Origin at the British Library

The words "ORigiN coffee roasters" in illuminated white on a black backgroundIn the foyer of the British Library on Euston Road, on the right of the doors, opposite the gift shop and next to the Friends of the British Library desk, you’ll find the second London outpost of Cornwall’s Origin. Although calling itself an espresso bar, it’s considerably more than this, and while not quite reaching the heights of the output of Origin’s flagship on Charlotte Road, it’s nonetheless very impressive.

From a small counter in the corner, Origin manages to deliver its seasonal Pathfinder espresso, as well as decaf, plus, (hopefully) by the time you read this, a single-origin espresso too. During the week there’s another single-origin filter on bulk-brew, while at weekends, it’s available through the Aeropress. For those not interested in coffee, there’s a wide range of Canton Tea.

And, on top of all that, well-stocked retail shelves have bags of beans and coffee kit for sale. There’s also food, both sweet and savoury. The sweet comes in the form of cookies, plus Crosstown Doughnuts, while for the savoury, Origin eschews the usual format of sandwiches in favour of a sausage roll for the meat-eaters and a Homity Pie for the vegetarians, which makes a welcome change.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Tucked away in the soaring entrance lobby of the British Library on Euston Road is...
  • ... the Origin Espresso Bar. Blink and you might miss it though. It's all the way over there.
  • Another view of the espresso bar, next to the Friends of the British Library desk.
  • The seating's not exclusive to the espresso bar. There are benches in the window...
  • ... and this magnificent seat in the shape of a book.
  • You can also sit outside in the courtyard. As long as it's not raining. Good luck with that!
  • Back inside and the espresso bar was almost always busy during my visit.
  • Here it is in a rare quiet moment. Was it something I said?
  • The espresso end of the espresso bar, plus hot water dispenser for filter coffee/tea.
  • The Mythos 1 grinder is for the Pathfinder espresso blend, the EK-43 for everything else.
  • Another view of the business end: a very good use of limited space, I thought.
  • The bulk-brewer for the filter coffee is tucked away back here on the other side.
  • Here's the tea I mentioned. Quite a lot of it, in fact.
  • The tea bags, from Canton Tea, are kept in jars next to the espresso machine.
  • At the left hand end of the espresso bar comes the food and retail section.
  • For somewhere effectively so small, Origin has a large retail section, including beans for sale.
  • There are also sweet things in the shape of Crosstown Doughnuts.
  • More sweet things, plus pies/sausage rolls for lunch.
  • However, I've come for coffee. Nice, concise menu. Good choice of reading material too!
  • The boys go to work!
  • My flat white in my Keep Cup. It's takeaway cups only, so don't forget to bring your own.
  • The latte art is worth a second look.
  • I also had a Homity Pie (a vegetable pie) for lunch...
  • ... which I followed up with a shot of the Pathfiinder espresso in my Kaffeeform cup.
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As well as representing the second London outpost of Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters, the espresso bar is an example of the slow migration of speciality coffee into ever-increasing mainstream settings. Tucked away inside the entrance foyer to the British Library, Origin’s only real disadvantage is that it’s largely invisible to passers-by on the busy Euston Road. However, do drop in if you can: Origin keeps roughly the same opening hours as the library itself, albeit closing earlier in the evening. If you’re fortunate enough to work in the British Library, the espresso bar opens an hour before the doors open to the public so you can get your morning coffee when they arrive for work.

This lack of a wider visibility, by the way, will soon be rectified, with Origin taking over the old coffee kiosk out on Euston Road itself. This opened at the start of September and you can see what I made of it when I visited a month later. In the meantime, if you’re wandering down Euston Road or you happen to be passing through any of London’s Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross stations, do consider a detour into the British Library, across the courtyard and through the doors at the back, where you’ll find the Origin Espresso Bar tucked away on the right.

At first sight, there’s not a lot to it, just a two-part counter with the espresso machine to the right, food and retail to the left and till in the centre. When it comes to cups, the espresso bar is strictly takeaway only, so do remember to bring your own. However, you can, if you like, sit on a large bench nearby, which is shaped to look like an open book, or you can perch on one of the padded benches which line the windows. Alternatively, if you’re prepared to contend with the vagaries of weather, you can take your coffee to one of the many seats in the courtyard.

When I was there last week, the Pathfinder seasonal espresso blend was on the main grinder, a mix of two washed El Salvador coffees. However, by the time you read this, it should have changed over to a Kenya/El Salvador blend and have been joined by a Guatemalan single-origin. If espresso’s not your thing, or you’re in a hurry, there’s a single-origin filter (an Ethiopian during my visit) ready to go. However, at weekends, there isn’t enough demand to get through a whole flask in the allotted hour, so the staff have taken to making Aeropresses, which, if you ask nicely, they’ll also do during the week.

I tried the Pathfinder as a flat white, putting my glass KeepCup to good use before getting out my Kaffeeform espresso cup to see how it went on its own. My flat white was excellent, the Pathfinder going well with the milk, which took the edge of the coffee’s natural brightness. On its own, I enjoyed it, but found it a little bright for me.

I was there for lunch, so had the Homity Pie. For those that don’t know, it’s basically a hearty vegetable pie with an open top. This was a very fine example of the type, with a generous (and filling) filling. It was served with optional piccalilli which made all the difference, really lifting the flavours.

December 2016: Origin at the British Library was a runner-up for the 2016 Best Takeway Coffee Award.

Monday 09:30 – 18:00 Roaster Origin Coffee Roasters (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:30 – 18:00 Seating Benches
Wednesday 09:30 – 18:00 Food Cake, Lunch
Thursday 09:30 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 09:30 – 18:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:30 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with registration)
Sunday 11:00 – 17:00 Power N/A
Chain Local Visits 8th July 2016

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