20 February 2023

The Birmingham Caffeine Chronicles: Quarter Horse, Jewellery Quarter

“Oh, that’s where we got our wedding rings,” my mum said when I told her which Birmingham neighbourhood I’d visited on Saturday. That made a lot of sense given that it was the Jewellery Quarter but these days you’re as likely to find coffee rings as wedding rings — especially if you drop into Quarter Horse’s new espresso bar.

I first came across Quarter Horse through their sadly now-defunct coffee shop on Oxford’s Cowley Road. Since then, I’ve been able to visit their Bristol Street café while passing through Brum en route to matches at Molineux. Last year was their 10th anniversary and the new espresso bar — which is also now the home to their roastery — was the perfect way to celebrate.

The Jewellery Quarter is about 15 minutes' walk north-west of New Street station — you could also take the Metro, which I did to continue my journey on to Wolverhampton. As its name suggests, the area has a proud industrial heritage dating back centuries and it still retains a lot of its character and historical features. There are still many jewellery businesses in the neighbourhood, as well as other creative businesses, eateries and, of course, coffee shops.

Quarter Horse's new location on Kenyon Street opened in January — not quite in time for my trip to see Wolves play West Ham but I was able to go ahead of our disappointing defeat to the Cherries on Saturday. The large red-brick building has a small entrance into the diminutive espresso bar as well a much larger entrance for deliveries into the roastery, which is based at the back of the building.

Inside, the curved, sage-green counter takes up most of the space, housing a tempting selection of sweet and savoury pastries, as well as the espresso machine and brew bar. A bench runs along the wall opposite the coffee bar with some gorgeous light-pink-accented side tables. The light pink features throughout the design, from the seating section of the counter to the coffee cups and plant pots, while the cork panelling on the walls gives the café a natural feel.

Although all of the other customers were indulging in the pastries, I'd arrived between meals so I'll have to wait until next time to try the egg croissant, which looked amazing. I made up for it by drinking all of the coffee. I'd planned to have the Bex special — a piccolo and a pourover — but when I saw that there was an espresso flight on the menu, I had that along with my filter coffee. 

Both featured single-origin coffees from Rwanda: the espresso flight, with a split-shot espresso and a split-shot coffee, was brewed with a coffee from Gitega Hills, which tasted great with sweet vanilla notes. The pourover was brewed with a Kalita Wave using a naturally processed coffee from Mbale washing station. It had juicy raspberry and orange notes and was absolutely delicious. The presentation was very good too, with the aforementioned pink cups arriving on a small tray, accompanied by a card providing more information about the coffee and its sourcing.

If you pay a visit to the bathroom, through the door at the back, you can also take a peak at the roastery. The new location has been designed with sustainability in mind, from using green electricity where possible to reducing and repurposing the waste produced. 

This is also the case with their new-look retail packaging, which is fully recyclable/compostable at home — it looks gorgeous too. I bought some Guatemalan beans from their 'unique' category (the other options are 'venture' or 'stable', depending on your coffee tastes), which I'm looking forward to trying at home. You can also stock up on coffee-making kit from the shelves near the door.

Quarter Horse Coffee. 10 Kenyon Street, Birmingham, B18 6AR. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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