Firecreek Big Park

An espresso, served in a class white cup, at Firecreek Big Park in the Village of Oak Creek in Arizona.When I was in Arizona this time last year, one of my chance discoveries was Flagstaff’s Firecreek Coffee Company. As an added bonus, the staff told me about a second branch, Firecreek Big Park, in the Village of Oak Creek, south of Sedona/Red Rock Country, a beautiful area that’s worth a visit (or two) in its own right.

Firecreek is right on AZ 179, which connects Sedona, to the north, with the Interstate, I17, to the south. Even better, just north of the Village of Oak Creek, it runs right through Red Rock Country, so Firecreek couldn’t be more conveniently-placed.

Smaller than the Flagstaff original, it serves a cut-down, espresso-based menu, plus a selection of cakes and a few savouries (granola, bagels and quiche). The space is lovely, a single, long room with a fireplace, open to the A-frame roof which soars above you. There’s also a large front patio.

Continue reading

Story Works

The sign says it all: "Story Works", from the wall of Story Works by Clapham Junction.Story Coffee on St John’s Hill in South West London is one of the capital’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having first opened in 2014. I took my time in visiting, only calling in for the first time towards the end of the September last year, when I found, to my surprise, that Story Coffee had a second branch, a little sibling if you like, called Story Works, just down the hill at the back of Clapham Junction.

Much smaller than the original, Story Works has a cut-down offering while retaining many similarities with Story Coffee, including a gorgeous two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. Like Story Coffee, there’s a single option on espresso, but pour-over has given way to batch-brew. Similarly, while there is food, Story Coffee’s brunch menu has been replaced by avocado on toast, grab-and-go salads and superfood smoothies, although there’s still a good selection of cake.

Continue reading

Kream | Coffee

My espresso at Kream Coffee in Phoenix, from my visit in 2018. It was served in a gorgeous, earthenware cup with little plugs for handles on the sides.Kream Coffee is part of the small, but growing, speciality coffee scene in and around Phoenix. It’s another of those places which I came across during my second visit to Phoenix last year, prompting me to make an excursion outside of my usual Scottsdale haunts. In this case I went just north of downtown Phoenix, where Kream is somewhat incongruously located inside a design shop on North Central Avenue.

However, don’t let that put you off. If anything, it’s a bonus, since it makes for some very pleasant surroundings, while when it comes to the coffee, Kream is top-notch. A multi-roaster, it draws on a cast of five roasters, some of the best in the US, to bring you awesome espresso and batch-brew, where there’s a different single-origin every day. The espresso, meanwhile, changes once or twice a week. You can also buy retail bags to take home with you.

Continue reading

Stan’s Bike Shack

The logo from the sign outside of Stan's Bike Shed in West Sussex.Stan’s Bike Shack has been on my radar for almost all of its 4½ years of existence. Between the villages of Partridge Green and Bines Green in West Sussex, it’s on the Downs Link, a 37 mile cycle route from St Martha’s Hill, near my home in Guildford, to Shoreham-by-Sea on the south coast. Heading south, Stan’s Bike Shed is about ⅔ of the way along, slightly too far for me to walk in a day, which might explain why it’s taken me so long to visit.

Stan’s Bike Shack is one of those places where the name pretty much says it all. It’s a shack (and a very nice one at that) located just off the road linking the two villages, which welcomes cyclists and walkers. It serves Craft House Coffee on espresso and batch-brew, with all-day breakfasts, sandwiches and cake, all prepared in the open kitchen behind the counter.

Continue reading

Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying First Class to Phoenix

My British Airways Boeing 747 in One World livery on the stand at Heathrow Terminal 3, waiting to take me to Phoenix.Welcome to the first Travel Spot of the new year, on my first trip of 2019. I’m heading to Phoenix, spending a couple of weeks enjoying the winter sun, then flying to Chicago (which will be an interesting contrast) before returning at the end of the month. As usual, I’m flying with British Airways (American Airlines for the Phoenix-Chicago leg).

