Any new coffee-purveyor on Cowley Road isn't short of competition, but Mostro Coffee has certain factors in its favour. Being situated in Oxford's only independent record store helps – their predecessors Keen Bean have moved across the road to The Bear and The Bean – as do friendliness and a bit of invention and integrity in the brew.
The deceptively small area feels more spacious because of ceiling-high windows on two walls, which throw open the people-watching possibilities. Truck's stereo will always be playing something awesome, and you may get distracted by a cultured buzz from an insider's local music knowledge / scenesters / a record signing you didn't expect. You can still disengage and get some laptop time in, if necessary. Some free music periodicals wait on tables, so from NME I learned about a day with Taylor Swift and what students are wearing in Bristol.
Mostro generally offer the 'usual suspects' (latté, cappucino) and a brew of the week. Adventurously opting for the latter, what I had was a cold press - the brew having gone through a six-hour process - which wasn't at all singed or bitter. The bean was 'blueberry candy' from Nicaragua, and Mr. Barista got to talk me through the science behind what I drank: as promised, with a bit of grapefruit peel, it tasted like a Terry's Chocolate Orange!
The staff are excited to make recommendations, with Mr. Barista urging me under his breath to “take the brownie, take the brownie…", so I relented, and had the salted-caramel brownie. It had a nicely un-baked squidge to it. A few large grains tantalised on top and the hint of 'savoury' I'd been looking for was waiting in the gooey middle. Brew and cake are £2.50 each, the standard drinks a little less.
Suppliers are UE coffee roasters, the UK's only wood-powered coffee roastery (which happens to be in Oxfordshire). Ethical standards and a willingness to experiment mark them out but are these apparent in the taste? My friend's decaf mocha was of "modest size and commendable quality," as was his review, but the exceptional products are the weekly specials. I sampled the hot version of the above special, and though it had that slightly burnt initial taste-hit, notes of bitter fruit followed.
Disposable income warning: it's hard to go in for coffee and leave without spending money on music. Be strong.