The Collective

The latte art in my flat white, made with Extract's Rocket Espresso, at The Collective in Caversham.It takes a special business to open in the middle of a global pandemic, which is exactly what The Collective, in Caversham, did. In fairness, the plan had been to open a lot earlier, but in a story I hear all too often, there were problems with the fit out and then, just as The Collective was due to open in March, along came the COVID-19 shutdown.

Many would have given up at that point, but not Caversham residents, Sam and Susie, the driving force behind The Collective. Instead they pushed on, The Collective opening in June, initially for takeaway only, before fully opening for table service in mid-September. There’s a brunch menu, which is joined at 11 o’clock by the lunch and toastie menus, all the food cooked in the open kitchen behind the counter. This is backed up by a concise espresso-based menu featuring Extract Coffee Roasters’s Rocket espresso.

However, The Collective’s a lot more than just a café. It’s also a lifestyle store, which reminded me of the likes of Liverpool’s Thoughtfully Café, plus a grocer, selling milk, bread, eggs and more, which brought the likes of Bristol’s No 12 Easton and Elemental Collective to mind.

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The Coffee Dispensary

A lovely flat white, made with Extract's Strongman/woman seasonal espresso, and served in a classic black cup at The Coffee Dispensary in Cheltenham.Cheltenham’s come a long way, coffee-wise, since I first visited in 2013. On Monday, I wrote about The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, which has, along with Studio Coffee Roasters, been leading the way since 2014, although today’s Coffee Spot, The Coffee Dispensary, is not far behind, having opened just over three years ago in October 2015. Like The Scandinavian Coffee Pod, it’s right in the centre of town, on Regent Street, by the Regent Arcade.

There’s an impressive selection of coffee. Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters is the mainstay, supplying the house espresso (which changes every few months), while the weekly-changing guests provide multiple single-origins on both espresso and filter. The Coffee Dispensary wants nothing less than the best coffee from the best roasters: during my visit this included Bath’s Colonna Coffee and Round Hill Roastery plus Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. Filter coffee is usually available through V60, but the staff will also do Chemex, Aeropress or Kalita Wave, plus there’s batch-brew. All the coffee is available to buy in retail bags.

Alternatively, there are ten teas, six hot chocolates and five chai lattes. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of sandwiches, plus cakes for those with a sweet tooth.

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SHOTS Espresso Bar

A slightly out-of-focus shot of Unkle Funka from Extract Coffee Roasters at SHOTS Espresso Bar in Birmingham.SHOTS Espresso Bar (aka Shots by Saints, Shots for short) is an offshoot of Saint Kitchen, in St Paul’s Square, Birmingham. It occupies the same location on nearby Water Street as the now defunct Upstairs Coffee, a delightfully tiny gem that was on the ground floor, but upstairs from a cocktail bar (which has also gone, replaced by a men’s hairdressers). If you remember Upstairs Coffee, then Shots will be instantly recognisable, right down to the La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, wood panelling and gorgeous light fitting.

However, some things have changed. For example, batch-brew has joined the usual espresso-based menu, with all the coffee coming from Extract Coffee Roasters (which also supplies Saint Kitchen). There’s also a small selection of tea, plus Kokoa Collection hot chocolate. Even better, while Upstairs Coffee only had takeaway cups, Shots has a handful of proper cups for those staying to drink their coffee.

December 2019: SHOTS Espresso Bar has, sadly, closed.

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The Epiphany

The logo of The Epiphany, a speciality coffee shop at the RWA in Bristol.Too often, speciality coffee fills a very specific niche in very specific types of coffee shops. While I’m as guilty as the next (probably more so) in celebrating and promoting this image, in order to thrive, I feel that speciality coffee needs to get beyond its niche and into more mainstream settings. Step forward The Epiphany, a lovely spot in the Royal West of England Academy (RWA), a leading art gallery in Bristol.

Filling the role of gallery coffee shop, The Epiphany is also a speciality coffee shop in its own right, serving local Extract Coffee Roasters on espresso, with regularly-rotating guests on filter, including, while I was there, a Guatemalan from Cornwall’s Yallah Coffee. The filter option changes weekly, with methods including V60, Kalita and Chemex, the particular method chosen to match that week’s coffee. There’s also a decent lunch menu, plus an interesting range of cakes, all prepared in the kitchen behind the counter.

The shop itself is delightful, a long, thin space with amazing, high ceilings. Even better, once you have ordered, you can go upstairs via the RWA’s glorious main staircase, and sit on the landing, or, if the weather’s nice, out on the spacious balcony.


December 2019: The Epiphany has closed, with the owners moving on to new ventures. However, in its place, the RWA cafe continues under new management.

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KuPP

The KuPP logo in red neon.KuPP is the latest addition to the area around Paddington Station, joining the likes of Beany Green in bringing speciality coffee to this part of London. KuPP, which opened at the end of March, is half-way down Paddington Basin, on the opposite side from Saint Mary’s hospital. All things to all people, KuPP is a Scandinavian-inspired bar, restaurant and coffee shop. Obviously, I’ll be focusing on the coffee shop, but having lunched there, I can also pass comment on the food. As to the bar, I shall leave that to those more qualified than me to judge. It looks impressive though!

KuPP occupies what, in coffee shop terms, is an enormous space. Think Caravan, King’s Cross size, but with a more interesting layout. The bulk of KuPP is devoted to a large dining area, with fully-retractable windows that join it up to the outside seating along the quayside. Next to that, there’s a well-stocked bar and, at the far end, a (comparatively) small but beautifully-appointed coffee shop.

The coffee’s a bespoke blend, roasted by Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, a second option on bulk-brew filter, plus tea from Canton Tea Co and Kokoa Collection’s hot chocolate.

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Saint Kitchen

A beautiful piccolo from Saint Kitchen, using Extract Coffee, made in an espresso cup with an over-sized saucer.Birmingham’s city centre has a very compact coffee scene, with the likes of Yorks Cafe & Coffee Roasters, Yorks Espresso Bar, 200 Degrees, SHOTS Espresso Bar and Tilt all within a few minutes’ walk of each other. Saint Kitchen falls into this category, forming the cluster’s north-western outpost at St Paul’s Square.

Those with a long memory may recall Saint Kitchen as Saint Caffé, which it was until the start of 2014. That’s when new owner, Will, a chef, took over (the previous owners going on to found Faculty). His mission was to combine Saint Caffé’s already excellent coffee with equally great food. The good news is that, with the help of head-barista Liam, he has succeeded.

I visited twice, once in February, soon after the re-opening, and again in early August, to see how things had evolved. The coffee is from Bristol’s Extract, with the usual espresso-based range being supplemented on my return by pour-over (V60 or Aeropress). There’s also an extensive loose-leaf tea range and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate. The food was largely unchanged, with all-day breakfast, lunch and cake on the menu.

The biggest change was in the layout, with the seating reorganised to accommodate a new deli bar.

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