When I visited Köln on my way back from Berlin in May, I had two coffee shops to visit, The Coffee Gang and Ernst Kaffeeröster. However, I quickly added a third, Blooming Coffee Bar, which came highly recommended by the locals. Blooming Coffee Roastery & Coffee Bar (in true German fashion, it’s both roaster and coffee shop) only opened its coffee bar last summer, on Leonhard-Tietz-Straße in the city centre, although the roasting part has been going for a little longer.
As a coffee shop, it’s very modern, with a clean interior design and décor. It’s the first coffee shop I’ve visited that uses the Decent Espresso machine, which was designed with the home market in mind. There’s a choice of two single-origins, served from a very concise menu, while for filter, there’s batch brew and four single-origins, each matched to either V60 or Kalita Wave. There’s also a selection of tea and a small collection of cakes/pastries.
The design aesthetic extends to the cups and servers (both by Kinto) for the filter coffee, while for espresso, there are some gorgeous ceramic Aoomi cups, handmade in Poland. Naturally, they’re all available to buy, along with the coffee beans and tea.
Welcome to the first instalment of my new Travel Spot series, covering my return by train from Berlin to the UK. While this saw me retrace my steps from the journey out (as far as London St Pancras), rather than doing everything in one day, I broke my journey at Köln, where I spent a few days before carrying on to the UK.
On my way out, because I needed to get all the way to Berlin in a single day, everything was very tightly planned, with reservations on all the various legs of the journey (Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels, ICE 3 from Brussels to Köln and ICE 1 from Köln to Berlin). On the way back, I could afford to be more flexible, particularly as the journey from Berlin to Köln is just over four hours, with hourly departures from Berlin.
In theory I could have done this by buying individual tickets for each leg, but since I was travelling on a Eurail pass, I could use any ICE train. This meant I was able to leave my decision as to which train to catch right up until the last minute, which is exactly what I did.
I didn’t know much about Coffee Circle before travelling to Berlin at the start of May. However, enough people recommended Coffee Circle to me once I arrived that I added it to my list. Coffee Circle began as a roastery specialising in direct trade in 2010, only opening its first café three years ago (in Wedding, Berlin, in the same building complex as the roastery). Since then, there have been two more, one on Bergmannstraße near Tempelhof and the other, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße in the heart of Mitte.
From the street, there isn’t much to Coffee Circle, but inside, the café goes a long way back, all the way to the rear of the building, where windows look into a modern courtyard. There’s space for 12 people at tables outside on the pavement, while there’s plenty more seating in the spacious interior. A very limited (and entirely vegetarian) snack menu is joined by a selection of cake, but the real draw is the coffee, all roasted in-house, with the Cerrado, a naturally-processed Brazilian coffee, on espresso, joined by a regularly-changing second single-origin option, along with another single-origin on batch brew and two more on pour-over.
COFFI is another recent addition to Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene which came highly recommended. Located on a cobbled street running parallel to Hope Street, there’s a lovely view of Liverpool’s Church of England Cathedral (not to be confused with Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is at the other end of Hope Street). COFFI opened in the late spring of 2021 in a lovely old coach house, which provides a unique setting for the coffee shop. There’s limited seating inside at a long table, while there are four benches outside on the quiet street.
The real draw, however, is the coffee, with owners Nat + Mike, who cut their coffee teeth in Bucharest, selecting some outstanding beans from Europe’s best roasters, brewing from a concise espresso-based menu with batch-brew filter and pour-over options. Berlin’s Five Elephant and London’s Assembly were on the shelves when I visited, but these change every two to three weeks, so you’re going to need to hurry to catch them. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes available.
Ben Rahim, one of Berlin’s lesser-known speciality coffee names (outside of Berlin that is), came highly recommended by various people, both online and in other Berlin speciality coffee shops that I visited. It also features in the Double Skinny Macchiato guide to Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Ben Rahim is unusual in that its owner is from Tunisia and, having recently opened a shop in Tunis, it’s technically an international coffee shop chain (of two).
Ben Rahim opened in 2015, occupying a small shop on an alleyway leading into the famous Hackesche Höfe in Mitte in the heart of Berlin. Towards the end of 2019, Ben Rahim expanded into the adjacent space, now its current home, when the previous tenants, a clothes shop, moved out. All the coffee is roasted in Berlin on behalf of Ben Rahim, with a blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, backed up by a blend and two more single-origins on filter via the Clever Dripper. True to its Tunisian origins, these two single-origins are also offered via the ibrik, along with a range of signature drinks and a small selection tea, all backed up by a small range of cakes, pastries and filled croissants.