I’ll say up front that this was not meant to be about me flying First Class to Phoenix. Right up until I reached the check-in desk, I thought I was flying Club World and was quite surprised to be told that I’d be moving up to First Class, just the second time that I’ve been upgraded in my life (the other was 10 years ago, an upgrade to Club Europe when returning from Madrid).

It’s also just the second time that I’ve flown First Class, the other being on my return from Chicago last year. That was a night-time flight, and while I enjoyed it, I spent most of the flight asleep, whereas this is a daytime flight, giving me much more opportunity to get the full First Class experience, which started with the rather swanky lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 3…

Continue reading

Coffee Spot Awards 2018: Winners

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.Happy New Year to all my followers old and new! As we get 2019 underway, here are the winners of the seventh annual Brian’s Coffee Spot Awards. As before, there are 20 Awards, celebrating all the wonderful Coffee Spots I wrote about during 2018. The shortlists for all 20 Awards were announced between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and now we have the winners!

Before we go on, I know I’ve said this before, but a big thank you to everyone who’s visited the Coffee Spot, followed me on Twitter, liked my Facebook page and looked at my pictures on Instagram. While I do this for the love of coffee, it means a lot to me that so many of you take the time to read and comment on my writing. Without you, it really would be pointless.

Continue reading

2018 Awards – Most Popular Coffee Spot

The new Aergrind from Knock, with its top off and loaded with beans.So, here it is, the final Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2018, the only one that you, my readers, decide. It’s the “Most Popular Coffee Spot” Award, which is based on the total number of views received by each Coffee Spot in 2018.

Last year this was won by Made by Knock: Aergrind with 2,124 views. This year just one Coffee Spot broke the 1,000 views mark. Of the 15 most viewed, 12 are Coffee Spots (11 from the UK), while the remaining three are Saturday Supplements.

This is, in some ways, my favourite Award since I don’t have to make any decisions. After 19 shortlists, it’s quite a relief not to have to decide who’s in and who’s out, although I did decide to exclude the post about my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, which otherwise would have come third…

Continue reading

2018 Awards – Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award

A cortado, made with Square Mile's Sweet Shop Blend at Forté Espresso Bar in Manchester.Welcome to the penultimate Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2018, the Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award, which was won last year by Forte Espresso Bar. This is a special award for those Coffee Spots which don’t quite fit into the other categories, but which nonetheless I absolutely love… It’s also a chance for me to recognise and reward those wonderful Coffee Spots that I come across during the year and which mean something special to me.

Continue reading

2018 Awards – Most Passionate About Coffee

The reflection of the skylight in the ceiling above, captured in my coffee at the back of Coffee + Beer in Bristol.Welcome to the next Coffee Spot Awards Shortlist for 2018, the “Most Passionate About Coffee” Award, which was won in 2017 by Coffee + Beer. For me, this is one of the most important awards, and also one of the hardest to judge, which is why I’ve left it to the last day.

It’s not just about the coffee, it’s also about people who love and care about coffee. Everyone who I’ve covered in the Coffee Spot is passionate about coffee and one of the great things is how much love there is out there, both for the coffee and for those who make it. However, those shortlisted for this award stand out from the crowd.

Continue reading

2018 Awards – Best Breakfast

Some lovely latte art in my flat white at Homeground Coffee + Kitchen, made with the seasonal espresso blend from Carvetii.We enter the final day of the 2018 Coffee Spot Awards shortlists with the “Best Breakfast” Award, which in 2017 went to Homeground Coffee + Kitchen. Along with cake, breakfast has a special place in my heart. The only slight snag is that I rarely get up and out of the house early enough to get to places before they stop serving breakfast!

That said, I’ve been doing so much travelling this last year that I’m now able to generate a healthy shortlist this year, although it surprises me how many places on this list are from the UK given how little time I’ve spent in the country this year! This has probably been helped by those wonderful places that serve all-day breakfasts! In fact, given how often I have things from the breakfast menu for lunch, I wonder if I should rename this award “Best Brunch”…

Continue reading