Cafe Review: Prufrock Coffee in London

Prufrock Coffee espresso machine

Coffee as Poetry

In The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot famously wrote, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” Most Eliot interpreters understand the line to denote the protagonist’s disillusion with the monotonousness of modern society. I certainly don’t claim to be a literary critic, but a life measured out in spoons from London’s Prufrock Coffee wouldn’t be too bad.

Prufrock Coffee Leather Lane

All-star Cast

With an exterior that is all but eclipsed by the bustling street market on Leather Lane, Prufrock is an unassuming cafe with an impressive pedigree. Opened by 2009 World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies, Prufrock’s decidedly international roster of baristas includes the former barista champion of Sweden, the Brewer’s Cup champion of Ireland, and a smattering of Antipodean baristas to boot. Though they hail from different places, all the baristas at Prufrock Coffee share an über scientific approach to brewing. Espressos and pour-overs are carefully weighed and dialed-in, and the data is logged in a spreadsheet for future reference.

Prufrock Coffee interior

Bringing the Heat

My most recent visit to Prufrock Coffee was in the middle of July’s blistering heat wave and I arrived to find the doors wide open (England’s known for a lot of things, but air conditioning is not one of them). The temperature, however, was not enough to dissuade me from trying an Aeropress of Square Mile’s Kochere Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. This coffee was everything I’ve come to expect from a good Yirgacheffe: hibiscus aroma, stone-fruit sweetness, and nice acidity.

Prufrock Coffee Square Mile espresso

I was still getting over a serious case of overnight flight jet lag, so next I tried a shot of the single origin espresso from Ndaroini, Kenya. I had this espresso elsewhere in London, but Prufrock’s take on it was my favorite- the right combination of tart and sweet.

Prufrock Coffee menu

Keeping it Simple

Prufrock has helped popularize a simplified espresso menu, which replaces traditional Italian terms such as macchiato, cappuccino, or latte with the total volume of the drink. As a working barista, I can attest that specialized vocabulary can alienate the uninitiated. Prufrock’s minimalist menu is a serious step towards removing the barriers that keep more people from enjoying specialty coffee. I had a sip of my brother’s 6oz espresso and milk, made with Square Mile’s Red Brick blend, and it tasted great.

Prufrock Coffee classes

Prufrock Coffee lever machineBasically, Prufrock Coffee is the complete package. The space is inviting, the baristas are friendly, and the coffee is impeccably prepared. If the Coffee Compass was based in London and not Louisville, I expect Prufrock would be our regular coffee shop.

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Post made beautiful by photography from Ben Willis

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