Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

My flat white, made with the Surrey Hills Coffee Holmbury Hill blend and served in my HuskeeCup at Koja.Koja, a Swedish word meaning “a cosy little den”, came into being in August this year. On the one hand, it can be seen as the rebirth of Surrey Hills Coffee on Jeffries Passage, but it’s also very much its own place, resisting the temptation to become a clone of what had gone before.

When I visited, on Koja’s second day of trading, it was just offering takeaway service. As summer turned to autumn, Koja introduced limited seating downstairs, although I never seemed to be in the position to visit, either passing by at closing time (at the relatively early hour of two o’clock in the afternoon) or else it was a Saturday and very busy. With the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in England at the start of November, Koja returned to takeaway only, and I thought it was high time I popped back to see how things were going.

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Canopy Coffee (COVID-19 Update 2)

One of the beautiful coffee artworks on the wall of Canopy Coffee in Guildford, showing the branch of a coffee tree and cross-sections of the coffee cherry.Back in May, after two months of only drinking coffee I made myself, I visited the newly reopened Canopy Coffee, which, in the face of COVID-19, had reinvented itself as a takeaway coffee shop. On the back of that visit,  I wrote my first COVID-19 update, which has grown into a series (with more than 25 posts), charting how coffee shops are adapting to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

In many ways, of all Guildford’s speciality coffee shops, Canopy was probably the best-placed to weather the new phase of England-wide COVID-19 restrictions, which came into force at the start of November. While other coffee shops, such as Krema Coffee, re-opened their indoor seating over the summer, Canopy, having effectively pivoted from being a sit-in coffee shop, has remained takeaway only throughout the pandemic. Earlier this week, I went back to where I started my COVID-19 Updates to see how Canopy was coping.

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Over Under Coffee, West Brompton

The front of Over Under Coffee, West Brompton, which is pretty much the extent of the store!Over Under Coffee, which seems to specialise in tiny coffee shops, has done much to bring speciality coffee to Earl’s Court/Hammersmith in West London, starting in 2017 with the original, opposite Earl’s Court Station. After branching out with a slightly larger coffee shop in Ham Yard, just off Piccadilly, which closed almost exactly two years ago at the end of October 2018, Over Under returned to its roots, the subject of today’s Saturday Short opening just outside West Brompton Station in January 2019. Since then, there have been two more Over Unders in London (Ladbroke Grove and Wandsworth Town) and one in Manchester (which, sadly, has not reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic).

Over Under Coffee at West Brompton is even smaller than the ones that came before it, the tiny interior offering standing room only, with just two small stools on the pavement outside. Despite this, there’s a concise espresso-based menu, backed up with batch brew filter, the coffee, as always, coming from Assembly. Even more impressively, given the size, is the brunch menu, cooked in the kitchen downstairs, plus various pastries and filled croissants.

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Four Corners (COVID-19 Update)

A flat white, made with Ozone's Empire Blend, in my HuskeeCup at Four Corners.Four Corners, tucked away on Lower Marsh behind Waterloo Station, is one of the stalwarts of London’s speciality coffee scene, opening in July 2013, with my first visit coming a month later. Like many others (Canopy Coffee and Party on Pavilion, for example), COVID-19 has forced Four Corners to convert itself from a bustling, lively, sit-in coffee shop to a takeout operation. The area has also seen a significant drop-off in foot traffic, so much so that Four Corners only reopened two weeks ago, although hopefully the part-pedestrianisation of Lower Marsh will help bring people back to the area. It’s certainly changed the character of the street for the better.

For now, Four Corners is only offering a takeaway service, which means disposable cups, although the staff happily accept customers’ reusable cups. The full coffee menu is available, with Ozone’s Empire Blend on espresso, along with pour-over via the V60 and Chemex. There’s also tea from T2, while Four Corners has a limited food menu. Best of all, if you want to sit outside once you’ve got your coffee, Four Corners has taken advantage of the pedestrianisation of Lower Marsh by putting some benches and two tables out front.

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Party on Pavilion (COVID-19 Update)

Detail from the A-board outside Party on Pavilion: "The Roasting Party - Coffee every day!"Party on Pavilion was the first coffee shop from Winchester-based Aussie imports, The Roasting Party, which opened three years ago in August 2017. A lovely little shop on Pavilion Street, off Sloan Square in South West London, it has just enough space downstairs for the counter, while upstairs, a long, thin space provided a bright seating area in the summer and a cosy one in the winter. Then along came COVID-19 and suddenly “cosy” was no longer looking so attractive…

Party on Pavilion reopened in mid-May, offering takeaway service only from the counter downstairs. Although the restrictions have since been eased, the upstairs seating area has remained closed, a decision no doubt helped by the pedestrianisation of Pavilion Street, which is now replete with tables and benches, making it the perfect place to sit and drink your coffee. Talking of which, there’s the usual options from the concise espresso-based menu, along with single-origin pour-over through the Chemex. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of pastries, cakes (now baked upstairs) and pre-packed salads.

