The Espresso Station

The Espresso Station logo, taken from a sign halfway down the alley which houses it in Hoi An.The Espresso Station is a delightful little spot in Hội An, just to the north of the old city and, conveniently, just down the street from my hotel. Despite this convenience, I might have struggled to find it, since it’s tucked away down a narrow alley off the main street, Trần Hưng Đạo. However, forearmed is forewarned and, having read all about it after my friend Bex (of Double Skinny Macchiato fame) adventures in Vietnam last year, I knew what I was looking for.

The Espresso Station occupies a low, single-storey building with its own courtyard, which is where most of the seating is. It’s both roastery and café, with the roaster, a shiny 5kg job, tucked away at the back of the main building. Serving espresso, pour-over and traditional Vietnamese cà phê phin (cup-top filter), there’s also a range of tea, juices, plus a limited all-day breakfast menu and pastries.

There’s a blend for espresso and cà phê phin, using Arabica beans grown in Vietnam’s Dalat region, with a Vietnamese single-origin or another from Panama on pour-over. The espresso beans are available for sale, along with traditional cup-top filter (a steal at 25,000 Vietnamese Dong, or less than £1).

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The Workshop Coffee

My espresso surveys the room in The Workshop Coffee, Ho Chi Minh CityThe Workshop Coffee, right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon as was) was the one place that everyone said to visit. Tucked away on the top floor of an old building overlooking the main street of Đồng Khởi, it’s a glorious place, open to the roof, which soars high above and with windows on three of the four sides. Although the building’s old, inside it’s very modern, with a post-industrial look and feel, full of exposed brick, concrete floors, iron window-frames and with multiple lights hanging from the ceiling.

In this respect, it could be any coffee shop in any number of cities around the world, a warehouse loft in Brooklyn or Shoreditch for example, making it part of the global phenomenon of speciality coffee. This is followed through with the philosophy of its coffee, with direct trade at its heart, roasting high-quality single-origins in small batches on-site.

At the same time, it’s a very Vietnamese establishment, with an overwhelmingly local clientele and staff. The coffee too, is predominantly Vietnamese, the Workshop championing local Arabica growers, roasting them either as single-origins for filter, or blending them for espresso with other high quality beans from around the world.

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Primal Roast

What looks to be a dinosaur's skull from the wall of Primal Roast in Glasgow, holding a Primal Roast takeaway cup between its open jaws.There’ve been a few openings in Glasgow since my last visit (for the previous Glasgow Coffee Festival, back in 2015), so when I returned for this year’s festival, I had lots of places to catch up on. Top of the list was Primal Roast, which opened in late 2015, and was the one place everyone said to visit. In the western part of the Glasgow’s compact city centre, it made the perfect kicking-off point for my one-day tour as I stopped by for breakfast.

Occupying a spacious basement on the north side of St Vincent Street, there’s a bright, sunny front section, with limited seating, and a large, cosy rear with multiple tables and sofas where you can curl up all day if you like.

The family-run Primal Roast is as much about food as it is coffee, with both reaching a similarly high standard. Local roasters, Dear Green Coffee, provide a bespoke house-blend on espresso, while there’s a continually-rotating cast of guests on filter through either V60 or Aeropress. If you’re hungry, there are full breakfast (until 11 on weekdays and all-day Saturday) and lunch menus, with extensive vegan options for both. There’s also a range of interesting cakes.

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Westmoreland Speciality Coffee

The front door of Westmoreland Coffee on the corner of Westmoreland Road in Harrogate.Harrogate is a town with a compact centre, which is where you’ll find the likes of Bean & Bud, Baltzersens and Hoxton North, all within a five-minute walk of each other. The exception to this rule is Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, which is out in the sticks, on the very edge of Harrogate, a whole 10 minutes’ walk from the railway station and maybe 15 minutes from the far flung reaches of Hoxton North on the other side of town.

Set up in the summer of 2014 by the very lovely Jamie, it is an equally lovely place. It also wins Coffee Spot brownie points for being located on Westmoreland Road, on the corner with Mowbray Square. This isn’t its original location, by the way. Westmoreland was originally at No 8, a tiny spot just a few doors down Westmoreland Road, where it spent the first year of its life.

Serving an ever-changing choice of blends/single-origins (plus decaf) on espresso and pour-over from North Star, it’s very much a neighbourhood coffee shop, with a cast of loyal regulars. There’s loose-leaf tea or hot chocolate for the non-coffee drinkers. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there is a selection of sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

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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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Hoxton North, Royal Parade

A lovely piccolo, made with Origin’s seasonal Resolute blend, and served in a glass at Hoxton North, Royal Parade, Harrogate.Hoxton North started life in October 2013 on Parliament Street in Harrogate. I did try to visit back in 2014, when I was in Harrogate to see the likes of Bean & Bud, but I foolishly came on a Monday and, back then, Parliament Street had Mondays off. By the time I returned to Harrogate at the end of last year, there were two Hoxton Norths with this, the second branch, having opened in October 2016, just around the corner on Royal Parade. For a while the two branches operated in tandem, but in March this year, the original on Parliament Street closed, leaving Royal Parade as Hoxton North’s sole outpost for now.

