Kirby and Wes (perhaps unfairly) have a reputation as the party boys of speciality coffee, free-spirited Aussies who don’t take themselves too seriously. On the other hand, as the name suggests, they do like a party, which is abundantly clear to anyone who’s visited The Roasting Party stand at successive London Coffee Festivals, where there’s even a resident DJ…
This, however, does The Roasting Party a disservice, since while Kirby and Wes might not take themselves very seriously, they do take the business of coffee extremely seriously indeed…
The Coffee Lab is a rapidly-growing chain of coffee shops covering, for now, Winchester (where it all started), Salisbury and Chichester. I’ve been told that there are further shops in the pipeline, which is all the more impressive when you consider that the first Coffee Lab opened less than a year ago. Bucking all established Coffee Spot trends (which usually sees me visiting the most recently opened shop in a chain rather than the first), I started at the original Coffee Lab, a lovely little spot in the narrow lanes of Winchester, just west of the Cathedral and south of the High Street. Be careful though, since the Coffee Lab’s second branch is just around the corner on Little Minster Street and Kings Head Yard. It’s literally a minute’s walk away!
The Coffee Lab serves coffee from local roasters, The Roasting Party, with a blend (Einstein) on the main grinder and a guest blend (Heisenberg) on the second grinder. There’s also a decaf from Costa Rica, plus a Kenyan AA Ndeki on filter through the V60. If you don’t fancy coffee, there is tea from the local WAA Teas, while if you’re feeling hungry, there are sandwiches, cakes and pastries.
Artigiano is a chain that seems to be slowly colonising the west and southwest, anywhere, in fact, served by the old Great Western Railway out of Paddington. Starting with the original at St Paul’s in London (admittedly not served by any railway out of Paddington), there are now three more branches: Exeter, Cardiff and now this one in Reading, occupying a prime spot on Broad Street, right in the heart of the town.
Of all the Artigianos, this might be the most elegant, which is saying something since Artigiano prides itself on the elegance of its branches. It’s also the only one (so far) with an upstairs (although the now-defunct New Oxford Street branch in London and the equally defunct Queen Street branch in Cardiff both had a mezzanine levels) where the elegance is really taken to a new level with its sumptuous sofas and lounge area at the back.
Artigiano offers the same tried-and-trusted formula: speciality coffee by day (a bespoke house-blend and a seasonal single-origin on espresso) with craft beer and wine by night, Artigiano staying open late into the evening. A limited food offering is available throughout the day, backed up by a small range of cake.
Reading’s Coffee Under Pressure is better known by the acronym, C.U.P. A recent addition to the local scene, it opened in August last year, tucked away in a lovely setting behind the Reading Minster. It’s a sun-drenched, south-facing place, with sheltered outdoor seating and a warm welcome inside, which flows from C.U.P.’s Greek owners, Maria & Nasos.
The coffee is from Winchester’s The Roasting Party. Unusually, there are two blends on espresso, plus decaf, as well as several single-origins available as individual filter coffees through the V60. As well as the usual offerings, there are some Greek specials, the Freddo Espresso & Freddo Cappuccino.
Not content with that, there’s also an impressive range of 16 different loose-leaf teas of various types, as befits C.U.P’s full name, Coffee Under Pressure, Speciality Coffee and Tea. All the tea is from Edinburgh’s Pekoe Tea and every bit as much care and attention goes into making it as goes into the coffee.
Finally, the small kitchen to the left of the counter turns out an impressive range food, mixing traditional(ish) British sandwiches, cookies and pastries with some interesting Greek dishes, such as the bougatsa, flaky pasties that can be either sweet or savoury.
Guildford has long been crying out for an independent, speciality coffee shop and finally, one has arrived! Surrey Hills Coffee, which has been roasting its own range of espresso & filter blends, plus a growing selection of single-origin coffees in the North Downs, has now opened its own coffee shop, taking over the lease on what was the Turn Fit Deli on Chapel Street.
It’s not a huge space, just a couple of tables, a window-bar and another bar at the back, but it’s bright and welcoming. The main draw is the coffee, although there is tea, soft drinks, plus a range of locally-baked cakes and made-to-order sandwiches, with ingredients from a range of local suppliers.
For somewhere so small, the range of coffee on offer is impressive: there are no fewer than three espresso blends, although if you don’t ask, you’ll get the default, the Holmbury Hill blend, which (in my opinion) is the best of the bunch. If you’re in a hurry, there’s the Cottage filter blend, available from a flask on the counter and made in small batches using the Moccamaster. Finally, if you don’t mind waiting, you can have a single-origin filter hand-made through the Chemex.
