Obscure Coffee by name, and, some might say, obscure by nature, although in reality, Obscure Coffee is only a few minutes’ walk from the heart of Chester, near the bottom of Lower Bridge Street, close to the city walls and the River Dee. It’s not even obscure by name, since, as owner Nick recounted, he’d wanted to call it Obscura Coffee, “obscura” being Spanish for “dark”. However, someone misheard him, thought he said “obscure” and the name stuck.
It’s a pretty small spot, with space inside for a handful of tables, while there’s a really cosy back room with four more tables and a pair of armchairs. All the coffee comes from Climpson and Sons, with Climpson’s signature Estate on espresso, joined by regularly-changing single-origins on batch brew through the Moccamaster. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries, plus sausage rolls, but that’s it.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Nick, along with partner Maz, opened Obscure Coffee in November 2018. Although relatively new to Chester’s growing speciality coffee scene, it has a strong pedigree, Nick having worked at both Artisan Roast and Brew Lab in Edinburgh. In size and style, it reminds me of another Chester newcomer, Moss Coffee, which predates Obscure by about a year. I must also thank Ed of Chalk Coffee for reminding me to pay Obscure a visit (and for the enthusiastic endorsement).
Obscure occupies a small shop front on the right as Lower Bridge Street slopes down towards the river. Although literally a few minutes from the city centre, it could be a different world down here, the streets much quieter. Obscure has an inset door on the right and a large, two-paned floor-to-ceiling window on the left, lined with four low stools on the pavement outside, although you’re better off heading in if you want a seat. Not that there’s that much more inside, at least not at first glance…
There’s an L-shaped arrangement of four two-person tables which run along padded benches down left-hand wall and along the window at the front, with the counter at the back. And that’s it, until you notice, at the back on the right, a short, narrow corridor. This leads past the counter to what might be Obscure’s best feature, it’s cosy back room, styled, in Nick’s words, after a speakeasy.
I loved it! The windowless room offers an immediate contrast to the sunlit front, providing the perfect hideaway if you want to escape from the world for an hour or two. There’s a pair of armchairs immediately to the left of the door and a row of four two-person tables along a wooden bench against the back wall, but that’s it.
Returning to the front, the counter has a simple layout, cakes and till to the right, two-group La Marzocco Linea espresso machine to the left, with the menu on the back wall along with the Moccamaster batch brewer. There’s also a small retail shelf on the right-hand wall where you can buy reusable cups and bags of coffee.
Talking of which, Obscure uses Climpson and Sons signature Estate espresso. I had this as an espresso on my first visit. The Estate espresso, at that point a washed single-origin Sidamo Sasaba from the Guji region of Ethiopia, was lovely, sweet and complex.
On my return the following year, the Estate espresso was another washed Ethiopian, this time the Kilenso Mokonisa from Sidamo. I had this as a flat white, where classic chocolate and toffee notes came strongly through the milk. Finally, Nick persuaded me to try the batch brew, another washed Ethiopian from the Guji region. This was the Uraga, a beautiful, smooth, floral coffee and definitely worth coming back for!
December 2019: Obscure Coffee was a runner-up for the 2019 Happiest Staff Award.
September 2020: this is an updated version of the original post which was published in May 2019. You can see what has changed in my Coffee Spot Update.
January 2022: Nick and Maz, the original owners of Obscure Coffee, have moved back to Edinburgh, but the good news is that one of Nick’s customers, Cem, along with his wife Burcu, have bought the coffee shop with the intention of carrying on Nick’s legacy. Oh, and now Obscure has a dog as well and he’s lovely!
|66 LOWER BRIDGE STREET • CHESTER • CH1 1RU|
|Monday||09:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Climpson & Sons (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Armchairs; Stools (outside)|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 17:00||Food||Cake, Savouries|
|Thursday||09:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||09:00 – 17:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 14th May 2019
Update: 11th September 2020
26th February 2022
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