packs a lot in. As well as a comprehensive espresso menu, there’s pour-over filter coffee, with a choice of three single-origin beans via the V60 filter. This is prepared on the dinkiest filter-rack I have ever seen, squeezed in in front of the two grinders. All the coffee is from the local Ue Coffee Roasters and there is a selection of beans for sale (which you can also have ground). There are even rumours of cake, but I didn’t see any (in fairness, the barista, Trenton, told me that Keen Bean was in the process of switching suppliers and he’s an honest-looking chap).

So, what about the coffee? I was there before Christmas with my tea-drinking friend, when I had an espresso and she had tea. The espresso, a Guatemalan, was pretty good, with a nice, strong taste (I believe it was the same bean that I had in Zappi’s Bike Café). However, it was a little on the long side for me.

On my return, it was towards the end of a long day of “doing” Oxford for Caffeine Magazine, and I was more than a little caffeined-out, so I went for a decaf espresso. A good test of a decaf is whether it will stand up on its own as a straight espresso, so I had Trenton make me a shot that was very fine indeed.

However, I would have liked to try something with milk… Oh well, maybe next time.

TRUCK STORE • 101 COWLEY ROAD • OXFORD • OX4 1HU
www.facebook.com/thekeenbeanoxford +44 (0) 1865 793866
Monday 08:30 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Tables (outside)
Tuesday 08:30 – 19:00 Food Cake
Wednesday 08:30 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Thursday 08:30 – 19:00 Cards Cash Only
Friday 08:30 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Saturday 09:00 – 19:00 Power No
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Mobile 3G, Voice
Chain Local Visits 6th December 2013, 18th January 2014

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