Back to Black, Weteringstraat

Details from the sign for Back to Black, written in a cursive script in the window of the coffee shop on Weteringstraat.Back to Black is a chain of precisely two Amsterdam coffee shops which, since 2015, has been roasting its own coffee from a small roastery/bakery which, sadly, is not open to the public. This branch is on Weteringstraat, south of the centre, near the Rijksmuseum and Heineken Experience, making it a good stop if you are out for a bit of sightseeing, and has a lovely, canalside location. The other branch, in contrast, is on Van Hallstraat, about a 30-minute walk west of the main station.

Back to Black is primarily a coffee shop, serving a range of cakes and savoury snacks, all baked in-house. The coffee, similarly, is all roasted in-house, with Back to Black only roasting single-origins. There’s a choice of two espressos, one that has a more conventional taste profile and the other which is a bit different. There’s also a choice of filter coffee, where you can have anything that’s on the shelves in retail bags through V60, Aeropress or Cafetiere, or, if you want to share Chemex or Syphon. The espresso changes on a regular basis, Back to Black moving to something new once the current one runs out, while the filter options are seasonal.

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Pavilion Café

The word CAFE in white on the side wall of the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park, glass dome soaring above.The Pavilion Café, a fixture at the western end of Victoria Park in Bethnal Green, has been going strong for over 10 years, serving excellent coffee and locally sourced all-day breakfasts for over 10 years. These days, the Pavilion Café has been joined by pair of bakery cafes in London (Broadway Market and Colombia Road) and an outpost in Newquay, Cornwall, which opened earlier this year.

The Pavilion Café occupies a circular, glass-domed pavilion (hence the name) on the eastern side of the park’s West Lake. During the winter, there is seating inside, but in the summer, it spreads out the lakeside which provides some of the best views in London. These days the coffee is from Cornwall’s Origin, with a single-origin on espresso. Although the default seems to be to serve all the drinks in takeaway cups, there are proper cups available. You just need to ask when ordering.

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Dinner at Kavárna Místo

The coffee tasting flight at Misto in Prague.: three different single-origin filters. But can you guess which is which?One of the (many) things that impressed me during my time in Prague was the number of coffee shops that stayed open really late. For example, both Pražírna Kavárna and Coffee and Riot are open until 10pm. Then there’s those that mix late opening with great coffee and great food. A prime example is Eska, which is a restaurant upstairs and a coffee bar downstairs (it reminded me of Caravan King’s Cross, with the obvious difference that Caravan’s only on a single level).

Another example is the subject of today’s Saturday Supplement, Kavárna Místo, one of three Prague coffee shops of renowned Czech roasters, Doubleshot. This is more like a traditional coffee shop that serves an all-day dining menu. Add that to the fact that it doesn’t close until 10pm each night (apart from Sunday) and you have the perfect casual dining location.

Indeed, Amanda and I first visited Místo for dinner, returning the following morning for coffee. You can read all about Místo the coffee shop in its own Coffee Spot. Meanwhile, this Saturday Supplement focuses on the food, cake and also the coffee tasting flight, which offers 150ml samples of all three single-origins on pour-over.

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Kavárna Místo

The Ethiopian Uraga single-origin espresso from Doubleshot at its cafe, Misto, in Prague.Kavárna Místo is one of three Prague coffee shops of renowned Czech roasters, Doubleshot. Although off the beaten (tourist) track in a residential area north of the castle, it came highly recommended by Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato. A lovely, L-shaped spot, there’s a range of seating, the space cleverly divided into multiple smaller spaces by walls with large openings. You can also sit outside at one of a handful of tables down the left-hand side.

Amanda and I visited twice, first for dinner (which is the subject of its own Saturday Supplement) then returning for coffee the following morning. As I’ve come to discover in Prague, service is of the highest standard, Místo offering full table service. There’s an innovative all-day dining menu (served until 10pm) with dishes suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all backed up with a range of excellent cakes and desserts.

The real draw, though, is the coffee. There’s a seasonal espresso plus a single-origin, all the shots pulled on a lovely Kees van der Westen Spirit, along with a choice of three single-origins available through the V60, one of which is also on daily batch-brew. Finally, if you really can’t decide, the coffee tasting flight offers 150ml samples of all three.

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Coffee Source

The Coffee Source logo from the sign outside the shop in Prague.Coffee Source is well-established in Prague’s booming speciality coffee scene, the roaster having been going for over 10 years. However, the coffee shop of the same name, on the busy Francouzská, just on the southern edge of Vinohrady, is a relatively new addition, having only opened this month. A delightful spot, it’s long and thin, with a classic, clean design, all pale woods and right-angles, quite a contrast to the Prague coffee shops I’ve been visiting on this trip. It also boasts the city’s first Modbar (and just the second in Czechia), two gleaming group heads and a pour-over module rising from the counter.

Coffee Source has a single-origin on espresso, served from a concise menu, with options on batch brew, Aeropress and V60 (through the Modbar pour-over module). If you are hungry, there’s a decent selection of cakes and pastries to choose from. As much as this is a coffee shop in its own right, it’s also a retailer, showcasing the entire output of the roastery. Currently the various blends and single-origins are available in retail bags, but in due course, a coffee dispensing system will be installed, allowing customers to bring their own containers, buying beans by weight.

