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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Elements: Books Coffee Beer

Detail of artwork from the wall at the back of Elements: Books Coffee BeerToday’s Coffee Spot, Elements: Books Coffee Beer, is the second of two from this week’s visit to Biddeford. Like Monday’s Coffee Spot, Time & Tide Coffee, it’s on Main Street, albeit a little further on, close to the junction with US 1, which runs through the northern part of Biddeford. Like Time & Tide, Elements is both a roastery (Elements Coffee Roasters) and coffee shop, although Elements predates Time & Tide by a few years, having opened in 2013, with Elements Coffee Roasters setting up shop in early 2018. And, as the name suggests, Elements: Books Coffee Beer also offers beer (and wine), and it’s a book shop too!

Elements occupies a large spot on the corner of Main and Jefferson, with the bookshop part of the business on the left, and the coffee shop part at the front and on the right, although there’s plenty of overlap between the two. Elements offers a standard (American) coffee menu, with the usual (large) sizes of both espresso-based and batch brew filter. There’s also a selection of around five seasonal single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of bagels, small plates, ice cream and pastries.

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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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Flight Coffee of Dover

A light-fitting in the style of a sci-fi rocket ship at Flight Coffee of Dover.Flight Coffee of Dover (Dover, New Hampshire, that is) was recommended to me by Frontside Coffee Roasters form further upstate in North Conway. On Monday, with a free day to spare, I borrowed Amanda’s car and drove the 80 km from Portland to Dover, just over the state line in New Hampshire, to visit Flight Coffee, which is on Central Avenue, right in the heart of the old mill town.

Occupying two large, airy rooms, with plenty of seating on either side of the central, island counter, Flight Coffee has extensive breakfast and lunch offerings, with an equally impressive selection of tea (from Aera Tea Co. and Mem Tea) and coffee, the latter from Flight Coffee Co. Despite the similarity in names, the two are (these days) separate companies, with Flight Coffee Co. having its own roastery and café in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Flight Coffee of Dover serves Flight Coffee Co.’s Liftoff blend and Ground Control decaf on its concise espresso-based menu, while one of Flight Coffee Co.’s single-origins (currently the Peru Kovachii) is paired with an in-house dark-roast blend on batch brew filter. Finally, there’s the pour-over bar, offering a selection of single-origins through a variety of brew methods.

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Smalls

The front of Smalls, on the steeply-sloping Brackett Street in Portland, with its door deeply recessed between two windows.Smalls, which opened in January, is the latest addition to Portland’s small but thriving speciality coffee scene, a chance discovery which I made on Google Maps when planning a trip downtown at the end of last week. Located on Brackett Street in Portland’s West End, it’s a stone’s throw from the Casco Bay Bridge and a 15-minute walk from the Old Port and the heart of downtown.

One of the things I really admire about Portland’s speciality coffee scene is its diversity. No two places are the same (even when they’re part of the same group) and Smalls only adds to that. The front of Smalls is part coffee shop, restaurant and bar, while at the back, it’s a lovely little store, selling groceries, gifts, candles and personal care products, with an emphasis on reuse and local produce.

I can only really speak to the coffee shop part of Smalls, which serves Variety Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn in New York City. The Lucky Shot seasonal blend is on espresso, while there’s also decaf and a batch brew filter option. If you want to try more of Variety’s range, Smalls has a selection of retail boxes offering a variety of single-origins.

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Betty Berkins

A commendably short cortado, served in a glass, and presented on a tray with a slice of orange and a glass of tap water.Betty Berkins has been on my radar since the summer of 2019, when it opened in the hills of Northeast Wales, overlooking the Dee Estuary. It’s an interesting location, just off the A55 North Wales Expressway, making it perfect for a break on your way into or out of North Wales, although both times I’ve visited, I’ve walked from my house in Holywell, following Wat’s Dyke Way for most of the way.

