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Caffeine & Co Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield likes it smooth, but rich and elegant too

Published on August 2nd 2012.


Caffeine & Co Reviewed

COFFEE.

Oh the joy of a good coffee. The kick in the brain it delivers.

Problem is finding a good coffee.

Stand next to it and it's so small you think you're looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope. Bus stops are bigger, but what really induces a smile is the entrance canopy, which uniquely I reckon, is bigger than the place itself.

I confess I go to Starbucks regularly, this isn't because I particularly want to, it's just the chain is ubiquitous. Starbucks is right there on every street corner. 

The problem is that their scorched and bitter beans deliver a rancorous and wrong, vicious and persistent, back taste that requires a full pack of Extra Strong Mints to dissipate. 

Awful really.

But awfully convenient too, and when the vultures of addiction gather squawking in the brain then a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Caffe Nero is no better, nor Costa: bitterness purveyors all.

If I had time to deviate I would always seek out Salvi's in the Corn Exchange. Confidential discovered Salvi's (click here) and we reckon it's Manchester's best small food and drink establishment by about a factor of ten.

The coffee is perfect there, Italian rich, with a smooth finish. It's a million miles better than the incinerated chocolate of the world's biggest coffee chains. 

Happily Salvi's has got a coffee cranking partner at last. And it's closer to my office.

Flat white and sophisticatedFlat white and sophisticated

Outdoor..er..terraceOutdoor..er..terrace

This is Caffeine & Co in the curiously named St James' Square off John Dalton Street. St James' Square is not a square at all, it's barely even a ginnel. But then again Caffeine & Co is barely even a coffee-shop. It's the only food and drink venue I can fit in my shoe.

Stand next to it and it's so small you think you're looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope. Bus stops are bigger, but what really induces a smile is the entrance canopy, which uniquely I reckon, is bigger than the place itself. 

Canopy vastnessCanopy vastness

There is room for about seven coffee swiggers inside and a couple of sets of benches and stools outside, one of which tumbles down a steep slope.

But the coffee.

Wow.

This comes from Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London. This is one of those indie, funky companies that are so good you fear they might, within a year or two, be taken over by Diageo or Coca Cola and - that dreaded phrase - 'rolled out' as a coffee chain across the country. No doubt with an avalanche of marketeers talking about 'maximising the concept potential'.

Square Mile Coffee High ClubSquare Mile Coffee High Club

Let's hope that doesn't happen. Square Mile are very good and wine-serious about coffee.

This is how they describe their Yirgacheffe roast from Ethiopia: 'This is a classic Yirgacheffe with fresh juicy peaches in the front, homemade apricot jam sweetness that is rounded out  by a delicate bergamot finish and a tea like body.'

Bit far, maybe.

Yet, no matter how good the coffee they roast, it still has to be turned into proper java.

Caffeine & Co, a local company, have supplied me with a cappuccino and a flat white so far. These were both smooth yet rich glories. As shown in the Square Mile description above you can go deep into the complexities of coffee flavour and you can do that with the coffee here, or you can just sigh and swig. Coffee lovers give it a go. Soon.

Below the box that is Caffeine & Co there is another box with a kitchen where home-baking by the lady on the picture here takes place. She had some lovely kids and help mates by the way on this school holiday shift.

School holiday staffSchool holiday staff

Both the banana cake and the lemon cake cup cake were cracking accompaniments for the coffee. Moist the pair of them. The lemon curd blast in the cup cake for some reason threw me back to being a small boy at home on the hills in Rochdale munching on home-made jam tarts. Very Proustian but probably down to the non-processed food factor on each occasion. 

Caffeine & Co hardly seems feasible as a business given its Lilliputian dimensions.

But it's a charmer, a sweet little addition to the city scene and one that brings the gift of glorious coffee. 

I'm off there now. Salvi's probably still shades it in quality, but for me Caffeine & Co is much nearer.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

Caffeine & Co, St James' Square, City. 

Coffee Rating: 8.5/10 (Can't really mark this place the usual way because it's so small, so here's an overall rating out of ten based on the main selling point.)

