Kaffeine is a legend in the London Coffee scene, one of the original Australian/Kiwi-owned coffee shops that some credit with kicking off the London coffee revolution of the last few years. Just around the corner from BBC Broadcasting House on Great Titchfield Street, Kaffeine is very much known by its reputation as somewhere where you get great coffee.
That’s just as well since Kaffeine’s offering is limited by its size. There’s no Wifi or power for the laptop/internet junkies and seating is at a premium, so Kaffeine is somewhere you come for the coffee, from Square Mile, and the atmosphere created by the friendly and knowledgeable staff.
However, don’t expect fancy pour-over options or Aeropresses with a choice of multiple guest beans. While Kaffeine is definitely third wave in its outlook (no buckets of milk with a dash of coffee here), the menu is espresso-based only. When it opened four years ago, there wasn’t much competition, but now with excellent coffee shops opening left, right and centre, including Attendant a few doors up on Foley Street, Kaffeine needs to be on top of its game to stay at the forefront of the London coffee scene.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Kaffeine isn’t a big place. Unlike Manchester’s Pavé Coffee or London newcomer, Brewsters N7, it’s not tiny, but space is at a premium and Kaffeine has done a good job of maximising what it has. There’s a bench outside and a bar in the window, with the counter taking up the whole left-hand side of the shop. Opposite that are three high tables with a wooden bench and bar stools and finally, at the back, a small space with low wooden benching and wooden tables. You could probably fit 20 in, or maybe 25 at a push, with another five outside, but it would be cramped and you’d have to all know each other quite well.
For the second week running I was in a Coffee Spot which used jam-jars for jam (radical, I know). These were liberally distributed on the tables, along with little glasses full of sugar. There were other nice touches too, including a large table with jugs of water and glasses.
The result is quite pleasing to the eye, with the wooden furniture blending well with the bare floorboards and a combination of whitewashed or bare-brick walls. However, with no Wifi and no power, it’s not a place to linger for too long over your coffee, which is probably just as well since it seems very busy and, I suspect, Kaffeine is looking for a high turnover of customers rather than the stay-all-day-with-my-laptop brigade.
This leaves the focus very much on the coffee and the friendly, knowledge staff who serve it. Kaffeine serves up a comprehensive espresso range but, unsurprisingly, given its size, there is no filter/pour-over option. However, Kaffeine does manage a decent range of cake and toast/toasted sandwiches, so it was probably that or the filter coffee option when it came to the space. Ironically, Kaffeine has an impressive range of coffee-making equipment for sale, including V60 filters and Aeropresses.
However, the main reason to come here is for the coffee itself. Knowing Kaffeine’s reputation, I set the baristas a challenge. Having already discounted a straight espresso since the house blend was Red Brick from Square Mile, I asked them for whatever milk-based drink they felt best showcased their coffee. This led to a brief negotiation over the respective merits of the piccolo (single or double) or the flat white (which is itself commendably short at 5 oz). I was expecting the flat white to win out, but instead they surprised me by favouring the piccolo (which would have been my choice anyway).
I decided to have a double, which was also commendably short (and left me wondering how short a single would have been; sadly it was late in the day and I was already approaching my caffeine limits, so there was no chance of ordering one for research purposes). The resulting piccolo was a good mix of milk and coffee, with the coffee coming through good and strong, while leaving a slightly dry taste in the mouth.
To accompany this, I went with a blondie, which is a variation from my normal routine. Not as sticky as your average brownie, it had a much crisper structure without being overly sweet. It’s safe to say that I was very impressed.
|66 GREAT TITCHFIELD STREET • LONDON • W1W 7QJ|
|www.kaffeine.co.uk||+44 (0) 20 7580 6755|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:00||Roaster||Square Mile (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:00||Seating||Benches, High Tables, Bench Outside|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:00||Food||Cake, Toasted Sandwiches|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa (£6 minimum)|
|Saturday||08:30 – 18:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:30 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||3rd October 2013|
Summer 2014: Kaffeine is once again at the home of cricket, Lord’s, where it’s serving excellent coffee to the cricket world at all major international matches (except T20s).You can see what I made of it during a behind-the-scenes tour at the Sri Lanka test.
May 2016: you can see what I made of Kaffeine’s long-awaited second branch, Kaffeine Eastcastle, just a five-minute walk away from the original.
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