From Sam Pepys to Sam Binstead the story of caffeine is being re-written.
Coffee hasn’t been this cool since the 17th century.
Not since Samuel Pepys and his bewigged ilk hung out in floppy cuffs and buckled shoes in the smoke-filled coffee houses of the day has it been so fashionable.
Today we Brits buy an estimated two billion cups of it a year, spending around £6.2 billion.
Coffee is mega-big business. But it’s because it’s so big that smaller, more distinctive and specialist places are flourishing in every city.
Sheffield has the New Zealand shtick of Tamper, Bragazzi’s Italian pizzaz in the antiques quarter, Steam Yard’s eclectic cool on Division Street and Marmadukes foodie heaven among a dozen studiously stylish independents in the city.
Coffee’s gone a bit rock and roll, you might say.
Another Sam, Sam Binstead, would.
He’s the man who gave up being a sound engineer for performers like Leo Sayer and The Darkness to run his own coffee shop - Upshot Espresso at 355 Glossop Road, Sheffield.
“Sound engineering is not as glamorous as people might think,” said 23-year-old food, coffee and tea lover Sam.
“I know for a lot of people being able to work with bands would be a dream come true but I’d rather run the coffee shop now.
“I used to help in my dad’s coffee shop in Barnsley but this is different.
Sam trained as a ‘barista’ under a coffee industry giant with the beautifully 17th century name of Maxwell Colonna Dashwood.
“We work closely and share information, new sources and ideas with the other independents in the city,” adds Sam.
“We don’t see ourselves in competition. There are enough people to go round, we just need to pull them away from the national chains.”
Upshot - opposite Hallamshire Hospital and near Sheffield University - has that urban-rustic feel so beloved of new-generation coffee shops.
It’s a place where you order from the bearded and helpful lads at the counter and food is brought to the table – Upshot also does a flourishing takeaway trade for the businesses round about.
It’s a continually changing menu. Today there’s a choice of one salad and four sandwiches – plus two types of brownies and other pastries.
Today’s sandwiches are:
1 Za’atar sautéed courgette with rose hummus (Za’atar is both a Middle Eastern herb and a spice blend, in this case it’s a spice blend). 2 Serrano ham and maple baked apple. 3 Chorizo, halloumi & chilli jam
The salad is quinoa, avocado and kale with a mustard dressing.
I choose the sauteed courgette - to try the rose hummus - and my son Joe goes for the chorizo and halloumi.
And we get coffees, a flat white - cappuccino by another name – and Joe has a long black – known elsewhere as an Americano.
It’s different. If you’re used to Costa or Starbucks you’ll be surprised that coffee can be so fruity and yet so powerful.
Today’s blend is called Brick Red by roasters Square Mile of East London.
Choice is small but it’s big on quality and flavour.
The granary bread rolls are from Bakers Art, Huddersfield and Upshot gets pastries, cakes and sourdough bread from Forge Bakehouse, Abbeydale Road.
The bread is fantastic, light but substantial with a crispness to the crust and soft within.
The rose hummus is a revelation.
I would never have thought it a winner but Sam likes his middle-eastern influences – he first tasted it in London a while ago and decided to try it here.
Distinctive but not overpowering, the flavour - from rose water and actual petals - doesn’t dominate the subtlety of roasted courgette and the cumin-like spice of za’atar.
The salty creaminess of the halloumi goes with the earthy spice of the chorizo and the sweetness of the chilli jam.
It’s all good stuff. As is the salad.
Quinoa (KEEN-wah) – a high-protein, high-fibre cous-cous type of grain with bite and flavour, comes with crunchy raw kale – which might be a bit too wholefood for some - soft and creamy avocado pieces and lots of sweet pomegranate seeds and a mustard dressing.
It’s a cracking and healthy combination.
As for the brownies - this is how brownies should taste. It’s especially how peanut butter brownies should taste - with clumps of actual crunchy peanut butter giving a sense of indulgence to go along with the chewy chocolate goo and crispy top.
The salted caramel variety is equally delicious and rich - top marks.
If you’re put off by hipster beards, tattoos, the jumble of furniture and styles and an occasional whiff of slightly forced cool then this perhaps isn’t your scene.
But if you like original and responsibly-sourced coffees, innovative, simple and locally-supplied food and can appreciate a new generation taking a different approach with some great ideas, then you’ll have a marvellous time.
Even Pepys might approve.
Four coffees, two sandwiches, two salads and two pieces of brownie came to £34.70.
Star ratings out of five:
n Upshot Espresso, 355 Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2HP.
n Open 8am to 4.30 Monday to Friday with occasional brunch days at weekends – visit Upshot Facebook for updates.