My introduction to speciality coffee in Melbourne came via Coffee Black Coffee’s container on Queensbridge Square on the south bank of the Yarra River, opposite Flinders Street Station and the Central Business District. Each of my first four days in Melbourne began with the five-minute walk from our hotel to the open spaces of Queensbridge Square where I had a flat white, as well as picking up a coffee for Amanda, which I took back to the hotel.
Code Black Coffee occupies a converted shipping container, appropriately painted black, on the western edge of Queensbridge Square, its back to Queens Bridge Street. Six round tables are arranged in two rows in front of the container should you want to stay, although everything is served in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own. All the coffee is roasted in-house, with a blend and single-origin available (either hot or cold) through a simple espresso-based menu, while another single-origin is on batch-brew filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, Code Black has a small range of cakes/pastries.
I discovered Way Speciality Coffee Roasters in March, when I stopped in Ghent my way back from my trip to Amsterdam. European Coffee Trip led me to Way Coffee & Book Shop on Voldersstraat in the historic city centre, where I had a chance meeting with Ward, Way’s co-owner and head roaster, who invited me to the Way Roastery & Shop the following Monday (Way also has a bakehouse and café on Jakobijnenstraat 7 which I didn’t manage to visit).
Way Roastery & Shop is in Dok Noord, an old industrial complex that’s been redeveloped into a residential, office and leisure hub, a 25-minute walk or short tram ride north of the centre. Way occupies part of what was once a washing machine factory, housing a spacious café, showroom and roastery. Today’s Coffee Spot is all about the café, with the roastery featuring in its own Meet the Roaster feature in due course.
Way only roasts single-origins and is entirely plant-based (vegan). There’s a choice of the house espresso (from Brazil) plus a single-origin on espresso, along with two choices (Brazil plus another single-origin) on batch-brew filter and a wide selection on pour-over through the V60 or AeroPress.
One of the neat things about being a regular visitor to Portland (Maine) is that I’ve been able to watch Tandem Coffee Roasters evolve over the last eight years. Tandem has two locations, Tandem Coffee + Bakery (cunningly disguised as a gas station on Congress Street) and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot Update, Tandem Cafe & Roastery on Anderson Street in Portland’s East End. This has undergone two large overhauls since my first visit in 2015, when I came to Maine to begin my coast-to-coast train journey from Portland to Portland.
The first overhaul came when the roastery moved into a separate building behind the original. I reported on this and the subsequent remodelling of the cafe in 2020, publishing my Coffee Spot Update less than a month before the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world. This resulted in the cafe closing its doors for over two years, from March 2020 until May 2022, although the roastery kept going the whole time. However, one good thing that came out of the enforced closure was that it gave Tandem the time and space to undertake a complete remodelling of the café, which is the subject of today’s Coffee Spot Update.
Black Fox Coffee is the final Coffee Spot from last September’s visit to New York City. Fittingly, since I started my Manhattan write-ups with a recommendation from my friend Bex (of Double Skinny Macchiato), Black Fox is another of Bex’s many NYC recommendations. Black Fox is an interesting concept, being both a roaster in its own right and also a multi-roaster, featuring guests from around the world on batch-brew filter, alongside its own coffee on espresso, with all the coffee available in retail bags in store and online.
There are currently five Black Foxes around Manhattan, with today’s Coffee Spot located on W 33rd Street in Midtown. It occupies a spot on the ground floor of the Pendry Hotel and, while a door leads directly from the hotel lobby to the coffee shop, it’s a completely standalone operation. There’s no seating inside, and although it has a couple of tables outside, Black Fox only uses disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries.
Joe Coffee is a well-established name in New York City speciality coffee circles, having opened its first coffee shop in the West Village in 2003. Since then, its opened more than 20 other locations in and around Manhattan, including a dedicated roastery/café in Long Island City. However, despite this proliferation, I’d not managed to pay Joe a visit until I stayed in Midtown for work last September, when I suddenly had several within easy walking distance of my office and hotel.
I ended up visiting two Joe Coffee locations, one on Union Square and the other, the Joe Coffee Pro Shop on W 21st Street, which is the subject of today’s Coffee Spot. This is something of a flagship store for Joe Coffee, a range of single-origins on espresso, pour-over (V60, Kalita Wave and AeroPress) and cold-brew joining the standard offering of the seasonal Waverly espresso blend, Nightcap decaf and batch brew filter. There’s also a rotating guest roaster (Broadsheet from Somerville, Massachusetts, during my visit). The Pro Shop offers a small grab-and-go range, along with cakes and pastries, all served from a neat little space with a handful of stools inside and a solitary bench outside on the pavement.
