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Slurp
Jon Attenborough

The 14 Essential Coffee Shops in London

Places that do speciality with sincerity

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Slurp
| Jon Attenborough

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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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

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 is now back on full service, offering 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.

Workshop Coffee

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Workshop has outlasted its former mini-chain competitors Taylor Street and Department of Coffee to be the best multi-site coffee operator in the city. Milk drinks are comforting, espressos are sweet, and filters are clean — with consistency across all of its shops. But there’s something a little secret about this one, tucked into St. Christopher’s Place, which makes it the visit of choice.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

Paradox Design + Coffee

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One of London’s best newish coffee shops makes the jump at Netil Market, London Fields, all while adding soft serve ice cream to its already strong rotation from 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.

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.

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.

Tucked away in a residential corner of Stoke Newington, Esters is perhaps the platonic ideal of a neighbourhood café. Relaxed, quietly confident service matches the coffee offering, recently expanding the filter options to include batch brew as well as by-the-cup Kalita Waves. Staffordshire roastery Has Bean’s more unique offerings are highlighted with panache, with the new set-up giving freer reign to showcase more exciting or out-of-the-ordinary coffees.

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 for the summer — thank you — the attentive service and luscious drinks make it stand out from the crowd.

Store Street Espresso

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The expansion of this storied name in London coffee has also served as a reminder of the quality of its original café, a couple of doors down from Anna Tobias’s Café Deco in the heart of Bloomsbury. A broadening of its guest coffee program has seen the likes of Bailies, Assembly, and even the brilliant Sey from Brooklyn grace shelves and grinders, and the interior lined with artworks — and constantly abuzz with coffee drinkers — has lost none of its charm.

Campbell & Syme Coffee Roasters Café

One of the most consistent cafés in the game and an East Finchley standby, Campbell and Syme is now back on full service, offering 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.

Workshop Coffee

Workshop has outlasted its former mini-chain competitors Taylor Street and Department of Coffee to be the best multi-site coffee operator in the city. Milk drinks are comforting, espressos are sweet, and filters are clean — with consistency across all of its shops. But there’s something a little secret about this one, tucked into St. Christopher’s Place, which makes it the visit of choice.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

Paradox Design + Coffee

One of London’s best newish coffee shops makes the jump at Netil Market, London Fields, all while adding soft serve ice cream to its already strong rotation from 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.

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.

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.

Esters

Tucked away in a residential corner of Stoke Newington, Esters is perhaps the platonic ideal of a neighbourhood café. Relaxed, quietly confident service matches the coffee offering, recently expanding the filter options to include batch brew as well as by-the-cup Kalita Waves. Staffordshire roastery Has Bean’s more unique offerings are highlighted with panache, with the new set-up giving freer reign to showcase more exciting or out-of-the-ordinary coffees.

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 for the summer — thank you — the attentive service and luscious drinks make it stand out from the crowd.

Store Street Espresso

The expansion of this storied name in London coffee has also served as a reminder of the quality of its original café, a couple of doors down from Anna Tobias’s Café Deco in the heart of Bloomsbury. A broadening of its guest coffee program has seen the likes of Bailies, Assembly, and even the brilliant Sey from Brooklyn grace shelves and grinders, and the interior lined with artworks — and constantly abuzz with coffee drinkers — has lost none of its charm.

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