Brian’s Travel Spot: Things Go Wrong When Flying

The nose of the British Airways Airbus A319 standing on the tarmac at Heathrow, waiting to take me to Manchester in March 2018.This is the second and final part of the Travel Spot which I started last week with my flight from Phoenix to London. That was all about the Boeing 747 and was prompted by the news of the final flights of British Airways’ remaining two Boeing 747s.  However, getting to Heathrow wasn’t the end of my journey: I still had to make the comparatively short hop to Manchester and from there, get to my Dad’s, something I’ve done numerous times.

As I left things at the end of Part One, I’d made it safely to Heathrow Terminal 3, but I was 1¼ hours behind schedule. At that point it was 14:40 and my connecting flight for Manchester was due to leave from Terminal 5 at 15:10, which meant I had to get from between the terminals, clear passport control, go back through security and board my flight, all in less than 30 minutes…

Did I make it? No, of course not. For the very first time in my life, I missed a flight. This is post is all about what happened next, what airlines do when you miss your flight and the lessons that I learned from the experience.

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Glasgow Coffee Festival 2020

The Glasgow Coffee Festival 2020 logoAlthough the Glasgow Coffee Festival is one of my favourite events, I have a chequered history when it comes to attending. I missed the very first one, held in 2014, but made it to Glasgow for the 2015 festival. The festival skipped 2016, the result of a change in scheduling from the distinctly chilly October/November to the warmer days of May, expanding from a single day to an entire weekend in the process. Determined not to miss out, I arranged my first ever trip to Japan so that I could attend, and I was back again for the 2018 festival, when not even a bad back could stop me!

Unfortunately, I was working in Chicago the weeks before/after the 2019 festival, so this year, I was determined not to miss out. I put the dates (first weekend in May) in my diary, ensured that work didn’t schedule any meetings around then and even bought my tickets. And then the COVID-19 pandemic happened

You might think that would spell the end of the coffee festival for this year, but the folks of Glasgow are made of sterner stuff, and the festival, now a 10-day event, is back in a new form.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: On a Boeing 747 from Phoenix

The British Airways 747 which flew me back from Phoenix in January 2018, on the stand at Heathrow Terminal 3 at the end of the flight.As regular readers of Brian’s Travel Spot will know, while I was travelling extensively for work, I stopped trying to write up my Travel Spots as I went, leaving me with various unfinished journeys, so to speak. Today’s post is one of those, a throwback to 2018 and the very end of my five week long trip across America, which started in Boston at the end of February. I took the train from Providence, Rhode Island, down the northeast corridor to Manassas, catching the Crescent to New Orleans and then taking the Sunset Limited all the way across to Tucson, Arizona. From there, I drove to Phoenix for work, before catching my flight home, which is the subject of today’ post.

This post was prompted by last week’s news of the final flights of British Airways’ remaining two Boeing 747s. Although my return from Phoenix wasn’t the last time I flew on a 747 (that was in January 2019, when I was unexpectedly upgraded to First Class on my way out to Phoenix of all places!), it’s the last of my 747 flights that remained without a write-up, so it seemed a fitting way to mark the retirement of British Airways 747 fleet.

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The Collective

The latte art in my flat white, made with Extract's Rocket Espresso, at The Collective in Caversham.It takes a special business to open in the middle of a global pandemic, which is exactly what The Collective, in Caversham, did. In fairness, the plan had been to open a lot earlier, but in a story I hear all too often, there were problems with the fit out and then, just as The Collective was due to open in March, along came the COVID-19 shutdown.

Many would have given up at that point, but not Caversham residents, Sam and Susie, the driving force behind The Collective. Instead they pushed on, The Collective opening in June, initially for takeaway only, before fully opening for table service in mid-September. There’s a brunch menu, which is joined at 11 o’clock by the lunch and toastie menus, all the food cooked in the open kitchen behind the counter. This is backed up by a concise espresso-based menu featuring Extract Coffee Roasters’s Rocket espresso.

However, The Collective’s a lot more than just a café. It’s also a lifestyle store, which reminded me of the likes of Liverpool’s Thoughtfully Café, plus a grocer, selling milk, bread, eggs and more, which brought the likes of Bristol’s No 12 Easton and Elemental Collective to mind.

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Anonymous Coffee Co.

The "Adventure" espresso at Anonymous Coffee Co. seen from above, with notes about the coffee from the roaster, Wood St Coffee.Anonymous Coffee Co., which is located inside the Tasting House on Chain Street, in the heart of Reading, is the latest venture of old friend of the Coffee Spot, Phil Carter. Technically, Anonymous extends no further than the neat wooden counter just inside the door, but in reality you’re free to roam anywhere over the Tasting House’s two floors, including the large upstairs seating area. The Tasting House, by the way, is a wine merchant/wine bar with a range of wines on (self-service) tap, so you can try multiple wines in one sitting if you want.

Returning to Anonymous, there are two options on espresso (“comfort” and “adventure”) with two more on pour-over through the V60. One espresso and one filter come from Union Hand-roasted, with the others coming from a regularly-changing guest roaster (during my visit, it was Walthamstow’s finest, Wood St Coffee). If you’re hungry, there’s a small range of cakes available from Anonymous, or you can have something from the Tasting House kitchen, which offers toasties, charcuterie, crostini and various bar snacks.

