Welcome to my third COVID-19 update on the state of speciality coffee in my hometown of Guildford. My first update was back in September 2020, which looked at how the town’s speciality coffee businesses, having survived the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, were opening back up. There was even a new coffee shop, Ceylon House of Coffee, to celebrate!
My second update came at the start of 2021, when it was back to serving takeaway only. However, despite all the problems that the hospitality industry was facing, there were two more new coffee shops to celebrate, although technically one of them, Lily London, is a telephone box, with the other, Open Grounds Café, part of Guildford Baptist Church.
Since then, Guildford’s speciality coffee businesses have weathered the dark days of winter and, with the coming of spring, have something to look forward to. Starting on Monday (12th April), coffee shops in England have been allowed to serve customers at outdoor tables. Unfortunately, due to their diverse locations, not all of Guildford’s speciality coffee shops have been able to take full advantage of the latest easing of restrictions, but the good news is that everyone’s open and serving again.
You can see what the different coffee shops are doing after the gallery.
Let’s start with Canopy Coffee on Hayden Place, which just a couple of months into the COVID-19 pandemic reinvented itself as takeaway coffee shop, serving from the hatch in the side door. Since then, Canopy has kept going through the various ebbs and flows of the pandemic and I’ve been a regular visitor. Those will long memories will recall that Canopy used to have a small outdoor seating are, but unfortunately this was located right where the hatch is, so Canopy is staying takeaway only for the moment.
Another that is staying takeaway only is Ceylon House of Coffee at the bottom of Guildford High Street. As far as I know, there are no plans for any outside seating, which is a shame. Staying with the theme of takeaway only, Lily London has been takeaway only from the start, although there are plenty of seats on the pedestrianised Tunsgate if you would like to take the weight off your feet. And, since I first wrote about Lily London, a new Fracino espresso machine has been installed in the telephone box!
Staying on Tunsgate, Tattams, which occupies the premises vacated by Kalm Kitchen at end of 2019, has suffered setback after setback, the latest being a fire which, although small, caused a lot of damage. As a result, Tattams, which had been hoping to reopen, will probably have to remain shut through the summer, although it is offering a mobile bar for events, weddings and festivals.
Moving down to the castle end of Tunsgate, we have Krema Coffee, which has been open for takeaway only for the last couple of months. With the easing of restrictions, the two outdoor tables in the window have returned, but for now, that’s it. Last summer, Krema was able to put a couple more tables a little way down the street, but it seems that’s been ruled out for now. Note that Krema is current only serving in disposable cups.
Staying in the town centre, Koja, the successor to Surrey Hills Coffee on Jeffries Passage, which opened in August last year, is still going strong, now with the addition of a row of five stools outside the window for those who want to take the weight off their feet. Like Krema, Koja is, for the moment, only serving in disposable cups, although both Krema and Koja are happy if you bring your own cup.
Fortunately, there is good news for those who want to sit outside, drinking speciality coffee from a proper cup. Open Grounds Café, which joined Guilford’s speciality coffee community in December last year, is down on Millmead, by the River Wey. Part of Guildford Baptist Church, it’s a volunteer-run community café, which briefly offered a sit-in service pre-Christmas, before moving to takeaway only.
With the easing of the restrictions, it has opened the terrace in front of the church, where you can enjoy coffee, cakes and light lunches until two o’clock each day from Wednesday through to Saturday. I was down there yesterday, sitting in the sun with my flat white, enjoying a view of the river. In all, there are six two/three person tables and one larger one for up to six people.
Finally, if you venture a little further afield, the FCB Coffee Kiosk on Guildford station is still going strong, opening during the week to serve the growing band of commuters. Staying on that side of the river, The Hideout on the University of Surrey Stag Hill Campus has (contrary to what I originally thought) been open for almost the whole pandemic.
I visited recently, enjoying sitting outside, where there a number of tables, with my flat white. Sadly, for the time being, The Hideout is only serving in disposable cups and is unable to accept customers’ own cups. Ordering and payment is by app, while staff and students are welcome to sit inside, although strict social distancing protocols apply. Guests, meanwhile, have to sit outside (which is no great hardship in this weather!).
April 2021: since writing this round-up, another speciality coffee shop has opened in Guildford. Say hello to The Old Roastery Coffee Shop in Merrow, which I visited at the end of its first week. Located in an industrial estate next to the Redbur Coffee Roastery, it’s a lovely spot with some excellent outdoor seating. The interior, which is due to open next month with the next round of COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, looks just as good.
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