It was five years ago that I first ventured to Walthamstow to seek out Wood St Coffee, at that point in its second incarnation on Orford Road in the heart of Walthamstow Village. Effectively a counter in a shop, Wood St shared the space with two other businesses, opening four days a week. Mind you, this was a step-up from the original, a Sunday pop-up in Wood Street Market which started in 2013 before moving to Orford Road in February 2014. However, in the autumn of 2014, not too long after my visit, Wood St Coffee moved again, this time to a permanent home, still in Walthamstow at the Blackhorse Workshop. And ever since, I’ve been promising to return…
When I finally made it, I found a thriving coffee shop, with plenty of seating inside and out. These days, the coffee’s roasted on-site, with a seasonal single-origin plus decaf on espresso, and a daily batch-brew option, the beans selected from the three or four single-origins in stock at the time. However, it’s not just coffee, with Wood St serving an excellent brunch menu at weekends and more traditional breakfast/lunch menus during the week, backed up by a small cake selection.
There’s something about Stevens Creek Boulevard, home of today’s Coffee Spot, Voyager Craft Coffee. It occupies the very unit that was home to the original Bellano Coffee, now established in downtown San Jose as B2 Coffee. Meanwhile, heading slightly further along (going west towards Cupertino) you’ll find Chromatic Coffee, another coffee shop/roaster with a considerable reputation.
However, at first sight this all seems very unlikely. Stevens Creek Boulevard is a busy urban highway, lined with wall-to-wall car dealerships on either side. This is pretty much the impression you get at second sight too. Walking along it further reinforced this impression. It is definitely not somewhere you would expect to find great coffee, but, tucked away along its north side, in a non-descript unit at the end of a non-descript mall, is Voyager Craft Coffee.
These days, Voyager roasts its own coffee, with a blend on espresso and five filter options, which includes a guest and a decaf. There’s also a range of destination drinks, inspired by the coffee cultures of various countries around the world, plus some seasonal specials. If you’re hungry, there’s a concise, toasted-based food menu, with a selection of cakes and pastries if you want something sweeter.
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.
The Pavilion Café, a fixture at the western end of Victoria Park in Bethnal Green, has been going strong for over 10 years, serving excellent coffee and locally sourced all-day breakfasts for over 10 years. These days, the Pavilion Café has been joined by pair of bakery cafes in London (Broadway Market and Colombia Road) and an outpost in Newquay, Cornwall, which opened earlier this year.
The Pavilion Café occupies a circular, glass-domed pavilion (hence the name) on the eastern side of the park’s West Lake. During the winter, there is seating inside, but in the summer, it spreads out the lakeside which provides some of the best views in London. These days the coffee is from Cornwall’s Origin, with a single-origin on espresso. Although the default seems to be to serve all the drinks in takeaway cups, there are proper cups available. You just need to ask when ordering.
SLOW Café was my first chance discovery in Prague. Although on my (very long) list of potential spots, I was on my way elsewhere for brunch when I wandered past, catching sight of the weekly brunch menu in the window. Consisting of just five items, each was intriguing, so since I was already hungry, in I went. Like Monday’s Coffee Spot, Pražírna Kavárna, SLOW Café has multiple rooms, although in this case, they’re on the ground floor, not in a basement. There’s also a wonderfully secluded courtyard at the back, albeit much smaller than the one at Pražírna Kavárna.
SLOW Café only works with roasters that the owners know personally, starting with Coffee Source, a local roaster with a coffee shop just down the street. Coffee Source provides the espresso (a natural Ethiopian during my visit), with SLOW Café offering an extremely concise menu of just espresso, flat white and cappuccino. This is joined by various filter options, the roasters drawn from around Europe. This includes Kaffa Roastery from Helsinki and, during my visit, Berlin’s Bonanza, plus SlowMov and Nomad (the owners had just been to Barcelona) on Aeropress and V60, while Helsingborg’s Koppi was on batch brew, although the options change regularly.
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.
Visiting Canary Wharf for work at the end of May, I already knew about the likes of Taylor Street Baristas and Notes. I also knew that the speciality coffee scene had evolved considerably since my last visit in 2015. However, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, 640 East, caught me by surprise, even though it’s been going since 2017. Located in Montgomery Square, right by the eastern entrance to Canary Wharf tube station, 640East was also directly outside my office, so I became a regular visitor, calling in most days for my morning (and sometimes afternoon) coffee.
Consisting of two reused containers facing each other across a large courtyard, the majority of 640East’s seating is outdoors, although one container has a small, indoor seating area. Serving a blend from Caravan on espresso, 640East does a roaring trade from the local offices, while in the evening wine, cocktails and beer take over (although all are available day and night). This is all backed up by a range of cakes and pastries, with a few savouries in the morning.
Note that 640East is takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. It’s also cashless, so you’ll need a credit/debit card.
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!
Coffee@33 is one of Brighton’s hidden gems, a stone’s throw away from the station at No. 33, Trafalgar Street. I was originally put onto it Horsham Coffee Roaster back in 2013, not long after Coffee@33 had started using Horsham as a second roaster alongside Monmouth. Back then, Coffee@33 was so under the radar that it didn’t even have its name outside, but despite that potential drawback, it already had a fiercely loyal following.
Fast-forward five years and a rare excursion to Brighton, I finally managed to revisit Coffee@33, where I ran into Taras, who, along with his business partner, owns Coffee@33. In many ways, little had changed, with the coffee shop being instantly recognisable from my visit of five years ago. On the other hand, quite a lot has changed. There’s new equipment behind the counter, in the shape of a cutting-edge Mavam modular espresso system. Perhaps more importantly, Coffee@33 now roasts all its own coffee and has recently moved to using a new, modern Loring coffee roaster.
One of the names that I kept seeing when in Phoenix was Tucson’s Presta Coffee. So, when I ended up there a week later at the end of my road trip through eastern Arizona/southern New Mexico, naturally I paid Presta a visit, calling in on the original branch in the Mercado San Augustin (Saint Augustin Market).
The market occupies a lovely, large, open rectangular courtyard with shops and restaurants on all sides (like an outdoor Mackie Mayor if you know Manchester). Presta has a long counter in one corner, with seating available at the counter itself and in a (non-exclusive) seating area off to one side. You can also take your coffee out into the courtyard where there are plenty of tables.
Compared to Presta’s flagship branch, the coffee service is limited, with the 120PSI blend being served from a concise espresso-based menu. There’s also a single-origin on batch brew which changes at least once a day. There is no food or cakes, but you are welcome to bring things in from any of the shops/restaurants in the market to have with your coffee.