Alchemy Café

Details of the Nicaraguan La Venus Filter Coffee, complete with tasting notes, available from the Alchemy Cafe.After finally managed to visit Durham’s Flat White after many years of trying, I found myself in the City of London last week, walking past another stalwart of Britain’s speciality coffee scene, Alchemy. A roastery (based in Wimbledon) with a single coffee shop in the narrow lanes south and west of St Paul’s Cathedral, Alchemy just pre-dates the Coffee Spot. It’s another of those places that I’ve been aware of for as long as I’ve been doing the Coffee Spot, having wandered past on several occasions, thinking that I must go in. Sadly, the timing has never been right. So when I wandered past last Thursday, in I went.

The Alchemy Café occupies a bright, square space on the corner of Ludgate Broadway and Carter Lane. It’s an area that is now well-served by speciality coffee shops, but Alchemy’s one of the stalwarts, having first opened its doors in 2013. As nice as the space is, the real draw is the coffee, with two options on espresso, plus a single-origin on pour-over and another on batch-brew. There’s also cold brew, various teas plus a selection of cake and savouries, while Alchemy’s complete range of beans is available in retail bags.

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Over Under Coffee, Ham Yard

A lovely cortado, made with Assembly's seasonal espresso, a Washed Colombia, at Over Under Coffeee in Ham Yard and served on a yellow saucer.Over Under Coffee is a relatively new name in London’s speciality coffee scene, but one which I’d heard mentioned quite a few times. So, when I had an hour to spare and a desire to escape from the madness that is Piccadilly Circus, I made a beeline for the relative oasis of calm that is Ham Yard, home to the second of Over Under Coffee’s two branches (the other being out in Hammersmith).

It’s a relatively small spot, but that doesn’t stop it from offering an impressive menu. There’s the seasonal espresso from Assembly (which supplies all the coffee) along with a regularly-rotating single-origin on V60, Aeropress or, if you’re in a hurry, there’s a very reasonably-priced batch-brew option. There’s also a decent brunch menu from the kitchen at the back (which stays open until six o’clock), a decent selection of cakes and, on Wednesday to Saturday evenings, cocktails.

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Camper Coffee Co.

The front of Camper Coffee Co. in McCoys Arcade, Exeter, with both door (right) and window (left) open to the courtyard.Like Berwick’s Steampunk and the somewhat closer Tincan Coffee Co in Bristol, Exeter’s Camper Coffee Co. is a coffee shop which started life in a van before moving into bricks and mortar. In this case, the van in question is Rosie, a 1964 VW Splitscreen Container Van, who is still going strong. There’s also a coffee shop at Exeter University, a hut at Exeter Chiefs rugby club and, since March 2016, today’s Coffee Spot in McCoys Arcade in the centre of Exeter.

Described to me by one of the baristas as the speciality wing of Camper Coffee Co., the shop serves a house-blend from Roastworks on espresso, which is joined by a guest, plus two more on filter. These change on a regular basis, Camper getting the coffee in 5kg batches and moving on when it’s gone, typically in seven to ten days. There’s also a well-stocked bar for beer, wine and cocktails, plus a range of sandwiches and cakes.

The space itself is quite small, tucked away right at the back of McCoys Arcade. However there’s a large outdoor seating area that’s not really outdoors, sheltering, as it does, under the soaring glass ceiling of the arcade courtyard.

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Half Cup

Details of the decoration on the walls of Half Cup in Judd Street, London.Half way down Judd Street, just south of King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, Half Cup has been on my radar for a long time now, probably for almost as long as it’s been open, which is three years. I visited on several occasions, but sadly, until now, I’ve never been in a position to write it up, either being in a hurry to move on (like when I had breakfast there before this year’s London Coffee Festival) or else I’ve been meeting someone (the preliminary meetings about The Philosophy of Coffee where held here) and hence not been able to take detailed notes.

Half Cup serves Nude Espresso as its house-blend on espresso which has recently been joined by a guest espresso. This was, during my visit, the Penny Rock seasonal espresso blend from Red Bank Coffee in Cumbria. If you’re dairy-free, there’s an excellent selection of non-dairy milk alternatives, including almond, coconut, soya, oat and hazelnut. If you don’t fancy coffee, then there’s organic loose-leaf tea and a range of alcohol from craft beer to wine. There’s also an excellent brunch menu, which is served until 15.45, plus sandwiches to go and an awesome selection of cake.

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Foundation Coffee House

"Coffee is Everything", written inside the outline of a takeaway coffee cup: detail from a sign inside The Foundation Coffee House in Manchester's Northern Quarter.The Foundation Coffee House joins a growing band of speciality coffee shops in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, following in the footsteps of the pioneering North Tea Power and joining the likes of Fig + Sparrow and TAKK. Located on the ground floor of the magnificent Sevendale House, a brick-built edifice taking up the entire block, Foundation consists of multiple, connected spaces and is easily the biggest of the bunch, surpassing even the nearby Ezra & Gil in size.

Foundation uses Cornwall’s Origin, with its Los Altos Nicaraguan single-origin on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest, plus four single-origins on pour-over, prepared using either V60 or Aeropress, the method being matched to the particular coffee. There’s also bulk-brew for those in a hurry, Foundation starting the day with the San Fermin Colombian single-origin, then mixing things up as the day goes on. Other than the Los Altos espresso and San Fermin bulk-brew, which are always on, the options change regularly, Foundation getting a few bags in from Origin, then moving on once they’ve gone.

There’s also tea and hot chocolate, plus beer, cider and wine. If you’re hungry, Foundation has decent breakfast and lunch menus and a wide range of cake.

