Having grown up just over the border in North Wales, Chester is, in many ways, my home city. I frequently pass though on my way to/from my Dad’s, but rarely stop, partly due to circumstance, but also because, when it comes to coffee, there’s not much to entice me to get off one stop earlier at Chester Station. However, with the arrival of the likes of Moss Coffee, that’s slowly changing.
Chester has struggled a little with speciality coffee. Apart from the well-established The Barista’s and Jaunty Goat, coffee shops, such as Moon Beer & Coffee, have tended to come and go. Hopefully Moss Coffee can buck that trend. It’s off to good start, serving an espresso-based menu with the Arboretum blend from Dark Woods, along with a small selection of locally-baked cakes. The owner, Daniel, is keeping things simple for now, with plans to expand in the future.
Welcome to Part II of my round up of this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival. In Part I, I took a look at the venue itself, and also reported on my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, won for a second year running by Freda Yuan from Caravan. This time I’m focussing on the coffee, looking at the various roasters who were there in force this year. I’ll finish things off next week in Part III with a roundup of everything else!
In previous years, I’ve tried to get to visit roasters who are new to me, but this year, most of the names were familiar. However, there were still a few I’d not heard of, and, as is always the case, I still failed to get to see everyone. Quite a few roasters made guest appearances at various stands, including Neighbourhood Coffee, North Star and Ozone, none of whom I managed to get around to seeing!
Despite this, I did manage to visit many excellent roasters, tried lots of great coffee, both filter and espresso, which included the coffee that won the World Barista Championships this year, and, yes, I did make some new friends along the way.
Ezra & Gil was one of several coffee shops which opened in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in 2015, although it was always a little different, occupying a large spot, its focus as much on food, plus a small area selling various provisions up by the counter. Now there’s a second, albeit smaller, member of the Ezra & Gil family, Ezra To Go on the eastern edge of the Northern Quarter, just down Tib Street from North Tea Power and across the road from Siop Shop.
Don’t let the name fool you though. Ezra To Go has plenty of seating, particularly in the adjacent space, a lifestyle shop called Ezra’s Utilities, so you are welcome to stay. However, the concept is that everything is either pre-prepared or, if it’s off the main menu, quick, which includes the coffee (no pour-over here or filter).
The menu’s necessarily cut down from Ezra & Gil, but nevertheless puts many coffee shops to shame. There’s porridge, plus various things on toast, including eggs and avocado. If you can’t wait that long, there are plenty of pre-prepared sandwiches, which can be toasted, plus soup of the day, salad and quiche, and, of course, a selection of cake.
Last weekend I made my annual visit to the Manchester Coffee Festival (Cup North as was), returning for a fourth year and, for the third year running, gracing the halls of the Victoria Warehouse. This year, it occupied the same space as before, a minor bonus that meant I could find everything that little bit more easily. It also felt slightly bigger, but without sacrificing the relaxed, friendly nature which marks it out as one of my favourite events of the year. As a sign of my dedication, I flew back from Chicago especially to attend, arriving in Manchester at 7 am the day before the festival!
All the usual suspects were there, with roasters and equipment manufacturers leading the way. Milk was also important, with several non-dairy alternatives featuring strongly. There were various food-related stands and a small selection of street food stalls located outside. Making a triumphant return for the third year running was my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, while there were plenty of talks and cuppings going on. As usual, over the two days, I saw almost everyone I wanted to, but there’s quite never enough time to get around all the stands!
I rarely venture north of the River Irwell in Manchester. In fact, other than my occasional pilgrimages to the Grindsmith Pod, I think the last time was when I attended the original Cup North in 2014. So I am indebted to the Best Coffee App for drawing me to Chapel Street and the gem that is Another Heart To Feed, a Melbourne-inspired coffee shop and kitchen which opened in March this year, serving food from an all-day brunch menu and some excellent coffee from London’s Union.
There’s the usual espresso-based menu, with Union’s Bright Note as the house-blend, plus a single-origin on pour-over through the V60 and another available as bulk-brew filter. The options change every week or two for the bulk-brew and every two/three weeks for the V60. There’s also loose-leaf Bohea Teas, Kokoa Collection hot chocolate and cakes from local bakers, The Brownie Owl.
Drawing on its Melbourne heritage (the owners spent four years there), Another Heart To Feed offers full table service, a carafe of water and menu magically appearing on your table as you are invited to take a seat. Unusually, Another Heart To Feed closes at three during the week and at four at weekends.
January 2018: Another Heart to Feed has moved south of the river, all the way to West Didsbury. I’ve not had a chance to visit the new location, but local food blogger, The Manchester Tart, can give you the lowdown.
The Foundation Coffee House joins a growing band of speciality coffee shops in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, following in the footsteps of the pioneering North Tea Power and joining the likes of Fig + Sparrow and TAKK. Located on the ground floor of the magnificent Sevendale House, a brick-built edifice taking up the entire block, Foundation consists of multiple, connected spaces and is easily the biggest of the bunch, surpassing even the nearby Ezra & Gil in size.
