Medicine Codsall

A strawberries and cream cruffin from Medicine Codsall, which Amanda and I shared later that day.Medicine was a chance discovery that I made in July when I stumbled on its New Street bakery/café in the heart of Birmingham. In contrast, the original Medicine Kitchen and Bakery is tucked away in Codsall, a small village west of Wolverhampton. A more modest affair than the massive New Street site, it sits in a small parade of shops on Station Road, a five-minute walk from the railway station. If you don’t mind narrow country lanes, it’s also a useful alternative to the motorway services if you are travelling along the M54, a typical diversion adding about 25 minutes to your journey.

The basic offering is the same as New Street, with a bewildering array of cakes, pastries and savouries, all freshly baked on-site, to tempt you. The full breakfast, brunch and lunch menus mix old favourites with more innovative dishes, along with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, while the coffee, served from an espresso-based menu, is from nearby Iron & Fire. Naturally, a wide range of freshly-baked loaves are available. You can either sit at one of three outside tables or inside, where tables and booths line the windows at the front, extending down the left-hand side.

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The Table Update

A flat white in a HuskeeCup, served at The Table in Walsall.Walsall’s first and (for now) only speciality coffee shop, The Table opened at the start of April. I visited a few weeks later, when COVID-19 precautions were in full swing, restricting The Table to outside seating only. However, like The Old Roastery Coffee Shop in my hometown of Guildford, which I visited around the same time, you had to go inside to order, providing a glimpse of the lovely interior. And, like The Old Roastery, I vowed to return once the indoor seating was open to see what I was missing out on.

Since The Old Roastery is on my doorstep, I didn’t have long to wait, popping in four weeks later for a catch up. However, The Table had to wait a bit longer. My opportunity came on Saturday while driving up to North Wales with Amanda after her early morning arrival at Heathrow. Eschewing the usual crawl on the M6 around Birmingham, we took a detour to Walsall and The Table.

Other than the newly-opened interior, The Table has changed its house espresso (still from Odd Kin Coffee Roasters), added a pour-over option and expanded its food offering, with a simple breakfast menu and a range of sandwiches.

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Java Roastery, Moseley Village

Ignite your passion: detail from the wall in the back corner of Java Roastery in Moseley.Java Roastery, one of the stalwarts of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene, opened its doors as Java Lounge in Moseley Village in 2005. 10 years passed before a second Java Lounge opened in a prime city-centre location on Colmore Row, quickly followed by two more in 2017, located on business parks in Solihull and Coventry Airport. Sadly, I was late to the game, only really getting to know Java Lounge (as was) when I met the owner, Akram, at 2018’s Birmingham Coffee Festival before playing a belated visit to Colmore Row in 2019, just before the rebranding to Java Lounge.

The original Java Roastery occupies a pair of units on the west side of Alcester Road, set back from the traffic. There’s plenty of room on the pavement for a large, outdoor seating area, while inside, even accounting for COVID-19 precautions, there’s plenty of seating. Even better is the cosy basement, about half the size of the upstairs, full of tables and sofas. The coffee is all roasted in-house with two seasonal blends and decaf on a standard espresso-based menu, plus there’s batch brew filter. If you’re hungry, Java Roastery has a simple, all-day breakfast menu, grab-and-go sandwiches and plenty of cake.

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Saint Kitchen Update

The Saint Kitchen logo, taken from the facade above the windows on St. Paul's Square.Saint Kitchen, on the south-eastern edge of St Paul’s Square in the Jewellery Quarter, has long been a part of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene, starting life as Saint Caffé. I first visited in 2014, not long after it had undergone the transformation to Saint Kitchen, with the new owner, Will, a chef, combining Saint Caffé’s already excellent coffee with equally great food. Since then, I’ve visited on several occasions, the latest of which was at the start of July when I popped in to catch up on the latest chapter in Saint Kitchen’s adventures.

After more than five years in charge, Will decided to sell up and move on to pastures new. In November 2019, he passed the reins to the owners of Warwick Street Kitchen in Leamington Spa. In many ways, the new owners operated on the principle that if things weren’t broken, then why fix them? They kept the name and the essential offering of great coffee and great food, although the process of winning over Saint Kitchen’s faithful customer base was somewhat disrupted by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. However, as the COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the customers have come flooding back.

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Frozen Solid Coffee Project

My coffee, the Nano Lot N14, a Gesha grown by Creativa Coffee District in Panama, roasted by The Hub in Malaysia and served in a carafe, with a lovely ceramic cup on the side, all presented on a wooden tray, part of the Frozen Solid Coffee Project at Tilt in Birmingham.Something rather special is happening at Tilt, Birmingham’s speciality coffee, craft beer and pinball joint. Tilt has been serious about its coffee ever since it opened, but recently Tilt’s owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level. For example, there is a continuous rotation of guest roasters on espresso, with Tilt using coffee from around the world. Right now, Tilt is serving a single-origin from Manhattan Coffee Roasters (from Rotterdam in the Netherlands), which replaced one from Onyx Coffee Lab (from Arkansas in the US). However, the really exciting thing, exciting enough to have this whole Saturday Supplement dedicated to it, is the Frozen Solid Coffee Project.

I was completely unaware of the Frozen Solid Coffee Project when I visited Tilt two weeks ago, only realising that it was there when Kirk pointed it out to me on the menu. Indeed, it’s the sort of thing that you can easily miss if you don’t already know about it. For the uninitiated, the Frozen Solid Coffee Project enables Tilt to offer an extremely wide range of single-origin pour-overs (29 at the time of writing!) from farms/roasters around the world, some of which are extremely rare micro- and nano-lots.

