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.
On a busy corner in Stokes Croft in Bristol, opposite Cafe Kino, stands a five-sided building, home to one of a new breed of coffee shop. The Elemental Collective is many things to many people: as well as a coffee shop, it’s a greengrocers, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, a bakers, loaded with freshly-baked bread and pastries, plus a store, stocked with local produce, including milk and eggs. And it’s not just a coffee shop, since it’s also home to Triple Co Roast with the roastery clearly on show at the back on the right, while on the left the Elemental Espresso Bar serves Triple Co Roast’s output.
Triple Co Roast, which has built up an enviable reputation for roasting excellent coffee in a relatively short time, will feature in its own Meet the Roaster in due course, so this Coffee Spot will focus on the espresso bar. There’s a single-origin on espresso, with a different one on pour-over through the Clever Dripper. These change every month or so, although Jo, the man behind Triple Co Roast, doesn’t roast for a specific extraction method, so you may find a given coffee on espresso one month and on pour-over the next.
Milk Teeth is one of a new band of speciality coffee shops in Bristol, opening in March last year following a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s in Saint Paul’s, the area to the east of Stokes Croft, and is very firmly rooted in the local community, with the owner, Josh, who cut his teeth at the Boston Tea Party, living a couple of streets away.
Occupying a long, thin space facing the street, it’s actually just off Portland Square. It’s a friendly, welcoming space, which is open well into the evenings. Some have likened it to a social enterprise, but Josh dislikes the term, since he believes that all business can (and should) be carried out in a socially-conscious way. For Milk Teeth, this means using local suppliers and supporting local business, including using Milk Teeth to provide micro-finance to local start-ups.
Milk Teeth serves Extract’s Cast Iron blend on espresso, with rotating guest filter coffees on either bulk-brew or V60. Keeping it local, this includes Clifton Coffee Roasters, Roasted Rituals and Triple Co Roast. As well as coffee, there’s tea (Josh’s first love) and food, with concise breakfast and lunch menus. There’s also a range of local produce available to buy.
Ezra & Gil was one of several coffee shops which opened in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in 2015, although it was always a little different, occupying a large spot, its focus as much on food, plus a small area selling various provisions up by the counter. Now there’s a second, albeit smaller, member of the Ezra & Gil family, Ezra To Go on the eastern edge of the Northern Quarter, just down Tib Street from North Tea Power and across the road from Siop Shop.
Don’t let the name fool you though. Ezra To Go has plenty of seating, particularly in the adjacent space, a lifestyle shop called Ezra’s Utilities, so you are welcome to stay. However, the concept is that everything is either pre-prepared or, if it’s off the main menu, quick, which includes the coffee (no pour-over here or filter).
The menu’s necessarily cut down from Ezra & Gil, but nevertheless puts many coffee shops to shame. There’s porridge, plus various things on toast, including eggs and avocado. If you can’t wait that long, there are plenty of pre-prepared sandwiches, which can be toasted, plus soup of the day, salad and quiche, and, of course, a selection of cake.
When it comes to railways, I have a romantic streak a mile wide. However, railway coffee and station coffee shops, with the notable exception of the likes of Coffee Affair, can sometimes be disappointing. Step forward Porter, a relatively new addition to Madison’s speciality coffee scene, located in the city’s old railway station. The (passenger) trains may have long gone, but Porter has recreated the atmosphere quite nicely, especially outside, where you can sit on the old platform.
Serving Counter Culture from North Carolina, Porter has the Hologram espresso blend, plus different single-origins on guest espresso, pour-over, bulk-brew (drip) and on tap (cold brew). The coffee menu comes in two parts, a more mass-market-based left-hand side with lattes and drip coffee offered in sizes of 8/12/16oz, and a more speciality-orientated right-hand side with cortados and flat whites.
Porter also offers a range of made-to-order and pre-made sandwiches, plus other breakfast and lunch options. There’s the usual selection of beans and coffee equipment for sale, but, unusually, they’re joined by items you’re more like to find in a delicatessen or grocers: tinned tomatoes, sardines, cured meats, cheese and a select range of spirits were just some of the things I noticed.
25A Old Market is the younger sibling of No 12 Easton, and, like No 12, it has the virtue of using its address as its name. In this case, it’s on Bristol’s Old Market Street, east of the city centre and north of Temple Meads station, but within easy walking distance of both. As well as being a coffee shop of some note, the other thing it shares with No 12 is that it’s a deli and general provisions store.
Occupying a bright, uncluttered spot on the north side of Old Market Street, a relatively small street front belies the sizable interior. There’s limited seating upstairs with a communal table and two small bars, while downstairs, in a basement half open to the front window, is more seating in the shape of a couple of tables and a very comfortable-looking sofa.
