Fuglen Asakusa

A Norwegian waffle, which I had for breakfast at Fuglen Asakusa, topped with a poached egg, spinach, salsa and avocado.Japan’s speciality coffee scene is an interesting blend of homegrown roasters/coffee shops, plus a generous sprinkling of overseas names. Perhaps the most intriguing of these (for me, at least) is Fuglen, the Norwegian design company, which first opened its doors in Oslo in 1963. These days, Fuglen blends vintage design with coffee (daytime) and cocktails (evening) from its Oslo café/bar, a recipe which, since 2012, it has successfully copied in Tokyo, with a small and perpetually busy café/bar in Shibuya.

This was followed, in 2014, by a roastery/coffee shop (since relocated to larger premises) and, in September last year, by a much larger café/bar in Asakusa. Spread over two floors, it opens from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, offering breakfast, lunch, cakes, coffee and cocktails, all within a setting heavily influenced by vintage Norwegian design.

All the coffee’s roasted in-house, with a seasonal single-origin espresso, plus multiple filter options, available as pour-over (through the V60), Aeropress or batch-brew. There’s also a tasting flight, with an espresso, batch-brew and your choice of beans through the Aeropress. I visited twice, once in October 2018, a month after it opened, and a year later in November this year.

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Curio Espresso and Vintage Design

Details of the sign from outside Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa.I did really well when I visited Kanazawa as part of the first of this year’s two Japanese trips. I’d chosen my hotel largely for its proximity to the castle (which I could see from my window), little realising that it was surrounded by a clutch of excellent coffee shops, one of which, Curio Espresso and Vintage Design, was visible from the other side of the hotel.

I was originally put on to Curio by Happy Cow, a site for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants, which resulted in my heading to Curio for breakfast on my second day in Kanazawa. I then discovered that it had excellent coffee, serving an espresso-based menu using a bespoke house-blend from Kanazawa roaster Hiroyuki Arinobu of Ally Caffe. There’s also beer and wine for those so inclined.

Run by married couple Sol (Seattle) and Yuko (Kanazawa), Curio Espresso and Vintage Design is a friendly, welcoming place, beloved by locals and visitors alike. The food and coffee have a definite Seattle influence, while the vintage design part of the name (along with the “Curio” of the title) come from the décor, full of vintage items originally bought by Sol and Yuko to furnish their home!

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Unlimited Coffee Bar

Detail taken from a bag of coffee from Tokyo's Unlimited Coffee Roasters.Unlimited Coffee Bar is almost directly under Tokyo’s famous 643m tall Skytree, which, since 2012, has been Japan’s tallest structure and the world’s tallest tower. Located just across the canal, opposite the Skytree’s southwest corner, it’s an ideal stopping off point for coffee (or lunch/dinner) either before or after taking in the magnificent views across Tokyo from the Skytree’s two observation decks. I’ve visited twice, once during my around the world trip last year, and again earlier this week on my current trip, both times calling in for coffee after a trip up the tower.

In contrast to the soaring tower, Unlimited Coffee Bar, an offshoot of Unlimited Coffee Roasters, is a much more modest affair, at least in terms of its physical extent, occupying the ground floor of a small, three storey building. The unlimited part refers to the coffee, with a selection of five or six single-origins, all roasted in-house, two of which are available on espresso, three on cold brew and all on pour-over via Aeropress, Silverton dripper or V60. Various tasting flights are offered, along with coffee cocktails, while all the beans are available in retail bags. Finally, for somewhere so small, there’s an impressive food menu.

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Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia

A gorgeous single-origin Ethiopian espresso, roasted in-house, and served in a classic white cup at Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia.Fitzrovia, that small slice of central London between Oxford Street and Euston Road, has more than its fair share of excellent coffee shops. For many years, one of my favourites was Curators Coffee Gallery on Margaret Street, and I was saddened to learn of its closure earlier this year. However, my sadness wasn’t too long-lasting, since wandering around in July, I spotted a welcome sign in the vacant window: Kiss the Hippo.