Glutton & Glee was one of the first places that I wrote about when I started the Coffee Spot in 2012. It’s also in my home-town of Guildford. Back then, with the exception of Bar des Arts, it was a lonely beacon of speciality coffee in a town full of chains. These days, despite the loss of Bar des Arts, it’s slightly less lonely, particularly with recent developments on Chapel Street and elsewhere [coming soon to the Coffee Spot]. It’s also changed its name.
After four years as Glutton & Glee, it became the Kalm Kitchen Café in February 2015. At first, the change was almost imperceptible, but as the year went on, it became more noticeable, although some things, such as Allpress’ Redchurch blend on the espresso machine, remained the same. The sign above the door still said “Glutton & Glee” too, and each time I visited, the staff told me that the rebranding/redecorating would be happening soon.
Then, one day, I went by and it said “Kalm Kitchen” above the door, so I made a note to come back with my camera. And so, yesterday, I did, finally having the perfect combination of a sunny day, my camera and a spare hour or two…
It’s touch-and-go whether the Boston Tea Party at Ringwood is the closest to my home, or whether that honour goes to the Salisbury branch. In many ways it’s a typical Boston Tea Party, having taken another iconic building (in this case, an old granary from the 1800s) and turned it into a first class coffee shop, providing good quality food, including an outstanding all-day breakfast menu, and Extract Coffee to the small Hampshire market town of Ringwood. Better still, it is literally just off the A31, so it makes an excellent stop if you are travelling that way.
Like many a branch of the Boston Tea Party, Ringwood has plenty of outside seating. However, with the exception of the original on Park Street and the Honiton branch (both of which have secluded gardens at the back) this may have the best, with multiple tables neatly arranged outside in the pedestrianised Furlong Centre. Inside, the Tea Party spreads over three floors, with the top floor (which used to be the hayloft) having only been opened last year (Ringwood itself opened in 2012). There’s the usual range of Boston Tea Party seating, including comfortable chairs, long sofa benches and more traditional tables.
It’s ironic that I travel around the country, seeking out great coffee shops, but I can’t manage to visit one that’s practically on my doorstep. However, I have finally rectified this oversight with a long overdue visit to the award-winning Giro (or G!RO Cycles, to use its full name) in Esher.
Giro follows that by now well-established tradition of combining coffee and cycling, pioneered by the likes of Look Mum No Hands! and Zappi’s Bike Café. However, in the case of Giro, it feels to me more focused on the coffee than the cycles. There’s no workshop, for example, and the cycling gear is to be found at the back of the shop. Make no mistake though; Giro is as passionate about its cycling as it is about its coffee and regularly attracts crowds (swarms?) of cyclists, especially on its weekend organised cycle rides. There are also regular evening events.
Talking of coffee, Giro uses Beanberry Coffee, roasted in nearby Woking. Beanberry specialises in roasting organic coffee, with a number of single-origins and a bespoke espresso blend for Giro, while forging close links with the coffee farmers. Giro itself has four filter options (all V60) to go with the espresso.
Lemana, in Lymington, just outside the New Forest, has been a favourite of mine since my first visit in November 2013. A friendly, family-run, community-based café in a small town, it had excellent food and outstanding cakes, plus one of the warmest welcomes you’ll find. The only thing I didn’t rave about was the coffee.
However, when I heard on twitter that Lemana had started serving coffee from Staffordshire legends, Has Bean, my ears perked up. A return visit was quickly pencilled in as part of my annual trip to Naish, just along the coast from Lymington (which, contrary to my initial belief, is in Hampshire, not Dorset).
The switch to Has Bean is the most obvious of the changes, which have included taking a range of loose-leaf tea from Dorchester’s Gilded Teapot. Fortunately the warm welcome, excellent food and outstanding cakes remain, while other changes have been more subtle.
Given that I’ve written about both Small Batch’s coffee and about places serving Small Batch, I thought it about time that I wrote about Small Batch itself. For those who don’t know, Small Batch is a well-established and well-respected roaster and coffee shop chain in Brighton and Hove, which I covered on one of my first assignments for Caffeine Magazine. In all, there are four Small Batch coffee shops in Brighton and Hove, with coffee stalls at both Brighton and Hove stations, and a roastery/café in Hove. Naturally, this being the Coffee Spot, I started at the end, not the beginning, visiting the newest Small Batch of all, the Norfolk Square branch.
On the busy Western Road, between Brighton and Hove, this might be the most beautiful of all the Small Batches. Located in an old bank branch, it is an elegant, bright, high-ceilinged space, enhanced by an island counter that subtly dominates the room. There’s a range of seating, including at the counter itself, where you can watch the espresso machine in action or marvel at the brew bar on the opposite side. You can also sit outside if you wish.
And, of course, there’s Small Batch’s excellent coffee.