Monarch Coffee

A cappuccino is a classic white tulip cup, served at Monarch Coffee in Kansas City.Today’s Coffee Spot continues the retelling of last month’s American road trip through the medium of coffee shops. We’ve reached Kansas City, our final overnight stop before Madison, South Dakota, where we called into Monarch Coffee, a recommendation from Sump Coffee in St Louis.

Monarch is a roaster which used to have two bricks-and-mortar stores in Kansas City, one of which was the lovely store on Broadway which we visited. Sadly, Monarch took the difficult decision to close both stores at the end of October, although it’s still going strong as a roaster, making this the first time that I’ve written about a coffee shop knowing it was closed. I did consider not posting, but decided that this would be a fitting tribute to Monarch Coffee.

Monarch Coffee was on the ground floor of the Ambassador apartment building, occupying a large corner unit on the right. With limited tables outside on the pavement, there was plenty more seating in the spacious interior, arrayed on either side of the island counter offset to the left. When it came to coffee, there was a commendably concise espresso-based menu with a single-origin option on batch brew filter, plus iced and nitro options.

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Knead a Little Love

A flat white, made with the Rocket Espresso blend from Extract, served at Knead a Little Love.I’m concluding my short series on Tooting Bec/South Balham with a chance discovery that I made enroute to Dee Light Bakery. An iconic sign above a coffee shop on Ritherdon Road caught my eye: Foxcroft & Ginger. Readers with long memories may recall the original Foxcroft & Ginger in Soho (now long since gone), one of my early Coffee Spot favourites. Naturally, I hurried to investigate, only to discover that it wasn’t Foxcroft & Ginger after all, Knead a Little Love having sublet the premises almost exactly one year ago in November 2020. So, in a sense, it was a double chance discovery.

Knead a Little Love is a vegan doughnut bakery, run by two sisters, but vegan doughnuts is only the start of it. As well as six different ring doughnuts and 12 filled doughnuts, Knead a Little Love has cookies, tarts and pastries, plus an all day brunch menu, along with a couple of snacks and two lunch options. And that’s before I get started on the coffee, where Extract Coffee Roasters makes a rare London appearance with its Rocket Espresso blend. There’s also a range of tea, plus a selection of fresh smoothies to round things out.

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Sam’s Coffee

A flat white, with some lovely latte art, served in a classic white cup at Sam's Coffee in Llangollen.Llangollen, nestling on the banks of the River Dee in North Wales, is a beautiful town and one which I’ve visited many, many times over the years. However, until last summer, it had never registered on the Coffee Spot radar. Then, I visited Bold Street Coffee in Liverpool, where one of the baristas told me that Bold Street’s founder, the legendary Sam Towil, was now living in Llangollen, where he runs Sam’s Coffee. And, just like that, I started planning my visit.

Sam’s Coffee is inside Gales of Llangollen, a family-run wine bar, restaurant and 15-room hotel, all housed in a Georgian townhouse which feels, to me, like an old coaching inn. Sam’s Coffee is officially open from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon, offering a contemporary brunch menu, plus coffee from Has Bean, after which Gales takes over until late in the evening with a lunch/dinner (dunch? linner?) menu, plus beer, cider, spirits and, of course, wine. However, that doesn’t mean the coffee stops at two: as long as Sam is there, he’ll make you coffee. Although the menu is espresso-based, I spotted a kettle, Chemex and Kalita Wave, so I’m sure if you ask nicely…

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Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee (COVID-19)

The sign inside Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee: "Welcome Lovely People Of Guildford to Koja by SHC"Once upon a time, there was a coffee roastery called Surrey Hills Coffee which (accidentally) opened a coffee shop in Guildford. That was in 2016, and soon the little coffee shop had outgrown its original home on Chapel Street, prompting a move in 2018 to bigger premises on Jeffries Passage, where, in the fullness of time, an upper floor seating area was added. And then COVID-19 came along and, like all the other coffee shops in Guildford, Surrey Hills had to close.

In many ways, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise for Chris and Monika, the Swedish couple behind Surrey Hills Coffee. Temporarily released from the day-to-day grind of running the coffee shop, they were able to focus on the roastery, realising that this was their true passion. When the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, allowing the coffee shop to reopen, Chris and Monika had a decision to make. They didn’t want to close the coffee shop, but they also didn’t want to go back to the day-to-day management.

Fortunately, the solution presented itself in the shape of Koja, which opened on Thursday, 13th August, initially for takeaway only, but with plans for sit-in service in due course.

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Nozy Coffee

A classic white diner mug with the Nozy Coffee logo on the sideNozy Coffee is a well-established name in Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene which I discovered at the lovely Nem Coffee & Espresso during my first visit in April 2017 before visiting its coffee shop/roastery (The Roastery by Nozy, which is under different ownership) on my return during 2018’s heatwave, when I sought refuge in its cool, basement-like interior. The Roastery is a very recent development, while Nozy itself has been going much longer, as I discovered when I visited its original coffee shop (which also used to be the roastery) in Setagaya City, southwest of Shibuya.

