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Newcastle & Gateshead

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The Coffee Spot Guide to Newcastle & Gateshead

The Sage Centre in Gateshead, on the south bank of the Tyne, as seen from Newcastle, on the north bank.In my opinion, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, along with Gateshead, is one of the most under-rated places in Britain.The city of Newcastle, on the Tyne’s northern bank, is linked to its southern neighbour, the town of Gateshead, by no fewer than seven bridges. Newcastle reminds me of Porto to some extent, in that both are cities which tumble down the steep sides of river valleys, connected to the other side by a series of amazing bridges.

While nothing quite compares to Porto’s magnificent two-level Ponte Luis I bridge, Newcastle has the Tyne Bridge, with its famous arch, flying across the river from bank to bank; the Swing Bridge, connecting Newcastle and Gateshead at river level; and the oldest of them all, the 1849 High Level Bridge, a combined road, rail and foot crossing. A little way downstream of these is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Opened in 2001, this is a tilt bridge, designed for pedestrian and cycle traffic, which links Newcastle’s quayside with Gateshead’s arts quarter. Watching it tilt up to let a tall-masted yacht pass through is a very special sight.

The bridges, however, are just the start when it comes to architecture. Gateshead boasts the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, housed in an old flour mill, and the modern Sage Centre, a conference centre and performance arts venue, with its reflective glass and curves. Meanwhile, on the north bank of the Tyne, Newcastle has its famous castle, as well as a wonderful maze of multi-levelled streets, connecting the top of the town with the quayside.

I’ve always found Newcastle and Gateshead to be very friendly and welcoming, as well as being home to some excellent roasters and some amazing coffee shops. The majority of these are clustered close together in Newcastle’s compact city centre, although there are now outposts in Jesmond, Gateshead and out on the Chillingham Road. Worth a visit in its own right, it also provides a great jumping-off point to explore the English coastline to the north and south, as well as venturing inland along Hadrian’s Wall. But don’t forget to stop for coffee first.

As with all these guides, this is not, and does not claim to be, a comprehensive guide to Newcastle & Gateshead’s coffee scene.

Header image: Bridges across the Tyne, looking upstream, with Newcastle on the right, Gateshead on the left. From from to back: Tyne Bridge, Swing Bridge, High Level Bridge.

Coffee Spots

Arch Sixteen Café

The Arch Sixteen Logo in the window of Arch Sixteen Cafe: Fine Food & DrinkArch Sixteen Café is the latest addition to the Newcastle coffee scene. Okay, I’ll stop myself right there, because, of course, Arch Sixteen is in Gateshead, a few short steps away from the Gateshead end of the High Level Bridge across the Tyne. If there’s one thing that Tyneside has in abundance, it’s great bridges. If you’re visiting Newcastle you could do a lot worse than head across one of them and give Arch Sixteen (which is also within easy striking distance of the Tyne Bridge and, via a steep hill, the Swing Bridge) a try. Of course, if you live in Gateshead, the good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Newcastle to get great coffee.

Opened in May 2013 by the lovely Pam, Arch Sixteen serves its own house blend roasted by local coffee legends, Pumphrey’s. There are also some excellent-looking cakes and a short but interesting-looking food menu. However, where Arch Sixteen really comes up trumps is in its lovely, spacious interior, which, coupled with Pam’s genuine, warm welcome, makes it a wonderful place either to pop in for a quick espresso or to stay for the whole day.

June 2016: Arch Sixteen now uses local roasters, Colour Coffee Company, the roasting off-shoot of Pink Lane Coffee.

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Café 1901

A drawing on the wall of Cafe 1901Café 1901 is a wonderful spot inside Newcastle’s Jesmond Methodist Church. It’s a strange space, in that, just as you think you’ve discovered all there is to it, you realise that there’s more! Starting with the tables outside on the pavement, and finishing with the seating at the back by the counter, there are four distinct parts to Café 1901, each with its own specific charm.

However, Café 1901 is more than a lovely space. It serves excellent food, with full breakfast and lunch menus, plus a decent selection of cake. What’s more, the coffee is excellent too. With beans from the nearby Colour Coffee Company (the roasting offshoot of Pink Lane Coffee), there’s a concise espresso-based menu plus hand-poured filter through either V60 or Chemex.

However, where many would be satisfied with a single espresso blend throughout the year, Café 1901 regularly rotates its espresso, running a different single-origin or blend every couple of weeks. Another single-origin is available for the filter coffee, while there’s also decaf from Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters and tea from the local  Ringtons. Ever adventurous, Café 1901 was also serving a cold-brew (hot) chocolate from Kokoa Collection.

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Camber Coffee

The Camber Coffee logo from the wall behind the counter.To celebrate its first birthday, I present today’s Coffee Spot, Newcastle’s Camber Coffee (which turns one tomorrow, having opened on 6th July 2017). Located on the first floor of a combined cycle and fitness store, Start, it’s right in the heart of Newcastle city centre, but, paradoxically, easy to walk past. I spotted its window-display as I wandered along, but I’d already been tipped off by Joe of Flat Caps Coffee that it was one to visit, so I popped in for breakfast.

