Brian’s Travel Spot: Berlin to Köln by ICE

The front driving cab of the first set of two ICE 4 trains forming the 15:46 service to Düsseldorf/Köln, arriving at Berlin Hauptbahnhof.Welcome to the first instalment of my new Travel Spot series, covering my return by train from Berlin to the UK. While this saw me retrace my steps from the journey out (as far as London St Pancras), rather than doing everything in one day, I broke my journey at Köln, where I spent a few days before carrying on to the UK.

On my way out, because I needed to get all the way to Berlin in a single day, everything was very tightly planned, with reservations on all the various legs of the journey (Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels, ICE 3 from Brussels to Köln and ICE 1 from Köln to Berlin). On the way back, I could afford to be more flexible, particularly as the journey from Berlin to Köln is just over four hours, with hourly departures from Berlin.

In theory I could have done this by buying individual tickets for each leg, but since I was travelling on a Eurail pass, I could use any ICE train. This meant I was able to leave my decision as to which train to catch right up until the last minute, which is exactly what I did.

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COFFI

COFFI, on Pilgrim Street in Liverpool, occupying an old, two-storey brick-built coach house.COFFI is another recent addition to Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene which came highly recommended. Located on a cobbled street running parallel to Hope Street, there’s a lovely view of Liverpool’s Church of England Cathedral (not to be confused with Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is at the other end of Hope Street). COFFI opened in the late spring of 2021 in a lovely old coach house, which provides a unique setting for the coffee shop. There’s limited seating inside at a long table, while there are four benches outside on the quiet street.

The real draw, however, is the coffee, with owners Nat + Mike, who cut their coffee teeth in Bucharest, selecting some outstanding beans from Europe’s best roasters, brewing from a concise espresso-based menu with batch-brew filter and pour-over options. Berlin’s Five Elephant and London’s Assembly were on the shelves when I visited, but these change every two to three weeks, so you’re going to need to hurry to catch them. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes available.

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Meet the Roaster: Adams + Russell

The two Toper coffee roasters at the back of Adams + Russell in Birkenhead.Today’s Meet the Roaster is Adams + Russell, a speciality coffee roaster and fixture of Birkenhead’s coffee scene ever since Mr Adams + Mr Russell first set up shop on an industrial estate near Birkenhead Central station in 1978. Although both founders have moved on, the company hasn’t gone very far in the intervening 44 years, the biggest change coming 10 years ago when expansion saw Adams + Russell relocate to its current home on the same industrial estate.

The same cannot be said for its coffee, though. While still best known in The Wirral and the northwest, Adams + Russell has an increasingly global reach, supplying customers as far afield as South Korea and Iceland’s Skool Beans. Adams + Russell’s philosophy has also come a long way since those early days, when dark-roast blends were its backbone. While the dark-roast blends remain, Adams + Russell has embraced speciality coffee and adopted the lighter roasts beloved of third-wave coffee aficionados to produce a truly impressive range of blends, single-origins and micro lots.

I’ve already written about the roastery’s small retail shop (where you can also buy a cup of coffee) so today’s post is all about the roastery itself.

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Filter Tasting Flight at Bonanza Coffee

One of the three filter coffees in the filter tasting flight at the Bonanza Coffee roastery in Kreuzberg, served in a glass carafe with the cup placed on top as a lid.When I was in Berlin last month, one of the highlights of my weekend exploration of the city’s speciality coffee scene was Bonanza Coffee Gendarmenmarkt. I spent the following day, a Sunday, strolling around Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene, where I popped by the Bonanza Coffee Roastery, which doubles as a lovely coffee shop. Well, I say “popped by”, but that understates the deliberate nature of my visit. Tucked away in a large courtyard, accessed down a long road from Adalbertstraße, the Bonanza Roastery is not somewhere you’d stumble across, or, indeed “pop by”, unless you already knew it was there.

It’s a lovely spot, quiet and sheltered, with plenty of outdoor seating and even more inside, where the coffee shop, at the front, shares the space with the roastery at the back. It was also incredibly popular and my original plan, which had been to write it up as a Coffee Spot, went out of the window almost immediately. However, I noticed something that I always love to see on the menu: a filter tasting flight. That, I thought, will make an excellent subject for a Saturday Supplement. And you know what? I was right!

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Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part IV – ICE to Berlin

The rear power car of my ICE 1, standing on the platform at Berlin Hauptbahnhof in the evening sun, having brought me all the way from Köln.Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of my Travel Spot series, covering the train journey I made at the start of May, going from Guildford to Berlin in a day. Part I of the series covered planning the trip, while Part II was all about the first leg of the journey, which saw me arrive in Brussels Midi onboard the Eurostar. I then changed to the German high-speed ICE (Inter City Express), taking an ICE 3 to Köln, which I covered in Part III. The final leg of the journey, from Köln to Berlin, was also by ICE and is the subject of today’s instalment.

My experience on the ICE 3 to Köln was everything I’d hoped it would be: a fast, efficient journey on a modern, comfortable train, with the at-seat dining an added bonus, reinforcing my already favourable impression of German railways. Up until that point, everything had gone like clockwork, with all my trains on time and all my connections made. Sadly, that was the high-point of my experiences with the German rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, as everything pretty much went downhill from there, starting with my journey from Köln to Berlin.

