Although no longer a resident, I’m still very interested in Guildford’s speciality coffee scene. I was therefore sad to learn in March that an old favourite, Koja Coffee, had closed after a tumultuous year which saw it move from its original home on Jeffries Passage to New House, a recently-opened space for artists and creatives. However, every cloud has a silver lining and in May I was delighted to learn from Ben Barker that Frida’s Coffee House had opened in Koja’s place. Naturally, I visited the next time I was in Guildford.
If you were familiar with Koja, the set up is very similar, Frida’s occupying a counter inside the lobby to New House. There’s a similar offering too, with the Nom Nom blend from Hundred House along with Perky Blenders’ decaf on espresso, while Hundred House also supplies two single-origins, available as pour-overs through the V60. One change is that Frida’s offers a small range of toasted panini and savoury croissants, plus vegan sausage rolls and the usual selection of cakes/pastries.
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 Coffee Spot is part Coffee Spot Update, part regular Coffee Spot. You may recall that London Square, a large office complex on Guildford’s London Road, opposite London Road Station and Guildford High School, once housed the Surrey Hills Coffee Cabin. Sadly, COVID-19 put paid to that and, with office workers slow to return, the coffee cabin, a lovely container-style cabin in the car park, never re-opened.
Well, I say never, but that changed this June after a chance conversation in Canopy Coffee with a customer whose company had just moved into London Square. This led to Jackie, Canopy’s new owner, taking over the lease on the empty coffee cabin and Canopy Coffee, London Square was born!
The layout’s very similar to how Surrey Hills had it (hence the update part), although there’s no longer any indoor seating, just a solitary four-person table under the shade of a convenient tree. The offering is very similar to Canopy Coffee on Haydon Place, with a standard espresso-based menu using the bespoke house-blend from Skylark Coffee, along with decaf and a regularly-rotating single-origin on batch-brew filter. There’s the same range of toasties too, although the cakes are pre-packaged, with a lot more grab-and-go options.
It’s been just over five years since I first visited Canopy Coffee, at the time, Guildford’s newest speciality coffee shop. Very much the creation of its owner, Jonathon, Canopy was a wonderful multi-roaster coffee shop, one of Guildford’s coffee pioneers, as well as offering some fantastic food. Jonathon also did an amazing job of turning an awkward corner spot opposite Waitrose into a cosy coffee shop.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Jonathon reinvented the space, turning Canopy into a take-away coffee shop, the first of Guildford’s speciality coffee shops to re-open. Although Canopy reopened some limited indoor seating, it retained the takeaway window, effectively becoming a sit-in/take-away hybrid.
Jonathon always said that he wouldn’t be at Canopy forever and, true to his word, this time last year, he sold Canopy to its current owner, Jackie, an Australian who has been running cafés in the UK for over 15 years. I’ve visited Canopy a few times since the change of ownership, so I thought it was high time I did an actual Coffee Shop update.
Monday’s Coffee Spot is another success story for Guildford’s speciality coffee scene, although it’s been a long time in the telling. Tattam’s is on Tunsgate, occupying the premises vacated by Kalm Kitchen at end of 2019. It opened in October 2020, almost immediately moving to takeaway operation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tattam’s was looking forward to re-opening its outdoor seating in the spring of 2021 when a fire caused severe damage, forcing it to close for refurbishment. Many would have called it a day at that point, but the folks at Tattam’s are made of sterner stuff, pressing on to reopen in November last year.
Tattam’s describes itself as a European-style café offering coffee by day and cocktails in the evening, along with a selection of wine and, if you’re hungry, bar snacks, sharing platters and a range of cakes and pastries. Tattam’s uses local roasters Chimney Fire Coffee, currently offering its seasonal Brazilian espresso, served from a standard espresso-based menu. Tattam’s also has seasonal specials made with homemade syrups: the current offering being a Sticky Coffee Latte. Coffee is served throughout the evening, while there’s decaf available for those, like me, who like to get some sleep!
One of the success stories of the last two years is the growth of speciality coffee in my hometown of Guildford, with at least seven new openings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These range from farm-to-cup operation Ceylon House of Coffee to coffee-shop-in-a-telephone-box, Lily London, with the latest to throw its hat into the ring, Cocco Patisserie & Coffee, which opened its doors in November last year.
