Ogawa Coffee, Kyoto Station

A lovely single-origin Ethiopian pour-over from Ogawa Coffee at Kyoto Station.Yesterday I took the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station, on my way towards Tokyo, stopping en-route in Hamaya to visit Dark Arts and in Zushi (Breather Coffee). It therefore seems fitting that today’s Coffee Spot is the Kyoto Station branch of Ogawa Coffee. I had my first-ever Kyoto speciality coffee there on arriving from Tokyo in April 2017, and on my return, I had my final coffee (along with my breakfast) before leaving Kyoto yesterday morning. Not that 2017 was my first experience of Ogawa Coffee. Rather that came a year earlier in 2016, at Ogawa Coffee in Boston. Naturally, when visiting Kyoto, the home of Ogawa, I had to try at least one branch of Ogawa, and where better to start (and end), than at the station?

Despite being what could be described as a station takeaway café, Ogawa doesn’t compromise when it comes to coffee. There’s a concise espresso menu, offering espresso, cappuccino or latte, the latter being available hot or iced. There’s also filter, with a choice of the house-blend on batch-brew, and two single-origins as pour-over or Aeropress. You can either sit-in or have your coffee to go, which you can order from the separate retail counter.

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Wood St Coffee Roastery

The roaster, a 5 kg Probat, at Wood St Coffee in Walthamstow.Welcome to what has turned into a very rare occurrence: a new Meet the Roaster feature! This is just the second of the year after Peixoto Coffee Roasters, which came out in February. Mind you, that’s an improvement on last year, when I managed just one! The focus of today’s Meet the Roaster is Walthamstow’s Wood St Coffee, which started off six years as a Sunday pop-up in Wood Street Market, run by Gareth with the support of his girlfriend, Claire. Fast-forward six years, and Wood St has gone from a one-man, once-a-week operation to a thriving coffee shop and now roastery, employing multiple staff, a real success story and a testament to the hard work of Gareth, Claire and all their staff.

Although the roastery’s output is primarily to support the coffee shop, Wood St has a growing wholesale market, as well selling direct to the consumer. You can buy 250g bags of Wood St’s coffee in the coffee shop itself, or on-line on Wood St’s website. These days, all the coffee is roasted on-site using a 5 kg Probat in a container outside Wood St’s home in the Blackhorse Workshop, although, as we’ll see, that’s a fairly recent development.

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Foret Coffee

A cartoon figure of a man making a pour-over from the side of my mug at Foret Coffee, Nagano.Foret Coffee was the third of the three coffee shops my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me to when I visited Nagano last year, along with Hirano Coffee and Maruyama. When I passed through Nagano earlier this week, with a little bit of time to kill, I decided to pay Foret another visit, having enjoyed it so much last time (I would have revisited Hirano as well, but it closes on Tuesdays, the day I was there).

Foret is very much in the third-wave mould, a coffee shop/roaster (the coffee is roasted off-site) with a simple shop, occupying a sparsely-decorated concrete shell, with the counter on the right and the seating on the left. Unusually for Japan, it also caters to the takeaway market, with a separate takeaway window at the front of the counter, so you can get your coffee to go without setting foot inside.

Foret has a simple espresso-based menu using a seasonal espresso-blend, while if you want filter, there’s a wide selection of single-origins to choose from, conveniently segregated into light/medium roasts and dark roasts. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of scones and cookies, all baked on the open range behind the counter.

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Maruyama Coffee, Nagano Station

A syphon at Maruyama Coffee in Nagano Station, warming on the infrared heater after brewing.My first ever speciality coffee experience in Japan was at Maruyama Coffee in Nishi Azabu, conveniently located across the road from my hotel. Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Maruyama Coffee, a high-end chain which has its origins in Nagano Prefecture. It was therefore fitting that when my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me on a coffee tour of Nagano, our first stop was Maruyama Coffee, which has a lovely coffee shop in the Midori shopping mall at Nagano Station. I also made a point of calling in on my return to Nagano on this trip.

Maruyama is a blend of traditional Japanese hospitality (table service, attentive staff, baskets to put your things in so that they don’t have to rest on the floor) and speciality coffee. In the former aspect, it’s very unlike western coffee shops; in its latter aspect, third-wave aficionados will instantly feel at home. As an added bonus, the Nagano Station location specialises in syphon coffee, which is prepared on the counter-top for all to see. Other than that, you get the usual Maruyama offering, with a bewildering choice of origins and blends through cafetiere and espresso, plus a small food menu.

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Hirano Coffee

My coffee, a V60 of a Guatemalan single-origin, reflecting the greenery in Hirano Coffee, Nagano.Greetings from Japan, where I’m back in the mountains in the Nagano Prefecture, escaping the heat and humidity for a week before returning to Tokyo for two weeks of meetings! Since I’m here, I thought it was high time that I wrote up some of the Coffee Spots that my friend Christopher took me to when I was last in Nagano, in October last year, starting with Hirano Coffee.

Hirano isn’t that easy to find, tucked away in the back streets just south of the Zenkō-ji Temple, but it’s worth seeking out. A coffee shop/roastery, it occupies both floors of a two-storey house which looks and feels (to me at least) like a small, traditional Japanese dwelling, reminding me of & Espresso and Nem Coffee & Espresso. You can sit downstairs with the counter and roaster for company, or in the glorious upstairs.

