At the northern end of Strutton Ground Market, not far from Victoria Station, is Flat Cap Victoria, a veteran of London’s speciality coffee scene. For the last eight years, from Monday to Friday, it has been turning out top quality espresso-based drinks in all weathers from a lovely barrow, its only protection from the elements, a black, open-sided gazebo.
Flat Cap was set up by co-owners Fabio (of Notes fame), Rob and Charlie, although Fabio and Rob no longer work on the barrow. Despite being co-owned by Fabio, Flat Cap is independent of Notes (for example, there are no links, other than the name, with the Notes barrow in Borough Market), although there are close ties, with Flat Caps using Notes Coffee. There’s a single-origin espresso which changes every few weeks, largely depending on what the roastery sends through. If you’re hungry (and there early enough!), there’s a small range of pastries.
Just off Highway 1 in southern California, east of Monterey, in the delightfully-named town of Seaside, is a parking lot. Not just any old parking lot, mind you. This one’s special. Although I did wonder, as I pulled in, if I’d come to the right place… However, there, at the back of the lot, in a low, garage-like building, is the Acme Coffee Roasting Company, purveyors of fine artisan, small-batch coffee.
Acme, which was established in 2004, roasts all its own coffee. Indeed, this used to be the roastery, but as the company grew, the roaster was moved to a dedicated facility, leaving this space as a lovely little coffee bar. There’s a blend and single-origin on espresso, plus a filter bar, where the drip coffee is made to order using pour-over cones. There’s also the obligatory bulk-brew if you’re in a hurry and a selection of cakes and sweet-treats.
Manner Coffee was a recommendation from Anna, my barista at Monday’s Coffee Spot, Sumerian Coffee. Handily placed just a few streets away from Sumerian Coffee on the quiet Nanyang Road, I was very grateful for the tip since I’m not sure I’d have found it by myself, particularly since it doesn’t show up on any on-line maps that I know of and has no social media presence.
I’m not even sure I’d have noticed it if I was just walking past since Manner Coffee is literally a hole-in-the-wall operation (for the pedants out there, technically it’s a window-in-the-wall operation). However, the crowd of people standing outside, waiting to order their coffee, might have drawn my attention.
And what coffee! Despite its size, Manner offers espresso (house-blend) & pour-over (various single-origins) from a selection of beans, all roasted in-house. It’s takeaway cups only though, so don’t forget to bring your own.
George Howell is a something of a legend in American speciality coffee. He made his name as a roaster, but recently George, as his staff refer to him, has started opening coffee shops under the George Howell brand, starting in Newtonville in 2012. This, the subject of today’s Saturday Short, is the first branch in Boston, in the high-profile, newly-opened Boston Public Market, while a second Boston branch in the Godfrey Hotel on Washington Street opened this summer.
Boston Public Market is home to a high-quality espresso/coffee bar, catering primarily to the takeaway market, but with proper cups for espresso and glasses for cortados. It’s an impressive operation, with house-blend, single-farm and decaf on espresso, plus further single-farm coffees for the iced-coffee, bulk-brew (coffee of the week) and individual pour-overs, courtesy of twin Marco Beverage Systems SP9s. You can buy retail bags of coffee, plus various merchandising and coffee-related kit.
In London, “Crosstown” is synonymous with “doughnut”. You can purchase these delightful creations from various Crosstown Doughnuts market stalls (I’ve visited both King’s Cross and Old Spitalfields) while they’re also available in several speciality coffee shops (again, from personal experience, Notes, King’s Cross and Origin at the British Library). However, for the last year, you’ve been able to get them in Crosstown’s own coffee shop in Soho, where you can wash down your doughnut with some excellent Caravan coffee. Or Kokoa Collection hot chocolate if you’ve not had a sufficient sugar rush!
It’s a small place, with enough space for a doughnut-laden counter (right) and a five-person bar (left). However, it’s worth paying a visit, if only because I know of nowhere else where you can sit in such close proximity to so many superb doughnuts. Beware though: Crosstown only has takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Set up in November 2015 by brothers Alfie and Harry, along with business-partner Charlie, Rag & Bone Coffee’s a welcome addition to the Victoria Station/Westminster area. The patch, home to the venerable Flat Cap Victoria at Strutton Ground Market (where Alfie worked for five years, learning the trade of making coffee outdoors), is now slowly gaining more decent coffee, Rag & Bone joining Iris & June, which opened in 2014.
