Octane: Westside

My cortado, made with the Petunias house-blend, at Octane: Westside in Atlanta.Until Monday, I’d never been to Atlanta. The closest I’d come was passing through Peachtree Station en-route to New Orleans two years ago. I also managed a brief stop at the airport in January on my way to Portland. However, on Monday this week, Amanda and I stepped off Amtrak’s Crescent Service (the very same train that I caught to New Orleans) and I was in Atlanta. Naturally, our thoughts to turned to coffee, and where better to start than with Octane?

Octane was a pioneer of Atlanta’s speciality coffee scene until it was bought in 2017 by Revelator Coffee, much to the consternation of many. Octane had several locations in the city, but the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Octane: Westside, is, I believe, the original and the only one to retain the Octane name.

Located in a converted garage, it’s a large, spacious place, with a small amount of outside seating and limited parking. The Petunias blend is on espresso, with two single-origins on pour-over via the Chemex. If you want something stiffer, there’s a full bar, offering a wide range of drinks from 11:30 each day. If you’re hungry, there’s a broad selection of cakes and savouries.

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Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen, Crewe

A flat white, made with Clifton Coffee Roasters' Suspension Espresso and served in my HuskeeCup at Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen on Platform 6, Crewe Station.I’ve been visiting Gourmet Coffee Bar & Kitchen at Crewe station for many years, picking up flat whites to go in my various reusable cups as I’ve changed trains, usually on my way to/from my Dad’s, so I thought it was about time I wrote it up. Gourmet Coffee has been going since 2007 and it’s been at Crewe since 2011. It now boasts coffee bars at 14 stations, mostly in the Midlands and North West, with outposts in Cardiff and Wrexham. There’s also a coffee bar on a Wrexham industrial estate.

Crewe has two Gourmet Coffee Bars, a smaller one on Platform 6 and the larger one on Platform 5, which I usually visit. Both have a similar offering, with a standard espresso-based menu and a range of sandwiches, crisps, cakes and pastries if you’re hungry. After years with Union Hand-roasted, Gourmet Coffee recently switched to Clifton Coffee Roasters.

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Coffee and Riot

A washed Colombian espresso from Rebel Bean, served in a classic white cup at Coffee and Riot in Prague.I’m still missing the warm, winter sun of Arizona, so today’s Coffee Spot takes us back to last summer and Prague, when Amanda and I visited Coffee and Riot, a lovely little place in the backstreets of the Nové Město (New Town). Occupying two small rooms on the ground floor of a tall, old building, it’s combines the traditional Central European café/bar with speciality coffee.

That means that was well as serving coffee from Rebel Bean (on espresso) and guests (on filter), there’s a wide range of alcohol, including beer, cider, wine, cocktails and gin, served late into the evening (10 o’clock each night except Sundays). There’s also a selection of food, including toast, cakes, quiche and a range of sandwiches.

Coffee and Riot uses Rebel Bean as its house roaster, with a single option on espresso, which changes every few weeks. This is joined by a guest roaster on filter, which can come from anywhere in Europe, although when we were there, it was The Naughty Dog from nearby Jilove u Prahy. There’s a choice of V60 or Aeropress, with the beans all available in retail bags, the roaster changing when Coffee and Riots gets through its current stock.

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Driftwood Coffee Co.

My espresso, an Ethiopian Guji from Horizon Line Coffee, served in a glass at Driftwood Coffee Co. in Peoria.Although this is my sixth visit to Phoenix in under four years, I’ve always stayed in northeast Phoenix or Scottsdale, my speciality coffee focus generally turned towards the centre and the cities to the southeast, such as Tempe and Chandler. However, Peoria’s Driftwood Coffee Co. has been on my radar since it opened in 2017, so when work finished unexpectedly early one afternoon, I took my chance and drove over to pay it a visit.

Driftwood is on the edge of Old Town Peoria, just off Highway 60, which runs northwest out of central Phoenix. Occupying a compact space at the end of a warehouse-like building, Driftwood has a generous outside seating area and a simple, high-ceilinged interior. A true multi-roaster, Driftwood aims to offer at least one Arizona-based roaster and one from elsewhere in America. While I was there, there were two local options, Mythical Coffee (which I’d visited earlier in the week) and Tucson’s Yellow Brick Coffee (which I’d previously enjoyed at Maverick Coffee), while the national offering was from Horizon Line Coffee in Des Moines, Iowa. There’s a concise espresso-based menu, batch brew (for those in a hurry) or a slow bar, offering cafetiere, Chemex or V60.

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Spyhouse Coffee, St Paul

Details of the single-origin coffees available at Spyhouse Coffee in St Paul, two on batch brew, one on pour-over, during my visit in September 2018.As I write this, it’s cold and gloomy in the northern hemisphere, so, as we approach Christmas, let me take you back to sunnier times and last year’s Midwest road trip, when I made an all-too-brief visit to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I’ve already written about Five Watt, in Minneapolis, so today it’s the turn of St Paul, the other half of the Twin Cities.

Spyhouse Coffee is a local roaster/coffee shop chain that opened in its first shop in the Whittier district of Minneapolis in 2000. By the time I visited, it added three more Minneapolis locations, but in true Coffee Spot fashion, I chose the most recent Spyhouse Coffee to visit, it’s first St Paul location (since then, a sixth Spyhouse has opened inside the Emery Hotel in downtown Minneapolis).

