Tag Archives: coffee roasters

Coffee – An Education, San Francisco – guest post by Lucy Reynolds

One of my great delights in life is that first cup of coffee in the morning. The one that clears away the fuzziness of sleep and kick starts your brain for the challenges of the day. It’s joyous, it’s essential and before my trip to San Francisco, it’s usually been of the freeze dried variety. Yes, I know – the coffee connoisseurs who are reading this are probably spitting out their mouthful of single origin Columbian shouting “Heathen!” but hear me out. My day job as a teacher doesn’t give me the luxury of having time to craft that perfect cup of coffee; in fact, speed and caffeine content nearly always takes precedence over quality and taste. What’s that? “Life’s too short to drink bad coffee” you cry. Well, break time is too short to faff around with a bloody filter coffee. And that’s how I thought for a long time – until I went on holiday to San Francisco with my mate Diane, an established quality coffee fan already. 

Due to her thirst for great coffee, Diane had already researched some of the best spots to go to for a quality cup. On our first full day, after successfully shaking off a spot of jet lag, we ventured out to find Sightglass in the SoMA district. One of the rules I’ve learnt about trendy shops and restaurants is that they will invariably have a minimalistic shop front (in the case of the uber-cool bakery Tartine, no name out front at all) and that will continue on into the premises, usually with lots of wood and metal, making it look more like a lumber yard than a place you’d go for a drink. And guess what? I wasn’t proved wrong. The interior of Sightglass was exactly what I’d suspected, but I did have to admit that it looked impressive, if not trying to be slightly too cool for school. Within the shop, the barista (who looked like they’d stepped out of an Urban Outfitter’s catalogue) busily prepare their orders in the open plan coffee bar, whilst heavily tattooed types don aprons and work using the beautiful roaster that dominates the eye when you walk in the store. After buying our drinks (I’d plumped with a latte – I felt in safe territory there), we walked upstairs to sit on the mezzanine level, so we could spy on the open coffee bar and also glance into the glass-fronted company headquarters, which are also located within this flagship store.

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The clientele was varied – ranging from typical hipster city types, to older business people and joggers who probably needed that shot of energy to carry on. Not that we’d done any jogging that morning, but anyone who’s ever been to San Francisco will know that those vertiginous hills really take it out of you. So, here I was, ready to take my first sip of SF’s finest when I made my rookie mistake – I added sugar. Diane isn’t necessarily a violent person but if looks could kill, I’d be pushing up daisies. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that adding sugar is a big no-no, that it wouldn’t need any and I should try it before I add. Scowling inwardly, I took her advice and, lo and behold, she was right. Maybe I’m too used to the over processed bitter beans of Costa and Starbucks, but since drinking very good quality coffee, I can taste a natural sweetness that doesn’t need any additional help. I’d made my latte too sweet and I vowed (rather begrudgingly) to avoid sugar in coffee for the rest of the trip. After about twenty minutes of gazing down at the barista, who seemed to have got tapping milk jugs and creating fern shapes in frothed milk down to a fine art, we moved along, leaving customers ready to jump in our places, attesting to the popularity of the place.  

Similar to the popularity of Sightglass, we had heard great things about a shop/micro-roaster called Ritual Coffee in The Mission, so we went for a visit, and after a few wrong turns and relying on my dodgy Google Maps on my phone, we found it. Unfortunately for us, the shop was undergoing refurbishment, so only the front part of the store was visible. The staff were very friendly though and parking ourselves in a lovely window seat, I decided to break free of my latte chains and go for something slightly more adventurous. I opted for an espresso and it was delicious; rich, complex but remarkably easy to drink. What seems to give coffee shops the edge seems to be the way the beans are ground. Diane had drawn my attention to the EK-43 grinder in coffee all of the shops, and told me that if the beans are ground vertically, instead of the traditional horizontal grinding plates, the end product is supposedly more defined and has greater clarity. In Leeds, I’m aware that Mrs Athas has one of these machines (expensive kit but you can really taste the results) but it seems de rigueur in the San Francisco coffee circles. 

