In 2009 Gwilym Davies changed the coffee world with a simple concept: the disloyalty card.
Rather than rewarding his customers for only coming to Prufrock– then a pop-up inside a boutique – the reigning World Barista Champion offered a free drink for visiting 8 other London cafés. Almost like a caffeinated scavenger hunt, the disloyalty card served to highlight and support London’s burgeoning specialty coffee community.
13 years later few of those cafés are still open and, to our knowledge, Davies isn’t involved with Prufrock anymore. But what hasn’t changed is that London still has one of the most diverse and exciting café scenes in the world.
After a four year absence, we were excited to visit London to see how the coffee scene has grown and evolved since our last visit. These were our seven favorite (or should we say favourite?) cafés.
Fittingly, our first stop in London is typically Prufrock Coffee. Simply put, it’s one of our favorite coffee shops in the world. The café has been seriously remodeled since our last visit, and now uses a table-service model. Expect coffee from Square Mile coffee and a rotating cast of guest roasters, not to mention an extensive selection of bean-to-bar chocolate.
We enjoyed a variety of different coffees but a special release of a Kenya Kiungu from Square Mile stood out.
The Penny Drop
The Penny Drop is the sort of coffee shop your barista goes to on their day off. Good hospitality, good vibes, and most importantly, a really killer selection of coffee from a wide array of roasters. This shop was close to our hotel, so we got to enjoy a lot of different coffees over multiple visits. They were all delicious, but my favorite was an incredibly fruity Peru roasted by Curve Coffee.
In Greek literature the word nostos refers to the hero’s journey home.
It’s a fitting name for Nostos Coffee in Battersea, because we felt at home as soon as we walked inside. Expertly helmed by London coffee veteran Edison Shehu, Nostos serves a rotating cast of roasters from around Europe and the UK.
We were impressed that almost every customer who came in during our visit was on a first name basis and their regular order already known. Nostos is the sort of neighborhood coffee shop any neighborhood would be lucky to have.
Store St. Espresso
Longtime readers will remember Store St. Espresso from previous visits to the UK. We’re happy to report that the original location is still there on Store st. just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, pulling shots of Square Mile’s Red Brick Espresso. One of our favorite things about this shop are the little sugar bowls on each table. Even though I don’t put sugar in my coffee, it’s a thoughtful touch that makes the open, airy space feel more welcoming.
Is you visit Rosslyn on a sunny weekday like we did, you can expect a huge queue of office workers enjoying a little coffee break. But don’t let that dissuade you from joining the queue. Rosslynn’s minimalist aesthetic carries over to the coffee selection. Their own label of coffee is listed as White, Black, or Filter depending on how you drink your coffee. They also feature a secret “off menu” coffee from a rotating guest roaster.
Formative Coffee in Westminster feels like a cafe from the future— a utopian future where everybody drinks delicious coffee. We enjoyed a flight of an Ethiopian coffee roasted by Manhattan Coffee Roasters prepared as an espresso, cortado and filter coffee. We tasted some amazing coffees in London, but this one ranked near the top.
We were lucky that Brighton’s Dharma Coffee opened their first London-area coffee shop in Richmond the same week we were in town. It’s a beautiful space in a great location. We loved all of the small touches that reflect owner Mustafa Perçin’s Turkish heritage, be it the Turkish coffee on the menu or traditional Turkish pastries to go along with more standard fare.
There are so many great London coffee shops we weren’t able to visit this time around. So if you have any recommendations for the next time, please let us know in the comments below.
You can find all of these coffee shops, and many more, on the official Coffee Compass map.
Video shot and edited by Aaron Oneal in partnership with Etkin.