Bean & Leaf Coffee House

The Bean & Leaf Coffee House logo from the A-board in Hertford Street.When contemplating my recent trip to Coventry, the one place that everyone recommended was Bean & Leaf, located in the heart of the city’s pedestrianised shopping centre on Hertford Street. A fairly small spot in an interestingly-shaped space with high ceilings and a quiet, cosy basement (which more than doubles the available seating), Bean & Leaf has plenty of charm. You can also sit outside, where there are a couple of tables and a pair of benches.

Since it opened in 2017, Bean & Leaf has established quite a reputation, serving some excellent coffee from roasters from around the country. There’s a house espresso (currently from Manchester newcomer, Blossom Coffee Roasters) and a guest roaster (currently Bath’s Colonna Coffee), which changes every month, supplying a second option on espresso/batch brew and a single-origin on pour-over.

Although it sees itself as primarily a coffee shop, Bean & Leaf (as the name might suggest) takes its tea just as seriously, with a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Bath’s Teahouse Emporium, served in pots with coloured egg-timers so that you know when your particular brew is done. All of this is backed up by a range of sandwiches and tempting cakes.

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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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Sarah’s Leytonstone

An espresso extracting into a glass from a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine at Sarah's Leytonstone.Sarah’s Leytonstone is brought to you by the eponymous Sarah, who runs B-Tempted, the gluten-free bakers whose cakes you’ll find in various places as diverse as coffee shop chain, Notes, health food supermarket, Whole Foods Market, and supermarket, Morrisons (you can also buy cakes direct from Sarah via B-Tempted’s webshop). Sarah’s Leytonstone is Sarah’s latest venture, serving coffee, cakes and good cheer from the front of the railway arch that houses the B-Tempted bakery.

The set-up (for now) is a relatively simple. There’s a pair of tables on the quiet side street in front of the arch, while inside is a neat counter with the espresso machine, till, cakes and, of course, Sarah herself. For the moment, the coffee is from Perky Blenders, with a standard espresso-based menu, plus batch brew. However, things are evolving all the time, with plans for some indoor seating once COVID-19 restrictions allow, plus an expanded offering.

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WatchHouse Roastery & Café

The WatchHouse Roastery & Cafe, in a railway arch just outside London Bridge station.WatchHouse, the Bermondsey coffee powerhouse, has come a long way since it opened its doors in the eponymous WatchHouse on Bermondsey Street back in 2014. These days there are seven WatchHouses, two in close proximity to Bermondsey original, south of the Thames, and another four over the river, including the one-time Brooklyn Coffee (now WatchHouse Spitalfields) and Somerset House (once occupied by Fernandez & Wells).

For many years, WatchHouse used Ozone, but along with its expansion came the decision to roast its own coffee, WatchHouse opening a dedicated roastery and café (the subject of today’s Coffee Spot) in a railway arch on Maltby Street in August 2020. Now all the coffee is roasted here on a re-built 1959 Probat UG22, which you can admire through the glass wall at the back of the café.

WatchHouse’s offering is fairly simple, with a concise espresso-based menu plus batch-brew and pour-over. The latter offers a choice of a single-origin from WatchHouse or a guest roaster, which, during my visit, was from Monogram in Calgary, the options changing every month. This is backed up with a selection of Good & Proper Tea, hot chocolate and, if you’re hungry, a range of cakes and savoury options.

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Cable Co., The Aircraft Factory

My decaf flat white on my HuskeeCup, sitting on an old barrel outside Cable Co. in The Aircraft Factory.The Aircraft Factory in Hammersmith first came to the attention of the speciality coffee world as the West London outpost of Origin Coffee. However, in November 2019, it became the second location for Cable Co., which began life in Kensal Rise, and which now has a third coffee shop just off the Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Not that you would necessarily know, since The Aircraft Factory is not the sort of place you stumble upon.

There’s not a lot to Cable Co., which occupies a small, glass-walled spot on the right-hand side at the entrance to The Aircraft Factory. There’s a bench outside and a three-person bar against the wall inside, but that’s it for seating (for now). The coffee menu is similarly concise with an exclusive single-origin Colombian, plus decaf, from Climpson and Sons on espresso, backed up by a selection of pastries and cakes.

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Chief Coffee (COVID-19)

The front window of Chief Coffee celebrating the opening of the Japanese games arcade on the top floor. These days there’s plenty of good coffee to be had in the neighbourhood, but when Chief Coffee opened in Chiswick back in 2015, it was something of a pioneer, joining the nearby Artisan in bringing speciality coffee to this part of West London. As well as the coffee, however, Chief Coffee also made its name with its pinball lounge, something which makes it stand out from the crowd to this day (the only other speciality coffee and pinball place I am aware of is Birmingham’s Tilt).

