The Coffee Dispensary

A lovely flat white, made with Extract's Strongman/woman seasonal espresso, and served in a classic black cup at The Coffee Dispensary in Cheltenham.Cheltenham’s come a long way, coffee-wise, since I first visited in 2013. On Monday, I wrote about The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, which has, along with Studio Coffee Roasters, been leading the way since 2014, although today’s Coffee Spot, The Coffee Dispensary, is not far behind, having opened just over three years ago in October 2015. Like The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, it’s right in the centre of town, on Regent Street, by the Regent Arcade.

There’s an impressive selection of coffee. Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters is the mainstay, supplying the house espresso (which changes every few months), while the weekly-changing guests provide multiple single-origins on both espresso and filter. The Coffee Dispensary wants nothing less than the best coffee from the best roasters: during my visit this included Bath’s Colonna Coffee and Round Hill Roastery plus Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. Filter coffee is usually available through V60, but the staff will also do Chemex, Aeropress or Kalita Wave, plus there’s batch-brew. All the coffee is available to buy in retail bags.

Alternatively, there are ten teas, six hot chocolates and five chai lattes. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of sandwiches, plus cakes for those with a sweet tooth.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Coffee Dispensary on Regent Street in the heart of Cheltenham.
  • It's at the end of the terrace, with the entrance up the stairs on the left.
  • This leads to a long corridor lined with various pictures...
  • ... including this map of the world...
  • ... and this poster for Extract's seasonal Strongman espresso (the house espresso).
  • The double doors at the end are for the nail bar upstairs. You want...
  • ... this door to the right.
  • This leads into the corner towards the rear of the front section of The Coffee Dispensary.
  • The front section has the bulk of the seating, arranged along the right-hand walll...
  • ... in a row down the middle...
  • ... and along the left-hand wall.
  • The door in the back left-hand corner, seen from the opposite corner.
  • Meanwhile, through a wide opening in the party wall, you'll see the rear section...
  • ... where you'll find the generous counter. As well as the two stools by the counter...
  • There's a small table tucked away to the right.
  • The view back across the counter from the right-hand side...
  • ... and over to the retail shelves on the left-hand wall.
  • The seating area at the front, as seen from the rear section of The Coffee Dispensary.
  • I liked the fireplace with its mirror above and table in front.
  • The fireplace in more detail.
  • The tables down the middle of the seating section...
  • ... and looking the other way.
  • Each of the seats down the right-hand side has its own rug.
  • A panoramic view of the front of The Coffee Dispensary.
  • I do like the windows at the front.
  • Despite all the natural light (there's a window at the back too), there are plenty of lights...
  • ... which each section having its own array of hanging light bulbs.
  • Obligatory light-bulb shot.
  • I was particularly taken by these open, wire-frame 'shades'.
  • See what I mean?
  • More lights, including some pendant lamps hanging from the walls.
  • There is a lot of art about, including this on the left-hand wall in the front...
  • ... and this on the right-hand wall at the back.
  • This, meanwhile, is to the left of the door.
  • There's a complex chemical formula (caffeine) above...
  • ... and a slightly less complex one below.
  • There's a generous set of retail shelves in the back room...
  • ... where you'll find lots of coffee-related kit...
  • ... including these reusable glass SoL cups.
  • There's also a selection of cake at the front on the bottom shelf.
  • So, to business.
  • You order at the left-hand end of the counter...
  • ... where you'll find the panini menu...
  • ... and, in case you didn't find what you wanted in the cakes, a selection of pastries.
  • The menu is also here, on the wall behind the counter.
  • The espresso machine, an impressive-looking Sanremo Cafe Racer, is in the middle...
  • ... with its EK30 grinder on the other side.
  • Meanwhile, at the far end of the counter is the batch-brew, EK43 grinder...
  • ... and kettle for the pour-over, above which...
  • ... are the various filters for the pour-overs.
  • Finally, above the filters, you'll find the choice of coffee beans...
  • ... with the coffee itself on a shelf high on the back wall.
  • I had, for my first coffee of the day, a flat white made with Extract's Strongman Espresso.
  • I'll leave you with the lovely latte art in my flat white.
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The Coffee Dispensary is in the heart of Cheltenham, on the east side of Regent Street, occupying the ground floor of what looks like a row of Regency-era houses, sharing the building with, amongst other things, an upstairs nail bar and, in the basement, a Japanese restaurant (which accounts for the two tables outside on the pavement). The Coffee Dispensary is at the end of the terrace, with the entrance on the left, up four broad steps which lead to a long hallway. This is shared with the nail bar, which has its door at the back, while the entrance to The Coffee Dispensary is just to the right of that.

In keeping with the feel of an old town house, The Coffee Dispensary occupies the two ground-floor rooms, the sitting room at the front and maybe a kitchen or parlour at the back, the two spaces joined by a wide opening in the centre of the party wall. The distinction continues to this day, with the front section given over to seating, while the back is almost exclusively the preserve of the large counter.

The door opens on the left-hand side, towards the rear of the front section. The seating is arranged in three rows, front-to-back, leaving two broad corridors between them which align with the two sash windows in the front wall. A padded bench lines the left-hand wall, ending at the door, with three, small, round two-person tables, while the middle row has five, square two-person tables, the rear-most sitting right in the middle of the opening in the party wall. The third row is against the right-hand wall, where a pair of four-person tables flank the fireplace in the middle of the wall, in front of which is a small, two-person round table. Finally, there’s one last table, tucked away at the back on the right, between the party wall and the counter.

This is the only seating in the rear section of The Coffee Dispensary, which is dominated by the counter, running almost the full width, illuminated by a single, square window in the back wall. The till is on the left, along with a selection of pastries, with the menu on the wall behind it. The three-group Sanremo Café Racer espresso machine, meanwhile, is in the middle, next to a single EK-30 grinder for the house espresso. Beyond this comes an EK-43 for filter coffee and the other espressos, while the right-hand wall has the list of current coffees. The left-hand wall, meanwhile, is home to the cakes, along with a set of retail shelves, selling retail bags and various bits of coffee-making kit.

Each room has its own light fitting in the centre of the ceiling, from which The Coffee Dispensary has strung multiple light-bulbs on long cords, supplemented by various spotlights and other light-fittings.

During my visit, there were three single-origins on espresso (Extract plus two from Colonna Coffee) and three on filter (Extract, Round Hill and Quarter Horse). For my first coffee of the day, I went for a flat white, following the barista’s recommendation of which went best in milk, selecting Extract’s seasonal Strongman/woman espresso. This is a pretty fruity, punchy coffee that goes surprisingly well in milk, the two components not exactly in harmony, but neither did they clash, combining to producing a rich, biscuity drink.

I also tried a sample of the El Aguila, a washed Colombian from Round Hill which was on batch-brew (this changes daily). For a washed coffee, it had plenty of body and was another fruity, punchy coffee that made for a lovely filter.

18 REGENT STREET • CHELTENHAM • GL50 1HN
www.the-coffee-dispensary.co.uk +44 (0)1242 260597
Monday 08:30 – 17:30 Roaster Extract + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 17:30 Seating Tables
Wednesday 08:30 – 17:30 Food Sandwiches, Cakes
Thursday 08:30 – 17:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:30 – 17:30 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:30 – 17:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:30 Power No
Chain No Visits 27th November 2018

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