Cheltenham’s come a long way, coffee-wise, since I first visited in 2013. On Monday, I wrote about The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, which has, along with Studio Coffee Roasters, been leading the way since 2014, although today’s Coffee Spot, The Coffee Dispensary, is not far behind, having opened just over three years ago in October 2015. Like The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, it’s right in the centre of town, on Regent Street, by the Regent Arcade.
There’s an impressive selection of coffee. Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters is the mainstay, supplying the house espresso (which changes every few months), while the weekly-changing guests provide multiple single-origins on both espresso and filter. The Coffee Dispensary wants nothing less than the best coffee from the best roasters: during my visit this included Bath’s Colonna Coffee and Round Hill Roastery plus Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. Filter coffee is usually available through V60, but the staff will also do Chemex, Aeropress or Kalita Wave, plus there’s batch-brew. All the coffee is available to buy in retail bags.
Alternatively, there are ten teas, six hot chocolates and five chai lattes. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of sandwiches, plus cakes for those with a sweet tooth.
It’s been a very long time since I was in Cheltenham, with a visit well overdue, so when I got the chance to call in, I seized it with both hands. A lot has changed (and is still changing) in Cheltenham’s coffee scene, with today’s Coffee Spot, The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, leading the way. The Pod started life in September 2014, when it was, literally, just a cube, complete with espresso machine and roaster, around the corner from the current location.
The Scandinavian Coffee Pod moved into the Studios, a long, low single-storey building on Cheltenham’s Royal Well Place, 2½ years ago in 2016, the pod coming too. The original cube is now embedded into the front wall, which makes for an interesting architectural feature. Although bigger than it was, there’s still not that much space, the resulting coffee shop being best described as cosy, with a handful of tables and a pair of armchairs. That doesn’t stop The Scandinavian Coffee Pod from offering a house espresso from neighbours Studio Coffee Roasters, plus a choice of two pour-overs via the V60 (one from Studio, the other a guest). There are also small but tempting breakfast/lunch menus, plus plenty of cake.
Cheltenham does not immediately spring to mind when thinking of top-quality coffee. However, that perception is slowly changing down in Montpellier, a short stroll southwest of the town centre. First there was the short-lived No.5 The Brew Rooms and now there is Coffee & Co which, since November 2012, has been steadily establishing itself as the place to go for great coffee.
Set in an old town house, which has since been converted into offices, Coffee & Co has taken over the lower two floors and set about creating a wonderful place to sit and drink coffee. The closest in feel I can think of is the upstairs lounge of the Boston Tea Party on Bristol’s Park Street back in the day when you really could sit there all day nursing a single cup of coffee. Coffee & Co is more formal, with tables predominating over sofas, but it still manages to create that feel of relaxing in someone’s home rather than sitting in a coffee shop.
None of this would matter if the coffee wasn’t up to much, but fortunately Coffee & Co has paired with London roasters, Union, to provide first-class coffee to match the first-class surroundings.
May 2015: I’ve heard that Coffee & Co has been turned into an Italian Restaurant, which is a shame since it was a lovely space to drink coffee.