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Pouring a flat white at Rosslyn Coffee.
A flat white being poured at Rosslyn Coffee.
Michaël Protin

The 15 Essential Coffee Shops in London

Places that do speciality with sincerity

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A flat white being poured at Rosslyn Coffee.
| Michaël Protin

When it comes to coffee, London has it pretty good. While the average cup that passes a Londoner’s lips might not hit the heights of Melbourne, Seattle, or any of Scandinavia’s capital cities, the number of shops looking beyond the average joe is ever on the increase. They’re anchored by the top roasters in the capital — Workshop and Square Mile the big two — with the likes of Dark Arts (Hackney), Assembly (Brixton), and Alchemy (Wimbledon) also at play. These cafés are the leading lights on the London scene, which often seek inspiration as well as beans from roasters across Europe and across the Atlantic.

Take a look at London’s best new coffee shops, too.

NB: This particular guide privileges coffee quality and consistency over prestige and historical importance.

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Campbell & Syme Coffee Roasters Café

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One of the most consistent cafés in the game and an East Finchley standby, Campbell and Syme offers two espressos and three filters from its rotating cast of single origin coffees — currently, a macerated natural process coffee from Honduras and another from the well-regarded Aricha area in Sidamo, Ethiopia are standing out.

Intermission Coffee

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This cute spot in West Hampstead has come on in big strides, first since opening and second since starting to roast its own coffee — a transition that countless have attempted and many have failed. It’s also willing to keep what made it such a strong starter going, by bringing in exciting, conscientiously brewed guest coffees from U.K. and European roasters doing interesting things, rather than relying on the older guard, and also making oat milk free.

Batch Baby

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Batch Baby is, aside from a wonderful coffee shop, a vibe. There are so many things about it, from the orange-tinted cups and the lo-fi aesthetic in the Rose Lipman Building, to the regular collabs with interesting chefs, that run against the deadening grain of so much in third-wave coffee. But then when it comes to what’s in the cup, the quality is impeccable, with (as the name might suggest) actual attention being paid to the batch brew, as much as meticulous by-the-cup filters made with an Aeropress.

Paradox Design + Coffee

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Paradox continues to sling the good brews from Netil Market, London Fields, Wednesday to Sunday. The rose latte shatters any lingering concerns about coffee being deathless, and a rotating suite of roasters keeps things fresh, with a choice of several bright filter coffees frequently showcasing innovative processing methods. One of the best of the best in 2022.

Origin Coffee

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Southwestern imports Origin have staged something of a London takeover since opening a flagship store on Charlotte Road in 2014, opening in Southwark and at the British Library — a display of specialty’s mainstream breakthrough. The offering — all roasted in Cornwall and now selected by two-time U.K. coffee tasting champion Freda Yuan — is perhaps one of the most progressive in the city. ‘Session coffees’: high yield, steady harvests with approachable flavour profiles, are set against monthly features, often focussed on a specific process, varietal, or, inevitably, origin. The mural behind the bar demands close attention. (The author worked across Origin’s sites for 15 months to June 2017, but has no further association with the company.)

Prufrock Coffee

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To be frank, Prufrock’s quality wobbled in its transition to being owned by Square Mile, one of the city’s pioneering, and still leading roasters. But the long shadow it — and its alumni — cast over London speciality coffee culture now has a bright future to match it, with a newly refurbished shop and a renewed quality to the drinks giving one of London’s older guard the gravitas it deserves. The introduction of a precisely engineered but deeply pleasurable affogato and the return of some of Europe’s most exciting roasters on the retail shelves recaptures some of the fun, moderately chaotic energy that made it *the* London coffee shop of the 2010s.

Catalyst

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This Grays Inn Road spot is probably more famous for its sandwiches, modern Greek cuisine, and coffee sriracha than it is for, well, its coffee, but that really shouldn’t be the case. Roasting its own beans since opening day — and before all that hype — drinks run the gamut from flat whites and pour-overs through to impeccable Greek coffees, with the bittersweet shock of a cappuccino freddo a particular delight.

Kaffeine

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This Fitzrovia café’s impact cannot be underestimated — even in the context of its second site on Eastcastle Street. Another Square Mile stalwart, the initially short-lived (but now happily revived) guest espresso program brought global roasters to the very centre of London, and in being weekends only to begin with, emphasised the rarity and uniqueness of the coffees served. Incredible consistency and a willingness to innovate: it is, refreshingly, as simple as that.

Omotesando Koffee

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Speciality coffee — that is, drinks made with quality beans, precision, and if desired, milk textured into supple creaminess — is not hard to find in London. Speciality coffee — that is, quality drinks presented, explained, and served in a way that befits those drinks representing something culturally distinct — remains genuinely rare. Omotesando, arrived from Japan, eschews the airspace aesthetic, offers a service model designed for engagement over efficiency, and marries exacting preparation with the resonances of Italian and Japanese espresso cultures.

