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.
200 Degrees, the Nottingham-based roaster, only opened its first café three years ago. Then, last year, came second Nottingham outlet, down by the station, plus, in the shape of the Birmingham200 Degrees, its first coffee shop outside Nottingham. However, 200 Degrees was only getting started. In a flurry of activity, starting in December 2016, the Leeds branch opened, followed by Cardiff in April. And then there’s the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, the Leicester 200 Degrees, which opened a month before Cardiff.
If you’re familiar with 200 Degrees, then the Leicester branch will hold few surprises. Like those that have gone before it, 200 Degrees has taken an iconic building (in this case, a jewellers in an Art Deco building) and turned it into a lovely coffee shop. All the staples are there: a plush, well-appointed interior, plenty of wood and exposed brick, plus some amazing light-fittings.
The coffee also holds no surprises, with Brazilian Love Affair, the house espresso, joined by the interestingly-named Mellowship Slinky Decaf and a single-origin guest espresso, plus another single-origin on filter, all roasted in-house. There’s cold-brew on tap, plus the usual food options, including breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads and bucket-loads of cake.
Given its size, Leicester is not blessed with many speciality coffee shops, but those that it has are large by industry standards. Chief amongst these is the venerable St Martin’s, tucked away in the delightful St Martin’s Square, after which it was named. Talking of which, it goes by many names. Having started life as St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants, it’s also known as St Martin’s Coffee Roasters and, three evenings a week (Thursday to Saturday), Crafty, which is when it turns itself into a burger restaurant.
St Marin’s was started by husband & wife team, Andy & Ellie, and recently underwent a major refurbishment when the roasting operation moved out to a dedicated facility about 10 minutes’ walk away. Spread over two spacious floors, there’s plenty of seating both upstairs and down, with a mix of tables big and small, plus the occasional window-bar, sofa and comfy chair. Add to that a large outdoor seating area and you’re spoiled for choice.
St Martin’s has a blend on espresso and a regularly-rotating single-origin batch-brew, all roasted in-house. There’s a wide selection of tea, plus decent breakfast and lunch menus, everything being prepared in the kitchen next to the counter.
Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery is part of Nottingham’s speciality coffee explosion, which saw a cluster of openings over the summer of 2016. It joined the likes of The Speciality Coffee Shop and Outpost Coffee, along with more established players, such as 200 Degrees and Wired Café Bar. As the name suggests, Cartwheel is both café and roastery, the roasting taking place at the back of the store using an innovative 2.5 kg electric roaster. There’s an impressive food offering, with full breakfast and lunch menus, plus pre-prepared sandwiches and salads for those in a hurry. Of course, there’s plenty of cake, plus a choice of six Postcard Teas and multiple soft drinks.
However, the main draw is the coffee. When I visited in the summer, just six weeks after Cartwheel had opened, there was a Brazilian single-origin espresso, with a choice of three single-origins on pour-over (for one) or Syphon (for two). There are plans to change this slightly, keeping the Brazilian for milk-based espresso drinks, but offering espresso (including long blacks and Americanos) as a brew method alongside the pour-over filter and syphon, the idea being to have three or four single-origins available through any of the brew methods.
I first came across Outpost Coffee Roasters when I visited Nottingham in the summer of 2015. Back then, Outpost was an up-and-coming roaster with a very impressive training room in the city centre. Fast forward exactly a year to the day, and I was back in Nottingham, this time with my Caffeine Magazine hat on. Amongst the crop of new coffee shops which had opened that summer was none other than Outpost Coffee, the roaster’s first coffee bar. And if the address seems familiar, so it should, since it’s almost directly under the training room!
Outpost Coffee isn’t huge, being about three times as wide as it is deep. There’s just enough space for a counter at the back and a line of four tables along the window, plus a two-person table against the left-hand wall. Being the coffee-bar arm of the roastery, there is, as you would expect, a considerable range of coffee on offer, including a single-origin on espresso, another on batch-brew through the ever-reliable Moccamaster and a third on Japanese ice brew. These are joined by four single-origins on the brew bar and a blend on cold-brew. There’s also cake and a small selection of food.
The Speciality Coffee Shop is one of a new crop of Nottingham coffee shops which sprang up this summer, having opened a mere two months before my visit in August. Occupying a corner spot at the western end of Friar Lane in the heart of the city, the Speciality Coffee Shop does what it says on the tin, except it doesn’t actually say it on the tin, the name appearing nowhere on the shop’s considerable façade.
