The final Coffee Spot from last October’s mid-American road trip is, appropriately enough, from our last stop, Chattanooga, before we arrived home that evening in Atlanta. Velo Coffee Roasters was on my original list of places to visit and I’d planned to call in when we stopped in Chattanooga on the drive out. However, we arrived too late, making the chance discovery of Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery instead. On our return, I was determined not to make the same mistake, reaching Chattanooga with time in hand.
Velo Coffee Roasters is one of Chattanooga’s speciality coffee pioneers, having opened in 2009 before moving to its current location, just down the street from Neidlov’s, in 2015. Both coffee shop and roastery, Velo has a large, sheltered outdoor seating area and a quirky, multi-faceted interior, with the bonus of a barbershop upstairs at the back. Returning to coffee, the Boneshaker blend is offered as default for milk-based drinks, along with a single-origin option, while there are two single-origins on pour-over through the AeroPress, Chemex or Kalita Wave filter, one of which is also available on batch brew. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there are freshly-baked cakes and pastries from Chattanooga bakery, Bread & Butter.
Continuing the return leg of my mid-America road trip from October last year brings us to Saint Louis, which marks the mid-point of the journey. We actually called in at Blueprint Coffee on the way back, but since I’ve already written about that, today’s the turn of Sump Coffee, where we stopped on the way out. This is the original Sump Coffee, which also has a second location in Nashville. Occupying a beautiful old building on the corner of Winnebago Street and Jefferson Avenue, there’s a small outdoor terrace at the front, while inside Sump Coffee occupies three long, thin rooms, the last of which houses the 10 kg Diedrich roaster, which produces all the coffee, both for here and for Nashville.
Talking of which, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to coffee. Like Sump’s Nashville location, there are three single-origins on espresso, with six more on pour-over, plus three cold brew options. Naturally, all the beans are for sale in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Meanwhile, if you don’t fancy coffee, there’s a selection of teas, while if you’re hungry, Sump has a range of cakes and pastries too.
The Coffee Spot gets another year underway by returning to my mid-America road trip from October last year and the first stop on our return leg, Coffea Roasterie and Espresso Bar in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Coffea has three locations, all in Sioux Falls, but this is the flagship, combining coffee shop and roastery in a lovey, multi-faceted space on the city’s west side. There are multiple choices on espresso, batch brew and pour-over, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries, all baked in-house.
Sadly this was very much a flying visit since we had started late that day, had a long way to go and wanted to see the eponymous Sioux Falls (which are well worth the effort, and, if you have time for coffee, Coffea’s downtown espresso bar isn’t that far away). As a result, I wasn’t able to do a full write-up, lacking both the photographs and the extensive notes that I normally take, so instead you’ll have to make do with the year’s first Saturday Snapshot.
I first went to New Orleans with my Coffee Spot hat on during 2018, when I visited for the weekend. I knew very little about the city’s small but vibrant speciality coffee scene, although one name that kept coming up was Sólo Espresso, which became the second stop on my short tour. I immediately fell in love with the basement-like space and, two years later, I was very sad to hear the news that Sólo Espresso had closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two years after that and I was back in New Orleans for my second weekend visit. On my first day, the staff at Congregation Coffee Roasters confirmed that Sólo Espresso was indeed gone for good. However, they told me some good news: a new coffee shop, Lowdown, had opened in its place, so the next day I made it my first stop.
If you knew Sólo Espresso, then Lowdown will feel very familiar, with essentially the same layout and friendly welcome. Ruby Coffee Roasters is on espresso, along with a guest roaster, plus another on batch brew filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes and pastries, all made on-site, with a brunch special each weekend.
The Proper Cup, on Portland’s busy Forest Avenue, has been on my radar ever since it opened in 2018. Located on the west side of the street, it principally serves the local neighbourhood, but is on the route of the No. 2 bus and, if you’re walking around Back Cove along Baxter Boulevard, a small diversion along Dartmouth Street will bring you out opposite The Proper Cup. After being takeaway only for a long time during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Proper Cup had a complete makeover before reopening earlier this year to reveal a bright, uncluttered shop with the counter on the right, window seating at the front, plus tables and a sofa on the left.
The coffee is from New Hampshire’s Flight Coffee Co., with the Liftoff blend and Ground Control decaf on espresso, all the shots pulled on a lovely Slayer espresso machine at the end of the counter. Meanwhile there’s currently a Zanzibar Peaberry from Tanzania on batch brew filter, along with a range of teas, iced coffee and some seasonal house specials. If you’re hungry, a selection of sweet and savoury products from a pair of local bakeries are available in a display case on the counter.
