Camper Coffee Co.

The front of Camper Coffee Co. in McCoys Arcade, Exeter, with both door (right) and window (left) open to the courtyard.Like Berwick’s Steampunk and the somewhat closer Tincan Coffee Co in Bristol, Exeter’s Camper Coffee Co. is a coffee shop which started life in a van before moving into bricks and mortar. In this case, the van in question is Rosie, a 1964 VW Splitscreen Container Van, who is still going strong. There’s also a coffee shop at Exeter University, a hut at Exeter Chiefs rugby club and, since March 2016, today’s Coffee Spot in McCoys Arcade in the centre of Exeter.

Described to me by one of the baristas as the speciality wing of Camper Coffee Co., the shop serves a house-blend from Roastworks on espresso, which is joined by a guest, plus two more on filter. These change on a regular basis, Camper getting the coffee in 5kg batches and moving on when it’s gone, typically in seven to ten days. There’s also a well-stocked bar for beer, wine and cocktails, plus a range of sandwiches and cakes.

The space itself is quite small, tucked away right at the back of McCoys Arcade. However there’s a large outdoor seating area that’s not really outdoors, sheltering, as it does, under the soaring glass ceiling of the arcade courtyard.

May 2019: Sadly I have learnt that Camper Coffee Co in McCoys Arcade has closed. The other Camper Coffee locations are still going strong though.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • You need a little bit of patience to find today's Coffee Spot, starting with this corridor.
  • It's the entrance to McCoys Arcade, by the way, on Fore Street, in Exeter.
  • Have faith and head down the corridor. This is the view back towards Fore Street.
  • Keep going, and towards the end, you can see the corridor opening out...
  • ... into a long, narrow and, above all, tall courtyard.
  • The tables in the centre of the courtyard gives you your first clue.
  • The sign on the table gives the game away. McCoys Arcade is home to Camper Coffee Co.
  • And there it is, right at the back, in a unit on the left-hand side.
  • While you're here, don't forget to look up. The courtyard goes a long way up.
  • Before we go in, here's another look at the outside seating in the courtyard.
  • I was really taken by the high, glass ceiling soaring way above the tables.
  • Back to Camper Coffee Co. Even if you sit outside, you'll have to go inside to order.
  • The layout's quite simple. There's a glass door on the right, and a large window on the left.
  • This was open when I was there, so you could walk straight in on this side too.
  • There's a row of three tables running up the centre, with...
  • ... a narrow bar along the left-hand side...
  • ... and a couple of tables on the right-hand wall, under a long mirror.
  • The mirror and the tables, as seen from the back of Camper Coffee Co.
  • The counter, meanwhile, is right at the back, running the full width of the space.
  • It's quite gloomy at the back, despite the windows. Fortunately, there are plenty of lights.
  • This includes these three hanging to the left.
  • I liked the basket lampshades.
  • There are a few neat features, including this plant outside in the courtyard.
  • Nice box.
  • Down to business. You need to order at the counter at the back.
  • There's a well-stocked bar in the corner at the back...
  • ... along with a small retail selection.
  • Branded Keep Cup, anyone?
  • I also caught sight of this: first time I'd seen a Kaffeeform Cup in the wild, so to speak.
  • There's a selection of cake on the countertop...
  • ... as well as sandwiches/bagels. It was late in the day, though, so there wasn't much left!
  • There's a fairly concise drinks menu...
  • ... and there are details of the current coffees, including two espresso and two filters.
  • While I was there, this Kenyan Kiruga Peaberry from Crankhouse was on espresso & filter.
  • It takes a certain something to balance your Aeropress Trophy on your pourover filter.
  • A more practical assembly of filter equipment.
  • The espresso machine, a La Marzocco Linea, is at the back of the counter.
  • The milk, by the way, is from Trewithen Dairy in Cornwall.
  • However, that was not for me on this visit since I went for an espresso. Neat presentation!
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Camper Coffee Co. takes a little bit of finding, the only clue coming from an A-board at the entrance to McCoys Arcade on Exeter’s Fore Street. A long corridor, with shops on either side, leads to a narrow, long and, above all, tall, courtyard at the back of the arcade. This houses a set of four-person tables, each long and thin, with a pair of box-like bench seats, laid out in an alternating pattern. You can have your coffee out here, under the soaring glass roof of the arcade and surrounded by the arcade’s other occupants, a range of independent stores, including a games shop, a guitar shop and a vintage store.

Alternatively, head into Camper Coffee Co. proper (which you’ll have to do to place your order) at the back on the left-hand side. The space is simple, box-like in dimensions, maybe twice as deep as it is wide, with a glass door on the right and a large window on the left which, while I was there, had been opened fully so that the entire front of Camper was open to the courtyard.

Although you can walk in on the left, you’ll find your way mostly blocked by first of a row of three tables along the centre of Camper. These are the same as the tables outside, each with a pair of box-like two-person benches. A built-in bar runs the length of the exposed brick left-hand wall, with four large stools, while on the right, a pair of two-person tables stand against the wooden cladding under a long mirror. This leaves a generous gap down the right-hand side, so you can easily get from the door to the counter at the back.

Like the arcade itself, the décor is exposed brick and reclaimed wood, with a concrete floor. Despite what is essentially a glass front, the only natural light is borrowed from the arcade, so by the time you get to the counter at the back, the lighting is quite subdued.

When it comes to coffee, Camper serves the same house-blend from Roastworks that you’ll find on Rosie and at the other Camper outlets. This is designed to be a middle-of-the-road espresso and a good base for milky drinks, while the guest espresso deliberately tries to offer a contrast to that. There are also two further guests, both on filter, through V60, Aeropress or Kalita Wave, with the method matched to the particular bean.

During my visit, there was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe on filter from James Gourmet Coffee and a Kenyan Kiruga Peaberry from Exeter’s Crankhouse Coffee as both the guest espresso and the second filter. As regular readers will already know, I can’t resist a challenge like that, so naturally I had to try the Kenyan, starting off with the espresso. This was a very different coffee from your typical espresso, bright, with a top-of-the-mouth taste, which really woke me up. As a filter, however, it was different again. Offered as an Aeropress, it was surprisingly smooth in contrast to the espresso, with fruity notes, which I hadn’t picked up under the espresso’s sharpness, coming to the fore.

By then, I’d already overshot Camper’s closing time by about half an hour, standing at the counter, chatting with the baristas, so it was time to head home.

22 MCCOYS ARCADE • FORE STREET • EXETER • EX4 3AN +44 (0) 7548 664792
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Roastworks + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 23:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 23:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 23:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 7th August 2017

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