Other than a brief visit to old friends Black Gold, the first stop on my return to Amsterdam last month was Sango. Located in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic city centre on Stromarkt, a stone’s throw from the station, Sango is a relatively new addition, having opened since my previous visit in 2018. Spread over three floors of a beautiful building, dating from 1670, there’s a roastery and equipment showroom in the basement, with the counter and limited seating on the ground floor and more seating upstairs, all connected via a tight, winding spiral staircase. You’ll probably also meet Mocha, the resident coffee shop dog, who has her own spot at the front by the espresso machine.
While the building is worth a visit in its own right, the coffee is just as big a draw. Everything is roasted on the 1.5 kg roaster in the basement, which you can see through a glass panel in the floor, or (more typically) on a 15 kg Giesen in a dedicated off-site roastery. Serving only single-origins, there’s a choice of espresso, batch brew filter or two options on pour-over using the Origami filter. There’s also cake, pastries and a range of toasted sandwiches.
I was tipped off about Spro Coffee Lab by the baristas at Devout Coffee, visiting Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop the following day. In typical Coffee Spot fashion, this was Spro’s second location, its first being a trailer in San Francisco’s Mission Bay/SOMA neighbourhood. Fortunately, this is close to Caltrain’s San Francisco terminus on 4th and King Street, my gateway for my various day trips to the city, so the very next day, I headed for the original Spro.
Spro is part of Spark Social SF, a large outdoor food truck park, beer & sangria garden and event space. Impressively, given that it’s literally a trailer, serving from a window at one end, the menu is identical to Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop. The coffee’s from Black & White Coffee Roasters, its Classic espresso and decaf on espresso, joined by a blend and two single-origins on pour-over through the V60, along with mocktails and other drinks. There’s also the full range of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, plus the dedicated pastries and desserts menu.
Today’s Coffee Spot is part Coffee Spot Update, part regular Coffee Spot. You may recall that London Square, a large office complex on Guildford’s London Road, opposite London Road Station and Guildford High School, once housed the Surrey Hills Coffee Cabin. Sadly, COVID-19 put paid to that and, with office workers slow to return, the coffee cabin, a lovely container-style cabin in the car park, never re-opened.
Well, I say never, but that changed this June after a chance conversation in Canopy Coffee with a customer whose company had just moved into London Square. This led to Jackie, Canopy’s new owner, taking over the lease on the empty coffee cabin and Canopy Coffee, London Square was born!
The layout’s very similar to how Surrey Hills had it (hence the update part), although there’s no longer any indoor seating, just a solitary four-person table under the shade of a convenient tree. The offering is very similar to Canopy Coffee on Haydon Place, with a standard espresso-based menu using the bespoke house-blend from Skylark Coffee, along with decaf and a regularly-rotating single-origin on batch-brew filter. There’s the same range of toasties too, although the cakes are pre-packaged, with a lot more grab-and-go options.
Ditto Coffee has been on my radar for a while now. An offshoot of Ditto Music, there are now four locations, two in Manchester, one in London (Shoreditch) and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, the original Ditto Coffee on Jamaica Street in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. Ditto Coffee opened in 2018, a tall, narrow coffee shop, with a neat mezzanine, offering a surprisingly amount of seating for somewhere so small, while there’s also a table and bench outside on the busy street.
Fittingly, given that it all started in Liverpool, Ditto Coffee uses a bespoke house blend, roasted by old friends Neighbourhood Coffee. This is served from a standard, espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter (same blend), hot chocolate, tea and a limited selection of soft drinks. There’s also a small range of cakes, plus a variety of breakfast and lunch items, along with wraps and sandwiches, all in a grab-and-go fridge opposite the counter.
Ditto Coffee is about more than coffee, however, strongly reflecting its music roots in the décor. This extends to support for local artists, who can perform in Ditto Coffee, as well as drop off demo tapes and display and sell their music and merchandise.
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 Aigburth, 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).
Monday’s Coffee Spot is Bloom Building and Coffee, a chance discovery made while researching my trip to The Wirral two weeks ago. On an industrial estate in Birkenhead, it’s an interesting place, combining café, bar and venue space with hosting the Open Door Charity, which supports the mental wellbeing of young people across Merseyside, funded, in part, by Bloom Building’s profits. It also offers hot desking space and meeting rooms.
Unsurprisingly, my focus is on Bloom Building and Coffee in its role as a café, where you have a choice of any of the building’s public spaces, including the terrace, main venue/bar and mezzanine, all housed in the brightly-coloured industrial unit that’s been Bloom Building’s home since it opened in 2019. The coffee is from local roasters, Adams + Russell, which has its roastery (and shop) a 20-minute walk away. You’ll find an Ethiopian Sidamo on espresso, along with a Costa Rica decaf, both served from a concise menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and a range of soft drinks. As befits a bar, there’s a wide selection of beer, cider, wine and spirits. If you’re hungry, you can choose from a small range of cakes, pastries and vegan sandwiches/wraps.
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).
One of the success stories of the last two years is the growth of speciality coffee in my hometown of Guildford, with at least seven new openings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These range from farm-to-cup operation Ceylon House of Coffee to coffee-shop-in-a-telephone-box, Lily London, with the latest to throw its hat into the ring, Cocco Patisserie & Coffee, which opened its doors in November last year.
Located on Hayden Place, just down the road from Canopy Coffee, Cocco Patisserie & Coffee does what it says on the tin. Occupying a long, thin, light-filled space, you’re immediately assaulted (in a good way) by display cases packed with cakes as you approach the counter. These include a selection of made-to-order celebration cakes which face the door, along with a range of pastries and savoury sandwiches.
If you keep going, you’ll find an equally impressive coffee set-up at the back, where Guildford’s first Victoria Arduino Eagle One espresso machine and a top-of-the-line Mythos grinder speaks to a certain devotion to quality. The coffee, by the way, is from Square Mile, the ubiquitous Red Brick gracing the hopper, another sign from Cocco that it intends its coffee game to be top-notch.
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.
My tour of Tooting Bec continues with Communion Coffee, on the other side of Tooting Bec station from Green Monkey London. Unlike Green Monkey and Dee Light Bakery, Communion Coffee is a relative newcomer, having opened just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It has a simple offering of quality coffee and baked goods in an equally simple space, with the counter at the back, a window-bar at the front and a large, communal table in the middle.
Turning to the coffee, old friends Assembly are on espresso, while there’s a regularly-changing guest on filter (batch brew or V60/Aeropress/Chemex), plus Good & Proper tea. Communion also stocks a wide range of retail bags. Unusually, the default is for non-dairy milks, although there is a dairy option from Brades Farm (20p extra). If you’re drinking in, Communion uses HuskeeCups, while for takeaway, there’s a 20p discount for bringing your own cup. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a small toast and sandwich menu, plus a range of cakes and pastries, with bread for sale.