Host Café

A lovely flat white made with the Up Hill espresso blend from Mission Coffee Works at Host Cafe in St Mary Aldermary Church, LondonNot that long after the Coffee Spot began, a speciality coffee shop, The Wren, opened inside an old church in the heart of the City of London. I was (and am) extremely fond of it and therefore am rather annoyed with myself that I’ve overlooked another coffee shop in a church, Host Café, which predates The Wren.

That I discovered it was purely by chance. Looking for the newly-opened Rosslyn Coffee last summer, I stumbled across the church, St Mary Aldermary, home to Host Café and just around the corner from Rosslyn. I vowed to return, but such has been my hectic travel schedule that I wasn’t able to keep my promise until just before Christmas.

Whereas the Wren feels like a church given over to a coffee shop, Host Café feels like a coffee shop in the back of the church. It makes for a magnificent setting, putting the church right in the heart of the community. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a blend plus decaf from Mission Coffee Works (another unsung hero of London’s speciality coffee scene), served from a standard espresso menu, along with an Aeropress option, plus sandwiches, soup and a selection of cakes.

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Bean & Wheat

The front of Bean & Wheat, a Coffee & Beer Shop on Old Street, London.Bean & Wheat is one of several London-based ventures by chef/restaurateur Adam Handling, who made his name by trying to eliminate waste in his establishments. Bean & Wheat started life in 2017 in Spitalfields Market, when it was a coffee shop and delicatessen, but moved to its current location on Old Street (literally backing onto The Frog Hoxton, one of Adam Handling’s restaurants) earlier this year, at the end of July. Originally the concept was coffee (bean) and bread (wheat), but it’s recently expanded its offering to include craft beer (also wheat, sort of).

The intersection of speciality coffee and craft beer is slowly growing, but with the exception of Bristol’s Coffee + Beer, I can’t think of another speciality coffee shop doing what Bean & Wheat is doing. Plus Bean & Wheat has gone one better, allowing you to drink the aforementioned beer on-site (Coffee + Beer only has an off-licence).

As well as the coffee and alcohol, Bean & Wheat also sells bread, plus there are breakfast and lunch menus, plus a selection of cakes. The coffee, by the way, is from Union Hand-roasted, with the old favourite, Bobolink, plus a guest as well as decaf on espresso.

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V69

The front of Bespoke Cycling on Milk Street in the City of London, home of V69.The association between coffee and cycling is a long and honourable one. V69 is one such example, having opened in 2016, part of the growing speciality coffee scene in the City of London. It occupies a large counter with a limited amount of seating just inside the door of the Bespoke Cycling shop on Gresham Street, between St Mary-le-Bow church and the Guildhall. If you don’t want to go inside, there’s also a takeaway window that opens directly onto the street.

The coffee is from Margate’s Curve Coffee Roasters and London’s Workshop, plus occasional guests, with a range of single-origins on espresso (one each) and pour-over through the V60. There’s also a daily option on batch-brew through the Moccamaster. The milk, meanwhile, is from Estate Dairy, with non-dairy alternatives in the shape of oat, soy and almond milks. If you’re hungry, there’s a breakfast menu, plus a selection of cakes.

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Lazy Coffee Cart

A lovely flat white in my Global WAKEcup coffee mug, made with a Colombian single-origin from Curve Coffee Roasters by Matt at The Lazy Coffee Cart.Abchurch Yard in the City of London, has been home to various coffee carts over the years, including Flat Cap (old Cannon Street site) and, most recently, Feijoa Tree. However, at the start of June, Matt took over the pitch, a lovely young man who I met in 2016 when he was in charge of the CanDo Coffee kiosk in Paddington.

Currently, Matt has a fairly simple set-up, with a single mobile stand sheltering under a large umbrella. There’s a single-origin espresso from Curve Coffee Roasters, along with a decaf from Caravan, served from a basic espresso menu, although, in a neat twist, everything costs £2.50. Matt also has matcha all the way from Japan, a small number of cakes and retail bags of various single-origins from Curve. It’s takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own, although there are some seats if you want to hang around.

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Rosslyn Coffee

The clock at Rosslyn Coffee where it's always coffee time.The City of London has always had good coffee as long as you know where to look for it. Initially, this was from a handful of pioneers, such as Alchemy Café and Taylor Street Baristas, but these days there seems to be great coffee springing up everywhere! One of the latest additions is Rosslyn Coffee on Queen Victoria Street, which opened in February this year. Other than its excellent coffee, Rosslyn’s claim to fame is that it’s in a building owned by Sir Alan Sugar.

Although a new name to speciality coffee, the team behind it, an Aussie-Irish duo, have years of experience behind them, having originally met working for Caravan (more Aussie connections). Although Aussie owned/inspired cafes are often known for their brunches as much as their coffee (eg Beany Green, Caravan), here at Rosslyn, the focus is on the coffee, combined with Aussie hospitality. There’s a house-blend, guest and decaf on espresso, a single-origin guest on pour-over (via the Marco Beverage Systems SP9) and a bulk-brew using a second single-origin. Although you are welcome to stay, Rosslyn is not really a place for lingering, with limited seating/standing at a series of window-bars that line the space.

