When I went to Berlin in May this year for work, I really wasn’t expecting much in the way of speciality coffee in the vicinity of my hotel, just south of the Zoological Garden. However, I was much mistaken. On my arrival, I made the chance discovery of The Visit, just down the street from my hotel, and then, on my first full day, I visited the original Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, where the staff told me about the newest Five Elephant, located inside the famous KaDeWe department store, a convenient short stroll from my hotel.
Five Elephant is on the top floor of KaDeWe at the back of the food hall. There’s a big, square island counter, plenty of seating and a large retail area (both beans and an extensive range of coffee equipment), all backed up by some very knowledgeable and friendly staff. There’s a very similar coffee and cake offering to the Kreuzberg coffee shop, with a single-origin and decaf on espresso, all shots pulled on a Modbar installation. For filter, there’s another single-origin on batch brew with any of the beans currently in stock available through either the AeroPress or as a pour-over through the V60.
I was tipped off about Spro Coffee Lab by the baristas at Devout Coffee, visiting Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop the following day. In typical Coffee Spot fashion, this was Spro’s second location, its first being a trailer in San Francisco’s Mission Bay/SOMA neighbourhood. Fortunately, this is close to Caltrain’s San Francisco terminus on 4th and King Street, my gateway for my various day trips to the city, so the very next day, I headed for the original Spro.
Spro is part of Spark Social SF, a large outdoor food truck park, beer & sangria garden and event space. Impressively, given that it’s literally a trailer, serving from a window at one end, the menu is identical to Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop. The coffee’s from Black & White Coffee Roasters, its Classic espresso and decaf on espresso, joined by a blend and two single-origins on pour-over through the V60, along with mocktails and other drinks. There’s also the full range of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, plus the dedicated pastries and desserts menu.
Today’s Coffee Spot is part Coffee Spot Update, part regular Coffee Spot. You may recall that London Square, a large office complex on Guildford’s London Road, opposite London Road Station and Guildford High School, once housed the Surrey Hills Coffee Cabin. Sadly, COVID-19 put paid to that and, with office workers slow to return, the coffee cabin, a lovely container-style cabin in the car park, never re-opened.
Well, I say never, but that changed this June after a chance conversation in Canopy Coffee with a customer whose company had just moved into London Square. This led to Jackie, Canopy’s new owner, taking over the lease on the empty coffee cabin and Canopy Coffee, London Square was born!
The layout’s very similar to how Surrey Hills had it (hence the update part), although there’s no longer any indoor seating, just a solitary four-person table under the shade of a convenient tree. The offering is very similar to Canopy Coffee on Haydon Place, with a standard espresso-based menu using the bespoke house-blend from Skylark Coffee, along with decaf and a regularly-rotating single-origin on batch-brew filter. There’s the same range of toasties too, although the cakes are pre-packaged, with a lot more grab-and-go options.
Coffeebar is an interesting coffee shop/roastery chain spread across a diverse set of locations in California (four) and Nevada (Reno). Founded in 2010 in Truckee, California (which I passed through on the California Zephyr in 2019), the original coffee shop is still there, where it’s been joined by a bakery, although the roastery is now in Reno (which l also passed through on the California Zephyr). From that eastern base, Coffeebar spread to the Bay Area with two locations on the peninsula, Menlo Park, which arrived in 2018, and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Redwood City Coffeebar, which opened in September 2019.
Located on Broadway, a short walk from the Caltrain/bus station, it’s a lovely spot in an old, high-ceilinged building providing plenty of space, with as much seating outside under the shade of mature trees lining the pedestrianised street. Coffeebar offers the Zephyr blend and Prima Donna decaf on espresso, while there are two blends on batch brew, the dark roast Giuseppe and a rotating lighter roast (Trailhead during my visit), plus three single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave/Modbar. There’s also tea, beer, wine and, if you’re hungry, breakfast, lunch and a range of cakes and pastries.
The original Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery on Folsom Street was a highlight of my first Coffee Spot visit to San Francisco in 2017. Back then, Sightglass just had one other coffee shop (on 20th Street in The Mission), but it’s since expanded with a shop in Los Angeles and another in San Francisco, in The Haight, on the corner of Divisadero and Page Street. This opened not long after my 2017 visit, but somehow the news had passed me by, so it was completely by chance that I spotted it on the other side of Divisadero while wandering in the neighbourhood.
A large coffee shop, although not as large as the original coffee bar & roastery (which is huge), there’s plenty of seating in the spacious interior, while you can also sit outside on one of four benches which protrude, step-like, from the left-hand side of the shop as it climbs up Page Street. The coffee features Sightglass’s ubiquitous Owl’s Howl blend plus decaf on espresso, while if you want filter, there’s a single option on batch brew along with two on pour-over through the V60. There’s also a selection of cakes and a concise lunch menu.
