Meet the Roaster: NewGround Coffee

The Loring S15 Falcon roaster at the back of NewGround Coffee in Oxford.Let’s get 2022 underway with a new Meet the Roaster, featuring Oxford’s NewGround Coffee, which has been around since 2018. I belated became aware of it last year through FLTR Coffee in Bicester and The Hideaway, one of that year’s many new openings in my home town of Guildford. Suitably impressed, I made visiting NewGround’s roastery/coffee shop in Oxford a priority, managing to call in at the end of October last year.

I wrote up the minimalist coffee shop at the end of last year, while today’s post is all about the roasting side of the business. This is based around the state-of-the-art Loring S15 Falcon roaster, which you’ll find at the back of the coffee shop, surrounded by tubs of coffee. However, there’s more to NewGround than just roasting and serving excellent coffee, NewGround also working to create job opportunities and provide training for ex-offenders, helping them back into employment.

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NewGround Coffee Roastery & Coffee Shop

A box the Worka Wuri, the surprise coffee I was served at NewGround Roastery and Coffee Shop in Oxford. From Ethiopia, it's a washed heirloom coffee with tasting notes of Earl grey, lemon and elderflower, roasted five days before my visit.Oxford’s NewGround Coffee began in 2018, although I only became aware of it earlier this year when visiting FLTR Coffee in Bicester. Then, a month later, I popped into The Hideaway, one of Guildford’s many new openings, to find NewGround’s seasonal Big House blend in the hopper. Turns out I should have paid more attention, though, since Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato wrote about NewGround in October last year!

NewGround’s roastery/coffee shop are in a small workshop tucked away off a side street in Headington, east of the centre of Oxford. The roasting side of the business has its own Meet the Roaster feature, while today’s post focuses on the coffee shop. This is best described as minimalist, somewhere between a full-blown roastery/café (like the Ue Coffee Roastery Cafe & Kitchen) and the Heartland Coffee Bar.

There’s a handful of seats, with the coffee being the real star. NewGround offers its seasonal Big House blend plus a single-origin on espresso, along with batch brew filter. You can also have any coffee in the roastery through V60, Kalita Wave or AeroPress. Naturally, it’s all available in retail boxes. If you’re hungry, there’s granola and porridge for breakfast (all day) and a choice of two cakes.

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Brew Oxford

The writing on the window says all I need to know about Brew's attitude: "Coffee, Coffee, Coffee & Tea. Dogs, Children & Coffee Snobs Welcome."The biggest issue I had with Brew was finding it. About as far north from the centre of Oxford as Quarter Horse is east of it on the Cowley Road, Brew sits on North Parade Avenue between Banbury and Woodstock Road. Not that Google was having any of it, refusing even to acknowledge that Brew existed (the good news is that Brew’s now made it onto Googlemaps!). In the end, I was indebted to Dan of Zappi’s Bike Café for showing me the way.

Brew, however, is well worth finding. Owned by Drew and Will, the people behind The Keen Bean Coffee Club, Brew is a delightful little space, one of the most beautiful settings for a Coffee Spot that I’ve come across. As the name suggests, Brew’s focus is on filter coffee, rather than espresso, although that doesn’t stop it from having an iconic Elektra cylinder espresso machine gracing its counter-top.

Brew acts as a showcase for local Ue Coffee Roasters, carrying a full range of its beans for sale, three of which are available through the V60 filters on the counter. These rotate on a regular basis, a new bean coming on every six weeks or so.

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The Keen Bean Coffee Club

The light blue and cream Crema Caffe Elektra espresso machine, complete with dog, at The Keen Bean Coffee Club, Oxford.The Keen Bean Coffee Club (aside from possibly having the best-ever name for a Coffee Shop) is just short stroll along Oxford’s Cowley Road from Monday’s Coffee Spot, Quarter Horse Coffee. As well as this close physical proximity, the two coffee shops almost share a birthday, Keen Bean having opened just two weeks before its near neighbour in 2012.

Typical, isn’t it? You wait ages for a decent coffee shop, then two come along at once! A lot like buses…

Keen Bean is one of that new breed, a coffee shop sharing premises with another business, a model pioneered by bookshops. In this respect, it’s like Zappi’s Bike Café, another star of the Oxford coffee scene, although Keen Bean’s inside a record store rather than a bike shop. Whereas Zappi’s was always planned as an integral part of the bike shop, Keen Bean approached the record shop, Truck Store, which was already well-established on the Cowley Road.

