On the busy Whiteladies Road in Bristol, just a few doors along from where Joe’s Coffee used to be, stands another branch of the Boston Tea Party chain. I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me this long to find this particular Tea Party; the only excuse I can offer is that it’s not a part of Bristol I visit very often. The Whiteladies Road branch has the usual Boston Tea Party offerings: coffee that’s a cut above your average chain, a large and excellent food (and cake) menu, including breakfast served all day, and lovely surroundings to eat/drink in.
Like all the other branches of the Boston Tea Party that I’ve covered, this one feels like a Boston Tea Party while at the same time managing to be its own place. The trick that the Tea Party seems to have pulled off is to take iconic/unique/interesting buildings and turn them into fantastic spaces for cafés. In the case of Whiteladies Road, it’s on the site of an old record store. While I’ve been in plenty of Tea Parties that stretch over two floors (eg Exeter, Worcester), this is the first that stretches over three levels (unless you count the garden at the original Park Street), making it a particularly lovely setting.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Recently I’ve been wondering why I cover the Boston Tea Party (BTP) chain given that the Coffee Spot is specific about independents and definitely about not chains. The ultimate answer is that I like them (the primary criterion that I use, whatever I’m writing about), although I have a strong historical connection with BTP, particularly Park Street, a favourite haunt of mine for many years.
However, I still can’t escape the fact that BTP is now a chain with 13 branches and one more in the pipeline (Cheltenham). Other than really liking each individual branch I’ve written about, what impresses me is the variety that BTP offers. As I said in the introduction, each branch is distinctly its own place, while maintaining the same high standards set by the chain as a whole. It offers the security of a chain (ie you know what you are getting) with the variety of the independent coffee shop. However, it’s still small enough as a chain that the desire for standardisation hasn’t driven the quality down to the level of mediocrity, which seems to be the case with all the big, national chains.
In fact, BTP seems to have made a big effort on its coffee over the last year or so. The coffee comes from Bristol-based Extract Coffee Roasters, with seasonal espresso blends (interestingly BTP is now offering a choice of “medium” or “dark” roasts; I’d prefer to see a little more detail, but I guess it’s an easy way to distinguish between the two when you’re aiming for the mass market), a decaffeinated blend and a single origin on bulk-brew filter which changes on a monthly basis. This emphasis on coffee puts BTP a cut above the average chain.
So, what about Whiteladies Road itself? It’s an interesting space which you enter at street level into what I’m going to call the foyer, a large space with counter to the right and generous waiting area to the left. At the back, stairs lead both upstairs and downstairs, so all the main seating is isolated from the hustle and bustle of the counter and those waiting to collect their coffee.
For me, this seating arrangement is what makes Whiteladies Road such a great place. Although busy, both upstairs and downstairs feel quiet and relaxing, the sorts of spaces where you could spend an hour or two while the world goes by outside. Most of the seating is at tables, but there are the occasional comfortable armchairs, although (alas) no sofas.
I have this thing about Coffee Spots with great basements and while downstairs at Whiteladies Road looked tempting, I was drawn to the slightly more spacious, bright upstairs. It’s very pleasant, with wooden floorboards and neutral blue walls hung with works by local artist Graham Williams. It reminded me of a more relaxed, smaller and (above all) quieter version of upstairs at the Exeter branch (also adorned with works of art for sale).
Since I was in danger of becoming seriously over-caffeinated, I had a decaf flat white. Decaf can have a bad name but there are some excellent ones out there, including this one, a Brazilian from Extract: I really wish I’d had it as a straight espresso now (and there aren’t many decafs that I will say that about!).
You can also see what I made of all the other branches of the Boston Tea Party that I’ve visited. Plus, check out what local food blogger, Girl in Bristol, made of the Whiteladies Road branch when she visited in 2016.
|97 WHITELADIES ROAD • BRISTOL • BS8 2NT|
|www.bostonteaparty.co.uk||+44 (0) 1179 239571|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Extract (espresso + bulk-brew)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables, Armchairs|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Cakes, Breakfast, Lunch|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 19:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||20th December 2013|
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