Coffee Circle Café – Mitte

A flat white, served in a classic white cup but on an off-centre, non-circular saucer, at Coffee Circle Café – Mitte in Berlin.I didn’t know much about Coffee Circle before travelling to Berlin at the start of May. However, enough people recommended Coffee Circle to me once I arrived that I added it to my list. Coffee Circle began as a roastery specialising in direct trade in 2010, only opening its first café three years ago (in Wedding, Berlin, in the same building complex as the roastery). Since then, there have been two more, one on Bergmannstraße near Tempelhof and the other, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße in the heart of Mitte.

From the street, there isn’t much to Coffee Circle, but inside, the café goes a long way back, all the way to the rear of the building, where windows look into a modern courtyard. There’s space for 12 people at tables outside on the pavement, while there’s plenty more seating in the spacious interior. A very limited (and entirely vegetarian) snack menu is joined by a selection of cake, but the real draw is the coffee, all roasted in-house, with the Cerrado, a naturally-processed Brazilian coffee, on espresso, joined by a regularly-changing second single-origin option, along with another single-origin on batch brew and two more on pour-over.

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Press Bros. Coffee, Lark Lane

An espresso served in a classic black cup with the words "Press Bros. Coffee" on the front.Press Bros. Coffee was recommended by my old friends at Neighbourhood Coffee when I visited Liverpool two weeks ago. Founded by three brothers who, in 2018, bought a converted Piaggio coffee van, Press Bros. began life in the Baltic Market (where the Piaggio is still going strong). Three years later, in October 2021, Press Bros. opened its first bricks and mortar store on Lark Lane in Aigburgh, south of the city centre and a stone’s throw from Sefton Park.

Press Bros. has come a long way from the Piaggio van, with Lark Lane, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, offering a lot more than coffee. There’s an all-day brunch menu, sandwiches and cakes, along with tea and a range of draught and canned beer, plus wine and cocktails. When it comes to coffee, Neighbourhood provides a bespoke house blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest espresso, which changes every month. There are also a couple of filter options, which are matched to a specific preparation method. For June, this was Neighbourhood’s Born Sipping, a naturally-processed coffee from smallholders in the Konga region of Ethiopia (AeroPress) and the Las Guerreras, a Mexican single-origin from Girls Who Grind (V60).

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Ernst Kaffeeröster, Bonner Straße

A fine flat white, made with the house blend and served in a classic black cup at Ernst Kaffeeröster on Bonner Straße in Köln.When it comes to speciality coffee in Köln, Ernst Kaffeeröster is one of the city’s pioneers, having first opened in 2014 on Bonner Straße, in the new town south of the centre. In true German fashion, Ernst Kaffeeröster is both coffee shop and roaster, and you can still see the original roaster, a 5 kg Diedrich, behind the counter at Bonner Straße, although these days it’s only used to roast some of the single-origins. Instead, there’s a 20 kg roaster in a dedicated facility, which opened in 2016, while in April, a month before my visit, a second coffee shop was opened on Weyertal, near the university.

The original Ernst Kaffeeröster is a modest spot, offering a handful of tables inside, plus two more outside on the pavement, along with a solitary bench. The draw is the coffee, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, along with batch brew, AeroPress and Kalita Wave if you prefer filter coffee. The single-origin espresso changes every month, while for AeroPress and Kalita Wave, you can have any of Ernst Kaffeeröster’s filter coffees. There’s also tea, hot chocolate, various cold coffee options and, if you’re hungry, a selection of pastries, cakes, baguettes and granola.

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Father Carpenter

The name board for Father Carpenter, Coffee Brewers, in Berlin.In a city where coffee and cake is the business model for the majority of speciality coffee shops, Berlin’s Father Carpenter stands out for its coffee and brunch approach, no doubt influenced by its Australian owner. Since 2015, Father Carpenter has been serving excellent coffee and fantastic brunches from an amazing courtyard just off Münzstraße in the heart of Mitte, where you can sit outside in the courtyard or be shown to a table in the spacious dining room (Father Carpenter has table service).

Its secluded setting makes Father Carpenter the perfect escape from the hustle of the Mitte’s busy streets, although be aware that it’s very busy itself, often with a wait for a table. I popped by on three separate occasions (four if you count Friday evening, when it was closed) and it was only on my last visit that I was able to get a table without a wait.

Father Carpenter has a concise but interesting brunch menu, along with a small selection of baguettes and pastries. There’s a standard espresso-based menu with non-dairy alternatives and decaf, along with two filter options: regular or exotic, plus loose leaf tea, various iced options and a selection of soft drinks.

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The Coffee Gang, Hohenstaufenring

A lovely flat white, made with The Coffee Gang's bespoke house blend, and served in a glass at the original coffee shop on Hohenstaufenring.On my way back from my recent visit to Berlin, I stopped in Köln for a few days, a city I’d previously only passed through. With just a couple of days to explore, I found a vibrant (albeit small but growing) speciality coffee scene, starting with The Coffee Gang, conveniently located around the corner from my hotel (which might have influenced my choice of lodging). In all, I visited three times, twice for breakfast, once for coffee and cake.

The Coffee Gang, which recently opened a second location north of the centre, has been serving up excellent coffee to the good folks of Köln since 2014. Located just north of the major interchange of Barbarossaplatz on the eastern side of the broad Hohenstaufenring, The Coffee Gang offers a bespoke espresso blend through a standard menu, plus two single-origins (all roasted by Munich’s JB Kaffee) on either batch brew or AeroPress. There’s also limited breakfast and lunch menus, plus various cakes. You can either sit outside, where six tables occupy the broad pavement in front of The Coffee Gang, or inside, where you have a choice of any of the 15 hexagonal tables which are mostly down the right-hand side.

