Alex Does Coffee

Details from the sign hanging on the door of Alex Does CoffeeAlex Does Coffee, part of Bristol’s growing speciality coffee scene, has graced Old Market Street, just  east of the city centre, since June last year, where it’s been joined more recently by 25A Old Market, which sits across the road. Located in spacious surroundings on the ground floor of Two’s Company, a creative hub and studios, Alex Does Coffee pretty much does what it says on the tin, with Alex doing coffee from an espresso machine on a counter at the back of the main space.

Alex Does Coffee has a concise espresso-based menu, focusing on doing a few things well, rather than trying to be all things to all people. The coffee is from the local Extract Coffee Roasters, while there’s also tea, hot chocolate, cold brew and soft drinks. If you want something sweet with your coffee, there’s a small selection of cake, including cookies, waffles and pastries.

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Sarutahiko Coffee Omotesandō

The Sarutahiko Coffee logo from the front of one of its bags of coffee.Sarutahiko Coffee is a small, but growing, coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. This branch shares space with a bookshop and travel agent in HIS, a multi-level shop on a quiet street near my office, one of several excellent coffee options within a five minutes’ walk. It’s also another recommendation from the Commodities Connoisseur (although he visited the flagship Ebisu branch).

Sarutahiko roasts all its own coffee, a considerable selection of which is on sale at the Omotesandō branch. There is a variety of espresso-based drinks, either hot or over ice, while there’s a large range of single-origins (six) and blends (five) available as pour-over using the V60. Although there’s plenty of seating, the Omotesandō branch is rather unusual in that it only serves coffee in takeaway cups, so be sure to bring your own.

Sarutahiko has several neat features. For example, although it’s counter service, you are given a playing card when you order, with an identical playing card being put down on the counter with your coffee, so you know which one is yours. On the retail side, each coffee has a card with tasting and origin notes, with the card’s colour indicating the darkness of the roast. Genius!

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% Arabica, Fujii Daimaru

The % Arabica logo for the wall of the store in the Fujii Daimaru Department Store, Kyoto.% Aribica is a Kyoto-based roaster/coffee shop chain which was one of Caffeine Magazine’s top recommendations. However, I couldn’t make it to either of its main stores. Instead, I’m indebted to Commodities Connoisseur for the heads-up about the branch inside the Fujii Daimaru Department Store, which, for my purposes, had the advantage of being open until eight o’clock in the evening.

Serving the house-blend and a single-origin on espresso from a very limited menu, it’s a surprisingly pleasant environment in which to sit down and rest your weary legs between sight-seeing stops. You can also buy beans and a small range of merchandising, including branded cups and containers, while if you’re hungry, there’s no problem picking something up from the food hall in the basement and munching it at % Arabica with your coffee. A word to the wise: it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own!

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Kaido Books and Coffee

A single-origin Yirgacheffe from And Coffee Roasters, served in a classic black cup by Kaido Books & CoffeeKaido Books and Coffee is just down the street from my third (and final) hotel of my trip. I’ve done extremely well when it comes to good coffee near hotels/work on this trip and Kaido (plus a branch of Blue Bottle at Shinagawa Station) is the icing on the cake. It was also an unexpected surprise, a random discovery as I explored the rather lovely residential street I found myself staying on.

Kaido Books and Coffee does what it says on the tin: a book shop combined with a coffee shop. In fairness, though, it’s more like a coffee shop with plenty of books. In fact, I didn’t see anyone buy a book the whole time I was there! It seems that the books are more for the customers to browse as they linger over their coffee.

Kaido serves coffee from And Coffee Roasters and Ishikawa Coffee, although while I was there, all of the coffee on offer was from And Coffee. There was a choice of three single-origins (two Ethiopians and a Brazilian) on pour-over through the V60, one of which was also available on espresso. Kaido does a limited range of food, which includes a small cake selection.

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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.

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Coffeewerk + Press

The design part of Coffeewerk + Press in Galway: a fantastic desk lamp from the design shop on the first floor.Coffeewerk + Press was the one place that practically everyone, including my friends in Galway, recommended that I visit. Be warned though, it’s not your typical coffee shop. Spread over three floors of a narrow building, there’s seating outside in the form of three two-person tables, while inside, the counter occupies the back of the ground floor, with the seating spread out over the upper two floors. The first of these is a design store, with benches along the wall and a smattering of chairs, while right at the top is an art gallery, with a handful of chairs.

