An interview with Alex Scott on new Origin Espresso Bar in Birmingham.


Popping up on the Birmingham coffee scene are speciality roasters, Origin coffee. Already a partner of the city favourite Urban Coffee (they are the roasters behind their most fantastic Urban5 blend), they’ve now brought speciality coffee to Selfridges at The Bullring.

The Origin espresso bar is headed by two familiar faces on the Birmingham scene, Alex Scott and Ben Dargue.

Here Alex chats about speciality coffee and his new espresso bar at Selfridges.



The word ‘speciality’ is banded around a lot in the coffee world, but what exactly does it mean?

In my mind, it’s the pursuit of coffee excellence, which is achieved through care and craftsmanship being applied at every point in the supply chain. It starts with the grower and their farming practices, with commitment to producing superb crops in a way that delivers on environmental and social sustainability. Then to the mills and the processing of the crops. Then the exporter. Then the roasters, and developing the perfect profile to enhance the coffee beans. The end point is then us, the barista. It’s our job to not only make the perfect cup through skills in areas such as extract ratios and the science of milk, but by us loving what we do and passing this passion on to our customers.


When you compare this to mass market coffee, which is bought in bulk from multiple growers without traceability or provenance, and then darkly roasted so that it all blends to taste the same, you start to get the gist. It’s no different to craft wine or beer and whilst it sounds clichéd it’s all about care and passion at every point along the way.

How did you get into speciality coffee?

I was invited along to the opening of an artisan coffee shop. I’d never been that into coffee, as it had never really delivered for me. It always smelt better than it tasted. At the opening the team there were really passionate and encouraged me to buy a latte. I was amazed at the taste – it was really interesting, with notes of liquorice and chocolate. One latte totally changed my perspective on coffee. It wasn’t that long before I started working there and my real exploration into coffee started.origin

How would you convince someone to switch from a mass market coffee brand to speciality?

It’s a difficult one as you can easily sound patronising. To me it’s getting people to try first, as happened with me. Once they realise how incredible and interesting really great coffee can taste, they won’t need convincing. However, it does need to be served with passion and knowledge about the origin and processing.

Tell us a bit about Origin and why you joined them?

Their coffee tasted great – that was what first drew me to them. I also knew they were doing a good job with how they sourced their green coffee. It goes back to my view on speciality – I knew they had the care and passion. They also roast on a low carbon emissions roaster – again, it’s all about values and ethics, and that was important to me.

Why should people come to the Origin espresso bar?

For all the reasons above. Plus we have a brand new espresso machine at our disposal – amazing. We want to share incredible coffee with Birmingham. What more can I say?

And on your days off… what main brewing method do you use?

There are three (well, two really…). Number 1 is the AeroPress. It’s my go-to as always produces consistent results and captures everything the bean has to offer. Number 2 is a 600ml Kalita Wave Carafe. It produces great results too. Then number 3 is actually theoretical, as I don’t have one yet… it’s a syphon. My dream brewer.


Big thanks to Alex and all at Origin for their support. You’ll find Alex and the joyful the new Origin espresso bar on the Food Hall level 1 at Selfridges Birmingham. Twitter: @originselfridge






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


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…



AA Abbott is a fiction writer and coffee drinker, who can be found on Twitter as @AAAbbottStories and online at




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


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

wwm william gallagher (11 of 23)


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.

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.


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

Twitter: @WGallagher

The Blank Screen book:
The Blank Screen website:

Dar Williams:




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


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


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

photo 1
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.


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.


About Andy:
My name is Andy Hare.
I write a vegetarian food and dining blog called
Veggie Foodie  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






Seven Alternative Uses for Instant Coffee

Seven Alternative Uses for Instant Coffee

So, instant coffee is wrong but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful!

Instead of just depositing your instant coffee grounds in the bin, coffee grounds have marvellous uses. Just google and you will discover a whole new world of practical ideas. So, on the blog this week, whether you need to shine those shoes or make them a coffee sandpit, here are seven alternative uses courtesy of Make Decent Coffee.


7 Alternative Use for Instant Coffee Infographic by Make Decent Coffee

What do you use your coffee grounds for other

Big thanks to Matthew Kay from Klood for this and all the folks from Make Decent Coffee for their continued War on Instant! Follow Make Decent Coffee on twitter at @coffeeguerilla.




Guest blog: A.A. Abbott in appreciation of Ashton Levi Coffee (Longbridge)

How many of you have been to Ashton Levi, a new indie which has been open for a few months now over in Longbridge? Well, I am delighted to welcome A.A. Abbott, author of Brum thrillers After The Interview and Up in Smoke, who made the trip over and tells us about her experience! Enjoy! (Tim)
I visited Ashton Levi on hearing about their support for local writers. They’re offering a night of live readings from authors on 9th July!
Ashton Levi Quote

The coffee itself was rich and smooth, and my latte arrived with a heart on top – a lovely personal touch. My friend enjoyed an iced latte that was long, cool and very welcome during an uncharacteristically warm day in Birmingham. They sell a tempting range of cakes, freshly prepared sandwiches and smoothies, too. Yet perhaps the most refreshing thing about the coffee at Ashton Levi is the genuine passion and knowledge owner Mel Brown and her team bring to it. Not only did we receive a warm, smiley welcome when we arrived, but Mel chatted to us about where she sourced her coffee, and her desire to provide a drink that was both delicious and ethical.


