5th Element Coffee

An espresso, plus a glass of sparkling water, beautifully presented at 5th Element Coffee in Madison.I popped over to Madison for a week of visiting friends, not necessarily expecting to find great coffee. However, serendipity had other ideas. Rather than hang out in my friend’s house while she was at work, I decided to come into the office with her and then find a coffee shop for the day. And it just so happens that two blocks from the office is the totally awesome 5th Element Coffee.

5th Element was established in 2015 by Alejandro Mendez, the 2011 World Barista Champion, along with Todd Allbaugh, who I was fortunate enough to meet. Serving only single-origin coffee, 5th Element’s main claim to fame is its close ties with coffee farmers in El Salvador, where Alejandro sources and roasts the coffee at 4 Monkeys Coffee Roasters. The coffee is then flown over to Madison every couple of weeks.

5th Element occupies a corner unit on the north side of University Avenue, west of downtown Madison. A large, open, uncluttered space, there’s plenty of seating at numerous communal tables at the back, plus a small outdoor seating area set back from the road to the right. If you’re hungry, there’s a small range of panini, waffles and cakes.

August 2017: I’ve heard the sad news that 5th Element has unexpectedly had to close. Coffee shops come and go, but I’ve not been this disappointed to learn of a coffee shsop closure in a long time. On the plus side, at least I had a chance to visit while it was still open. Hopefully Todd and 5th Element will be back in some form, so watch this space!

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Made by Hand Coffee Pop-up, UniQlo

One of Made by [H]and Coffee's handmade Kalita Wave filters brewing away at it's pop-up in UniQlo on Oxford Street in March 2017.Normally, I’m reluctant to feature a pop-up on the Coffee Spot. However, when that pop-up is by renowned roasters, Has Bean, and it’s the first Has Bean coffee shop in 14 years, I’ll make an exception. I also wouldn’t normally visit a shop two days after it had opened, but when it’s only open for 72 days, time is of the essence.

So it was that on Monday, I popped down to Oxford Street to visit Made by Hand Coffee ([H]AND for short). Located on the third floor of the UniQlo clothing store, [H]AND is tucked away at the back, but easy enough to find. There’s a simple coffee bar, grinders at either end, a row of four Kalita Wave filters between them. Personally, in that sort of setting, I prefer standing up at the bar to drink my coffee, but if you want to sit down, there’s a cluster of four sumptuous armchairs around a coffee table (with USB power sockets).

However, the coffee’s the star, with a choice of four single-origin pour-overs. You can pick one or have a tasting flight of three. Similarly there are four teas, with the same offer on the table. And that’s it.

June 2017: [H]AND has now closed. Hopefully it will reappear somewhere at some point in the future, so watch this space!

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Silhouette Cheapside

From the sign outside Silhouette on Cheapside.Wander down Cheapside, away from St Paul’s Cathedral, and you’ll find a branch of Hummus Bros. on the left-hand side. This, in itself, is unspectacular since Hummus Bros. is a familiar sight in London. However, this one’s special: look closely and you’ll see that it houses none other than Silhouette, a speciality coffee shop run by one of coffee’s nicest couples, Lee and Syirin (although these days Syirin’s rarely in the shop).

The space itself is nothing special: long and thin with a makeshift counter two-thirds of the way down on the right, housing Silhouette’s trusty La Marzocco espresso machine. From this surprisingly small space, you’ll find Lee dispensing excellent espresso-based drinks from Notes and occasional guests (although rumour has it that if you ask nicely, you can get pour-over, although it’s not on the menu). Even more impressive is the small, but tasty, toast-based menu & some excellent cakes.

July 2017: Sad news. Silhouette has closed. Not sure if Lee and Syirin will be back with another venture, but I certainly hope so!

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Idle Hands Pop-up

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the pop-up on Dale Street.Idle Hands started as a long-term pop-up by Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. I had a hit-and-miss relationship with Idle Hands, constantly turning up when it was closed before finally visiting during last year’s Cup North. Idle Hands moved out earlier this year, finding a temporary home with barbers Mr Beardmore in the building on Dale Street that will become its permanent home. Eventually.

The building’s being redeveloped, and, in a tale of woe which you can read on Idle Hands’ website, the opening date has been pushed back and back. Originally scheduled to move in permanently by the end of October, this now looks like early next year. In the meantime, the developer has allowed Idle Hands to move into 32 Dale Street, in the space next door to its future permanent home of 34 Dale Street. It’s a bit makeshift, but at least Idle Hands is back and serving coffee!

July 2017: By now, Idle Hands should have been in its new, permanent home, but at the last moment, the landlord pulled the plug on the deal. It’s not clear what the long-term future is for Idle Hands, but the good news is that Dave and Lucy have picked themselves up and are now back serving coffee and pie every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Grub in Manchester. You can see what I found when I visited in August.

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Café Integral, American Two Shot

A single-serve Kalita Wave filter at Cafe Integral, New York City, seen from above.Café Integral is not somewhere that you easily stumble upon. I found it thanks to several recommendations, not least from my friends Heather & Tim, who I stay with in New Jersey (the recommendation was specifically from Tim, who is a semi-regular there). It’s actually across the street from one of my New York favourites, Gasoline Alley, so I must have walked past it many times before my visit. In defence of my usually infallible coffee radar, it’s tucked away inside a clothing store, American Two Shot, with only an A-board outside to let you know it’s there.

Other than its location, Café Integral’s main claim to fame is that it only serves Nicaraguan coffee, its owners, the Vega family, having close ties with several farms in the country. There are now two coffee shops in New York, and another in Chicago, which makes it a national chain. Sort of. All the coffee is sourced in Nicaragua and roasted in a facility over on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. There’s a blend on espresso plus two single-origins, a pour-over using the Kalita Wave, with the other available on bulk-brew. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s a selection of cakes and cookies.

