Meet the Roaster: Adams + Russell

The two Toper coffee roasters at the back of Adams + Russell in Birkenhead.Today’s Meet the Roaster is Adams + Russell, a speciality coffee roaster and fixture of Birkenhead’s coffee scene ever since Mr Adams + Mr Russell first set up shop on an industrial estate near Birkenhead Central station in 1978. Although both founders have moved on, the company hasn’t gone very far in the intervening 44 years, the biggest change coming 10 years ago when expansion saw Adams + Russell relocate to its current home on the same industrial estate.

The same cannot be said for its coffee, though. While still best known in The Wirral and the northwest, Adams + Russell has an increasingly global reach, supplying customers as far afield as South Korea and Iceland’s Skool Beans. Adams + Russell’s philosophy has also come a long way since those early days, when dark-roast blends were its backbone. While the dark-roast blends remain, Adams + Russell has embraced speciality coffee and adopted the lighter roasts beloved of third-wave coffee aficionados to produce a truly impressive range of blends, single-origins and micro lots.

I’ve already written about the roastery’s small retail shop (where you can also buy a cup of coffee) so today’s post is all about the roastery itself.

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Adams + Russell

The front of a bag of the Tierra Madre, a washed coffee from a Women’s Co-operative in Nicaragua, roasted for espresso by Adams + Russell in Birkenhead.Adams + Russell has been roasting coffee in Birkenhead for over 40 years, operating from a unit on the Argyle Industrial Estate, a few minutes’ walk from Birkenhead Central station, a familiar-enough home if you’ve visited as many coffee roasters as I have. You can read about Adams + Russell the roaster in its own Meet the Roaster feature, but today’s post is about the coffee shop attached to the roastery. This primarily acts as a retail outlet for Adams + Russell’s wide range of coffee, which is available in 250 g or 1 kg bags, filled (and, if necessary, ground) to order, so there’s no stale stock standing on the shelves.

There’s also plenty of coffee-making equipment, cups, etc, plus a wide selection of teas (loose leaf or tea bags). While not set up as a coffee bar, the staff will happily make you an espresso-based drink of your choice using whatever beans are in the hopper that day. Because of the nature of the operation, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Meet the Roaster: Time & Tide Coffee

Details of the San Franciscan SF25 roaster at Time & Tide, done out in the company colours.On Monday last week, I caught Amtrak’s Downeaster from Portland to Saco to visit Time & Tide Coffee, a lovely coffee shop just across the river in Biddeford. While there, I met Jon, who, together with his wife Briana, founded Time & Tide in November 2018 when they relocated from Brooklyn to Biddeford. Jon was kind enough to invite me to Time & Tide’s roasting facility, just across the road in one of Biddeford’s many old mill buildings, which is the subject of today’s Meet the Roaster. The coffee shop, meanwhile, features in its own Coffee Spot.

Time & Tide produces three blends, The Commodore, designed for espresso, Year One Anniversary Blend, which is roasted for batch brew filter, and Clambake, which is intended for cold brew. All of these are served in the coffee shop, along with Time & Tide’s Twilight Decaf. In addition, there are typically three to five seasonal single-origins, which are offered for sale in retail bags, online and wholesale. This is all backed up by Steeped Coffee for those who want speciality coffee in a more convenient form, with Time & Tide offering bags of either The Commodore or Twilight Decaf pre-ground for immersion brewing.

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Meet the Roaster: Speckled Ax

The Speckled Ax roaster, a refurbished 20 kg Petroncini roaster from the 1970s, in the Walton Street roastery, with the tell-tale woodpile against the wall behind it.Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Portland’s coffee shop/roaster, Speckled Ax, which I first visited in June 2015. Back then, there was just the original coffee shop on Congress Street, with the roastery out in South Portland. However, Speckled Ax has been busy in recent years, opening its flagship Thames Street coffee shop in 2020, and then, a year later, moving the roastery to its new home on Walton Street, where it also opened a neat coffee bar.

On my return to Portland at the start of this year, I caught up with Matt, owner of Speckled Ax. I’ve already written about the coffee bar, so today’s Meet the Roaster is all about the roastery. Although an outstanding roastery in its own right, consistently turning out some excellent single-origins and blends year-on-year, Speckled Ax’s particular claim to fame is as one of a handful of wood-fired coffee roasters in the USA (reminiscent of Witney’s Ue Coffee Roasters in the UK). The magic happens in a large, industrial unit behind the coffee bar, where you’ll find the 20 kg Petroncini, a refurbished Italian roaster from the 1970s, its fire box filled with local kiln-dried wood.

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Speckled Ax, Walton

The sign over the door, proclaiming "COFFEE" at Speckled Ax, Walton Street.If you’ve been paying attention for the last two weeks, you’ll know that I’m back in Portland, Maine, where, weather permitting, I’m catching up with the local coffee shops. Top of my list was Speckled Ax’s new roastery/coffee bar on Walton Street, which opened last year. It’s out beyond Back Cove, north of Portland’s compact city centre, just over the train tracks from Forest Avenue, the main north/south drag.

Home to Speckled Ax’s new roastery (which has its own Meet the Roaster feature), there’s a small takeout coffee bar attached. Unlike the other Speckled Ax locations (Congress and Thames), with their multiple options on espresso and filter, here it’s just the daily batch brew or espresso, although, of course, plenty of retail bags of coffee are available to buy. There’s no seating, although when COVID-19 allows, there will be a small standing bar at the front. For now, it’s takeaway only, so don’t forget to bring your own cup.

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Meet the Roaster: NewGround Coffee

The Loring S15 Falcon roaster at the back of NewGround Coffee in Oxford.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.

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Alma Coffee Roastery

A lovely cappuccino, made with the medium-roast Soulmate from the family farm in Honduras, roasted and served in my HuskeeCup at Alma Coffee Roastry in Canton, Georgia.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.

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The Roastery at Cobham

The Rwanda Bwenda, a naturally-processed coffee, which was prepared through the V60 and served in a double-walled glass cup at The Roastery in Cobham.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.

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NewGround Coffee Roastery & Coffee Shop

A box the Worka Wuri, the surprise coffee I was served at NewGround Roastery and Coffee Shop in Oxford. From Ethiopia, it's a washed heirloom coffee with tasting notes of Earl grey, lemon and elderflower, roasted five days before my visit.Oxford’s NewGround Coffee began in 2018, although I only became aware of it earlier this year when visiting FLTR Coffee in Bicester. Then, a month later, I popped into The Hideaway, one of Guildford’s many new openings, to find NewGround’s seasonal Big House blend in the hopper. Turns out I should have paid more attention, though, since Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato wrote about NewGround in October last year!

NewGround’s roastery/coffee shop are in a small workshop tucked away off a side street in Headington, east of the centre of Oxford. The roasting side of the business has its own Meet the Roaster feature, while today’s post focuses on the coffee shop. This is best described as minimalist, somewhere between a full-blown roastery/café (like the Ue Coffee Roastery Cafe & Kitchen) and the Heartland Coffee Bar.

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.

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Heartland Coffee Bar

The Los Nogales, a naturally-processed single-origin from El Salvador, roasted and served as a cortado by Heartland Coffee Roasters.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.

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