It’s been just over five years since I first visited Canopy Coffee, at the time, Guildford’s newest speciality coffee shop. Very much the creation of its owner, Jonathon, Canopy was a wonderful multi-roaster coffee shop, one of Guildford’s coffee pioneers, as well as offering some fantastic food. Jonathon also did an amazing job of turning an awkward corner spot opposite Waitrose into a cosy coffee shop.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Jonathon reinvented the space, turning Canopy into a take-away coffee shop, the first of Guildford’s speciality coffee shops to re-open. Although Canopy reopened some limited indoor seating, it retained the takeaway window, effectively becoming a sit-in/take-away hybrid.
Jonathon always said that he wouldn’t be at Canopy forever and, true to his word, this time last year, he sold Canopy to its current owner, Jackie, an Australian who has been running cafés in the UK for over 15 years. I’ve visited Canopy a few times since the change of ownership, so I thought it was high time I did an actual Coffee Shop update.
After two years with no face-to-face meetings for work, things have suddenly taken off. Following my trip to Berlin at the start of May, I was off again in July, this time to the Bay Area, where I had a week-long meeting, followed by a week of exploring. I then flew to Atlanta to spend a couple of weeks with Amanda, before flying home exactly a month after I left.
Flying into the Bay Area presents a range of options, with San Francisco and San Jose being the most convenient. I did a similar trip in January 2020, and, just as I did then, I decided to fly to San Jose with British Airways. Although San Francisco is slightly more convenient, with several flights a day, on both occasions it was considerably more expensive. This made San Jose, with its one flight a day, the logical choice and, just as I did in 2020, I decided to fly in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me).
Although I’ve just returned from that trip, it’s only now that I’ve had the time to start writing up the Travel Spots, starting with this one about my flight to San Jose.
Although you can find good coffee all across Berlin, it’s still quite rare in tourist areas, which makes The Barn’s coffee shop in the Sony Center, around the corner from Potsdamer Platz, such a good find. The Barn, which boasts 10 Berlin coffee shops and two more overseas (Mallorca, Dubai), needs no introduction with its international reputation for roasting excellent coffee. The Barn, which began life in the Mitte district of Berlin, has a certain look and feel to the majority of its coffee shops, although the one in the Sony Center bucks this trend, with its modern, clean lines. There’s a handful of tables outside on the quiet street, while there’s plenty more seating in the L-shaped interior.
Despite the atypical appearance, you can be sure of the same warm welcome, along with the usual range of coffee, which is common to all The Barn’s Berlin locations. This includes a concise espresso-based menu (available online via QR Code), two options on pour-over through the V60, plus cold brew, tea, hot chocolate and a range of cakes. The specific beans (all single-origins) vary by location, chosen by the baristas every few days, while the full range is available in retail bags.
Spro Coffee Lab was recommended by the baristas at Devout Coffee in Fremont, who marked it out as doing some of the best espresso in San Francisco. Spro began as a trailer in Spark Social SF, which is still going strong, followed by a bricks-and-mortar store in Mission Dolores/Castro, where I headed on the day following my visit to Devout. Occupying a bright corner with plenty of windows, there are five tables outside on the pavement and a similar amount of seating in the minimalist interior.
According to its website, Spro Coffee Lab serves “specialty craft coffee, experimental mocktails, inventive eats and artisanal goods using advanced techniques in culinary food science”, which is as good a description as any. There’s a selection of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, while if you want something sweeter, another menu, just as extensive as the savoury one, is dedicated to pastries and desserts. There’s even a (smaller) menu for dogs!
When it comes to coffee, Spro currently uses Black & White Coffee Roasters from North Carolina, with its current Classic espresso, plus decaf, on a concise menu, while there’s a blend and two single-origins on pour-over, plus the aforementioned mocktails and other drinks.
Having come from the relative coffee-rich Bay Area, with several day-trips to San Francisco and one to Oakland under my belt, I flew to Georgia at the end of July with no great expectations when it came to coffee. However, last weekend, Amanda took me over to Marietta, where we found an absolute gem in Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe, located just north of Marietta Square on Church Street.
A relative newcomer, Tuesday opened in October 2021, providing top-notch coffee (roasted by West Atlanta’s Bellwood Coffee) from a standard espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter. There’s also a selection of other drinks, plus a range of cakes from the bakery next door, all of which makes up the coffee part of Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe.
The shop is represented by an interesting range of bespoke products displayed on the left-hand side of the neat little space. Due to Tuesday’s size, indoor seating is limited to a four-person bar, while there are two benches and four two-person tables outside on the quiet street, with plenty of shade from a combination of trees and parasols. Note that Tuesday only has takeaway cups at the moment, so don’t forget to bring your own.