Curio Espresso and Vintage Design

Details of the sign from outside Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa.I did really well when I visited Kanazawa as part of the first of this year’s two Japanese trips. I’d chosen my hotel largely for its proximity to the castle (which I could see from my window), little realising that it was surrounded by a clutch of excellent coffee shops, one of which, Curio Espresso and Vintage Design, was visible from the other side of the hotel.

I was originally put on to Curio by Happy Cow, a site for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants, which resulted in my heading to Curio for breakfast on my second day in Kanazawa. I then discovered that it had excellent coffee, serving an espresso-based menu using a bespoke house-blend from Kanazawa roaster Hiroyuki Arinobu of Ally Caffe. There’s also beer and wine for those so inclined.

Run by married couple Sol (Seattle) and Yuko (Kanazawa), Curio Espresso and Vintage Design is a friendly, welcoming place, beloved by locals and visitors alike. The food and coffee have a definite Seattle influence, while the vintage design part of the name (along with the “Curio” of the title) come from the décor, full of vintage items originally bought by Sol and Yuko to furnish their home!

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Blue Monday

A lovely espresso, made with the house-blend at Blue Monday in Kanazawa and served in a glass, on a patterned glass saucer.I was in luck during my time in Kanazawa, where I stayed for three days, part of the week I spent travelling around Japan at the end of August this year. I’d gone on the recommendation of my friend Christopher, but this was more with a view to being a tourist. The fact that I found so much great coffee, most of it within a few minutes of my hotel, was a bonus.

Blue Monday was the exception, since it’s not near my hotel. Instead, it’s close to Kanazawa station, making it a perfect introduction to the city (and a good last call before catching your train). Located in the Porte basement shopping complex under the Hotel Nikko, it offers espresso-based drinks, using a bespoke house-blend, plus herbal tea, hot dogs, toast, soft-serve ice cream and mini-doughnuts. If you want to stay, there’s no seating, but there are proper cups.

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Unlimited Coffee Bar

Detail taken from a bag of coffee from Tokyo's Unlimited Coffee Roasters.Unlimited Coffee Bar is almost directly under Tokyo’s famous 643m tall Skytree, which, since 2012, has been Japan’s tallest structure and the world’s tallest tower. Located just across the canal, opposite the Skytree’s southwest corner, it’s an ideal stopping off point for coffee (or lunch/dinner) either before or after taking in the magnificent views across Tokyo from the Skytree’s two observation decks. I’ve visited twice, once during my around the world trip last year, and again earlier this week on my current trip, both times calling in for coffee after a trip up the tower.

In contrast to the soaring tower, Unlimited Coffee Bar, an offshoot of Unlimited Coffee Roasters, is a much more modest affair, at least in terms of its physical extent, occupying the ground floor of a small, three storey building. The unlimited part refers to the coffee, with a selection of five or six single-origins, all roasted in-house, two of which are available on espresso, three on cold brew and all on pour-over via Aeropress, Silverton dripper or V60. Various tasting flights are offered, along with coffee cocktails, while all the beans are available in retail bags. Finally, for somewhere so small, there’s an impressive food menu.

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The Hideout

Details taken from the menu board at The Hideout, where it proudly claims "No Takeaway Cups".Speciality coffee shops on university campuses are something of a rarity, so imagine my surprise when this popped up on Instagram: a new speciality coffee shop on the University of Surrey’s Guildford Campus! I was in Ireland at the time, but I made visiting a priority on my return.

The Hideout is well-named since it’s not the easiest place to find, especially if you don’t know the campus (an address of University of Surrey, Guildford, doesn’t help!). It’s at the western end of campus in an old bank branch, opposite PATS Field. As an added bonus, it’s now on Google Maps.

Run by the welcoming duo of Beau and Charlie, it’s a large, relaxed spot, with an eclectic range of seating, from conventional tables to beanbags on the floor, plus there’s a bike shop on-site as well. The coffee is from old friends Union Hand-roasted, with the Bright Note blend on espresso, plus there are plans for batch brew filter in due course. In an interesting twist, The Hideout has done away with disposable takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own cup if you’re not staying. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and toast-based savouries.

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Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia

A gorgeous single-origin Ethiopian espresso, roasted in-house, and served in a classic white cup at Kiss the Hippo, Fitzrovia.Fitzrovia, that small slice of central London between Oxford Street and Euston Road, has more than its fair share of excellent coffee shops. For many years, one of my favourites was Curators Coffee Gallery on Margaret Street, and I was saddened to learn of its closure earlier this year. However, my sadness wasn’t too long-lasting, since wandering around in July, I spotted a welcome sign in the vacant window: Kiss the Hippo.

For those that don’t know, Kiss the Hippo is a coffee shop/roaster with an improbable name and eye-catching logo. It began last year in Richmond, where you’ll find its flagship café, roastery and training centre, all rolled into one, with the Fitzrovia branch, which opened exactly one month ago, being its second location.

Spread over a spacious ground floor and a bright basement, anyone who visited Curators will instantly recognise the layout, although the décor is markedly different. The coffee, all roasted in-house in Richmond, is seasonal, with the George Street house-blend joined by a single-origin and decaf on espresso, with two more on pour-over, plus a batch-brew option. If you’re hungry, there’s brunch until 2 pm (3 pm at weekends), plus cake and toasties throughout the day.

