For a long time, speciality coffee in Reading has meant the (excellent) Workhouse Coffee with its two branches on Oxford Road and King Street. However, that is slowly changing with the arrival of several new players, including the intriguing Tamp Culture, which has been at the entrance to the Oracle centre since April of this year.
Technically a coffee cart, Tamp operates perhaps the most impressive set-up I’ve seen, with a counter that puts many a shop to shame and a range of coffee-kit and merchandising that surpasses many a speciality outlet. What’s even more impressive is that whole edifice is dismantled every evening and packed away in the Piaggio Ape that forms the backbone of the operation. There’s even outdoor seating and a nice big awning to keep the rain/sun off the counter.
Like Workhouse, Tamp roasts all its own coffee, with a range of around 20 single-origin beans. Two of these are always on offer, the choice rotating on a weekly basis, with plenty more beans available to buy. As well as the usual espresso-based options, Tamp also offers Aeropress and pour-over filter options (these aren’t on the menu, so you have to ask).
July 2020: Following enforced closure due to COVID-19, Tamp Culture has reopened, initially for takeaway and then, from the start of July, for sit-in service. You can see what I made of it when I visited at the end of the month.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Tamp Culture was set up by two brothers, Josh and Marcus, who share time on the cart with old friend of the Coffee Spot, Phil Carter. Meanwhile, all the roasting is done by Owain, who it seems to me has the best (ie indoors) job! Not that the Tamp Culture coffee cart is your typical outdoor operation, reminding me of the likes of Bean About Town in terms of the complexity of its set-up.
Officially part of Reading’s Oracle shopping complex, Tamp has a permanent spot at the junction of Gun and Minster Streets, opposite Reading Minister, which forms a very nice backdrop if you’re sitting at one of the two tables on the broad paved area outside the Oracle. Tamp itself is on the right-hand side as you come in, focused a Piaggio Ape, open at the back to reveal the two-group espresso machine. An impressive wooden counter encloses the back of the Ape, while a large, four-posted awning provides cover (although not to the tables, so you’re out of luck if it’s raining).
Pretty much everything about Tamp is impressive: it’s the sort of operation I’d associate with a full-blown coffee shop and absolutely not what I’d expect to find on a coffee cart. Technically, Tamp’s Piaggio Ape is mobile, but these days it’s not going anywhere in a hurry (and, in fairness, with a 50cc engine, it never was going anywhere in that much of a hurry!). It’s now a permanent fixture, but even so, the counter is hand-built from scratch every morning and then broken down and packed away every evening, making what’s on offer from Tamp even more impressive.
Let’s start with the opening hours, which are long even for a coffee shop, let alone a cart. At a time when many coffee shops are shutting their doors, Tamp’s still going strong. Then there’s the merchandise: grinders, kettles, Chemex, Aeropress, V60, Clever Drippers… You don’t find that range in most coffee shops. There’s also tea from Merseyside’s Brew Tea Co and cake in the form of M’Henchas from Morocco (via the Cotswolds), occasionally supplemented by homemade cakes (via Carolyn of Sundown micro-bakery).
However, when it comes to the actual coffee, Tamp really excels. Roasting single-origin beans in-house, there’s always a choice of two beans, freshly roasted, which change on a regular basis. If you don’t fancy what’s on offer, just come back the following week, when there’ll be something else to tempt you. Alternatively there’s a wide selection of retail bags to take home with you.
When I was there, the choices were a La Bastilla washed from Nicaragua and a Phoka Hills washed from Malawi. The Nicaraguan, as described, sounded like a more traditional espresso, with chocolate/caramel notes, but I was intrigued by the sound of the Malawi, with its overtones of honey. Since I don’t come across Malawi coffee very often, I went for a flat white, offering up JOCO Cup instead of one of Tamp’s takeaway cups.
I was rewarded with a very fine flat white. The Malawi was indeed sweet (although my palate was never going to pick up honey) and it went very well with the milk, producing a lovely, smooth drink. The milk itself was excellent, beautifully steamed and holding its latte-art all the way to the bottom of the cup.
|THE ORACLE GUN/MINSTER STREET • READING • RG1 2AG|
|Monday||08:30 – 19:00||Roaster||Tamp Culture (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:30 – 19:00||Seating||Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:30 – 19:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||08:30 – 19:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:30 – 19:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 19:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||11:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||19th December 2014|
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