So there we have it, another year and yet another London Coffee Festival come and gone, my fifth in all. After attending all four days of last year’s festival, I scaled things back this year and only went on Friday (the industry day), and on the two consumer days (Saturday and Sunday).
Once again, I’ll be following my tried-and-trusted method of writing a series of themed Saturday Supplements, each covering a different aspect of the festival. Today’s Saturday Supplement is a general round-up, including what I made of the festival, the highs and lows, and what differed from last year. The remainder in the series, to be published over the coming weeks, will cover sustainability, kit & cups, my coffee experiences and the coffee itself.
I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now, but it’s worth repeating: the London Coffee Festival organisers do seem to learn from experience and listen to feedback. Each year, several issues from previous festivals have been addressed and, while the festival is still not perfect, it keeps on going from strength-to-strength, while still continuing to grow. Next year the festival returns to the Old Truman Brewery, this time from 12th to 15th April.
Workshop Coffee is one of London’s better-known (and original) roaster/café chains. Starting from its flagship branch in Clerkenwell, where, until recently, all the roasting was done, it’s slowly expanded, now with a total of four London coffee shops. I first really came across it (other than as a roaster) when it opened its Fitzrovia coffee bar in 2014, but I’ve taken my sweet time in popping into the other branches, finally making to the Marylebone branch last week. At some point I’ll have to drag myself over to Holborn and Clerkenwell, which has seen a few changes since the roaster moved out.
The Marylebone branch is on St Christopher’s Place, just a stone’s throw from the busy Oxford Street. Tucked away in the eastern arm (St Christopher’s Place is cross-shaped), it’s an oasis of calm, which is also open until seven in the evening. Simple in layout, there’s a bench along the wall providing most of the seating. The coffee offering is excellent, with two single-origins and decaf on espresso, plus two or three single-origins available through the Aeropress, with one of them on bulk-brew. If you’re hungry, there’s a wide selection of cake and a limited range of sandwiches.
Having finally paid a visit to Flat Cap Victoria in last week’s Saturday Short, I thought it was high-time that the Coffee Spot got around to the other Flat Cap, which is tucked away south of the river in London’s Borough Market. Once part of a small fleet of Notes Barrows, Flat Cap Borough is now a standalone operation and, despite the similarities, Flat Cap Borough is independent of Flat Cap Victoria.
There are, however, still close ties to Notes, with all the coffee coming from the Notes Roastery. There are a range of single-origin beans that you can buy, with one of them in the hopper. During my visit, this was a Brazilian Cachoeirinha, a naturally-processed coffee. All the usual espresso-based drinks are there, but otherwise that’s it. If you’re after something to eat with your coffee, never fear. You’re in Borough Market and spoilt for choice!
Normally, I’m reluctant to feature a pop-up on the Coffee Spot. However, when that pop-up is by renowned roasters, Has Bean, and it’s the first Has Bean coffee shop in 14 years, I’ll make an exception. I also wouldn’t normally visit a shop two days after it had opened, but when it’s only open for 72 days, time is of the essence.
So it was that on Monday, I popped down to Oxford Street to visit Made by Hand Coffee ([H]AND for short). Located on the third floor of the UniQlo clothing store, [H]AND is tucked away at the back, but easy enough to find. There’s a simple coffee bar, grinders at either end, a row of four Kalita Wave filters between them. Personally, in that sort of setting, I prefer standing up at the bar to drink my coffee, but if you want to sit down, there’s a cluster of four sumptuous armchairs around a coffee table (with USB power sockets).
However, the coffee’s the star, with a choice of four single-origin pour-overs. You can pick one or have a tasting flight of three. Similarly there are four teas, with the same offer on the table. And that’s it.
At the northern end of Strutton Ground Market, not far from Victoria Station, is Flat Cap Victoria, a veteran of London’s speciality coffee scene. For the last eight years, from Monday to Friday, it has been turning out top quality espresso-based drinks in all weathers from a lovely barrow, its only protection from the elements, a black, open-sided gazebo.
Flat Cap was set up by co-owners Fabio (of Notes fame), Rob and Charlie, although Fabio and Rob no longer work on the barrow. Despite being co-owned by Fabio, Flat Cap is independent of Notes (for example, there are no links, other than the name, with Flat Cap Borough in Borough Market), although there are close ties, with Flat Caps using Notes Coffee. There’s a single-origin espresso which changes every few weeks, largely depending on what the roastery sends through. If you’re hungry (and there early enough!), there’s a small range of pastries.
It’s London Coffee Festival time again! Yes, that’s right, three weeks from now, the London Coffee Festival will be in full swing, once again gracing the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane from Thursday, 6th April to Sunday, 9th April.
