Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee (COVID-19)

The sign inside Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee: "Welcome Lovely People Of Guildford to Koja by SHC"Once upon a time, there was a coffee roastery called Surrey Hills Coffee which (accidentally) opened a coffee shop in Guildford. That was in 2016, and soon the little coffee shop had outgrown its original home on Chapel Street, prompting a move in 2018 to bigger premises on Jeffries Passage, where, in the fullness of time, an upper floor seating area was added. And then COVID-19 came along and, like all the other coffee shops in Guildford, Surrey Hills had to close.

In many ways, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise for Chris and Monika, the Swedish couple behind Surrey Hills Coffee. Temporarily released from the day-to-day grind of running the coffee shop, they were able to focus on the roastery, realising that this was their true passion. When the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, allowing the coffee shop to reopen, Chris and Monika had a decision to make. They didn’t want to close the coffee shop, but they also didn’t want to go back to the day-to-day management.

Fortunately, the solution presented itself in the shape of Koja, which opened on Thursday, 13th August, initially for takeaway only, but with plans for sit-in service in due course.

November 2020: Koja is back to takeaway only following the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in England at the start of the month. You can see what I made of it when I popped in for coffee.

May 2021: Koja has now reopened its indoor seating, following the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions in England.

June 2022: Koja Coffee has left Jeffries Passage and can now be found in New House, down by the River Wey. You can see what I made of it when I visited in September that year.

You can find out more after the gallery.

  • A welcome sign (literally) at the top of Jeffries Passage in Guildford. The last time I saw...
  • ... that A-board was five months ago! Let's go and see what it's all about.
  • And there it is, halfway down Jeffries Passage on the left: Surrey Hills Coffee.
  • Only there's a new name on the window: Koja! It's Surrey Hills, but not quite as we know it.
  • This is the view coming the other way, heading from North Street to the High Street.
  • A sign in the window gives the current opening hours, plus something of an explanation...
  • ... while another sign (on the wall) welcomes us all back (I was there on its second day).
  • Let's go in.
  • A panoramic view from just inside the door...
  • ... and the view from the opposite corner.
  • The lack of tables is because Koja is, for now, takeaway only.
  • The changes start at the door. There's hand sanitiser and a request to wear a mask.
  • Meanwhile, friendly signs on the floor show you where to go/stand.
  • These lead you up to the counter...
  • ... where you order and pay through a gap in the ubiquitous Perspex screen.
  • Once you've got your coffee, the stickers on the floor lead you out the other way...
  • ... and back along the front of Koja to the door.
  • The table, by the way, acts as a handy roundabout in the middle of the room.
  • On the way in, you pass the old retail shelves. As well as bags of Surrey Hills Coffee...
  • ... a new addition is the bread from London's The Bread Factory.
  • There's quite a selection!
  • The counter is in its usual place at the back of the shop...
  • ... with its tempting array of cakes and sandwiches on the right...
  • ... and the drinks menu on the wall behind the espresso machine...
  • ... where you'll also find the current single-origin filter and a range of teas.
  • I went for a flat white, Koja happily accepting my ThermaCup.
  • I'll leave you with a shot of the latte art.
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Koja, a Swedish word meaning “a cosy little den”, actually goes by the full title of “Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee”, reflecting the link between it and the roastery, which supplies all the coffee and equipment. However, it is, to best of my knowledge, a standalone business, run by a Swedish family, friends of Monika and Chris.

If you’ve been to Surrey Hills Coffee, everything looks very familiar, although there are some obvious changes in light of COVID-19. The first is that since Koja is takeaway only for the moment, the downstairs seating has been removed, while upstairs is currently off limits. All that remains is a solitary table, pretty much in the centre of the room, which acts as a roundabout to guide you through the one-way system, aided by the friendly stickers on the floor.

Everything else is still there, with the retail shelves on the right-hand wall and the counter at the back, in front of the closed-in stairs. This still has cakes on the right, espresso machine on the left and till in the centre, where there’s one more obvious addition: the obligatory Perspex screen.

From the door, which leads into the right-hand end of the shop, the friendly stickers guide you along the retail shelves and across the front of the counter, passing the cakes on the way. You order at the till, the menu on the wall behind the espresso machine, then carry on along the counter to collect your coffee at the far end. From there, the stickers lead you around the table and back out to the door, neatly avoiding anyone who might be queuing on the way in.

When it comes to what’s on offer, there have been a few changes. Although Koja is selling the full range of blends and single-origins from Surrey Hills Coffee, for now it’s back to sealed retail bags rather than open bins of coffee that used to be there. Koja has also added a selection of loaves from London’s The Bread Factory. There are also cakes, pastries and sandwiches, much as it was before.

When it comes to coffee, Koja is a happy to let you bring your own cup, which is a welcome change. There’s the usual espresso-based menu, with the Holmbury Hill blend in the hopper, along with decaf, while if you want filter, there’s a single-origin (currently the Tumba Cocatu, a washed coffee from Rwanda) available on V60. Alternatively, there’s hot chocolate and a range of teas from Brighton’s Bird and Blend.

I had my customary flat white, served in my Therma Cup. There’s not much I can say: it was just as good as countless other flat whites I’ve had from Surrey Hills Coffee, the Holmbury Hill blend going well with the milk.

It made for a nice welcome back of a much-missed old friend though!

December 2020: Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee was a runner-up for the 2020 Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

Monday  08:30 – 17:00 Roaster Surrey Hills Coffee (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 17:00 Seating N/A
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Cakes, Sandwiches
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards Only
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 14:00 Power N/A
Chain No Visits Original: 14th August 2020
Update: 21st, 25th November 2020

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