On my way home after my trip to Amsterdam in March, I spent a quiet week visiting friends in Ghent. It was very low key, but I did wander around the city centre a few times and, naturally, I checked out the local coffee scene with the help of European Coffee Trip. While I didn’t have time to explore as much as I would have liked, I found myself drawn to Way on Voldersstraat, right in the heart of the old city.
Way is a roaster with three very different coffee shops in the city. The one on Voldersstraat is an interesting place, serving takeaway coffee (but with outside seating) while also acting as a retail shop, selling both beans and home coffee equipment. And to cap it all, there’s a bookshop upstairs, with an eclectic collection, centred around coffee and sustainable living.
When it comes to the coffee, there are two single-origins on espresso, with all the shots pulled on a Modbar system. There are also multiple single-origins on pour-over, Way using the Modbar automated system with the V60. Finally, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries, all baked in-house with the added twist that Way is entirely plant-based/vegan.
Returning to the theme of speciality coffee in the centre of Amsterdam, another newcomer is Priesthood, which opened in 2021 and occupies a prime spot directly opposite Amsterdam’s central station. Even better for me, it was around the corner from where I was working, which made it a regular haunt during afternoon coffee break, along with a variety of my colleagues.
Priesthood is unusual amongst speciality coffee shops in that it is run by volunteers, part of a non-profit, Christian-led community space which is part bookshop (ground floor), art gallery (first floor) and, of course, coffee shop. Although the counter is next to the door, you’re welcome to take a seat on the nearby sofa or head upstairs, where you’ll find various chairs, tables and a bench along the window at the front, offering views of the station.
Priesthood uses local Amsterdam roasters, with Uncommon providing a single-origin espresso and a choice of beans on pour-over from either Friedhats or Rum Baba Coffee Roasters. Even the milk is special, coming from ElkeMelk, a local dairy where each bottle is from a single cow, while the oat milk is also locally produced by ROA. Finally, there’s a small selection of cakes/pastries.
Today’s Coffee Spot, Elements: Books Coffee Beer, is the second of two from this week’s visit to Biddeford. Like Monday’s Coffee Spot, Time & Tide Coffee, it’s on Main Street, albeit a little further on, close to the junction with US 1, which runs through the northern part of Biddeford. Like Time & Tide, Elements is both a roastery (Elements Coffee Roasters) and coffee shop, although Elements predates Time & Tide by a few years, having opened in 2013, with Elements Coffee Roasters setting up shop in early 2018. And, as the name suggests, Elements: Books Coffee Beer also offers beer (and wine), and it’s a book shop too!
Elements occupies a large spot on the corner of Main and Jefferson, with the bookshop part of the business on the left, and the coffee shop part at the front and on the right, although there’s plenty of overlap between the two. Elements offers a standard (American) coffee menu, with the usual (large) sizes of both espresso-based and batch brew filter. There’s also a selection of around five seasonal single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of bagels, small plates, ice cream and pastries.
Blueprint Coffee & Books, in Whitstable, is at the northern end of Oxford Street, a stone’s throw from Oxford Street’s other speciality coffee shop, Garage Coffee. When it comes to bragging rights, however, Blueprint wins hands down, having started in 2013, with the shop opening in 2016. Not that I can claim anything in the way of moral superiority, having only heard of it a couple of years ago when Luke, who I knew from Water Lane Coffee in Canterbury, took over as manager. The loss, naturally, is all mine.
Blueprint Coffee & Books does exactly what the name suggests. Spread across two rooms, it’s a small bookshop with a select range of titles, while the coffee all comes from London’s Alchemy. There’s a concise espresso-based menu, the coffee served in three sizes: 4, 6 and 8oz, either with or without milk. You can choose from the house coffee, a guest or decaf, while for filter coffee, the options are V60 or Aeropress, each with its own single-origin, Blueprint also offering a Chemex for two.
On my first visit to Tokyo back in 2017, the final part of my stay was spent in a lovely, quiet residential area just south of Shinagawa Station, where I made the chance discovery of Kaido Books & Coffee, which was a couple of minutes’ walk down the street from my hotel of my trip. Much as Nem Coffee & Espresso became my “local” for the first part of my stay (and filled the same role during the second half of my return to Tokyo in 2018), so Kaido became my “local” for the final week of my stay.
Kaido Books & Coffee does what it says on the tin: a book shop combined with a coffee shop, spread over two delightful floors, with more of a coffee shop feel downstairs and a bookshop/library vibe upstairs. I liked Kaido so much that I immediately wrote it up, posting my original piece while I was still in Tokyo.
However, due to various technical reasons, I never managed to create a gallery to go with the original post, so on my return to Tokyo last week, I popped down to Shinagawa to pay Kaido a visit and to finally complete the gallery.
