Firecreek Big Park

An espresso, served in a class white cup, at Firecreek Big Park in the Village of Oak Creek in Arizona.When I was in Arizona this time last year, one of my chance discoveries was Flagstaff’s Firecreek Coffee Company. As an added bonus, the staff told me about a second branch, Firecreek Big Park, in the Village of Oak Creek, south of Sedona/Red Rock Country, a beautiful area that’s worth a visit (or two) in its own right.

Firecreek is right on AZ 179, which connects Sedona, to the north, with the Interstate, I17, to the south. Even better, just north of the Village of Oak Creek, it runs right through Red Rock Country, so Firecreek couldn’t be more conveniently-placed.

Smaller than the Flagstaff original, it serves a cut-down, espresso-based menu, plus a selection of cakes and a few savouries (granola, bagels and quiche). The space is lovely, a single, long room with a fireplace, open to the A-frame roof which soars above you. There’s also a large front patio.

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Story Works

The sign says it all: "Story Works", from the wall of Story Works by Clapham Junction.Story Coffee on St John’s Hill in South West London is one of the capital’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having first opened in 2014. I took my time in visiting, only calling in for the first time towards the end of the September last year, when I found, to my surprise, that Story Coffee had a second branch, a little sibling if you like, called Story Works, just down the hill at the back of Clapham Junction.

Much smaller than the original, Story Works has a cut-down offering while retaining many similarities with Story Coffee, including a gorgeous two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. Like Story Coffee, there’s a single option on espresso, but pour-over has given way to batch-brew. Similarly, while there is food, Story Coffee’s brunch menu has been replaced by avocado on toast, grab-and-go salads and superfood smoothies, although there’s still a good selection of cake.

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Kream | Coffee

My espresso at Kream Coffee in Phoenix, from my visit in 2018. It was served in a gorgeous, earthenware cup with little plugs for handles on the sides.Kream Coffee is part of the small, but growing, speciality coffee scene in and around Phoenix. It’s another of those places which I came across during my second visit to Phoenix last year, prompting me to make an excursion outside of my usual Scottsdale haunts. In this case I went just north of downtown Phoenix, where Kream is somewhat incongruously located inside a design shop on North Central Avenue.

However, don’t let that put you off. If anything, it’s a bonus, since it makes for some very pleasant surroundings, while when it comes to the coffee, Kream is top-notch. A multi-roaster, it draws on a cast of five roasters, some of the best in the US, to bring you awesome espresso and batch-brew, where there’s a different single-origin every day. The espresso, meanwhile, changes once or twice a week. You can also buy retail bags to take home with you.

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Cartel Coffee Lab, Scottsdale

A mug of a Colombian single-origin, served through the Aeropress at Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale.It’s fitting that I celebrate my return to Phoenix with a long overdue write up of Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale. Cartel, a small roaster/coffee shop chain with its flagship roastery/coffee shop in Tempe, has been going for almost 11 years. It now has seven branches, including downtown Phoenix and at Sky Harbor airport, as well as two branches in Tucson, and another in Palm Springs over the border in California. The Scottsdale branch has been going since 2011 and I visited three times last year, never managing to write it up for a variety of reasons (usually a lack of decent photo opportunities, since it’s perpetually busy).

Scottsdale is similar to all the other branches when it comes to coffee, serving six seasonal single-origins, all roasted in-house, one of which is decaf. Naturally, all the beans are available to buy. One (the top of the list) is always available as espresso, while there’s also a daily bulk-brew, with all the beans available as pour-over through the Chemex (8oz or 16oz), Cartel having stopped offering Aeropress/V60 at the end of 2018. There’s a range of cakes if you’re hungry and, in this branch, craft beer and Arizona wine on tap.

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Metal Hands White Space

The logo of Metal Hands White Space, taken from the menu.This is the last of a sequence of three Saturday-on-a-Wednesday Shorts from my trip to Beijing this time last year. Metal Hands Coffee Co. is a rapidly-expanding coffee shops/roaster chain which, having only started in 2016, already had four shops by the time I visited in December 2017. These are all centred on Wudaoying Hutong, a narrow old-fashioned alley in the Andingmen Residential District, home to the original Metal Hands.

The subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Metal Hands White Space, is just a few doors along Wudaoying Hutong from the original. It’s a similar size and shape, but otherwise they are like chalk and cheese, with White Space taking a very clean, modern (and above all white) look to its décor. The coffee offering, however, is the same, with a standard espresso-based menu using a house-blend, plus four single-origins, which are available either as cold brew or through the V60.

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Toro Coffee

The Toro Coffee logo, taken from the sign outside the shop on Pollockshaws Road.Toro Coffee burst onto Glasgow’s speciality coffee scene (specifically the Southside) in September, becoming an instant hit, partly thanks to the efforts of cheerleader-in-chief, my friend Charlotte. Indeed, when I popped over to Glasgow last week, Charlotte’s plan for the morning was “we’re going to Toro”. Not, “would you like to go to Toro?”. No, we were going. On the other hand, Charlotte has excellent taste in coffee shops, so I wasn’t about to disagree.

