Sep

25

Guest blog: The Boston Tea Party – Cracking Coffee in Harborne’s old Clock Tower

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Once again, we’re delighted to welcome novelist A.A. Abbott to Coffee Birmingham. In her latest guest blog, she writes about a recent trip to the latest Boston Tea Party to open in Birmingham.

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Harborne’s old Clock Tower has suddenly morphed into foodie destination School Yard – there’s a cookery school on the way, Urban Coffee is there already, and now the Boston Tea Party has arrived.

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Much more than a coffee shop, the Boston Tea Party offers crisp croissants, brownies, craft beers and substantial meals as well as the usual hot beverages. Breakfasts, served all day and late into the night, included the West Country (true to the BTP’s roots – more on that later) and a vegetarian option that is everything you could wish for, without the bacon. There’s plenty of space: a large, canteen-like room, another area with padded booths, and an upstairs chamber that would be ideal for live performances. The BTP is open to suggestions, apparently.

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So, the million dollar question: what’s the coffee like? My latte was smooth, with a definite caffeine hit. One of these and a BTP almond croissant, and you’re ready to start the day.

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I’ve also tried the chai latte. Like most places, this is made by adding steamed milk to chai syrup. My Indian friend Shima, who boils tea, spices and milk in a pan, would doubtless pour scorn and derision on the BTP version – but I found it extremely palatable. Here’s a teatime tip, by the way: if your companion orders a cream tea, ask for one too, as it’s sheer torture watching a cream scone steadily disappear without so much as a crumb heading in your direction. They really are too good to share.

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The BTP is an independently-run chain of 15 in the Midlands and West Country. Perhaps it’s reached a pinnacle to which all indies aspire? It started life as a single coffee shop in Bristol, where it’s still going strong, having seen Starbucks come and go across the road. The original Bristol branch is delightfully shabby, appearing to have been furnished from a house clearance store. Harborne has a much smarter vibe. Everything is shiny and new, although often made to look old in a kind of fusion of poshed-up American diner with industrial chic. It’s clearly working, because the BTP is buzzing. It appeals to everyone: students meeting for a chat, business folk networking over a latte (guilty as charged) and couples doing lunch.

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Amazingly, the other coffee shops in Harborne always look busy as well. What else do people do in B17? Perhaps they drink all that coffee because they’re sobering up from all those pubs…

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AA Abbott is a fiction writer and coffee drinker, who can be found on Twitter as @AAAbbottStories and online at http://aaabbott.co.uk

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Sep

10

Guest blogger William Gallagher on “coffee, creativity and napping”.

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We welcome guest blogger William Gallagher to Coffee Birmingham to offer up his creative productivity coffee solution.

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Coffee houses have great atmosphere, central locations and just a buzz to them. That’s great. But we forget the fundamental fact that they also have coffee – and we forget how useful that drink is in so many ways.

A coffee is your excuse for a meeting when you want to appear interested yet casual. You can end the meeting when the coffee is drunk so it can be quite a short one too and we all need shorter meetings. More, it is the only time you can get to chat with someone without the pressure of a big long lunch or the expense of a dinner.

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Just for ourselves, right there on our own, coffee is the refreshing reward after hard work and it is the companion beside you as you work.

All of these are important and special but it’s also ignoring the fact that coffee can give you ignition when you most need it. Coffee is a creative boost that you can use practically on demand.

When New York singer/songwriter Dar Williams was asked the perennial question of where do you get your ideas, she offered that it was about picking your moment to work. She said for her it is a combination of your surroundings and your coffee intake:  “You have to walk around a lot of museums, a lot of sculpture parks. And time your caffeine so that you are in an open, wide, contemplative space for when it takes hold.”

This is your excuse to explore every coffee house in Birmingham and get to know what art is near each. Go now. But as great as that coffee house, museum and gallery combo is for your creativity, sometimes you need a swift fix of it at home.

If you live near enough to one of the city’s coffee house, buy a coffee there now and bring it home. If you don’t, then the very best coffee houses will sell you the raw stuff and possibly a big mug to go with it. Get a bag of beans, get whatever machinery you need to make perfect coffee at home and then go there.