A tiny spot compared to The Roastery, Nozy Coffee occupies the ground floor and open basement of a narrow, three-storey building with a residence above. Although small, and with very limited seating, it has an impressive array of coffee, with a choice of eight single-origins, one of which is decaf. These are all available as filter coffee through the cafetiere, while two (which change daily) are available on espresso, where the extremely concise menu offers espresso, Americano or cafe latte. These last two come in three sizes (small, medium and large) and can be had hot or iced. A selection of coffee kit and retail bags are also for sale.

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Little Woodfords

The Little Woodfords sign, hanging outside the store on Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine. It's a design based on the clock tower which sits atop of the building and reads "little woodfords | coffee + snacks".Little Woodfords is in the Woodfords Corner neighbourhood of Portland, just west of Back Cove. The staff at Tandem Coffee Roasters tipped me off when I was visiting Amanda last summer and, while we popped in on that trip, I didn’t have a chance to write it up. As a result, on my return to Portland last week, I made it a priority to call in, visiting one sunny Tuesday morning.

Little Woodfords occupies a bright, spacious spot on the busy Forest Avenue, close to its junction with Woodford Street. It’s fairly small, but feels much bigger thanks to the high ceilings (I would guess at least 4 metres) and a tall bay window that runs the full width of the store front, catching the midday and afternoon sun.

The coffee’s from Vivid Coffee Roasters in Vermont, with a single option on espresso, batch brew and flash brew (a pour-over over ice, akin to a Japanese iced coffee). The coffee changes every six months, Little Woodfords working with Vivid to select the particular bean/blend. There’s also tea, hot cocoa and several latte-based specials. If you’re hungry, there’s a small breakfast menu, with various toppings on bagels/biscuits, complete with gluten-free options.

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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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Maruyama Single Origin

Detail from the sign above the door of Maruyama Coffee's branch in Nishi AzabuIf you’ve been keeping up with my adventures in Japan over the last two years, you’ll know that Maruyama Coffee, the regional chain from Nagano prefecture, holds a special place in my heart. My first ever coffee in Japan was at Maruyama in Nishi Azabu, while more recently I’ve visited Maruyama in Nagano Station. Today’s Coffee Spot is Maruyama Single Origin, a relatively recent addition, which opened last year in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighbourhood.

Maruyama Single Origin occupies a small, two-storey building, with downstairs serving retail/takeaway customers, while upstairs offers Maruyama’s traditional full table service. You get the usual Maruyama excellence, but with the twist that the store only serves single-origins, with a daily option on espresso and the full range (usually around 30 single-origins, from up to 10 different countries, including several exclusive to the store) available through syphon and cafetiere.

If anything, the focus is even more firmly on the coffee, with delights such as an espresso and cappuccino set and, a new one on me, the same espresso served in two different cups. Perhaps as compensation for this, there’s a reduced food offering compared to the other locations, with just a small selection of cakes, plus toast.

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Maruyama Coffee, Nagano Station

A syphon at Maruyama Coffee in Nagano Station, warming on the infrared heater after brewing.My first ever speciality coffee experience in Japan was at Maruyama Coffee in Nishi Azabu, conveniently located across the road from my hotel. Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Maruyama Coffee, a high-end chain which has its origins in Nagano Prefecture. It was therefore fitting that when my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me on a coffee tour of Nagano, our first stop was Maruyama Coffee, which has a lovely coffee shop in the Midori shopping mall at Nagano Station. I also made a point of calling in on my return to Nagano on this trip.

Maruyama is a blend of traditional Japanese hospitality (table service, attentive staff, baskets to put your things in so that they don’t have to rest on the floor) and speciality coffee. In the former aspect, it’s very unlike western coffee shops; in its latter aspect, third-wave aficionados will instantly feel at home. As an added bonus, the Nagano Station location specialises in syphon coffee, which is prepared on the counter-top for all to see. Other than that, you get the usual Maruyama offering, with a bewildering choice of origins and blends through cafetiere and espresso, plus a small food menu.

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Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard

The signature espresso at Le Cafe Alain Ducasse in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, served in a double-walled glass cup and a small square of chocolate.Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is part of the new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, a few minutes’ walk north of the station. Alain Ducasse, a French chef who, over the years, has had 21 Michelin stars to his name, hit the headlines earlier this year with a £15 cup of Yemeni coffee, which had the likes of The Guardian and the Financial Times weighing in on the subject. High time, I thought, that I popped along to see what all the fuss is about.

Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is a rarity in London, a coffee shop which just sells coffee, whether it be by the cup or by the bag (all the coffee is available for sale in retail bags). It is also, by London standards, expensive, although, £15 cups of coffee notwithstanding, not outrageously so. My espresso, for example, cost £2.50. What you get for your money, other than some very fine coffee, is the whole experience. While you can just order a coffee to go, you would, in my opinion, be missing out if you did. Rather, you should linger, enjoying both the coffee and the company, either of your fellow customers or of the staff.

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