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A first look at Anonymous Coffee Co

A first look at Anonymous Coffee Co

Claire Slobodian

What is it?

Anonymous Coffee Co is a new, independent, speciality coffee bar inside the Tasting House wine bar on Chain Street. It’s owned by Phil Carter, who worked at the excellent Tamp Culture Coffee outside the Oracle for three and a half years and has been a trained barista since 2002, so he knows his coffee.

After years working in the coffee industry, Phil finally decided to set up his own business to do coffee his way: “I’d seen lots of other businesses do some things well, and some not so well,” Phil told me, over a coffee. “So I’d like Anonymous to have that balance: really nice surroundings, good service, a good vibe and, obviously, really great coffee.”

Phil described what he’s doing at Anonymous as: “a fun, interesting adventure into coffee. I want to make really good coffee, really easy to enjoy.”

Wait, so it’s in a wine bar?

Tasting House Reading
Tasting House Reading

Yes, the coffee serving counter has been added to the front corner of Tasting House, next to the window, and you sit in the bar area. But actually, it works very well. By day, it’s a comfortable light-filled space, largely free of wine-drinking customers so you can relax with a coffee.

Tasting House has also had a much-needed makeover and now feels more like a cafe-bar than a shop. There are comfortable chairs, lust-worthy marble table tops, low-slung lamps and an eye-catching mural on the wall. That’s inspired by the flow of wine and of Reading’s rivers, see if you can spot some of our landmarks in there too.

How’s the coffee?

Really good quality. It’s the focus here and there’s a simple, easy to decipher menu of one filter coffee and two types of espresso: the ‘comfort’ or the ‘adventure’ choice. You can put either of those in your choice of coffee style (cappuccino, flat white, Americano etc).

“I wanted there to be something for everyone. So I can offer variety, but in a very easy to choose format.” said Phil. “I’d like to make speciality coffee more accessible. It’s more popular now, but there’s still a bit of a stigma around it. Some people think it’s strange, or expensive, or you have to be an expert to enjoy it, when really it’s just a sign of quality.”

The current ‘comfort’ espresso is the Guatemalan Liberacion from East-London’s Union Hand Roasted Coffee. I tried it in a flat white, and it was silky and smooth with a subtle fruity taste. The ‘Adventure’ option is the 1847 Blend from Redemption Roasters, which is lighter, but has a slightly more powerful flavour and notes of nutmeg in there.

As well as providing quality beans full of flavour from Ecuador and Tanzania, Phil chose Redemption Roasters because they are a social enterprise. Based out of Aylesbury Prison, they train and mentor young offenders to roast and brew coffee, offering support and a future to prisoners.

The batch brew is a filter coffee, currently also using Redemption Coffee’s Juan Abad brew, which is a single estate Ecuadorian coffee. It’s got a rich toffee, almost butterscotchy flavour and is really easily drinkable. Batch brews are also served in a glass coffee carafe, so it can breathe, but you can also take your time pouring and get a couple of cups out of it.

Prices are good too, with a batch brew from £1.60 and a flat white at £2.70. You can also buy beans to take home from £6.

In the future, Phil plans to introduce a coffee tasting flight, using the Union Liberacion in a shot of cold brew coffee, a single espresso and a single cortado, so you can try the same coffee three ways.

There’s also a range of loose leaf teas (not as many as CUP, mind) from Tea People, including English Breakfast, Moroccan Mint and Rooibos.

Is there food?

Coffee at Anonymous Coffee Co

At the moment there are just cakes and pastries at the counter. All bakes come from Honesty Bakery in Newbury, who make everything fresh, with no artificial preservatives. Croissants and pain au raisin sit alongside a moist iced lemon drizzle cake and a banana bread. The Pasteis de Nata Portuguese custard tart is also particularly good with a buttery, crumbly pastry and a gentle, vanilla custard filling which has a very faint lemon note.

In the future, Phil plans to introduce lunch items and bake all his pastries in house, but for now, you can also pair your coffee with one of the deli boards from Tasting House if you like, those include a cheese board (three cheeses for £10.50) or a cold meat plate (three for £11).

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They say…

“After so many years in coffee, I wanted to run a business for myself, but I also wanted to give something back to Reading. It often gets a lot of jip, but I think Reading’s a great town and, with Anonymous, I want to do what I can to make it the place everyone wants it to be.

It’s frustrating when people say we have too many coffee shops in Reading. Every new, local coffee shop that opens introduces people to something different than a homogenous chain cafe.

I’ve called it Anonymous because I want it to be about the coffee, not so much about the brand. It also represents all the people that you don’t see in the coffee journey, from growers to roasters. Apparently it takes up to 400 man hours to make one kilo of coffee, so it’s a nod to those people who don’t get the recognition.

Eventually my goal is to build the business up to the point where I can train and employ homeless people to be speciality baristas. I’m in discussion with a local charity to work on a similar project to Redemption Roasters, but with Reading’s homeless community. And I’d want their past to be anonymous too, so they’re treated the same as any employee.” Phil Carter.

We say…

Anonymous Coffee Co does good quality, affordable coffee served up by a passionate expert in a comfortable space. Yes, we do have a lot of coffee shops in Reading, but this one is doing something different. It’s a promising locally-owned indie business with a focus on speciality coffee and social responsibility. Partnering with Tasting House is a smart space-sharing arrangement for two great Reading indie businesses and something we’d like to see more of in town.

The bar doesn’t quite offer the leisurely, living room experience, but it’s a warm, relaxing place to sit for a coffee and a pastry, over a natter or a bit of work. It’s an encouraging start and we’re sure Anonymous Coffee Co is sure to amass a big fan base.

Anonymous Coffee Co, 30A Chain St, RG1 2HXm, open 8am-5pm Monday-Saturday, view website.

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