Friday, 16 August 2013

Coffee Geekery

Stage 2 of Plans for World Domination have been achieved. My son and I have moved and he's secured his place at Lincoln University. In the meantime, I have been very, very busy. There have been some lovely coffee moments along the way. We were in Princes Risborough for a wedding and when we looked on the map, well Bath wasn't exactly a million miles away. It was decided we'd drop in to Colonna and Small's and experience it in person. I did have the pleasure and privilege of watching co-owner Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood compete at this year's UK Barista Championships, but I didn't get to taste his coffee.

We had such a great time in Bath. It's the first time I've visited and I loved it. I loved the square, sandstone Georgian architecture and the narrow streets leading to comfortable green spaces. Would it surprise you to learn I didn't take any pictures of Bath itself? Nope. The only pictures I took were in Colonna and Small's itself.

Their coffee plants are a bit further along than mine

For anyone thinking about setting up their own speciality coffee house, it's definitely worth a visit. Maxwell has set the bar high. The cafe itself is dedicated to speciality coffee. The white walls are painted with information that speciality coffee novices need to know. 

The layout is efficient and the menu offers espresso and filter coffees. There are cakes on offer if you fancy a sugar rush as well as a caffeine hit, but while I drooled, I was too focused on the coffee to want to clog up my palate with carrot cake yumminess. On the other side of the bar was a table with glasses and jugs of water that customers can just help themselves. An excellent touch, if I might say. And this is why Colonna and Small's is at the top of the speciality coffee tree - attention to detail. Everything follows through and supports the experience. 

The decor is clean and bright. The benches and tables comfortable and slightly quirky  There's also a secluded courtyard outside if we had wanted to sit in the sunshine. But that was too far away from the expresso machine as far as I was concerned and I just wanted to watch the master baristas at work! 

These are on all the tables, I was strongly discouraged from asking for one to take home. 

All of the baristas who work with Maxwell are passionate about what they do. They are well informed about the coffee they serve and are obviously proficient. Service with smile and snippets of information about the brewing method or the coffee itself, all tailored to the level of interest of their customers. I was genuinely surprised when Maxwell said he only employed baristas full time; again consistent with his approach to his business - excellence.

Please don't shoot me! I didn't take a note of the coffee we drank, I'm only a baby coffee geek!*** I can tell you, we tried from both the espresso and filter menus. And I was threatened with violence when I asked to take a sip of a certain someone's cappuccino. When I ordered my own, I thought his response was perfectly reasonable. I had an aeropress with one coffee and a pour-over V60 for another. The barista who served me did not lead me astray. The brew methods were spot on with the coffees I chose and brought out the best flavour notes.

A blue cup of happiness

Cappuccino heaven and all mine!

There's a list on MSN which puts Colonna and Small's at the top of the UK speciality coffee experience and yes, they've got it absolutely right. On a side note, I realised that I've drunk in the top four cafes in the list!

If you're in Bath, for heaven's sake, seek them out! You won't regret it. I'm only half-joking when I say, I'd move to Bath just for the pleasure of drinking in Colonna and Small's every day.

*** I have been reminded that in actual fact, between us we tried all of the coffees from the espresso and filter menus. Also, the menus offer comprehensive tasting notes. (I'm glad one of us has the brain cell today)

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