All the coffee is roasted on the 5kg Fuji Royal behind the counter, and there’s a choice of five single-origins and five blends, plus a small selection of cakes and toast if you’re hungry. If you’re looking for espresso though, you’ve come to the wrong place, since Hirano only serves pour-over using a traditional cloth filter or V60.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying Finnair, Part I – Manchester to Helsinki

The best part of flying out of Manchester's Terminal 1? I got to make my own coffee in my Espro Travel Press, grinding the beans (Grumpy Mule's Widescreen blend) with my Aergrind from Made by KnockWelcome to another Brian’s Travel Spot, quickly following on from the previous one, where I noted that I wasn’t writing many Travel Spots this year! This particular Travel Spot covers what is my fourth trip to Japan in a little over two years. However, whereas for each of the previous three trips, I’ve flown British Airways, this time I’m flying Finnair via Helsinki.

Wherever possible, I fly direct (it’s quicker and there’s less to go wrong). However, on this occasion, I was starting in Manchester, so I was going to have to change planes somewhere. Normally, I’d fly down to Heathrow with British Airways, taking a direct flight from there, but since Finnair is part of the One World alliance with British Airways, the Manchester-Helsinki-Tokyo route was shown as a (significantly cheaper) option, which prompted me to book it.

Since my Travel Spots run on the long-side, and since each flight is a considerable journey in its own right, I’ve split the trip over two posts. This first part covers the flight from Manchester to Helsinki, while Part II covers the onward flight to Tokyo. And hopefully there’ll be a Part III for my flight back from Tokyo with British Airways.

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Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard

The signature espresso at Le Cafe Alain Ducasse in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, served in a double-walled glass cup and a small square of chocolate.Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is part of the new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, a few minutes’ walk north of the station. Alain Ducasse, a French chef who, over the years, has had 21 Michelin stars to his name, hit the headlines earlier this year with a £15 cup of Yemeni coffee, which had the likes of The Guardian and the Financial Times weighing in on the subject. High time, I thought, that I popped along to see what all the fuss is about.

Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is a rarity in London, a coffee shop which just sells coffee, whether it be by the cup or by the bag (all the coffee is available for sale in retail bags). It is also, by London standards, expensive, although, £15 cups of coffee notwithstanding, not outrageously so. My espresso, for example, cost £2.50. What you get for your money, other than some very fine coffee, is the whole experience. While you can just order a coffee to go, you would, in my opinion, be missing out if you did. Rather, you should linger, enjoying both the coffee and the company, either of your fellow customers or of the staff.

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Long & Short Coffee, Walthamstow

Part of the amazing mural on the wall of Long & Short Coffee in Walthamstow, showing a bird's head.Long & Short Coffee was a chance discovery during my Saturday afternoon spent revisiting Walthamstow at the end of last month. A coffee shop/roaster, I knew the name from the original on Brick Lane, but unaware of the second branch in Walthamstow until the staff at Wood St Coffee mentioned it. Even then, I had no idea where it was since, at three weeks old, it wasn’t even on Google Maps (now, thankfully, resolved). However, when I saw it as I passed by on the No. 158 bus, I seized my opportunity.

Long & Short is part of Crate, Saint James Street’s answer to the Box Park, occupying an end unit which is, appropriately, long and thin. There are three two-person tables inside, with Long & Short having access to the communal seating on the terrace at the front of Crate. The offering is pretty simple too, with a house and guest espresso, plus filter options on batch-brew and pour-over, backed up by a selection of tea and a small range of cakes and pastries.

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Espresso Station, Moor Street Station

A classic espresso, made with the Monsoon Estates' seasonal blend, and served in a classic cup at the Espresso Station in Moor Street Station, Birmingham.The Espresso Station has been around for a while, since I can remember it from the early days of the Coffee Spot. These days it’s grown to a sizeable operation, providing coffee around the West Midlands. There are to two outlets in stations (Dorridge and Moor Street), two in sports clubs (Aston Villa FC and Worcester Warriors Rugby) and two coffee shops (the Espresso Barn and Espresso Farm). Maybe one day we’ll see the Espresso Station at Edgbaston (hint, hint).

Today’s Coffee Spot is a two-for-the-price-of-one, with the Espresso Station at Birmingham’s Moor Street, where there’s a lovely station café on the main concourse and a smaller, mainly takeaway operation behind the ticket barriers by the platforms. Both serve a standard espresso-based menu using a seasonal espresso blend from nearby Monsoon Estates Coffee Company, along with limited breakfast and lunch menus, plus a selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches.

Obviously, the café, with a small amount of indoor seating, plus some “outdoor” tables, sheltered under the soaring glass roof of the station concourse, is the more accessible of the two, since you don’t need to buy a train ticket to visit it, so that’s the focus of today’s Coffee Spot.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying from Boston with Virgin Atlantic

Mademoiselle Rouge, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300, waiting on the stand at Boston Logan Airport to take me back to London Heathrow.Welcome to the second instalment of my Brian’s Travel Spot covering my trip to/from Boston with Virgin Atlantic. In the first part, I wrote about my flight over from Heathrow, where I was unexpectedly upgraded to Upper Class. This post covers my flight back to Heathrow from Boston Logan, where I travelled in premium economy. I tend to fly either at the front of the plane (business class, when work is paying) or at the back of the plane (economy, when I’m paying), so this was a fairly unusual experience for me.

I also took the daytime flight from Boston to Heathrow, which leaves Boston in the morning and arrives in London in the evening, the perfect flight for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sleeping on planes. When I first started flying transatlantic in the late 1990s, this used to be my favoured flight, but after 9/11, they largely disappeared from the schedule, only to reappear a few years ago. This was probably the first time I’ve caught this flight or its equivalent in nearly 20 years! With my flight leaving at 08:15, this meant an (unreasonably, for me) early start, although my first problem was getting to the airport…

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