I came across Ngopi, which opened on 9th July last year, at this year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival. Birmingham is already blessed with some outstanding coffee shops and roasters, but what makes Ngopi stand out from the crowd is that it deals exclusively in coffee from Indonesia. What’s more, all the coffee is roasted on-site in a small 1 kg roaster that sits proudly in the window. The shop itself is lovely, a simple, bright, uncluttered space which is the perfect place to showcase the coffee.
Talking of which, Ngopi, which only roasts single-origins, typically has six different beans in stock at any one time, all of which are available to buy in retail bags. One of these is on espresso, the specific bean changing roughly once a week, plus Ngopi has three different options on pour-over through the V60. This is all backed up by a range of traditional Indonesian coffee drinks, most of which involved condensed milk or ice (and often both) and use their own specific bean.
If you are hungry, there’s an all-day menu, featuring breakfast, lunch and sweet items from Indonesia. If you want something more western, there’s a selection of cakes from old friends, Cakesmiths.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Ngopi is on the eastern side of Birmingham’s compact city centre, on Dale End as it runs below the Priory Square shopping centre. Occupying a large, simple, open space, it feels like two units joined together. The front is almost entirely glass, dominated by central square window, consisting of a single, large pane at street level and three tall thin panes on top. This is flanked by a pair of glass doors, although the one on the left is not in use. Finally, on the right is a smaller, square window, raised slightly above the pavement, which looks in on the roaster.
The entrance is through the right-hand door, which is about two-thirds of the way along. A very shallow ramp which leads up to a slightly elevated floor. The layout is uncluttered, with the counter at the back on the left and the seating arranged in two distinct groups, the first of which is between the counter and the windows. This starts with a pair of high-backed armchairs facing each other across a coffee table in the window. Next comes two pairs of round tables, each pair seating four people. Finally, a solitary two-person table sits in front of the counter.
The remaining seating is along the right-hand wall. Right at the front, however, is the roastery area, screened off from the entrance ramp by a set of bookshelves and currently in action twice a week. The roaster, by the way, is from Indonesian, quite possibly the only one in the UK. The manufacturer, Froco, came over to install it. The seating starts with a round two-person table, followed by a pair of sofas, their backs against the wall. Each has a low, rectangular coffee table with a pair of chairs on the opposite side. Finally, in the back right-hand corner is another round two-person table.
Turning to the coffee, I was blown away by the variety on offer when I visited Ngopi at the Birmingham Coffee Festival. I started my visit here with a gorgeous natural espresso, the Kerinci Kayu Aro, a really smooth, sweet coffee, a million miles from the stereotypical image of Indonesian coffee. Just as I had discovered when I went to Vietnam in 2017 and Thailand last year, you cannot characterise a country’s coffee by a single flavour profile. Indonesia is no exception to this rule.
I was there for lunch, selecting the fishcakes from the vegetarian/vegan friendly menu. These were excellent, but very different from British fishcakes, consisting of whole chunks of fish, deep-fried in batter and served with a hot sweet and sour sauce, noodles and chopped cucumber.
I also wanted to try one of the traditional Indonesian coffee recipes, particularly after my experiences with traditional Vietnamese coffee. There were two which used condensed milk and a dedicated coffee from Sulawesi (which isn’t available in retail bags, sadly), but I went for the Kopi Tubruk, where hot water is poured directly on ground coffee, stirred and then left to stand.
I was prepared for something quite strong and unsubtle, but this was anything but, a sweet, fruity and surprisingly smooth brew (I later learnt that it was made with the same natural Kerinci Kayu Aro). Like most drinks of this type, you’re well advised to stop drinking as soon as it feels a little gritty: I stopped with about one third of the cup left, at which point the remaining coffee could accurately be described as a sludge, as much ground coffee as water. It was really good though, making me wonder if I should maybe ditch my Aeropress, V60 and cafetiere…
December 2019: Ngopi has won the 2019 Happiest Staff Award.
July 2020: Ngopi has reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown. You can see what I made of it when I visited in August.
|56 DALE END • BIRMINGHAM • B4 7LS|
|www.ngopi.co.uk||+44 (0) 1214482870|
|Monday||09:30 – 16:30||Roaster||Ngopi (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:30 – 16:30||Seating||Tables, Sofas|
|Wednesday||09:30 – 16:30||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||09:30 – 16:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||09:30 – 16:30||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||09:30 – 16:30||Wifi||Free|
|Chain||No||Visits||22nd July 2019|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham for more great Coffee Spots.
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