The best book about coffee ever written....

Food and drink books are usually the most tedious of reads, mostly back-up for a celebrity chef's TV series.

Best coffee yarn everBest coffee yarn everSome are excellent though. One of the best is 'The Devil's Cup' by Stewart Lee Allen. Subtitled 'Coffee, The Driving Force In History', it's about Allen's quest for the perfect cup of coffee and is part travelogue, part history and part action caper. 

The opening paragraphs of the book read like this and begin in Nairobi in 1988. 

"Ethiopia is the best," Bill's eyes brightened. "Finest grub in Africa, mate. And those Ethiopian girls...

"No girls," I said. Bill, a Cockney plumber/Buddhist monk was obsessed with finding me a girl but lacked discretion; his last bit of matchmaking had me fending off a Kenyan hooker, twice my size, who'd kept shouting, "I am just ready for love!"

"No girls," I repeated, shuddering at the memory. "Don't even think about it."

"You don't have to bonk them." He gave me his most charming leer. "But you'll want to."

"I sincerely doubt it."

"And the buna, ahhh! Best buna in the world."

"Buna? What's that?"

"Coffee," he said. "Ethiopia's where it came from.

So it was settled. We were off to Ethiopia for lunch. We were off for a coffee.

Homemade sandwichesHomemade sandwiches

Opening timesOpening times

Lunch offerLunch offer

Mr CappuccinoMr Cappuccino

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36 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Simon TurnerAugust 2nd 2012.

Is this where that Moocow place was?

Jonathan SchofieldAugust 2nd 2012.

Yes. Coffee better though

Angela HiltonAugust 2nd 2012.

corr, can't wait to try!

Angela Hilton shared this on Facebook on August 2nd 2012.
Daniel HarrisonAugust 2nd 2012.

I stopped in for hangover assistance a few weeks ago. Although there was only one person in front of me, I gave up waiting after 10 minutes.

Jeremy ShineAugust 2nd 2012.

As we all know, the nearest place for a good cup of coffee is -Milan

MoAugust 2nd 2012.

I think someone needs to re-review North Tea Power. They have their own espresso blend and have 3 coffees from Square Mile on rotation all the time with a varitey of brewing methods. Easily the best coffee in Manchester

3 Responses: Reply To This...
mcadAugust 2nd 2012.

Agreed. Service can be questionable at times though

DougAugust 2nd 2012.

Mo - I think it's silly to say that NTP is easily the best coffee. Both they and Caffeine and Co are excellent and thank goodness for that. Manchester is hardly blessed in choice for somewhere to get our high class caffeine fix.
Caffeine and Co's cakes and tarts though really are better than NTP's.

AnonymousAugust 5th 2012.

Nice to have another independent coffee shop in town. I wouldn't say cafco is excellent yet - they have a way to go before their coffee is as good & well prepared as ntp's & tastes like coffee, not milk. Cafco's cakes really aren't any better than ntp/barbakan's - that's just silly.

DavidAugust 2nd 2012.

Whose are the lovely children... Yours no doubt again.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Claire Caffeine&CoAugust 2nd 2012.

David, They're my kids!

Jonathan SchofieldAugust 2nd 2012.

David, they are not my kids. Do you feel foolish now? Maybe given your consistent negativity about the site you may want to consider not reading us. I'm very worried about your blood pressure.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidAugust 2nd 2012.

I don't feel foolish.I glad you featured somebody else's kids for a change.
As for not reading your site?.Thats a very foolish suggestion.If everybody who disagreed with you stopped reading this site,you would be out of a job.

Jonathan SchofieldAugust 3rd 2012.

As editor I'll be the judge of when my kids are on the site and how frequently - this isn't a focus group. Coupla points. We are the only NW media that keeps criticism about itself on plain display. And as for people not reading the site, I think we've become quite a useful resource for people. You seem to just love a whinge which is fine enough if leavened with
humour.

Richard HJAugust 2nd 2012.

I don't wish to p*ss on anybody's chips but the world's best cup of coffee has already been found here...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJuhNDrX008

AnonymousAugust 2nd 2012.

