I came across Ngopi, which opened on 9th July last year, at this year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival. Birmingham is already blessed with some outstanding coffee shops and roasters, but what makes Ngopi stand out from the crowd is that it deals exclusively in coffee from Indonesia. What’s more, all the coffee is roasted on-site in a small 1 kg roaster that sits proudly in the window. The shop itself is lovely, a simple, bright, uncluttered space which is the perfect place to showcase the coffee.
Talking of which, Ngopi, which only roasts single-origins, typically has six different beans in stock at any one time, all of which are available to buy in retail bags. One of these is on espresso, the specific bean changing roughly once a week, plus Ngopi has three different options on pour-over through the V60. This is all backed up by a range of traditional Indonesian coffee drinks, most of which involved condensed milk or ice (and often both) and use their own specific bean.
If you are hungry, there’s an all-day menu, featuring breakfast, lunch and sweet items from Indonesia. If you want something more western, there’s a selection of cakes from old friends, Cakesmiths.
Java Lounge is a name with history when it comes to coffee in Birmingham, first opening in Moseley in 2005. For a long time, it was just a local institution, but in 2015, the second Java Lounge opened, right in the heart of the city on Colmore Row. Now there are four branches and a rebrand in the offing (with a name change to Java Roastery to reflect its new focus). I first became aware of Java Lounge when I met with Akram, the owner, at last year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival, catching up with Akram and the team at this year’s festival. It was, I thought, high time I paid Java Lounge a visit.
The Colmore Row branch occupies a beautiful, high-ceilinged space with a main room at the front with more seating in a smaller room at the back. Alternatively, you can sit outside where there’s a small row of tables on the relatively quiet street. The coffee is all roasted in-house with a pair of seasonal espresso blends and a single-origin on pour-over through the V60 (for one) and Chemex (for two). If you’re hungry, there are breakfast and lunch menus, plus a selection of sandwiches and cakes.
Regular readers know of my soft spot for Doctor Espresso Caffetteria, which opened in 2013 opposite Fulham’s Putney Bridge station. Espressino is the fourth in the Doctor Espresso Stable, joining Doctor Espresso – Mama V’s in Clapham High Street (2014) and Doctor Espresso N3, five minutes’ walk from the original on Fulham High Street (2016). Regular readers may also recognise Espressino’s location, since it’s the successor to The Black Chapel, Doctor Espresso having bought the business from previous owner, the legendary Ant.
Although the space is essentially the same, with a tiny exterior and seating outside on Chapel Yard, in many ways, everything’s changed, including the famous lever espresso machine, replaced (for now) by a La Marzocco FB80. While The Black Chapel served single-origins from various guests on espresso and filter, Espressino uses Doctor Espresso’s traditional Italian blend (espresso only), backed up with Joe’s Tea, fresh smoothies and a small breakfast/lunch menu.
Mamacoffee is a Prague-based coffee shop/roaster chain, something of a veteran of the city’s speciality coffee scene, having started ten years ago. These days, there are six outlets in Prague, plus a mobile coffee bar. As luck would have it, the Londýnská branch in the New Town (Nové Město) was the very first Mamacoffee as well as being conveniently close to my hotel (and just around the corner from Pražírna Kavárna), so I got to make a couple of visits.
There’s not much to it, with more seating outside (from spring to autumn) on the raised decking area in front of the shop than there is in the cosy interior, where there’s just enough room for the counter and a small L-shaped arrangement of tables.
However, being small hasn’t prevented Mamacoffee from offering a full coffee service, with a wide selection of single-origins on offer. These are all directly traded and roasted in-house, with daily espresso and batch-brew options, the baristas deciding what to put on each morning. Meanwhile any of the single-origins on sale are available as a pour-over through the V60 or as an Aeropress. This is all backed up with a small range of cakes and savouries.
On my first visit to New Orleans in 2018, I visited Cherry Espresso in the Uptown District. This was the second Cherry Espresso, the original having opened inside Stein’s Deli on Magazine Street in 2013. In many ways my timing was poor since the Stein Deli espresso bar was in the process of closing, Cherry opening a second outlet in the Lower Garden District, midway between Uptown and the French Quarter. Not only that, it had just started roasting (as Cherry Coffee Roasters).
Therefore, on my return earlier this year, visiting the new Cherry Coffee Roasters was a priority and I was delighted with what I found. Whereas the Uptown location is, in my words at the time, a “typical American coffee shop”, the Lower Garden District outlet is totally different: long and thin, with several small, self-enclosed areas, it has the feel of an elegant New Orleans mansion.
