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Brighton & Hove

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The Coffee Spot Guide to Brighton & Hove

The iconic domes of Brighton Pavillion

There are a few places that can make claim to be the UK’s second city of coffee after London. These include Manchester and Edinburgh, while another is nestled down on the south coast, within easy striking distance of London, and yet which is sometimes overlooked: Brighton & Hove.

I’m as guilty as anyone (perhaps more so) of overlooking Brighton & Hove, despite going there for Issue 5 of Caffeine Magazine. Relatively easy to get to from my home-town of Guildford, I’ve nonetheless not made as many trips to Brighton & Hove as I could have, this despite there being an excellent, largely home-grown coffee-scene. This includes local roasters, Small Batch, which runs a small chain of coffee shops, plus carts at both Brighton & Hove stations. There are also a number of places which, inevitably, have sprung up since my last visit. Therefore, the usual caveat applies: this guide is by no means comprehensive or definitive.

As to Brighton & Hove itself, it is quintessentially an English seaside resort, with the added bonus of a rather bohemian life-style which attracts the alternative. It’s also long been a great foodie and shopping destination, with the famous Lanes, where independent businesses (not just coffee shops!) thrive, drawing as many visitors as the Pavilion or Brighton Pier. However, the coffee scene extends much further than that, going all the way to Hove to the west and Kemp Town to the east, and covering all points in between.

You can also see what fellow coffee-blogger, Katie, made on her Brighton cafe-crawl in early 2017.

Header image: Brighton sea front, looking towards Brighton Pier.

Coffee Spots

Bond Street Coffee

The coffee menu at Bond Street Coffee, complete with origin, processing method and tasting notes for each of the four coffees on offer (two espresso, two filter).Brighton's Bond Street Coffee is the latest venture for old friend of the Coffee Spot, Horsham Coffee Roaster. It was set up towards the end of 2014 with co-owner and manager, Chris, who I first met a couple of years ago when he worked at Coffee@33. I’ve also known Bradley, the man behind Horsham Coffee Roaster, for a similar length of time, so I confess to being slightly biased. However, several people, including the barista at my first stop of the day, Café Coho, and Mike, the manager of The Flying Coffee Bean in Guildford, told me good things about Bond Street Coffee, so I suspect it’s more than just bias on my part.

Bond Street, unsurprisingly, exclusively serves Horsham Coffee Roaster coffee, highlighting and showcasing Bradley’s output. There are two espresso and two filter options, all single-origins, which rotate on a regular basis. While I was there, there was an Ethiopian on both espresso and filter, with a Peruvian as the other espresso option, and a Rwandan on filter, all of which were washed (for the uninitiated, washing is the processing method, whereby the coffee bean is extracted from the coffee cherry). There’s also decaf, although it’s less well advertised.

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Cafe Coho, Queens Road

The back room at Cafe Coho with the morning sun streaming in through the window.Café Coho is a chain in the strictest sense of the word (there are two of them). Queens Road is the second of the two, very handily placed just a stone’s throw from Brighton Station and around the corner/down the street from the likes of Coffee@33 and Taylor Street Baristas. Despite this stiff competition, it more than holds its own, being a lovely spot, the décor full of brick and wood. As a bonus, on the day I was there, it was flooded with sunshine.

The coffee is from Union Hand-roasted, with a decaf option, but unlike many places in Brighton, there’s no guest roasters or pour-over. There is, however, a comprehensive breakfast/brunch/lunch menu, with a lavish array of cake and pastries. I ‘d only come in for an early-morning coffee before starting a day of café-hopping, but I made the mistake of sitting in the sun-filled room at the back, which is by the stairs down to the kitchen… After a constant stream of breakfasts coming up the stairs (plus harassment on twitter), I finally cracked and ordered poached eggs on toast (I’d have had the Eggs Florentine, but I’d already had one breakfast that day before setting off!).

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An espresso shot extracting on the Mavam modular espresso system at Brighton's Coffee @33.I was originally put onto Coffee@33 by Horsham Coffee Roaster in 2013, which is when I first visited, Back then, Coffee@33 used legendary London roasters, Monmouth, along with the more local Horsham Coffee Roaster. Since 2015, however, Coffee@33 has roasted its own beans, first using a small hot-air roaster in the shop, then a more conventional gas-fired roaster in a dedicated facility. At the end of 2018, Coffee@33 returned to its original partnership with Horsham Coffee, roasting on Horsham’s new Loring roaster. Not only has this meant renewing ties with Horsham, but it signifies a return to air-roasting on a high-capacity, efficient machine.

Coffee@33 serves a Brazilian/Nicaraguan espresso blend, accompanied by several single-origins. One is available on espresso, providing a contrast to the blend, while the others are available as pour-over using the Kinto dripper. As well as the unusual choice of filter method, Coffee@33 is a trend-setter when it comes to espresso, being one a handful of UK shops to use the Mavam modular espresso system. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of sandwiches, which can be toasted, and a wide selection of cakes and pastries to choose from, all baked on-site.

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Ground Coffee, Kemp Town

The word "ground" with the "g" and "d" replaced by portafilters.On my first visit to Brighton, I made it all the way to Hove to visit its branch of Ground, the second branch of this local chain (if chain is the correct term for somewhere with just two branches). However, I failed to get east of the centre and so it was only on my return that I finally managed to track down the original Ground in the delightful Kemp Town. After all that, I’m pleased to say it was well worth the wait!

