Chalk Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

The A-board outside Chalk Coffee is a sign of the times, reminding you that you need to wear a mask (from October 2020).Of all the coffee shops that I’ve visited since the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, Chalk Coffee can make a claim to be the one with the least physical changes. Located on Watergate Street, it’s part of the rapid expansion of Chester’s speciality coffee scene that has seen numbers swell in the last few years. Like many of the city’s speciality coffee shops, it has a basement-like feel, stretching a long way back under the famous Rows and it looks, and feels, remarkably like it did on my last visit in 2019.

However, there have been changes. As well the (admittedly minor) physical ones, you’ll find a clear sign outside on the pavement reminding you that you must wear a mask. Meanwhile, there’s a QR code on the counter that you can scan, checking you in on the NHS COVID-19 app. Not all the changes are COVID-19 related though. Chalk Coffee used to use Origin for its house espresso, but it’s recently changed to Colonna Coffee, although Origin is still on decaf, while a regularly-changing guest roaster provides the second espresso option and filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the usual cast of premade sandwiches and cakes are still available.

You can see what else I found after the gallery.

  • Chalk Coffee, on Watergate Street, looking remarkably similar to how it did on my visit...
  • ... in May 2019. Note that the two tables outside each window are now down to one.
  • A sign of the times (from my most recent visit)...
  • Stepping inside, here's the current view from just inside the door...
  • ... and here's a similar view from last year's visit. Not a lot has changed.
  • The windows bars are still either side of the door, although the large potted plant...
  • ... has replaced the bicycle which used to hang on the wall.
  • There's more seating on the right-hand side, with round tables against padded benches...
  • ... on either side of the pillar with the retail shelves. Again...
  • ... other than the addition of the plants, very little has changed since my visit in 2019.
  • A view back along the seating to the window-bar at the front (from my latest visit).
  • The remaining seating is at the back under a low, vaulted, brick ceiling. This is from 2019...
  • ... and this is how it looks now. Again, more plants!
  • The big change is on the right-hand side, where, along with the addition of another plant...
  • ... the two tall, narrow tables by the padded sofa-bench have gone!
  • The sofa-bench itself remains, although I'd feel quite self-conscious sitting there now!
  • Beyond this is a lower bench with another three tables...
  • ... again looking remarkably similar to how it did in 2019. For once that's not my laptop!
  • Meanwhile, the four picnic-style tables that run down the left-hand side...
  • ... haven't changed that much either.
  • I loved the vaulted brick ceiling, particularly with the lighting that Chalk has installed..
  • ... which makes for some lovely, banded patterns on the bricks (both photos from 2019).
  • Naturally I was just as obsessed on my return!
  • The view from the back of Chalk Coffee (from my most recent visit).
  • Something else I was obsessed with on my previous visit: this water/takeaway station...
  • ... which, with its 'CHALK' tiling, fascinated me on my return as well!
  • There's one final bit of seating, the two stools at the end of the counter, seen here in 2019.
  • They were still there (and occupied) on my return, so you'll have to make do...
  • ... with this view down the counter from 2019, ideal for watching the baristas at work.
  • The front of the counter is still home to the cakes, although by the time I arrived...
  • ... late in the afternoon, most were gone and Chalk was down to its last sandwich.
  • You still order at the till, with the menus on the wall behind (photo from 2019)...
  • ... although these are the current menus. Not that there's much difference.
  • These days the espresso options are displayed on the counter. Both were from Colonna...
  • ... when I visited, the shots being pulled on the Black Eagle espresso machine at the end.
  • I treated myself to a shot of the guest, a Don Sabino from Costa Rica, which was divine.
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From the outside, on the north side of Chester’s Watergate Street, Chalk Coffee looks much as it ever did, although there are now only two tables in front of the windows, one on either side of the door. There’s also the A-board, with the aforementioned message about masks.

Inside, things are also remarkably similar, with the layout, décor and seating much as it was before, only with more plants. There are a few changes, however. For example, the bicycle that used to hang on the wall to left, between the windows and the counter, has gone, replaced by a large plant which, despite the low light levels, seems to be thriving. There is also one change to the seating. At the back, beyond the counter, the two tall, four-person tables that used to line the high, padded sofa bench have gone, although the sofa itself remains. This opens up the rear part of Chalk Coffee quite magnificently.

The main change, however, is with the coffee, where Colonna Coffee has replaced Origin as the house espresso, with a naturally-processed Brazilian in the hopper during my visit. Origin remains on decaf while a guest roaster provides a second espresso option and the batch brew filter. And who was the guest roaster during my visit? None other than Colonna, although the staff assure me that this was a one-off!

I was tempted by the guest espresso, the Don Sabino, a naturally-processed coffee from Costa Rica, part of Colonna’s Discovery range. What can I say? It was gorgeous, with a rich, syrupy sweetness. It was very fruity on the first couple of sips, after which a little more acidity came through. I was so impressed that I bought a bag to bring home with me, which I’ve been running through my Sage Barista Express. While I haven’t quite hit the same heights with it as the baristas at Chalk managed, it’s still one of the best home espressos I’ve had this year, an instant contender for this year’s Best Espresso Award!

December 2020: Indeed, the espresso was so good that Chalk Coffee was a runner-up for the 2020 Best Espresso Award!

24 WATERGATE STREET • CHESTER • CH1 2LA +44 (0) 1244 343345
Monday 09:00 – 17:00 Roaster Colonna Coffee + Guests (espresso + batch brew)
Tuesday 09:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Window Bars; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 17:00 Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 09:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards Only (COVID-19)
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with login)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 14th May 2019
Update: 2nd October 2020

If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Chester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Chester.

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3 thoughts on “Chalk Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

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