Caffi Caban

One of the cabins, known as Cwch Gwenyn (The Hive), in the garden at the back of Caffi Caban.North Wales, particularly Snowdonia, is blessed with many things, including outstanding scenery. However, great coffee has been rather thin on the ground, although in recent years, things have been improving rapidly, led in part by local roasters such as Llandudno’s Heartland Coffee Roasters and Poblado Coffi, roasting in Snowdonia itself, who both feature in today’s Coffee Spot, Caffi Caban.

Rather embarrassingly for me, Caffi Caban has only recently come to my attention, despite having opened in 2009! It’s an amazing spot, occupying the rear half of the Brynrefail Enterprise Workshops in Snowdonia. The large, curved interior, which has the majority of the tables next to the windows, overlooks an even larger outside seating area, where multi-level wooden terraces descend to a grassy expanse.

Turning to coffee, Poblado Coffi provides a house blend and decaf, while the guest espresso, which changes every week or two, is usually from Heartland or Poblado. All the shots are ground on Victoria Arduino Mythos grinders and pulled on a Black Eagle. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s tea, beer, cider and wine, plus a selection of Welsh gin and spirits. Finally, Caffi Caban has separate breakfast and lunch menus, plus plenty of cake, all baked onsite.

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Tilt Update

Details of the new (to me, at least) A-board from outside Tilt in Birmingham, promising craft beer, speciality coffee and pinball.To the best of my knowledge, Tilt is just one of two speciality coffee-and-pinball places in the UK, the other being Chiswick’s Chief Coffee, both of which opened in 2015. Mind you, Tilt’s not just coffee-and-pinball. It’s coffee-pinball-and-craft-beer, serving up to 18 different draught beers, plus there’s cider, wine, spirits, and cocktails, not to mention twelve different loose-leaf teas and five types of hot chocolate.

I first visited Tilt in January 2016, not long after it had opened. Back then, it just occupied the ground floor of an interestingly-shaped spot in Birmingham’s City Arcade, with work underway to open up the basement. Since then, it’s come a long way, not just opening the basement, but, during the enforced COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, adding an upper floor, both offering additional seating and more pinball machines.

These days, Tilt still bases its offer around pinball, beer and coffee, and its in this latter department that it perhaps has taken the greatest strides. Tilt was always serious about its coffee, but recently the owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level with the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, an exciting development which I’ve dedicated an entire Saturday Supplement to.

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Wags N Tales, Surbiton

The Wags N Tails logo, a stylised line drawing of a dog's face inside a circle, with the words "Wags N Tales" written at the top of the circle and "Coffee Bar Kitchen" written at the bottom.I conclude my very brief tour of Surbiton’s speciality coffee scene (which started last week with Surbeanton and not forgetting The Press Room) with Wags N Tales. Located on Brighton Road, it’s many things: coffee shop by day, bar by night, vegetarian/vegan restaurant (11:00 – 21:00) and all-day dog-friendly venue. It’s also, by speciality coffee shop standards, huge, with a wide range of seating across multiple interior spaces, along with four large tables on the pavement outside.

Surbeaton uses local roaster Chimney Fire Coffee, with Chimney Fire’s Classic Espresso joined by a decaf option from Hampshire’s Moon Roast. When it comes to food, there’s an all-day brunch menu, plus burgers, hot dogs and various specials, all of which is vegetarian, with plenty of vegan options. This is backed up with sandwiches to go, plenty of cakes and a selection of dog snacks and treats. And, of course, there’s a well-stocked bar, with a large cocktail menu, a range of wine by the glass or bottle, various spirits and draught beer. For now, you order online (there are QR Codes on every table) and pay either at the table when your order is delivered, or at the counter before you leave.

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Riverbanc

My Vegetarian Stacked breakfast at the Riverbanc in Llangollen: egg, halloumi, mushrooms, croquette, beans and seeded toast (plus an extra slice).Although it was Sam’s Coffee that brought me to Llangollen at the end of May, while I was doing my research, I quickly discovered that Sam wasn’t the only game in town when it came to speciality coffee. Literally across the road from Sam’s Coffee is Riverbanc, which started life as an outdoor activity centre before moving into the old Midland Bank building, in the process adding a speciality coffee shop and small hotel to its portfolio.

The coffee shop occupies the left-hand side of the ground floor of the three-storey building, with a modest, L-shaped seating area which wraps around the counter. As pleasant as the interior is, sitting inside means you miss out on the best part of Riverbanc, the expansive decking at the rear of the building, which is built out high above the bank of the River Dee.

When it comes to coffee, Riverbanc uses Has Bean, offering the reliable Jailbreak blend on espresso, along with a single-origin guest, plus decaf. There’s also loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate, various flavoured lattes and iced frappes, plus bottled beer and wine. If you’re hungry, Riverbanc has contemporary breakfast and brunch menus, plus plenty of cake to keep you going.

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Sam’s Coffee

A flat white, with some lovely latte art, served in a classic white cup at Sam's Coffee in Llangollen.Llangollen, nestling on the banks of the River Dee in North Wales, is a beautiful town and one which I’ve visited many, many times over the years. However, until last summer, it had never registered on the Coffee Spot radar. Then, I visited Bold Street Coffee in Liverpool, where one of the baristas told me that Bold Street’s founder, the legendary Sam Towil, was now living in Llangollen, where he runs Sam’s Coffee. And, just like that, I started planning my visit.

