Wayland’s Yard, Birmingham

The A-board outside the Birmingham branch of Wayland's Yard promised proper coffee and proper food.In an industry where small, independent coffee shops seem to be the order of the day, Birmingham has always had (in my opinion, at least) more than its fair share of large shops, serving excellent food to go along with the coffee, with the likes of the original Yorks Bakery Cafe and the Boston Tea Party leading the way. The latest entrant to throw its hat into this particular ring is Wayland’s Yard, which opened in March 2018. Starting life last year in Worcester, the Birmingham branch on Bull Street is the second one, although I suspect there will be more in due course.

What you get for your money is a large, long, open space, the size of say, the Birmingham 200 Degrees. There’s a front section with limited seating, and a grab-and-go chiller cabinet, while at the back is an even large main seating area with plenty of tables. The coffee is from Herefordshire’s Method Roastery, with a bespoke house-blend and single-origin on espresso and two more on pour-over through the V60. Just as important is the food, with a full breakfast/brunch menu that gives the likes of Yorks Café and Coffee Roasters a run for its money.

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BLK \ MRKT

A lovely espresso with milk, served in a glass, at BLK \ MRKT in Traverse City.Traverse City was another of the stops, towards the end of my Midwest road-trip, which was determined by the presence of good coffee. There are several options, including Higher Grounds, but BLK \ MRKT was my first stop, a tip-off from The Pour Over Blog, via a Sprudge article. BLK \ MRKT is located inside an old market building, Warehouse MRKT (hence the MRKT part of the name), in Traverse City’s Warehouse District, a block back from the beach.

It’s been open since early 2015, and started roasting in April 2017. Like my previous stop, Velodrome Coffee Co, BLK \ MRKT uses a 1kg gas-powered roaster, although this time, rather than being tucked away in a side room, this is open for all to see in the main space. This produces all of the filter coffee, available as a daily batch-brew option, while the Prospect blend from Parlor Coffee in New York City is the mainstay of the gorgeous Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine which takes centre stage on the counter.

If you’re hungry (and I recommend it) there’s also a small range of cakes, pastries and pies, all baked on-site in the enclosed kitchen behind the counter.

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Kickapoo Coffee, Milwaukee

An organic Guatemalan Concepcion single-origin espresso from Kickapoo in Milwaukee, served in a classic white espresso cup with an oversized handle.Kickapoo Coffee is another of those Midwest coffee names that I became aware of when I spent some time in Madison last year, particularly from my visits to Bradbury’s Coffee. Based in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Kickapoo has been roasting there since 2005, with an emphasis on direct trade. This is its first coffee shop, which opened in 2015, with two more following, one in Viroqua itself and the other in Bayfield, on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. I’ve always enjoyed Kickapoo’s coffee, so since I was passing through Milwaukee, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Kickapoo occupies a bright, airy spot in the historic Third Ward, down where Milwaukee’s three rivers converge before flowing into Lake Michigan. A bright, airy, open, modern space, it’s somewhat at odds with the neighbourhood’s older roots as a harbour/industrial area, but that doesn’t stop it being a delightful place to enjoy your coffee.  There’s plenty of seating inside and out, plus a simple breakfast menu if you’re hungry. However, the real draw is the coffee, with the Full Spectrum blend joined by a single-origin on espresso, another blend on batch-brew and three single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave.

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The Gentlemen Baristas Coffee Store

Detail of the sign hanging above the counter at The Gentlemen Baristas, The Coffee Store.The Gentlemen Baristas, which started life at the end of 2014 on Union Street, just south of the Thames, now boasts four branches, of which this, on nearby Park Street, can legitimately be said to be the baby. In terms of look and feel, however, it very much has the air of a miniature version of the original, albeit with a cut-down coffee menu featuring two options on espresso and another on batch-brew, pour-over having been sacrificed to save space.

This lack of space also means that seating is at a premium, with room for four inside and another four outside on two benches. That said, there’s still the space for a well-stocked set of retail shelves, selling retail bags of coffee/coffee kit on one side, and produce at the other, including pickles, preserves and condiments. Meanwhile if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes and sandwiches. Another victim of the lack of space is cups, The Gentlemen Baristas only offering takeaway cups, so bring your own, although there are some espresso cups knocking around.

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Passion House Coffee Roasters

Passion House Coffee Roasters, as seen from the other side of Kedzie Avenue in Chicago.Passion House Coffee Roasters has been around and roasting coffee in Chicago for the last seven years, but it’s a name that I only discovered this time last year on my previous visit to Chicago, when I had Passion House’s coffee at Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar, the coffee bar in my office building. Then, earlier this year, I found Passion House in, of all places, Spitfire Coffee in New Orleans, literally at the other end (north-south) of the country.

For most of its seven years, Passion House has made its name as a roaster, but in 2017 it opened its one and only coffee shop in Chicago right by Logan Square. Occupying the ground floor of a long, narrow, old, two storey building, it’s a lovely spot, serving the house-blend, decaf and a single-origin on espresso, plus another house-blend on bulk-brew, with two-single origins on pour-over. Unusually for America, Passion House uses the Marco Beverage Systems SP9 in conjunction with the Fellow Stagg pour-over dripper.

There are five loose-leaf teas, which can be had hot, cold or sparkling, while if you’re hungry, there are pastries, with doughnuts at the weekends, plus two quiches, one meat and one vegetarian.

