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The Coffee Spot Guide to Chester
For a long time, Chester, the closest city to me when I was growing up in North Wales, didn’t have much in the way of a speciality coffee scene. However, in the last few years, that has changed, with a host of newcomers joining a few hardy stalwarts.
Chester has many attractions, including its city walls, the oldest, longest and most complete in Britain, which largely follow the line (and in some cases are built on top of) the old Roman walls, Britain’s largest ampitheatre, a wonderful gothic cathedral, which was built over a 275-year period starting in 1250, and the River Dee.
Another attraction is the compact city centre, with its famous Rows, which are unique to Chester, with some dating back to the 13th century. You’ll find these continuous, half-timbered galleries, which form rows of shops above those at street level, in the heart of the city, where they line the likes of Bridge and Watergate Streets.
Incidentally, this is also where you’ll find many of the city’s speciality coffee shops, several of which are in the Rows themselves. However, it pays to get off the beaten track a little and explore, including heading to Hoole, just the other side of the railway tracks to the northeast of Chester, where you’ll find a village-like atmosphere and more excellent coffee shops.
Chester’s speciality coffee shops have recovered well from the enforced COVID-19 closures over the summer. All the shops mentioned in this guide have either reopened or have first opened since the start of the pandemic. All of them, to the best of my knowledge, are doing well.
As with all these guides, this is not, and does not claim to be, a comprehensive guide to Chester’s coffee scene.
Header image: the riverside at Chester, seen looking northeast from the Old Dee Bridge, built in 1387.
Bean & Cole
Chester’s Bean & Cole has been on my radar since it opened in June 2018, but circumstances have always conspired against me. Until now, that is. Occupying a fairly small ground floor shop in a lovely old building on the semi-pedestrianised Frodsham Street, Bean & Cole is part of Chester’s growing speciality coffee scene, which has seen a flurry of openings in the last couple of years.
Bean & Cole serves Has Bean, with the ubiquitous Jailbreak Blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest. There are several filter options, including an Aeropress or V60 for one and a Chemex for two. The guest espresso and filter options are drawn from a wide variety of roasters and change every few weeks. There’s also a small selection of loose-leaf tea, a concise brunch menu with the likes of granola and various things on toast, plus a small range of cakes.Continue reading...
Bridge St Coffee
There was a time when speciality coffee was hard to find in Chester. Then, suddenly there was a boom, with multiple places opening each year, a pace that shows no sign of slowing down. Bridge St Coffee, pleasingly on Chester’s Bridge Street, a few doors up from veteran Jaunty Goat joined the fray in 2018. In common with Jaunty Goat and other coffee shops under Chester’s famous Rows, such as Chalk Coffee and Panna Chester, Bridge St Coffee occupies a long, thin, basement-like space, with plenty of seating inside, plus a large outdoor seating area on the pavement of the pedestrianised street.
Although it proudly displays a Probat roaster in the window, that’s not yet in use, Bridge St Coffee using Manchester’s Heart & Graft for the time being, having a Colombian blend on its espresso-based menu. If you don’t fancy coffee, then there’s a selection of nine teas, nine juices/shakes plus hot chocolate. Bridge St Coffee is equally strong on its food offering, using local supplies to provide a comprehensive all-day breakfast menu, including various eggs-on-toast and avocado options, plus porridge, sandwiches, panini and soup of the day, which is backed up by a tasty selection of cakes.Continue reading...
Chalk Coffee, which opened in August last year, might be a new name to Chester’s growing speciality coffee scene, but it has considerable pedigree, having been set up by Ed, who was one half of Jaunty Goat (the other half being his twin brother, Patrick). Like Jaunty Goat, Chalk is right in the heart of historic Chester, just around the corner, in fact, on Watergate Street, which also puts it just across the street from another Chester veteran, The Barista’s and newcomer, Panna. The shop itself is lovely, stretching a long way back under the rows above, giving it a basement-like feel, especially at the back.
