Ditto Coffee has been on my radar for a while now. An offshoot of Ditto Music, there are now four locations, two in Manchester, one in London (Shoreditch) and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, the original Ditto Coffee on Jamaica Street in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. Ditto Coffee opened in 2018, a tall, narrow coffee shop, with a neat mezzanine, offering a surprisingly amount of seating for somewhere so small, while there’s also a table and bench outside on the busy street.
Fittingly, given that it all started in Liverpool, Ditto Coffee uses a bespoke house blend, roasted by old friends Neighbourhood Coffee. This is served from a standard, espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter (same blend), hot chocolate, tea and a limited selection of soft drinks. There’s also a small range of cakes, plus a variety of breakfast and lunch items, along with wraps and sandwiches, all in a grab-and-go fridge opposite the counter.
Ditto Coffee is about more than coffee, however, strongly reflecting its music roots in the décor. This extends to support for local artists, who can perform in Ditto Coffee, as well as drop off demo tapes and display and sell their music and merchandise.
Press Bros. Coffee was recommended by my old friends at Neighbourhood Coffee when I visited Liverpool two weeks ago. Founded by three brothers who, in 2018, bought a converted Piaggio coffee van, Press Bros. began life in the Baltic Market (where the Piaggio is still going strong). Three years later, in October 2021, Press Bros. opened its first bricks and mortar store on Lark Lane in Aigburth, south of the city centre and a stone’s throw from Sefton Park.
Press Bros. has come a long way from the Piaggio van, with Lark Lane, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, offering a lot more than coffee. There’s an all-day brunch menu, sandwiches and cakes, along with tea and a range of draught and canned beer, plus wine and cocktails. When it comes to coffee, Neighbourhood provides a bespoke house blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest espresso, which changes every month. There are also a couple of filter options, which are matched to a specific preparation method. For June, this was Neighbourhood’s Born Sipping, a naturally-processed coffee from smallholders in the Konga region of Ethiopia (AeroPress) and the Las Guerreras, a Mexican single-origin from Girls Who Grind (V60).
Costigan’s Coffee is Rhyl’s first speciality coffee shop, part of Costigan’s Coworking space, conveniently located across the street from both the town’s bus and train stations (there’s plenty of parking nearby if you’re driving). It’s a joint venture between Town Square, the national coworking group behind Costigan’s, and none other than brothers Phil and Andy of Bank Street Social fame (Wrexham’s first speciality coffee and craft beer shop). As well as Costigan’s, the duo are also in charge of another Town Square Coffee shop in Barnstaple of all places (the first coffee shop to be opened by Zoom, according to Phil), with more on the cards.
Although part of Costigan’s Coworking space, Costigan’s Coffee has its own entrance from the street, effectively making it a standalone coffee shop (although you can also come in through the coworking space). The offering is, for now, being kept simple, with an espresso-based menu driven by the Espresso Yourself blend from Neighbourhood Coffee, along with its (I Can’t Get No) Caffeination decaf, backed up by a selection of tea from Brew Tea Co. If you’re hungry, there’s a simple toast-based breakfast menu, along with various toasties/toasted ciabattas for lunch, plus a range of cakes.
Haus opened in 2018, bringing speciality coffee to the North Wales seaside town of Colwyn Bay for the first time. It’s been on my list ever since and while Amanda and I stopped by for lunch in September last year, I didn’t have the time for a full write up. However, I got my chance for a return visit exactly one week ago today when I hopped on a bus to Prestatyn before catching the train to Colwyn Bay, where Haus is a two-minute stroll from the station (and five minutes from the beach).
Offering full table service, Haus has a combined breakfast/brunch menu, backed up by daily lunch specials and a selection of sandwiches, all available until 14:30. There’s also plenty of cake (displayed on the counter at the back) for those with a sweet tooth. When it comes to coffee, Haus uses the ubiquitous Espresso Yourself blend from Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee, with a standard espresso-based offering on its main menu. However, if you look closely, there’s a board on the wall at the back, offering batch brew and pour-over from a selection of Neighbourhood’s single-origin range, along with loose-leaf tea (Brew Tea Co) and hot chocolate (Harry’s Chocolate).
Last year I made a long overdue day-trip across the Dee Estuary to visit The Wirral and explore its speciality coffee scene, which is when I discovered Wylde Coffee in Heswell. Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that Wylde has an offshoot, called Lateral, in West Kirby, which opened in January 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, I popped over to check it out (well, I say “popped over”; visible from my bedroom window, it’s 11 km as the crow flies, but to actually get there requires a 100 km round trip, featuring a bus and two trains each way).
While Wylde Coffee is very much a coffee shop, Lateral is more food-orientated. There are brunch and lunch menus every day until three o’clock, while from Wednesday to Saturday, Lateral reinvents itself as a cocktail bar with a full dinner menu from 17:00 onwards. When it comes to coffee, the offering is very similar to Wylde, with a bespoke house blend and decaf on espresso, roasted by old friends, Neighbourhood Coffee, plus regular guests on batch brew. This is all served up in a bright, modern space, just a short walk south from the train station.
