New Harvest Coffee & Spirits

The soaring, vaulted glass ceiling of the central aisle of the Arcade Providence, home of New Harvest Coffee & Spirits.New Harvest Coffee & Spirits is that relatively rare combination in America: a coffee shop and bar, serving coffee by day and whisky and other spirits by night (although I believe you can order anything anytime). That it’s also a long-standing roaster (as New Harvest Coffee in Pawtucket, Rhode Island) and is housed in America’s old shopping mall, the Arcade Providence, makes it something very special indeed.

Although New Harvest Coffee has been roasting since 2001, the coffee shop only opened in 2014. There’s a seasonal house-blend and decaf on espresso, two options on bulk-brew and one on pour-over (Kalita Wave), backed up by a selection of cake and a wide range of spirits and cocktails.

New Harvest Coffee roasts 8-10 single-origins at any one time, giving it plenty of options in the coffee shop. There’s a light-roast on bulk-brew, which is usually a single-origin (which changes every day or so) and a dark roast (which changes less frequently). This tends to be a one of two filter-blends, but during my visit it was a single-origin from Papua New Guinea, while the light-roast was a Kenya from Kiangothe. Finally, the pour-over option is another single-origin (an Indonesian during my visit).

February 2016: Since I was in Providence the day I published my piece on New Harvest, I couldn’t resist popping in for a lovely Costa Rican pour-over. It’s so rare I get to re-visit places on the day I publish about them 🙂

Continue reading

Bolt Coffee at the Dean Hotel

The words "Bolt Coffee Co" written in a circular wooden sign.Slowly but surely, hotel coffee is improving, particularly in the USA, where speciality coffee shops in hotel lobbies seems to be increasingly a thing. Now, joining the likes of Stumptown in the Ace Hotel and Intelligentsia in the High Line Hotel in New York City, we have Bolt Coffee in the lobby of Providence’s Dean Hotel. It was on my list during my first visit to Providence in the summer of 2015, but I ran out of time and it was only on my return earlier this year that I finally made it.

As coffee shops go, Bolt is fairly small, set back behind the lobby and with its own entrance direct from the car park. There’s a small counter at the back, a communal table in front of that, and then a square of seating consisting of a pair of sofas, a bench and a couple of armchairs, all arranged around a large coffee table.

What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in coffee, with Seattle’s Kuma Coffee providing the beans. There’s a blend on espresso, joined by a single-origin on bulk-brew and two more on pour-over, through either the Kalita Wave or Clever Dripper.

Continue reading

Blue State Coffee, Thayer Street

The Blue State Coffee motto, "Beans to an End", from a framed drawing on the wall of the Theyer Street branch in Providence.Providence’s Blue State Coffee on Thayer Street is a curious mix of old-school second-wave coffee shop with third-wave sensibilities. In that respect it’s very similar to Washington DC’s Compass Coffee, with both serving similar markets. They also both roast their own coffee, although unlike Compass Coffee, Theyer Street doesn’t have a roaster in the back. Blue State has also been around a lot longer, having first opened its doors in 2004.

Theyer Street was the original store, although these days Blue State is based in South Windsor, Connecticut, where all the coffee is roasted, and there are eight stores across three states (two in Providence, two in Boston and four in Connecticut). Theyer Street is a bright, spacious, sunny spot, offering a traditional, espresso-based menu, bulk-brew filter and pour-over. This is supported by loose-leaf tea, a good cake selection and an extensive sandwich, salad and all-day breakfast offering.

Not to be confused with the Blue State Coffee in the Brown University Bookshop (also on Thayer Street), this branch has a community coffee shop feel. Scarily, even though I felt twice the age of the average customer, the staff described the bookshop branch as the one that draws the college-kid crowd!

Continue reading

Brian’s Travel Spot: Back to New England, 2016

A cappuccino in a classic, earthenware, tulip cup, sitting on a wooden window sill, bathed in sunlight.Welcome to the third and final part of the 2016 instalment of my occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series. Part I saw me flying out to Newark and sauntering around New York for a couple of days before heading down to Philadelphia. Part II covered my time in Philadelphia, Washington DC and my brief return to New York as I swung back north.

Part III sees me back in New England, where I started my coast-to-coast trip in June last year. I had a day in Providence, which I first visited last year and, like Philadelphia, has a great, unsung coffee scene. From there it was on to Boston for the end of my trip, before flying home. As I did last June, I flew with British Airways, while all internal travel was on Amtrak, a great way to travel in the US if you’re not in any particular hurry.

Highlights of this leg of the trip were discovering more of Providence, which, as well as having an excellent coffee scene, is a lovely, historic city, and seeing Boston’s speciality coffee scene finally starting to take off with three really excellent places opening in Downtown Boston in the last 12 months.