In comparison to Parliament Street, where the focus was firmly on the coffee, Royal Parade has spread its wings a little, offering extensive breakfast and brunch menus, plus wine and beer in the evenings. The two spaces are very different as well, Royal Parade offering a larger, bright, open space, lacking Parliament Street’s cosy little nooks and crannies. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a house-espresso blend (Resolute during my visit), with decaf on the second grinder (a San Fermin from Colombia), both from Cornwall’s Origin.

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Luckie Beans, Glasgow Queen Street

Detail from the front of the Luckie Beans coffee cart on the concourse of Glasgow's Queen Street Station.When I ran into Jamie, owner of Luckie Beans, at the Glasgow Coffee Festival, I learnt all about the coffee cart which had opened, at rather short notice, the previous summer. Invited in by the management at Glasgow Queen Street Station, Jamie had all of two weeks to set everything up, including sourcing the cart and all the equipment.

The result is quite impressive and a welcome addition to the station. Although there are plenty of options nearby in Glasgow city centre, there’s nothing quite like having speciality coffee on the station concourse, especially if you’re waiting for a train.

The Luckie Beans cart serves a blend and single-origin on espresso, with the option to buy the beans. There are also various sweet treats and savoury offerings, including porridge and sandwiches. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a small seating area, perfect if you have a few minutes to spare.

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The Steamie

Detail from the A-board outside The Steamie on Glasgow's Argyle Street on a sunny day in May. Reads: "The Steamie Coffee Co. Estd. 2014"The Steamie’s been on my list for a little while. On the eastern edge of Glasgow’s West End in Finniestan, it’s just along from The Cran’ (and pre-dates it by several years). So it made sense to call in for lunch on my one-day, post Glasgow Coffee Festival tour. That and I’d run into the owner, Stephen, at the festival the day before, where he’d extracted a promise that I’d pop by…

Stephen, by the way, has been nagging, I mean, politely requesting, that I visit The Steamie for a couple of years now. It turns out that my failure to do so was not down to slackness on my part. No, I was waiting for The Steamie to start roasting its own coffee, which it did at the end of January. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As well as coffee and a range of loose-leaf teas, The Steamie has an excellent range of cake, plus an all-day breakfast/lunch menu, serving the likes of muesli and porridge, along with toast, three options for poached eggs (meat, fish, veggie) and another three for baked eggs skillet (two veggie, one meat). There’s also soup, plus sandwiches (eat in/takeaway).

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The Cran’

A beautiful flat white from The Cran in Glasgow, served in an equally beautiful china cup.I was in Glasgow at the weekend for the 2017 Glasgow Coffee Festival, but before I travelled back down south, I spent Monday visiting some of the coffee shops that had sprung up since my last visit, back in 2015 for the previous Glasgow Coffee Festival. Chief amongst these is The Cran’, a delightful little spot in Finnieston, at the eastern edge of Glasgow’s west end, which opened at the start of this year.

Occupying a long, thin space running along Argyle Street, The Cran’ (which is named after the local landmark, a large crane on the banks of the Clyde) offers an interesting range of vegan food, cakes, loose-leaf tea and some excellent coffee on espresso and bulk-brew from a rotating cast of roasters, all served in a quirky space which reflects something of the history of the building it occupies.

The coffee-side of the operation is run by Gillian, who I first met in Avenue Coffee’s Great Western Road branch when she was a barista there. She was originally brought in by the owner, Aziz, to provide training, but when he saw how good she was, he immediately invited Gillian to run the coffee part of the business.

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Tincan Coffee Co, Clare Street

Detail from the sign outside of the Tincan Coffee Co branch on Clare Street, Bristol.This is the second of the bricks-and-mortar Tincan Coffees, the Bristol-based company which started life serving coffee from vintage Citroen vans. It follows hot on the heels of the first Tincan Coffee on North Street (ironically on the south side of Bristol). Clare Street opened at the end of last year, joining the cluster of speciality coffee places in the heart of Bristol, including the (now venerable) Small St Espresso and Full Court Press, along with relative newcomer Playground Coffee.

Tincan has a range of hot food from a brunch menu (served from 10am to 4pm), backed up with sandwiches and cakes served throughout the day. It’s a much larger space than its near-neighbours, probably offering more seating than all three combined!

The coffee is from Clifton Coffee Roasters, with a bespoke seasonal house-blend and single-origin on espresso, plus another single-origin on bulk-brew. Unusually, the single-origins on offer are different in the two Tincan branches (in my experience, for economies of scale, its usual have the same coffee at each branch). These are changed when the current batch runs out, usually every two weeks or so. For non-coffee drinkers, there’s tea from Brew Tea Co and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate.

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