12 August 2021

The Birmingham Caffeine Chronicles: Tilt

En route to Molineux Stadium to watch Wolves play a friendly against Spanish team Celta de Vigo last weekend, I broke my journey in Birmingham. I had to leave home very early during a torrential downpour and was in dire need of more coffee by the time I got to Moor Street station. Luckily, I knew exactly where to go: Tilt, a speciality coffee shop, craft beer bar and pinballeria in Birmingham's historic City Arcade, which my fellow coffee blogger Brian recently wrote about again on the Coffee Spot.

Tilt is around five minutes' walk from Moor Street, New Street and Snow Hill stations, making it a perfect coffee stop for anyone passing through the city and those staying longer. I came via New Street, following the Tilt sign along Union Passage to the City Arcade, which arcade dates to the late 19th century, and boasts a red-brick facade, high ceilings and decorative green ceramic trimmings. Tilt itself occupies an angular corner space at the end of the arcade where Union Passage meets Warwick Passage.

Inside, it's bright and colourful, even on a grey, rainy day. I entered through the door inside the arcade, which brought me face to face with the tilt of pinball machines that give the bar its name (I'm not sure there is an official collective noun for pinball machines, but tilt would be a good one). Past the machines, there's a pink neon sign pointing downstairs, where there is more pinball fun to be had.

Round to the left, the wooden counter is where coffee, beer and the various other drinks on offer are brewed, and then there are a number of wooden tables and chairs in the space by the front windows. It was quiet when I arrived, soon after 10 am, but much busier when I came back in the afternoon, with many customers enjoying a beer or two: multifunctional venues like Tilt offer excellent flexibility in these uncertain times. I very much approved of the '90s soundtrack too.

As I often do when visiting a new coffee shop, I had a piccolo and a hand-brewed filter coffee. It's my standard order, but Tilt's coffee offering is far from standard. Again, I'm indebted to Brian, who wrote a detailed post about Tilt owner Kirk's Frozen Solid Coffee Project. This great concept allows Tilt to offer customers to choose from a huge range of interesting, special and rare single-origin coffees from roasters and producers around the world. The coffee is portioned into individual doses and frozen, and then ground and brewed straight from frozen when it is ordered, which reduces the risk of these beautiful coffees remaining on the shelf for too long. 

To find the current list of coffees, you scan the QR code on the menu. I wasn't being lazy when I picked the first coffee on the list, the Lycello Gesha from Ninety Plus Coffee in Panama: it sounded right up my street. I did have a slight regret after ordering when I spotted another Gesha, at the bottom of the menu, from Volcán Azul in Costa Rica, roasted by Nomad in Barcelona (strawberry lollipop, mango and raspberry? Yes, please!). My regret didn't last long, as the Lycello lived up to its name, with the lychee flavours coming through alongside delicate tea-like notes. It was served in a flask on a wooden tray, accompanied by a gorgeous cup from Mindset and a card with more details about the coffee.

My piccolo was brewed with a natural coffee (this one, I believe) roasted by Canada-based Rogue Wave. It too was very well prepared, and it was great to try coffee from a new-to-me roaster (though I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to order a neon pink Kono dripper from Rogue Wave, or anyone else). 

When I went to pay, Kirk mentioned the very cool retail tins of beans from Urban Coffee Roaster in Hong Kong. "If you weren't going to the football..." he said. Indeed, I'm not sure I'd have got it into Molineux with the current security protocols. But luckily, I had time to pop back to Tilt on my way home, and I bought a tin of beans from Finca Yambamine in Ecuador, a farm owned by sisters Diana and Olinka Velez. I've been brewing this super-juicy coffee in my V60 this week (pictured below in my Bisqit cup), and the tasting notes of pineapple and cherry for this double-anaerobic-processed coffee are bang on.

Finally, Tilt is BYOF: their list of local eateries matched up well with the recommendations I'd got from another local. OPM and Rudy's were top of my list, but with another long train journey ahead of me, I ended up skipping town before dinner. Next time!

As for the football match, well, Wolves lost, but probably should have at least drawn. It was great to be back watching them live, however, and we were unlucky not to score at least one goal in the lively second half. Plus ça change... 

Tilt. City Arcade, 2 Union Street, Birmingham, B2 4TX. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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