Jonestown Coffee

An espresso in a glass, seen from directly above. The coffee is a single-origin Papua New Guinea bean, served in Jonestown Coffee, Bethnal Green Road.Jonestown Coffee, on London’s Bethnal Green Road, is putting the “lounge” back into “coffee lounge” with an interior that is a throwback to the early years of the millennium, if not the late 90s. That’s not a criticism, by the way; it’s quite lovely inside, very laidback and chilled, which makes a change from edgy hipster places or the “we just threw this place together last night” look. Giant sofas abound, while the décor is dominated by bold, primary colours and strong, geometric shapes, which, after prolonged exposure, can be a bit of an assault on the senses. Unless you sit at one of the two window-bars, of course. Or outside.

When it comes to the coffee part of “coffee lounge”, Jonestown has also gone its own way. You won’t find multiple options on espresso or fancy pour-overs, just the house-espresso, which also goes through the bulk-brewer. What is interesting is the coffee itself, a single-origin from Papua New Guinea, bespoke-roasted for Jonestown by a local roaster. A rare beast indeed, it’s worth a visit just to try it.

There’s also a decent range of sandwiches, as well as soup and salads, backed up with a comprehensive selection of cake.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Jonestown Coffee, on the sunny corner of Bethnal Green Road and Turin Street.
  • It's a busy street, but there's quite a few outside seats. There's this, to the left of the door.
  • A taste of what's to come: multi-coloured furniture. Let's call the colour-scheme 'cheerful' :-)
  • There are three more tables to the right of the door, seen here looking into the setting sun.
  • A slightly better view, looking the other way past an informative A-board.
  • However, the other side of the A-board reveals something of Jonestown's roots...
  • ... as does the sign on the wall next to the door. Naturally, I left immediately...
  • Lest we forget what Jonestown is all about...
  • Let's go in, shall we?
  • A panoramic view of Jonestown from just to the right of the door. I warned you it's colourful!
  • The bulk of the seating is to your left as you come in...
  • ... while to the right, it's dominated by the counter, with a little window-bar by the door.
  • Another view of the counter, with the little seating annex beyond it at the back.
  • Finally, a panoramic view from the back, looking towards the windows/door at the front.
  • Looking at the seating in more detail, there's the annex at the back.
  • This sofa and coffee table effectively screen it off from the rest of the space...
  • ... leaving this cosy sofa tucked away in the annex itself.
  • The view from the annex. While the right-hand side's dominated by the counter...
  • ... there's still room for this window-bar to the right of the door.
  • The bulk of the seating is up front on the left-hand side, starting with the window-bar.
  • There are these tables, with their mult-coloured bucket-seat chairs (like those outside)...
  • ... but the real deal are the communal sofas, starting with this three/four-seater...
  • ... and continuing with this well-used six-seat corner unit.
  • Lots of interesting features abound. I was particularly taken by this mirror...
  • ... which looks good from all angles (except straight ahead, where all I could see was me...).
  • I don't think I've ever seen a bitcoin machine before. Jonestown takes bitcoins, by the way.
  • Jonestown definitely has a retro look going on, with this unit, acting as a takeaway staton.
  • There's also this handy water table by the door. And a very retro-looking light.
  • One of Jonestown's minions. And some lego. There's actually quite a bit of lego about.
  • Bold, bright colours & simple geometric shapes dominate: the window-bar is a good example.
  • Both wiindow-bars give way to windowsills and stacks of books at their far ends.
  • Light-fitting fans need not despair: there are these giant, globular shades, for example...
  • ... as well as more traditional naked light-bulbs in the windows.
  • However, with the evening sun streaming in, there were a bit superfluous.
  • These, hanging above the counter, were much more useful.
  • Again, simple colours and geometric shapes dominate the lighting bar.
  • The light-bulbs also come in various shapes and sizes...
  • ... this one being the most unusual.
  • The orange counter with its diamond pattern is in keeping with the rest of the decor.
  • It, along with its chiller cabinet, dominate the right-hand side.
  • The cakes, naturally, come first, followed by the coffee, with the till in between.
  • Some of the tempting array of cakes.
  • More cakes, this time under cover.
  • The menu is chalked up on the wall behind the counter.
  • There are smoothies and iced drinks to the left...
  • ... while the hot drinks are to the right.
  • Jonestown's coffee's roasted on its behalf by a local roaster & is from Papua New Guinea.
  • You can have it bulk-brewed if you're in a hurry, or you can have something espresso-based.
  • I started off with a piccolo, which was more flat white sized.
  • The by-now obligatory Instagram shot. It's good, however, for showing the latte-art...
  • ... which was very well done by my barista, Matt, the milk holding its pattern to the end.
  • I paired this with a slice (slab?) of lemon drizzle cake, looking deceptively small in this photo.
  • Having not had a single-origin Papua New Guinea espresso before, I had to try it on its own.
  • It was, I felt, a little anonymous in milk, but as a straight espresso, it was outstanding!
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Jonestown Coffee occupies a strange space on the northern side of the busy Bethnal Green Road, on its corner with the quieter Turin Street. Square in shape, there’s a large chunk of the corner cut off, resulting in a decent outdoor area set back from the street. This forms the front of Jonestown, at 45 degrees to both roads, the double doors at the right-hand end leaving space for a couple of tables to the left. There are also three more tables along the busy Bethnal Green Road.

