I’ve been a fan of Little Woodfords in Portland, Maine, ever since I first visited in the summer of 2019. I was therefore rather worried when I heard, in July 2020, that it was forced to move from its original location in Woodfords Corner to a much smaller spot on Congress Street in downtown Portland. Fortunately, while this has meant an inevitable change of character, the friendly, inclusive welcome of the original, plus the awesome coffee from Vermont’s Vivid Coffee Roasters, remains as Amanda and I discovered on our visit last month.
The offering is much as it was as before, with a single option on espresso, batch brew and flash brew (a pour-over over ice, akin to a Japanese iced coffee). The coffee changes on a seasonal basis, and there’s also tea, hot cocoa and several latte-based specials. If you’re hungry, there’s a small, vegetarian/vegan breakfast menu, with various toppings on bagels/biscuits. While Little Woodfords has a small indoor seating (standing?) area at the front, it’s currently takeout-only due to COVID-19, although you’re welcome to sit outside, where you’ll find a bench out front, with a couple of picnic tables down the side, which catch the afternoon sun.
Today’s Coffee Spot was a chance discovery that Amanda and I made following a short hike at Diana’s Baths, a beauty spot in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Amanda spotted Frontside Coffee Roasters as we drove through North Conway on our way there, so we decided to call in on our way back, expecting nothing more than somewhere warm to have a late lunch. Instead we found a wonderful coffee shop, roasting and serving some exceptional single-origin coffees.
Frontside has been in its current location on White Mountain Highway, the main drag through North Conway, for ten years, although it’s been in existence in one form or another for over twenty. Occupying a large, corner plot, there’s a small parking lot at the back (behind which is the roastery) while there’s a large outdoor seating area off to the right with plenty more seating inside.
All the coffee is roasted in-house with two options on espresso (one blend, one single-origin), another blend on batch brew, plus two single-origins on pour-over. Naturally, all the beans are available to buy in retail bags. If you’re hungry, Frontside offers a selection of breakfast biscuits, a range of bagels and plenty of cake.
I’ve been meaning to visit Tintico ever since it opened in Finchley in November 2014. Sadly, my trips to London’s northern suburbs are rare, so when Tintico opened a second shop in Soho in May 2019, my chances improved dramatically. However, it wasn’t until last week, when walking to Euston from Waterloo on my way to my Dad’s, that I finally made it.
On Greek Street, in the Soho’s northeastern corner, Tintico’s in an area which used to be a hotbed of London’s speciality coffee scene when I started the Coffee Spot almost 10 years ago. Sadly, many of those pioneers are gone, with Milk Bar the latest casualty. In that respect, Tintico is a fine addition to the neighbourhood, reminding me of those early coffee shops in style and spirit.
A small spot, with a single table outside and a handful more in the compact interior, Tintico offers a seasonal single-origin house espresso from Campbell & Syme (currently the Sonsón Reserve, a washed coffee from Colombia), along with a guest espresso, which doubles as the pour-over option via the Hario Switch. There’s also a tapas-style food menu, plenty of cake, plus beer, wine and a selection of brunch cocktails.
On my first trip to Portland, in June 2015, Speckled Ax was one of three coffee shop/roasters that I visited (the others being Tandem Coffee and Bard). Back then, Speckled Ax just had a single coffee shop on Congress Street, but in early 2020, two new locations opened, a coffee bar on Walton Street (attached to a new roastery) and a large café on the waterfront at Thames Street.
I’d planned to visit Portland in March 2020, but sadly the COVID-19 pandemic ruled that out, preventing me from returning for another 18 months. However, the travel restrictions were eased in November 2021, and I was finally able to return to America and to Portland, where I paid a long overdue visit to the new Thames location.
Speckled Ax occupies a spacious ground floor unit with views across Thames Street to the harbour. At the time of writing, the space is effectively split into two, with a takeaway section to the right, while the seating is at the front on the left. There’s a limited coffee menu (which still manages to offer two espresso options and two on batch brew filter), while the kitchen provides a concise breakfast and lunch menu.
