I first came across Café Grumpy in 2015, the Aussie-owned coffee shop/roaster chain firmly establishing itself as a New York City favourite. In particular, its Lower East Side and Fashion District locations become regular stops on my various visits. Since I’m staying in Chelsea this time around, I was looking forward to returning to Café Grumpy on W 20th Street, where I had my first Café Grumpy experience. My only problem is that it recently closed, forced out by a new landlord who wouldn’t renew the lease.
Deprived of my local Café Grumpy fix, I headed across the East River to Greenpoint in Brooklyn, seeking out the original Café Grumpy on Meserole Avenue. Home to Café Grumpy since 2005, the roastery is half a block away down Diamond Street. From the outside, it looks small, tucked in on the corner, but inside it goes a long way back, making it the most spacious of the Café Grumpys (now up to 10 in New York City, with one in New Jersey and another in Miami). There’s the usual offering, with the Heartbreaker blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus batch-brew, a range of tea and a selection of cakes and pastries.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of retrenchment or consolidation. Not so in Shrewsbury, where its small but vibrant speciality coffee scene has flourished with the opening of both The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters and today’s Coffee Spot, Nomad Coffee Co. Both were on my list before I made my daytrip a week ago today, but in fairness to Nomad, everyone I asked said that I must pay Raúl (the co-owner and head barista) a visit.
Located at the start of Wyle Cop on the western end of the English Bridge, Nomad is small at around twice the size of The Colonel’s Son (which isn’t saying much!). The counter is at the back, leaving space for a bench/table down the right-hand wall and a five-person window-bar along the front. Nomad is a multi-roaster, serving single-origins on espresso, with two different roasters featuring each fortnight. Although the coffee’s the star turn, I was also entertained by conversations between Raúl and a succession of regulars who’d come as much for a chat as coffee.
Réveille is a Bay Area café/roaster with five locations across San Francisco and another in Berkeley. I’m indebted to my friends Angela and Karen, who independently pointed me in the direction of Réveille. The subject of today’s Coffee Spot is Réveille Coffee Co. (the other locations go by the name Réveille Café) on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, an area with a rich (Italian) coffee culture, but one where speciality coffee is a bit thin on the ground, making Réveille a welcome addition.
Réveille occupies a wedge-shaped building on the corner where Kearny Street intersects Columbus Avenue at 45°, which is as much of a draw as the coffee. A bright, high-ceilinged space, the seating lines the windows down either side of the island counter, along with tables outside on the sloping Columbus Avenue/Kearny Street.
All the coffee is roasted on a Probat that sits in the middle of Réveille Café in Mission Bay. The standard espresso-based menu uses the seasonal Paradise Espresso and decaf, with a seasonal single-origin batch-brew filter. However, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. A kitchen at the back provides brunch, with a selection of cakes and pastries throughout the day.
The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters opened just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, temporarily closed in September last year, then re-opened following a makeover in May 2022, since when it’s been going from strength to strength. On Meadow Place, a very short walk from Shrewsbury Station, there’s not a lot to The Colonel’s Son, just a small shop with a window-bar at the front, the counter in the middle and the roaster at the back. Oh, and a bench outside, in case the four seats inside are taken.
The Colonel’s Son is run by Patch, who is indeed the son of a Colonel, his father having served with the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. It’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of place, with a standard espresso-based menu (served in proper cups, I’m pleased to say) and a choice of a medium or dark roast blend. There’s a wider selection of coffee for sale in retail bags, including some lighter roasted single-origins, roasted fresh each Monday, along with a small range of cakes.
Linea has two locations, Linea Caffe, in San Francisco’s Mission District, and today’s Coffee Spot, its wonderful café/roastery on Mariposa Street in Potrero Hill. This opened in January 2020, just after my last visit to Linea Caffe and just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupying Intelligentsia’s old San Francisco roastery, it’s a lovely spot, with the roastery at the back on the left and a spacious coffee bar/retail area at the front on the right.
For now, there’s no indoor seating (due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic), but there is a stepped terrace outside on Mariposa Street as it descends to pass under I-280 on its way to San Francisco Bay. Of course, with San Francisco’s climate, outdoor seating is all you really need, although this arrangement does mean that Linea is only has disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own (which attracts a 25% discount).