Returning to St Paul, Spyhouse occupies an old grocery shop that was, most recently, an antiques store, with Spyhouse opening just over two years ago on Thanksgiving in 2017. Spyhouse serves a seasonal espresso blend, joined by two single-origins on batch-brew and another on pour-over via the Kalita Wave, the choices rotating every few weeks. If you’re hungry, there’s a small breakfast menu, plus a selection of cakes.

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Coffee Curiosity

Details from the coffee menu at Canterbury's Coffee Curiosity.Although I love Canterbury, its narrow, winding medieval streets can get very crowded, so much so that sometimes I need to break from all the people, which makes today’s Coffee Spot, Coffee Curiosity, even more of a find. Recommended by practically everyone, but in particular Sally Gurteen, Mike Stanbridge and Dan from Lost Sheep Coffee, it’s a five-minute walk west of the city centre, an oasis of calm in the Tannery Square development.

Coffee Curiosity was opened in January 2018 by Chase, a barista I first met in G!RO Cycles almost four years ago to the day of my visit, catching up with him 18 months later during my previous visit to Canterbury, when he worked at Garage Coffee in its days at Fruitworks. Impressively, he recognised me the instant I walked through the door!

Coffee Curiosity is a reverse TARDIS, the interior far smaller than it looks. There’s an espresso blend from Coldblow, a local roaster from Tenterden, plus regular guests on filter, with a Kenyan single-origin from Cambridge’s The Brew Project during my visit. There’s also tea from local suppliers, Debonair Tea Company, a small selection of panini and a range of cakes, all baked by Chase’s father-in-law.

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Fuglen Asakusa

A Norwegian waffle, which I had for breakfast at Fuglen Asakusa, topped with a poached egg, spinach, salsa and avocado.Japan’s speciality coffee scene is an interesting blend of homegrown roasters/coffee shops, plus a generous sprinkling of overseas names. Perhaps the most intriguing of these (for me, at least) is Fuglen, the Norwegian design company, which first opened its doors in Oslo in 1963. These days, Fuglen blends vintage design with coffee (daytime) and cocktails (evening) from its Oslo café/bar, a recipe which, since 2012, it has successfully copied in Tokyo, with a small and perpetually busy café/bar in Shibuya.

This was followed, in 2014, by a roastery/coffee shop (since relocated to larger premises) and, in September last year, by a much larger café/bar in Asakusa. Spread over two floors, it opens from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, offering breakfast, lunch, cakes, coffee and cocktails, all within a setting heavily influenced by vintage Norwegian design.

All the coffee’s roasted in-house, with a seasonal single-origin espresso, plus multiple filter options, available as pour-over (through the V60), Aeropress or batch-brew. There’s also a tasting flight, with an espresso, batch-brew and your choice of beans through the Aeropress. I visited twice, once in October 2018, a month after it opened, and a year later in November this year.

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Unlimited Coffee Bar

Detail taken from a bag of coffee from Tokyo's Unlimited Coffee Roasters.Unlimited Coffee Bar is almost directly under Tokyo’s famous 643m tall Skytree, which, since 2012, has been Japan’s tallest structure and the world’s tallest tower. Located just across the canal, opposite the Skytree’s southwest corner, it’s an ideal stopping off point for coffee (or lunch/dinner) either before or after taking in the magnificent views across Tokyo from the Skytree’s two observation decks. I’ve visited twice, once during my around the world trip last year, and again earlier this week on my current trip, both times calling in for coffee after a trip up the tower.

In contrast to the soaring tower, Unlimited Coffee Bar, an offshoot of Unlimited Coffee Roasters, is a much more modest affair, at least in terms of its physical extent, occupying the ground floor of a small, three storey building. The unlimited part refers to the coffee, with a selection of five or six single-origins, all roasted in-house, two of which are available on espresso, three on cold brew and all on pour-over via Aeropress, Silverton dripper or V60. Various tasting flights are offered, along with coffee cocktails, while all the beans are available in retail bags. Finally, for somewhere so small, there’s an impressive food menu.

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Brother Hubbard North

A latte art heart in my cortado, made with the Farmhand house-blend, at Brother Hubbard North in Dublin.I visited Brother Hubbard on my first trip to Dublin in 2014. Back then, it was a relatively small place, with a reputation for excellent food as well as really good coffee. So good, in fact, that after going there for breakfast, I returned for coffee later in the trip. 5½ years on, Brother Hubbard has added a second branch (Brother Hubbard South) while the original, reborn as Brother Hubbard North, has changed beyond (almost) all recognition. It’s now a takeaway joint, coffee shop, retailer and restaurant, with an on-site roastery, Farmhand, thrown in for good measure.

Normally, this would be a Coffee Spot Update, but with all the changes, I’ve gone for a complete re-write, leaving the original as is. These days Brother Hubbard serves a bespoke house-blend from in-house roaster, Farmhand, along with a single-origin on batch brew. There are grab-and-go goodies from the takeaway counter to the left, or you can sit in and enjoy breakfast, brunch or cake with your coffee. Finally, in the evenings, there’s a small but innovative dinner menu five nights a week. The space, by the way, is huge, with a long, thin indoor seating area, outdoor terrace and magnificent dining room.

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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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