Guildford has long been crying out for an independent, speciality coffee shop and finally, one has arrived! Surrey Hills Coffee, which has been roasting its own range of espresso & filter blends, plus a growing selection of single-origin coffees in the North Downs, has now opened its own coffee shop, taking over the lease on what was the Turn Fit Deli on Chapel Street.
It’s not a huge space, just a couple of tables, a window-bar and another bar at the back, but it’s bright and welcoming. The main draw is the coffee, although there is tea, soft drinks, plus a range of locally-baked cakes and made-to-order sandwiches, with ingredients from a range of local suppliers.
For somewhere so small, the range of coffee on offer is impressive: there are no fewer than three espresso blends, although if you don’t ask, you’ll get the default, the Holmbury Hill blend, which (in my opinion) is the best of the bunch. If you’re in a hurry, there’s the Cottage filter blend, available from a flask on the counter and made in small batches using the Moccamaster. Finally, if you don’t mind waiting, you can have a single-origin filter hand-made through the Chemex.
September 2017: Surrey Hills no longer offers sandwiches, focusing instead on the impressive range of cakes.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Surrey Hills Coffee is the brainchild of Swedish couple, Monika and Chris. They started roasting two years ago in their little roastery in Forest Green, deep in the Surrey Hills, with Chris roasting most of the coffee, although Monika tells me that she gets to roast all the “interesting” coffee.
For those who know Guildford, you might remember the space on Chapel Street as Turn Fit Deli. Turn Fit opened in December 2015, with deli quickly morphing into a coffee shop, supplied by Surrey Hills. However, with the opening of the new Turn Fit fitness studio and coffee bar on Bridge Street, Turn Fit decided to concentrate on that business and Surrey Hills took over the lease on Chapel Street.
Surrey Hills occupies an interesting spot. The entire front is glass, making for a bright, open space. There’s a door on the left, while the window to the right is taken up with a four-seat (well, stool, actually) window-bar. Stepping inside, the counter is directly in front of you, running almost the full length of the left-hand wall. Immediately to your left, you’ll find a rack of shelves holding Surrey Hills’ range of coffee and a selection of coffee-making kit (useful if you can’t get to the Coffee Charisma stall on the North Street Market).
The seating’s on the right, starting with the aforementioned window-bar, while beyond that, there are two tables, seating provided by a combination of the bench running along the wall and a scattering of stools. At this point, the building suddenly narrows, halving in width, leaving just enough space for a bar along the right-hand wall with another four stools.
The counter starts with a small selection of cake, containing plenty of gluten-free and no-added-sugar options. Above this is another shelf which holds the loose-leaf tea, a glass water butt and the Moccamaster, which Surrey Hills uses to brew up its Cottage filter-blend. This is then available on the counter in a self-serve flask next to the till. Finally, at the far end, there’s a single group Elektra espresso machine plus three grinders. The first one of these has the main espresso-blend, Holmbury Hill, while the second is for grinding retail bags of beans. Finally, there’s a third grinder for the other espresso blends, the decaf and the single-origins. There were two of these on offer while I was there, both available through the Chemex, still something of a rarity in any speciality coffee shop and unheard of in Guildford!
I first popped into Surrey Hills the week before my main visit, expecting to find Turn Fit. On that occasion, I tried the Holmbury Hill, a 50/50 blend of Brazil and Colombian beans, as an espresso. This was a great, well-balanced coffee, with plenty of body and well-rounded, fruity notes. The other two espressos, Pitch Hill and Box Hill (all hills in Surrey, by the way) contain various quantities of India Robusta, which, apparently, goes down very well in Sweden.
On my return, I went for a Chemex, Monika recommending the Kenyan Kathima, one of the “interesting” coffees that she roasts (there was also a Colombian Granja La Esperanza). This was a lovely coffee, very smooth and subtle, with more fruity notes. Pleasingly, it was served in the Chemex itself, with a cup on the side.
December 2016: Surrey Hills Coffee was a runner-up in the 2016 Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.
|23 CHAPEL STREET • GUILDFORD • GU1 3UL|
|www.surreyhillscoffee.co.uk||+44 7805 571520|
|Monday||09:30 – 17:00||Roaster||Surrey Hills Coffee (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:30 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Bars|
|Wednesday||09:30 – 17:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||09:30 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||09:30 – 17:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:30 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||11:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||7th May 2016, 23 September 2017|
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