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.
Réveille is a Bay Area café/roaster with five locations across San Francisco and another in Berkeley. I’m indebted to my friends Angela and Karen, who independently pointed me in the direction of Réveille. The subject of today’s Coffee Spot is Réveille Coffee Co. (the other locations go by the name Réveille Café) on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, an area with a rich (Italian) coffee culture, but one where speciality coffee is a bit thin on the ground, making Réveille a welcome addition.
Réveille occupies a wedge-shaped building on the corner where Kearny Street intersects Columbus Avenue at 45°, which is as much of a draw as the coffee. A bright, high-ceilinged space, the seating lines the windows down either side of the island counter, along with tables outside on the sloping Columbus Avenue/Kearny Street.
All the coffee is roasted on a Probat that sits in the middle of Réveille Café in Mission Bay. The standard espresso-based menu uses the seasonal Paradise Espresso and decaf, with a seasonal single-origin batch-brew filter. However, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. A kitchen at the back provides brunch, with a selection of cakes and pastries throughout the day.
The first place I wrote about when I visited Berlin in May was 19grams Schlesi in Kreuzberg. As I’m approaching the end of my collection of Berlin Coffee Spots from the trip, it’s fitting that 19grams features again. This time it’s the turn of 19grams Alex, the roastery & lab in Mitte, located on Karl-Liebknecht-straße in the shadow of the famous Berliner Fernsehturn on Alexanderplatz.
This is where the magic happens, the roastery, visible through glass doors to the left, producing all of 19grams coffee. Along with a conference/training room, this occupies one half of the space, while the rest of 19grams Alex is given over to a spacious coffee shop, with plenty of outdoor seating on the broad, paved expanse in front of the shop.
Although the setting is very different from 19grams Schlesi, the offering is the same, with the Wild at Heart blend on espresso (for milk-based drinks) along with a single-origin (default for espresso and Americano) and decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew filter. The single-origins change on a regular basis, as does the food menu, which is the same across all four 19grams locations, offering innovative brunch options and sharing plates cooked to order.
When I went to Berlin in May this year for work, I really wasn’t expecting much in the way of speciality coffee in the vicinity of my hotel, just south of the Zoological Garden. However, I was much mistaken. On my arrival, I made the chance discovery of The Visit, just down the street from my hotel, and then, on my first full day, I visited the original Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, where the staff told me about the newest Five Elephant, located inside the famous KaDeWe department store, a convenient short stroll from my hotel.
Five Elephant is on the top floor of KaDeWe at the back of the food hall. There’s a big, square island counter, plenty of seating and a large retail area (both beans and an extensive range of coffee equipment), all backed up by some very knowledgeable and friendly staff. There’s a very similar coffee and cake offering to the Kreuzberg coffee shop, with a single-origin and decaf on espresso, all shots pulled on a Modbar installation. For filter, there’s another single-origin on batch brew with any of the beans currently in stock available through either the AeroPress or as a pour-over through the V60.
When I went to Berlin in May, I already had a long list of coffee shops that I wanted to visit. However, KaffeeKirsche (literally, “coffee cherry”) was a chance discovery on my last Sunday, which I spent wandering the streets of Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene. In a familiar story, KaffeeKirsche is a roastery with small chain of coffee shops (three so far), which started on Adalbertsraße (also home to Bonanza Coffee and The Visit).
I actually walked past the original café, which opened in 2014 and was also the original roastery, which looked interesting enough for me to do some quick online research (the joys of smartphones and free (for now) EU roaming). This led to the discovery of both the roastery café in Tempelhof and the café/bakery on Böckhstraße, which is where I ended up in my quest for lunch.
The café/bakery occupies a spacious corner spot with plenty of seating inside and out. Brunch is served until three o’clock, while the cake selection is available all day. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, a pair of single-origins on pour-over via the V60 and a range of tea and other drinks.
I have a soft spot for Intelligentsia, a Chicago institution for more than 20 years, where I took some of my earliest steps in speciality coffee, long before I even knew what it was. Intelligentsia has been slowly expanding across the USA, with shops in Los Angeles, New York City and Austin. Now it’s reached New England with two Boston locations, one in Watertown and this one, right in the heart of the downtown on Post Office Square.
