Shin Coffee, Hồ Huấn Nghiệp

A drawing of a Syphon, taken from the wall of Shin Coffee Roastery in Ho Chi Minh City.Shin Coffee is a small, local roaster/coffee shop chain in the Vietnamese capital, Ho Chi Minh City, which I discovered on my visit there this time last year, it having been recommended to me by Vietnam Coffee Republic. This is one of two branches a few blocks apart in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, where you’ll also find the likes of The Workshop Coffee. Unlike the branch on Nguyễn Thiệp, which is purely a coffee shop, this is the original, dating from 2015, and doubles as the roastery, with a pair of roasters behind a glass wall at the back.

Shin Coffee seems to specialise in long, thin spaces and this is no different. Although not quite as elegant as Nguyễn Thiệp, it’s pretty close and has a very similar look, feel and design, as well as offering the same coffee choices and menu. Shin only roasts Arabica beans, with a range of Vietnamese blends and a few single-origins from both Vietnam and around the world. There’s a traditional espresso-based menu (using a blend of Ethiopian and Vietnamese coffee), along with decaf, plus there’s filter through V60, Syphon, Aeropress and Cafetiere, as well as traditional Vietnamese filter coffee.

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RuNam Bistro, Hanoi

My coffee at RuNam Bistro in Hanoi, made with a traditional cup-top filter and beautifully-presented on a ceramic tray. Note the bowl of hot water the cup is standing in, which keeps the coffee warm.This time last year, I was approaching the end of my Vietnamese trip and, reaching my final stop, Hanoi, I found a small but vibrant coffee scene. My hotel had been carefully chosen, in the heart of the old city and around the corner from both Oriberry Coffee and today’s Coffee Spot, RuNam Bistro, although back then it went by the name Càfê RuNam. A national chain, I had somehow missed its four branches in Ho Chi Minh City, including the one on the same street as Shin Coffee. The Hanoi branch came highly recommended though, by no higher authority than both Fancy A Cuppa? and Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato.

RuNam Bistro is a high-end coffee-and-food spot, offering table service and high-quality food from breakfast through lunch to dinner, all accompanied by Vietnamese-grown coffee, roasted in-house, and served in the most elegant surroundings of any coffee shop I visited on my trip. The coffee is available as either espresso or traditional Vietnamese cup-top filter (cà phê phin). There’s a dark-roasted house blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, plus some 100% Arabica beans, including decaf (a rarity in Vietnam), but you have to know to ask, otherwise you will get the house blend.

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Darcie & May Green

Some lovely latte art in a flat white to go, served in my Therma Cup at May Green in Paddington.Like my waistline when I eat their cakes, the Daisy Green/Beany Green chain is rapidly expanding. From its roots as a brunch spot at the original Daisy Green, through its various Beany Green coffee shops, the chain now encompasses everything from cocktails and craft beer to sit-down restaurants, all of which are combined in the (relatively) new Darcie & May Green. Opening late last year, they are a pair of canal boats, moored stern-to-stern on Regent’s Canal , in the heart of my old stomping ground around Sheldon Square. You’ll find them outside the back entrance to Paddington Station (this is the one down the right-hand side of the station by the Hammersmith & City/Circle Line).

May Green is a coffee shop by day and craft beer/cocktail bar by night, while Darcie Green is a restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are joined by a continuous rooftop deck that runs the length of both boats. The coffee, as ever, is by fellow-Aussies, The Roasting Party, with a traditional espresso-based menu available in both May & Darcie Green, while May Green has a takeout window if you need a quick pick-me-up on the way from the station to the office.

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VCR Bar & Showroom

The Vietnam Coffee Republic logo: five coffee beans in a circle, taken from the front wall of the VCR Bar and Showroom.Vietnam Coffee Republic is small chain (of two), part of a growing band of speciality coffee shops in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. Like the nearby The Workshop Coffee and the various branches of Shin Coffee, Vietnam Coffee Republic is both roaster and coffee shop. There’s a large coffee shop just around the corner, while this, the VCR Bar & Showroom, is where all the roasting takes place, plus it’s a coffee shop in its own right.

Sheltering under the towering edifice of the Roseland Corp Hotel, the VCR Bar & Showroom is easily missed. There’s more seating outside, a lovely area set back from the road, than there is inside, a wide, shallow space with the roaster at one end behind the counter.

When it comes to coffee, which is all grown in Vietnam, the VCR Bar & Showroom has the same menu as its big sibling, serving four principle blends containing varying ratios of Robusta and Arabica beans, plus a single-origin. These are available as espresso or filter, with options including V60, Aeropress, cafetiere and syphon, plus traditional Vietnamese filter coffee. If you’re hungry, there’s a salad bar, with a range of tasty salads on offer.

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The Meal Ticket

The flowchart drinks ordering menu at The Meal Ticket on Sheldon Square.When I first started working in Sheldon Square, behind Paddington Station, in the summer of 2013, there was nothing in the way of good coffee. Then came Beany Green in 2014, followed over the next couple of years by the likes of KuPP and Kioskafé. I stopped working there at the end of the 2015, at which point my office decided to upgrade its in-house café, bringing in Baxter Storey to run the operation, with coffee from Modern Standard. Not that I’m still bitter about that…

I didn’t quite escape Sheldon Square though, since my new job, which sees me travelling all over the world, also means I visit Sheldon Square about once a year, allowing me to keep tabs on the growing coffee scene, including the likes of Can Do Coffee and (the recently closed) Store Street Espresso. I was back there last week, when I found another crop of new places vying for my attention, including Darcie & May Green, twin barges tied up on the canal-side, another Can Do Coffee pitch and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, The Meal Ticket, which was then into its third week of operation, serving Caravan on espresso and batch-brew…

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The Watch House, Bermondsey Street

A batch-brew of a beautiful Ethiopian Ardi naturally-processed coffee, served at The Watch House on Bermondsey Street, London.The Watch House, on London’s Bermondsey Street, south of the river, is one of those “new” coffee shops (like Lundenwic and The Black Penny) which I’m embarrassed to say has been open for several years. In the case of The Watch House, it will be four this September (and has also opened two further branches!). In my defence, while I come into London via Waterloo, I rarely spend any time south of the river, which, if it has more gems like this, is entirely my loss.

