A black-and-white cartoon of a man's head, holding a coffee cup to his ear, as if he is listening to it. This appears above the letters "BOP".Bop is the latest addition to Porto’s small, but growing (and home-grown) speciality coffee scene. Located just north of the city centre, it’s around the corner from the wonderful Mercado do Bolhão, an amazing, but rather run-down old-fashioned food market. From the outside, Bop looks much like any Portuguese café/bar. It’s only when you step inside that you begin to suspect that something’s not quite right.

For starters, there are record players in alcoves on the right-hand wall and hundreds of vinyl LPs stacked up behind the counter to the left. What’s that all about? Go up to the bar (or peruse the menu outside) and you see another clue. Alongside the obligatory espresso machine and an old-style bulk-brew filter machine, Bop offers a V60 option, the brew-bar front and centre on the counter. You’ve definitely come to the right place!

As if that wasn’t enough, Bop is actually the café/bar it looked like from the outside, with draught and bottled beer, wine and spirits, plus opening hours that extend into early morning! There are also separate breakfast/bagel, lunch and bar-snack menus. The coffee is from local roaster, Vernazza, with a blend on espresso, plus two single-origin options on V60.

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Mesa 325

Mesa 325, written in white stencil on the grey concrete wall of Mesa 325.I went to Porto last month in search of Port and in the expectation of the excellent company of my friends, Dave, Ian and Lev. I did not expect to find any speciality coffee, except that which I had brought with me. However, Porto, it turns out, has a lot more speciality coffee than I had bargained for, led by the very excellent Mesa 325. The scene is still very new, though, with Mesa, in many ways the trailblazer, only having been open for just over two years.

Mesa uses a local roaster, Vernazza, offering a fairly standard espresso menu, plus “slow coffee” (which, it turns out, is filter coffee, a single-origin through the Chemex). There’s also Vietnamese coffee (with condensed milk) and affogato (espresso over ice cream). However, this is Portugal, so there’s not just coffee: Mesa has a wide range of cakes/pastries (some Portuguese and some less so) and there’s locally-brewed craft beer, whiskey, port (obviously) and loose-leaf tea.

The setting’s a lovely, cool, stone-lined room, firmly placing Mesa in third-wave coffee territory, rather than Portuguese café territory. Long and thin, Mesa is surprisingly bright, with windows at the front, counter at the back and seating in between.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Porto

A view of Porto from across the Douro, with the Ribeira in the foreground at the river's edge and the Torre dos Clérigos at the top of the hill.Today’s Travel Spot is something of a surprise feature, certainly to me. I went to Porto last weekend with my friends Dave, Ian and Lev (I like friends with short, concise names: makes life so much easier). It was basically a weekend away with a chance to catch up and buy some port. They were flying back on Monday, but I’d decided to tack on a couple of days in Lisbon at the end, partly because I’d not been there for over 10 years, and partly to check out a couple of speciality coffee shops I’d heard about.

However, when it came to Porto, I really wasn’t expecting to find much in the way of good coffee. I had fond memories from previous trips of stylish European cafés with lots of excellent cakes, but when I asked around before the trip, my Porto friends said there wasn’t anything that I would recognise as speciality coffee. Not to worry, I thought, as I packed my beans, cafetiere, grinder, Aeropress and scales. After all, coffee wasn’t the primary purpose of the trip.

As it turned out, I was in for a surprise. Porto does, after all, have speciality coffee…

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