For those that don’t know, Kiss the Hippo is a coffee shop/roaster with an improbable name and eye-catching logo. It began last year in Richmond, where you’ll find its flagship café, roastery and training centre, all rolled into one, with the Fitzrovia branch, which opened exactly one month ago, being its second location.

Spread over a spacious ground floor and a bright basement, anyone who visited Curators will instantly recognise the layout, although the décor is markedly different. The coffee, all roasted in-house in Richmond, is seasonal, with the George Street house-blend joined by a single-origin and decaf on espresso, with two more on pour-over, plus a batch-brew option. If you’re hungry, there’s brunch until 2 pm (3 pm at weekends), plus cake and toasties throughout the day.

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Brother Hubbard North

A latte art heart in my cortado, made with the Farmhand house-blend, at Brother Hubbard North in Dublin.I visited Brother Hubbard on my first trip to Dublin in 2014. Back then, it was a relatively small place, with a reputation for excellent food as well as really good coffee. So good, in fact, that after going there for breakfast, I returned for coffee later in the trip. 5½ years on, Brother Hubbard has added a second branch (Brother Hubbard South) while the original, reborn as Brother Hubbard North, has changed beyond (almost) all recognition. It’s now a takeaway joint, coffee shop, retailer and restaurant, with an on-site roastery, Farmhand, thrown in for good measure.

Normally, this would be a Coffee Spot Update, but with all the changes, I’ve gone for a complete re-write, leaving the original as is. These days Brother Hubbard serves a bespoke house-blend from in-house roaster, Farmhand, along with a single-origin on batch brew. There are grab-and-go goodies from the takeaway counter to the left, or you can sit in and enjoy breakfast, brunch or cake with your coffee. Finally, in the evenings, there’s a small but innovative dinner menu five nights a week. The space, by the way, is huge, with a long, thin indoor seating area, outdoor terrace and magnificent dining room.

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Shoe Lane Coffee, Tara Street

A lovely single-origin Brazilian espresso from Full Circle Roasters, served in a glass at Shoe Lane Coffee, Dublin.A relative newcomer in Dublin’s rich and growing speciality coffee scene, Shoe Lane Coffee only opened in 2016, joined in 2018 by a second branch just down the coast at Dun Laoghaire. On Tara Street, once home to Dublin’s cobblers when it was known as Shoe Lane (hence the name), the coffee shop’s right in the heart of the city, a block from the River Liffey’s southern bank and across the street from Tara Street Station.

The shop is lovely, spread out over two floors. The spacious downstairs has the counter at the back, home (since September) of Dublin’s only La Marzocco KB90 (a source of much envy amongst Dublin’s barista community, several of whom recommended Shoe Lane Coffee to me). Meanwhile, via a switch-back staircase at the back, the upper floor is dominated by a large, communal table with a window-bar overlooking the street below.

Shoe Lane Coffee only serves single-origins from the local Full Circle Roasters. There’s a single option on espresso, two on pour-over and one more on batch-brew, all changing on a seasonal basis and all available to buy in retail bags. If you’re hungry, there’s a decent selection of cakes and savouries to choose from.

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Coffeeangel TCD

A V60 of a Gakui AA Kenyan single-origin served in a carafe, with the cup on one side, presented on a wooden tray at Coffeeangel TCD.Last weekend’s return to Dublin was marked by a combination of new places (such as yesterday’s Coffee Spot, First Draft Coffee & Wine) and new locations of old favourites (such as 3FE Sussex Terrace). Today’s Coffee Spot sees me back in Coffeeangel, whose HQ branch was a big hit with me when I was last in Dublin. This time it’s the turn of Coffeeangel TCD (which stands for Trinity College Dublin), on Leinster Street, which runs along the southern edge of Trinity College’s city-centre campus.

