Going to Amsterdam by Eurostar

Eurostar e320 No. 4025 sitting at the sunny end of the platform of St Pancras International in June 2018, waiting to take me to Amsterdam.Today’s Travel Spot takes us back three years to the summer of 2018, when I caught the Eurostar to Amsterdam to attend the World of Coffee. In all, I spent four days in Amsterdam, mostly exploring its speciality coffee scene, before catching the Eurostar back to the UK. This Travel Spot covers my journey there, when I took advantage of the (then) newly introduced direct London to Amsterdam service (which started running in April that year), although my journey had actually started that morning in Newcastle, with the leg of the journey to Amsterdam only an hour longer than it took me to get down from Newcastle.

Although my journey out was direct, my return was a two-stage affair, taking the Thalys service from Amsterdam to Brussels-Midi before transferring to the Eurostar back to London St Pancras. The good news is that as of this time last year, Eurostar runs direct services from Amsterdam as well. At the time of writing, Eurostar is offering two direct outbound services a day, with another two services involving a change of trains at Brussels-Midi, while there are just two direct return services (afternoon and evening), with no indirect services, which is slightly disappointing.

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Making Coffee at Home: AeroPress (Revisited)

The view from above: an AeroPress, used in the conventional configuration, with 15 grams of ground coffee in the chamber, waiting for the hot water to be added.When I started my Coffee at Home series at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, the aim was to present some simple ways of improving your home coffee making. My post on the AeroPress was part of my Coffee Preparation Methods series, simple guides on how I use various coffee brewing methods. In it, I wrote about my early struggles with the AeroPress, how I came to fall in love with it, finishing with my preferred way of using the AeroPress, the inverted method.

Fast forward six months, and, as the pandemic dragged on, I took to binge-watching James Hoffmann’s excellent You Tube channel (if you haven’t discovered it yet, I thoroughly recommend it). Since then, I’ve become an avid watcher and, along the way, I’ve learnt an awful lot. Just one example is the Clever Dripper, a method I liked but sometimes struggled with. Then along came James with his Ultimate Clever Dripper Guide and it completely changed the way I brewed with the Clever Dripper.

So, when James released his much anticipated five-part AeroPress Guide, I was intrigued. Would it confirm everything I’d been doing with my AeroPress, or turn everything on its head again?

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MyCloud Coffee (COVID-19)

A V60 pour-over being made using a gooseneck kettle at MyCloud Coffee.MyCloud Coffee is a family-run coffee shop that, according to its address, is in Ascot, although the immediate area, in spirit at least, considers itself part of Sunningdale. Just south of the A329, which connects Virginia Water (east) and Ascot (west), it sits on Silwood Road at the Sunningdale’s northern edge, part of a row of shops on the eastern side of the road.

Opening in 2015, MyCloud serves Square Mile coffee and other goodies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it offered inside seating, but due to current restrictions, it’s decided to remain takeaway-only for the foreseeable future. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, plus pour-over, tea (from Brew Tea Co) and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate, along with a selection of pastries, cakes and pre-made sandwiches.

If you want a seat, a row of three tables outside on the pavement faces a line of tall, mature trees on the other side of the road. If you sit here, you’ll get a proper cup, but otherwise, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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The Coffee Spot is Nine!

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.This time last year, I remember writing that 2020 had been a very strange year, so much so that I almost forgot the Coffee Spot’s birthday! In many ways, the last twelve months have been even stranger, but at least this time I remembered the birthday, the Coffee Spot turning nine years old today. Not that I realised what I was unleashing on myself when I launched the Coffee Spot on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise), with just a vague idea that it might become a useful resource for coffee (shop) lovers and an entertaining way for me to spend (some of) my spare time.

I ended last year’s birthday post noting that the country was at another crossroads in its journey through the COVID-19 pandemic, wondering what the Coffee Spot’s ninth year would bring. Sadly, it ended up being more of the same, with soaring infection rates leading to more restrictions through the winter. For a little while in the early summer it seemed that vaccination had COVID-19 under control, but the delta variant put paid to that. As the Coffee Spot enters its 10th year, we’re back to an uncertain future with far higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates than this time last year…

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Marmalade

Detail from the A-board outside Marmalade in Holywell, a drawing of a hare in front of the mooon, with the caption "enter the Dark Woods..."Today’s Coffee Spot has been a long time coming, three years in fact, which is how long it’s been since Marmalade opened Holywell, the town where I was born and grew up. I’ve been a customer since it first opened in 2018, but travel and then the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way, and despite many visits on my returns to Holywell, it never seemed the right time to write it up. Until now, that is.

Marmalade is on Holywell High Street, literally at the entrance to the mews leading to the Coffee Bean, home of Sarah’s Caring Coffee. There’s not much to Marmalade, with almost as much seating outside on the broad pavement (three tables) as there is inside (a pair of tables and two window-bars). The coffee is from Dark Woods Coffee, with a standard espresso-based menu, while there are neat breakfast and lunch menus, plus plenty of cake.