Located on Hayden Place, just down the road from Canopy Coffee, Cocco Patisserie & Coffee does what it says on the tin. Occupying a long, thin, light-filled space, you’re immediately assaulted (in a good way) by display cases packed with cakes as you approach the counter. These include a selection of made-to-order celebration cakes which face the door, along with a range of pastries and savoury sandwiches.
If you keep going, you’ll find an equally impressive coffee set-up at the back, where Guildford’s first Victoria Arduino Eagle One espresso machine and a top-of-the-line Mythos grinder speaks to a certain devotion to quality. The coffee, by the way, is from Square Mile, the ubiquitous Red Brick gracing the hopper, another sign from Cocco that it intends its coffee game to be top-notch.
Guildford has another independent speciality coffee shop, and, in keeping with the name, The Hideaway has rather flown under the radar. Well, my radar at least. Tucked away inside the walled gardens of Guildford’s Allen House Grounds, it opened in April this year. I spotted it while walking back from town, but it was only at the start of last week that I popped in for a post-vaccination coffee. I was so impressed that I returned the following day for breakfast!
The Hideaway occupies Allen House Pavilion, looking out over the old bowling green. With shades of another new Guildford opening, Open Grounds Café, there’s a large terrace at the front, with an equally large, spacious interior, although it’s slightly small than Open Grounds. Owned by the Matrix Trust, The Hideaway is a non-profit social enterprise café aimed at giving young people a boost into employment.
That doesn’t mean any corners have been cut when it comes to coffee, with Oxford’s NewGround Coffee on espresso, backed up by hot chocolate, chai latte and a range of teas, plus a concise toast- and salad-based brunch menu, complete with daily choice of bread and salad. And, of course, there are plenty of cakes.
I returned in April after the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions allowed coffee shops to serve customers at outdoor seating, something that Open Grounds, with its large terrace, was ideally placed to take advantage of. You still had to go inside to order, taking you through the equally large interior, which was off-limits until the COVID-19 restrictions were further relaxed in mid-May, allowing indoor service to restart. Giving Open Grounds a couple of weeks to settle in, I returned at the start of June to reacquaint myself with the wonderfully spacious interior.
Today’s Coffee Spot Update is a first of sorts. Over the last year, I’ve revisited Coffee Spots to see how they’ve been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is the first time I’ve revisited somewhere that opened during the pandemic to see how it’s managing as the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed. It’s also the first time this year that I sat inside a coffee shop to drink coffee.
The place in question is The Old Roastery Coffee Shop in Merrow. Part of Redber Coffee Roasters, I first visited exactly four weeks earlier, at the end of its first week of trading. Back then, you could only sit outside, but since the middle of May, the restrictions have been relaxed to allow customers to sit inside. I remember thinking at the time that the interior of The Old Roastery Coffee Shop looked lovely, so I thought I’d pop back to see if I was right!
Other than being able to sit inside, the main change is a move from the Café Français blend to the Signature Blend on espresso. However, The Old Roastery Coffee Shop is still only able to serve in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
I first heard of Open Grounds Café, another new addition to Guildford’s speciality coffee scene, in November last year, when Jonathon of Canopy Coffee tipped me off about a new coffee shop opening in the Baptist Church on Millmead, down by the river. I duly popped down in December, during that brief period when sit-in customers were allowed in the run-up to Christmas, but I didn’t have time to write it up. Then came further COVID-19 restrictions and Open Grounds switched to a takeaway operation.
However, at the start of April, the COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, allowing coffee shops to serve customers at outdoor seating. This was something that Open Grounds, with a large terrace in front of the church, was ideally placed to take advantage of. I made a brief visit (on my way to a wedding) and then returned last week for a more in-depth look.
Open Grounds is very much a lunchtime coffee shop, opening from 10:00 to 14:00, with a standard espresso-based menu built around a single-origin Brazilian from Ethicaladdictions, plus decaf and batch brew filter. There’s tea, soft drinks, soup, a small selection of sandwiches and curry puffs, plus a range of cakes, scones and pastries.