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Chalk Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

The A-board outside Chalk Coffee is a sign of the times, reminding you that you need to wear a mask (from October 2020).Of all the coffee shops that I’ve visited since the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, Chalk Coffee can make a claim to be the one with the least physical changes. Located on Watergate Street, it’s part of the rapid expansion of Chester’s speciality coffee scene that has seen numbers swell in the last few years. Like many of the city’s speciality coffee shops, it has a basement-like feel, stretching a long way back under the famous Rows and it looks, and feels, remarkably like it did on my last visit in 2019.

However, there have been changes. As well the (admittedly minor) physical ones, you’ll find a clear sign outside on the pavement reminding you that you must wear a mask. Meanwhile, there’s a QR code on the counter that you can scan, checking you in on the NHS COVID-19 app. Not all the changes are COVID-19 related though. Chalk Coffee used to use Origin for its house espresso, but it’s recently changed to Colonna Coffee, although Origin is still on decaf, while a regularly-changing guest roaster provides the second espresso option and filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the usual cast of premade sandwiches and cakes are still available.

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Jaunty Goat Update

The Jaunty Goat logo, which was painted on the wall to the left as you enter the store in Chester.Jaunty Goat is one of Chester’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having relocated from a few doors along Bridge Street to its current location in 2015. I first visited in 2016, when it could be fairly described as a coffee shop doing good food, all in a lovely, basement-like interior that extends a long way back under the Rows above. There are even the remnants of a stone staircase in the wall at the back that might date back to the middle-ages.

Jaunty Goat was set up by twins, Patrick and Ed, with Ed leaving in 2018 to establish the nearby Chalk Coffee. Since then, Jaunty Goat has reinvented itself, considerably upping its food game to match the likes of The Flower Cup and Panna, serving a brunch menu until 4 o’clock. It’s also revamped and extended the interior, adding more table seating.

At the start of 2019, it opened a second, plant-based, location on Northgate Street, then, after reopening following the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, Jaunty Goat itself has gone vegetarian. Finally, over the summer, it started roasting its own coffee in a dedicated, off-site roastery, with seasonal single-origin offerings on espresso (house, guest and decaf), plus another on pour-over (AeroPress/V60/Chemex).

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Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters Update

The 15 kg Giesen roaster at Quarter Horse, Birmingham.Quarter Horse Coffee opened its Birmingham café/roastery in 2015, the roastery operating on one side of the space, the coffee shop on the other, the two separated by a waist-high counter. While this arrangement had the obvious advantage of making the roastery very visible to the customers, it had its drawbacks. As the roastery became busier, the inevitable interruptions that come from having such an open and visible roasting operation began to have an impact on productivity.

Nathan, the driving force behind Quarter Horse, decided that he need to make some major modifications to improve the roastery. However, the question was how to accommodate the disruption that the structural work would cause, which would inevitably shut both roastery and café for several weeks. Then along came COVID-19, with its enforced shutdown, giving Nathan his opportunity…

The results of the remodelling were plain for all to see when Quarter Horse reopened on the last day in July. Although it would be more accurate to say that they weren’t plain to see. Although the roastery hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s now enclosed in its own room, leaving Nathan and his team free to get on with the important business of roasting in peace.

This Coffee Spot Update focuses on the roastery, while the café has its own update, where you can find more details of the physical changes.

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The Coffee Spot is Eight!

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.2020 has been a very strange year, so much so that I almost forgot the Coffee Spot’s birthday, remembering just in time, late on Monday evening, that the Coffee Spot was eight years old that day. It was, of course, far too late to write anything about it, hence this slightly delayed post. I launched the Coffee Spot on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise) with a vague idea that it might become a useful resource for coffee (shop) lovers and an entertaining way for me to spend (some of) my spare time.

For the first five months of the Coffee Spot’s eighth year, things carried on much as before, as I travelled around the world, visiting and writing about all the wonderful coffee shops I found. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and everything Coffee Spot related ground to a halt. After quickly running through my backlog of Coffee and Travel Spots, I passed my time writing about making coffee at home. Then, just when I’d pretty much said all I had to say, coffee shops began to reopen, enabling me to write about them again in my COVID-19 updates. Now we’re at another crossroads, and I’m wondering what the Coffee Spot’s ninth year will bring…

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Kaffeine Eastcastle (COVID-19 Update)

The front of Kaffeine, door to the left, windows to the right, with a pair of benches in front of the window acting as tables.If you ever need evidence that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for operating a coffee shop during the COVID-19 pandemic, I  present Kaffeine, the London-based chain of precisely two coffee shops. I’ve already looked at how the original Kaffeine, on Great Titchfield Street, has adapted to COVID-19 and today it’s the turn of Kaffeine Eastcastle, which reopened at the start of September. Although less than five minutes’ walk apart, how the two shops are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is quite different.

Of course, there are similarities, with both adhering to the same underlying principles, but in each case, the response has been moulded to/by the needs of the individual shop. Perhaps the biggest difference is that while Great Titchfield Street offers table service, Eastcastle, with its lower footfall, has a more traditional counter service model.

In terms of what’s on offer, little has changed. The espresso-based menu still has Square Mile’s ubiquitous Red Brick at its heart, along with a single-origin option, while there’s also a single-origin filter, which changes monthly. The concise brunch menu is served until 2 pm (3 pm at weekends), supported by an all-day selection of salads, tarts and toasted sandwiches, plus cake, of course.

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