Continue reading

The Shop

The words "The Shop" painted in black on the window.I’ve saved potentially the best until last. To celebrate my return to Providence today, I present the last of the three Coffee Spots which I visited when I was last here in June 2015 (the other two being Coffee Exchange and Dave’s Coffee). Once again, I must thank my friend Allison for inviting me down and for being my guide for the day.

The Shop, as well as being a favourite of mine, is also very well-regarded. Throughout this trip, whenever I mentioned going to Providence and asked for recommendations, The Shop was on everyone’s lips.

It has a simple layout, serving a simple menu, the ubiquitous Hair Bender blend (plus decaf) on espresso, along with a single-origin and house-blend on the obligatory bulk-brewer, all from Stumptown. These are backed up with a small, but very impressive range of bread, cakes and pastries (sweet and savoury) from local bakeries.

What makes The Shop stand out from the crowd is the staff and the atmosphere they create. Friendly, welcoming, caring, passionate about the coffee, about the shop itself and about the community it serves, The Shop is a gem. And your coffee’s brought to you, which is how it should be.

February 2016: I don’t get the chance to do this very often, so I took it and visited The Shop on the day which I published its Coffee Spot. So, here I am, sitting in the window, melting in the early morning winter sun :-). For the record, I had some very crunchy and tasty toast for breakfast, plus an excellent cappuccino.

Continue reading

Dave’s Coffee

The words "Dave's Coffee" in red on a white wall.Since I’m going to be back in Providence later on this week, I thought I really ought to publish the last of the places I visited during my trip to Providence last summer. Dave’s Coffee roasts all its own coffee, which it sells throughout Rhode Island and beyond, as well as serving in its two cafes. My friend Allison, who was responsible for inviting me down to Providence in the first place, took me to visit Dave’s on Main Street, Providence, which was the first stop on a mini-tour which included the venerable Coffee Exchange and The Shop.

Dave’s roasts a signature espresso blend, the interestingly-name “Blind Pig”, as well as a decaf, both of which are available through the bright orange Slayer espresso machine. Dave’s has the obligatory bulk brew (the Black Crow blend) as well as featuring two single-origins on pour-over, available through Chemex, Aeropress, Clever Dripper and French Press, although the Chemex is most heavily featured and hence most often requested. Plus, if you ask nicely, the staff will open up whatever single-origins they have in stock and make you a cup. If you’re feeling peckish, Dave’s also has a small, but interesting, selection of cake.

Continue reading

Coffee Exchange

Bins of roasted coffee beans for sale in Providence's Coffee Exchange.Although small, Providence, Rhode Island, has a pretty decent coffee scene. That I discovered it is entirely down to Allison, who with fiance Chris, runs Broke and Travelling. Having enticed me down from Boston on a day-trip, Allison acted as my guide, introducing me to Dave’s Coffee, The Shop and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Coffee Exchange.

Coffee Exchange is an old-hand when it comes to Providence’s growing speciality coffee scene. Founded in 1984, it can be said to have inspired a generation (at least) of Providence coffee-drinkers. Coffee shop, roaster and retailer all in one, Coffee Exchange operates out of its busy store on Wickenden Street, roasting all its own coffee using a pair of Deirich roasters conveniently located at the back of the store.

In look and feel, as well as in the coffee it roasts, Coffee Exchange seems a little old school. Dark roasts and blends predominate, although single-origins and lighter roasts are there for those who look. Coffee Exchange is also a pioneer, having championed strong ties between roasters, green bean importers and coffee growers long before it became fashionable. Indeed, Coffee Exchange co-owner Bill Fishbein founded both Coffee Kids and The Coffee Trust.

Continue reading

Brian’s Travel Spot: New England

A cappuccino from Render Coffee in BostonWelcome to a somewhat new direction for the Coffee Spot as we head off into the unknown with Brian’s Travel Spot. As my followers on twitter may already know, I’ve just embarked on a three-week adventure across the United States. The aim of this little (well, not so little by the time I’ve finished it) piece is to keep a record of what I’ve been doing.

The idea is that it enables you, dear reader (Or should that be dear readers? Perhaps I’d better not be too ambitious and stick with dear reader for now.), to follow my adventures as they unfold. I’ll update this post every few days, in between my normal Coffee Spot posts, the idea being to capture the highlights, with the emphasis on the travel rather than the coffees shops (although I’m sure they’ll feature).

Each update has its own gallery and then a short (I hope!) entry underneath. I’ve never tried my hand at travel writing before, so it could be an adventure in more ways than one! So, if you’ve made it this far, take the plunge, and come along with me as I traverse the USA!

Continue reading