After spending four years away studying at Oxford and then SOAS, I moved back to Birmingham just a little over a year ago. The move to Birmingham was economically motivated, as I decided I would pursue my PhD as a self-financing student. I was super keen to complete a PhD and let’s face it, money, scholarships and all that snazzle was just not going to stop me! I found a way to make it work and I set off.
Over the years, I had gotten into a habit of sitting in coffee shops and working full steam on an essay with a comforting cuppa on my right, and a stack of books on my left, all in the midst of a busy coffee shop. There’s something about the buzz of coffee shops that gets the creative and intellectual juices flowing!
I have to admit one of my main concerns moving back to my home city was whether there would be trendy little coffee shops I could head to for the day, where I could order endless cups of coffee while I typed away at the speed of light (the simplicity of our problems back then hey!). I’ve spent the year exploring and I must say I haven’t been disappointed.
I’ve put together a list of my favourite coffee/tea shops in Birmingham. They’re great for a catch-up and cuppa with a friend or even to just give yourself the luxury of some winding down time as you watch the world go by, with a cup of coffee in your hand, or to really get those creative and intellectual juices flowing.
1. The Balcony, Selfridges
Top of the list has got to be The Balcony at Selfridges in the Bullring. It’s elegant atmosphere, delicate delights, and unique presentation of food creates the perfect setting for that long overdue catchup with a special friend (we all have one!).
We opted for an afternoon tea for two which was presented in an orange hatbox!
2. The Harvey Nichols Restaurant and Bar, Mailbox
Next up is the secret garden of coffee shops in Birmingham. Tucked away in a corner of a quite expensive retail floor, is the Harvey Nichols Restaurant and Bar. Their generous in size marble tables and edgy interior design creates a dramatic impact for coffee lovers.
I opted for the freshly baked pastries, which were beautifully presented on a wooden slab, and a cappuccino. The pastries were accompanied with (way too much) butter, and a cute little pot of Harvey Nichols jam, which my taste buds thoroughly enjoyed! Complimenting the cappuccino was a Harvey Nichols dark chocolate piece, which not only had the right kind of snap a chocolate should have, but also melted deliciously in my mouth.
3. 200 Degrees Cafe, Colmore Row
Intense deadlines call for a trip to 200 degrees cafe which is always rocking! The quality of service, food, and drinks is just spot on. They have a fabulous Wifi and even their bathrooms are gorgeous!
I’ve made numerous visits to this really cool coffee shop and so, I have been able to try to out a number of items on their menu. My favourite has got to be the roasted Jerusalem artichokes sandwich – a real vegan delight! Some of the drinks I have tried are: spiced orange latte, vanilla milkshake, flat white, cappuccino, and latte, all of which were of a high standard.
4. Starbucks, New Street
I know this is pretty standard, but I love this place! The buzz is just something else in this place. It truly captures the melting-pot that is the Birmingham community in a corner shop cafe. You really get to sample the flavour of Birmingham with people from all walks of life enjoying a cuppa here. As we enter the Chrsitmas period, you are offered first row seats to the magical christmas lights and the hustle and bustle from the german markets, that capture the festive spirit from its theatrical windows.
In the summer, I love my caramel frappuccino and in the winter I adore the comforting autumn flavours starbucks brings to its chai lattes.
Only yesterday, I opted for a gingerbread latte as I sat and got a whole load of work done.
5. Quarter Horse Coffee, Bristol Road
I’ve often driven past this coffee shop, which is on a busy dual carriage way leading out of the city centre, and have always wanted to visit. The high ceiling together with the immaculately white interior and wooden furniture create a get-away comfort space for when things get a bit too much. The ambience of the caffe reflects in the food and drinks, which I was moved by. Sometimes we all need to know that things are going to be okay. If your best friend is across the table, and a cup of chai and cake are on the table, you might just find the energy to move those burdensome mountains.
I opted for a light and airy jaffa cake together with a chai tea latte. My friend ordered a mocha. We were both very happy by the end.
6. Patisserie Valerie/Druckers, Bullring
This cafe can literally, never disappoint. I loved it’s chain store on the Oxford High Street and had made it a ritual to have a birthday breakfast there every year. The selection of mouth-watering tarts, pastries, and cake slices, a generous hot and cold drinks menu, an exciting range of ice-cream flavours, and a breadth of savoury snacks to choose from, one really is spoilt for choice! If you’re anything like me (indecisive when it comes to food), you’ll probably stand in the queue for a while to make your mind up.
For those who have special dietary requirements, such as alcohol and gelatine free food, it’s always worth checking with the staff. I’ve always found that staff have been happy to confirm ingredients with the head-chef and each store keeps a folder in which the ingredients of every food item sold, is stated. Extra bonus points.
On my visits, I have been able to taste a number of items on the menu: cake slices, tarts, teapots, hot chocolates, and milkshakes. Mmmm.
7. Cafe Concerto, Grand Central
Situated on second floor of the Grand Central, the Cafe Concerto peers over the thousands of passengers that pass through Birmingham New Street Station everyday. Its the perfect place to grab a bite, a heart-warming cup of coffee, and/or indulge in a dreamy slice of cake.
We opted for a pot of early grey with warm milk, a cappuccino and a black forest gateau to share between us. Yum.
8. Boston Tea Party, Corporation Street
A quirky coffee shop with drinks that warm the heart, great tasting food, and selection of sweet treats. The seating is not always comfortable which has meant I’ve only visited twice, but nonetheless a great place.
I opted for an earl grey teapot and salmon and soft cheese bagel on one of my trips.
I hope that’s provided an insight to some of the best cafe’s in Birmingham.
Happy “Coffeetographing” x