Faculty (Original)

Some lovely latte-art in a classic, light green cup at Birmingham's FacultyFaculty was set up towards the start of 2014 by the previous owners of Saint Caffe (now Saint Kitchen), one of the pioneers of Birmingham’s current coffee scene. It joins a geographically tight-knit group in the city centre, including 6/8 Kafé, Yorks Bakery Cafe, Tilt and Jake’s Coffee Box, all of which are within a few minutes’ walk of each other.

Faculty forms the southern apex of this triangle of coffee-heaven (Saint Kitchen and the Boston Tea Party being at the other apexes), literally a few steps away from the northern entrance to Birmingham’s New Street Station. It’s so close that you probably could rush out, get a takeaway coffee and be back in time to make your connection if you’re changing trains.

Faculty is at the southern end of the beautiful Piccadilly Arcade. If you’re coming from the station, walk past the front of the Caffé Nero on Stephenson Street, turn right into the arcade (which joins Stephenson Street with New Street to the north) and, a few doors up on your left, you’ll find Faculty!

It’s only a small place, all wood and glass, with an interesting range of cakes and excellent Square Mile coffee.

August 2016: I popped into Faculty a couple of months back and there have been quite a few changes (all good!) since my last visit, including a move to become a true multi-roaster, so I’ve updated the Coffee Spot.

This is the original write-up, published in August 2014. For an up-to-date description, please see the updated post, while you can see what’s changed in my Coffee Spot Update.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Birmingham's beautiful Piccadilly Arcade, looking towards New Street. Faculty is on the left.
  • Here, in fact, through the recessed door on the right.
  • However, before you go in, don't forget to look up at the arcade's ceiling...
  • Stepping inside, this is the view from the door: seating on the right, counter to the left.
  • A more detailed view of the main seating, as seen from the opposite corner.
  • Talking of which, there's this interesting packing-case table.
  • The table in more detail.
  • You can also sit at the end of the counter and watch the baristas at work on the V60s.
  • The counter in all its glory.
  • I did like the light-bulbs hanging above it.
  • Obligatory light-fitting picture.
  • Behind the counter at the near end are the tea and kettles.
  • At the far end is this shelf of coffee/kit for sale, plus the EK-43 grinder for filter coffee.
  • In front of them is the filter-rack with the V60s...
  • ... while at the other (near) end of the counter, in front of the tea, is the cake.
  • The cake in more detail.
  • The espresso machine is on a separate counter of its own, opposite the door...
  • ... with the grinder tucked away behind it.
  • The coffee/tea menu is concise. So, what to have?
  • I went for a V60 of the El Aguila Santa Ana from El Salvador, via London's Square Mile.
  • It came beautifully presented in a glass carafe on a neat wooden tray.
  • The water comes in little bottles straight out of the fridge. Very refreshing.
  • I paired my coffee with a lovely Monte Carlo: biscuit, jam and cream, all-in-one.
  • Before I go, just time for a quick lesson in coffee-making.
  • Lovely extraction.
  • While that's going on, the milk is steamed.
  • Time for the pour.
  • Here it comes!
  • The pattern forms...
  • ... and the end result. Beautiful.
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Faculty is located in Birmingham’s beautiful Piccadilly Arcade. Regular readers will know that I have a thing about arcades and this is another great example. Originally built as a cinema in 1910, it was converted to an arcade in 1926. The central corridor, lined on either side by glass-fronted shops, runs through the old auditorium, the slope from New Street to Stephenson Street following the rake of the seats down to the screen. It was refurbished in 1989, when the series of five murals by artist Paul Maxfield was painted on the ceiling panels.

Faculty is a lovely little spot. Stepping inside, the store extends to your right, the floor-to-ceiling window, which runs the length of the store, behind you, with the counter opposite it, in front of the back wall. Directly in front of the door, against the left-hand wall, is a lovely old-fashioned sink and another counter. Here you’ll find the Synesso espresso machine and its grinder, with a separate Mahlkönig EK-43 behind the main counter for filter coffee.

There’s not a huge amount of seating. Four two-person benches in a square share the space in the window with two old school desks located at far (right-hand) end. Against the far wall, a packing case has been pressed into service as a table, along with a couple of stools, while there are three more stools at the far end of the counter, where you can sit and watch the barista in action on the V60 filters.

The layout is predominantly wood: wooden floorboards, wooden counter, wooden furniture. The walls and ceiling are whitewashed, except for the back wall, which is exposed brick. It could have been designed with me in mind. Lighting comes from two rows of bare bulbs, one above the counter, and one above the seating, plus there’s plenty of light from the arcade itself, although because of where Faculty is located, there’s not a lot of natural light.

Faculty offers a limited menu, with loose-leaf tea and a concise coffee selection from London roasters, Square Mile, with the ubiquitous Red Brick seasonal blend on espresso. While I was there, there were two options on pour-over (V60), an Ethiopian Reko Yirgacheffe and an El Aguila Santa Ana from El Salvador. I went for the latter, which came beautifully presented in a glass carafe on a wooden tray. It was a very subtle coffee, smooth and easy on the tongue. I’d like to say more since I seem to be damning it with faint praise, but I couldn’t pick out any specific flavours. Suffice to say that I really liked it.

I paired this with one of Faculty’s interesting selection of cakes. Eschewing the usual coffee shop offerings, Faculty had Afghan and Anzac biscuits, two flavours of Bundt cake, passion-fruit melts and my choice, the Monte Carlo. This, it turns out, is jam and cream sandwiched between two crumbly biscuits, a bit like an all-in-one cream tea!

It tasted every bit as lovely as it sounds. The overall effect is sweet, but not sickly, with the jam, cream and biscuit all in the correct proportions. The biscuit itself was more crumbly and lighter than an American biscuit or a British scone, more akin to a Viennese Whirl. However you describe it, it was truly excellent!

Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Roaster Square Mile (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables with benches, Bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:30 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 16:00 Power No
Chain No Visits Original: 6th August 2014
Update: 4th May 2016, 29th July 2016

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.

You can see what fellow coffee blogger, Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato fame, made of Faculty when she visited in 2021.