Mini Beans Coffee, Crewe Market Hall

A lovely flat white, made with the bespoke house blend at Mini Beans Coffee and served in my HuskeeCup.Mini Beans Coffee, a chance Instagram discovery, is located inside Crewe’s Victorian Market Hall. It joins a long, distinguished list of market-based coffee stalls, following in the footsteps of the likes of Pumphreys  Brewing Emporium in Granger Market in Newcastle and Atkinsons in Mackie Mayor just up the M6 in Manchester.

Mini Beans opened in May, a founding tenant of the newly-refurbished Market Hall, which reopened at the same time. Occupying a double unit at the front on the right-hand side, it offers a bespoke house-blend from Limini Coffee on espresso, with a regularly-changing guest roaster on batch brew, plus a small selection of tea. There’s also breakfast (toast, teacakes, porridge and almond croissants), plus afternoon tea and a selection of cakes.

Either order at the counter before taking your drinks to any of the Market Hall’s many tables or order online with the option for collection or table delivery. Note, however, that Mini Beans currently only offers disposable cups, so if you bring your own, don’t forget to order in person at the counter.

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Little Yellow Pig, Nantwich

My awesome veggie breakfast which I had at Little Yellow Pig in Nantwich. Arranged around a pot of baked beans in the centre are avocado, halloumu, a pair of fried eggs, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and two slices of toast!Ever since opening in 2014, Little Yellow Pig has been something of an institution in Hoole, Chester. Initially a small coffee shop, it expanded into the adjoining space. Now it’s expanded again, adding a second location in the narrow streets of Nantwich town centre. Opening in August last year, the new location is a cosy little spot, with an L-shaped seating area that holds 16 people at most. While it has more traditional coffee shop furnishings (lacking the mismatched tables and armchairs of the original), anyone familiar with Little Yellow Pig in Hoole will immediately feel at home with the quirky décor and eclectic posters on the wall, including Mr Little Yellow Pig himself.

There’s a standard espresso-based menu, with Hundred House‘s seasonal Bon Bon blend from in the hopper. There are also bags of coffee for sale, either whole bean or pre-ground. However, the real draw is the food, all cooked in the kitchen at the back, with separate breakfast, brunch and lunch options, backed up with a small selection of cakes. Take a seat, have a look at the menu (which is conveniently placed on the back wall), then go up to the counter to place your order.

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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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Jaunty Goat, Northgate Street

A decaf flat white, made with Oato oat milk, and served at Jaunty Goat in Chester, in a classic white tulip cup.After two weeks of Iceland this, Iceland that, the Coffee Spot is back in the UK with Jaunty Goat’s second coffee shop on Chester’s Northgate Street. Chester’s speciality coffee scene has changed out of all recognition since I first visited Jaunty Goat on Bridge Street in 2016. The original Jaunty Goat has moved from its initial concept of a coffee shop with great food to being more of a restaurant with great coffee, all of which is now roasted in-house. Along the way, Jaunty Goat opened a second location on Northgate Street in January 2019.

In many ways, the second Jaunty Goat is more like the original used to be, that is, a coffee shop. However, in a bold move, the new Jaunty Goat is completely vegan, right down to there being no dairy option for the milk-based coffees. Talking of which, the coffee’s all roasted in-house, with a standard espresso-based menu, shots pulled on a Victoria Arduino Eagle One, with its three Mythos One grinders (house espresso, guest espresso and decaf). There are also filter options: AeroPress, V60 or Chemex (for two), plus loose-leaf teas. If you’re hungry, the all-day brunch menu’s available until four o’clock, backed up with sandwiches and cake.

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Garden Social Coffee House

The front of Garden Social Coffee House on the corner of Catherine and Charlotte Streets, the open door showing no favouritism to either!Today’s Coffee Spot, Garden Social Coffee House, continues the exploration of Chester’s speciality coffee scene and how it’s expanding beyond the historic (and compact) city centre, which started with Monday’s Coffee Spot, Ginger Monkey Number 31. This time we’re northwest of the centre, heading in the direction of Blacon/Sealand, where I stumbled upon Garden Social, tucked away in the dense network of residential streets, lined with tightly-packed terrace houses, between the River Dee and the canal. As the name suggests, Garden Social has an outside seating area at the back, along with some well-spaced seating in the bright and airy interior.

Occupying what was an old-fashioned corner shop, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Garden Social, sporting a brand-new Eagle One espresso machine and its twin Mythos One grinders, serving up a house-blend (Jailbreak) and a regularly-changing single-origin. There’s also a filter option, available through AeroPress, Kalita Wave or Chemex (for two), grinding provided by the ubiquitous EK43, all the coffee coming from Has Bean. This is backed up by a selection of tea, hot chocolate and various iced drinks. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes, plus a concise toast-based breakfast menu, along with a handful of toasties and sandwiches.

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Ginger Monkey Number 31

A lovely flat white, made with the Trio blend from Crosby Coffee and served in a glass on a geometrically patterned saucer at Ginger Monkey in Chester.To its credit, Chester’s rapidly expanding speciality coffee scene isn’t confined to the compact, historic city centre. For example, the pioneering Little Yellow Pig has been out in Hoole since 2014, joined by Short + Stout in 2018. Staying to the east of the centre, we now have Ginger Monkey Number 31, conveniently located at 31 Christleton Road in Boughton, a 20-minute stroll out from the city centre.

