Artigiano Espresso, Reading

The letter A in a circle, mounted on a exposed brick wall. The circle is wrapped in fairy lights.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.

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C.U.P.

A saucer, seen above, with the outline of a cup drawn on the base of the saucer. The words "Coffee Under Pressure" are written around the circumference of the outline. In the centre is a black circle with "C.U.P." written in white in the very centre.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.

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Tamp Culture

An espresso being poured via a single-spout basket at Tamp Culture in ReadingFor a long time, speciality coffee in Reading has meant the (excellent) Workhouse Coffee with its two branches on Oxford Road and King Street. However, that is slowly changing with the arrival of several new players, including the intriguing Tamp Culture, which has been at the entrance to the Oracle centre since April of this year.

Technically a coffee cart, Tamp operates perhaps the most impressive set-up I’ve seen, with a counter that puts many a shop to shame and a range of coffee-kit and merchandising that surpasses many a speciality outlet. What’s even more impressive is that whole edifice is dismantled every evening and packed away in the Piaggio Ape that forms the backbone of the operation. There’s even outdoor seating and a nice big awning to keep the rain/sun off the counter.

Like Workhouse, Tamp roasts all its own coffee, with a range of around 20 single-origin beans. Two of these are always on offer, the choice rotating on a weekly basis, with plenty more beans available to buy. As well as the usual espresso-based options, Tamp also offers Aeropress and pour-over filter options (these aren’t on the menu, so you have to ask).

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Workhouse Coffee, King Street: Update

Workhouse Coffee Company on the ground floor of the George Hotel in ReadingLet’s get 2014 underway with a Saturday Supplement. I visited the King Street branch of Reading’s Workhouse Coffee at the end of August, just before it was due to undergo a re-modelling of the counter/serving area. Prior to the re-modelling, the front part of the store was conventionally laid-out, with the counter on the right and a small seating area on the left. The espresso machines were tucked away in a corner at the end of the counter, with grinders and the filter-rack (Workhouse’s owner, Greg Costello, refuses to use the term “brew bar”) behind the counter itself. It was all very self-contained and had a certain logic/flow to it, but idea behind the re-modelling was to open it all up to the customers.

I went back in December to see the new layout; this Coffee Spot Update is partly about what I found on my return. It’s also about the reasons why Workhouse went to such lengths to re-model an already successful coffee shop. This speaks volumes about its passion for great (and accessible) coffee and was one of the main reasons why Workhouse won the 2013 Coffee Spot Award for “Most Passionate About Coffee”.

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Workhouse Coffee, King Street

Workhouse Coffee Company on the ground floor of the George Hotel in ReadingYou know how it goes. You go to a coffee shop, you love it; you go to another branch, you don’t like it. It’s always a danger and so it was with the King Street branch of Workhouse Coffee. I think I’d been subconsciously avoiding it, having visited the original Workhouse Coffee on Oxford Road in West Reading at the start of the year. That was a small, intimate and lovely place to drink coffee and I worried that the much bigger King Street, in the centre of Reading, wouldn’t live up to my high expectations.

My fears were, of course, groundless: if anything, King Street is even better. From the moment I stepped inside, I loved the place. Very different from Oxford Road, it’s still small enough to be intimate, while its bustle adds a whole new dimension. How I longed for a place like this when I was a regular visitor to Reading 10 years ago!

As well as running the two coffee shops, Workhouse roasts its own beans, offering (while I was there) a single origin, two blends and a decaf as espresso and all its beans as pour-over fitler or for sale (beans or ground).

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Workhouse Coffee, Oxford Road

The exterior of Workhouse Coffee Company on the corner of Oxford and Edinburgh RoadsWest Reading is not somewhere I’d automatically associate with fine coffee, but I’d heard good things about the Workhouse Coffee Company, so when the basketball club had a game against the Reading Rockets, it was the perfect excuse to check it out. It was also just after Workhouse was named in the Independent’s Top 50 independent coffee shops list, so I was keen to see what the fuss was all about.

What I found was a delightful little coffee shop, perched on a corner at the end of a row of shops. Inside it is wood and white paint, which, coupled with the large windows on two of the four walls, give it an amazing sense of space. As well as being a fabulous place to drink coffee, it’s also very serious about its coffee, being a roaster as well as a coffee shop, with beans on sale and a range of drinks, including a cafetiere for two and a pour-over filter.

There is a small but lovely-looking range of cakes, along with the usual pastries. Finally, there’s a range of sandwiches, Panini and filled croissants, along with pasties and sausage rolls in case you get hungry.

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