Coffee culture in London
It is superfluous to talk about brewing coffee in London, where the current avant-garde coffee bar scene worth the journey is long established. Because the culture of specialty artisanal coffee - beans that are carefully selected and carefully handled from harvest to final extraction - and more generally the quality of "black gold," after growing in the US and Australia, has found fertile ground northern Europe, in Scandinavian countries, and now finally also (though with more effort) in Italy. But the biggest leap has been in London. A completely different approach to the coffee bar concept has quickly plunged roots in the British capital, where fine quality cafés have doubled in a matter of very few years. This has done none other than return value to the product, to the work of the plantation farmers and especially to the figure of the barista, who is no longer (and should not) be considered "a job for anyone" but rather a profession that requires study, technique and sacrifice. This is confirmed by insiders and promoters of the city's coffee bars. "Currently, London is a rather competitive market," commented Jeremy Challender of coffee bar Prufrock, adding: "above all in regard to events and trade fairs, we are very active throughout the year." But how many coffee bars are there in London? "Over 500," says Davide Pastorino, Italian creator of Press. "And each of these cafés tries to offer the best quality, as well as train conscientious consumers. At the moment, London is probably the most fascinating coffee-making scenario in the world." And despite Londoners remaining"purely espresso consumers," according to what Richard Frazier of Workshop says, filter coffee here is appreciated among the general public of all ages, "that's always more informed and attentive and constantly looking for something in more from the contents of the coffee cup." Listing all the city locations is an impossible task, but we have nevertheless tried to draw up a list of addresses.
Bosh McKeownand Ryan De Oliveira are the young entrepreneurs behind The Attendant project, a coffee shop and roaster entirely dedicated to quality coffee open since 2013 and which today boasts two branches, one in Fitzrovia and the other in Shoreditch. "We wanted to make our coffee bars familiar and welcoming places, where people could feel at ease both alone and in company." As for coffee, the Attendant duo firmly believes in three key principles "taste, quality and sustainability", which are the base of their scrupulous selection. "Our roasting process is carried out to enhance and bring out all the aromas present in the beans, to best honour the hard work of the farmers in the plantations." All coffees must reach at least 85 points out of 100 according to SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) parameters and they are all toasted according to specific methods depending on the variety, altitude at which they grow and temperature. Aeropress and espresso are the extractions available at the cafes.
The Attendant | London | 27a Foley Street - 74 Great Eastern Street | tel. +44 20 76373794 - + 44 20 77290052 | the-attendant.com/
Caravan's flagship is in King's Cross, but today the venue has 4 branches, complete with a roasting facility inside the original site. In addition to its own coffee, Caravan also offers a wide selection of beans sourced from other European countries. But not only: great attention is paid to food, served from breakfast to lunch, all made with natural and high quality ingredients. This is a multi-purpose venue that is also a cocktail bar but never forgetting the original starting point, black gold. In addition to the unfailing espressos and cappuccinos, customers may order excellent filter coffees, extracted using different methods. Quality, provenance, sustainability, freshness and direct relationships with growers: these are the principles behind the selection of the Caravan team.
Caravan | London | 1 Granary Square – 11/13 Exmouth Market - 30 Great Guildford Street | tel. +44 20 71017663 | www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk
Look Mum No Hands
Look Mum No Hands located in Old Street, Islington is entirely inspired by the world of cycling. Here you can buy cycling jerseys and shorts, water bottles and the latest issue of Boneshaker Magazine, the British magazine dedicated to passionate cyclists. But the place is not a sports shop, rather a research café focused on quality artisan coffee, more precisely London's Square Mile roasting. An unusual and original multifunctional space born in 2010 combining the work of pro baristas with that of mechanics and chefs, "three figures that together can take care of almost all human needs". Blends and single origins are available for extraction via filter or espresso, or mixed properly with milk for a cappuccino or a flat white.
Look Mum No Hands | London | 49 Old Street - 101 Back Church Lane | tel. +44 20 72531025 - +44 20 36218898 | www.lookmumnohands.com/
Monmouth Coffee Company
In the heart of Covent Garden, but also in the fast-paced and popular Borough Market and in the Bermondsey area, are the Monmouth Coffee Company cafés, one of the first to introduce the specialty coffee culture to London. A few blends and lots of single origins enhance the taste and the aromatic profile of each coffee, restoring value to the organoleptic and qualitative properties of each bean. The espresso is still the most requested drink, but at Monmouth you can taste filter coffee declined in its different variants from aeropress to v60.
Monmouth Coffee Company | London | 27 Monmouth Street - 2 Park Street - Arch 3, Spa North | tel. +44 20 72323010 - +44 20 72323010 - +44 20 72323010 | www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/
The roaster and the two cafes of Nude Espresso are located in Spitalfields, not far from the Liverpool Street underground station. Opened in 2008, the first Nude Espresso coffee bar is located on Hanbury Street and offers all the best in the in-house roasting workshop. There is the house blend, but there are also several single origins, which change periodically and are available both as espresso and as filter coffee. Located inside the ancient Spitalfields Market is the food hall, where fine coffees are paired to bakery goods typical of the Anglo-Saxon tradition. And the barista training school at Bell Lane, Shoreditch has a corner bar attached, right in front of the Petticoat Lane Market. In addition to enjoying fine roasted coffees, it's possible to join a basic coffee, latte art and brewing (filter extraction) lesson.
