I recently returned to my roots and headed to Newcastle for a visit as I’d been away for a few months and word was that a new coffee scene was emerging with some real talent to found.
Eager to explore new shops and find new faces I headed straight for Pumphrey’s in the heart of Newcastle’s Grainger market. I used to shop here when I was at uni and loved the feel of the place – the chat with the grocers and the constant stream of interesting characters. There is a great mixture of well established and specialist shops mixed with your food weigh stores and usual market traders, new to the city or not it should always be a stop as you make your way through town.
Arriving at Pumphrey’s I loved that the bar works across two aisles. From one side, selling an impressive range of loose leaf teas you can see through to the working bar. It was here I found UKBC semi-finalist Dan Shannon (@thecookingwine) at work, after having some of his competition espresso blend in Leeds I was looking forward to seeing what would be served up. I opted for my benchmark, an espresso, swiftly followed by a filter of Yirgichaffe. The espresso was served quickly, with the skill you would expect from a well established coffee-house and the blend was spot on, pretty decent high notes followed by a rich burst across the top of my palette. The filter was served to me in a ‘Clever Dripper’ which is the first time I’ve had a brew from one. It was really interesting just working out the techniques of the brew and the result was pleasant, quite fruity and bold like you would expect from these beans. It had a very clean finish due to the drip method used and deep flavour as the beans had also been fully submerged. Give it a try if you spot one.
Pumphrey’s really make good use of their space too, there are shelves spanning the back wall full of retail goods. Everything from you hario hand grinder to the commercial-scale grinders and everything in between was on offer. Another great space saver and all round amazingly looking object was the Uber boiler, functional and displayed on the bar, this smart bit of kit was a versatile instant water boiler. I might be making it sound more than it is, without being as technical as it deserves but it made me think ‘ I want you’, so if you visit keep an eye out for it.
The bar was reasonably busy and all the staff were attentive and friendly. It’s not a huge place but there were enough seats to go around and plenty near by if you opt to takeaway. I’d timed my visit just right as Dan was due a break and invited me along on a visit to Newcastle’s latest offering to the world of quality coffee ‘Pink Lane Coffee’.
A short walk down the gorgeous streets of Newcastle and we are almost at the station, we are literally just across the road,and subtly positioned at an angle lies the entrance to Barista Anth Atkinson’s new coffee shop. Pink Lane has a very new feel when I called in, I think it had been open less than a week so the slight smell of fresh paint wasn’t just acceptable but also quite nice. Great to hear, even better to see new quality places opening up,and sharing their take on coffee. That’s exactly what I received too, a fresh and interesting take of coffee, served with a lot of obvious interest and passion from Anth. There was a very natural feel to the shop, some rustic pieces of furniture blended in with real quality tables and benches. The machines all looked new but you wouldn’t have guessed as both baristas behind the bar seemed to know their instrument inside out.
I ordered an espresso and picked up a loyalty card which will probably take a year or more to complete. My drink was sharp, a boutique blend that was only around for a couple of days before the larger order arrived. Great consistency, really lovely crema built up and a temperature slightly warmer than I usually have, a good thing though as I was really enjoying the conversation going on between other customers, the baristas and myself.
I’m a big fan of maps and atlases so enjoyed the decor around the place, check out the toilets too even if you don’t really need to go. I’m sure I spotted a roasting machine near the back of the shop along with a good open space, so I hope they make full use of both and offer some events/classes. I’ve no doubt the student and young professional population in Newcastle will take full advantage (although not exclusively these groups, both shops would suit anyone wanting to indulge in quality coffee)
Also if you are looking for a bite to eat, I called in to ‘Olive and Bean’ which is one of the building that surround the outside of the Grainger market. It grabbed my eye as there was a huge selection of Grumpy Mule coffee for retail in the window and the food looked/tasted really nice. Go if you’re looking for excellent deli style food, but do yourself justice and save yourself for coffee round the corner at Pumphrey’s.