Story Coffee on St John’s Hill in South West London is one of the capital’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having first opened in 2014. I took my time in visiting, only calling in for the first time towards the end of the September last year, when I found, to my surprise, that Story Coffee had a second branch, a little sibling if you like, called Story Works, just down the hill at the back of Clapham Junction.
Much smaller than the original, Story Works has a cut-down offering while retaining many similarities with Story Coffee, including a gorgeous two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. Like Story Coffee, there’s a single option on espresso, but pour-over has given way to batch-brew. Similarly, while there is food, Story Coffee’s brunch menu has been replaced by avocado on toast, grab-and-go salads and superfood smoothies, although there’s still a good selection of cake.
Kream Coffee is part of the small, but growing, speciality coffee scene in and around Phoenix. It’s another of those places which I came across during my second visit to Phoenix last year, prompting me to make an excursion outside of my usual Scottsdale haunts. In this case I went just north of downtown Phoenix, where Kream is somewhat incongruously located inside a design shop on North Central Avenue.
However, don’t let that put you off. If anything, it’s a bonus, since it makes for some very pleasant surroundings, while when it comes to the coffee, Kream is top-notch. A multi-roaster, it draws on a cast of five roasters, some of the best in the US, to bring you awesome espresso and batch-brew, where there’s a different single-origin every day. The espresso, meanwhile, changes once or twice a week. You can also buy retail bags to take home with you.
Stan’s Bike Shack has been on my radar for almost all of its 4½ years of existence. Between the villages of Partridge Green and Bines Green in West Sussex, it’s on the Downs Link, a 37 mile cycle route from St Martha’s Hill, near my home in Guildford, to Shoreham-by-Sea on the south coast. Heading south, Stan’s Bike Shed is about ⅔ of the way along, slightly too far for me to walk in a day, which might explain why it’s taken me so long to visit.
Stan’s Bike Shack is one of those places where the name pretty much says it all. It’s a shack (and a very nice one at that) located just off the road linking the two villages, which welcomes cyclists and walkers. It serves Craft House Coffee on espresso and batch-brew, with all-day breakfasts, sandwiches and cake, all prepared in the open kitchen behind the counter.
This is the last of a sequence of three Saturday-on-a-Wednesday Shorts from my trip to Beijing this time last year. Metal Hands Coffee Co. is a rapidly-expanding coffee shops/roaster chain which, having only started in 2016, already had four shops by the time I visited in December 2017. These are all centred on Wudaoying Hutong, a narrow old-fashioned alley in the Andingmen Residential District, home to the original Metal Hands.
The subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Metal Hands White Space, is just a few doors along Wudaoying Hutong from the original. It’s a similar size and shape, but otherwise they are like chalk and cheese, with White Space taking a very clean, modern (and above all white) look to its décor. The coffee offering, however, is the same, with a standard espresso-based menu using a house-blend, plus four single-origins, which are available either as cold brew or through the V60.
The Wudaoying Hutong in Beijing, northeast of the centre near the 2nd Ring Road, is a hot bed of speciality coffee. Home to last week’s Coffee Spot, Metal Hands Coffee Co, as well a second branch, Metal Hands White Space, which is a few doors down to the west, if you head a few doors east, you’ll come to today’s Coffee Spot, Barista Speciality Coffee & Roasters. And if you thought that Metal Hands and White Space were small, then Barista Speciality Coffee is even smaller, by some considerable margin!
Despite this, it still manages to offer a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, plus four single-origin pour-overs, all roasted in-house. There’s also cold brew, plus a choice of croissant, bagel or fruit cheesecake. All of this is served in a long, thin space with just enough room for the counter on the left and a small corridor on the right!
Metal Hands Coffee Co is a small Beijing roaster/coffee shop chain which started in July 2016 with this, the original. When I visited, exactly a year ago in December 2017, following a tip-off that morning from the barista at Soloist Coffee, it had already expanded to four coffee shops, all in a small area in the Andingmen Residential District, centred on Wudaoying Hutong, a narrow old-fashioned alley which is home to Metal Hands.
There’s not much to Metal Hands, just a simple store front, with the counter on the right, and seating on the left, plus a small seating area in an annex at the back. However, that doesn’t stop Metal Hands offering a standard espresso-based menu using a house-blend, plus four single-origins which are available through the V60 and as cold brew. The espresso by the way, is pulled on an old-school lever machine after which the shop/chain is named.
For the longest time, London Square has just been a large office complex that I walked past on Guildford’s London Road, opposite London Road Station and Guildford High School. Not anymore. While I was flying around the world and swanning off to Manchester and Rome, Surrey Hills Coffee was busy opening a new branch, to go with this year’s relocation to Jeffries Passage.
Not that you’d know from walking past on the street. The new Surrey Hills Coffee is in a container-style cabin in the car park, its back to the main entrance, facing the offices. It’s cosy looking, instantly reminding me of the Grindsmith Pod in Manchester, only with fewer windows. There are a couple of tables outside, which will come into their own during the warmer weather, while inside a pair of three-person bars provide the seating. When it comes to coffee, the Holmbury Hill blend is on espresso, plus a range of cakes, snacks and, at lunchtime, soup and sandwiches/toasties. Even better, although the customers are primarily take-away, there are proper cups!
When I first came to Rome almost 20 years ago, there were two venerable espresso bars in the centre that came to my attention: Tazza D’Oro, and, on the other side of the Pantheon, today’s Coffee Spot, Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè. Located on the Piazza Di Sant’Eustachio, it actually predates Tazza D’Oro by six years, having first opened in 1938 and, like Tazza D’Oro, it’s a classic Italian espresso bar, although it also has outdoor seating.
Unless you’re sitting outside (where you’ll pay an extra €2.50 for the privilege), you first need to queue up at the till, pay for your espresso, then take the receipt to the counter. This is where you’ll find the main difference, the espresso itself, which, by default is served infused with sugar and, I’ve been told, is Neapolitan style. It’s certainly very different from the other espressos I had during my time in Rome.
I’m pretty good at picking hotels that are close to excellent coffee. On my recent trip to Montréal, my hotel was chosen for its proximity to Paquebot Mont-Royal, while my hotel in Tokyo was close to multiple great coffee shops, including Lattest and Stockholm Roast. However, when it came to Rome, the only criteria was how close it was the various historical sights. The fact that it was under 10 minutes from the best coffee in the city turned out to be entirely coincidental.
Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria is part of a small group which includes a restaurant/deli, bakery, and this, a coffee shop and patisserie, which also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus wine and cocktails, in a small room at the back. I suspect that for most, the sumptuous cakes, pastries and tarts are the main draw, but it also happens that the coffee, from Laboratorio Di Torrefazione Giamaica Caffè in Verona, is the best I’ve had on this trip. There are two blends and a single-origin on espresso, plus multiple single-origins on pour-over.
If I was still doing the Coffee Spot’s Where It All Began Award, Tazza D’Oro would be top of the list. Rome was where I first developed my taste for espresso, almost 20 years ago, and Tazza D’Oro played a large part in that. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Rome, almost nine years in fact, long before I started the Coffee Spot and my taste in coffee has evolved a lot since then.
Tazza D’Oro, the self-styled Casa Del Caffè (House of Coffee), is near the Pantheon, right in the heart of Rome. It’s a traditional Italian espresso bar, right down to having a separate till at the door, where you order and pay for your coffee before taking the receipt to the counter, where one of the baristas will make your drink. If you’re going to do things in true Italian style, you’ll stand there and drink it. Back in the day, I adored Tazza D’Oro. The question is, what will I make of it after all these years?