20 August 2014

The Oxford Caffeine Chronicles: The Keen Bean + Oxford Coffee Update

The last time I was in Oxford, I discovered that it was, at last, possible to get a great pourover in the City of Dreaming Spires, courtesy of North Parade-based BREW. I also learned that BREW had a sister café on the ever-funky Cowley Road and so this was my first port of call when I arrived back in Oxford for the weekend.

The Keen Bean is a petite café within an independent music shop called Truck Store. In fact, after the recent closure of HMV, it may be Oxford's only remaining music shop; it's certainly the only one with a great coffee shop inside! There are a couple of tables on the pavement, and a few more inside, which have a great view of all the vinyl.

As well as the standard espresso-based drinks on the menu and the aforementioned pourover (£3), The Keen Bean also does a cold brew coffee (£2.50), but sadly, it wasn't a hot enough day to divert me from my V60 mission. Their coffee is from the Oxfordshire-based roaster, UE, and I had a choice of three different varieties. I've tried (and liked) UE's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe before, and I wasn't in the mood for the nutty richness of the Colombian variety, so I ordered the Kenyan coffee on offer.

While I waited, I enjoyed a spot of people-watching. To my shame, it's been months — and maybe years — since I've been in a proper record shop.

My coffee arrived in a gorgeous, patterned blue cup with a proper (and mismatched) saucer, which suited its vintage surroundings. More importantly, it was a great brew: light and refreshing, with a fruity acidity that was just what I needed to kick me into Saturday mode.

The friendly barista, on learning of my coffee geekery, pointed me in the direction of Quarter Horse, another independent coffee shop on the Cowley Road, whose nondescript sign might have caused me to walk right past if I hadn't known better ('scuse the over-excited finger photobomb in the photo). I didn't have time for another coffee, but it's on the list for next time. The barista also let me know that The Missing Bean, an independent coffee shop in Turl Street in the city centre, is planning to open its own roastery soon, which is great news.

One final piece of Oxford coffee news: on the bus into town, I spotted a cool piece of typography on a storefront on St Clement's, which, a brief Googling told me, was a new coffee shop and cocktail bar called Joseph Perks & Co. In fact, it's so new that it only opened on Monday, so I didn't get the chance to visit, but I will definitely stop by next time I'm in Oxford. One thing's for sure: Oxford's coffee dearth is finally on the outs.

The Keen Bean. 101 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1HU. Facebook. Twitter.
Quarter Horse. 76 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JB. Website. Twitter.
The Missing Bean. 14 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DQ. Website. Twitter.
Joseph Perks & Co. 76 St Clement's Street, Oxford, OX4 1AH. Website. Twitter.

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