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It was also in this shop that I learnt a whole new vocabulary surrounding the brewing and filtering of coffee. On the shelves were an array of strange apparatus – Chemex, which looked like props from Breaking Bad, V60s, AeroPress, Moka pots and other espresso kettles. Apart from my cafetiere (which I like to say in a thick French accent), I’d only seen the espresso kettle and never in my life heard of a V60 – it sounds like a cream you’d get to clear a case of thrush. I also learnt that they did a cold brew and decided that, in our next coffee shop, that’s what I’d go for.

So on to Réveille Coffee Co. in North Beach, which we actually visited twice during our stay. Our first visit was in the morning, and seeing the freshly baked croissants was too much for our hungry stomachs, so I had a delicious, moist almond croissant whilst Diane went for the classic all-butter version. I also decided to have a cold brew, as I wanted to see how different it was to the idea of an iced coffee that I had already experienced and not really enjoyed in the UK. The difference was marked. Iced coffee is brewed hot and then chilled by pouring over or adding ice, whereas a cold brew is basically ground coffee which is steeped in room temperature or cold water for around 12 hours. It was hugely refreshing and bright, yet still gave that lovely coffee kick. The taste wasn’t strong but actually really smoothy and fruity – it was as if the temperature really brought out the flavour of the beans. The second time we came here we both had a latte and I, learning from my mistakes, left the sugar out and, after a week of this, didn’t miss it at all.

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We also visited The Mill on Divisadero St twice as well; a great coffee shop that was bustling each time we went in. They had an impressive range of beans (Four Barrel) to choose from and the cold brew and espresso I tasted were lovely – I think any memories of freeze dried Nescafe were rapidly disappearing into the ether. They also sold some very delicious looking artisan Josey Baker bread (another thing I’ve learnt is that if you put the word ‘artisan’ in front of anything, you can increase the price by 20%) but Diane and I had already bought some wonderful fresh produce from the local farmer’s market and were waiting on a table at our chosen restaurant for brunch, so decided not to load up on carbs.

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Our last real find was one of the many small coffee bars belonging to Blue Bottle Coffee, well known around San Francisco and seemingly served in most large coffee shops due to the multitude of ‘We serve Blue Bottle Coffee’ stickers adorning shop windows. However, we wanted to find one of the original shops so we could experience just what makes this brand so revered. This kiosk if found nestled a few streets just behind the Opera House (Hayes Valley), opened in a garage in 2005. The only way we knew it was the Blue Bottle Coffee shop was due to the long queue of people patiently waiting for their daily cup of coffee.

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We also patiently queued up and looked at their simple but classic menu of drinks,  with both of us deciding upon a latte. I also spied some shiny, nut brown pretzels and other ‘artisan’ bread buns and ordered one, although myself and the barista must have had some communication problems and, in the end, I had to point awkwardly at the display to the stereotypical twisted pretzel shape, to which she exclaimed rather sardonically “They are all pretzels but I see…you want that one”. I think I made another rookie mistake but hey ho, I wanted the kind of pretzel I’d seen on the films goddammit! Apart from novelty shaped bread problems, the coffee was silky, mellow and extremely tasty – much better than anything that could come from a jar. In fact, we went back a few days after and I, trying to avoid the pretzel lady, got some great advice from a friendly male barista who helped me pick out some freshly roasted beans to take home as a present for a friend. Out of all of the coffee shops I went to, Blue Bottle has to be my favourite. Maybe I’d got used to the culture and the taste, so Blue Bottle came to me when my taste buds were more refined. I think, however, it was more down to the very relaxed and non-pretentious set up of the shop. Yes, it was tiny, but it felt special and like a treat when you got your order. It tasted great and just gave an insight into the typically laid back San Franciscan attitude that we got to know and admire. It was simple, authentic and extremely reasonable in price and aside from my bread battle, that pretzel did taste great!

