Chimney Fire Coffee: El Salvador Three Ways

The same coffee, processed three different ways: natural (top), washed (left) and honey processed (right). The coffee is from the Don Tomas Estate in El Salvador and roasted by Chimney Fire Coffee in Surrey.I started 2021 with a new Meet the Roaster, featuring the lovely folk at Chimney Fire Coffee. I ended that post with a promise to tell you more about Chimney Fire’s coffee, and specifically the El Salvador Three Ways, a direct trade coffee from the Don Tomas Estate in El Salvador, where the same coffee has been processed three different ways: natural, washed and honey processed.

This post is mostly about the El Salvador, but I did want to briefly mention the rest of Chimney Fire’s excellent range. There’s the Ranmore signature espresso blend, plus a classic espresso from Peru and a sugar cane decaf from Colombia. Added to that is a selection of around five single-origins which, depending on the coffee, are roasted with espresso or filter in mind, or, if it works for the coffee, an omni-roast which means that it should work equally well as espresso or filter.

Finally, if you want something more challenging, there’s the Discovery Range. This has a different, limited-edition coffee each month, but Chimney Fire won’t tell you where it’s from ahead of time, just providing tasting notes, the idea being that you should focus more on the flavour than the origin!

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The Coffee Spot in 2021

The nose of my British Airways Boeing 787-900 which flew me to San Jose this time last year.This time last year, I was already in San Jose, having flown out there on 3rd January. The year before that, I was in Phoenix, having been upgraded to First Class on my flight out. In 2018, I was getting ready to head to Miami, while in 2017, I was preparing to fly to Phoenix. This year, I’m going nowhere, the first time in five years that I haven’t boarded a plane in January to fly to a warm, sunny part of America. I’m not going to lie: I miss it, although as I sit here writing this with one eye on the news, a large part of me is glad that I’m not in the USA right now.

The reason for my enforced stay at home is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which abruptly cut short my last trip to America in March 2020. Unfortunately, with infection rates, hospital admissions and, sadly, deaths, all skyrocketing in the UK, the start of 2021 feels much like March 2020. This raises the question of what I should write about in the Coffee Spot. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty minor problem, but it’s one that I’ll address in this post.

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The Philosophy of Cheese

The cover of The Philosophy of Cheese, by Patrick McGuigan, published by the British Library.Since there is a dearth of coffee shops that I can write about at the moment, I’m branching out a bit to write about books instead. So welcome to the first of four posts about the British Library’s The Philosophy Of… series. Astute readers will realise that this is a little self-serving since I wrote one of the early books in the series, The Philosophy of Coffee. However, since I’m now selling the rest of the (food-related) titles on the Coffee Spot, I thought I should say something about them, starting The Philosophy of Cheese.

The Philosophy of Cheese is, like all the books in the series, a compact volume, packed with interesting, entertaining facts. It might seem a strange choice (The Philosophy of Tea is a more likely first bedfellow), but the truth is, I really like cheese, so it was the first one I reached for. I usually have five or six cheeses in the house at any one time (currently I have Cheddar, Stilton, Bree, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella and Parmesan) and quite often pair cheese with coffee (a really mature bree, the sort that’s just about ready to crawl off the plate, goes really well with espresso, for example).

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The Coffee Spot Christmas Gift Guide 2020

The Coffee Life, an on-line micro-business, one of this year's Coffee Spot Gift Guide recommendations.Welcome to the annual Coffee Spot Christmas gift guide. This is my sixth guide and, much to my surprise, it’s the earliest (two whole weeks before Christmas!) that I’ve published it. So, if, like me, you leave present-buying to the last minute, here are some suggestions for gifts for your coffee-loving friends and relatives. Whether you’re a novice, looking for pointers for buying for your coffee-obsessed friend/relative, or if you’re that coffee-obsessive, looking for a handy guide to point your friends/relatives towards, the Coffee Spot is here to help.

As with all things Coffee Spot, this guide’s not definitive, nor is it a “best-of” list. Instead, my suggestions are all things which I’ve come across this last year and which I’ve thought “that would make a good addition to the guide”, which I’ve split into three categories, one of which is new this time around.

I say this every year, but it is worth repeating: while this is a Christmas gift guide, it serves just as well as a birthday/anniversary gift guide, so don’t forget to bookmark it and return to it throughout the year…

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The 2021 Coffee Spot Calendar

My flat white, made with a naturally-processed Brazilian single-origin from Neighbourhood Coffee, and served at The Flower Cup in a fetching yellow cup with a blue saucer and some awesome latte art.Every year, I’m late getting the Coffee Spot Calendar out. Every year, I vow that I will be better prepared and get it out earlier the following year. Every year, I fail. You’d think that this year, since I’m not travelling (and, for the last month, I’ve not even been visiting coffee shops), things would be different. And you’d be wrong. So, with apologies for its late arrival, please say hello to the 2021 Coffee Spot Calendar, which is now on sale.

As always, it’s professionally-printed on glossy paper, each month featuring a landscape, A4 picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months. The calendars cost £15.00 (£10.00 for the desktop version) with a flat £2.50 postage and packing charge, regardless of order size. If you think we’re likely to meet up in the near future, then there’s a no-postage option: pick this and I’ll hand your calendar over in person! If you’re ordering from outside the UK, then the postage will be more, I’m afraid (full details after the gallery).