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Rumdoodles

My Global WAKEcup and Amanda's Speckled Ax reusable cup waiting for their coffee at Rumdoodles in Llanberis.Rumdoodles was recommended by the staff at Caffi Caban, which Amanda and I visited two weekends ago. Located on Llanberis High Street in the heart of Snowdonia, Rumdoodles is a 10-minute drive from Caffi Caban, so we thought we’d check it out.

Rumdoodles, which opened in 2018, is an outdoor shop with an espresso bar inside. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had two cosy (and tiny) seating areas in the front and back, but these are currently off-limits. Until they’re back in action, Rumdoodles is serving in takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

Rumdoodles uses the ubiquitous Landmark seasonal blend from Heartland Coffee Roasters, serving a standard espresso-based menu, backed up by a range of cakes. You can sit outside on the solitary bench to drink your coffee or, as Amanda and I did, take the short stroll down to the shores of Llyn Padarn.

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Travels with my Coffee: North Wales 2021

My Global WAKEcup looks east along Llyn Ogwen in Snowdonia on a sunny Sunday in September.As you’re probably aware, Travels with my Coffee follows me and my coffee around various photogenic parts of the world. Typically these are non-UK locations (the previous one was Iceland, from July this year), but last weekend (and this) Amanda and I have been travelling around North Wales and, unsurprisingly, our coffee has been coming with us.

This is Amanda’s first time west of Holywell, the small town where I was born and grew up, so while (almost) everything is familiar to me, it’s all new to Amanda, who has been delighted with both the scenery and the history. For my part, I never tire of exploring North Wales, although this is the first time I’ve been this way for many years, so you’re going to be seeing a few bonus North Wales Coffee Spots.

When I wasn’t playing tour guide, I was busy taking photographs of my coffee, mostly my Global WAKECup, although my HuskeeCup also had a day out (other reusable cups are available). This was partly because it was Zero Waste Week (which ended yesterday) and, to mark the occasion, the Coffee Spot and Global WAKEcup are running a giveaway (details at the end of the post).

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Kookaburra Bakehouse

A lovely piccolo, served in a glass and topped with some intricate latte art at Kookaburra Bakehouse in Chester.Kookaburra Bakehouse on Goss Street in Chester is the latest venture from the team that brought you Bean & Cole, in partnership with Jess, who bakes all the lovely cakes for Bean & Cole. It opened in July this year, offering a simple menu of excellent espresso-based coffee from Ozone, along with a range of sweet and savoury goodies (although mostly sweet), all baked in the kitchen upstairs.

It’s a tiny place, principally catering to the takeaway trade, although there are a couple of bars offering limited inside seating, where you can sit and chat with whoever is behind the counter (Ian, aka “Bean”, in our case, while his partner, Nicole, is the “Cole” of Bean & Cole). Opening hours are limited for now, from eight o’clock in the morning on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until a nominal two o’clock closing time (or when all the cakes have been sold!).

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Soulhand Gooseneck Kettle

The thermometer on my Soulhand Gooseneck kettle, showing just below the "ideal" pour-over range (marked in red).Readers with a long memory will recall that it was almost exactly five years ago that I wrote about my Bonavita gooseneck kettle, marking the point at which I became a firm gooseneck kettle enthusiast. Since then I’ve added a number of gooseneck kettles to my arsenal, including a basic electric model from Bodum, which I keep at my father’s house, and a pouring jug with a gooseneck spout, which I use exclusively for travel. And now I’ve added a fourth, a gift from Soulhand, a US company, which offered me a gooseneck kettle with a built-in thermometer (the good news is that Soulhand ships direct to the UK).

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Unlike my previous kettles, which have been electric, this is a stovetop model, which works on a hob, and which felt to me like a backwards step. On the plus side, there’s the built-in thermometer, which is one of things that I didn’t realise I needed until I used it (much like the gooseneck kettle itself). In the end, it won me over and I learnt a few useful things along the way, which was a bonus.

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The Table Update

A flat white in a HuskeeCup, served at The Table in Walsall.Walsall’s first and (for now) only speciality coffee shop, The Table opened at the start of April. I visited a few weeks later, when COVID-19 precautions were in full swing, restricting The Table to outside seating only. However, like The Old Roastery Coffee Shop in my hometown of Guildford, which I visited around the same time, you had to go inside to order, providing a glimpse of the lovely interior. And, like The Old Roastery, I vowed to return once the indoor seating was open to see what I was missing out on.

Since The Old Roastery is on my doorstep, I didn’t have long to wait, popping in four weeks later for a catch up. However, The Table had to wait a bit longer. My opportunity came on Saturday while driving up to North Wales with Amanda after her early morning arrival at Heathrow. Eschewing the usual crawl on the M6 around Birmingham, we took a detour to Walsall and The Table.

Other than the newly-opened interior, The Table has changed its house espresso (still from Odd Kin Coffee Roasters), added a pour-over option and expanded its food offering, with a simple breakfast menu and a range of sandwiches.

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