Archive for April, 2018

Coffee Shop North

April 29, 2018

I want Coffee Shop North to be a platform not for me but for everyone involved in the north to discuss, explore and share their insights into the culture of coffee and its rising independent scene. — Dan Saul Pilgrim

Coffee Shop North was crowdfunded, a photo-essay of twenty-three indie coffee shops, seven cities and one town, across the North of England.

Inserted a booklet with portraits of coffee people.

Tamper in Sheffield, Spring in York, two of two dozen coffee shops featured.

Coupled with a collection of a dozen essays on coffee related themes.

Too many cafes, it would be stretching the point to call them coffee shops, are locked into the coffee scam, free machine, forced to buy poor quality overpriced coffee beans.

The norm for a speciality coffee shop, a house blend that does not change, a guest blend and maybe a few single origin speciality coffees for pour over. The only way to experience different coffees is to visit different coffee shops. Nothing of course wrong with that, part of the fun, different barista, different coffee, different techniques.

In ‘The Coffee Curators’ Lee Newell of Foundry in Sheffield questions why? Why not constantly change what is served, a challenge for the barista who then becomes a coffee curator, a challenge for the discerning clientele.

Two coffee shops that do just that, though not featured in Coffee Shop North, The Speciality Coffee Shop in Nottingham and Madame Waffle in Lincoln.

Too many of our towns have been destroyed by bad planning, corporate greed, and chains everywhere, an appalling sameness, then when a cursory glance at a remote spreadsheet does not show sufficient return, store closures leaving gaping holes in our town centres never to be filled.

Coffee shops offer something different, often a sensitive restoration of an old building, money is recycled within the local economy, a sense of place, something different, of character.

Coffee Shop North provides a sense of this sense of place.

Of limited edition, only on sale in indie coffee shops or indie bookshops. My copy was from Ideas on Paper, hidden in Cobden Chambers in Nottingham.

A few days later after picking up a copy of Coffee Shop North I was in York.  A few days after that flipping through Coffee Shop North I recognised the Synesso espresso machine, it was what I had spotted in Spring Espresso Lendal in York, the only one in the country.

I had thought, would it not be a clever idea to have Coffee Shop North signed in each coffee shop visited, or at least try and visit.

So far, only  Spring Espresso Lendal, though I did not have the book for signing.

Comparison would be Coffee Style, a hardback of stunning coffee related photos.  Or maybe Drift, coffee culture city by city.

If a guide to coffee shops in the North, then maybe The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, not that Coffee Shop North claims to be a guide or even attempts to be comprehensive, it is a snapshot of time and place. But a word of caution,  The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide is not as it appears, it is not a guide or at least not as claimed, a guide loses all credibility when coffee shops are being charged £500 for an entry, write their own entry, coffee shops that should be featured are not, several that are should not.

The inspiration for Coffee Shop North was living and working coffee in the North.

My first experience with coffee goes hand in hand with my first experience away from home. I moved to Leeds in September 2010 to study graphic design. A thirty minute commute along the River Aire took me past a little espresso bar known as La Bottega Milanese. Opened not long before my arrival to the city, Alex the owner is Milan born and bred and had worked in coffee to support his graphic design studies not dissimilar to myself. La Bottega was a first of its kind — the first Milanese style espresso bar in Leeds. Given my inherent affection for Italian culture and the stylishly designed exterior, I was drawn to the shop and every day I would supplement my walk into university with a flat white. My dad had passed down his appreciation for coffee and also Italian food and wine due to family. (Yes, it’s more Kiwi than Italian but at the time I was none the wiser!).

The choice between a bus fare of the same price or a beautifully poured drink every morning was a no-brainer: the flat white became synchronous with my independence.

I respected Alex and his perseverance to establish this coffee culture in a northern English city. A year later I worked for him for a few months at the opening of his second shop (more a late night concept espresso bar) to aid my own studies and during that time met quite a few of the baristas intended to feature within the very pages of the book. My appreciation of the drink, the place and people grew and so to did my knowledge.

Four years later, I have spent countless hours in coffee shops in five cities particularly in the north of England. I’ve witnessed and been lucky enough to be part of a scene that has grown quickly in such a short space of time. Within the four (or more) walls of each shop there are stories to be told through image and word. I am but one person with an intimate story and appreciation that has stemmed from one drinkplace and person.

I want Coffee Shop: North to be a platform not for me but for everyone involved in the north to discuss, explore and share their insights into the culture of coffee and its rising independent scene.

A few minor criticisms of Coffee Shop North, the very large typeface at the beginning and irritating to be told what people are wearing as that only serves to regurgitate the myth coffee shops are for hipsters only ordinary folk not welcome, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It would have been useful to know where each coffee shop was, at the very least the town or city, and ideally, web address and twitter.