Rosslyn Coffee

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With firm roots in both Melbourne and London’s specialty coffee cultures — the former established, the latter still evolving — Rosslyn is an illustration of how far London has come, and where it might go. Many of the shops on this list will unofficially recommend a lighter, fruitier espresso straight; and a richer, more chocolatey espresso in milk. Rosslyn goes a step further by selecting two different coffees from Origin to make the deal official. Paired with its menu of truly rare and special coffees brewed by the cup from frozen to keep them fresh, it’s one of the most considered offerings in the city, now across three cafés.

Lift Coffee

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The slickest of coffee shops can often feel colder than the ice they might brew with, and the highest quality drinks can suffer from an inhospitably sterile atmosphere. Lift has managed to marry clean lines with loyal customers thanks to its warmth of service — shimmering like its potassium chromate-coated staircase — and outstanding quality, particularly filter brews that showcase a variety of Europe’s best coffee roasters.

Formative Coffee

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Formative opened quietly in one sense, tucked down a deceptively high footfall thoroughfare between Westminster and Victoria. It opened loudly in another, with founder Ian Kissick declaring London “a labyrinth of homogenously [sic] humdrum cafés seeking to serve coffee to the public in an ever duller manner.” Woof. Together with a tight team, Kissick delivers a breezy, accessible approach to coffee’s flavour palette whose kind, considered service and Coffee A / Coffee B set-up anchor the fastidious attention to detail and quality that reflects most faithfully where it should: in the cup. Not humdrum, never dull, lacking exposed brick and consistently excellent: don’t call it a game-changer, but Formative is something to shout about.

15grams Independent Specialty Coffee Shop

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Normally the trajectory for a serious London neighbourhood shop goes like this. It opens, buys nice coffee from a nice roaster, brews nice coffee from a roaster nicely, and nice people come and think “wow, this coffee is nice.” Then the cafe thinks “ooh, what if we made nice coffee from nice coffee we roasted nicely ourselves instead.” It trys to start roasting and then the nice coffee it roasts is roasted not very nicely and it is sad. 15 Grams in Greenwich honed its roasting first, in partnership with a Marylebone newsagent and a couple of cafes, then opened the cafe to brew the coffee. Now it’s one of the best cafes in south east London, and indeed the whole city, whether for espresso or filter

Browns of Brockley

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Ross Brown is one of London coffee’s most irreverent, reluctant ambassadors. His eponymous shop is as much pillar of the citywide landscape as it is a neighbourhood essential; Square Mile’s iconic (if “steady”) Red Brick anchors the espresso offering, while DROP — a Swedish roastery focussed on juicy, expressive coffees, (sadly missed since Flat White’s defection to Dark Arts) — is a regular option on filter. A recent refurbishment has expanded and brightened the shop, but taken away none of its personality, which can also be found at St David’s in Forest Hill and Bon in East Dulwich.

Kiss the Hippo Coffee Richmond

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Kiss the Hippo’s Richmond café serves as both neighbourhood standby and destination coffee shop, having moved from George Street to Sheen Road. Still pouring iced filter ahead of cold brew — thank you — the attentive service and luscious drinks make it stand out from the crowd.

Campbell & Syme Coffee Roasters Café

One of the most consistent cafés in the game and an East Finchley standby, Campbell and Syme offers two espressos and three filters from its rotating cast of single origin coffees — currently, a macerated natural process coffee from Honduras and another from the well-regarded Aricha area in Sidamo, Ethiopia are standing out.

Intermission Coffee

This cute spot in West Hampstead has come on in big strides, first since opening and second since starting to roast its own coffee — a transition that countless have attempted and many have failed. It’s also willing to keep what made it such a strong starter going, by bringing in exciting, conscientiously brewed guest coffees from U.K. and European roasters doing interesting things, rather than relying on the older guard, and also making oat milk free.

Batch Baby

Batch Baby is, aside from a wonderful coffee shop, a vibe. There are so many things about it, from the orange-tinted cups and the lo-fi aesthetic in the Rose Lipman Building, to the regular collabs with interesting chefs, that run against the deadening grain of so much in third-wave coffee. But then when it comes to what’s in the cup, the quality is impeccable, with (as the name might suggest) actual attention being paid to the batch brew, as much as meticulous by-the-cup filters made with an Aeropress.

Paradox Design + Coffee

Paradox continues to sling the good brews from Netil Market, London Fields, Wednesday to Sunday. The rose latte shatters any lingering concerns about coffee being deathless, and a rotating suite of roasters keeps things fresh, with a choice of several bright filter coffees frequently showcasing innovative processing methods. One of the best of the best in 2022.

Origin Coffee

Southwestern imports Origin have staged something of a London takeover since opening a flagship store on Charlotte Road in 2014, opening in Southwark and at the British Library — a display of specialty’s mainstream breakthrough. The offering — all roasted in Cornwall and now selected by two-time U.K. coffee tasting champion Freda Yuan — is perhaps one of the most progressive in the city. ‘Session coffees’: high yield, steady harvests with approachable flavour profiles, are set against monthly features, often focussed on a specific process, varietal, or, inevitably, origin. The mural behind the bar demands close attention. (The author worked across Origin’s sites for 15 months to June 2017, but has no further association with the company.)