And now we come to the present day, as I sit in Leeds, staring at my half full jar of Douwe Egberts. I’m not gonna lie….I’ve had a cup or two in the morning, but I get it now. It tastes ok…nothing special. Just something to wake me up. Since coming back from holiday, I have been into La Bottega Milanese, Mrs Athas and Laynes Espresso and been confident enough to order cold brews, split shots, piccolos and espressos. And they’ve been great. And I haven’t added sugar at all (honest guvnor!). I’m also thinking about ordering a V-60…but just thinking mind you. Let’s not rush things… 

All photos in this blog post were taken by Diane Amesbury.

http://www.sightglasscoffee.com
http://www.ritualroasters.com
http://www.bluebottlecoffee.com
https://www.facebook.com/TheMillSF
http://www.reveillecoffee.com

The Coffee Kabin – The North’s Coffee Community, part XI

During my continual search for independent coffee shops in the North, I’d been struggling to find any in Huddersfield. Thankfully social media came to the rescue, pointing me in the direction of The Coffee Kabin, based in Huddersfield.

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I ventured over at the end of July, and met owner Simon Frewin who’s originally from the town to find out more. Opened just a couple of months, this coffee house takes pride in its independent status, focussing on using the best coffee from artisan roasters around the UK and is located in close proximity to Huddersfield University.

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Simon fell in love with the drink whilst spending time in New Zealand on a rugby tour, some four years ago. At the time he was serving 100’s of coffees a day in 35°C during the daily grind in a restaurant. I wondered if it was easy to enjoy the drink so much in that heat, but Simon said it was easy to fall in love with the drink when great coffee is the norm over there, regardless of the temperature. Fair enough!!

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Even though they looked at other areas like Leeds and Ackworth, they finally decided on Huddersfield, where they knew the area well and could establish themselves without the competition of other well known establishments. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have future plans to open up another Coffee Kabin elsewhere, there’s certainly no rush as Simon has a realistic outlook, with the plan to establish themselves in Huddersfield and build their reputation there first. 

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Local coffee roaster The Grumpy Mule produce their house coffee Widescreen, chosen because it suits a wide range of customer tastes and is an easy drinking coffee. They regularly host guest coffee; such as Origin and Workshop Cult of Done. At the time of my visit they were showcasing coffee from Berlin roasters The Barn on Aeropress, indicating the seriousness of this coffee establishment.  Other brewing methods such as V-60 and Chemex are techniques Simon would also like to employ in the future to. 

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Apart from the coffee, they take pride in the sourcing of their baked goods, using Garforth’s well respected Dumouchel Bakery. Even though food is an important part of the service The Coffee Kabin provides customers, their primary focus is the quality of the coffee.

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He admits that with all new businesses, there’s a steep learning curve, but it’s been worth the hard slog and fully understands the need for this to continue to make it a success. Up to that point he’d started to enjoy seeing regular customers and gradually familiarising himself with the local community more.

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In the future Simon would love to hold brewing classes, to hold antipasti/wine evenings and make more use of the generous space they are lucky to have. Possibly to employ a chef to start serving brunch!! 

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Their first cupping session is Saturday 13th August, where they’ll be hosting The Grumpy Mule. If you’re interested in coffee it’s a great way of finding out more!

The Coffee Kabin
37-39 Queensgate
HD1 2RD
Huddersfield
07980 373 699 
http://www.thecoffeekabin.com

Hoxton North Espresso and Brew Bar, Harrogate

Recently I wrote a piece on North Star Micro Roasters Inaugural Cupping Eventwell soon after I was contacted by Hoxton North Espresso and Brew Bar who happen to be friends with North Star. They had seen my blog review and invited me to check out their new place. Trying to develop my tastes in coffee further and always loving Harrogate, I thought why not, so I combined it with meeting a mate and got the train from Headingley train station. I’d forgotten how easy it is to get the train from Leeds to Harrogate, normally I would just drive but this is quicker, less hassle and possibly cheaper, my return ticket was only £6-7 (half of a duo ticket with a friend).

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Hoxton North Espresso and Brew Bar is an independent specialist coffee shop, located on Parliament Street serving espresso, filter based coffee and also whole or ground beans for use at home. The origin of the name comes from Hoxton, the district in the East End of London, situated in the heart of Shoreditch. Owners, husband and wife team Timothy and Victoria Bosworth, both originally from Yorkshire, have spent the last ten years in London where Shoreditch has become a hot spot for great food, bars and cafe culture. They wanted to bring that passion and lifestyle back to the North of England so opened this shop earlier in October.

