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.
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.
When it comes to the story of speciality coffee in North Wales, you have to start with Heartland Coffee Roasters. I first came across Heartland four years ago at Providero in Llandudno Junction, but I was somewhat late to the game, with the company’s roots going back to the year 2000 when founders Mal (Australia) & Tara (New Zealand) arrived in London from New Zealand. Initially roasting coffee in their kitchen, they set up in business in 2005 and then, in 2012, moved to Llandudno, when Heartland was born.
These days Heartland is a regional powerhouse, with a pair of Coffee-tech roasters turning out the crowd-pleasing Landmark espresso blend and its decaf counterpart, along with Samba, a regional blend from Brazil, and a cast of seasonal single-origins (seven at the time of writing). These are supplied to coffee shops across North Wales (and beyond), as well as being available on-line and for pick-up at the roastery, where Heartland has a coffee bar (which features in its own Coffee Spot).
However, as much as Heartland is about coffee, it’s also about relationships: relationships with coffee famers, with coffee shops and with coffee drinkers, all with the aim of raising expectations.
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.
Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar has been on my radar for many years, but it’s one of those places that’s not too easy for me to get to without a car. However, last weekend I found myself with a car and in need of somewhere to stop for breakfast on my drive along the M40. Suddenly, Coopers became a very attractive option.
Occupying an old garage in a small industrial area at the eastern end of Marlow, Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar is exactly what the name suggests, with the coffee roasters sitting at the back of a large, open space, while the coffee bar is on the left. However, it’s also a lot more than that, since you can add kitchen (in a separate room at the back), lounge (plenty of seating) and dog-friendly to the list.
Turning to coffee, Coopers offers its house blend, Jabbajaws, decaf and a featured coffee (currently a Brazilian single-origin) on espresso or filter as V60, AeroPress or Chemex (for two). There’s also Tregothnan Tea from Cornwall and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate, plus a concise brunch menu, backed up by a selection of cakes, all of which can be enjoyed sitting inside or out.
I first came across Hundred House Coffee at the Manchester Coffee Festival in 2017 and, ever since, I’ve looked forward to meeting up with Annabelle and Matt, Hundred House’s founders, at festivals around the country. I’ve had a long-standing invitation to visit the roastery, but first my foreign travel and then the COVID-19 pandemic kept me from taking them up on the offer. That, and, of course, getting there: the roastery is an old farm building in rural Shropshire, literally miles from anywhere, including the nearest train station. However, at the end of last week, and with access to a car, I made a point of calling in.
Hundred House made its name by roasting some, quite frankly, amazing coffee, producing a small selection of seasonal blends and single-origins. Unusually for a coffee company, Hundred House’s focus is as much on design as it is on coffee, Matt and Annabelle having collaborated with a range of artists to produce some outstanding packaging. This remains a focus to this day through the Art & Industry project. Looking to the future, next year Hundred House is moving to a purpose-built redevelopment north of Ludlow, which includes plans for an onsite coffee shop.
Let’s get 2021 underway with a new Meet the Roaster and Chimney Fire Coffee. Started in his garden shed by Dan Webber in 2016, Chimney Fire moved to its current home in Ranmore Manor in the Surrey Hills in the summer of 2017. In theory, I could walk there and back in a day (as I did with Surrey Hills Coffee last May), but laziness/poor planning got the better of me, so I ended up driving over the week before Christmas when I unexpectedly found myself with a car and nowhere to go.
Like many roasters, Chimney Fire had its business model turned on its head by COVID-19, but is thriving despite this, expanding over the summer and recently employing two additional staff. Its Ranmore signature espresso is joined by a various single-origins with a variety of roasts: espresso, filter and onmi.
I’ve been enjoying Chimney Fire’s coffee for several years, often at Canopy Coffee (where it was a regular guest) and at home, with Chimney Fire being one of the first roasters I ordered from at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was therefore with great pleasure that I caught up with Dan and the team just before Christmas.