The real draw is the coffee, with a blend on espresso and a rotating single-origin on batch brew filter. There’s a much wider selection of beans to buy in retail bags, including multiple single-origins and a range of organic coffee. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries.
The first place I wrote about when I visited Berlin in May was 19grams Schlesi in Kreuzberg. As I’m approaching the end of my collection of Berlin Coffee Spots from the trip, it’s fitting that 19grams features again. This time it’s the turn of 19grams Alex, the roastery & lab in Mitte, located on Karl-Liebknecht-straße in the shadow of the famous Berliner Fernsehturn on Alexanderplatz.
This is where the magic happens, the roastery, visible through glass doors to the left, producing all of 19grams coffee. Along with a conference/training room, this occupies one half of the space, while the rest of 19grams Alex is given over to a spacious coffee shop, with plenty of outdoor seating on the broad, paved expanse in front of the shop.
Although the setting is very different from 19grams Schlesi, the offering is the same, with the Wild at Heart blend on espresso (for milk-based drinks) along with a single-origin (default for espresso and Americano) and decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew filter. The single-origins change on a regular basis, as does the food menu, which is the same across all four 19grams locations, offering innovative brunch options and sharing plates cooked to order.
Today’s Coffee Spot saw me venture to Berkeley for the first time (unless you count passing through on the California Zephyr enroute to Chicago in 2019) to visit the CoRo Coffee Room. Indeed, I had come to Berkeley specifically for the Coffee Room, following a recommendation by Linea Coffee Roasters on the previous day. Located in southwest Berkeley, down the hill from the famous college, the Coffee Room is near the Amtrak station, which was convenient for me since I came by train from San Jose.
I was unaware of CoRo (Bay Area CoRoasters) before my visit. Since 2016 it’s provided a shared roasting space for over 40 roasters, while the Coffee Room, which showcases the roastery’s output, opened in 2018. Occupying the front of the warehouse-like production area, it’s a wonderfully open space, with amazing high ceilings and a great view of the roasters through a window at the back. You can buy coffee from any of CoRo’s roasters, while there’s a choice of coffee to drink, including a blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, two options on batch brew filter, another on pour-over plus there’s cold brew. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a section of cakes and pastries.
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.
I was tipped off about Spro Coffee Lab by the baristas at Devout Coffee, visiting Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop the following day. In typical Coffee Spot fashion, this was Spro’s second location, its first being a trailer in San Francisco’s Mission Bay/SOMA neighbourhood. Fortunately, this is close to Caltrain’s San Francisco terminus on 4th and King Street, my gateway for my various day trips to the city, so the very next day, I headed for the original Spro.
Spro is part of Spark Social SF, a large outdoor food truck park, beer & sangria garden and event space. Impressively, given that it’s literally a trailer, serving from a window at one end, the menu is identical to Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop. The coffee’s from Black & White Coffee Roasters, its Classic espresso and decaf on espresso, joined by a blend and two single-origins on pour-over through the V60, along with mocktails and other drinks. There’s also the full range of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, plus the dedicated pastries and desserts menu.
Today’s Coffee Spot is part Coffee Spot Update, part regular Coffee Spot. You may recall that London Square, a large office complex on Guildford’s London Road, opposite London Road Station and Guildford High School, once housed the Surrey Hills Coffee Cabin. Sadly, COVID-19 put paid to that and, with office workers slow to return, the coffee cabin, a lovely container-style cabin in the car park, never re-opened.
Well, I say never, but that changed this June after a chance conversation in Canopy Coffee with a customer whose company had just moved into London Square. This led to Jackie, Canopy’s new owner, taking over the lease on the empty coffee cabin and Canopy Coffee, London Square was born!
The layout’s very similar to how Surrey Hills had it (hence the update part), although there’s no longer any indoor seating, just a solitary four-person table under the shade of a convenient tree. The offering is very similar to Canopy Coffee on Haydon Place, with a standard espresso-based menu using the bespoke house-blend from Skylark Coffee, along with decaf and a regularly-rotating single-origin on batch-brew filter. There’s the same range of toasties too, although the cakes are pre-packaged, with a lot more grab-and-go options.