200 Degrees, Birmingham

The number 200⁰ in a diamond outline over the word "COFFEE"200 Degrees, which started life as a roaster in Nottingham, before opening its first café two years ago, has now expanded into Birmingham, hot on the heels of its second Nottingham outlet. The Birmingham branch, which opened its doors in August, is very much in look and feel like the original in Flying Horse Walk in Nottingham. Both are long and thin, replete with wooden panelling and exposed brick, although the Birmingham branch has much higher ceilings and a simpler layout.

In keeping with the original, 200 Degrees is unashamedly aimed at the mass-market coffee drinker, with a plush, well-appointed interior that would put many coffee chains to shame. The house espresso, Brazilian Love Affair, has a touch of Robusta which might put some off, but it provides a strong, dark coffee that many in the mainstream will be familiar with. This is backed up by the interestingly-named Mellowship Slinky Decaf, while there’s always a single-origin guest espresso, plus another single-origin on filter which provide a path to speciality coffee for those who want to tread it. Finally, there’s cold-brew on tap, a good range of breakfast, lunch and sandwich options, plus cake, all enjoyed in very pleasant, relaxed surroundings.

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A black circle, with a clear dining room chair in the centre. "Cafephilia" is written at the top of the circle and "Moseley" is written at the bottom.Back in 2013, while the likes of 6/8 Kafé and the original Yorks Bakery Cafe were ploughing a relatively lonely furrow in the centre of Birmingham, out in Moseley, a short bus ride south of the city centre, Cafephilia first opened its doors. Very much a neighbourhood place, Cafephilia is rooted in the local community, providing good coffee, tea and food well into the evening. It’s a cosy place, with a sun-drenched front, particularly in the afternoon, and a more restrained seating area at the back, with subdued lighting and a very comfortable sofa. Like Thursday’s Coffee Spot, Forloren Espresso, Cafephilia is another L-shaped café.

The coffee is from Staffordshire’s finest, Has Bean, while the tea comes Joe’s Tea in London. Cafephilia’s uses the ubiquitous Jailbreak blend, with a fairly standard, espresso-based menu. Those looking for piccolos and pour-overs will be disappointed. There’s bread, from the local No. Thirteen Craft Bakers, which is available to buy and which also forms the basis of Cafephilia’s food menu. This includes toast, toast with various toppings, croissants and an extensive range of sandwiches, available on a choice of bread: white, focaccia and panini, and which can be had as is or toasted.

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Another Pop Up in Digbeth

The words "Another Pop Up in Digbeth" written in orange inside an orange circle on a blue background. POP UP is in capitals, with the space in the O replaced by an upwards-pointing arrow.Despite the name, Another Pop Up in Digbeth (Pop Up Digbeth for short) isn’t a pop-up, although it is in Digbeth, so I suppose one out of two’s not bad. Digbeth, for those not in the know, is an old, industrial area, immediately southeast of Birmingham city centre, about a 20-minute walk from New Street Station. Both Digbeth’s history and regeneration can be neatly symbolised by the Custard Factory, where Bird’s once made its famous custard powder, and where Pop Up Digbeth now makes its home, along with a host of start-ups and other small businesses.

Having opened at the start of the year, Pop Digbeth is here to stay, serving healthy food to go at breakfast and lunch, backed up by a rotating offer on espresso from the local Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. There’s also a selection of home-made cakes for those looking for a sweet-treat with their coffee. Seating is provided in a spacious adjacent unit, with more seating outside overlooking the pool in the Custard Factory’s central courtyard. Mostly serving the offices that call the Custard Factory home, Pop Up Digbeth’s opening hours reflect this with a closing time of 3.30 and very limited weekend opening.

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Faculty Update

A series of vertical wooden boards with the words "Faculty" and "speciality coffee & tea" written horizontally across them, with a blue division sign in the centre.Faculty is now an old hand in Birmingham’s booming speciality coffee scene, having opened at the start of 2014. Located at the southern end of the beautiful Piccadilly Arcade, it’s right outside the New Street entrance of Birmingham’s New Street station and literally just around the corner from the new Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters.