On my way home after my trip to Amsterdam in March, I spent a quiet week visiting friends in Ghent. It was very low key, but I did wander around the city centre a few times and, naturally, I checked out the local coffee scene with the help of European Coffee Trip. While I didn’t have time to explore as much as I would have liked, I found myself drawn to Way on Voldersstraat, right in the heart of the old city.
Way is a roaster with three very different coffee shops in the city. The one on Voldersstraat is an interesting place, serving takeaway coffee (but with outside seating) while also acting as a retail shop, selling both beans and home coffee equipment. And to cap it all, there’s a bookshop upstairs, with an eclectic collection, centred around coffee and sustainable living.
When it comes to the coffee, there are two single-origins on espresso, with all the shots pulled on a Modbar system. There are also multiple single-origins on pour-over, Way using the Modbar automated system with the V60. Finally, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries, all baked in-house with the added twist that Way is entirely plant-based/vegan.
Today’s Coffee Spot sees us move from Brisbane to Melbourne, although technically we’re in the suburbs, in Nunawading, home to Manta Ray Coffee Roasters. I first became aware of Manta Ray when I visited Pinhole Coffee Bar in Singapore, where Manta Ray was the guest roaster. Then, when I reached Melbourne, I found that Manta Ray topped many people’s must-visit lists. Since I had a hire car for my drive along the Great Ocean Road, I decided to make a two-hour round trip to the east of Melbourne to visit Manta Ray before I set off.
Manta Ray Coffee Roasters, as the name suggests, is both roastery and coffee bar. Although Manta Ray has been roasting for a while, the coffee bar has only been open since October 2022. Despite this, it’s already become a place of pilgrimage for Melbourne’s speciality coffee community. There are two blends on espresso, along with five single-origins on pour-over and some interesting cold coffee options. Naturally, all the coffee is available to buy in retail bags, and while this is rightly the main draw, if you’re hungry, there’s a wide range of cakes and pastries, along with a smaller selection of savoury pastries.
Moving on from 3 Little Birds Espresso, Airlie Beach and the Queensland Coast, Amanda and I headed south to Brisbane for a few days. This was mostly spent catching up with friends, but we did find time for one Coffee Spot. Foster & Black was a new name to me, a chance discovery when I spotted its kiosk in The Myer Centre in Brisbane’s Central Business District. Although we only had time for a quick flat white, the barista told us about the coffee shop/roastery in Fortitude Valley, so we made time to pay it a visit on Saturday morning.
A relatively new addition to Brisbane’s speciality coffee scene, the minimalist coffee bar only opened in 2021, fronting a large, open warehouse-like space. This is home to Foster & Black’s Loring coffee roaster, its green bean storage and its production area, all separated from the coffee bar by a wall of windows running the full width of the building. There’s a range of seating options, but the real draw is the coffee, with a house-blend on espresso, plus three single-origins available on espresso, batch brew and pour-over. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries.
My limited tour of Singapore’s speciality coffee scene has reached Fahrenheit Coffee, which, during my week in Singapore, was my third home-from-home, along with Narrative Coffee Stand and Pinhole Coffee Bar. Located on Beach Road, one block over from my hotel, I had my first speciality coffee in Singapore at Fahrenheit, while I was also a frequent visitor during the week, often calling in before the start of my meeting for a post-breakfast flat white.
Fahrenheit Coffee is in the lobby of the Spa Club, although it might be more accurate to say that Fahrenheit Coffee is the lobby. A broad, glass-fronted space, there’s a range of seating in the air-conditioned interior, while you can also sit outside at a pair of narrow tables on a shaded section of pavement, well set back from the road.
Fahrenheit offers a standard espresso-based menu, with a selection of single-origins on pour-over through the V60, all roasted by sister company, Community Coffee. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and desserts, along with a limited breakfast menu.
Last month I spent a week in Singapore and, while not having much time to explore its fantastic speciality coffee scene, I did have the pleasure of visiting some excellent coffee shops. In particular, the trio of Fahrenheit Coffee, Pinhole Coffee Bar and today’s Coffee Spot, Narrative Coffee Stand, were all under five minutes’ walk from my workplace, making them natural homes-from-home during my visit.
Narrative Coffee Stand, on the ground floor of the Bras Basah Complex, is a relatively simple space, with limited seating in the air-conditioned interior or outside, where a handful of benches and stools are thankfully well shaded. However, the best seats in the house are, in my opinion, the two stools at the counter, where you can sit and watch your coffee being made.
Talking of which, the coffee, which is all roasted in-house, is the main draw. A typical offering consists of three single-origins on espresso and another three on pour-over through the V60. Naturally, given the climate, all are available iced as well as hot, along with a small collection of cakes if you are hungry. I visited every day during my week in Singapore, enabling me to try all six coffees on offer.