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The Coffee Spot Guide to Guildford

The keep of Guildford Castle, seen from the bowling greenGuildford has been my home for almost 25 years. When I first arrived, in the late 1990s, there wasn’t much in the way of good coffee, let alone speciality, and the highlight of my day was an espresso at Costa. Things hadn’t improved that much by the time I started the Coffee Spot in 2012.

A couple of places came and went, but things started to improve when Surrey Hills Coffee moved into its first place on Chapel Street. Then, after a period of steady growth, things have really exploded over the last twelve months, with five places opening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now Guildford has a thriving speciality coffee scene, with several roasters thrown into the mix. What impresses me is the range of places, from kiosks and telephone boxes, through a farm-to-cup operation, all the way to a pair of social enterprises in a church and an old bowling club pavilion.

If you want to know more about the history of speciality coffee in Guildford, then here’s a round-up from early 2021.

As with all these guides, this is not, and does not claim to be, a comprehensive guide to Guildford’s coffee scene but out of all of my guides, this is the one that comes closest!.


Header image: the top of Guildford High Street, looking west towards the Hog’s Back, partly obscured by the Guildhall clock.


Coffee Spots

Canopy Coffee

A lovely espresso in a classic white cup being enjoyed in the sun at Canopy Coffee, Guildford.In April, I heard rumours of a new coffee shop in my home town of Guildford from my friends at Surrey Hills Coffee. By May, I’d identified the site, an awkwardly-shaped corner unit opposite Waitrose. I became a regular visitor, wandering past and watching the coffee shop, Canopy Coffee, take shape over the next two months, wondering when it would open. The big day came in early July. Naturally, I was in America, so missed it.

Hurrying back, I made up for lost time by becoming a semi-regularly visitor. I’m trying to work my way through the coffee menu, but Jonathon, the owner, changes it faster than I can drink it! A multi-roaster, Canopy gets small quantities of beans from roasters around the country, including Origin, Square Mile and, most recently, North Star. There are two options on espresso, with two more on pour-over through the Kalita Wave or Chemex. Canopy’s also experimenting with batch-brew through the Moccamaster for those in a hurry.

The food, by the way, is as special as the coffee, with an all-day breakfast/lunch menu featuring various staples on toast, locally-produced quiches and salads, backed up by a range of mouth-watering cakes, again all baked locally.

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Ceylon House of Coffee (COVID-19)

The logo of the London House of Coffee, the parent to the Ceylon House of Coffee, on the front of the counter.It’s typical. I go away for a couple of weeks and someone opens a coffee shop in Guildford. I think every opening in the last three years has been while I’ve been away… The newcomer in this case is the Ceylon House of Coffee, an offshoot of the London House of Coffee, which, ironically, is in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Ceylon, as was). Meanwhile the Ceylon House of Coffee is in Guildford, occupying the old American Express building at the bottom of the High Street, a lovely, spacious spot with floor-to-ceiling windows, and plenty of well-separated tables and sofas.

What makes the Ceylon House of Coffee stand out from the crowd is that it only serves coffee from Sri Lanka, with the owner attempting to recreate something of Sri Lanka’s heyday as a coffee-producing nation in the mid-19th century. For now, there’s only a single-option on espresso, along with a selection of Sri Lankan tea, plus a wide range of cakes.

The shop, meanwhile, is operating on reduced opening hours while everyone finds their feet, with drinks being served in disposable cups, although the staff are happy to accept customers’ reusable cups, so don’t forget to bring yours along!

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Flying Coffee Bean, Guildford

The FCB Logo: the letters "FCB" in white in the centre of an orange circle, with "Artisan Espresso Bars" in white around the circumference.The Flying Coffee Bean (these days FCB Coffee) is a chain of coffee kiosks on stations in London and the South East. The Guildford one’s been a fixture for several years, but, until recently, I never gave it a second thought. I distinctly remember when, a couple of years before I started the Coffee Spot, I took my coffee (a two-shot latte) back to get an extra shot because all I could taste was milk. The barista didn’t look best pleased, explaining that this was how the customers liked it, at which point I decided to take my custom elsewhere.

Fast forward to six months ago and, for various reasons, I revisited the Flying Coffee Bean. Expecting disappointment, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only could I taste the coffee, it was really nice-tasting coffee too! 12-second extractions were a thing of the past and the milk was steamed so it held decent latte-art.

Consider me converted!

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Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee (COVID-19)

The sign inside Koja by Surrey Hills Coffee: "Welcome Lovely People Of Guildford to Koja by SHC"Once upon a time, there was a coffee roastery called Surrey Hills Coffee which (accidentally) opened a coffee shop in Guildford. That was in 2016, and soon the little coffee shop had outgrown its original home on Chapel Street, prompting a move in 2018 to bigger premises on Jeffries Passage, where, in the fullness of time, an upper floor seating area was added. And then COVID-19 came along and, like all the other coffee shops in Guildford, Surrey Hills had to close.

