Origin at the British Library

The words "ORigiN coffee roasters" in illuminated white on a black backgroundIn the foyer of the British Library on Euston Road, on the right of the doors, opposite the gift shop and next to the Friends of the British Library desk, you’ll find the second London outpost of Cornwall’s Origin. Although calling itself an espresso bar, it’s considerably more than this, and while not quite reaching the heights of the output of Origin’s flagship on Charlotte Road, it’s nonetheless very impressive.

From a small counter in the corner, Origin manages to deliver its seasonal Pathfinder espresso, as well as decaf, plus, (hopefully) by the time you read this, a single-origin espresso too. During the week there’s another single-origin filter on bulk-brew, while at weekends, it’s available through the Aeropress. For those not interested in coffee, there’s a wide range of Canton Tea.

And, on top of all that, well-stocked retail shelves have bags of beans and coffee kit for sale. There’s also food, both sweet and savoury. The sweet comes in the form of cookies, plus Crosstown Doughnuts, while for the savoury, Origin eschews the usual format of sandwiches in favour of a sausage roll for the meat-eaters and a Homity Pie for the vegetarians, which makes a welcome change.

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Dovecot Café by Stag Espresso

A flat white in a classic white cup seen from directly above with a multi-leaf fern motif in the latte art.Dovecot Café, by Stag Espresso, is the in-house café of the Dovecot Contemporary Art Gallery and Tapestry Studio on Edinburgh’s Infirmary Street. It’s been around since 2011, making it an established player Edinburgh’s speciality coffee scene. Despite this, it seems to go under the radar, although I’ve heard consistently good things about it and its occasional pop-ups.

Like 6/8 Kafé’s latest venture inside Birmingham’s Millennium Point, this is speciality coffee in a mainstream setting and, as such, can only be applauded. If only all galleries/museums served coffee to this high standard. Oh well, we can dream.

Stag Espresso uses Lancaster’s J Atkinson & Co., which, as far as I know, is the only place in Edinburgh where you can get it. There’s no pour-over, just a solid espresso-based menu using Atkinson’s Archetype espresso blend, backed up with a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Edinburgh’s Anteaques, a good range of soft drinks and an outstanding cake selection.

Judging by the crowd that was there during my visit (hardly a table was unoccupied), it also does a roaring lunchtime trade, offering sandwiches and soup as the mainstays. Best of all, there’s that rarest of things in speciality coffee, full table service.

December 2015: Richard, of Stag Espresso, has sold up and moved on, with new ownership (Leo’s Beanery) taking over the cafe in the new year…

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6/8 Kafé, Millennium Point

The 6/8 Kafé logo, the numbers "6/8" in black, with the words "six eight" in red beneath them.The original 6/8 Kafé, one of Birmingham’s first specialty coffee shops, is a cosy, compact spot on Temple Row, right in the centre. The new 6/8 Kafé is about as far away from that as you can get in almost every respect except that both serve excellent coffee. Located in Birmingham’s new Millennium Point development, the new 6/8 is filling a valuable niche: serving speciality coffee in a mass-market setting.

Millennium Point is a science centre extraordinaire, housing Birmingham’s Thinktank science museum and faculties from both Birmingham City University and Birmingham Metropolitan College. And 6/8 Kafé. Frankly, I take my hat off to Devinder, 6/8’s owner, both for getting such a high-profile spot and for having the bravery to go for it. It’s exactly the sort of spot you’d expect to see a run-of-the-mill chain, so it’s refreshing to see somewhere serving excellent coffee.

And make no mistake, although Millennium Point lacks the original 6/8 Kafé’s cosy atmosphere, the quality’s every bit as good. The only compromise is dispensing with hand-pour filters, sticking instead to a single Has Bean blend on espresso. That said, it’s a pleasant place to sit and drink your coffee or quickly refuel before/after visiting Thinktank.

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