So, finally, I made it to Bath and, naturally, had to make my first stop the legend that is Colonna & Small’s. I’d heard so much about it, and had so many people sing its praises, that I feared the reality would be a crushing disappointment. Fortunately Colonna & Small’s came through with flying colours.
The first thing that struck me is that it’s visually stunning with an unconventional layout (take a look at the gallery and the walk-through on Google Maps). It’s a lovely bright space (unsurprisingly, the building used to be an art gallery), with whitewashed walls and ceiling, pale blue tiles behind the counter, wooden floorboards and a wooden counter. Long and thin, its physical dimensions reminded me of TAP No 193, although the similarity ends there.
However, it’s the coffee that draws most people. Colonna & Small’s uses various roasters (Origin, Has Bean, Workshop, Extract and Round Hill Roastery to name a few), rotating the coffee regularly, often on a weekly basis. There are usually three options on espresso, three more on filter and a decaf on the espresso machine. Each is carefully chosen and presented so as to get the best from the bean.
March 2017: I’ve learnt that Colonna & Small’s now only serves coffee from Colonna Coffee.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
On entering Colonna & Small’s you come into a small seating area, almost a corridor with benches on either side. A little further on is a fireplace with two glass cabinets full of coffee-brewing equipment on either side and, opposite that, a small bar.
The actual counter and main seating is beyond this, up a couple of steps. Here the room widens and the ceiling is higher, rising in a V-shape with two pairs of skylights, flooding it with light. The counter is on the left, grinders first, then espresso machine, followed by cake and brew bar. Opposite is a long (table-less) bench, while a couple of stools let you sit at the brew-bar. Beyond that is the main seating, four-person wooden tables with benches in two rows. You can sit outside (when it’s not pouring with rain) in a small courtyard at the back, while down the stairs opposite the counter is a training area and another semi-private room that can be used for meetings.
I’ve heard some say Colonna & Small’s is intimidating. I can only speak as I found it: a relaxed, friendly place, with a mix of locals and visitors. I suspect that most of the visitors already knew of its reputation, with folks coming from as far afield as Australia (a coffee roaster on a tour of Europe!). Certainly I found it less intimidating (visually) than I did Edinburgh’s Brew Lab although I’ve learnt a lot in the year since I was there.
I started off with a Square Mile Santa Gema made on the Clever Dripper. I was recommended to have it black and to leave it to cool, both of which I would have done anyway (in fairness, a year ago I definitely needed telling!). Unfortunately I was coming down with a cold, so my poor palate had no chance of picking out any subtle notes. However, it was lovely from the off, mellowing and growing in complexity as it cooled.
I paired this with a banana and pecan cupcake; a nice contrast. This had a very rich, dark, pecan cake with sweet banana buttercream icing on top and was every bit as good as the coffee.
I spent a while chatting with co-owner Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, who I found to be warm, friendly and completely unpretentious. He was one of four baristas on duty and we chatted between customers, who he also had plenty of time for. It was a pleasure to watch him enthuse coffee to the uninitiated, reminiscent of Mat at Bristol’s Full Court Press going to work on a customer (in fairness, Mat’s the first to acknowledge the huge influence that Colonna & Small’s has had on him and the wider coffee scene).
Maxwell also made me a lungo using a Rwandan bean from James Gourmet Coffee (I’d tried the same bean as a filter a few days before at Clifton Coffee Company). It was ground with the new Mahlkonig EK43 grinder, then extracted on the La Marzocco Strada at five bar of pressure (espresso is normally nine bar) with 19g coffee/70g water and a 20-second extraction. The resulting drink was far longer than an espresso, but much shorter than a filter. I need to try one when I don’t have a cold before I can pass any judgement though!
|6 CHAPEL ROW • BATH • BA1 1HN|
|www.colonnaandsmalls.co.uk||+44 (0) 7766 808 067|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:30||Roasters||Colonna Coffee (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:30||Seating||Tables, Benches, Bar|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:30||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:30||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:30 – 17:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 16:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||23rd December 2013|
You can read the opinions of fellow coffee-blogger Alison, which are on her excellent blog, with an update when she visited as part of her South West Coffee Tour. For an even more up-to-date perspective, try this from the Bean There At team.
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Even though I live in Canada now, I’ve been to Bath. That was probably in my tea drinking days though. I still have no idea about all the technicalities of coffee making but I know a good cup when I rapidly consume it. Fine blog. If I’m ever back in Bath I’ll know where to go.
Thanks 🙂 Whereabouts in Canada are you? I’ve only been to Montreal with my Coffee Spot hat on, but it is a fine city with many excellent coffee spots 🙂
I’m currently in Mississauga, about to move to Waterdown which is West of Toronto (about an hour or so). I would say once you move into Quebec the quality of the coffee and coffee shops is greatly increased. In Ontario, chains such as Starbucks and Tim Hortons seem to be most popular but can be hideously bland (TH in particular). Second Cup is better IMHO. You can find the odd decent coffee shop but in Montreal, Quebec City etc. your selection is greatly increased and the people there really do seem to want to savour the flavour. Montreal is an excellent place for seeking out fine coffee houses.
I’ve never been into a Tim Hortons. Just looking at one from the outside was bad enough!
When I first arrived in Canada for a vacation with Lovene, we had terrible coffee on the flight over. Once landed I asked my brother to take us somewhere to get a decent cup of coffee. He took us to Tim Hortons. My view of Canada dropped like a stone. It’s incredibly popular though. There are Tim Horton’s coffee shops ever few kms no matter which way you turn.
Thankfully it’s taken about 10 years but my brother no longer considers Timmy’s to be the pinnacle of coffee here in Canada.
True, Lev has improved! I will keep working on him in your absence 🙂
And yes, airline coffee is (in my experience) universally dreadful!
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Hi Brian. I don’t know about you but I cannot make head nor tail of Colonna’s subscription service. And their “rare” beans – are or are not available as espresso roast, depending on how you approach them – via “rare” or via “subscription”. I did email them but their answer was far from helpful. Is it just me?