On a trip to Cardiff a few years ago, I visited the Castle Emporium, a hub of independent one-off shops and businesses, including art, fashion and a barbershop, all set in the halls of what was originally a 1920s cinema. I distinctly remember thinking at the time that what the place needed was a speciality coffee shop. Fast forward to the end of 2016, and my wish became true as Hard Lines Coffee moved into the ground floor.
Hard Lines occupies a counter to the right of the entrance, with some seating opposite. Originally known as Outpost Coffee & Vinyl, Hard Lines sells both coffee and records, specialising in newly-released vinyl. When it comes to coffee, Hard Lines is just as specialised, a true multi-roaster, with rapidly rotating options on both espresso and batch-brew.
Bristol-based Clifton Coffee Roasters and Extract Coffee Roasters, along with Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee, provide the espresso, which changes every week. Meanwhile various roasters appear on batch-brew, with a different one popping up each day. During the afternoon, if it’s quiet, you can ask nicely and staff will make you a pour-over on the Kalita Wave. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cake from old friends Cakesmiths.
October 2017: I’ve learnt that Outpost has re-branded to Hard Lines Coffee, so to avoid confused, I’ve renamed it in this write-up.
Idle Hands, run by the very wonderful Dave & Lucy, started life as a pop-up next to Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. With the building due for redevelopment, this was always going to be a short-term arrangement, but the good news was that about a year after leaving the Piccadilly site, Idle Hands found a new and (at the time) permanent home on Dale Street, moving in on a temporary basis while waiting for the space to be refurbished.
However, just before Dave & Lucy started fitting out the new shop, the landlord abruptly terminated the lease, leaving Idle Hands homeless. For a less determined couple, that would have been the end, but Dave & Lucy picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and, with a ground swell of support from the wider coffee/independent sector in Manchester, found a new temporary home at Grub’s Mayfield site, where I visited one rainy Friday afternoon.
October 2017: Idle Hands is temporarily closed while Dave & Lucy have their baby. In other news, Grub itself has moved from Mayfield to Fairfield Social Club on nearby Temperance Street.
A long time ago (at least, it feels that way) when I regularly visited London, I’d often wander past the Southbank Centre Food Market. Conveniently on the route from Waterloo Station to Hungerford Bridge (as I stubbornly still call the Golden Jubilee Bridges) it was made even better by the presence, at the foot of the stairs, of the Bean About Town coffee van, a lovely, old Citroen, run by the equally lovely, but not so old, Claire (who shares, by the way, her nationality with the van, both being French). It was one of the first places I wrote about on the Coffee Spot.
However, things change, I ceased to be such a regular visitor, and I didn’t notice when the van disappeared from the bottom of the stairs. Then, last Sunday, with an hour to spare, I decided to wander out of Waterloo and have a nose around the market, whereupon I stumbled upon a big sign saying “Coffee” at the far end of the market.
That’s new, I thought to myself. Only it wasn’t. It was the old Citroen van, with Claire still there, pulling shots. “What’s going on?” you might well ask. What’s going on indeed!
Having finally paid a visit to Flat Cap Victoria in last week’s Saturday Short, I thought it was high-time that the Coffee Spot got around to the other Flat Cap, which is tucked away south of the river in London’s Borough Market. Once part of a small fleet of Notes Barrows, Flat Cap Borough is now a standalone operation and, despite the similarities, Flat Cap Borough is independent of Flat Cap Victoria.
There are, however, still close ties to Notes, with all the coffee coming from the Notes Roastery. There are a range of single-origin beans that you can buy, with one of them in the hopper. During my visit, this was a Brazilian Cachoeirinha, a naturally-processed coffee. All the usual espresso-based drinks are there, but otherwise that’s it. If you’re after something to eat with your coffee, never fear. You’re in Borough Market and spoilt for choice!
At the northern end of Strutton Ground Market, not far from Victoria Station, is Flat Cap Victoria, a veteran of London’s speciality coffee scene. For the last eight years, from Monday to Friday, it has been turning out top quality espresso-based drinks in all weathers from a lovely barrow, its only protection from the elements, a black, open-sided gazebo.
Flat Cap was set up by co-owners Fabio (of Notes fame), Rob and Charlie, although Fabio and Rob no longer work on the barrow. Despite being co-owned by Fabio, Flat Cap is independent of Notes (for example, there are no links, other than the name, with Flat Cap Borough in Borough Market), although there are close ties, with Flat Caps using Notes Coffee. There’s a single-origin espresso which changes every few weeks, largely depending on what the roastery sends through. If you’re hungry (and there early enough!), there’s a small range of pastries.
