Let’s get 2022 underway with a new Meet the Roaster, featuring Oxford’s NewGround Coffee, which has been around since 2018. I belated became aware of it last year through FLTR Coffee in Bicester and The Hideaway, one of that year’s many new openings in my home town of Guildford. Suitably impressed, I made visiting NewGround’s roastery/coffee shop in Oxford a priority, managing to call in at the end of October last year.
I wrote up the minimalist coffee shop at the end of last year, while today’s post is all about the roasting side of the business. This is based around the state-of-the-art Loring S15 Falcon roaster, which you’ll find at the back of the coffee shop, surrounded by tubs of coffee. However, there’s more to NewGround than just roasting and serving excellent coffee, NewGround also working to create job opportunities and provide training for ex-offenders, helping them back into employment.
Although I’ve been through Washington DC a few times on the train, I rarely visit the city itself. So, when I took the sleeper down from Boston during last month’s USA trip, I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. I didn’t have long, so made a beeline for Peregrine Espresso’s Eastern Market location on Pennsylvania Avenue, a half-an-hour stroll from Washington Union Station past the US Capitol.
Peregrine Espresso occupies a small unit with a wide, glass front and a generous outdoor seating area which is actually on 7th Street, just around the corner from Pennsylvania Avenue. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s currently takeaway service only (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), although you’re welcome to sit outside with your coffee. In more normal times, there’s more seating inside, but this has been cleared away to provide plenty of space for customers who are queuing to order/waiting to collect their coffee.
Talking of which, Peregrine Espresso serves a concise espresso-based menu with a batch brew option, all the coffee roasted by Small Planes Coffee, owned by founders, Ryan and Jill Jensen. There’s also a selection of tea, plus a range of cakes and pastries.
Today’s Coffee Spot was a chance discovery that Amanda and I made following a short hike at Diana’s Baths, a beauty spot in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Amanda spotted Frontside Coffee Roasters as we drove through North Conway on our way there, so we decided to call in on our way back, expecting nothing more than somewhere warm to have a late lunch. Instead we found a wonderful coffee shop, roasting and serving some exceptional single-origin coffees.
Frontside has been in its current location on White Mountain Highway, the main drag through North Conway, for ten years, although it’s been in existence in one form or another for over twenty. Occupying a large, corner plot, there’s a small parking lot at the back (behind which is the roastery) while there’s a large outdoor seating area off to the right with plenty more seating inside.
All the coffee is roasted in-house with two options on espresso (one blend, one single-origin), another blend on batch brew, plus two single-origins on pour-over. Naturally, all the beans are available to buy in retail bags. If you’re hungry, Frontside offers a selection of breakfast biscuits, a range of bagels and plenty of cake.
I was able to rectify this oversight on my latest trip to America, when, on my way back to Portland (Maine) from Washington DC, I had a couple of hours to kill at Boston’s South Station, where you’ll find La Colombe on the other side of Atlantic Avenue, directly opposite the entrance to the bus terminal. Off the foyer of a modern office building, it’s a large, spacious coffee shop with its own street entrance. The classic La Colombe offering sees two options on espresso, another two on batch-brew and two more on pour-over. There’s also a range of in-house teas and draft lattes and, if you’re hungry, cakes and items from the grab-and-go fridge.
On my first trip to Portland, in June 2015, Speckled Ax was one of three coffee shop/roasters that I visited (the others being Tandem Coffee and Bard). Back then, Speckled Ax just had a single coffee shop on Congress Street, but in early 2020, two new locations opened, a coffee bar on Walton Street (attached to a new roastery) and a large café on the waterfront at Thames Street.
I’d planned to visit Portland in March 2020, but sadly the COVID-19 pandemic ruled that out, preventing me from returning for another 18 months. However, the travel restrictions were eased in November 2021, and I was finally able to return to America and to Portland, where I paid a long overdue visit to the new Thames location.
Speckled Ax occupies a spacious ground floor unit with views across Thames Street to the harbour. At the time of writing, the space is effectively split into two, with a takeaway section to the right, while the seating is at the front on the left. There’s a limited coffee menu (which still manages to offer two espresso options and two on batch brew filter), while the kitchen provides a concise breakfast and lunch menu.