Chalk Coffee’s focus is firmly on the coffee, offering Origin on both espresso, through a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle, and on batch brew. It started by offering the Pathfinder blend, but since the start of this year, Chalk has been experimenting with single-origins as well as blends. The Resolute blend was on during my visit, with a Colombian single-origin next in the rotation, Chalk switching over as and when the current coffee runs out. There’s also a single-origin on batch brew. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of sandwiches and wraps, plus there’s a selection of cake.
July 2020: Chalk Coffee has reopened following the COVID-19 shutdown over the summer. It's also changed its house espresso to Colonna Coffee while adding a second espresso from a rotating guest roaster. You can see what I made of it when I visited in October.Continue reading...
Chester’s rapidly-expanding speciality coffee scene shows no sign of slowing down, with the latest addition, Fika⁺, opening right at the end of last year. An evolution of micro-bakery Gnome’s Kitchen, which itself only opened in 2020, Fika⁺ occupies a wonderful location near the middle of a short row of buildings on top Chester’s city walls. Right next to The Northgate, part of the city’s original Roman walls which are now almost 2,000 years old, Fika⁺ looks out over the canal, itself a relative newcomer, having opened in 1774.
Fika⁺ is vegan, joining the likes of Jaunty Goat on Northgate Street and the Doughnut Whisperer down in Rufus Court, both a short stroll (and a flight of steps) from Fika⁺. All the bread and cakes are from the micro-bakery in Hoole, made with locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible. The coffee is from Heartland Coffee Roasters, the ubiquitous Landmark blend on espresso plus single-origin options on batch brew and pour-over (V60 or AeroPress), along with tea and hot chocolate.
Since it’s relatively new, Fika⁺ is constantly evolving. For example, this week sees the launch of the concise all-day brunch menu, while there are plans to expand the opening hours, particularly as the days get longer.Continue reading...
Garden Social Coffee House
Today’s Coffee Spot, Garden Social Coffee House, continues the exploration of Chester’s speciality coffee scene and how it’s expanding beyond the historic (and compact) city centre, which started with Monday’s Coffee Spot, Ginger Monkey Number 31. This time we’re northwest of the centre, heading in the direction of Blacon/Sealand, where I stumbled upon Garden Social, tucked away in the dense network of residential streets, lined with tightly-packed terrace houses, between the River Dee and the canal. As the name suggests, Garden Social has an outside seating area at the back, along with some well-spaced seating in the bright and airy interior.
Occupying what was an old-fashioned corner shop, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Garden Social, sporting a brand-new Eagle One espresso machine and its twin Mythos One grinders, serving up a house-blend (Jailbreak) and a regularly-changing single-origin. There’s also a filter option, available through AeroPress, Kalita Wave or Chemex (for two), grinding provided by the ubiquitous EK43, all the coffee coming from Has Bean. This is backed up by a selection of tea, hot chocolate and various iced drinks. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes, plus a concise toast-based breakfast menu, along with a handful of toasties and sandwiches.Continue reading...
Ginger Monkey Number 31
To its credit, Chester’s rapidly expanding speciality coffee scene isn’t confined to the compact, historic city centre. For example, the pioneering Little Yellow Pig has been out in Hoole since 2014, joined by Short + Stout in 2018. Staying to the east of the centre, we now have Ginger Monkey Number 31, conveniently located at 31 Christleton Road in Boughton, a 20-minute stroll out from the city centre.
Ginger Monkey is a relatively new addition to the area, having relocated from its original home in Saltney (a little further out to the west of the city) in December 2020. It occupies a compact spot on the north side of the road, which means that it catches the sun for most of the day. There are a pair of benches outside on the pavement, along with a window-bar and a handful of tables inside.
The coffee is from Crosby Coffee Roasters, with its Trio blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a rotating guest roaster on batch brew. There’s a selection of tea and hot chocolate, along with various iced versions, but the other big draw is the food, concise breakfast and lunch menus being joined by an all-day brunch menu.Continue reading...
