To the best of my knowledge, Tilt is just one of two speciality coffee-and-pinball places in the UK, the other being Chiswick’s Chief Coffee, both of which opened in 2015. Mind you, Tilt’s not just coffee-and-pinball. It’s coffee-pinball-and-craft-beer, serving up to 18 different draught beers, plus there’s cider, wine, spirits, and cocktails, not to mention twelve different loose-leaf teas and five types of hot chocolate.
I first visited Tilt in January 2016, not long after it had opened. Back then, it just occupied the ground floor of an interestingly-shaped spot in Birmingham’s City Arcade, with work underway to open up the basement. Since then, it’s come a long way, not just opening the basement, but, during the enforced COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, adding an upper floor, both offering additional seating and more pinball machines.
These days, Tilt still bases its offer around pinball, beer and coffee, and its in this latter department that it perhaps has taken the greatest strides. Tilt was always serious about its coffee, but recently the owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level with the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, an exciting development which I’ve dedicated an entire Saturday Supplement to.
Faculty/Sixteen Kitchen has long been my go-to option when changing trains at Birmingham’s New Street Station. Located at the bottom of the Piccadilly Arcade, opposite the station’s New Street entrance, it’s a great breakfast/lunch option, courtesy of Sixteen Kitchen, although I’ve tended to call in the afternoon for coffee and cake at Faculty when changing trains, its proximity to the station making it perfect if you have a few minutes between trains.
Like many in the speciality coffee industry, Faculty has been feeling its way back, initially reopening for takeaway only, when it served from the door. Since then, it’s reopened its seating areas and is slowly expanding its opening hours as people return to the city centre. For now, the coffee offering has been reduced slightly, with just one option on espresso and another on pour-over. Similarly, Sixteen Kitchen is offering a cut-down menu, although you can always get cakes and a small selection of toasted sandwiches from Faculty.
The usual COVID-19 precautions are in place, including reduced seating to ensure social distancing, a queuing system at the door and Perspex screens on the counter. One non-COVID change is the appearance of a Modbar espresso system on the counter!
The second Society Café in Bath, after the original on Kingsmead Square, I found that, in many ways, little had changed, although for the last two years, Society has been using Origin as its house-roaster, rather than Round Hill Roastery (Round Hill still makes regular appearances as a guest). The upstairs had also received something of a makeover, introducing some more seating a giving the décor a little more colour.
However, the main change came when the basement was opened last year, doubling the amount of seating available. Naturally, Amanda and I had to explore.
The original Kapow Coffee is a small spot, tucked away on The Calls in Leeds. This, the second branch, which opened in April 2017, is a much larger affair, although initially it seems not much bigger than the original. Located in the magnificent Thornton’s Arcade, one of Leeds’ many fine examples of Victorian architecture, it occupies a narrow store, spread over three storeys, with a smattering of seating on each floor.
The extra space has allowed Kapow to expand its coffee offering compared to the original, where there’s just a single espresso blend on offer. Here, the Revelation blend from Union Hand-roasted is a permanent feature, joined a regularly-rotating guest espresso. There’s a selection of single-origin coffees available via the V60, while there’s an even larger selection of retail bags and, if you ask nicely, the staff will make you a pour-over of any of these. While I was there, local roasters Maude Coffee and North Star were well-presented, with Maude’s Parallel making an appearance as the guest espresso.
If you are hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and sandwiches displayed on the counter, while if coffee’s not your thing, there’s hot chocolate and tea from Bristol’s Canton Tea Co.
New Harvest Coffee & Spirits is that relatively rare combination in America: a coffee shop and bar, serving coffee by day and whisky and other spirits by night (although I believe you can order anything anytime). That it’s also a long-standing roaster (as New Harvest Coffee in Pawtucket, Rhode Island) and is housed in America’s old shopping mall, the Arcade Providence, makes it something very special indeed.
Although New Harvest Coffee has been roasting since 2001, the coffee shop only opened in 2014. There’s a seasonal house-blend and decaf on espresso, two options on bulk-brew and one on pour-over (Kalita Wave), backed up by a selection of cake and a wide range of spirits and cocktails.
New Harvest Coffee roasts 8-10 single-origins at any one time, giving it plenty of options in the coffee shop. There’s a light-roast on bulk-brew, which is usually a single-origin (which changes every day or so) and a dark roast (which changes less frequently). This tends to be a one of two filter-blends, but during my visit it was a single-origin from Papua New Guinea, while the light-roast was a Kenya from Kiangothe. Finally, the pour-over option is another single-origin (an Indonesian during my visit).
February 2016: Since I was in Providence the day I published my piece on New Harvest, I couldn’t resist popping in for a lovely Costa Rican pour-over. It’s so rare I get to re-visit places on the day I publish about them 🙂
Faculty is now an old hand in Birmingham’s booming speciality coffee scene, having opened at the start of 2014. Located at the southern end of the beautiful Piccadilly Arcade, it’s right outside the New Street entrance of Birmingham’s New Street station and literally just around the corner from the new Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters.
