Open Grounds Café Update

An espresso in a classic blue cup at Open Grounds CafeOpen Grounds Café was one of the surprising number of speciality coffee shops which sprung up in Guildford during the COVID-19 pandemic. I visited not long after it first opened in December last year, during that brief period when sit-in customers were allowed in the run-up to Christmas. Then came further COVID-19 restrictions and Open Grounds switched to a takeaway operation.

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.

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The Old Roastery Coffee Shop Update

The coffee menu above the espresso machine at The Old Roastery Coffee Shop.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.

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Open Grounds Café (COVID-19)

My brie and cranberry sandwich, along with my flat white, sitting in the sun on the patio at Open Grounds Café.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.

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The Old Roastery Coffee Shop (COVID-19)

The name over the door: The Old Roastery Coffee Shop, occupying Redber Coffee Roasters' old roastery.I’ve been aware of Redber Coffee Roasters, which was set up in 2012 (the same year as the Coffee Spot), for quite a while now. Located on an industrial estate in Merrow, just south of the train line from Guildford to London via Effingham Junction, the roastery is around an hour’s walk from my house. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest place for me to get to, particularly without a car, nor is it really on my way to anywhere. However, when I learnt last week that Redber was opening an on-site coffee shop, I decided it was about time I paid a visit. It also helped that I had access to a car on Friday…

I visited The Old Roastery Coffee Shop at the end of its first week of trading. There’s a standard espresso-based menu using the Café Français blend, plus tea and hot chocolate, although for now it’s takeaway cups only (that said, the staff are happy if you bring your own). While the indoor seating is off-limits until the next round of COVID-19 restrictions are eased (in mid-May), you are welcome to sit outside where there is a good selection of tables and chairs.

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The Hideout (COVID-19 Update)

The coffee profile for the Brightnote blend from Union Hand-roasted, as served at The Hideout.When it comes to my Guildford speciality coffee roundups during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Hideout, on the University of Surrey’s Stag Hill campus, is very much the forgotten party (by me, that is). The fact is, other than a short break during the early months of the pandemic (when the students went home), The Hideout has been open throughout the pandemic. My excuse, for what it’s worth, is that I’m hardly ever on that side of the river unless I’m going to Surrey Scorchers games at the weekend, when The Hideout is closed.

However, following my latest roundup, I thought I should rectify this oversight, so yesterday I popped up to a surprisingly busy campus to catch up with Beau and Charlie, the pair behind The Hideout. There have, inevitably, been some COVID-19 related changes, but the good news is that The Hideout is going strong after a lean time over the winter (when very few students were on campus). Best of all, the coffee, from old friends Union Hand-roasted, is as good as ever!

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Guildford (Outdoor Update)

Guildford's famous Guildhall clock on the High Street with the Hog's Back in the background.Welcome to my third COVID-19 update on the state of speciality coffee in my hometown of Guildford. My first update was back in September 2020, which looked at how the town’s speciality coffee businesses, having survived the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, were opening back up. There was even a new coffee shop, Ceylon House of Coffee, to celebrate!

My second update came at the start of 2021, when it was back to serving takeaway only. However, despite all the problems that the hospitality industry was facing, there were two more new coffee shops to celebrate, although technically one of them, Lily London, is a telephone box, with the other, Open Grounds Café, part of Guildford Baptist Church.

Since then, Guildford’s speciality coffee businesses have weathered the dark days of winter and, with the coming of spring, have something to look forward to. Starting on Monday (12th April), coffee shops in England have been allowed to serve customers at outdoor tables. Unfortunately, due to their diverse locations, not all of Guildford’s speciality coffee shops have been able to take full advantage of the latest easing of restrictions, but the good news is that everyone’s open and serving again.

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Guildford (2021 Update)

Saint Martha's Church, looking glorious in the sunshine on top of Saint Martha's Hill just outside Guildford.Last weekend I presented a brief history of speciality coffee in my hometown of Guildford. It was very much an introduction to this post, a round-up of what’s going on in Guildford in 2021, which itself follows on from my 2020 round-up. Back then, things were looking good, the town’s existing speciality coffee businesses having survived the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was even a new opening, Ceylon House of Coffee, to celebrate.

Since then, speciality coffee, like the hospitality industry as a whole, has taken another battering due to the pandemic, so as 2021 gets underway, I thought it was time to take stock of where things are. In this post, I’ll cast my eye over the town’s existing speciality coffee shops, as well as taking a look at the new openings, which have been springing up around the town, despite COVID-19’s best efforts.

Overall, while we’ve still got a long way to go, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about speciality coffee in Guildford. There’s a healthy mix of established players and newcomers, each of whom brings something different to the town, all backed up by a couple of great local roasters.

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Guildford: A Speciality Coffee History

The keep of Guildford Castle, seen from the bowling greenSince I can’t travel anywhere (other than reliving past trips through the Travel Spot) and, with the odd exception, there are no new coffee shops to visit, I thought I’d write about my hometown of Guildford. As I noted last September, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Guildford’s speciality coffee scene did very well in 2020, this success continuing into 2021 with the opening of Lily London. This is something I’ll highlight in a future post, before I do that, I want to present a short history of speciality coffee in Guildford.

When I moved here in the late 1990s, my coffee choices were limited to the national chains and a handful of independents, but nothing that would count as speciality coffee (not that I knew what it was at the time). Back then, you’d have found me in the Costa Coffee on Swan Lane and, after that, in the Waterstones’ Costa on the High Street. Ironically, both have now closed, Swan Lane a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the Waterstones’ coffee shop went when Waterstones moved across the High Street and into smaller premises. The speciality story only really gets going in 2012, around the time I started the Coffee Spot.

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Lily London, Guildford

A lovely flat white, made with a naturally-processed Brazilian single-origin and served in my HuskeeCup at Lily London in Guildford.It’s with unexpected pleasure that I find myself writing about a new coffee shop (although pedants might argue with the use of the word “shop” here) when we’re right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the problems that 2020 brought to the hospitality industry, speciality coffee has been doing rather well here in Guildford, with several new openings, including the Ceylon House of Coffee.

The subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Lily London, is on a slightly smaller scale, occupying one of two old telephone boxes at the High Street end of Tunsgate, nestling around the back of the grand edifice that is Tunsgate Arch. Serving its own coffee, imported from Brazil by the owner, and roasted by Plot Roasting, Lily London offers a standard espresso-based menu, along with retail bags of the coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee (COVID-19 Update)

My flat white, made with the Surrey Hills Coffee Holmbury Hill blend and served in my HuskeeCup at Koja.Koja, a Swedish word meaning “a cosy little den”, came into being in August this year. On the one hand, it can be seen as the rebirth of Surrey Hills Coffee on Jeffries Passage, but it’s also very much its own place, resisting the temptation to become a clone of what had gone before.

When I visited, on Koja’s second day of trading, it was just offering takeaway service. As summer turned to autumn, Koja introduced limited seating downstairs, although I never seemed to be in the position to visit, either passing by at closing time (at the relatively early hour of two o’clock in the afternoon) or else it was a Saturday and very busy. With the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in England at the start of November, Koja returned to takeaway only, and I thought it was high time I popped back to see how things were going.

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