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Adams + Russell

The front of a bag of the Tierra Madre, a washed coffee from a Women’s Co-operative in Nicaragua, roasted for espresso by Adams + Russell in Birkenhead.Adams + Russell has been roasting coffee in Birkenhead for over 40 years, operating from a unit on the Argyle Industrial Estate, a few minutes’ walk from Birkenhead Central station, a familiar-enough home if you’ve visited as many coffee roasters as I have. You can read about Adams + Russell the roaster in its own Meet the Roaster feature, but today’s post is about the coffee shop attached to the roastery. This primarily acts as a retail outlet for Adams + Russell’s wide range of coffee, which is available in 250 g or 1 kg bags, filled (and, if necessary, ground) to order, so there’s no stale stock standing on the shelves.

There’s also plenty of coffee-making equipment, cups, etc, plus a wide selection of teas (loose leaf or tea bags). While not set up as a coffee bar, the staff will happily make you an espresso-based drink of your choice using whatever beans are in the hopper that day. Because of the nature of the operation, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part III – ICE to Köln

The driving cab of my ICE 3 on the platform at Köln, having brought me from Brussels Midi, where I changed for the final leg of my trip to Berlin in May 2022.Welcome to the third instalment of my Travel Spot series about travelling from the UK to Berlin by train. Part I covered planning the trip, which was far more complicated than I’d hoped. I discovered that the cheapest/most convenient option was to buy a Eurail pass, which covered my whole trip, with a bonus day trip thrown in for good measure.

I made the journey at the start of May, my itinerary taking me from Guildford to Berlin in a day, travelling via Brussels and Köln. I wrote about the first leg of the journey, which saw me arrive in Brussels Midi onboard the Eurostar, in Part II of the series. From there, I had two more trains left, both German high-speed ICE services. This first, from Brussels to Köln, is the subject of today’s instalment (Part III), while the second, from Köln to Berlin, is covered in Part IV.

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Blooming Skull Coffee

Enjoying a lovely flat white in my HuskeeCup, made with the Red Bank Penny Rock single-origin espresso while sitting outside Blooming Skull Coffee in Bebington.When asking about speciality coffee in The Wirral, the long peninsular that I can see from my bedroom window every morning which stops North Wales from bumping into Liverpool, one name that consistently comes up is Bebington’s Blooming Skull Coffee. So, when setting off on Monday for a day-trip to The Wirral, it was always going to be my first stop.

Describing itself as a coffee shop and general store, you could be forgiven, on first glance, of thinking that Blooming Skull Coffee’s a coffee shop and florist (it’s not). Blooming Skull is takeaway only (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), although there is a solitary bench outside on the busy Bebington Road. The Penny Rock seasonal single-origin from Red Bank is on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster (Plot Roasting during my visit) on batch brew, plus a range of cakes baked on the premises.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: UK to Berlin by Train, Part II – Eurostar to Brussels

The driving cab of Eurostar e320 (No. 4032) waiting on the platform at St Pancras International, ready to take me to Brussels Midi at the start of my trip to Berlin in May 2022.At the start of May, I travelled to Berlin for my first face-to-face work meeting in over two years. I’d already decided that, when travelling in Europe, I would go by train rather than fly wherever possible, so I set about planning my trip. This turned out to be far more complicated than I’d hoped and a lot less straightforward than flying, even though I was only dealing with two train companies. Rather than booking the trains direct, I discovered that it was cheaper (and far more convenient) to buy a Eurail pass, which would cover my whole trip, with a bonus day trip thrown in for good measure, which I wrote about in the first instalment of this Travel Spot series.

My itinerary took me from Guildford to Berlin in a day, travelling via Brussels and Köln. This journey is the subject of the next three instalments in the series, starting with the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels Midi. From there, I took an ICE to Köln, where I changed for another ICE to Berlin. First, however, I had to get to St Pancras, which meant setting off from Guildford Station on the 06:33 train to London.

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KōHi Coffee Co., Boston

The Kōhi Coffee Co. logo from outside its Boston store inside 125 Summer Street.KōHi Coffee Co. is a small coffee shop chain, founded in 2014 in Provincetown, Cape Cod. Now with five locations, the original’s been joined by another in Provincetown (in Spindler’s restaurant) and three more around Boston. This includes today’s Coffee Spot, located off the lobby of 125 Summer Street, at the southern end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, opposite South Station.

Occupying what’s best described as a cube to the left of the lobby, KōHi has no seating of its own. However, you can order directly from the street via a takeout window, then sit where you like in the public space in front of the building. Alternatively, you’re welcome to go inside, order, then take a seat in the lobby.

Old friends Tandem Coffee Roasters from Portland, Maine, provide KōHi with a bespoke house blend  on espresso, an exclusive single-origin on batch brew, while there’s also a pour-over option. If you’re hungry, Kōhi has a small selection of pastries. Note that KōHi only serves in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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