When talking of speciality coffee in Berlin, you can’t avoid The Barn, which now boasts 10 Berlin coffee shops, two more overseas (Mallorca, Dubia) and an international reputation for roasting excellent coffee. It’s all the more impressive considering that The Barn only started 12 years ago with the original Mitte coffee shop. Sadly, I couldn’t make it there, going instead for the next best thing, the original roastery/coffee shop on nearby Schönhauser Allee. The Barn’s second location when it opened in 2012, all the coffee was roasted here until the new roastery/coffee shop opened on Voltastraße in late 2020.
These days, Schönhauser Allee is “just” a coffee shop, a large, welcoming space with a massive counter and plenty of seating inside and out. Unusually, there’s no printed menu, either on the counter or displayed on the walls. Instead, a QR Code invites you online for the latest menu, where you’ll find a standard seasonal offering 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.
Earlsfield is blessed when it comes to speciality coffee shops. Last week I wrote about Bean & Hop and, while some places would be satisfied with that, it’s not enough for Earlsfield which has today’s Coffee Spot, The Eclectic Collection, literally across the road. Opening in March 2018 with the aim of providing something different from the typical speciality coffee shop, The Eclectic Collection was initially just a café. However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 saw the front part of The Eclectic Collection morph into a high quality delicatessen, something which has proved so popular that it’s here to stay.
These days, The Eclectic Collection is a delicatessen, a coffee shop serving an all-day brunch menu and, for two nights a week (Thursday, Friday), a restaurant with a blind menu. Serving coffee from Berlin’s The Barn certainly helps it stand out from the crowd, but perhaps the most notable thing about The Eclectic Collection are the multiple seating areas at the back, decorated in perhaps the most eclectic fashion that I’ve ever seen in a coffee shop, with colourful wallpaper, various statues, chairs which stubbornly refuse to match each other and a whole lot more besides!
Today’s Saturday Short, Reference Coffee, is the second half of my Dublin double-header, which began with Monday’s Coffee Spot, Meet Me in the Morning. The two share common ownership, occupying adjacent terrace houses on Dublin’s southside. Although physically linked, Reference Coffee operates as a standalone coffee bar, as well as making all the coffee for Meet Me in the Morning. Aside from three small tables on the pavement outside, it’s standing-room, so if you want a seat, you’re better off heading next door.
Reference Coffee is a multi-roaster with a pair of single-origins (one for black drinks, one for milk-based) and decaf on espresso, all from Colonna Coffee. The filter coffee comes from a guest roaster, with different options on batch brew and pour-over. There’s a selection of cake and a small range of savouries to go with your coffee, but if you want something more substantial, head next door.
Prague’s Donut Shop, which styles itself as serving fresh, handmade doughnuts with style (I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to type “donut”) along with speciality coffee, was recommended by the baristas at my very first stop in Prague, Pražírna Kavárna. Located in the Vinohrady district southeast of Prague’s Old Town, it’s been baking all its doughnuts on site in the kitchen at the back since 2016, pairing them with some excellent coffee. And that’s pretty much it.
There’s not much to the Donut Shop, just a counter and two three-person bars inside in the long, narrow interior. In fact, there’s more seating outside, with four tables spread out on the broad pavement, under the shade of a very large tree.
The Donut Shop has a single roaster on espresso and batch brew, the roaster changing every two or three months, although the individual beans on offer change more frequently. During my visit, it was the turn of Berlin’s The Barn, with a pair of single-origins, a Colombian on espresso and a Brazilian on batch brew.
I first came across Society in its home city of Bath, where I managed to visit the two branches in the order that they opened, a rarity for the Coffee Spot, starting with Kingsmead Square before moving onto The Corridor. However, I’ve safely broken that trend by skipping the third Society Café, in Oxford, instead visiting the fourth and most recent branch which opened this summer in Bristol.
You’ll find Society Café down by the harbour, on the corner of Narrow Quay and Farr’s Lane, right next to the youth hostel. It’s a lovely setting, with lots of outdoor seating on the quayside as well as down Farr’s Lane, while there is even more seating inside, spread over two large, spacious areas, one either side of a central counter.
The coffee is always of the highest order, with the house-espresso, which changes monthly, coming from Origin. This is joined by a guest single-origin which changes every couple of weeks. Meanwhile there’s bulk-brew filter and another option on Aeropress, both of which change every week or so. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s a wide selection of tea, plus a dedicated smoothie-bar, as well as sandwiches and cake if you’re hungry.
Jaunty Goat is one of Chester‘s speciality coffee stalwarts, having relocated from a few doors along Bridge Street to its current location in 2015. I first visited in 2016, back when it really only had The Barista’s for company. Since then there’s been an explosion of speciality coffee in Chester, particularly in the centre, along Bridge and Watergate Streets. Jaunty Goat was set up by twins, Patrick and Ed, with Ed leaving in 2018 to help fuel that explosion, setting up Chalk Coffee on Watergate Street.
