TAP, Russell Square

A beautifully-presented filter coffee at TAP, Russell Square, served on a wooden tray with the coffee in a metal jug and a tulip cup on the side.TAP, or Tapped And Packed, as it used to be known in the early days, was one of the pioneers of London’s speciality coffee scene. From its original shop on Rathbone Place, it rapidly expanded to become a mini-chain of three, adding branches on Tottenham Court Road and Wardour Street, both of which I visited in the Coffee Spot’s first year, although I’ve still never been to the original! TAP was also a pioneer coffee shop/roaster, installing a roaster at the back of No 193 (the Wardour Street branch), which supplies all the shops.

However, after that initial rapid expansion, everything went quiet for five years, TAP happily going about its business, roasting and serving excellent coffee from the three stores. Until the end of the summer, that is, when, on the eastern edge of Russell Square, the fourth TAP appeared, extending the mini-chain beyond its Fitzrovia heartland and into Bloomsbury.

If you’ve been to the other three TAPs, then the new branch will hold no surprises. There’s a beautifully-concise espresso-based menu, plus three single-origins on pour-over through the V60. There’s also a selection of sandwiches and salads, plus a range of excellent cakes, all available until 4.30 each afternoon.

December 2017: TAP has been bought by the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs chain. I don’t know what this will mean for TAP and whether it will retain its own unique character, so watch this space!

September 2018: The TAP on Russell Square has closed and will be re-opening as branch of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, now also owned by the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.

November 2019: After a year as a branch of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, this location now appears to be permanently closed.

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TAP, 193 Wardour Street

The trademark (with a small t) bicycle hanging above the door at No 193 Wardour StreetTAP (Tapped and Packed as was) is a chain of three (now four) central London coffee shops. I featured No 114 (Tottenham Court Road) earlier this year and thought it was time for another, the flagship No 193 on Wardour Street. TAP’s reputation is built on its coffee, all roasted in the Probat at the back of No 193. If you want to see it in action, you’ll need to visit on Tuesday (which, ironically, I’ve never managed).

TAP regularly rotates its coffee, having no house blend. At the moment there are two espressos, a blend (for milk) and a single estate (to have black). There are three single origins on the V60 filter: a Guatemalan, an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and a Rwandan Musasa Ruli.

As well as the attraction of watching the coffee roasting, No 193 is a lovely place to sit and drink said coffee. It’s the largest of the three, long and thin, but well-lit by a generous supply of windows. Inside it’s all wood, with bare floorboards and white-washed walls. The only exception is the coffee counter which is metal (albeit with a wooden top). The atmosphere is rounded off with quiet music and the gentle hum of conversation.

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TAP, 114 Tottenham Court Road

The famous TAP bicycle above the door at the No. 114 branch on Tottenham Court RoadTAP, or Tapped and Packed as was, is a chain of three coffee shops (now four) in central London. The Tottenham Court Road branch was the first one I tried: I was there in February and again in April. Although TAP was packed (pun intended) and busy both times, I found it a lovely place to sit and chill for a while. I like its look and feel and love many of the little touches, such as the re-use of Black Treacle tins for sugar and jam jars for water. Milk for your filter coffee comes in dinky little glass flasks. Such small things please me.

TAP’s reputation is built on its coffee, particularly its single-origin beans which are rotated on a regular basis (perversely I had espresso; I know, I confuse myself at times). It also does a range of food and cake. Bizarrely, since I was there late on a Wednesday evening for my first visit when all the food was gone, I was told off by the staff and made to promise to come back at lunch time (which I did) so that I could see what else was on offer. You have to admire such passionate employees!

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