When it comes to coffee, don’t visit Coffeewerk + Press expecting to sample the best of Irish roasters. Coffeewerk’s unapologetically international, with a house-blend & decaf on espresso from Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective and single-origin pour-overs from roasters across Europe and beyond (including Japan and the USA). You can also buy the beans. If you’re hungry, there is a small, but excellent, selection of cake and chocolate. The main downside is that Coffeewerk only uses takeaway cups, even if you’re sitting in, so be prepared to bring your own (this is due to licencing problems rather than any active decision from Coffeewerk).

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George Howell, Godfrey Hotel

Detail from the wall of the George Howell Coffee Shop in the Godfrey Hotel in BostonFor a long time, downtown Boston was a desert when it came to speciality coffee. However, in the last couple of years, that’s all changed. For example, local roasters, Gracenote, moved in with an espresso bar near South Station, while this year, another personal favourite, Render Coffee, opened its second branch, Render Coffee 121, on Devonshire Street, around the corner from Japanese import, Ogawa Coffee. And then there’s George Howell, the American speciality coffee legend from Acton, whose coffee bar in the Boston Public Market opened  last year, joined in June by his latest venture, a coffee shop inside the Godfrey Hotel, on Washington Street in the heart of downtown Boston.

This is a busy, compact spot, at one level a typical, bustling mainstream coffee shop, but at the same time, a haven for the coffee geek, with a dedicated room, the Exploratorium, for retail sales and home to daily talks, events and masterclasses. The coffee stands up against the best, with the Alchemy Blend joined by a single-origin and decaf on espresso. There are a further four single-origins on pour-over (including one decaf), plus bulk-brew. Unusually for America, the usual cake is joined by a more substantial breakfast/lunch offering.

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Render Coffee 121

The Render Coffee Logo, a coffee cup seen from above, painted on the window at 121 Devonshire Street in Boston.Not long after I left Boston on my previous trip in 2016, Render Coffee opened its second branch, continuing a recent theme of speciality coffee moving into the heart of downtown Boston. Just around the corner from downtown pioneers, Ogawa Coffee, you’ll find Render Coffee 121, appropriately enough, on 121 Devonshire Street.

The first thing to say is that this is a totally different space from the original Render on Columbus Avenue. It’s inside the CIC office building, serving as an in-house café as well as being open to the public. The space, in comparison to Columbus Avenue, is huge, with high ceilings and a broad frontage onto Devonshire Street. However, both are long and thin, although 121 is probably four to five times as wide as the Columbus Avenue branch, but goes just as far back.

Despite these differences, the coffee is just as good at 121. With offerings from Portland’s Tandem Coffee Roasters and the local Gracenote Coffee, you’ll often find the same coffee at both branches, but each manager has discretion to order what they like, so there may be differences. Unlike Columbus Avenue, there’s no breakfast/lunch menus, but you’ll find a similarly excellent selection of cake.

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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.

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Café Integral, Chicago

A cup of the Casablanca single-origin Nicaraguan by Cafe Integral, made with the Modbar pour-over module using a Chemex.Although I didn’t visit the city on this trip, to celebrate my return to the Chicago area, I present Monday’s Coffee Spot, Café Integral. I first came across Café Integral in New York City this time last year when I visited its original location, inside the American Two Shot clothing store. Naturally, I was keen to try out the Chicago branch, which is in the lobby of the Freehand Hotel in Chicago’s River North. This came highly recommended by none other than champion flat white inhaler, Runaway Kiwi. She’d checked it out earlier in the year, declaring it her favourite place in Chicago. You can’t get a better endorsement than that!

What makes Café Integral stand out from the crowd is its focus on Nicaraguan coffee. The Vega family, which owns Café Integral, has close ties with several farms in the country. There are now two coffee shops in New York as well as this one in Chicago, which makes it a national chain. Sort of. All the coffee is sourced in Nicaragua and roasted in Brooklyn. There’s usually one option on espresso, bulk-brew and pour-over, all backed up by a small, but interesting food menu and decent cake selection.

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