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Tabernacl

A lovely flat white, made with the Blossom Espresso Blend, and served in a classic grey cup at Tabernacl in Wrexham.Tabernacl is the latest addition to Wrexham’s small speciality coffee scene, joining the well-established Bank Street Social, a short stroll away along Hope Street. Part of the Hope Street Church, Tabernacl occupies part of the ground floor of the iconic old Burton building at the southern end of Hope Street, on the corner with Town Hill. With floor-to-ceiling windows along two sides, the bright, sunny interior enjoys some lovely views of St Giles, Wrexham’s parish church.

Tabernacl opened April 2022, and, at the time of my visit (end of May), was slowly expanding its offering. All the coffee is from Manchester-based Blossom Coffee Roasters with Blossom’s seasonal blend on espresso, served from a concise menu. This is joined by either the blend or a single-origin on batch brew filter, along with tea from Good & Proper and cakes from old friends Cakesmiths. However, with the arrival of a second grinder, expect a guest espresso to appear on the menu in the next few weeks, while the kitchen should open in the near future, offering breakfasts and lunches.

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The Visit Coffee & Eatery, Nürnbergerstraße

A espresso in a wide-brimmed white cup with a V on the front (for The Visit).Just two weeks ago I was in Berlin, at my first face-to-face work meeting since early 2020. It was also my first to Berlin in the Coffee Spot era. My initial research suggested that speciality coffee was to be found in the east, in Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg, whereas I was in a hotel in the heart of old West Berlin, just to the south of the Zoological Garden, an area where speciality coffee was in short supply.

Fortunately, this proved to be an overstatement, with both Five Elephant and The Barn having locations within easy walking distance. Unfortunately, they didn’t open until 11:00, which is where The Visit Coffee & Eater came in. Literally down the street from my hotel, and opening at 07:30, I could walk over, grab a flat white and make it back before the start of my meeting.

As well as some excellent coffee on espresso, batch brew and pour-over, as the name suggests, The Visit is one of those rare Berlin coffee shops that also does food, with an interesting brunch menu, plus a range of bagels, cakes and pastries. There’s plenty of seating outside on the pavement, as well more tables inside.

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19grams Schlesi

The bottom of my coffee cup at 19grams Schlesi in Berlin, having finished a double espresso to reveal the slogan "Bloody Good Coffee".Returning to Berlin for the first time with my Coffee Spot hat on, I was spoilt for choice. In truth, any of the wonderful places I visited could have graced my first Berlin Coffee Spot, but it really pleases me to feature 19grams, which began life as Tres Cabezas in 2002. I wanted to visit the original Tres Cabezas on Boxhagener Straße in Friedrichshain, but when I popped by on Sunday, it was being renovated. Instead, I walked across the Spree on the wonderful Oberbaum Bridge to Kreuzberg and 19grams Schlesi, around the corner on Schlesische Straße.

This is a lovely spot, with a bright, airy front room, where you’ll find the counter, and a cool, airy back room, which shares the space with the open kitchen. Alternatively, you can sit outside at one of five tables on the pavement next to the noisy street. The draw, of course, is the coffee, with 19grams offering two options on espresso (one for black drinks, the other to go with milk), plus batch brew filter, the coffee, all roasted in-house, changing on a regular basis. However, the food is just as good, the small brunch menu and sharing plates cooked to order.

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Phin Coffee House

The Ca Phe Phin from Phin Coffee House in Boston: traditional Vietnamese Robusta coffee mixed with condensed milk and lots and lots of ice, served in a double-walled glass.I’d noticed Phin Coffee House on my last visit to Boston in February, but with an already-full itinerary, Phin went on my potentials list instead. When I returned to Boston for a one-day downtown tour on Monday, Phin was still a potential destination, but after my first stop of a packed day at Intelligentsia Coffee, where the barista recommended it, Phin moved to the top of the list. A recent addition to Boston’s speciality coffee scene, Phin only opened a year ago, occupying a spot at the western end of the High Street, conveniently just across the Rose Kennedy Greenway from South Station.

Phin is a Vietnamese coffee shop, owned by a lady originally from Ho Chi Minh City. There’s a fairly traditional third wave offering of espresso-based drinks, batch brew filter, pour-over and cold brew, all using a bespoke house blend and decaf from Barrington Coffee Roasting Company in western Massachusetts. This is joined by a number of house specials, including Ca Phe Phin, made with the Vietnamese cup-top filter of the same name. If you’re hungry, Phin has a range of sandwiches and more substantial plates and salads, mixing Western and Vietnamese classics, plus a selection of cakes.

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Time & Tide Coffee

A lovely cortado, made with the Year One Anniverary Blend and served in a ribbed glass at Time & Tide Coffee.Time & Tide Coffee opened in November 2018, nine months before Amanda and I drove through Saco and Biddeford in August 2019, looking for somewhere for lunch on our way to Boston. Although I’ve been through since, both by car and on the train, that was the last time I stopped here, and I’m rather annoyed to have missed out. This time, however, I was better prepared, making a special trip down from Portland on Monday lunchtime on Amtrak’s Downeaster, which stops just across the river at Saco.

Time & Tide occupies the right-hand half of the ground floor of the lovely brick-faced L. Anton Building, part of the Biddeford Main Street Historic District, whose structure dates from the 19th century. Inside, Time & Tide has a stripped-back look, with a simple, uncluttered layout. The offering is similarly simple and uncluttered, with a commendably concise espresso-based menu offering a blend (typically The Commodore) and Twilight Decaf, with another blend (Year One) on batch brew filter, plus several seasonal and signature drinks, with all the coffee roasted in Time & Tide’s roastery across the road. If you’re hungry, there’s a toast-based breakfast/lunch menu, plus a selection of cakes and pastries.

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