Let me tell you a story. A story about coffee, in fact. Story Coffee started life in 2014 on St John’s Hill, between Clapham Junction and Wandsworth, although very much at the Clapham Junction end. Story Coffee made its name serving awesome brunches and excellent coffee in a fairly small, sunny spot before adding the even smaller, more grab-and-go orientated Story Works to the family in 2018. Then, in early 2020, along came Story Coffee in the Ram Quarter, Wandsworth.
The latest Story Coffee is huge. You could easily fit the first two inside and have plenty of space left over. There’s a neat coffee bar area at the front, a dedicated dining area towards the back, and a large, outdoor seating area out front. The same staples that originally made Story Coffee its name remain: excellent coffee and awesome brunches, but now with wine added to the mix.
There’s the familiar Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine on the counter, with a bespoke house-blend roasted by Modern Standard gracing the hopper of the Mahlkönig grinder. There’s also decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew (both Modern Standard/Story Coffee), while various guests are available on pour-over via the SP9/Kalita Wave.
Like I Will Kill Again, this is a coffee shop/roastery which opened in July 2018, although the Probat roaster was only installed in April this year. Prior to that, the coffee was imported from the UK roastery. The offering will be very familiar to anyone used to Dark Arts Coffee, with the likes of Lost Highway on espresso. This, like its UK counterpart, is a single-origin Nicaraguan, and while it has a similar taste profile, it’s a different bean. The coffee menu, meanwhile, is more typically Japanese, with plenty of iced options and various coffee cocktails. There’s also an all-day, western brunch menu, complete with specials.
Dark Arts Coffee has been roasting since 2014 and I’ve enjoyed its coffee at various places, including The Black Chapel in London, plus in a cluster of places in the northwest, such as Manchester’s Idle Hands and Siop Shop and Chester’s Little Yellow Pig. I Will Kill Again, its interestingly-named coffee shop/roastery, has been on my radar pretty much since it opened in May 2016. My only excuse for not visiting sooner (other than to give Mike Stanbridge something to nag me about) is that Homerton, its East London home, is not somewhere I get to very frequently.
Located in a railway arch, the roaster (off to your right as you enter) is in action from Monday to Friday, while the space is open to the public as a coffee shop from Wednesday to Sunday. There’s a range of (mostly) communal seating, including several picnic-style tables outside.
Dark Arts only roasts single-origins, which it then gives some interesting names. The espresso, available as black or white (with milk) in sizes of 4, 6 and 8oz, rotates between Lost Highway and Dead Brick, while there’s a single filter option on batch brew. If you’re hungry, try the eclectic all-day brunch menu.
Tib Street, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter (itself replete with multiple speciality coffee shops) is a busy place. At one end, there’s the venerable North Tea Power, while if you progress northeast, you’ll soon reach newcomers, Just Between Friends Coffee, closely followed by the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Siop Shop, across the road from the recently-closed Ezra To Go.
Siop Shop is a relative newcomer itself, having been open for precisely one week when I was last in Manchester (for the 2017 Manchester Coffee Festival). As a result, it didn’t quite make my radar, but on my return this year, it was high on my list. For those that don’t know, Siop (pronounced “shop”) is Welsh for shop. Iwan, who owns Siop Shop along with his partner, Lucy, is Welsh, Siop Shop providing a small slice of Wales in Manchester, complete with bilingual signs. You can even say hello and order in Welsh if you like!
Siop Shop made its name through its awesome doughnuts, but there’s also full breakfast and lunch menus, plus cake and sandwiches. Local roaster, Dark Woods, provides a bespoke house-blend (Coffi Coffee) on espresso, while there’s a daily guest on espresso and another on V60.
My knowledge of Chester’s speciality coffee scene has, until recently, largely been confined to the city centre, and, in the case of Moss Coffee, Brook Street, which leads between the centre and Chester Station. However, for the last 4½ years, (literally) on the other side of the tracks, Little Yellow Pig has been doing its thing in Hoole. Although part of Chester, Hoole has its own distinct look and feel, complete with a compact centre, packed with shops and restaurants, Little Yellow Pig fitting in perfectly.
From humble beginnings, Little Yellow Pig has grown into a large coffee shop and brunch venue, serving Lost Highway from Dark Arts Coffee on espresso, with plans for pour-over in the near future. Just as importantly, there’s food, with excellent breakfast and lunch menus, supplemented by a great selection of cakes, all cooked on site. There’s also fresh bread for sale every day. You can sit in the original part, where you’ll find a more traditional coffee shop setting, complete with counter and some tables, or next door, in the larger, lounge-like area which Little Yellow Pig annexed two years ago. There’s even a small outdoor seating area on Westminster Road.
The Black Chapel occupies a unit on the west side of Chapel Yard, a sheltered, pedestrian space just off Wandsworth High Street. There are a couple of outside tables and three stools inside, but that’s about it. You really come here for the coffee, the vegan snacks/treats, and, of course, to be insulted by hang out with The Black Chapel’s legendary owner, Ant.
There’s a rotating cast of guest roasters, with a single option on espresso and another on pour-over. Ant operates an interesting system: when one coffee runs out, he grabs a bag of whatever takes his fancy from his stock cupboard and on that goes in its place… The coffee is pulled on a vintage 1964 Telechrome lever espresso machine, although while I was there, it was under repair, replaced by an even more venerable lever machine, a 1958 Faema Lambro. There’s also filter through the Clever Dripper.
When it comes to food (although not coffee, where cow’s milk is available along with non-dairy alternatives), The Black Chapel is vegan, with a small selection of sweet and savoury delights, including avocado on toast, all prepared on-site. I arrived just as the cinnamon buns came out of the oven…