Idle Hands, Dale Street

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the pop-up on Dale Street.Regular readers know that I have a soft spot for Manchester’s Idle Hands, and its owners, Dave and Lucy. Having started as a pop-up near Piccadilly Station, Idle Hands is now into its fourth incarnation, although this location, in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, is its first permanent home.

In comparison to previous incarnations, the new location is huge, with plenty of seating and, for the first time, a large kitchen at the back. Idle Hands has always been known both for its coffee and its (sweet) pies, both of which are on display here. A true multi-roaster, Idle Hands usually has two single-origins on espresso, another on batch-brew and five or so on pour-over through either the Aeropress or V60, depending on the chosen bean. The options change regularly: whenever a particular bean runs out, it’s replaced.

When it comes to pie, there are usually five or six choices, all made fresh that day by Lucy. When a pie is gone, that’s it for the day, although don’t expect to see it the following day, since Lucy frequently rings the changes. In addition, there are now full breakfast and lunch menus, along with beer, wine, spirits and cocktails.

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Just Between Friends Coffee

A lovely Assembly espresso (a washed El Salvador) in a Kaffeeform cup, made from recylced coffee grounds, at Just Between Friends Coffee in Manchester.I’m in Manchester for my annual Manchester Coffee Festival visit, having arrived a couple of days early to check yet more of the city’s excellent coffee scene, including a whole slew of places which have opened since my previous visit (for last year’s Manchester Coffee Festival). I also met up with fellow coffee blogger, Charlotte Scotland (whose blog, Coffee All Way, has just launched), so it was appropriate that we ended up at Just Between Friends Coffee.

Just Between Friends occupies a small spot on the south side of Tib Street, halfway between the venerable North Tea Power and another newcomer, Siop Shop. There are a couple of two-person tables outside on the busy street, while a large sign proclaiming “Coffee” in big letters catches the eye. Inside, Just Between Friends is a small, cosy space with limited seating and a warm welcome. The coffee, from London’s Assembly, is available on espresso, with a daily batch-brew option.  There’s also a limited food menu, including toast, muesli, a couple of toasties and a selection of cakes.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2018 Preview

The Manchester Coffee Festival LogoIt’s that time of year again. Next week sees the arrival those fixtures of the autumn calendar: Halloween, Bonfire Night and, of course, the Manchester Coffee Festival. Yes, that’s right, the Manchester Coffee Festival is back, this year on the weekend of 3rd/4th November. Once again, the festival is gracing the halls of the Victoria Warehouse in Stretford, where it’s been since the second Manchester Coffee Festival in 2015.

This is one of my favourite coffee festivals and a great chance to celebrate the coffee culture of Manchester and beyond. I’m pleased to say that I’ve been to all four so far, starting with the original Cup North in 2014. I’ve been so keen to attend that last year I flew back from Chicago, arriving into Manchester the day before the festival! This year I’ve planned things a little better, flying back from Tokyo the weekend before (ie yesterday!).

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!

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2017 Part II

Dale Harris, the UK Barista Champion, pulling me a shot of his competition coffee on a La Marzocco Modbar at the Manchester Coffee Festival the day before he flew to Seoul where he would go on to win the World Barista Championship.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.

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Ezra To Go

The Ezra & Gill logo etched in wood from the wall of Ezra To Go on Tib Street.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.

November 2018: Erza To Go has become Ezra Has Gone. I popped by while in town for the Manchester Coffee Festival and discovered, sadly, that it has closed! Ezra & Gil is still going strong though.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2017 Part I

The winners of this year's UK Cup Tasters Championship: Freda (centre), who successfully defended her title, Katelyn, who came second and Don, who finished third.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!

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Another Heart To Feed

The A-board outside Another Heart To Find in Salford, Manchester. The slogan reads "A day without coffee is like... Just kidding, we have no idea".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.

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Foundation Coffee House

"Coffee is Everything", written inside the outline of a takeaway coffee cup: detail from a sign inside The Foundation Coffee House in Manchester's Northern Quarter.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.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2017 Preview

A flat white from Carvetii in my Therma Cup at the Manchester Coffee Festival, 2016.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!

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Idle Hands @ Grub

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the second pop-up on Dale Street.Idle Hands, run by the very wonderful Dave & Lucy, started life as a pop-up next to Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. With the building due for redevelopment, this was always going to be a short-term arrangement, but the good news was that about a year after leaving the Piccadilly site, Idle Hands found a new and (at the time) permanent home on Dale Street, moving in on a temporary basis while waiting for the space to be refurbished.

However, just before Dave & Lucy started fitting out the new shop, the landlord abruptly terminated the lease, leaving Idle Hands homeless. For a less determined couple, that would have been the end, but Dave & Lucy picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and, with a ground swell of support from the wider coffee/independent sector in Manchester, found a new temporary home at Grub’s Mayfield site, where I visited one rainy Friday afternoon.

October 2017: Idle Hands is temporarily closed while Dave & Lucy have their baby. In other news, Grub itself has moved from Mayfield to Fairfield Social Club on nearby Temperance Street.

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