Jaunty Goat, Bridge Street
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.
Jaunty Goat Bakery
There seems to be something about Chester, speciality coffee and bakeries, which, you could argue, all started with the Jaunty Goat bakery. The third Jaunty Goat, it joins the original on Bridge Street and the vegan Jaunty Goat on Northgate Street. Opening in July last year, the same month as Kookaburra Bakehouse, the pair were then joined by newcomer Fika⁺ in December that year.
The bakery has an interesting location, almost directly across Bridge Street from the original, although it’s completely different, a small spot with a simple counter offering takeout coffee and pastries, with the ovens at the back. You can also buy bread and coffee beans (either loose or in packets). While the bakery only uses disposable cups (so don’t forget to bring your own), there are pair of tables outside on the broad pavement, where you can watch the world go by as you enjoy your coffee.Continue reading...
Jaunty Goat, Northgate Street
After two weeks of Iceland this, Iceland that, the Coffee Spot is back in the UK with Jaunty Goat’s second coffee shop on Chester’s Northgate Street. Chester’s speciality coffee scene has changed out of all recognition since I first visited Jaunty Goat on Bridge Street in 2016. The original Jaunty Goat has moved from its initial concept of a coffee shop with great food to being more of a restaurant with great coffee, all of which is now roasted in-house. Along the way, Jaunty Goat opened a second location on Northgate Street in January 2019.
In many ways, the second Jaunty Goat is more like the original used to be, that is, a coffee shop. However, in a bold move, the new Jaunty Goat is completely vegan, right down to there being no dairy option for the milk-based coffees. Talking of which, the coffee's all roasted in-house, with a standard espresso-based menu, shots pulled on a Victoria Arduino Eagle One, with its three Mythos One grinders (house espresso, guest espresso and decaf). There are also filter options: AeroPress, V60 or Chemex (for two), plus loose-leaf teas. If you’re hungry, the all-day brunch menu’s available until four o’clock, backed up with sandwiches and cake.Continue reading...
Kookaburra Bakehouse on Goss Street in Chester is the latest venture from the team that brought you Bean & Cole, in partnership with Jess, who bakes all the lovely cakes for Bean & Cole. It opened in July this year, offering a simple menu of excellent espresso-based coffee from Ozone, along with a range of sweet and savoury goodies (although mostly sweet), all baked in the kitchen upstairs.
It's a tiny place, principally catering to the takeaway trade, although there are a couple of bars offering limited inside seating, where you can sit and chat with whoever is behind the counter (Ian, aka “Bean”, in our case, while his partner, Nicole, is the “Cole” of Bean & Cole). Opening hours are limited for now, from eight o’clock in the morning on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until a nominal two o’clock closing time (or when all the cakes have been sold!).Continue reading...
Little Yellow Pig
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.Continue reading...
Having grown up just over the border in North Wales, Chester is, in many ways, my home city. I frequently pass though on my way to/from my Dad’s, but rarely stop, partly due to circumstance, but also because, when it comes to coffee, there’s not much to entice me to get off one stop earlier at Chester Station. However, with the arrival of the likes of Moss Coffee, that’s slowly changing.
Chester has struggled a little with speciality coffee. Apart from the well-established The Barista’s and Jaunty Goat, coffee shops, such as Moon Beer & Coffee, have tended to come and go. Hopefully Moss Coffee can buck that trend. It’s off to good start, serving an espresso-based menu with the Arboretum blend from Dark Woods, along with a small selection of locally-baked cakes. The owner, Daniel, is keeping things simple for now, with plans to expand in the future.
June 2020: Moss Coffee has reopened for takeaway coffee. You can see what I made of it when I visited at the start of August.Continue reading...
