Two years ago, Grasshopper Café contacted me on twitter to say that it was opening in Hope, in the heart of the Peak District. I duly put a star on Google Maps to mark its location and then, if I’m honest, I rather forgot about it. Last Monday, planning my route back from Sheffield to my Dad’s in North Wales, I noticed the aforementioned star and thought I would drive through the Peak District and call in along the way…
From the outside, Grasshopper Café could be mistaken for a typical village tea room. However, anything more than a casual glance reveals that there’s a lot more to it than that, with the A-board and signs on the walls proudly proclaiming its speciality coffee heritage. The coffee in question comes from Smith Street Coffee Roasters from Sheffield, with its Dark Peak blend on espresso, Five Arches on decaf and a guest espresso on the third grinder.
If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s a range of interestingly-named teas from Birdhouse Tea Company (also from Sheffield), while if you are hungry, there are full breakfast and lunch menus, plus homemade cakes, all prepared in the small kitchen tucked away beside the counter.
It’s been just over three years since I visited Foundry Coffee Roasters, who can claim to be Sheffield’s first speciality coffee roasters. Even then, chatting with Lee and Callum, the two driving forces behind Foundry, it was obvious that a café was on the roadmap, although it would be almost another two years before that particular dream became a reality and Foundry Coffee opened its doors on Bank Street in January 2017. Of course, it was then another year before I eventually dragged myself back to the city, paying Foundry a flying visit yesterday lunchtime.
As you would expect, the café is a showcase for Foundry’s coffee, although rather than bamboozle the customers with choice, there are just two options, called Comfort and Adventure, the former a more “conventional” coffee (a washed Guatemalan during my visit) and the latter a bit more far out (a washed Ethiopian). These are available as espresso or pour-over through the V60, with the particular beans changing every month or so, drawn from Foundry’s wider selection of single-origin beans. This is backed up by Kokoa Collection hot chocolate and tea from Birdhouse Tea Company. There’s also breakfast, lunch and a range of cake and sandwiches.
Milk Teeth is one of a new band of speciality coffee shops in Bristol, opening in March last year following a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s in Saint Paul’s, the area to the east of Stokes Croft, and is very firmly rooted in the local community, with the owner, Josh, who cut his teeth at the Boston Tea Party, living a couple of streets away.
Occupying a long, thin space facing the street, it’s actually just off Portland Square. It’s a friendly, welcoming space, which is open well into the evenings. Some have likened it to a social enterprise, but Josh dislikes the term, since he believes that all business can (and should) be carried out in a socially-conscious way. For Milk Teeth, this means using local suppliers and supporting local business, including using Milk Teeth to provide micro-finance to local start-ups.
Milk Teeth serves Extract’s Cast Iron blend on espresso, with rotating guest filter coffees on either bulk-brew or V60. Keeping it local, this includes Clifton Coffee Roasters, Roasted Rituals and Triple Co Roast. As well as coffee, there’s tea (Josh’s first love) and food, with concise breakfast and lunch menus. There’s also a range of local produce available to buy.
As I have noted before, Witney is not necessarily where you’d expect to find top-notch coffee shop. Impressive, then, that it’s home to several excellent places, including Coffeesmith, which was Witney’s first speciality coffee shop. These days Coffeesmith is part of a small chain of independent coffee shops, which include an old inn and an outpost in the Lake District, although this is where it all started just to the east of Witney’s Market Square on a quiet, pedestrianised street.
Occupying a simple, open space, with plenty of seats and a cluster of tables outside, Coffeesmith is a welcoming spot which attracts a wide-ranging local clientele, as well as the occasional passing coffee blogger. However, it’s far from the average café, with coffee from Origin on espresso and pour-over through V60/Aeropress. There’s also tea, hot chocolate, juices, smoothies and beer. If you’re hungry, the brunch menu features the likes of toast, porridge, bacon butties and various bagels and grilled sandwiches. If you fancy something less bread-based, there’s soup and salads, plus an ever-changing range of interesting specials chalked up above the counter. All of this is backed up with a range of cakes, while there’s fresh sourdough bread for sale.
Exeter’s growing speciality coffee scene is mostly concentrated in and around the centre, particularly since Darkhorse Espresso out on the Magdalen Road closed a couple of years ago. However, this is changing with the appropriately-named Magdalen Road Bakery, a bakery (the clue’s in the name) which doubles as a lovely café, serving breakfast, lunch and speciality coffee from Origin. There’s the ubiquitous Pathfinder blend, which is joined on espresso by decaf, while there’s also a single-origin batch-brew filter.
All the bread, as well as the cakes and pastries, are baked on-site, while all the food’s prepared at the back on an open counter-top kitchen. There’s not much seating, just two long benches, one at the front, where you get the smell of the coffee being ground, and one at the back, where you get the smell of baking in the morning and cooking throughout the day. Either way, you win.
