What would I do without coffee? It’s been a part of my routine for basically my whole adult life, making it’s grand entrance to support me through my dissertation like a hot, black, pair of crutches. Before that, it was builder’s tea. Strong but milky. But tea just wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore and I needed propping up with something stronger. Enter Arabica beans and their mysterious energy-giving, wallet-draining powers.
Coffee is such a big part of my day now that I’m wondering what my life would look like if those little beans never existed. Meegan and I had our first date at a coffee shop. I’ve made good friends over coffee. I had a big career move into the coffee industry. To be honest, it probably wouldn’t have been that different. I’d probably be writing a blog about where to find the best Earl Grey in London instead. Basically, I needed to find a way to share my heartfelt belief that life really is too short for shit coffee, so I’m writing this blog.
Let’s face it, there are too many London cafés for one person to write about in a lifetime. And I’ve probably been to less than 1% of them. But I’ve had okay coffee here, bad coffee there, and unbelievably good coffee in a certain few places. These are my Hall of Famers. And like my Vegan Food in London post, I’ve added the closest tube stations, ‘cause that’s just the kind of guy I am.
Friends Of Ours, Old Street
What is it about Australians and good coffee? I swear, if the barista serving me has an Aussie accent I’m almost guaranteed to get an amazing cup of joe. I spoke to a friend from Brisbane about this recently and they said bad coffee just doesn’t exist Down Under. That philosophy can’t come to these shores quick enough! When Brits do bad coffee we do not-fit-for-human-consumption coffee.
Back to Friends Of Ours; if you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know I love this place, if you don’t follow me, come say hi! FOO do a great Americano, their filter is always spot on, and their vegan options are cracking too. Also worth mentioning the front of their shop is a sun trap, making it the perfect spot for a brew and some Vitamin D.
Hucks, Walthamstow Central
Tucked away in Walthamstow Village is the coffee shop slash music venue, Hucks. By day it’s a cosy little hideaway in a quiet and idyllic part of East London. By night, it’s an intimate music space and cocktail bar.
The charm is certainly in the almost-Parisian vibe the building emits, but the coffee is well worth a trip too. I love taking my laptop here at the weekends and getting lost in work, powered by a conveyor belt of great filter coffee. They also do a mean veggie and hummus sandwich which is perfect with a bag of Soffles, the baked pitta bread chips that are waaaay better than a bag of standard crisps.
Roasting Plant, London Bridge
If you want variety and fancy yourself as a bit of a coffee connoisseur, Roasting Plant just south of the river on London Bridge needs to be on your visit list. The coffee menu behind the counter is bigger than I’ve ever seen and the beans are beautifully displayed in big clear tubes on the opposite side of the shop.
Place your order with the barista and a complex system of vacuum tubes running along the walls and ceiling transports your coffee beans straight to the machine where they’re ground and brewed into incredibly good coffee. The whooshing, tinkling sound of the beans shooting around the café is something of spectacle and the final brew is sublime. I had a cup of Jamaican Blue Reserve last time I was there and whilst it was pretty pricey, it was unlike any coffee I’d ever tasted before. Not to be missed.
Vagabond, Highbury & Islington
When I first came to London I worked in the north of the city. I was commuting from Sheffield at the time (it’s brutal, don’t try it) and Vagabond became something of an escape for me. The small garden at the back of the café is insulated from the hum of the busy main road out front and provided enough quiet for me to relax over a frankly outstanding caffeine hit.
This was the first coffee shop I found that did V60, my personal go-to. I remember watching the barista weigh out the coffee on a small digital scale, carefully get the temperature of the water just right, and painstakingly brew a phenomenal cup of coffee over about 15 minutes. The result was a naturally sweet, floral, coffee that completely changed my view on what great coffee was.
Dark Habit, Queens Park
Dark Habit is where science meets coffee. Never have I seen so much consistent care and attention taken over the coffee-making process; I’ve stopped here more than a few times and am always blown away by the quality. Everything in this small North-West London café is about the art of good coffee and it’s stripped-back, minimal decor gently reassures you to put your phone away, shut the laptop off, and get lost in a phenomenal cup.
Dark Habit really are all about the coffee and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They don’t do food so if it’s lunch you want, I’d recommend stopping off at one of the many brilliant food places on Salusbury Road. The falafel wraps at Mount Olive are my favourite. Head to the back of this unassuming convenience store for amazing deli-style wraps for less than a fiver.
So that’s it, my top places for coffee in London. If your favourite isn’t here, let me know where it is and I’ll try and swing by. Good coffee with friends is one of life’s simple pleasures and I’m looking forward to seeing where you recommend!
Images by The Standard, Ozone Coffee Roasters, brownguycoffeeconnoisseur, London Coffee Guide