Compared to the Hove branch, the original Ground is quite a bit smaller, and, as a result, much more intimate. It also benefits from being on a south-facing corner, so, unlike its Hove counterpart, it’s flooded with light on a sunny day.

There’s a relatively straight-forward espresso-based menu, complimented by bulk-brew filter and tea from Canton Tea Co. A decent range of cake is joined by toast and a selection of three sandwiches for the more savoury-minded. Currently the coffee is from Union, with North Star guesting on filter, but all that is about to change, with Ground due to move over to North Star for all its coffee as a prelude to roasting its own.

January 2016: Ground has now started roasting its own coffee under the name Pharmacie.

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Jolliffes (Nest Update)

A tray full of cupcakes, freshly delivered to Jolliffes in BrightonWhen I first went to Brighton, I came across Nest, a lovely, cosy spot in Brighton’s North Laines. Back then I wrote that Nest was the “sort of place that put the lounge into coffee lounge: a relaxed, chilled-out space where you could easily end up spending all day without quite meaning to”. On my return last month, I was wandering the Laines, as you do, when I thought to myself, “ooh, Nest should be down there”. So down I went, only to discover that Nest was no more and, in its place, was Jolliffes.

The good news, for those of you who liked the original Nest, is that not much has changed from the original concept. It’s still a great place to come and spend time, lounging around with your coffee and cake. The roaster has been changed, from Has Bean to the local Redroaster, but the cakes are still both locally-sourced and excellent.

I was there only three weeks after the new owners took charge, so expect a few more changes to the décor as they spruce things up, but as far as I’m aware, there are no plans for any radical changes.

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The little red roaster that gave Redroaster its name.Redroaster is something of a Brighton legend, first opening its doors on Saint James’s Street almost 15 years ago. Back then it was something of a pioneer, a café-cum-roaster, producing all its own beans on a small, red roaster which gives the coffee shop its name. The roaster is still there, in pride of place behind the counter, but ever since Redroaster opened a dedicated roastery in Kemp Town to supply its growing wholesale business, it’s been semi-retired. These days it’s only in use as a sample roaster, or when the big one in Kemp Town is broken!

If I said Redroaster didn’t look like a modern, speciality coffee shop, I don’t mean that in a bad way. It feels like a throw-back, the sort of café I would have rejoiced in finding even 10 years ago, which shows how far tastes/trends have evolved in the coffee business. It’s also testament to the fact that Redroaster has been doing its thing for a quite a while now, long before most of the current wave of roasters discovered speciality coffee. The simple fact is that Redroaster has been roasting and serving single origin coffee long before it became fashionable.

September 2017: Redroaster has had a complete overhaul/refit and now looks a totally different coffee shop! Expect an update whenever I can get myself back to Brighton.

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Small Batch, Goldstone Villas

The classic Goldstone espresso blend in a classic Small Batch Coffee espresso cup, served at the Goldstone Villas branch, the original Small Batch Coffee espresso bar & roastery.Small Batch Coffee has been a cornerstone of Brighton & Hove’s speciality coffee scene for many years. Currently there are seven outlets in Brighton & Hove itself, including two carts (one at Brighton Station, the other at Hove Station), a new roastery in Portslade and the latest branch, just along the coast in Worthing. I’ve always been Small Batch fan, so it’s a bit odd that that I’ve only written up the Norfolk Square branch, and that was four years ago! So, on my return to Brighton at the end of last year, I made a Small Batch visit a priority and where better than where it all started, the original roastery/espresso bar at Goldstone Villas?

These days, of course, the roastery is no more, having moved out in September 2017. Instead, you effectively get two coffee shops in one, the old roastery having been converted into the Workspace, designed to attract remote workers, although anyone is welcome to use it. The offering is the same in both: a standard espresso menu using the Goldstone house-blend (or decaf if you prefer), plus a daily option on batch-brew. If you’re hungry, there are pre-prepared sandwiches and cake, with doughnuts on Saturday.

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Small Batch, Norfolk Square

The Small Batch Logo: two gentlemen on a tandem, one holding a coffee pot, the other a mug. Above is written "DRINK SMALL BATCH COFFEE" and below "It's good for what ails you".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 & 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.

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Stoney Point (Mr Wolfe Update)

The logo / name of Stoney Point, written on the black board behind the counter.When is a Coffee Spot Update not a Coffee Spot Update? While it’s a question that probably only I care about, it arises in the case of Stoney Point, tucked away on Brighton’s Montpelier Place. Readers with long memories will recall that this was once home to Mr Wolfe, a delightful coffee shop specialising in homemade cake, which I visited in 2015.

Shortly after my visit, Mr Wolfe’s owner, Travis, returned to Australia, selling the business to the current owner, who, aside from the name change, has kept things much as they were, something I discovered when I finally returned to Brighton at the end of last year.

Like Mr Wolfe, Stoney Point serves a concise espresso-based menu using coffee from veteran roasters, Monmouth. Best of all, it’s kept the friendly, neighbourhood atmosphere that made Mr Wolfe so welcoming. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes, and that’s about it.

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