When I first came to Shanghai in 2016, the first speciality coffee shop I visited was Sumerian Coffee where I enjoyed my first taste of Chinese-grown coffee, from Yunnan Province in the south of the country. What I didn’t realise at the time was that, not far from Sumerian Coffee, stands Lanna Coffee, which embodies the whole farm-to-cup principle that I first saw in Vietnam, where Oriberry Coffee is probably the best proponent. You see, Lanna Coffee doesn’t just serve Yunnan coffee, it grows, processes and roasts it in Yunnan. Coffee doesn’t get much more direct trade than this.
Lanna Coffee occupies a small spot at the end of a row of equally small coffee shops (and one barbers/coffee shop). The majority of the seating is outside, in a sheltered, semi-enclosed area, with the coffee shop proper at the back, behind glass double doors. In all, you might seat 14 people if everyone shuffles up.
Despite this small size, Lanna Coffee serves a decent, western-style breakfast/brunch menu, plus a small selection of cakes, to go with its coffee. There’s the Red Lantern blend on espresso and a range of single-origin/single-estate Yunnan coffees to buy or to enjoy as a pour-over.
Finding today’s Coffee Spot, Little Bean, was a combination of good luck, guesswork and determination. I first came across Little Bean’s coffee at AUNN Café & Co. on my last trip to Shanghai in October 2016. Back then I was told that the roastery/coffee shop was in Pudong, so when I found myself back in Shanghai, staying/working in Pudong, I was determined to track Little Bean down.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Little Bean occupies a unit in an outdoor mall on Jinyan Road, across the river from Century Square. Downstairs is a spacious coffee shop, complete with a dinky Probat roaster behind the counter, while upstairs there’s a training school and on-site bakery.
Turning to the coffee, Little Bean has a pair of single-origins on espresso (it also has two espresso machines, but I never worked out if the machines/origins were paired in any way) and another five on pour-over through the V60, plus you can buy the beans. As well as freshly-roasted coffee, you can have freshly-baked bread, with a wide variety to choose from, including croissants and various pastries. Finally, there’s a very tempting array of cakes/desserts to choose from if you want something sweet.
Most of the speciality coffee shops I visited in Shanghai in 2016 were very western in style/influence. In that respect, Rumors Coffee Roastery, in the old French Quarter, stood out from the crowd, drawing its inspiration from Japan, where it is reminiscent of the likes of Tokyo’s Café de L’Ambre.
Rumors roasts all its own coffee, serving a wide range of single-origin beans. If you’re looking for an espresso or flat white, however, you’ve come to the wrong place since Rumors only serves pour-over using Kalita-style ceramic filters. Pick your bean and the barista will make it there and then behind the counter.
Talking of which, Rumors has counter seating, another typical feature of a traditional Japanese coffee shop. It’s a fairly small place, so the seats are limited. Like many of the small places I visited in Shanghai, Rumors has no air conditioning, so it can get very hot and humid inside, despite the best efforts of the ceiling fan. If it’s too hot, you can sit outside, although it’s unlikely to be any less humid!
You can, of course, buy any of the beans to take home with you and, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes.
TAP, or Tapped And Packed, as it used to be known in the early days, was one of the pioneers of London’s speciality coffee scene. From its original shop on Rathbone Place, it rapidly expanded to become a mini-chain of three, adding branches on Tottenham Court Road and Wardour Street, both of which I visited in the Coffee Spot’s first year, although I’ve still never been to the original! TAP was also a pioneer coffee shop/roaster, installing a roaster at the back of No 193 (the Wardour Street branch), which supplies all the shops.
However, after that initial rapid expansion, everything went quiet for five years, TAP happily going about its business, roasting and serving excellent coffee from the three stores. Until the end of the summer, that is, when, on the eastern edge of Russell Square, the fourth TAP appeared, extending the mini-chain beyond its Fitzrovia heartland and into Bloomsbury.
If you’ve been to the other three TAPs, then the new branch will hold no surprises. There’s a beautifully-concise espresso-based menu, plus three single-origins on pour-over through the V60. There’s also a selection of sandwiches and salads, plus a range of excellent cakes, all available until 4.30 each afternoon.
Canterbury is blessed with several café/roasters, including roaster-turned-coffee-shop, Garage Coffee, and coffee-shop-turned-roaster, Lost Sheep Coffee. However, the original is the Micro Roastery, tucked away down a quiet side street in the heart of the historic city centre. Originally the roasting was done at the back of the shop, but in 2015, production moved to a dedicated facility, where the 5kg Probat roaster turns out an impressive array of blends and single-origins, all of which are available in the coffee shop.
The narrow storefront on St Margaret’s Street hides an impressively large space, occupying two of the three storeys of an old town house (a barbers sublets the top floor), complete with a sheltered outdoor seating area in the garden at the back. When it comes to coffee, there’s a seasonal espresso blend, with two roasts, one light, one dark, along with a decaf option. Numerous single-origins are available through the Aeropress or four/eight cup cafetieres, while the filter of the day is brewed each morning/afternoon on a Moccamaster. Meanwhile, the cold-brew is freshly made each night.
