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The Coffee Spot Guide to Chester

The famous Chester Rows, continuous, half-timbered galleries, which form rows of shops above those at street level. These are on the corner of Bridge Street and Eastgate Street.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, 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 reopened and, 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.


Coffee Spots

Bean & Cole

A lovely flat white, made with the Jailbreak blend from Has Bean, served in a classic cup at Bean & Cole in Chester.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.

June 2020: Bean & Cole reopened for takeaway service, with seating following in July. You can see what I made of it when I visited at the start of August.

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Bridge St Coffee

The Bridge St Coffee logo, taken from the menu, with the words "Bridge St Coffee" in capitals inside a coffee stain.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.

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Chalk Coffee

The Chalk Coffee logo from the wall of the coffee shop in Chester.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.

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Jaunty Goat

The Jaunty Goat logo, painted on the wall to the left as you enter the store in Chester.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.

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Little Yellow Pig

A shot of Dark Arts Coffee's Lost Highway single-origin espresso in a gorgeous cup at Little Yellow Pig in Hoole, Chester.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.

June 2020: Little Yellow Pig has reopened, adding sit-in service in July. You can see what I made of it when I visited in August.

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Moss Coffee

Some lovely latte art in my flat white, made with the Arboretum Blend from Dark Woods and served at Moss Coffee, Chester.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.

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Obscure Coffee

Climpson and Sons signature Estate Espresso in a lovely yellow cup at Obscure Coffee, Chester.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.

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Panna Chester

A Chemex of a Los Suspiros from Guatemala, roasted by Square Mile of London and served in Panna, Chester.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.

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Short + Stout

The Short + Stout logo from above the door of the shop in Hoole.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.

July 2020: Short + Stout has opened its seating areas, having reopened for takeaway service in June. You can see what I made of it when I visited in August.

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The Barista’s, Chester

The logo of The Barista's, ChesterI’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.

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The Flower Cup

Detail from a drawing of a wreath of the wall of The Flower Cup, a Botanical Coffee Shop in Chester.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.

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Map

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