Blue Bottle Coffee, Nakameguro

My single-origin pour-over served in a beautiful glass cup at Blue Bottle Coffee in Nakameguro.It’s weird, given how few of Blue Bottle’s US outlets meet my “places where I like to have coffee” criteria, that I’ve adored all three Blue Bottle locations that I’ve visited in Tokyo. Today is the turn of Blue Bottle’s Nakameguro coffee shop, which I first visited during last summer’s trip. It occupies a tall, narrow building, all concrete and glass, that was purpose-built as a factory. The coffee shop is at the front on the ground floor, with additional seating in a basement-like space to the rear, above which is a training area/lab. The top two floors, meanwhile, are Blue Bottle’s offices.

The offering’s very similar to the other Tokyo Blue Bottles that I’ve visited, with reduced food options compared to the Aoyama coffee shop. The usual espresso-based menu has the current seasonal blend plus a single-origin, with options including macchiato, Gibraltar, cappuccino and latte, along with cold-brew and iced coffee. This is allied with a strong pour-over offering, with six Blue Bottle drippers lined up on the counter-front, each standing on in-built scales. There’s a choice of a dedicated pour-over blend, plus a daily single-origin (different from the espresso). If you’re hungry, there’s cake, waffles and a panini.

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Ogawa Coffee, Kyoto Station

A lovely single-origin Ethiopian pour-over from Ogawa Coffee at Kyoto Station.Yesterday I took the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station, on my way towards Tokyo, stopping en-route in Hamaya to visit Dark Arts and in Zushi (Breather Coffee). It therefore seems fitting that today’s Coffee Spot is the Kyoto Station branch of Ogawa Coffee. I had my first-ever Kyoto speciality coffee there on arriving from Tokyo in April 2017, and on my return, I had my final coffee (along with my breakfast) before leaving Kyoto yesterday morning. Not that 2017 was my first experience of Ogawa Coffee. Rather that came a year earlier in 2016, at Ogawa Coffee in Boston. Naturally, when visiting Kyoto, the home of Ogawa, I had to try at least one branch of Ogawa, and where better to start (and end), than at the station?

Despite being what could be described as a station takeaway café, Ogawa doesn’t compromise when it comes to coffee. There’s a concise espresso menu, offering espresso, cappuccino or latte, the latter being available hot or iced. There’s also filter, with a choice of the house-blend on batch-brew, and two single-origins as pour-over or Aeropress. You can either sit-in or have your coffee to go, which you can order from the separate retail counter.

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Second Shot, Marylebone

A lovely decaf cortado, roasted by Square Mile, and served at the new Second Shot in Marylebone.Second Shot made its name as a coffee shop and social enterprise, tackling homelessness one espresso at a time. Plenty of coffee shops offer help with pay it forward schemes, but Second Shot’s founder, Julius Ibrahim, went one step further, employing people affected by homelessness, giving them jobs in the short-term and careers in the longer-term.

Second Shot opened its first branch in Bethnal Green in 2016, but I didn’t manage to visit until two months ago. Then, just over a month later, Second Shot opened its second location, this time in Marylebone, between the station and Edgeware road. This time I didn’t want to leave it as long, so when the England vs Ireland Test Match at the nearby Lords’ Cricket Ground finished early, I saw my opportunity and went along.

Like the original in Bethnal Green, Second Shot stands on its own two feet as a speciality, multi-roaster coffee shop, up there with some of the best in London. It offers a different roaster on espresso and filter, along with a small brunch menu and a selection of cake. While the shop’s quite small, it’s larger than the original, plus there’s a specious basement/training room.

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Ozone Coffee Roasters

A lovely Kenyan Githaka AB Estate V60, roasted and served at Ozone in Shoreditch, the coffee presented on a tray, with a short mug next to the carafe.Ozone Coffee Roasters first opened its doors on Leonard Street in 2012, making it (in the UK at least), as old as the Coffee Spot. That said, Ozone, which started in New Zealand, where it has a roastery and two coffee shops, is approaching its 21st birthday. Back in the UK, Ozone bought fellow roasters, Has Bean, this time last year (although the two still operate as separate brands) and a second coffee shop, this time in Bethnal Green, is opening shortly.

Meanwhile, the original on Leonard Street, a stone’s throw from Old Street roundabout in the heart of Shoreditch, is still going strong, serving excellent coffee and food all day, from breakfast all the way through to dinner. It’s also still roasting in the basement on a 22kg vintage Probat, where there’s additional seating, available from morning to mid-afternoon.

When it comes to the coffee, there are two seasonal espresso blends, Brothers (which goes in milk-based drinks) and Empire (for espressos, long blacks and Americanos) and several single-origins which change on a monthly basis. These can be had on espresso, V60, Aeropress, Syphon and cold brew, with a different one on each. There’s also a daily batch brew.

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Caffènation, Amsterdam

A piccolo, made with the house blend at Caffènation in Amsterdam, and served in an espresso cup.I first came across Antwerp’s Caffènation as a roaster when I visited Loustic in Paris in 2014 and again the following year at Kofra in Norwich. Ever since I’ve been a big fan of Caffènation’s coffee so when I had the opportunity to visit Caffènation in Amsterdam, I jumped at the chance. Note that despite the name, this is independent from the roastery/coffee shops in Antwerp, set up (with Caffènation’s blessing) by an ex-employee in 2014.

On the western side of Amsterdam, south of Rembrandtpark and west of Vondelpark, Caffènation sits on a corner, the shop spread over several levels upstairs, with a wonderful basement below. If that doesn’t appeal, you can sit outside on one of several folding chairs on the broad pavement.

