BRISTOL, UK – Flat white, latte, cappuccino, ristretto, espresso, macchiato, Americano, piccolo, cortado, mocha – there’s certainly no lack of choice at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, the award-winning London chain that opened its first Bristol cafe on Tuesday.
It is a mark of just how far the British coffee scene has come that such a high profile London operation has chosen Cabot Circus for its Bristol debut.
Until recently, such hip coffee joints were usually to be found tucked away down dark side streets on the outskirts of the main shopping area.
But here is Department of Coffee and Social Affairs next to Brasserie Blanc in Quakers Friars, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a large outside space for al fresco coffees and serious people watching.
Like your favourite indie band signing to a major label, coffee has quickly gone from cult to mainstream.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs started life six years ago as a tiny cafe in London and now there are 13 branches of this specialty coffee chain. It has grown so quickly that it also has its own roastery to supply each cafe with its own beans
With its paint-splattered wooden floorboards, walls clad in distressed white planks and high counters fashioned out of scaffolding poles, the Cabot Circus cafe has a pretty familiar Scandi-meets-industrial look, right down to the huge Edison bulbs and retro enamel lamps that may well have once lit up Eastern Bloc factories in the 1960s.
As well as a range of coffees, there are teas and soft drinks and a limited selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches (from next week).
There’s an early morning deal of £4 for a croissant and coffee, with other temptations including chocolate and banana bread (£3), raspberry and lemon swirls (£3) and maple flapjack (£2.80).
My slice of poached pear and ginger loaf (£3) was a dark, sticky and satisfying start to the day, washed down with a fruity and rich flat white (£2.70) made with Ethiopian Wegida Chief espresso from Yirgacheffe.
The other espresso on offer is also from Ethiopia (the ‘bright, sweet, natural’ Golden Ticket), and these change seasonally.
There is also a filter coffee with its own ‘self-service’ station, where you can refill your cup after paying the initial £2.50.
Bristol is already well served with excellent independent coffee shops but there is always room for more and the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs is a welcome addition to an area of the city that desperately needed a serious caffeine injection.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, 3 Quakers Friars, Cabot Circus, Bristol, BS1 3BU. www.departmentofcoffee.com.