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Hard to find Good Coffee

July 21, 2009
cup of love

a cup of love

Sorry Martin but the coffee here is weirdly rubbish.

En route to the UK we visited Canada, USA and Iceland. When you are next in town, check out Gimme Coffee (228 Mott St, Manhattan, NY) and Kaffitar (Bankastræti 8, 101 Reykjavík).

London has heaps of franchise coffee shops. I like to call them Places of Evil (POE).  They all make the same mistake. They charge you way too much for a massive ( I-could-fit-a-small-child-in-that) cup of coffee which has one shot of espresso and several liters of milk. They also replace regular terms of size such as small, medium and large with ridiculous European words. Reminds me of a great scene in Role Models:

Costa Coffee proclaim that 7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer their coffee. What an outrageous and just plain stupid claim. No one believes this. No one.

What the lovely people at Costa fail to publicise (but do confess on their website) is that the research covered only three stores – Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Costa. Wow, that is an impressive triangle of quality. It’s like saying 7 out of 10 people prefer Gordon Brown as PM (compared to whom? … hang on … there is someone … no … sorry … got nothin). The agency responsible for this campaign is Karmarama. They sound like a fantastic company (and certainly love their ping pong) but on this occasion they can’t win – Costa’s brand purpose is apparently ‘To save the world from mediocre coffee’. What? Mediocre coffee is all Costa makes!

The people that have the unfortunate experience of going to a POE are:

  • suits that want to meet a client without the lunch bill (although to do so they have to skilfully avoid all the £5 cookies and £20 sandwiches);
  • kids filming their own Costa commercial;
  • people wanting to check their email using WiFi (although only about 50% of stores have this ‘high tech’ feature); and
  • people who want to sit down in Feltham without getting spat at, knifed or molested.

Despite my diatribe I do, occasionally, frequent POEs. Not because I want to but because there is no alternative. It is either a POE or a Poundsaver. Every time I leave a POE I feel like kneeling on the footpath and flagellating myself whilst yelling to the masses: ”next time order tea! Order tea!’ For whatever reason I forget this, as if I was hypnotized by Kenny Craig.

Fact: Just as furniture lovers do not go to Argos, coffee lovers do not go to Costa. Coffee lovers go to shops where they can get good coffee. I’ve discovered a select few:

  • Flat White – 17 Berwick St, Soho. 50/50 service, usually packed and not cheap but definitely worth a visit. Lots of filmy types masturbating their iPhone, pitching Clueless meets Emma, discussing the popularity of ‘Flat White’ and talking up HD this, aXXo torrent that.
  • Bean About Town – Several locations usually near tube stations (guy in Clapham North has gangrenous fingers but makes a good cup).
  • Coffee Plant – ‘a funky coffee shop in 180 Portobello Road, Notting Hill’ – yep I would have to agree and cheap too! Don’t worry – they put more effort into their latte then their website.  
  • Monmouth Coffee – The best. Found in Borough (go to the actual shop, not the market) and Covent Garden. I love the timber cubicals in the CG store. Very tasty and lovely service. You can just tell that the staff love working there. The beans are imported from around the world based on seasons.

Hot tips:

  • If they have ‘flat white’ on the menu then they know what they are doing.
  • If you HAVE to go to a Place of Evil order your coffee with HALF the milk. It will hopefully be drinkable.

Enjoy and please let me know of any other solid Coffee spots in London!


7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2009 10:23 pm

    There’s the stall outside Swiss Cottage tube on Wednesdays and Fridays. The barista used to have crazy wolverine hair but is now shaven. You can get a really good coffee, although I have my suspicious he slips in part full cream to my soy flat white – paranoid much?

  2. Monique permalink
    July 22, 2009 7:06 am

    so true so true… also apart from ordering half the milk, ordering a double shot helps things somewhat also. if you HAVE to go starbucks etc.
    Although – you gforgot the coffee man outside Sweet & Maxwell Swiss Cottage on a Wednesday or a Friday – he does filter coffee Monmouth style .. AND flatwhites!!
    It’s tricky with the foam sometimes though .. 😉

  3. Trish S permalink
    July 22, 2009 7:06 am

    mine too.
    But you are wrong about Costa being the home of mediocre coffee – it is the home of CRAP coffee. Another good place to add to your list: Bar Italia in Frith St (not far from Flat White, but much less pretentious; it’s like the old Italian places in Melbourne).
    I have been driven to frequenting a POE (Caffe Nero) in Stortford, as it’s the … Read Moreonly place where you can sit with a single cup for a couple of hours while reading, writing etc.; everywhere else they want you to leave as soon as you finish your coffee.

  4. Sarahlou permalink
    July 30, 2009 10:12 pm

    I agree Trish. Caffe Nero next to ENO Coliseum and Bar Italia were definitely the best coffees in London from my side.

  5. Max permalink
    August 8, 2009 12:55 am

    Coffee@Brick Lane – up the north end of Brick Lane.

  6. August 8, 2009 8:01 am

    Cheers Max, went there about 2 weeks ago. LOVED IT. Was playing some handy electronica too. Hopa ya well.


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