In many ways, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise for Chris and Monika, the Swedish couple behind Surrey Hills Coffee. Temporarily released from the day-to-day grind of running the coffee shop, they were able to focus on the roastery, realising that this was their true passion. When the COVID-19 restrictions were eased in England, allowing the coffee shop to reopen, Chris and Monika had a decision to make. They didn’t want to close the coffee shop, but they also didn’t want to go back to the day-to-day management.

Fortunately, the solution presented itself in the shape of Koja, which opened on Thursday, 13th August, initially for takeaway only, but with plans for sit-in service in due course.

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Krema Coffee

My piccolo, made with the guest espresso, served in a classic yellow espresso cup at Krema Coffee in Guildford.Krema Coffee started life in Farnham, where the original store opened its doors three years ago. Despite its relatively closeness to Guildford, for a variety of (not very good) reasons, I’ve still not visited, so I was quite pleased when Krema decided to come to me, opening its second store in Guildford. Naturally, the actual opening, at the end of March, took place while I was out of the country, but as soon as I was able, I paid Krema a visit.

Occupying a long, low-ceilinged spot at the castle end of Tunsgate in the centre of Guildford, Krema goes a surprisingly long way back, with a basement-like space at the back. When it comes to the coffee, Krema uses Horsham Coffee Roaster, sadly absent from Guildford town centre since the closure of Bar des Arts (although still available from The Flying Coffee Bean at the station). The Workhorse seasonal blend is the mainstay on the espresso machine, where it’s joined by a single-origin guest (also from Horsham). Meanwhile, there are a couple of options on pour-over through the V60, although in reality you can try any of the beans that Krema has in stock. If you’re hungry, there are light breakfast and lunch menus, backed up with copious quantities of cake.

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Lily London, Guildford

A lovely flat white, made with a naturally-processed Brazilian single-origin and served in my HuskeeCup at Lily London in Guildford.It’s with unexpected pleasure that I find myself writing about a new coffee shop (although pedants might argue with the use of the word “shop” here) when we’re right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the problems that 2020 brought to the hospitality industry, speciality coffee has been doing rather well here in Guildford, with several new openings, including the Ceylon House of Coffee.

The subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Lily London, is on a slightly smaller scale, occupying one of two old telephone boxes at the High Street end of Tunsgate, nestling around the back of the grand edifice that is Tunsgate Arch. Serving its own coffee, imported from Brazil by the owner, and roasted by Plot Roasting, Lily London offers a standard espresso-based menu, along with retail bags of the coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Open Grounds Café (COVID-19)

My brie and cranberry sandwich, along with my flat white, sitting in the sun on the patio at Open Grounds Café.I first heard of Open Grounds Café, another new addition to Guildford’s speciality coffee scene, in November last year, when Jonathon of Canopy Coffee tipped me off about a new coffee shop opening in the Baptist Church on Millmead, down by the river. I duly popped down in December, during that brief period when sit-in customers were allowed in the run-up to Christmas, but I didn’t have time to write it up. Then came further COVID-19 restrictions and Open Grounds switched to a takeaway operation.

However, at the start of April, the COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, allowing coffee shops to serve customers at outdoor seating. This was something that Open Grounds, with a large terrace in front of the church, was ideally placed to take advantage of. I made a brief visit (on my way to a wedding) and then returned last week for a more in-depth look.

Open Grounds is very much a lunchtime coffee shop, opening from 10:00 to 14:00, with a standard espresso-based menu built around a single-origin Brazilian from Ethicaladdictions, plus decaf and batch brew filter. There’s tea, soft drinks, soup, a small selection of sandwiches and curry puffs, plus a range of cakes, scones and pastries.

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The Hideaway

A classic espresso in a handmade cup from Surrey Ceramics, served at The Hideaway in Guildford.Guildford has another independent speciality coffee shop, and, in keeping with the name, The Hideaway has rather flown under the radar. Well, my radar at least. Tucked away inside the walled gardens of Guildford’s Allen House Grounds, it opened in April this year. I spotted it while walking back from town, but it was only at the start of last week that I popped in for a post-vaccination coffee. I was so impressed that I returned the following day for breakfast!

The Hideaway occupies Allen House Pavilion, looking out over the old bowling green. With shades of another new Guildford opening, Open Grounds Café, there’s a large terrace at the front, with an equally large, spacious interior, although it’s slightly small than Open Grounds. Owned by the Matrix Trust, The Hideaway is a non-profit social enterprise café aimed at giving young people a boost into employment.