Mini Beans opened in May, a founding tenant of the newly-refurbished Market Hall, which reopened at the same time. Occupying a double unit at the front on the right-hand side, it offers a bespoke house-blend from Limini Coffee on espresso, with a regularly-changing guest roaster on batch brew, plus a small selection of tea. There’s also breakfast (toast, teacakes, porridge and almond croissants), plus afternoon tea and a selection of cakes.
Either order at the counter before taking your drinks to any of the Market Hall’s many tables or order online with the option for collection or table delivery. Note, however, that Mini Beans currently only offers disposable cups, so if you bring your own, don’t forget to order in person at the counter.
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.
Ever since opening in 2014, Little Yellow Pig has been something of an institution in Hoole, Chester. Initially a small coffee shop, it expanded into the adjoining space. Now it’s expanded again, adding a second location in the narrow streets of Nantwich town centre. Opening in August last year, the new location is a cosy little spot, with an L-shaped seating area that holds 16 people at most. While it has more traditional coffee shop furnishings (lacking the mismatched tables and armchairs of the original), anyone familiar with Little Yellow Pig in Hoole will immediately feel at home with the quirky décor and eclectic posters on the wall, including Mr Little Yellow Pig himself.
There’s a standard espresso-based menu, with Hundred House‘s seasonal Bon Bon blend from in the hopper. There are also bags of coffee for sale, either whole bean or pre-ground. However, the real draw is the food, all cooked in the kitchen at the back, with separate breakfast, brunch and lunch options, backed up with a small selection of cakes. Take a seat, have a look at the menu (which is conveniently placed on the back wall), then go up to the counter to place your order.
I’m rather embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of Taylor’s Coffee House until I was tipped off by the staff of Nikki’s in Weybridge, particularly since Taylor’s has been around since 2014! Taylor’s has two locations, a kiosk-style coffee counter in Woking Market Walk and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, which is just outside West Byfleet Station, another place I’ve zipped through many times on the train to/from London without ever getting off.
Taylor’s Coffee House is on Station Approach, part of a row of restaurants and cafés on the right-hand side as you head for the station. It’s a lovely spot, with a sheltered, outdoor seating area and a three-part interior best described as a collection of sitting rooms, replete with numerous armchairs, sofas and cosy corners.
Nikki’s has been flying the flag for speciality coffee in Weybridge for the last seven years and has been on my list for almost as long. Located on the western edge of town, Nikki’s occupies the ground floor of a detached house at the end of Balfour Road. Ironically, it’s about as far from Weybridge Station (which is well to the south of the town) as it is to Addlestone Station, off to the west, both being about 20 minutes’ walk away. You can sit outside on a small terrace in front of Nikki’s or in the cosy interior, which has recently been refurbished.
When it comes to coffee, Nikki’s currently uses a bespoke house blend, roasted by Copper Coffee Roasters in Cobham. This is available via a standard espresso-based menu, while there’s an option to have it as a Chemex. There’s also a wide range of tea, smoothies, juices and milk shakes. If you’re hungry, Nikki’s has separate breakfast and lunch menus, something of a rarity in the days of the all-day brunch. Breakfast features various egg, toast, bun and pancake options, while lunch offers buns, burgers and salads. This is all backed up with a range of Cakesmith cakes.
I’m concluding my short series on Tooting Bec/South Balham with a chance discovery that I made enroute to Dee Light Bakery. An iconic sign above a coffee shop on Ritherdon Road caught my eye: Foxcroft & Ginger. Readers with long memories may recall the original Foxcroft & Ginger in Soho (now long since gone), one of my early Coffee Spot favourites. Naturally, I hurried to investigate, only to discover that it wasn’t Foxcroft & Ginger after all, Knead a Little Love having sublet the premises almost exactly one year ago in November 2020. So, in a sense, it was a double chance discovery.
Knead a Little Love is a vegan doughnut bakery, run by two sisters, but vegan doughnuts is only the start of it. As well as six different ring doughnuts and 12 filled doughnuts, Knead a Little Love has cookies, tarts and pastries, plus an all day brunch menu, along with a couple of snacks and two lunch options. And that’s before I get started on the coffee, where Extract Coffee Roasters makes a rare London appearance with its Rocket Espresso blend. There’s also a range of tea, plus a selection of fresh smoothies to round things out.