Buzz Killer Espresso was the first place I visited on my returning to Chicago as part of my around the world trip in 2016. A lovely coffee shop/roaster just off North Milwaukee Avenue, it was set back from the street and spread over two floors, a delightful spot with excellent coffee and awesome staff. I was particularly disappointed when I learnt of its closure this time last year. However, all was not lost since Buzz Killer was moving, with a slight change of name, to new premises further up Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. Naturally on my return this year I hopped on the Blue Line and went straight there.
Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker is very different from its predecessor in terms of look and feel. Spread over a much larger single floor, the outside seating is gone and there’s a main entrance on Milwaukee and a second entrance at the back on Diversey. The coffee offering’s very similar though, with Buzz still roasting all its own coffee. There’s a house-blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus a blend and a three seasonal single-origins on V60, while the bulk-brewer, that staple of the American coffee shop, is mercifully absent.
Abchurch Yard in the City of London, has been home to various coffee carts over the years, including Flat Cap (old Cannon Street site) and, most recently, Feijoa Tree. However, at the start of June, Matt took over the pitch, a lovely young man who I met in 2016 when he was in charge of the CanDo Coffee kiosk in Paddington.
Currently, Matt has a fairly simple set-up, with a single mobile stand sheltering under a large umbrella. There’s a single-origin espresso from Curve Coffee Roasters, along with a decaf from Caravan, served from a basic espresso menu, although, in a neat twist, everything costs £2.50. Matt also has matcha all the way from Japan, a small number of cakes and retail bags of various single-origins from Curve. It’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own, although there are some seats if you want to hang around.
Big Shoulders was not a name I’d really come across until about a year ago, since when it seems to have taken off. Founded nine years ago by Tim Coonan, who I had the pleasure of briefly meeting, Big Shoulders was originally a roaster, with Tim, who had a long career as a chef, roasting coffee in his garage. This grew to a wholesale roasting business and then came the coffee shops, currently standing at five. The Gold Coast branch opened in January, directly opposite Tempo Café, one of my favourite Chicago spots. So it made sense that on my return to the city, I would head first to Tempo for breakfast, then cross the road to try out the coffee at the new kids on the block.
Big Shoulders has its house blend on espresso, with a fairly concise menu, including a cortado and two sizes of cappuccino and latte. There is a choice of two single-origins on filter, either bulk-brew (termed “fast drip” on the menu) or pour-over via the V60 (termed “slow coffee”, which I rather like). There’s the now-obligatory iced and nitro options, plus a selection of tea and a range of cakes if you’re hungry.
This time last year I was preparing for the second of three flights to Chicago, which I took using a different combinations of airlines/routes, writing each up in its own Travel Spot. I’d originally thought that I’d be making the trip quite regularly, maybe four or five time a year, so part of my research was to work out the best airline/route. Assuming that I was starting from my Dad’s, I decided that by far the best option was flying direct from Manchester with American Airlines.
However, circumstances change and this year, I’ve just got the one trip, departing on August 24th and returning four weeks later. So, while my research wasn’t completely wasted, it wasn’t as useful as I’d hoped. As suspected, I found myself flying from Manchester, so I booked my flight out on American, but, to my dismay, discovered that there weren’t any direct flights back, American discontinuing the route in early September. Instead I decided to cut my losses and, rather than returning to Manchester, I’ll be flying direct to Heathrow with British Airways. That, however, is another story, to be covered in its own Travel Spot. Today, I’m focusing on the flight out with American.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip to southwest London, taking in the likes of Beanberry Coffee, Woof Coffee and The Press Room in Twickenham. At the end of my trip, I found myself in Ealing and, since I was there, I decided that I would carry on going west. Really west. All the way out to (wait for it…) Hanwell! Well, maybe not that far west, but, as London goes, quite far, and not exactly known as a hot-bed of speciality coffee.
What had dragged me onto the No 427 bus and out along the Uxbridge Road was the prospect of breakfast (and coffee) at the interestingly-named Fade-to-Black, which, since February, has been serving espresso using Ozone’s Empire Blend to the fine folks of Hanwell, with tentative plans to add a single-origin batch-brew. This is backed up with a decent breakfast/lunch menu, complete with sandwiches and a good range of cake.
Fade to Black has a simple, welcoming interior with windows on two sides and a range of seating, including window-bars, should you want to get some people-watching done. There’s also a spacious basement which, while normally off-limits, is used for functions and events such as yoga.
The Black Chapel occupies a unit on the west side of Chapel Yard, a sheltered, pedestrian space just off Wandsworth High Street. There are a couple of outside tables and three stools inside, but that’s about it. You really come here for the coffee, the vegan snacks/treats, and, of course, to be insulted by hang out with The Black Chapel’s legendary owner, Ant.