Just like my write-up of Yorks a couple of weeks ago, this was meant to be a simple Coffee Spot Update, but it turned out that there had been sufficient change since my first visit two years ago to warrant writing a new post. Rather than going over old ground, if you want to read about Faculty’s roots and a little of the history of the amazing Piccadilly Arcade, then please take a look at the original write up. Otherwise, keep going…

Faculty’s a true multi-roaster, offering a single-origin on espresso and two more on V60, plus there’s a decaf option. If you don’t like the roaster/options, come back next week and the chances are they will have changed. There are cakes from Sixteen Kitchen, which occupies the unit next to Faculty, from where it serves breakfast, lunch and sandwiches in an interesting space-sharing operation.

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Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters (Yorks Bakery Café Update)

Detail of the Yorks sign which used to hang above the door at Yorks Bakery Cafe, Stephenson Street, and now occupies the back wall of the newly expanded Yorks Cafe & Coffee Roasters.I visited Yorks Bakery Café on Birmingham’s Stephenson Street in January this year, not long after it had opened, replacing the original on Newhall Street, which is currently closed for a major refurbishment. Even then, changes were afoot at Stephenson Street since the neighbouring unit had become available, giving Yorks the chance to expand. I wrote up my original visit, intending this post to be a short update describing the new space.  However, on my return last month, I found the newly-expanded Yorks to be so radically different that I scrapped that plan and decided to start from scratch…

Also worked subtly into the expansion was a name-change from Yorks Bakery Café to Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters, reflecting Yorks move into roasting its own coffee. As well as plenty of additional seating, Yorks has used the extra space to install a very shiny Probat roaster. There’s also a fabulous basement which houses more much-needed seating and a large kitchen. This is now turning out a really impressive (and expanded) breakfast & brunch menu, plus an equally impressive lunch menu. Currently, Yorks just has espresso-based drinks and bulk-brew filter, but expect pour-over to return to the menu at some point.

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Jake’s Coffee Box

Jake's Coffee Box, occupying the left-hand of the two red telephone boxes, with a table out front, acting as a counter. Jake himself stands in the door, waiting his next customer.Once upon a time, in the summer of last year, I read an interesting article in the Birmingham Mail about a coffee shop that had opened in a phone box. It was the end of July and, as luck would have it, I was passing through Birmingham that week, so I took a wander along Colmore Row, where I found said telephone box. But no coffee shop. Somewhat dispirited, I wandered off again and the whole coffee-shop-in-phone-box thing rather slipped my mind. Unknown to me, the article had jumped the gun and the coffee-shop-in-phone-box, Jake’s Coffee Box, actually opened the following week…

Fast-forward to this summer and I was once again wandering along Colmore Row, looking for another coffee shop that hadn’t actually opened yet (the Birmingham branch of 200 Degrees). Glancing down Eden Place, I suddenly remembered the phone box, so I wandered down to see what was there…

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Upstairs Coffee

An old-fashioned, heraldic shield, in white, with a black diagonal line running through it, bottom left to top right, with a handle added on the left to turn it into a coffee cupThe latest addition to Birmingham’s growing speciality coffee scene opened in April, excellent timing considering that I was passing through at the start of May. A few weeks later, there I was on Water Street, home to Upstairs Coffee, where I had my first (temporary) disappointment: it’s on the ground floor! However, my profound disappointment was short-lived as I discovered that it was indeed correctly named, being upstairs from a (soon-to-be-opened) basement cocktail bar.

That little misunderstanding successfully resolved, I quickly fell in love with Upstairs Coffee. It’s a tiny, corridor-shaped space, about as wide as London’s Goodge St Espresso, but not quite as long, making it one of the smallest places I’ve been. Lovingly decked out in reclaimed materials, it’s also one of the best looking! The counter’s at the back and there’s space for a couple of seats at a bar on the left, but other than the bench outside, that’s it as far as seating goes.

