When I went to Berlin in May, I already had a long list of coffee shops that I wanted to visit. However, KaffeeKirsche (literally, “coffee cherry”) was a chance discovery on my last Sunday, which I spent wandering the streets of Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene. In a familiar story, KaffeeKirsche is a roastery with small chain of coffee shops (three so far), which started on Adalbertsraße (also home to Bonanza Coffee and The Visit).
I actually walked past the original café, which opened in 2014 and was also the original roastery, which looked interesting enough for me to do some quick online research (the joys of smartphones and free (for now) EU roaming). This led to the discovery of both the roastery café in Tempelhof and the café/bakery on Böckhstraße, which is where I ended up in my quest for lunch.
The café/bakery occupies a spacious corner spot with plenty of seating inside and out. Brunch is served until three o’clock, while the cake selection is available all day. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, a pair of single-origins on pour-over via the V60 and a range of tea and other drinks.
Devout Coffee has been on my list for a while. A favourite of my friend Karen, who lives (by US standards) nearby, I first visited in January 2020. I would have written it up then, but a combination of factors (including it being a very busy Sunday morning) prevented me. 2½ years were to pass before my return to the Bay Area, where a day-trip to Niles, the northernmost district of the city of Fremont, was a priority.
Devout Coffee celebrates its 10th anniversary at the end of August, marking when it started roasting, although the coffee shop in Niles didn’t open until 2014. For many years, the roaster was in a small area in the back of the shop, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it moved next door, the original 5 kg Probat recently joined by a refurbished 30 kg Trabattoni. Since March 2021, there’s been a second Devout, a coffee trailer in Lake Chabot Public Market in Castro Valley.
There are multiple choices pour-over, with a single-origin espresso, plus batch and cold brew, along with retail bags of beans and a selection of cakes/pastries. You can sit inside, but the best experience is outside in the large patio area.
I first met Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee at Cup North in 2015, not long after Ed and Chris had set up the business, roasting on a 15 kg Giesen in a railway arch just north of the city centre. Although new to roasting at that point, they already had plenty of coffee experience, having previously worked for green-bean importers and African coffee specialists, Schluter (now part of Olam).
Since then, I’ve enjoyed Neighbourhood’s coffee, with its striking pop-song themed names (Grind Control to Major Tom and It’s a Grind of Magic spring to mind), both in coffee shops around the UK and at home. Over the years, the business has expanded, resulting in a move in early 2020 to a new location a little further north along the Mersey shoreline. Clearly, when I made a long-overdue return to Liverpool in June, a visit to Neighbourhood’s “new” home was top of my list!
The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room (The Crown for short), was the one consistent recommendation that I received for coffee in Oakland. I missed out in January 2020, my only previous visit to Oakland, since that was on a Sunday, when The Crown used to be closed. This time I was determined to catch it, popping over to Berkeley and Oakland on my last day in the Bay Area.
The Crown, which opened in mid-2019, is an off-shoot of Oakland green coffee importer, Royal Coffee. The Coffee Spot usually deals with coffee shops, plus the occasional roaster via the Meet the Roaster feature, so green coffee importers rarely feature, although if more of them did what Royal Coffee has done with The Crown, that would quickly change!
Although The Crown is a coffee bar, it’s a whole lot more than that, existing to showcase Royal Coffee’s excellent range of beans. While you can just have a cup of coffee, you’ll miss out if you dodn’t take the opportunity to explore some of The Crown’s amazing coffee, with frequently changing options on espresso, pour-over, batch brew and cold brew. There are also a small number of cakes/pastries if you’re hungry.
Located on The Alameda, just east of the beautiful Santa Clara University campus, this is one of two new (to me) locations for Voyager Craft Coffee since I last visited San Jose/Santa Clara in early 2020 (the other is in Cupertino). It opened not long after that trip, in April 2020, which means that its entire existence has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a convenient 20-minute walk south of Santa Clara station on the Caltrain line between San Jose and San Francisco, my main axis for exploring the peninsular. However, Santa Clara is also served by the Amtrak’s Capital Corridor and the ACE commuter service, connecting it with the East Bay and beyond.
Voyager is on the corner with Chapman Court, occupying a simple, rectangular space with the narrow side facing The Alameda. There’s plenty of seating inside, while outside, in the shade of three large trees along Chapma Court, you’ll find lots more tables. There’s the usual Voyager offering, with the house blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, joined by pour-over, batch brew and a range of travel/destination-themed signature drinks, everything roasted in-house. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of toast-based items, granola and a range of cakes.