There’s a rotating cast of guest roasters, with a single option on espresso and another on pour-over. Ant operates an interesting system: when one coffee runs out, he grabs a bag of whatever takes his fancy from his stock cupboard and on that goes in its place… The coffee is pulled on a vintage 1964 Telechrome lever espresso machine, although while I was there, it was under repair, replaced by an even more venerable lever machine, a 1958 Faema Lambro. There’s also filter through the Clever Dripper.
When it comes to food (although not coffee, where cow’s milk is available along with non-dairy alternatives), The Black Chapel is vegan, with a small selection of sweet and savoury delights, including avocado on toast, all prepared on-site. I arrived just as the cinnamon buns came out of the oven…
It seems unfair to call The Press Room a chain, since there are precisely two branches, the Surbiton original and today’s Coffee Spot, in Twickenham. Both are close to railway stations and they’re also at opposite ends of the 281 bus route. I visited the Surbiton branch in June 2013, almost exactly a year after it opened in 2012, while the Twickenham branch opened in the summer of 2015. It’s taken me slightly longer to visit this one, a mere three years, but it was worth the wait!
The Press Room occupies a bright corner on London Road in Twickenham. It’s much bigger than the original, with a simple spacious interior. The basic offering remains unchanged, with a solid coffee offering, including pour-over, plenty of tea and a selection of cakes, with sandwiches and salads if you want something savoury. Originally, The Press Room used Staffordshire’s Has Bean, but switched to Cornwall’s Origin when Twickenham opened.
The Resolute Blend is the mainstay on espresso, where it’s joined by Origin’s seasonal decaf. There are usually two offerings on pour-over through the V60 which change every few months. During my visit, these were a pair of Nicaraguan single-origins, one washed, the other naturally-processed.
Airline coffee has a pretty bad (and, frankly, often well-deserved) reputation, but around the industry, steps are being taken to rectify this, with British Airways and Union Hand-roasted leading the way. The two have teamed up to provide Union coffee at British Airways’ UK lounges and, on long-haul flights, in the First Class and Club World cabins. Last month, I flew to Tokyo and back in Club World, giving me a chance to sample the coffee both on the ground and in the air.
I wrote up my experiences of the coffee on my way out to Tokyo and, on the back of that article, got an invitation from Geoff Cliff, the man at Union responsible for the day-to-day management of the British Airways account. A week after I returned, I popped over to Union’s East London roastery, where Geoff and I talked about the considerable undertaking of providing not just coffee, but also the training that goes with it, across the entire British Airways long-haul fleet.
I came across Woof Coffee in October 2016, receiving an e-mail invitation to a party to celebrate its official opening. Sadly I couldn’t make it (the party was the day I arrived back from my first, and so far only, around the world trip) but I duly stuck a star on it in Google Maps and made a note to visit. Fast forward 22 months and I took a small excursion to southwest London that saw me call in on Beanberry Coffee in Kingston and The Press Room in Twickenham. And conveniently half way between the two (sort of) in Teddington, there’s Woof Coffee.
Woof has a simple, espresso-based coffee menu with the ubiquitous Redchurch blend from Allpress acting as the house blend, with a different guest roaster every month. Woof buys in a number of single-origins/blends, which are available as retail bags, with a different option as the guest espresso every day. If coffee’s not your thing, then Woof has plenty of tea, working with a local tea merchant who sources a range of loose-leaf tea exclusive to Woof. Finally, there’s food, with a simple all-day breakfast/lunch menu backed up by five sandwiches, all of which can be toasted.
I came to Flagstaff in search of mountains, forests, canyons and deserts, but not expecting much in the way of good coffee. However, the one place that pretty much everyone recommended was Firecreek Coffee Company, right in the centre of town on the Historic Route 66, almost directly across from the train station (which now doubles as the tourist centre).
I’ve already written about Firecreek’s roastery, 111 Roasting Works, which is a few blocks to the south. When I visited, it operated as a tasting room on weekday mornings. Sadly I’ve just learnt that 111 Roasting Works has finished its coffee service, but the good news is that Firecreek, which opened in 2015, is still going strong, serving excellent espresso and filter coffee, plus a range of tea, from the Donahue Building, one of Flagstaff’s oldest, dating from 1888.
There’s an excellent breakfast menu, which is supplemented by a wide range of very tasty-looking (and indeed tasty) cakes. These are all served in the large, spacious front portion of Firecreek, while there’s a second area to the rear, which serves as theatre, function room, bar and overspill seating area. You can also sit out front at one of two tables.