As I write, Chief Coffee is restricted to just its outdoor seating, which, in the sheltered Turnham Green Terrace Mews, is a delight. However, as of Monday next week (17th May) it will be re-opening both the first-floor seating area and the ground floor pinball lounge. And, even better, there’s a new Japanese arcade games room on the top floor that will be opening for the very first time!

The coffee is unchanged throughout, with Allpress’s signature blend on espresso, plus a regularly changing pair of contrasting single-origins from Workshop on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. This is backed up by a small selection of tea, plus sandwiches, savouries and cakes if you’re hungry.

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The Table (COVID-19)

The open double doors welcome you to The Table in Walsall.The Table, which opened at the start of April, can lay claim to the title of Walsall’s first (and, for now, only) speciality coffee shop. The brainchild of Abby and James, it was set up as a community hub with the backing of the Walsall Community Church. Occupying part of a lovely, old building on the corner of Lower Hall Lane and Caldmore Road, it’s a few minutes’ walk from the train station in the centre of town. It’s also a great alternative to the motorway services, being under 10 minutes from both Junctions 9 and 10 on the M6, with plentiful (cheap) parking nearby.

For now, the spacious interior (The Table goes a long way back) is off-limits until the next set of COVID-19 restrictions are lifted (hopefully in May). However, there’s plenty of outside seating, and, with its location on a south-facing corner, it catches the sun. When it comes to coffee, The Table uses Bristol’s Odd Kin Coffee Roasters, with Walsall’s own Coffee by the Casuals on filter, although there are plans to add more guests in due course. There’s also Kokoa Collection hot chocolate, a selection of tea and a range of cakes if you’re hungry.

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The Hideout (COVID-19 Update)

The coffee profile for the Brightnote blend from Union Hand-roasted, as served at The Hideout.When it comes to my Guildford speciality coffee roundups during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Hideout, on the University of Surrey’s Stag Hill campus, is very much the forgotten party (by me, that is). The fact is, other than a short break during the early months of the pandemic (when the students went home), The Hideout has been open throughout the pandemic. My excuse, for what it’s worth, is that I’m hardly ever on that side of the river unless I’m going to Surrey Scorchers games at the weekend, when The Hideout is closed.

However, following my latest roundup, I thought I should rectify this oversight, so yesterday I popped up to a surprisingly busy campus to catch up with Beau and Charlie, the pair behind The Hideout. There have, inevitably, been some COVID-19 related changes, but the good news is that The Hideout is going strong after a lean time over the winter (when very few students were on campus). Best of all, the coffee, from old friends Union Hand-roasted, is as good as ever!

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Intelligentsia, Venice

The brick arch leading to the front of the Intelligentsia coffee bar on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Los Angeles.This is a first for the Coffee Spot. Almost four years ago to the day, I was in Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Los Angeles, following a recommendation from Lee Gaze of Silhouette. It was during my first visit to the city and, while I really liked it, I didn’t have time to finish my write up during my busy trip, so it languished on my hard drive instead. As weeks turned to months, and months turned to years, it seemed increasingly pointless to publish an out-of-date Coffee Spot, so that’s where it stayed, languished on my hard drive.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to limit both my travel and my ability to visit (and hence write about) coffee shops, at the start of the year I decided to return to my backlog of Travel Spots, which led to me to continue writing up The Grand Adventure (as I call my drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, undertaken in January 2017). And that, in turn, has provided the perfect excuse to dust off my notes and old photos of Intelligentsia…

So, let me present Intelligentsia’s Venice coffee bar, exactly as I found it three years and 363 days ago.

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Heartwork Coffee Bar

The Heartwork Coffee Bar logo from the side of the horsebox which acts as the coffee bar.Sometimes, I feel that things are just meant to be. Unexpectedly finding myself with access to a car, some nice weather and a free afternoon, I decided to seek out somewhere for my daily walk that was slightly further afield than my immediate backyard. Scrolling around Google Maps, Heartwork Coffee Bar in Holmbury St Mary jumped out at me, largely because I know the area reasonably well and wasn’t aware of any coffee shops there. An hour later, I was pulling up outside Bulmer Farm, home of Heartwork.

Heartwork is located at the back of the farm, on Pasture Wood Road, just off the B2126. The heart of the operation is an old horsebox, converted into a coffee bar, with a serving hatch at the front. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, using a bespoke blend roasted for Heartwork, backed up by hot chocolate, tea and a small selection of cakes, sandwiches and wraps. If you want to stay, then there’s a selection of seating, from outdoor, stand-up tables and low benches to a pair of barns with more tables and straw bales for seating. Just be aware that Heartland only has takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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