Origin, Charlotte Road

A glass Kalita Wave Filter sitting on a glass Kalita carafe which itself is on a pair of black Acaia scales. The ground coffee has been put in the filter paper, ready for brewing.Once upon a time, it was quite hard to get Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters in London, with Selfridges being your best option, along with Artigiano Espresso. These days there’s also the likes of Jika Jika on Euston Square and now, there’s Origin’s own café on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch (where else?). This is very much a flagship café, designed to showcase Origin’s considerable range of coffee, particularly the single-origins. It also doubles as Origin’s London training base, with a large training room in the basement below.

It’s not a huge space and it’s remarkably uncluttered, leaving the focus firmly on the coffee, something which is reinforced by reversing the normal order of things on the counter. A typical coffee shop puts the cake/food first so that customers will file past it on their way to order, hopefully tempting them as they go.

At Origin, the cake is tucked away at the far end of the counter and the prime spot, clearly visible through the window, is the filter bar. Here pour-over coffee is prepared in full view of anyone who wants to sit and watch, as well as anyone wandering past on the street outside. Now that’s a statement!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Origin's London Cafe cuts a rather unassuming figure on Charlotte Road.
  • However, approached from the other direction (south) it looks rather appealing!
  • A panoramic view from just inside the door.
  • The bulk of the seating is here on the right-hand side, along with the tables at the back.
  • This six-person bar lines the stairs down (more of which later).
  • Another view of the bar.
  • Beyond which is this bench and a couple of tables. There's also a large table at the back.
  • The other seating option is at the end the counter by the window.
  • Best seats in the house in my opinion, right by the filter bar!
  • However, you're also sitting on a grill looking down to the basement. Disconcerting or what?
  • Talking of which, the steps by the door lead down to the basement...
  • ... which houses Origin's training room. And is technically not open to the public.
  • Hmmm.... Better go back upstairs then!
  • There are lots of nice lights up here. And a pesky mirror!
  • These hang over the counter...
  • ... while these hang over the bar by the stairs...
  • ... and these, along with the pictures, line the wall by the stairs.
  • Up front, by the window, is this bit of wall, which has been heavily commented on.
  • It makes an interesting backdrop for the counter.
  • I'm not sure what it's supposed to be though... However, I like it!
  • Down in the far corner, diametrically opposite the door, is a set of retail shelves.
  • The counter, by the way, dominates the left-hand side.
  • At the far end, beyond the till, is the food: sandwiches and cakes.
  • Next comes the till, a pair of grinders and the espresso machine.
  • The EK-43 (for the filter), hot water and bulk-brewers are behind the espresso machine.
  • There's also loose-leaf tea, although this is the first time I've seen it pre-weighed...
  • More filter kit, this time on the wall behind the counter.
  • The menu is also up here. Delightfully concise.
  • Details of the coffee (two options on espresso) are on the grinders themselves...
  • ... while more detailed coffee menus, complete with the filter option, are scattered around.
  • It's the filter options that drew me in, so let's get a spot at the end of the counter.
  • We're having this single-origin Nkisse from Ethiopia...
  • ... through this, the Kalita Wave filter. Sit. Watch. Learn.
  • Step one, thoroughly rinse the filter paper with hot water.
  • This has the added advantage of warming up the carafe.
  • I particularly like this shot for some reason...
  • While the carafe warms, lets get the beans sorted out, shall we?
  • They're carefully weighed out...
  • Exactly 20.8g (quite a high dose; I usually do 15g at home).
  • Once ground, in they go.
  • A surprisingly fine grind (although at home I use a V60, a slightly different method).
  • Next step, the first pour, which throughly wets the coffee grounds...
  • At Origin, it's quite an aggressive first pour, almost filling the filter...
  • ... with a good pouring action to ensure that the grounds are fully saturated.
  • The grounds are then given a good stir, which also helps any gasses given off to escape.
  • The second pour follows shortly thereafter. I've never seen anyone rinse the spoon before!
  • Again, the filter is filled almost to the top with a vigorous pouring action.
  • Leave to filter/brew for a while. The whole process takes about five minutes by the way.
  • Time to top the filter up again.
  • Once more, the coffee is given a good stir. Not sure I've ever seen so much stirring!
  • The view from the top...
  • Almost done now. We're looking at 300g of coffee out.
  • And we're done!
  • Now all we have to do is dispense the coffee into another carafe for serving...
  • ... and there it is, ready to drink.
  • Plus a carafe of water, of course.
  • It's not all filter at Origin though. My barista, Jack, was also practicing his latte art.
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Origin’s quite small, but, despite this, feels very spacious. There’s a large window at the front, overlooking Charlotte Road, with the door (often propped open) on the right-hand side. There’s also a bench on the pavement in front of the window. Stepping inside, you are immediately greeted by stairs leading down to Origin’s basement training school (sadly off-limits to coffee shop customers) so you’ll need to do a quick side-step to the left for the coffee shop proper.

This is dominated by the counter, which takes up half the left-hand wall, filter bar by the window, espresso machine and twin grinders in the middle, followed by the till and then the sandwiches and cake at the far end. The remainder of the wall is taken up by a set of retail shelves.

Other than the three stools (the best seats in the house in my opinion) at the window end of the counter (at the filter bar), the seating’s arrayed against the back and right-hand walls, leaving the middle of the room a large, open space where you can wait for your takeaway coffee without feeling as if you’re getting in the way. At the back, there’s a large, communal table, while tucked in beside it, and beyond the stairs to the basement, is a bench against the right-hand wall with a pair of round two-person tables. The only other seating is a six-seat bar running alongside the stairs opposite the counter.

Although the window at the front is generous, it’s west facing, the narrow Charlotte Road not getting much light in the first place. Therefore, the abundance of lights is welcome, while the long, narrow mirror on the back wall also adds to the sense of light and space.

However, as pleasing as the interior is, the main draw is the coffee, with Origin offering its Pathfinder blend plus a single-origin on espresso (while I was there, this was a washed Ethiopian Suke Quto). There’s another single-origin on bulk-brew (Nicaragua Finca Los Altos) with two more available at the filter bar using the Kalita Wave. Full tasting notes, including processing method and growing altitude, are available on the coffee menus which are liberally scattered around the place. The baristas are also happy to offer advice and discuss the options.

Typically a coffee will stay on for a couple of months, although if the baristas really like it, they will keep for as long as they can. I was after filter, with a choice of a washed El Salvador Finca San Antonia or a natural Ethiopia Nekisse N2. The latter was recommended by barista Will and expertly made by his colleague Jack, who put up with me taking photos and asking endless questions while he did so.

For those who are interested, Origin puts 20.8g of beans into the EK-43 grinder, getting 20g out. To keep the grind size uniform, the grinder isn’t knocked afterwards, so any chaff tends to stay in the grinder (although obviously it’s knocked out before the next batch is ground!). Origin’s recipe calls for 300ml of coffee, with a five-minute extraction (approximately), which Jack hit spot on.

The resulting coffee was a lovely brew, with far more body than I was expecting (I don’t associate body with Ethiopians) but with lots of complex, fruity flavours.

www.origincoffee.co.uk +44 (0) 20 7729 6252
Monday 07:30 – 18:00 Roaster Origin (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Bar, Bench (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 18:00 Food Cake, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:30 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 18:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 9th December 2015

You can also see what fellow coffee-blogger Bex made of Origin when she visited on Easter Sunday (spoiler alert: I think she liked it!).

You can also see what I made of two more of Origin’s London Outposts, its Espresso Bar at the British Library and its coffee shop on Euston Road.

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