If you’re hungry, there’s a variety of savoury options, including sourdough focaccias and pastry puffs, plus veggie/meat sausage rolls, along with the usual cakes.
My first experience of speciality coffee in Hong Kong was at the Causeway Bay branch of roaster/coffee shop chain, 18 Grams. Two days later, I found myself in Times Square (opposite Café Corridor) and decided to pop into the 18 Grams there. Although “pop in” might be over-stating things since it took me almost an hour to find it!
18 Grams’ Times Square branch is inside the City Super super market, which itself is in the basement of Times Square. Occupying a simple, triangular stand, with seating along two sides of the counter, 18 Grams only serves coffee, plus the usual retail selection of beans and coffee-related kit. There’s a more limited offering than at Causeway Bay, but that’s to be expected, with just espresso (a house-blend), several single-origins on V60 and cold-brew. What surprised me was the relaxed atmosphere, making it the ideal place to linger over your coffee.
Cumbria’s not renowned as a hot-bed of speciality coffee, but that’s slowly changing, led by local roasters such as Carvetii. I first met Stephen, who plays an important role in this story, in 2015 at the Carvetii stand at Cup North (forerunner of the Manchester Coffee Festival). When I looked for him the following year, I learnt that he had left (with Gareth and Angharad’s blessing) to fulfil his dream of opening his own coffee shop, The Moon & Sixpence, in his home town of Cockermouth, just to the west of the Lakes.
It took me a year to get around to visiting, of course, but finally I managed to call in, just after The Moon & Sixpence’s first birthday, Stephen having opened the shop on 1st October 2016, (which happened to be International Coffee Day, an auspicious start if ever there was one!). Naturally, the coffee is from Carvetii, with the seasonal blend and decaf on espresso, plus a single-origin on batch-brew. This is joined by a selection of tea, plus hot chocolate from old friends, Kokoa Collection. Unusually, The Moon & Sixpence doesn’t offer food, just a range of pastries and cakes, all made in-house by the staff.
Kin-Kin Coffee is the roasting arm of Johnson Public House. As well as roasting for the coffee shop and outlets such as Ritual Barbers, Kin-Kin has a coffee stand in Festival Foods supermarket, serving single-origin coffee to shoppers and passers-by alike. There’s not a lot to it, although there’s a decent amount of seating for what it is. Impressively, Kin-Kin has a range of proper cups for those who are hanging around to enjoy their coffee. Retail shelves stock a selection of Kin-Kin’s output for sale, each bag coming with a free cup of coffee.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a limited coffee menu compared to Johnson Public House, with just a single-origin plus decaf on espresso, and another single-origin on batch-brew. Although not on the menu, you can have a pour-over if you ask nicely, which is particularly useful if you want to try a coffee which isn’t currently on the batch-brewer.
Coffee Island is, unusually for the Coffee Spot, a chain and an international one at that, which started on a Greek island in 1999 and now has over 300 shops throughout Greece, Cyprus and south-east Europe. However, its branch on St Martin’s Lane is (so far) the only UK one. Opening earlier this year with a considerable media push, I was away at the time and so missed all the fuss. I popped in later in the year and I liked what I saw…
A modest exterior hides a surprisingly-large coffee shop with plenty of seating and a mezzanine level at the back. I’d describe Coffee Island as coffee geeks meet the mainstream, so while there’s a house-blend, decaf and five single-origins, there’s also flavoured coffee, which is not something you normally associate with the speciality end of the market. There’s also a large retail section (beans and equipment), tea and food, the latter in the shape of salads, sandwiches and cake.
There’s an excellent range of options for the coffee including espresso, Greek coffee (Ibrik), bulk-brew or pour-over using the V60, Aeropress or Chemex (for one or two). If you want to compare coffee or methods side-by-side, it’s awesome!
A new arrival in Leeds’ growing speciality coffee scene is Stage Espresso and Brew Bar (Stage, for short), which opened at the start of 2017, tucked away behind the Town Hall and opposite the Leeds General Infirmary. Although it hadn’t been open long when I visited in August, it had already garnered high praise, being the one place everyone in Leeds consistently mentioned when I asked about new coffee shops to visit.
It’s a lovely spot, on a north-facing corner, with windows along two sides, plus a cosy downstairs seating area at the back that’s probably slightly bigger than the already spacious upstairs. However, perhaps the best feature is Copper, a young Beagle (who is the same age as Stage, give or take a month). You can find him most days, curled up in his basket by the retail shelves at the back.
When it comes to coffee, Stage uses Union Hand-roasted, although there are plans to have occasional guests in as and when there’s something that catches the eye. There’s a house-espresso, plus a guest, along with multiple options on filter. One of these is available as a daily bulk-brew, while the rest are made using the Kalita Wave.