When I first came to Rome almost 20 years ago, there were two venerable espresso bars in the centre that came to my attention: Tazza D’Oro, and, on the other side of the Pantheon, today’s Coffee Spot, Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè. Located on the Piazza Di Sant’Eustachio, it actually predates Tazza D’Oro by six years, having first opened in 1938 and, like Tazza D’Oro, it’s a classic Italian espresso bar, although it also has outdoor seating.
Unless you’re sitting outside (where you’ll pay an extra €2.50 for the privilege), you first need to queue up at the till, pay for your espresso, then take the receipt to the counter. This is where you’ll find the main difference, the espresso itself, which, by default is served infused with sugar and, I’ve been told, is Neapolitan style. It’s certainly very different from the other espressos I had during my time in Rome.
When looking for speciality coffee in Rome, it pays to get a little off beaten track. Although you can find good quality traditional espresso bars like Tazza D’Oro and the occasional gem such as Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria in the centre, there’s also great coffee to found elsewhere. Today’s Coffee Spot, the Tram Depot, is south of the historic centre, beyond the Palatine Hill and Circo Massimo, on the far side of the Aventine Hill.
The Tram Depot consists of a small kiosk where you can take your coffee at the counter, with a spacious outdoor seating area if you want to linger. During the day, the focus is very much on the coffee, from Le Piantagioni del Caffè, a roaster I had not heard of before, hailing from the Tuscan coast. There’s a single-origin on espresso and three more on pour-over through V60, Syphon and cafetiere, while there’s also loose-leaf tea.
In the evening, the Tram Depot switches to a bar, staying open until 1am each night, serving wine, spirits and cocktails, although you can also get espresso-based drinks. This is all backed up by a range of tasty cakes and pastries, plus sandwiches if you want something more substantial.
If I was still doing the Coffee Spot’s Where It All Began Award, Tazza D’Oro would be top of the list. Rome was where I first developed my taste for espresso, almost 20 years ago, and Tazza D’Oro played a large part in that. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Rome, almost nine years in fact, long before I started the Coffee Spot and my taste in coffee has evolved a lot since then.
Tazza D’Oro, the self-styled Casa Del Caffè (House of Coffee), is near the Pantheon, right in the heart of Rome. It’s a traditional Italian espresso bar, right down to having a separate till at the door, where you order and pay for your coffee before taking the receipt to the counter, where one of the baristas will make your drink. If you’re going to do things in true Italian style, you’ll stand there and drink it. Back in the day, I adored Tazza D’Oro. The question is, what will I make of it after all these years?
SHOTS Espresso Bar (aka Shots by Saints, Shots for short) is an offshoot of Saint Kitchen, in St Paul’s Square, Birmingham. It occupies the same location on nearby Water Street as the now defunct Upstairs Coffee, a delightfully tiny gem that was on the ground floor, but upstairs from a cocktail bar (which has also gone, replaced by a men’s hairdressers). If you remember Upstairs Coffee, then Shots will be instantly recognisable, right down to the La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, wood panelling and gorgeous light fitting.
However, some things have changed. For example, batch-brew has joined the usual espresso-based menu, with all the coffee coming from Extract Coffee Roasters (which also supplies Saint Kitchen). There’s also a small selection of tea, plus Kokoa Collection hot chocolate. Even better, while Upstairs Coffee only had takeaway cups, Shots has a handful of proper cups for those staying to drink their coffee.
Stockholm Roast was a chance discovery on my way to the office during my most recent trip to Tokyo. It’s located inside the Tobacco Stand, an old-fashioned smoke shack, for want of a better word, which makes its living by selling tobacco, etc. Although in this case, it’s tobacco and speciality coffee. The Tobacco Stand has been going for four years, but it was only last year that it upped its coffee game, installing a La Marzocco Mini espresso machine and sourcing coffee from Stockholm Roast. There’s a blend on espresso and three/four single-origins on pour-over, all roasted in the Swedish capital and air-freighted to Japan.
There’s not much to the Tobacco Stand, just a small, square kiosk with three stools inside at the counter, plus a table outside in a sheltered seating area. There are a pair of takeaway windows, one here, the other on the street, but otherwise that’s it. Be warned: if you don’t like tobacco smoke, this may not be the place for you since customers smoke both inside and out.
