Staying in Austin, today’s Saturday Short is Fleet Coffee, another from Bex’s Austin Speciality Coffee Guide. There’s not much to Fleet, which is at the left-hand end of a row of low, single-storey buildings on the south side of Webberville Road in East Austin. You order at the door to the right, then take a seat to the left, where there’s a four-person bar facing the street or a handful of shaded tables.
The real star is the coffee, Fleet bucking the roaster/coffee shop trend by using a rotating cast of three roasters, Sweet Bloom from Colorado, Brooklyn’s Parlor Coffee and Dune Coffee Roasters from Santa Barbara. There are two options on espresso and two more on pour-over (made through the Kalita Wave using the Curtis Gold Cup automated system), along with a single option on batch brew. If you’re hungry, there are breakfast tacos and a range of pastries.
For the Good of the People is part of the Real Food Market on Euston Station forecourt, directly opposite the station’s main entrance, an excellent spot for a pre-/post-train coffee (except for Mondays, when it’s closed). The set up is pretty simple, just a stall at the left-hand end of the Real Food Market stalls, serving espresso-based drinks along with a selection of retail bags of coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
For the Good of the People uses its bespoke Canopy blend, its standard espresso-based menu having a commendably simple pricing policy (one price for with milk, another for black). There’s also tea, a range of iced coffees (all at one price) and, for a small supplement, alternative milks. Although there’s no seating at the stall, you can take a seat at any of the approximately 20 picnic-style tables on the forecourt.
Although the setting is very different, Koja occupying a counter inside the entry lobby to New House, there’s the same basic offering, with a house blend on espresso (roasted for Koja by friends in Suffolk) plus single-origins from NewGround on batch brew and pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, Koja has the usual array and cakes and pastries, while fans of the Scandi market which was such a favourite on Jeffries Passage will not be disappointed, since it’s survived the move. The main difference (for now) is that Koja is only serving in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Today’s Saturday Short is unusual on three levels. Firstly, it’s a New York City coffee shop which isn’t a coffee shop/roaster. What’s more, it’s using an out-of-state roaster, Providence’s Bolt Coffee, rather than one of the usual suspects from Brooklyn. Thirdly and finally, it has the rare distinction (for this trip) of being somewhere I found myself rather than a recommendation from Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato.
Marathon Coffee is a fairly new chain of three coffee shops and, for once, I visited the original, which is on 6th Avenue, half a block from my hotel and on my way to the office, which is how I discovered it, popping in for a flat white on my last day. “Popping in” is the correct term by the way, since Marathon is small, with just the counter and no seating.
Bolt Coffee’s Seven Hills blend is on espresso, while there are two bespoke house blends (also roasted by Bolt) on batch brew, along with a range of seasonal specials and hot teas. Marathon has breakfast tacos from Uptaco (available until they’re all gone) along with a selection of cakes and pastries. Since it’s takeaway only, don’t forget to bring your own cup.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of retrenchment or consolidation. Not so in Shrewsbury, where its small but vibrant speciality coffee scene has flourished with the opening of both The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters and today’s Coffee Spot, Nomad Coffee Co. Both were on my list before I made my daytrip a week ago today, but in fairness to Nomad, everyone I asked said that I must pay Raúl (the co-owner and head barista) a visit.
Located at the start of Wyle Cop on the western end of the English Bridge, Nomad is small, but around twice the size of The Colonel’s Son (which isn’t saying much!). The counter is at the back, leaving space for a bench/table down the right-hand wall and a five-person window-bar along the front. Nomad is a multi-roaster, serving single-origins on espresso, with two different roasters featuring each fortnight. Although the coffee’s the star turn, I was also entertained by conversations between Raúl and a succession of regulars who’d come as much for a chat as coffee.
The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters opened just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, temporarily closed in September last year, then re-opened following a makeover in May 2022, since when it’s been going from strength to strength. On Meadow Place, a very short walk from Shrewsbury Station, there’s not a lot to The Colonel’s Son, just a small shop with a window-bar at the front, the counter in the middle and the roaster at the back. Oh, and a bench outside, in case the four seats inside are taken.
The Colonel’s Son is run by Patch, who is indeed the son of a Colonel, his father having served with the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. It’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of place, with a standard espresso-based menu (served in proper cups, I’m pleased to say) and a choice of a medium or dark roast blend. There’s a wider selection of coffee for sale in retail bags, including some lighter roasted single-origins, roasted fresh each Monday, along with a small range of cakes.
I was tipped off about Spro Coffee Lab by the baristas at Devout Coffee, visiting Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop the following day. In typical Coffee Spot fashion, this was Spro’s second location, its first being a trailer in San Francisco’s Mission Bay/SOMA neighbourhood. Fortunately, this is close to Caltrain’s San Francisco terminus on 4th and King Street, my gateway for my various day trips to the city, so the very next day, I headed for the original Spro.
Spro is part of Spark Social SF, a large outdoor food truck park, beer & sangria garden and event space. Impressively, given that it’s literally a trailer, serving from a window at one end, the menu is identical to Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop. The coffee’s from Black & White Coffee Roasters, its Classic espresso and decaf on espresso, joined by a blend and two single-origins on pour-over through the V60, along with mocktails and other drinks. There’s also the full range of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, plus the dedicated pastries and desserts menu.
No trip to the Bay Area would be complete without a visit to San Francisco, so, with a day to spare before my meeting started on Tuesday, I hopped on the Caltrain, heading north to the city, where my first stop was Scullery, recommended by my friend Karen. In British English, a scullery is a small kitchen, a fitting name given Scullery’s size, although the actual kitchen area, behind the counter, is probably twice as big as the space allowed for customers.
Lack of size is no limit to Scullery’s ambition though. A multi-roaster, drawing from a range of local roasteries (“friends of ours” according to the manager), the concise espresso-based menu is joined by batch brew filter, several signature drinks, tea (including PG Tips) and a selection of toast-based items. These include plain toast, classic avocado toast and, in a nod to the country of my birth, Welsh Rarebit.
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.
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.