Ceylon House of Coffee (COVID-19)

The logo of the London House of Coffee, the parent to the Ceylon House of Coffee, on the front of the counter.It’s typical. I go away for a couple of weeks and someone opens a coffee shop in Guildford. I think every opening in the last three years has been while I’ve been away… The newcomer in this case is the Ceylon House of Coffee, an offshoot of the London House of Coffee, which, ironically, is in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Ceylon, as was). Meanwhile the Ceylon House of Coffee is in Guildford, occupying the old American Express building at the bottom of the High Street, a lovely, spacious spot with floor-to-ceiling windows, and plenty of well-separated tables and sofas.

What makes the Ceylon House of Coffee stand out from the crowd is that it only serves coffee from Sri Lanka, with the owner attempting to recreate something of Sri Lanka’s heyday as a coffee-producing nation in the mid-19th century. For now, there’s only a single-option on espresso, along with a selection of Sri Lankan tea, plus a wide range of cakes.

The shop, meanwhile, is operating on reduced opening hours while everyone finds their feet, with drinks being served in disposable cups, although the staff are happy to accept customers’ reusable cups, so don’t forget to bring yours along!

February 2021: having been closed since the start of the year, Ceylon House of Coffee reopened (takeaway only) in the middle of February.

May 2021: Ceylon House of Coffee has now reopened its indoor seating, following the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions in England.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • A new sight when walking down Guildford High Street: it's the Ceylon House of Coffee.
  • The view from across the street: plenty of spots to park your bike!
  • And the unencumbered view. Old hands will know this as the American Express building.
  • Stepping inside, here's a panoramic view from just inside the door...
  • .... with the counter dead ahead at the back on the right. There's a little bit of seating...
  • ... on this side, including these armchairs in the window. There's also...
  • ... a two-person table against the wall, Colombo's London House of Coffee as a backdrop.
  • The bulk of the seating is on the left-hand side...
  • ... in this slightly raised (and well-spaced, due to COVID-19) seating area.
  • There's a sofa and pair of armchairs, plus a table tucked away at the back...
  • ... with the sofa and armchairs looking particularly enticing.
  • The remaining seating is provided by a selection of well-spaced, two-person tables.
  • The fit-out is really elegant, starting at the door...
  • ... and continuing with the counter, which is lovely, complete with...
  • ... these name plates on the front (of parent company, London House of Coffee).
  • I was, of course, drawn to the light-fittings.
  • Obligatory light bulb shot.
  • The decor over in the seating area is interesting.
  • A series of wall panels tell the story of the London House of Coffee...
  • ... and how it came to be.
  • If you want to learn more about Sri Lanka's coffee heritage...
  • ... and how the London House of Coffee has recreated it, then have a read!
  • Of course, the Ceylon House of Coffee opened during the pandemic, so there's a bottle...
  • ... of hand sanistiser by the door and the near universal queuing markers on the floor.
  • There's also a QR Code where you can check in.
  • You'll find these on every table as well.
  • They take you to an on-line form where you can leave your details.
  • To business. The counter is at the back on the right-hand side.
  • There's an impressive display of cakes on the left...
  • ... including the usual pastries and muffins. The till is on the right...
  • ... along with the menus: coffee, cold coffee, tea and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate.
  • I, of course, came for coffee, made with this four-group espresso machine. For now, it's...
  • ... takeaway cups only, although there's a display case on the right with some lovely cups.
  • Of course, you can always bring your own, like I did for my flat white, which I had in my...
  • ... HuskeeCup. It had some lovely latte art...
  • ... which hled its pattern to the bottom of the cup, always a good sign.
  • I'll leave you with my Kaffeform cup, which I used for my espresso.
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The Ceylon House of Coffee has been a long time coming, planning having started midway through 2019, with a tentative opening date at the start of this year. However, problems with builders pushed things back, then along came COVID-19… However, the Ceylon House of Coffee finally opened its doors in September, and while not yet the finished article, it’s well worth a visit.

Occupying the old American Express building at the bottom of the High Street, it’s on your right as you head up the hill from the river (coincidentally, at the end of the last millennium, I worked in an office on the floor above; how I’d have loved having the coffee shop around back then!). A lovely, old building, its beauty is enhanced by the Ceylon House of Coffee with its elegant, dark wood interior. The aim, by the way, is to recreate the atmosphere of an old-fashioned Sri Lankan coffee house, albeit with modern touches, such as electric lights and an espresso machine!

The central door is flanked by two floor-to-ceiling windows running the width of the building. Inside, it’s split into two, with a step up to the left-hand section, mirroring the rise of the hill outside. The right-hand side contains the counter, a magnificent affair which greets you from the back of the room, while the bulk of the seat is off to the left, the numbers of tables inevitably reduced to meet COVID-19 restrictions.

Indeed, several of the chairs are pressed into use to form temporary barriers at the door, which lead you towards the counter, where you order before taking a seat, your drinks being brought out to you. For now, there’s just a cluster of armchairs in the window to the right (under where my desk used to be) and a solitary two-person table against the wall. Meanwhile, to the left, pride of place goes to a pair of armchairs and a sofa against the back wall, while a handful of well-spaced tables occupy the remaining space.

The Ceylon House of Coffee’s parent, the London House of Coffee, was founded by George Martin Kodithuwakku, who researched Sri Lanka’s coffee history, deciding to recreate the coffee from the island’s heyday before leaf rust destroyed its coffee plantations over a ten-year period starting in 1869, prompting the shift to tea. Coffee wasn’t totally wiped out though, and Mr Kodithuwakku found descendants of those old coffee trees, recreating the original varietals which are now grown in a plantation in the Kothmale Hills and roasted on the island, before being airfreighted to the UK, although there are plans to install a roaster in Guildford.

For now, the coffee is only available as espresso, although there is a cafetiere option coming soon. For my first taste of Sri Lankan coffee, I began with a flat white in my HuskeeCup, the beautifully steamed milk holding its pattern to the bottom of the cup. The flavour of the coffee, which is roasted a shade or two darker than I would ideally like, came strongly through the milk, making for a very pleasant drink.

I followed this up with an espresso in my Kaffeeform cup, where I could really taste the coffee, which had a deep, well-rounded, rich flavour, with just a touch of bitterness. It’s more old school than I drink these days, but made for a nice change. I also obtained a sample of beans to take home, which I’ve been enjoying as my daily espresso and through my cafetiere in the mornings, although here I can really taste the roast over the flavour of the coffee.

December 2020: Ceylon House of Coffee was a runner-up for the 2020 Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

Monday 11:00 – 17:00 Roaster London House of Coffee (espresso only)
Tuesday 11:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Sofas, Comfy Chairs
Wednesday 11:00 – 17:00 Food Cakes
Thursday 11:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 11:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 11:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain International Visits 17th September 2020

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