Hoxton North is located in a Grade II listed building which dates back to the Edwardian 1920s, so the team had to maintain the original features, such as timber panelling, architraves and mirrors are from a previous shop that inhabited the space called Louis Cope. Louis Cope sold fashionable items, such as robes, lingerie, fur coats, bags and shoes to wealthy tourists and locals. As soon as I walked in I thought it looked gorgeous and I loved the feel of the space, how faithful they’ve been to its original details, and used these as well as their own design ideas with beautiful effect. 

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They have designed the space in such a way, with the espresso and brew bar running through the middle of the shop, and want people to use it as a place where they can relax and chat, whether your a Harrogate local or one of the many tourists which visit the place.

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One of the first things I noticed on the counter was the wonderful selection of cakes and sweet treats they have to accompany your drink of choice. Vicky and Tim searched long and hard for top class bakeries which could supply them with the best cakes and pastries to match the quality of their coffees and teas. They seem to have hit the jackpot, from what we tasted anyway!!! Dumouchel, a bakery based in Garforth, Leeds makes the most AMAZING Brioche slice, I secretly didn’t want to divulge which bakery makes it and try to keep it too myself because it was absolutely delicious!!! Incredibly moist with the perfect balance of almond sweetness and sharpness from the raspberries, an inspired bake. We also tried their brownie and a chocolate mocha cake, both very good, even though I’m not much of a chocolate fan they were moist, gooey and had great subtle flavour, in particular the mocha cake from That Old Chestnut, a bakery from Mabgate, Leeds.

Chocolate brownies
Chocolate brownie
Date flapjack
Date flapjack
Huge Pain au raisin
Huge Pain au raisin!!
Brioche slice with raspberry and almond
Brioche slice with raspberry and almond

So what have they got on offer to drink, they specialise in artisan coffees and offer a range that changes according to seasonality. They use hand selected roasters from around the world and have picked out each roaster and farm that they feel is the best in its class or region. Some of their coffee comes from Workshop Coffee Company, who are based in Clerkenwell, London and Origin Coffee Roasters from Cornwall, while their tea comes from Brew Tea Company. That day on their menu they were serving the Origin (F30) Espresso Blends from El Salvador and Nicaragua, and  Workshops Cult of Done (V14) coffee – 100% Ethiopian. Vicky was more than happy to describe these to us and showed an obvious passion about these products.

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We drank our coffees and ate our cakes in their cute snug, which is hidden from normal view at the side of the shop. I loved it in there, it felt intimate, like you were slightly cut off from the rest of the shop. It can hold up to 6 guests and also be reserved for breakfast, lunch or drinks. Our coffees were great, my friend who is a lover of coffee even said it’s the best he’s had. I really enjoyed my latte, normally I find them a little bitter and always need sugar, but this didn’t at all and was wonderful as it was.

The snug
The snug
Latte
Latte
My Brioche Slice with almond and raspberry from Doumouchel
Brioche Slice with almond and raspberry
YUmmy chocolate Brownie
Chocolate Brownie
Chocolate mocha cake from That Old Chestnut
Chocolate mocha cake 

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Being a local, independent shop in the Harrogate community is important to Vicky and Tim, and in the future they would like to host different social events, including coffee tastings, brew bar sessions, pop-up events, book launches, poetry readings, live music sessions to bring the local community together.

I definitely recommend Hoxton North Espresso and Brew Bar, it’s a great place to relax, run by really lovely people. I for one will be visiting every time I’m in Harrogate. It’ll be perfect for going to after I’ve been to the Harrogate Turkish Baths. I can’t wait to visit both, hopefully very soon!!

Hoxton North Espresso and Brew Bar
52 Parliament Street 
Harrogate
North Yorkshire
HG1 2RL
Opening Hours: Tues – Fri: 8:30am – 5pm Sat: 09:30am – 5pm Sun: 10:00am – 4pm You can follow them on Twitter @hoxtonnorth or facebook. com/hoxtonnorth.
http://hoxtonnorth.com