Today’s Meet the Roaster is Adams + Russell, a speciality coffee roaster and fixture of Birkenhead’s coffee scene ever since Mr Adams + Mr Russell first set up shop on an industrial estate near Birkenhead Central station in 1978. Although both founders have moved on, the company hasn’t gone very far in the intervening 44 years, the biggest change coming 10 years ago when expansion saw Adams + Russell relocate to its current home on the same industrial estate.
The same cannot be said for its coffee, though. While still best known in The Wirral and the northwest, Adams + Russell has an increasingly global reach, supplying customers as far afield as South Korea and Iceland’s Skool Beans. Adams + Russell’s philosophy has also come a long way since those early days, when dark-roast blends were its backbone. While the dark-roast blends remain, Adams + Russell has embraced speciality coffee and adopted the lighter roasts beloved of third-wave coffee aficionados to produce a truly impressive range of blends, single-origins and micro lots.
I’ve already written about the roastery’s small retail shop (where you can also buy a cup of coffee) so today’s post is all about the roastery itself.
Press Bros. Coffee was recommended by my old friends at Neighbourhood Coffee when I visited Liverpool two weeks ago. Founded by three brothers who, in 2018, bought a converted Piaggio coffee van, Press Bros. began life in the Baltic Market (where the Piaggio is still going strong). Three years later, in October 2021, Press Bros. opened its first bricks and mortar store on Lark Lane in Aigburgh, south of the city centre and a stone’s throw from Sefton Park.
Press Bros. has come a long way from the Piaggio van, with Lark Lane, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, offering a lot more than coffee. There’s an all-day brunch menu, sandwiches and cakes, along with tea and a range of draught and canned beer, plus wine and cocktails. When it comes to coffee, Neighbourhood provides a bespoke house blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest espresso, which changes every month. There are also a couple of filter options, which are matched to a specific preparation method. For June, this was Neighbourhood’s Born Sipping, a naturally-processed coffee from smallholders in the Konga region of Ethiopia (AeroPress) and the Las Guerreras, a Mexican single-origin from Girls Who Grind (V60).
When I was in Berlin last month, one of the highlights of my weekend exploration of the city’s speciality coffee scene was Bonanza Coffee Gendarmenmarkt. I spent the following day, a Sunday, strolling around Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene, where I popped by the Bonanza Coffee Roastery, which doubles as a lovely coffee shop. Well, I say “popped by”, but that understates the deliberate nature of my visit. Tucked away in a large courtyard, accessed down a long road from Adalbertstraße, the Bonanza Roastery is not somewhere you’d stumble across, or, indeed “pop by”, unless you already knew it was there.
It’s a lovely spot, quiet and sheltered, with plenty of outdoor seating and even more inside, where the coffee shop, at the front, shares the space with the roastery at the back. It was also incredibly popular and my original plan, which had been to write it up as a Coffee Spot, went out of the window almost immediately. However, I noticed something that I always love to see on the menu: a filter tasting flight. That, I thought, will make an excellent subject for a Saturday Supplement. And you know what? I was right!
Monday’s Coffee Spot is Bloom Building and Coffee, a chance discovery made while researching my trip to The Wirral two weeks ago. On an industrial estate in Birkenhead, it’s an interesting place, combining café, bar and venue space with hosting the Open Door Charity, which supports the mental wellbeing of young people across Merseyside, funded, in part, by Bloom Building’s profits. It also offers hot desking space and meeting rooms.
Unsurprisingly, my focus is on Bloom Building and Coffee in its role as a café, where you have a choice of any of the building’s public spaces, including the terrace, main venue/bar and mezzanine, all housed in the brightly-coloured industrial unit that’s been Bloom Building’s home since it opened in 2019. The coffee is from local roasters, Adams + Russell, which has its roastery (and shop) a 20-minute walk away. You’ll find an Ethiopian Sidamo on espresso, along with a Costa Rica decaf, both served from a concise menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and a range of soft drinks. As befits a bar, there’s a wide selection of beer, cider, wine and spirits. If you’re hungry, you can choose from a small range of cakes, pastries and vegan sandwiches/wraps.
My experience on the ICE 3 to Köln was everything I’d hoped it would be: a fast, efficient journey on a modern, comfortable train, with the at-seat dining an added bonus, reinforcing my already favourable impression of German railways. Up until that point, everything had gone like clockwork, with all my trains on time and all my connections made. Sadly, that was the high-point of my experiences with the German rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, as everything pretty much went downhill from there, starting with my journey from Köln to Berlin.