For habitual coffee drinkers in a hustling morning in London, squeezing out a cloned coffee chain shop with sipping a hot espresso on their hands is a common routine just to freshen up for another working day. Over time London coffee was portrayed as dull and cultureless to the point that some may even say London doesn’t have a café culture but only high street coffee chains, and if you are expecting an expertly made espresso you need to fly over the sea to Rome or Paris.
Indeed, the domination of high quality café in Italy is set in stone. Sipping a traditionally made Italian-style cappuccino taste much more than frothy coffee flavoured milk as those in Starbucks or Costa, you can almost taste the history of it. But saying that coffee culture in London is merely leaked from Italy is remaining fallacy. According to London historian Dr Matthew Green, the culture of café(or coffeehouse) in London began in mid 17th century while the first London’s coffeehouse opened in 1652. Just like the function of bathing spot in ancient Rome, London’s coffeehouse was a platform to socialize and brought ideas and elites together. From then, coffeehouse was labelled as a debate theatre where full of ‘opportunities for intellectual engagement and spirited debate with strangers.’ Once entered the coffeehouse people started mingling, this is an unbreakable in coffeehouse yet one that seems abnormal to us today.
With the established history of café culture, the café business in London alongside with the quality of coffee is continuously soaring. You would definitely be convinced when you taste a velvety flat white coffee in the namesake café Flat White (sister to the Milk Bar) located at 17 Berwick Street. Recommended also by Timeout London, Flat White is producing quality guaranteed coffees with the newest brewing technique including cold filters and tailor-made 4-group Synesso Hydra. Besides, coffee bean used in Flat White is from Square Mile Coffee Roasters which located in London, it is at its best condition since roasted coffee cannot survive in travelling, it would rapidly go stale and the flavour would be lost. This is why locally roasted coffee like the way Flat White is using, considered the best quality. According to Australian coffee expertNolan Hirte, good coffee comes down to how well it was processed, each crop and priorly the terroir of where they roasted. It is at its best between 6-12 days after it was roasted.
With using the same coffee roaster, Prufrock Coffee where located at 23-25 Leather Lane is another master of London coffee culture. Featuring varies of brewing methods with a workshop in the cellar, Prufrock Coffee pay more attention on the details from using Vichy Catalan water (hailed as the most recognized mineral water from Spain) to bespoke coffee cup.
Monmouth Coffee on the other hand offers a wide range of beans roasted on their own apart from the coffee. Located at London hardcore areas including Covent Garden, Borough Market and Bermondsey often with a long queue snaking out onto the pavement, symbolizes the thriving coffee culture in London. In Monmouth Coffee we can see a trace of the old coffeehouse legacy in which communication always goes first – outside the booth in the chatting area, no mobile phone is allowed!
It is noticeable that all the cafés that introduced above are all artisanal independent in which the flame comes from assiduous studies and practices in coffee making instead of relying on propagandas. Convincing others how good is a coffee is almost impossible by mere words whereas it is crucial to experience in first-hand. If you are a metropolitan Londoner who fed up by mediocre coffee from chain shops and in turn to seek out higher quality coffee, don’t hesitate to try out some of those recommended; I can assure you the longer you have to queue for, the more it worth the wait.
By Jennifer Chan