Inside, the layout’s a masterpiece of simplicity, with the sun-drenched front home to some very comfortable-looking armchairs and a sofa. The counter is on the right, a row of tables mirroring it to the left, while at the back, two comfy chairs round things off. The whole place breathes an atmosphere of relaxed, uncluttered calm.
The brainchild of Italian couple, Michelangelo and Lucy, The Speciality Coffee Shop serves espresso-based drinks and a variety of filter options, with coffee from London’s Alchemy joined by occasional guests from around the country. There’s food in the shape of breakfast and lunch menus, with everything prepared in the kitchen in the basement, all of which is joined by a small but select range of cakes, all made by Lucy’s Grandmother.
Once-upon-a-time, there was a roaster in Nottingham called 200 Degrees. Then, after a little while, there was a coffee shop. And, that, it seemed, was that. Until this summer, when suddenly up sprang two more coffee shops, one in Birmingham and this one, on Carrington Street, next to Nottingham Station. Now, in fairness to 200 Degrees, I’ve known about the second Nottingham branch ever since I visited the original in the city centre last summer. It’s just that, as is so often the case with coffee shops in older buildings, everything took that little bit longer and summer last year slipped into autumn, then winter, before turning into spring and finally, summer this year!
However, it was definitely worth the wait: the new 200 Degrees is quite stunning. All three coffee shops are elegant, but this one even more so. Plus, with its glass front and side windows overlooking the canal, it’s easily the brightest of the three. The usual 200 Degrees elements are all there: plentiful seating, house-blend, guest and decaf on espresso, with a single-origin filter and another on nitro-cold brew. This is all backed up with some excellent breakfast and lunchtime options, with cake throughout the day.
Although a new name to the speciality coffee world, Outpost brings a wealth of experience in its founders, Greg and Alex. Greg has a long and distinguished history in coffee roasting, having owned Café Boutique, while Alex used to manage The Bean, a family-run coffee shop in Beeston (Alex’s mother still owns it). Greg wanted to take things to the next level and start roasting speciality coffee, while Alex wanted to branch out from the role of barista/shop manager. Together with Liz, who does the all-important admin, they make the perfect team.
Outpost has a training facility/espresso lab in a lovely first-floor space on Stoney Street, in Nottingham city centre, while the roasting takes place in an industrial estate on the city’s outskirts, using a 10kg Petroncini from Italy.
Before there was ever 200 Degrees, the award-winning coffee shop in the centre of Nottingham, there was 200 Degrees Coffee Roasters, who first brought my attention to Nottingham as somewhere where you could get decent coffee.
200 Degrees grew out of Belle and Jerome, a well-known coffee shop in West Bridgford, just down from Trent Bridge cricket ground, and a desire of the owners, Rob and Tom, to roast their own coffee. The catalyst was third partner, Tim, who brought a passion for roasting, having caught the coffee-bug in New Zealand.
Called 200 Degrees after the temperature green beans are roasted at, 200 Degrees grew from fairly humble beginnings to become what is now a fairly major player in Nottingham’s growing speciality coffee scene. As well as supplying its own coffee shop, 200 Degrees also supplies a number of other local shops, roasting a couple of espresso blends, a filter blend and three or four single-origin filters.
As well as supplying coffee, plus the necessary kit to go with it, 200 Degrees is also expanding into training, both for its wholesale customers and for the general consumer, as seen in its training room at the 200 Degrees Coffee Shop.
Nottingham’s speciality coffee scene is taking off, with options ranging all the way from 200 Degrees Coffee Shop to Pelham Street’s Wired Café Bar. Slipping effortlessly into the gap between great coffee and comfort food, is The Pudding Pantry, which opened in April 2014 on Trinity Square.
Long and thin, The Pudding Pantry offers a full table service. You have the choice of sitting inside, where the dedicated seating area is separated from the counter by a small flight of stairs, or outside, in a large, fenced-off area on the pedestrianised street.
If I said that you don’t come to The Pudding Pantry for the coffee, that’s not knocking the coffee, which is from Kiwi imports, Ozone. Rather, it’s just that there’s so much else on offer that it would be silly just to come here for the coffee! As the name suggests, The Pudding Pantry is strong on sweet things, with a particularly good line of breakfasts and brunches, including one of my favourites, American-style pancakes. In that respect, it reminds me of the likes of The Bristolian and Glutton & Glee.
Currently, it’s espresso-only, but there’s a desire to add pour-over to the menu, so watch this space!