The Little Red Roaster, St Andrews Hill

Two flat whites, in glasses, with heart pattern latte-art, at The Little Red Roaster, St Andrews Hill, Norwich.The Little Red Roaster, on Norwich’s St Andrews Hill, is, in fact, the third Little Red Roaster, coming after the original market stall (2002) and the first bricks and mortar store on Grove Road (2007). St Andrews Hill opened its doors in 2014, although there wasn’t really supposed to be a third one. However, The Little Red Roaster’s owner, Darren, walked past the empty shop at the top of St Andrews Hill one day and thought it would make a great coffee shop. So, he opened one. As you do.

The first thing to say is that Darren was right: the location does make for a great coffee shop. Bigger than either of the other Little Red Roasters, it gives Darren more scope, so you’ll find an extensive range of savouries to go with an even more impressive range of cake, all of which complement The Little Red Roasters true calling card, its coffee.

There’s a bespoke house-blend, plus a single-origin guest on espresso, joined by two single-origins on filter, each matched to a specific brew method (during my visit, a Kenyan through the V60 or an Ethiopian through the Aeropress). There’s also bottled cold-brew, loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate.

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Smokey Barn

A beautiful espresso extraction from a bottomless portafilter at Norwich's Smokey Barn Coffee Roasters.Norwich has a small, vibrant and thriving coffee scene, based around old favourites such as The Little Red Roaster and Strangers Coffee House, along with (relative) newcomers such as Kofra. Part of that mix, although a little under the radar, is local roaster, Smokey Barn, the brain-child of civil-engineer-turned-coffee-roaster, Chris.

From humble beginnings in 2011, when he roasted in a shed in his garden (the original and literal “Smokey Barn”), Smokey Barn moved into its current premises, just 10 minutes’ walk from the railway station, at the start of 2014. Smokey Barn has one of the most beautiful interiors I’ve seen in a roastery (which are not usually renowned for their beauty), kitted out in brick and wood, a far cry from most, which are typically industrial units.

Smokey Barn typically roasts five single-origin beans, plus decaf, with the (very) occasional blend thrown in. These are all available on-line from Smokey Barn, or you can pop into the roastery itself and buy a bag or two from Chris (best call ahead first to check that he’s in, though). Even better, if you ask him nicely, Chris will make you a coffee as well, using Smokey Barn’s fully-equipped espresso bar.

June 2021: Chris sold Smokey Barn in 2016 (I think). I’m not sure what happened to the company over the intervening years, but these days it’s still going strong, run by sisters Sophie & Megan, who continue to roast, but have also turned the roastery into a coffee shop (and about time too in my opinion!). One day I hope to get back to Norwich so that I can do a proper update.

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Kofra Speciality Coffee Brewers

The Kofra logo, an ape's head, mouth wide open, drawn in black on a yellow background, the words Kofra underneath.Every now and then, as I travel around the country, I come across a real gem; a wonderful, amazing coffee shop that makes me grateful that I am lucky enough to spend my time writing the Coffee Spot. On the far side of Norwich (which is about a 15 minute walk from the near side of Norwich, such is the compact nature of the medieval city centre) is such a place: Kofra Speciality Coffee Brewers.

Kofra is a delightful spot. It’s not huge, but there’s more to it than first meets the eye, with one of the cosiest backrooms I’ve seen in a long while. The key to Kofra is its commitment to great coffee, to the extent that there’s no food, not even cake (the only exception to this is doughnuts at the weekend), the focus purely on the coffee.

Kofra is the UK distributor for Antwerp’s Caffènation, which it sells under the Kofra brand. Kofra has Caffènation’s LGB seasonal espresso blend in the main hopper, with a single-origin, which changes every week, in the second hopper. There’s also decaf. However, where Kofra really scores is in its filter coffee, with both bulk-brew and hand-poured options (Aeropress/Clever Dripper).

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Strangers Coffee House

Some superb latte-art by Alex of Strangers Coffee House in a classic-black cup with the Strangers five-sided logo.If I randomly picked an English city where I’d expected to find a vibrant coffee scene with one of the country’s top coffee shops, it wouldn’t be Norwich. Perhaps this is just a result of my ignorance, but tucked away in East Anglia, down the narrow streets of Norwich’s historic city centre, something very special is going on, and Strangers Coffee House is at the heart of it.

With a south-facing aspect on the broad Pottergate, the late summer sunshine was showing Strangers off to the best possible effect. However, no matter how visually pleasing it is, the real draw is the coffee, with an exclusive house-blend roasted by nearby Butterworth & Son plus two guests, one from Butterworth & Son and the other from London’s Caravan. These are rotated on a regular basis: for example, when this is published, Union Hand-roasted will be supplying the two guests, using same bean, but with the green beans prepared using two different processes, which should make for an interesting comparison.

Add to that three pour-over options (also regularly-rotated), plus loose-leaf tea (Butterworth & Son again) and decent selections of sandwiches and cake and you’re in for a treat.

September 2015: I’m delighted that Strangers Coffee House won this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Coffee Experience. Congratulations!

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