Coffee Under Pressure, St Mary’s Butts

A saucer, seen above, with the outline of a cup drawn on the base of the saucer. The words "Coffee Under Pressure" are written around the circumference of the outline. In the centre is a black circle with "C.U.P." written in white in the very centre.Reading’s Coffee Under Pressure is better known by the acronym, C.U.P. A recent addition to the local scene, it opened in August last year, tucked away in a lovely setting behind the Reading Minster. It’s a sun-drenched, south-facing place, with sheltered outdoor seating and a warm welcome inside, which flows from C.U.P.’s Greek owners, Maria & Nasos.

The coffee is from Winchester’s The Roasting Party. Unusually, there are two blends on espresso, plus decaf, as well as several single-origins available as individual filter coffees through the V60. As well as the usual offerings, there are some Greek specials, the Freddo Espresso & Freddo Cappuccino.

Not content with that, there’s also an impressive range of 16 different loose-leaf teas of various types, as befits C.U.P’s full name, Coffee Under Pressure, Speciality Coffee and Tea. All the tea is from Edinburgh’s Pekoe Tea and every bit as much care and attention goes into making it as goes into the coffee.

Finally, the small kitchen to the left of the counter turns out an impressive range food, mixing traditional(ish) British sandwiches, cookies and pastries with some interesting Greek dishes, such as the bougatsa, flaky pasties that can be either sweet or savoury.

June 2020: Coffee Under Pressure now has three locations. There is a second one in Reading, on Blagrave Street, while the third, on Park Street in Bristol, opened in June 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic!

July 2020: Coffee Under Pressure has reopened its indoor and outdoor seating areas to go with its takeaway services. You can see what I made of it when I visited.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

Officially on St Mary’s Butts, a road running along the western edge of Reading Minster, connecting Broad Street with Gun Street, C.U.P. isn’t the easiest place to find. I walked up and down it a couple of times before noticing a little offshoot to the east which runs behind the Minster. Pop down here and you’ll find, in what was an old florist, the delightful C.U.P. It’s actually only a couple of minutes’ walk from Tamp Culture, which is on the other side of the Minister, hidden from view, and a similar distance from Reading’s branch of Artigiano on Broad Street.

This might be the perfect coffee shop location. South facing, the interior’s flooded with sunlight, while the view of the medieval Minister is lovely. Plus it’s so quiet and secluded outside, yet two minutes’ walk from the shops. It’s not huge, but there’s plenty of seating. You can get 10 people outside and maybe 25 more inside. The door’s on the left-hand end, leading you into what’s effectively a rectangle, with kitchen and counter at the back. The kitchen, walled off from the rest of C.U.P., is on the left, while the counter’s on the right. There’s a smattering of two-person tables arranged around the wall as you come in, with the bulk of the seating off to the right, occupying the space between the three floor-to-ceiling windows at the front and the counter at the back. There’s a row of three two-person tables, followed by a long, communal table with benches. Finally, against the right-hand wall, is a lovely four-person bar. The only downside to sitting here is that you have your back to the room and a view of the wall…

The décor is as simple as the layout, with a plain, tiled floor and whitewashed walls and ceilings, which only adds to the sense of space and brightness. The only exception to this are the walls that separate the kitchen from the rest of C.U.P.: these are painted a delightfully-bright yellow.

The owners, Maria & Nasos, worked in Reading for three years, scoping out the market before fulfilling their dream of opening a coffee shop. They have effortlessly blended Greek-style coffee with a typical third-wave café setting, and, of course, using third-wave coffee. Nasos explained that he’s a fan of blends, preferring his espressos to be balanced and well-rounded. C.U.P. uses two Roasting Party blends, The Captain for milk-based drinks, and Hello Sailor for straight espresso. I tried a shot of this and really liked it, a fruity, but well-balanced coffee.

As well as the usual coffee-shop menu, C.U.P. offers Greek specials: Freddo Espresso & Freddo Cappuccino. The former (also made with the Hello Sailor blend) is espresso, ice and water, all blended together and served in a glass. Nasos made me one, and, while not unpleasant, like most iced coffees, it wasn’t for me.

I also had lunch, trying the feta cheese bougatsa. A bougatsa, as I learnt, is essentially a phyllo pastry dough wrapped around a sweet or savoury filling. Mine was excellent: served hot, it was filling and very tasty. I paired this with a slightly more traditional sandwich, the Veggie Festival: roasted Mediterranean vegetables with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. The vegetables were excellent, while the bread was even better!

While I was there, I ran into Annabelle (a student at Reading University) and Rich (from Swindon), who I’d inadvertently (and unknowingly) also run into at Swindon’s Darkroom Espresso. It’s a small world.

53 ST MARY’S BUTTS • READING • RG1 2LG +44 (0) 118 950 3699
Monday 08:00 – 19:00 Roaster The Roasting Party (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Bar, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 19:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 19:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 Power Limited
Chain Regional Visits 7th March 2016

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9 thoughts on “Coffee Under Pressure, St Mary’s Butts

  1. Pingback: Darkroom Espresso | Brian's Coffee Spot

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  6. Excellent coffee shop.

    Two Greek guys, Maria is Romanian.

    When asked where they source the coffee,and the answer is The Roasting Party, its says they know something about coffee before even ordering a coffee.

    Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

    Far superior to the kiosk the other side of the church, and cheaper.

    Cakes and savouries, with a few exceptions, from their own kitchen.

    Interesting conversation, coffee shops in Athens. Elite coffee a very small world.

    Freddo espresso a very refreshing drink on a hot day, but not made the way you describe.

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