Let me tell you a story. A story about coffee, in fact. Story Coffee started life in 2014 on St John’s Hill, between Clapham Junction and Wandsworth, although very much at the Clapham Junction end. Story Coffee made its name serving awesome brunches and excellent coffee in a fairly small, sunny spot before adding the even smaller, more grab-and-go orientated Story Works to the family in 2018. Then, in early 2020, along came Story Coffee in the Ram Quarter, Wandsworth.
The latest Story Coffee is huge. You could easily fit the first two inside and have plenty of space left over. There’s a neat coffee bar area at the front, a dedicated dining area towards the back, and a large, outdoor seating area out front. The same staples that originally made Story Coffee its name remain: excellent coffee and awesome brunches, but now with wine added to the mix.
There’s the familiar Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine on the counter, with a bespoke house-blend roasted by Modern Standard gracing the hopper of the Mahlkönig grinder. There’s also decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew (both Modern Standard/Story Coffee), while various guests are available on pour-over via the SP9/Kalita Wave.
Story Coffee on St John’s Hill in South West London is one of the capital’s speciality coffee stalwarts, having first opened in 2014. I took my time in visiting, only calling in for the first time towards the end of the September last year, when I found, to my surprise, that Story Coffee had a second lcoation, a little sibling if you like, called Story Works, just down the hill at the back of Clapham Junction.
Much smaller than the original, Story Works has a cut-down offering while retaining many similarities with Story Coffee, including a gorgeous two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. Like Story Coffee, there’s a single option on espresso, but pour-over has given way to batch-brew. Similarly, while there is food, Story Coffee’s brunch menu has been replaced by avocado on toast, grab-and-go salads and superfood smoothies, although there’s still a good selection of cake.
As I have noted before, Witney is not necessarily where you’d expect to find top-notch coffee shop. Impressive, then, that it’s home to several excellent places, including Coffeesmith, which was Witney’s first speciality coffee shop. These days Coffeesmith is part of a small chain of independent coffee shops, which include an old inn and an outpost in the Lake District, although this is where it all started just to the east of Witney’s Market Square on a quiet, pedestrianised street.
Occupying a simple, open space, with plenty of seats and a cluster of tables outside, Coffeesmith is a welcoming spot which attracts a wide-ranging local clientele, as well as the occasional passing coffee blogger. However, it’s far from the average café, with coffee from Origin on espresso and pour-over through V60/Aeropress. There’s also tea, hot chocolate, juices, smoothies and beer. If you’re hungry, the brunch menu features the likes of toast, porridge, bacon butties and various bagels and grilled sandwiches. If you fancy something less bread-based, there’s soup and salads, plus an ever-changing range of interesting specials chalked up above the counter. All of this is backed up with a range of cakes, while there’s fresh sourdough bread for sale.
MacIntyre Coffee, on St John Street, just south of the Angel tube station, is the permanent home of what was originally a pop-up in Shoreditch, followed by another at Old Street Roundabout. Heritage aside, what makes MacIntyre stand out from the crowd is the equipment: home to one of (I believe) just four Modbar espresso and steam installations in London, it’s also the only UK speciality coffee shop that I know of which uses the Alpha Dominche Steampunk machine for filter coffee and tea.
There’s not a lot to MacIntyre, just a simple rectangular layout, window at the front, counter at the back, seating at bar along the right-hand side, all of which puts the focus firmly on the coffee, which is supplied by Modern Standard. There’s a single-origin on espresso and another through the Steampunk, the grinding done on demand by the ubiquitous EK-43. The options change every week or two, while there’s a wider selection of beans for sale.
The coffee is backed up with a selection of breakfast options baked on-site. There are pastries, cookies and sandwiches, most of which are gone by lunchtime, plus Mörk hot chocolate from Australia and an interesting selection of loose-leaf tea.
November 2019: I’ve learnt (via Phil Wain’s excellent map of closed London coffee shops), that MacIntyre Coffee is no more.