The Collective

The latte art in my flat white, made with Extract's Rocket Espresso, at The Collective in Caversham.It takes a special business to open in the middle of a global pandemic, which is exactly what The Collective, in Caversham, did. In fairness, the plan had been to open a lot earlier, but in a story I hear all too often, there were problems with the fit out and then, just as The Collective was due to open in March, along came the COVID-19 shutdown.

Many would have given up at that point, but not Caversham residents, Sam and Susie, the driving force behind The Collective. Instead they pushed on, The Collective opening in June, initially for takeaway only, before fully opening for table service in mid-September. There’s a brunch menu, which is joined at 11 o’clock by the lunch and toastie menus, all the food cooked in the open kitchen behind the counter. This is backed up by a concise espresso-based menu featuring Extract Coffee Roasters’s Rocket espresso.

However, The Collective’s a lot more than just a café. It’s also a lifestyle store, which reminded me of the likes of Liverpool’s Thoughtfully Café, plus a grocer, selling milk, bread, eggs and more, which brought the likes of Bristol’s No 12 Easton and Elemental Collective to mind.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On the corner of St Anne's Road and Church Road in Caversham, it's The Collective.
  • This is how it looked when I first visited at the end of July...
  • ... and this is the same view from my return in October, when the tables were out.
  • The door is on the corner, at 45° degrees to both roads.
  • If Church Rd is too busy for you, there's a third table around the corner on St Anne's Rd.
  • There's no A-board, but there is a sign, plus a bowl for dogs (who are allowed inside).
  • Let's go in, shall we?
  • The door from the inside, with the QR Code for check-in on the end of the window-bar.
  • Talking of which, there it is. Only the end nearest the door is in use at the moment.
  • Another view of the window-bar, along the first of the two tables in the middle.
  • This, the larger of the two, is rectangular, with a round one towards the back.
  • Another view, showing the seating on the far side.
  • There are four of these tables in all, separated by tall, clear pop-up screens.
  • The tables (and screens) front on.
  • The counter is beyond the second table at the back of The Collective.
  • And the round table in more detail.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot...
  • ... with a second one, where I was trying to get arty!
  • The design/lifestyle part of The Collective is down the left-hand side...
  • ... where these tall shelves line the two windows.
  • Beyond that is the provisions part of The Collective, in the corner by the counter.
  • There's freshly baked bread and eggs...
  • ... plus various goodies (including cakes and pastries) in the corner.
  • There's also more on (and in front of) the counter.
  • The kitchen, where all the food is cooked, is behind the counter, tucked away to the left.
  • Cakes!
  • The coffee end of the business is at the back on the right.
  • This corridor, by the way, will, at some point, lead to more seating in the back garden.
  • My first visit was in July for a flat white, when The Collective was takeaway only.
  • When I returned in October, it was table service, with menus on the tables...
  • ... with food on one side and drinks on the other.
  • There's also a bottle of hand sanitiser on each table...
  • ... and you're brought a bottle of water and a glass as well.
  • I had another flat white on my return...
  • ... with some neat latte art.
  • I'll leave you with my lunch, Brioche French Toast, which was as good as it looked.
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The Collective is in Caversham, just over the Thames from the centre of Reading.  Located on the corner where St Anne’s Road meets the busy Church Road, it’s a stone’s throw from The Gardens of Caversham in one direction and the Caversham Court riverside park in the other. Occupying a simple, rectangular space on the ground floor of what looks like a converted house, you’ll find the door on the corner, refusing to show any favouritism by standing at 45° degrees to both roads.

There are two large windows at the front, matched by two more along the left-hand side. If you can stand the traffic, there are a couple of benches under the windows at the front, each with a round table and a pair of chairs. Alternatively, there’s a two-person table around the corner on the quieter St Anne’s Road.

Heading inside, The Collective is maybe half as deep again as it is wide, with the front two-thirds occupied by the seating, while the back third is taken up by the large counter. You’ll find the obligatory QR Code for the NHS COVID-19 App just inside the door, but just be aware that it’s behind the door as you open it, so it’s easy to miss. There’s no queueing system, just take a seat at any vacant table and someone will come to take your order. Alternatively, if you’re looking for takeaway or provisions, there’s a limit of three customers at any one time. If there are more, or there’s no free table, just wait at the door.

The layout is simple, starting with a low window-bar in the windows at the front. The centre is occupied by two four-person tables, a large rectangular one at the front and a smaller, round one at the back. Finally, a padded bench runs down the right-hand wall, its four two-person tables separated by head-high, clear plastic pop-up screens like those I saw at Anonymous Coffee Co.

A long set of tall shelves sits in the windows on the left, holding various lifestyle products, at the end of which is a small corner unit with various provisions, including eggs and freshly baked bread. Then comes the counter, running almost the full width of the back of the store, starting with the kitchen on the left. Next is the till, where you can pay before leaving, with the cakes and coffee side of the operation on the right.

A chiller cabinet with milk and soft drinks is across from the counter against the right-hand wall, with the small gap between them leading to a passageway. For now this only gives access to the toilets, but, in due course, it should lead to an outdoor seating area in the garden at the back.

I visited twice, first in July when I popped in for a flat white to go in my JOCO Cup, having been tipped off about The Collective by the manager at Coffee Under Pressure. I returned at the start of October, when I came for lunch, timing things just right for once. I had the pick of the impressive brunch menu, which is served until 2pm, and the lunch and toastie menus, which run from 11am to 3pm.

Spoilt for choice, I finally settled for the Brioche French Toast, being rewarded with a large plate stacked with triangles of light, fluffy French Toast, which avoided the mistake of being overly sweet, topped with copious quantities of raspberries and blueberries. I paired this another flat white, the Rocket espresso going extremely well in milk, just as it had back in July.

25 CHURCH ROAD • CAVERSHAM • READING • RG4 7AA
www.thecollectivecaversham.co.uk +44 (0) 118 327 2728
Monday CLOSED Roaster Extract (espresso only)
Tuesday 08:45 – 16:30 Seating Tables, Window-Bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:45 – 16:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:45 – 16:30 Service Table
Friday 08:45 – 16:30 Payment Cards Only
Saturday 09:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 15:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 28th July, 9th October 2020

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2 thoughts on “The Collective

  1. Great read, been using your map for new coffee spot locations for the past few months and it’s been a real resource during these times.
    Have you managed to find anywhere near or around Salisbury/Marlborough direction? I travel there occassionally for work and it’s a been a real dead zone for decent coffee, especially the specialty grade.
    Also, check out FLTR coffee just outside Bicester in Oxfordshire, had one of the best V60’s there, along with Coffee Mongers in Lymington, New Forest. it’s the place for an espresso you won’t forget.

    • Hi Ryan,

      That’s great to hear. For Salisbury, try Boston Tea Party (sadly the Coffee Lab has closed). I don’t know anything in Marlborough unfortunately. Coffee Mongers I know, having been to the coffee bar in the roastery, but FLTR Coffee is new to me, so I’ve added it to the list.

      Many thanks,
      Brian.

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