The coffee is roasted in-house, with a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, plus various iced and batch brew options. You can have pour-over, but it’s not a regular option. Best of all are the espresso and beverage flights. There’s also a concise breakfast/lunch menu, smaller than the offering at the Uptown location.
I feel that today’s Coffee Spot should be marked by fireworks or something. The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs has a long, distinguished history, opening its first branch on London’s Leather Lane in 2010. Since then it’s gone on to start roasting its own coffee and now has multiple branches in London (14 and counting), Manchester and Bristol, plus several in Chicago. It’s also acquired other operators such as TAP and Tradewind Espresso.
But here’s the thing. While I’ve always loved the coffee, I’ve never loved any of the actual coffee shops (and, believe me, I’ve tried many of them!). Until last week that is, when I walked into the new branch on Kingdom Street in Paddington Central. Quite why this one clicked with me when so many haven’t, I can’t say, but I knew as soon as I walked in the door. It helped that it was across the road from the office I was working in all last week, making me a daily visitor, but it’s that good, I’d go out of my way to visit.
There’s a blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, with two single-origins on batch brew, plus a wide range of cakes and savouries.
The Pilgrm is a small, boutique hotel almost directly opposite the front of Paddington station which just happens to have a speciality coffee counter in the lobby downstairs, run by Workshop. If that’s all there was to it, it would be pretty awesome, but there’s more. The Pilgrm also has an upstairs lounge and terrace, which, while catering primarily to hotel guests, is also open to the public, serving breakfast, lunch and, in the afternoon/evening, a range of small plates and drinks. And then there’s the coffee…
While the coffee counter works as a standalone operation, you can take your coffee and sit upstairs, or, alternative, sit upstairs, where there’s full table service, and order your coffee there, the barista bringing it up to you. Having spent most of my week in the Paddington area popping into Workshop for either an espresso or a flat white, usually on my way to the office, I decided I had to try the lounge, popping by on Friday afternoon for coffee and returning on Saturday morning for breakfast.
Willa Jean, in New Orleans’ Central Business District, is many things to many people. It was recommended to me as a brunch place, although I ended up going there for dinner, where there’s a choice of full table service, or, if you’re dining solo, a spot at the counter or window-bar, where you can order anything from snacks to full meals. It’s also a lunch spot and a bakery with a fantastic range of cakes. And some awesome pies, all baked in-house.
Oh, and then there’s the coffee, which I discovered on my first visit. Willa Jean uses Chicago’s very own Intelligentsia, with options on espresso and batch-brew, plus a pair of single-origin pour-overs through the V60. Good restaurants, even those with more of a café style such as Willa Jean, rarely have really good coffee, so I felt obliged to pop back two days later to try it out.
The Pilgrm is a small, boutique hotel in an old townhouse on London Street, almost directly opposite the front of Paddington station. In itself, it makes for quite an attractive hotel, but the icing on the cake is that in August last year, Workshop took over the coffee operation, installing itself behind the counter in the simple, well-appointed lobby, which is effectively a small (and beautiful) coffee shop. The coffee offering is equally simple, well-appointed and beautiful, with a concise espresso menu (with decaf getting equal billing with a single-origin option) backed up with another single-origin on batch-brew, both changing roughly once a week.
If coffee’s not your thing, there’s a small selection of tea and Pump Street hot chocolate, while if you’re hungry, Workshop has a small selection of cake, but nothing else. That said, The Pilgrm has a first-floor public lounge and terrace which serves a full brunch menu until 3pm each day, with snacks served thereafter. You can take your coffee up upstairs if you like, although it’s not very clear if you just wander in off the street. Alternatively, just take a seat upstairs and order your coffee there, which is just what I did at the weekend.
Ziggy Green, in Mayfair, is the latest addition to the ever-expanding Daisy Green Collection, which started life with eponymous Daisy Green and various Beany Green coffee shops. While most recent openings, such as Timmy Green and Scarlett Green, are in the brunch and dinner category (a restaurant serving great coffee as opposed to a coffee shop serving great food), Ziggy, which opened in January, sits between the two ends of the Daisy Green spectrum.
On the one hand, with its table service and characteristic brunch menu, it’s aiming at the restaurant end of the market, but on the other hand, there’s no dinner menu, so it’s not going after the evening diners. However, sitting upstairs with my laptop, surrounded by brunching couples and groups, I definitely felt like I wasn’t in a coffee shop with the character say, of Beany Green at Regent’s Place.
All the Daisy Green staples are there though: excellent espresso-based drinks, with a bespoke house blend from The Roasting Party, plus a single-origin on batch brew, along with cocktails for those seeking something with a little more buzz. The food, meanwhile, is as tasty and innovative as ever, with brunch, lunch and small plates on offer.