The venue itself is effortlessly upmarket and upbeat, with stunning artwork on the walls and books for customers to read. The creative vibe is reflected in the young and trendy clientele. It’s not hard to imagine Ashton Levi hosting a few live poetry readings or live music, but at the same time I think it would work well for an informal business meeting or an after-hours corporate party or networking event.


With so much style and potential, this upmarket venue for the new heart of Longbridge deserves to succeed. I’ve twice made a detour to go there and have enjoyed every minute.


I have to share AA Abbott’s enthusiasm for Ashton Levi. The quality of service from the staff to the Steelite cups and saucers are all evidence for me.

What do you think? Please share your experiences over at @coffeebrum on twitter!!




The Smoothie Way To Get You To Cycle in Birmingham


Two coffee shops are getting involved in the new Birmingham Cycle Revolution launched this month.

First, Birmingham Cycle Revolution have teamed up with local café, Boston Tea Party, to create a ‘cycle smoothie’ which has health benefits for cyclists and we will be giving away free samples next Friday in Victoria Square.

cycleThe event is part of a wider initiative to tempt people to dust off their bikes and get pedalling.

For example, next Friday 27th, is part of a regular fixture on the last Friday of each month to encourage commuters on their bikes.

Given the growing association between cycling and coffee shops, it’s great to see BTP behind this initiative.

The recipe for the smoothie is as follows:


apple juice (250ml)

blueberries (110g)

1cm cube of ginger (10g)

half a banana (60g)

Dale Allison, manager of Boston Tea Party who created the smoothie said that he used “banana for energy and ginger because it reduces muscle soreness for cyclists”.

Secondly, Local businesses can also get involved with Birmingham Cycle Revolution at an event on Wednesday June 25th at Urban Coffee Company on Church Street from 12pm to 2pm. The Smarter Choices team will be hosting a free business lunch to inform local employers about Top Cycle Locations scheme and grant process.


Thanks to Beth Meads at WPR for the nod for this piece.

So,  let’s get behind “#BikeDayFriday and folks are being encouraged to send in their ‘Cycle Selfies’ using the hashtag.
More details on Birmingham Cycle Revolution programme, visit:



Guest blog: Zoe Cole’s appreciation for Coffee Time.

coffee time
We are delighted to welcome Zoe Cole to guest blog about Coffee Time, one of Birmingham’s hidden independent coffee shops that you might not know about.
Being a local Birmingham resident, I feel that there is a lot that Birmingham has to offer.  Independent coffee establishments are something to be celebrated in Birmingham. There is a such a wide selection of coffee shops to choose from – but which are the most reasonably priced?
Coffee Time, located in Priory Square, is a small coffee bar, which sell a range of pancakes and sandwiches, as well as a wide selection of drinks. The decor shouts ‘student’ as it is very quirky, with large clocks and quirky light fixtures. It almost looks quite retro but with a dash of contemporary furniture, it really is an attractive little coffee shop. Seating is available inside and out, which is great if you want to sit outside and enjoy the weather.
 The colour inside of the coffee bar is a bright mustard yellow, which brightens the small room and the atmosphere. Inside stocks a generous selection of books and newspapers ready for you to have a flick through. They have fun and quirky signs around the bar, sharing their latest and popular drinks.
The staff are pleasant and wear a smile while taking your order. I opted for a classic latte, which tasted beautiful. The drinks are generous sizes, which off course is an important point of a Coffee Shop if you love your coffee. I was accompanied by my partner, who is a complete coffee novice, who opted for a safe earl grey. He tells me it was a good cuppa and enjoyed munching on the biscuits. As well as the usual coffee and tea, Coffee Time sell smoothies and milkshakes, which looked amazing. We also decided on a light snack – the Nutella and Banana Pancakes were perfectly cooked and tasted delicious. There is a wide selection of different pancakes, both sweet and savoury.
I was very impressed with the service in Coffee Time, the staff are really helpful and service was quick. The atmosphere in Coffee Time is completely relaxed.Coffee Time is affordable; provides a wide variety of different drinks and snacks, and has made me want to return on a regular basis.
The greatest part of this little coffee bar located near The Oasis Market? The price. It is very affordable, costing only two pound for a latte and around £1.50 for a cup of earl grey. Food was very reasonably priced too.
If you are looking for a peaceful coffee place in Birmingham which is great value for money, I really would recommend Coffee Time. Whether its a date with friends, a pit – stop while shopping or a quick dash on your lunch break, Coffee Time will not disappoint.
About Zoe
Zoe lives near Birmingham and writes a lifestyle and beauty blog. She is a big coffee fanatic. You can follow her on Twitter @x_zoelianne_x or read her blog at
So, have you been to Coffee Time? Or is there an indie in town that is massively under appreciated? Join in the conversation on twitter at @coffeebrum.



