Ground Control

A shot of the Ethiopian Coffee Company's seasonal blend in a beautiful blue cup at its Islington cafe, Ground Control.I first became aware of the Ethiopian Coffee Company not long after starting the Coffee Spot, when I discovered its stall at the Southbank Centre Food Market (which I’ve still not written up, despite visiting the market last weekend!). Back then the Ethiopian Coffee Company had a coffee shop which, if memory serves, was in Bow, but was in the process of moving to new premises in Islington. Since then I’ve enjoyed the Ethiopian Coffee Company’s coffee in Liverpool, for example, at Coffee & Fandisha, but I’ve never made it to the “new” coffee shop.

Four years on, and the new coffee shop, which goes by the name Ground Control, is not so new anymore, but I’ve finally managed to pay a belated visit. As the name suggests, the Ethiopian Coffee Company only roasts coffee from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. There’s a monthly blend on espresso, a single-origin on pour-over, plus a wide selection of tea from Cardiff’s Waterloo Tea. If you’re hungry there are toasties and cake, all served in a delightful, compact spot with almost as many seats outside as in. It’s so lovely, in fact, that you’d be justified in asking what took me so long…

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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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Chinatown Coffee Co

The front of Chinatown Coffee Co on H Street in Washington DCIt’s a sign of how much I’m travelling and how many great coffee shops there are around the world that today’s bonus Coffee Spot is from one of last year’s trips, when I spent a day dashing around Washington DC in the rain. Chinatown Coffee Co is one of the capital’s stalwarts, having first opened its doors in 2009. Long and thin, it’s a cross between a corridor and a basement, a little reminiscent of the Dupont Circle branch of Filter Coffeehouse, which was my first ever speciality coffee experience in DC.

Chinatown’s stock-in-trade is the Black Cat espresso blend from Chicago-based, Intelligentsia. This is joined by a decaf espresso and four single-origins, available as V60, cafetiere or syphon, with two of them on the obligatory bulk-brew. Here Intelligentsia is joined by Portland’s Heart Coffee Roasters, with a new coffee appearing on the menu every two weeks. You can also buy a range of the beans to take home with you. Finally, there’s a selection of organic tea if you don’t fancy coffee.

If you’re hungry, there’s a range of pastries and cakes, plus a small selection of chocolate. On the savory side, there are sandwiches from Broodje & Bier.

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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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Kaido Books and Coffee

A single-origin Yirgacheffe from And Coffee Roasters, served in a classic black cup by Kaido Books & CoffeeKaido Books and Coffee is just down the street from my third (and final) hotel of my trip. I’ve done extremely well when it comes to good coffee near hotels/work on this trip and Kaido (plus a branch of Blue Bottle at Shinagawa Station) is the icing on the cake. It was also an unexpected surprise, a random discovery as I explored the rather lovely residential street I found myself staying on.

Kaido Books and Coffee does what it says on the tin: a book shop combined with a coffee shop. In fairness, though, it’s more like a coffee shop with plenty of books. In fact, I didn’t see anyone buy a book the whole time I was there! It seems that the books are more for the customers to browse as they linger over their coffee.

Kaido serves coffee from And Coffee Roasters and Ishikawa Coffee, although while I was there, all of the coffee on offer was from And Coffee. There was a choice of three single-origins (two Ethiopians and a Brazilian) on pour-over through the V60, one of which was also available on espresso. Kaido does a limited range of food, which includes a small cake selection.

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Small St Espresso Update

The lovely La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine, with its custom paint job, at Small St Espresso in Bristol.I first wrote about Small St Espresso at the start of 2013, at which point it was at the centre of Bristol’s growing speciality coffee scene, which included (the now closed) Wild at Heart and (the yet to be opened) Full Court Press over on Broad Street. These days, the centre has expanded to include the likes of Playground Coffee and the newly-opened Tincan Coffee Co.

This is actually my second update on Small St Espresso, which featured as the first Coffee Spot Update, published in June 2013. One of many excellent things about Small St Espresso is that it’s on Small Street (other street-named coffee shops take note!). It’s just as well that it wasn’t so named because it’s small, since, after the latest changes which prompted the latest update, I might have to start referring to it as not-so-Small Street espresso…

Yes, that’s right, Small St Espresso has had an extension. Although this hasn’t increased the physical space that much, it’s almost doubled the (admittedly limited) seating, but fortunately without changing the essential character of the place which makes Small Street so special. Talking of expansion, Small St has also opened a second branch, the lovely Little Victories.

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Tincan Coffee Co, North Street

The Tincan Coffee logo, taken from the brunch menu at the North Street branch in Southville, Bristol.Tincan Coffee Co started life with an old Citroën HY van. This turned into a fleet of vintage vans, serving coffee at events and festivals up and down the country.  Then, almost a year ago to the day, Tincan went into bricks and mortar, opening this branch on Bristol’s North Street, confusingly on the south side of the city in Southville. Now there is a second branch in the city centre and rumours of more to come.

Tincan Coffee Co occupies a bright, south-facing spot, with seating outside on busy street and plenty more inside. There’s a window bar, booths and a neat alcove at the back. Coffee is from the local Clifton Coffee Roasters, with a bespoke seasonal house-blend and rotating single-origins on guest espresso and bulk-brew filter. Meanwhile there’s tea from Manchester’s Brew Tea Co and hot chocolate from old friends, Kokoa Collection.

If you’re hungry, Tincan has made the most of being indoors with a proper kitchen, serving an excellent brunch menu from eight in the morning (nine on Sunday) until three in the afternoon. This is backed up by a range of toasties and an impressive selection of cake which is available throughout the day.

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