May 2017: I’ve just learnt that Café Integral has shut its coffee bar in American Two Shot. Thanks to Nick for the heads-up. If you are in the area, then Café Integral now has its own coffee shop around the corner at 149 Elizabeth Street.

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Parlor Coffee

A simple blackboard with "Parlor Coffee | Serving Daily | Back of Barber-shop" written in white block capitals.Walking along Brooklyn’s Havemeyer Street, on my way from Northerly Coffee to Gimme! Coffee, something caught my eye at the street’s northern end. It looked like an old-fashioned barbershop, but a sign in the window, plus an A-board outside, proclaimed it to be the home of Parlor Coffee. A little bell rang in the back of my mind. Hadn’t my friend, Greg, of CoffeeGuru App fame, told me about somewhere in the back of a barbershop? Intrigued, I headed inside.

Persons of Interest is the name of the barbershop in question and Parlor Coffee is indeed a lovely little coffee shop, tucked away at the back in what may have been an old storeroom. There’s room enough for a one-group Kees van der Westen Speedster espresso machine (plus a single grinder), serving single-origin coffee roasted in-house by Parlor. An unexpected bonus is that your coffee comes in a proper cup!

May 2017: I have just learned that Parlor Coffee has closed its location in Persons of Interest. With thanks to Nick for the heads up.

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Jake’s Coffee Box

Jake's Coffee Box, occupying the left-hand of the two red telephone boxes, with a table out front, acting as a counter. Jake himself stands in the door, waiting his next customer.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…

July 2017: Sadly Jake’s Coffee Box is no more. I believe that Jake has realised his long-term amibition to go travelling in Brazil and was unable to find anyone to take the Coffee Box on, but I’ve not been able to confirm that. Thanks to Nick for the initial heads-up about the Coffee Box closing.

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Bunker Coffee & Kitchen

The word BUNKER written in white, in the centre of a large black circle, with the smaller words "COFFEE & KITCHEN" written below/When it comes to Bunker Coffee & Kitchen, the first thing that most people I talked to in Newcastle said is that it does excellent food. Having had a fantastic lunch there, I can attest to this first hand. However, this seems to overlook the other part of Bunker’s title, namely the coffee. Like, for example, Jesmond’s Café 1901, Bunker’s built its reputation on food, while it seems that its excellent coffee has passed by almost unnoticed. This, I feel, is a shame, since the coffee I had was pretty damn good too.

Bunker occupies an almost-basement in a large, curved building at the top of Newcastle’s Carliol Square. It’s a large, uncluttered space, with plenty of seating, the sort of place you could hold a business meeting in or sit with your laptop for an afternoon. The food’s all freshly-prepared on site and the lunch menu, with soup, curry, salad box and a choice of three wraps, changes daily. The coffee, which, in contrast, only changes every couple of weeks, is from local roaster, Colour Coffee. There are single-origins on espresso, filter (V60, Aeropress or Chemex for two) or, if you’re in a hurry, batch-brew from the ever-reliable Moccamaster.

November 2016: Bunker Coffee is no more, but rather than closing completely, the space was taken over by Joe of Flat Caps fame, reopening as Flat Caps Carliol Square.

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Look Mum No Hands! South Bank Pop-up 2016

"Look mum no hands!", written on the side of the south-bank pop-up.It’s that time of year again: summer’s on the way (although as I write this, I’ve had the heating on and it poured with rain all day) and the Look Mum No Hands! pop-up has once again appeared under Hungerford Bridge on London’s South Bank. A fixture since 2013, the Look Mum No Hand’s pop-up joins the (sort of) all-year-round options of the Beany Green container and Bean About Town at the Real Food Market. When I last visited, in 2014, Look Mum No Hands! had already expanded considerably since its first year. Unexpectedly finding myself in London last Saturday, I naturally made a bee-line for Queen’s Walk to see what had changed this time around.

I’m pleased to say that this year, Look Mum No Hands! is bigger than ever before, with an expanded seating area under the cover of the bridge and even more food/drink options. There’s the ubiquitous Red Brick on espresso from Square Mile, plus an impressive range of craft beers and cider on tap, backed up with Pimms, prosecco, gin & tonic, vodka & tonic and wine by the glass. There’s cake and pastries, plus, if you’re really hungry, hot dogs, including a vegetarian version.

October 2016: Look Mum No Hands! has gone for another year and sadly it looks like that might be it for now…

May 2017: I checked under Hungerford Bridge and there’s no sign of Looks Mum No Hands! this year. There is a bar down there in the spot which Looks Mum No Hands! normally occupies, which suggests, sadly, that it won’t be coming back this year…

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Junction Coffee

The colourful front cover of the menu at Liverpool's Junction CoffeeJunction Coffee is the epitome of a neighbourhood café, serving the good folk of Aigburth, a suburb to the south of Liverpool city centre. Located near a busy junction (from which Junction Coffee gets its name) on the equally busy Aigburth Road, Junction Coffee has been quietly serving speciality coffee to its regulars since 2011 when the owner, Nathan, quit his job with the council to pursue his passion for coffee.

Junction uses Staffordshire’s Has Bean, which roasts a bespoke espresso blend for Junction, while there are usually two single-origin beans available through the Kalita Wave filter for those feeling more adventurous. There’s also hot chocolate, loose-leaf tea and a range of soft drinks.

However, there’s a lot more to Junction than just the coffee. It serves an impressive range of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, panini, wraps and bagels, plus salads and a soup of the day. Add to that an impressive range of home-made cakes, plus ice cream, and Junction has you covered whatever the time of day.

October 2016: I heard the news that Junction Coffee has closed its doors for good over the summer.

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