The local Extract Coffee Roasters provide the house-espresso and a seasonal filter blend (available through the Clever Dripper) while regular guests make appearances on both espresso and filter. There’s also a wide range of (Extract) beans to buy. While it doesn’t have No 12’s extensive food menu, there are also decent breakfast, lunch and cake options if you’re hungry.
No 12 Easton is a little off the beaten track, although it’s not that far off the beaten track. On the eastern side of the M32 and a few minutes’ walk from Bristol’s Stapleton Road station, I was first put onto it by twitter’s Bristol Café Watcher. Occupying an interestingly-shaped corner of the High Street, No 12 is a little bit of everything: coffee shop, café, deli, grocer, off-licence and community hang-out space.
If I’m honest, I had my doubts. I’m firmly in the “do a few things and do them well camp” and was worried that the coffee wouldn’t be up to much. However, I should have more faith in Café Watcher: No 12 serves some excellent coffee and, talking to owner Chris, there are aspirations to do a lot more, although perhaps not at No 12 itself.
As it is, No 12 serves a standard espresso-based menu using a cast of rotating roasters. During my visit, Extract was in the hopper, the roastery literally located on the other side of the motorway. There’s a selection of loose-leaf teas (with cups for one, pots for two or more), cake, an innovative hot food menu, and well-stocked deli and grocery counters.
Ezra & Gil’s one of the many Manchester Coffee Spots that popped up in 2015. In Ezra & Gil’s case, it’s in good company, sitting on the corner of Hilton and Newton Streets, almost equidistant between TAKK and Foundation Coffee House (which I finally visited a mere 18 months later). The likes of Fig + Sparrow and North Tea Power are also nearby. You could do a coffee-crawl taking in all five, while walking less than ½ km!
I discovered Ezra & Gil, which opened in late July, primarily through social media, where I was tempted by picture after picture of some lovely-looking food. Unsurprisingly, Ezra & Gil is as much about the food as it is about the coffee, as well as selling a range of groceries on the side. In this respect, it reminded me of Bridport’s Soulshine Café. Ezra, by the way, is Hebrew for “helper”, while Gil means “happiness”.
The food, with an impressive all-day breakfast range and lots of other goodies, is cooked on-site in a large kitchen behind the counter, while the coffee is from local roasters Heart & Graft. The famous Barnraiser blend’s on espresso, with a single-origin on V60 for filter fans.
November 2017: Ezra & Gil now uses another Manchester roaster, ManCoCo, with its standard espresso blend, plus a single-origin on V60.
Bridport is not necessarily where you would expect to find a great coffee shop. However, 15 miles west of Dorchester, Bridport boasts not one, but two excellent coffee shops: Box Office Coffee [now sadly closed] and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Soulshine Café, both of which opened in 2014.
Located on South Street (one of Bridport’s two main streets), at first there doesn’t seem much to Soulshine. The wide, bright shop front has three-person window-bars either side of the door and a handsome counter running in front of the back wall, but that’s about it.
If that’s all there was to it, Soulshine would still be a pretty good spot, but actually this is just a prelude of what’s to come. Head down a long, produce-lined corridor to the left of the counter and you’ll find yourself in Soulshine proper, a large, light-filled space that stretches out ahead of you. Even better, right at the back, the patio-doors look out onto a wonderful, secluded, sheltered courtyard.
Soulshine is built around three pillars of high-quality, locally-sourced organic food, juice and coffee. The latter comes from Bristol’s Extract (house-blend and decaf), with regularly-rotating guest roasters on the second espresso. There’s also an Aeropress option.
I must confess that “The Dry Goods Store” does not immediately strike me as the obvious name for a coffee shop. However, on further reflection, what are coffee beans other than dry goods? It’s only the finished product that is wet… And, in fairness, Dry Goods is far more than just a coffee shop. It combines the twin passions of its owner, Yasmeen: excellent coffee and cutting down on food/packaging waste.
Tucked away on a parade of shops, restaurants and delicatessens (I can recommend La Piccola Dely) in the leafy northwest London streets of Maida Vale, Dry Goods is a delightful place. It’s on Lauderdale Road, near its confluence with Elgin Avenue, Castellain Road and Morshead Road. It might only be a kilometre from the hustle and bustle of Paddington and its surroundings, but it’s a very different, and much more peaceful world.
Dry Goods is a throw-back to shops of a generation or two ago. It sells a range of, well, dry (food) goods including some excellent coffee beans from London roasters Volcano. However, it’s not just a bean retailer, since, perched on the end of the counter is a single-group espresso machine dispensing some lovely coffee.
January 2017: Sadly, Dry Goods has closed, with Yasmeen moving on to other things, but still within the sustainability movement. I wish her every success in her new endeavours.