It’s a large space, particularly for a speciality coffee shop, although it probably only occupies about one third of the actual floor-space, the rest of the first floor being given over to bicycles, continuing the strong association between speciality coffee and cycling. The coffee comes from Pilgrims Coffee, a café/roastery on Holy Island, just off the Northumbria coast. There’s a house-blend on espresso, with batch-brew filter if you’re in a hurry, or a single-origin option on pour-over through the V60.

This is all backed up with concise breakfast and lunch menus, plus cake and sandwiches. Originally vegan when it came to the food, Camber is under new management and is now adding vegetarian items to the menus.

July 2018: Camber Coffee is now under new management, being run by North Shore Coffee Co. There's now a choice of two rotating single-origins on espresso and another on pour-over through the Kalita Wave.

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Flat Caps Carliol Square (Bunker Coffee Update)

The Flat Caps Coffee logo, taken from a bag of coffee roasted to mark Flat Caps' successful Kickstarter.Back in the summer of 2016, Joe of Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop alongside the legendary basement on Ridley Place. Five months (and one successful Kickstarter) later and Flat Caps has not one, but two new coffee shops. Funny how these things work out… Flat Caps Carliol Square is the first of these, while the second, Flat Caps Campus North, is next door.

Eagle-eyed readers will spot something familiar about Flat Caps Carliol Square. Not long after the Kickstarter was successfully funded, the opportunity to take over Bunker Coffee & Kitchen presented itself. However, this isn’t just a re-badging of an existing operation: other than the physical space itself, Flat Caps has pretty much changed everything, creating a new coffee shop just as thoroughly as if a new build had been fitted out…

Those who know Flat Caps Ridley Place will at least find the coffee offering familiar: three coffees, each available as espresso or filter, changing on a regular basis from a limited cast of roasters. Added to that is a much-expanded food offering, taking advantage of the large kitchen space at Carliol Square, plus extended opening hours.

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Harvest Canteen

The Ouseburn Coffee Co. logo: the letters OCC in white against a black background with the words Ouseburn Coffee Co. beneath a white line.A couple of minutes’ walk apart on Newcastle’s St George’s Terrace, Harvest Canteen and Monday’s Coffee Spot, Café 1901, couldn’t be further apart in look and feel. Both, however, are outstanding. Both do great food: breakfast, lunch and a wide range of cake. Both also do great locally-roasted coffee. If pushed, I’d say Harvest does great coffee with food, 1901 doing great food with coffee. It’s more emphasis than any difference in substance though, Harvest projecting as a very modern coffee shop, 1901 as a cosy café.

Harvest Canteen is the coffee-shop offshoot of Newcastle roaster Ouseburn Coffee Co. (OCC), which roasts all the coffee. On espresso is the Foundry No 1 blend, with a single-origin (changing every two months) available as both espresso and filter (V60 or Aeropress).

However, as the “Canteen” element of the name suggests, from the day it opened in June 2014 it’s been about more than just coffee. Given the ridiculously small food preparation area (in reality a work surface behind the counter), the all-day breakfast/brunch menu is impressive. Based around poached eggs with various toppings, there are also pancakes, pastries, toast and granola. At lunchtime, these are joined by salads, soup, tortilla and wraps.

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Hatch Coffee

The word "Hatch", written in cursive script in white on black, over the word "COFFEE", separated by a horiztonal white line.Hatch Coffee is the latest addition to Newcastle Upon Tyne’s steadily-growing speciality coffee scene and had been open all of ten days when I visited one sunny Monday afternoon. Situated in an old hut which used to belong to the car park attendant at the top of Ellison Place (the car park’s still going strong, but is now pay-and-display, so the attendant and accompanying hut are surplus to requirements).

Given its size, Hatch’s set-up is truly impressive. With less space than you’ll find behind the typical coffee-shop counter, the owner and head (sole for now) barista, Mark, has installed a fully-functioning speciality coffee shop. The espresso’s from local roasters, Colour Coffee, plus decaf from Bath’s Round Hill Roastery on a second grinder. There’s tea from Canton Tea Co, hot chocolate from Kokoa Collection and a range of soft drinks, plus locally-baked cakes and other goodies. All that’s missing is pour-over!

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Laneway & Co

A V60 of a Costa Rican coffee from Caravan which I had at Laneway & Co, Newcastle.Laneway & Co is part of the recent surge of speciality coffee shops in Newcastle. Opening in July last year, I missed it by just a couple of months, having been up in May to check out the likes of Hatch Coffee. Instead I had to settle for catching up with it on my return on a dark, December day, at which point it had been open for five months.