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Brother Hubbard North

A latte art heart in my cortado, made with the Farmhand house-blend, at Brother Hubbard North in Dublin.I visited Brother Hubbard on my first trip to Dublin in 2014. Back then, it was a relatively small place, with a reputation for excellent food as well as really good coffee. So good, in fact, that after going there for breakfast, I returned for coffee later in the trip. 5½ years on, Brother Hubbard has added a second branch (Brother Hubbard South) while the original, reborn as Brother Hubbard North, has changed beyond (almost) all recognition. It’s now a takeaway joint, coffee shop, retailer and restaurant, with an on-site roastery, Farmhand, thrown in for good measure.

Normally, this would be a Coffee Spot Update, but with all the changes, I’ve gone for a complete re-write, leaving the original as is. These days Brother Hubbard serves a bespoke house-blend from in-house roaster, Farmhand, along with a single-origin on batch brew. There are grab-and-go goodies from the takeaway counter to the left, or you can sit in and enjoy breakfast, brunch or cake with your coffee. Finally, in the evenings, there’s a small but innovative dinner menu five nights a week. The space, by the way, is huge, with a long, thin indoor seating area, outdoor terrace and magnificent dining room.

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Shoe Lane Coffee, Tara Street

A lovely single-origin Brazilian espresso from Full Circle Roasters, served in a glass at Shoe Lane Coffee, Dublin.A relative newcomer in Dublin’s rich and growing speciality coffee scene, Shoe Lane Coffee only opened in 2016, joined in 2018 by a second branch just down the coast at Dun Laoghaire. On Tara Street, once home to Dublin’s cobblers when it was known as Shoe Lane (hence the name), the coffee shop’s right in the heart of the city, a block from the River Liffey’s southern bank and across the street from Tara Street Station.

The shop is lovely, spread out over two floors. The spacious downstairs has the counter at the back, home (since September) of Dublin’s only La Marzocco KB90 (a source of much envy amongst Dublin’s barista community, several of whom recommended Shoe Lane Coffee to me). Meanwhile, via a switch-back staircase at the back, the upper floor is dominated by a large, communal table with a window-bar overlooking the street below.

Shoe Lane Coffee only serves single-origins from the local Full Circle Roasters. There’s a single option on espresso, two on pour-over and one more on batch-brew, all changing on a seasonal basis and all available to buy in retail bags. If you’re hungry, there’s a decent selection of cakes and savouries to choose from.

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First Draft Coffee & Wine

A lovely flat white in a class white cup on a black saucer, made with an El Mirador single-origin from Guatemala, roasted by Roasted Brown and served at First Draft Coffee & Wine in Dublin.A quiet, residential street in Portobello, south Dublin, is not, at first sight, where you’d expect to find one of Dublin’s top coffee shops. It’s certainly not somewhere I would have found without the tip-off I received from Roasted Brown, whose roastery I (briefly) visited at the start of my current trip to Ireland.

First Draft Coffee & Wine is a fairly small spot, although it’s got as much seating inside as yesterday’s Coffee Spot, 3FE Sussex Terrace, in about a quarter of the space. It pretty much does what it says on the tin, serving coffee in the mornings through to the early evenings (seven or eight o’clock), with a magnificent selection of wine from noon onwards, and a small evening menu after five. There’s also a very tempting selection of cakes and pastries, while you can buy both coffee beans and bottles of wine to take home with you.

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Three Fools Coffee

An Americano extracting into a cup of hot water at Three Fools Coffee in CorkThree Fools Coffee on Cork’s Grand Parade was the second of my three stops on Monday’s whirlwind speciality coffee tour. As with my other two stops (Dukes and Filter), it was a recommendation from local expert, Caroline O’Keeffe.

Over the years, I’ve described quite a few places as coffee cubes, starting with Manchester’s original espresso cube (aka the sadly missed Forté Espresso Bar). In concept, Three Fools is the closest to an actual cube, despite not being cube-shaped (it needs to be twice as high and maybe 50% wider). However, it feels like a cube, with its timber-framed windows on three sides and a slightly incongruous concrete floor and ceiling.

At first sight, you might think that Three Fools would be a takeaway joint, or a mainstream coffee bar (Cork has plenty of these, by the way). Stepping inside dispels those notions instantly: this is a no-holds-barred, full-service third-wave coffee shop. There are two single-origins on espresso, roasted in-house, with a house or guest single-origin on filter, with a choice of batch brew, cafetiere (for one or two), V60 or Chemex (for two). If you’re hungry, there’s a choice of three sandwiches and three toasties, plus a selection of cake.

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Dukes Coffee Company, Carey’s Lane

A carafe of the natural Ethiopian batch brew from Stone Valley Roaster, served at Dukes Coffee Company in Cork.As part of my current trip to Ireland, I spent yesterday in Cork, exploring its excellent coffee scene. Of course, a day was wholly inadequate for the task, with local expert, Caroline O’Keeffe, giving me a list of ten places to try! I managed a paltry three, starting with breakfast at Dukes Coffee Company. There are two branches of Dukes, the original city-centre location on Carey’s Lane (where I ended up), and a second east of the centre in City Gate.

Dukes serves coffee exclusively from Irish roasters, with a bespoke, seasonal house-blend, Three Lands from Bewley’s. This is joined by guest single-origins on espresso and batch brew. The current single-origin espresso is the San Cayetano from El Salvador, roasted by Dublin’s 3FE, while the batch brew is a naturally-processed Ethiopian, roasted by Stone Valley Roasters from Clonakilty in County Cork. However, don’t wait too long to try them, since they change every two weeks or so, with the next espresso, from nearby Badger & Dodo in Fermoy, lined up and ready to go!

All this is backed up by a selection of sandwiches and cakes, plus excellent breakfast and lunch menus, served until one o’clock (two o’clock at weekends).

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