Nude Espresso | London | 26 Hanbury Street - 8 Bell Lane - 4 Market Street | tel. +44 07 712899334 | www.nudeespresso.com
Ozone Coffee Roasters
It was 1998 when Ozone Coffee Roasters, one of the most complete and avant-garde in the city, opened its doors in Shoreditch. "From day one, we invested in our product, our community and our team." This is the philosophy behind the work of Ozone. "From coffee enthusiasts to plantation workers, this type of activity allows you to be interconnected with many different people; and that's a real privilege." Occupying two floors, the bar includes both the roasting facility on the ground floor and the coffee bar on the upper level. But the ground floor is also dedicated to cupping sessions, official tastings of different types of coffee "to constantly guarantee the highest quality." This is a must for coffee lovers but also for sweet tooth people: a fine brunch is served, with typical and properly made recipes of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, without sacrificing the contemporary touch. The protagonist is however always black gold, which at Ozone finds its maximum expression through alternative methods of extraction and top notch espressos.
Ozone Coffee Roasters | London | 11 Leonard Street | tel. +44 20 74901039 | ozonecoffee.co.uk/?v=cd32106bcb6d
Anglo-Saxon style with an Italian heart: Press is the brainchild of Davide Pastorino, a passionate Italian barista whose focus is entirely on specialty coffees. "I had already worked at various quality coffee bars in London when, in 2013, I decided to open my first coffee shop together with my partner Andy Wells on Fleet Street, across the street from the Court of Justice." To ensure maximum product quality, the two partners work in close contact with roasters from whom they get their supplies, and every 4 months they create a new blend for milk-based beverages. "We were also in Colombia with our importers to see first hand the work on the plantation. We found a single origin called Edilma Piedrahita, which we use for the espresso and for the complex aromatic profile." The partners also select the coffees to be extracted in filter from different European roasters, which change on rotation. Batch Brew (the most requested), chemex and aeropress are the three extraction methods available at Press. Which Italian companies does Davide appreciate? "Ditta Artigianale and Edo Quarta Specialty Coffee, which I recently used at the bar." As for the European coffee scene, it's the Scandinavian countries, "in particular Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo" that are the most fascinating at the moment, "with excellent roasters like La Cabra, Tim Wendelboe and Koppi." In addition to the one in Fleet Street, Press has also another space on Chancery Lane.
Press | London | 3 Fleet Street - 81 Chancery Lane | www.presscoffee.london
Jeremy Challender, one of the founders of Prufrock - a coffee shop within walking distance of Chancery Lane and Farringdon underground stations - came up with the idea for his venue while in Sydney playing in a band with one of Toby's Estate's baristas, an Australian avant-garde coffee shop. "It was the first time I saw someone make a rosette on the cappuccino," he says. "I decided to move to London in 2002 and started working for Monmouth Coffee Company, where I learned the basics of coffee pulling." That went on until he opened his own place in partnership with Gwilym Davies. Only beans that have achieved at least a score of 85/100 according to the SCA parameters are selected by Jeremy and Gwilym for their bar. Here too, the biggest request is flat white, "made with a very sweet English milk from Northiam," a country village in Sussex. What were the models that inspired Prufrock? "Surely Koppi in Sweden and La Cabra in Denmark. And then The Barn in Berlin," while Italian roasters he highly esteems are Rubens Gardelli and Francesco Sanapo. Other interesting cities coffee lovers should visit? "Bucharest and Prague."
Prufrock | London | 23/25 Leather Lane | tel. +44 20 72420467 | www.prufrockcoffee.com
Among the latest is Woof Coffee, which opened its doors last April 2016 thanks to Alessandro and Tullio, both having matured experience in the hospitality and catering sector. "We work with various roasters that we have known over the years and we always look for the best quality." Espressos and cappuccinos are at the base of the coffee shop offer, available both with coffee blends and single origin coffees, "which change from time to time." Favourite roasters? "Panama Varietal, a merchant who has several plantations around the city of Bouquete, in Panama", and then also Gardelli Specialty Coffees, Allpress, "the king of espresso in New Zealand", and The Barn in Berlin. On the home turf, the partners recommend Square Mile in London. More in general, among the most interesting cities, the Woof Coffee guys rank Northern Europan countries the highest, in particular the Scandinavian ones: "Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm are places to visit! They are among the biggest consumers of quality coffee in the world." But to fully understand the black gold culture, the journey to be taken is certainly exploring Ethiopia, "the most significant and exciting experience that a coffee lover can have."
Woof Coffee | London | 31 Broad Street | tel. +44 20 86162290 | www.facebook.com/woofcoffee
Founded in 2011 in Clerkenwell, in the district of Islington, Workshop, is a coffee shop and roaster now boasting 4 different sales points throughout the city. "We opened with the idea of offering a broader and deeper view of the roasting process," says Richard Frazier, sales manager. The creator of the bar/roaster, however, is James Dickson, lover of black gold who took inspiration from the Australian coffee scene, where buzz for bean quality started much earlier than in Europe. The selection of Workshop coffee done to the most minute detail: "we go directly to the countries of origin to choose the best beans, following the growth and harvesting in the plantation." Coffee are then extracted as espresso or with the filter method: "We use a lot of Fetco CBS, a system capable of extracting coffee in good quantity in a short time, and then also the aeropress." There are about 9,000 coffees brewed every week in the various Workshop points, "and most of these are beverages with milk, from cappuccino to flat white". The most interesting European cities to visit for a good espresso or coffee filter? "Berlin and Prague."
Workshop | London | 27 Clerkenwell Road – 80 Mortimer Street – 60 Holborn Viaduct - 1 Barrett Street | workshopcoffee.com/
by Michela Becchi
translated by Eleonora Baldwin