Jaunty Goat occupies a lovely, basement-like interior that extends from the window-bars at the front a long way back under the Rows. There are even the remnants of a stone staircase in the wall at the back that might date back to the middle-ages. These days it serves a vegetarian and vegan-friendly brunch menu until 4 o’clock (there’s also a second, plant-based Jaunty Goat on Northgate Street), backed up by a large selection of cakes. When it comes to coffee, this is all roasted in a new, dedicated, off-site roastery, with seasonal single-origin offerings on espresso (house, guest and decaf), plus another on pour-over (AeroPress/V60/Chemex). Naturally, all the coffee is available in retail bags.
July 2020: Jaunty Goat is back after the enforced COVID-19 closures. You can see what I made of it when I visited in September and October.
Located on Ealing’s busy New Broadway, with a neat set of tables on the pavement outside, the Ealing branch of Artisan celebrated its first birthday just a couple of weeks ago. Joining the likes of the long-established Electric Coffee Company and fellow newcomers, Café Zee, Artisan is helping make Ealing a place worth visiting just for the coffee.
The third of four Artisans, it follows the original, which opened its doors less than four years ago Putney. Each of the Artisans is very much its own place. This one’s long, although not particularly thin (it’s wide enough for three rows of tables at the back), full of upcycled furniture, wooden floorboards, bare plaster and lights shrouded in paper-bag lampshades. Right at the back is the Artisan Coffee School (which will be the subject of its own Saturday Supplement in due course), which doubles as extra seating when there are no classes going on.
The coffee is from London’s Allpress, with the ubiquitous Redchurch blend on espresso. Filter coffee comes through the V60, with beans from London’s Nude Espresso and Berlin’s The Barn. Food is an equal part of the offering, with decent breakfast and lunch menus, plus lots of cake!
What’s going on? For the second time in a week I’ve visited a local chain and started with the first branch! This time, instead of going to Bath, I’ve popped up to Putney and the lovely Artisan. And, unlikely rainy Bath, it’s always sunny when I go to Putney. I really should come more often.
My first visit was on a busy Saturday afternoon in March last year, when I didn’t have my camera with me. Back then it was so busy that the queue waiting to order was all the way back to the door! Tables were at a premium and several people were sitting outside in the sun.
I’ve been meaning to return ever since and finally made it back with my camera 11 months later, when I returned on a Tuesday lunchtime, only to find it was almost as popular. Tables being at a premium again, I ended up in exactly the same spot, a little table for two by the door to the toilets!
Artisan serves up Allpress’ Redchurch blend on espresso, and these days has Berlin legends, The Barn, on filter, with regularly-rotating single origins. There’s an impressive range of cake and food too.
Peña is a recent addition to Glasgow’s ever-growing coffee scene, having joined the ranks in the summer of 2014. Located in the West End, near the university, it is (literally) just around the corner from Artisan Roast and not far from the likes of Papercup, Avenue Coffee and the Veldt Deli on the nearby Great Western Road.
Other than being a bit Tardis-like (small on the outside, surprisingly large on the inside), Peña’s main claim-to-fame is its toasted-sandwich-and-coffee business model. Unfortunately for Peña, I’ve dropped the Coffee Spot’s Best Cheese Toastie Award! Peña somewhat blots its copybook by serving soup (a soup toastie, anyone?) and cake to go with the toasted sandwiches, while there’s tea and shakes alongside the coffee.
However, this is redeemed by providing sweet as well as savoury toasties (The Nigella: white chocolate, raspberry jam, ricotta and almonds, caught my eye) and by getting its filter coffee from Berlin legends, The Barn. To my knowledge, Peña is the only place in Glasgow to regularly stock The Barn. The filter coffee is available via the Aeropress, with the particular beans on offer rotating on a regular basis. Espresso is provided by Workshop’s ubiquitous Cult of Done seasonal blend.
May 2018: I believe that Peña has closed its original location on Eton Lane, but there are plans for a successor. Watch this space!
In Manchester’s Northern Quarter, five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Station, there is an unprepossessing street on which, about half way down, is an unprepossessing store front, part of a tall (four storey) terrace of solid, brick-built buildings. This in turn proclaims itself to be the home of TAKK, a relative newcomer to the Manchester coffee scene. Perhaps this is down to innate modesty (although given the A-boards, I doubt that) or maybe it’s a cunning ploy to lull you into a false sense of security, but the exterior really gives no clues as to the delights that await you when you step inside.
TAKK, which is “Thanks” or “Cheers” in Icelandic, is a friendly, welcoming place, its size concealed by what appears to be a relatively small store front (it’s got roughly the same floor area as Manchester’s North Tea Power). The coffee is excellent, with a bespoke house-blend from Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Roasters (NorthernProjekt) and regularly-rotating single-origins from various guests on filter, with Berlin legends The Barn as a mainstay. Add to that an increasing focus on food, with locally-sourced ingredients, regular specials and simple menus, part of TAKK’s push to be the place for breakfast, lunch and coffee.