Rag & Bone is a coffee cart which has its home in front of St Matthew’s Church on Great Peter Street, serving single-origin espresso from south London social enterprise, Old Spike Roastery. The coffee changes on a monthly basis, Rag & Bone receiving “whatever’s good” from the Roastery, plus there are retail bags of beans for sale. In the summer months, iced coffee joins the usual espresso-based options on the menu, all served with a friendly smile and warm welcome.
Despite the name, Another Pop Up in Digbeth (Pop Up Digbeth for short) isn’t a pop-up, although it is in Digbeth, so I suppose one out of two’s not bad. Digbeth, for those not in the know, is an old, industrial area, immediately southeast of Birmingham city centre, about a 20-minute walk from New Street Station. Both Digbeth’s history and regeneration can be neatly symbolised by the Custard Factory, where Bird’s once made its famous custard powder, and where Pop Up Digbeth now makes its home, along with a host of start-ups and other small businesses.
Having opened at the start of the year, Pop Digbeth is here to stay, serving healthy food to go at breakfast and lunch, backed up by a rotating offer on espresso from the local Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. There’s also a selection of home-made cakes for those looking for a sweet-treat with their coffee. Seating is provided in a spacious adjacent unit, with more seating outside overlooking the pool in the Custard Factory’s central courtyard. Mostly serving the offices that call the Custard Factory home, Pop Up Digbeth’s opening hours reflect this with a closing time of 3.30 and very limited weekend opening.
I first discovered Can Do Coffee in 2014, when it popped up on a canal boat moored outside the rear entrance to London’s Paddington Station. However, that was a short-lived appearance and I heard no more about Can Do until word reached me that it had returned with a more permanent-looking pitch a little further down the canal in the direction of Paddington Basin.
I popped back to my old haunts a couple of weeks ago to check out old favourite Beany Green and also to track down the new Can Do. Tucked away on the tow path, it’s a delightful spot with a couple of outside tables, serving excellent Monmouth espresso, with a few treats thrown in for good measure. There’s also a motorised trike on the other side of the canal, but it’s only open from 07:30 – 11:30 on weekdays and I was too late to catch it.
In the foyer of the British Library on Euston Road, on the right of the doors, opposite the gift shop and next to the Friends of the British Library desk, you’ll find the second London outpost of Cornwall’s Origin. Although calling itself an espresso bar, it’s considerably more than this, and while not quite reaching the heights of the output of Origin’s flagship on Charlotte Road, it’s nonetheless very impressive.
From a small counter in the corner, Origin manages to deliver its seasonal Pathfinder espresso, as well as decaf, plus, (hopefully) by the time you read this, a single-origin espresso too. During the week there’s another single-origin filter on bulk-brew, while at weekends, it’s available through the Aeropress. For those not interested in coffee, there’s a wide range of Canton Tea.
And, on top of all that, well-stocked retail shelves have bags of beans and coffee kit for sale. There’s also food, both sweet and savoury. The sweet comes in the form of cookies, plus Crosstown Doughnuts, while for the savoury, Origin eschews the usual format of sandwiches in favour of a sausage roll for the meat-eaters and a Homity Pie for the vegetarians, which makes a welcome change.
Once upon a time, in the summer of last year, I read an interesting article in the Birmingham Mail about a coffee shop that had opened in a phone box. It was the end of July and, as luck would have it, I was passing through Birmingham that week, so I took a wander along Colmore Row, where I found said telephone box. But no coffee shop. Somewhat dispirited, I wandered off again and the whole coffee-shop-in-phone-box thing rather slipped my mind. Unknown to me, the article had jumped the gun and the coffee-shop-in-phone-box, Jake’s Coffee Box, actually opened the following week…
Fast-forward to this summer and I was once again wandering along Colmore Row, looking for another coffee shop that hadn’t actually opened yet (the Birmingham branch of 200 Degrees). Glancing down Eden Place, I suddenly remembered the phone box, so I wandered down to see what was there…