Other than the building, the focus is all on the coffee, which comes from the Antwerp roastery. There’s a seasonal blend on espresso, used for milk-based drinks, with a weekly single-origin used for black drinks. Alternatively, Caffènation always has a Kenyan single-origin on batch-brew, which is joined by another weekly single-origin.

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Pražírna Kavárna

The Pražírna Kavárna logo, a black and white line drawing of a roaster. Am I the only one who thinks it looks like a steam train?I’m not sure how I first discovered Pražírna Kavárna, but there it was, a star on Google Maps, a five-minute walk from my hotel (chosen for its proximity to the office, not for coffee reasons) so I took it as providence, heading there on my first morning in Prague. Not knowing what to expect, I was reassured by the sign hanging above the door, which shows a stylised black and white line drawing of a coffee roaster looking, bizarrely, a lot like a steam locomotive pulling a train!

Pražírna Kavárna has a small, unassuming street level façade which hides a wonderful interior, accessible down two short flights of steps. There’s a series of gorgeous, brick-vaulted basement rooms, with, right at the back, a lovely, enclosed courtyard garden. When it comes to coffee, Pražírna Kavárna only serves single-origins, original roasted on-site (you can still see the roaster) but now it’s all done in a dedicated facility. There’s a simple espresso-based menu with filter on batch-brew, Aeropress, V60 and Kalita Wave. Opening late into the evenings, there’s also draft lager, wine plus spirits and cocktails. This is backed up by a small all-day lunch/snack menu and a selection of homemade cakes.

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The Beehive

The sign from outside The Beehive in Bethnal Green, with the slogan, "Coffee & Industry".The Beehive, like yesterday’s Saturday Short, Second Shot, is a social enterprise, albeit of a slightly different character. Part of the Bethnal Green Mission Church, it opened in July 2018, occupying part of the ground floor of the same building as the church, at the northern end of Paradise Gardens on the busy Cambridge Heath Road. There’s some outdoor seating in the garden, while inside you have the choice of the busy upstairs or the clean lines of the basement, where you’ll also find The Beehive’s book exchange.

The coffee offering is fairly simple, with The Baron from Climpson and Sons, plus Climpson’s seasonal decaf on espresso, all served from a fairly standard menu. This is joined by a single-origin on batch brew (currently a Rwandan), chosen from Climpson’s seasonal range and changed every few months when Climpson and Sons release its new coffees. There’s also a small selection of tea, plus concise breakfast (until 11:30), lunch (11:30 to 16:00) and toast (until 16:00) menus, each with three or four choices. This is backed up by a wide selection of cake, much of it homemade. For example, one of the cakes I had was made by the pastor’s wife!

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Chalk Coffee

The Chalk Coffee logo from the wall of the coffee shop in Chester.Chalk Coffee, which opened in August last year, might be a new name to Chester’s growing speciality coffee scene, but it has considerable pedigree, having been set up by Ed, who was one half of Jaunty Goat (the other half being his twin brother, Patrick). Like Jaunty Goat, Chalk is right in the heart of historic Chester, just around the corner, in fact, on Watergate Street, which also puts it just across the street from another Chester veteran, The Barista’s. The shop itself is lovely, stretching a long way back under the rows above, giving it a basement-like feel, especially at the back.

Chalk Coffee’s focus is firmly on the coffee, offering Origin on both espresso, through a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle, and on batch brew. It started by offering the Pathfinder blend, but since the start of this year, Chalk has been experimenting with single-origins as well as blends. The Resolute blend was on during my visit, with a Colombian single-origin next in the rotation, Chalk switching over as and when the current coffee runs out. There’s also a single-origin on batch brew. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of sandwiches and wraps, plus there’s a selection of cake.

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Doughnut Vault, Canal Street

Some gorgeous latte art in Amanda's cappuccino at the Doughnut Vault on Canal Street, Chicago.The Doughnut Vault is one of Chicago’s better kept (speciality coffee) secrets. Put onto it by my friend Phillip, it was touted as the source of the best doughnuts in Chicago, Phillip recommended the Franklin Street location, a small (almost) hole-in-the-wall operation in River North around the corner from my hotel, which Amanda and I visited during our “polar vortex” trip to Chicago. It was only while we were there that the server pointed us towards the Canal Street branch across the river.

Given the aforementioned polar vortex, we didn’t venture out much, so couldn’t get to Canal Street on that visit. However, I returned the next time I was in Chicago, first with Amanda on Monday morning and again on my own on Wednesday lunchtime. As we discovered, Canal Street is somewhat bigger, best described as a “proper coffee shop”, serving, espresso, batch-brew and, of course, the aforementioned doughnuts.

A word of warning, though: the doughnuts sell out quickly. Best be there before nine o’clock if you want to be sure of getting one!

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Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters

The Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters logo from the awning outside the coffee shop on Kinkerstraat, west Amsterdam.Today I’m taking you back to June last year when I visited Amsterdam for World of Coffee. Other than the festival itself, my first experience of Amsterdam’s speciality coffee scene was Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters. Set on the canal-side, on a corner by a bridge, I’m not sure there’s a more stereotypical location for an Amsterdam coffee shop and it was a perfect first introduction.

Split between a small front section and a slightly larger rear basement, this is the original Lot Sixty One, with a second branch having opened inside the Urban Outfitters clothing store on Kalverstraat. Despite the name, and the presence of a roaster in the basement during my visit, Lot Sixty One roasts at a new, appointment-only facility in Amsterdam, so this is now just a coffee shop (although “just” hardly does it justice). On the plus side, this means that there’s more room for seating, good news given its popularity.

There’s a house-blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a single-origin for the smaller drinks (espresso, flat white and cortado), plus there are single-origin pour-over and batch-brew options. If you’re hungry, there’s a decent selection of cake. Finally, it’s cashless, so bring a card!

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