Obscure Coffee by name, and, some might say, obscure by nature, although in reality, Obscure Coffee is only a few minutes’ walk from the heart of Chester, near the bottom of Lower Bridge Street, close to the city walls and the River Dee. It’s not even obscure by name, since, as owner Nick recounted, he’d wanted to call it Obscura Coffee, “obscura” being Spanish for “dark”. However, someone misheard him, thought he said “obscure” and the name stuck.
It’s a pretty small spot, with space inside for a handful of tables, while there’s a really cosy back room with four more tables and a pair of armchairs. All the coffee comes from Climpson and Sons, with Climpson’s signature Estate on espresso, joined by regularly-changing single-origins on batch brew through the Moccamaster. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries, plus sausage rolls, but that’s it.Continue reading...
I first came across Panna in Liverpool at the end of 2015, where owners Ivana and Peter, a friendly, welcoming Slovak couple, had turned a potentially unpromising basement in Silkhouse Court into a lovely, warm, welcoming café. There was some excellent food, along with coffee from Has Bean and local roasters Neighbourhood Coffee.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Silkhouse Court was sold and Ivana and Peter decided to relocate to Chester, opening five weeks ago on 15th August 2019, not long after my previous visit to Chester! In so doing, they’ve moved up in the world, quite literally in fact, swapping a basement for a ground floor space on Chester’s famous Rows on Watergate Street.
The good news is that they’ve brought the same warm, friendly atmosphere with them. For example, although it’s been four years since we last met, I was greeted like a long-lost friend! They’ve also brought the excellent food along in the shape of an all-day brunch menu with plenty of cakes and pastries. And then there’s the coffee, with two Has Bean blends on espresso and multiple guests on filter using a variety of brew methods, including Chemex, V60 and Aeropress.Continue reading...
Short + Stout
For the longest time, Chester, closest city to Holywell, the town where I grew up, has been poorly served by speciality coffee. However, in recent months a spate of new openings have joined stalwarts such as The Barista’s and Jaunty Goat in the city centre and Little Yellow Pig, out in Hoole, which is where you’ll find today’s Coffee Spot, Short + Stout.
Occupying an interestingly-shaped building on a narrow corner at the end of two terraces in a relatively quiet, residential area, it’s not a huge space. Despite this, Short + Stout acts like a much larger coffee shop, offering breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, complete with full table service, a clear sign of its Melbourne roots, which is where the owners, Sarah and Will, first got their inspiration.
The coffee is from nearby Ancoats Coffee Co. in Manchester (Sarah having known Manny, from Ancoats, when they were both working in Melbourne). During my visit it was espresso only, with the ubiquitous Warehouse City blend joined by Ancoats’ seasonal decaf. However, Short + Stout, which had been serving cold brew over the summer, was in the process to switching to offering guest roasters on batch-brew alongside the espresso-based drinks.Continue reading...
The Barista’s, Chester
I’d describe The Barista’s in Chester (the apostrophe leaving me asking “the Barista’s what?”) as an old-fashioned coffee shop (“old-fashioned” meaning a mere 10 years ago!). Set in the bottom of an old building on Chester’s historic Watergate Street, it’s a lovely, relaxing place, with bare stone and brick walls belying the age of building (it dates from the 17th century, if not earlier).
As a venue, it’s worth it just for the experience, especially if, like me, you appreciate old buildings. There are also a couple of tables outside on the pavement; on a sunny day, I can see sitting outside being a great option, the pedestrianised Watergate Street making a very pleasant backdrop.
The Barista’s serves Has Bean, so you know that the coffee’s going to be more than just run-of-the-mill. In fact, The Barista’s achieved the unique distinction of serving me a Has Bean espresso which I drank without pulling a face! There is, as they say, a first time for everything!
Add to that a fairly typical coffee shop range of cake, sandwiches, Panini, soup and a less-than-typical selection of flatbreads and you have a credible alternative to the coffee chains in the heart of Chester.Continue reading...
The Flower Cup
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.Continue reading...
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