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Fade To Black

The Fade to Black logo from the front of the store on Uxbridge Road in Hanwell.A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip to southwest London, taking in the likes of Beanberry Coffee, Woof Coffee and The Press Room in Twickenham. At the end of my trip, I found myself in Ealing and, since I was there, I decided that I would carry on going west. Really west. All the way out to (wait for it…) Hanwell! Well, maybe not that far west, but, as London goes, quite far, and not exactly known as a hot-bed of speciality coffee.

What had dragged me onto the No 427 bus and out along the Uxbridge Road was the prospect of breakfast (and coffee) at the interestingly-named Fade-to-Black, which, since February, has been serving espresso using Ozone’s Empire Blend to the fine folks of Hanwell, with tentative plans to add a single-origin batch-brew. This is backed up with a decent breakfast/lunch menu, complete with sandwiches and a good range of cake.

Fade to Black has a simple, welcoming interior with windows on two sides and a range of seating, including window-bars, should you want to get some people-watching done. There’s also a spacious basement which, while normally off-limits, is used for functions and events such as yoga.

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The Black Chapel

An espresso at The Black Chapel in Wandsworth, pulled on a 1958 Faema Lambro.The Black Chapel occupies a unit on the west side of Chapel Yard, a sheltered, pedestrian space just off Wandsworth High Street. There are a couple of outside tables and three stools inside, but that’s about it. You really come here for the coffee, the vegan snacks/treats, and, of course, to be insulted by hang out with The Black Chapel’s legendary owner, Ant.

There’s a rotating cast of guest roasters, with a single option on espresso and another on pour-over. Ant operates an interesting system: when one coffee runs out, he grabs a bag of whatever takes his fancy from his stock cupboard and on that goes in its place… The coffee is pulled on a vintage 1964 Telechrome lever espresso machine, although while I was there, it was under repair, replaced by an even more venerable lever machine, a 1958 Faema Lambro. There’s also filter through the Clever Dripper.

When it comes to food (although not coffee, where cow’s milk is available along with non-dairy alternatives), The Black Chapel is vegan, with a small selection of sweet and savoury delights, including avocado on toast, all prepared on-site. I arrived just as the cinnamon buns came out of the oven…

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Woof Coffee

My espresso, a single-origin Honduras from Clifton Coffee Roasters, served in an over-sized yellow up on a blue saucer, with a bite-sized piece of chocolate brownie at Woof Coffee in Teddington.I came across Woof Coffee in October 2016, receiving an e-mail invitation to a party to celebrate its official opening. Sadly I couldn’t make it (the party was the day I arrived back from my first, and so far only, around the world trip) but I duly stuck a star on it in Google Maps and made a note to visit. Fast forward 22 months and I took a small excursion to southwest London that saw me call in on Beanberry Coffee in Kingston and The Press Room in Twickenham. And conveniently half way between the two (sort of) in Teddington, there’s Woof Coffee.

Woof has a simple, espresso-based coffee menu with the ubiquitous Redchurch blend from Allpress acting as the house blend, with a different guest roaster every month. Woof buys in a number of single-origins/blends, which are available as retail bags, with a different option as the guest espresso every day. If coffee’s not your thing, then Woof has plenty of tea, working with a local tea merchant who sources a range of loose-leaf tea exclusive to Woof. Finally, there’s food, with a simple all-day breakfast/lunch menu backed up by five sandwiches, all of which can be toasted.

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Firecreek Coffee Company

A Kenya AA in a diner-style mug, made with the Bonavita Dripper at Firecreek Coffee Company in Flagstaff, AZ.I came to Flagstaff in search of mountains, forests, canyons and deserts, but not expecting much in the way of good coffee. However, the one place that pretty much everyone recommended was Firecreek Coffee Company, right in the centre of town on the Historic Route 66, almost directly across from the train station (which now doubles as the tourist centre).

I’ve already written about Firecreek’s roastery, 111 Roasting Works, which is a few blocks to the south. When I visited, it operated as a tasting room on weekday mornings. Sadly I’ve just learnt that 111 Roasting Works has finished its coffee service, but the good news is that Firecreek, which opened in 2015, is still going strong, serving excellent espresso and filter coffee, plus a range of tea, from the Donahue Building, one of Flagstaff’s oldest, dating from 1888.

There’s an excellent breakfast menu, which is supplemented by a wide range of very tasty-looking (and indeed tasty) cakes. These are all served in the large, spacious front portion of Firecreek, while there’s a second area to the rear, which serves as theatre, function room, bar and overspill seating area. You can also sit out front at one of two tables.

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Beanberry Coffee

My single-origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a washed coffee from the Negele Gorbitu co-operative, roasted and served by Beanberry Coffee in an over-sized cup on a wooden tray, a glass of water on the side.I first came across Beanberry, a Woking-based roaster which specialises in organic coffee, when I visited G!RO Cycles in Esher in 2015. We then met in person at the 2017 London Coffee Festival, where I learnt about Beanberry’s then relatively new coffee shop in Kingston upon Thames, an area crying out for good coffee. Fast forward around 15 months, and I finally managed to get to Kingston, a curious mix of historic buildings and ugly concrete on the banks of the River Thames in west London.

If you’re in Kingston, Beanberry is as close as you’ll get to a must-visit when it comes to coffee. The shop itself is surprisingly large, particularly given the relatively small shop front, and it has one of the most impressive ranges of beans I’ve seen in a while. There are four options on espresso, including a house blend (Javascript), a seasonal blend (Wildcat), a single-origin and a decaf. When it comes to pour-over, through Chemex, Zero and Aeropress, there’s even more choice, with another blend (8AM Blues) and space on the board for six single-origins.

If you’re hungry, the breakfast/lunch menu is heavy on the bread/toast options, backed up by a decent cake selection.

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