Ginger Monkey is a relatively new addition to the area, having relocated from its original home in Saltney (a little further out to the west of the city) in December 2020. It occupies a compact spot on the north side of the road, which means that it catches the sun for most of the day. There are a pair of benches outside on the pavement, along with a window-bar and a handful of tables inside.

The coffee is from Crosby Coffee Roasters, with its Trio blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a rotating guest roaster on batch brew. There’s a selection of tea and hot chocolate, along with various iced versions, but the other big draw is the food, concise breakfast and lunch menus being joined by an all-day brunch menu.

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Elephant Lounge

A classic espresso in a classic cup at Elephant Lounge in Parkgate.Last week’s (very short) Coffee Spot Tour of the Wirral started at Wylde Coffee in Heswall and ended not long after in Parkgate with Elephant Lounge. Having previously said that I could see the Wirral from my parents’ house across the River Dee in Holywell, I am fairly sure that (with a large enough telescope) I could see Elephant Lounge itself!

Elephant Lounge has occupied its waterfront spot on the main road through Parkgate since 2016. It’s part of a small chain that includes Elephant Coffee, a coffee shop in nearby Neston, and its latest addition, Elephant Bank, a smokehouse and bar, which recently opened across the road from Elephant Coffee.

Coffee shop by day, and bar by night, Elephant Lounge bases its coffee menu around a bespoke seasonal espresso blend. During the day, porridge and various toast options are available for breakfast, with bagels and soup for lunch, backed up by a range of cakes. Then at four o’clock, Elephant Lounge switches over to pizzas for the evening, along with a range of draught and bottled beer, cocktails, gin, rum and wine. All this can be enjoyed in the spacious interior or in the large, shady garden at the back.

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Wylde Coffee

A lovely flat white, served in a blue cup, made with the Housemartin blend at Wylde Coffee.I have a complicated relationship with the Wirral, the peninsular in northwest England between the River Dee and River Mersey. Visible from the windows of my parents’ house in Holywell in North Wales, it was literally a backdrop to my childhood. Despite this, I’ve been an infrequent visitor, partly due to the difficulty in getting there. Although Heswall, home of today’s Coffee Spot, is less than 10 km away as the crow flies, it’s nearer 40 km by road and, typically, around two to three hours by public transport!

It’s also true that, until recently, there’s been little incentive to visit with my Coffee Spot hat on. However, that’s slowly changing and, on Monday last week, I set off to check out Wylde Coffee, which opened in November 2019 and has a second, more food-orientated location in West Kirby called Lateral. A self-styled Scandinavian-inspired bistro, Wylde Coffee serves a bespoke house blend roasted by old friends, Neighbourhood Coffee, with regular guests on batch brew/pour-over. There are breakfast and brunch menus, backed up with plenty of cake, all served in a bright, airy, relaxed space in a small parade of shops just off the A540, the main road through Heswall.

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Chalk Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

The A-board outside Chalk Coffee is a sign of the times, reminding you that you need to wear a mask (from October 2020).Of all the coffee shops that I’ve visited since the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, Chalk Coffee can make a claim to be the one with the least physical changes. Located on Watergate Street, it’s part of the rapid expansion of Chester’s speciality coffee scene that has seen numbers swell in the last few years. Like many of the city’s speciality coffee shops, it has a basement-like feel, stretching a long way back under the famous Rows and it looks, and feels, remarkably like it did on my last visit in 2019.

However, there have been changes. As well the (admittedly minor) physical ones, you’ll find a clear sign outside on the pavement reminding you that you must wear a mask. Meanwhile, there’s a QR code on the counter that you can scan, checking you in on the NHS COVID-19 app. Not all the changes are COVID-19 related though. Chalk Coffee used to use Origin for its house espresso, but it’s recently changed to Colonna Coffee, although Origin is still on decaf, while a regularly-changing guest roaster provides the second espresso option and filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the usual cast of premade sandwiches and cakes are still available.

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Jaunty Goat Update

The Jaunty Goat logo, which was painted on the wall to the left as you enter the store in Chester.Jaunty Goat is one of Chester’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having relocated from a few doors along Bridge Street to its current location in 2015. I first visited in 2016, when it could be fairly described as a coffee shop doing good food, all in a lovely, basement-like interior that extends a long way back under the Rows above. There are even the remnants of a stone staircase in the wall at the back that might date back to the middle-ages.

Jaunty Goat was set up by twins, Patrick and Ed, with Ed leaving in 2018 to establish the nearby Chalk Coffee. Since then, Jaunty Goat has reinvented itself, considerably upping its food game to match the likes of The Flower Cup and Panna, serving a brunch menu until 4 o’clock. It’s also revamped and extended the interior, adding more table seating.

At the start of 2019, it opened a second, plant-based, location on Northgate Street, then, after reopening following the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, Jaunty Goat itself has gone vegetarian. Finally, over the summer, it started roasting its own coffee in a dedicated, off-site roastery, with seasonal single-origin offerings on espresso (house, guest and decaf), plus another on pour-over (AeroPress/V60/Chemex).

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