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Gloria and Lil’s

Gloria and Lil's, written in an elaborate cursive script, taken from the sign above the café.Gloria and Lil’s is a (relatively) recent addition to Coventry’s speciality coffee scene, opening in November 2019, which has meant that, for most of the time, it’s been under COVID-19 restrictions. However, this hasn’t stopped it from carving out a loyal, local customer base. Occupying a spacious, modern unit located just south of the ring road and close to the university, there’s a limited amount of indoor seating (thanks to the COVID-19 social distancing requirements) with plenty more tables outside on the quiet street.

Gloria and Lil’s was recommended to me by my local source, Jenny Watts, who praised the food in particular. Since it was a mere two minutes’ walk from my hotel, it became a no-brainer when I was looking for breakfast on my recent visit. Talking of which, there’s a unique, bagel/flatbread-based brunch menu, with everything made to order. This includes the flatbreads which are literally baked as the rest of the meal is being prepared. The bagels are also baked fresh every morning, as are the cakes. The coffee, meanwhile, is from St. Martin’s Coffee Roasters in nearby Leicester, with the Intrepid blend and decaf on espresso and a single-origin on batch brew.

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Bean & Leaf Coffee House

The Bean & Leaf Coffee House logo from the A-board in Hertford Street.When contemplating my recent trip to Coventry, the one place that everyone recommended was Bean & Leaf, located in the heart of the city’s pedestrianised shopping centre on Hertford Street. A fairly small spot in an interestingly-shaped space with high ceilings and a quiet, cosy basement (which more than doubles the available seating), Bean & Leaf has plenty of charm. You can also sit outside, where there are a couple of tables and a pair of benches.

Since it opened in 2017, Bean & Leaf has established quite a reputation, serving some excellent coffee from roasters from around the country. There’s a house espresso (currently from Manchester newcomer, Blossom Coffee Roasters) and a guest roaster (currently Bath’s Colonna Coffee), which changes every month, supplying a second option on espresso/batch brew and a single-origin on pour-over.

Although it sees itself as primarily a coffee shop, Bean & Leaf (as the name might suggest) takes its tea just as seriously, with a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Bath’s Teahouse Emporium, served in pots with coloured egg-timers so that you know when your particular brew is done. All of this is backed up by a range of sandwiches and tempting cakes.

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Tilt Update

Details of the new (to me, at least) A-board from outside Tilt in Birmingham, promising craft beer, speciality coffee and pinball.To the best of my knowledge, Tilt is just one of two speciality coffee-and-pinball places in the UK, the other being Chiswick’s Chief Coffee, both of which opened in 2015. Mind you, Tilt’s not just coffee-and-pinball. It’s coffee-pinball-and-craft-beer, serving up to 18 different draught beers, plus there’s cider, wine, spirits, and cocktails, not to mention twelve different loose-leaf teas and five types of hot chocolate.

I first visited Tilt in January 2016, not long after it had opened. Back then, it just occupied the ground floor of an interestingly-shaped spot in Birmingham’s City Arcade, with work underway to open up the basement. Since then, it’s come a long way, not just opening the basement, but, during the enforced COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, adding an upper floor, both offering additional seating and more pinball machines.

These days, Tilt still bases its offer around pinball, beer and coffee, and its in this latter department that it perhaps has taken the greatest strides. Tilt was always serious about its coffee, but recently the owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level with the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, an exciting development which I’ve dedicated an entire Saturday Supplement to.

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Espresso Quarter

The sunlit front of Espresso Quarter in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.Last week, I went on a quick tour of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, starting with Hatch @ Hazel & Haydn. From there, it was on to Espresso Quarter, the latest addition to the Espresso Station family, which includes two station coffee shops (Dorridge and Moor Street), plus Espresso Barn and Espresso Farm.

In a display of impressively bad timing, Espresso Quarter opened in March 2020, just six days before the first round of COVID-19 restrictions came into force. Despite this rocky start, Espresso Quarter has made it through the pandemic thus far, and is now welcoming customers back, with its combination of a simple, tasty food offering and a bespoke seasonal espresso blend from local roasters, Monsoon Estates Coffee Company.

Espresso Quarter is on the northern side of Warstone Lane, between the Brookfields Cemetery and the iconic Chamberlain Clock. Fittingly, it occupies an old jeweller’s shop, complete with the safe still built into the wall, where the stock was kept overnight. It’s a pretty small spot, with a couple of tables outside on the pavement and limited interior seating. The simple all-day brunch menu goes well with the concise espresso-based menu, while there’s also hot chocolate and a range of tea.

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Hatch @ Hazel & Haydn

A flat white, made with the Dark Horse blend from Quarter Horse, and served in my HuskeeCup at Hatch in Birmingham.Sometimes I physically stumble across places, such as Monday’s Coffee Spot, Medicine New Street. More often, the stumbling is virtual, as it was when I spotted Hatch a few weeks ago on Instagram. A relatively new addition to Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene, Hatch is part of Hazel & Haydn, a hairdressers in the Jewellery Quarter. It’s strictly takeaway though, with seating limited to two benches outside on the pavement.

Hatch is well-named since it’s effectively just that, a hatch (or, for the more pedantic, a window) at the far end of Hazel & Haydn. This opens onto the street, allowing Bianca, Hatch’s barista, to serve customers from her single-group La Marzocco G3. Using the Dark Horse blend from nearby Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters, Hatch has an extremely concise espresso-based menu, plus hot chocolate, tea and a very limited range of cakes. Since it’s takeaway only, don’t forget to bring your own cup.

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