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When you need to perk up, perc up. But do it this way. Leave it until you’re tired but have to focus. When you’re busy but you’re drained. Also when you’re alone at home. Make a perfect coffee, enjoy it, then set an alarm for 20 minutes and go to bed.

When that alarm goes off, you’ll have had enough sleep to refresh you but you won’t have entered into a long REM sleep cycle. What’s more, the effect of caffeine from that coffee will be taking hold. This is how to go from exhausted and fractious to refreshed, boosted – and full of beans.

Two disclaimers. You should probably drink coffee responsibly. And you should definitely not take caffeine naps while in a coffee house. Imagine us all doing it: the place would look like a zombie apocalypse for twenty minutes.

About William
I’m William Gallagher. I write Doctor Who radio dramas, I’m a Radio Times journalist and the author of many media books. But I also wrote The Blank Screen – it’s a book about getting on with our creativity and beating distractions. It’s about getting the most out of our computers and especially our kettles.
The Blank Screen is now also a workshop and a website: see me at TheBlankScreen.co.uk

Twitter: @WGallagher

Links
The Blank Screen book: http://amzn.to/1dO1nue
The Blank Screen website: TheBlankScreen.co.uk

Dar Williams: www.darwilliams.com

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Sep

01

Guest blogger Andy Hare’s appreciation of Parisian-inspired Madeleine

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We welcome guest blogger Andy Hare to Coffee Birmingham to offer up his appreciation of Madeleine.

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Question: Can artisan coffee house Madeleine conjour up images of a Parisian Cafe? 

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I have been meaning to visit Madeleine in The Cube, part of The Mailbox in Birmingham City Centre for a while.

So on a Saturday, my wife and I ventured into Cafe Madeleine and entered a relaxed, inviting space, full of atmosphere and great food and coffee.

Cafe Madeleine is a smart and chilled place, reminiscent of a Parisian Cafe, but with a English twist. It has a chandelier and  a very large bouquet of fresh flowers that you pass as you walk in.

At the entrance you notice the fresh bread on the shelves, it has its own bakery and makes its cakes and bread in house.

What makes Madeleine different to other artisan coffee houses is that it provides such superb salads, and hot food as well as cakes, as the counter full of food demonstrates.

Madeleine has a counter service, you order at the till and then your food is delivered to the table. This works really well as you can choose what you would like and how much.

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One of the first challenges of ordering at Madeleine is deciding what to eat. We decided to go with a fresh salad to begin with some fresh orange juice and then have a coffee with some cake to follow.

I decided upon a mixture of 3 salads for £7. I had two vegetarian salads, Pumpkin and ricotta x2 and a mixed grilled veg and mixed bean salad. Both were delicious, fresh and large, with a real flavour of the ingredients, both thoughtful and well sourced, which I enjoyed.

The orange juice was lovely too, freshly squeezed and went well with the vegetarian salad.

Afterwards, we ordered two cappuccinos from their artisan coffee list and a chocolate brownie to share.


The coffee was a generous size, well made, with a good coffee blend and strength. The froth was the right consistency and it came over as being authentically Parisian in its strength and look. It was a good cappuccino.

The brownie was beautiful, one of the best I’ve tasted in Birmingham. It had a good chocolatey flavour, rich, but delicate and not too heavy, with good chocolate pieces. It complimented the cappuccino well.

The service is relaxed and friendly. Madeleine is affordable, good value for the quality on offer and a bit different to other coffee shops in Birmingham. It is a good place for lunch, or mid afternoon cake. It is also open for breakfasts. The coffee is lovely.

Cafe Madeleine is well recommended for its relaxing air and lovely food and coffee. It has charming  Parisian style with a Birmingham twist.

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About Andy:
My name is Andy Hare.
I write a vegetarian food and dining blog called
Veggie Foodie www.vegiefoodie.com.  I love coffee shops for their atmosphere and and have a regular slot on my blog called #Coffeetime where I review and promote independent coffee shops in Birmingham and beyond.
Twitter: @andydhare

 

 

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