If you get your orders in by the end of next week, I should be able to get your calendar to you before Christmas (for UK orders).

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COVID-19 Update

March 22nd, 2020, and the last flat white I was to have for several months, from Surrey Hills Coffee, served in my HuskeeCup.On Thursday, new national COVID-19 restrictions came into force in England, effectively closing all coffee shops, except for takeaway service. Although this is being referred to as a second national lockdown, it differs in several crucial respects to the initial (UK-wide) restrictions which were in force from March until their relaxation in England at the start of July. Perhaps just as crucially, coffee shops can draw on their experience of the last eight months to help them through the new restrictions.

Continuing the series which I began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this post looks at what the latest restrictions might mean for speciality coffee. I also discuss how you can help support the industry. With apologies to my readers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (and, indeed, the rest of the world), I’m focusing on England, since this is where I live and where I have first-hand experience of the impact of the various restrictions which have been in force at different points through the year.

As always, these are my personal opinions, written from the perspective of someone who visits (rather than works in) coffee shops. You can find the official UK Government advice and guidance on-line.

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The Coffee Spot is Eight!

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.2020 has been a very strange year, so much so that I almost forgot the Coffee Spot’s birthday, remembering just in time, late on Monday evening, that the Coffee Spot was eight years old that day. It was, of course, far too late to write anything about it, hence this slightly delayed post. I launched the Coffee Spot on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise) with 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.

For the first five months of the Coffee Spot’s eighth year, things carried on much as before, as I travelled around the world, visiting and writing about all the wonderful coffee shops I found. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and everything Coffee Spot related ground to a halt. After quickly running through my backlog of Coffee and Travel Spots, I passed my time writing about making coffee at home. Then, just when I’d pretty much said all I had to say, coffee shops began to reopen, enabling me to write about them again in my COVID-19 updates. Now we’re at another crossroads, and I’m wondering what the Coffee Spot’s ninth year will bring…

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COVID-19: The Next Steps

Details from a sign on the door at Quarter Horse Coffee in Birmingham, requesting that you wear a mask or face covering at all times.The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the UK hospitality industry hard, including speciality coffee shops. First came the mandatory shut down of pretty much the whole industry, followed by the slow reopening of a handful of places offering takeout services. Then, following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in England at the start of July, increasing numbers of coffee shops have reopened around the country. I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of being able to visit quite a few in places such as London, Reading, Chester, Birmingham and Liverpool, as well as my hometown of Guildford.

On the whole, I’ve found that the speciality coffee sector has coped well, but it’s certainly not out of the woods yet. As we approach the end of September, a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases has led to further countrywide restrictions, plus a wide range of stricter local/regional restrictions.

This post looks at the impact of these further restrictions and what they might mean for speciality coffee shops in England as we head into autumn/winter. Please bear in mind that this is just my opinion: you can find specific UK Government advice on-line, while industry bodies such as UKHospitality also publishes its own advice.

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Visiting Coffee Shops During COVID-19: Lessons Learnt, Part II

Details from a sign on the door at Quarter Horse Coffee in Birmingham, requesting that you wear a mask or face covering at all times.Welcome to the second (and final) part of my Saturday Supplement looking at how coffee shops around England have been interpreting and implementing the Government’s COVID-19 guidelines since the restrictions were relaxed at the start of July. In Part I, I looked at some of the many things that coffee shops have put in place, usually around processes (such as providing information and introducing things like door control, one-way systems, table service and on-line ordering).

In this, Part II, I’m looking more at physical modifications, such as seating layout and physical barriers, as well as more processes, including cleaning and contact tracing. As before, I’m highlighting what has worked for me in terms of what has made me feel extra secure when visiting a coffee shop (whether I’m actually any safer is another matter). I’ll also illustrate my points with specific examples from coffee shops that I’ve visited over the past two months in London, Reading, Chester, Birmingham and Liverpool.

The usual caveat applies: these are my personal opinions and this post should not be taken as a “must do” (or “mustn’t do” for that matter) guide. And, of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolving, who knows what the future holds?

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Visiting Coffee Shops During COVID-19: Lessons Learnt, Part I

The new one-way system at Wayland's Yard to keep everyone safe during COVID-19.Since the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in England at the start of July, I’ve been visiting coffee shops again, including some in London, Reading, Chester, Birmingham and Liverpool. Although I haven’t been anywhere I’ve felt unsafe, there are big differences in how individual coffee shops have interpreted and implemented the COVID-19 guidelines and the measures that they’ve put in place.

This post (the first of two) looks at some of these different measures, highlighting what has worked for me in terms of making me feel extra secure when visiting a coffee shop (whether I’m actually any safer is another matter). Wherever possible, I’ve illustrated my points with specific examples from coffee shops that I’ve visited.

That different coffee shops have chosen to implement the guidelines differently doesn’t surprise or bother me, since this was always going to be the case, often dictated by the physical layout of the shop. Similarly, I’d hate this post to be taken as a “must do” guide, although there are things that most coffee shops could do to improve. It’s also worth saying that I’ve deliberately tried to visit coffee shops when they are quiet, although over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed places getting busier across the board.

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