If this is your first London Coffee Festival, take a look at my round up of last year’s festival. Alternatively, if you’ve been before, it’s all very familiar, with industry days on Thursday/Friday and three three-hour consumer sessions on Saturday/Sunday (Brunch, Lunch and Teatime). In a change from previous years, there’s an extended consumer session on Friday evening from four o’clock in the afternoon to 10 o’clock in the evening. This includes access to the Espresso Martini Launch Party (8 o’clock onwards) and is probably the best-value ticket in the whole event.
Talking of tickets, my usual advice applies: get your ticket now. For starters, you get a significant discount on the on-the-door price. What’s more, tickets are already selling fast! Leave it to the day of the festival and it could easily be sold out. Also, if you are attending the Industry Days, be aware that these are no longer free, so once again, it pays to book ahead.
The latest addition to the growing Daisy Green/Beany Green collective is a rather different beast from those which have gone before. Spread over two floors on the corner of the prodigious new Nova development near Victoria Station, Timmy Green takes the strengths of Daisy/Beany and builds on them. The original Daisy Green, plus the Paddington and Liverpool Street Beany Greens, gained a reputation for innovative brunch menus, but Timmy Green goes one better, turning this into a fully-fledged restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, complete with desserts, wine, beer and cocktails. And, of course, Roasting Party coffee.
The bulk of Timmy Green is downstairs, a triangular space providing restaurant-style table seating to the right and, in a tapering section to the left, cocktail tables and window-bars, plus a couple more intimate spaces. Upstairs, the mezzanine shares space with the kitchen as well as housing a few more tables.
There’s a large outdoor seating area in front of Timmy Green, with a narrower strip down the right-hand side. If all you want is coffee, a barrow with a bright yellow La Marzocco serves takeaway from half-an-hour before opening until three in the afternoon from its spot just left of door.
After the venerable Federation Coffee, Balance, on Ferndale Road, is one of the more established names in Brixton’s speciality coffee, recently joined by the likes of Stir Coffee Brixton and Brixton Blend, plus, across the road, the new Volcano/Assembly Roastery. Established in 2014 by the owner, Ali, who I had the pleasure of meeting, Balance is a tightly-focused shop selling espresso-based drinks, with beans from The Roastery Department and Assembly, freshly-blended juices and a small selection of pastries, toasties and sandwiches.
It’s a tiny place too, with just enough space inside for the counter, espresso machine behind, where you can order and wait for your coffee. If you want to sit down, you need to head outside (although you’re welcome to stand at the counter like I did and drink your coffee) where you’ll find a bench and a couple of two-person tables on the pavement.
Allpress Espresso isn’t just a major roaster in the speciality coffee scene, with roasteries in New Zealand (where it all started in 1986) Australia, Japan and the UK. It also runs its own roastery/cafés, starting (in the UK) with the original roastery/coffee shop on Redchurch Street which opened in September 2010. Redchurch Street’s still going, but only as an espresso bar, the roastery moving out to its new site in Dalston in May 2015. Naturally, there had to be a café attached, which is the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, while the roastery was subject of its own Meet the Roaster feature back in January.
The new roastery/café is huge, with plenty of room for expansion. The main café, which includes a full kitchen, is downstairs on the left, with an even larger upstairs area at the front that opens at the weekend for brunch. There’s also some lovely outside seating options in a large garden in front of the roastery, which is set back from the road. If you’ve come for coffee, there are different options on espresso, pour-over and bulk-brew, while for food, there are full breakfast and lunch menus, as well as mixed plates, sandwiches and cakes.
When it comes to speciality coffee south of the river (in London), Federation Coffee has been flying the flag longer than most (almost six years in fact), with three years at its current location in the heart of Brixton Village. Although it now has company in the likes of Balance, Stir and Brixton Blend, Federation’s still a standard-bearer when it comes to speciality coffee in Brixton. There’s a house-blend on espresso from Kent-based roasters, Curve, with regularly-rotating single-origins from Curve and various guests on filter through the ever-reliable Moccamaster.
Federation occupies a couple of units in Brixton Village. You can sit inside or out, where the glass-roofed market arcades make for the perfect location, whatever the weather. Inside, you share the space with the counter, the seating in the windows all around the edges, giving you the perfect spot for people-watching, particularly if you get one of the window-bars.
If you’re hungry, there’s a good selection of cake on offer, backed up by an impressive breakfast/lunch menu, particularly when you consider the small space behind the counter in which the kitchen staff have to work. The menu is largely bread-based, with toast and toasted sandwiches, which suited me just fine.