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Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee (COVID-19)

The sign inside Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee: "Welcome Lovely People Of Guildford to Koja by SHC"Once upon a time, there was a coffee roastery called Surrey Hills Coffee which (accidentally) opened a coffee shop in Guildford. That was in 2016, and soon the little coffee shop had outgrown its original home on Chapel Street, prompting a move in 2018 to bigger premises on Jeffries Passage, where, in the fullness of time, an upper floor seating area was added. And then COVID-19 came along and, like all the other coffee shops in Guildford, Surrey Hills had to close.

In many ways, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise for Chris and Monika, the Swedish couple behind Surrey Hills Coffee. Temporarily released from the day-to-day grind of running the coffee shop, they were able to focus on the roastery, realising that this was their true passion. When the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, allowing the coffee shop to reopen, Chris and Monika had a decision to make. They didn’t want to close the coffee shop, but they also didn’t want to go back to the day-to-day management.

Fortunately, the solution presented itself in the shape of Koja, which opened on Thursday, 13th August, initially for takeaway only, but with plans for sit-in service in due course.

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Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen, Crewe (COVID-19 Update)

The front of the Gourmet Coffee Bar at the end of Platform 5 in Crewe Station, with its newly-installed Perspex screens, shortly after it reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic.Like Monday’s Coffee Spot Update, The Flower Cup, I took my sweet time in writing up the Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen at Crewe Station, although in this case it wasn’t because I hadn’t visited: on the contrary, it was a highlight of any change of trains at Crewe. Rather, I was never there for long enough during any one visit to write it up! However, I finally managed it earlier this year, publishing my piece the day before I wrote about The Flower Cup. So, in a pleasing piece of symmetry, I’m publishing this COVID-19 Update just after publishing my update on The Flower Cup.

For those that don’t know, there are a number of Gourmet Coffee Bars dotted around the country, principally (but not exclusively) at stations in the Midlands and North West England. Crewe is the one I’m most familiar with, although in fairness, that should be “ones” since there are two kiosks, a smaller one on Platform 6 and the one I usually end up at, on Platform 5. Both have a similar offering, with a standard espresso-based menu from Clifton Coffee Roasters and a range of sandwiches, crisps, cakes and pastries if you’re hungry.

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Moss Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

A flat white, made with the Arboretum Blend from Dark Woods and served in my HuskeeCup at Moss Coffee, Chester, one of the few times I've been able to use my own cup during COVID-19.Although I don’t visit Chester that often, Moss Coffee, conveniently located between the bus and railway stations, has become a handy calling point when I’m in the city and in need of coffee before I catch my train. Like everyone else, Moss closed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, before reopening to provide a takeaway-only service, a decision largely dictated by the size/shape of the shop. Naturally, when I visited Chester on Friday, Moss Coffee was high on my list, and I was delighted to be able to call in, catching up with the owner, Daniel, over a flat white.

Other than Daniel wearing a mask, the only obvious change is the absence of seating. The stools are no longer at either the counter or the bar at the back, while the table in the window is similarly gone. Other than that, Moss looks (and is) remarkably similar, with Dark Woods still gracing the espresso machine, although since my last visit, Daniel has added batch brew to the menu, using the Sage Precision automated brewer. More good news, while Daniel only serves takeaway, Moss Coffee is one of the few places that is currently accepting customers’ own reusable cups.

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Beany Green South Bank (COVID-19 Update)

The colourful front of the Beany Green container on the South Bank at the foot of Hungerford Bridge.The container is back! Yes, that’s right, Beany Green, that little container of sunshine at the foot of the Hungerford Bridge on the South Bank, is back! It had actually reopened a few weeks ago, but when I went up to London in mid-July, I discovered that it was closed again due to essential bridge repairs. However, I was not to be denied and, when I went through London on Monday, I made of a point of calling in to find that it was open again!

For those that don’t know, this is one of the original Beany Green coffee shops, which opened in June 2014. These days it’s more a bar serving good coffee, although during the day it still has a coffee shop vibe. Essentially an outdoor operation, it hasn’t been too badly affected by COVID-19, although it (and the surrounding area) is much quieter than it used to be.

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Tamp Culture (COVID-19 Update)

The two-group Francino lever espresso machine in the Tamp Culture kiosk in Reading.Tuesday seems to have become my “get on a train and visit some coffee shops” day. For the first two weeks I went to/in the direction of London, but this Tuesday I headed for Reading, where I found the town’s speciality coffee scene was already bouncing back. My first stop was Coffee Under Pressure, then it was around the other side of the Minster to pay a visit to Tamp Culture.

The last time I was there, in 2014, Tamp was operating from a Piaggio Ape trike (housing the espresso machine) with a counter that was painstakingly assembled each morning and then broken down again at the end of the day. Fortunately, by the time Bean There At visited in 2018, this had been upgraded to a very nifty kiosk with fold-up windows, which is what I found on my return.

Tamp reopened in mid-May, serving takeaway only, but since 4th July, when the COVID-19 rules were relaxed in England, it’s been able to put its tables back out on the broad pavement next to the kiosk. As a result, Tamp is almost back to normal, serving its full range of single-origin coffees (all roasted in-house) on espresso and filter.

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