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.
COFFI is another recent addition to Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene which came highly recommended. Located on a cobbled street running parallel to Hope Street, there’s a lovely view of Liverpool’s Church of England Cathedral (not to be confused with Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is at the other end of Hope Street). COFFI opened in the late spring of 2021 in a lovely old coach house, which provides a unique setting for the coffee shop. There’s limited seating inside at a long table, while there are four benches outside on the quiet street.
The real draw, however, is the coffee, with owners Nat + Mike, who cut their coffee teeth in Bucharest, selecting some outstanding beans from Europe’s best roasters, brewing from a concise espresso-based menu with batch-brew filter and pour-over options. Berlin’s Five Elephant and London’s Assembly were on the shelves when I visited, but these change every two to three weeks, so you’re going to need to hurry to catch them. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes available.
Continuing my exploration of Berlin’s excellent speciality coffee scene, Five Elephant is just a short stroll across Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg from Monday’s Coffee Spot, 19grams. Another of Berlin’s well-known roasters, this is where it all started for Five Elephant, when it opened the first of its (currently four) coffee shops 10 years ago on the leafy Reichenberger Straße. It’s still the heart of the operation, with all the cakes being baked just along the street and the roastery (sadly not open to the public) just around the corner on Glogauer Straße.
Five Elephant Kreuzberg styles itself as a coffee and cake shop and that’s exactly what it is. Occupying two rooms on the ground floor of a lovely old Kreuzberg tenement, there’s as much seating inside as there is outside on the broad pavement, where you enjoy the shade of some magnificent, mature trees. When it comes to coffee, there’s a single-origin on espresso with another batch brew filter, both changing daily from a seasonal selection of beans, typically five espresso roasts and five filter roasts, all of which are available to buy in retail bags. And then there are the cakes. Such gorgeous cakes…
Welcome to the first of three detailed write-ups of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place two weeks ago at the Old Truman Brewery. The focus of today’s write-up is the coffee itself, which I normally leave until last. However, since I’m travelling at the moment, I’m writing this one first, leaving the more detailed write-ups until later, which cover coffee equipment and my coffee experiences. For details about the festival itself, try my Festival Round-up, which I published last week.
This was my seventh London Coffee Festival and while I was more focused on the coffee in previous years, recently my interest has moved to other areas. This is partly because there’s only so much coffee I can drink in a few days and partly because my coffee knowledge has expanded over the years. Whereas I would, in years past, want to try as much coffee as possible, these days I’m more interested in chatting with the roasters!
That said, there was some interesting coffee to be had this year, from roasters both old and new. There were also two standouts, one featuring coffee from Yemen, where it all began, and the other an amazing Geisha.
Box Office Coffee, which opened in November 2014, is the second speciality coffee shop in Bridport, one of a number of Dorset towns which are making themselves destinations for coffee lovers. Box Office is the little sister of the famous Number 35 Coffee House & Kitchen, located in nearby Dorchester. Set inside the box office of The Lyric Theatre (have you worked out where the name comes from yet?), Box Office is considerably small than Number 35, but, in coffee at least, every bit its equal, offering the same jaw-dropping array of ever-rotating beans. Indeed, the only constant (other than excellent quality) is the decaf, which comes from London’s Workshop.
Just as at Number 35, there’s a choice of four beans, two on espresso and two on filter (although space limitations means that only the Aeropress is used for filter coffee). The beans are chalked up on boards behind the counter, along with notes giving origin, process, altitude and tasting notes (including with and without milk for the espressos). As at Number 35, the bean’s the king, with no mention of the roaster.
If coffee’s not your thing, there’s loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and a choice of two different cakes.
April 2016: Extremely sad news. Box Office had to close in March due to circumstance beyond Number 35’s control. A great loss for Bridport, although fortunately Soulshine Cafe remains.
Normally, when visiting a Coffee Spot, I do so unannounced, sneaking quietly in, ordering my coffee and sitting by myself, getting a feel for the place. I do this for a number of reasons, one of which is so that I can sneak quietly out again if I don’t like it (rare, but it occasionally happens). My main reason, however, is so my experience is as much as possible that of the average customer who’d just walked in off the street.
With BLK Coffee in Heaton, Newcastle, I knew that this wasn’t going to happen. I’ve known Alison, BLK’s owner/head-barista/chief bottle-washer (delete as appropriate), for a couple of years. What’s more, she’d invited me to BLK’s launch party, which was on the evening of my visit. What that in mind, read on…
BLK is a multi-roaster, with a host of regularly-rotating guests, including, in the opening weeks, London’s Workshop, Bath’s Round Hill Roastery and Berlin’s Five Elephant Coffee. There are two options on espresso and on filter a choice of three single-origin beans through any of four preparation methods: Chemex, V60, Kalita Wave and Aeropress. Finally, there’s tea from Waterloo Tea, Kokoa Collection hot chocolate and plenty of cake.