CSONS has been a fixture of Shrewsbury’s coffee scene since 2015, when it opened as a coffee shop, serving primarily coffee and cakes. Since then, it’s evolved into a full-service restaurant and has opened a second location down the A49 in Ludlow. CSONS came to my attention through Hundred House Coffee, which provides CSONS’ bespoke house blend, available through a standard, espresso-based menu along with Hundred House’s regular decaf. There’s also tea from Hereford’s Trumpers Tea and a fully-stocked bar with local beers, cider and cocktails.
When it comes to food, CSONS has separate menus for breakfast (to 11:30), lunch (12:00 – 15:00) and dinner (15:00 onwards on Friday/Saturday only). The food is innovative, ranging from breakfast standards through to small plates for lunch/dinner so that you can mix-and-match your way through the menu (large plates are also available if you just want a regular meal!). You’re also welcome to pop in for coffee and cake (available all day).
All of this is served in a lovely space which occupies the ground floor of an old building on Milk Street. The seating is spread across multiple rooms, including a large, sheltered courtyard at the back if you want to sit outside.
Ever since opening in 2014, Little Yellow Pig has been something of an institution in Hoole, Chester. Initially a small coffee shop, it expanded into the adjoining space. Now it’s expanded again, adding a second location in the narrow streets of Nantwich town centre. Opening in August last year, the new location is a cosy little spot, with an L-shaped seating area that holds 16 people at most. While it has more traditional coffee shop furnishings (lacking the mismatched tables and armchairs of the original), anyone familiar with Little Yellow Pig in Hoole will immediately feel at home with the quirky décor and eclectic posters on the wall, including Mr Little Yellow Pig himself.
There’s a standard espresso-based menu, with Hundred House‘s seasonal Bon Bon blend from in the hopper. There are also bags of coffee for sale, either whole bean or pre-ground. However, the real draw is the food, all cooked in the kitchen at the back, with separate breakfast, brunch and lunch options, backed up with a small selection of cakes. Take a seat, have a look at the menu (which is conveniently placed on the back wall), then go up to the counter to place your order.
At the end of April, I visited the Hundred House Coffee roastery in the rolling Shropshire hills, coming away with an unexpected present: the last of the second edition of Hundred House’s Freak & Unique. This limited-edition range is designed to showcase the most off-the-wall coffees that Hundred House can find, highlighting the outstanding and abnormal.
The second edition of Freak & Unique was from the farm of Norma Iris Fiallos in Honduras, who used a macerated natural processing technique to produce a coffee which Hundred House gave tasting notes of “tree mastic, aloe vera and pine”. However, when I wrote about it, it was another coffee, from Fazenda Recanto in the Cerrado Minerio region of Brazil, which stole the show.
Not that there was anything wrong with the Freak & Unique. If anything, that was part of the problem. I really liked it, finding it a lovely, drinkable coffee, but not what I’d call “freak” or “unique”. Since I’d only had a small, 80 gram sample, I did wonder if I’d got the best of out it, so when I saw it on the counter at Liar Liar in Oswestry last month, I decided to try it one last time.
I always feel guilty when, driving along the A5 to/from North Wales, I bypass Oswestry and, in the process, fail to visit Liar Liar. So, at the end of last month, on my way back from Llangollen, I made a point of calling in for a late lunch (my breakfast, which I’d had at Riverbanc, was still going down!) only to discover that since my previous visit, Liar Liar had expanded, more than doubling in size. I don’t know, you turn your back for a minute…
Liar Liar achieved this remarkable feat by taking over parts of the neighbouring building, which the landlord had been using for storage. Taking advantage of the forced closure of indoor seating due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Liar Liar fitted out the building and connected it to its existing space, working around the clock ahead of the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in mid-May which allowed Liar Liar to restart indoor service. The finishing touches were put in place late on Sunday night and the doors thrown open on Monday morning.
