Mouse Tail Coffee, which started life as a coffee cart in Peckham in 2012, has been on my radar for a while. These days, in addition to the cart (now at Canada Water), there are four bricks-and-mortar stores under the name Mouse Tail Coffee Stories located in and around East and South East London, plus a coffee van at Canary Wharf.
The Whitechapel Mouse Tail Coffee Stories has been going for 4½ years, one of the area’s early speciality coffee pioneers. A small spot in a row of mostly sweet shops, it’s behind Whitechapel Road Market, sheltering it from the traffic on the busy A11. There’s not much seating, but it’s cosy enough to linger for an hour or two.
The concise espresso-based menu uses Mouse Tail’s seasonal house-blend and decaf from its roasting arm, Mission Coffee Works. There’s a good supply of cake, plus breakfast items in the morning and, during the week, salads and the like for lunch. Given its small size, it’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Big Bad Wolf Coffee first opened its doors in September 2018 in Streatham, South West London. I must confess that I don’t know this part of London well, having only ventured as far as Balham and the likes of M1lk and Escape the Daily Grind on previous visits. A stone’s throw from the southeast corner of Tooting Bec and just north of Streatham Station, Big Bad Wolf is on the opposite side of Streatham Green from the Streatham branch of Brickwood. Indeed, I only discovered it after a tip-off from Clark at Estate Office Coffee who sent me on the short stroll down Streatham High Road to pay Big Bad Wolf and its owner, Andrew, a visit.
It’s a fairly simple space, long and thin, with the seating down the right-hand side and the counter on the left. The coffee all comes from Clifton Coffee Roasters, with an El Salvador single-origin and guest on espresso, plus two options on pour-over through V60 or Chemex, along with Canton Tea and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate. This is backed up by comprehensive breakfast and lunch menus from the open kitchen behind the counter, plus sandwiches, crepes and cakes which are available all day.
Estate Office Coffee, next to Streatham Hill Station in South West London, has built an excellent reputation since first opening in October 2016, championed, in particular, by Bean There At amongst others. A great example of a neighbourhood coffee shop done well, Clark (who I met), along with business partner, Joe have kept things simple but effective. My only disappointment is that it’s taken me this long to visit!
Estate Office Coffee serves the standard Allpress blend (the Redchurch Blend, as was, before Allpress renamed it) and decaf through a concise espresso-based menu. These are joined by a guest roaster on batch-brew through the Moccamaster. This was Margate’s Curve Coffee Roasters during my visit, but since the guest roaster changes every four to six weeks, there should be a different roaster on by now. Estate Office Coffee supports local roasters in the most part, occasionally venturing further afield in the UK.
If you’re hungry, there’s a small breakfast menu and a range of sandwiches, soup and some savouries for lunch. These are supplemented throughout the day by a good selection of cake. The milk, by the way, is from Estate Dairy (no relation), while there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives.
Not that long after the Coffee Spot began, a speciality coffee shop, The Wren, opened inside an old church in the heart of the City of London. I was (and am) extremely fond of it and therefore am rather annoyed with myself that I’ve overlooked another coffee shop in a church, Host Café, which predates The Wren.
That I discovered it was purely by chance. Looking for the newly-opened Rosslyn Coffee last summer, I stumbled across the church, St Mary Aldermary, home to Host Café and just around the corner from Rosslyn. I vowed to return, but such has been my hectic travel schedule that I wasn’t able to keep my promise until just before Christmas.
Whereas the Wren feels like a church given over to a coffee shop, Host Café feels like a coffee shop in the back of the church. It makes for a magnificent setting, putting the church right in the heart of the community. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a blend plus decaf from Mission Coffee Works (another unsung hero of London’s speciality coffee scene), served from a standard espresso menu, along with an Aeropress option, plus sandwiches, soup and a selection of cakes.
Sharps Coffee Bar, on Windmill Street, is something of a fixture in the London speciality coffee scene, having been around almost as long as the Coffee Spot. For those who don’t know, Sharps is a two-for-one, with a barber shop at the back and a lovely coffee bar at the front. It started life with London coffee legends Dunne & Frankowski, but it was taken in-house in 2014, with some equally famous names, such as Michael Cleland (Assembly) and David Robson (ex-Association Coffee) taking over behind the counter.
Fast forward five years and things have, in some ways, come full circle, with Harry and Alfie of Rag & Bone Coffee taking over the coffee operation at the start of February. Superficially, little has changed, with the layout still essentially the same. This includes the iconic Kees van der Western Spirit espresso machine, clearly visible through the window. However, there are subtle changes, including a new menu board, while the coffee has changed, Rag & Bone bringing in its house-blend from Old Spike Roastery on espresso, with various guests on filter, both batch-brew and pour-over through the V60. If you’re hungry, there’s a small range of pastries and several toast-based options.