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Birmingham Coffee Festival 2019: Meet the Roasters

The Ngopi logo, taken from the stand at the 2019 Birmingham Coffee Festival.Welcome to the second of my detailed write ups of the third annual Birmingham Coffee Festival, where I had a fabulous time, exploring all things coffee. I can’t believe where the time has gone though: was it only two weeks ago that I was in Birmingham? Apparently so! Last week I got things underway with my traditional festival round-up, while this week it’s the turn of the roasters, who came from far and wide, although with a definitely focus on local roasters from the city and the wider West Midlands are.

I’ve split this into three, starting with familiar faces, before moving to some (old) new friends that I made at last year’s event (where, sadly, I didn’t have time to do a detailed write up on all the wonderful roasters I met) before finishing with my (new) new friends that I met this year. Although Birmingham Coffee Festival has always had a focus on local roasters, this year’s event clashed with World of Coffee in Berlin, where quick a few of the higher profile UK roasters were in attendance, so I want to say a special vote of thanks to those who made the effort to attend both Berlin and Birmingham.

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SLOW Café

The SLOW Cafe logo hanging outside the coffee shop in Prague.SLOW Café was my first chance discovery in Prague. Although on my (very long) list of potential spots, I was on my way elsewhere for brunch when I wandered past, catching sight of the weekly brunch menu in the window. Consisting of just five items, each was intriguing, so since I was already hungry, in I went. Like Monday’s Coffee Spot, Pražírna Kavárna, SLOW Café has multiple rooms, although in this case, they’re on the ground floor, not in a basement. There’s also a wonderfully secluded courtyard at the back, albeit much smaller than the one at Pražírna Kavárna.

SLOW Café only works with roasters that the owners know personally, starting with Coffee Source, a local roaster with a coffee shop just down the street. Coffee Source provides the espresso (a natural Ethiopian during my visit), with SLOW Café offering an extremely concise menu of just espresso, flat white and cappuccino. This is joined by various filter options, the roasters drawn from around Europe. This includes Kaffa Roastery from Helsinki and, during my visit, Berlin’s Bonanza, plus SlowMov and Nomad (the owners had just been to Barcelona) on Aeropress and V60, while Helsingborg’s Koppi was on batch brew, although the options change regularly.

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Donut Shop

A glorious Boston Rhubarb doughtnut from the Donut ShopPrague’s Donut Shop, which styles itself as serving fresh, handmade doughnuts with style (I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to type “donut”) along with speciality coffee, was recommended by the baristas at my very first stop in Prague, Pražírna Kavárna. Located in the Vinohrady district southeast of Prague’s Old Town, it’s been baking all its doughnuts on site in the kitchen at the back since 2016, pairing them with some excellent coffee. And that’s pretty much it.

There’s not much to the Donut Shop, just a counter and two three-person bars inside in the long, narrow interior. In fact, there’s more seating outside, with four tables spread out on the broad pavement, under the shade of a very large tree.

The Donut Shop has a single roaster on espresso and batch brew, the roaster changing every two or three months, although the individual beans on offer change more frequently. During my visit, it was the turn of Berlin’s The Barn, with a pair of single-origins, a Colombian on espresso and a Brazilian on batch brew.

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Pražírna Kavárna

The Pražírna Kavárna logo, a black and white line drawing of a roaster. Am I the only one who thinks it looks like a steam train?I’m not sure how I first discovered Pražírna Kavárna, but there it was, a star on Google Maps, a five-minute walk from my hotel (chosen for its proximity to the office, not for coffee reasons) so I took it as providence, heading there on my first morning in Prague. Not knowing what to expect, I was reassured by the sign hanging above the door, which shows a stylised black and white line drawing of a coffee roaster looking, bizarrely, a lot like a steam locomotive pulling a train!

Pražírna Kavárna has a small, unassuming street level façade which hides a wonderful interior, accessible down two short flights of steps. There’s a series of gorgeous, brick-vaulted basement rooms, with, right at the back, a lovely, enclosed courtyard garden. When it comes to coffee, Pražírna Kavárna only serves single-origins, original roasted on-site (you can still see the roaster) but now it’s all done in a dedicated facility. There’s a simple espresso-based menu with filter on batch-brew, Aeropress, V60 and Kalita Wave. Opening late into the evenings, there’s also draft lager, wine plus spirits and cocktails. This is backed up by a small all-day lunch/snack menu and a selection of homemade cakes.

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Birmingham Coffee Festival 2019 Round Up

The Birmingham Coffee Festival logoThis time last week I was at the third annual Birmingham Coffee Festival, taking place at the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham. I went for the first time last year, enjoying it so much that I decided to return to Birmingham this year, even though it meant missing the World of Coffee in Berlin. In all I spent two days there, Friday and Saturday, skipping the final day (Sunday). Of the two, Friday was much quieter, as you would expect.

If you’ve attended any of the UK’s smaller coffee festivals (Manchester or Glasgow for example), then you’ll know roughly what to expect: coffee, coffee equipment and handful of related stands. Alternatively, if you’ve been to London Coffee Festival, then the Birmingham festival is much smaller and far more relaxed, featuring mostly local roasters and coffee shops, with a handful of national names.

As I usually do for coffee festivals, I’m going to write up my visit over a series of posts, starting today with a general round-up of the festival and the space. Subsequent posts will deal with the various roasters I visited, all things food-related, plus there’ll be a general round post covering everything else (including tea of all things!).

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