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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Glitch Coffee Brewed @ 9h

Glitch Coffee Brewed, from the wall behind the counter, with the Glitch Coffee logo above and the Nine Hours hotel logo below.I first came across Tokyo’s Glitch Coffee & Roasters on my around the world trip in 2018. Then, I knew it as a small coffee shop/roaster, with a passion for light roasts and filter coffee. When I returned to Tokyo in September this year, I learnt that there was a second branch of Glitch, in Asakaka, closer to my hotel, so on my final day in Tokyo, I set out to explore.

Glitch Coffee Brewed is in the basement lobby of Nine Hours, a newly-opened capsule hotel, both hotel and coffee shop having opened in May this year. There’s not much seating, just nine stools at a U-shaped counter, with a bench inside and another outside. It doubles down on Glitch Coffee & Roasters’ filter obsession, only offering pour-over (via the V60), with a similar range of beans and tasting flights. If you can’t wait, there’s also batch-brew during the week.

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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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HR Higgins Coffee Room

A V60 of the Galapagos San Cristolbol at HR Higgins, beautifully presented in a carafe, cup on one side, resting on the window-bar in the basement coffee room.HR Higgins in a well-established name in London Coffee circles, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. It’s also somewhere that’s been on my radar for some time now, so apologies that it’s take me until this week to get around to visiting. In the heart of Mayfair, a few minutes’ walk from Bond Street station, HR Higgins has a lovely, old-fashioned coffee (and tea) merchants’ shop upstairs (which feature in its own Coffee Spot in due course). There’s also a takeaway counter up here, which caters to the morning rush.

However, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot is the lovely basement coffee room, which offers a full coffee shop service. If it’s too busy downstairs, you are always welcome to order your coffee, then take a seat at the window bar upstairs. There’s also a small outside seating area. In some ways, HR Higgins reminded me of the coffee scene in Tokyo, catering to a more traditional market (think dark roasts and multiple blends) and adapting to change (multiple single-origins, working directly with farmers). There’s a single option on espresso with multiple choices on pour-over, while if you’re hungry, HR Higgins tempts you with a small selection of cakes.

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Panna Chester

A Chemex of a Los Suspiros from Guatemala, roasted by Square Mile of London and served in Panna, Chester.I first came across Panna in Liverpool at the end of 2015, where owners Ivana and Peter, a friendly, welcoming Slovak couple, had turned a potentially unpromising basement in Silkhouse Court into a lovely, warm, welcoming café. There was some excellent food, along with coffee from Has Bean and local roasters Neighbourhood Coffee.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Silkhouse Court was sold and Ivana and Peter decided to relocate to Chester, opening five weeks ago on 15th August 2019, not long after my previous visit to Chester! In so doing, they’ve moved up in the world, quite literally in fact, swapping a basement for a ground floor space on Chester’s famous Rows on Watergate Street.

The good news is that they’ve brought the same warm, friendly atmosphere with them. For example, although it’s been four years since we last met, I was greeted like a long-lost friend! They’ve also brought the excellent food along in the shape of an all-day brunch menu with plenty of cakes and pastries. And then there’s the coffee, with two Has Bean blends on espresso and multiple guests on filter using a variety of brew methods, including Chemex, V60 and Aeropress.

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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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