Occupying a large, single-storey farm building, which it shares a gift shop, Betty Berkins offers plenty of choice when it comes to seating. There’s a large, partially-covered outdoor seating area, with views across the Dee Estuary, more outdoor seating in front of Betty Berkins itself, plus plans for a terrace at the rear (with more excellent views). Heading inside, the spacious main room is supplemented by a function room at the back, plus there’s a dedicated space for visitors with dogs.

Betty Berkins offers separate breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, plus a wide array of cakes, all made on site, using local ingredients wherever possible. The coffee, meanwhile, is from old friends, Allpress, with a standard, espresso-based menu, backed up by a selection of tea and hot chocolate.

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Costigan’s Coffee

A lovely cortado in a glass, made with Neighbourhood Coffee's Espresso Yourself blend at Costigan's Coffee.Costigan’s Coffee is Rhyl’s first speciality coffee shop, part of Costigan’s Coworking space, conveniently located across the street from both the town’s bus and train stations (there’s plenty of parking nearby if you’re driving). It’s a joint venture between Town Square, the national coworking group behind Costigan’s, and none other than brothers Phil and Andy of Bank Street Social fame (Wrexham’s first speciality coffee and craft beer shop). As well as Costigan’s, the duo are also in charge of another Town Square Coffee shop in Barnstaple of all places (the first coffee shop to be opened by Zoom, according to Phil), with more on the cards.

Although part of Costigan’s Coworking space, Costigan’s Coffee has its own entrance from the street, effectively making it a standalone coffee shop (although you can also come in through the coworking space). The offering is, for now, being kept simple, with an espresso-based menu driven by the Espresso Yourself blend from Neighbourhood Coffee, along with its (I Can’t Get No) Caffeination decaf, backed up by a selection of tea from Brew Tea Co. If you’re hungry, there’s a simple toast-based breakfast menu, along with various toasties/toasted ciabattas for lunch, plus a range of cakes.

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Haus

The front of Haus, on Penrhyn Road in Colwyn Bay, with the door on the left and a solitary bench in front of the window on the right.Haus opened in 2018, bringing speciality coffee to the North Wales seaside town of Colwyn Bay for the first time. It’s been on my list ever since and while Amanda and I stopped by for lunch in September last year, I didn’t have the time for a full write up. However, I got my chance for a return visit exactly one week ago today when I hopped on a bus to Prestatyn before catching the train to Colwyn Bay, where Haus is a two-minute stroll from the station (and five minutes from the beach).

Offering full table service, Haus has a combined breakfast/brunch menu, backed up by daily lunch specials and a selection of sandwiches, all available until 14:30. There’s also plenty of cake (displayed on the counter at the back) for those with a sweet tooth. When it comes to coffee, Haus uses the ubiquitous Espresso Yourself blend from Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee, with a standard espresso-based offering on its main menu. However, if you look closely, there’s a board on the wall at the back, offering batch brew and pour-over from a selection of Neighbourhood’s single-origin range, along with loose-leaf tea (Brew Tea Co) and hot chocolate (Harry’s Chocolate).

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Elephant Coffee

A lovely cortado made with the Dé Jà Brew house blend and served in a glass at Elephant Coffee in Neston.When I popped over to The Wirral last year, I visited Parkgate’s Elephant Lounge. Coffee shop by day, bar by night, Elephant Lounge is part of Elephant Collective, which started life in nearby Neston. On my return to The Wirral last week, this time travelling by train, it was only natural that I hopped off at Neston Station, the first stop (in England) as I headed north on the Borderlands Line. From there, a five-minute stroll down the High Street took me past Elephant Bank (a smokehouse and bar which is the latest addition to the family) to Elephant Coffee, where it all started in 2012.

A more traditional coffee shop, Elephant Coffee occupies a cosy spot on the corner with Chester Road. Three two-person tables line the pavement on the busy street, while inside you’re faced by the counter with limited seating along the front. However, there are plenty more tables around the corner, Elephant Coffee stretching a surprisingly long way back. The coffee offering is based around a bespoke seasonal espresso blend, while if you’re hungry, porridge and various bread-based options are available for breakfast, with bagels and soup for lunch, backed up by a range of cakes.

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