Today’s Saturday Snapshot, Houndstooth Coffee in downtown Austin, is the second in the series and shares a lot with the first, Devoción in New York City. Like Devoción, which was a mere block and a half from where I was working in New York, Houndstooth was just around the corner from my workplace in downtown Austin and, like Devoción, it was perpetually busy. I called in twice a day from three straight days, either for morning coffee on my way to the office or during various coffee breaks.
There are two options on espresso, a house blend and a single-origin, both of which change every day or so. There’s also batch brew filter and pour-over, although you have to know to ask for that. All the coffee is from Tweed Coffee Roasters, Houndstooth’s sister company, which is based in Dallas, where Houndstooth has three more locations to go with its five Austin coffee shops. While it’s mostly about the coffee, if you’re hungry, Houndstooth has breakfast tacos and a selection of cakes/pastries.
By making Flat Track Coffee my first speciality coffee stop in Austin, I was following in the footsteps of my friend Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato fame. Not only was I using Bex’s Austin Speciality Coffee Guide as my roadmap, but Flat Track Coffee had been her first stop as well. Co-located with bike shop, Cycleast, Flat Track is on Cesar Chavez Street, a main east-west thoroughfare through East Austin.
When Bex visited in 2018, Flat Track roasted all of its own coffee in the back of the store. Since then, the roasting has been moved to sister shop, Palomino Coffee (which, sadly, I didn’t have time to visit), freeing up much needed additional interior seating to go with outdoor seating on the forecourt in front of Flat Track, along with the gorgeous hidden patio along the building’s left-hand side.
Flat Track offers a blend and single-origin on espresso, along with batch-brew filter and pour-over, all the coffee changing on a seasonal basis. Espresso shots are pulled on a lovely Kees van der Westen Mirage, while pour-overs are made through the Kalita Wave using the Curtis Gold Cup automated system. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes/pastries.
To make a change from my American road trip, today’s Coffee Spot takes us all the way back to early May and my trip to Berlin, when I visited a rather unique establishment, Café Kranzler. This Berlin institution can trace its roots back to 1825 and is easily recognisable in its current incarnation, in a rotunda on top of the Kranzler-Eck shopping complex on Kurfürstendamm. In 2016, The Barn took over the running of the iconic coffee shop, thus keeping the Café Kranzler name alive.
Access is via a lift, with a choice of seating inside the rotunda itself, outside on the 360° wrap-around balcony or on a rooftop terrace (accessed via a flight of stairs from the balcony). Although the setting is quite different from The Barn’s usual third-wave style coffee shops (or, indeed, the ultra-modern Sony Center coffee shop), the offering is very familiar, with the standard seasonal menu which you’ll find across all The Barn’s Berlin locations. This includes a concise espresso-based menu, two options on pour-over through the V60, plus cold brew, tea, hot chocolate and a range of cakes. The specific beans (all single-origins) vary by location, chosen by the baristas every few days.
Continuing the retelling of our road trip from Atlanta to South Dakota last month, our next stop after Nashville was St Louis, home of today’s Coffee Spot, Blueprint Coffee on Delmar Boulevard. We actually visited Blueprint on our way back to Atlanta, having calling into Sump Coffee on the way out. However, since I wrote about Sump Coffee’s Nashville store on Monday, I wanted to spread the love.
Like Sump, Blueprint Coffee is both roaster and coffee shop, with three shops in St Louis. We visited the original which is, for the moment, also home to the roastery, located at the back of the building.
Occupying a long, thin shop in the Delmar Loop neighbourhood, Blueprint is close to the St Louis Metro as well as having free on-street parking nearby (which was handy for us). There are a handful of tables outside on the busy pavement, with several more in the spacious interior. All the coffee is roasted on-site, with a blend and regularly-rotating single-origin on espresso, plus another on batch-brew and a selection of eight blends/single-origins on pour-over using the SP9 and Kalita Wave filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a concise all-day brunch menu and various cakes.
Continuing the retelling of my American road trip through the medium of coffee shops, we started our second day in Nashville, Tennessee, where I sought out Sump Coffee. Our first stop, Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery in Chattanooga, was a chance discovery, but Sump Coffee was a planned stop, one of several places that I wanted to visit along the way. The Nashville coffee shop is the second of two Sump Coffees, which started life in Saint Louis, where the original coffee shop/roastery is still going strong.
Part of the modern OneC1ty development, Sump Coffee was one of the first tenants when it opened in 2017. It occupies a spacious, high-ceilinged unit with lots of inside seating and plenty more outside. When it comes to coffee, which is all roasted on the 10 kg Diedrich roaster in the back of the Saint Louis store, you really are spoilt for choice, with three single-origins on espresso, six/seven more on pour-over and, if you’re there before 11 o’clock, you can have batch brew too. All the beans are for sale in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection cakes and pastries.