Obscure Coffee (Original)

Climpson and Sons signature Estate Espresso in a lovely yellow cup at Obscure Coffee, Chester.Obscure Coffee by name, and, some might say, obscure by nature, although in reality, Obscure Coffee is only a few minutes’ walk from the heart of Chester, near the bottom of Lower Bridge Street, close to the city walls and the River Dee. It’s not even obscure by name, since, as owner Nick recounted, he’d wanted to call it Obscura Coffee, “obscura” being Spanish for “dark”. However, someone misheard him, thought he said “obscure” and the name stuck.

It’s a pretty small spot, with space inside for a window bar and table, while there’s a really cosy back room with more tables and a pair of armchairs. All the coffee comes from Climpson and Sons, with Climpson’s signature Estate on espresso, joined by regularly-changing options on batch brew through the Moccamaster and pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries, but that’s it.

September 2020: I’ve updated my piece on Obscure Coffee. This is the original write-up, published in May 2019. 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.

  • Obscure Coffee at the lower end of Chester's Lower Bridge Street.
  • There's not a great deal to it: inset door to the right and large windows to the left...
  • ... and four low stools on the pavement for any hardy folks who want to sit outside.
  • The handy sign provides a useful sighter as you are approaching along the street.
  • If you need some orientation by the way, this is the view back towards Bridge Street.
  • Inside, the layout is fairly simple with the door on the right.
  • There's a four-person window-bar at the front, a low, six-person table in the centre...
  • ... and the counter at the back.
  • Another view of the low coffee table in the middle of the room.
  • A closer look at the window-bar, a good place to watch the world go by.
  • There's a retail shelf along the right-hand wall. But, wait! What's that at the back?
  • A narrow passage leads past the counter to a door in the back wall...
  • ... and Obscure Coffee's cosy, windowless, backroom hideaway!
  • There's not much seating here, just these four tables along the back wall...
  • ... and these two armchairs immediately to the left of the door.
  • What's that in the corner, beyond the second armchair?
  • It's a neat little water fountain, plus some glasses! How thoughtful.
  • Heading back to the main part of Obscure Coffee...
  • ... you'll find some art on the walls...
  • ... and, despite all the natural light, plenty of light bulbs, siuch as these in the windows...
  • ... and these above the counter.
  • I was quite taken by the lights above the counter...
  • ... while I particularly liked this one in the back room.
  • Down to business. The simple counter is at the back...
  • ... with the cakes and pastries on the right-hand side...
  • ... and the concise drinks menu on the back wall.
  • The Moccamaster for the batch brew is under the menu next to the hot water boiler...
  • ... while there are retail bags of coffee on the shelf on the right-hand walll.
  • However, I was there for some espresso from the La Marzocoo at the end of the counter.
  • My epresso, Climpson and Sons' signature Estate espresso in a lovely, yellow cup.
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Nick, along with partner Maz, opened Obscure Coffee in November 2018. Although relatively new to Chester’s growing speciality coffee scene, it has a strong pedigree, Nick having worked at both Artisan Roast and Brew Lab in Edinburgh. In size and style, it reminds me of another Chester newcomer, Moss Coffee, which predates Obscure by about a year. I must also thank Ed of Chalk Coffee for reminding me to pay Obscure a visit (and for the enthusiastic endorsement).

Obscure occupies a small shop front on the right as Lower Bridge Street slopes down towards the river. Although literally a few minutes from the city centre, it could be a different world down here, the streets much quieter. Obscure has an inset door on the right and a large, two-paned floor-to-ceiling window on the left, lined with four low stools on the pavement outside, although you’re better off heading in if you want a seat. Not that there’s that much more inside, at least not at first glance…

There’s a four-person window-bar behind you to the left, with a low, six-person coffee table in the centre, and counter at the back. And that’s it, until you notice, at the back on the right, a short, narrow corridor. This leads past the counter to what might be Obscure’s best feature, it’s cosy back room, styled, in Nick’s words, after a speakeasy.

I loved it! The windowless room offers an immediate contrast to the sunlit front, providing the perfect hideaway if you want to escape from the world for an hour or two. There’s a pair of armchairs immediately to the left of the door and a row of four two-person tables along a wooden bench against the back wall, but that’s it.

Returning to the front, the counter has a simple layout, cakes and till to the right, two-group La Marzocco Linea espresso machine to the left, with the menu on the back wall along with the Moccamaster batch brewer and the boiler for the pour-over. There’s also a small retail shelf on the right-hand wall where you can buy reusable cups and bags of coffee.

Talking of which, Obscure uses Climpson and Sons signature Estate espresso, a washed single-origin Sidamo Sasaba from the Guji region of Ethiopia. I had this as an espresso, a lovely, complex, sweet coffee, the perfect note on which to end my short visit to Chester that day.

Monday 08:30 – 17:00 Roaster Climpson & Sons (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 17:00 Seating Window Bar, Tables, Armchairs; Stools (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 17:00 Food Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:30 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 14th May 2019
Update: 11th September 2020