Occupying a large counter at the back of the lobby of office building 225 Franklin Street, the coffee bar has a fairly standard Intelligentsia offering, with the familiar Black Cat espresso blend joined by a seasonal guest and decaf, while for filter coffee, there are two options on pour-over and one on batch brew. This is backed up by a range of Kilogram Tea, plus cakes and pastries from The Danish Pastry House. You can sit at the coffee bar, at one of three window tables or take your coffee and find a seat in the lobby.
Flight Coffee of Dover (Dover, New Hampshire, that is) was recommended to me by Frontside Coffee Roasters from further upstate in North Conway. On Monday, with a free day to spare, I borrowed Amanda’s car and drove the 80 km from Portland to Dover, just over the state line in New Hampshire, to visit Flight Coffee, which is on Central Avenue, right in the heart of the old mill town.
Occupying two large, airy rooms, with plenty of seating on either side of the central, island counter, Flight Coffee has extensive breakfast and lunch offerings, with an equally impressive selection of tea (from Aera Tea Co. and Mem Tea) and coffee, the latter from Flight Coffee Co. Despite the similarity in names, the two are (these days) separate companies, with Flight Coffee Co. having its own roastery and café in Bedford, New Hampshire.
Flight Coffee of Dover serves Flight Coffee Co.’s Liftoff blend and Ground Control decaf on its concise espresso-based menu, while one of Flight Coffee Co.’s single-origins (currently the Peru Kovachii) is paired with an in-house dark-roast blend on batch brew filter. Finally, there’s the pour-over bar, offering a selection of single-origins through a variety of brew methods.
WatchHouse, the Bermondsey coffee powerhouse, has come a long way since it opened its doors in the eponymous WatchHouse on Bermondsey Street back in 2014. These days there are seven WatchHouses, two in close proximity to Bermondsey original, south of the Thames, and another four over the river, including the one-time Brooklyn Coffee (now WatchHouse Spitalfields) and Somerset House (once occupied by Fernandez & Wells).
For many years, WatchHouse used Ozone, but along with its expansion came the decision to roast its own coffee, WatchHouse opening a dedicated roastery and café (the subject of today’s Coffee Spot) in a railway arch on Maltby Street in August 2020. Now all the coffee is roasted here on a re-built 1959 Probat UG22, which you can admire through the glass wall at the back of the café.
WatchHouse’s offering is fairly simple, with a concise espresso-based menu plus batch-brew and pour-over. The latter offers a choice of a single-origin from WatchHouse or a guest roaster, which, during my visit, was from Monogram in Calgary, the options changing every month. This is backed up with a selection of Good & Proper Tea, hot chocolate and, if you’re hungry, a range of cakes and savoury options.
This is a first for the Coffee Spot. Almost four years ago to the day, I was in Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Los Angeles, following a recommendation from Lee Gaze of Silhouette. It was during my first visit to the city and, while I really liked it, I didn’t have time to finish my write up during my busy trip, so it languished on my hard drive instead. As weeks turned to months, and months turned to years, it seemed increasingly pointless to publish an out-of-date Coffee Spot, so that’s where it stayed, languished on my hard drive.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to limit both my travel and my ability to visit (and hence write about) coffee shops, at the start of the year I decided to return to my backlog of Travel Spots, which led to me to continue writing up The Grand Adventure (as I call my drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, undertaken in January 2017). And that, in turn, has provided the perfect excuse to dust off my notes and old photos of Intelligentsia…
So, let me present Intelligentsia’s Venice coffee bar, exactly as I found it three years and 363 days ago.
Madcap Coffee is, other than Chicago’s Intelligentsia, the one name in Midwest coffee that I hear (and see) on a consistent basis around the US. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which I visited on last year’s Midwest road trip specifically to see Madcap and visit its three locations: Monroe Center, where it all began, the new roastery and coffee shop on Fulton Street, and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Madcap’s coffee bar in Downtown Market.
All three locations have the same basic menu, with two options on espresso and multiple pour-over options, although the choice of beans varies. For Downtown Market, this means that the Third Coast blend, along with decaf, are ever-present on espresso, joined by a second option which changes once or twice a week. For coffee equipment geeks, the shots are pulled on a Modbar system, with Modbar pour-over modules dispensing filter coffee through the Kalita Wave.