Dan Saul Pilgrim author of Coffee Shop North lived in the North, discovered specailty coffee and coffee shops, and for a while worked in a coffee shop.

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Charlotte Jane Kessler

April 29, 2018

Angel Coffee House has an exhibition of the art of Charlotte Jane Kessler.

Well worth a visit.

Angel Coffee House revisited

April 29, 2018

When I last visited Angel Coffee House a year or so ago, it was grim, a dreadful place, noisy, sofas black with ingrained dirt, cushions with stuffing falling out, and the coffee awful, the bags of coffee stacked on the shelves well past its best.

Not a place I would recommend to anyone. I had been in better squats.

Shortly thereafter it closed, the place gutted.

I was told following refurbishment it had improved.

I would not usually return to somewhere this bad, but as I was passing by, I thought with much trepidation I would try.

The interior much improved, clean, very light and airy due to whitewashed walls.

The walls provide an excellent back drop to use as an art gallery, and many coffee shops are now doubling as art galleries.

I do not know for how long, an excellent exhibition of art by Charlotte Jane Kessler.

My eye was caught by kaffee form coffee cups. It looked like an exhibition of pottery.  I knew what it was, the first time though I have seen, let alone held and examined. Nor did smell of coffee as I expected. Nor as I expected a rough surface. No, smooth. The cups surprisingly light.

Kaffee form coffee cups are made of recycled coffee grounds. They are used for serving coffee. I asked could I have a coffee in one, was told no. If used, and if break, can be composted.

These coffee cups though are very expensive, espresso cup and saucer 15 euros, cappuccino cup and saucer 20 euros, which is why not likely to find in use in a coffee shop any time soon.  There is also a takeaway cup 15 euros, which puts in the same ballpark as KeepCup.

A coffee shop. How was the coffee?

It was better than before. It would have had to have been very bad to have been worse than before. OK, not great, not undrinkable, weak and insipid. And they did at least ask, did I wish for chocolate dumped on top. As mentioned in the current issue of Caffeine, chocolate is dumped on cappuccino to hide a multiplicity of barista sins. They need to examine their extraction and weigh the coffee not guess. If I was to give a ballpark, I would say not quite as good as 200 Degrees house blend, and it is not great.

The coffee is sourced from Forge in Sheffield.

Forge have committed the cardinal sin of what no reputable roastery would do, try to poach business from other coffee shops, not when they are sourcing from one of the best coffee roasteries in the country.

Angel Coffee House still has a fair way to go, but at least is heading in the right direction.

If compare with coffee shops in Lincoln, not in the same league as Coffee AromaMadame Waffle or Makushi aka Base Camp on Steep Hill, but better than Coffee Bobbins which was recently awarded best tea or coffee shop in Lincolnshire by Good Taste Lincolnshire (which makes a farce of awards) and of course far better than any of the corporate chains, Costa, tax-dodging Caffé Nero or Starbucks.

Indy coffee chain to ban disposable coffee cups

April 24, 2018

I’d stop tomorrow but I think it’s only fair to give our loyal customers and fantastic team a month to get used to the idea. — Sam Roberts, Boston Tea Party

Indie coffee chain Boston Tea Party is to ban disposable coffee cups.

Yes, a step in the right direction.

A real step not the greenwash we have seen from Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Waitrose.

As always, it is the independents leading the way, not the corporate coffee chains, the same corporate coffee chains that lobbied the government not to introduce a latte levy.

Glasgow Coffee Festival has this year banned disposable coffee cups. It is either bring your own cup or festival sponsor KeepCup will have cups available.

Independents are already moving in the right direction, introducing KeepCup or clones thereof reusable cups, introducing compostable cups.

Reusable cups have to be clean and barista friendly. Too many are neither.

An example would be ecoffee cup on sale in Oxfam. Too large.

Reusable coffee cups are of limited utility, expensive, bulky, inconvenient to carry around. Which explains their limited take up. I have yet to be in a coffee shop and witness a reusable coffee sold or in use.

Boston Tea Party had offered a 25p discount on drinks if customers brought their own cup. Less than 3% of their customers took up the offer.

This is in line with research. Take up is minimal if only a discount offered, it has to be coupled with reusable cups on sale.  But even then the best that has been recorded is around 30% take up.

The target demographics, office workers popping out for a coffee.

Boston Tea Party are to discontinue their discount if bring own cup.

Compostable cups raise a number of issues, a compost heap on which to deposit the cup, do the cups compost as claimed?