Prufrock Coffee

To be frank, Prufrock’s quality wobbled in its transition to being owned by Square Mile, one of the city’s pioneering, and still leading roasters. But the long shadow it — and its alumni — cast over London speciality coffee culture now has a bright future to match it, with a newly refurbished shop and a renewed quality to the drinks giving one of London’s older guard the gravitas it deserves. The introduction of a precisely engineered but deeply pleasurable affogato and the return of some of Europe’s most exciting roasters on the retail shelves recaptures some of the fun, moderately chaotic energy that made it *the* London coffee shop of the 2010s.

Catalyst

This Grays Inn Road spot is probably more famous for its sandwiches, modern Greek cuisine, and coffee sriracha than it is for, well, its coffee, but that really shouldn’t be the case. Roasting its own beans since opening day — and before all that hype — drinks run the gamut from flat whites and pour-overs through to impeccable Greek coffees, with the bittersweet shock of a cappuccino freddo a particular delight.

Kaffeine

This Fitzrovia café’s impact cannot be underestimated — even in the context of its second site on Eastcastle Street. Another Square Mile stalwart, the initially short-lived (but now happily revived) guest espresso program brought global roasters to the very centre of London, and in being weekends only to begin with, emphasised the rarity and uniqueness of the coffees served. Incredible consistency and a willingness to innovate: it is, refreshingly, as simple as that.

Omotesando Koffee

Speciality coffee — that is, drinks made with quality beans, precision, and if desired, milk textured into supple creaminess — is not hard to find in London. Speciality coffee — that is, quality drinks presented, explained, and served in a way that befits those drinks representing something culturally distinct — remains genuinely rare. Omotesando, arrived from Japan, eschews the airspace aesthetic, offers a service model designed for engagement over efficiency, and marries exacting preparation with the resonances of Italian and Japanese espresso cultures.

Rosslyn Coffee

With firm roots in both Melbourne and London’s specialty coffee cultures — the former established, the latter still evolving — Rosslyn is an illustration of how far London has come, and where it might go. Many of the shops on this list will unofficially recommend a lighter, fruitier espresso straight; and a richer, more chocolatey espresso in milk. Rosslyn goes a step further by selecting two different coffees from Origin to make the deal official. Paired with its menu of truly rare and special coffees brewed by the cup from frozen to keep them fresh, it’s one of the most considered offerings in the city, now across three cafés.

Lift Coffee

The slickest of coffee shops can often feel colder than the ice they might brew with, and the highest quality drinks can suffer from an inhospitably sterile atmosphere. Lift has managed to marry clean lines with loyal customers thanks to its warmth of service — shimmering like its potassium chromate-coated staircase — and outstanding quality, particularly filter brews that showcase a variety of Europe’s best coffee roasters.

Formative Coffee

Formative opened quietly in one sense, tucked down a deceptively high footfall thoroughfare between Westminster and Victoria. It opened loudly in another, with founder Ian Kissick declaring London “a labyrinth of homogenously [sic] humdrum cafés seeking to serve coffee to the public in an ever duller manner.” Woof. Together with a tight team, Kissick delivers a breezy, accessible approach to coffee’s flavour palette whose kind, considered service and Coffee A / Coffee B set-up anchor the fastidious attention to detail and quality that reflects most faithfully where it should: in the cup. Not humdrum, never dull, lacking exposed brick and consistently excellent: don’t call it a game-changer, but Formative is something to shout about.

15grams Independent Specialty Coffee Shop

Normally the trajectory for a serious London neighbourhood shop goes like this. It opens, buys nice coffee from a nice roaster, brews nice coffee from a roaster nicely, and nice people come and think “wow, this coffee is nice.” Then the cafe thinks “ooh, what if we made nice coffee from nice coffee we roasted nicely ourselves instead.” It trys to start roasting and then the nice coffee it roasts is roasted not very nicely and it is sad. 15 Grams in Greenwich honed its roasting first, in partnership with a Marylebone newsagent and a couple of cafes, then opened the cafe to brew the coffee. Now it’s one of the best cafes in south east London, and indeed the whole city, whether for espresso or filter

Browns of Brockley

Ross Brown is one of London coffee’s most irreverent, reluctant ambassadors. His eponymous shop is as much pillar of the citywide landscape as it is a neighbourhood essential; Square Mile’s iconic (if “steady”) Red Brick anchors the espresso offering, while DROP — a Swedish roastery focussed on juicy, expressive coffees, (sadly missed since Flat White’s defection to Dark Arts) — is a regular option on filter. A recent refurbishment has expanded and brightened the shop, but taken away none of its personality, which can also be found at St David’s in Forest Hill and Bon in East Dulwich.

Kiss the Hippo Coffee Richmond

Kiss the Hippo’s Richmond café serves as both neighbourhood standby and destination coffee shop, having moved from George Street to Sheen Road. Still pouring iced filter ahead of cold brew — thank you — the attentive service and luscious drinks make it stand out from the crowd.

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