Just like my write-up of Yorks a couple of weeks ago, this was meant to be a simple Coffee Spot Update, but it turned out that there had been sufficient change since my first visit two years ago to warrant writing a new post. Rather than going over old ground, if you want to read about Faculty’s roots and a little of the history of the amazing Piccadilly Arcade, then please take a look at the original write up. Otherwise, keep going…
Faculty’s a true multi-roaster, offering a single-origin on espresso and two more on V60, plus there’s a decaf option. If you don’t like the roaster/options, come back next week and the chances are they will have changed. There are cakes from Sixteen Kitchen, which occupies the unit next to Faculty, from where it serves breakfast, lunch and sandwiches in an interesting space-sharing operation.
Regular readers will know of my love affair with Victorian Arcades. So, imagine the scene. I’m walking through Bristol’s lovely St James Arcade (previously known as The Arcade), connecting the Horsefair with Broadmead. With its high, vaulting, glass ceilings, it’s very beautiful, and I find myself bemoaning the fact that such a glorious arcade isn’t graced with a great coffee shop. And then, what should I come across, but The Crazy Fox?
In fairness, Mark Taylor had given me the heads-up on twitter about The Crazy Fox and I’m sure I recall Girl in Bristol tweeting about it. However, they’d both said it was on Broadmead (which it is), and, for whatever reason, I’d not connected that with the Arcade. Hence my surprise.
The Crazy Fox spreads over two floors, a bright and spacious spot with plenty of seating. As much as I like small Coffee Spots, it’s great to find a Bristol Coffee Spot with plenty of space that isn’t a Boston Tea Party. Serving a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, plus batch-brew filter, all from Bristol’s Roasted Rituals, The Crazy Fox also has Kokoa Collection hot chocolate, soft drinks, bottled beer/cider and wine, plus sandwiches, soup and cake.
Wyndham Tea is the third of Cardiff’s well-respected Waterloo Tea chain. Most unexpectedly for the Coffee Spot, I’ve actually visited them all in the order that they opened, starting with the original out in Pen Y Lan and continuing with Washington Tea in Penarth. Wyndham Tea is Waterloo Tea’s first foray into the city centre and, pleasing enough, is on the Wyndham Arcade, one arcade down from Uncommon Ground and two down from The Plan.
What you get with Wyndham Tea is everything you’ve come to expect from Waterloo Tea: a fantastic range of over 60 excellent loose-leaf teas, superb coffee (espresso and pour-over) from an ever-changing cast of roasters, fabulous food, all prepared on-site and a range of delicious cakes (now all baked on-site in the kitchen upstairs). All of this is in Waterloo Tea’s classiest setting yet, spread over two floors and spilling out into the arcade itself, where the pink and gold sofas make it hard to miss.
Best of all is that Waterloo Tea has now moved to full table service, reinforcing its notion of a “slow setting”, somewhere where you’re encourage to sit and linger; comfort, with a touch of class.
Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery is in Cardiff’s Royal Arcade. Dating from 1858, it’s the city’s oldest arcade and is one down from the Morgan Arcade, home of the venerable The Plan, Cardiff’s original speciality-café-in-an-arcade. Mind you, it seems that every arcade has a coffee or tea shop these days. Perhaps the Welsh Assembly passed a new law. Or maybe people have realised that lovely Victorian Arcades deserve lovely coffee shops… Either way, the arcade makes an excellent setting for Uncommon Ground.
Don’t be put off by the name, by the way. Uncommon Ground’s a lovely coffee shop, its interior and layout doing full justice to its elegant surroundings. There is a roaster, or there was when I was there, the original plan being to roast in the back of the store. However, problems with the gas supply led Uncommon Ground to relocate the roasting off-site. With luck, the new roastery should be up and running next month. Until then, the coffee is being roasted by North Star in Leeds. There’s a bespoke espresso blend, plus a couple of single-origins through the V60. If you’re hungry, there’s a good selection of cake and a small selection of sandwiches, Panini and wraps.
August 2017: It took Uncommon Ground a little while longer than expected to get the roastery up and running, but I’m pleased to report that as of April this year, Uncommon Ground is roasting a house-blend on espresso, plus two single-origins on filter, with plans for more to come. I tried the Latumba from the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a V60 and it was excellent.
Yorks Espresso Bar is a new addition to Birmingham’s growing Yorks chain, which started with Yorks Bakery Cafe on nearby Newhall Street. Technically the espresso bar is now the longest serving branch of Yorks, since Newhall Street closed at the end of 2015, the building undergoing a major refurbishment. This led to the mantel of Yorks Bakery Cafe being taken up by the new flagship cafe/roastery on Stephenson Street.
Regular readers know my love of Coffee Spots in Victorian Arcades, so it’ll be no surprise that I fell in love with the Espresso Bar the moment I saw it. Occupying a corner spot at the Colmore Row end of the Great Western Arcade, which joins Colmore Row with Temple Row (once home of the comparatively venerable, but now closed, 6/8 Kafé), it’s an amazing location. Spread over a compact, elegant ground-floor and a stripped-back, cosy mezzanine, it gives Faculty a run for its money as Birmingham’s most beautifully-situated (and beautiful) coffee shop.
Smaller than the Bakery Cafe, sacrifices have had to be made. The extensive menu and freshly-cooked food has been replaced by a small range of (equally freshly-made) sandwiches and cake. However, there’s no compromise when it comes to coffee, meaning the “espresso bar” tag’s a bit misleading, Yorks offering an extensive range from Caravan, including three pour-overs, two espressos and decaf.