The coffee is from Oxfordshire’s Ue Coffee Roasters, plus there’s loose-leaf tea and croissants/brownies from the local Peel & Stone Bakery, but that’s it. A word of warning: Upstairs Coffee only has takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own!

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Yorks Bakery Café, Stephenson Street

Detail of the Yorks sign from above the door at Yorks Bakery Cafe, Stephenson Street.Yorks is a chain of two Birmingham cafés, Yorks Bakery Café, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, and Yorks Espresso Bar on Colmore Row. Originally though, there was just Yorks Bakery Café, which started life on Newhall Street. However, Newhall Street had to close at the end of last year, the building undergoing a major refurbishment. Stephenson Street, which opened last December, has taken over the mantle of Yorks Bakery Café.

In contrast to Newhall Street, which sprawled over three separate spaces, Stephenson Street is a compact, single, wedge-shaped room (what is it with Birmingham and wedge-shaped coffee shops?) seating just under 30 people. Despite this, it’s inherited much of Newhall Street’s menu, including cooked breakfasts/brunches, all prepared in the kitchen at the back, along with sandwiches, soup and cake.

The coffee is, as it always has been, from London’s Caravan, with (usually) one single-origin on espresso, another on filter (V60 or Aeropress) and decaf. However, everything’s changing in the near future, with Yorks expanding into the adjacent building. This should at least double the seating capacity and there are plans to start roasting. The extension should be complete in the next month or two, so stay tuned for updates!

June 2016: Yorks has now completed its expansion, which has added a lovely basement and lots more seating at the back. It’s also started roasting its own coffee and now goes by the name Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters.

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The Tilt A-board, proudly displaying Tilt's credentials: craft beer, speciality coffee, loose-leaf tea and pinball. Naturally.So, coffee and pinball is a thing. Who knew? Clearly not me, although a few months before Tilt opened its doors on Birmingham’s City Arcade in November last year, Chiswick’s Chief Coffee also opened its combined coffee-and-pinball joint. Mind you, Tilt’s not just coffee-and-pinball. It’s coffee-craft-beer-and-pinball. And wine. And spirits. And loose-leaf tea. Right now, the food’s limited to a choice of two cakes, but once things are up and running, there’ll be a simple breakfast/brunch menu.

Tilt, by the way, isn’t just a gimmick. It’s serious about its coffee, owners Kirk and Richard bringing in ex-Has Beanie, Gary, to run the coffee side of things. The house roaster is Cornwall’s Origin, supplying one of the two espresso beans, while regularly-rotating guest roasters fill the hopper of the second Mythos One grinder, Gary buying 5-6 kg at a time. When it’s gone, it’s gone and it’s onto the next roaster/bean. Both house and guest are also available as filter through a pair of small-batch brewers, Tilt offering a tasting flight of espresso, espresso with milk and batch-brew, all for a very reasonably-priced £4.

Tilt offers eight craft beers on tap, 26 in bottles/cans, wines, spirits and 10 different loose-leaf teas.

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Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters

The Giesen roaster at Quarter Horse, Birmingham.Quarter Horse Coffee started life on Oxford’s Cowley Road, where, indeed, the original Quarter Horse remains. Back then, it used Square Mile, it’s two founders, Nathan and James, having worked closely with the London roaster while working for Store Street Espresso before setting up Quarter Horse. However, Nathan, who originally hails from Normal, Illinois, was a roaster before he came to the UK, and he’s always wanted to return to his (roasting) roots.

So, it was no great surprise that, when looking to expand beyond a single shop in Oxford, Quarter Horse turned to roasting. What is less predictable is that Quarter Horse would do it in Birmingham and would open a coffee shop/roastery in the process. However, given the prevalence of this model in the US, perhaps it makes sense that Nathan would choose this route.

Whatever the reasoning, Quarter Horse has created a lovely spot; a large, spacious coffee shop on one hand (which features in its own Coffee Spot), with an attached roastery which is visible from pretty much every part of the building. Right now, Quarter Horse roasts one or twice a week, so you’ll have to be lucky to see the roastery in action!

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