Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Paddington Central

What’s The Story?, a washed Ethiopian single-origin espresso from Wegida in Yirgacheffe, served in a glass at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs Paddington Central branch.I feel that today’s Coffee Spot should be marked by fireworks or something. The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs has a long, distinguished history, opening its first branch on London’s Leather Lane in 2010. Since then it’s gone on to start roasting its own coffee and now has multiple branches in London (14 and counting), Manchester and Bristol, plus several in Chicago. It’s also acquired other operators such as TAP and Tradewind Espresso.

But here’s the thing. While I’ve always loved the coffee, I’ve never loved any of the actual coffee shops (and, believe me, I’ve tried many of them!). Until last week that is, when I walked into the new branch on Kingdom Street in Paddington Central. Quite why this one clicked with me when so many haven’t, I can’t say, but I knew as soon as I walked in the door. It helped that it was across the road from the office I was working in all last week, making me a daily visitor, but it’s that good, I’d go out of my way to visit.

There’s a blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, with two single-origins on batch brew, plus a wide range of cakes and savouries.

June 2021: I believe that the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs in Paddington has closed, along with almost all the other Department of Coffee and Social Affairs locations around the country.

August 2021: I believe that Black Sheep Coffee has now taken over the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs’ old space on Kingdom Street.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Kingdom Street, Paddington Central.
  • It's quite well screened from the middle of the road. Here's a view heading up the street...
  • ... while this is how I first saw it, heading back down the street (& actively looking for it).
  • What you can't see in all those pictures is that there's a bench outside on the right...
  • ... and a two-person table beyond the doors on the left.
  • Another view of the outside table, nicely shaded from the sun.
  • Stepping inside, the dominant feature is the counter which fills the right-hand wall.
  • The seating is arranged around the edges, starting with this six-person window bar.
  • A long, padded bench runs down the left-hand wall under a large mirror. Note that the...
  • ... tables can be combined into various configurations, depending on your requirements!
  • A view of the front half of the store...
  • ... while turning around, you can see a separate entrance from the lobby at the end.
  • The entrance at the back of the store, as seen from the lobby...
  • ... where there are plenty more tables (you're free to bring your coffee out here).
  • The final seating is at the far end, in the shape of some armchairs and a sofa.
  • Another view of the seating at the far end, as seen from inside the store.
  • There's a cluster of three armchairs around a coffee table...
  • ... and, right at the back, a sofa with another pair of armchairs.
  • The left-hand wall is mostly given over to a massive mirror...
  • ... which creates some interesting views.
  • It's also hung with plenty of plants and light bulbs!
  • As is the counter.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • I liked the pictures which flanked the mirror on the left-hand wall.
  • They are mostly line-drawings of coffee equipment like this one.
  • To business. The counter starts with a selection of cakes and savouries.
  • The savouries come first, with various wraps and sandwiches which can be toasted.
  • I was well-fed at the office, so wasn't often tempted.
  • Next come the sweet things...
  • ... with this prominent display of Duffins catching my eye one morning!
  • The menu and the batch brew is behind the counter at the front.
  • There's one brewer and two vacuum flasks, one for each single-origin.
  • Meanwhile, the hanging plants and bulbs made it difficult to get a shot of the menu...
  • ... although it was easier to see it in person.
  • To the left of the cakes and savouries is the till, where you order and pay...
  • ... followed by the espresso machine and its three grinders (blend, single-origin & decaf).
  • Finally, unless you're sitting in, you collect your coffee at the far end of the counter.
  • All the coffee is for sale in retail bags, the front of the counter being used for display...
  • ... space, which is also where you'll find the reusable cups!
  • So, to business. Being in Paddington all week meant that I got to try all the coffee!
  • First up, the East End Blend, seen here as an espresso, served in a glass...
  • ... while this time it's the turn of the Ethiopian single-origin.
  • If you stand at the end of the counter, you get to watch your coffee being made!
  • Here's the East End blend in a flat white to go in my Huskee Cup...
  • ... and here's the What's The Story? Ethiopian single-origin.
  • Although it doesn't get a mention on the menu board, the decaf gets equal billing...
  • ... on the grinder and I can confirm that it makes a pertty mean piccolo!
  • Finally, I tried the filter while I was there.
  • First is the Summer Opus, a Honduran single-origin in my ThermaCup...
  • ... but my favourite was Let's Go Crazy, a natural Ethiopian, seen here admiring the view.
Photo Carousel by v4.6

