Kafi (COVID-19 Update)

Kafi, in Fitzrovia, reborn as a takeaway-only coffee shop during COVID-19.I went to London last week for my first sit-in coffee shop experiences since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I visited three coffee shops, starting with Notes and ending with Attendant, both of which I’d first written about in 2013. In contrast, the middle one, Kafi, had only opened last year. A lovely little spot in Fitzrovia, it felt at the time like a throwback to the cutting-edge coffee shops of five to 10 years ago, which, sadly, London has mostly lost.

Kafi reopened in the middle of June offering a takeaway-only service. However, unlike other shops, which have taken advantage of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions to offer a sit-in service, Kafi has remained takeaway only. Kafi has stayed true to its founding principles, deciding not to reduce its coffee offering. As a result, Kafi still has two options on espresso (both single-origins), plus decaf, as well as three more single-origins on filter, one each on V60, AeroPress and siphon. It also, unusually, still allows customers to use their own reusable cups.

You can see what else I found after the gallery.

  • Kafi, looking very familiar on Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia. The most immediate difference...
  • ... is that the two benches are at opposte ends of the window and have little tables now.
  • Another change: a sign proclaiming Kafi to be takeaway only (closing time is out of date).
  • Meanwhile, another sign has some clear (and sensible) instructions.
  • Let's go in.
  • Inside, the changes are more apparent. The seating has been cleared out...
  • ... leaving a wide, open space where the communal table used to be.
  • A view from the far side, looking back towards the door.
  • This row of boxes, which guides you towards the counter, doubles as retail shelves...
  • ... while there are more retail shelves against the far wall.
  • More retail. And a calendar that I recognise!
  • Kafi has a good stock of Caffeine Magazines...
  • ... including the latest, the Caffeine Magazine broadsheet!
  • The counter runs almost the full width of the back of Kafi. That's Yatish, by the way.
  • The boxes guide you to the left-hand end of the counter where you order.
  • Kafi still offers its full range of single-origin coffees and preparation methods.
  • I decided to have a pour-over. Here, Yatish rinses out the filter paper of the V60.
  • Now comes the first pour.
  • I love watching baristas make pour-over.
  • It's pretty much how I learnt!
  • All done. Now all we have to do is wait for it to filter through...
  • ... and then serve. Kafi is unusual in that it still allows customers to bring in their own...
  • ... reusable cups, which, in this case, meant my Global WAKEcup.
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Kafi is on Cleveland Street in the heart of Fitzrovia. From the outside, it looks very familiar, although the two benches on the pavement underneath the window are now well spaced out. They’ve also been joined by two of the small box tables that will be familiar if you’ve previously sat inside. The differences become more noticeable as you approach the door, where you’ll see two notices providing details of the new operations, including a restriction on the number of customers in the shop at any one time (currently two).

Inside, the differences are even more striking. Like Guildford’s Krema Coffee, Kafi is serving from its counter at the back and, like Krema, the interior seating has been stripped out to accommodate this. Instead of the cosy interior with its central, communal table and box seating around the edges, you’ll now find a large, open space.

Starting just to the right of the door, a row of boxes runs front to back. Used as a display area for retail bags of coffee and various coffee-related kit, this guides you in a straight line from the door to the left-hand end of the counter, where you order. Beyond this, to the right, is a large, open space where you can wait for your coffee, allowing a second customer in to order. While you’re there, you can browse another row of boxes, this time against the right-hand wall, which has more retail items. Most people, once they’ve got their coffee, will be on their way, but if you want to stay, you are welcome to sit on one of the benches outside.

I met up with Yatish, who, along with his wife, Tripti, owns Kafi. Like many coffee shops, COVID-19 has hit Kafi hard. Yatish told me that things were going well coming into 2020, with sales growing month-on-month. But then, in the middle of March, Kafi had to shut its doors as the customers suddenly stopped coming.

Originally, Yatish had no plans to reopen, since most of his pre-COVID customers were local office workers. However, Yatish was frequently in the shop, and soon a small number of regulars started asking him to reopen. Since he was there anyway, Yatish thought “why not?” and so, in mid-June, Kafi reopened, initially from 08:00 – 13:00, Monday to Friday. As the weeks have gone on, the shop has steadily become busier, with Yatish extending the opening hours, first to two o’clock and now, tentatively, to three o’clock. He’s also considering opening on Saturday too.

Kafi offers its full range of coffee with Workshop’s Mahembe Espresso, a washed coffee from Nyamasheke in Rwanda on espresso. There’s a second espresso option, from Hasbean, plus Workshop’s Quindío decaf from Colombia. Meanwhile, Kafi has a Tanzanian Iyernga on siphon and a Guatemalan Huehuetenang (both, I believe, from Hasbean) while on V60, there’s Workshop’s Muchagara AB from Kirinyaga County in Kenyan, which was my choice.

I chatted with Yatish while he made my coffee, which was served in my Global WAKEcup. A lovely, slightly acidic coffee, I really enjoyed it, while I also picked up a bottle of Kafi’’s very own cold brew, made with a washed coffee from Cusco in Peru, which I took home with me.

I’m not a cold brew fan, but this was surprisingly good. I can’t say that I prefer it to hot coffee, but it was much more interesting than most cold brews I’ve tried. I also mixed it with some tonic which was even better, although I’m not sure how much of this was me enjoying the tonic compared to the cold brew!

20 CLEVELAND STREET • FITZROVIA • LONDON • W1T 4JA
www.kaficafe.com +44 (0) 7543 184969
Monday 08:00 – 15:00 Roaster Workshop / Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 15:00 Seating Benches (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 15:00 Food N/A
Thursday 08:00 – 15:00 Service Counter
Friday 08:00 – 15:00 Payment Cards Only
Saturday CLOSED Wifi N/A
Sunday CLOSED Power N/A
Chain No Visits Original: 25th September 2019
Update: 14th July 2020

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4 thoughts on “Kafi (COVID-19 Update)

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