When it comes to speciality coffee south of the river (in London), Federation Coffee has been flying the flag longer than most (almost six years in fact), with three years at its current location in the heart of Brixton Village. Although it now has company in the likes of Balance, Stir and Brixton Blend, Federation’s still a standard-bearer when it comes to speciality coffee in Brixton. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Kent-based roasters, Curve, with regularly-rotating single-origins from Curve and various guests on filter through the ever-reliable Moccamaster.
Federation occupies a couple of units in Brixton Village. You can sit inside or out, where the glass-roofed market arcades make for the perfect location, whatever the weather. Inside, you share the space with the counter, the seating in the windows all around the edges, giving you the perfect spot for people-watching, particularly if you get one of the window-bars.
If you’re hungry, there’s a good selection of cake on offer, backed up by an impressive breakfast/lunch menu, particularly when you consider the small space behind the counter in which the kitchen staff have to work. The menu is largely bread-based, with toast and toasted sandwiches, which suited me just fine.
The CoffeeWorks Project is a small chain of three London coffee shops, which, since the summer of 2016, has also become a roaster as well. I first came across is towards the end of 2013 when there was just one, the original in the Angel. Despite liking it immensely, it’s taken me three years to visit its second branch in Leadenhall Market in the heart of the City.
One of the many attractions of the original is the rambling space it occupies, which includes several interconnected spaces and a gorgeous downstairs garden to the rear of the property. In contrast, I went past the Leadenhall Market branch several times, but, from the street, it never looked that appealing. Its chipboard walls and counter gave it a slightly unfinished look and it never struck me as somewhere I would enjoy sitting and having my coffee, so I passed on by.
However, fate has a way of resolving these things. Last year, I met up my friend Oksana for coffee and we went to the Leadenhall Market CoffeeWorks Project. Far from finding it unappealing, I loved it and so I returned with my Coffee Spot hat on late one afternoon in December…
September 2018: Sadly I’ve learned that the Leadenhall Market branch has closed. However, the good news is that CoffeeWorks Project is going strong and how has five branches!
One of the Coffee Spot’s tag lines is “places I like to have coffee”, so today’s Saturday (on-a-Wednesday) Supplement is something of a departure for me since I’m not sure I’d describe Cafe X as somewhere I’d like to have coffee. Somewhere I’d go to get coffee, perhaps, but it’s definitely not somewhere to have coffee. However, there I was on Monday, in San Francisco, minding my own business, when Cafe X announced its grand opening. A block from my hotel. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so along I went.
So, what is Cafe X? Well, put simply, it’s an automated coffee shop, with a pair of high-end bean-to-cup machines and a robot arm that takes the place of the barista. There’s a choice of beans from local roasters, such as Verve (Santa Cruz) and Oakland’s AKA (previously known as Supersonic), plus a fairly standard selection of espresso-based drinks, but only one size (8oz). You order using one of the tablets attached to the Cafe X kiosk, or preferably ahead of time on your phone using the Cafe X app. Typically your coffee will be waiting for you in under a minute. Well, that’s the theory…
My final instalment from this summer’s trip to Copenhagen is perhaps its most famous name in coffee, the Coffee Collective. Known across Europe for the standard of its roasting, the Coffee Collective also has three coffee shops: the original, out to the west of the centre, the second, in the nearby roastery, and this, its third, right in the heart of the city at Torvehallerne, once again demonstrating that speciality coffee can thrive in the mainstream if done properly.
Torvehallerne is a food and produce market, which reminds me of Boston’s Public Market, where George Howell is doing a similar thing. The Coffee Collective occupies a long counter at the end of the eastern of Torvehallerne’s twin halls. There’s plenty of space, and a limited amount of seating in the shape of window-bars, although you can also take your coffee and make use of any of the public seating areas.
Talking of the coffee, it’s what you come here for. There’s a choice of a blend, single-origin or decaf through the Kees van der Westen espresso machine, or you can have one of three single-origins as a Kalita Wave pour-over, with a fourth on bulk-brew if you’re in a hurry.
George Howell is a something of a legend in American speciality coffee. He made his name as a roaster, but recently George, as his staff refer to him, has started opening coffee shops under the George Howell brand, starting in Newtonville in 2012. This, the subject of today’s Saturday Short, is the first branch in Boston, in the high-profile, newly-opened Boston Public Market, while a second Boston branch in the Godfrey Hotel on Washington Street opened this summer.
Boston Public Market is home to a high-quality espresso/coffee bar, catering primarily to the takeaway market, but with proper cups for espresso and glasses for cortados. It’s an impressive operation, with house-blend, single-farm and decaf on espresso, plus further single-farm coffees for the iced-coffee, bulk-brew (coffee of the week) and individual pour-overs, courtesy of twin Marco Beverage Systems SP9s. You can buy retail bags of coffee, plus various merchandising and coffee-related kit.