The only way forward is to introduce a latte levy, discourage takeaway coffee, encourage sit down and relax in an indie coffee shop with a cup of speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Plastic-lined disposable coffee cups, 2.5 billion a year in the UK, are not the only waste generated by coffee shops. What of the food waste, the waste milk, the coffee grounds?

Small Batch in Brighton, with the help of Espresso Mushroom Company, recycle their coffee grounds as a growing medium for oyster mushrooms, the growing kits are on sale in their coffee shops.

The Boston Tea Party has a similar scheme with Dartmoor Prison, Green Shoots, coffee grounds used for oyster mushrooms, kits on sale and the mushrooms served.

Boston Tea Party are sourcing water from Frank Water, who supply water in glass bottles not plastic. This though is questionable. Why not follow the practice of indie coffee shops in Athens, and what is increasingly becoming the practice in indie coffee shops in England, bring a carafe or bottle of ice cold water to the table or less often help yourself to water from a jug or a large jar with a tap?

Water as a human right. Without asking, a glass and a matt black bottle of ice cold water brought to the table at Tailor Made in Athens.

Boston Tea Party is a small chain of 21 coffee shops in the south west and midlands. Very odd for a coffee chain, no mention of the coffee on their website.

Cappuccino on St George’s Day

April 23, 2018

What better way to celebrate St George’s Day than a cappuccino in Madame Waffle, brewed using Red Brick roasted by Square Mile?

Well ok I could have had a single origin V60 pour over. I could have had a bottle of red wine from Melissonas Hill Vineyard.

 

V60 Japanese iced filter coffee at Makushi

April 21, 2018

A few days ago, I had a V60 using a Rwanda natural Gatare from Alchemy at The Speciality Coffee Shop.  It was excellent.

I came away with a bag, or at least half a bag, as that was all they had.

Today I thought, rather than have a cappuccino at Makushi aka Base Camp on Steep Hill, why not try this coffee as V60 guest coffee.

Then on arrival, I thought why not as a lovely day to sit in the garden, as a V60 Japanese iced filter coffee.

This is brewed as a V60 with two big differences, the carafe has ice, and only use half the water, the other half is in the ice.

The ice instantly chills the coffee as it drips through onto the ice.

Allow the ice to melt, then serve with ice.

Enjoy.

 

 

Harlequin Cafe and The Attic

April 20, 2018

On leaving Spring Espresso Lendal and wandering around, arrived back at York Minster, then found Harlequin Cafe and The Attic overlooking a small square, King’s Square.  I was actually heading towards a market or at least following a sign to a market.

First Floor Harlequin Cafe (closed) and on the second floor The Attic.

Through a door and up narrow stairs.

I have lumped the two together, but strictly speaking I should not as two different one a tea shop the other a coffee shop cum drinking den in the evening.  The only reason I have is because Harlequin Cafe was closed. All I could do was peer though the door and carry on upwards to The Attic, quite literally the attic.

Why was Harlequin Cafe closed, I asked on reaching The Attic. Why was it closed, I inquired? I learnt it closed at 3-30 in the afternoon Looking perplexed, I was told it was a tea room.

Not wishing for yet another cappuccino I chose, or was chosen for me, pour over Kalita Wave using a single origin from Has bean, I think a Burundi.

A signed copy of Coffeeography occupying pride of place on the shelf. I suggested why not invite Stephen Leighton for an afternoon of conversation, such an event of  conversation with Stephen Leighton had taken place one afternoon at Coffee Aroma.

A choice of KeepCup or ecoffee reusable cups. The black with Attic, far more attractive than ecoffee in Oxfam.

A short walk to a local market but now no time to have a wander round.

I asked the way to the station as now in a more modern less attractive part of the city and lost.

Spring Espresso Lendal

April 20, 2018

What a difference walking down a street can make.

Excellent brunch at Burr Coffee, the coffee awful.

Is my sense of taste awry? No, bad coffee.

Spring Espresso Lendal serves coffee from Square Mile, Red Brick espresso blend and single origin.

I have yet to have a bad Square Mile coffee and Spring Espresso Lendal was no exception.

Excellent cappuccino, restoring my faith that my sense of taste had not gone awry.

Did they have guest coffees? Occasionally, but very rarely as always a changing guest coffee from Square Mile.

I noticed a Synesso espresso machine. Showing an interest, I was told the only one in the country, at least of that model. Spring Espresso have a second coffee shop in York with a different Synesso.

On the counter a small cold brew tower. I have never seen one so small, though unusual to ever see one in the UK.  It was dripping at one drip every two seconds through the coffee and into a carafe below. Eight hours.  Odd though to serve with tonic.