The Watch House is housed in a small, octagonal building dating from the 19th century, which was built to house the watchmen looking after the neighbouring church (hence the name, The Watch House). It’s a gorgeous physical space, if, like me, you like old buildings, reminding me a little of York’s Perky Peacock, another coffee shop housed in an old tower.

The coffee is as gorgeous as the surroundings, with the Empire blend from Ozone on espresso, where it’s joined by three single-origins on batch-brew, which change on a weekly basis. If you’re hungry, there’s breakfast, lunch and plenty of cake, with bread from two local bakeries, The Watch House supporting various local suppliers.

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Matador Coffee Roasting Co.

The drive-through (and walk-by) kiosk of Matador Coffee Roasting Co of Flagstaff, Arizona.I often choose my accommodation during my travels based on where the good coffee is. However, in the case of February’s visit to Flagstaff, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to find anything, so the fact that I woke up on my first morning, drew back the curtains in my motel room and found Matador Coffee Roasting Co. literally across the road, was entirely down to good fortune.

Matador is a roaster, coffee shop and drive through, with a second, larger branch (without the roastery) on Highway 89, on the other side of Flagstaff. Occupying an old garage, it’s a handy spot to pick up coffee if you’re driving through, while if you have time to stop, there’s limited seating inside (where, if you’re lucky, you can watch the roaster in operation), or you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables set well back from the road.

Be aware that this is more of a traditional American coffee shop, with a darker roast espresso blend and large drink sizes (12oz to 20oz), plus the ubiquitous bulk-brew options. However, there are also several lighter roasts available as pour-over, while if you’re hungry there’s a small range of breakfast bagels and cakes.

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Melbourne in Lichfield, Bird Street

The painting of a chimp from Melbourne in Llichfield, Bird Street, who lives over the fireplace.I must confess that for many years, Lichfield was just a place name that I would have struggled to place on a map. It took more shape as Lichfield Trent Valley, a station that I sometimes passed through on my way to/from my parents in North Wales, which at least allowed me some idea where it was. However, it wasn’t until Melbourne in Lichfield burst onto my twitter feed a year ago that I really became aware of it.

Melbourne in Lichfield, it turns out, was a small coffee kiosk in an alley, Bolt Court, in the centre of this rather lovely West Midlands cathedral city. By the time I visited, a year after it opened, Melbourne in Lichfield had outgrown its humble origins and opened a second branch, a stone’s throw away on the broad, pedestrianised Bird Street. In contrast to the kiosk, this is a full-blown coffee shop, offering several, albeit small, rooms of seating.

There’s coffee from Union Hand-roasted and a regularly-changing guest roaster, with a house espresso, Maraba from Rwandan, plus a guest espresso and various options on pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, there are toasties, bagels and an impressive array of cakes.

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It All Started Here

A lovely Sweetshop espresso from Square Mile in a gorgeous Claire Henry Ceramics cup, served at Glasgow's It All Started Here.I first met Will, owner of It All Started Here, back in 2015 in Cardiff. We met up again at the Glasgow Coffee Festival later that year and have stayed in touch (on and off) ever since. Back then, Will combined a day job with running stalls markets/pop-ups over the weekends, serving coffee from Sheffield’s Foundry Coffee Roasters to the good people of Glasgow.

Last year he extended that principle when he opened his first coffee shop on Glasgow’s south side, It All Started Here opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, when I came up for last year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, I came up on the weekend and left myself Monday for exploring, so missed out. Therefore, for this year’s festival, I made a point of going up on Thursday night on the Caledonian Sleeper and heading over to It All Started Here on Friday.

It All Started Here is a multi-roaster, with a different roaster from around the UK on espresso and batch-brew every week. There’s also a brunch menu and a lovely selection of cakes. Even better, starting this week, It All Started here is now open six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday.

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Café Integral, Elizabeth Street

Part of the menu board from Cafe Integral on Elizabeth Street in NYC, showing the filter options.I first came across Café Integral when I was last in New York two years ago. Back then, Café Integral was a small, but delightful coffee bar inside the American Two Shot clothing store. Not long after my visit, in August 2016, Café Integral opened its own coffee shop a couple of blocks away on Elizabeth Street, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot. This was part of an expansion that has also seen Café Integral open in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, all in collaboration with Freehand Hotels.

Cafe Integral’s main claim to fame is that it only serves coffee from Nicaragua, all of which is roasted in-house in Williamsburg, the coffee sourced from several farms in the country which have close ties to the Vega family, which owns Café Integral.  There’s always an espresso blend (Dulcinea), plus a different single-origin on espresso, bulk-brew and pour-over. There’s also cold brew, nitro cold brew and a house tonic, plus tea for those who are so inclined. The coffee is all seasonal, changing every month or two, with the number of different options depending on the season.  Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s an extensive, and very tempting, array of cakes and pastries.

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