The growth of speciality coffee around Paddington Station shows no sign of slowing down. Last year I was wowed by the likes of the The Meal Ticket (still going strong) and only just missed the opening of Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm. And, it turns out, the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, which opened at Two Kingdom Street in September last year.

Those with long memories will recall that Two Kingdom Street was once home to a branch of Store Street Espresso. However, this closed earlier in 2018, although Department of Coffee isn’t really a like-for-like replacement. While Store Street was a counter within the office building’s large lobby, Department of Coffee, while attached to the lobby, is a standalone coffee shop with an independent street entrance. At the eastern end of a row of shops on the northern side of Kingdom Street, it’s screened by a row of trees and shrubs (so much so that on my first morning, I walked past it without noticing!).

Although you can enter through the lobby, you’re much more likely to come in from the street, so I’ll call that the front, where central glass double doors are flanked by a pair of windows on either side. Inside it’s triangular, fitting in at the left-hand side of the lobby, the store narrowing towards the back, counter occupying the sloping right-hand wall. This means that the doors deposit you at the start of the counter, next to the cakes. Then comes the till, where you order and pay, followed by the espresso machine and collection point (for takeaway customers) at the far end of the counter. Beyond this, a wide, rectangular opening in the right-hand wall gives access to the lobby (where you’re welcome to sit with your coffee at one of the numerous tables).

Back inside, there’s a six-person window-bar to the left of the door. A long, narrow padded bench runs along the left-hand wall under a huge mirror, with eight thin, rectangular two-person tables (which can form sets of four- or six-person tables). This is pretty much opposite the counter, leaving the narrow point of the triangle home to three armchairs and, right at the end, a sofa and two more armchairs.

Although not as high as the lobby, the coffee shop is blessed with wonderfully high ceilings. Despite this, it has the potential to be a sterile concrete/glass space, but the wooden counter (with wooden cladding behind), wooden furniture and, most importantly, suspended lights and plants, make it a very warm and welcoming space where I enjoyed an extended Friday afternoon visit. The rest of the time I called in at least twice every day, sampling all the coffee, plus, on two occasions, the excellent Halloumi, Avocado and Mushroom Brioche for breakfast.

The Department of Coffee has three seasonal options on espresso and I tried them all, starting with the East End blend, which was particularly good as a flat white, where the coffee and milk combined well. However, my clear favourite was What’s The Story?, a washed Ethiopian single-origin from Wegida in Yirgacheffe, a fruity, complex coffee that was excellent as an espresso and just as good in milk. That said, the Colombian El Cascabel decaf which I had as a piccolo was also awesome, the coffee and milk combining to produce a rich, smooth, sweet drink.

I also sampled the two batch brew options. The Summer Opus was a washed Honduran coffee which I enjoyed, but the clear winner was Let’s Go Crazy, a naturally-processed Ethiopian from the Fero Farmers Union which was a fruity, complex coffee. Top notch!

December 2019: Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Paddington Central was a runner-up for the 2019 Best Takeaway Coffee Award.

Monday 07:30 – 17:30 Roaster Dept of Coffee (espresso + batch brew)
Tuesday 07:30 – 17:30 Seating Tables, Sofas, Window-bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 17:30 Food Cakes, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:30 – 17:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 17:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday CLOSED Wifi Free
Sunday CLOSED Power Yes
Chain International Visits 8th – 12th July 2019

Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.

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1 thought on “Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Paddington Central

  1. Pingback: 2019 Awards – Best Takeaway Coffee | Brian's Coffee Spot

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