Other than the coffee, the main draw is the wonderful, friendly and welcoming owners, Ross and Gill. Although a new name, Toro has good pedigree: Ross’ big brother, Iain, owns Primal Roast, one of my favourite Glasgow breakfast spots (and also home to some excellent coffee).

Although there’s a wide selection of cakes, plus toast for breakfast (as if I needed any further encouragement) Toro’s main focus is the coffee. It’s a multi-roaster, offering separate options on espresso and filter, the later available as batch-brew through the ever-reliable Moccamaster, and as pour-over, using hand-thrown ceramic Kalita-wave style filters. The espresso changes every week, while the filter is swapped every day or two, with roasters drawn from just down the road to half way across Europe.

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Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters

A lovely piccolo, made with a single-origin Ethiopian, roasted in-house and served at Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters in Beijing.The Wudaoying Hutong in Beijing, northeast of the centre near the 2nd Ring Road, is a hot bed of speciality coffee. Home to last week’s Coffee Spot, Metal Hands Coffee Co, as well a second branch, Metal Hands White Space, which is a few doors down to the west, if you head a few doors east, you’ll come to today’s Coffee Spot, Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters. And if you thought that Metal Hands and White Space were small, then Barista Speciality Coffee is even smaller, by some considerable margin!

Despite this, it still manages to offer a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, plus four single-origin pour-overs, all roasted in-house. There’s also cold brew, plus a choice of croissant, bagel or fruit cheesecake. All of this is served in a long, thin space with just enough room for the counter on the left and a small corridor on the right!

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Metal Hands Coffee Co

The Metal Hands Coffee Co logo from the wall outside Metal Hands in Beijing.Metal Hands Coffee Co is a small Beijing roaster/coffee shop chain which started in July 2016 with this, the original. When I visited, exactly a year ago in December 2017, following a tip-off that morning from the barista at Soloist Coffee, it had already expanded to four coffee shops, all in a small area in the Andingmen Residential District, centred on Wudaoying Hutong, a narrow old-fashioned alley which is home to Metal Hands.

There’s not much to Metal Hands, just a simple store front, with the counter on the right, and seating on the left, plus a small seating area in an annex at the back. However, that doesn’t stop Metal Hands offering a standard espresso-based menu using a house-blend, plus four single-origins which are available through the V60 and as cold brew. The espresso by the way, is pulled on an old-school lever machine after which the shop/chain is named.

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Coffee Monger’s Roasting Company

The Coffee Monger's Roasting Company's logo from the wall of the roastery in Lymington, Hampshire.A fishmonger sells fish. And an ironmonger sells iron. Therefore, a coffee monger sells coffee. Obviously. Hence the delightfully-named Coffee Monger’s Roasting Company from Lymington in Hampshire, which I first came across at the London Coffee Festival in 2016, where I came away with a bag of its Regina espresso blend. Fast forward 2½ years and, on my annual visit to the area, I was reminded of Coffee Monger’s by Jass at Lemana, who told me that people were welcome to pop by the roastery and have a cup of coffee. Which, naturally, I did.

Coffee Monger’s is a little bit out of the way on an industrial estate just north of Lymington, the unit doubling as both roastery and retail outlet/coffee shop. In similar fashion, this post will double up both as a Coffee Spot in its own right and as a Meet the Roaster feature on Coffee Monger’s. Roasting six espresso blends and a number of single-origins, you can buy any of the coffee in retail bags, plus you can pop in for an espresso, Americano or flat white/cappuccino/latte, etc, from the Rocket Espresso machine, made with whichever blend is on at the time (decaf is also available).

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Heart & Graft Coffee Shop

Part of the upstairs seating at the Heart & Graft Coffee Shop in Salford.I’ve long been a fan of Heart & Graft, and its co-owner, James, having first met in 2013 at Coffee Fix in Gatley on the outskirts of Manchester. Back then James was running his first roastery, The Coffee Circle, while also working as a barista at Coffee Fix. However, by the time the first Manchester Coffee Festival (then known as Cup North) came around in 2014, James was installed in a new roastery in Artwork, the venue for the original Cup North. By then, the Coffee Circle had morphed into Heart & Graft and soon after, James teamed up with Sean, the two of them taking Heart & Graft from strength to strength.

Sadly I never managed to visit the original roastery, which closed down at the end of the summer, moving to a new space in Newton Heath. At the same time, Heart & Graft had the opportunity for a coffee shop under a railway arch in Salford, a few minutes’ walk from the original roastery, the shop opening in early October. Naturally, when I was back in Manchester at the start of the month for this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to call in.

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