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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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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Obscure Coffee Update

A lovely flat white, made with Climpson & Sons signature Estate espresso, served in a classic yellow cup at Obscure Coffee in Chester.My only disappointment from my visit to Chester at the start of August was the discovery that Obscure Coffee had yet to reopen after the enforced COVID-19 shutdown. Fortunately, I was tipped off a few weeks later by Glenn Mango on Instagram that Obscure was back, so I made sure to pop in when passing through Chester on my way home last week.

Obscure had only been open for two weeks at that point. While the basic set-up is the same, there have been plenty of changes since my first visit a year ago, some of which pre-date COVID-19. The seating has been upgraded in the front section, while Obscure no longer serves pour-overs, instead concentrating on its concise espresso menu, backed up by batch brew through the Moccamaster. The coffee is still from Climpson and Sons, while the warm, friendly welcome is as warm and friendly as ever.

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Little Yellow Pig (COVID-19 Update)

A lovely flat white, made with Colonna Coffee's Trio espresso blend, served in a cup at Little Yellow Pig.Today’s Coffee Spot Update features the last of the six coffee shops that I visited in Chester at the start of August, taking us to Hoole, on the other side of the train tracks from the city centre. This is home to Little Yellow Pig, a much-loved local institution which has been serving great coffee and awesome food to locals and visitors alike since 2014. I was a bit slow on the uptake though, my first visit not coming until the summer of 2018, although since then I’ve made a point of popping in a few times.

Little Yellow Pig reopened in June for takeaway coffee, fully reopening in July, when the restrictions were relaxed in England, although this has meant a reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements. While Little Yellow Pig is operating on temporarily reduced opening hours, the good news is that a full brunch menu is on offer, which is available for takeout as well. And, of course, there’s coffee. When I visited, Little Yellow Pig was moving its house roaster to the (relatively) nearby Hundred House Coffee, which will be supplying the house espresso and decaf, with regularly-rotating guests in the second hopper.

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Short + Stout (COVID-19 Update)

The Short + Stout logo from above the door of the shop in Hoole.It feels like only yesterday that I was anxiously waiting for the opening of Short + Stout in Hoole, on the other side of the railway tracks from Chester station, but it was actually just over two years ago, in June 2018, that it first opened its doors. Occupying an interestingly-shaped building on a narrow corner at the end of two terraces, it’s pretty small and I worried about how it would cope, reopening during COVID-19. Similarly-sized coffee shops in Chester, such as Moss Coffee, have returned for takeaway only, while Obscure Coffee has yet to reopen. I feared that Short + Stout, with its focus on food, would not fare so well as a takeaway-only operation.

Fortunately, my fears have been misplaced. Short + Stout reopened for takeaway in June, adding its seating areas in July, when the COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in England. Even better, it still offers its full breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, along with coffee from Ancoats Coffee Co. in Manchester, all served on/in proper plates and cups (like everywhere I visited in Chester). There’s seating upstairs and in the (new for me) basement, offering full table service, while there’s a dedicated queue for takeaway.

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Panna Chester (COVID-19 Update)

An espresso, made with Panna's bespoke house blend, served in one of its quirky white espresso cups.I first came across Panna in Liverpool at the end of 2015, catching up with owners Ivana and Peter once again at the end of last year after they’d successfully relocated Panna to Chester’s Watergate Street. They had done a good job of establishing Panna in the city’s booming speciality coffee scene when along came COVID-19. I was therefore delighted to see that Panna had reopened after the relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Naturally, there have been changes to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, the most obvious of which can be seen outside on Watergate Street. The street has been pedestrianised, and, as a result, Panna, along with some of the neighbouring business, has an expanded outside seating area. There are more changes inside, such as the inevitable thinning out of the seating, but perhaps the best news is what hasn’t changed, with Panna still offering its full range of coffee and its innovative all-day brunch menu, backed up by a range of cakes and pastries. And, of course, there’s Panna’s famous warm welcome.

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