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Dinner at Timmy Green

The Timmy Green logo from outside Timmy Green on Sir Simon Milton Square near Victoria Station.Timmy Green, the latest addition to the growing Daisy Green/Beany Green collective, opened at the start of the year. It was, from the beginning, a fully-fledged restaurant as well as a rather splendid coffee shop. When I visited and wrote about Timmy Green in March, it was only as a coffee shop. This Saturday Supplement is going to redress the balance and consider Timmy Green as a restaurant.

Layout-wise, Timmy Green is much the same as ever, although there have been a few changes since I was there in the spring, which has made the downstairs feel even more like a restaurant than a coffee shop. The grand piano in the corner has gone to make way for more tables, while the window-bar and high tables to the left of the door have suffered a similar fate.

When it comes to food, Timmy Green serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, complete with desserts, wine, beer and cocktails. And, of course, Roasting Party coffee. Not that Daisy/Beany is a stranger to food. The original Daisy Green, plus the Paddington and Liverpool Street Beany Greens, have a reputation for innovative brunch menus, but in Timmy Green this has reached its logical conclusion.

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Town Square

Does what it says on the box: coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, all at Town Square in Belfast.In Belfast’s growing speciality coffee scene, there is a pleasing array of places from the tiny (Root & Branch) to the large (Established Coffee). Weighing in firmly at the large end of the scale is Town Square, a self-appointed meeting place for lovers of good food and great coffee on Belfast’s Botanic Avenue, opposite the Botanic Station.

Effectively split into two, there’s a coffee bar at the front, beyond which you need never stray if all you want is a cup of coffee (and you’re not planning on lingering), while at the back, is a large seating area, centred on a sunken space with a long, communal table. This is ideal if you’re staying in, particularly if you are partaking of breakfast, lunch or dinner: pleasingly Town Square stays open well into the evening, making it the perfect spot for a late-night coffee.

Talking of which, Town Square uses Dublin’s Roasted Brown and only serves single-origins, with one option on espresso, which changes every month or so, another on batch-brew and a third on pour-over. The two filter options change every few days, with the pour-over being offered as Aeropress or V60, while there’s a Chemex option if you’re sharing.

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Exmouth Market Grind

The right-hand side of Exmouth Market Grind, looking out onto Exmouth Market, it's doors flung open in the warm, May weather.Exmouth Market Grind, which opened earlier this year, is another recent addition to the Grind empire, which started with Shoreditch Grind. Since then, Grind has grown and evolved, morphing from its roots as an espresso bar by day, and cocktail bar by night, to include roasting its own coffee and adding substantial breakfast and all-day menus at the likes of London Grind.

Exmouth Market Grind falls into this latter category, as much a restaurant as it is a coffee shop. In this, it’s in good company, sitting diagonally across from that Exmouth Market institution, Caravan. The breakfast menu contains all the usual favourites, such as smashed avocado, various eggs on toast, pancakes, French Toast and more the traditional full English breakfast (plus a vegetarian version). The all-day menu takes over after noon, with small plates, a variety of interesting mains and a selection of salads. And, of course, there’s coffee, with a seasonal house-blend plus a single-origin on espresso.

This is the brightest, most open of all the Grinds that I’ve been to, and also the quietest. If there’s one thing I’ve struggled with when it comes to Grind over the years, they can sometimes be too loud for me.

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Treves & Hyde

A lovely espresso, pulled on Treves & Hyde's Mavam Espresso machine using Volcano Coffee Works' Full Steam espresso.On the edge of Whitechapel, a stone’s throw from Aldgate and Aldgate East tube stations, stands Treves & Hyde, simultaneously a coffee shop, restaurant and bar, all tucked underneath the Leman Locke apartment hotel. I always thought that the coffee shop part of Treves & Hyde was in a basement, so I rather surprised to find it on the ground floor, with the restaurant on the first floor. I couldn’t tell whether I was disappointed, because I really like basements, or pleasantly surprised, since it’s such a lovely space. Probably both, in equal measure.

However, the real draw (for me, at least) is that Treves & Hyde has the UK’s first Mavam espresso machine (there’s now a second at Tab x Tab in Westbourne Grove). One of the new breed of modular espresso systems, the Mavam’s bulk is hidden, tucked away below the counter, leaving only the group heads and steam wands to rise gracefully from the counter top. This leaves an open, uncluttered counter, in keeping with the coffee shop’s dual purpose of serving beer, wine and cocktails alongside the coffee. For those less geeked-out than me, Treves & Hyde serves Volcano Coffee Works’ Full Steam espresso, along with a decaf from Old Spike Roastery, plus a single-origin on bulk-brew.

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Caravan Exmouth Market

The Caravan logo from the sign outside the original Exmouth Market branch.Caravan is a rather successful chain of three coffee shop/restaurants, with a significant in-house roastery, supplying coffee shops all around the country with a variety of blends and single-origins. However, this is where it all started back in 2010 on the corner of London’s Exmouth Market. This is the original Caravan, which is still going strong, coffee shop by day, restaurant by night, serving excellent coffee and food throughout the day. Unlike others of its ilk, such as Notes and Grind, both of which now roast their own coffee, Caravan was a roaster from the start and, indeed, the original roaster is still down in the basement at Exmouth Market.

Caravan sits on a sunny, south-facing corner, windows on two sides, outside seating spilling out on Exmouth Market itself. Inside, coffee excellence is taken as standard, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, two more on pour-over and a third on batch-brew. However, Caravan is also about food, with table service to match. There’s an excellent, extensive breakfast menu until 11.30, with an all-day menu of small/large plates from noon. At weekends, brunch takes over from 10 until four. There’s also beer, cider, cocktails, spirits and a massive wine list.

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