Serving coffee from local roasters, Ue Coffee, Keen Bean manages to pack a lot into a relatively small space, with a comprehensive espresso menu, individual pour-over coffee, tea and hot chocolate! Kean Bean is owned by the same people behind the recently-opened Brew.

September 2015: It’s all change on the Cowley Road. I’m aware that Brew no longer owns Kean Bean, which, I believe, is now operated by the Truck Record store itself. I’m hoping to get back for an update at some point…

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Quarter Horse Coffee, Oxford

The Quarter Horse Coffee Logo, a style white chess piece (a knight) against a black backgroundWhen visiting Oxford, don’t be seduced by the colleges’ gleaming spires in the centre. Oxford is a town that rewards exploring, particularly when it comes to coffee. Head east over the river and, after a short stroll, you’ll find yourself on the lively Cowley Road where there are two outstanding Coffee Spots, The Keen Bean Coffee Club and, just before it on the right, Quarter Horse Coffee.

Set up by co-owners, James and Nathan, Quarter Horse has been serving fine coffee to the Cowley Road for just over 18 months. Arriving at a time when Oxford was in danger of becoming a one-roaster town, Quarter Horse brought London’s Square Mile to Oxford (although it now roasts its own beans). Quarter Horse also started doing filter coffee (bulk brew, betraying Nathan’s American origins, and Aeropress) and continues its coffee education/evangelism with regular events such as monthly cupping classes.

In the same vein, Quarter Horse offers a Flight Test, a chance to taste the same bean as a straight espresso and in milk. I wish more places would offer this as an option since I often try an espresso and then wonder what it would taste like in milk (or vice-versa if I had it as a piccolo).

January 2017: With the move to Birmingham and to roasting its own coffee, the original Quarter House in Oxford has been taken over by Peloton Espresso. Expect an update as soon as I can get back to Oxford!

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Zappi’s Bike Café

The perfect espresso, with beans from Ue Roasters, in a classic black cup from Zappi's Bike CafeA short stroll down St Michael’s Street, just off Cornmarket Street, Oxford’s central thoroughfare, is the Bike Zone, a bicycle shop. What’s not immediately apparent, except to those in the know, is that it’s also home to Zappi’s Bike Café, one of Oxford’s best-kept secrets. Indeed, even walking past might not give it away, such is the small size of the sign, which advertises the presence (on the first floor) of this lovely little coffee spot.

Zappi’s Bike Café is not quite as well hidden as Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, but it’s in that league. The small sign, well above eye-level, and a menu, painted on the door, are the only real giveaways. Even then you have to negotiate your way up a narrow, switch-back staircase and the make your way through the display room, past all the bikes, before you get to Zappi’s itself.

Zappi’s focus is on coffee, toasted sandwiches and banana bread, of which the staff are rightfully proud. The coffee comes from the local Ue Coffee Roasters, supplemented by a regularly-rotating guest blend. All the cakes, sandwiches and, most importantly, the banana bread, are made in the tiny kitchen behind the counter.

August 2017: Zappi’s has expanded to occupy the whole upper floor, and changed its name to the Handlebar Cafe. One of the Dans (Williams, no relation) has left and now runs Coffee + Beer in Bristol.

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Natural Bread Company, Oxford

The counter at the Natural Bread Company, Oxford, groaning under the weight of cake!To celebrate the latest issue of Caffeine Magazine, with its feature on the Oxford Coffee scene, I present the Companion Café & Bread Bar, the Natural Bread Company’s retail outlet on Oxford’s Little Clarendon Street. The Natural Bread Company has made its name, naturally enough, through its sourdough bread, which it sells at Oxford Farmers’ Markets and elsewhere. However, luckily for me, it doesn’t stop there, since it also takes its coffee and cake just as seriously.

The coffee, from Has Bean, came highly recommended by various Oxford people. Comments ranged from “the coffee’s very good” to “where I get my coffee on my days off” (this from a barista at Quarter Horse Coffee). With recommendations like that, it’s hard to go wrong! There are a couple of single-origin beans on the espresso machine as well as a bulk-brew filter option. There’s also tea from both Tea Pigs and Cardiff’s Waterloo Tea.

However, it was the cake that really sold it to me (not that it needed much selling if I’m honest). All home-made, the counter was groaning under the weight of the cake. And such a range: pastries, cinnamon buns, brownies, flapjacks, this list goes on… And there’s toast!

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