The Flying Coffee Bean (these days FCB Coffee) is a chain of coffee kiosks on stations in London and the South East. The Guildford one’s been a fixture for several years, but, until recently, I never gave it a second thought. I distinctly remember when, a couple of years before I started the Coffee Spot, I took my coffee (a two-shot latte) back to get an extra shot because all I could taste was milk. The barista didn’t look best pleased, explaining that this was how the customers liked it, at which point I decided to take my custom elsewhere.
Fast forward to six months ago and, for various reasons, I revisited the Flying Coffee Bean. Expecting disappointment, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only could I taste the coffee, it was really nice-tasting coffee too! 12-second extractions were a thing of the past and the milk was steamed so it held decent latte-art.
Consider me converted!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Various factors lay behind my trying the Flying Coffee Bean again, not least because my friends at Horsham Coffee Roaster had started supplying the guest bean. I was also intrigued by a re-branding of FCB as an artisan espresso bar. Fully prepared to scoff, I found myself having to eat my own thoughts. It really was artisan coffee!
I don’t often go down to Guildford mainline station, FCB’s home, but since my conversion, I’ve made a point of popping in when I can. On Tuesday I was able to catch up with Mike, who manages the Guildford and Woking FCBs. Amazingly, Mike, who cut his coffee-teeth in Costa a decade ago, recognised me, not from my Coffee Spot exploits, but from when I was a regular at the Costa in Waterstone’s in Guildford all those years ago.
Mike’s come a long way since then and, I’m pleased to say, so has FCB. Horsham Coffee Roaster, who have had been providing guest beans for a while now, recently started supplying the house-blend as well, part of FCB’s desire to source locally wherever possible. This led to a widening of the net for guest roasters, with Horsham Coffee Roasters sharing duties with the likes of London’s Mission Coffee Works. All the guests are single-origins and every one I’ve tried has gone well with milk.
FCB packs a lot into such a small kiosk. As well as the house-blend and guest, there’s decaf and, for those of that persuasion, tea. The food offering is equally impressive, with hot bacon and sausage rolls in the morning, plus an extensive range of cakes and pastries. Handmade baguettes make an appearance at lunchtime: I know that they’re handmade because I watched Mike making them!
FCB sells coffee-making kit and champions re-use, not only by selling a range of Keep Cups, but by offering a Keep Cup discount as well, quite a rare occurrence. I’m pleased to report that JOCO Cup got a discount too!
Local sourcing extends to chocolate, with the Guildford branch, under Mike’s initiative, stocking award-winning Kokoh chocolate, made in nearby Ewhurst by Joanna. You can find her at Guildford’s Farmers’ Market, the first Tuesday of every month. I popped by to say hello and, while chatting, was impressed to discover the similarities between good coffee and good chocolate, where it all starts with sourcing the beans.
The transformation of FCB from an average coffee kiosk to provider of top-quality coffee is impressive and to be welcomed. If you want to try for yourself, the Guildford branch is on Platform 2. Although it’s through the ticket barriers, just ask the station staff for a bridge pass and wander on in. It’s what I did.
August 2019: FCB Coffee has recently moved to using Plot Roasting from Woolwich. Plot provides the house blend, Trailblazer, while continuing to provide a monthly guest single-origin (currently also from Plot). I recently tried out the Trailblazer in a flat white and it was lovely, a smooth and creamy flat white, milk and coffee in perfect harmony.
|GUILDFORD RAILWAY STATION • STATION APPROACH • GUILDFORD • GU1 4UT|
|Monday||05:30 – 18:30||Roaster||Plot Roasting + Guests (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||05:30 – 18:30||Seating||N/A|
|Wednesday||05:30 – 18:30||Food||Breakfast, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||05:30 – 18:30||Service||Takeaway|
|Friday||05:30 – 18:30||Cards||Cash only|
|Saturday||07:00 – 17:00||Wifi||N/A|
|Sunday||07:30 – 15:30||Power||N/A|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||3rd February 2015, 20th August 2019|
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