Guest blog: Lee Thomas (Urban Roast Coffee) on working in a roastery


We are delighted to welcome Lee Thomas from local business Urban Roast Coffee who has written a insightful blog piece about what it is work in a roastery!


So have you ever thought about where your coffee comes from, that beautiful cup of black magic with a comforting aroma.

Well for a start when it arrives at our roastery it is a small green bean that smells of grass.

Our hessian sacks come from faraway places and distant shores which give us a great starting point.

Coffee is a bit like wine, different regions and altitudes produce different flavours and characteristics, the art of the roaster is to bring these together and produce a beautiful coffee that showcases the best of that bean.

Some coffee is known for its light floral notes others for its deep dark chocolate taste so depending on the individuals personal preference there is an abundance of coffee out there waiting to be discovered.

After we receive our green bean our job is to get the best out of it, and to do that we have to go through a process called profiling.

When we profile a coffee we will put multiple batches through the roaster at different settings – Hot and fast, low and slow, we manipulate the roasting process in order to get a wide variety of taste results from that coffee.

When we are roasting coffee we log a number of settings off the roaster. These settings all affect the taste of the coffee. These settings are things like Starting Temperature, the air temperature and environment temperature in the drum of the roaster and most important we log the temperature of the beans. All of these readings are taken every 30 seconds so we end up with an in depth graph of that roast.


Once we are happy with the roast we then move onto the cupping stage, which is a bit like wine tasting but with a lot less spitting. We usually taste (or cup) up to 6 different versions of the same coffee so we are happy we have covered as many different settings for that coffee as possible.

We move slowly through our roasted samples where we taste and score the coffee. We do this in order to find the best results and at what settings we obtained those results at.

We often end up with several samples that we like, so at this point we will look at the roasting profile settings and merge those together to end up with the perfect roasting profile for that coffee.

We will do this process for every coffee we supply as each coffee has its own unique flavour and it gives us a blueprint to roast to so we always producing the best coffee we can.

So now you have a basic knowledge of what we the coffee roasters do. We may be the people behind the scenes, but when you are sitting enjoying your great tasting coffee you can be safe in the knowledge that a whole lot of care and passion was put into that little green bean to make it taste the way it does.

More about Urban Roast Coffee Company

The Urban Roast Coffee Company is an Independent artisan coffee roastery based in the midlands.  Roasting in small quantities allows them to offer truly fresh roasted coffee direct to our customers doorstep. They roast on a daily basis so their coffee is always the freshest it can be when you receive it.

More info – web. and twitter @urban_roast.




Guest blog: #UKCoffeeweek at Urban Coffee Company


On this week’s guest blog, Coffee Brum is delighted to welcome Urban Coffee Company‘s Peter Gough to the blog as he talks about what they have been up to as part of #UKCoffeeweek this week.


We are the lucky ones…. every day at Urban Coffee Company is a celebration of that wonderful, pick-me-up nectar we like to call coffee! However, since UK Coffee week began it has been so fab that once a year we are given the chance to take part in something really exciting and join a nationwide celebration.


Not only does UK Coffee Week give roasters, coffee shops and baristas a chance to really shout about what they do, it also gives the UK Coffee industry a chance to give something back to the communities which grow the coffee that we so depend on to get through the day!


Now, we are half way though the week and across all three emporiums, tip jars have been replaced with donation boxes. We are holding a  ‘guess the weight of the coffee’ competition all week with the prize being a fabulous coffee cupping and tasting set.  We’ve already got the first lot of filled in ‘silent quiz sheets’ in – pick up a question sheet from any of our emporiums – for just a quid – and you will be in with a chance to win a months’ worth of free coffee from us!

And of course, all monies raised go straight to Project Waterfall.


And, if that’s not enough, we’re having a Fancy Dress Friday on the 11th April – so get ready for our Urbanistas to be shaking their buckets at you!

Even our Meet-Ups and Events will be helping us to do our part with UK Coffee Week – after all, they are all part of our very own coffee-loving community, such as a UK Coffee Week themed Jelly on the 11th at #JQ and Kaffee und Kuchen at #CS on the 13th.

We are really enjoying this UK Coffee Week, so please make sure you give generously whenever you’re in a participating vendor – Project Waterfall is something really worth getting involved in!


Thanks very much to Peter for his guest blog this week. In addition to Urban Coffee Company, Java Lounge in Moseley are another indie in town who are actively supporting #ukcoffeeweek, so be sure to get involved and donate if you can. `