17 August 2021

The Birmingham Caffeine Chronicles: Faculty

While back in the West Midlands earlier this month, I was able to visit a second speciality coffee shop in Birmingham before catching my train home. And like Tilt, Faculty is based in a historic arcade close to New Street station.

I have visited Faculty before: appropriately enough, I was on my way to speak on a conference panel at the University of Birmingham way back in those crazy beforetimes (AKA November 2019). Somehow, though, I never ended up writing up my visit (I blame an incredibly hectic time at work and my trip to Seville). In these pandemic times, nothing ever stays the same for long in any case, so I've included a couple of photos from my first trip to Faculty as well as some more recent ones.

The Piccadilly Arcade dates to 1910 and is rather lovely with its grand facade and ceiling murals. Faculty is located near the Stephenson Street end, which is directly opposite the shiniest part of New Street station. Proximity to the station was a key factor in my first visit when I had a fairly tight connection but knew I would struggle to find good coffee at the other end.

First established in 2013, Faculty occupies a long cafe space with big windows looking out onto the arcade. The kitchen is at the back on the left-hand side as you face the coffee shop, with the coffee bar at the back on the right. The cafe itself has had a bit of a refurb since my first visit, and the marble tables that are spaced out inside and the racing green, art deco design on the counter ensure that Faculty remains very much in keeping with its setting — even if the faculty-appropriate chalkboard coffee menu (pictured in the second photo below) is no longer there. There is also some further bench seating in the arcade itself.

The faculty changes its coffee regularly, highlighting roasters from around the world. When I came before, I had a natural Ethiopian Buku Sayisa coffee roasted by Round Hill, which tasted very jazzy brewed through the V60 (pictured below). There were also two coffees available on V60, a washed Kenyan and a washed Ethiopian, as well as another coffee from Round Hill: the Summer Claude coffee, curated by the ever-discerning Monsieur Claude.

I'd tried this coffee recently as a pourover at Nostos Coffee; it was great but in the interest of trying something different, I opted for a washed Colombian coffee from Assembly as a piccolo. My coffee was very well brewed, with the sweeter, plummier flavours coming through nicely with milk. The latte art was excellent too, the tulip lasting longer than I seem to be able to keep flowers alive at home. 

There are various cakes and sweet treats, sandwiches and (frequently changing) larger bites available too, which are made in house. As I'd arrived at the end of the day, some of these were in short supply, but I did get an Anzac biscuit for the train, which provided some much-needed joy when the train was boarded by hundreds of Chelsea and Man City supporters when we stopped at Wembley.

Even close to closing time, there was a constant stream of customers at Faculty — and it was extremely busy during my first visit on a Friday morning — but the service was warm and welcoming. It's usually the faculty who award grades, but Faculty scored very high marks with me.

Faculty. 14 Piccadilly Arcade, New Street, Birmingham, B2 4HD. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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