This time last week I was in San Francisco, where the highlight of my day, coffee-wise at least, was The Coffee Movement, a recommendation from a barista at Saint Frank Coffee in Menlo Park. The Coffee Movement is in Chinatown, on Washington Street, roughly halfway up the hill. It opened in September 2019, so has spent most of its life operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects are still being felt. This includes no indoor seating and a queuing system to limit the number of customers in the shop. Instead, seating is provided outside, either at a bench in front of the window or standing at the back of a converted VW van.
However, the real draw is the coffee. The Coffee Movement is another multi-roaster, with the coffee changing every week, drawn from around the USA and beyond. There are three choices at any one time, available through an extremely concise espresso-based menu, along with filter (hot or cold). There’s a range of signature and seasonal drinks, although best of all is the tasting flight, where you can try all three coffees (filter) or one coffee as espresso, piccolo and filter. There’s also a small selection of pastries if you’re hungry.
No trip to the Bay Area would be complete without a visit to San Francisco, so, with a day to spare before my meeting started on Tuesday, I hopped on the Caltrain, heading north to the city, where my first stop was Scullery, recommended by my friend Karen. In British English, a scullery is a small kitchen, a fitting name given Scullery’s size, although the actual kitchen area, behind the counter, is probably twice as big as the space allowed for customers.
Lack of size is no limit to Scullery’s ambition though. A multi-roaster, drawing from a range of local roasteries (“friends of ours” according to the manager), the concise espresso-based menu is joined by batch brew filter, several signature drinks, tea (including PG Tips) and a selection of toast-based items. These include plain toast, classic avocado toast and, in a nod to the country of my birth, Welsh Rarebit.
I came to know Saint Frank Coffee, roaster and purveyor of very fine coffee, from its long-time home on Polk Street in Russian Hill. This was my last stop on my last day in San Francisco when I visited in 2017, at the end of The Grand Adventure. It therefore seems fitting that my first stop on my current trip was also Saint Frank Coffee, albeit out in Menlo Park.
These days there are four Saint Franks, including the original, a long-standing coffee shop on the Facebook campus (not open to the public), a pop-up bakery/coffee shop, also on Polk Street in San Francisco, and this one, which opened in 2019. Across the road from the Caltrain station, it’s the sort of coffee shop that could only really work in a place with the Bay Area’s climate, since the only seating is outside on the large, shady terrace.
When it comes to coffee, which is all roasted in-house, there’s the seasonal house blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus two choices on batch brew filter, with a third on iced filter. Finally, there are four options, including a decaf, on pour-over, plus a small range of pastries if you’re hungry.
Welcome to the third and final instalment of my latest Travel Spot series, all about my return home by train from Berlin. The first part covered my journey from Berlin to Köln, where I spent a few days exploring the local coffee scene, as well as taking a day-trip by train along the Rhine to Mainz. The last stage of my journey was my return to the UK, which involved retracing my steps from the journey out as far as London St Pancras. However, while I’d set off from Guildford, I was returning to North Wales and Flint station, which was part of the reason I’d broken my return journey in Köln.
I’d done Guildford to Berlin in a day and while I could, in theory, have done Berlin to Flint in a day, it would have required a very early start and any missed connections would have probably been disastrous. In contrast, by travelling from Köln, I could have a relatively relaxed start, catching the 09:42 to Brussels, where I’d have an hour and 20 minutes before my Eurostar to London, arriving at 14:00, rounding things off with the 16:10 Avanti West Coast service from London Euston, direct to Flint.
Ditto Coffee has been on my radar for a while now. An offshoot of Ditto Music, there are now four locations, two in Manchester, one in London (Shoreditch) and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, the original Ditto Coffee on Jamaica Street in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. Ditto Coffee opened in 2018, a tall, narrow coffee shop, with a neat mezzanine, offering a surprisingly amount of seating for somewhere so small, while there’s also a table and bench outside on the busy street.
Fittingly, given that it all started in Liverpool, Ditto Coffee uses a bespoke house blend, roasted by old friends Neighbourhood Coffee. This is served from a standard, espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter (same blend), hot chocolate, tea and a limited selection of soft drinks. There’s also a small range of cakes, plus a variety of breakfast and lunch items, along with wraps and sandwiches, all in a grab-and-go fridge opposite the counter.
Ditto Coffee is about more than coffee, however, strongly reflecting its music roots in the décor. This extends to support for local artists, who can perform in Ditto Coffee, as well as drop off demo tapes and display and sell their music and merchandise.