On March 15th, I was in Chicago, visiting Fairgrounds, Purple Llama and Intelligentsia in Wicker Park. The following day, I flew home. Little did I know that they would be the last coffee shops I’d visit with my Coffee Spot hat on for more than three months. On my return to the UK, I did my best to support my three local speciality coffee shops, but within a week, last of them, Surrey Hills Coffee, had joined the other two in temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
March turned into April and April turned into May and, while I wasn’t short of good coffee at home, I missed my local coffee shops, missed my flat whites (while I make good home pour-over and espresso, I’m still rubbish at milk) and missed my friends who worked there. Then, on Saturday, 16th May, exactly two months after leaving Chicago, I was in Guildford, shopping, and what did I see? Canopy Coffee. And it was open! Naturally, I forgot everything else and made a beeline for it!
You can see what I found after the gallery.
This is the first of two posts about Canopy Coffee, which describes my experiences of Canopy in typical Coffee Spot fashion. The second post is a behind-the-scenes look, dealing with the challenges that Jonathon and his team faced in reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first thing to say about Canopy is that it is strictly takeaway only. The sit-in coffee shop of the pre-COVID-19 days is closed for the foreseeable future and what used to be the main door, on the left, is now out of use. Instead, a sign directs you to the right, where the outdoor seating area used to be.
Here is the first sign of the physical changes to Canopy, which I’ll talk more about in the second post. The outdoor seating has gone and the door, which used to lead into the seating area, has been turned into a serving hatch. The top of half of this opens out and to the right, which is where you’ll find the menus, while there’s a deep, wide shelf projecting from the bottom half. Meanwhile, you’ll find the choice of beans on the wall to your left.
Inside, behind a Perspex screen, is a large desk, behind which sits a member of staff, complete with surgical mask. There’s a large square, marked out on the pavement in black and yellow hazard tape, which is where you stand when ordering, which ensures that you and the staff member are separated by a clear two metres. You give your order and the card reader, on the end of a selfie-stick, is presented through a slot at the bottom of the Perspex screen. Just tap and you’re done. In the unlikely event that you need to enter your card and put in your PIN, there’s a bottle of hand-sanitiser on the shelf.
Once you’ve ordered, a separate barista makes your coffee, which is then placed on the shelf, where you can collect it. For now, re-usable cups aren’t being accepted, so it’s disposable cups only, which is understandable. While Canopy has remained true to its multi-roaster roots, the menu has been cut down, with just a single choice of beans on espresso, along with decaf, while there’s a third option on batch-brew. As well as the usual espresso options, you can have cold brew, an iced Americano or an iced latte.
It’s not just coffee, though, with Canopy offering a small range of smoothies, chai, matcha latte, hot chocolate and tea. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a wide selection of pastries, cakes and savouries (three types of quiche, cheese straws and sausage rolls).
I’ve visited three times so far, having a flat white on each occasion. My first, made with Square Mile’s Red Brick Blend, was on the first day that Canopy reopened. My most recent visit saw Origin’s Resolute blend in the hopper and while I enjoyed them both, my clear favourite was the middle one, also from Origin, made with the Stronghold seasonal single-origin espresso, a pulped natural from Brazil, which went superbly well with the milk (which is from Brades Farm, a specialist supplier of milk for coffee shops; there’s also oat milk if you need a non-dairy alternative).
There’s a full write-up of Canopy Coffee, including a complete gallery, in its main entry, which shows how it was in pre-COVID days. For more about the challenges Canopy faced in reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the behind-the-scenes tour I took with Jonathon, the owner. Finally, you can see how Canopy has evolved through the year with another update from my visit in November.
As well as Canopy Coffee, another Guildford speciality coffee shop, Krema Coffee, reopened on Monday, 1st June, while Surrey Hills Coffee reopened under a different name, Koja.
December 2020: Canopy Coffee won the 2020 Best Takeaway Coffee Award and was a runner-up for the 2020 Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.
May 2021: Canopy Coffee has now reopened a small amount of its indoor seating, following the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions in England.
|62 HAYDON PLACE • GUILDFORD • GU1 4NE|
|http://canopycoffee.co.uk||+44 (0) 7980 881610|
|Monday||08:00 – 16:30||Roaster||Guests (espresso + batch-brew)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 16:30||Seating||N/A|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 16:30||Food||Cake, Lunch|
|Thursday||08:00 – 16:30||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 16:30||Payments||Cards Only|
|Saturday||08:30 – 17:00||Wifi||N/A|
|Sunday||09:30 – 16:00||Power||N/A|
|Chain||No||Visits (original)||July/August 2017|
|Visits (updates)||16th, 26th, 29th May 2020
6th, 17th November 2020
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Talking with many coffee shops, there is no way they can open, as too small, and serving only takeaway coffee not viable.
One I talked with employs eight staff. Currently on furlough. When furlough ends, six will lose their jobs.
The irony is, indie coffee shops could have should have been the first to open, if local councils would allow to spread into the street.
The coffee shop has asked, and received an emphatic no from Lincolnshire County Council highways department. Not even the courtesy of an explanation.
In the same city, two other coffee shops overlooking sterile empty space, a tea shop overlooking a square.
They all tell me they would love to open into the empty space, but for the intransigence of the county council which would rather see local business die than give them a helping hand.
One of these coffee shops, a couple of weeks ago reopened takeaway coffee only, the only coffee shop open in the city centre. Their coffee shop is large, part of a small chain. Their coffee not great. No way can they survive on takeaway only. It currently employs two staff for takeaway, but I doubt covering their wages. At the moment rents are deferred, businesses rates not paid. But at some point will kick in, then they will close.
We can hear birdsong, streets are traffic free, town and city centres pollution free.
There can be no return to normal as normal was not normal.
Covid-19 has jolted us into another new.
We have seen the sunniest May on record.
Indie coffee shops closed as not able to social distance as too small. They could have spread their tables on the streets, maintained social distancing.
Win win for everyone. Kick starts the local economy, helps local businesses back on their feet, improves ambience of the city centre.
Athens in the evening, the streets turned into restaurants. The Mayor of Athens to extend the pedestrianised area.
North Laine in Brighton indie restaurants and coffee shops tables in the street. Pedestrianised areas to be extended.
Sheffield expanding their pedestrianised streets.
Soho in discussion to pedestrianise the area and turn into one large open area coffee shop and restaurant.
All local councils have been given money to enable this to happen. Where has the money gone?
We need to reclaim the streets to benefit everyone.
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