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Alchemy Café

Details of the Nicaraguan La Venus Filter Coffee, complete with tasting notes, available from the Alchemy Cafe.After finally managed to visit Durham’s Flat White after many years of trying, I found myself in the City of London last week, walking past another stalwart of Britain’s speciality coffee scene, Alchemy. A roastery (based in Wimbledon) with a single coffee shop in the narrow lanes south and west of St Paul’s Cathedral, Alchemy just pre-dates the Coffee Spot. It’s another of those places that I’ve been aware of for as long as I’ve been doing the Coffee Spot, having wandered past on several occasions, thinking that I must go in. Sadly, the timing has never been right. So when I wandered past last Thursday, in I went.

The Alchemy Café occupies a bright, square space on the corner of Ludgate Broadway and Carter Lane. It’s an area that is now well-served by speciality coffee shops, but Alchemy’s one of the stalwarts, having first opened its doors in 2013. As nice as the space is, the real draw is the coffee, with two options on espresso, plus a single-origin on pour-over and another on batch-brew. There’s also cold brew, various teas plus a selection of cake and savouries, while Alchemy’s complete range of beans is available in retail bags.

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Exmouth Market Grind

The right-hand side of Exmouth Market Grind, looking out onto Exmouth Market, it's doors flung open in the warm, May weather.Exmouth Market Grind, which opened earlier this year, is another recent addition to the Grind empire, which started with Shoreditch Grind. Since then, Grind has grown and evolved, morphing from its roots as an espresso bar by day, and cocktail bar by night, to include roasting its own coffee and adding substantial breakfast and all-day menus at the likes of London Grind.

Exmouth Market Grind falls into this latter category, as much a restaurant as it is a coffee shop. In this, it’s in good company, sitting diagonally across from that Exmouth Market institution, Caravan. The breakfast menu contains all the usual favourites, such as smashed avocado, various eggs on toast, pancakes, French Toast and more the traditional full English breakfast (plus a vegetarian version). The all-day menu takes over after noon, with small plates, a variety of interesting mains and a selection of salads. And, of course, there’s coffee, with a seasonal house-blend plus a single-origin on espresso.

This is the brightest, most open of all the Grinds that I’ve been to, and also the quietest. If there’s one thing I’ve struggled with when it comes to Grind over the years, they can sometimes be too loud for me.

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Ground Control

A shot of the Ethiopian Coffee Company's seasonal blend in a beautiful blue cup at its Islington cafe, Ground Control.I first became aware of the Ethiopian Coffee Company not long after starting the Coffee Spot, when I discovered its stall at the Southbank Centre Food Market (which I’ve still not written up, despite visiting the market last weekend!). Back then the Ethiopian Coffee Company had a coffee shop which, if memory serves, was in Bow, but was in the process of moving to new premises in Islington. Since then I’ve enjoyed the Ethiopian Coffee Company’s coffee in Liverpool, for example, at Coffee & Fandisha, but I’ve never made it to the “new” coffee shop.

Four years on, and the new coffee shop, which goes by the name Ground Control, is not so new anymore, but I’ve finally managed to pay a belated visit. As the name suggests, the Ethiopian Coffee Company only roasts coffee from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. There’s a monthly blend on espresso, a single-origin on pour-over, plus a wide selection of tea from Cardiff’s Waterloo Tea. If you’re hungry there are toasties and cake, all served in a delightful, compact spot with almost as many seats outside as in. It’s so lovely, in fact, that you’d be justified in asking what took me so long…

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Caravan Exmouth Market

The Caravan logo from the sign outside the original Exmouth Market branch.Caravan is a rather successful chain of three coffee shop/restaurants, with a significant in-house roastery, supplying coffee shops all around the country with a variety of blends and single-origins. However, this is where it all started back in 2010 on the corner of London’s Exmouth Market. This is the original Caravan, which is still going strong, coffee shop by day, restaurant by night, serving excellent coffee and food throughout the day. Unlike others of its ilk, such as Notes and Grind, both of which now roast their own coffee, Caravan was a roaster from the start and, indeed, the original roaster is still down in the basement at Exmouth Market.

Caravan sits on a sunny, south-facing corner, windows on two sides, outside seating spilling out on Exmouth Market itself. Inside, coffee excellence is taken as standard, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, two more on pour-over and a third on batch-brew. However, Caravan is also about food, with table service to match. There’s an excellent, extensive breakfast menu until 11.30, with an all-day menu of small/large plates from noon. At weekends, brunch takes over from 10 until four. There’s also beer, cider, cocktails, spirits and a massive wine list.

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Taylor Street Baristas, The Shed

The opening times, and a grinning skull, taken from the door of Taylor St Baristas, The Shed.Taylor Street Baristas, one of London’s best-known mini-chains, seems to specialise in quirky locations in slightly out-of-the-way places, such as the Taylor Street Gallery, tucked away down an alley behind Monument. The Shed, as its Shoreditch branch is known, is arguably harder find, and is one of the oldest Taylor Street Barista branches.

Housed in an actual garden shed, it’s well-named: a tiny, intimate spot, where the outside seating, in the shape of multiple tables and chairs, easily outnumbers the four seats inside, which are at two bars, one in the window between the two doors and one along the back of the left-hand wall.

Despite its size, The Shed has a decent range of coffee, with two options, plus decaf, on espresso, a single-origin on bulk-brew, and a selection of loose-leaf teas from London’s Postcard Teas. This is backed up with various breakfast goodies and cakes throughout the day.

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