MMM. I want to go to here.

john WAugust 2nd 2012.

I think Jonathon is unfair to Costa particularly who in my view serve the best flat white anywhere to be found. It's pricey though.However you pay to ensure you get a great taste wherever you buy it. What did Jonathon pay for his coffee?

1 Response: Reply To This...
DougAugust 2nd 2012.

John - you should really try NTP or this place. The coffee really is miles better than Costa.

Catharine BAugust 2nd 2012.

The coffee is excellent - I had already tried Square Mile in London & good to see it up here. They do need to speed the service up even though the guy serving was charming & apologetic - not swift enough for take out.

SmittyAugust 2nd 2012.

Lovely coffee, lovely staff (and lovely cake!). Hope they make a go of it.

Hero
The LiquoristsAugust 2nd 2012.

a coffe shop open pre 8am - win!!

Hero
The LiquoristsAugust 2nd 2012.

...coffee - fail

Burt CodeineAugust 2nd 2012.

Interesting...North Tea Power is the only good coffee shop I've been to in Manchester (I know they use the excellent 'Hasbean' coffee, wasn't sure they served Square Mile too).
I'll give this place a go, but might struggle with those opening times.

Right about Costa/Nero - not that I don't visit them...I find them quite pleasant (easier with a family of young children) but the coffee is never anything but average at best. Not even sure the Italians serve the best coffee (best coffee I've ever had was the original Einstein's in Berlin) - tried Salvi's in the 'Corn Exchange' (sounds better already) and nearly burned the roof of my mouth off (the milk should never be even close to that heat). I will go back for the food though...was impressed with what was on offer and how it was delivered.
We need more of these (the likes of NTP)...we're doing well on the quality ale front.
Coffee Fix in Gatley know what they're doing too...

AnonymousAugust 2nd 2012.

I'm sure the coffee is fantastic but the name isn't - you can't shorten it or say it quickly.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Mike WAugust 3rd 2012.

Caff-co?

ARCHIEAugust 5th 2012.

Just Caffeine

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2012.

Disagree about Caffe Nero - Great, strong coffee and not bitter at all. The baristas are trained to a really high standard compared with Costa and Starbucks.

john WAugust 3rd 2012.

Thanks to Doug. I'll give them a go.

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2012.

Best coffee by far in the Northern Quarter, if not the city, has to be in the Craft & Design Centre... http://www.craftanddesign.com/about/cafe

Kat ParneyAugust 3rd 2012.

I really like the look of this place. When I have a coffee, it'd be nice to have something hand baked by a pensioner from Swinton - all the "Fabulous Bakin' Boys" rubbish that coffee shops are awash with is an insult to the customer.

The location seems to be handy for the workers (or "idiots" as the beard-strokers in Common would call us) and it doesn't look like it has the hardon for itself that similar venues in the NQ have. I hope it does well.

A lot of Nero and Costa bashing going on - I know it's cool not to like them, and I'm also aware it's de rigeur to demand that the beans are ground personally by an Ethiopian lesbian, but before the mid '90s, most coffee available from cafes came out of a massive tub of Nescafe.

AnonymousAugust 6th 2012.

Might go in to try it if they remove the word artisan from their sign. Artisan refers to something functional or decorative, how can coffee be either of these?

AnonymousAugust 8th 2012.

NTP's coffee satisfies this description - function - it has coffee in it which revs you up - decorative - have you seen the latte-art on top?!

KeithOctober 15th 2012.

Love this friendly place with great coffee- reminds me of the Covent Garden Monmouth Street. Branch - tiny but excellent! Best coffee I've had , so far, in Manchester!
Service could be quicker -but it's well worth waiting for!
I love my daily. cortado & the delicious sandwiches and cakes! Brilliant! Thank you

Manci DoodleMay 2nd 2014.

I was underwhelmed by this place today. Coffee was good. The barrista had dirty finger nails and the regular courier cyclists were a little too loud & blokey for me. I like the outdoor seating.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 4th 2014.

dirty finger nails? Yuk.

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