Verve Coffee Roasters started life in Santa Cruz, California, before spreading north to San Francisco, south to Los Angeles and then across the Pacific to Japan, with two branches in Tokyo and another in Kamakura. I first came across Verve as a roaster in Café Plume (now Paquebot Mont-Royal) in Montréal, before visiting Verve’s flagship branch on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. The original Tokyo branch is in Shinjuku, a loud, busy place which I briefly visited in July. The second branch, subject of today’s Coffee Spot, opened n April this year. A much more relaxed basement affair under the Rag & Bone Store in Omotesando, I visited twice, first in July, and again on my return in October.
Although a basement, it’s a fairly bright spot. There’s space for a counter down one side, with seating opposite, plus a small seating area at the back. There’s the usual Verve offering, with a blend and daily single-origin on espresso, plus multiple single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. All the coffee, which is roasted in Santa Cruz and air-freighted over, is available to buy in retail bags. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of waffles, all made to order.
Lattest, the self-style Omotesando Espresso Bar, is in good company, Omotesando being the home of several excellent coffee shops, including Sarutahiko Coffee, Ratio &C and, of course, Koffee Mameya. It’s also across the street from Bread, Espresso &, where I had started my current Tokyo coffee adventures the day before. It also helps that Lattest is a few minutes’ walk from both my hotel and my office for this trip.
Lattest has been going since 2012 and now boasts six branches, this being the original. There’s an evening espresso/alcohol bar in Azabujuban, plus four recent openings, one in a bag/shoe shop and three more in bike shops, continuing the long association between espresso and cycling.
Lattest does pretty much what the name says, serving a range of espresso-based drinks, including the synonymous “lattest”, an espresso shot over cold milk. All the coffee is roasted in-house on the roaster in Glitch Coffee, which Lattest rents slots on. There are one/two single-origins on espresso, plus three others (Ecuador, Kenya, Ethiopia), all roasted for filter and available to buy in retail bags. There’s a small selection of other drinks, a handful of cakes and a toasted sandwich option if you want something more savoury.
Like two of my recent Tokyo posts, today’s Saturday Short is a roastery/coffee shop, although this one, Single O, is from my current visit (I was there yesterday). Like Switch Coffee Roasters in Meguro and the now closed coffee bar at Fuglen Coffee Roasters, Single O is not somewhere you would stumble upon by accident. Somewhat off the beaten (tourist) track, down a lane off a side-street in an anonymous grid of streets in Ryogoku, east of Sumida River, it is at least noticeable when you get there. The large outside seating area is clearly visible from the street, while, if the sliding doors are fully retracted, so is the counter.
There’s not much to the tasting bar, just the aforementioned counter, beyond which, behind another set of sliding doors, is the roastery. As always, the coffee’s the draw with either the Reservoir blend on espresso or a selection of seasonal single-origins (three during my visit) as pour-overs through the V60 or Aeropress. And that’s it, other than some retail bags of coffee for sale.
This is the original Switch Coffee Tokyo, a small coffee shop in Meguro, which doubles as the roastery. That said, a better description is a roastery doubling as a coffee shop, the roaster occupying the bulk of the space at the back of the store, with a small counter at the front, where the coffee is served. There’s a second, equally small branch of Switch in Shibuya, by the Yoyogi-Hachiman station.
The principle draw is the coffee, which is just as well, since other than a small selection of gin and wine, that’s all there is. No tea, no food, not even a cake. When it comes to coffee, there’s a house-blend on espresso, plus a single-origin filter, one of the four seasonal single-origins Switch has in stock. In an interesting twist on the batch-brew model, this is made in a large cafetiere then kept warm in a flask.
Fuglen is one of several western/Japanese hybrids which I found in Tokyo. In this case the western element comes from Oslo, where Fuglen started and is still going strong. The Tokyo offshoot opened in 2012 in the residential streets on Shibuya’s northern edge, somewhere I have yet to visit, with the Tokyo roastery, subject of today’s Coffee Spot, opening in 2014. Ironically, Fuglen only started roasting in Oslo in March this year.
The Tokyo roastery doubles as a coffee shop, opening its doors to the public from Thursday to Sunday every week. It’s a lovely spot, tucked away up a driveway on a quiet street, somewhere you would never stumble upon by accident unless you were very lucky. Inside, there’s a single, open space, with the roaster at the back, and a simple coffee bar to your left, with minimal seating.
Of course, the real draw is the coffee, all single-origins, all roasted on-site. It’s all seasonal, changing every two to three months. Naturally, it’s all available to buy in retail bags. There’s one single-origin on espresso and a choice of four on pour-over, all through the Kalita Wave. And that’s it. No tea, no food, not even a cake.