Coffeeangel, which began with a pair of coffee carts, is one of the veterans of Dublin’s speciality coffee scene. These days the coffee carts are no more, Coffeeangel having moved into bricks and mortar, now with five city-centre stores. TCD is a relatively compact affair, with outside seating, a counter at the front and a cosy seating area at the back. All the coffee is roasted exclusively for Coffeeangel by Bailies in Belfast. There’s a house-blend on espresso, served via a concise menu, joined by two single-origins, available on espresso or pour-over, the latter using a V60 on the Marco Beverage Systems SP9. If you’re hungry, there’s a wide selection of cake and sandwiches.

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First Draft Coffee & Wine

A lovely flat white in a class white cup on a black saucer, made with an El Mirador single-origin from Guatemala, roasted by Roasted Brown and served at First Draft Coffee & Wine in Dublin.A quiet, residential street in Portobello, south Dublin, is not, at first sight, where you’d expect to find one of Dublin’s top coffee shops. It’s certainly not somewhere I would have found without the tip-off I received from Roasted Brown, whose roastery I (briefly) visited at the start of my current trip to Ireland.

First Draft Coffee & Wine is a fairly small spot, although it’s got as much seating inside as yesterday’s Coffee Spot, 3FE Sussex Terrace, in about a quarter of the space. It pretty much does what it says on the tin, serving coffee in the mornings through to the early evenings (seven or eight o’clock), with a magnificent selection of wine from noon onwards, and a small evening menu after five. There’s also a very tempting selection of cakes and pastries, while you can buy both coffee beans and bottles of wine to take home with you.

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Three Fools Coffee

An Americano extracting into a cup of hot water at Three Fools Coffee in CorkThree Fools Coffee on Cork’s Grand Parade was the second of my three stops on Monday’s whirlwind speciality coffee tour. As with my other two stops (Dukes and Filter), it was a recommendation from local expert, Caroline O’Keeffe.

Over the years, I’ve described quite a few places as coffee cubes, starting with Manchester’s original espresso cube (aka the sadly missed Forté Espresso Bar). In concept, Three Fools is the closest to an actual cube, despite not being cube-shaped (it needs to be twice as high and maybe 50% wider). However, it feels like a cube, with its timber-framed windows on three sides and a slightly incongruous concrete floor and ceiling.

At first sight, you might think that Three Fools would be a takeaway joint, or a mainstream coffee bar (Cork has plenty of these, by the way). Stepping inside dispels those notions instantly: this is a no-holds-barred, full-service third-wave coffee shop. There are two single-origins on espresso, roasted in-house, with a house or guest single-origin on filter, with a choice of batch brew, cafetiere (for one or two), V60 or Chemex (for two). If you’re hungry, there’s a choice of three sandwiches and three toasties, plus a selection of cake.

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Dukes Coffee Company, Carey’s Lane

A carafe of the natural Ethiopian batch brew from Stone Valley Roaster, served at Dukes Coffee Company in Cork.As part of my current trip to Ireland, I spent yesterday in Cork, exploring its excellent coffee scene. Of course, a day was wholly inadequate for the task, with local expert, Caroline O’Keeffe, giving me a list of ten places to try! I managed a paltry three, starting with breakfast at Dukes Coffee Company. There are two branches of Dukes, the original city-centre location on Carey’s Lane (where I ended up), and a second east of the centre in City Gate.

Dukes serves coffee exclusively from Irish roasters, with a bespoke, seasonal house-blend, Three Lands from Bewley’s. This is joined by guest single-origins on espresso and batch brew. The current single-origin espresso is the San Cayetano from El Salvador, roasted by Dublin’s 3FE, while the batch brew is a naturally-processed Ethiopian, roasted by Stone Valley Roasters from Clonakilty in County Cork. However, don’t wait too long to try them, since they change every two weeks or so, with the next espresso, from nearby Badger & Dodo in Fermoy, lined up and ready to go!

All this is backed up by a selection of sandwiches and cakes, plus excellent breakfast and lunch menus, served until one o’clock (two o’clock at weekends).

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