One of the interesting things about the Fazenda Recanto was that Hundred House bought it as an exclusive nano-lot along with two other roasters, Crankhouse Coffee and Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. I really wanted to get my hands on more of the Fazenda Recanto, which is easily my favourite coffee of the year so far, and I was about to buy another bag from Hundred House when I had an idea: why didn’t I get a bag each from Crankhouse and Quarter Horse to see if the roaster made a difference to how the coffee tasted? So that’s what I did, except, of course, like most of my plans, things didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped…
At the end of last month, I visited the Hundred House Coffee roastery in the rolling Shropshire hills, coming away with an unexpected present: the last of the second edition of Hundred House’s Freak & Unique range. I was given two more bags of coffee, a naturally-processed one from Damian Espinoza Garcia in Peru and another from Fazenda Recanto in Brazil, processed using a 64-hour fermentation technique.
Regularly readers will know that I don’t usually write about coffee itself, but every now and then, something comes along (like the Taylors Discovery I had in March, or Chimney Fire’s El Salvador Three Ways that I started the year with) that I make an exception for. These three outstanding coffees from Hundred House all fall into this category.
I did consider cupping the three coffees, but to be honest, they are all so different from each other that I wasn’t sure what I would learn from that. Instead, I’ve just been making them as regular pour-overs during the last two weeks and taking notes as I go.
I first came across Hundred House Coffee at the Manchester Coffee Festival in 2017 and, ever since, I’ve looked forward to meeting up with Annabelle and Matt, Hundred House’s founders, at festivals around the country. I’ve had a long-standing invitation to visit the roastery, but first my foreign travel and then the COVID-19 pandemic kept me from taking them up on the offer. That, and, of course, getting there: the roastery is an old farm building in rural Shropshire, literally miles from anywhere, including the nearest train station. However, at the end of last week, and with access to a car, I made a point of calling in.
Hundred House made its name by roasting some, quite frankly, amazing coffee, producing a small selection of seasonal blends and single-origins. Unusually for a coffee company, Hundred House’s focus is as much on design as it is on coffee, Matt and Annabelle having collaborated with a range of artists to produce some outstanding packaging. This remains a focus to this day through the Art & Industry project. Looking to the future, next year Hundred House is moving to a purpose-built redevelopment north of Ludlow, which includes plans for an onsite coffee shop.
Liar Liar, in the small town of Oswestry on the England-Wales border, has been on my list for some time now. I first visited right at the end of 2017, on my way back to Guildford from my Dad’s, but I couldn’t stay very long. I vowed that I would return the following year, but what will all the travelling I have been doing, 2018 came and almost went before I was able to call in again, exactly one year to the day later, while (you guessed it) on my way back to Guildford from my Dad’s.
Liar Liar is a real gem, located in the (semi-pedestrianised) heart of the town, spread over three floors (only the first two are open to customers) of a lovely old shop right on the corner, giving it windows on two sides, plus plenty of outside seating. A multi-roaster, Liar Liar uses some of the best roasters in the country, including the nearby Hundred House Coffee & Manchester’s Ancoats Coffee Co., changing up the options (always single-origins) on espresso and filter (V60, Aeropress, batch-brew) roughly every monthly. There are interesting breakfast, lunch and panini menus from in-house caterers, Hayes Kitchen, plus plenty of cake.
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.
Another Shrewsbury gem, I discovered The Bird’s Nest thanks to the talented Cherie Jerrard. I’d come to see Cherie Did This, an exhibition of Cherie’s fascinating café illustrations at the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse. Afterwards, we met up for another tour of some of Cherie’s favourite Shrewsbury coffee shops.
The Bird’s Nest is in Shrewsbury’s Market Hall, which was built in 1965 (making it slightly older than me!) and is out of keeping with everything around it. However, its unappealing concrete exterior hides a delightful interior, particularly when you get to the back of the second floor, which is where you’ll find The Bird’s Nest, surrounded by market stalls.
It’s an interesting space, full of an eclectic mix of furniture. If I said it felt a little like sitting in a vintage store, I’d mean it in a nice way. The layout’s wonderfully confusing, with the kitchen in one corner, the coffee counter in the opposite corner and various other bits and pieces scattered around the edges. Not that any of this matters since there’s full table service. There’s a fairly standard espresso menu based around the Bon Bon blend from Hundred House, bags of cake and, if you don’t arrive after the kitchen’s closed, full breakfast and lunch menus.