Inside, the loss of the corner gives it a strange, asymmetric feel, not helped by a large portion of the back being given over to a storeroom, leaving a potentially awkward annex in the corner opposite the door. It’s a bright space, with natural light from the plentiful windows, which also punctuate the walls along Bethnal Green Road and Turin Street.

Talking of windows, window-bars are either side of the door, overlooking the outdoor seating, while those overlooking Turin Street have books lining the windowsills. The bulk of the seating’s ahead of you/to your left on entry.  Straight ahead are some conventional tables, while to the left, against the back wall, is the lounge-part of Jonestown, a huge, communal six-seater corner sofa, arranged with another three/four-seater to form a U shape, the open end facing the door.

There’s a large counter against the right-hand wall, dominating that side of the room, although there’s space for the window-bar at the front and, at the back, the annex has been cleverly turned into a cosy little seating area, a two-seat sofa effectively screening it from the rest of the room. The annex itself has an even cosier sofa, benefiting from a window in the wall behind it.

Other than the laid-back vibe, complimented by quiet, background music and Matt, the laid-back barista, Jonestown’s main draw is its coffee. Papua New Guinea coffee is pretty rare, particularly in the UK. I’ve had it in a blend (Counter Culture’s limited-edition Underdog espresso-blend of Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Burundi) which I tried in Shot Tower Coffee, and I’ve seen it twice as a single-origin filter: in Pavement Coffeehouse, Boston (also roasted by Counter Culture), and La Colombe, Philadelphia.

However, as a single-origin espresso? A first for me! I started with a piccolo, perhaps the largest piccolo I’ve had, more flat white in size (although in fairness, the menu offered “small or large”, so perhaps I should have said “small”). Continuing the “large” theme, I paired this with perhaps the largest slice (slab?) of lemon drizzle cake I’ve ever had.

My piccolo was interesting; an initial hint of bitterness, mellowing with subsequent sips, and ending rather smoothly. On the other hand, this may have just been the sweetness of the cake providing a contrast to the coffee. Either way, I enjoyed it.

Talking of cake, this was two layers of sweet, light sponge, sandwiched together with raspberry jam and topped with a crunch, lemon/sugar glaze. And more raspberry jam for good measure. Sweet, without being sickly, it certainly provided a sugar hit. It was big though: I’d have happily shared it had I not been on my own!

Curious about the coffee, I returned for a single espresso. Arriving in a glass, it was outstanding. The first sip was really well balanced, with a hint of fruitiness. Evolving as I drank it, the second sip was a little more sour, but still very pleasant, while the third and final sip was different again. All in all, very impressive and, in contrast to the piccolo, commendably short.

215 BETHNAL GREEN ROAD • LONDON • E2 6AB +44 (0) 20 7739 7476
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Bespoke (espresso + bulk-brew filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Sofas, Window-bars, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Sandwiches, Salad, Soup, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with 60-minute voucher)
Sunday 08:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 12th October 2015

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6 thoughts on “Jonestown Coffee

  1. One of our most popular single origins is the Bunum Wo PNG which we serve as filter in the cafe and sell in beans or ground for home brewing. A rare coffee and roasted to perfection in the EDGE roastery!

  2. Screams “Student Hub in uni” to me.
    Not. Sure.
    Think that cake defies pretty much every Law of Lemon Drizzle laid down.

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