Sarutahiko Coffee is a small, but growing, coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. This branch shares space with a bookshop and travel agent in HIS, a multi-level shop on a quiet street near my office, one of several excellent coffee options within a five minutes’ walk. It’s also another recommendation from the Commodities Connoisseur (although he visited the flagship Ebisu branch).
Sarutahiko roasts all its own coffee, a considerable selection of which is on sale at the Omotesandō branch. There is a variety of espresso-based drinks, either hot or over ice, while there’s a large range of single-origins (six) and blends (five) available as pour-over using the V60. Although there’s plenty of seating, the Omotesandō branch is rather unusual in that it only serves coffee in takeaway cups, so be sure to bring your own.
Sarutahiko has several neat features. For example, although it’s counter service, you are given a playing card when you order, with an identical playing card being put down on the counter with your coffee, so you know which one is yours. On the retail side, each coffee has a card with tasting and origin notes, with the card’s colour indicating the darkness of the roast. Genius!
Kaido Books & Coffee was just down the street from my third (and final) hotel in Tokyo during my first trip to Japan in 2017. I’d done extremely well when it came to good coffee near hotels/work on that trip and Kaido (plus Blue Bottle Coffee at Shinagawa Station) was the icing on the cake. It was also a surprise, a random discovery as I explored the rather lovely residential street I was unexpected staying on. I made a few visits during my stay in 2017, popping back again on my return to Tokyo in July 2018.
Kaido Books & Coffee does what it says on the tin: a book shop combined with a coffee shop. In fairness, though, it’s more like a coffee shop with plenty of books. In fact, I didn’t see anyone buy a book the whole time I was there! It seems that the books are more for the customers to browse while lingering over coffee.
Kaido serves coffee from And Coffee Roasters and Ishikawa Coffee, with a choice of three single-origins on pour-over through the V60, one of which was also available on espresso. Kaido does a limited range of food, which includes a small cake selection.
There’s something about (speciality) coffee and books in Copenhagen. First there was the latest addition, Prolog Coffee Bar, a café and magazine shop, plus old hands, Forloren Espresso, replete with magazines. And there’s today’s Coffee Spot, Democratic Coffee, sharing its space with the city’s central library. You can’t get more books than that! You can sit in the coffee bar itself, which is long and thin, but which can be quite noisy, or decamp to the library, where there’s a choice of tables and comfy armchairs in the windows.
Everything in Democratic is made from scratch in the kitchen behind the counter, including the bread and pastries. Everything except the coffee that is, which is roasted off-site on a shared roaster, Democratic roasting two or three times a month. There are two single-origins on espresso, one for black coffee, one for milk, plus two more on filter, one available as a hand-poured V60, the other on bulk-brew.
The coffee changes every two-three months, Democratic buying a 700kg pallet with three/four different green beans. Once they’re gone, Democratic moves onto the next set of beans. Democratic doesn’t have different roast profiles for espresso/filter, regularly swapping which bean is on which method.
Outside of the Lisbon branch of the Copenhagen Coffee Lab, my first ever visit to a Danish coffee shop (and indeed, to a Scandinavian one) was to Prolog Coffee Bar, Copenhagen’s newest speciality coffee shop, which opened just over three months ago. This was more convenience than anything else: I’d just arrived from Dublin and of all the places I’d been recommended, it was the closest (a 15-minute walk) to my hotel where I’d be staying for work for the rest of the week. However, with last Sunday afternoon free, I was determined to explore!
Prolog isn’t a huge place, occupying what was an old bookshop and retaining something of its character, as well as still selling magazines. The owners, Jonas and Sebastian, work at the shop and I met both of them. Jonas, who used to roast at Democratic Coffee, now does the roasting for Prolog, while Sebastian’s also learning the trade. At the moment, things are small-scale, with just an Ethiopian Nano Chala on espresso, joined on filter by a Kenyan, both through the V60. There’s also a range of iced-coffee, plus an innovative selection of food and food products. In that respect, Prolog’s no ordinary coffee shop!
The Cow & Co Cafe started life in Liverpool as a design store in 2009. Over time, an espresso machine found its way into the store and, before long, customers were coming in as much for the coffee as for the various gifts and products on the shelves. Slowly, the design shop morphed into what you see today, the Cow & Co Cafe, a speciality coffee shop, with Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters on espresso and, for somewhere so small, an impressive food and cake selection.
It still retains its roots as a design store though, with a large set of retail shelves, while there’s also a rack of art, design and lifestyle magazines. Think of a smaller version of Manchester’s Fig + Sparrow crossed with London’s Kioskafé. The coffee offering and magazines are more on a par with Kioskafé, while the food and design elements are more in keeping with Fig + Sparrow.
Although it’s only small, Cow & Co packs a lot in, including a lovely mezzanine level, which more than doubles the seating capacity. There’s also a couple of tables outside on the pavement, the dead-end Cleveland Square being a pleasant-enough environment if you want to sit outside.
February 2019: Cow & Co is now called Thoughtfully Cafe, but as far as I can tell, nothing else has changed.