Burr Coffee

April 20, 2018

Alighting at York Station the final stop, wandering through  the streets, over a bridge over the River Ouse and into the city centre.

Passed a couple of coffee shops, one of which was Brew and Brownie, but too hot to sit inside.  Ended at York Minster, back tracked to Lendal and found Burr Coffee.

Excellent brunch at Burr Coffee, the same cannot be said of the coffee. The cakes looked tempting, but I did not try.

Looking at the menu outside, brunch field mushrooms and halloumi cheese with pine nuts on toasted sourdough bread. Generous portion size and excellent.

North Star Coffee on sale, espresso blend and single origin, though no single origin served, no pour over.

I have had North Star before at Canopy Coffee, not good, therefore was curious.

Cappuccino ordered. It was terrible, chocolate dumped on top, scalding hot, undrinkable.

I kept taking a tentative sip whilst eating my lunch, but my opinion did not change, it was terrible coffee.

I had been tempted to buy a bag of North Star coffee was not sure which, though my decision had been made for me, as apart from The Docks an espresso blend, the single origin which I would have preferred, was all too old.  Having experienced an awful coffee, I decided not.

Further down the street, Spring Espresso Lendal serving Square Mile Coffee.  What a difference a few steps can make.

Sometimes I wonder, is my sense of taste awry. I then have a decent cup of coffee, and realise no, I have been served bad coffee.

Burr Coffee has on sale The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide in which they are listed.  The listing opens up a whole can of worms. If not serving quality coffee, why are they listed? How independent is this guide, what credibility, when coffee shops are paying £500 to be listed?

Burr Coffee, excellent for lunch, not somewhere for coffee.  A cafe serving coffee, not a coffee shop serving food.

 

Afternoon in York

April 20, 2018

Wednesday very hot, hottest day of the year, fortunately Thursday not as hot.

Virgin Trains Doncaster to York running several minutes late. Then at the last minute, train switched to another platform. Passengers only became aware on seeing the train pull into another platform. Station staff then tried to stop passengers boarding and refused to hold the train to enable passengers to board.

Whilst waiting for the late running train, a train for Kings Cross pulled in with announcement already full standing room only.

Alighting at York Station the final stop, wandering through  the streets, over a bridge over the River Ouse and into the city centre.

What struck me, walking from the station, and then wandering around, the number of tourists.  Second that the centre relatively unspoilt, even where chains, and there was a good mix of independents where there were chains, the streets had not been destroyed, original buildings and shopfronts. Oxfam did though have to be an exception, ugly shop sign. Could they not have had the good grace to have had a sign in keeping with the character of the building?

Contrast with Lincoln, a historic town, and yet few tourists compared compared with York. Could this be due to poor town centre planning, destruction of whole swathes of the town centre, the latest being Sincil Street?

The  centre of York traffic free contrast with centre of Lincoln where it is not.

Passed a couple of coffee shops. I wandered in a couple, but far too hot to be sat inside.  Brew and Brownie tempting, but too hot inside. Ended at York Minster.  Back tracked to Lendal and found Burr Coffee.

Excellent brunch at Burr Coffee, the same cannot be said of the coffee.

Brunch field mushrooms and halloumi cheese with pine nuts on toasted sourdough bread. Generous portion size and excellent.

North Star Coffee on sale, espresso blend and single origin, though no single origin served, no pour over.

I have had North Star before at Canopy Coffee, not good, therefore was curious.

Cappuccino ordered. It was terrible, chocolate dumped on top, scalding hot, undrinkable.

Further down the street, Spring Espresso Lendal serving Square Mile Coffee.  What a difference walking down a street can make. Excellent coffee.

View story at Medium.com

Then wandering around, arrived back at York Minster, then found Harlequin Coffee and The Attic overlooking a square, King’s Square, as I followed signs to a market.

First Floor Harlequin Cafe (closed) and  on the second floor The Attic.

Not wishing for yet another cappuccino I chose, or was chosen for me, pour over Kalita Wave using a single origin from Has bean, I think a Burundi.

A short walk to a local market but now no time to have a wander round.

I asked the way to the station as now in a more modern less attractive part of the city and lost.

Crossed a different bridge over the River Ouse en route the the station

On arrival at the station found train running fifteen minutes late, which meant would not make connecting service at Newark.

Train left twenty minutes late.

It was announced, leave at Newark, walk to other Newark Station, fifteen minutes walk, will be met by station staff and guided where to go.

Not true 15 minutes walk. It is 15 minutes walk into town, and that is assuming know the way. No staff greeting passengers. No transport to convey passengers. not even bottles of water handed out which was the least they could have done.

Poorly signposted across the town, including dircting on unnesseary long way around.

— to be completed —