Laneway & Co is, perhaps, the most London-like of all Newcastle’s speciality coffee shops, with a somewhat austere, tiled interior that is reminiscent of many a coffee shop in the likes of, say, Fitzrovia. This London connection is reinforced by the coffee, with the Allpress Redchurch blend on espresso, while the guests, while I was there at least, were from Caravan and, before that, Square Mile.

Although there is a small selection of cake and a couple of sandwiches, the focus is firmly on the coffee. As well as Allpress on espresso, the two or three guest beans are available as filter, each matched to a specific method, either Aeropress or V60. If you’re looking for alternatives, there’s tea from Brew Tea Co and single-origin hot chocolate from Kokoa Collection.

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Pink Lane Coffee

One of the intimate nooks in Pink Lane Coffee, appropriately enough painted pink...Pink Lane Coffee is, appropriately enough, on Pink Lane, handily located just across the road from Newcastle’s Central Station. Unfortunately, I was coming from the other direction and almost missed it. From the outside, it looks unpromising, tucked away on the ground floor of the Pink Lane Business Centre. If I’m honest, it doesn’t look much like a coffee shop, with the door set back from the lane, a rather unpromising, cramped little place. However, a bit like the Tardis, it’s a lot bigger on the inside. And much nicer.

When you do venture across the threshold, you’ll find a wonderful coffee shop, with something for everyone. The beans were from London’s Union Hand-Roasted and Bath’s Round Hill and the resulting coffee is lovely (although Pink Lane now roasts in-house under its Colour Coffee Company brand). As a place to sit and drink it, Pink Lane stands comparison to anywhere I’ve been. There’s a bench outside, while inside you’ll find comfy sofas, stools at the counter, intimate nooks, plus the usual mix of small and big tables. Throw in a generous supply of power outlets and free wifi and you have somewhere I could happily spend an entire day... In fact, it was so welcoming that I had to throw myself out!

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Pumphrey’s Brewing Emporium

The Pumphrey's Coffee sign: 'Pumphrey's Coffee Served Here'Pumphrey’s, the coffee and tea merchants, is something of a legend in the North East and in Newcastle in particular. A family firm which can trace its roots all the way back to 1750, it’s still going strong. As well as wholesale roasting and distribution, Pumphrey’s has a retail arm, Pumphrey’s Brewing Emporium, right in the heart of Newcastle’s Grainger Market.

Regular readers will know that I have a thing for markets. So you can imagine my delight on not just finding a market, but on finding one with a top-notch Coffee Spot in it as well. Newcastle, I think I love you!

Pumphrey’s Brewing Emporium sells coffee beans and all manner of coffee equipment, as well as tea and other hot beverage sundries. Not only that, but it also dispenses coffee wisdom to those who wish to learn it and, to top it all, you can get a great cup of coffee, either from the espresso machine or brew bar. What more could you ask for? A bright, sunny day? In Newcastle? Yes, I had that too!

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Quay Ingredient

Eggs Florentine and Toast at Quay IngredientTucked away under Newcastle's Tyne Bridge on a street that not even the local map seemed to think existed, Quay Ingredient took a little finding, but it was worth it (the trick is to walk until you are standing directly under the Tyne Bridge and, as if by magic, you’ll find yourself in front of Quay Ingredient).

The main draw for me is the range of excellent breakfasts: when I asked for recommendations, Quay Ingredient was top of everyone’s lists and it didn’t disappoint! Quay Ingredient’s not a huge place and you might have to wait for a table, such is its popularity. However, it’s definitely worth the wait with classics on the menu such as Eggs Florentine (my favourite), full English, grilled Caster kippers and cinnamon pancakes. Breakfast is served until 11.30 during the week and all day at weekends. If breakfast’s not your thing, there are sandwiches, salads and soup, plus cake, of course.

Quay Ingredient has a lovely, friendly atmosphere. You're assured a warm welcome from Maggie, who works front of house, and her husband, Simon, who does all the cooking in the little kitchen at the back. Impressively, Maggie remembered me from my first visit six months before!

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The Settle Down Café

The Settle Down Cafe on Newcastle's Thornton Street. One of the nicest places to sit outside.The Settle Down Café, just on the western edge of Newcastle city centre and within easy striking distance of the station, is a friendly, laid-back, community café. You can tell a lot by the staff that a café employs and the folks in the Settle Down were lovely. Even though I’d turned up near closing time on a Saturday, nothing was too much trouble for them. Where other staff might be eager to usher you out, shut up shop and head home, at the Settle Down, they were happy to serve me, making me feel right at home.

What makes the Settle Down is the atmosphere. Multiple spaces, including a lovely outdoor seating area, means that there’s plenty of space, but each area has a fairly intimate feel to it. The coffee, from local roasters Ouseburn Coffee Co, is pretty good, while there’s a wide range of food and cake, all locally made, with a lot of it coming from the nearby Sugar Down bakery.

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