Ngopi (COVID-19 Update)

My pour-over at Ngopi in Birmingham, a V60 of a Mount Halu honey-processed coffee, which was roasted in the shop, and served in a carafe, presented on a wooden tray with a handleless cup on the side.The last stop on my brief tour of Birmingham is Ngopi, which exclusively serves single-origin Indonesian coffee, all of which is roasted in the little roaster visible through the front window. Ngopi was my find of 2019, after the staff opened my eyes to the variety and sheer quality of Indonesian speciality coffee at that year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival.

Like the rest of the UK’s speciality coffee shops, Ngopi was forced to close by COVID-19, only reopening in July following the relaxation of restrictions in England. The obvious COVID-19 precautions are now in place (Perspex screens on the counter, reduced seating, etc) but otherwise, Ngopi is very much its old self. In particular, the coffee is just as good as I remember it, while there’s a menu of light Indonesian dishes and desserts which, had I not just come from lunch at Wayland’s Yard, would have been very tempting.

You can see what else has changed after the gallery.

  • Ngopi on Dale End in Birmingham, on a cloudy day in August 2020...
  • ... and seen here, from my first visit in July 2019, when the left-hand door wasn't in use.
  • These days, the left-hand door is the main entrance: here's the view from just inside...
  • ... and here's the view from just inside the right-hand door.
  • To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, there are fewer tables. This is how it looked...
  • ...  in 2019, when there were lots more tables between the window and the counter.
  • Some things haven't changed though: these two chairs are still in the window between...
  • ... the two doors, although the coffee table has changed since my visit in 2019.
  • The rest of the seating is down the right-hand side. Starting at the back is a sofa...
  • ... followed by a pair of tables and then another sofa.
  • It's actually the same seating as before, just rearranged to space things out more.
  • Finally, there's the roaster, still in pride of place at the front on the right, although now...
  • ... it's more visible since it's no longer hiding behind the bookshelves like it was last year!
  • Instead, the bookcase has moved along the wall a bit, slotting between some of the seats.
  • As well as books, the bookcase now also houses the retail shelves...
  • ... with Ngopi's retail bags of coffee and one-cup filters for sale.
  • The books are still there though, including a special one in the corner on the left...
  • The map of Indonesia on the wall is also still there. This is how it looked in 2019...
  • ... while on my return, without the table in the way, it was much easier to photograph!
  • All the changes are due to COVID-19, of course, which you're reminded of when you enter.
  • As well as the hand santiser, there's a QR Code to scan, so you can register your details.
  • I know the hexagons on the floor have always been there, but if you follow them...
  • ... all the way down the wall and along the front of the counter...
  • ... they then neatly lead you out of the other door! What a nice one-way system.
  • The counter, seen here during last year's visit, is decorated to look like a street cart.
  • The counter now has Perspex screens, with ordering on the left, collecting on the right.
  • The cakes are still on the left-hand side, but now behind a Perspex screen...
  • ... though I don't remember there being doughnuts during my visit last year!
  • Next comes the ordering point, complete with card reader (it's card only at the moment).
  • You'll also find the food menu here, which has been reorganised into various sections...
  • ... although the content is very siimilar to last year's menu, which you can see here.
  • Talking of menus, this is the drinks menu, on the wall behind the counter, as seen last year.
  • This year's version, I feel,  is much clearer, although again, the basic offering is the same.
  • The three pour-over options are, as before, displayed on the counter in glass jars.
  • Talking of which, on the recommendation of Liam, the barista, I had the Mount Halu...
  • ... served in a carafe and presented on a tray, with a handleless cup on the side.
  • I'll leave you with one of the aforementioned doughnuts, which I just couldn't resist!
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The first obvious change comes as you enter Ngopi, which occupies a large, glass-fronted unit on Dale End in the centre of Birmingham. There’s a door at either end, but when I visited last summer, the left-hand door was out of use, so you entered on the right, next to the roaster. Now both doors have been pressed into service, with the door on the left being the main one. This leads to a small table inside, where you’ll find, along with a bottle of hand sanitiser, a polite notice asking you to scan a QR Code, which opens an online form so you can register your details if you’re staying.

Ngopi has always had an interesting hexagonal tiling pattern on the floor, but whereas this once was purely decorative, now it forms part of a one-way system, leading you down the left-hand wall, across the front of the counter (where you order on the left and collect on the right) and then back to the right-hand door, where you can safely exit. Of course, this is only when ordering takeaway. If you’re staying, take a seat once you’ve ordered and your coffee (and food) will be brought out by a masked member of staff.

The seating is where you’ll notice the biggest difference, Ngopi having stripped out and otherwise rearranged the furniture to ensure social distancing between the tables. The pair of armchairs in the front window remain, but the cluster of tables between there and the counter have been reduced to two two-person tables in a line from front to back. The remaining seating is down the right-hand wall, where things have been rearranged rather than reduced. First comes a two-person sofa, with a couple of chairs across from it, separated by a low coffee table. Then, after a set of retail shelves, comes a pair of small, round tables, making a single, four-person table, before, in the far corner, there’s another sofa with coffee table and chairs.

The coffee hasn’t changed much either, with the standard, espresso-based menu joined by traditional Indonesian-style coffee drinks, which I tried last summer. This time, I went for pour-over, where there’s a choice of three single-origins, displayed on the counter in glass jars. At the prompting of the barista, Liam (who I knew from his time at Saint Kitchen), I selected the Mount Halu, a honey-processed coffee (also on espresso), which was prepared through the V60 and served in a carafe, all presented on a tray, a handleless cup on the side.

My coffee was excellent, very smooth and full-bodied, with subtle, fruity flavours. I paired it with one of the doughnuts, a rich, chocolate-filled affair which was both the perfect companion for my coffee and the perfect end to my day in Birmingham.

56 DALE END • BIRMINGHAM • B4 7LS +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 Only
Saturday 09:30 – 16:30 Wifi Free
Sunday CLOSED Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 22nd July 2019
Update:25th August 2020

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham for more great Coffee Spots.

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