Sam’s Coffee is inside Gales of Llangollen, a family-run wine bar, restaurant and 15-room hotel, all housed in a Georgian townhouse which feels, to me, like an old coaching inn. Sam’s Coffee is officially open from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon, offering a contemporary brunch menu, plus coffee from Has Bean, after which Gales takes over until late in the evening with a lunch/dinner (dunch? linner?) menu, plus beer, cider, spirits and, of course, wine. However, that doesn’t mean the coffee stops at two: as long as Sam is there, he’ll make you coffee. Although the menu is espresso-based, I spotted a kettle, Chemex and Kalita Wave, so I’m sure if you ask nicely…

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Elephant Lounge

A classic espresso in a classic cup at Elephant Lounge in Parkgate.Last week’s (very short) Coffee Spot Tour of the Wirral started at Wylde Coffee in Heswall and ended not long after in Parkgate with Elephant Lounge. Having previously said that I could see the Wirral from my parents’ house across the River Dee in Holywell, I am fairly sure that (with a large enough telescope) I could see Elephant Lounge itself!

Elephant Lounge has occupied its waterfront spot on the main road through Parkgate since 2016. It’s part of a small chain that includes Elephant Coffee, a coffee shop in nearby Neston, and its latest addition, Elephant Bank, a smokehouse and bar, which recently opened across the road from Elephant Coffee.

Coffee shop by day, and bar by night, Elephant Lounge bases its coffee menu around a bespoke seasonal espresso blend. During the day, porridge and various toast options are available for breakfast, with bagels and soup for lunch, backed up by a range of cakes. Then at four o’clock, Elephant Lounge switches over to pizzas for the evening, along with a range of draught and bottled beer, cocktails, gin, rum and wine. All this can be enjoyed in the spacious interior or in the large, shady garden at the back.

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The Coffee Traveller (COVID-19)

A classic espresso in a classic black cup, served at The Coffee Traveller in Chiswick.Having started my coffee tour of Chiswick at Chief Coffee, I then inadvertently spent the rest of it in Hammersmith, so I thought it best that my final stop should be The Coffee Traveller, a lovely spot by the Thames and very much in Chiswick. Located on Thames Road, a quiet street in a residential area, it’s in a row of eight terrace houses with shops on the ground floor and has a lovely, quirky interior which, come Monday, you’ll be able to sit in again. Until then, you have to sit outside, where you’ll find a pair of old school desks on the pavement, under the shade of an awning. Best of all, however, is the secret garden at the back, a wonderfully relaxing spot, the perfect place to end a long day spent visiting coffee shops.

The coffee is from old friends, Caravan, the Daily Blend served from a standard espresso menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and smoothies, plus craft beer and wine by the glass or bottle. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the kitchen at the back offers the like of pancakes and omelettes to go with filled croissants, bagels, rolls and sandwiches, plus lots of cake.

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Caravan Exmouth Market (COVID-19 Update)

The Caravan logo from the sign outside the original Exmouth Market branch.I’d originally planned today’s Coffee Spot for Saturday. Then the latest COVID-19 restrictions happened and, for a while, I wondered if I should postpone my write up until December at the earliest. However, since Caravan is still open for collection/delivery, I decided to go ahead, so welcome to Monday’s Coffee Spot, an update on Caravan Exmouth Market. Until the England-wide shutdown on Thursday, Caravan was going strong, serving its filling breakfasts, weekend brunches and innovative small plates and dinners, all backed up with some excellent Caravan coffee on espresso and filter.

Caravan is one of those legendary names in London coffee circles. Now with five restaurants/cafes/bars, plus a coffee bar in Harrods and a dedicated roastery, Exmouth Market was where it all began, back in 2010. As well as being the original Caravan coffee shop, it was also the original roastery (located in the basement), before that moved out to King’s Cross and then to the new facility at the Lamb Works. The smallest of the five, Exmouth Market is still my favourite, so when I found myself staying around the corner, I decided to call in for dinner. And then I came back for breakfast the following morning…

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Catalyst

An Ethiopian Chelelektu, roasted and served as an espresso in a classic, white cup at Catalyst.Coffee shop/roaster Catalyst opened in Holborn in late 2016, joining a growing number of speciality coffee shops in the area. I remember the buzz it generated at the time, with the likes of Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato singing its praises. I duly put it on my (very long) list of places to visit and when, almost four years later, I found myself around the corner at The Attendant on Leather Lane, I knew that the time had come.

Occupying a bright, airy, corner spot, Catalyst is a lovely space, although its real draw is the coffee, roasting multiple single-origins (and a solitary blend) on the 12 kg Diedrich in the basement, several of which are available on espresso, batch brew and pour-over. There’s a small, innovative brunch menu that’s served until 3 pm, while on Friday evenings, Catalyst reinvents itself as a bar, complete with a separate and equally innovative bar menu. You don’t need to wait until Friday though: alcohol is available throughout the day, with cocktails and a small selection of beer and wine.

This Coffee Spot is about Catalyst as a coffee shop, while you can read about Catalyst the roaster in its own Meet the Roaster feature.

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Notes, King’s Cross (COVID-19 Update)

Notes is back! Details of the online ordering system, displayed on every table at Notes, King's Cross.The very first coffee shop I visited following the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions in England was Notes, Trafalgar Square. I doubt I could have chosen better, to be honest, with Notes’ customary quality shining through. My coffee, a cortado, was served in a glass, while my food came on a proper plate with real cutlery. So, when I was looking for somewhere to have coffee and some food before catching my train on Monday, I immediately thought of Notes at Pancras Square, sandwiched between King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. The fact that my train was leaving from Euston, a 15-minute walk away, was entirely secondary in the decision-making process.

King’s Cross was one of three Notes locations that reopened in July and is probably the best suited of all, with a large outdoor seating area. There are changes, obviously, to account for COVID-19, but these are minimal. Online ordering at your table is encouraged, while the upstairs seating area is understandably closed, but otherwise, this is very much like the Notes of old. And, even better, with the area still really, really quiet, sitting out in Pancras Square meant blissful silence. Make the most of it while it lasts!

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