Foundation uses Cornwall’s Origin, with its Los Altos Nicaraguan single-origin on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest, plus four single-origins on pour-over, prepared using either V60 or Aeropress, the method being matched to the particular coffee. There’s also bulk-brew for those in a hurry, Foundation starting the day with the San Fermin Colombian single-origin, then mixing things up as the day goes on. Other than the Los Altos espresso and San Fermin bulk-brew, which are always on, the options change regularly, Foundation getting a few bags in from Origin, then moving on once they’ve gone.
There’s also tea and hot chocolate, plus beer, cider and wine. If you’re hungry, Foundation has decent breakfast and lunch menus and a wide range of cake.
Cumbria’s not renowned as a hot-bed of speciality coffee, but that’s slowly changing, led by local roasters such as Carvetii. I first met Stephen, who plays an important role in this story, in 2015 at the Carvetii stand at Cup North (forerunner of the Manchester Coffee Festival). When I looked for him the following year, I learnt that he had left (with Gareth and Angharad’s blessing) to fulfil his dream of opening his own coffee shop, The Moon & Sixpence, in his home town of Cockermouth, just to the west of the Lakes.
It took me a year to get around to visiting, of course, but finally I managed to call in, just after The Moon & Sixpence’s first birthday, Stephen having opened the shop on 1st October 2016, (which happened to be International Coffee Day, an auspicious start if ever there was one!). Naturally, the coffee is from Carvetii, with the seasonal blend and decaf on espresso, plus a single-origin on batch-brew. This is joined by a selection of tea, plus hot chocolate from old friends, Kokoa Collection. Unusually, The Moon & Sixpence doesn’t offer food, just a range of pastries and cakes, all made in-house by the staff.
Carvetii, Cumbria’s Coffee Roasters, is somewhere that’s been on my radar for years, ever since I met Gareth and Angharad, the Welsh couple behind Carvetii, at the London Coffee Festival in 2014. Since, I’ve caught up with them at various coffee festivals around the country, including the Manchester Coffee Festival and, most recently, the Glasgow Coffee Festival. However, it’s taken me over three years to finally pay a visit to the Carvetii roastery in the heart of the Lake District. This delay is entirely down to me, and no reflection on the quality of their coffee, which I’ve always enjoyed.
I’ve wanted to feature Carvetii for a while, partly because it represents an object lesson in how to build a speciality coffee business in a non-speciality area from the ground up. Gareth and Angharad are also some of the most thoughtful people I’ve met in my five years of writing the Coffee Spot. Carvetii is an example of doing a few things and doing them well: there’s a seasonal espresso blend, three single-origins and a decaf. These will soon be joined by a second espresso (either a single-origin or another blend) plus the occasional experiment, designed to showcase the coffee.
The Lake District is renowned for stunning scenery, majestic mountains and, above all, lakes. Speciality coffee? Less so. However, if you know where to look, there are some gems to be found, such as Homeground Coffee + Kitchen in Windermere. Since opening in May 2015, Rich & Jane have made Homeground the go-to destination for coffee lovers (and those who like a good brunch).
Carvetii’s seasonal blend is the mainstay on espresso, where it’s joined by either Carvetii’s own second espresso, or a guest roaster. There’s also batch-brew filter, with one of Carvetii’s single-origins or another guest. During my visits, Homeground was between guest espressos, with local roasters Red Bank due on, while the batch-brew was Carvetii’s naturally-processed El Salvador from Finca Nazareth.
If coffee’s not your thing, there’s tea, single-origin Kokoa Collection hot chocolate and a limited selection of wine/beer, the latter from the local Hawkshead brewery. When it comes to food, Homeground Coffee + Kitchen more than lives up to the name, with an all-day brunch menu available until three o’clock in the afternoon on weekdays (four o’clock at weekends). There are the usual staples of various things on toast, plus pancakes, waffles, soup and a burger.
It’s that time of year again. The next two weeks sees the arrival those fixtures of the autumn calendar: Halloween, Bonfire Night and, of course, the Manchester Coffee Festival (Cup North as was). Yes, that’s right, the Manchester Coffee Festival is back, this year on Saturday/Sunday, 4th/5th November, when it will once again grace the halls of the Victoria Warehouse in Stretford.
I’ve watched the Festival evolve over the last four years. Starting out as Cup North in 2014, it was a modest, relaxed affair in a pair of adjoining rooms in Manchester’s Artwork. In 2015 it expanded to the Victoria Warehouse, occupying a rabbit warren of rooms on the first floor, feeling more like a mini London Coffee Festival, although on a much more manageable scale. Then, last year, it returned to the Victoria Warehouse, moving across the yard into a more manageable space, with a simple, figure-of-eight layout.
Whether it’s your first time or you’re wondering what this year’s festival will hold, this preview is for you. With weekend tickets for just £18, or £10 if you only want to do a single day, it really is a bargain. What are you waiting for? Get your tickets now!