In speciality coffee circles, Omotesando Koffee is something of a legend. Named after its home in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, this pop-up coffee shop was credited by some as helping to transform the Tokyo coffee scene. Sadly, it was a relatively short-lived affair and, while I visited its successor, Koffee Mameya, I missed the original (although you can read what my friend Bex made of it when she was there in 2014).
From those humble beginnings, Omotesando Koffee has gone on to spawn a series of coffee shops around the world, including branches in Hong Kong and Singapore. In the summer of 2018, a ripple, for want of a better word, went through the London speciality coffee scene. Omotesando Koffee was opening on Newman Street in Fitzrovia.! Excitement mounted for the rest of the year, until, in the middle of December, Omotesando finally opened its doors, perhaps the most anticipated event in London specialty coffee that year.
A minimalist coffee shop, offering a bespoke house-blend from Assembly (with components from Brazil, Colombia, Uganda and Ethiopian) on espresso and pour-over, plus single-origins on pour-over and batch-brew, it offers a slice of modern Japanese coffee culture. Naturally, I had to take a look…
Story Coffee on St John’s Hill in South West London is one of the capital’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having first opened in 2014. I took my time in visiting, only calling in for the first time towards the end of the September last year, when I found, to my surprise, that Story Coffee had a second branch, a little sibling if you like, called Story Works, just down the hill at the back of Clapham Junction.
Much smaller than the original, Story Works has a cut-down offering while retaining many similarities with Story Coffee, including a gorgeous two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. Like Story Coffee, there’s a single option on espresso, but pour-over has given way to batch-brew. Similarly, while there is food, Story Coffee’s brunch menu has been replaced by avocado on toast, grab-and-go salads and superfood smoothies, although there’s still a good selection of cake.
Regular readers will know that I’ve been following the rise of London-based/Aussie-inspired mini-chain Daisy Green ever since it opened a branch next to my office in Sheldon Square, Paddington. Since then, Daisy Green has grown rapid, first through its Beany Green coffee shops, and then through restaurants, such as Timmy Green in Victoria and Darcie & May Green, the narrow boats tied up outside Paddington Station.
Scarlett Green is the latest addition to the family, which now numbers nine coffee shops and restaurants. It follows in the footsteps of Timmy Green, offering full table service for food (breakfast, lunch and dinner), plus wine and cocktails, while still remaining true to its coffee roots, serving a house-blend from long-time partners, The Roasting Party.
Scarlett Green is the biggest yet, occupying the ground floor and basement of a tall, narrow building on Noel Street, in the heart of Soho. Open from 07:00 to midnight, it’s there for your morning coffee and a late-night cocktail, plus everything in between. The décor, as ever, is by the talented Shuby Art, another long-time partner and collaborator. As well as the usual bananas, you can also find a large, pink teddy bear enjoying Bondi Beach.
Bean & Wheat is one of several London-based ventures by chef/restaurateur Adam Handling, who made his name by trying to eliminate waste in his establishments. Bean & Wheat started life in 2017 in Spitalfields Market, when it was a coffee shop and delicatessen, but moved to its current location on Old Street (literally backing onto The Frog Hoxton, one of Adam Handling’s restaurants) earlier this year, at the end of July. Originally the concept was coffee (bean) and bread (wheat), but it’s recently expanded its offering to include craft beer (also wheat, sort of).
The intersection of speciality coffee and craft beer is slowly growing, but with the exception of Bristol’s Coffee + Beer, I can’t think of another speciality coffee shop doing what Bean & Wheat is doing. Plus Bean & Wheat has gone one better, allowing you to drink the aforementioned beer on-site (Coffee + Beer only has an off-licence).
As well as the coffee and alcohol, Bean & Wheat also sells bread, plus there are breakfast and lunch menus, plus a selection of cakes. The coffee, by the way, is from Union Hand-roasted, with the old favourite, Bobolink, plus a guest as well as decaf on espresso.
Redemption Roasters has been on my radar since I met the founders at London Coffee Festival way back (or so it now feels) in 2017. Roasting from a facility inside Aylesbury Young Offenders institute, Redemption Roasters offers training in both coffee roasting and barista skills, as well as helping finding ex-offenders find work in the coffee industry. Not long after that meeting, in July 2017, the first (of currently three London-based) Redemption Roasters coffee shop opened on Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, just around the corner from Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The space itself is simple enough, a large, bright, open rectangle with the counter on the right and the bulk of the seating on the left, with some more at the front and outside on the pavement. However, the real draw is the coffee, with the Aylesbury Blend on espresso, pulled through a Slayer Steam espresso machine (one of only a handful in the UK) and four single-origins on pour-over through the V60, one of which is available as batch brew. Naturally all the beans are available for sale in retail bags. There’s also a limited breakfast and lunch offering, with plenty of cakes to tempt you if you’re hungry.