Exactly three weeks ago today, Amanda and I set off to drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Portland, Maine, a three-day journey that would take us through some lovely scenery along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, before we got there, we stopped at Alma Coffee Roastery, a chance discovery which we made while planning the route. It’s on Holly Springs Parkway, which runs parallel to I-575, connecting Woodstock in the south and Canton to the north.
The roastery, which doubles as a coffee shop, is just off the parkway on the left as you drive north, with clear signage and plenty of parking, although there’s no public transport access. A generous outdoor seating area stands in front of the roastery, while inside, a neat coffee shop with a handful of tables occupies the right-hand side of the large roastery building.
Alma Coffee specialises in Honduran coffee, much of it from the owners’ family farms. You can buy any of the roastery’s output in retail bags, while Soulmate, a medium-roast washed coffee, is available through a concise espresso-based menu, along with various iced versions. Alma Coffee only serves in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Three weeks ago today, all of my pre-flight checks complete, I was ready for to fly to Atlanta. However, I had one final thing to do before I left for the airport: visit The Roastery at Cobham, home to Copper Coffee Roasters. Despite being located just along the A3 from Guildford, Copper’s was a chance discovery that I only found out about when I visited Nikki’s in Weybridge. In my defence, Copper’s is a relatively new addition to the area, having opened in March 2020, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Occupying one of several old barns at Bramley Hedge Farm, The Roastery at Cobham is both a roastery (as the name would suggest) and a coffee shop. It’s a little unusual in that it’s only open in the mornings, with Monday being the best day if you want to catch the roaster in action. The offering’s simple, with a single option on espresso (usually one of the blends) and any of the roastery’s many single-origins as a pour-over using the V60. You can also have tea and hot chocolate, while on any day except Monday, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries from McLaren Fine Foods in Weybridge.
There’s a handful of seats, with the coffee being the real star. NewGround offers its seasonal Big House blend plus a single-origin on espresso, along with batch brew filter. You can also have any coffee in the roastery through V60, Kalita Wave or AeroPress. Naturally, it’s all available in retail boxes. If you’re hungry, there’s granola and porridge for breakfast (all day) and a choice of two cakes.
Heartland Coffee Roasters is a pioneer of the North Wales speciality coffee scene, having moved to Llandudno in 2012. The roastery has its own Meet the Roaster feature, while today’s Coffee Spot focuses on the coffee bar within the roastery. I say “coffee bar” and not “coffee shop” because while there are many roastery/coffee shops, there are few coffee bars like the one in Heartland Coffee.
The idea is not to replicate the coffee shop experience, where Heartland would be in competition with its wholesale customers, such as Providero. Instead, the coffee bar provides a more interactive setting, one which can showcase the full range of Heartland’s output while allowing the customers to discover more about the coffee. In this respect, it reminded me of the Single O Tasting Bar in Tokyo, or the coffee bar at Fuglen Coffee Roasters, which has now sadly closed. Another example which springs to mind is 111 Roasting Works’ Tasting Room in Flagstaff, also sadly closed.
That said, you can always just pop in for a cup of coffee (or some tea) if you want, without having the full interactive experience, sitting at the counter, or upstairs in the mezzanine area overlooking the roastery.
This is where it all started for The Gentlemen Baristas, on Union Street in Borough, when the first Gentlemen Baristas opened at the end of 2014. I took my time, leaving a whole two years before I finally visited, so it’s only fitting that I left it even longer before my return, this time chalking up a gap of four years. In the intervening period, The Gentlemen Baristas has been busy, opening multiple new coffee shops. Three of these, including its London Bridge coffee shop, are in a tight cluster around the original, while another four, including its Holborn coffee shop, are in central London. These are balanced by an eastern outpost at Canary Wharf, a western one in Hammersmith and its own East London roastery.
Returning to the original after so many years, it all felt rather familiar. The counter has had a facelift, but otherwise, the downstairs layout remains largely unchanged. Upstairs, however, things are a little different, the training room having moved out, replaced by a kitchen, while the rooftop garden has undergone a complete revamp. The coffee remains excellent, although there’s no longer any pour-over. On the plus side, there’s now a full brunch menu.