When discussing speciality coffee in northeast Wales, you really have to mention King Street Coffee Company, which was started by brothers Phil and Andy in 2016, and led to the opening of today’s Coffee Spot, Bank Street Social, a year later. While King Street Coffee Company, located in the bus station, closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bank Street Social, a few minutes’ walk away on (appropriately enough) Bank Street, is still going strong, as Amanda and I discovered when we visited a couple of weeks ago on our way back from North Wales.
Bank Street Social accurately describes itself as Wrexham’s only speciality coffee and craft beer shop. It’s a fairly small spot, with enough space inside for three tables at the front, the counter at the back and multiple shelves stocked with cans and bottles of craft beer (although I also spotted some cider as well). When it comes to coffee, Bank Street Social uses Neighbourhood Coffee’s Espresso Yourself blend to deliver a standard espresso-based menu, backed up by a selection of tea and hot chocolate, plus retail bags of coffee to take home. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of bagels and toasties, plus a selection of cake.
I have a complicated relationship with the Wirral, the peninsular in northwest England between the River Dee and River Mersey. Visible from the windows of my parents’ house in Holywell in North Wales, it was literally a backdrop to my childhood. Despite this, I’ve been an infrequent visitor, partly due to the difficulty in getting there. Although Heswall, home of today’s Coffee Spot, is less than 10 km away as the crow flies, it’s nearer 40 km by road and, typically, around two to three hours by public transport!
It’s also true that, until recently, there’s been little incentive to visit with my Coffee Spot hat on. However, that’s slowly changing and, on Monday last week, I set off to check out Wylde Coffee, which opened in November 2019 and has a second, more food-orientated location in West Kirby called Lateral. A self-styled Scandinavian-inspired bistro, Wylde Coffee serves a bespoke house blend and decaf on espresso, both roasted by old friends, Neighbourhood Coffee, with regular guests on batch brew/pour-over. There are breakfast and brunch menus, backed up with plenty of cake, all served in a bright, airy, relaxed space in a small parade of shops just off the A540, the main road through Heswall.
Chester’s The Flower Cup, tucked away on the upper level of the city’s famous Rows on Watergate Street, had already been open for three years by the time I belatedly visited at the very end of 2019. Serving some excellent breakfasts, brunches and lunches, backed up by Neighbourhood Coffee on espresso and pour-over, I was immediately impressed. Keen to make up for lost time, I returned in February and then along came COVID-19 to temporarily put an end to things. So, when I heard that The Flower Cup had reopened following the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions, it was top of my list when I returned to Chester on Friday.
Everywhere I’ve visited since the start of July has done a good job in retaining something of the pre COVID-19 atmosphere, but none has managed it quite as well as The Flower Cup. Despite the obvious changes (the sign at the door, the one-way system and the staff wearing masks for example), it really felt like The Flower Cup of old, a tribute to owner, Milli, manager, Laura, and all the staff. What’s more, The Flower Cup has retained its full menu, serving everything on proper plates, the drinks in proper cups.
Chester’s speciality coffee scene has been steadily growing over the last few years, particularly right in the city centre, along the twin axes of Bridge and Watergate Streets. Taking the second of these, Watergate Street has seen the likes of Chalk Coffee (2018) and Panna Chester (2019) opening in recent years, but predating them both, and somewhat unnoticed by me (my bad) is today’s Coffee Spot, The Flower Cup, which opened in 2016, putting it amongst Chester’s speciality coffee veterans.
Unusually for a city where coffee shops seem to specialise in the basement-like spaces under the Rows, The Flower Cup is on the upper floor on the south side of the street. A self-proclaimed “botanical coffee shop”, with a sister shop next door, The Violet Palm (a one-stop shop for houseplants), it’s true to the title, being festooned with flowers and plants. However, it’s a lot more than that, with coffee from Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee on espresso and Clever Dripper, and an extensive, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly brunch menu of which it is rightly proud. It also has a lovely, warm, welcoming atmosphere, making it the sort of place where people linger for ages over their coffee or after their brunch.
July 2020: The Flower Cup reopened on 4th July and is providing an almost identical service, albeit with slightly reduced seating capacity. You can see what I made of it when I visited at the start of August.
The Gentlemen Baristas, which started life at the end of 2014 on Union Street, just south of the Thames, boasts, at the time of writing, four branches, of which this, on nearby Park Street, can legitimately be said to be the baby. In terms of look and feel, however, it very much has the air of a miniature version of the original, albeit with a cut-down coffee menu featuring two options on espresso and another on batch-brew, pour-over having been sacrificed to save space.
This lack of space also means that seating is at a premium, with room for four inside and another four outside on two benches. That said, there’s still the space for a well-stocked set of retail shelves, selling retail bags of coffee/coffee kit on one side, and produce at the other, including pickles, preserves and condiments. Meanwhile if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes and sandwiches. Another victim of the lack of space is cups, The Gentlemen Baristas only offering takeaway cups, so bring your own, although there are some espresso cups knocking around.