Stockbridge, between Winchester and Salisbury on the A30, is, in many ways, a stereotypical English country town. The long, broad, straight High Street which runs through the centre of town is lined with quaint cottages, independent shops, country pubs and old-fashioned tea rooms. And a speciality coffee shop. Well, maybe not that stereotypical after all.
Coffee Lab is the rapidly-growing mini-chain, spreading out from its home in Winchester through Hampshire (as far east as Chichester) and Wiltshire (as far west as Gloucester), with a Midlands outpost to the north in Leamington Spa (opening soon). Meanwhile its march southwards has only been stopped by the sea. The Stockbridge branch is towards the Salisbury end of the High Street, above a pizza restaurant with excellent views up and down the High Street.
The coffee, as ever, is from The Roasting Party, with two blends on espresso, the house-blend (Create) and a second (Thrive). If you want filter coffee, there is a choice of two single-origins (a Kenyan Peaberry or a Brazilian during my visit) through V60 or Aeropress, while there’s also loose-leaf tea. If you’re hungry, the Coffee Lab has limited selection of four sandwiches and small selection of cake.
March Coffee is a relatively new name in Exeter’s small but growing speciality coffee scene, opening, appropriately enough, on 1st March 2017. All we really need is for the owner to be called David, but alas, he’s called John, a Devon lad who moved up to London, where he worked for the likes of TAP and Caravan King’s Cross, before returning to Exeter to open his own coffee shop.
March occupies a bright, open space on South Street, just behind the cathedral. The interior is beautifully uncluttered, with a variety of seating options. John, meanwhile, can be found behind the counter at the back, dispensing espresso-based drinks from a lovely three-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, complete with wooden side panels.
The coffee is usually from local roasters, Crankhouse Coffee, although John sometimes rings the changes and gets a different roaster in. The coffee is bought in small batches and when it’s gone, it’s onto something else. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s tea from Canton Tea Co, just up the road in Bristol, as well as soft drinks from Luscombe. If you’re hungry, there are sandwiches and an impressive selection of cake for you to choose from.
The Pocket, in Belfast, is south of the city centre, down on University Road, opposite Queen’s University. It was one of the places that practically everyone said I should visit, a quirky little spot with some great outdoor seating and an Alice in Wonderland inspired theme, although it’s fairly subtle, so you could miss it if you’re not paying attention.
Although it’s relatively small, there’s a large kitchen tucked away down a corridor at the back which produces a concise but impressive brunch menu, served until four o’clock, while it’s joined by lunch from eleven in the morning. There are also a wide selection of cakes, including some awesome doughnuts, if you want something sweeter.
When it comes to coffee, The Pocket serves only single-origins. There are two options on espresso and one on bulk-brew, all of which change on a monthly basis or sooner if The Pocket runs out. The coffee mostly come from Dublin’s 3FE, although fellow Dublin roasters, Cloud Picker, occasionally makes an appearance on the second grinder. There’s a range of loose-leaf teas from Bristol’s Canton Tea Co served in individual infusers and an egg-timer so you know when it’s done.
Exe Coffee Roasters, just outside Exeter city centre, has a modest exterior behind which hides a surprisingly large coffee shop with a roastery in the basement and a brick-fired pizza oven in the back yard. Although it’s only been open since June 2015, in one form or another, Exe Coffee Roasters has been around for a long time. The owner, Steve, was the man behind Devon Coffee, still a fixture on Queen Street in the heart of Exeter, where it’s been for many years.
After years of running coffee events and Devon Coffee, Steve began roasting at the start of 2015, first with a hand-built roaster and now with the 12kg Probat you’ll find in the basement. Although still running coffee events, Devon Coffee was sold over the summer to allow Steve to concentrate on roasting.
Exe Coffee Roasters produces a seasonal espresso blend and two or three single-origins which are available through the V60 or Aeropress, with the option of a Chemex for groups. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and a small selection of local craft beers and cider. Finally, there’s a similarly small selection of cake, toast and a choice of two toasties.
Providero started life as an old Citroën van, working the Colwyn Bay Sea Front. This, in Llandudno Junction, is Providero’s first bricks-and-mortar store, opening in February 2014, to be joined by a second, bigger store in Llandudno, opening in January 2017. Although I’m a regular visitor to my Dad’s in North Wales, he lives close to the border and I rarely have the time/opportunity to venture further west along the coast. However, after a brief visit to Providero in October, I found myself with both time and a car when I was back over Christmas, so made a beeline for Providero.
The Llandudno Junction branch occupies a compact, two-storey building on the top of a hill, just east of the railway station, so it’s fairly easy to access by public transport. Serving coffee from local roasters Heartland Coffi in nearby Llandudno, there’s a house-blend on espresso, which is joined by a single-origin guest, which changes every month, and decaf, again from Heartland. There’s also a daily batch-brew and, if you don’t want coffee, an impressive range of loose-leaf teas. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cake from Bristol’s Cakesmiths, plus toast, where you have a choice of breads.