That doesn’t mean any corners have been cut when it comes to coffee, with Oxford’s NewGround on espresso, backed up by hot chocolate, chai latte and a range of teas, plus a concise toast- and salad-based brunch menu, complete with daily choice of bread and salad. And, of course, there are plenty of cakes.

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The Hideout

Details taken from the menu board at The Hideout, where it proudly claims "No Takeaway Cups".Speciality coffee shops on university campuses are something of a rarity, so imagine my surprise when this popped up on Instagram: a new speciality coffee shop on the University of Surrey’s Guildford Campus! I was in Ireland at the time, but I made visiting a priority on my return.

The Hideout is well-named since it’s not the easiest place to find, especially if you don’t know the campus (an address of University of Surrey, Guildford, doesn’t help!). It’s at the western end of campus in an old bank branch, opposite PATS Field. As an added bonus, it's now on Google Maps.

Run by the welcoming duo of Beau and Charlie, it’s a large, relaxed spot, with an eclectic range of seating, from conventional tables to beanbags on the floor, plus there’s a bike shop on-site as well. The coffee is from old friends Union Hand-roasted, with the Bright Note blend on espresso, plus there are plans for batch brew filter in due course. In an interesting twist, The Hideout has done away with disposable takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own cup if you’re not staying. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and toast-based savouries.

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The Old Roastery Coffee Shop (COVID-19)

The name over the door: The Old Roastery Coffee Shop, occupying Redber Coffee Roasters' old roastery.I’ve been aware of Redber Coffee Roasters, which was set up in 2012 (the same year as the Coffee Spot), for quite a while now. Located on an industrial estate in Merrow, just south of the train line from Guildford to London via Effingham Junction, the roastery is around an hour’s walk from my house. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest place for me to get to, particularly without a car, nor is it really on my way to anywhere. However, when I learnt last week that Redber was opening an on-site coffee shop, I decided it was about time I paid a visit. It also helped that I had access to a car on Friday…

I visited The Old Roastery Coffee Shop at the end of its first week of trading. There's a standard espresso-based menu using the Café Français blend, plus tea and hot chocolate, although for now it’s takeaway cups only (that said, the staff are happy if you bring your own). While the indoor seating is off-limits until the next round of COVID-19 restrictions are eased (in mid-May), you are welcome to sit outside where there is a good selection of tables and chairs.

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Roasters

Meet the Roaster: Chimney Fire Coffee

The Chimney Fire Coffee logo, a stylised roaster in black outline with smoke coming from its chimney.Let’s get 2021 underway with a new Meet the Roaster and Chimney Fire Coffee. Started in his garden shed by Dan Webber in 2016, Chimney Fire moved to its current home in Ranmore Manor in the Surrey Hills in the summer of 2017. In theory, I could walk there and back in a day (as I did with Surrey Hills Coffee last May), but laziness/poor planning got the better of me, so I ended up driving over the week before Christmas when I unexpectedly found myself with a car and nowhere to go.

Like many roasters, Chimney Fire had its business model turned on its head by COVID-19, but is thriving despite this, expanding over the summer and recently employing two additional staff. Its Ranmore signature espresso is joined by a various single-origins with a variety of roasts: espresso, filter and onmi.

I’ve been enjoying Chimney Fire’s coffee for several years, often at Canopy Coffee (where it was a regular guest) and at home, with Chimney Fire being one of the first roasters I ordered from at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was therefore with great pleasure that I caught up with Dan and the team just before Christmas.

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Meet the Roaster: Surrey Hills Coffee

The 10 kg Toper roaster in the Roastery Shack, Surrey Hills Coffee's bespoke roastery.I first came across Surrey Hills Coffee in early 2016 at what was then Turn Fit Deli on Chapel Street in my hometown, Guildford. Although starting out as a deli, it quickly morphed into a coffee shop, supplied by Surrey Hills, which had started roasting in 2014, although Chris and Monika, the Swedish couple behind Surrey Hills, have a much longer involvement with coffee than that. In April 2016, Turn Fit decided to concentrate on its fitness business, and while Chris and Monika hadn’t planned on becoming coffee shop owners, they saw the opportunity and took over the lease to run the coffee shop themselves.

One thing led to another and by 2018, the original shop had moved to much bigger premises in Jeffries Passage. That same year, Surrey Hills opened its second coffee shop, The Pod at London Square, as well as growing a thriving, local wholesale business, supplying other cafes and retailers. Although the current COVID-19 pandemic has put the coffee shops on hold, this has, ironically, given Chris and Monika a chance to catch their breath and re-focus on the heart of their business, the roastery, which I learnt more about when we caught up last weekend.

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Map

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